Top 15 tools for predictive analytics

Predictive analytics tools comb through your data to divine visions of your business future. Here’s an overview of the wide array of options available today.

Somewhere along the way computers transformed from filing cabinets for data into crystal balls that foretell the future by examining that data to predict what might happen in a few seconds, a few days, maybe even a few years.

Many of the tools for accomplishing this feat fall under the term “predictive analytics.” The term is a catch-all for algorithms developed over the years, from wildly different corners of statistics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and multidimensional mathematics. These tools emerged from the lab to populate corporate server farms and now they’re ready to guide business teams toward making the right decisions about allocating resources and reaping profits.

The tools have two main roles, the more obvious of which is to peer into the sea of bits in the database and pluck out some vision for the future. They do this by supporting several good algorithms with various strategic approaches; some support dozens.

The second role is less noticeable but often more time consuming. Preparing the data can be maddening because data is rarely as consistent or as clean as we need. If there are two files that need to be integrated, dates are often in differing formats using different time zones. Unifying challenges like these are easy. The more difficult ones involve missing fields or outliers that may be the result of an error — or could be an accurate omen that must be included in the data set. Removing mistakes while preserving the integrity of the data is a real challenge. All of the best tools offer good support for preparing the data and presenting the results.

Many predictive analytics tools are brand extensions built by database developers and business analytics and reporting vendors, which have slowly merged traditional report generation with AI algorithms to produce tools that both summarize and offer predictions.

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