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SPSS Upgrade Takes Analytics Mainstream
SPSS Statistics 17.0 Makes Analytic Insights More Accessible to Business Users While Beefing Up Functionality for Analysts, Programmers and Administrators

by Maroushka Kanywani, Editor, Dashboard InsightWednesday, July 16, 2008

By Doug Henschen, Editor-in-Chief - Intelligent Enterprise

It sounds like two competing objectives, but SPSS says it has succeeded in addressing the needs of both power users and analytics neophytes with SPSS Statistics 17.0. Announced July 15, the major new point release of the company's SPSS analytics suite is said to bring deep analytic capabilities to non-statisticians while also adding better functionality for experts.

As the second-largest analytics vender (after SAS) and second-fastest-growing firm in that market (after Microsoft), according to the latest IDC sales stats, SPSS is addressing one of the biggest obstacles to growth in that segment of the larger business intelligence market: a shortage of statisticians and other analytics experts. SPSS Statistics 17.0 responds with a battery of new features designed to let business users help themselves to analytic insights.

Perhaps the lowest-hanging fruit when it comes to would-be analytics users is marketing professionals, so Statistics 17.0 includes a new RFM (Recency, Frequency, Monetary-value) interface that simplifies common customer analyses.

"The RFM interface is for direct marketers in particular to help them segment customers," explains Marcus Hearne, senior product marketing manager. "The tool lets you drag and drop transactional or customer data and it automatically delivers five ranks of each of the R, F and M scores so you can spot the people who spent most recently, spent most frequently and spent the most money. This is something marketers would usually do with the help of a data analyst, but now they can do it themselves."

A new Custom Dialog Builder in Statistics 17.0 lets developers take domain- and company-specific analyses mainstream by creating customized interfaces suited to specific business processes and user groups. For example, the Custom Dialog Builder could be used to create a simplified forecasting application. Experts would develop and embed the sophisticated algorithms behind an easy-to-use, interactive interface that prompts laymen for the required inputs.

Other mainstream-themed upgrades include new data-visualization templates for charts and three-dimensional graphics that help make analytic insights understandable and improved integrations with Microsoft Office that make it easier to export and share results.

"Previously when you exported to Microsoft Office products, it would just dump the data into the tool and you had to handle all the formatting from there," says Hearne. "SPSS Statistics 17.0 gives you tools to determine the formatting of that data — wrapping, font sizes and so on — so you can control how it will look in Office. If you have dozens or hundreds of tables that are regularly shared through Word, Excel or PowerPoint, this lets you automate that task."

For experts, Statistics 17.0 adds a multiple data imputation tool that fills in missing data values more reliably.

"SPSS has always had the ability to impute missing values, but there are cases, particularly when dealing with large sums of money, in which it's imperative to have high confidence in that value," Hearne explains. "This feature imputes in multiple ways and then retests the results, checking standard deviation and searching for the best answer."

An upgraded syntax editor in V17.0 saves time in the testing and analysis stage by automatically highlighting coding errors while providing mouse-over instructions on how to fix problems. The upgraded suite also streamlines system management with a unified administration tool said to offer better control over configuration, troubleshooting and measurement.

"If you're using multiple SPSS technologies on the server side, the Predictive Enterprise Services Manager now serves as the one administrative tool for all of those technologies," says Hearne. That list includes Predictive Enterprise Services and components such as the repository, the SPSS Statistics Server and SPSS Clementine Server. The tool also supports clustered server deployments.

SPSS Statistics 17.0 is set for release in the third quarter with versions for Windows, Linux and the Apple Mac OS X.

About the Author

Doug Henschen is Editor-in-Chief at Intelligent Enterprise. He joined Intelligent Enterprise as Editor in 2004 and was named Editor-in-Chief in January 2007. He has specialized in covering the intersection of business intelligence, performance management, business process management and rules management technologies within enterprise applications and architectures. He previously served as Editor-in-Chief of Transform Magazine, which covered content management and business process management challenges. Also see Doug's blog: In Context By Doug Henschen.

Source: Intelligent Enterprise: http://www.intelligententerprise.com/channels/business_intelligence/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=209100413


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