Short on data-science know-how? Booz Allen's Sailfish platform aims to help

The new enterprise suite promises to make analytics easier

All the world may revolve around data, but if you can't make sense of it, all the data in the world won't do you much good.

Booz Allen Hamilton hopes to help with a new platform called Sailfish that's aimed specifically at companies short on the high-level data-science skills that have traditionally been required to get the job done.

Billed as the first end-to-end data-science platform, Sailfish is designed to make analytics easier to use.

Included in the suite is Sailfish Exchange, a highly visual data library that lets users upload, search and share key data sets "in just a few clicks," Booz Allen says. Essentially a Web-based social network for data curation, Exchange also lets users rate data sets from the Internet or within the organization.

Sailfish Explore, meanwhile, allows users to analyze those data sets using simple language or an easy-to-follow, drag-and-drop system -- no coding is needed, Booz Allen says.

Also part of Sailfish is access to a support platform that connects directly to Booz Allen’s 600+ member data-science team for answers to questions, algorithm troubleshooting or management advice.

It's no secret that analytics expertise is in chronically short supply, and Sailfish is designed to make up for that shortage by putting key capabilities within closer reach of nonexpert users.

"The talent shortage is acute, certainly, and is driving businesses to look to third parties to bridge the gap," said Alan Duncan, research director for business analytics with Gartner.

Not only are traditional “pure play” consulting companies beginning to move into the analytics-platform space, Duncan noted, but "we’re also seeing things go the other way."

That is, vendors that have traditionally focused on tools are starting to augment their offerings with additional consulting services as well, he explained.

Meanwhile, "the functionality, sophistication and ease-of-use of the end-user oriented analytics tools is improving all the time," he said.

The race to "democratize" analytics has been ongoing for some time, but it's not without its downsides: Given the lack of expertise in newly empowered business users, some experts worry about the quality of the data-based decisions they may end up making.

Meanwhile, "easy enough for anyone to use" is a promise often made but not always fulfilled, noted Nik Rouda, a senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group.

"Hopefully this one delivers," he said.

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