Friday, November 25, 2011

Klout Computing!

Yes. This is not about Cloud Computing. Post the viral adoption of social networks, analytics has picked up big time in recent months. The end result - plethora of online services available to perform analytics on social network data.

I tried Klout and Mirror Me!. Would suggest not to try those without reading further!.

While people in real world aspire for coveted titles and powerful positions, in the virtual world, the same people aspire for 'Influence'. Influence is about a person's ability to drive action in others (without power). The influential ability is called 'Clout' and Gaining this Clout is gaining lot more prominence in virtual world these days!.

A decade ago, Google tried to rank 'pages' based on their popularity. But today,the algorithms are
trying to rank the actual 'people' to assess their popularity and influence.

Klout is one such company that connects to all social network sites to evaluate your activity and come out with your Klout metric.It reports the metric in the scale of 1-100. If you are measured in the range of 70s or so, You are really really influential in the online world.

This leads to several interesting, but controversial questions:

1. Am afraid we are moving towards a celebrity culture than an inclusive one. People are literally going to compete to score and maintain a higher Klout to achieve their goals in "real" lives.

2. People who are really busy and adding value to their stakeholders may not find time to tweet/talk or network in virtual world. This doesn't mean that those people do not have enough Klout. Klout is all about Online Clout and nothing more.

3. This trend also implicitly expects that people in online world to be expressive, a post here, a tweet there, a post now, a photo later, etc. This again can not be expected from broad range of people, especially people who are conservative/introverts. This doesn't mean they do not have Clout.

4. Most of the content floating around in social networks are trivia. What is the significant business value one can get by analyzing this data?

5. No Doubt, its a competitive arsenal for Marketing. Gaining insights on current trends & influencing the influencers will greatly enhance the marketability of a product/service.  Am amazed by the capabilities of one such tool - Data Sift.  I was discussing with my ex-Colleague Paramesh that next US President election could be largely influenced by DataSift kind of tools.

6. Privacy - To compute your Klout score, the site will ask you the permission to scan your online activities even when you have not logged on. And this applies to a number of sites that you are associated with. While giving permission is a click away, revoking them may not be straightforward/easy.

7. Algorithms - What is the basis for computing the Klout? There could be various ways of measuring Clout depending on the weightage given to the nature of activities online.

8. People's persona cannot be measured only by their social network activities. Social Network is a public place where people are expected to follow certain etiquette. And People behave according to the implicit rules/norms to get associated with the larger group. However, this behavior generally arises out of their aspiration or the need for 'Personal Branding' and may not be based on what they truly are. Measuring a person's Clout purely based on their social network activity may be skewed.

9. Quantity scores more than Quality. If you have more connections in the network, you have higher chances of gaining more Clout than others.

So ,Beware of 'Klout Computing'!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Seven Billionth Baby and Corporate Dashboards!

Few days ago, Oct 31st to be precise, the news of seven billionth baby was creating lot of buzz in the media.

While I was not keen to understand the census, I was really curious to know the math behind this count. I checked with my ex-colleague and Datawarehousing/Business Intelligence Specialist Paramesh  on how this could have been possible? There is every possibility that this number could be inaccuarate because of the sheer size of the canvas. In this case, the canvas is the whole world.

We all know the practical challenges in aggregating data within a company?. And How do they do it across the globe?

Thanks to Paramesh, Today he reverted with an exact article that talks about the same challenge. It was a surprising coincidence! The article talks about - How did they count? How did they comeup with that number - 7 Billion - on that specific day?

The fact of the matter is United Nations don't know. The announcement was meant to be symbolic than to be precise. UN has confirmed there is no way it can predict at which minute of the day - 31st Oct - the 7 billionth baby was born in the world.

Howere, it is not a random number dropped just out of the hat. There is a process/method that U.N. has followed to comeup with that projection. United Nations collect country wise population data every five years and based on the system generated models, the date has been picked up at Oct 31. There is a 2% margin of error expected in the global tally, which in this case, could be huge in terms of census and the time period!

I see the corporate dashboards(BI/Reports) that take data from individual line-of-businesses within a company can take a lesson or two from this news. I have tried to list few of them:

1. There is a process and system in which the sub-system (countries) provide data to the main system (United Nations). So, Its not just about technology. We will need a process and method to coordinate the data aggregation. The systems/applications and runtime infrastructure have to implement the processes and contracts to ensure aggregation.
2. People are aware of the percentage of error and at peace with Good Enough BI. In lighter vein, What you sow is what you reap!. :-) Awareness on Data Quality and Incremental expectations are the key to successful BI implementations!
3. The focus is more on the ways in which data can be leveraged for analysis/insights and less on the precision. Often People debate about the trees that they forget to see the forests!. I have seen executive dashboards often spark controversies around numbers that the real issues get pushed to back seat!.
4. There is a model in place to predict the growth. Yes, finally BI solutions should not endup as concrete/one-off implementations. The definition of formal models that abstract the concepts in respective verticals hold the key for extensibility of the solutions.

Finally, As any BI implementation would invite disputes, Here is somebody in Asia pacific disputing that the whole seven billionth baby announcement from UN was stage managed!. :-). Again, its not just about numbers and technology! :-)

Surface takes precedence over Structure!

One of the prominent consequences of Apple iPhone phenomenon is the shift in technology buyers' focus towards Industrial Design and User Experience. This trend has caught up with every aspect of Technology - be it Consumer Technology or Enterprise Technology.

Whatsoever be the application of Technology, Consumers have started to ask - Does it activate my senses beyond just being passive and functional? - Evokes positive / Feel good emotions when you use the product, Its simple and doesn't make you think, It is asthetically designed in every little detail that I feel proud about it and talk to my social/professional circle about the technology?. Aesthatics/Meticulous design also implicitly states that the supplier has taken every effort to produce a great product.

Last but not the least, Apple also demonstrated outstanding marketing when it launched all its new generation devices. Remember, Palm has been the innovative company both in touch phones and App ecosystem long ago. Despite that fact, people queued up in hours to buy iPhones.

How does this factor influence the Architecture practice - especially Enterprise Architecture.

I should say quite a lot. It has generated a significant inequality in terms of IT investments. Earlier, the mandate to enterprise architecture was 'Show me the money'. We filled the gap with Business cases.Today, its not just 'Show me the money' but 'Show me how cool it is/Show me how it works in when it comes alive'. If a strategic initiative doesn't meet either of the criterion, its doomed for failure.

Traditionally, be it Software Architecture or Enterprise IT Architecture focused all their energies toward setting standards/specifications towards the structure of the system. The structure usually signify the skeletal framework of the system (be it a single application or the entire Enterprise IT) that defines the internal organization of the components and their evolution.

Software/Enterprise IT Architecture has it roots from Software Engineering and hence it focused more on Technology and its Quality of Service. Structure of the systems are implicit characteristics and they can be only measured by overt mechanisms like Human X-Rays.

I do want to mention the fact that these X-Ray are gaining prominence in the Software Architecture space in the last couple of years.I have personally used tools like Sonar Technical Debt that can scan the software codebase and report the health of internal structure. Result - its not just developers, the management stakeholders were able to appreciate the metrics.

The implicit structures don't manifest themselves upfront and it requires a lot of effort to understand and appreciate the Architecture. And that becomes a biggest challenge for Architecture adoption in this time-starved generation.

The challenge facing practising Enterprise Architects is - How do we make Enterprise Architecture visibly manifest its great qualities?

We have all banked upon Architecture Tools, Excels, PowerPoints Visios and Analytics/Metrics to backup. Going forward, all these tools are definitely required. However, We need a new breed of tools/techniques that takes lessons from Industrial Design and User Experience and make Enterprise Architect successful and much more productive!

The new Tools/Techniques could include - Visual Models for industry verticals, Simulations, Animated Models & Gamification. All these are interactive techniques that could help in powerful storyboarding of the strategic initiatives.

The point is - What you see on the surface makes the first impression and sometimes it takes the precedence over the internal structure of the system. The challenge is to keep the balance between both and not compromising either of the aspect. While too much of focus on surface will end up in a frothy/weak product,too much of structural focus will end up having no takers.

Have been reading 'Experience Economy' and its quite interesting though the book was written few years ago, the paradigm is more relevant in today's times than ever.

The takeaway from this book resonates with this post - Every business is turning to be an experience/show business. Hence ability to put up a good show in orchestrating various themes/elements is the key towards creating highly profitable/growing businesses.

In my view, this message applies to corporate workforce as well - Every profesison within the corporate workforce need to not only deliver but innovatively market its offerings to its stakeholders to survive and grow!