Last week I sat on a panel of judges for a business plan competition at the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto Canada. My experience on the campus, interaction with the students and a number of faculty members, and my lengthy dialogue with the Dean of the Business School in which he described the history, ambitions, and strategy of the school helped me appreciate why Schulich is rated one of the very best business schools in the world.
I sat and listened as 8 teams of 7 or so each presented an idea for a new product or service, the business plan, the marketing strategy, the profit model etc... This was a class of bright eyed 1st year 17 &18 year old under graduate students cutting their teeth on building a business plan for the first time. They had 50 page business cases in hand. Some had figured out where they were going to build their products and what the labor conditions were and others had done deep analysis on distribution networks. The focus (and the judging criteria) was on the process and completeness of the business plan. The hard part of course is coming up with a block buster idea and some of these were humorous and toungue in cheek. Some of the ideas were creative but impractical ( an automated indoor doggy litter-box with artificial grass); Some recognized a need (comply with regulations on lawn mower emissions) but whose solution had some difficult to manage "by-products" (deploying a herd of goats to trim residential lawns); Some involved physics of the impossible, or at least wildly optimistic (a AA rechargeable battery with approx. 40,000 mA of energy storage capacity); Some were, lets say, a little over ambitious, or at least required some highly ambitious capitalization (overhauling the global ethanol market with genetically modified Arrowroot and an experimental enzyme); Some hadn't quite tied off their dependencies (a social location based coupon marketing service that had a critical dependency on facebook for authentication and analytics... but who identified as a �threat' that they had not talked to facebook). At the end of the day the panel awarded the �judges choice� to a Bluetooth base proximity alarm that used your smartphone and some 'tags� to help you keep track of you essentials. It was a lot of fun for the students and a lot of fun for me to see the genesis of the next generation of creative, passionate business people. There is tremendous potential in this next generation.
I should point out that this class at Schulich uses LotusLive. They do so to allow the virtual coordination and integration of distributed work. I should also point out that the chief weakness, in my opinion, of all the presentations, or perhaps I should say the greatest opportunity to improve the quality of the presentations, was a lack of cross discipline engagement. Of course this was a friendly "in class" "process of building a business plan" competition that didn't reasonably have a lot of scope for cross discipline interaction, and that wasn't the point of the exercise per se. I am convinced however that cross discipline interaction is one of the essential skills these students will have to learn over the next few years. My discussions with faculty members at Schulich make it clear to me that they understand this is tremendous opportunity, and requirement for business school education and that curriculum has to impress upon business students that success as business people will increasingly require cross-discipline collaboration and social skills. I am hopeful they will begin to use LotusLive to explore ways of engaging other disciplines in the University to help them come up with even better ideas, refine the good ideas they already have and put together even more compelling business plans. (I should mention that I also spent a lot of time with the Engineering School who also recognize this essential need from the engineering side of the equation. They want to train the next generation of what they call �renaissance� engineers. I hope they too will begin using LotusLive to help them with this)
After the competition was over, I spend another hour or so answering questions and �consulting� with these students to help them refine their ideas and business plans. Professor Jean Adams, who invited me to judge this competition, asked me to forward on any recommendations I may have thought of that I did not get a chance to communicate in person. I thought would share them here. This is off the top of my head and most certainly not a definitive list, but it is based on my observations of the competition and I think would have helped these students deliver even better proposals:
Describe your product/service early and concisely and make sure you have a very well defined value proposition. Why is this invention/product valuable and to who is it valuable? Why would someone want to spend money on it? You need to be very explicit about this. "This is why it is valuable to these people..." Ultimately any product or service will be successful or fail because of the value it provides and you ability to articulate that value to prospective buyers. Once again, you need to be very explicit right up front about value to the customer.
Explain the disruption. Most good ideas stem from either finding a new and novel or more cost effective way of addressing some well understood problem or from leveraging a specific "disruption" . In either case as you present your idea to someone make it clear what category your idea fits into. That helps a reviewer to slot the discussion into a evaluation framework quickly. If it is a disruption then describe its nature (technical, regulatory, social, business structure, business cycle etc..) and its magnitude. It may be also useful to describe how some mega disruptions that people are familiar with (mobile, social networking, cloud computing, green regulation, analytics etc.) will impact the space into which you are trying to insert the product/service. Once again, this is important so that a reviewer can slot the discussion and evaluate value and viability quickly.
It needs to be feasible/ implementable. Nothing can shoot down a good idea faster than impossibility of implementation. Whether it is a problem of the energy requirements involving densities that are orders of magnitude greater than anything available or requiring some manufacturing process never before seen, or regulations prohibit it... make sure that it is feasible and even better, implementable in an economically realistic way. This means reaching out to experts to validate and help refine the idea and sensitize you to physical, chemical, manufacturing, and regulatory limitations. Talk to an electrical engineer. Talk to an environmental lawyer. Talk to manufacturing specialist. If the product/service does involve a disruption that does go beyond conventional feasibility (which happens all the time) then be sure to describe that disruption in some detail and provide evidence (a study, reference an expert opinion by name and reputation etc.) A proof of concept can help. This may be a prototype or may be a case study or an existing example of success with this type of product/service.
Lay the business model out in a very simple manner. This is how we are going to make it... This is how we are going to distribute it... This is how we are going to sell/ ,market/ support it... This is how we are going to make money... and how much. Is this a less expensive or better alternative to an existing product? Is this a standalone? Is this an accessory to something that has already succeeded? Is this a razor and razor blades model? Does it leverage the network effect or is viral? Does it benefit from ecosystem acceleration? Is it a loss leader and if so what follows it? Is it a freemium model? Etc...
Think about adjacencies. If you succeed with this product, are there any interesting adjacencies that allow you to leverage your insertion power? Are there follow-on or accessory products that can benefit form lower cost of sales and by extension higher revenue profits? Your base product may be closer to a loss leader if you can make profit on follow-on.
Describe the market dynamics in a concise manner. What is the target market and opportunity size? Are you proposing to commoditize an existing market and how are you going to/can you protect yourself against commoditization? What is the intellectual property landscape? Do you have patentable novelty. Who are your competitors? What strengths and weakness do you have relative to your competitors?
List your dependencies. What will it take to be successful? What partnerships/agreements do you need? What capital do you need and where are you going to get it from? What approvals are required? How much skill or manufacturing capacity do you need? What are the pitfalls? etc.
Be concise, respectful, and professional. When you are pitching an idea, respect the value and finite nature of the time that the reviewers are investing. This means being net, concise, well organized and well prepared. Get to the point. Edit out superfluous information. Be warm, engaging, enthusiastic, passionate.... but don't do a comedy routine.
Engage cross discipline expertise, collaborate and iterate. Invention rarely happens in isolation and never becomes a real value proposition in the real world without engaging collaborators and critics form across disciplines. Concept development is a fundamentally collaborative and iterative process. Don't forget it. Engage and refine through many iterations before you pitch it to an investor. First impressions make a big difference. You may only get one shot so make the best of it.
Think through and describe the product life cycle. Your costs aren't only manufacturing, marketing and sales. They are also ongoing support and distribution. Once a customer buys your product they don't automatically transform from being a revenue source to a cost center. They become evangelists/ influencers and repeat customers. The post sale life cycle may also be a revenue source such as licensing fees, upgrades, service for fee, supplies...etc. and as such may be an important part of the business model. The value proposition you are selling isn't only about the point of purchase, it often involves a long term and ongoing relationship.
Don't forget about brand equity. When you are selling a product you aren't only capturing revenue and making profit, you are generating brand equity. Your potential value to a potential investor isn't only how much free cash you can generate it is the real, intellectual and brand equity of the company. You should package and articulate this value and the plan to maximize it as part of your pitch.
Like Deep Blue in 1997, IBM took on Watson as its latest Grand Challenge � the ambitious research projects that push science in ways not thought possible. Should they succeed, as did Deep Blue, they reveal new insights into the power of computing, showcase the expertise of IBM Researchers and open new avenues of business and technological innovation.
For this Grand Challenge, IBM chose the scientific field of Question and Answering (�QA�). In building Watson, IBM researchers were to build a computing system that rivals a human�s ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence.
It wouldn�t be easy. And it would be would be tested on prime-time TV.
The Jeopardy! format provided the ultimate test of Watson's abilities. As anyone who�s watched the show could tell you, the game�s clues involve analyzing subtle meaning, irony, riddles and other complexities of language. Humans are good at this, computers are not. Plus, the questions could touch on any conceivable subject, and Watson was limited to what its creators put into its memory.
Building Watson involved asking many additional challenging questions: What semantic technologies would be needed to understand unstructured data? How do you build a system based on information as opposed to transactions? How do you build a system that can learn instead of being programmed?
Over a period of four years, they fed Watson mountains of information, including text from the World Book Encyclopedia, Wikipedia and books from Project Gutenberg. All told, Watson held the equivalent of about one million books worth of information. The team also wrote (and rewrote) the algorithms that let Watson break down each question into its key components and assess its confidence in each of the potential answers. To power Watson, they chose a cluster of Power 750� computers�ten racks holding 90 servers, for a total of 2880 processor cores running DeepQA software and storage. Then, through 55 sparring matches with former Jeopardy! champions, they tested and tweaked, tested and tweaked, tested and tweaked.
New frontiers of analytics
I wrote about Watson a lot. Specifically, I was interested in what it meant for business analytics. There�s something beautiful � and no doubt valuable to a business � about data that comes in neat and tidy rows. Sadly, little about business is either neat or tidy. Now, a full 80 percent of an organization�s data is unstructured; volumes are growing at an exponential rate. Organizations need to understand not only at what their internal systems are telling them, but what their customers, partners and the market is telling them, too. The problem is that their computing systems aren�t set up to handle this new reality. If Watson could interpret the twisted logic of a Daily Double and answer with confidence, the analytical possibilities for interpreting and unlocking the business value of unstructured data would be endless. If you could use language, you could use Watson.
Like a knife through butter
The Jeopardy! Challenge aired over two days starting on February 14 and for those two days I marveled as Watson ran through the categories like a hot knife through butter. By the end of the first day it had accumulated $35,734 to Rutter�s $10,400 and Jennings� $4,800. By the end of the game, Watson had racked up $77,147, besting Jennings' $24,000 and Rutter�s $21,60. IBM donated the $1M grand prize to charity, with equal donations to World Vision and the World Community Grid. Likewise, Jennings and Rutter donated half of their winnings ($300,000 and $200,000, respectively) to charities of their choice..
Afterwards, Jennings would observe: [T]here's no shame in losing to silicon [...] After all, I don't have 2,880 processor cores and 15 terabytes of reference works at my disposal�nor can I buzz in with perfect timing whenever I know an answer. My puny human brain, just a few bucks worth of water, salts, and proteins, hung in there just fine against a jillion-dollar supercomputer. Jennings was also surprised to learn that he was, in fact, the actual inspiration for project:
Watching you on Jeopardy! is what inspired the whole project," one IBM engineer told me, consolingly. "And we looked at your games over and over, your style of play. There's a lot of you in Watson." I understood then why the engineers wanted to beat me so badly: To them, I wasn't the good guy, playing for the human race. That was Watson's role, as a symbol and product of human innovation and ingenuity."
Putting Watson to work
The lights had barely dimmed on the studio before discussions turned to commercial applications for Watson. In keeping with its Grand Challenge, IBM chose healthcare, and announcedIBM Content and Predictive Analytics for Healthcare at last October�s Information On Demand (IOD). At the press briefing, newly appointed IBM GM of Watson Solutions Manoj Saxena said IBM chose healthcare first because of its ability to make a direct improvement in peoples� lives: �Watson has tremendous potential for applications that improve the efficiency of care and reduce wait times for diagnosis and treatment by enabling clinicians with access to the best clinical data the moment they need it."
Consider the stats:
There are 12,000 diseases in the world; some take years to diagnose and treat.
The volume of medical information doubles every five years.
81 percent of doctors spend five hours or less per month reading medical journals.
One in five patients suffers from preventable readmissions, which represent $17.4 billion of the current $102.6 billion U.S. Medicare budget.
Watson will transform for the better the way healthcare is administered, delivered and paid for, said Saxena. Watson's ability to analyze the meaning and context of human language, and quickly process vast amounts of information to suggest options targeted to a patient's circumstances, can assist physicians and nurses, in identifying the most likely diagnosis and treatment options for their patients.
It�s been fascinating for me to follow Watson�s progress from game show contestant to business solution. Watson adds another important dimension to the interplay between technology and humanity. In focusing on healthcare out of the gate, we saw the mission of IBM reflected once again � not only to make a profit, but to make a difference. On a smarter planet, Watson may soon be an indispensable asset to the medical profession, making a positive difference in the lives of thousands of patients.
This week, I wanted to take a look at enterprise modernization capabilities and efforts in the context of software development. So, in the tradition of this blog, I'm going to begin by discussing a completely different area: electric guitars.
The electric guitar industry is one in which conservative design has almost completely trumped any attempt at modernization for the last half century. In 1954, there were two major companies that made electric guitars: Gibson, best known for the Les Paul model, and Fender, best known for the Stratocaster model.
Here we are in 2011, and none of that has changed. Why?
The basic problem is that guitarists are typically less interested in innovation and more interested in tradition -- they want a guitar with vintage feel and tone that, in a perfect world, also looks intensely vintage. They want it so much that today, there are aftermarket services available to �relic� a guitar: make it look older and shabbier by attacking it with a razor blade, pouring acid on it, leaving it out in the sun for hours, etc.
I am not making this up.
You should also know that the priciest electric guitar you can buy today is a 1959 Les Paul Standard with a sunburst finish -- currently valued, even in this economy, somewhere north of a quarter million dollars.
So it's no coincidence that modern luthiers, well aware of that situation, have responded by creating new guitars that try to recreate, with many improvements, the famous 1959 Les Paul Standard mojo. Such guitars are a sort of synthesis of the best of the old and the best of the new -- and a clever way to get some sort of traction in a super-challenging market.
Balance innovation and convention and get higher business agility
This, of course, brings us to the point of this blog entry. Enterprise developers, particularly those working in mainframe environments, often face a similar conundrum as modern luthiers�and IBM is helping them solve it in a similarly clever way.
A recent announcement from IBM on the subject of business agility , for instance, included several elements pertinent to this theme of blending-old-and-new-to-achieve-a-better-outcome.
One that stood out to me was this: IBM Software is giving organizations a great new way to test new System z� mainframe applications, one that preserves and even extends the roots of the traditional mainframe value proposition.
This, as it turns out, is really important. Mainframe applications and the services they drive are right at the heart of many leading industries -- banking in particular comes to mind -- and are thus no place for compromise or risk. Furthermore, many organizations have made unusually deep investments in mainframe applications; this investment creates an unusually conservative outlook and a reluctance, even beyond the usual reluctance, to rip-and-replace with something new.
Even so, newness is, to at least some degree, what today's demanding market requires -- the innovation that distinguishes a company from its many competitors. It's also what business agility is all about. What is business agility, after all, but the ability to change, quickly and effectively, in parallel with new strategies or new challenges?
Test your System z applications on commodity x86 hardware
And that, in sum, is just what the new IBM Software offering -- IBM Rational� Developer for System z Unit Test -- can help bring to mainframe developers. Specifically, this technology (which is part of the IBM Rational Developer for System z family gives developers the power to develop for System z more quickly, more easily and at lower cost -- all of which contribute directly to higher agility.
When I talked to David Myers, Software Product Manager for Rational Enterprise Modernization and Compilers, his case for this new offering struck me as a strong one.
�After decades of investment in green-screen mainframe development and tools, many organizations are looking for a new -- but not too new -- approach,� he said. �We're giving it to them by modernizing the tools and processes they need to become more productive and spur collaboration.�
The way IBM's solution works, in essence, is to create new test platforms not on the System z itself, but on everyday x86 boxes. These serve as isolated, controllable environments in which it's possible to change certain variables, for testing purposes, without the complexity or delay that would've been required to coordinate changes with multiple teams on a System z proper for a development prototype.
�A lot of developers want to upgrade, for instance, at the middleware level to take advantage of new capabilities and simplify development,� said Myers. �But typical organizations have long upgrade timelines � one customer upgrade cycle involves a 14-month process � which could drag the whole project off the rails or require developers to utilize older frameworks which take more coding time to meet deadlines. So, using our solution, they can create that middleware environment on a separate piece of the infrastructure that's off in a corner early in the cycle, as opposed to the centralized environment, to work on applications concurrently to when the official upgrade occurs. They can be prepared to take advantage of new functionality on day one.�
It's all good
The benefits of such an approach are clear; the drawbacks, invisible. Consider:
Faster build cycles. By increasing the number of test environments, developers can test software more quickly, release it more quickly into production and start receiving value from it more quickly.
Lower costs. By offloading certain testing functions to x86 hardware, IBM has essentially made it less expensive to develop for the mainframe -- getting more accomplished, yet without spending more money on any new hardware.
Higher System z business value. Because the System z proper allocates fewer resources to testing, it can dedicate more resources to higher-priority tasks -- like revenue-generating production services.
Smarter utilization of commodity platforms. The average hardware utilization of x86 boxes is not so great -- averaging well under 15 percent in most cases. Instead of wasting processing cycles and power on nothing useful a full 85 percent of the time, these boxes can help with something very useful indeed: testing new applications prior to roll out, to ensure they're as complete and bug-free as they can be.
It seems to me that these last two benefits define really neatly what IBM often has in mind when it talks about �smarter computing,� too -- the idea that instead of buying more of something, you get a smarter use of what you already have.
Myers agrees, �Using x86 hardware when possible for testing basically creates more value at low to no cost. And limited availability on the System z can also be dealt with really effectively that way; if the z is constrained for resources at peak times, you can now move testing jobs to x86, instead of asking the testing team to take a whole day off because of the limitations of their test environment.�
Given these strengths, it seems like IBM clients who develop for the mainframe would be lining up to try the new approach -- and the ones that do would stand to rake in the benefits.
Such, in fact, is the case for ITERGO, a major insurance provider with offices in more than 30 countries. This organization was interested in developing System z applications in COBOL -- among the oldest of all programming languages -- yet doing so in a modern, GUI-based environment suited to the expectations of the new generation of developers.
Toward that end, ITERGO turned to Rational Developer for System z. And today more than 200 developers there use the IBM solution, leading to a substantial increase in developer productivity and more business value from System z-hosted services.
What's your strategy for enterprise modernization?
About the author Guest blogger Wes Simonds worked in IT for seven years before becoming a technology writer on topics including virtualization, cloud computing and service management. He lives in sunny Austin, Texas and believes Mexican food should always be served with queso.
Back in January, IBM Chair, President & CEO Sam Palmisano called 2011 �a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity [for IBMers] to reconnect with our company...what we stand for and value... [to] show the world what makes IBM and IBMers unique.�
For my own part, I was proud to lead a group of 30-plus IBMers and friends in a skills building workshop series at the Ottawa Mission. Our efforts led to a $15,000 grant to help the Mission bolster its education, employment and skills training for my city�s most vulnerable and at-risk citizens. On a lighter note, my post on the IBM Selectric set off an email trail that connected collector/restorer Jordan Armstrong with an increasingly rare motor clutch bushing (IBM part no. 1236572) that he couldn�t find anywhere else:
As I am sure you know, the Selectric is an incredibly durable machine, one that with proper care and maintenance could last practically forever, which is my hope. With the Selectric I recently turning 50, I hope to have and restore many more machines up to it's 100th birthday. If I should be so lucky. Could you please forward this message to someone, anyone, who perhaps would know of a supply in some deep dark corner of an IBM warehouse?
"Change everything except your beliefs"
In 1962, then-CEO Tom Watson Jr. remarked that �to survive and achieve success, a company must be willing to change everything about itself except its beliefs.� I�d argue you could apply the same idea to your own career. With Transformation as a dominant theme in the Centennial celebrations, I made important changes of my own.
Most importantly, I changed jobs. After nearly a decade in Business Analytics, I made the transition to a new role with IBM Software. So far, I believe, the move has paid off. My new role brings with it new and expanded responsibilities. As a result I�ve taken big steps to broaden my perspective on our business and develop my skills in innovative new ways. The past six months have been phenomenal.
The biggest transformation, however, is yet to come. Next year I will participate in the IBM Corporate Service Corps. Modeled on the Peace Corps, the �CSC� pulls together diverse teams of IBMers from around the world and sends them for a month to emerging markets around the world. While there they work in communities with NGOs and local leaders to improve their economies and make their cities smarter. Many participants call it the most significant event of their lives. I can�t wait.
I, too, believe the company�s best days are yet to come. Warren Buffet has his reasons; here are mine:
Compelling vision: In the most unsettled and uncertain age in decades, our ongoing Smarter Planet strategy offers a way for companies, governments and IBMers to solve the toughest challenges we face as a society. Like no other company, IBM understands that our world is growing increasingly instrumented, interconnected and intelligent. Like no other company, IBM views the confluence of these trends as a tremendous opportunity to transform and improve the way the world literally works. From New York to Stockholm and within industries as diverse as retail, healthcare and banking, IBMers redoubled their efforts with clients, partners and community organizations to make their processes, systems and people work smarter.
Relentless innovation:Watson � the latest IBM �Grand Challenge� - captured the public�s imagination when it bested Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings, the two most successful Jeopardy! contestants ever to pick up the signaling button. But Watson was no mere novelty. IBM�s value proposition is to create and provide innovative solutions to our clients - solutions they can�t get from anyone else. Watson�s unique union of natural language processing and computational prowess opens new avenues of potential for IT architectures and advanced analytics to solve previously insoluble problems. Today, a mere eight months after its prime-time debut, Watson is at work in a real-world situation, sorting helping clinicians in Texas deliver patient care by sorting through and analyzing reams of medical information with ease.
Passionate people: IBM is most commonly thought of as a technology company. But what made the Centennial remarkable was its human dimension. The first Centennial video, 100 X 100 told the story of IBM�s technological innovation not in arcane terms but in human ones. As the film progresses from clocks to punch cards to Deep Blue and Watson, we see human stories � full of risk, courage, even humor. In the second, They Were There, retired IBMers recount stories of their own experiences and how through IBM they were able to change the way the world works.
The final video, A Culture of Service, showcases how IBMers use their skills and abilities to make a positive contribution to the world. The quality and commitment of IBMers has for me been the biggest discovery. Rare is the week when I don�t meet another exceptionally talented and committed individual.
Carry it forward
It's been a remarkable year for me at IBM. I am tremendously proud of this company and what it�s achieved. I am unduly excited about the possibilities it offers me to learn and grow. At the same time I�ve been humbled by the tremendous generosity, enthusiasm and dedication that my colleagues have shown me in helping IBM move forward toward its goal of making a positive difference in my own backyard. As it enters its second century, IBM can draw from the lessons of its first for the confidence and perseverance it will need to succeed. Through my experience of its Centennial, I know I can draw on these lessons to succeed in my own career as well.
The next time you're stuck in "mail jail," think about how Luis. He cut his inbox to 16 messages a week and hasn't missed a beat.
That's right: 16 messages. Every week.
Don't believe me?
Can you briefly describe your role?
I work for IBM Software in Spain; I am part of the BlueIQ Program working as a Social Computing Evangelist, Knowledge Manager and CommunityBuilder, looking after the community management / facilitation of the program, helping accelerate the adoption rate of social software for IBMers, both inside and outside of the firewall. In my spare time I have been living �A World Without Email� since Feb 2008 proving it�s possible to work effectively, if not more altogether, with social tools than with just making use of email. This article describes what that experience has been like so far.
What three business benefits do you see to your own social media and social business activities? How do you quantify the benefits of being so prolific on so many social networks?
Smarter work: That�s been one of my main mantras over the course of the last few years on what it really means for me to be living social. It�s all about working smarter and not necessarily harder. Tapping into social networks to not only be able to find relevant content within a matter of minutes, but also the right experts behind that content is key in helping me accelerate the way I collaborate, share my knowledge and learn from others. In a business world where the response time is almost in real-time, social networking surely provides me with an opportunity to just anticipate the way I interact with fellow colleagues, customers, business partners and other industry thought leaders.
Personal Brand: In conjunction with the corporate brand there isn�t probably anything more powerful out there for businesses than empowering employees to leave a digital footprint of their skills, subject matter expertise as well as their persona. Personal branding surely has got a very nice place within the social networking realm and through tools like blogging we have never had it this easy to demonstrate our thought leadership, passion and knowledge for a particular topic. That�s also one of the biggest advantages, in my experience around social business: building your reputation and social trust through nurturing on a regular basis those personal business relationships we all use to conduct business.
Living �A World Without Email�: It�s been rather interesting to see how over the course of the last few years, since February 2008, to be more precise, and thanks to making regular use of social software tools, whether internally or externally, I have been capable of reducing my dependency on corporate email by over 98% having gone from 30 to 40 emails per day to about 16 emails per week. If anything it�s allowed me to reinvest the two to three hours I used to spend on managing my mailbox to nowadays spend 10 to 15 minutes per week on it and invest the remaining time in social networks, helping out other colleagues with their queries, answering customers� questions and solving their problems or just sharing my knowledge and learning from others from what they have shared. That�s meant going from two to three hours per day of private, opaque, obscure interactions to two to three hours of open, public and transparent interactions where my knowledge and that of others is stored out there on the (Internal) Social Web.
I think the main benefits knowledge workers like myself are getting from using these social networking tools are pretty much along the lines of how they empower us to improve our overall individual and group productivity, as well as overall business performance. Thanks to it, I am closer to our customers and business partners, I can help out directly more than ever before to fix their business problems or I generate more business value by engaging with customers in a much more open and collaborative manner, including the massive learning experience that�s attached with it all along! But the key focus for me has always focusing on the business outcomes and overall performance improvements than just measure the use of the social tools. That�s what differentiates, to me, the real key benefits
Tell me about the Blue IQ program: what are the goals? What is the curriculum? How does it work? What can other companies learn from your own experiences?
BlueIQ is an IBM internal adoption program to help accelerate the deployment of social networking amongst fellow employees so that they can collaborate and share their knowledge much more effectively, at the same time they would be able to hold meaningful conversations with customers and business partners. It was born in 2007 and throughout the years it�s morphed into a core set of program components that allows IBMers to not only have an understanding of social computing and social networking tools, but to also use them effectively as business tools for both internal and external collaboration. Folks can go ahead and learn more about BlueIQ by downloading this free whitepaper on BlueIQ, where we explain our entire methodology and how other businesses could copycat to match their needs and requirements, along with their own additions and corporate culture.
They can also download this general BlueIQ Overview presentation to get a quick glimpse of how BlueIQ works and what are all of the various components do. I think what other companies could learn from BlueIQ is a wide range of experiences that we have gone through over the years into what works, and what doesn�t!, with regards to social software adoption; through a natural evolution of the program we have seen how we have been extending the overall program from just a few thousands to the entire IBM population. It�s been a new and exciting learning experience sharing with folks ideas and experiences that could help them, as well as learn from others into ways of how we could improve the already existing program components. In our experience, BlueIQ could surely help out pave the ground towards a smoother adoption strategy of social software focusing more on the movement and philosophy behind it all things 2.0, than just having to focus on the technology alone.
A few steps forward, the odd step back, with the biggest gains yet to come.
McKinsey has released its fifth annual survey on companies' use of social tools and tech and the results are decidedly mixed. The good news is that adoption rates and expertise levels have reached "critical scale" at the organizations surveyed. Of the more than 4,000 global respondents, 72 percent reported their companies using at least one social technology; more than 40 percent report using social networking and blogs. Also, industry usage has spread beyond early adopters and leaders Tech and Telecommunications (86 percent), to Manufacturing, Financial Services (64 percent) and Energy (62 percent).
The good: Social technologies boost business outcomes
More importantly, respondents confirmed last year's findings - namely, that social technologies can indeed boost a company's financial performance and market share. Once again, companies reported social technologies lowering communications costs and enabling faster access to knowledge and internal experts across their internal, external and extended (business partner, supplier) stakeholders. The more employees use social technologies in their day-to-day activities, the greater their company's market share and the higher its margins. The companies reporting the greatest gains are the ones McKinsey classified as Fully Networked - those that use social technologies to interact with everyone: employees, customers and partners.
The not so good: Positive outcomes don't always last
The less good news is that sometimes, these gains don't last. Many companies reported decreases in one and sometimes more than one category. More worrisome - at least over the short term - is that some companies actually slid backwards into the survey's Developing group. These companies - the most numerous and least socially sophisticated - reported lower-than-average improvements on all fronts. Also, less than 15 percent of respondents actually progressed to the next tier of social business maturity.
"It appears that it is easier to lose the benefits of social technologies than to become a more networked enterprise, which suggests that significant effort is required to achieve gains at scale," the authors write.
What I think
What are we to make of these findings? I can posit three ideas:
Companies have (largely) gotten over their fear of social: IT may still be more comfortable implementing social technologies behind the firewall, but companies have discovered that broadening their external networks helps them scan the external competitive environment and source new ideas. The question now is less "Why should we have a social strategy?" and more "For what purpose and at what rate?"
Knowledge workers see business value in social technologies: It's the proverbial "none of us is as smart as all of us." Social technologies make it easier for people to find other people and enable the cross-silo collaboration that helps solve complex problems and keep projects on-track. By and large, they're also easier to use than most enterprise applications, which helps drive high adoption rates.
Success with social demands a solid strategy: Isolated, one-off social projects are easy to set up and simple to manage, but they lack the capacity to deliver at-scale benefits that companies are looking for. Companies will increasingly need to approach their social strategy in the same way they approach other enterprise-wide initiatives such as business analytics or business agility - in measured, iterative steps with defined tactics and goals. Integrating social business capabilities into workflows, decision-making, R&D and other operational processes takes time and effort. This is where IBM can help.
The McKinsey report reveals an industry in flux. Despite the mixed results, the authors do conclude on an optimistic note. Most respondents cite culture as the biggest barrier to progress and many respondents expect these barriers to disappear. Looking ahead three to five years, they expect the boundaries among employees, vendors and customers to blur; more teams will be able to organize themselves; data-driven decisions will rise in importance. This can only mean better business outcomes for companies that stick with it.
Last Thursday, IBMers Lindsey Gremont and Megan Moyer started the weekend fun somewhat early with the #stuffibmerssay Twitter tag. Within minutes, IBMers around the globe chimed in with a hilarious litany of acronyms, phrases and terms we hear every day.
I'm sorry, that's not in my PBCs.
Looks like I'm triple-booked.
Wow. You don't look anything like your BluePages picture.
At last count, the tag had accumulated more than 2,700 tweets from more than 600 individuals, nearly all of whom were on a conference call, late for a conference call, or running to another conference call.
Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, depending on where you're calling in from.
Larry? Larry? I think we lost Larry.
Could the person with the barking dog / unloading the dishwasher / eating lunch PLEASE go on mute?
A few of my fellow social IBMers have collected their favorites on their respective blogs:
It was all in good fun, of course, and it did illustrate that even though our work spans oceans, time zones and cultures, our need to communicate, share and laugh are universal.
Speaking of social, get ready for Lotusphere 2012
Speaking of learning and sharing, I would be remiss were I not to mention that we're getting into high gear for Lotusphere 2012, the premier social business conference and the first in the IBM Software event calendar. It's happening January 16-17 in Orlando and it will be your chance to meet many of the very same, very social IBMers who kicked off that very thread.
Lotusphere 2012 shows you how to raise your social skills and how to sharpen your technical ones with:
Over 300 sessions
Technology sessions covering practical tips and tricks to kick your skill set up to the next level
Business-oriented sessions focused on best practices and results
A Solutions Showcase featuring real-world solutions from our IBM Business Partners and IBM colleagues
Access to IBM strategists, product experts, engineers, architects, and developers
The opportunity to share the wisdom of the crowds from your own social circles of colleagues and partners
Social in the C-suite: IBM Connect 2012
Running parallel to Lotusphere is IBM Connect 2012, a forum for C-level executives and IBM experts to share strategies, challenges and best practices for exploiting pervasive social technologies to achieve tangible advances in company performance.
IBM Connect 2012 offers three tracks:
Driving product and service innovation: Social businesses drive innovation much faster than traditional organizations. They bring together good ideas; combine complementary expertise; and discover, refine, and expand upon ideas to deliver valuable goods and services to market much more quickly. Learn from experts from leading organizations who have begun to transform the way they innovate by becoming social businesses.
Deepening customer care and insight: Social businesses build customer advocacy and attract and retain more customers by continuously engaging in conversations with and learning from them. They create personalized experiences that reach today's web-savvy customers when and how they prefer. Learn ways to increase customer engagement, to empower employees to better support customers, and to measure the effectiveness of the online experience to grow your business and help sustain long-term profitability.
Optimizing the workforce: Social businesses improve the effectiveness of their people by unlocking talent and skills that otherwise might have gone unnoticed. Now more than ever, leaders need to focus on rapidly developing workforce skills and capabilities, fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing, and developing future leaders. Learn from experts leading the way in workforce transformation who share their successes in developing and bringing together the right talent at the right times to support better, faster solutions to business problems.
Guest post from Anuj Marfatia, Senior Market Manager, IBM Predictive Analytics Solutions
Not to frighten anyone, but there are only five weeks before the holidays. The pressure is on.
In the U.S., the holiday shopping chaos, advertisements, music and decorations now begins on Nov. 1, right after Halloween. I actually feel bad for Thanksgiving. Somehow the poor bird has lost its mojo, though I don�t have time to think about it.
With the holiday season in full swing and Black Friday looming, I�m already worried about missing out on this year�s most popular toys for my family.
Like everyone, I promise myself that I will shop earlier, but in the end, I am usually sifting through the shelves of Toys R Us or Target on Christmas Eve that are stocked with items that no one wants or are insanely overpriced.
So, I end up scrounging the floors, hoping that someone else had mistakenly dropped a toy that I could use. (How does it go? Someone�s garbage is another�s treasure?)
I have always been late to the popular Christmas toy party. Even as a child, I remember getting the Rubik�s cube not in the early 1980s when it was hot, but a mere 15 years later. I was determined not to be last when it made its comeback.
What always surprises me is that the popular items are usually talked about and expected to be popular a month or two before the holiday shopping season begins (I could bet today that the XBOX Kinect and My Pillow pets are going to be hot this year), and yet there is never any in stock � either on the shelf or online?
So what gives?
Aligning Marketing, Inventory and the Supply Chain
Assuming that the corporate strategy was not to provide fewer products, it has become apparent that organizations have a difficult time aligning inventory with demand � and the holiday season always puts a strain on operational processes.
Granted, it�s not an easy task for retailers to determine which product and how many of them need to be on which shelf of which retail location and then streamline the manufacturing and distribution processes to meet demand for that specific product.
Or is it?
Organizations traditionally have used the approach of viewing sales from previous months or years and extrapolating how many will be sold in the coming year. Then, manufacturing follows that schedule. At times, this process is more art than science.
And, these organizations aren�t receiving ample feedback from customers, nor are they listening to what their customers are discussing in the socialsphere. In addition, they don�t take into consideration:
� The complaints that recently came up on Facebook regarding a competitive product or an earlier version of its own product
� What to do if 10% of the warehouse team just quit?
� The operational processes affected knowing that raw material prices have increased by over 30% in just a few days
� How to account for decreased consumer income due to the economy?
The Gift that Keeps on Giving
Now, more than ever before, technology exists to analyze all the consumer and organizational data so decisions can be made in real-time to account for macro or micro changes.
Wouldn�t it be great to be able to predict price elasticity, how many products are needed to meet demand, where on the shelf it should go to maximize sales, and how much product can be manufactured with the raw materials and resources that are at hand?
Take, for example, a US-based consumer electronics retailer. The past few holiday seasons, some specific tablets were purchased almost immediately when placed on the shelf.
There was a lot of lag in the supply chain process and by the time additional products arrived to the store, the season was over, so they were leaving much money on the table and were overstocked during the New Year. In order to eliminate their excess stock, they were forced to provide additional discounts to try to open shelf space.
Last year, by deploying predictive analytics software they were able to better predict customer purchasing behavior and demand, and better anticipate failures in the manufacturing and supply chain processes to ensure that they had enough inventory during the holiday season.
Predictive analytics leverages all the consumer, distribution, inventory, and manufacturing data inside the organization, as well as all the social media conversations happening outside. It then runs that data through predictive models, so organizations have a probability or likelihood of what products need to be on the shelves (and always on the shelves) for the holiday shopping spree.
I�m not just being selfish when I say this, but, I know I can speak for many that if more organizations utilized predictive analytics to align supply and demand during the holiday season, there might actually be an XBOX Kinect under the tree this year.
Otherwise, it may be another year of extra Halloween candy stuffed in stockings. Sorry family!
For more information:
� Watch the Predictive Operational Analytics video
� Read the whitepaper on Predictive Operational Analytics
� Get insight into how an auto parts retailer used predictive analytics to align inventory and customer demand
It would be too easy to make the just-published developerWorks Tech Trends report our Pick of the Week. (That doesn�t mean you shouldn�t read it � it�s here). Instead we�re giving this week�s prize to IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management V10, which got a huge amount of love from our readers in the November issue of the newsletter, and in tweets before and after the newsletter was published.
The reason for all the excitement? V10 brings together master data management (MDM) and business process management (BPM) � a marriage made in data governance heaven (if also, admittedly, in acronym hell). Specifically, InfoSphere Master Data Management V10 includes IBM BPM Express, which means that out of the box, customers have the BPM capabilities they need to implement policies and coordinate multi-step and multi-role workflows for data stewardship and governance.
That�s a bit of a mouthful. If you�re new to MDM in general and InfoSphere MDM in particular, read How master data management serves the business, a white paper from IBM (NOTE: This white paper was published BEFORE V10 was released).To learn more about the specific benefits of combining MDM and BPM, attend an IBM-sponsored webcast on December 1 (the Thursday after Thanksgiving). And to read about all the new features and capabilities in InfoSphere Master Data Management V10, visit this web page.
NOTE: There will be no Pick of the Week next week due to the Thanksgiving (U.S.) holiday. See you December 2!
With six weeks to go before the end of the year my thoughts have of late been going in two directions, usually at once. If I'm not looking back on the year that was (an extraordinary one for IBM) I'm looking at the year that will be, given our persistently uncertain economy and the blinding pace of change.
We'll be recapping the major themes of the year over the next few weeks, but in the meantime I'd like to highlight some recent research from IBM that should help you chart your course as you look ahead to next year as well.
Mind the gap. (The analytics gap)
The first is Analytics: The widening divide. This is the second study from MIT Sloan Management Review and the IBM Institute for Business Value to explore how organizations are using business analytics to outperform and drive better outcomes. The 2010 survey identified three types of analytical sophistication: Aspirational, Experienced and Transformed. This new survey reveals what these organizations were able to achieve competitively through their use of analytics. IOD attendees saw a sneak peek of the results (Read my earlier post here).
The study's main finding was the growing gap in the ability of organizations to gain competitive advantage through analytics. Almost 60 percent of organizations are now achieving competitive advantage with analytics. Transformed organizations that apply analytics for a competitive advantage are 3.4 times more likely to substantially outperform their industry peers. Companies that wait to advance their analytics capabilities do so at their own risk.
Next is the 2011 IBM Tech Trends Survey, which came out earlier this week. This extensive survey asked more than 4,000 IT professionals from across our developerWorks community about the future of analytics, cloud, mobile computing and social business and returned some fascinating results.
For cloud adopters, "developing new applications" is expected to be the top activity in the next 24 months, surpassing today's top cloud focus areas of virtualization and storage.
51 percent of respondents stated that adopting cloud technology is part of their mobile strategy
India may be all about social business technology (57% adopting), but other countries including Russia (19%) are more hesitant.
Respondents cited Java (77%) Linux (56%) and Linux (50%) as the skills most valued by employers, with PHP, (35%), SOA (33%) and C# (33%) finishing off the list.
The third report is the 2011 IBM Midmarket CMO Study, which points out the big-time concerns of small- and mid-sized businesses. For example:
Building and sustaining brand loyalty is the top concern for midmarket CMOs, yet 72 percent of them are not sure how to effectively build this loyalty.
70 percent of these CMOs are concerned about data explosion, as they are tasked with making sense of highly complex information generated constantly from a variety of sources such as consumer blogs, Tweets, mobile texts, and videos.
Only 40 percent of midmarket CMOs are taking the time to understand and evaluate the impact of consumer generated reviews, blogs and third party rankings of their brands.
The report also suggests that today�s CMOs need to be better prepared with an empowered consumer that is impacting brands instantly on Twitter, Facebook, and other social channels. (Look no further than this week�s challenge that Bank of America faced when its Google+ channel was �brandjacked�!)
In this edition of �Ask the Industry Analyst,� we sit down with Howard Dresner, Chief Research Officer of Dresner Advisory Services, and a well-known authority and author in the areas of Business Intelligence (BI) and Performance Management (PM).
Howard also recently was a guest on our monthly webcast, IBM Tech Talk, discussing best practices and trends in Mobile BI. The webcast is available on-demand here.
As we�ve seen, organizations today are looking for new user experiences that expand traditional BI solutions with planning, scenario modeling, real-time monitoring and predictive analytics. Using a limitless BI workspace supporting how people think and work � in the office, on the go and even offline � decision makers want to quickly search and assemble all perspectives of the business.
Below we chat with Howard about upcoming trends in BI and PM, the �operationalizing� of analytics, results from his 3rd Mobile BI Market study and what to expect in 2012, including cloud, collaboration and mobile.
You've been around the BI and PM industry for many years, what changes have been the most significant for customers?
At a macro level, BI has become very mainstream and the adoption of BI across large enterprises and SMBs is substantial. It has always been a high priority for users and management alike, however, now the technology is approachable for more average types of users. Vendors are now designing their products for end users in mind and not IT. This is especially true in the mobile world.
We are also starting to see customers using BI as part of their business applications (e.g. ERP or CRM) from the beginning. Customers are thinking of BI and analytics at the outset and the value this analysis provides, rather than processing the data and then waiting for someone to come up with an idea of how to analyze it.
Can you talk more about the mainstreaming of analytics?
Moving forward there are several things that are really important to customers. Topping the list is pushing BI and analytics further down into the operations of organizations to professional line management roles.
Traditionally BI has been a really valuable barometer providing a strategic perspective on the historical performance to date. As organizations continue to amass varying data sources � and more of it � they have to have an easy way to push this intelligence to tactical areas of the organization so quick decisions can be made as opportunities present themselves.
For example, it�s becoming increasingly important for retailers to correct something minor at a store level before it becomes a significant issue. I talked to one retailer who was alerted because a popular SKU was not selling well on a particular day as opposed to other days and compared with other stores. This information was passed to the store manager in real-time, and they learned that there was something physically in front of the display preventing customers to see the product.
Bottom-line: A minor course correction multiplied by thousands of stores can be extremely significant.
This is very similar to what we found in ourWisdom of Crowdsstudy in May 2011 along with advanced analytics (data mining), in-memory analytics, collaborative decision-making and mobile.
The world is changing, so fasten your seatbelt. Mobile (e.g. tablets) continues to have a huge impact on business and the way decisions are being made. For a number of individuals going forward this will be their primary device, especially younger employees who have never actually used a computer.
In a number of customer or patient-facing industries, mobile is just far more efficient and ideal. It also has a psychological aspect that makes the device far more approachable and creates a better conversation versus someone talking over a computer.
Tablets also holdcach�and a cool factor. And, executives are the number one consumers because of that factor, as well as the fact they provide tremendous value. Once the executives adopt them, then you will see a huge proliferation in the devices. This is very different from what we saw last year.
What were the major changes in the results of this survey over the last one you did?
From 2010 to 2011, executives jumped 12 percent as the primary targets, followed by middle management, who were the biggest jump for the primary focus of Mobile BI. It�s interesting to see executives get excited about Mobile BI as most of them own a tablet.
There was also a big increase in penetration and deployment plans. Globally last year, 73 percent said deployment would be under 10 percent, but now it�s 58 percent. Looking out even further, there are very ambitious and aggressive plans to deliver Mobile BI more broadly.
North America and smaller organizations appear to be leading the charge towards Mobile BI. North America because they tend to be early adopters and smaller organizations because they can most readily integrate and benefit from new technologies.
Finally, 65 percent said exclusive Mobile BI use wouldn�t be less than 10 percent over the course of the next two years. That sounds like a paradigm shift. It�s changing the way we work.
What is some advice that you can give to customers who currently have a Mobile BI solution or are thinking about deploying one?
If you are not doing mobile now, begin a proof of concept as soon as possible. This technology is not standing still. If you wait, you'll never do anything. There are huge direct benefits to the organization, which at the minimum are efficiency and effectiveness, especially for those in operational roles. Dragging your feet is not an option.
Secondly, you need to ask yourself, �What do I want to automate?� Anyone who is moving from their desk to somewhere � across campus, to a manufacturing shop floor, or the traditional road warrior � is mobile. So pick your targets. In fact, those people might already be out there and using their devices for business. Go find them and automate those people and their processes.
What are some of the key BI trends moving forward that will create opportunity for customers?
There are three key foundations of BI moving forward: Cloud, Collaboration and Mobile.
�Cloud� Today, smaller organizations seem to think that BI wasn�t made for them. That is untrue. They won�t have the technological staff or resources, but they will have an internet connection. BI can, and will, happen in the cloud for those who want ready-access to applications and data. And, more vendors continue to invest to make this technology a success.
�Collaboration� We have fewer expert resources and truth be told, email doesn�t really help us as much as we need it to. So, if I have a collaborative engine that is supporting my functional area, I can focus all the interactions in one place increasing the ability for structured and workflow collaboration. But, this will only be successful if the organization supports a collaborative culture.
�Mobile� Contrary to what IT and finance might want to believe, Mobile BI is going to shift the industry. The insights now follow you around and with more eyes on the data, organizations can better align their employees with the overall mission and increase the confidence in the decisions. It also creates a better culture of accountability and transparency. Eventually an organization will turn on its afterburners when the culture aligns with BI.
For more information:
�Listento the recent IBM Tech Talk with Howard Dresner
More than 4,000 IT professionals from 93 countries and 25 industries shared their opinions andprovided their views on future IT trends, including how they plan to use Business Analytics (see graphic on right).
The report provides IT and business professionals a roadmap of the four critical and interconnected technologies and skills that will be in greatest demand in the coming years: business analytics, mobile, cloud and social business.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be a 24 percent increase in demand for professionals with management analysis skills over the next 8 years. Helping to fuel this increase is the rising use of business analytics by companies in their efforts to learn more about their customers, including buying habits and preferences, as well as protect against fraud and mitigate risk.
Analytics skills are no longer just a requirement for the IT professional; they�ve become a necessity for organizations to remain competitive.
In a recent blog post, IBM�s Erick Brethenoux discusses how this analytics skills gap is getting proven by the significant widening of the overall performance between those that have analytics skills and those that don�t. Watch a video of Erick discussing this �epidemic.�
These IT professionals who gain the necessary analytics skills can also be change agents inside of the organization.
To make sure that organizations have the necessary talent, universities such as DePaul, Yale and Northwestern are also developing programs to prepare business and IT professionals with the analytics skills to bridge this gap, including the sophisticated analytics inside of IBM Watson to help understand the meaning and context of human language.
Other key findings in the Tech Trends report include:
� 42% of respondents named Business Analytics as an �in demand� area for software development
� Analytics has the highest adoption tendency (90%) when compared with other technology areas
� Half of those who are not currently using analytics plan to do so within the next 24 months, to increase automation, streamline processes and do more with less in faster time
� Survey respondents selected education and healthcare as the areas that could benefit the most, with financial services, life sciences and government also ranking near the top
� There is a growing importance of open source platforms such as Apache Hadoop and Linux for Business Analytics software developers
One thing I like about asset management, or in this case integrated workplace management, is that I get to talk about it in heroic language: �You get more control over both space and time.�
Maybe that sounds a little dramatic to you? If so, here's my justification: Asset management solutions aren't just about assets per se. They're also about how assets generate value over extended periods -- their complete lifecycles.
I'm not just talking about the things that you�re familiar with like IT assets. I�m talking about physical and capital assets that are part of a smarter physical infrastructure for manufacturing plants and facilities. I mean the whole kit and kaboodle: IT assets, facilities assets, mobile assets, field assets -- any sort of asset you can imagine. Using asset management tools, you can continually collect information about all of those asset groups, then maintain, configure and enhance all of them as needed over time.
If you do, they will last longer, perform better and contribute more to everything you're trying to use them to do. Thus, you have the capability to obtain more power over both space (all assets, however distributed they may be) and time (years or decades).
Drive up the business value of entire buildings, campuses and geographic sites
In recent years, the case for asset management solutions has only gotten stronger. Partly, this is because all of these ideas are now being applied to entire categories of assets that haven't really been managed very well at all before. Take buildings, for instance. Here we have a sort of mega-asset incorporating many subclasses of assets.
It's one thing to talk about optimizing a server; it's quite another thing to talk about optimizing an entire data center full of 5,000 servers, as well as HVAC units, lighting, electricity and plumbing infrastructures, etc., for total business value. This is an area where enterprise-class asset management solutions can really deliver unique value.
Furthermore, you can scale up that argument even further to encompass whole campuses of buildings or geographic sites altogether. Even if you focus strictly on one little slice of asset management functionality, such as energy efficiency, it's plain that most organizations with multiple buildings, or multiple sites, don't really have the visibility, control, and automation they need to optimize the return from facility assets, one of the top four expenses for most organizations.
So when I read in April of this year that IBM had purchased TRIRIGA, a provider of software solutions for Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS), I wasn't the least bit surprised. It seemed like IBM was rounding out the Maximo asset management capabilities of IBM Software with new solutions designed to increase the business value generated by buildings and campuses in new ways.
When I recently talked to Mary Gorczynski, Marketing Manager for IBM Asset Management, she confirmed this basic interpretation.
�TRIRIGA helps organizations reduce operational costs of facilities, increase return on real estate assets, and mitigate environmental regulatory risks,� she said. �Key functionality includes space and facilities management, energy and environment sustainability, capital project management and real estate portfolio management.�
Of course, there are other solution providers out there in this space, and IBM is well known to have deep pockets. Meaning, IBM could have bought any of several players -- so why TRIRIGA, instead of them?
TRIRIGA: Excellence in both vision and execution
A little digging gave me a pretty good answer to that. Turns out that Gartner, the independent research organization, has positioned TRIRIGA as a leader within its coveted Magic Quadrant for Integrated Workplace Management Systems this year -- the spot on its evaluation chart characterized by excellence in both vision and execution.
Well, that tells me TRIRIGA's solution delivers not just all the key capabilities IBM would be looking for, but also the depth of features in each capability group.
If you check outa recent blog entry from Gorczynski, for instance, you'll learn how she wished it applied to her lawn (which, though green, is not perfectly maintained at all times). You can also watch a closely related video -- and if you'd like to make one of your own, you can submit one. If it attracts enough praise, IBM will then cheerfully promote it, and you, next March at Pulse 2012, its service management event, to be held in Las Vegas.
About the author Guest blogger Wes Simonds worked in IT for seven years before becoming a technology writer on topics including virtualization, cloud computing and service management. He lives in sunny Austin, Texas and believes Mexican food should always be served with queso.
Guest post from David Pugh, Program Director, Product Management, IBM Business Analytics
I really love speaking to customers who are pushing our software to its limits. Those customers who are at the bleeding edge � the innovators and early adopters � regularly have great input to the creation of the products of the future.
Why? Because they are using the products in anger � pushing the software up to and beyond its intended use in order to drive competitive advantage and increased revenue.
The story starts five years ago when I went on a �world tour� to spend time with customers with some of my product management colleagues.
In particular, we were interested in customers who were actively deploying and using the results of predictive analytics in their day to day business operations, such as:
�Auto insurancecompanies using predictive modeling to determine on the fly � while the customer is on the phone describing the accident � whether the claim was possibly fraudulent
�Retail banksproviding personalized marketing offers to their online banking customers, trying to sell them additional products
�Mobile telecommunicationsproviders scoring millions upon millions of customers every night looking for any signs that they were going to defect to a competitor
As I said, the customers we visited were using our products in anger, like a coach demanding the most from his/her players.
For instance, the customers were using Decision Management in conjunction with other applications (e.g. CRM, call center, websites and campaign management); had stringent performance requirements; and, all had inventedtheir own methodology for managing / updating the predictive models that were being deployed into these front-end, operational environments.
It became apparent that the processes used to create, deploy and manage predictive models were eerily similar.
In fact, thanks to our customers, we were able to develop a list of best practices to easily create predictive models and inject the results of the analysis directly into business processes to improve outcomes.
The Seven Steps to Analytics Deployment
1)Acquire the Data.Customers use a mix of data including transactional, demographic, call center notes, social media, and attitudinal data from customer surveys as input to the modeling process.
2)Identify the AudienceDetermine the population for whom the outcome of the decision is valid. For example, with regards to insurance fraud, the customer may want to exclude any insurance claims that are caused by natural disasters (and process them a different way).
3)Define the Desired OutcomesThis is the heart of �The Seven Steps� where the customer determines the range of �Decisions� that could be delivered into their operational environment.
For insurance fraud, the desired outcomes that would be ideally delivered as a �Decision� to the call center agent processing the claim could be:
�Fast track the claim � low risk of fraud and low cost
�Push through standard processing � low / medium risk of fraud
�Refer the claim to the special investigations unit � possible fraud.
4)Enlist Business Rules and Predictive Analytics to Determine the Ideal Outcome.If Step 3 is the heart, Steps 4 and 5 are the brains. Staying with the insurance fraud example, there may be a number of policy (business) rules that need to be applied to the decision, such as �All claims made within two weeks of setting up the policy must be investigated for fraud.�
Customers were also building predictive models that determined � based on historical examples of fraud � the liklihood that this particular claimant was behaving fraudulently.
5)Optimize the Outcome.What if the business rules output says �Refer the claim to the Special Investigation Unit� and the predictive model says �Push through standard processing�? The user may decide whether rules override models or vice-versa.
For marketing applications it is here that a user could optimize which of the five valid marketing offers would be made based on factors such as liklihood to respond, revenue and cost.
6)Deploy, Deploy, Deploy!Take the intelligence defined in steps 1-5 and deliver it to the appropriate business process. Once the IT configuration has been completed this is typically a one-click process.
7)Report and Monitor.Watch the performance of the deployed application and ensure that it continues to perform well, as well as share the results across the organization in easy to understand reports and dashboards.
Business users typically need to update rules, predictive models or the way in which the result is optimized on an ongoing basis. Automated techniques such as �Champion-Challenger� modeling are used to ensure the best models are always deployed.
If you�re a customer using our products in anger, please get in touch. Your input will help us build the next generation ofIBM Business Analytics software.
For more information:
�Readthe whitepaper on how Decision Management creates a closed-loop system that continually incorporates valuable feedback into your decision-making processes.
�Watchthe video of industry analyst James Taylor discussing the importance of Decision Management.
Today's post comes from Kim Madia, Market Manager, Infosphere Guardium and Optim.
What a great conference! About 10, 000 people from around the world gathered to share ideas and experiences around harnessing the power of data and analytics. I learned some interesting facts about data and its increasing presence in the world around us. For example, if Facebook was a country, it would be the third most populated! In addition, in 2010 the world cracked the zettabyte (10^21 bytes) barrier and in 2011, the amount of information created and replication is expected to surpass 1.8 zettabytes (1.8 trillion gigabytes).
During the fist general session we heard from Jeff Jonas, IBM Chief Scientist. He equated this data explosion to a jigsaw puzzle. Image you have several puzzles each with thousands of pieces scattered across a table. How can you make sense of this? Are there duplicate pieces? What if some of the pieces are missing or damaged? How can you see the larger picture without seeing the puzzle box cover? Is the table large enough to organize all the pieces?
Organizations are faced with similar challenges when it comes to data. Data comes in all shapes and sizes and there might be missing or corrupted data and duplications. We are unable to see the larger picture without examining the piece parts, and we can�t get a complete picture until the puzzle is assembled.
Data about enterprise security is no exception. We heard exciting news around data security from Arvind Krishna, General Manager, Information Management. IBM has acquired Q1 Labs, a primer security intelligence firm. Q1 Labs brings intelligence to how we manage security including advanced analytics across heterogeneous sources complete with dashboards and drill downs to make meaningful security decisions. Arvind indicated that together Q1 Labs and the InfoSphere Guardium portfolio bring a powerhouse to data security. Check out a complete list of announcements including news from InfoSphere Guardium database security!
Along with the Q1 Labs acquisition, IBM will also be forming a new security division. Hear Meg Swanson�s (Manager IBM Security) perspective on this news as she came out of the keynote.
Meg wasn�t the only one talking. There was quite a buzz about this announcement, check out Phil Neray�s (Data Security Strategy Leader) perspective.
Phil had quite a busy conference. In addition to participating in a meet the expert session around database security, he led a panel of industry experts in a discussion around cloud security. This generated some heated discussion! Don�t be scared of the cloud, if you think before you leap you can ensure security. A top security analyst, Rich Mogull. wrote a thoughtful blog about cloud security after attending this session.
Several customers also spoke about their approaches to data security including: Dell, Pacific Gas and Electric, State Farm, and International Rectifier. A key theme for these customers was getting executive support for data security efforts. Tying data security to a compliance effort seemed to be a good way to succeed. Another common theme was adopting a holistic data protection approach. This means deploying a defense in depth model to protect data using different technologies include database activity monitoring, data encryption, data redaction and data masking.
During a Birds of a Feather session about securing test data management, the topic of data masking came up. Swati Moran (InfoSphere Optim Product Marketing Team Lead) led this discussion that had a significant emphasis on the healthcare industry and HIPAA compliance. Compliance drivers are making DBAs deploy static data masking to protect nonproduction environments.
Data security was certainly a main theme at the conference and the depth of these discussions is really too much for this short blog posting. The main take away for me was that with better security intelligence organizations can help ensure compliance, avoid data breaches and respond in real time to the latest threats.
I was also struck by how we are exploring a new, seemingly limitless frontier when it comes to analytics. Better analytics will truly improve our world. Dr. Carolyn McGregor inspired me when she talked about helping neonatologists increase the survival rate of premature births simply through better data analysis. It�s exciting to see the reality of turning insight into action.