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Archive for August, 2011

by: Robert.hillard
24  Aug  2011

A small idea with big implications

In the 1990s Philippe Kahn, a founder of Borland (a big name in programming languages), left and began a new enterprise called Starfish.  He talked in several interviews about creating small lightweight software that ran as part of the desktop or on mobile devices.  Today, this seems obvious, but back then it was anything but.

I remember reading about Starfish in 1994 and wondering how a company that made claim to reject the idea of the large software solution was actually going to generate any real money.  In fact, Starfish was bought by Motorola in 1998 and its intellectual property lives on in the form of the synchronisation that we use in many of our mobile devices.  The experiment in lightweight software that I doubted at the time has turned out to sit underneath some of the technology that today is changing the face of the industry.

When Kahn first talked about small agile software products for Starfish it was the time when big solutions were on the rise: ERP was becoming mainstream and office suites were covering more scope within the one big package.  More than fifteen years later, I don’t think anyone believes that developing small agile software is an experiment any longer, we even have a small name for it: the “app”.  In the consumer space we have become comfortable buying a number of apps to enable us to do the things we want our smartphones to do.  With the rise of the tablet, the apps have become the natural method by which we populate the device.  We use the tablet like a big smartphone rather than a small PC.

Increasingly, we are looking for our PCs to work in the same way with more online solutions blurring the line between desktop software and cloud-based services.  It seems inevitable that our first act when we pick-up a new computer in coming years will be to buy a whole series of small apps rather than one or two big home or small office solutions.  What’s more, we expect all of these apps to play well together and they largely do.  Thanks to information, synchronisation and format standards we can use the same information in many different apps and pick the tools that suit our personal preferences.

As has been the case of most of the recent waves of consumer technology, the enterprise follows closely behind.  PCs, the web, smartphones, tablets have all been positioned first as devices for the consumer but have been picked-up rapidly by corporations and government.  We are already starting to see the attraction of cloud-based services, not in the ability to buy infrastructure (the early sales push) but rather in the vast range of specialised solutions that can be rapidly deployed without needing to worry about where they fit in with the strategic software choices of the enterprise as a whole.

The role of these specialised solutions in organisations is gradually widening.  Starting from applications such as scheduling social events, organisations began then using these services for expenses, contracting and customer relationship management.  As the range of capabilities expand, the traditional enterprise software providers are not standing by and are increasingly providing compelling solution offerings of their own.

Far from being fragmented, this “small” approach to purchasing software is beginning to enable true enterprise-scale solutions.  Vendors, who are enabling apps to run across platforms, provide cloud-based deployment or simply deploy enterprise capabilities in manageable chunks, are also very aware of the need to adhere to standards.  The key for CIOs is not to avoid buying in this way, but rather to ensure that all of the players are following those standards and that information governance is central to business and technology strategy, not an afterthought.  With the right information capabilities in place, the power of the cloud can be realised.

The years 1990 to 2000, when Khan grew Borland to its greatest heights and then made his mark with Starfish, were a period of great change in the way we deployed technology across business and government.  Arguably, 2000 to 2010 did not see anywhere near the same amount of change.  The time seems right for a wave of change through this decade that will turn the approaches we take to deploying complex solutions on their head.

Category: Information Governance, Information Strategy

by: Phil Simon
22  Aug  2011


I know a guy who works for a large retail organization (call it ABC here) in an information management capacity. Let’s call him James in this post. Over the last 12 years, James has ascended to a position of relative prominence at ABC. (He’s one of maybe ten assistant vice presidents.) He manages five people directly and is responsible for a number of contractors overseas. He can still build cubes, roll up his sleeves to solve vexing data-oriented issues, and talk the talk.

Beyond technical skills, James plays by his company’s rules and never rocks the boat. He listens very intently when his internal clients talk to him about their needs, frustrations, and suggestions. James is incredibly diplomatic and has rarely offended anyone, even during organizational crises. The word diligent is entirely appropriate to describe him. He’s a real asset to his company but he has to make a pretty big adjustment if he wants to make it to the next level.

Take a guess. I’ll wait.

Got it?

James is too neutral.

The Problem with Neutrality

In any large organization, one is unlikely to be successful–or remain employed, for that matter–by being a complete maverick. (Small companies are often different, but let’s focus on larger ones in this post.) Big company management is rooted in a military model in which the following are valued:

  • Following orders
  • Playing by the rules
  • Not questioning authority

From an information management perspective, this means writing reports requested by users, fixing data issues, gather requirements, and the like. Note that none of these activities remotely resembles leadership.

There’s obviously a larger point here about workplace rights and behavior. I can’t speak about other countries, but at least in the United States, the Constitution does not exist in the workplace–subject to a few limitations surrounding discrimination, whistle-blowing, and the like. For instance, the government grants you the right to say just about whatever you want, but your manager can fire you for doing so. Brass tacks: Speak your mind if you like, just be ready to pay the price.

But rank has always its privileges. The standard is not the same across the board and everyone is not equal. An entry-level AP clerk finds himself on a tighter leash than a CXO. Mid-level managers aren’t expected to set organizational directions and strategies. As you move up the corporate ladder, it is very difficult–if not impossible–to be neutral if you want to be keep ascending. You’re going to have to make some different judgment calls, even and especially when the data tell you different and even conflicting things.

An Example

For instance, let’s say that ABC is conflicted about ways build a database. Some people are reluctant to depart from traditional methods. They want to stay the course with row-based databases. Then there are others willing to embrace the unknown–i.e., move to a columnar database.

Consider the following:

  • Is this a big decision? Yes.
  • Is this bell hard to unring? Absolutley.
  • Should James carefully consider each viewpoint? Of course.
  • Should James ultimately have an opinion and a recommendation?

How can he not?

Simon Says

That’s not to say that everyone ought to disagree with everyone to superfluously flex muscle. Nor do I claim that the ability to reach compromise should be minimized. On the contrary, it’s incredibly valuable to see both sides of an issue and broker a truce.

But there’s only so much you can do when you’re neutral.


What say you?

Category: Business Intelligence, Information Management

by: Bsomich
18  Aug  2011

Building a Customer-Centric Systems Architecture

Over the last 5 years, retail-based organisations such as banks and telecommunications providers have been transforming from product-oriented systems architecture to ones more focused on the customer. Many of these initiatives have been failures and the core data in the legacy systems was often the root cause. Taking an Information Development approach to implementing a customer-oriented architecture can be a key enabler to success.

What is SVC and how can it help?

Single View of Customer (SVC) is a combination of the technology, software, processes and services needed to achieve a single, accurate and complete view of the customer across multiple sources of customer information, databases, business channels and business units. It is the basis for a customer-centric organisation because it provides a consistent and holistic view of the customers across various products, channels and touch-points of the organisation. SVC is essentially a conceptual goal and can be realised through different architecture options and solutions.

MIKE2.0 is currently building an open source framework for customer-centric systems architecture. We welcome any input or suggestions you have to improve it.

Category: Information Development
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by: Phil Simon
15  Aug  2011

Visualize Your Data

Many organizations continue to struggle implementing BI tools. We all know the usual suspects:

  • bad data
  • the tendency of organizations to over-customize, causing problems down the road
  • the difficult of getting buy-in on standard definitions
  • other IT priorities
  • vendor challenges
  • end user unwillingness to let go of old standbys

As a result, relatively few executives and decision makers in large organizations have access to simple yet effective dashboards. Lacking accurate and timely data–and a means to comprehend it, they often make suboptimal decisions. Call these errors of commission. What’s more, they’ll often fail to make any decision when they should. Call these errors of omission.

Ironically, small business owners like me can quickly visualize their data and drill down as needed.

Today, it doesn’t take a great deal of time or money be able to interact with and visualize your data. Many sites provide dashboards by default: Google (via Analytics), Kickstarter, WordPress, etc. We see here that being small can be a major advantage, especially since pre-built dashboards come with many products and web-based services these days.

Going the Pre-Built Route

There’s no panacea to the aforementioned data and organizational problems. However, today businesses of all types are taking a shortcut by purchasing and deploying Pre-Built Analytic Applications (PAAs). PAAs can allow end users to better understand their data. In theory, they can then make superior decisions.

PAAs represent a legitimate alternative to custom-built BI tools. These ready-made, off-the-shelf applications come pre-loaded with industry-specific metrics and definitions. Once linked to an organization’s systems, PAAs can provide meaningful insight into micro and macro trends.

PAAs are increasingly being deployed in industries such as banking, insurance health care, and retail in a number of different lines of business. Implementations have run the gamut, including customer service, human resources, finances, and sales.

Let’s look at HR for a moment. PAAs exist that allow organizations to do the following:

  • Quickly identify their best employees–as well as those who are not meeting expectations.
  • Track progress of employees as they are trained and advanced within the organization.
  • Allow managers to monitor how employees are performing against a vast array of key metrics.
  • Spot disturbing trends in absenteeism, sickness, and employee turnover.
  • Identify emerging payroll-related issues, such as excessive overtime in a department, store, or division.

This isn’t rocket science here. It’s easier to spot outliers on a graph or chart than it is on a plain-text report or a spreadsheet.

Simon Says: Visualization and Interactivity are Key

It doesn’t matter if your organization uses a PAA, a best-of-breed and customized BI tool such as IBM Cognos, or an open source solution such as Pentaho. Make sure that your users have dashboard-like functionality.

The ability to visualize data is becoming increasingly useful and important. After all, how realistic is it to expect your employees to make accurate decisions with a morass of spreadsheets, databases, and static reports–especially when those items are static and non-interactive? Even free and low-cost tools such as Tableau can provide enormously valuable insights into your company’s data. Don’t believe me? Check out this interactive dashboard for bankers.

It doesn’t make sense that small business owners like me can more easily visualize and interact with their data than organizations with hundreds of times as many resources. Look at different ways to change this.


What say you?

Category: Business Intelligence
No Comments »

by: Bsomich
09  Aug  2011

Profile Spotlight: Satinder Parmar

 Satinder Parmar

Satinder Parmar is a Consultant at Cisco Systems and part of the Information Management Suite core team. He is also a core contributor to MIKE2.0. 

Satinder is PMP certified with over 10 years of management and technology experience at major global consulting companies.  He has a proven track record of managing results oriented projects and teams and is proficient in all phases of project management and the development and deployment of tools, methodologies and assets to support the business.  His strong technical and functional skills span software development life cycle, project management, databases, infrastructure and information management.

Connect with Satinder.

Category: Member Profiles
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by: Phil Simon
08  Aug  2011

In Defense of IT

Business leaders often criticize IT for their inability to get with the times. Do the following questions sound familiar?

  • Why haven’t we embraced the cloud?
  • What’s our open source strategy?
  • What are we doing with mobility?

Well, in this post, it’s time to put these criticisms into context–and partially let IT off of the hook.

Learning from the Music Industry

In a recent piece for The Wall Street Journal, Dan Tapscott writes about business models that have yet to adapt to the digital age. The author and co-author of many popular books including Wikinomics, Tapscott knows what he’s talking about.

In the article, Tapscott covers a number of industries, including music. He writes:

Instead of clinging to late-20th-century distribution technologies, like the digital disk and the downloaded file, the music business should move into the 21st century with a revamped business model that converts music from a product to a service.

All music labels and performers should put their music into a commons in the cloud. Instead of purchasing tunes, listeners would pay a small fee–say $4 per month–for access to all the songs in the world. Recordings would be streamed to them via the Internet to any appliance of their choosing–such as their laptop, mobile device, car, or home stereo. Artists would be compensated based on how many times their music had been streamed.

While the particulars above apply to the music industry, that’s hardly the only business struggling with this brave new world. Many industries have yet to get their arms around entirely new economic realities. For starters, I’d put publishing firmly in that category.

So, let’s sayo that you ran IT for SONY Music or Random House. That’s right: You’re the CIO. Would it be fair if your CEO complained about not embracing Enterprise 2.0?

Understanding the Brave New World

The last five years has seen dramatic shifts in the world of technology. Many consumers have become de facto producers. Erstwhile products have been turned into services–and some physical products have morphed into digital ones. For this, we can blame or credit the usual suspects:

  • the rise in broadband penetration
  • the decline in the price of storage
  • the explosion of mobility and apps
  • the ubiquity of the Internet
  • the growth of the social web
  • and others

Of course, there are those in more mature industries and organizations that wish that these technology “improvements” would just stop. From an IT perspective, thousands of organizations in the late 1990s and early 2000s spent millions of dollars configuring their ERP and CRM systems to work a certain way. When it comes to today’s web-centric world, few CIOs are ready for the challenges associated with transforming their enterprises, especially when you consider the following:

  • Most CIOs have to accomplish these goals with fewer and fewer financial and human resources.
  • Technology changes faster than ever.
  • Regulatory requirements are anything but laissez faire.

And it is here where IT often gets a bad rap. How can IT (as a department and as individuals) be expected to embrace entirely new ways of doing things when an organization’s business model is antiquated–or is in serious need of repair? For instance, moving to a SaaS-based set of applications can be hard to justify when the organization does business like it’s 1990.

Simon Says

No one is exculpating IT departments and CIOs for intentionally dragging their feet. When the business makes a clear decision to get with the times and adopt more modern methods, IT has to quickly follow. By the same token, however, IT is by definition a support arm of the organization.

If your business is behind the times, don’t expect IT to be ahead of them.


What do you think?


What say you?

Tags: , ,
Category: Enterprise2.0, Web2.0
1 Comment »

by: Bsomich
06  Aug  2011

Weekly IM Update


What can a SAFE Architecture do for your enterprise? 
SAFE (Strategic Architecture for the Federated Enterprise) provides the technology solution framework for MIKE2.0. The SAFE_Architecture transcends applications, data, and infrastructure. Moreover, it was designed specifically to accommodate the inherent complexities of a highly federated organisation. SAFE covers a number of capabilities, covering:

- those fundamental for the majority of project implementation
- to advanced capabilities that are only emerging in the area of Enterprise Information Management.

MIKE2.0 uses an architecture-driven approach. Doing so allows one to move easily from a conceptual vision of the architecture to a set of strategic vendor products. All of this is accomplished before moving into a solution architecture and design for each increment. Many of the tasks of the Overall Implementation Guide are architecture-specific, and all MIKE2.0 Solutions reference aspects of the SAFE_Architecture as part of their approach to implementation.

Browse the complete inventory of SAFE Architecture assets.

Feel free to check them out when you have a moment.


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Start a new article, help with articles under construction or look for other ways to contribute.

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This Week’s Blogs for Thought:

Data Liberation: The Case for and Against

I’ve been doing a great deal of research on Facebook, one of the main topics of my fourth book. Mark Zuckerberg’s company now sport more than 750 million worldwide users. Facebook’s walled garden intentionally prohibits access from certain sites, chief among them Google. That is, you can’t Google Facebook.

It’s also interesting to note that Facebook tries to stop people from exporting contact data from it. Case in point, the company recently nixed yet another data transfer tool.

Read more.

  Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Data?

I’ve heard the term Big Data used frequently by information management consultants and storage and data processing suppliers in the computing niche. They’re all saying the same thing… that data is getting bigger, and we need even bigger tools and techniques to manage it. 

It’s no secret that we’ve seen an astronomical increase in the amount of data produced by companies due to the rise of social networking, online collaboration and other communication tools. And due to the development of cloud computing, enterprises both large and small forming great stockyards of it. 
Read more.   Understanding

Understanding Resistance to Emergent Collaboration

Resistance to anything new is not uncommon and should in fact be expected. Emergent collaboration is no different and organizations that are investing in these tools and strategies can expect to see resistance.  Resistance comes in three different ways: employee resistance, manager resistance, and IT resistance.  In the upcoming Chess Media Group report on the state of enterprise 2.0 we will cover all of these in detail including a look at what the common reasons for resistance are.  However, for now I wanted to draw your attention to a similar study (from 2009) which was conducted by Carl Frappaolo and Dan Keldsen from Information Architected.

Read more.

Category: Information Development
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by: Bsomich
03  Aug  2011

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Data?

I’ve heard the term Big Data used frequently by information management consultants and storage and data processing suppliers in the computing niche.  They’re all saying the same thing… that data is getting bigger, and we need even bigger tools and techniques to manage it. 

It’s no secret that we’ve seen an astronomical increase in the amount of data produced by companies due to the rise of social networking, online collaboration and other communication tools.   And due to the development of cloud computing, enterprises both large and small forming great stockyards of it.  It’s almost like a game to see who can collect the largest amount. 

In my mind, it’s not about whether your data is big or small.  It’s about what you can and more importantly, will do with it.  It’s about your ability to form useable intelligence from it.  The troubling part these days is not about the increase of data, it’s that most companies are willingly stockpiling it without a strategy or system to make sense of it.

How well do you think companies are preparing and reacting to the influx of data generated by online activities?

Category: Enterprise Data Management

by: Phil Simon
02  Aug  2011

Data Liberation: The Case For and Against

I’ve been doing a great deal of research on Facebook, one of the main topics of my fourth book. Mark Zuckerberg’s company now sport more than 750 million worldwide users. Facebook’s walled garden intentionally prohibits access from certain sites, chief among them Google. That is, you can’t Google Facebook.

It’s also interesting to note that Facebook tries to stop people from exporting contact data from it. Case in point, the company recently nixed yet another data transfer tool. According to this cNet article:

Open-Xchange’s tool for helping people reconstruct their Facebook contact list on Google+ has fallen victim to Facebook’s revocation of its privileges.

Open-Xchange, a maker of open-source e-mail and collaboration software, last week launched a tool that used the company’s Social OX technology to help people assemble a list of their friends. It used connections to a combination of services such as LinkedIn and e-mail accounts to create a single “magic address book.”

The tool didn’t actually copy e-mail addresses from Facebook–only first and last names. It then matched those names to other e-mail records in the user’s accounts. But Facebook disabled the API (application programming interface) key that the software used to read the names, Open-Xchange Chief Executive Rafael Laguna said.

It’s hard to fault Facebook here. After all, its data is the source of all its value. Running a site with nearly 1 billion users can’t be cheap.

By way of contrast, a few Google employees launched a Data Liberation Project in 2007, a project that my friend Jim Harris recently mentioned to me. You can read the FAQ for yourself, but suffice it to say that there’s a philosophical chasm between the two companies here. For instance, it’s not hard to export your contacts out of Gmail and import them into a third-party app, database, or separate website.

Thoughts for Enterprises

So, should an organization allow its employees, users, and customers to easily get data out of its systems? I have mixed feelings. Let’s focus for a minute on employees.

On one hand, democratization of the data can be an overwhelming positive. In theory, end users can improve their data, adding fields and records that a centralized IT department would not think of doing. After all, each line of business (LOB) should know what it needs more than IT, right? What’s more, LOBs interact with employees, customers, vendors, and other partners very frequently.

On the other hand, liberation can be a dangerous thing. Once data is exported into standalone databases, spreadsheets, and applications, all hell can break loose. Master records can quickly spiral out of control. Employee and vendor records may soon contain conflicting, inaccurate, or incomplete information. To boot, it can take a great deal of time to reconcile any differences. User A may mark a vendor contact as John Smith while User B marks that same contact as Steven Johnson. This can lead to thorny issues such as:

  • Which one is right?
  • Was the invoice paid once, twice, or not at all?
  • Where do we turn to resolve the conflict?

Simon Says

Understand that data liberation has its pros and cons. Consider factors like the maturity of the end users, the number of systems affected by liberation, and the type of data being liberated before you let the genie out of the bottle. Also, don’t make the mistake of letting everyone have access to everything. Make decisions carefully based on business need.

The data liberation bell can’t easily be unrung.


What do you think?


What say you?

Category: Enterprise Data Management
1 Comment »

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