I have been lucky enough to present and attended several conferences in the last year – while I like presenting and attending presentations, what I find most important are the chance conversations with other users and industry experts.
One example during a recent conference, was a presentation on developing business intelligence for a US based city council – the speaker talked about how they were able to pull in many disparate sources to provide a single reporting platform that covered almost everything the city covered from water quality to fire response times to even prisoner data …
At the end, I was asked what I thought the dashboards and how they were presented – from the brief overview it seemed to provide the information the users were asked for. We chatted for a while discussion the various metrics and how they actually worked out how to determine when the fire engine response time was calculated, but finally we got to some more in depth questions:
So after reviewing the key charts and metrics, what did the user do next, where did they navigate to?
While they knew what the users had previously as reports and what they had requested, there was no way to know exactly how they used the system or after reviewing the data where they went next, if they looked at other information.
While users within an organization can use a report differently they tend to separate into two areas – executives and analysts. Execs are mainly interested in several key metrics, with which they measure the business, while analysts and business managers like to be able to drill to the details behind trends and outliers.
This made me think of how difficult it really is to understand how users interact with the systems even with users who are in a fairly close geographical area … I’m dealing with a similar issue at a current client in developing reporting for users but it’s more complicated as their users are located all over the globe in Asia, Europe as well as North and Latin Americas.
So how do you determine what they are actually doing?
– asking questions can help, but you need to also ask, after you have looked at the report WHAT do you do next, WHERE do you navigate and WHY?
At a previous engagement the process was documented by the users as a “standard P&L” they actually looked at the operating expenses & headcount data first, comparing budget vs actuals to see who was over spending – so they knew who to call first! We were able to replace this with an dashboard style report which highlighted these key metrics in colors, so they were spending more time connecting with their business managers rather than going from report to report.
This made me view the interactions that report consumers have with the reports in a new light – I’ve always been a fan of learning and previously relied on structured learning environments like classrooms or tutorials but I’m now on the outlook for chance encounters more often and what I can learn from them.
One of the hardest things to do is to predict the future, forecasting is fraught with dangers (especially of being incorrect):
- “I think there is a market for about five computers.”
- “X-rays are a hoax.”
- “Atomic energy might be as good as our present day explosives, but it is unlikely to produce anything more dangerous.”
So given the dangers should we even try?
The answer is a resounding yes as the effort in determining different scenarios and options for the future allows technology planners to understand business drivers and outlying technology (assuming that a cross-functional team is involved, if it’s just one person the outlook isn’t so good).
This forward planning also allow business to react quickly once a technological change has occurred.
What does this have to do with life at Oracle?? Recently a request went out to employees asking what their vision of technology would be like in 2020. The effort was headed by Frank Buytendijk, who is the face of Oracles Thought Leadership and is a great speaker – he’s spoken at several UKOUG Hyperion events and is well worth it, very interesting and entertaining.
The responses came in from all around the globe and a paragraph of mine was chosen as the first quote:
The washing machine finished its washing cycle at the same time the bagels popped from the toaster. Both sent data to the house hub. The toaster, being a newer model, registered the actual energy consumption and the fact that the bagel setting was used.
While many of the collaborators mentioned RFID tags and the ubiquitousness of computing, we failed to see what this recent WiFi Alliance poll suggested: that 75% of respondents would be grumpy without wifi for a week (more than would be grumpy without coffee for a week).
I can only assume it’s american coffee and not fresh roasted like my friend and supplier.
The responses were collated and presented at Oracle Open World last month, you can get the full output here (caution PDF). Another blogger also wrote about his submission. There weren’t any forecasts of hover boards …
PS: the three leading quotes were from: Thomas J Watson, President of IBM, 1948; Lord Kelvin, 1900 and Winston Churchill, 1939.
An email came across my screen last week about the CFO Central site from Oracle, which I had looked at a long time ago, but forgotten about. The site has lots of resources and articles about how to work smarter especially targeted at finance folks and you don’t have to be a CFO to understand what’s going on.
Some examples are:
- best practice for financial reporting
- industry and analyst reports discussing current market influences
- case studies showing how other organisations have improved process or driven down times spent or increased ROI
- highlights from the 2010 CFO summit held in April
- top 12 questions CFOs can ask their CIOs today to accelerate technology-driven business transformation
Check it out today and bookmark for future use.
(Note: free, registration is required to download content).
I’ve just finished reading a very interesting book: "Managing Knowledge" edited by Stephen Little and Tim Ray. I found it very interesting given the collaborative and sharing environment I’ve observed at Sun Microsystems over the past 8 years.
It’s actually a compilation of academic writings over the past 10 years on the subject of Knowledge Management. While it’s originally designed to support the OUBS course of the same name, it stands alone as a very interesting read, although very academic focused with lots of references!
The books starts off with a discussion of information – how explicit information and tacit knowing interact and can lead to "knowledge". An example encompassing this is the information that my friend Adam wears a red jumper, however the tacit knowledge I have to recognise Adam out of a crowd of people at the railway station is very difficult to quantify, describe and share.
It then reviews some of the current theory and concepts devised by Nonaka & Takeuchi and Cook & Brown and critically analyses them based on current learning. As well as reviewing the Deep Smarts concept devised by Leonard & Swap – 2 very respected US academics.
Once the current theories and are understood the book moves onto "knowing in practice" which review why organisation should look to implement knowledge sharing practices, some of the human resource issues and organisation issues to include. This section also looks at failed knowledge management activities to understand the key learning points.
The book closes by reviewing the Japanese model as described by Nonaka and whether this can be combined with Western ideas, such as Michael Polanyi’s work on tacit knowing to create a super-theory of knowledge. The answer is no and the book goes further to suggest that "Knowledge Management" is really an oxymoron as true knowledge is unable to be taught or explained, therefore you cannot manage what you cannot explain.
While I agree to a certain extent, you can set up an environment for your team, group or organisation which allows time for training, group sessions and a sharing culture.
As mentioned in the book, it’s not enough to add a one liner to employees job descriptions to "share knowledge and training". It must be more than this and involves having the right team members, in the right environment with the right motivation and a willingness to learn and discover. Although there is no certainty that true knowledge will result.
I really enjoyed reading this book and have learnt from it, although I’m not taking the OUBS course, as it gave me a much better understanding of how some people have knowledge and others just read from notes and will never truly understand. Go and give your brain a fix, read today 😉