Showing posts with label Business Intelligence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Business Intelligence. Show all posts

November 1, 2014

More Information, Please.

This was a funny sign in a local medical facility. 

Printed: "Labcorp is no longer in this building."

Followed by in handwriting, "Then Where is it?"

Almost to the familiar reframe, "Well I dunno--do you? If not you--than who?"

These were plastered in multiple locations exactly like this. 

It's funny, we think we are giving people information--the stuff they need. 

But when it comes across to the other person, perhaps all we've done is left them with more questions than answers. 

In an age of information technology, business analytics, big data, and artificial intelligence...we still can't even seem to figure out the basics of managing information and communications with each other. 

Lots of products being heralded as the answer...including IBM's Watson, but aside from answering Jeopardy questions, the jury is still out on whether this can really evolve to true AI.

If it was just a technology issue, we may already be getting close, but the bigger piece of this puzzle is people really understanding the challenges they confront, and being able identify and work with the information to solve these. 

Then maybe we would finally have the answers or at least where it is! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

July 7, 2012

Hierarchy of Computing

One fundamental framework that I was always really impressed with and found basically true to life was Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs describes the stages of growth in human beings, and it portray's people focusing on their more primitive needs first and then progressing on to fulfilling higher order needs, as the lower ones are satisfied.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs--starts with addressing our basic Physiological needs for food, water, shelter, clothing and so on; then Safety covers our needs for safety and security; followed by social needs for love and companionship; next is Self-esteem which is our need for respect and value; and finally is Self-actualization where we actually fulfill our potential. 

What occurred to me is that computing is an aid for us to fulfill our human needs, and as such we can map a Hierarchy of Computing to the Hierarchy of Needs.

The result is a "Hierarchy of Computing," as follows:

- Automation--helps us produce the sustenance items that we need for our physiological needs and includes everything from agricultural plows and harvesters to production line automation and systems.

- Weaponization--this is the systemization of everything supporting our homeland security, military, and intelligence apparatus from nukes to drones, satellites, missile shields, cyber and bioweapons, and more.

- Social/Mobile--these are technologies and apps that help us communicate and interact with one another, whenever and wherever we are.

- Business Intelligence--addressing Big Data, this is the capability to capture, catalog, analyze, locate, and report information to drive value, power, and respect.

- Ethical--the use of technology to aid timely decision-making and meaningful, value-driven action--helps us choose and execute right from wrong and is the ultimate in progressing toward our self-actualization.

I struggled with where Robotics fits in this hierarchy and I decided that robotics is not a specific layer in the hierarchy of computing itself, but rather is a application of the technology that can be applied at every level. For example, robotics can aid automation on the assembly line or it can be used for safety to defuse roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan or they can be applied to social needs as nursing and home aids for the elderly and handicapped and so on. 

I am excited by this alignment of the Computing Hierarchy to the Needs Hierarchy in that it provides a framework for advances and application of technology to supporting our very humanity.

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)


July 6, 2012

The Information Is On You

There was a fascinating article in the New York Times (17 June 2012) called: "A data giant is Mapping and Sharing the Consumer Genome."

It is about a company called Acxion--with revenues of $1.13 billion--that develops marketing solutions for other companies based on their enormous data collection of everything about you!
Acxion has more than 23,000 servers "collecting, collating, and analyzing consumer data...[and] they have amassed the world's largest commercial database on consumers."

Their "surveillance engine" and database on you is so large that they:

- "Process more than 50 trillion data 'transactions' a year."
- "Database contains information about 500 million active consumers."
- "About 1,500 data points per person."
- Have been collecting data for 40 years!

Acxion is the slayer of the consumer big data dragon--doing large-scale data mining and analytics using publicly available information and consumer surveys.

They collect data on demographics, socio-economics, lifestyle, and buying habits and they integrate all this data.

Acxion generates direct marketing solutions and predictive consumer behavior information.

They work with 47 of the Fortune 100 as well as the government after 9/11.

There are many concerns raised by both the size and scope of this activity.
Firstly, as to the information itself relative to its:

- Privacy
- Security

Secondly, regarding the consumer in terms of potential: 

- Profiling
- Espionage
- Stalking
- Manipulation 

Therefore, the challenge of big data is a double-edged sword: 

- On one hand we have the desire for data intelligence to make sense of all the data out there and use it to maximum affect.
- On the other hand, we have serious concerns about privacy, security, and the potential abuse of power that the information enables. 

How we harness the power of information to help society, but not hurt people is one of the biggest challenges of our time. 

This will be an ongoing tug of war between the opposing camps until hopefully, the pendulum settles in the healthy middle, that is our collective information sweet spot. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)


May 12, 2012

It's Not iStuff, It's Your iFuture

There is an editorial in the Wall Street Journal (11 May 2012) called "Make It a Summer Without iStuff."

It is written by David Gelernter, Professor of Computer Science at the prestigious Yale University and I was much dismayed to read it.

With all due respect, Gelernter makes the case--and a poor one at that--for keeping kids away from technology.

He calls technology devices and the Internet, "the perfect anti-concentration weapon...turning a child's life into a comedy of interruptions."

Gelernter states pejoratively that the "whole point of modern not doing anything except turning into a click vegetable."

Moreover, Gelernter goes too far treating technology and the Internet as a waste of time, toys, and even as dangerous vices--"like liquor, fast cars, and sleeping pills"--that must be kept away from children.

Further, Gelernter indiscriminately calls en masse "children with computers...little digital Henry VIIIs," throwing temper tantrums when their problems cannot be solved by technology. 

While I agree with Gelernter that at the extreme, technology can be used to as a escape from real, everyday life--such as for people who make their primary interaction with others through social networking or for those who sit virtually round-the-clock playing video games.

And when technology is treated as a surrogate for real life experiences and problem solving, rather than a robust tool for us to live fuller lives, then it becomes an enabler for a much diminished, faux life and possibly even a pure addiction. 

However, Gelernter misses the best that technology has to offer our children--in terms of working smarter in everything we do. 

No longer is education a matter of memorizing textbooks and spitting back facts on exams in a purely academic fashion, but now being smart is knowing where to find answers quickly--how to search, access, and analyze information and apply it to real world problems. 

Information technology and communications are enablers for us do more with less--and kids growing up as computer natives provide the best chance for all of us to innovate and stay competitive globally. 

Rather then helping our nation bridge the digital divide and increase access to the latest technologies and advance our children's familiarity with all things science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Gelernter wants to throw us back in time to the per-digital age.

With the ever rapid pace with which technology is evolving, Gelernter's abolishing technology for children needlessly sets them back in their technology prowess and acumen, while others around the world are pressing aggressively ahead. 

Gelernter may want his kids to be computer illiterate, but I want mine to be computer proficient.  

iStuff are not toys, they are not inherently dangerous vices, and they are not a waste of our children's time, they are their future--if we only teach and encourage them to use the technology well, balanced, and for the good. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to "Extra Ketchup," Michael Surran)


March 1, 2012

Dashboarding The Information Waves

I had an opportunity to view a demo of a dashboarding product from Edge called AppBoard, and while this is not a vendor or product endorsement, I think it is a good example to briefly talk about these types of capabilities. 

Dashboard products enable us to pull from multiple data sources, make associations, see trends, identify exceptions, and get alerts when there are problems.

Some of the things that I look for in dashboard tools are the following:

- Ease of use of connecting to data 

- Ability to integrate multiple stovepiped databases

- A variety of graphs, charts, tables, and diagrams to visualize the information

- Use of widgets to automatically manipulate the data and create standardized displays

- Drag and drop ability to organize the dashboard in any way you like to see it

- Drill down to get more information on the fly 

While there are many tools to consider that provide dashboards, information visualization, and business intelligence, I think one of the most important aspects of these is that they be user-centric and easy to implement and customize for the organization and its mission.

When making critical decisions (especially those involving life and death) and when time is of the essence--we need tools that can be can be easily navigated and manipulated to get the right information and make a good decision, quickly. 
As a fan of information visualization tools, I appreciate tools like this that can help us get our arms around the "information overload" out there, and I hope you do too.

(All Opinions my own)


January 15, 2012

Adapt and Live!


The Times, They Are a-Changin' is a song by Bob Dylan (1964), it is also the reality of our times today, and how we react to all the change can make or break us.

Like with Agile Software Development, one of the main values is "responding to change over following a plan," to improve the success of software development, similarly in the world today, we need to be able to rapidly and flexibly respond to change in order to successfully compete.

Fast Company (February 2012) has two important articles on this topic--one is called "Generation Flux" and the other "The Four-Year Career."

Generation Flux is about how we are living in a time of "chaotic disruption" and that this is "born of technology and globalization." Generation Flux is a mindset of agility versus a demographic designation like Gen X or Y.

All around us we see the effects of this rapid change in terms of business models and leadership turned upside down, inside out, and sideways.

Recently, we have seen:

- Mainstay companies such as American Airlines and Hostess declare bankruptcy

- Some titans of the Fortune 500 companies ousted, including Carol Bartz of Yahoo, Leo Apotheker from HP to name just a few

- Others, like RIM and Netflix have fallen from grace and are struggling to regain their footwork--some will and some won't

At the same time, we have seen the ascension of companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon becoming the "kings of the hill"--driven in part by their agility to get in and out of markets and products:

- In 2010, Google was getting out of China; today Google is expanding its presence once again. In addition, Google continues to start up or acquire and discontinue services regularly; just last year they closed Google Desktop developed in 2005, Google Health Service started in 2008, and Google Aardvark purchased in 2010 (and more)

- Amazon, once an online book and music retailer has now become the premier e-Commerce company as well as the No. 2 in tablets and in the top 3 in cloud computing.

- Apple was slick in developing the navigation wheel on the iPod only to get rid of it completely with the touch-screen of the iPad.

- Facebook continues to adapt to security and privacy concerns, but still has more to do, especially in terms of simplifying choices for their users.

According to Fast Company, to survive, we need to be profoundly agile and "embrace instability, that tolerates--and enjoys--recalibrating careers, business models, and assumptions." The article points out that this is just as Darwin has professed, ultimately it is the agile that will survive--not the strongest or smartest.

For organizations, change, agility and adaptability is the name of the game, and they are depending on petabytes of information and the business intelligence to make sense of it all to make the right decision every day.

For individuals, "the long career is dead" (U.S. workers have a medium job tenure of only 4.4 years and have an average of 11 different jobs over a lifetime) and "the quest for solid rules is pointless" (with automation and robotics atrophying low- and middle-skill jobs and part time, freelance, and contract work all on the rise). Now, in an agile marketplace, "career-vitality" or the continuous broadening of individual capabilities is encouraged and expected, and the "T-shaped" person with both depth or subject matter expertise as well as breadth in other areas in becoming more and more valued.

Moreover, hard skills are important, but social skills and emotional intelligence are critical to get along, share information, and collaborate with others.

Of course, not all change is good, and we need to speak up and influence the direction of it for the good, but in the end, standing still in the path of genuine progress is like standing in front of a speeding locative.

While the quiet and serenity of maintaining the status quo is often what feels most secure and comfortable in uncertain times, it may actually just be the forerunner to the death knell for your career and organization. There are no short-cuts to continuing to learn, explore, and grow as the world around us rapidly evolves.

Adapt and live or stagnate and die.

(Source Photo: here)


June 24, 2011

Feedback, Can't Live Without It

Whether you call it feedback or performance measurement, we all need information on how we are doing in order to keep doing better over time.

Wired (July 2011) reports that there are 4 basic stages to feedback:

1. Evidence--"behavior is measured, captured, and stored."

2. Relevance--information is conveyed in a way that is "emotionally resonant."

3. Consequence--we are provided with the results of our (mis)deeds.

4. Action--individuals have the opportunity to"recalibrate a behavior, make a choice, and act."

The new action (in step 4) is also subject to measurement and the the feedback loop begins again.

Feedback plays a critical role in helping us achieve our goals; according to psychologist Albert Bandura, if we can identify our goals and measure our progress to them, we greatly increase the likelihood that we will achieve them.

Thus, feedback is the way that we continually are able to course correct in order hit our targets: if we veer too much to the right, we course correct left; if we veer too much to the left, we course correct right.

Feedback loops "can help people change bad behavior...[and] can encourage good habits."

From obesity to smoking, carbon emissions to criminal behavior, and energy use to employee performance, if we get feedback as to where we are going wrong and what negative effects it is having on us, we have the opportunity to improve.

And the way we generate improvement in people is not by trying to control them--since no one can really be controlled, they just rebel--instead we give them the feedback they need to gain self-control.

These days, feedback is not limited to having that heart-to-heart with somebody, but technology plays a critical role.

From sensors and monitors that capture and store information, to business intelligence that makes it meaningful in terms of trends, patterns, and graphs, to alerting and notification systems that let you know when some sort of anomaly occurs, we rely on technology to help us control our often chaotic environments.

While feedback can be scary and painful--no one wants to get a negative reaction, criticized, or even "punished"--in the end, we are better off knowing than not knowing, so we have the opportunity to evaluate the veracity and sincerity of the feedback and reflect on what to do next.

There are many obstacles to self-improvement including disbelief, obstinance, arrogance, as well as pure unadulterated laziness. All these can get in the way of making necessary changes in our lives; however, feedback has a way of continuing to come back and hit you over the head in life until you pay attention and act accordingly.

There is no escaping valid feedback.


March 14, 2011

Watson Can Swim

With IBM's Watson beating the pants off Jennings and Rutter in Jeopardy, a lot of people want to know can computers can really think?

Both sides of this debate have shown up in the last few weeks in some fascinating editorials in the Wall Street Journal.

On one hand, on 23 February 2011, John Searle of the University of California, Berkeley wrote that "IBM invented an ingenious program--not a computer that can think." According to Searle, Watson (or any computer for that matter) is not thinking but is simulating thinking.

In his most passionate expression, Searle exclaims: "Watson did not understand the questions, nor its answers, not that some of its answers were right and some wrong, not that it was playing a game, nor that it won--because it doesn't understand anything."

Today, on 14 March 2011 on the other hand, Stephen Baker, author of "Final Jeopardy--Man vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything" took the opposing view and stated: "Watson is an early sighting of a highly disruptive that can handle [information] jobs held by people."

To the question of whether machine thinking is "real" thinking? Baker quotes David Ferrucci, IBM's chief scientist who when asked if Watson can think, responded "Can a submarine swim?"

The analogy is a very good one.

Just because a submarine doesn't swim like a fish or a person, doesn't mean it can't swim. In fact and in a sense, for the very reason that it doesn't swim exactly like a fish or person, it actually can swim better.

So too with computers, just because they don't "think" like humans doesn't mean they don't think. They just think differently and again in sense, maybe for the very same reason, in certain ways they can think better.

How can a computer sometimes think better than a person? Well here are just some possible examples (non-exhaustive):

- Computers can evaluate options purely based on facts (and not get "bogged down" in emotions, conflict, ego, and so forth like human beings).

- Computers can add processing power and storage at the push of button, like in cloud computing (people have the gray matter between their ears that G-d gave them, period).

- Computers do not tire by a problem--they will literally mechanically keep attacking it until solved (like cracking a password).

- Computers can be upgraded over time with new hardware, software, and operating systems (unlike people who age and pass).
At the same time, it is important to note that people still trump computers in a number of facets:

- We can evaluate things based on our conscience and think in terms of good and evil, and faith in a higher power (a topic of a prior blog).

- We can care for one another--especially children and the needy--in a altruistic way that is not based on information or facts, but on love.

- We can work together like ants in a colony or bees in a hive or crowdsourcing on- or off-line to get large jobs done with diversity and empowerment.

- We are motivated to better ourselves and our world--to advance ourselves, families, and society through continuous improvement.
Perhaps, like the submarine and the fish, both of which can "swim" in their own ways, so too both computers and people can "think"--each in their own capacity. Together, computers and people can augment the other--being stronger and more effective in carrying out the great tasks and challenges that confront us and await.


February 3, 2011

Leading With Business Intelligence

Check out this great video on Mobile Business Intelligence (BI) put out by MicroStrategy (Note: this is not an endorsement of any particular vendor or product).

Watch the user fly through touchscreen tables, charts, graphs, maps, and more on an iPhone and iPad-- Can it really be this easy?

This fits in with my firm belief that we've got to use business analytics, dashboarding, and everything "information visualization" (when done in a user-centric way) to drive better decision-making.

This is also ultimately a big part of what knowledge management is all about--we turn data into actionable insight!

What is so cool about this Mobile BI is that you can now access scorecards, data mining, slicing and dicing (Online Analytical Processing--OLAP), alerting, and reporting all from a smartphone or tablet.

This integrates with Google maps, and is being used by major organizations such as U.S. Postal Service and eBay.

Running a business, I would want this type of capability...wouldn't you?

As Federal Judge John E. Jones said: "What gets measured get's done, what gets measured and fed back gets done well, and what gets rewarded, gets repeated."


November 7, 2010

Match Me With You

eHarmony and and other matchmaking sites are all the rage on the single scene with recommended partners for people being done by computer algorithm.

Now this concept of matching of people is going beyond people’s love lives and into the world of business.

CIO Magazine (1 Nov. 2010) reports in an article called “Call Center Matchmaking: Analytics pair customers with the right agents for better service” that companies are using similar technology to match customers and call centers reps in order to get higher satisfaction ratings and increased retention rates—and it’s working!

Since implementing the IBM system called Real-Time Analytics Matching Platform (RAMP), for example, Assurant has increased customer retention rates by 190 percent.

Other companies have been doing customer matching on a more elementary level for some time—for example, financial service firms route calls from high-net worth or high-balance customers to “premier agents.” Similarly, calls made at certain time are “routed to Boise instead of Bangalore.”

With computer systems like RAMP, there is a recognition that customers can do better by being matched with specific customer service representatives and that we can use business analytics to examine a host of data variables from sex and age to persistence in calling to match a customer to “the right” representative to handle their issues.

Based on success rates, computers have been shown to perform sophisticated business and data analysis, and to successfully match people for more successful business (and life) transactions.

If we can successfully pair people for love and for customer service, it makes me wonder what’s next (maybe happening already)? For example, will we pair people to “the right”:

  • Potential adoptee parents?
  • Neighborhoods?
  • Schools?
  • Jobs?
  • Bosses?
  • Coworkers?

In essence, as the “bar is raised” in a highly global and competitive environment, will we be pushed to seek to maximize our potential for success interaction with others—for developing high-performance and highly profitable interactions—by pairing exclusively with those that “screen” positive for us?

With genetic testing already being used to screen for babies that people want—like an order at Burger King—“hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us…”—we are already well on our way to “special ordering” the people in our lives.

Companies have also started to use intelligence and personality tests to weed out applicants, and the use of personality tests like Myers Briggs is already being employed for better understanding each other and working together.

However crude all this may be, it is essentially a high-tech way of trying to optimize our performance. The question is can we use technology to enhance personal interactions and elevate performance without subjecting people to undue bias, criticism, and violation of their privacy? This is a very slippery slope indeed.

Another potential problem with computer matching is that when we rely on computers to “tell us” when we have a good match, we are potentially missing potential opportunities for matches with others that cannot be easily quantified or summed up by a computer algorithm? As they say, for some “two birds of a feather flock together” and for others “opposite attract”—we shouldn’t limit ourselves to any creative, positive possibilities in relationships.


October 3, 2010

Policing, Armed And Data-Rich

Watch how COMPSTAT (COMPuter STATistics) and technology is being used for predictive policing.

Data, geographic information systems (GIS), and business intelligence/analytics come together to predict and fight crime in major U.S. cities like LA, NY, and others.

As one officer said: "Information can predict the future. Information can lead you to make good decisions and it's shown in a business model everyday!"


February 7, 2009

The Perilous Pitfalls of Unconscious Decision Making

Every day as leaders, we are called upon to make decisions—some more important than others—but all having impacts on the organization and its stakeholders. Investments get made for better or worse, employees are redirected this way or that, customer requirements get met or are left unsatisfied, suppliers receive orders while others get cancelled, and stakeholders far and wide have their interests fulfilled or imperiled.

Leadership decisions have a domino effect. The decisions we make today will affect the course of events well into the future--especially when we consider a series of decisions over time.

Yet leadership decisions span the continuum from being made in a split second to those that are deliberated long and hard.

In my view, decision makers can be categorized into three types: “impulsive,” “withholding,” and “optimizers.”

  1. Impulsive leaders jump the gun and make a decision without sufficient information—sometimes possibly correctly, but often risking harm to the organization because they don’t think things through.
  2. Withholding leaders delay making decisions, searching for the optimal decision or Holy Grail. While this can be effective to avoid overly risky decisions, the problem is that they end up getting locked into “analysis paralysis”. They never get off the dime; decisions linger and die while the organization is relegated to a status quo—stagnating or even declining in times of changing market conditions.
  3. Optimizers rationally gather information, analyze it, vet it, and drive towards a good enough decision; they attempt to do due diligence and make responsible decisions in reasonable time frames that keep the organization on a forward momentum, meeting strategic goals and staying competitive. But even the most rational individuals can falter in the face of an array of data.

So it is clear that whichever mode decision makers assume, many decisions are still wrong. In my view, this has to do with the dynamics of the decision-making process. Even if they think they are being rational, in reality leaders too often make decisions for emotional or even unconscious reasons. Even optimizers can fall into this trap.

CIOs, who are responsible for substantial IT investment dollars, must understand why this happens and how they can use IT management best practices, structures, and tools to improve the decision-making process.

An insightful article that sheds light on unconscious decision-making, “Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions,” was published this month in Harvard Business Review.

The article states: “The reality is that important decisions made by intelligent, responsible people with the best information and intentions are sometimes hopelessly flawed.”

Here are two reasons cited for poor decision making:

  • Pattern Recognition—“faced with a new situation, we make assumptions based on prior experiences and judgments…but pattern recognition can mislead us. When we’re dealing with seemingly familiar situations, our brains can cause us to think we understand then when we don’t.”
  • Emotional Tagging—“emotional information attaches itself to the thoughts and experiences stored in our memories. This emotional information tells us whether to pay attention to something or not, and it tells us what sort of action we should be contemplating.” But what happens when emotion gets in the way and inhibits us from seeing things clearly?

The authors note some red flags in decision making: the presence of inappropriate self-interest, distorting attachments (bonds that can affect judgment—people, places, or things), and misleading memories.

So what can we do to make things better?

According to the authors of the article, we can “inject fresh experience or analysis…introduce further debate and challenge…impose stronger governance.”

In terms of governance, the CIO certainly comes with a formidable arsenal of IT tools to drive sound decision making. In particular, enterprise architecture provides for structured planning and governance; it is the CIO’s disciplined way to identify a coherent and agreed to business and technical roadmap and a process to keep everyone on track. It is an important way to create order of organizational chaos by using information to guide, shape, and influence sound decision making instead of relying on gut, intuition, politics, and subjective management whim—all of which are easily biased and flawed!

In addition to governance, there are technology tools for information sharing and collaboration, knowledge management, business intelligence, and yes, even artificial intelligence. These technologies help to ensure that we have a clear frame of reference for making decisions. We are no longer alone out there making decisions in an empty vacuum, but rather now we can reach out –far and wide to other organizations, leaders, subject matter experts, and stakeholders to get and give information, to analyze, to collaborate and to perhaps take what would otherwise be sporadic and random data points and instead connect the dots leading to a logical decision.

To help safeguard the decision process (and no it will never be failsafe), I would suggest greater organizational investments in enterprise architecture planning and governance and in technology investments that make heavily biased decisions largely a thing of the past.


May 7, 2008

Integrated Marketing Communications and Enterprise Architecture

There is a better way to showing customer love than inundating them with marketing and communications that are not coordinated, not focused, redundant, inconsistent, and not cost-effective.

This is the case of many organizations that have multiple, decentralized, lines of business (LOB) that have their own revenue and profitability targets. Typically LOBs, branches, and call centers solicit customers and their business independently, with distinct marketing campaigns, promotional offers, and customer surveys.

What’s the way to improve our customer interactions?

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is “a planning process designed to assure that all brand contacts received by a customer or prospect for a product, service, or organization are relevant to that person and consistent over time.” (American Marketing Association)

In DM Review, May 2008, Lisa Loftis provides us a vision of IMC utopia, where customer contact are coordinated, targeted, is helpful to the customer, and profitable to the firm:

“Imagine being able to coordinate and prioritize your entire program of promotions and communications across all customer touchpoints. You could eliminate conflicting offers across channels. You could stop inundating you bet customers with multiple marketing campaigns, You could deliver a seamless dialog with customers where every interaction is relevant to the customer, delivered at exactly the right time and satisfies a significant customer needs. In this universe, the very act of communicating with your customer fosters a positive experience, facilitates trust and expands the relationship.”

Why is IMC important?

“Timely, relevant communications go a long way toward increasing satisfaction, and there is no question that satisfied customers add to the bottom line.”

How is IMC related to User-centric Enterprise Architecture?

User-centric EA relies on IMC to make the architecture end-users experience more satisfying and beneficial to them and thus more valuable to the organization’s decision making. As opposed to traditional EA that often is user/customer blind and develops esoteric and convoluted “artifacts”, User-centric EA seeks to provide end-users with IMC-style information products based on relevant information that is easy to understand and readily available.

What are the enterprise technical solutions that need to be architected in order to build the overall organizational IMC capability?

  1. Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) systems—utilizing CRM system to manage customer contacts. This includes an organization “building a database about its customers that described relationships in sufficient detail so that management, salespeople, people providing service, and perhaps the customer directly could access information, match customer needs with product plans and offerings, remind customers of service requirements, know what other products a customer had purchased, and so forth.” (
  2. Business Intelligence capabilities—“understanding customer behavior and preference through sophisticated predictive analytics, wading through myriad potential contacts to determine the highest-priority opportunities and tuning your data warehouse to work in conjunction with specific contact optimization applications.” (DM Review)
  3. Organizational Culture—adopting a customer contact optimization strategy in an organization that is decentralized is a tough sell.

In the end, developing true IMC capabilities involves moving the organization towards a more centralized model of asset management. That does not mean losing your agility and nimbleness in the marketplace in terms of strategy and decision making, but rather using your consolidated organizational assets (such as data warehouses and business intelligence, CRM systems, and the breadth of depth of your product offerings) to your advantage. You want a unified brand and voice when talking with the customer.


May 2, 2008

Executive Dashboards and Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture makes information visible to enable better decision making in the organization. One tool to help do this is the executive dashboard.

In management information systems, a dashboard is a executive information system user interface that (similar to an automobile's dashboard) is designed to be easy to read. For example, a product might obtain information from the local operating system in a computer, from one or more applications that may be running, and from one or more remote sites on the Web and present it as though it all came from the same source. (Wikipedia)

Dashboards help manage information overload:

  • “After three decades of aggressive computerization, companies are drowning in data and information. People produced about five exabytes of new information in 2002, twice the amount created just two years earlier” (Trend: The New Rules of Information Management by Jeffrey Rothfeder)
  • Dashboard are a way to take the fire hose flood of information that we get every day and make it more actionable by structuring it, focusing it, and making it more understandable often through visual displays. Note, this is similar to User-centric Enterprise Architecture’s use of principles of communications and design, such as information visualization to effectively communicate the baseline, target, and transition plan in the organization.

Dashboards provide business intelligence:

  • Dashboards, like enterprise architecture itself, contribute to translating data into business intelligence. EA does this by capturing, analyzing, cataloging, and serving up information in useful and usable ways to enhance decision making by the end-users. Dashboards do this by capturing and aggregating performance metrics, and displaying them in easy-to-read and often, customizable formats.

Dashboards generally focus on performance:

  • Dashboards generally are used for displaying, monitoring, and managing an organization’s performance metrics. Note, “performance” is one of the perspectives of the enterprise architecture, so dashboards are a nifty way to make that EA perspective really come alive!
  • According to DM Review, 15 April 2008, “Dashboards Help Drive and Improve Performance Metrics…Presented in highly visual charts and graphs, this data can provide each level of the organization with the information it needs to best perform…Dashboards also can be a key driver of performance improvement initiatives, offering a simple and graphical way to make key performance indicators (KPIs) visible throughout the enterprise.”

Dashboards typically provide activity monitoring and drilldown capability:

  • “The most effective dashboards allow users to drill down into the KPIs to find root cause or areas likely to cause problems. Some can even be configured to alert maintenance or support personnel when performance drops” or dangerous thresholds are crossed. Dashboard also help “make comparisons of multiple data sources” over time. These functions are called business activity monitoring, and when applied to the organization’s network, for example, is referred to a network monitoring.
  • The ability to monitor and manage performance using the dashboard is similar to ability to monitor and manage the organization’s track along it roadmap using EA!
  • The most effective dashboards, like the most effective enterprise architectures, are those that provide information in multiple layers of detail, so that the executives can get the high-level summary, the mid-level managers can understand the relationships between the information, and the analysts can drill down and get the detail.

Dashboards—an effective human-machine interface:

  • Dashboards done right, are an effective EA tool, and serve as a window into the organization’s performance; they provides real-time, summary and granular information for making quick and specific decisions to positively affect performance.


April 11, 2008

Google and Enterprise Architecture

User-centric Enterprise architecture is about capturing, processing, organizing, and effectively presenting business and technology information to make it valuable and actionable by the organization for planning and governance.

Google is a company that epitomizes this mission.

After reading a recent article in Harvard Business Review, April 2008, I came to really appreciate their amazing business practices and found many connections with User-centric EA.

  1. Organizing information--Google’s mission [is] ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.’” Similarly in User-centric EA, we seek to organize the enterprise’s information and make it useful, usable, easy to understand, and readily accessible to aid decision making.
  2. Business and technology go hand-in-hand—“Technology and strategy, at Google, are inseparable and mutually permeable—making it hard to say whether technology is the DNA of its strategy or the other way around.” Similarly, EA is the synthesis of business and technology in the organization, where business drives technology, rather than doing technology for technology’s sake.
  3. Long-term approach—“CEO Eric Schmidt has estimated that it will take 300 years to achieve the mission of organizing the world’s information…it illustrates Google’s long-term approach to building value and capability.” Similarly, EA is a planning and governance function. EA plans span many years, usually at least 5 years, but depending on the mission, as long as 20 years for business/IT projects with long research and development cycles like in military and space domains.
  4. Architectural control—“Architectural control resides in Google’s ability to track the significance of any new service, its ability to choose to provide or not provide the service, and its role as a key contributor to the service’s functional value.” This is achieved by network infrastructure consisting of approximately one million computers and a target audience of 132 million customers globally on which they can test and launch applications. In EA, control is exercised through a sound governance process that ensures sound IT investments are selected or not.
  5. Useful and usable—“The emphasis in this process is not on identifying the perfect offering, but rather on creating multiple potential useful offerings and letting the market decide which is best…among the company’s design principles are…usefulness first, usability later.” In User-centric EA, we also focus on the useful and usable products (although not in sequence). The point being that the EA must have clear value to the organization and its decision makers; we shun developing organizational shelfware or conducting ivory tower efforts.
  6. Data underscores decision making—“A key ingredient of innovation at the company is the extensive, aggressive use of data and testing to support ideas.” EA also relies on data (business and technical) for planning and governance. This is the nature of developing, maintaining, and leveraging use of EA through information products that establish the baseline, target, and transition plan of the organization. A viable plan is not one that is pulled from a hat, but one that is data-driven and vetted with executives, subject matter experts, and other stakeholders. Further, EA provides business intelligence for governance and decision making.
  7. Human capital—“If a company actually embraced—rather than merely paid lip service to—the idea that its people are its most important asset, it would treat employees much the way Google does.” This concept is embedded User-centric EA, where the architecture is driven by the needs and requirements of the users. Further, Human Capital is a distinct perspective in User-centric EA, where people are viewed as the hub for all business and IT success.

In short, Google is a highly User-centric EA-driven organization and is a model for many of its core tenets.


February 3, 2008

SOA, Data Management and Enterprise Architecture

Often I hear business and IT people say that Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is the way ahead to achieve greater interoperability of systems, process integration, and business efficiency in the enterprise. Usually, this is quickly followed by discussion about rolling out the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). However, very infrequently do I hear discussion about the necessary data architecture to achieve the vision of SOA.

Stephen Lahanas has an interesting article, “Enable SOA Transformation and Cross-Domain Data Fusion” in DM Review Magazine, January 2008 that addresses the importance of Data Management to SOA. (

“While SOA has long considered universal description, discovery and integration (UDDI) as its primary discoverability mechanism, the reality is that nearly all integration with an SOA environment is based upon data exchange and will ultimately be demonstrated through data exploitation interfaces (agile BI). Once SOA architects fully realize the implications of this revelation, then agile data architecture will become the facilitating mechanism for cross-domain data fusion and enterprise integration.

Mr. Lahanas provides four fundamental elements for building an agile data architecture, as follows:

  1. Actionable enterprise architecture—“a tangible way to connect architecture layers (EA, segment and implementation) and perspectives (application, process, data). One of the main reasons that large integration projects fail is due to the inability to successfully map the various architectures within a meaningful combined picture. Every agile data architecture begins here.”
  2. Federated data orchestration—“allow data owners to collaboratively manage resources across domains based upon a shared set of rules rather than a shared single data model. This is an excellent example of a user-centric approach. One of the major shortcomings of massive data warehouse projects has been the lost connections between users and developers and resulting data integrity issues.
  3. Enterprise Master Data Management—“Metadata is not just a technical consideration; it can define productivity in our knowledge economy.”
  4. Agile Business Intelligence—“A new generation of BI capabilities is bringing user control to more sophisticated report generation tools with much more accurate results… Based upon user queries and activities, we gather metadata, optimize caches and determine cross-domain mapping strategies.”
Two ideas that I particularly like in Stephen’s article are:

  1. Linkage of SOA to Data Architecture—“Agile data architecture is a parallel and complementary design philosophy and methodology to SOA and agile application development. Both can be mapped together within the larger actionable enterprise architecture.”
  2. Focus on User-centricity—“User-centricity is the primary motivating force behind the development of all agile solutions. The user provides:
  • Immediacy – the desire for near-term real-world capability.
  • Relevance and context.
  • Performance expectations.
  • Direction, domain knowledge and the logic behind every solution.”

In developing SOA, we cannot forget the necessity of building a meaningful data architecture that facilitates the discovery and exchange of data via SOA and ESB. Further, all our architecture and IT solutions must be user-centric if they are to be relevant and effective to the enterprise’s end-users.


December 17, 2007

Master Data Management and Enterprise Architecture

“Master Data Management (MDM), also known as Reference Data Management, is a sub-discipline of data architecture within Information Technology (IT) that focuses on the management of reference or master data that is shared by several disparate IT systems and groups. MDM is required to enable consistent computing between diverse system architectures and business functions.” (Wikipedia)

Master data are the critical nouns of a business and fall generally into four groupings: people, things, places, and concepts. Further categorizations within those groupings are called subject areas, domain areas, or entity types…Master data can be described by the way that it interacts with other data. For example, in transaction systems, master data is almost always involved with transactional data. A customer buys a product. A vendor sells a part, and a partner delivers a crate of materials to a location… Master data can be described by the way that it is Created, Read, Updated, Deleted, and searched. This life cycle is called the CRUD cycle…Why should I manage master data? Because it is used by multiple applications, an error in master data can cause errors in all the applications that use it. (“The What, Why, and How of Master Data Management” by Wolter and Haselden, Microsoft Corporation, November 2006)

How can MDM software help manage MDM? Wolter and Haselden identify three primary methods:

  • Single-copy of master data—where all changes and additions are made to the master and all applications accessing it use the current master data set
  • Multiple copies of master data—master data is updated in a single master, but the data is sent out to the source systems where data sets are stored locally and changes to non-master data can be made)
  • Continuous merge—where changes are made to the source data sets and are sent to the master to be merged and resent out to the source data sets again., in “Demystifying Master Data Management”, 30 April 2007 reports that “unfortunately, most companies don't have a precise view about their customers, products, suppliers, inventory or even employees. Whenever companies add new enterprise applications to "manage" data, they unwittingly contribute to an overall confusion about a corporation's overall view of the enterprise. As a result, the concept of master data management (MDM)—creating a single, unified view of an organization—is growing in importance.” However, the article notes that adding MDM technologies will not magically correct an organization’s data quality issues, as noted in “a recent report from The Data Warehousing Institute that found 83 percent of organizations suffer from bad data for reasons that have nothing to do with technology. Among the causes of poor-quality data were inaccurate reporting, internal disagreements over which data is appropriate and incorrect definitions rendering the data unusable.”

So the essence of an MDM initiative is to first improve data quality by developing the process to define, categorize, and identify authoritative sources for data, and only then to apply MDM software to build a single view of the data.

MDM is important to enterprise architecture for a number of reasons:

  • Information sharing—MDM is critical to information sharing, data integration, and reconciliation, as it establishes an authoritative source of data that can be shared between systems or organizational entities.
  • Data governanceMDM helps establish the basis for sound data governance, since data owners, stewards, and users need to be able to distinguish good data from bad data, define data objects, establish data standards, metadata requirements and registries for discoverability, access rights, transfer protocols and methods, and maybe most importantly a governance process that defines who is allowed to change system data and how.
  • Business IntelligenceMDM enables business intelligence by providing for an integration of data for mining, reporting, and decision support.

Creating authoritative master data is an imperative for data and systems integrity, and good decision making based on sound enterprise data.


December 8, 2007

Relationships and Enterprise Architecture

User-centric enterprise architecture captures, analyzes, categorizes, and serves up information to enhance decision-making capability in the organization. However, it is not only information alone that helps us make better decisions, but also developing and nurturing important personal relationships.

In the book, It’s Not Business, It’s personal by Ronna Lichtenberg, the author reminds us that relationships are key to personal and professional success and deeply affect our decision-making ability.

  • Lichtenberg asks, “is there room in our new millennium, ‘’ world for relationships? Some folks would tell you there isn’t, that all that matters is performance and speed…the only problem is that all this speed has made us, to use a high-tech word, kludgy…as we whiz by one another, we don’t really connect. Which means that every decision is more complicated, takes longer, and is less intelligent because you can’t get real information about business problems from people you don’t trust.

So in this fast-paced, high-tech world, we overlook others, but can’t we still get good information from disciplines like EA? While EA is a valuable information resource, EA information products or a repository is not a substitute for relationships, nor can you develop and maintain the EA without solid relationships.

  • “We can be deceived into believing that our world is now too efficient [like through the development and use of EA information and other business intelligence methods and tools ] for relationships, that when every bit of information, and virtually any product or service, can be bought with a click of a mouse, the need for relationships has disappeared. But in fact, it has become even more important.”

How many relationships do we need? While quantity of relationships can be important, it is the quality of those relationships that is even more important. It is the “real relationships” in our lives or those of substance that provide the most satisfaction, value, and meaning to us over the long term. These relationships extend first and foremost to family and friends, but also to professional relationships between talented, dynamic people who can work together to build successful programs, products, and services for organizations and society (and this includes strategic programs like EA).

  • “When working with people and investing in relationships, the value comes not in quantity, but in quality. It doesn’t matter how many people you’ve met in your career or how many Rolodex cards you’ve acquired…what matters is who will be there for you when you really need it…‘networking’ is superficial. ‘Relationships’ are deep.
  • “The trick is to make it personal, to bring your heart into it, while respecting the roles and the rules of business. The goal is not to do business with your friends and it’s not to make friends out of your closest business relationships (though that sometimes happens). It’s to be present, and to bring all the nuance and intensity and affection and power of your personality into your close business relationships.”

Some obvious areas where relationships are critical in building an EA program are as follows:

  • Executive commitment—an EA program needs to have commitment from the highest levels to be successful. That means not only your boss, but also the senior executive team that runs the organization. Developing relationships with senior management that helps to explain the program and gain their commitment is fundamental.
  • The EA team—a good chief enterprise architect carefully chooses his or her EA team. Having experienced, knowledgeable, skilled, talented and enthusiastic people can make all the difference between a vibrant EA program and one that falls flat or fizzles out. Additionally, good synergy between team members helps to build a strong, cohesive program.
  • Subject matter experts—the information in the enterprise architecture cannot be gleaned only from documents and databases. EA is built through the interaction of business and technical subject matter experts throughout the organization, as well as from those outside the organization who can provide best practices. Of course, everyone is busy, but it is through building relationships with others that one can more fully engage them with the EA program.
  • Users—the dot-com adage of “build it and they will come” is way too simplistic for leveraging EA use for a wide variety of users in the organization. The chief architect needs to engage with the end users to, first of all, understand their requirements, but also to develop EA information products and governance services that are truly useful and usable to the end user.

Meaningful relationships, passion for what you do, and the commitment to give it your best, those are the elements of a solid EA program.


November 18, 2007

Business Intelligence from Enterprise Architecture

There is an interesting article by Bill Cason in Architecture and Governance Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 1 that emphasizes the importance of business intelligence to not only “the business,” but also to the IT of the organization.

What is business intelligence?

“Business intelligence (BI) is a business management term that dates to 1958. It refers to applications and technologies that are used to gather, provide access to, and analyze data and information about company operations. Business intelligence systems can help companies have a more comprehensive knowledge of the factors affecting their business, such as metrics on sales, production, and internal operations, and they can help companies to make better business decisions.” (Wikipedia)

“The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.” (Arie de Geus)

“The renowned Dutch business strategist got it right…repeatable success depends largely on the ability to adjust course quicker than your competition can adjust theirs. A prerequisite to that course correction is, of course, an understanding of exactly which adjustments need to be made. In the business world, the means to that end is ‘business intelligence’ or ‘BI’ for short.” (Architecture and Governance Magazine)

BI provides an organization not only access to pertinent data, but also analytics that transforms the data into actionable information.

User-centric EA is the foundation for capturing data for developing business intelligence for IT. EA captures massive amounts of data scattered in silos across the organization. The data is unified in the EA—brought together from dispersed geographies, numerous systems (manual and automated), previously stored in varied formats, and managed by disparate individuals. EA harmonizes the data, analyzes and categorizes it, and serves up the information to end user. EA provides business intelligence—EA information can be harvested by BI software to provide valuable analytics; EA synthesizes business and IT information to support decision-making.

Business intelligence from EA is used for “cost optimization, asset maximization, lifecycle management, service delivery, impact analysis, gap analysis, as-is/to-be transformations, etc.” EA enables the CIO to lead by example when it comes to developing and using business intelligence, optimizing the management of IT in support of mission execution.

EA brings information to the table for enhancing decision-making. As W. Edwards Deming said, “In G-d we trust, all others bring data.”


November 5, 2007

Semantic Web and Enterprise Architecture

MIT Technology Review, 29 October 2007 in an article entitled, “The Semantic Web Goes Mainstream,” reports that a new free web-based tool called Twine (by Radar Networks) will change the way people organize information.

Semantic Web—“a concept, long discussed in research circles, that can be described as a sort of smart network of information in which data is tagged, sorted, and searchable.”

Clay Shirky, professor in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University says. “At its most basic, the Semantic Web is a campaign to tag information with extra metadata that makes it easier to search. At the upper limit, he says, it is about waiting for machines to become devastatingly intelligent.”

Twine—“Twine is a website where people can dump information that's important to them, from strings of e-mails to YouTube videos. Or, if a user prefers, Twine can automatically collect all the web pages she visited, e-mails she sent and received, and so on. Once Twine has some information, it starts to analyze it and automatically sort it into categories that include the people involved, concepts discussed, and places, organizations, and companies. This way, when a user is searching for something, she can have quick access to related information about it. Twine also uses elements of social networking so that a user has access to information collected by others in her network. All this creates a sort of ‘collective intelligence,’ says Nova Spivack, CEO and founder of Radar Networks.”

“Twine is also using extremely advanced machine learning and natural-language processing algorithms that give it capabilities beyond anything that relies on manual tagging. The tool uses a combination of natural-language algorithms to automatically extract key concepts from collections of text, essentially automatically tagging them.”

A recent article in the Economist described the Semantic Web as follows:

“The semantic web is so called because it aspires to make the web readable by machines as well as humans, by adding special tags, technically known as metadata, to its pages. Whereas the web today provides links between documents which humans read and extract meaning from, the semantic web aims to provide computers with the means to extract useful information from data accessible on the internet, be it on web pages, in calendars or inside spreadsheets.”

So whereas a tool like Google sifts through web pages based on search criteria and serves it up to humans to recognize what they are looking for, the Semantic Web actually connects related information and adds metadata that a computer can understand.
It’s like relational databases on steroids! And, with the intelligence built in to make meaning from the related information.

Like a human brain, the Semantic Web connects people, places, and events seamlessly into a unified and actionable ganglion of intelligence.

For User-centric EA, the Semantic Web could be a critical evolution in how enterprise architects analyze architecture information and come up with findings and recommendations for senior management. Using the Semantic Web, business and technology information (such as performance results, business function and activities, information requirements, applications systems, technologies, security, and human capital) would all be related, made machine readable, and automatically provide intelligence to decision-makers in terms of gaps, redundancies, inefficiencies, and opportunities—pinpointed without human intervention. Now that’s business intelligence for the CIO and other leaders, when and where they need it.