Friday, December 28, 2012

The Power of Business Rules Management

There is a growing interest in business rules and business rules management systems or business rules engines. Major software vendors, from IBM, Oracle and SAP to RedHat and SAS, have or are developing business rules management systems.

The use of these systems to support the practice of decision management to automate and manage high-volume, transactional decisions is growing rapidly. A new standard, called the Decision Model and Notation standard, is under development that will bring consistency of representation to the industry. Yet there is still a sense that this is a niche technology, and it is somewhat poorly understood outside of its traditional areas of strength. So what is a BRMS and how does it support decision management?

What is Decision Management?

First we need to discuss decision management. Decision management is a business approach that explicitly focuses on the management and automation of business decisions, especially the day-to-day operations that must be made to complete an operational process or handle a specific transaction. This approach brings together business rules and various analytic techniques and is widely used to effectively apply BRMSs. While there are many other things that you can do with business rules (e.g., improve data quality, manage user interfaces, etc.), the use of business rules to manage decisions is what makes a BRMS compelling.

If you want to know more about decision management, you can check out my columns, entitled "Building Agile, Analytic and Adaptive Systems" and "Four Principles of Decision Management Systems."

Business Rules Management Systems

A BRMS is a complete set of software components for the creation, testing, management, deployment and ongoing maintenance of business rules or decision logic in a production operational environment. These systems used to be, and sometimes still are, called business rule engines. However not all BRMSs use a BRE at all (some generate code) and even when a BRMS includes a BRE, it is just one part of a complete system — an important part, but one that deals only with execution. A BRE determines which rules need to be executed in what order. A BRMS is concerned with a lot more, including:

  • The development and testing of the rules
  • Linking business rules to data sources
  • Deploying business rules to decision services in different computing environments
  • Identifying rule conflicts and quality issues
  • Enabling business user rule maintenance
  • Measuring and reporting rule effectiveness

To deliver on all this, a BRMS needs a robust set of capabilities for managing decision logic, such as those documented in my Decision Management Systems Platform Technologies Report and shown in Figure 1 (click here or see left for image), The Elements of Decision Logic Management Supported by a Typical BRMS. Specifically, you need:

  • An enterprise-class rule repository with audit trails and versioning.
  • Technical rule management tools that allow technical users (e.g., developers and architects) to integrate business rules with the rest of the environment and edit/manage technical rules.
  • Non-technical rule management tools that allow business analysts and even business users to routinely change and manage business rules (see below).
  • Verification and validation tools, usable by both technical and business users, that take advantage of the nature of business rules to make sure they are correct and complete.
  • Testing and debugging tools to confirm that you get the decisions you were expecting.
  • Deployment tools supporting multiple platforms that allow the logic you have specified to be deployed into a decision service (see below).
  • Data management capabilities to bring real enterprise data into the environment so rules can be written against it.
  • Impact analysis tools so that a user can see what the impact of a change will be before he or she makes it.
  • Either a high-performance BRE to which the rules can be deployed or an ability to generate code that can be deployed.
  • An ability to support the logging of rule execution, so you can tell exactly how a particular decision was made and which rules were executed.

It should be noted that a modern BRMS is likely to support the management of rules derived from optimization and analytic tools as well as rules specified explicitly by a user.

Decision Services

Decision services are the link from our BRMS, to a focus on managing decisions, to decision management. These are sometimes called transparent decision services, agile decision services or even decision agents. Decision services are the key technical deliverable from the combination of a BRMS and the decision management approach. A decision service is a self-contained, callable service or agent with a view of all the information, conditions and actions that need to be considered to make an operational business decision. Deployed on a service-oriented infrastructure and available to other services, to service-enabled applications and to business processes managed using a business process management system, decision services package up all the rules (and any analytics) that go into making a decision.

Decisions can often be thought in terms of a question for which there is a known allowed set of answers. For instance, a decision about routing an insurance claim might be thought of as the question, “How should we handle this claim?” Allowed answers include auto pay, fast track, refer to claims adjuster or refer to fraud investigation group. A decision service handling claims routing would take the information about the claim and then return one of the allowed answers to a calling process or service. In other words, a decision service answers a business question for other services.

One of they main focus these days.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Here's a Better Way to Remember Things

A group of Brazilian entrepreneurs who have come north for a week's worth of ideas on growing their ventures, are leaving a class, when one of them breaks from pack toward the coffee maker, where I'm heading too. He works the machine first, reciting something again and again in Portuguese as he watches his cup fill.

"Excuse me?," I say, unsure he's talking to me.

"Sorry, I am repeating what the lecturer said," he explains, "so I remember later."

Remembering new information is an underappreciated skill. The fact that most of us have never evolved our technique beyond the rudimentary and ad hoc approaches we used as middle schoolers suggests this. It is required for any sort of professional growth, since the need to learn is high, and can separate the exceptional performances from the mediocre ones. After all, would you prefer to hire the consultant who presented using cue cards or the one who pitched from memory?

Fortunately for us, insights from cognitive psychology have vastly improved our understanding of how we remember. Many of these are accepted wisdom in the neurological and psychological realms. But it hasn't been easy to transfer that knowledge to actual tools for individuals. Until recently, anyway. Easy-to-use auto-analytic tools that exploit our understanding of memory can now help you treat remembering as the skill it is, and improve it the same way you improve any professional skill, like public speaking. Here's how to get started.

First, focus on the right unit of measure. Yes, your objective is to remember better, but you'll get the best results by focusing on forgetting as your base unit of analysis.

Experimental psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus's pioneering discovery of the forgetting curve shows that we forget the majority of newly learned information within hours or days, unless we review it again and again. This alone won't be a shock to many of us. But Ebbinghaus demonstrated how systematic forgetting. It occurs exponentially on a predictable curve — researchers call this "exponential decay."


Different things you're trying to remember will have different curves. For instance, that piece of operations data that you remember clearly, since you prepped and presented it to your team, has a flatter downward curve (you'll remember longer) than that the now hazy sales figure a colleague mentioned during the same team meeting. Evenso, each curve is predictable.

Practice remembering at the right time. Think about how you really use your memory for things that matter to you and your career, like in preparing for a speech. Maybe you're a crammer who tries to prime your memory by doing as many dry-runs as possible the night before. Or perhaps you've committed to ploddingly rehearsing your lines each afternoon for a month from 3 pm to 4 pm. Or maybe you're an improviser who finds time here and there, rehearsing what you'll say at random moments between meetings.
The forgetting curve suggests you should follow a very different memorization process than any of these entail. It shows that there's a precise moment that's best for practicing your lines. That moment is just before you are about to forget them.

So sessions aimed at learning new content should happen at "about-to-forget" moments, with spaces between practice sessions increasing as you approach mastery. This learning process is called spaced repetition, and can help us avoid the inefficiencies and risks of ad hoc memorization methods like cramming.

Incorporate auto-analytics tools. OK, so you get the idea that you should try to commit things to memory only when you are just about to forget them. But how do you know when that critical moment is about to happen? How do you know what your forgetting curve looks like?

Almost like your fingerprint, your forgetting curve is very different from anyone else's. But a type of auto-analytics tool called "Spaced Repetition Software" or "SRS" can learn the idiosyncrasies of your memory, and then ping you to practice at the optimal time.

These mobile and desktop tools are like automated flashcards, though you work through your "pile" according to your personal algorithm and the rules of spaced repetition.
They fine-tune your algorithm using a straightforward rating system. Let's say you're a newly appointed manager learning some finance for the first time, and you're trying to improve your recall of many new terms. When the term "Leverage" appears you recall its meaning effortlessly and assign it an A. But when "Arbitrage" appears you assign it a D since you must labor to recall its basic meaning, and even then it remains fuzzy.

The tool continually hones its prompts based on your input. No doubt you'll see "Arbitrage" sooner than "Leverage," as practice sessions for the second concept would be scheduled later and less frequently to maximize efficient memorization.

Map your practice to your priorities. Finally, be very selective when choosing what you want to get better at remembering. In theory, you could work on mastering numerous new domains at once, but experimental research and case studies suggest this isn't practical for full time workers.

Focus instead on a single development opportunity integral to your career. (See the accompany chart for examples of cases where you could use SRS.) Does this opportunity require learning new terms, concepts, or narratives? If yes, then it makes sense to focus on hacking your memory with these computing tools to pursue it.

In short, when you're on a steep learning curve, remember the forgetting curve, and then beat it.

very useful, especially the tips to improve one's memory

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What a Big-Data Business Model Looks Like

The rise of big data is an exciting — if in some cases scary — development for business. Together with the complementary technology forces of social, mobile, the cloud, and unified communications, big data brings countless new opportunities for learning about customers and their wants and needs. It also brings the potential for disruption, and realignment. Organizations that truly embrace big data can create new opportunities for strategic differentiation in this era of engagement. Those that don't fully engage, or that misunderstand the opportunities, can lose out.

There are a number of new business models emerging in the big data world. In my research, I see three main approaches standing out. The first focuses on using data to create differentiated offerings. The second involves brokering this information. The third is about building networks to deliver data where it's needed, when it's needed.

Differentiation creates new experiences. For a decade or so now, we've seen technology and data bring new levels of personalization and relevance. Google's AdSense delivers advertising that's actually related to what users are looking for. Online retailers are able to offer — via FedEx, UPS, and even the U.S. Postal Service — up to the minute tracking of where your packages are. Map services from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, and now Apple provide information linked to where you are.

Big data offers opportunities for many more service offerings that will improve customer satisfaction and provide contextual relevance. Imagine package tracking that allows you to change the delivery address as you head from home to office. Or map-based services that link your fuel supply to availability of fueling stations. If you were low on fuel and your car spoke to your maps app, you could not only find the nearest open gas stations within a 10-mile radius, but also receive the price per gallon. I'd personally pay a few dollars a month for a contextual service that delivers the peace of mind of never running out of fuel on the road.

Brokering augments the value of information. Companies such as Bloomberg, Experian, Dun & Bradstreet already sell raw information, provide benchmarking services, and deliver analysis and insights with structured data sources. In a big data world, though, these propriety systems may struggle to keep up. Opportunities will arise for new forms of information brokering and new types of brokers that address new unstructured, often open data sources such as social media, chat streams, and video. Organizations will mash up data to create new revenue streams.

The permutations of available data will explode, leading to sub-sub specialized streams that can tell you the number of left-handed Toyota drivers who drink four cups of coffee every day but are vegan and seek a car wash during their lunch break. New players will emerge to bring these insights together and repackage them to provide relevancy and context.

For example, retailers like Amazon could sell raw information on the hottest purchase categories. Additional data on weather patterns and payment volumes from other partners could help suppliers pinpoint demand signals even more closely. These new analysis and insight streams could be created and maintained by information brokers who could sort by age, location, interest, and other categories. With endless permutations, brokers' business models would align by industries, geographies, and user roles.

Delivery networks enable the monetization of data. To be truly valuable, all this information has to be delivered into the hands of those who can use it, when they can use it. Content creators — the information providers and brokers — will seek placement and distribution in as many ways as possible.

This means, first, ample opportunities for the arms dealers — the suppliers of the technologies that make all this gathering and exchange of data possible. It also suggests a role for new marketplaces that facilitate the spot trading of insight, and deal room services that allow for private information brokering.

The most intriguing opportunities, though, may be in the creation of delivery networks where information is aggregated, exchanged, and reconstituted into newer and cleaner insight streams. Similar to the cable TV model for content delivery, these delivery networks will be the essential funnel through which information-based offerings will find their markets and be monetized.

Few organizations will have the capital to create end-to-end content delivery networks that can go from cloud to devices. Today, Amazon, Apple, Bloomberg, Google, and Microsoft show such potential, as they own the distribution chain from cloud to device and some starter content. Telecom giants such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and BT have an opportunity to also provide infrastructure, however, we haven't seen significant movement to move beyond voice and data services. Big data could be their opportunity.

Meanwhile, content creators — the information providers and brokers — will likely seek placement and distribution in as many delivery networks as possible. Content relevancy will emerge as a strategic competency in delivering offers in ad networks based on the context by role, relationship, product ownership, location, time, sentiment, and even intent. For example, large wireless carriers can map traffic flows down to the cell tower. Using this data, carriers could work with display advertisers to optimize advertising rates for the most popular routes on football game days based on digital foot traffic.

There are many possible paths to monetize the big data revolution ahead. What's crucial is to have an idea of which one you want to follow. Only by understanding which business model (or models) suits your organization best can you make smart decisions on how to build, partner, or acquire your way into the next wave.

Big Data Business Models.jpg

Interesting usage of Big data

Saturday, October 6, 2012

To Succeed with Big Data, Start Small

While it isn't hard to argue the value of analyzing big data, it is intimidating to figure out what to do first. There are many unknowns when working with data that your organization has never used before — the streams of unstructured information from the web, for example. Which elements of the data hold value? What are the most important metrics the data can generate? What quality issues exist? As a result of these unknowns, the costs and time required to achieve success can be hard to estimate.

As an organization gains experience with specific types of data, certain issues will fade, but there will always be another new data source with the same unknowns waiting in the wings. The key to success is to start small. It's a lower-risk way to see what big data can do for your firm and to test your firm's readiness to use it.

The Traditional Way

In most organizations, big data projects get their start when an executive becomes convinced that the company is missing out on opportunities in data. Perhaps it's the CMO looking to glean new insight into customer behavior from web data, for example. That conviction leads to an exhaustive and time-consuming process by which the CMO's team might work with the CIO's team to specify and scope the precise insights to be pursued and the associated analytics to get them.

Next, the organization launches a major IT project. The CIO's team designs and implements complex processes to capture all the raw web data needed and transform it into usable (structured) information that can then be analyzed.

Once analytic professionals start using the data, they'll find problems with the approach. This triggers another iteration of the IT project. Repeat a few times and everyone will be pulling their hair out and questioning why they ever decided to try to analyze the web data in the first place. This is a scenario I have seen play out many times in many organizations.

A Better Approach

The process I just described doesn't work for big data initiatives because it's designed for cases where all the facts are known, all the risks are identified, and all steps are clear — exactly what you won't find with a big data initiative. After all, you're applying a new data source to new problems in a new way.

Again, my best advice is to start small. First, define a few relatively simple analytics that won't take much time or data to run. For example, an online retailer might start by identifying what products each customer viewed so that the company can send a follow-up offer if they don't purchase. A few intuitive examples like this allow the organization to see what the data can do. More importantly, this approach yields results that are easy to test to see what type of lift the analytics provide.

Next, instead of setting up formal processes to capture, process, and analyze all of the data all of the time, capture some of the data in a one-off fashion. Perhaps a month's worth for one division for a certain subset of products. If you capture only the data you need to perform the test, you'll find the initial data volume easier to manage and you won't muddy the water with a bunch of other data — a problem that plagues many big data initiatives.

At this point, it is time to turn analytic professionals loose on the data. Remember: they're used to dealing with raw data in an unfriendly format. They can zero in on what they need and ignore the rest. They can create test and control groups to whom they can send the follow-up offers, and then they can help analyze the results. During this process, they'll also learn an awful lot about the data and how to make use of it. This kind of targeted prototyping is invaluable when it comes to identifying trouble and firming up a broader effort.

Successful prototypes also make it far easier to get the support required for the larger effort. Best of all, the full effort will now be less risky because the data is better understood and the value is already partially proven. It's also worthwhile to learn that the initial analytics aren't as valuable as hoped. It tells you to focus effort elsewhere before you've wasted many months and a lot of money.

Pursuing big data with small, targeted steps can actually be the fastest, least expensive, and most effective way to go. It enables an organization to prove there's value in major investment before making it and to understand better how to make a big data program pay off for the long term.


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  • What If Google Had a Hedge Fund?
  • Can You Live Without a Data Scientist?
  • How to Repair Your Data
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    Successful prototypes is certainly the key with a small but reasonable sample size.

    How to Present to Senior Executives

    Senior executives are one of the toughest crowds you'll face as a presenter. They're incredibly impatient because their schedules are jam-packed — and they have to make lots of high-stakes decisions, often with little time to weigh options. So they won't sit still for a long presentation with a big reveal at the end. They'll just interrupt you before you finish your shtick.

    It can be frustrating. You probably have a lot to say to them, and this might be your only shot to say it. But if you want them to hear you at all, get to what they care about right away so they can make their decisions more efficiently. Having presented to top executives in many fields — from jet engines to search engines — I've learned the hard way that if you ramble in front of them, you'll get a look that says, "Are you kidding me? You really think I have the time to care about that?" So quickly and clearly present information that's important to them, ask for questions, and then be done. If your spiel is short and insightful, you'll get their ear again.

    Here's how you can earn their attention and support:

    Summarize up front: Say you're given 30 minutes to present. When creating your intro, pretend your whole slot got cut to 5 minutes. This will force you to lead with all the information your audience really cares about — high-level findings, conclusions, recommendations, a call to action. State those points clearly and succinctly right at the start, and then move on to supporting data, subtleties, and material that's peripherally relevant.

    Set expectations: Let the audience know you'll spend the first few minutes presenting your summary and the rest of the time on discussion. Even the most impatient executives will be more likely to let you get through your main points uninterrupted if they know they'll soon get to ask questions.

    Create summary slides: When making your slide deck, place a short overview of key points at the front; the rest of your slides should serve as an appendix. Follow the 10% rule: If your appendix is 50 slides, create 5 summary slides, and so on. After you present the summary, let the group drive the conversation, and refer to appendix slides as relevant questions and comments come up. Often, executives will want to go deeper into certain points that will aid in their decision making. If they do, quickly pull up the slides that speak to those points.

    Give them what they asked for: If you were invited to give an update about the flooding of your company's manufacturing plant in Indonesia, do so before covering anything else. This time-pressed group of senior managers invited you to speak because they felt you could supply a missing piece of information. So answer that specific request directly and quickly.

    Rehearse: Before presenting, run your talk and your slides by a colleague who will serve as an honest coach. Try to find someone who's had success getting ideas adopted at the executive level. Ask for pointed feedback: Is your message coming through clearly and quickly? Do your summary slides boil everything down into skimmable key insights? Are you missing anything your audience is likely to expect?

    Sounds like a lot of work? It is, but presenting to an executive team is a great honor and can open tremendous doors. If you nail this, people with a lot of influence will become strong advocates for your ideas.

    This is the first post in Nancy Duarte's blog series on creating and delivering presentations, based on tips from her new book, the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations (October 2012).

    A skill that is highly needed in nowadays challenging business.

    Monday, October 1, 2012

    Are Entrepreneurs Really More Comfortable with Risk?

    Most people think entrepreneurs are willing to take on more risk than the average person. I've often wondered if that's really true. After almost three decades of working with large corporations and entrepreneurs, I've developed a theory. Now, this theory hasn't been vetted with controlled experiments and testing. It is based solely on experiential and intuitive data drawn from my life experiences. For instance, I have 12 years of working with entrepreneurs as an early-stage venture capitalist; 19 years working for a large corporation (Bell Labs & AT&T) and consulting to their multi-national, multi-billion dollar customers; 10 years of mentoring entrepreneurs; and created a carve-out start-up within AT&T.

    Here's my theory: most entrepreneurs aren't more risk-o-philic than anyone else — they just define risk differently.

    For some I've known, the risk of losing autonomy and control of one's "destiny" was far riskier than losing "guaranteed" income and benefits. Working for someone else's company, reporting to a boss, and living under rules they weren't sure made sense were a lot riskier than creating their own business. The risk of not pursuing their passion, of not making a meaningful and significant impact on the world around them, feels much riskier than starting their own venture.

    For them, risk isn't as defined by losing tangibles (e.g., income, benefits, "stuff") as it is by losing intangibles: fulfilling a passion that won't let go, defining their own sense of purpose, sating their own curiosity, looking themselves in the mirror.

    The difference here is between risking outputs and outcomes. Outputs (such as products, profits, etc) are necessary and good, but they have their most profound effect when driving significant, palpable outcomes — like reducing chronic pain, creating a prosthetic leg for an Olympic runner, or inventing an app that eliminates a time-consuming task. Most of the entrepreneurs I've worked with would gladly risk a few outputs for an outcome they believe in.

    For many entrepreneurs, another critical risk worth taking is making themselves vulnerable in order achieve the outcomes they envision. As John Hagel has said, the risk of embarrassment, ridicule, skepticism, perhaps even humiliation is much less than the risk of not putting oneself out there to try. Anthony Tjan astutely summarized it this way: "The willingness to be vulnerable isn't driven by the desire for exposure, but by the possibility of what that exposure might lead to — be it a meaningful role, the possibility to affect change, and, of course, greater financial gain."

    I've seen, heard, and felt so many entrepreneurs' intense passion and purpose for the outcomes they want to create. It is what defines who they are and why they're here. I know that risk-reward equation. While food, shelter, education, and health matter a lot, I need to see outcomes when I look my children, husband, friends and clients in the eye, not just outputs. If I don't see a positive, wonderful impact on their lives and the lives they are responsible for and encounter, then my life was just a series of outputs — maybe even large ones — but not outcomes; and I will have failed tragically.

    While this is a theory ripe for a more scientific validation, I'm pretty confident it will prove out, at least in some great part. The risk of not pursuing that passion, of not fulfilling that purpose, of having lived a life of stuff without also living a life of significance, is the greatest risk of all.

    They are more willing to take the risk to the level where cooperates aren't willing to go and could be yes, because they define risk differently as the article says.

    Tuesday, September 25, 2012

    Accepting that Managers need a vital Performance Management Process to sustain a business, who should define and manage the tools that make it work?

    Last week I had the chance to sit in on a review of an Executive Information System used in a leading Power Utility. The implementation was done on a mature infrastructure covering end-to-end from ERP, finance and planning, considered as the whole bu

    My latest piece

    Friday, September 7, 2012

    Use Big Data to Predict Your Customers' Behaviors

    "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." So said Yogi Berra, baseball great and amateur philosopher.

    Sensible (and amusing) as it sounds, his dictum no longer rings true. The Age of Big Data has arrived — and, with it, the ability to predict the future is increasingly a part of a new business reality. Whatever your discipline, doing business today means immersing yourself, and your organization, in a wealth of messy, unstructured, real time data from customers, competitors, and markets — and finding ways to use such data visibility to see what's coming.

    Advantage lies in a capacity to predict the future before your rivals can — whether they're companies or criminals. Consider how the New York Police Department is using Big Data to fight crime in Manhattan. According to a series on Big Data in The New York Times, the NYPD and other big city police departments are using data-crunching technology to geo-locate and analyze "historical arrest patterns," while cross-tabbing them with sporting events, paydays, rainfall, traffic flows, and Federal holidays to identify what NYPD calls likely crime "hot spots." As immortalized in a "Smarter Planet" commercial from IBM, such insight can help deploy officers to locations where crimes are likely to occur before they are actually committed.

    The beauty of such Big Data applications is that they can process Web-based text, digital images, and online video. They can also glean intelligence from the exploding social media sphere, whether it consists of blogs, chat forums, Twitter trends, or Facebook commentary. Traditional market research generally involves unnatural acts, such as surveys, mall-intercept interviews, and focus groups. Big Data examines what people say about what they have done or will do. That's in addition to tracking what people are actually doing about everything from crime to weather to shopping to brands. It is only Big Data's capacity for dealing with vast quantities of real-time unstructured data that makes this possible.

    For example, retailers like Wal-Mart and Kohl's are making use of sales, pricing, and economic data, combined with demographic and weather data, to fine-tune merchandising store by store and anticipate appropriate timing of store sales. Similarly, online data services like eHarmony and are constantly observing activity on their sites to optimize their matching algorithms to predict who will hit it off with whom. The same logic is being applied to economic forecasting. For example, the number of Google queries about housing and real estate from one quarter to the next turns out to predict more accurately what's going to happen in the housing market than any team of expert real estate forecasters. Similarly, Google search queries on flu symptoms and treatments reveal weeks in advance what flu-related volumes hospital emergency departments can expect.

    Much of the data organizations are crunching is human-generated. But machine sensors — what GE people like CMO Beth Comstock called "machine whispering" when I talked with her this past summer — are creating a second tsunami of data. Digital sensors on industrial hardware like aircraft engines, electric turbines, automobiles, consumer packaged goods, and shipping crates can communicate "location, movement, vibration, temperature, humidity, and even chemical changes in the air." As the volume of both human and machine data grows exponentially, so too will organizations' ability to see the future.

    The net of all this is hardly a cold quantitative world. Rather, as marketers and machine systems learn more about our attitudes and behaviors, they're likely to achieve greater intimacy with consumers and customers than ever before. Yes, there is the risk of an Orwellian nightmare, if the inferences from Big Data become too intimate and too intrusive — and end up in the wrong hands. But there is also the opportunity to deliver services and marketing with unprecedented precision and accuracy, meeting and exceeding customer expectations in preternatural ways at every turn. Knowing the right time to deliver the right message (or action) in the right place before the time has come will bestow extraordinary power to those who wield such intelligence with intelligence. Use prediction wisely, and Big Data has the potential to make the world small again. That is every marketer's dream: getting closer to customers.



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  • Can Big Data Smoke Out the Silent Majority?
  • Retailers Turn to "Soft Surveillance" to Fight Customer Anonymity
  • What Data Can't Tell You About Customers
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    It's coming, faster than you can crunch.

    More Vacation is the Secret Sauce

    For the first time in many years, I didn't take a vacation during the winter. It was a costly mistake. By the time I left for vacation three weeks ago, I was feeling spent. That's not a complaint. One reason for my fatigue is that The Energy Project has grown so rapidly during the past year. Managing our growth has prompted a whole new set of challenges.

    For the first two weeks of my summer vacation, I let work go almost completely, in part because I had nothing left to give and in part because I knew how valuable it would be to chill out. I played tennis and worked out. I spent time walking on the beach with my wife. Family members came for visits, and we spent a lot of time just talking on the porch. I also read a lot of books — mostly fiction, which I rarely do when I'm working.

    I did check my email occasionally, but I rarely responded. Each day, I felt a little more rejuvenated, much the way you sense your strength returning after an illness. In truth, I was hoping time away from the office might prompt some creative thoughts about our business, but for two weeks not a single interesting idea entered my mind.

    In the third and final vacation week, something changed. I felt drawn back to reading non-fiction, specifically to books related to my work. I reread Tribal Leadership, which makes a compelling case that the vast majority of leaders operate at sub-optimal levels of personal development, and that the higher the level they reach, the more successful their organizations become. I also read The Fear of Insignificance, an extraordinary book by the Israeli psychiatrist Carlo Strenger about how our behaviors are powerfully, unconsciously and often pathologically influenced by our deep need to feel we matter.

    These books, along with a couple of others, shifted my mind into high gear at a time when I was unburdened and undistracted by the preoccupations of everyday work. In short, I had time to truly reflect and think strategically rather than tactically.

    I also learned about the importance of vacations from observing others on our team. The intensity of demand had begun to wear them down, too, and it showed up in a collective tendency to be more emotionally reactive — shorter and sharper — and more willing to settle for an easy solution rather than do the hard work necessary to get the best result.

    I encouraged people to take longer vacations — we give four weeks beginning the second year of employment — and most did. Two of our employees (who happen to be married) went to Amsterdam for two weeks, fell in love with it and asked if they could work from there for a third week. They worked U.S. hours, set up their phones so clients could reach them dialing their regular office numbers, and it came off seamlessly.

    The result is we're headed into the fall with an office of people recharged and eager to face a busy season. The one employee who didn't get away, in part because she was overseeing our move to new offices, grew more and more exhausted until I finally told her she had to take time off. Literally the next morning she ended up in the hospital with an infection. The cause wasn't exhaustion, but I can't help believing it must have made her more vulnerable to illness.

    At a broader level, the famed Framingham Heart Study followed 750 women with no previous heart disease over 20 years. Those who took the fewest vacations proved to be twice as likely to get a heart attack as those who took the most. A 2005 study of 15,000 women found that the risk of depression diminished dramatically as they took more vacation. A 2006 Ernst & Young study found that for each additional ten hours of vacation employees took, their performance reviews were 8 percent higher the following year.

    The problem is that in the face of relentlessly increasing demand, we're collectively vacationing less and for shorter periods of time. What's the solution?

    • Take every day of vacation you're given. Don't hold it over and don't tell yourself the story that you don't have the time to spare. You'll get more overall work done at a higher level of quality if you take your vacations.
    • Take some sort of vacation (even if you stay at home) at least every three months.
    • Truly disengage when you go on vacation. If you don't, you'll be trading away the value of taking one. If you feel you have to answer email, set aside one short period to do so, and then disconnect the rest of the time.
    • Don't settle for three or four days off. Short periods are fine, but they're not sufficient. If you have an intense job, my experience is that it takes at least two consecutive weeks away from work to fully restore yourself.

    As they say, "Take every day of vacation you're given"

    Wednesday, August 29, 2012

    Evaluating the Effectiveness of Offshore Safety and Environmental Management Systems


    TRB Special Report 309: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Offshore Safety and Environmental Management Systems recommends that the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) take a holistic approach to evaluating the effectiveness offshore oil and gas industry operators' Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS) programs. According to the report, this approach should, at a minimum, include inspections, audits by the operator and BSEE, key performance indicators, and a whistleblower program.

    SEMS is a safety management system(SMS) aimed at shifting from a completely prescriptive regulatory approach to one that is proactive, risk based, and goal oriented in an attempt to improve safety and reduce the likelihood that events similar to the April 2010 Macondo incident will reoccur.

    According to the committee that produced the report, it is not possible for a regulator to create a culture of safety in an organization by inspection or audit; that culture needs to come from within the organization. To be successful, the tenets of SEMS must be fully acknowledged and accepted by workers, motivated from the top, and supported throughout the organization and must drive workers' actions.

    The report also notes that BSEE can encourage and aid industry in development of a culture of safety by the way it measures and enforces SEMS. The Committee believes BSEE should seize this opportunity to make a step change in safety culture by adopting a goal based holistic approach to evaluating the effectiveness of SEMS programs.

    In recommending a holistic approach to evaluating the effectiveness of SEMS programs, the report explores in detail SEMS' role in helping to develop a culture of safety, highlights the pros and cons of various methods of assessing the effectiveness of a SEMS program, and investigates existing approaches for assessing the SMS programs of various U.S. and international regulatory agencies whose safety mandates are similar to that of BSEE.

    The culture of safety cannot be built or sustained through publishing statements from the chief executive officer and human resources department, posting notices in company internal and external communications, punishing individuals for incidents of noncompliance (INCs), rewarding individuals
    for a lack of INCs, or reading perfunctory safety minutes prior to meetings.

    Wednesday, August 8, 2012

    BPM Paves Smoother Path for Banks to Customers

    August 8, 2012 – PNC's John DeMarchis believes he's found a way to remove static from his bank's interactions with customers. The Pittsburgh-based bank is using new flexible and automated work processes to create a world in which customers contact the institution and immediately receive the proper message in the right channel, free of the kind of out-of-date, stagnant content that's inhibited cross-selling and true one-to-one marketing at financial institutions for years.

    "It's extremely exciting," says DeMarchis, senior vice president of customer management for PNC. "We view it as having huge possibilities in terms of how we interact with our customers. The performance of mail and telemarketing is deteriorating and those channels are actually irritating consumers. This [new initiative] enables us to deliver interactions the way customers want to see a message, when they want to see it. It's a big part of the future way that we're going to be interacting with customers."

    Banks have long spoken about the need to properly match cross sales and marketing to inbound customer service queries without annoying the customer with unwanted products, or even worse, pitching products the customer already has. By using business process management software in conjunction with data management, business intelligence and web services, PNC is automating the mix of manual, paper and data entry-heavy processes that were previously used to retrieve customer and transaction information, analyze it, make a decision on the next move, and deliver that "next move" as a cross-selling addendum to a service query.

    The bank's goal is to enable a real-time experience for each consumer at each inbound point of contact. It's a new kind of business process management project (BPM) in which not only labor and slower electronic steps are being automated or streamlined to remove manual processes, but a new layer of Web-enabled agility is also being added to the retrieval and delivery of data and tailored content. PNC is not alone - banks all over the world are embracing these new BPM tools and techniques to tackle a variety of challenges, both for customer facing initiatives and back office tasks.

    "The more exciting things around business process management right now are the ability to couple customer analytics with things like customer profitability or customer lifetime value measurements, delivering outcomes that are a function of real-time analytics," says Bob Meara, a senior analyst at Celent. "Not long ago, real time analytics was a pipedream."

    At PNC, process automation is being used to handle inbound queries and the bank is developing similar capabilities for outbound interaction. DeMarchis says the value is in comprehensive customer service - the new process coordinates all actions from a customer and uses data analysis and business rules to determine "the next best action."

    PNC is accessing customer data on a real-time or near-real-time basis and is integrating it into three channels: online, ATM and call center. A decisioning engine examines inbound customer activity, and based on data analytics, automatically makes a decision on a course of action or a message to that customer.

    Instead of handing all of the steps in this process manually, which would likely not allow for real time action and info, the different work steps in the customer service process have been automated for speed and accuracy. "We call them customer treatments. It could be a cross sale, a purchase of a new product, or a service, such as 'we've been informed by a merchant that your credit card has been compromised, and we're shutting it down and issuing a new one,'" says DeMarchis.

    Pegasystems developed the decision management engine, which the bank has licensed to be the heart of the strategy. The bank is integrating channel platforms to automate the steps between the data analysis and the message delivery. PNC has built a web services layer around the Pegasystems product to integrate with the channel systems.

    The Pegasystems solution receives and analyzes customer data and the reason for that customer's contact, and makes a decision on the next action for that customer based on the transaction and personal data. That decision is delivered through the web services layer to the point systems that manage the creative and design for the content delivered to the different channels: on the website, PNC uses HTML and Java-based landing pages; ATM content is integrated into Diebold's campaign technology, and in the call center the bank uses Recommendation Advisor, a Pegasystems customer service product.

    Pegasystems describes its platform as a "brain" that automatically informs decisions during a financial process, such as steps during a mortgage loan process, or matching service queries to personalized marketing or sales. The software aggregates and inputs transaction and user data into its analytics engine, then configures the decision-making process uniformly for different kinds of decisions. This way the people underwriting a loan or handling customer service calls, for example, can use the same business rules to ensure continuity in workflow automation across the enterprise. An automatic data technique or form that's been automated for a loan application can also be used for customer service or security. This continuity is also designed to make it easier to update and use more data, and pull information from broader sources, such as internal databases with a long history of customer transactions, or intelligence from unstructured sources such as social network analysis.

    "By having this one 'brain,' you can get consistent decisions across channels. So if you have an offer or a risk mitigation in one channel, it's the same at all of the other channels, because all of the channels are connected to the same decision engine," says Rob Walker, vice president for decision management and analytics for Pegasystems, which competes with large tech firms such as IBM and SAP to provide BPM tech, as well as BPM-focused firms such as Colosa and BP Logix.

    Previously, PNC would attempt to boost sales for inbound service queries by preloading a predefined list of customers, such as a group of 100,000 customers that were eligible for a home equity line of credit offer, into its CRM system. "That list would be waiting at the contact center for customers to call in and get a recommendation from an employee for that product."

    Worth reading on the 8 Trends in BPM for banking business.

    Traveling fees in Phuket

    Just had a chance to travel to Phuket during the weekend as I've been invited as guest speaker at the Faculty of Hotel and Tourism. Upon arrival, I noticed this display while waiting for my bags, it shows the transportation fee from Phuket airport to various destinations around the island. My first reaction was, "this is insane!, very expensive.", well comparing it to the cost of living per day in Thailand where you can easily live by with 100-200Baht. Luckily, my trip into the city was arranged by my colleague, so a few bucks was saved there but still my curiosity remains.

    During my trip back to the airport, I had a very informative conversation with the chauffeur, according to his story, Phuket has grown to be a town of mafias and gangsters in terms of transportation and logistics. Things like area coverage or rights to drive or operate are managed by a handful of gangsters, including the airport itself. A tuk-tuk driver can easily make over 3,000 baht a day despite he starts late in the afternoon. The system operates in a way that the tuk-tuk owner get 50/50 revenue sharing!

    The government's effort regarding this issue was blocked by protesters previously when the governor asked a group of researchers to study the feasibility of building mass railway transport between the airport and the city, they even survey the routes and budget required, no news of this was found in national media.

    IMO, If Phuket wants to expand its tourism by getting more tourist, transportation and logistic would definitely been the catalyst, many examples could be seen in famous tourist cities like Hong Kong, Singapore which also has a island geography type like Phuket.

    Friday, August 3, 2012

    Requirements, Restrictions and Benefits of Studying in Australia.

    Undertaking further studies is one of the most important, difficult and sometimes distressing decisions one will ever have to make, and this decision becomes even more important, difficult and somewhat distressing if you are planning on studying abroad.  Therefore it is vital that anyone considering studying overseas knows exactly what they have to do to gain entry into that country.

    Australia, like most other countries around the world has many requirements that must be met. These requirements are very broad and range from the applicants health and character, to their command of the English language. As failing to meet these requirements means that a person will not be granted entry into Australia it is important that both students and families of students know exactly what is required of them.

    One of the first requirements that must be meet by the student applicant is a visa application charge of AUD $535. This charge is a non-refundable charge that covers the administrative costs associated with processing the application.

    Another requirement that student applicants must meet before being accepted into the country, is proving that they have a satisfactory command of the English language. To prove that student applicants meet this requirement, the applicant is required to undertake a English language test conducted by many English language test providers including, the Pearson Test of English (PTE) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language internet Based-Test (TOEFL iBT).

    Once a student gains entry into Australia, it does not mean they have finished meeting all the requirements set out by the Australian government. Once in Australia, students will have many other requirements and restrictions which they must meet and obeyed by, to ensure that they are allowed to remain in Australia.

    Fortunately for international students contemplating on undertaking further studies within Australia, there is a useful eBook which is designed specifically for international students to help them achieve these requirements as well as to answer any questions you may have about studying in Australia.

    Although, it may seem difficult to gain entry into Australia, once you have met all the requirements, the benefits of studying in Australia outweigh the effort exhausted in gaining entry into the country.

    Australia is home to 5 of the top 10 cities in the world including Melbourne, Sydney and Perth and in turn, these cities are home to some of the best universities in the world. Not only does Australia offer some of the best cities and universities in the world, it also offers some of the best courses in the world that are not only recognised in Australia, but are recognised globally.

    Unlike other countries who offer courses that are recognised only in that country, Australian courses ranging from medicine to accounting are taught at an international level and are therefore recognised all over the world.

    There are many other reasons to studying in Australia, none of which relate to education at all! Australia is such a unique country, and boasts many beautiful and bizarre creatures and landmarks that are only found in Australia.

    With beautiful beaches, lushes rainforests and spectacular scenery as well as the best cities in the world, with the best universities in the world offering the best courses in the world, Australia is a fantastic country to live and study in!

    For further information on visa requirements and restrictions or for any other information regarding studying in Australia, visit the Studies in Australia.

    For those planning to study in Australia.

    Monday, June 25, 2012


    เอกสารการประชุมวิชาการ ในงาน มหกรรมวิชาการ สกว.


    วันพฤหัสบดีที่ 21 มิถุนายน 2555

    ณ ห้องประชุม Pheonix 1-4 ฮอลล์ 7-8 อิมแพ็ค เมืองทองธานี

    จัดโดย สานักงานกองทุนสนับสนุนการวิจัย (สกว.)

    06-Documents.pdf Download this file


    Tuesday, June 12, 2012

    Predicting the Next Big Financial Threat

    June 11, 2012 – You weathered the credit crisis. You got through the Flash Crash. You are watching Europe (and the U.S.) struggle to make sure its debt doesn't implode from the global economic downturn. So you're ready for the next big threat to financial markets, right?

    Maybe not. It's harder than it sounds, say risk experts, who believe many stock funds still lack tools to prepare for and weather fluctuations.

    "There is too much lip service being paid here without any real follow-through," says Nathan Lee, lead portfolio manager at the quantitative hedge and mutual fund firm Hagin Investment Management. "Almost four years since (the disappearance of) Lehman Brothers, headlines still suggest there are risk managers at systemically important firms that are merely figureheads or lack any power to manage risk before the trade."

    Any risk management strategy worth its salt forces managers to think about the subject at every stage of their investment process, from brainstorming to asset allocation, say experts. That means not just calculating how much of a portfolio is at risk of being wiped away in the next 30 days, the end of the week or even the day. Now, risk management means spending on technology such as real-time risk modeling, among other tools.

    "Managers need to be able to monitor and manage positions and exposures across multiple markets, real-time," says Phil Lynch, president and chief executive of the data management firm Asset Control. "The industry is nowhere near where it needs to be on this. Everyone is behind."

    And, oh yeah, there's no such thing as too much research. Looking behind risk numbers and economic statistics is essential.

    "Building a team of individuals who see a share of stock as a fractional ownership of a company has a big impact on risk management," says Lee. "A firm that is oblivious to the quality of a company behind a stock is doing a bad job of managing risk, although it may have the biggest software budget."

    How to increase risk awareness, whenever and wherever possible? Consider the strategies of Stadion Money Management, a privately owned $5.4 billion asset manager near Atlanta. The Stadion process is governed by a technical model that produces a measurement it calls the "Weight of the Evidence.'' It includes nine statistical indicators, called components, which get scored, weighted and added to the overall measure.

    These range from factors such as stock price trends and comparisons between advancing and declining stock issues to help managers pinpoint market movement, says chief investment officer Brad Thompson.

    "Our model helps us understand when the sun is shining and the investing probabilities are in our favor or when the clouds are forming overhead and we need to be prepared to seek shelter," he says.

    For example, one important component is called "trend capturing," which is composed of three calculations: Stock price movements, up and down; trading volume; and the number of advancing versus declining issues. The first calculation, when positive, indicates an upward price trend. The second and third calculations confirm the trend and determine if it's solid.

    Another component is called "relative strength." This is designed to measure sentiment: i.e., are investors actively taking investing risk or have they turned bearish? It's also derived from three calculations related to investing involving stocks with small market capitalizations versus large ones; growth-oriented stocks versus value-oriented issues; and measurements of breadth of interest and prices.

    The core of that component: When small caps outperform large caps, investors generally have higher risk appetites.

    Each component is assigned a weight, from five to 25 points, and then totaled. Total score ranges have separate color coding, like red for scores between 0 and 30, and green for 80 to 100. Each color spurs a particular set of rules for buying and selling, etc.

    At Snow Capital Management, managing director David Jack says his firm's most potent risk tool is its fundamental investment process, geared at finding attractively mispriced stocks. He says his firm constructs diversified portfolios of good, financially strong companies where the stock price is depressed because the company has experienced temporary difficulties of some sort."

    This philosophy relies on independent research to determine the nature of the company's problem, assess the likelihood of a solution, and then determine whether the company can survive the difficulty.

    Jack argues the downside is protected because the stock price is: already depressed; the company is sound; Wall Street's opinion is already negative, and investor expectations are low.

    "Our investment process keeps us from investing in a bad business (at any price) and from paying too much for a good business,'' Jack says.

    Franklin Templeton Investments is another company that relies on fundamental drilldowns into the health of companies to gauge risk- but it also tries to harness it.

    "Risk and return are like two sides of the same coin, and you can't have one without the other," says Wylie Tollette, Director of Performance Analysis and Investment Risk.

    Tollette says that Franklin's risk philosophy is not to avoid or eliminate risk, but rather to seek risks that are: recognized, i.e. well understood, measured and communicated; rational and appropriately sized in relation to the fund's investment mandate, and of course, rewarded.

    To illustrate these principles, Tollette gave the example of owning shares in an Australian mining company. One might intuit the performance of those shares would be influenced by the company's operating fundamentals, as well as the performance of the Australian market and economy. Top down analysis might show that many mines are influenced by emerging market growth. The goal, he said, "isn't to avoid that specific emerging market exposure, but to ensure it is recognized, sized rationally in the portfolio and that the additional volatility it could add is compensated over the long term through return."

    Everyone is behind...

    Friday, June 8, 2012


    Lecture4.HumanResource-OrganizationalBehaviourTheory.pdf Download this file

    Organizational Behaviour Theory

    Organisation Theory 2011, Advanced Course, 7,5 ECTS

    As organisations in their different forms play a central role in modern society, organisational theory and related areas are studied for many purposes and from many different perspectives. This course will focus on modern classical organisational theory. Concepts and paradigms of classical organisational theory will be studied as well as HRM, culture, strategy, power, institutions, gender and structural organisational theory.

    One central aspect of organisations is that they consist of individuals, or actors, who together create not only organisations, but primarily different perceptions of them. Furthermore, society in our part of the world consists of different types of organisations, in which we live major parts of our lives as family members, employees, students, etc. The qualities and intentions of the actor, as well as the structures which exist in society at large affect what happens in a certain organisation.


    Welcome to this year's course!

    We are looking forward to meeting you at the introduction on Monday, the 22nd of August 2011.

    Alf Crossman, Course director and Examiner

    Organizational Behaviour Theory, used in today's parliament debate.

    Thursday, June 7, 2012

    6 Trends Guiding Financial Customer Data

    How do you know a person well enough to understand their motives, their actions, their aspirations and needs? It can be difficult even among friends and relatives one has known for years, let alone for a financial institution with hundreds of thousands of customers. Some people say it's impossible for a large bank like Citi or Bank of America to really know its customers.

    Yet the amount of publicly available data about each and every one of us grows all the time, to the point where an organization with the will, the patience and the right software can analyze in detail our financial transactions, our habits, our political leanings, our preferences and our geographic location, among other things.

    Banks have been analyzing their customer data for decades, most thoroughly in the credit card business, searching for signs of fraud, willingness to upgrade to a new product or propensity to leave for a competitor. Today, many banks have projects under way to pull together customer data from all channels - branch, ATM, online banking, mobile banking, call center, social media sites - in one place, to mine that data in real time and use it to cross-sell, up-sell, detect fraud and keep customers in the right products. There are six trends guiding such projects.

    1. The Big Data myth. The trendy phrase "Big Data" refers to data sets that have grown so large and complex that they become awkward to work with using standard database management tools.

    Data volumes undoubtedly increase all the time. IBM estimates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day from a variety of sources including sensors, social media, and mobile devices around the world. IDC estimates the market for "big data" technology and services will grow at an annual rate of nearly 40 percent to reach $16.9 billion by 2015.

    One bank customer recently described banks' data challenge to Boxley Llewellyn, global retail banking director at IBM, as "being in a big room full of data that's a little dark, so sometimes data gets trapped in a corner and sometimes it can't be found quickly enough. A wind of streaming data, social data and unstructured data is knocking at the door, and we're starting to let it in. It's a scary place at the moment."

    But the idea that businesses need to store, mine and analyze every scrap of the customer data they collect is not practical.

    "A lot of times when analytics and engineering people ask the business people what data they want, they get this answer back: collect everything and we'll sort it out on the back end," says Joseph Stanhope, senior analyst at Forrester Research. "That's not a data management strategy. There is too much data from too many sources coming at us too quickly for us to just save everything forever. You do need to be discerning about what data the business uses, which data goes to a KPI that shows us if we're moving the business forward. If people can't articulate what they need up front, they're not going to pick it up on the back end."

    Gaming companies, for instance, don't mindlessly store all the data they collect on gamers, he observes. They curate the data to understand what is useful and what isn't, and create data hierarchies, schemas and categories to manage, condense, add and change information. "To understand this is more than technology, it's about people in the organization and the culture," Stanhope says. "If you can't evolve and change what you curate, then you do have to store and collect everything and business passes you by."

    Edgar Enciso, executive vice president and director of customer intelligence at BBVA Compass, concurs. "We have a lot of noise around Big Data," Enciso observes. "The first challenge is to clean that information and define what data and analytic makes sense. We have information for everything and for everyone. However, when you try to be hands-on with the data, we have to clean it up and put it in a meaningful way so we can make the right decisions."

    2. The use of predictive models to make better offers to customers." Once banks get that full picture of customers, they interrogate all the data they have and build predictive models," says David Wallace, global industry marketing manager, financial services at SAS. "They match the predicted behavior with campaigns for new or enhanced products, cross sell and up sell. They identify customers at risk of attrition and put programs in place to try and save the customer relationship because it's less expensive to keep customers than to get more. Predictive modeling is at the heart of all those activities."

    BBVA is a case in point. It has three main goals for its customer analytics efforts, much of which are carried out in SAS Enterprise Miner analytics software, according to Enciso.

    First, the bank is trying to make the right decisions to target the right offers to the right customers, through customer segmentation. The bank segments customers into the categories of wealth management, commercial banking, retail consumer and small business. It also performs lifecycle segmentation, grouping customers according to life stages, such as singles, independent professionals, young families and retirees.

    The second goal is to understand customer profitability. "On the customer side and on our side, we want to have the right rates and pricing," Enciso says. "When we find customers who are not profitable, we try to find a way to serve them better, to keep them but put them in the right products."

    The third objective is to analyze customers' life events and predict their future needs. "We're trying to see what are the customers likely to buy, what's their next problem?" Enciso says. The bank analyzes patterns in transactions and balance levels. "When we see that our customers are lowering their business with us, we're trying to find a way to keep the business," he says. If, on the other hand, a customer is increasing his balances, the bank tries to move that person to a higher segment with a better service level.

    To understanding this is more than technology, it's about people in the organization and the culture.

    Friday, May 4, 2012

    CEOs: Read this Before You Open Your Mouth

    Are you a CEO preparing to give a town hall state-of-the-union talk to your employees? Whether you're a new CEO or one who's been sitting in the chair for some time, keep reading.

    An awful lot of planning, time and resources go into these town halls. They're frequently big productions beamed via satellite to offices around the world. Employees take time away from their jobs to attend. Yet, incredibly, there is so much wasted opportunity.
    Take a look at your speech.

    • Have you spent time thinking about what's in it for them? Do you know why you're really giving it — aside from your Communications Director or head of HR telling you to that you're supposed to update the troops and it's another box you have to check off?
    • Have you asked yourself: What do you want your people to feel, think and do when you are done? (If you've left that part to the speechwriter, don't.)
    • Have you addressed the elephant in the room? Bad press, layoffs, elimination of benefits, product recall, weak earnings, downgraded rating, takeovers, even widespread perceptions of you that might be less than flattering?

    Employees are sick of pep talks that say nothing and do nothing but leave them guessing both about the state of the company and their Chief Executive. When it comes to their leaders, employees want and need a feeling of intimacy — the ability to see into them and to connect with them. They want to know who their leaders are — their background and experience and why they took this job. They want to understand their leaders' style, their values, hot buttons, vulnerabilities, what keeps them up at night, what they plan on doing and what they expect from people. Yes, they want to be motivated and inspired but they can't be either if you're just a talking head.

    In an era where building rapport and clear and inspiring communication is so critical, it always surprises me how many CEOs still get it wrong, like one from a bio tech company last week. In a half hour speech to his new employees, without ever referencing the company's massive layoffs two weeks prior, the CEO asked, with a straight face, "Does anyone have any questions?"

    Hint to Bio Tech CEO: The question your employees really had on their minds was: Am I next on the chopping block? Are you going to continue to cut healthcare benefits too? Is the plan you just outlined in 15 minutes really going to turn this situation around? I wonder if your proclaimed open door policy is really just that or do I have to run it up the typical chain of command? Are you another CEO who doesn't really ever read his e-mail or anything over five sentences? And what can I do specifically to help the company thrive?

    Mr. Bio Tech and others rarely think about their audiences' emotional temperature. What are people's thoughts and feelings as they enter the room and sit down?

    Of course, it's important to motivate your audience and tell them how delighted you are to be leading them and the company in such exciting times and how much you look forward to working together, but if you don't bring your head and heart to the stage, then all they see is someone spewing platitudes and generalities, and not the leader they want to follow.

    For one new CEO this meant explaining his trajectory on Wall Street not because he was the smartest guy in the room but because he realized early on that while he was smart, he couldn't ever compete with the intellectual wizards coming out of Harvard or Princeton. A first generation Hispanic American from a poor Mexican family, whose parents still struggle with English, he knew the only way he could succeed, especially beyond his Ivy League counterparts, was by working harder and being more attentive to his clients' needs than anybody else. For the last twenty years that's what he did, and that's what he expected from every one of his 20,000 employees who he was addressing for the first time.

    For another, it meant making clear to the troops that she didn't want just feedback, but solutions. She reminded them as well how much she appreciated hearing good news noting, "Why doesn't anybody come and tell me about the good things that are happening? I want to hear the good as well as bad. If it's because you fear that your colleagues will think you're sucking up, please don't let that stop you. I really want to hear what you have to say — the good, the bad and the ugly!" She even admitted she preferred short e-mails with thoughts distilled into a few key bullet points — a small detail that later proved immensely valuable to her team who were used to bombarding her predecessor with lengthy e-mails that more often than not were simply ignored, causing major frustration and work delays for everyone.

    Communicating in a way that connects with your audience is critical not only for town hall gatherings but in every situation. Don't be the CEO who ignores or underestimates the importance of doing so genuinely with both head and heart. Make sure that reaching out to a broad group of employees from different levels and departments doesn't translate to dull and impersonal "one size fits all" communication. And, don't be tempted to wing it because of the demands on your time. A successful town hall state-of-the-union speech takes significant preparation and thought on your part, so remember what many leaders learn the hard way: you're only as good as your last speech.

    Thursday, May 3, 2012

    Acute Exposure Guideline Levels for Selected Airborne Chemicals: Volume 12


    Extremely hazardous substances (EHSs) can be released accidentally as a result of chemical spills, industrial explosions, fires, or accidents involving railroad cars and trucks transporting EHSs. Workers and residents in communities surrounding industrial facilities where EHSs are manufactured, used, or stored and in communities along the nation's railways and highways are potentially at risk of being exposed to airborne EHSs during accidental releases or intentional releases by terrorists.

    Using the 1993 and 2001 NRC guidelines reports, the National Advisory Committee - consisting of members from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation, other federal and state governments, the chemical industry, academia, and other organizations form the private sector has developed Acute Exposure Guideline Levels (AEGL) for more than 270 EHSs.

    In 1998, the EPA and DOD requested that the NRC independently reviewed the AEGLs developed by the NAC. In response to that request, the NRC organized within its Committee on Toxicology the Committee on Acute Exposure Guideline Levels, which prepared this report, Acute Exposure Guideline Levels for Selected Airborne Chemicals: Volume 12. This report explains the scientifically valid conclusions that are based on the data reviewed by NAC and consistent with the NRC guideline reports and provides comments and recommendations for how AEGL could be improved.

    A guidance for those working in the field.

    Wednesday, May 2, 2012

    The importance of water management to the smart city

    This report originally appeared on GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

    In the emerging vision for the smart city of tomorrow, we often hear about next generation smart grids, smarter buildings that manage themselves to conserve resources, and smart transportation systems that will lessen congestion.

    In fact, Pike Research’s Eric Woods recent report for GigaOM Pro, “Key Technologies for the Future of the Smart City” (subscription required) estimated that the global market for smart city investments will reach $16 billion by 2020 with heavy growth in Europe and Asia-Pacific.

    But we hear much less about smart water systems for the smart city, and the need to develop more efficient approaches to water as a resource. Part of this is basic developed world bias. A brief look at the U.N.’s freshwater availability map shows that nations with water stress (less than 1700 cubic meters per person per year) and water scarcity (less than a 1000) are mainly found in the Middle East, parts of Africa, China and Southeast Asia. Most of the developed world has been lucky enough to grow up in areas of relative water abundance.

    Urbanization is accelerating, however, with a billion and half people expected to move to the city in the next 20 years, and McKinsey has predicted that by 2030 water consumption will increase by 40 percent. There have been signs of problems in international megacities like Mexico City where 5 million residents awoke to dry taps in 2009 and Mumbai where 5,000 tankers deliver 50 million liters of water each day, the precious resource going to the highest bidders. Even domestically, many continue to point out that with less than 15 inches of annual rainfall and its dependence on water from the Colorado River, where demand is expected to overwhelm supply in the next half century, Los Angeles’s water supply is risky.

    One of the first implementations of smart water systems is smart water meters. A report last year pegged the European smart water meter market at 13 billion pounds by 2020, which is interesting given the fact that there are far fewer top down government mandates for smart water meter deployment than there have been for smart meters for the electricity grid. By 2030 Britain hopes to have all homes installed with smart water meters, which utilities use to identify leaks, create peak pricing mechanisms to incentivize conservation, and catch people who are violating water use restrictions. Designs are already circulating that sync water meters with iPads to give users up to the minute info on their water use, which could drive home to consumers the cost of watering that lawn.

    Woods’s report for GigaOM Pro examined next generation greenfield communities like Masdar City in the United Arab Emerates (UAE). Masdar City use 54 percent less water than the average UAE city and Woods notes that the city is deploying diverse strategies from micro-irrigation to treated wastewater for landscaping to highly efficient water fittings. The goal is to get to 180 liters per day per person from the current norm of 550 liters per person per day in the UAE.

    But in the developing world, where 1 billion of the 3 billion global urban dwellers live in slums with limited access to clean water and additional water management challenges brought on by climate change induced flooding and droughts, the solutions may be less technological. The solutions in the urban developing world revolve around limiting demand, reducing pollution to the water ecosystem, and preventing leakage from aging infrastructure. Though there is evidence that municipalities are starting to take the initiative, as the city of Mumbai has been working with global meter giant Itron to deploy advance water metering infrastructure. One of the issues is how expensive water has become for the urban poor. A slum dweller in Nairobi, Kenya pays 5 to 7 times more for a liter of water than the average North American.

    For the first time in history more Chinese now live in cities than in rural areas with per capita income for Chinese city dwellers three times that of rural citizens. The economic drivers of urbanization will remain strong which means cities will have to get more intelligent in their management of water resources. And that goes for all cities, from Mumbai to LA.

    Related research and analysis from GigaOM Pro:
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    Yingluck's government chooses to completely drain water to prevent flooding.

    Tuesday, April 24, 2012

    Death and Income tax are the only things certain in this world.


    In Thailand's case, tax law hasn't been revised for over a decade. Flaws (in them) are used by wealthy people to avoid taxes.

    Wednesday, April 11, 2012

    CIOs Need New Manifesto

    Los Angeles – Most 2012 IT projects initiated by the business will not directly support the top priorities of CEOs and boards of directors, according to Gartner Inc. VP and Research Fellow Ken McGee.

    “No one believes 100 percent of the projects that IT works on that they get from the business are the kind that are measurable, that are auditable, that deliver financial benefit to the organization, and that is the crux of our message today,” said McGee. “... We believe most IT projects will not directly support the CEO or board of directors.”

    To remain relevant in an era of flat budgets and growing business demands, McGee’s second-day keynote at Gartners’s Business Intelligence Summit in Los Angeles called for a “CIO manifesto” in order for chief information officers to match the quality of business-initiated projects to the work of IT.

    Part of the requirement is to agree to align the priorities of the CEO to those of the CIO, McGee said. “Any survey we do with CEOs, they will tell you that the number one priority is growth … more specifically organic revenue growth.”

    Where CEOs polled by Gartner prioritized the need to retain and enhance customers, attract and retrain skilled talent, attract new customers and create responsive organizations, CIOs prioritized IT management, strategic planning, business value of IT and IT organization design.

    “Take a look at whatever [CEO or board of director directives] stand as the charter for this year’s priorities and then look at your 10 most heavily funded IT projects,” McGee said. “It will take you 20 minutes. See if you have a match. If you don’t, are you okay with this?”

    The analyst then called up some gloomy statistics. 2012 will yield a flimsy one half of 1 percent budget growth for CIOs worldwide, though IT outsourcing budgets are growing much faster; worldwide CIO budgets have not grown more than 3 percent year over year for the last 11 years; and low budget growth is likely to continue for many years.

    If you are not growing, McGee said, your perceived value is declining. “We [CIOs] have not created a level of trust with CEOs," said the analyst, "because they do not believe we are on the same page.”

    Thus the CIO manifesto must state that, “a primary goal of IT shall be to create measurable and auditable financial benefits for the enterprise, period.”

    McGee says CIOs need to have a direct conversation with the CEO and communicate that they understand growth is the CEO’s priority, and make projects transparent for their value. “We want to enter the war, therefore, will you give us the authority to decline any business-initiated request that does not yield a measurable financial gain? And then when the project is done, can the CFO parachute in and see if the promises made are the same as the promises met?"

    Consistent with the manifesto is the goal of becoming a money-making CIO, said McGee, not the first observer to suggest that performance based compensation extend to IT like it does to sales, even though IT usually operates as a support or service function. Nonetheless, he called it "the most radical change in mission in the 50-year history of IT as a formal industry," adding, "we are seeing clients who are doing this."

    Some of the measurement McGee calls for depends on an ability to quantify the monetary value of information use, a theme senior Gartner analysts like others have espoused. But in the conversation, there’s not much to lose, McGee concluded. “You can be the traditional IT organization responding to a call for help … that is not where this industry is headed.”

    McGee works with CEOs, CFOs and CIOs and is starting to research chief marketing officers and is the primary author of the Gartner IT Scenario.

    Jim Ericson is editorial director of  Information Management, a SourceMedia publication. You can reach him at Follow him on Twitter at @jimericson.

    Worth thinking about.