Yes, I meant to say prescriptive

I arrived a few minutes early to a presentation on IoT Security a few weeks ago and introduced myself to the man sitting next to me. He asked what the company I worked for did and I responded “We’re a real-time prescriptive analytics company.” He looked at me and asked “prescriptive?” I get this quite often --- most people think I’m mispronouncing predictive. Don’t get me wrong, we can do predictive analytics, but prescriptive is our specialty and the way of the future! When people correct me, I have to explain that no, I really meant to say prescriptive. This of course is followed more often than not with a blank stare as I explain the differences between predictive and prescriptive. To most people the difference in those few letters doesn’t mean much. However, in reality there is a huge difference!

Well, what’s the big deal in saying your software is predictive instead of prescriptive? Predictive analytics does just that --- it predicts. It predicts when something is going to go wrong. So for example, I’ve just created a smart refrigerator  – it can tell you’re going to run out of oranges on Tuesday, that the milk is expiring Monday and when a part is going to go out in the next 72 hours. However, that’s just it --- it predicts when these events are going to happen. It doesn’t solve anything. If it was a refrigerator that incorporated prescriptive analytics, it would not just predict these events, but solve them – hence the prescribing. So, my new refrigerator would re-order oranges and milk on Instacart and have them delivered and best of all it would fix the broken part or correct what was causing it to mal-function. So, all in all, a prescriptive solution prescribes remedies to a problem that is occurring or will occur. It doesn’t just predict when things are going to happen.

So, at the presentation, I was getting ready to launch into my speech, but I didn’t have a chance. As soon as I said “Yes, prescriptive,” the man smiled and said, “That’s what my group does too! Whenever I say it, people think I’m mispronouncing predictive.”  Maybe the prescriptive future will be here sooner than I thought!

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