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Five Steps to Insights March 8, 2017

Posted by stewsutton in Big Data, business analytics, business intelligence, Collaboration, Computational Knowledge, Information Technology, Knowledge Management.
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There are some very simple steps (five in this example) that can be taken as a curious person with the right tools seeks to understand what the data has to tell them.  Generally it starts with a simple question. You want to know something. This sends you on a quest to gather some data. Often this gather process is quite time consuming. In some scientific endeavors, the gathering is the tedious process of “recording” the data that you observe in your experiment.  This may take many days, weeks, or sometimes years.  Then comes the next step and that is the preparation of that data for exploration. The way data is recorded and gathered is seldom the structure needed for reporting.  The data must be transformed and reshaped.  This is not changing the values in the data, but rather it is molding the way the data is organized so that it can be explored with data visualization tools.  At this point I believe the fun part begins. This is the moment where you may begin to explore the data.  Exploration is a very good label for what happens at this point.  You are navigating and observing what is there and you are seeing things for the first time.  This process is exciting and it often brings you insights and understanding that you can share with others.

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.

Realities of the New Work Environment April 15, 2013

Posted by stewsutton in business analytics, business intelligence, Cloud, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Communications, Community, Data Portability, Economics, Information Policy, Information Technology, Knowledge Management, Software.
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Trends such as globalization, economic change, externalization, and consumerization are creating  new realities in the modern information workplace.  Here are four workplace realities that are already having an effect on the way we get things done.

1. Greater Interdependence – Employees collaborate many more individuals in their day-to-day work than they did just a decade ago (typically ten or more). As a result, nearly one-half of an employee’s impact on business unit profitability comes from network performance—the ability to help others perform and be helped by others. In contrast, in 2002, nearly 80% of an employee’s impact came from individual task performance. Although network performance is vital, only 20% of employees are effective at it. The way IT supports enterprise collaboration must change as IT adopts techniques to understand and support the needs of teams and individuals.

2. Frequent Organizational Change – Clearly organizations have never stood still.  However, a majority of employees feel that the rate of change is accelerating. Since 2010, the average employee has experienced major changes including:  reorganizations, strategy revisions, or new leadership, at a cycle of roughly every seven months. This state of near continuous change shortens business partner time horizons and puts a premium on responsive IT planning and budgeting. It also undermines efforts to encapsulate business process in enterprise systems and increases the value of integration.

3. Greater Knowledge Intensity – Ah, the Knowledge Management stuff…  An increasing percentage of employees (over 80%) are conducting knowledge work that requires analysis and judgment. Knowledge work is becoming ubiquitous because of transaction automation and the emergence of “big data,” In addition, business volatility means that even when transactions remain manual, there are plenty of exceptions that require analysis and judgment to resolve. Information technology investments are already changing to reflect this trend, with more money being spent on analytics and collaboration and less on process automation.

4. More Technology Choice – It is commonly reported that a serious majority (nearly two-thirds) of employees use personal devices for work purposes.  This is huge!   However, this transition to device consumerization is only the starting point. After BYOD comes BYOI, BYON, and BYOA; bring your own information, networks, and applications. Almost one-half of all employees already use external, unofficial information sources for work purposes,  about a quarter of employees source their own collaboration and networking tools, and a fifth of employees use their own analytic tools. Although BYO has risks, it cannot be stopped. Managed correctly, it can provide faster access to new capabilities and a better fit with individual employee workflows.

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

Knowledge Management Updated February 1, 2013

Posted by stewsutton in business analytics, business intelligence, Collaboration, Communications, Knowledge Management, Software.
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Knowledge Management has undergone a significant change of emphasis over the past several years. We have moved beyond the days when KM was centered in the design and deployment of content management solutions, the fanfare around launching communities of practice, and the practical benefits of sharing lessons learned. The emphasis today is a complete reformulation of how we can extract value from information. The new intersecting themes generally include “big data”, “business analytics / business intelligence”, “social”, and “mobility”.

Leading up to this new arrangement of priorities, KM bounced around in the past several years seeking to find itself as the rapid technology changes in mobile platforms and across consumer-based social platforms took center stage. This caused the KM emphasis to drift toward “collaboration” things – after all isn’t sharing knowledge through collaboration what its all about? Community models for knowledge stewardship have fallen out of favor while crowdsourcing of answers has increase in popularity. The practical difficulty is that running a business, engineering improvements to complex operational procedures, and designing and manufacturing of precision equipment cannot be directly guided by the wisdom of any crowd.

And while the phrase knowledge management has often been met with resistance “I don’t what someone managing my knowledge…”, the new KM emphasis has oriented itself to offering value to the business and to the individual creators and managers of knowledge across the workforce. Consider for a moment this simple ten-step framework that illustrates the intersecting themes of knowledge and information management today…

1. Identify a relevant “structured” data source associated with our business
2. Repeat #1 multiple times, not really knowing (just yet) the intersecting relevance
3. Prepare the data sources identified in #2 so that they may be “accessed” and integrated
4. Connect results of #3 by using software to analyze and discover “features” in the data
5. Overlay social graphs, geo-mapping, and other information sources to illuminate findings
6. Clarify and contextualize these findings, draw conclusions, and propose business changes
7. Implement business changes and monitor #5 to assess the impact of business changes
8. Make necessary adjustments based on #7, and return to #1 to discover more relationships

Using tablet-based computers will expand the scope and impact of business intelligence throughout business.

Using tablet-based dashboards will expand the scope and impact of business intelligence and business analytics for both strategic and tactical value

Knowledge Management is becoming a more refined and mature information science. The tools for business are enabling broad and sophisticated analysis of data and application of business analytics by individuals that have line-of-business accountability. From middle management to executives, a new landscape of configurable mobile dashboards that encourage experimentation and insight building are emerging quickly. Big data is being gathered everywhere. The interface methods are being dramatically simplified. And mobile (tablet based) interfaces are being quickly formed, refined, delivered, modified, and shared among co-workers at various levels. Knowledge workers today are more skilled within business intelligence and business analytics.

It is a very interesting time.