IBM has begun testing a service aimed at business managers who now do most of their analysis on spreadsheets or use traditional business intelligence tools, the IDG News Service reports.

IBM's Watson computer.

IBM’s Watson computer.

Watson Analytics is an interactive Q&A service that functions in a similar manner to natural language systems such as Apple’s Siri, Google’s GoogleNow and Microsoft’s Cortana. IBM launched a beta version on Tuesday, part of a $1 billion initiative to commercialize its Watson analysis technology.

The service “is about putting powerful analytics in the hands of every business user,” Eric Sall, IBM vice president of marketing for business analytics, told IDG, adding that traditional business intelligence tools remain too difficult to use for business managers.

“It is hard to get the data. It is hard to analyze the data if you’re not a specialist, and it is hard to use the tools,” he said.

IBM Research developed Watson — named for pioneering former CEO Thomas J. Watson — to compete with human contestants on the “Jeopardy” game show. The company has previously launched Watson services aimed at scientific researchers and customer support representatives.

According to IBM, Watson Analytics would be a good fit for managers working in marketing, sales, operations, finance and human resources. A sales manager could determine, for instance, which pending deals are most likely to close while an HR manager could analyze which benefits are most likely to keep employees from job hunting elsewhere.

Dan Vesset, vice president for business analytics at the IDC research firm, said the service streamlines a lot of the tasks typically associated with predictive analysis and combines natural language processing, machine learning, cognitive reasoning, data cleansing and formatting, preparatory analysis and visualization.

“Instead of dragging and dropping a pie chart, you write in natural language what you’d like to see, and the system itself will provide what it reasons is the most appropriate visualization,” Vesset said.

The service will go live in November.

Source: Computerworld IBM looks to replace the spreadsheet with Watson Analytics

Image: Clockready, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

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