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IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: The Big Data and Predictive Analytics Revolution with TIBCO’s Ben McGraw

July 26, 2012 2 Comments

By: Ben McGraw, TIBCO Spotfire

As we stand in the middle of the Big Data and Predictive Analytics revolution, one of the biggest questions we encounter is how to help companies efficiently drive value from large amounts of unstructured data?

In the interview below, Ben McGraw, Director of Life Science Industry Solutions for TIBCO Spotfire, outlines the ways in which a unified data solution can pull together massive Big Data sources to deliver real-time, intuitive results.

    1. What big data and data analytics trends are you currently seeing in the Life Sciences industry?


Leading life science organizations are becoming more data driven. Analytics are providing a tremendous competitive edge to do things such as optimize clinical operations, manage portfolios of clinical candidates, improve commercial operations, make better business development decisions, etc. The challenge is to give business leaders in these life science organizations the ability to quickly and intuitively sort through mountains of data and perform self-service discovery to answer business questions that are relevant to them. A big data example from one of our life science customers who performs research and development has: 2,500 project records, 125,000 activity records, 15,000 resource records, 1.3 million demand hour records, 1 million actual hour records, 500,000 cost expenditure records and 60,000 actual cost expenditure records. That’s a lot of data to get through to make project and portfolio management decisions to answer questions such as what resources should be focused on drug projects, non-drug projects and infrastructure, and what resources are required to execute the current and future portfolio. This is where a visualization based data discovery tool like Spotfire helps. Companies are also leveraging the power of predictive analytics to not just visualize how they are performing now but how they will be in the future if they continue down the current path (i.e. projected patient enrollment in trials and sales forecasting). If something needs to be adjusted, they can do it now and stay ahead of the competition – this is what we like to call at TIBCO the: “Two-Second Advantage”.

    2. How will the recent partnering of Tibco Spotfire, Relay Technology Management, and Attivio’s Active Intelligence Engine benefit the Life Sciences industry?


Given the rapidly changing market for therapeutics, the ability for life science companies to follow industry changes in real-time is a major competitive advantage. Strategic decisions on licensing opportunities, identification of industry thought leaders and the ability to perform robust competitive analysis are keys to survival for these companies. The ability to analyze unstructured data (i.e. email, social media content, PubMed papers, Press Releases, SEC docs, patent info, NIH funding grants) is a major leap forward for the life science industry. Many companies are moving towards this because of the need to make sense of ever increasing amounts of unstructured data. The partnering of Spotfire, Relay’s BD Live! and Attivio’s Active Intelligence Engine provides a unified data solution that pulls together these massive Big Data sources to deliver real-time, intuitive search to life science business development and corporate strategy professionals. This empowers business development and corporate strategy professionals with the ability to identify licensing opportunities, perform asset scouting and benchmarking, identify researchers and KOLs, perform portfolio optimization and determine a pre-clinical development strategy via a dimension-free data exploration environment. What makes this very unique is Spotfire combined with this offering facilitates self-service discovery that allows users to evaluate ideas without re-running reports and risk using stale information. Customers can then contextually collaborate on the findings either within Spotfire or with our integrations with various portals and social media platforms.

    3. Has this ever been done before?


Providing this ability for business development and corporate strategy professionals through this partnership is a first for us. TIBCO Spotfire as an Attivio platinum-level integration partner allows the connection directly to the Attivio Active Intelligence Engine so customers can perform free text queries to search documents directly, and connect to R for statistical modeling. We are the only combined product offering that can put a search box in a visualization-based data discovery tool out-of-the box that drives the data. This is a combination unavailable on any other platform and is essential for creating meaningful insights for customers.

    4. How do you see this technology being utilized in the future across IT industries?


We have customers in almost every industry and many have expressed interest in a unified view into structured data and unstructured content. They want to gain actionable insights from a variety of information types. Everyone is flooded with email, all sorts of documents, social media content, content management system data and portal data. Who would not want to use a Google-like end user interface to query in a search box, see the data and content results intuitively displayed and be able to easily interact with the results?

    5. Predictive Analytics is a very hot topic now. What are your thoughts on this and how is TIBCO addressing this market trend?


Advanced analytic environments, such as R, S+®, SAS® and MATLAB® offer unparalleled flexibility and deep analytic power for statisticians and quantitative analysts. Many organizations understand the competitive value of using predictive analytics, advanced statistics and data mining from R,  S+®, and these other packages to make better decisions about their business, but struggle to effectively leverage these analytic investments. The challenge is how to efficiently put these advanced analytic capabilities into the hands of business professionals to help them make better decisions, while still ensuring that the analytics are used appropriately.

Without such analytic tools, time and resources are wasted communicating model results manually or re-implementing analytics in another environment for production use. When business professionals do not have timely access to such analytics, they frequently create ad hoc spreadsheets to do their own analysis. This sacrifices analytic rigor for convenience, proliferating analyses with results that cannot be validated, and which fail to take advantage of a company’s existing investment in advanced analytic capabilities.

TIBCO Spotfire provides a unique, visual and interactive approach to exploratory data analysis, enabling new insights into data. Users can create and publish new analytic applications and interactive reports in minutes, sharing findings and enabling others to gain their own insights. Spotfire software complements and enhances the usage of S+, R, SAS(R), and MATLAB(R) by allowing statisticians to easily visualize the results of their models and analyses and to deploy these analyses inside Spotfire applications. Users can quickly create and share dynamic analytic applications, putting advanced analytic tools in the hands of decision makers across the organization. With Spotfire, our customers can:

  • Use Spotfire enterprise analytics to rapidly visualize and explore models created in R, S+, SAS(R) and MATLAB(R)
  • Create and publish interactive reports to allow others to understand the insights of models and make better decisions
  • Deploy and integrate R, S+, SAS® and MATLAB® scripts through TIBCO Spotfire Statistics Services
  • Call R, S+, SAS® and MATLAB® analytics on-demand from Spotfire applications, providing easy access to business professionals while leveraging analytic investments and preserving analytic rigor

Ben McGrawAs the Director of Life Sciences Industry Solutions, Ben is responsible for setting the TIBCO Spotfire Life Sciences market strategy and guiding the development of TIBCO Spotfire Life Sciences solutions. Before TIBCO, Ben was at Oracle where he was the Manager of Pharmaceutical Product Management where he set the direction for various Oracle Health Science products. Prior to Oracle, Ben was at Aptuit Informatics and Valentis serving the Life Sciences industry. Earlier in his career he held product management and analyst positions with other software companies. He is a graduate from Pepperdine University and the University of Southern California and has a B.S. in Business Computer Systems.

2 Comments to “IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: The Big Data and Predictive Analytics Revolution with TIBCO’s Ben McGraw”
  1. Rafay Naeem says:

    Dear Ben McGraw,

    Can you kindly share links to examples where R applications can be called through Spotfire interface or how one can use R or Matlab while creating visualizations in Spotfire?

  2. Ben McGraw says:

    Hi Rafay,

    The way you use R or Matlab with Spotfire is first a statistician develops the analytic in R or Matlab (they could also use S+ or SAS as we support those), then they deploy and register the analytic on Spotfire Statistics Services which makes the analytic available to application authors. The analyst or application author then configures the application to use the analytic which requires no coding. Then with one click, the centrally managed application that is based on best practices can be deployed over the Web to users.

    In terms of examples of the application, we have examples in our demo gallery that use stats. You can find them here:

    The complete details behind this can be found in Section 13.6 of the Spotfire User Manual on the Spotfire Technology Network:“matlab”


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