The Business-Technology Weave

May 2, 2013  10:38 AM

City Lens: Cool App – and the future of facial recognition

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott

Saw an interesting app with real appeal and practicality to boot.

It’s called City Lens, and it’s meant to give you an augmented view to what’s around you.  Simply by using your phone’s camera, you can display restaurants, shops, museums, services, etc., around you, with icons and text to tell you what each entity is.

City Lens Image

Just tap the icon that’s overlayed on the view in front of you for more info.  You can share info with friends and also get directions.  Very helpful are reviews, hours of operation, contact info…  You can tilt your phone upright and receive options for List or Map view.

City Lens’ utility leads to a natural wonder:   Given the confluence of Big Data, new efficiencies in data density, rapid processing, the proliferation of public information on private individuals, and facial recognition technology, can it be long before you point your camera down a city street and have contact/background info on every person in view?

That day will come.  It’ll be awhile yet.  And… it’s kinda scary.

April 30, 2013  3:53 PM

False Solutions have False Projects

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott

False SolutionsThe failure of VCF has been called the most highly publicized software failure in history – but, it’s not only the Federal Government that suffers from false solutions, and the resulting divide between critical requirements and delivery on these requirements.  Local cities provide examples, and lessons, as well, as does private business.

Washington, D.C. had an interesting project failure just a few short years ago.  They “paused” a project involving a mobile computer system for their fire department.  The District lost between $4 million and $6 million during the course of a year and a half’s mismanagement.  Part of the project’s confusion lie in the fact that there was a period where the fire department and the city’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer could not agree on who was in control of the budget – and therefore who controlled the project.  That represents a fundamental misunderstanding, and a pretty big divide.

The specific insight in this case is to recognize that there is no such thing as a “paused project.”  Once large-scale activity is halted, it ceases to be a project by any reasonable definition.  Once you stop work, you lose your timeline, all milestones, control of budget, and your lock on resources.  Evaporating too are expectations, definitions, and your anticipated implementation.  You’ve lost control of the solution – to issues, challenges and problems that the project was meant to address.  And remember – the so-called ‘paused project’ is berthed in a larger environment that does not pause its change.  There is no such thing as a “pause” within a managed, true, project.  What of the “go-live” date?  It’s lost – a new one must be established in these cases.

Once a project stalls, you have a strong clue that you may be trying to shoehorn a False Solution.

We don’t mean to pick on government here – we mean to help government – and you.  There are large-scale business and systems failures in private and public organizations large and small, and these failures are avoidable:

True solutions match fully exposed, and fully understood, hard business requirements – and they are implemented on target, on schedule.  Budgets are known, sanctions are tethered, and all aspects enjoy clear definition as to who controls various elements, to include the ultimate responsibility and steerage for the overall project.

Your Business-Technology Weave must execute proper exposure of need, proper planning, and carefully managed adjustments and delivery.  Properly executed projects, no matter how large, develop a self-reinforcing energy that lets all participants know they are progressing down the right path.  These participants have set their sanctions, set their sponsors.  They have aligned their resources.  All sides have exposed and agreed to expectations, are meeting true requirements, and are doing so with appropriately sized solutions.  Properly mounted projects are not constant pain, constant confusion, and constant rehash of issues that were supposedly decided at the outset of the project.  This is a crucial understanding for your BIT team, and any specific project management teams.  All levels of leadership and control in your organization should know what to do, and what to look out for and correct, at the outset of solutions and projects.

April 30, 2013  4:32 AM

VCF Project Insights

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott

VCFThe specific insight afforded here is this:  Once you find yourself “going back” on a project’s timeline to fix things, going back again – and again and again – you cannot, and never will, make timely forward progress.  The FBI could not have understood their “Where We Are” point of origin – tell me how to get to Washington, DC.  You must first know my point of departure in order to give me a route.  I must have a true route to get to the destination.

The FBI crafted a false route (project) with VCF, because they didn’t know where they were – their point of departure (their actual liabilities and requirements); and their “Where We’re Going” destination did not reflect a true solution to the business case.  This happened because of a failure to understand and expose true requirements.  Theirs was also a failure to set expectations in a language common to all necessary parties, in mounting a successful, properly defined, project.

Let’s learn something else here:  What differentiates VCF as a false solution vs. a poorly managed project?  VCF was in fact both, but here’s another important lesson.  If we take the Department of Justice at their word, we know that VCF had poorly defined (and evolving) requirements.  There’s no way to match solutions to poorly defined requirements – that is fundamental.  And, these poorly defined requirements were moving (evolving) – everything is changing.  So, any solutions that were being worked and attempted had to be divided from what was actually required: hence they were false.

We know too that there were “overly ambitious” schedules.  Schedules themselves are solutions; solving requirements for delivery of resources, for getting people together, for achieving consensus and progress, and for delivering solutions according to expectations.

An unrealistic schedule represents one that can’t be adhered to, and therefore is a false solution in and of itself.  Think of it this way:  Building an overly ambitious schedule is no different than relying on a calendar with 35 days per month.  Neither reflects reality, and will ultimately compel you to fail.

Divides spawn divides.  False solutions present themselves at all levels of the organization, within all strata and disciplines of a project, and often times small, not easily determined, falsities aggregate and contribute to the ultimate, overarching False Solution.

The conclusion for the FBI was that four years after terrorists crashed jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the FBI still did not have software for “connecting the dots”, and wouldn’t until Sentinel was finished and serving last year.  Even then, Sentinel suffered fundamental project flaws:  legacy hardware caused the system two critical outages.  Emplacing new systems on outdated infrastructure and architectures is an easily avoided problem – at least it’s a simple one in terms of understanding.  Match infrastructure to the overall solution’s requirements – it’s not mysterious.  Ensure spec of physical spaces, server requirements, storage, processing power, bandwidth, hosting, access points, end-user enablements, etc.

Quote of the day

I figure if someone at a party asks what I do, I can earn a valuable status upgrade by saying that I digitize tag clouds to e-enable infomediaries and engage data-driven long-tail folksonomies which harness rss-capable platforms and envisioneer cross-media functionalities. 

Matt Labash

Next:  False Solutions can have False Projects

April 29, 2013  4:01 PM

A Large Factor in Project Failure: The False Solution

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott

The False SolutionThere are many high-profile projects that highlight the peril of the False Solution, with attendant lessons for local orgs (yours) from which to learn.  Let’s consider the FBI’s Virtual Case File (VCF) tracking system that I mentioned a few articles ago, and its ultimate failure in a little more detail.

The VCF was intended to automate a largely paper-based system of case files involving potential terrorists, targets, and allied information.  Former 9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer had characterized the FBI’s pre-9/11 case management as “index cards” and “typewriters.”  That’s pretty difficult to believe for 2001, but there ya go.  Clearly it was difficult to share and leverage intelligence in such an environment.  The FBI had a true need to implement a modern system that would allow agents and intelligence analysts to share information in the successful resolution of investigative work.  The overall goal of automation was a bona-fide need – the FBI had been criticized post-9/11 for “not connecting the dots” in time to prevent the attacks (essentially, they had an inability to manage and leverage dispersed content – information – intelligence).

Despite the necessary goal of automating the means by which to facilitate workflow, to search on information, to manage cases, and to provide reports, the FBI somehow managed to maneuver this project to a complete stall, and turned it into the ultimate “throw away.”  For, while VCF was deemed “critical” to the war on terror, after four years and almost $300 million the FBI ended up with 700,000 lines of bug-ridden code.  The system was so dysfunctional and far-removed from business requirements that it was scrapped.  VCF has been replaced with a new project, delivered late last year – Sentinel – which (happily) survived despite fundamental flaws in project management and execution.  But back to VCF and those lessons –

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Inspector General, Glenn A. Fine, released an audit that cited factors that contributed to the VCF’s failure.  Some of them were:

  • Poorly defined and evolving requirements
  • Overly ambitious schedules
  • Lack of a plan to guide:
    • Hardware purchases
    • Network deployments
    • Software development

One could well ask: What served as their Business Implementation Team (discussed here in past articles), or did they even have something for that role?  Further, in looking at the list above, what was their Project Management Plan/Framework?  It was sorely lacking, or perhaps even missing.  It is actually quite easy to understand the FBI’s failure here: ever more effort was expended on going back and fixing things versus effort toward moving forward.  They lacked an understood point-of-origin, crafted a false route, and never reached their destination.

Next:  Some insights.

NP:  Jimi Hendrix, Hear My Train a’ Comin’ – 12-string acoustic version.

April 29, 2013  9:26 AM

What are the Main Reasons for Project Failure?

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott

Project FailuresWhy do projects fail?  That’s a challenging question, especially for me:  None of mine ever do   :^ )

Well, not to sound too smug.   I’ve had elements of projects fail:  Missed milestones; sub-deliveries that weren’t optimal – that had to be re-engineered; angry blow-ups by key personnel in meetings (IT staff, vendor personnel, and… yours truly.  But in my case, it was justified; honest.  No, really…).  But on balance, most of the projects I’m involved with, whether as the lead, or a team member, progress quite satisfactorily and ‘go-live’ is on-time, and on-target.

Not to say that projects aren’t challenging:  Every single one I’ve been involved with has been very challenging at a minimum, and vary upward – that is the nature of projects, and project management.  But I know colleagues who have had disasters on their hands, and I’ve seen high-profile projects go awry too – newsworthy items.

What are the main reasons, and what can we do to mitigate risks?

  1.  Scope and function creep:  When the project grows in scope during its actual course (we’ve “broken ground,” the project is defined, and the Project Management Plan [PMP] is supposedly firm and fixed), it indicates poor understanding of what the organization’s true requirements are.  IT and business stakeholders did not optimally engage, nor survey and divulge, respectively, all needs.  Now the actual project and its implementation is “teasing out” all of the undiscovereds, and adjustments are painful.  Be certain to do due diligence at the outset.  If you have to delay a project’s start a bit, and do more survey, it can be frustrating – and justifying to higher authorities can be uncomfortable.  But it beats a hobbled project once underway – by a long shot.
  2. Unrealistic and unclear objectives:  Related to the above, perhaps business asked for too much, and it’s having a deleterious effect on the budget.  Maybe business asked for a lot, with all correct IT warnings and caveats expressed and in place; nonetheless, the plan, timeline and people are stretched.  Worse than scope and function creep (whereby you can at least spec something to fit an area that wasn’t exposed as a need), is an unclear objective:  Here, a delivery is made to a “false target” – and you have to start over.  Spec requirements and solutions very carefully.
  3. Lack of commitment:  Whether the Project Manager (PM), stakeholders, the IT team, or the vendor, commitment is essential.  Even if elements on the overall team don’t believe in a certain area, they have to contribute as directed, and put best efforts toward the total solution.  Governance and other leaders have sanctioned the project, and it’s full speed ahead.
  4. Poor methodology:  Practice good project management.  Regularized survey of progress, accurate reports, early adjustments (to effort, milestone supports, attitudes, etc.), are essential.  Also be sure to keep management apprised of problems when difficulties exceed the PM’s authority for rectification.  Same for team members – if there’s a problem whose solution involves things above your pay-grade, get help.  If you are “management,” foster an open-door and dialog culture, so as to encourage early warnings, for early corrections.  Don’t tip this area into inefficiency – reportages must be mature, made through proper channels of escalation(s), and concern stuff that cannot be ironed out at lower levels – don’t pass out crying blankets.
  5. Poor communication:  Make meetings count; have enough, but not to the point of diminishing return – have something important to communicate, and track the project’s progress.  Reports and evaluations are communication too – survey all areas of the project’s efficiencies and potentials for problems.  Get on necessary tune-ups early.

In the meantime, remember to maintain solid support to present systems and statuses, as you drive toward the golden solution.

NP:  John Coltrane; Blue Train.  Original vinyl (of course).

April 28, 2013  11:01 AM

IT Staff Member Refuses to Progress – One bad apple…

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott

IT Staff memberA colleague entered a new position as Director of Information Technology.  A prestigious association in the Washington, DC Metro area – the specific city will remain nameless.

The association had their own building.  He had a corner office on the top floor – wall-to-wall windows on two sides that were nearly floor-to-ceiling, with a great view.  Nice big conference table right in his office.  The kitchen was a couple floors down, but, hey, maybe they could move that.

Anyway, everything’s rosy, right?  Lots of challenges, but we always have those in IT:  The association management system (AMS) was on the cusp of a major upgrade (huge – the vendor was even completely re-titling the product), and there were some staff currency/training issues.  Ah, those are routine – always someone who needs this class or that, or a boot to get current.

But over the first weeks and months he discovered something very bad:  The “senior” programmer… um… didn’t do anything.  I mean, she didn’t do anything… IT related.  Oh, she had her routine.  She floated around the building, making her rounds and chatting.  She attended meetings.  She contributed in the sense that she always had an opinion – generally not worth anything, but she liked to sound officious.

What was happening was that she passed any work that came to her, to a junior programmer – always the same guy.  This man was very milquetoast, and didn’t speak up.  He was overloaded, but he suffered on, afraid to speak up.  How long had this been going on?  My colleague couldn’t know, but he knew that the senior programmer’s skills had completely atrophied to the point where she literally couldn’t contribute in the modern environment.

The IT Director did what any responsible supervisor would do:  He counseled the senior programmer.  He directed her to schedule herself for training.  When she didn’t, he selected an initial course, and directly told her to enroll in it.  She didn’t.  He then talked to his boss about things, and was told to “handle it.”  Next step?

The timing yielded an opportunity to document things in a formal review – it was due.  He drafted things very carefully, and overall, the review was quite accurate – but generally negative.  It had to be if it was going to be a true review.  He was directed by the Deputy Executive Director of the organization (the #2 person) to re-write it.  He did so under protest.  It still had a mild version of the need for training, and stepping up, and making a more robust contribution.  But it really wasn’t motivating.  She did not change.

Why change?  She had political cover, as it turns out, in the organization.  It also turned out that she had wanted the IT Director position.  She felt it was her due, and that she had been denied.

After enough time had passed to make his resume look good, my colleague left the organization – for a better org, a better position, and a better salary.

Meantime, the organization suffered a situation whereby their in-house programmers could not keep up with the AMS, its mods, and its progressions.  The org also lagged in its infrastructure upgrades.  The Network Manager, a great asset, left and was replaced with a lesser person.  Other quality personnel left, women and men of character and quality,who were difficult to replace…

Their IT shop is now pretty lousy.  It’s propped up with expensive outside counsel and support players.

One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.  To the senior executive class, directors, managers, supervisors:  Rate fairly, accurately, and ferret out those who do not serve.

Lead by example, and hold those you rate accountable.  Praise and promote those who are due.

Maintaining and balancing an IT department and its service to business is not always easy, but it is absolutely necessary.

April 27, 2013  4:10 PM

Recommendations for Managing Vendors who are Routinely Late with Deliverables

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott

VendorsPerhaps some insight:  Does the vendor have a habit of re-scheduling meetings?- or, cancelling and renegotiating regularly-scheduled recurring ones?  This would be a strong clue that they are fighting fires, and missing milestones with other clients – and your project is in a competition for their attention with other lagging projects.

As concerns ANY vendor or solutions partner, be sure to meet at their location from time-to-time – not just during an initial vetting of any particular solutions partner – but go to their site for meetings throughout the project – and judge the general culture and “feel” of the place. Does it look like a harried environment?  Or, hopefully, are people focused, balanced, and seemingly productive?  If the site looks and feels like a stressed environment (beyond the usual healthy tension), then you’d better re-evaluate your preferred vendor list.

In all cases, determine what caused the missed delivery(ies).  Execute the clauses in all relevant contracts that trigger penalties for missed work (such as rebates, discounts, etc.) – hopefully you have those, but if not, be sure to craft future contracts this way.

Is the vendor solely to blame (or perhaps not at all)?  Are there people or departments in your organization that are  not submitting key deliverables to the vendor on time?  You can’t penalize the vendor, or negotiate discounts, etc., if that is the case.  Find the point(s) of failure and correct.  As to the core of projects, stick carefully to milestones and statement/scopes-of-work.  If there are change orders, and negotiated additions to the original project, make adjustments in your project management software and in reports, so that changes to the speed and direction of the “river” of the project do not show up as budget overruns and missed deliverables – it is not fair nor accurate to classify adjustments and additional work that way.  (However, if poor project planning on the part of your organization exists, perhaps in the form of a poorly defined project, and related Request for Proposal [RFP], then this unfailingly results in a good-faith vendor Proposal, but one with poor match to your true business/IT requirements.  The org suffers, and is at fault, and missed deadlines and a wobbly project should reflect in reports, so the org can learn and not repeat these mistakes).

If the vendor is truly remiss, then pilot the current project to successful conclusion as best you can, and write this vendor off if possible.  If it’s a project that involves a central solution to the enterprise, like a core-business system, and it’s a vendor that’s virtually interwoven into your enterprise, then you’ll have to do the diligence with contracts and accountabilities.  Possibly get some measure of your senior executive class to engage with theirs, in order to set some expectations for future engagements and progressions – and hopefully fulfillment of expectations for true adherence to milestones, project expectations, and deliveries.

When ironing out difficulties, maintain maturity, focus, transparency and communication.  Learn from difficulties, and use them to improve contract documents, project management systems, early warning indicators, management of personnel, and reportage.

April 25, 2013  7:33 AM

Malware /Browser Hijacker: It happened to me – and a cure

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott

MALWAREHas It Happened to You?  Having your browser hijacked, with constant resetting of your homepage, and nagging popups and ads, is a real drag.  Just ask me.

Ever taken an old laptop off the shelf and turned it into (primarily) a Pandora radio station?

Lemme tell ya – it’s a chore.

I got around to installing Wi-Fi in my home.  For a $29 router, and my existing cable modem/provider, I can’t believe I didn’t do this earlier.  I pitched cable TV and I’m living on Hulu Plus and a handful of free stations (there’s tons, mostly junk), and occasionally I connect one of my two laptops up for some streaming, live, television.

I’m using a Roku device.  It’s about the size of a hockey puck.  It doesn’t support browsing, but most of the devices that do support browsing (perhaps all) haven’t yet established an agreement with Hulu, and other services that have both free and paid premium versions.  (Thus, the Hulu-free version is blocked in devices that have browser-capability).  Small surprise – if a SmarTV devlce allowed Hulu through its browser, you could watch the free version of Hulu on your HDTV.  (With a laptop, you can).  What I’m trying to say is that SmartTV devices (or “set top” devices, as some refer to them) with browsers require a subscription to the premium version of Hulu, and block the free version in the browser (other services with both free and paid versions do this too).

Anyway, I wanted my old Dell laptop to run Pandora (and others; free streaming internet radio, but most here probably know that) in my garage workshop, which also pipes music to my backyard/deck speakers.  It’s Vista.  And hadn’t been on the ‘net in about 4 years.  Yah.

I had to download all kinds of upgrades, updates, service packs, and then take IE from 7 to 9 (necessary for Pandora).  That all took 5 hours – and I don’t mean leaving and coming back to the laptop, with any idle time.  Fortunately, I’m able to work on client stuff all day, and glanced left once in awhile to kick off the next necessary download, install, reboot, etc.

After all this, I wanted to set up some IE Favorites for Pandora, WBIX (Bix Beiderbecke), (streaming jazz, good too), and WCPE – a classical station I listen to.  First of all, I noticed that I couldn’t keep my homepage set to Google.  I also could net set any Favorites – impossible.  All kept reverting to something called Mixi.DJ.  Chrome and Firefox were hosed too.

I researched the net, and supposedly the real culprit was search.conduit, and the advice was to delete all references of it in the Registry.  Did that.  Upon next boot, the references were back in there.  Next, I simultaneously scrubbed that and any reference to Mixi.DJ; a few other things – no luck.  It all comes back.

Ran Malwarebytes, free version.  This had me very hopeful.  Hope was quickly dashed.  I tried something else, forget what, and also no luck.  Then, in a forum somewhere, someone mentioned AdwCleaner.  Free.  Works.  Works great.  And it’s available for Mac – just Google for either version.

If you’re hit by malware, at least a browser hijacker, I’d recommend it.  I now have my stations bookmarked, and the yard/deck jams.  It’s pretty cool having a re-purposed laptop, with a simple mini-plug to RCA patch into AUX2 of my vintage Marantz receiver.  Some of the stations on Pandora are redundant in what they play – they rival a Home Depot at holiday time for recurrence.  Classic Metal is way too heavy on Ozzy (in or out of Sabbath).  Heavy on Metallica, Priest, that stuff.  Worse, they only play about 3 favored selections from each band.  I love War Pigs, but don’t need to hear it five times in a week.

On the other hand, Pandora’s Delta Blues station is really nice.  I don’t know that I’ve heard the same tune twice, and I’ve been turned on to a lot of stuff I’m not familiar with.  You can set up your own stations too, based on some favored inputs on your part; artists and genres.  For example, I set up a Howlin’ Wolf station, and Pandora suggests other artists for inclusion, and also throws tracks in as you’re listening from various other artists.  Heck, it’s free.

Meantime, I’m also waiting for this device to come back on the market.

Don’t forget about AdwCleaner – kudos.

April 23, 2013  2:55 PM

Big Data and the FBI

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott

Big Data - FBI[Note:  Nothing in the following post is meant to be a criticism of the FBI’s agents – those people are supreme, and I thank all of them for the job they do.  But as to the executive management, and government bureaucrats and politicians, it’s a fair question to ask:  What year are these people living in?]

The events in Boston were horrific and, as trite as it sounds, I express my condolences to the victims and families of those killed and injured.

I was further impacted by Krystle Campbell’s mother, Patty, and her statement.  I won’t belabor nor detail her heart-rending appearance on camera, not long after the bombing, but she said something that I… “took away” for lack of better words.  Actually, she said many things in that regard, but one thing in particular made me think:

She mentioned Krystle as having “worked so hard…” – she was achieving, she was living, she was motivated.  It made no sense to her mother that someone like Krystle can be gone due to such senseless circumstances.

And again, it sounds trite, but I thought:  How often have I wished that I worked a little harder?  Whether to stick to my exercise regime, to eat right, to deliver a little faster to a client, to get along with family members, to get my damn lawn mowed, or just giving someone a hand – whatever it is I’ve got going.

Whatever it is you’ve got going:  I’m lousy at preaching, and I’m often lousy at living, but why don’t we all work a little harder?  In remembrance of Krystle, we can strive for a bit more excellence.  Let’s do better.  I’m not exactly the sensitive type, but knowledge of Krystle and her life came to me through terrible circumstances, but perhaps she lives on if someone out there does something good by virtue of Krystle’s ethic and hard work.  And somebody please –  maybe even me, maybe even everyone reading this – please do it on a consistent basis – and if that happens, can Krystle really be gone?  That sounds trite, a little stupid, and perhaps naïve.  But it’s all I can offer at the moment – and it’s weak.

Well, in a crazy way, that brings me to the FBI and Big Data – ‘cause I sure am getting tired of terror.

Major news organizations, like this one, have asked:  Why did it take four days to find the Boston bombers?  They had the elder brother, Tamerian Tsarnaev, on file – having been warned by the Russian government (no less) that he had radical ties, and was a potential terror risk.

As Peter Foster, US Editor of the U.K.’s The Telegraph so succinctly puts it:

“I’m not sure what the FBI equivalent of Google is, but surely “Boston + terrorist + jihad watch list + Muslim Community” should have thrown up the name “Tamerlan Tsarnaev.”

Within hours of the bombs, the FBI should have had ready access to records of people in the Boston area that had anything terror-related in their backgrounds – which of course this guy did.  Here, the FBI didn’t even have to do a “known associates” scrounge – they’d have seen that the younger brother was a student – and would have gone to the campus, and found the guy in the gym!  Or at that campus party he went to – in the days after the bombing.

Foster again:  “Even more staggering is that when they did eventually isolate Tamerlan and his younger brother Dzhokhar from the hours of CCTV and smartphone footage taken at the race – a process that took three precious days – even then the FBI didn’t make the connection.”

In my book, I.T. Wars, I actually discussed back in 2007 the FBI’s failures with their VCF (Virtual Case File) system – a project that was so screwed up it was abandoned even though it was mounted specifically to meet the challenges of the post-9/11 world.  It was superseded by a system called Sentinel, which has its own problems.  Do you know, in more than 25 years in high-level IT, I’ve never abandoned a project?  I spec and mount them too well.  And, I’ve written Project Management Frameworks for Fortune100 enterprises, as well as the Pentagon – so it’s not like I haven’t had challenges during my career.

I’m sure many others here too harbor similar records.  People in IT take pride in being empirical, and in fitting technical solutions to whatever the business at-hand is.  Can we get simple Big Data concepts implemented at the FBI, and other government agencies that work in harmony, to thwart terror?  –  and, when bad outcomes do happen, can we please make more efficient responses?

There’s also reportage that the FBI missed the elder brother’s trip to Russia due to a misspelling on a manifest of some sort.  Even Google coughs up ‘near-enough’ suggestions when I do searches, and make typos.

To repeat:  This is not a criticism of the FBI’s agents – those people are supreme.  But as to the executive management, and government bureaucrats and politicians, it’s a fair question to ask:  What year are we living in when Big Data is not making already known data serve us best?

To our government and key agencies I say:  Please swing Big Data for all it’s worth.  And, just to note, this is not a “Big Brother”-type nightmare.  This is the effective leveraging of data the government already has.

Make it work.

April 19, 2013  9:07 AM

Competitive Intelligence

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott


Increasingly, BIG DATA means leveraging more than just an organization’s internal data.  No matter how effectively you shatter the walls of discreet internal systems, and begin to make sensible blend of enhancing and mutually reinforcing content, you’re still not optimized for the use of data if you ignore what is readily available out-of-house.

External Data:  This data too is enhancing, and mutually reinforcing, in terms of your organization’s best exploitation of knowledge to be had.  How can you afford to maintain some measure of ignorance, when you can’t count on your competition to do the same?

In other words, you cannot count on competitors to not exploit public domain knowledge – ripe and ready for the pickins’.  Competitive Intelligence (CI) is the leveraging of internal and outside data (when relevant to any specific need), in creating and using BIG DATA; subsequently  leveraged for the organization’s advantage in the market.

Recognize that we’re discussing the legal and ethical procurement of data.  This is not corporate espionage or spying.  It is not hacking and breaching.  To be clear, CI most emphatically is not Competitor Hacks (CH), which has been discussed here, perhaps branded for the first time as CH at The Business-Technology Weave.  (CH is also mentioned here, and here; you can see articles at the surrounding dates for security in general).

CI is availing ourselves of knowledge (data, content) that is all over the web, in public records, newspapers, blogs, forums, company’s-own reports, and various companies’ web presences, and all the exploitable information there.  Also ripe for inclusion to CI big data endeavors can be info gleaned about an org’s own customers, suppliers, solutions-partners (vendors), and so forth.  Also recognize that CI means that you (your org) must monitor what both you put “out there,” and what others do.

Applications exist, and are being progressed, that build and deliver coherent and highly relevant content by pairing internal content with external content.  Be aware, however, that CI is leading to the deliberate creation of misinformation in order to mislead, and to make CI utilizers look foolish, or to make bad forecasting, bad decisions, etc.  CI involves a certain wariness – but true business always requires careful use of resources, and careful forecasting, careful decision-making, and careful progressions.

The CI realm requires the same level of care and vetting.

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