From Data Gathering to Data Analytics

A couple of days ago it came to me that solutions that gather data are starting to be commodities. We gather multiple formats of event data… geo-location, barometric, social, video, etc. Just as example if I were to fly to another city. I might socially broadcast that I am taking trip linking to others that will be at the same destination or taking the same ride. I sign in at the airport terminal, hotel, restaurant, etc. adding geo-location dimension to the trip. I might be tagged in a picture from the trip. I might even have been caught on a number of video surveillance cameras. Some actions might exceed threshold and trigger workflows. The point is that for any action we take in life today a lot of meta data is collected.

Another area is statistical data on data. Averages, means, medians, etc. I am flying to Chicago… my peers on average fly to Chicago two time more often per month than I do. They get upgraded more frequently. During their trips they eat more sushi. During their trips the sun shines more often. The tone of their social feeds on average is more positive. They even pay $200 less per ticket on average. 

In some cases data is being generated by the very nature of being, doing and mother nature. In other cases the data is user generated. We gather data, we generate data and we mesh data do create new dimensions from the raw data. Yet we have not really put any thought into the data. We throw compute and algorithms at the data to detect patterns and statistically study cause and effect. And lastly we can add human thought to draw conclusions. The further we link and study data the more valuable the output product will come. The more variables we introduce into the equation the more complex and encompassing the results will be.

We will invent new forms of data collection for years to come, but as consumers of data we also want higher levels of abstraction… more valuable data. We want it more easily, cheaper and faster.

EXISTING SOLUTION VENDORS… explore your solutions and the data that you sit on. Think of the reference architecture you belong and integrate into and the potential for data interchange. Those multitenant solution in the cloud, what is your data play?

START UPS… don’t think of an independent app that performs a function in a silo. Think the reference architecture you want to be in and what value you can bring by gathering, creating, linking and analyzing data for greater value to the user.



Workforce Analytics

Everyone knows what Business Analytics (BI) is, but do you know what Workforce Analytics is? The term is used on a Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2011 report, but even Wikipedia doesn’t define what it means. SuccessFactors, an SAP company, says: Drive fact-based business decisions with reliable workforce insights. Deloitte report states ‘moving from reactive to proactive’ as a driver. So in summary: using workforce generated data for proactive, rather than reactive, fact-based business decision making. 

So where does this workforce data come from? Deloitte mentions ERP and HR systems having collected such data for a decade. Information security logs are a far more richer data source. Infosec logs will slice and dice every event from an application, client and network perspective. Most mature organizations also have decades of infosec logs that have a key stroke by key stroke record of every workforce action event from the data that recording started.

Business Analytics can be classified into the following categories of analytics:

  • „„Marketing Research & Analytics
  • Supply Chain Analytics
  • Legal research and process analytics
  • Services Operations Analytics
  • Business and Technical Analysis
  • Data Analytics
  • Pharma and Healthcare Research
  • Financial Services Research
  • Human Resources Research
  • Intellectual Property (IP) Research

In each case we are examining the business looking from outside within. Workforce analytics provides the same data, but looking outside from within. In the next years we will see a new breed of analytical platforms analyze and provide insights from workforce data. Eventually workforce and business analytics data warehouses will be linked to form a single comprehensive analytics view.

Social Analytics is neither from outside or from within. Social Analytics is a reflection of the companies actions outside their domain. As contextual search and social analytics develops, we will be able add this additional real time dimension to truly agile business decision making.

Business do not sell to businesses. People sell to people. Business is a human endeavor. This is why sentiment analysis adds an additional dimension to business decision making. From work force analytics we know what our people did. From Business Analytics we see how our business performed, as a result. From Social Analytics we see how the world around reacted. Sentiment analysis gives us an indication of why.

We already today have advanced data models for forecasting stock market behavior, weather patterns, etc. This is all statistical based on projecting from historical data points. If we what the people, how business performed, how the world reacted and how everyone felt about it contextually, then run quite advanced predictive models on pretty much any action. Its like being able to look two chess moves into the future. You still would not see the ultimate outcome, but you could predict immediate cause and effect. How will a customer react to this price point? How will consumers react to this marketing campaign? How will my staff react to firing of a certain individual? How would my team be impacted if the team leader switched companies? Which parts of my organization have the most impact on revenue generation and where the optimal resourcing thresholds are?

Accenture Technology Vision 2012

Dr. Gavin Michael, Scott Kurth and Michael Biltz have written the Accenture 2012 Technology Vision statement. Typically these documents, in my opinion, are broad and obvious, but in this case I was positively surprised.

The highlights are:

– Context-based services

– Converging data architectures

– Industrialized data services

– Social driven IT

– PaaS-enabled agility

– Orchestrated analytical security

To me the above are all interconnected and parts of the same conversation…

Contextualization can be through aggregating multiple dimensions of data (such as the social driven dimension) and having the ability to data mine across the aggregated data set. Human analytics will be slowly automated using AI to empower the masses. Putting events in geo context is obvious. Having AI that understands sentiment and word associations is a bit less obvious. The futuristic goal would be AI that places events in conceptual context. This is only enabled if we collect and aggregate data on events from multiple perspectives. I’d claim that cloud and PaaS (Azure), to be specific, are driving integration and data aggregation. ‘A maturing platform-as-a-service (PaaS) market will shift the emphasis from cost-cutting to business innovation.’ In this sense I would have focused more on the ‘innovation’ potential in this report, rather than the deployment agility angle… but hey, I am not a doctor.

Converging data architectures is about mixing structured and unstructured data. In cloud environments data is split in structured relational data and unstructured blob data. Unstructured is much cheaper operationally and hybrid architecture optimization is key to minimizing operating costs. Distributed data from a cloud perspective means that we tap into data from multiple services and not just from the two structures.

The Azure Data Marketplace is a marketplace for industrialized data services. I ask all ISVs that I talk to what their data play is and to date I have not stumbled upon a single one with an aggregate data monetization plan. To me this means that a whole heck of a lot money is being left on the table.

Orchestrated analytical security is an interesting highlight at the end of the report. I have put a lot of thought in this and to me its is just one possible manifestation of innovation based on maturing PaaS. Devices do not cause data loss… people do. In this sense device management is always reactive. Enterprise network security has matured to the point where it is preventing security breaches in real-time against known attack profiles and possible permutations of those known attacks. I believe that the future is more a kin to the movie Minority Report. The more we are able to aggregate data on events from different perspectives and intelligently analyze that information the closer we are to being able to truly predict behavioral patterns and prevent data loss even before it occurs. Orchestrated analytical security is really a possible outcome of the other identified themes and as such sticks out in the report, but definitely a nice closer to the report that gets our imaginations turning.

In a past blog I used a macro economic study of the emerging markets to understand cloud ecosystem growth issues. According the macro economic study the reason why China is outpacing India is because China fully utilizes also the female population and has a higher general level of education. This applies to cloud vendors as well. Accenture’s vision is only possible if the whole partner ecosystem is educated on the ecosystem nature and innovation potential of PaaS. Would be interesting if Accenture would reach out to their clients to see if the clients understand and can envision the vision.

State of the Economy–Feb 2012

It has been a while that I’ve addressed the state of the economy. This morning I read the breaking news that the U.S. economy gained 243k jobs in January, far above expectations. The unemployment rate respectively dropped to 8.3%. The old norm was in the 5% range. It may be that the new norm for a generation will be closer to 7%, but slowly we are reaching more reasonable levels.

Unemployment is key to recovery, as it puts money in the consumer pockets and creates demand across the market. Housing stability is also key, as it is still the main driver accumulation of wealth for majority of Americans. I’ve read articles claiming that taxing corporations less will enable them to hire more and grow. I am more of a believer that demand drives growth and demand is created with when money is put in consumer pockets. Growth does NOT precede demand. Growth without demand only serves to create a bubble that will lead to yet another painful market correction.

As the wars are closed down and hundreds of thousands of troops flood back into the domestic job market, the nation needs to have a plan in place. President Obama’s proposed bill to provide grants to employers of post 9/11 veterans is a an election year political move. Rather than increasing debt to place vets in companies artificially, when demand doesn’t exist, we should be focused on spending resources at increasing demand. Blocking the Keystone XL oil pipeline is a terrible decision. The project has environmental risks, but it is also key to national security and economic prosperity through energy independence. The Savannah harbor expansion to accommodate super tankers is vital to economic development in southern states and should be fast tracked to completion.

I’ve written many times that we need to invest into infrastructure that will create jobs and opportunity for decades. Wealth transfer to corporations through grants and tax breaks is a band aid fix and only serves appease lobbyists in a election year. We need bold moves and national projects of significance.

Providing funds to alternative energy industries theoretically speeds up technology development, adoption and drives prices down faster. I believe in free market economy. As gas prices again climb over $4 per gallon, as they are sure to do, alternative energy sources will become cost effective on their own without government intervention. Massive adoption will drive down unit costs and fund further development and competition. I’d love to install solar power to cut my electric bills. In Georgia solar power is something that we have plenty of. As long as breakeven is 15 years plus for that investment, I personally think it is ridiculous. Returns need to be within 5 years and then every house would heat water using solar power. Paying a premium for a hybrid car is also not that interesting, until a gallon costs $4 plus and stays at that level.

On the long term it is all about education, education and education. Without education there is no innovations and without innovation there is no competitiveness. Without the ability to compete and dominate the American dream is lost. The same way that demand needs national infrastructure projects, innovation needs national investment into science and space exploration. Without the arms race and NASA program, where would we be today in terms of technological advances? Building a lunar base or going to Mars seem frivolous, but the journey to those goals is an investment to innovation and future competitiveness. I am not saying that we should make a moon base, just to because, but we do need a lofty national scientific goal that the nation can understand, get behind and take pride in.

As a species we are reaching the limits of what our home planet will sustain. As a species we need to explore our own planetary system and beyond in order to grow. With technology today it takes on average 2.1 hectors of biologically productive land to sustain a single person. The planet has $13.5b hectors of biologically productive land. The world population has already surpassed 7 billion. My daughter, with her third grade math skills, could tell you that just doesn’t add up.

What is in the water at RIM’s Waterloo offices?

I’ve been following the news about the CEO transition at RIM and the comments made by the new CEO Thorsten Heins. Wow… what’s in the water up there, cause those guys are majorly hallucinating.

No need to make major changes, this is not a turn around and we just need to market better. Dude, you have been left behind in the dust any way you package it and you need to make drastic changes to survive.

When you are from a small market that you dominate and you don’t get out much, your view of the world becomes warped. I am guessing that BlackBerry’s market penetration in Waterloo, Canada is close to 90%. When you go down to the local Tim Horton’s for a cup of coffee and everyone is happily using your phone, what other conclusion can you draw.

RIM’s problem is that their OS is well behind iOS, Windows Phone and Android… with zero chance of catching up. The big three are being sucked into a cloud paradigm shift and RIM is still trying to get on par with siliod apps. The only thing that RIM has going for it is BlackBerry Enterprise Server and even that should be rolled into Microsoft Exchange. Pundits have been making comments about MIcrosoft considering purchasing RIM… why? Why would Microsoft buy RIM to compete with Nokia and others at their own dime? Just to get their hands on current enterprise server customer base?

Probably not a popular move, but if I were Thorsten, I’d move BB to Windows Phone and kill on enterprise mail and device management. Nokia kills on design and navigation.

Thorsten… this is your ONLY play. Stop fiddling around and git’er done!

Kinect for Windows

A nugget from Balmer’s CES keynote was that Kinect was coming to Windows on Feb 1st. I’ve been thinking about Windows 8 and the need to buy a touch sensitive monitor… not any more. Few, no more dirty fingerprints on the screen! I am still a believer in 3D and Kinect has a huge role to play in that as well. The whole 3D glasses phase was one of the biggest tech cons of this century. What a waste! At the 2006 digital signage conference I already saw a 3D screen by Philips that didn’t require glasses! If you’ve invested into 3D tech in the last year… I am sooo sorry.

Back to Kinect… when Microsoft ISV partners think of their road map I’d explore the user interface possibilities that Kinect offers… gestures and voice commands. It will be interesting to see how Windows, Office and Dynamics product lines will incorporate Kinect. Now we only need a laptop size compatible Kinect device. The current Xbox form factor is a bit bulky for a laptop user. Remember when cameras were not integrated.

Kinect embedded into Windows Phone devices is only logical… Siri what? I see Kinect being a brand like Carl Zeiss camera lenses.

Rovio – Angry Birds

I spoke to an old colleague about Rovio’s success and today read an article on how much they sold during Christmas this year. The Angry Birds game is perfect in its simplicity. The simple game has an underlying story that can be extrapolated into books, cartoons, merchandise, etc. Absolutely beautiful!

My question is what is the future of Rovio? Is this it? Will Angry Birds carry to be the next Pokemon? Or will Rovio become the next Zynga, with an expanded products portfolio, cookie cuttering the success they have had with the birds? I personally think both are worthy goals.

So for either strategy what would be the exit? If Angry Birds are built into a Pokemon, will they be sold to a Disney and made into a theme park attraction? If Rovio is built into a Zynga, will they go public in a big way… in 2013? Peter Vesterbacka from Rovio said, “Disney is worth $60 billion… that is our goal, and there is no reason we couldn’t build a company that size.” Wow… how do you build a 60 billion dollar valuation with through a game fan base? “We will be the first entertainment brand with a billion fans,” he told T&T magazine. So, a billion fans… ARPU…. ok, I’ll bite. Facebook has 800 million members. Their app doesn’t cost anything and is available for virtually any device known to man. “That target sounds like a lot, but we are growing faster than Facebook…’, says Peter. I wont argue with the growth speed, but I might argue with the theoretical market saturation point. Groupon grew faster than anything before and they have hit their glass roof. Pokemon has been hit with Digimon, Bakugan, Beyblade, Yugioh, Skyliners, etc. Even Star Wars is now in on the card collecting action. Don’t think that Angry Birds has blocked the critter catapult gaming market. Just as a few examples… Battlewagon, Crush The Castle, Siege Mover, Sand Castle, Ninja Dogs, Sieger, etc. Granted that all of the above have no character story to expand upon, but my point is that it would not take much to come up with something similar.

So where is the big differentiator? I think its Peter and the team… the company’s greatest assets. They have played the marketing/sales game very well. I have always been a big critic of Finnish marketing acumen, but you could write a book on Angry Birds and that would be the new benchmark globally. Hitting one billion fans doesn’t happen over night and requires years of commitment and continuous innovation… plus luck. Let’s hope the team at Rovio have the stamina for the long haul and don’t get lazy with their newly EARNED wealth.