Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Creating "Rypples" - Social Technologies and Performance Management

It all started with the McKinsey Quarterly article on "How social technologies are extending the organization". I liked the article but for me it raised a few questions which were published as a comment on the McKinsey Quarterly website:

  • The growth of social technologies within organizations creates an interesting conundrum: how to reward employees for contributions they are making or changes they are driving across the organization by using thsee boundary-less social technologies? Many current performance-management processes focus on evaluating contributions to the “silo,” as judged by the supervisor or, in some cases, other stakeholders. However, social technologies can significantly increase the breadth and scope of an employee’s contributions. How are companies preparing their performance management processes to reflect the emergence of social technologies, and how do these tools enable those processes?
    Sooner or later, as social technologies become an integral part of the organization’s fabric, there will be a need to integrate them into the reward and recognition process for employees.
More details on an earlier blogpost:  How social technologies are extending the organization: My comments on McKinsey Article

Most of us have been in situations where the boss either has no clue or cannot fathom as to what we have been doing during the year ; a scenario which bites us in the back during the Annual Performance Review (or when "they" make lists on who to fire during downsizing). A problem likely to be compounded when with the new emerging social technologies an employee can be making contributions far beyond the span of the classical "silo" which a typical boss oversees.

Interesting dilemma, but seems like I an not quite the visionary I think myself to be :-) . The smart guys and gals at Rypple have already seized the bull by the horns ("The social way to improve performance at work : Build a results-driven culture and make reviews meaningful with Rypple’s social performance management platform").

Here's a look at how Facebook is using Rypple to manage the Facebook generation (How Facebook manages the Facebook generation. People at Facebook talk about how they use Rypple's social performance platform to support their social, collaborative, fast-moving culture.)

And looks like the mighty has now decided to ride and steer the bull ( Signs Definitive Agreement to Acquire Rypple – First Step Toward Human Capital Management for the Social Enterprise). They plan to rebrand/relaunch it as SuccessForce. 
The action has just started in this space and I can only see it hotting up as social technologies become part of the "life and blood" of more organizations; which will then need them to figure out ways to integrate them with performance appraisal; and the technology companies (SAP, Oracle, IBM) which will also need to figure out ways to incorporate these capabilities in their own offerings (What with  ZDNet blogger Dennis Howlett headlining it as:   Salesforce snubs SAP with Rypple flip )
Stay Tuned.

How social technologies are extending the organization: My comments on McKinsey Article

My comments:

Finding the right place to start change : My comments on McKinsey Article

My comments

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Death of Email?

Interesting article: Tech Firm Implements Employee ‘Zero Email’ Policy 

You’ve got mail–not. Employees of tech company Atos will be banned from sending emails under the company’s new “zero email” policy.
Atos is evaluating a number of new tools to replace internal email including collaborative and social media tools. Those include the Atos Wiki, which allows all employees to communicate by contributing or modifying online content, and Office Communicator, the company’s online chat system which allows video conferencing, and file and application sharing. 

Is this beginning of the end for email? Will social networking and IM strike a death-knell for email like the automobile did to the horse and buggy (or more recently, what digital photography did to print)

Not surprisingly the first blow is being struck by a French company. A decade ago the French had launched a war against the word "email" which they considered as a brutal Anglo incursion on their chaste French environment (first McDonald's and then email, what was the world coming to) 
Goodbye "e-mail," the French government says, and hello "courriel" — the term that linguistically sensitive France is now using to refer to electronic mail in official documents.
The Culture Ministry has announced a ban on the use of "e-mail" in all government ministries, documents, publications or websites, the latest step to stem an incursion of English words into the French lexicon.
And also not surprisingly, the CEO of Atos, Thierry Breton is no fan of email, he has not sent one in the last 3 years.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Evolution of the Digital Work Environment

We are all aware of the Evolution of Man:

Here are 2 videos which outline the evolution of the Digital Work environment from  Xerox's vision in the 1990s to Microsoft's vision for the 2020s.

It is interesting to observe which elements of the future have clearly morphed from the original vision, which ones got dropped by the wayside and the ones which are totally new. Here goes:

XEROX (vision framed in 1990s: Digital Desk by Pierre Wellner)

MICROSOFT (vision framed in 2011: Productivity Future Vision )

Addendum (12/7/2011)

On the same topic here’s an interesting article from Businessweek ca. 1975 predicting how the “office” will look in 1995 – “The Office of the Future".
Here's what another blogger says about it:
It predicts the paperless office. My favorite quote comes from the head of the (then) newly formed think-tank in Palo Alto known as PARC, George E. Pake, who says “… that in 1995 his office will be completely different; there will be a TV-display terminal with keyboard sitting on his desk. “I’ll be able to call up documents from my files on the screen, or by pressing a button,” he says. “I can get my mail or any messages. I don’t know how much hard copy [printed paper] I’ll want in this world.”
Full of quotes like this, the article may seem comical in retrospect – however, it’s worth a read.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Frugal Innovation/Jugaad #5: Reebok goes Frugal

Check this out. Reebok plans to roll out a $1 shoe for the "bottom of the pyramid":

Still in the planning stages, but is already being described as a "win-win situation for the poor." and  "the move is likely to be viewed as a social initiative that could positively influence the company's brand."

What would be interesting is to see if India's poor will really covet a $1 shoe or would shoes continue to be an aspirational purchase for which they are ready to save and pay more to flaunt their favorite brand. Maybe that's why it is being positioned for the "rural" poor rather than the urban poor. Urbanites I guess are more likely to equate lower price with lower status.

Tata has discovered the fickle mindedness of those at the bottom of the pyramid when to their surprise and chagrin the $2000 Nano car was not "flying off the shelf" at the pace they thought it would.

Also, the $1 shoe will be going head-to-head (or will it be feet-to-feet) against a tough competitor - the $0 shoe ("bare feet").

While on the topic of shoes, attended an Entrepreneurship themed conference where a panelist, local self-made entrepreneur I.C. Shah recounted the old shoe company salesmen story in his own inimitable style. Here's the gist of it:

Multinational shoe corporation sends 3 hot-shot salesmen to India (in the 1950s) to scout the market and report back. The first one wires back " Nobody here wears shoes, No market opportunity". He was promptly called back and fired. He now mans the shoe sale counter at a departmental store. The second wired back "Nobody here wears shoes, immense market potential". The person retired as Head of the International Business Division for the corporation. The third wired back "Nobody here wears shoes. I have tied up with someone here to make them and can supply some back to the corporation at a fraction of the current purchase cost". The third one now has vacation homes in Bali, Aspen, Jamaica and St. Tropez. He has people making shoes for him in India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, China.......  He's the "Entrepreneur"

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Business Intelligence Chronicles Part 23: BI gets "Sixth Sense" Revisited

DeepakSethSpeak: The Business Intelligence Chronicles Part 17: BI gets "Sixth Sense"

Looks like it is time to revisit the above blogpost. See what a technology giant like Microsoft has up its sleeve as far as leveraging the user-interface technologies of the future. Came across this interesting video:

A phone nobody can buy.......yet

based on Nanotechnologies, the phone is flexible and bendable,  reacts to gestures or flex/bend, and provides electro-tactile feedback.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Frugal Innovation/Jugaad # 4

Today was a Jugaadoo delight day, as I came across not 1, not 2 but 3 fantastic tales of Frugal Innovation/Jugaad.

It all started off when a friend forwarded me a chain mail about the experiences of the renowned filmmaker Shekhar Kapur as he  finds a hole-in-the-wall shop to get his expensive Blackberry repaired. Not only did he save a ton of money he left with a new found sense of admiration for India's pioneering innovative and entrepreneurial spirit : A Blackberry addict discovers grassroots enterprise in India

Let's see if he makes this the theme of his next artistic endeavor, it's been some time since Kapur dazzled us with his portrayal of Elizabethian intrigue and splendor.

As I was meandering through the search results for my search of the authentic source of the Shekhar Kapur story came across the interesting story of "Nano Ganesh"  from The Economist , a frugal innovator's solution to a common problem plaguing Indian farmers - how to start and stop their irrigation pumps remotely, his solution " – a mobile-phone adaptation that triggers irrigation pumps remotely – is saving water in India and helping more than 10,000 farmers avoid several taxing, dangerous long walks a day."

The trifecta was when I came across "Gogola" :

Innovation in its own way   

So this innovator is using the brand recognition of Google to drive people towards his own product - Gola - an Indian shaved ice concoction leveraging his location in a tech park frequented by Google savvy techies. I wonder if the Google attorneys will go after him for Trademark infringement/violations.....

If you come across any more, please pass them along.........

Friday, November 18, 2011

From the Finger Lakes to the World : "Think Globally, Act Locally"

Kudos to the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council for finalizing its list of 10 projects for submission to Gov. Cuomo as contenders for a share of approximately $1 billion in state economic development funds. Being first off the bat compared to other regions indicates a strong focus and commitment on part of the team tasked with putting this together.

The list though exemplary still appears to be slightly conservative and run of the mill. The projects listed are ones which would normally appear in any wish-list of projects for the area. I was under the assumption that by framing this sanction of funds in the form of a competition, Gov. Cuomo is looking for revolutionary out-of-the-box ideas to kick start the economy.

One of the biggest global macro-economic trends is the current and projected growth of BRICS economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) compared with the slow or stagnant growths in rest of the World. What we need at all levels of our own economy (national, state and local) is to figure out ways to tap in the growth and revenue streams of these booming economies. At a local level it may translate into helping local small and mid-sized companies gain footholds in these countries or expand their presence there. The big companies have already got a presence in these markets. The smaller companies may need a little boost. Germany has already proven such an approach works, as reflected by its growing economy (in contrast to the moribund economies of rest of Europe) fueled by exports by its mid-sized companies to these emerging markets.

So I would love to have seen projects which focus on leveraging the strengths of our local small and mid-sized businesses (which have been the linchpin of the local economy even as the big players shrunk) and couple them with the burgeoning demand of goods and services abroad. Perhaps a project which funds an initiative to help small and mid-sized Finger Lakes region businesses become bigger players on the world arena . This could be in terms of facilitating more active collaborations with overseas chambers of commerce, hosting trade delegations, participation in trade shows abroad, crafting appropriate promotional material etc. We have to look beyond Europe where the traditional trade linkages of this region have been.

Growth in the future is likely to be determined by how outward focused we are rather than inward looking. We have to "Think Globally, Act Locally" to profit from global trends.

Update: The article got published in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Xerox the "rich neighbor" of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates....

The influence of Xerox PARC on Steve Jobs’ creativity has been much publicized in the reporting after his demise. Here’s another take on the role of Xerox, this one includes another technology stalwart – Bill Gates. This comes from an article by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker “TheTweaker-The real genius of Steve Jobs” :

In the nineteen-eighties, Jobs reacted the same way when Microsoft came out with Windows. It used the same graphical user interface—icons and mouse—as the Macintosh. Jobs was outraged and summoned Gates from Seattle to Apple’s Silicon Valley headquarters. “They met in Jobs’s conference room, where Gates found himself surrounded by ten Apple employees who were eager to watch their boss assail him,” Isaacson writes. “Jobs didn’t disappoint his troops. ‘You’re ripping us off!’ he shouted. ‘I trusted you, and now you’re stealing from us!’ ”

Gates looked back at Jobs calmly. Everyone knew where the windows and the icons came from. 

“Well, Steve,” Gates responded. “I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”

Jobs was someone who took other people’s ideas and changed them. But he did not like it when the same thing was done to him. In his mind, what he did was special.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Build Faster, Grow Jobs!

published in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Oct 1, 2011 

Unedited version:

Build Faster, Grow Jobs
Deepak Seth

Working downtown and the nice weather spell gives me an opportunity to step out during lunchtime and take a quick stroll soaking in the ambience of our beautiful city. Some of the beauty you can see with your eyes while some of it you have to imagine with your mind's eye, visualizing what it would be like when all the construction is completed.

This brings me to my current pet peeve, why is the construction so slow? Why do these projects seem to take forever? I have come back to downtown after 2 years, things look different but not as much as I had expected. In the 1930's I believe a 22 floor section of the Empire State Building was built in as many days. More recently Chinese bloggers set the construction world abuzz after posting a video of a 15 story hotel being built in 6 days. Downtowns in many boom cities – Shanghai, Dubai, Singapore seem to be transforming literally overnight as frequent visitors gawk at the changes since they last visited a few weeks or days ago.

By fast construction I do not mean shoddy construction or work which violates safety guidelines. But definitely faster than the snail’s pace at which our downtown projects trudge along. As a layperson to me it seems faster construction will result in more jobs at a time when they are most needed. Also will help in making the building operational faster resulting in quicker return on investment as well as create more downstream jobs. On the flip side slow construction is a double whammy as not only it keeps jobs down it also blocks resources which could be better used elsewhere.

Is lack of funding an issue? I would think that rather than releasing more funds for projects yet in the blueprint stage it would make more sense to open the spigot for the ones which are already in progress.

Most surveys indicate that lack of jobs is listed by most as the number one issue plaguing the economy today. Speeding up the progress on our construction jobs and bringing the speed on par with international norms should help bring about a quicker influx of much needed jobs to the local economy

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Healthcare and “Big Data”

This is part of my series on Healthcare and Technology. Read earlier article: Smartphones and Healthcare.)

As technology continues to pervade our daily activities the amount of data available to corporations for analysis is exploding (“Big Data”). Yet as recent events have shown quite clearly, many of us fear organizations that seem to be monitoring every aspect of our lives.

Can “Big Data” nonetheless help consumers and corporations alike? New research from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) finds that collecting, storing, and mining this trove for insights could create substantial economic benefits for both.

Healthcare is one of the largest sectors of the US economy accounting for 17 percent of the GDP and 11 percent of the workforce. Effective use of “Big Data” can help in reducing the currently unsustainable five percent per year rate of growth of US Healthcare expenditures.

The US Healthcare system has 4 major pools of data:

  • provider clinical data, 
  • claims and cost data, 
  • pharmaceutical and medical products R&D data and 
  • patient behavior data. 
Unfortunately all of this data is not yet integrated to be leveraged effectively to drive down costs. As much as 30% of the clinical data may not even be in digital format.

How exactly can the “Big Data” be used to drive down costs? Critically analyzing large datasets of patient characteristics and treatment outcomes can help identify the most clinically and cost effective treatments helping reduce over or under treatment, both of which drive up healthcare costs. Clinical decision support systems can match physician orders with best practices reducing chances of mistakes. Individuals who can benefit from lifestyle changes can be proactively identified. Fraud detection can be improved. Aggregating “Big Data” for pharmaceutical and medical products R&D can cut down time to bring new drugs to the market, help design better clinical trials, better analyze disease patterns and develop personalized medicine. Public health surveillance and response in case of breakout of epidemics can be improved.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. McKinsey Global Institute indicates that US Healthcare can capture $300 billion in value ever year with potential $200 billion savings on national healthcare spending.

But all this will be a pipe dream unless the Healthcare sector does a better job of allaying public fears about misuse of Healthcare data. We will become more receptive as we see the benefits directly impacting us in terms of lower premiums or improved service. Lawmakers and policy makers need to stay ahead of the curve ensuring that “Big Brother” stories about “Big Data” do not detract us from the benefits that can accrue if it is properly leveraged. The need for establishing a transparent system of checks and balances that protects individual rights while allowing the societal benefits of “Big Data” to accrue will be paramount. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

USA and Innovation

The May 2011 edition of the McKinsey Quarterly carried an article "Translating innovation into US growth: An advanced-industries perspective " which attempted to answer the question "Is America losing its innovation edge? " and opined that "The United States faces a future in which the elements of economic leadership are moving abroad. Reversing these trends will require the private and public sectors to collaborate."

I responded with a few comments of my own which have been included on the McKinsey Quarterly website:
Skilled immigrants are one of America’s greatest competitive advantages- the US has the unique advantage of having amongst its citizenry people from all parts of the globe. This “integrated diversity” is not yet fully utilized by corporations to its full potential. No other country operating in the global arena has this advantage. You may not find a Fijian or an Icelander in China or India but you would very well do in the US. And that’s a strength which needs to be leveraged.
Let us celebrate the "integrated diversity" of US and the pursuit of the "American Dream". Both of which contribute to the continued growth and prosperity of the US in a global economy.
More at Immigrants as Entrepreneurs: creating jobs, enhancing prosperity
What do you think? Is America losing the innovation edge? If yes, how do we get the edge back?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Local vs. Global; a dialogue with McKinsey experts

The McKinsey Quarterly recently carried an article Is your emerging-market strategy local enough? in which the authors opined that the diversity and dynamism of China, India, and Brazil defy any one-size-fits-all approach. But by targeting city clusters within them, companies can seize growth opportunities.

The article however focused only on socio-economic measures as the means of identifying the clusters- an approach which I think will not work for India. I commented on the article:

"The “clustering” in India would need to factor in state and linguistic boundaries and cannot be just on the basis of socio-economic indices. For example, the cluster around Delhi will span across the states of Haryana, UP, Rajasthan, MP, Uttarakhand, etcetera, each with its own local laws that will impact a marketer’s objective of achieving some kind of homogeneity across the cluster.

Similarly, the cluster around Calcutta will span across the Hindi-Bengali socio-linguistic divide while the one near Hyderabad will be impacted by the political crisis around which states that area falls in. Definitely a twist to the tale.

Look forward to the authors moving beyond the rudimentary socio-economic clustering; layering it with the colors from a politico-socio-linguistic palette to paint a more realistic picture."

The editors of McKinsey Quarterly " passed along your feedback to the authors, who then wrote a response, and we are considering them for publication in the Idea Exchange section of our upcoming print edition. We thought your comment about sociolinguistic divides in India was an insightful point that will push the conversation around strategy forward"

I am looking forward to seeing this conversation progress forward and will welcome your thoughts on this issue.

McKinsey’s Ireena Vittal responds:

Yes, getting granular in India requires understanding the market not only geographically but also through other relevant lenses, including language and community. Indeed, some of the best insights emerge at the “sweet spots” where all of these variables intersect. For example, one food retailer has looked at Mumbai as a grouping of 32 separate wards, and then as a mix of two or three cultural communities within each ward. The resulting clusters are very revealing. For example, there are catchments within Mumbai with food tastes that are similar to catchments in Chennai, and others that more closely resemble Ahmedabad.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Business Intelligence Chronicles Part 22: BI and Data Governance- "show warts and all" vs. "a world through rose tinted glasses"

In an earlier post (The Business Intelligence Chronicles Part 16: Is Michael Jackson still alive? (aka Doubting Thomas/BI Skeptic) I had talked about the need to allay the fears of data skeptics - the guys who question the veracity and accuracy of information presented to them via BI tools.

Picking up that thread again I wanted to talk about the close relationship between BI and Data Governance and the two distinct forms the relationship can take.

Approach 1: "A world through rose tinted glasses"
Filter out bad data from the presentation layer and place it in an "exception report" or club it into "unknown" or "orphans" or "all others" category in the presentation layer

Approach 2" : "show warts and all"
In the presentation layer show data as is - errors and all. Visibility to errors will drive action to get the source data rectified. As a fellow blogger commented "nothing quite gets data fixed as quickly as the bad entries showing up on something the CEO sees".

The decision on what approach to take leads to an interesting dilemma for the BI manager - "Will my BI system not appear less trustworthy if it shows all the warts?" or " Will I be able to get the focus and attention required to rectify data issues if Senior Management are not exposed to them"

This leads to an excellent opportunity for Leadership to couple the BI and Data Governance initiatives with BI becoming the trigger point of a feedback loop into the Data Governance mechanism which then initiates action to identify and rectify the issue (user error, lack of validation in a data input system, problem with one or more interface etc.). And voila! if all works well the next run of the report will show correct information.

Obviously all this holds true if senior management values the BI they receive and realize the importance of its accuracy. If that holds true than the quality of data can improve drastically within a few cycles. Nothing inspires action more in a corporate environment than a missive from the CXO.

Mr. Lely, I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me, and not flatter me at all; but remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts, and everything as you see me, otherwise I will never pay a farthing for it.

-Oliver Cromwell

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Business Intelligence Chronicles Part 21: Data warehousing Title Fight, get your bets in...

After BI now the turn of Data warehousing.

Per Gartner 2011 will be the year when data warehousing reaches what could well be its most-significant inflection point since its inception, the new data warehouse will introduce new scope for flexibility in adding new information types and change detection.

Gartner adds, in 2011, data warehouse platforms will evolve from an information store supporting traditional business intelligence (BI) platforms to a broader analytics infrastructure supporting operational analytics, corporate performance management and other new applications and uses, such as operational BI and performance management.
Magic Quadrant for Data Warehouse DBMS

Key Highlights:
1. Organizations are adding workloads with online transaction processing (OLTP) access, and data loading has moved to intra-day — approaching continuous — loading in many cases.

2. While cost is driving alternative architectures, performance optimization is driving multitiered data architectures, including a strong interest in in-memory data mart deployments. At the high end, data warehousing is now mission-critical.

3. data warehouse "ideal" is changing and will give way to new kind of warehouse that addresses more extreme types of information assets. As a result, data warehouse DBMS vendors must begin to address numerous, new information asset formats, or be relegated to supporting roles in the future.

4. real opportunity for data integration tools vendors to challenge the database management system (DBMS) vendors as the primary data management architecture, and the DBMS vendors should not underestimate this potential competition.

5. The market is shifting from storage and access to delivery and comprehension, and that means context as depicted in metadata will become paramount. Another contender for the crown of information provider is business process platforms, which deliver business process management. Although late to the game and less mature than either DBMS or data integration, these solutions assist in managing the business context of information management.

6. By 2013, Gartner predicts that data warehouse DBMS vendors will combine their offerings to become something more like an information management platform. The DBMS will become, above all else, an execution platform. It will support and perform data management and integration tasks as well as for query and analysis execution.

7. "Many traditional data warehouse DBMS vendors already offer both the DBMS and execution platforms — but the independents may surprise the mega vendors. By all indications, acquisitions as well as research and development will set the stage and the deciding factors for the big winners and losers when the 'title fight' begins."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

After Jeopardy what's next for IBM's Watson? Bring about a Healthcare Revolution as "Dr. Watson"?

Not as far-fetched as it sounds. After pummeling previous Jeopardy Super Stars Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter into submission over the last few nights on Jeopardy (with Ken signing off his final answer with " “I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords”), IBM's Watson may take on a new Avatar as a Physician's Assistant (from MobiHealthNews)::

“For IBM, the future will happen very quickly, company executives” told the Times. “[Today] it plans to announce that it will collaborate with Columbia University and the University of Maryland to create a physician’s assistant service that will allow doctors to query a cybernetic assistant. The company also plans to work with Nuance Communications Inc. to add voice recognition to the physician’s assistant, possibly making the service available in as little as 18 months.”
Nuance, of course, offers the very popular Dragon voice recognition software for healthcare providers and others. Imagining a voice-enabled “physician assistant service” that taps into Watson and available as a smartphone app is not at all difficult. A desktop version of the service would be substantially less useful.
“I have been in medical education for 40 years and we’re still a very memory-based curriculum,” Dr. Herbert Chase, a professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University who is working with IBM on the physician’s assistant told the New York Times. “The power of Watson-like tools will cause us to reconsider what it is we want students to do.”
For those who are not Jeopardy Buffs, Watson is a new super computer from IBM that prove itself more than capable of besting and replacing today’s top Jeopardy! players. In a television spectacle reminiscent of the super computer Deep Blue’s win over chess world champion Gary Kasparov in 1997, a room-sized computer developed by IBM managed to beat out a pair of Jeopardy! all-stars over the course of a three night game this week. Watson, ended the run with $77,147 compared to Ken Jennings’ $24,000 and Brad Rutter’s $21,600.

The match included a medical related question — no, a diagnosis question really: “You just need a nap. You don’t have this sleep disorder that can make sufferers nod off while standing up.” Watson beat out the humans with the answer: “What is narcolepsy?” Maybe you don’t need an M.D. for that one, but still the computer got there first.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Business Intelligence Chronicles Part 20: The Battlelines are drawn: Traditional Enterprise BI Platforms vs. Data Discovery Platforms

Gartner's recently released Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms highlights a trend which all BI practitioners have observed over the past few years : the divide between Traditional enterprise BI platforms and Data Discovery platforms and the resultant confusion amongst decision makers about which one to opt for.

Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses as Gartner has very nicely captured in this comparison:

Gartner goes on to say 
"The chasm between these segments has deepened because business users find the benefits of using data discovery tools so compelling that they make this choice despite the risk of creating fragmented silos of data, definitions and tools. This has accentuated the need for IT organizations to back away from a single-minded pursuit of standardization on one vendor to a more pragmatic portfolio approach."
Gartner's magic quadrant as it stands today still shows the Traditional enterprise BI Platforms (IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, Microstrategy etc.) in the Leaders quadrant while the Data Discovery Platforms with the exception of Qliktech are in the Challengers (Tableau, Tibco) or in the Niche Players category (Jaspersoft et al)

However, that will be in a state of flux as Traditional BI vendors  add Data Discovery to their portfolio (Microsoft with PowerPivot, SAP with SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, IBM with IBM Cognos Express and Information Builders with WebFocus Visual Discovery ) as they see BI spend dollars slipping to Data Discovery vendors with their ability to model, navigate and visualize data.

Meanwhile, Data discovery tool vendors (like Qliktech) are implementing capabilities to improve their enterprise readiness.
Gartner views "capabilities for integrating departmental and enterprise data models" as one of 10 important capabilities for Quadrant placement.
Surprisingly there is no player in the "Visionary" category. So it seems that we are stuck with these two alternate approaches (Traditional Platform and Data Discovery) and their hybrids for the near term horizon. I was hoping that time was ripe for a player to emerge with a Google/Amazon/Facebook mash up kind of approach to BI of the kind I described in an earlier post: The Business Intelligence Chronicles Part 8: Star Trek returns....  :
I would focus on the direction it should be headed. And the single word answer to that is "simplification". The current and evolving paradigm of user-technology interface can be defined by a single word : "Google". Never before has the "Keep it Simple, Stupid" paradigm been so successful.
And that is the direction which BI needs to head to also.
A simple, single line search box which delivers context specific search and reporting capabilities. A sales rep types in the name of a city and links to sales report(s) for all customers in that city appear.
Also an kind of feature -" People who viewed this report also viewed...". Gives the user a quick and easy feel of what else s/he should be looking for. Building in "crowd intellect" into the reporting capabilities.
And what about a feature which allows a user to know who else is looking at a particular report in real-time or has viewed the report earlier (a viewing history). Combine this with interactive chat or communication capabilities and you have transformed a "report" into a "collaborative interaction".
Did I miss Geospatial analytics and GPS, how about integrating them with BI capabilities. A manager viewing a report, identifies issues with a particular customer, is able to identify the sales rep closest to that location based on the GPS capabilities of the handheld the rep is carrying and asks him/her to visit the customer.
BI has already ventured beyond Reporting & Analytics to Actionable Intelligence. Now it needs to venture even further to "Intelligent Actions". The gap,distance between the availability of intelligence and resultant action needs to be reduced by incorporating other emerging technologies into the classical BI Framework
A (non) player which I have been bullish about has been Google. I wrote in 2009 ( The Business Intelligence Chronicles Part 12 :BI - "Head in the clouds but feet firmly planted on the ground") :

Staying on Google, I think that it may not be long before they enter the BI arena. They know how to manage huge volumes of data, run server farms and manage an analytics front end , currently primarily used to present information related to blogs/website statistics but can easily be modified as a front-end for business related information.
They have confounded me by not showing their hand yet.

Maybe IBM may have something up its sleeve with "Watson". They'll have to put it to work after it is done clobbering Ken and Brad on Jeopardy. BI would be a good space to put is skills to use. I had speculated :
There was a time when we had BI Tools, then vendors started branding them as Applications. These days several vendors are offering BI Appliances. Following the trend to it's logical conclusion, I would think that very soon we may see BI Machines or BI Engines.

Is "Watson" going to be the BI Machine/BI Engine of the future? "Elementary, My dear Watson",  I hear as I stroke my Sherlockian chin.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Smartphones emerge in new health care role.

When the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle approached me to contribute an article on emerging healthcare trends in their "Speaking Out" edit page today focused on Health Care, I decided to write about something which I had alluded to in an earlier blogpost on this blog: Good bye Doctor! Hello Smart Phone!

Here's the article as it appeared in the paper today:

Smartphones emerge in new health care role.

Deepak Seth • Guest essayist • January 9, 2011

Move out of the way, Doctor! Just when you thought rising liability insurance costs and declining Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements were your biggest worries, you have a new one emerging on the horizon — the evolution of the smartphone into a primary care physician.

The scenario is not as farfetched as it sounds. A recent survey by Pew on the adoption rate of mobile health ("mHealth") applications found that a full 9 percent of American mobile phone users said they have mobile health apps on their phones that enable them to "track" or "manage" their health. Other studies predict that more than a third of 1.4 billion smartphone users in 2015 will be running some kind of mobile health care application.

Smartphone and other mobile health care apps include those for diabetes and other chronic diseases' management, and hospital-based Radio Frequency Identification.

Smartphone health care apps seem set to emerge as a differentiator in the increasingly competitive health care marketplace as health care players such as insurance and pharmaceutical companies queue to launch their own apps or co-branded apps as promotional tools or potential revenue streams.

Joining the bandwagon are telecom and technology companies that will attempt to get into the health care sector now that they have a foot in the door through their control of the newly emerging health care delivery platform — the smartphone. Opportunities may exist for health care players to work out collaborative agreements with telecom players to leverage each other's strengths.

Doctor, no reason, though, to lose heart yet. Nearly half of smartphone and mHealth applications are designed for health care providers aiming at improving their effectiveness and efficiency in areas such as continued medical education programs, health care management and remote monitoring applications.

Seth, of Brighton, is an information technology and business intelligence expert.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Frugal Innovation/Jugaad Edition # 3

From the Jan-Feb edition of Harvard Business Review(New Business Models in Emerging Markets) as reported in the Wall Street Journal:

Chamak : A Laundry Service that is designed to serve those fed up with doing laundry themselves. Their current choices: A cheap but potentially unhygienic dhobi (washerman) or an unaffordable fancy launderette or dry cleaner. Both take several days.

From an economic standpoint, setting up a chain of self-service laundries was deemed too expensive to make a decent return.

Their solution: Portable, seven-foot-square kiosks with a front-loading washer and dryer, with an independent water supply, placed where there is most foot traffic. Customers drop off their clothes to be washed, dried and ironed in 24 hours.The company can charge 50 rupees (slightly less than $1) for a kilogram of clothing. And they'll SMS you when they are done! The service now has 5,000 customers patronizing 20 booths in Mumbai, Bangalore and Mysore.

ChotuKool  from Godrej & Boyce:  this little refrigerator, which holds just a few products and can run on a battery during power cuts


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