Data Claus is coming to town

There are late adopters, and then there’s Father Christmas.

Thanks to the magical powers of elves, Santa hasn’t exactly adopted the latest technology solutions. But let’s pretend he lost his magic this Christmas.

Order fulfillment breaks down, for starters. In those millions of letters is more unstructured data than he can fit in his bottomless toy sack. Furthermore, a global delivery fleet of eight flying reindeer and a miniature sleigh just isn’t going to cut it. Likewise, his shopping mall consultation strategy for CRM is completely out of the question.

Most importantly: Making a list that long and checking it twice? Forget about it. Santa needs more than parchment scrolls to store all that data, and the teetering status of girls and boys on the binary scale of naughty or nice is undeniable core to his entire business model.

Let’s face it. Subtract the supernatural, and what we’ve got is an unsustainable business sitting on Santa’s lap. Down the chimney his jolliness comes with a bound, and Christmas morning for billions of children hangs in the balance. Santa needs a chief data elf.

Let’s give old St. Nick a hand.

Here comes Data Claus.

Making the list and checking it twice

Santa’s year starts with letters from children all over the world. These sweet and endearing requests for gifts are much needed by Santa to help him direct the elves in their toy-making quests. Typically, this is a manual process and takes much of the year for Santa and his helpers to read through each and every letter to compile “The List.”

With the help of analytics, his task becomes much simpler. Of course the letters, many handwritten, would need to be converted to an electronic format — a simple process that can be done with many optical character recognition (OCR) converters available today. Then, the millions of letters can be fed into the IBM Watson Explorer, which leverages linguistic and text analytics to create meaning from unstructured text. Santa can extract trends from the letter content, including key pieces of information like toy requests, likes and dislikes. He can even assess content to determine whether a child is naughty or nice based on key phrases that indicate good or bad behavior.

But what about those kids that leave their Christmas fate up to Santa to decide? Well, in these cases, Santa will have to make the final decision on what to gift. But as we’ve all experienced in the holiday season, picking out a gift is not that easy! And it’s no different for Santa.

That’s why predictive consumer analytics could be just the ticket. It enables personalized customer recommendations based on buying behavior, social media activity and more by creating a predictive model that scores the recommended products to sell to the customer, providing in essence a view of the items that would be most enjoyed.

Of course, Santa has years of data on kids and present preferences based on age, likes and dislikes, demographics, locations, etc. he can leverage to create a gift recommendation system. Additionally, he can draw from social media inputs to augment his “customer” repository to make sure he’s capturing the hottest trends in toys this season. Predictive analytics for toys would yield the top choices for a gift for each child, enabling Santa to narrow down on his gift choice quickly. And with that, Santa can make his list and pass it on to his little helpers in the toy shop.

Surely the Grinch has his eyes on all this data, which is why Santa is always careful to protect it.

CAI_12.14_Santa_Twitter (3)

Santa’s toy shop

Now it’s on to the elves and their enormous task of crafting millions of toys. Supplies are first routed to the toy-makers, who are assigned to create specific toys based on “The List.” Meanwhile, gift-wrappers wait patiently to receive their materials. Luckily, elves have an innate ability for toy crafting, but the factory can quickly become unorganized and chaotic, to say the least. The worst thing that could happen from this chaos is that the elves inadvertently miss a child.

What could be done to help the toy shop run much more efficiently?

If the toy shop ran supply chain analytics, the elves would be able to utilize Santa’s list and historical trends to anticipate the demand from their little customers, and ensure the right resources are allocated at the right time. Additionally, the analytics solution could predict gaps in the toy supply chain and point to clues on how the elves might reallocate their labor distribution to most efficiently meet their toy crafting goals.

Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?

Now it’s time for Santa to deliver the presents, and of course, he has his trusty reindeer and sleigh to help him. One of the things not even Santa is immune to is the weather, especially winter storms that may increase his flying time or interrupt his route. If only Santa had a way to predict where dangerous weather would hit in advance.

With IBM’s acquisition of The Weather Company, Santa can expect a solution to his dilemma. The Weather Company is one of the largest aggregators of both public and government weather data and leverages this data to develop proprietary predictive models to forecast adverse weather conditions at over 3 billion reference locations on Earth.

Combining this weather prediction data with decision rules on alternative flight routes enables a system that can dynamically optimize Santa’s route. With such powerful analytics to guide him, Santa won’t need to rely on just Rudolph.

Thankfully, Santa also brushed up on the Internet of Things and how it will transform sleigh transportation.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night

After all that traveling, Santa finally gets a chance to kick back and rest at the North Pole until the new year when he must start all over again. The only question on his mind is whether all the good boys and girls enjoyed their gifts. If only he too could participate in the magic of Christmas Day and partake in the excitement.

As it turns out, Twitter data might be the next best thing. On Christmas Day, Santa can use tools like IBM Watson analytics – searching hashtags like #santa, #christmas and #presents – to analyze the sentiment around his gifts. In the case of negative sentiment, Santa can pinpoint who the tweet authors are, and use that information to ensure that he improves his work next year. But of course, feedback is sure to be very positive!

Another year, another job well done! Thank you for all your hard work Santa, and hopefully with more sophisticated analytics, your workload becomes just a bit lighter.

1 response to Data Claus is coming to town

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