Data mining and statistical analysis is a quantitative research branch concerned with the prediction of future events and trends. The central element of predictive analytics is the predictor, a variable that can be measured for an individual or other entity to determine the probability of some future outcome. For example, it may be possible to predict the effectiveness of a certain treatment plan based on genetic data. Multiple predictors may be combined into a predictive model, which can be used to measure statistical probabilities with an acceptable level of reliability. In predictive modeling, data is collected on multiple predictors and a statistical model is formulated. As predictions are made and actual outcomes are measured, the model is validated or revised using additional data. Predictive analytics may hold the keys to unlock the future of healthcare as envisioned by recent legislation and the Triple Aim.
Generally, the term predictive analytics is used to mean predictive modeling, "scoring" data with predictive models, and forecasting. However, people are increasingly using the term to describe related analytical disciplines, such as descriptive modeling and decision modeling or optimization. These disciplines also involve rigorous data analysis, and are widely used in business for segmentation and decision making, but have different purposes and the statistical techniques underlying them vary.
Predictive models analyze past performance to assess how likely a customer is to exhibit a specific behavior in the future in order to improve marketing effectiveness. This category also encompasses models that seek out subtle data patterns to answer questions about customer performance, such as fraud detection models. Predictive models often perform calculations during live transactions, for example, to evaluate the risk or opportunity of a given customer or transaction, in order to guide a decision. With advancement in computing speed, individual agent modeling systems can simulate human behavior or reaction to given stimuli or scenarios. The new term for animating data specifically linked to an individual in a simulated environment is avatar analytics.
Descriptive models quantify relationships in data in a way that is often used to classify customers or prospects into groups. Unlike predictive models that focus on predicting a single customer behavior (such as credit risk), descriptive models identify many different relationships between customers or products. Descriptive models do not rank-order customers by their likelihood of taking a particular action the way predictive models do. Descriptive models can be used, for example, to categorize customers by their product preferences and life stage. Descriptive modeling tools can be utilized to develop further models that can simulate large number of individualized agents and make predictions.
Decision models describe the relationship between all the elements of a decision — the known data (including results of predictive models), the decision and the forecast results of the decision — in order to predict the results of decisions involving many variables. These models can be used in optimization, maximizing certain outcomes while minimizing others. Decision models are generally used to develop decision logic or a set of business rules that will produce the desired action for every customer or circumstance.
Submitted by Scott Crader