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Computational Knowledge February 4, 2014

Posted by stewsutton in Architecture, Big Data, business intelligence, Collaboration, Computational Knowledge, Economics, Education, Knowledge Management.
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Right now we have a serious need for more students to fall in love with all of the STEM subjects, which fall into the categories of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We know these fields fuel economic growth, so training a STEM workforce has been recognized as a key goal in education policy. And yet, there is an enthusiasm gap in these subject areas, and nowhere is that more evident than math. In the United States, students don’t think they’re good at math, so they become quite adapt at hatting it. Many students it seems would rather eat broccoli than do math homework (and that is within a culture raised on fast-food where the concept of broccoli is viewed as utterly disgusting). Not surprisingly, these students are significantly underperforming. So how do we change this?

The way we teach math needs to be reinvented!

In a nutshell, “students need visual and interactive curriculum that ties into real life.” Nowhere is the power of how good mathematical instruction better demonstrated than within the environment of Wolfram Mathematica.

Properly teaching math breaks math down into four components:

1. Posing the right questions
2. Turning a real world problem into a math formulation
3. Computation
4. Turning a math formulation back to the real world, verifying it.

We spend perhaps 80 percent of the time in math education teaching people to do #3 (computation by hand) — This is the one step that computers can do better than any human after years of practice. Why are we doing this?

Instead, let us use computers to calculate. After all, that’s the math chore we hate the most. It may have been necessary to teach this skill 50 years ago. There are certainly a few practical examples of how hand-calculation can be useful today.

The goal of the Wolfram technology is to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything. We see this technology achieving some pretty spectacular levels of performance in Wolfram|Alpha and within Mathematica as well. Integrating this form of computational knowledge within classrooms is going to have a powerful multiplying effect on student performance and understanding as they orient themselves to solving real-life problems with the power of computational knowledge.

Big Data July 13, 2013

Posted by stewsutton in Architecture, Big Data, business analytics, Cloud, Cloud Computing, Information Technology, Knowledge Management.
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Perhaps you have heard of the term “big data.” Well does it seem to be rising atop the curve of inflated expectations? It is probably a healthy perspective to be just a bit suspicious of “big data” solutions coming to the rescue where all others have been unsuccessful.

There are certainly examples where scientists compare approaches to problem solving and this includes conversations about big data. Big problems need solutions that can operate at “big” scale, and the phenomenon of big data is certainly real. The three Vs of volume, velocity and variety, coined by the Gartner Group, have helped us to frame the characteristics of what we understand as big data.

Ultimately it is how these “problems” get solved by using distributed data and distributed processing. Some will do things “internally” while others will take to the cloud. But as many have already experienced, some of the “cloud benefits” (related to “bursty” allocation against resource) are not there for “big data” configurations.

Said more simply, the benefits of lightly touching the cloud resources and getting the financial benefit of this time-sharing is diminished for big data problems that keep the resources fully utilized and thereby incur the highest order of expense against the cloud infrastructure. This reality affects how we must architect solutions that cross into the cloud and make use of “heavy lifting” within our own corporate intranet infrastructure. It keeps the “big data” problem interesting for sure.

With all of that being said, it’s quite another thing when you start to hear how big data is going to upend everything. It is quite unlikely that big data will usher in a “revolution” to transform how we live, work, and think. We do well to approach the topic of big data as just a new tool in the toolkit and use it for those problems where it makes sense.

New Roles within Enterprise IT April 13, 2013

Posted by stewsutton in Architecture, business analytics, business intelligence, Cloud, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Communications, Education, Information Technology, Knowledge Management, Software.
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Talent within information technology is adapting to new roles as the work environment changes over the next five years (2013 to 2017).

  1. Collaboration and Social Media Evangelist – Responsible for understanding drivers of collaborative behavior and creating, managing, and developing a collaboration and social media strategy.   The person is likely to have a background in business, marketing, communications, or behavioral science, such as anthropology, organizational behavior, or psychology; more likely to be found in a consultant or other specialized role than in a corporation.  Their job responsibilities include:
    • Analyzing user behavior to understand workflows and collaboration needs
    • Establishing collaboration and social media strategy
    • Encouraging adoption of relevant collaboration and social media tools and techniques
    • Advocating for adoption of collaboration tools
    • Creating and delivering end-user awareness and training programs
    • Establishing collaboration and social media usage policies and procedures
  2. Information Insight Enabler – This role helps the IT organization drive employee productivity and help with equipping employees with competencies and not just tools.  They are responsible for supporting business unit heads, service managers, and knowledge workers with insight, business intelligence, and management reports for effective decision making.  They are likely to have a background in market or financial research or in analytics or statistics.  Their unique key responsibilities include:
    • Understanding the decision-making process and the workflows of business unit heads and service manager
    • Identifying knowledge worker’s information needs
    • Representing information in a user-friendly manner
    • Identifying trends and patterns; generates insight for business units and senior leadership
    • Developing frameworks and processes to analyze unstructured information
    • Performing market and customer research and analysis, and creating dashboards and scorecards
  3. Cloud Integration Specialist – This role assimilates cloud services—for both Applications and Infrastructure—into the existing IT environment.  They have experience in developing, deploying, and maintaining integration solutions; most likely to come from EAI or middleware implementation background, such as EAI/Integration developer.  Key responsibilities for this role include:
    • Collaborating with business unit leaders, service managers, and technology brokers to evaluate new cloud service offerings and determine integration needs
    • Coordinating with enterprise and information architects to ensure new cloud services align with technology roadmap
    • Working closely with business process analyst to ensure integration activities improve business processes
    • Coordinating testing efforts to identify and resolve any cross-functional integration issues
  4. User Experience Guru – This role collaborates with service managers and end users to understand and improve user experience and workflow for new and existing applications.   They are likely to have a specialist background in behavioral science, graphic design, or product design; more likely to be found in a consultant or other specialized role than in a corporation.  They will design and configure user-centric interfaces for in-house and cloud applications, allowing end users to access, visualize, and navigate information and analytics with ease.  Some of their key responsibilities include:
    • Analyzing business and functional requirements
    • Creating user-centered design
    • Improving the user experience
    • Visualizing and presenting information in a user- friendly manner to end users
  5. Technology Broker – This role is responsible for managing spend with all providers in a given category, such as Infrastructure or Applications.  They are likely to have a background in sales or business development at a technology service provider; alternatively, may have a procurement background or extensive experience managing programs that relied on external providers for delivery.  They will introduce new technologies and vendors to business units, the services group, and the remaining IT organization.  Their key roles include:
    • Understanding business needs and translates those into technology capabilities
    • Identifying new and existing technology offerings available in the market or in house
    • Negotiating contracts and manages relationships with multiple vendors for a category of IT spend
    • Creating and maintaining a catalog of technology services
    • Defining service level agreements to monitor vendor performance
  6. End-to-End IT Service Manager – End-to-End IT Services Packages all the technologies, processes, and resources across IT needed to deliver a specific business outcome while hiding technical complexity.  They are responsible for defining and delivering end-to- end IT services and is the primary owner of one or more services.  They are likely to have experience in IT service delivery, direct business engagement, technology sales and marketing, and financial plan development; more likely to be sourced from account manager or business relationship manager, solutions manager, architects, or infrastructure manager roles.  Responsibilities for this role include:
    • Collaboration with IT–business relationship managers to develop the end-to-end IT services strategy
    • Developing annual IT service delivery plan and negotiates delivery expectations with business partners
    • Providing information to business partners about service improvement opportunities and collaborates with them to drive down business costs and effectively support business capabilities
    • Guiding the service review process to drive continuous improvement efforts for services

Modern E-commerce Site Setup June 30, 2011

Posted by stewsutton in Architecture, Information Technology, Security, Social, Software.
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Today, there are a number of considerations that should be thoughtfully weighed as a startup business or existing small business seeks to setup or modernize their online services.  Its not the web site design emphasis of the 1990s nor is it a heavy weighting on the “platform” that became a major focus in the mid 2000s.  Today the focus on modern ecommerce is a balance across several elements:

  1. The content management aspects to the business enterprise
  2. The relationship of the business with its “social graph” ecosystem
  3. An understanding of the security around data collected and managed
  4. Content design that properly reflects the brand identity of the business
  5. Off-premise management of infrastructure – (data and applications in the cloud)
  6. Choice of platform(s) to support business needs in the most cost-effective format
  7. Outsourcing skills for design and sustainment tasks for business operations

This is a far cry from the days of setting up a simple website and its clearly more to think about than in the days of a simple shopping-cart site.  While there are clear places for both of those examples, businesses today are seeking to differentiate services within an increasingly network-connected ecosystem that requires more planning and thought toward business operations.  Each business has its unique needs and preferences.  Approaching the elements of a modern e-commerce business enterprise seeks to balance cost and performance that make the best sense for the business, its near-term and long-term prospects.

Content Mgmt Goes Social June 30, 2011

Posted by stewsutton in Architecture, Social.
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There is a transformation taking place now in the CMS space.  These systems that were quite content to be content management products are getting a “social” upgrade.  This is part of a broader pattern as large social suites compete with the social technology integration into the traditional enterprise IT stack.  How soon until we see social RDBMS, social routers, and social tape archive systems is not clear, but the category of CMS has taken the plunge.

At the center of any modern eCommerce solution are several core components and one of them is a CMS or content management system.  The CMS takes responsibility for managing all of the digital content assets that are used within the eCommerce system.  Most modern CMS solutions have been rapidly advancing to take on the functionality of a portal and a social platform.

This progression further simplifies the architectural specification for a modern eCommerce solution.  The assets managed by a CMS range from blocks of text to images to videos.  Modern CMS solutions also address the presentation of the collected content using visual templates and guides.  And the interaction with that same content is generally facilitated through highly-focused programs which are integrated into the CMS using plug-in and widget frameworks so that a highly tailored eCommerce solution can be built with the unique functionality required by the business.

While there are numerous CMS solutions, a small number stand out as compelling approaches toward a cost-effective formulation supporting an eCommerce need. Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, Liferay, Alfresco are five open-source content management systems that have commanded attention through significant use across the marketplace and each has specific advantages.



Official site: http://drupal.org/  —  Drupal was formed in 2001

Notable Features:

  • Multiple sites can be managed with Drupal and across multiple languages.
  • Utility ranges from a blogging site, corporate site, personal site, gallery, or full eCommerce site.
  • Site users can be managed using standard registration, including OpenID support.
  • There are multiple access controls to help manage the activity of site users.
  • A custom menu system, template customization, advanced search, RSS feed aggregator



Official site: http://www.joomla.org/  —  Initiated as an offshoot of the Mambo CMS in 2005.

Some Notable Features:

  • Supports control of multiple sites and in multiple languages natively.
  • Utility ranges from a blogging site, corporate site, personal site, gallery, or full eCommerce site
  • Site users can be managed using standard registration, including OpenID support.
  • Full support for Access Control Lists.
  • Page cashing for increased performance.
  • Network asset linking does accomodate moderately descriptive URLs
  • Many Extensions: Over 6,000 free and commercial plugins available



Official site: http://wordpress.org/  —  first released in 2003

Notable Features:

  •     Highly optimized for blogging.
  •     Custom and easy to switch themes.
  •     Users can re-arrange widgets without editing PHP or HTML code.
  •     Support for tagging. Advanced search by tags.
  •     Highly intuitive UI (User Interface).

Native applications exist for Android, iPhone/iPod Touch, and BlackBerry which provide access to some of the features in the WordPress Admin panel and work with WordPress.com and many WordPress.org blogs.


Official site: http://www.liferay.com/

Notable Features:

  •     Can tag and categorize contents.
  •     Document Library Manager, Recent Documents.
  •     Alfresco, Documentum, and other document library integration.
  •     User management based on various roles and groups (ACL).
  •     WebDAV Integration (which allows edit and management from remote web servers).
  •     LDAP Integration
  •     Microsoft Office Integration
  •     Calendar/Chat/Mail/Message Boards/Polls
  •     Wiki (supports Creole as well as MediaWiki syntax)



Official site: http://www.alfresco.com/  —  Introduced in 2005

Notable Features:

  •     Document Management.
  •     Web Content Management (including full webapp & session virtualization).
  •     Multi-language support.
  •     Officially runs on Windows, Linux and Solaris.
  •     Desktop integration with Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org.
  •     Pluggable authentication: NTLM, LDAP, Kerberos, CAS.

A Simple Social Web Architecture June 30, 2011

Posted by stewsutton in Architecture, Collaboration, Communications, Information Technology.
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The web business of today has a small number of key components. Each of these components surrounds the unique business offering creating a scaleable structure that can be replicated and managed with integrity. This simple model addresses some of the key components in most web-based businesses of the post 2010 timeframe. While not referenced specifically in this diagram there are other components that can weigh heavy in the design of the business system including the mobility strategy. But for now, lets consider four components that surround the core business offering and enable it to function as a modern web-based business.

Interface — Building an interface that makes sense is a concept that has emerged with the consumerization of information technology. It’s hard to believe that in 1997 the company called Apple computer had a stock value of about $3.50 per share and was on the verge of bankruptcy. In just a few short years a steady march of products would begin to turn the fortunes of that company and introduce to the world the very definition of consumer-friendly information technology. From iPhones to iPods to iPads to the new iCloud, Apple’s innovations in consumer information technology have educated the world and have set the bar on what people expect in their user interfaces (whether on mobile devices or via their computer web browser). Today Apple’s value is over 100 times that of the company that almost did not survive in 1997. The interface of most consumer information technology has been influenced heavily by “iDevices” and this creates expectations in the design of new products and services on the Internet.

eCom — In the early days of Internet eCommerce, some different companies emerged early with differentiated offerings. Having an ability to remain adaptive and agile to customer needs while staying ahead of the competition was the formula for several early offerings like Yahoo Stores. The eCommerce systems of this early stage were custom built solutions that were largely oriented to providing “shopping cart” services to web-based merchants selling online. The eCom solutions of today are much more sophisticated. They allow much more flexibility in integrating transactional processing to take money in many different forms for services rendered.

Social — Social computing is a key part of many business strategies and operational models and it is segment that integrates crowd-sourcing, network effects, and friend relationships into the business model. The social component is how many web business achieve their scale and market capacity. It will become increasingly unique to see web-based businesses that have strong consumer-relationship ties expand to large market shares without a well-planned social strategy.

CMS — Whatever the business, there is unique “content” that must be managed. This content could be pictures, videos, text, audio files or any combination of interesting digital assets. Its the content that is unique to your business that needs to be managed and at a level above the traditional database service. That is where the “CMS” or content management system comes into action. The purpose of a CMS is to make the management of the businesses online digital assets much easier. It addresses the presentation, arrangement, and permissions associated with these assets. As the business grows, keeping the expanding collection of digital assets under control is where the CMS really earns its value.