There is a huge opportunity for data to be used to improve our everyday lives. It’s one of main reasons why the business analytics team exists, to help organisations and communities derive value from their data, enabling them to achieve their goals.

My initial thinking for this blog post came through my Google alerts, pointing me in the direction of two articles, how ‘big data is being released to the public domain’ and ‘Can technology help avoid stampedes?’, both great examples of how analytics is being used to achieve the above as well as further evidence that analytics is becoming more integrated into daily tasks through advances in technology.

The first article demonstrates how data is no longer just an asset for helping organisations make better decisions but is now integrated into everyday tasks, converting raw data into actionable hyper-local knowledge. New York City has created a dedicated unit to crunch data sets together to uncover insights to help improve the operational efficiency of the city’s public services. I would look at this as a bottom up approach to deriving insights as most organisations should start with their objectives and think about what data they need to get answers to what they want to know.

The second article talks about how crowd analytics is being used at the Hajj in India to ensure that the pilgrimage walked by thousands each year remains something people remember for the right reasons. Crowd-analytics software is being used to analyse patterns in peoples walking behaviour, identifying areas of congestion, predicting the likelihood of stampedes, enabling crowd control to act before it is too late. In this example, the application of analytics is not just integrated into our lives, it is actually saving them.

Whilst the hidden benefits in combining data sets is interesting, I thought I’d explain the analytics behind the second article as it’s more likely readers will be unfamiliar with the approach as well as some pointers for how this type of analytics can be applied to your own area, whatever that maybe!

Using graph analytics to understand the connectedness between objects

If you were to ask someone to draw you a graph, it’s more than likely you would receive a line chart most common in spreadsheet applications. Graphs actually stem from the mathematical understanding of relationships, specifically the connections (vertices) between objects (nodes).


The implied benefits of graph theory suggest that insights can not only be derived from the behaviours or characteristics of individual objects but from an objects connectedness in comparison to others. The article refers to a specific element of graph theory focusing on spatial networks, analysing the proximity between objects; however there are many more opportunities for how organisations can use graph analytics and are therefore becoming more interested in graph theory and applying the concepts to data they collect on their customers.

A catalyst to this interest has been the advent of big data, a phrase coined to describe the huge quantity and types of data collected in the world today. An example graph that has been given a lot of hype is the social graph. A social graph looks at the connectedness of people. The most common application of this being Facebook as can be seen below.

Graph analytics presents an opportunity for organisations to gain a competitive advantage of being able to understand the influence of their customers.
Value is a subjective term. Organisations have traditionally focused on monetary value as the primary means of quantifying value. A high value customer is therefore someone who spends a lot of money with you. Fortunately, this has matured into loyalty with creation of relationship management schemes to retain customers and keep them from going elsewhere.

As the shift of power moves away from organisations to customers through increased choice and competitive intensity, it is becoming imperative for organisations to be customer centric. There is now evidence that customers now rely on word of mouth more than traditional marketing channels. Customer advocacy is now something organisations need to actively cultivate and manage in the digital world. It’s no longer just about rewarding customers that spend money, it’s about providing a great customer experience for customers that have the power to influence the perception of your brand with others.

That’s enough for now but I’ve touched on a couple of interesting cases of how analytics is moving from the back office into everyday lives as well as how graph analytics could be a vehicle for how organisations can engage with their customers, improving their experiences.