Thursday, June 18, 2009

US and India : Ready for a slow dance number?

US and India : Ready for a slow dance number?

The US India Business Council’s “Synergies Summit” held June 16-17, 2009 occured at a time when significant changes have occurred in both the US and Indian polity : election of Democrat Barack Obama as President in the US and the re-election of the ruling Congress Party in India but this time without the stranglehold of it’s traditional Leftist allies.

The two dance partners have danced an amazing tango over the last few years and it would be interesting to see which foot they put forward as they step onto the dance floor again this time for a more slow and intimate number. The relationship had blossomed during President Bush’s tenure and there were expectations that with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke slated to attend; this summit might be used by the Obama Administration to spell out its policy for India .

The US is increasingly viewing India as a “deep” strategic partner while India too has found itself more closely aligned to the US on several issues. However US should realize that given the often contradictory pulls of the many factions within India’s democratic polity and it’s vast diversity, India will always be a “quirky” partner more in the mold of France than the always-toe- the- line UK. Multi-nuanced relationship is how some commentators are wont to describe it.

Right now, India might be ready for some self-righteous gloating, India ’s mixed economy has weathered the economic crises much better than the free or unregulated markets of other countries and it is on track to achieve growth in the 5-6% when rest of the global economy is shrinking. To many in India , US steps like “nationalization” or “state ownership” of banks, Insurance companies, auto companies and protectionist trade measures would seem to be a vindication of India ’s own economic policies which have included such features. Though the Left is no longer part of the ruling coalition in India , trend for economic liberalization,Free market reforms etc. may slow down as the policy wonks there try to figure out the causes of the US meltdown and try to ensure that it is not repeated there.

The flavor of the summit may also be different this year as while in the past it may served more as an opportunity for US companies looking for partners in India this time it will be equally matched by Indian corporates with fat wallets and hearty appetites looking for pickings from the aftermath of the economic maelstrom. While Hummer may have been picked up by a Chinese firm, I am sure there are sizable chunks of GM, AIG, Hollywood etc. which are being eyed as investment opportunities by Indian companies.

On the US side, despite many years of engagement in India most companies still do not have their act together. European, Korean, Japanese companies have proven to be more nimble and more adept to realize profits from what C.K. Prahalad has described as the “Bottom of the Pyramid”. Making profits selling chocolates for a few cents each or cell phones for a few dollars still seems to be like the proverbial Indian Rope trick :”Is it really happening” to many. The Business Process Outsourcing market may lose some of its sheen because of the protectionist measures in the US and the overall state of the US economy but most Indian BPO companies have climbed up the value chain to emerge as Knowledge Partners. Collaborating for technical and scientific innovation should be an important item on the agenda during the summit

As always, from a US perspective any conversation about India is not complete without bringing up the P-word. Pakistan is now more on the front-burner of US security policy discussions then ever before. India may find itself increasingly drawn into those discussions, though it is too soon for it to be considered a honest broker given it’s long history of discord with Pakistan and the still unresolved Kashmir issue. However the realization has slowly emerged in Washington that India is a responsible player with much at stake and is a strong stabilizing force in a region plagued with turmoil. Nobody knows the region better than India and as the stakes are raised with the US presence in Afghanistan and anti-terror actions in Pakistan , security collaboration with India is only going to increase.

Let the slow dance begin!!

Hillary Clinton's Remarks at the Summit

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Business Intelligence Chronicles Part 15 : The Cost of Intelligence- A Fistful of Dollars? or a Few Dollars More?

A recent study by Gartner about reducing the costs of reporting through data mart consolidation finds "Organizations can save up to 20% of data reporting costs and provide better business information by replacing fragmented reporting in disparate data marts with a single instance of widely used data."

Data Reporting Costs? How much are they? With "spreadmarts" (personal spreadsheets, thousands of desktop database instances, customized reporting solutions for small business groups etc.) proliferating all across an organization, it is very difficult to get a good estimate of the Data Reporting Costs.

And in the absence of a good estimate it often becomes difficult to calculate the ROI of BI initiatives (Show me the money .....Should I ? :Can we easily or accurately calculate the ROI of delivering key Business Intelligence to Sales Reps on their handheld devices versus the information being mailed to them periodically ?)

The existing Data Reporting Costs used by the Enterprise Information Management proponents for their savings projections are challenged by those who favor a more Distributed Information Management strategy and vice-versa.

So in absence of a good estimate should we assume the existing Data Reporting Costs to be "A Fistful of Dollars"?

I would recommend any IT organization making a case for enterprise wide consolidation of BI capabilities to first initiate a study to identify existing "spreadmarts" and the costs associated with them. This could be through a questionnaire or 1:1 interaction with key stakeholders. These stakeholders are likely to be the same ones who will have a key voice in whether the company goes ahead with an enterprise strategy so this will also give an opportunity to get them engaged early on. The process of answering questions related to the costs may also help them realize the many hidden costs associated with such "spreadmarts" and the savings that can accrue in their own area if they are rationalized. If they feel like owners of the cost saving resulting from an enterprise strategy they will become its staunchest advocates.

Well, are the costs just a Few Dollars More than a Fistful of Dollars ? That will determine The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of further discussions on any Enterprise Information Management Strategy.

(p.s. you can guess I am a fan of Sergei Leone's Clint Eastwood starring Spaghetti Westerns)

Friday, June 12, 2009

To Bee or not to Bee....

Remember my blogpost The Indian Spelling Bee Hive at Washington dated June 3, 2009 which mentioned about an interesting opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal by James Maguire : "How to Win the Spelling Bee. You don't have to be Indian. But it seems to help."
Well, I decided to send my feedback on that article to WSJ which was published on June 8,2009 Letters to the Editor on the Opinion page.
Being published in the WSJ, that's a first for me :-) :

Hard, Disciplined Work Is How You Spell ChampionAs an Indian immigrant and parent of a student who has won an award at the recently concluded Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Reno, Nevada, I can relate very well to the points made by James Maguire in "How to Win the Spelling Bee" (op-ed, June 3).
As expected, my daughter's achievement got nary a mention in the local papers, which seem to have no problem filling many pages with results of any sporting event, however obscure, in the local school districts.
American society likes to put sports achievers on a pedestal while academic achievement generally receives short shrift.Participation in research projects at local universities, science fairs and quiz competitions is more often than not at the initiative of the student or his or her parents. Schools often look askance at such activities and would rather allocate precious funds for participation in athletic meets than academic events.
This situation is baffling in a market-driven economy. People ought to ask: Who is going to create more jobs in the future -- the "popular" football player/cheerleader or the "nerdy" kid with the 4.0 grade-point average?
Most of these achievers are not just spelling geeks; they are well-rounded and have many other interests and hobbies at which they excel.
Let's get our priorities straight and start giving the real leaders of tomorrow the respect and encouragement they deserve.
Deepak Seth
Rochester, N.Y.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Business Intelligence Chronicles Part 14: The Color of Intelligence

Color or Colour - whichever way you spell it, has been a critical part of Business Intelligence in particular and Business in general. Red ink, in the black, greenback, traffic lighting, dashboarding all highlight the role of color in business.

In BI , color provides an extra dimension to reporting and an opportunity to cue immediate responses based on color perceptions deeply ingrained in the brain (Green is good, Red means immediate action etc.)

While color has played out well in the web delivery of reports, cost has been a key constraint in effectively using it for printed output. That sure acts as a dampener esp. when printed reports or briefing books are still the preferred report delivery option of many C-suite executives. From early in my career I remember putting briefing books together where only a select few got the color versions while others had to make do with black and white. They sure had a difficult time figuring out the various shades of gray or shading patterns.

Looks like we are on the way to see more color come into our reports.
Xerox recently announced the launch of ColorQube 9200 Series which is supposed to cut the cost of color pages by up to 62 percent compared to traditional color lasers − without compromising print quality. And that too in a Green way since proprietary solid ink technology (check it out, 361 patents, wow!) lowers the environmental impact of office printing and the Cartridge-free design generates 90 percent less supplies waste and reduces the effects of manufacturing and transportation on the environment.

Have you any colorful stories to share about your own experiences with color or lack thereof in your reports ?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Show me the money .....Should I ?

Jeff Hayzlett, chief marketing officer and vice president at Eastman Kodak Co., gave the keynote speech at the annual Ad Council of Rochester luncheon yesterday.

"Marketers are going to have to stand up against ROI," Hayzlett said. "People talk about ROI, what's your return on investment. What's the return on ignoring? That's a bigger factor than ... the finance." (as reported by the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle).

Interesting observation indeed. Diametrically opposite to the established Conventional Wisdom. But a dilemma faced increasingly by people working in the spheres of technical or business innovation. Can we easily or accurately calculate the ROI of delivering key Business Intelligence to Sales Reps on their handheld devices versus the information being mailed to them periodically ?

What is the ROI on laying off people ? Have companies ever taken stock of what the real gains from layoffs are after factoring in all the costs (including the hidden costs like loss of institutional wisdom, connections, business knowledge etc.)

Can we calculate the ROI of keeping a pet? raising a child?

Should ROI have determined the feasibility of Wright Brother's efforts to build a heavier than air flying machine? Did ROI calculations justify the replacement of the horse and cart by the automobile? or the invention of the computer?

A few years ago, in a similar vein some economists had come up with the Gross National Happiness (GNH) instead of the usual GDP and GNP to measure the wealth of a nation.

Looks like we are ready for a measure better than ROI.

p.s. I wonder what the conversation between Mr. Hayzlett and the Kodak CFO would have been after the now famous ROI quote. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall to listen to that conversation.

How about you share your thoughts on what the CFO said to the 140 characters or less (this is the era of Twitter)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Indian Spelling Bee Hive at Washington

A year ago I had blogged about :"Indian spelling "bees" swarm Washington . Looks like those bees have continued to swarm the Washington event in even greater numbers.

Today the Wall Street Journal carried an interesting opinion piece on the phenomenon by James Maguire : "How to Win the Spelling Bee. You don't have to be Indian. But it seems to help."

I would ascribe the success of the kids not to their being "Indian" but on the Indian value of "Focus on Education". Anybody who subscribes to the same value can achieve similar success. Cultures which focus on sports find similar successes for their kids in the sports arena (a place where Indians are often noticeable by their relative absence - 1 Billion people, 1 Olympic Gold at the Beijing Olympics).

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Business Intelligence Chronicles Part 13 : This is no torture - "Dashboarding" the Stimulus Package

The stimulus legislation, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, calls for detailed reporting and tracking of the federal funds that will be handed out.

"Dashboarding" is just what the doctor (aka "IT Consultant") would recommend for dealing with this. Many companies, large and small, are rushing to offer BI and Project monitoring software for state and local governments.

Here are some quick links to what is on offer :

Microsoft Stimulus 360

IBM Economy Recovery Fund Reporting

Acumen's START: Stimulus Tracking and Recipient Transparency Application

Microstrategy Stimulus Dashboard

CGI ARRA Reporting Gateway

Visible Strategies SEE-IT

Onvia Economic Stimulus Package Tracking

Would be interesting to see which one walks away with the Lion's share of the cake. What do you think ?

Battle of the Search Engines Round 1: Google 1, Bing 0

Excited by the hype around Microsoft's new search engine : Bing , I decided to take it out for a quick test drive.
Typed my phone number in and hit the magnifying lens. Well it found me alright but displayed an address which was definitely not mine. Got the town right and the general area but was definitely not my address.
Repeated the test with Google and got the correct address.
If Bing has not been able to synchronize it's search capabilities with the published White Book of major towns it definitely means that it has some more work to do before it is ready to play with the Big Boys (aka Google) and other neighborhood kids with new tricks up their sleeves (Wolfram).
Have you "Bing"ed yet? What is your feedback ?

Search Google


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