Consultant Benchmarks Business Intelligence

May 27, 2011

Business intelligence has seen tremendous growth and with so many different companies on the market all vying for clients it can become difficult for business owners to know exactly which one will adequately fit their needs.

We learned that InetSoft is a sponsor of the Aberdeen’s Group Agile BI Benchmark Study, which provides a detailed survey and analysis of how companies are currently using their business intelligence products and how they improve.

We found the notion of agile business intelligence interesting. Traditionally business intelligence required trained specialists and programmers with the ability to convert an end user’s dreams into the cold, hard reality of a report. Today end users want to do their own report building and data analysis. In our experience, this sounds great in a pitch focused on reducing headcount. However, in some situations, flawed data leads to even more suspect business decisions.

We learned from the announcement about the study that:

Agile BI is business intelligence that can rapidly adapt to meet changing business needs.

Okay.

Many of those surveyed admitted they were not delivering their business intelligence products on time and found it difficult to make timely decisions. Those companies that earned “Best In Class” were those that were able to provide fully interactive BI to their users. The write up asserted:

Managers need to get “hands-on” to interact with and manipulate data if they are to meet the shrinking timeframe for business decisions that they face.

Without building a solid foundation and taking control BI cannot be fully effective and is like a bird with no wings.

You can obtain a free complimentary copy of the report please visit http://goo.gl/3WujV. We have no idea how long the free report will be available. Act quickly.

Stephen E Arnold, May 27, 2011

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May 27, 2011

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Will Office 365 Cloud Issues be 24/7?

May 26, 2011

As I write this, I heard about Amazon’s super reliable, scalable, elastic, whiz bang cloud service struggling to deliver a pop icon’s album to fans. I have concluded that Amazon’s service can fail and not scale. But Amazon is just one cloud marketer struggling to make the dreams of the marketing department into the reality of cloud services as ultra reliable.

Consider Microsoft, please.

If there is one rule left in the business environment, it is that you do not mess with a worker’s email.  Perhaps Microsoft did not get that memo?  Last week MS’s latest incarnation of its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), Office 365, had some serious cloud issues.  According to “Microsoft’s Handling of BPOS Outage an Ill Omen for Office 365”, users saw delays totaling up to fifteen hours spread across a three-day span.

The author himself admits that it isn’t so much the outages that are the cause for concern but the manner of handling the issue by Microsoft.  Not that the inhabitants of your average cube farm won’t automatically freak out over any interruption in email services, but they could rest easier if they at least had an idea of what was happening behind the scenes.

To calm the harried nerves of its customers, Microsoft created the Online Service Health Dashboard, with an intention to provide up to the minute status of cloud services and tools.  If you think you can rest easy now, not so fast. The article said:

The first detailed Dashboard notification I can find on the Tech Center forum is time stamped 9:40 a.m. on Thursday. That’s two full days after the original notice. Dave Thompson notified the world about the problems, via his blog, at 6 p.m. But there were two full days of widespread intermittent email outages without any explanation from Microsoft. Yes, there were service degradation icons on the Dashboard earlier, but no explanations or ETA for a fix.

Call me naive, but what’s the point in having a notification board when it takes two days to post notifications?”

And Google? Well, its vaunted technology failed during its I/O conference when executives were chatting up the reliability of the Google cloud. Blogger.com, however, must have been on break. That service went down for 20 hours.

Welcome to the cloud, a sometimes gray area where you are not privy to the same information on controls and status you would find within an average business enterprise.

That, my friends, can be the trade-off for convenience.  Besides, if your company is anything like mine, you wouldn’t be getting much more support from your in-house IT anyway.

But when I can save $11 on a hot new album, I am flexible. For work, I am not so flexible. My hunch is that others may have a similar view. What happens when cloud based search fails? I won’t be able to find my documents. Not good.

Sarah Rogers, May 26, 2011

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Bing Adds Facebook Recommendations

May 26, 2011

We learned from AdAgeDigital that “Bing Adds Facebook Recommendations to Search.” It seems that Microsoft is tapping social search to aid in its continuing struggle to out do Google in search. Our concern is that search is a little “yesterday” and its troubles seem so far away. I use social information services to locate information. Don’t you?

Here’s what social search will look like on Bing, according to AdAge:

The updated service will incorporate data from the largest social network, which has become a key arbiter of content on the web. For example, a user logged into Facebook searching for news on Bing would see links to articles that a friend may have liked. People searching for generic terms, such as “cooking,” might see recipes their Facebook friends have anointed with a ‘like.’ Where a person’s Facebook friends have not sounded off on a particular search term, they would see the most popular links from the collective Facebook community, redefining search altogether.

Google, naturally, has responded by also adding social recommendations it its results. Microsoft, though, has a distinct advantage: a positive relationship with Facebook. It will be impossible for Google to surpass Bing in this arena if it can’t get a hold of data from the social media giant.

Traditional search returns noise. One person used the phrase “information glare” to describe what happens when I run a query on Bing or Google. The information blinds me. I need a way to get what I need. Maybe Bing is moving in the right direction.

What’s clear is that Facebook has momentum? Does Mr. Zuckerberg’s service provide users with information sunglasses? I like the style.

Cynthia Murrell, May 26, 2011

Censorship: The New “Like”

May 26, 2011

We find the machinations of US companies and China’s bureaucracy fascinating. Google stubbed its toe on the Great Wall. Yahoo found itself wading in the goo on the marge of the Bund. Has Facebook found a way to avoid missteps and tap into the money flow of one of the world’s largest economies?

Durban Writes China’s Largest Search Engine about Web Censorship, Possible Facebook Deal,” declares a press release from the office of Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL). Regarding the rumored deal with Facebook. We learned:

Durbin expressed particular concern about recent reports that Baidu may enter into a partnership with Facebook to launch a social-networking site in China. Durbin has previously written to Facebook regarding his concern that the company does not have adequate safeguards in place to prevent repressive governments from monitoring activists who use Facebook. In his letter, Durbin asked Baidu whether it plans to partner with Facebook, and, if so, what steps the companies will take to protect human rights.

It’s interesting that a politician is weighing in on the matter. It remains to be seen whether he’ll get anywhere with his protestations.

It’s also interesting, to us at least, that in this instance Google is on the outside looking in. As if that rivalry needed more fodder!

We also want to note that, if the rumor is true, this is a potentially huge windfall for Facebook. Now that US politicians are voicing their views, will that put a stick in the Facebook bicycle spokes?

Cynthia Murrell May 26, 2011

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Paging Doctor Firefox

May 26, 2011

The fastest way to turn a common headache into a brain tumor is to investigate symptoms on WebMD.  Apparently, this is not dissuading internet users from slapping a white coat and stethoscope onto their computers.  “Pew Finds One in Four Track Their Health Information Online” provides more insight into just how engaged individuals are with online health info and the art of self-diagnosis.

We learned from the write up some interesting factoids based on a sample of 3,001 Americans:

  • One in four Internet users are starting to track their own health information—including blood pressure, symptoms, diet, blood sugar levels and exercise routine—online
  • 80 percent of Internet users, or 59 percent of all adults, have researched health topics online, and 34 percent have read about health online on a newsgroup, Website or blog
  • One in three caregivers use the Internet to look up drug reviews
  • Internet users with chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertension are also more likely to look up health information

The driving force seems to be “feedback loops”. A rough analogy to using a social network to get information about a condition. My mother talked to the neighbors over the back yard fence. Now online communities perform a similar function.

If accurate, these data may be that asking a “friend” provides a measuring stick for others with similar issues.  An example from the article details that using loops for obtaining information can be effective in explaining why two donuts for breakfast today and result in clogged arteries tomorrow.

We are relived to see the results don’t yet indicate that individuals are entering health data into the cyberspace, only searching for information.  And there is a disclaimer, stating that “although Americans are seeking support and feedback from peers online, they mainly consult with their physician’s offline.”

I’ve coincidentally come down with the same respiratory infection a good contingent of the city is suffering from now, and as tempting as it is to trust the blogosphere and the halls of online forums, I think I will instead be paying a visit to my doctor this afternoon. For now, no Dr. Facebook or Dr. Google for me.

Sarah Rogers, May 26, 2011

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May 26, 2011

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Google Your Home

May 25, 2011

I bought one of the smart, Energy Star thermostats. Quite a mockery of technology, interface, and convenience. It takes two of my engineers to make the air conditioner cool the house. The unit is really smart, but once configured, the darned thing is an idiot savant.

Help may be on the way. Google’s technology can push the interface challenged thermostat vendors into the dust bin. “Google Wants to Control Your Home,” declares CNNMoney.

The article points to this year’s Google I/O conference, held earlier this month, where the company touted its Android@Home, a platform being designed to give you centralized control over almost all your electronics. This includes media devices, of course, but also your lights, cars, and major appliances. As leader of the project Joe Britt put it, they aim to position “Android as the operating system for your home.”

At the root of Google’s plan is that pesky proprietary software problem. They believe they can create the best way to get devices from different manufacturers to talk to each other:

Android@Home was developed as an open protocol that can be used by any connected device and controlled by any wireless device or computer — including non-Android devices like Apple’s iPhone or Microsoft’s Windows PCs. Google’s partners say that while they expect Android devices to be the first to use the new platform, other mobile device makers will follow suit. No date has been announced yet for when Android@Home will be available.

Google has many ambitions. Will this one be pushed through to fruition? The company does have some partners lined up for this enterprise, including Lighting Science, maker of LED lighting systems, and Life Fitness, who manufactures exercise equipment.

The idea has potential. Let’s see where it goes from here. I particularly like the possible integration of Google’s predictive analytics with my thermostat. Google will know what temperature is the best for me. I can hardly wait. What will Google tell my smart fridge and my smart microwave to make for dinner? Google will know best I am sure.

Cynthia Murrell May 24, 2011

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Holy *$@#, Facebook

May 25, 2011

Short honk: I am not a Facebookoid. I am neither surprised nor disappointed. Navigate to “47% of Facebook Walls Contain Profanity.” Here’s the factoid I found interesting:

Users are twice as likely to use profanity in a post on their Facebook Wall, versus a comment. Whereas friends are twice as likely to use profanity in a comment on a user’s Facebook Wall, versus a post.

What are friends for? Parse that.

Stephen E Arnold, May 25, 2011

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Sweet Search: Curated Search for Students

May 25, 2011

FindingDulcinea blows its own horn in its blog entry, “Why SweetSearch Is the Best Search Engine for Students.” Their project is actually a very good idea— I wish it had been around when I was educating my son.

SweetSearch is much more than “safe” search. Besides weeding out the inappropriate, the site also weeds out the non-credible, leaving students with a list of “cite worthy” resources that’s more readily usable than one provided from a traditional search engine. There’s even a version for elementary students, called SweetSearch4Me.

The write-up includes very illuminating example searches which compare SweetSearch, Google, and Bing results to queries on the “War of 1812” and on “Shakespeare.” I recommend checking it out.

We find it interesting that findingDulcinea has also brought in Yolink, which has been developing its own education search application. The article said:

“To enable students to better scan results to determine relevancy, we’ve partnered with Yolink. From a SweetSearch results page, click on the Yolink toolbar on the left side, and add a term to narrow your search. Yolink will then browse your original search results and show an expanded view of the results in which your additional term appears. Yolink then enables you to save excerpts of search results, with the source link, to a Google doc, Web-based email, or social bookmarking and sharing services such as Diigo, and to the citation generator Easy Bib.”

It’s refreshing to see technology being used for good.

Cynthia Murrell May 25, 2011

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