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Ten analytics success stories in a nutshell

Analytics success stories from the likes of Burberry, CBS, Coca-Cola and L'Oreal. The Data Mill reports.

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Gartner analyst Doug Laney returned to this year's Gartner Business Intelligence and Analytics Summit with a stellar list of real-world analytics success stories -- 40, to be exact, which he shared in 40 minutes. The list was a sampling he's collected, categorized and curated over the years that deftly illustrates how industries are betting on data to improve and grow just about every aspect of the business -- from better project management in the case of Lockheed Martin Corp. to building new business models in the case of Food Genius Inc.

Laney didn't unveil the technical nuts and bolts of how a Coca-Cola or a Burberry succeeds on analytics, and that really wasn't the point. "The idea is to think a little bit more broadly about the possibilities and the potential of the information assets that you have today," Laney said. That will require looking at both the information assets managed internally, he explained, and "data that's available exogenously from open data sources, customers, suppliers and syndicated data sources."

Ten examples of analytics success stories

Burberry Group plc and personalized shopping. Burberry is using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags in its stores to create a richer shopping experience. When a customer walks by a display screen with an item in hand, the RFID tag triggers a video showing how the item was made and offering up other products complementary to it. With the customer's permission, RFID tags can also help create a customer profile by keeping tabs on what he or she has tried on.

CVS Health and the call center. CVS launched a call center pilot program that Laney likened to Match.com. Using technology from Mattersight, CVS began experimenting with "predictive behavior routing" by segmenting customers into about six behavior groups. The drugstore chain is also scoring call center agents so that it can match agents with the kinds of customers they'll best engage with. The pilot reduced call time and improved the performance of the calls themselves, according to Laney, and was so successful, it was taken to full production.

The Coca-Cola Co. and product consistency. "Many people think the world's best kept secret may just be the formula for Coke, but it's not," Laney said. "It's the formula for orange juice." Coke engineers identified more than 600 (!) possible flavors of oranges and then built a proprietary algorithm to ensure consistent taste and texture from one batch of orange juice to the next. The orange juice data profiles shield its Minute Maid and Simply Orange brands from unknowns such as orange crop availability or taste variance from one orange to the next. Laney encouraged businesses to identify places where consistency in the face of external elements is necessary, such as the supply chain.

The L'Oreal Group and customer engagement. L'Oreal sells to retailers, resulting in a gap between the beauty products manufacturer and its customers. That hasn't exactly hurt the world's largest cosmetics and beauty company, but the cosmetics giant is nonetheless hoping its new customer command center will change that. Using CRM technology from Clarabridge, L'Oreal is analyzing tweets, Facebook posts, product reviews and news stories. When necessary, posts are routed internally to an appropriate employee in the command center who can engage with the writer. L'Oreal hasn't released data, but it claims the command center has "transformed how brand awareness and loyalty are leveraged," Laney said.

Big data and analytics redux

Doug Laney's Innovating with Analytics: 40 Real-World Examples in 40 Minutes is the latest in an ongoing series of talks. Two years ago at Gartner Symposium, he rattled off 55 examples of big data case studies in 55 minutes, a session The Data Mill chronicled here.

Westpac Banking Corp. and the 360-degree view of the customer. For the last few years, the Australian bank has been using technology from SAS Institute to build a 360-degree view of the customer program called "KnowMe." The program is built on, in part, capturing and centralizing customer activity such as ATM usage and call center interaction from its 12 million customers. Based on behavioral analysis, Westpac is matching customers with new programs or offerings. In nine months, the program enabled Westpac to grow its customer engagement from 1% to 25%, according to Laney.

Tom Farms LLC and the digital business. Tom Farms has gone all in on digitizing just about every part of the farming process it can -- from self-driving combines decked out with sensors that produce a stream of real-time data to mobile apps that help monitor and control irrigation systems. For Tom Farms, embracing data and analytics has helped grow the business from 700 acres back in the 1970s to 20,000 acres today, according to The New York Times. Success isn't just measured by an increase in acreage, according to Laney. Tom Farms uses technology to "reduce the need to diversify crops to hedge against weather and disease," he said.

Food Genius and open data. Food Genius is a foodservice data provider. It scrapes data from restaurant menus posted online and searches for local trends to help companies like Kraft Foods and even national chains like Arby's develop and market products at the local level more intelligently. "It's a fascinating example of building business from scratch based exclusively on scraping open content from the Internet," Laney said. He encouraged businesses to think about how open data could enhance already established offerings or provide new offerings to customers.

Lockheed Martin and dark data. The aerospace company is using dark data -- corporate data that could be useful to a company but is, instead, gathering dust in storage -- for more proactive project management. It correlated and analyzed hundreds of metrics from its programs "to identify leading indicators of program performance," according to Laney. And it analyzed communications from project personnel to identify language that "are predictors of program downgrade," he said, adding that dark data has increased program foresight by 3%.

Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and sensor data. One indicator for equipment failure is noise, so the petroleum company began outfitting its refineries with sensors equipped to measure sound vibrations. When the measurements become abnormal, engineers are alerted and "can go right to that piece of equipment and replace it or repair it without as much downtime," Laney said. "They've been able to change from a model of unplanned maintenance to planned maintenance."

University of California, San Diego and crowdsourcing. To locate the tomb of Genghis Khan, notorious Mongolian ruler, UC San Diego opened up satellite images to the masses. The project snagged 10,000 volunteers, identifying 55 sites of archeological significance. (So far, the location of Khan's tomb is still a mystery, though.) Like the search for Khan's tomb, Laney said businesses should not overlook techniques like crowdsourcing and gamification to uncover new insights.

Welcome to The Data Mill, a weekly column devoted to all things data. Heard something newsy (or gossipy)? Email me or find me on Twitter at @TT_Nicole.

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