By nttcPayday Loans

by Jim Stewart

Just My Opinion

July 10th, 2016 at 3:14 pm

What does sustainability have to do with whose side you are on?

This morning’s sermon was about current events. Who do you sympathize with? Certainly, with the families of the black men that were killed in incidents with police. Certainly, also, with the families of officers shot while on duty.

What I will refuse to do is hate on a group that does not agree with my politics, or does not agree with my religion, has a different sexual orientation, or isn’t my same ethnicity.

What I see today is divisive rhetoric on all sides. Especially in politics. It feels like the voice of both parties is that the other party is the right hand of Satan. And, that to get anything moving toward “their side”, they have to stand as far away from the other side as they can.

As this happens over and over, with BLM, LGBTQ, birth control, Muslims/Christians, rich/poor, and on, and on… we are constantly dividing and subdividing, and creating more and more distance and separation. This is NOT a sustainable model. Fractures and factions tear apart. They are the tools of entropy. A sustainable model brings together. Practically, we must be active in our support for reconciliation. We cannot stand back and allow the vocal few to divide us all. Yes, these things are outrageous. But, we need to stand together and call them outrageous together… not look for a counterbalance to the outrageous that drives us further apart.

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October 25th, 2015 at 6:54 am

Big Data, and what does that mean?

in: Big Data

I believe Big Data is the most overused term in business today. And, in the overuse, it has become near meaningless. Possible that the “cloud” is approaching that same level of use, perhaps with less confusion about what it means. If you have “big data in the cloud” that’s got to be the brass ring of IT marketing.

If I asked how physically big something is, it would be very helpful if you were able to give me the height, width, and depth. Similarly, with big data, there are “4 Vs”: Volume, Velocity, Variety, and Veracity. Let’s quickly look at each.

Volume is simply the amount of data you have. With quintillions of bytes of data on the internet, the volume of data available is simply staggering.

Velocity is how fast the data is coming at you. If you are a large hospital chain, you have vital signs, cat scans, admissions, billing, doctor’s notes, room vacancies, credentials, and it’s all changing all the time, across hundreds of hospitals, the velocity can be challenging.

Variety: Traditionally, we would think of data as what would fit in Excel: product numbers, sales, dates, etc. As per my hospital example, the variety of data available is also quite large. Audio, video, cat scans, are all good examples.

Veracity: If my data originates with my company, I understand the truthfulness of the data. I understand if it isn’t complete, or if we’re talking about asynchronous updates that I might not have the whole story at a point in time. When I obtain information externally, I begin to open myself up to false information. What is the trustworthiness of the source? How important is it that it be 100% accurate?

A recent article in FierceBigData says that it’s about computing complexity, not about the petabytes. I like the thought, but disagree. I can have a very complex problem and not need either a lot of computing power or a lot of data. And, I might have a very straight-forward problem that requires lots of variety and questionable veracity in my data. In other words, a Venn diagram might show a large overlap between complex problems and big data, but they are not congruent or equal.

However, the FierceBigData article goes on to talk about the usefulness of the tools that have sprouted to deal with Big Data, and with that I very much agree. You now have a whole host of tools that can help you solve business problems. You don’t have to debate whether you have Big Data or not, just whether the tools can help you or not.

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September 21st, 2013 at 7:22 am

Creating Diversity

In True Colors, I am a green, orange, gold, blue.  In Myers-Briggs, I am an ENTJ.
In DISC am a high D, high I.   In Critical Thinking University, I am inquisitive.  Hermann brain dominance I am left top.  In Strengths Finders, I am Achiever, Learner, Intellection, Ideation, Strategic.
I am a middle child.  Boomer.  Male.  Anglo-Saxon.
I recently completed the Critical Thinking University (CTU) class where we discussed different thinking styles.  Someone suggested making sure your work team had diversity by looking for people of diverse thinking styles.  At first blush, I thought that was a good idea.  But then, I looked at all of these personality tests and started wondering.  Do I place an ad – “Looking for an INTP, DISC S, Timely, Woo, Oriental, female, millennial to develop in JAVA, ORACLE environment”?
A friend of mine doesn’t have much tolerance for this kind of thing.  She calls it “navel gazing”, and would really just like to spend the time delivering on the work in front of us.  OK.  But, as a manager, I do think it is a good idea to understand what your own weaknesses are.  And when you add to your team, it’s a great opportunity to help yourself out.  If you like to start things, surround yourself with strong finishers.  If you are a director that isn’t so good with the touchy-feely side, hire a “Blue” manager.  Look for people that compliment rather than match.
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September 2nd, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Funding Agile Projects

I’ve done some industry research.  Been to an Agile conference.  Asked friends and networked.  Our traditional models of funding do not seem to relate very well to new development models that deliver incrementally and change direction via the feedback from early iterations.  Whether you are using Scrum or Extreme Programming or whatever, isn’t as important as delivering incrementally and the potential to change directions based on customer reaction.

When you ask for a lot of money from an executive board, they want to know what they are going to get for their money.  If you are explicit about what you will deliver, then it’s likely they are going to expect you back if you change direction.  If you are not explicit, it’s likely you won’t get funding.  Angel investors might be willing to “go for a walk in the woods” as one investor termed it.  But these are risk-takers that expect a higher than average return for their risk.  That doesn’t fit the mold of most larger companies.

The feedback we’ve received is that while Agile has matured into large projects within companies of all sizes, the funding mechanisms have not reacted.  We found four solutions being employed.  1) Nothing different for Agile.  2) Funding the business unit at some level, not the project.  3) Funding at the Product level (small difference from business unit).  4) Funding Agile projects with less detail and ongoing governance.

The instances of doing something at the project level for Agile all seemed to be in the early stages – i.e. trying it out.  In each of these cases, there was ongoing oversight from a committee that could regularly review the performance of Agile projects.  i.e. a very accessible group with authority to allow the project to continue, kill the project, or take it back to the larger committee.

In project level funding, this is my synopsis of the project funding model:

  • A Business Case is required, along with cost, benefit, timeline and what the project will deliver in business terms (not in functional detail).
  • Break functionality into MoSCoW, must have, should have, could have, and would be nice (but won’t have).  One source used the term MVP, minimum viable product.  “Must have” represents the minimum viable product.
  • Express these in terms of business need, not in terms of what will be delivered.  (Traditionally, we’ve focused on being exact about what would be delivered.)  With Agile (realize the potential beyond just Agile) you would be clear about the objective, not how it would be delivered.
  • Fund the project to the Must have and Should have level.
  • Only need to go back for additional funding if you can’t deliver to the must have level.
  • Swap out functionality all you want, because you’ve promised business value, not specific functionality.
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May 18th, 2013 at 6:54 am

Grace

Several years ago, my mother-in-law passed away after several years of fighting cancer.  In her last few days, she frequently said words of encouragement and thankfulness to the nurses and staff.  Just before she passed, she asked to say a prayer and prayed for each person in the room.

It’s easy to be graceful and magnanimous when things are going well.  But it means so much less than being graceful when things are going bad.

The next time things are going bad, think about the great opportunity you have at that moment to impact others in a very significant way.  That thought will take the focus off of the very negative and place it on a very positive.  And, just maybe, it’ll force the negative to impact you just a little less.

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March 17th, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Innovation at IDEO

I read “The Art of Innovation” by Tom Kelley where Kelley walks through IDEO’s product development process.  The idea being that you (any company) could approach IDEO’s innovation by implementing this process in your organization.  Understand, Observe, Visualize, Evaluate, Implement.  (Obviously the book goes into detail about each piece of the process.)

I read a paper “Technology Brokering and Innovation in a Product Development Firm” (Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol 42 #4 Dec 1997, pp716-749).   IDEO assists hundreds of companies across a lot of disparate industries and because of that, they are in a fairly unique position as brokers.  “Brokers benefit by being well connected to a range of disparate industries and enabling the flow of existing solutions between those that have such knowledge and those that don’t.”  It defines “brokers” as “Intermediate actors that facilitate transactions between other actors lacking access to or trust in one another.”  It goes on to say that the important process for innovation therefor is Access, Acquisition, Storage, Retrieval, and Output.  i.e. it is in the access to disparate ideas and technologies in all of these industries, and their ability to retrieve and make use of the knowledge gained that makes IDEO successful.

I don’t mean to imply that IDEO’s process isn’t good.  At first blush it doesn’t look incredibly different from a dozen other innovation processes out there.  But Tom Kelley uses example after example of how an idea from one product is incorporated into another product, innovating the latter product.  e.g. a shampoo nozzle being implemented in a water bottle.  No company that doesn’t innovate as part of their day to day job is going to approach a company that does.  It won’t have access to the ideas from disparate industries.

Or, do you think that I can bring those ideas to my job every day – always looking at the products around me and determining if I can bring what I learn from every day objects to bear on the every day problems I face?  Maybe.  I would say that you are not going to be innovative in your job if you are not devoting serious time and energy to it – if you are not constantly in a mode of envisioning a better mousetrap.

As usual, just my opinion.

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March 10th, 2013 at 10:17 am

Project Communications Management

Brian Erwin has a seven step process for managing stakeholder expectations.  From his book: Identify, Gather information, Interest in the outcome (positive or negative), Assess proximity, Assess influence, Strategize, and finally Behavior prediction.  Initially, I felt that anyone following this process would be in great shape managing expectations.  This covers the topic.  But I really appreciated how much further the last step takes you in preparing for a project than our traditional stakeholder review.  It puts you in the stakeholder’s shoes and asks you to see the project from their perspective.  Then, you can see what their likely reaction is going to be and become proactive in your communication rather than reactive.

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January 28th, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Big Data, Invisible Hand 2.0, and Benford’s Law

I recently wrote about the Invisible Hand of the MarketPlace under a model of highly computerized environments.  This is a blog about IT, not about economics or politics, so why am I bringing it up?

I really hope I can make that connection.

Are you familiar with Benford’s Law?  It’s one of those things that just amazes me about math.  It is true that certain properties have to exist in the data you are looking at, but basically, in certain kinds of data, it is more likely that the first digit will be “1” than “2” and more likely to be “2” than “3”, etc.  The data must cover multiple orders of magnitude in order to work.  So, the volumes of all the bodies of water world-wide is likely to adhere to the rule.  You might think that across many orders of magnitude, the number is just as likely to start with “9” as “1”.  Actually, “1” is about 6 times more likely.  We can actually use Benford’s Law to find accounting irregularities, fraud.

Have you ever thought about your credit score? (The Guardian, Tech Weekly, Dec. 31, 2000)  It turns out your credit information is messy.  And, if you saw a very clean credit history, it might be cause for concern, perhaps it is manufactured.  In looking for terrorists, you might want to look for credit scores that are just a little too clean.

Did you read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”?  In turns out that maybe skill has a lot to do with success, but you are a whole lot more likely to make professional hockey if you are born in January in Canada as opposed to December.  Not just a little, a LOT.

Now that we are amassing data at a rate of 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day, what are we going to do with it all?  I am hopeful that we are going to find more neat little things like Benford’s Law.  I am hopeful that we are going to find more bad guys.  I am hopeful we are going to find ways that we unintentionally and unknowingly disadvantage people and find a way to correct for it.  I am hopeful we can build better models and so have a smarter invisible hand.

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January 21st, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Psychological Predictors of Success

Nate Silver’s “The Signal and the Noise” identifies 5 intellectual and psychological abilities that predict success in baseball.  I felt they apply to most work environments:

1) Preparedness and work ethic. Show up and work hard every day.

2) Concentration and focus.

3) Competitiveness and Self-confidence.  “Is the Desire to Succeed significant enough to overcome the fear of failure”

4) Stress Management and Humility. You are going to fail, you are going to have bad luck.  How do you react to that?

5) Adaptiveness and Learning Ability. How do you react to coaching?  How do you react when you get a [life] curveball?

I recommend the book.

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January 6th, 2013 at 4:20 pm

The Invisible Hand of the Market Place and Predictability

I’ve always been a fan of Adam Smith.  Please don’t think I’m going to get in to politics, I’m not.  Or Ecology, I’m not.  But, while I’ve always believed that the marketplace will do a better job of allocating resources than any central “control”, I’ve always had a nagging suspicion there’s something missing from the equation.

The “nagging” started back when the first reports came out about global warming.  Now, whether you believe in global warming or not, is not the important point.  What I’d like to ask: does the market predict the future well enough to prevent catastrophic events?

The nagging became a full blown war as we’ve experienced multiple market collapses, the .com bubble and the real estate / financial market failures to be specific.

When Adam Smith wrote “Wealth of Nations”, he did not have to consider the impact of computer programs.  Humans were making every decision abut when to buy, when to sell, how much to charge, etc.  In that day and age, lack of data was the issue.  e.g. I might not know that demand was much greater 200 miles away.  So, markets were less perfect because the spread of information was slow.

Now (i.e. as of 2012), according to IBM, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day.  Now, we have a problem of too much information and our ability to understand how it all relates.

What percent of transactions are done today by humans?  When you order a book from Amazon, the order is taken by their computer, possibly passed along to a 3rd party electronically, filled by them and never did a human look at the transaction to determine if it was a good deal.  When you get to automatic stock purchases, buying and selling based on trigger events, it gets a little more intense.  And lastly, as we try to predict the future and set ourselves up to react to those predictions (e.g. setting interest rates based on economic modeling) we are really putting a lot of stock in someone’s ability to create a model that is accurate and then to program that model into an unerring computer application.

When automation is introduced, it converts the way errors happen.  If I am making shoes by hand, I make errors a shoe at a time.  If I automate making the shoes, I can make a million shoes, all with exactly the same error. (I am not a Luddite, I grew up programming computers)

I apologize that this isn’t a fully formed thought.  But, I hope you can generally see where this is going.  We rely on computers that rely on each other.  The complexity is growing and the pace is accelerating.  The invisible hand of the marketplace was many individuals working in their own self interest.  Now, the invisible hand is automated and model driven.  In order for Invisible Hand 2.0 to guide us into a safe future it has to be able to predict the future with reasonable accuracy.

I welcome your input.  More to come.

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