What does Big Data have to do with Robitussin?
I will explain.
I wanted to call this piece ‘A random drive down Camino Real’.
But that is an ‘in joke’ and no one would get it.
So instead I called in ‘Developing and Aligning IT Strategy’. Continue reading
Steve Jobs was a great entrepreneur.
Clearly he was.
Jobs turned a dismal maker of a massive range of gadgets into a powerful and highly-focussed technology fashion and PR business.
The stylistic touches in Apple products carry the elegant and crispy palate of bourgeois minimalism, a fragrant bouquet of exclusivity and a delightful after-taste of subdued superiority. Continue reading
A strategy is a long term plan of action designed to achieve a particular and significant goal.
As the text books state, the term strategy derives from the Greek word “στρατηγία” (translated into Latin as “strategĭa”), meaning “the art of directing military operations” or in business terms: “the set of actions planned in advance, and used to align the resources and potential of a company to achieve its goals and objectives”.
The matching takes place through the practice of pre-strategy analysis.
That stated, it is very easy to fall into the trap of simplifying the high level concepts and overstating the intricacies and interdependence of strategic-fit factors. Continue reading
In the dim and distant past most organisations struggled along with what they euphemistically referred to as Information Systems.
They were Information Systems with no overall design, no elements of management and no architecture.
Information Systems were built to show how the company had been performing in the immediate past, and that was it. Continue reading
My sister Liz was part of a group that offered support to the striking miners of Wales, Scotland and England.
They organized a public fund raiser and invited the politician Tony Benn to speak.
The trouble was that none of the support group were Labour people, and they weren’t the greatest admirers of British parliamentary democracy and the Labour party.
So they sort of moved the problem up-stream.
They asked me if I would be Tony’s minder for the night.
They didn’t actually use the word minder, but that what it was mainly about.
Because they probably reckoned that as a long time Labour member myself with an unquestioning belief in Westminster democracy, we might actually be able to talk the same language.
I had dinner with Tony that day, just before he was due to speak.
The conversation came around to Tony’s book, Arguments for Democracy.
Well, actually I had pushed the conversation in that direction.
I mentioned that I had read it at least three times, and that I used some of the examples from the book in my work.
In particular the part dealing with the questions that an elected politician and Minister of State must ask any technologist who is proposing a new projects or programme.
I told him that I had applied these principles in a large US multi-national corporation called Sperry, notorious for its Republican hue, its affinity to the Department of Defense, intelligence agencies and Federal Government, and its alleged hire and fire culture – which somehow I managed to evade for almost thirteen years.
He found that quite funny, in a surreal way.
I said “over the last eighteen years I have often used the following questions, which you designed to indicate that the role of the elected representative and minister is not to seek to reproduce the expertise, which he or she could not do, but to see that the expert is subjected to rigorous cross-examination on behalf of the people”.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I shall now move on to the crux of the matter.
But before then, a final comment.
Because I have been using these lines of enquiry primarily in business I have replaced the role of the government minister with that of the Project Board and project stakeholders, and the role of the “people” with the role of the organisational stakeholders and the business community.
So here you have it. The leader must ask the technologist:
First, would your project, if carried through, promise benefits to the organisation, and if so, what are the benefits, how will they be distributed and to whom and when will they accrue?
Second, what disadvantages would you expect might flow from your work? Who would experience them? What, if any, remedies would correct them? Is the technology for correcting them sufficiently advanced for the remedies to be available when the disadvantages begin to accrue?
Third, what demands would the development of your project make upon our resources of skilled manpower [I would include demands on all organizational resources in this context, and would also ensure to enquire about the availability of those resources]
Fourth, is there a cheaper, a simpler, and a less sophisticated way of achieving at least part of your objective and if so, what would it be, and what proportion of your total objective would have to be sacrificed if we adopted it?
Fifth, what new skills would have to be acquired by people who would be called upon to use the product or project which you are recommending, and how could these skills be created?
Sixth, what skills would be rendered obsolete by the development that your propose, and how serious a problem would the obsolescence of these skills create for the people who have them?
Seventh, is the work upon which you are engaged being done, or has it been done, or has it been started and stopped in other parts of the world, and what experience is available from abroad [elsewhere] that might help us to assess your own proposal?
Eighth, if what you propose is not done, what disadvantages or penalties do you believe will accrue to the organisation, and what alternative projects might be considered
Ninth, if your proposition is accepted, what other work in the form of supporting systems should be set in hand simultaneously, either to cope with the consequences or to prepare for the next stage and what would the next stage be?
Tenth, a final and very important question. If an initial decision to proceed is made, how long will the option to stop remain open, and how reversible will this decision be at progressive stages beyond there?
Later that evening I had to drive Tony to the station to catch his train to Oxford.
We were late, it looked like we would miss the train.
In the car I asked Tony if he would care to sign my copy of Arguments for Democracy.
Trouble was, in the rush he didn’t pick up anything to read on the train and he hadn’t brought anything with him.
So I gave him The Chomsky Reader. Which just happened to be on the back seat of the car.
As one would.
Anyway, off we rushed. Hell for leather through the empty streets of Worcester.
We arrived at the station in time to catch the train.
Banking, Behavioural Economics, Big Data, Bill Inmon, business intelligence, data integration, Data Marts, Demagogism, Dogma, enterprise data warehousing, hadoop, Information and Technology, information management
This weekend I read a piece on the Information Management website by Steve Miller with the title of Big Data vs. the Data Warehouse. It’s an old piece, from March 2014.
It was in response to a piece penned by Bill Inmon, titled Big Data or Data Warehouse? Turbocharge Your Porsche – Buy an Elephant, in which he singled out for criticism the ad campaign of a big-data and Hadoop promoter.
I am a sceptic. Part of the awkward squad of troublemakers.
People who ask questions and who won’t stop asking.
People who won’t take bullshit for an answer.
People who are not preprogramed to follow certain paths, unquestioningly.
But to question everything.
Such as, “What the feck’s that all about then?”
I’m in good company. Many people who have made a difference have been fully paid up members of the awkward squad.
People in the awkward squad might sell dog food, but we know that we shouldn’t eat it ourselves.
I used to tell people.
“If you must exaggerate, try and remember this one thing”
“What’s that then, Marty?”
“Never, ever, believe your own bullshit or you’ll ending up having to eat it”.
I remember when Cloud first appeared on the horizon, a marketing idea that was to popularise the expression “put it on the cloud”.
I vaguely remember Larry Ellison being asked about Cloud.
If I recall rightly his reply was along the lines of ‘Cloud? Oh, you mean connected mainframes and data centres?”
He saw it, others saw it, and I saw it. It had been done many times before.
But cloud was new, exciting, vibrant and well, vague enough for the market.
Only that it wasn’t and isn’t new.
The only thing is, a handful of stylists and hacks were let loose on what already existed, and they came up with a new idea, that wasn’t new, creative or innovative.
It was just repackaged. Old wine in new bottles.
I have the same issues with marketing terms such as business intelligence, virtualisation and big data.
Can you imagine Steve Jobs peddling such rebranded and rebadged crap?
Big data brings all the promise of being better informed by having access to far more data.
But for most things in the commercial world quantity of data has never been the issue.
If anything, we’ve had too much of it and for far too long.
We’ve been doing big data for years.
Previously we called it Very Large Data Bases.
We have been handling some forms of highly structured data for years.
We used to call it things like text management, document management and knowledge management.
Not that it matters too much.
We are still looking for real insight, but most of us are overwhelmed by countless gigabytes, terabytes and petabytes of data, and much of what we get is recycled, repackaged and ultimately repetitive.
We are drowned in data, low-utility information and marketing hype.
For all the good that the information we receive does us, we may as well be more dog.
As Ad superman Dave Trott asked, what the feck does ‘be more dog’ mean?
It doesn’t mean anything.
We could write a whole litany of the endless succession of IT snake-oil merchants that have passed through techy-tinsel-town flogging yet another dead-horse as the latest and greatest Kentucky Derby favourite.
But that’s just hokie. Even the media and the presses are in on it, up-close and intimate collaborators in keeping reality from us, by burying us in shit.
Remember the joke about the mushrooms?
“Keep them in the dark, feed them bullshit, and watch them grow”
Well, it came true.
Like life reflecting comic art.
Actually, most of us are still starved of knowledge and insight.
And, as for wisdom?
What’s that then?