Thanks to predictive analytics, a lot of companies are now seeing into the future - or at least guessing it with a better degree of accuracy.
But how do you go around starting a project to use predictive analytics? And how do you do so in the public sector, at that, where IT isn't usually as up to date as the private sector?
Dean Dickinson, MD of Advanced Business Solutions' public sector division, has some tips. Five, to be precise.
It is important that predictive analytics aligns with your strategic objectives, so list carefully the issues that need to be resolved, such as what is holding the organisation back or how systems need to be integrated, and the opportunities to be explored.
Predictive analytics is not purely for crunching numbers - although this is a common misconception. It can be used in any sector and across any department where there is a need for predicting outcomes. For example, the NHS is using the solution to model the spread and prevalence of diseases.
Organisations start accruing data from their first day and, by mining and modelling this information, can enjoy significant commercial gain. The key is to look at how all data across the organisation can be harnessed and fed into an analytics solution. By taking this bold rather than scatter-gun approach, the organisation will be well prepared for all future challenges and opportunities.
Issue a formal invitation to tender in which you are clear about your requirements and expectations. Next, invite four or five suppliers to demonstrate their products and shortlist two or three. Ask to be put in touch with one or more customers who can provide testimonials before making your final choice. Be wary if your shortlisted suppliers can't put you in touch with happy customers.
It is all too easy to conclude that an IT project has been a success just because a solution is up and running. It is important to know what success looks like from the organisation perspective and not be afraid to permit evolution as needs change.
Dickinson said: "Predictive analytics is a valuable tool for organisations if the project is approached carefully and the insight gained is used to capture strategic advantage.
"The software will become a key tool in driving down costs, improving efficiencies and effectively navigating both opportunities and challenges. Those organisations that fail to embrace this solution are effectively operating blind and making themselves especially vulnerable to economic and industry forces."