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Showing posts from 2010

Probability - And Business Decisions!

Studying statistics is an interesting endeavor as business activities are so closely related to observation, formulation of strategies and extrapolation for analysis of data and implementation of new strategies. The behavior of large groups of people can be as random as coin tosses as mentioned in the previous post. In fact the entire life insurance business is based on this fact. We can't predict whether a specific person will die next year (except for my mother who can predict deaths through pun intended she seriously can.) But if we observe millions of people, deaths are random. Hence make accurate prediction models for payouts. The proportion of men aged 25 to 34 who will dice next year is about 0.0021 say on the North American continent. When you have this data compared to the probability of death in women which about 0.0007 for the same range an insurance company tat sells many policies to people aged 25 to 345  will have to pay off on about 0.21% of the polices…

Randomness & Probability

The idea of probability is empirical. I chuckled when I twittered last night on Einstein's quote that- "God does not care about our mathematical difficulties. He integrates empirically". So probability is the art of observing a class of data closely and describing the data in several trials. Hence Randomness or "Random" behavior in statistics is not a synonym for "haphazard" but a description of a kind of order that emerges only in the long run.

The French naturalist Count Buffon (1707 - 1788) tossed a coin 4040 times. The results were 2048 times heads which means 0.5069 chances for the heads to occur. Around 1900 Karl Pearson heroically tossed the coin 24,000 times result was 12,012 heads, a proportion of 0.5005. John Kerrich while imprisoned in the German Nazi camp tossed the coin 10,000 times the result of which was 5076 heads, a proportion of 0.5067. So to make a point about randomness and probability we call a phenomenon random if individual outc…

Cool Illusion

Is the cowboy going or coming? I thought this was a cool illusion based upon the interpretation you can formulate your own story.

Creating Value with Assets & Services

A lot of talk floats around of creating IT as a strategic component when 60% of its activities are service or support related. The art of IT alignment with proper governance wrapped around them not only makes IT a strategic component but enables its support functions to add value to business assets and services. In some instances values can be quantified in financial terms and in some non-financial terms. The non-financial terms are equally important as they fuel the financial components on a continuous form of inputs or future ROI's and VOI's. These non-financial value creation ideas can be:

1) Customer Perceptions: Customer's preferences are influenced by perceptions and in turn perceptions are influenced by attributes of a service or product in terms of value, desire, previous experience, position in the marketplace, need and self-image.

2) Reference values of services: This may be very vaguely defined and sometimes may be plain facts. To find our reference value of ser…

The Expanding Universe

Thinking about regression, I came across Edwin Hubble's data in the Astronomy magazine and found out that the scatter-plot of the data Hubble gave played a central role in the discovery that universe is expanding. The graph below shows the distances from earth of 24 spiral galaxies, just for kicks I plotted this in excel, the speed indicates the speed at which these galaxies are moving away from us as reported in 1929 by Hubble's data.

The scatter-plot clearly indicates a linear relationship my TI-83 reports a r=0.7842 correlation which means that distant galaxies are moving away rapidly. Astronomers believe that there is a perfect linear relationship along with the scatter caused by imperfect measurements. The two lines on the plot are actually the two-least squares regression lines. The regression line of velocity on distance is solid as indicated. The regression line if drawn of distance on velocity will be different and both lines will have different slopes.

Lesson learnt …

Statistical Thinking - Regression?

Regress means to go backward. How did the term regression come to be? Sir Francis Glaton (1822-1911)  was the first one to apply regression techniques on biological and psychological data. He observed data in heights of tall parents and found that often taller than average parents tended to have children who were also taller than average but not as tall as their parents. Galton called this fact "regression" toward the mean and the name came to be applied to statistical method.

A regression line is very important measure in research then because a regression line summarizes the relationship between independent and dependent variables. as in specific settings one of the variables helps explaining or predicting the other.

Why am I relating this here? I remember a year I talked about visual mapping with mind map, certainly our brain does not always think in linear fashion, thoughts, ideas projects, to do's, likes, dislikes, desires, passions, etc are all over the place. So t…

Wisdom - Statistical Thinking!

Of all the branches of Mathematics, Statistics has a very practical application in solving real world problems. Though I firmly believe all wisdom and knowledge come from God, the area of Statistics falls under the wisdom spectrum as it gives innate ability to understand and give answers to practical problems.  I am sure when Joseph and Daniel conducted the affairs of Kings they had a sort of statistical wisdom. Take for example Abraham Wald (1902- 1950)  worked on war problems during World War II. Wald invented some statistical methods that were military secrets until the war ended.  He was asked a probing question as to where extra armor should be added to airplanes. Wald studied the data of the location of enemy bullet holes in planes returning from combat. He then plotted the locations on an outline of the plane. As data accumulated, most of the outline filled up. He then came back with the solution and told them to put the armor in the few spots with no bullet holes. Wald said t…

Analysis of SAP’s Platform Strategy

The software industry has been through high and lows up with the constant advent of new technological innovations and rapid changes in the global economic landscapes. SAP is the leading enterprise application software giant started by Hasso Plattner. The rise of Enterprise application industries started in early eighty’s with organizations needing one single software program that was capable of serving the multiple needs and functions of various departments. One single enterprise-wide application software means integrating applications that fused together for the smooth exchange and extraction of information. For example when customer services sold a product and got stock updated in the inventory by the warehouse people and the same data could be pulled by the Finance department. Enterprise Application software’s were designed exactly to do the latter mentioned processes seamlessly. SAP started by break away engineer’s Plattner and group build the company on strong engineering fort…

Extension of An Innovation!

I recently was made aware that immediacy of objects, values and street innovation extend the product ideas that will be instrumental in making them universal. The lessons to be learnt are how do you design a product or a system that can be extended or be universally accepted. The proposed idea is to watch for ideas that come from the streets, reverse engineering, social re-engineering and innovative social uses of products or ideas.

For example to expand on this a cell phone owner in Uganda becomes an instant ATM. Strange Isn't it? People in Uganda use cell phones to transfer money and exchange minutes for cash. How does it work you may ask? So if you live in Kampala and have a cell phone and you want to send money to your parents in a small village a few hundred miles away you would buy a pre-paid phone card with minutes on it and transfer it to a person in the village where your parents live who has a cell phone. So from Kampala you would call this person and give him the card n…

Resonance - 'A Film about Design Strategy'

Design Strategy for a firm or project  is a complex process. Here is a video how innovation design consultancy firm "Continuum" approaches it in a film they produced called 'Resonance: A Film About Design Strategy.'
I like the concept of connecting insights to values and coming up with the right idea to produce a solution. BRILLIANT!


Continuum Resonance Video: Getting to the right idea from Continuum on Vimeo.


Sam Kurien

Fit Analysis- Is it Business ‘Fit’ or Technical ‘Fit’?

Enterprise Architects/IT Teams along with their business counterparts struggle with the idea of how to effectively engage the senior leadership regarding an application system that clearly does not fall in architectural/technology standard or simply the business standard. Recently talking to senior leader in our company his suggestion was – IT seems to have too much time on its hands to do a “What If” analysis. The comment didn’t catch me by surprise as the individual has hard time understanding not just technical but the business side of things too. A simple technique called FIT analysis can help in preparing a presentation for the senior leadership. The objectives mainly revolve around convincing the management about validating the IT road map for an application, make a strategic decision for better IT alignment and better maintenance of your application portfolios.

In Fit Analysis the first step is to always answer the question what is the business requirement or need that is tryin…

Business Analysis Cost Matrix

I have long maintained the view that cost accounting is art and science. You can master the mechanics and science for a given industry or domain but the art is a debatable matter. Part of every cost accounting is the function of budgeting and it usually falls under two spectrum one is accounting for every cost possible and fix the costs and spend strictly around the allocated costs, but in real world we know this is sometimes not accurately possible so we operate within margins, this is my favorite method, the other is what is practiced in the industry most of the times that is to take estimated costs of the items and take an educated guess about things that you cannot account for or allocate x amount of resources add all of it and spend what you can afford as operations pan out.  The first approach when integrating technology as a strategic component becomes inflexible because in three or five year cycles corresponding maintenance and service cycles do not match with your cost accoun…

Design Ideas!!!

I am a fan of industrial design and architectural design...hey heck actually the design process in general fascinates me. Here are some pics of designs that have lately that caught my eye.

A touch surface designed by Hyundai based on the Microsoft Surface coffee tables. I like this one better as it brings the overall bulkiness and weight down. The form factor allows at least some leg space while playing the touch surface games or flicking info from your home server to your phone or vice versa. 

Ireland's new Convention Centre Dublin uses ingenius engineering and an omniscient mother brain to monitor and adjust itself. The result? Zero carbon footprint. Cool Design and is magical with different colored lighting. 

A skyscraper designed and that grows underground. I wonder where the parking lot is on this one. 

This bridge is coming up in Seoul, Korea. The design includes to have shops, museums, and small art shops. Looks cools from the outside but how do you stop and park midway? The si…

Six Important Steps For Data Governance

Data is the most valuabe corporate asset and protecting that asset is primarily a management responsibility. Data has become the raw material or information taht ensures the continuation of a buisness and hence data governance is a strategic function. Another reason for protecting that data is also profits as well as non-profits have found that it helps also in the competitive advantage to add value to all the services and product offerings in their stable. Without going into advantages of mining that data for strategic business value additions I want to delve on the steps that a profit or a non-profit may want undertake in protecting this important resource.

1. Get a Governnace department going or identifying the individual that will be responsible for all data governance functions. A strong leadership in this area makes sure that value of data is conveyed to all quarters of the organization from top down. This person is reponsible not only about conveying that value but implementin…

IT as a Innovation Partner in Business

Usually in Business organizations and especially in organizations where R&D is a separate department itself a tension persists on keeping the IT department away from any decision when it comes to innovation or process improvement. In short the IT department is generally seen as less of a help and more of a hindrance to innovation efforts. One of the main reasons is traditionally information systems are designed to impose structure on process, achieve pre-defined goals, produce metrics and minimize need for human interaction (in some case over maximize human interaction leading to nothing but "meetings").

While Innovation activities are highly unstructured and emergent, IT cannot be ignored or kept in isolation because IT can help in visualization tools, data mining efforts, uncover hidden relationships between data and create tools of knowledge management/information repository that so desperately is needed cross functionally but especially by the innovators within a org…

Critical Success Factors of CRM Technological Initiatives

Devising a CRM business strategy is unrealistic without a proper understanding of the benefits and opportunities of enabling technology and vice versa. In a recent survey Gartner group reports that CRM project have the highest failure rates in implementation but have the highest potential in terms of return on investment rates.

I want to talk about a study done by Peter Lin and Anne-Marie Corteau & myself which I find very relevant to find what are the critical success factors that are significant of CRM Technology initiatives. The study surprisingly revealed what should be apparently significant CRM impact for an organization is not that significant as perceived by many. The direct CRM impact as perceived by many are operational and strategic benefits arising out of CRM technological initiatives. Operational perceived benefits such as front-office efficiency and productivity in sales, marketing and customer support and service functional units to shorten sales cycle, marketing cy…

Break From Governance Posts...the iPAD cases that I like!

iWell I decided to take a break from the Governance posts but not for long, just to put interesting stuff up here, I want to share two iPAD cases that I love...sorry and so far the only two that have impressed me are Twelvesouth's BookBook & Dodocase. There are thousands out there but these two give a good old book feel.

Check out first:

This one really looks like you are helping the cause of antique or collector books but you are secretly hiding a iPAD. This is the same company that makes the well known BookArc for the macbook pro and the iPad.

The other one is the well known San Francisco maker:
If you want a good leather folio moleskin look that is sturdy and good looking even when it stands this one's for you.
Both cases are leather and look really cool. They are priced at $69.99 and $59.95. The price though little steep is worth it for its very clean and classic looks. The one advantage wi…

Data Governance - Critical Success Factors

I recently read Marino's paper (2004) which addressed the critical success factors for data governance by addressing the the 10 corporate oversights, I summarize & explain some of the important points that I found useful:

Accountability & Strategic Accountability: The executive leadership has a clear mandate to drive data governance process.  This means roles and responsibilities for various people in the organization that are involved in the data governance process be accurately defined. Standards: Data standards needs to be established. Corporate Data is a valuable asset that needs caring & defining which means it made for a purpose and that purpose determines and drives value.Embracing Complexity: Data stakeholders are the producers and consumers of data hence the data stakeholder management is a complex process as data itself. Processes need to be implemented taht collects, churns and distributes this data to the right stakeholders.Choosing Strategic points of contr…

Governance Gears

Should IT or business drive the data governance programs in an organization? This opens a can of worms and possible debates in the academic and the industry. Practice in various types of organizations/industries be it in regard to  IT Governance or Data Governance differs exponentially. In most of the cases its absent, in some their is no differentiation as it is lumped as something the technology department does, in some organizations there are clear distinctions between corporate governance vs IT vs Data governance whilst in some each operate in isolation.

The COBIT framework incorporate financial reporting component from the COSO framework which implies that data quality is critical and important for preparing accurate financial reporting. The CEO's and CFO's are personally accountable for the credibility of these financial reports (thx Sarbanes-Oxely Act of 2002).  Therefore inherently it is the direct responsibility of the the Business functions to ensure the correctness,…

IT Governance - CIO Role

I feel IT Governance is the most an important function under the umbrella of the CIO. Since Technology Governance is a overarching organizational issue, the CIO comes in as a strategist with the unique ability to bridge the gap of the many business departments and that require technology and offer perspectives on solving business problems. In practice however there seems to be a lot of confusion in roles and responsiblities of a CIO  in the technology governance realm when compared to the CTO. The CIO is not your IT guy, web guy, or the techie that rescues you from the hole.

The key attributes that will be required by a person in the CIO role would be

Big-picture thinking

Big picture thinking is the ability to see the whole gammut of organizational operations and see, identify the broken processes or the lack of them and the need of integrating technology to improve efficienty of the bottom line of operations and streamline flow of information back to the senior management.

Capturing Ma…

What is IT Governance?

I am planning to start a series of posts here that will enable me to get motivated on compiling and collating my thoughts on IT Governance from my dissertation research. It will also be an avenue to compile a body of knowledge in terms of maturity models and add vignette's and thoughts of industry experts, leaders, practitioners and the academic, blend and see what unique perspectives emerge. Who knows I may invite other writers in the field to contribute and see where it goes...

So to start off, What is IT Governance? 

IT Governance is an integral part of Corporate Governance a direct responsibility of the the board of directors and the executive management of the company. It is an integral strategic component of the corporate governance model  that consists of:

1. Leadership
2. Organizational Structure and finally
3. The processes that define within those structures

All these ensure that the organization's information technology and technology in general sustains and extends…

3 Tips, 3 Ways and 4 Things For Effective Leadership

From my gleanings from Harvard Biz.. I am re-posting some good tit-bits on 3 tips for strengthening big picture skills, 3 ways to handle disruption and 4 things to empower your employees with:

The critical skills of seeing the big picture is really a right brain activity but also draws from the left in detecting patterns, relating narratives and linking the concepts that relate to your program or organization's mission and vision. The valuable 3 tips are:
Identify Parallels: When faced with a new situation or project, ask yourself if it reminds you of anything. Are there elements that are similar to or relate to other situations in which you've been? Expand your thinking. Look for non-obvious factors that may affect the situation. Seek out underlying causes or events.Articulate analogies.To communicate what you are seeing, use metaphors and analogies to which others can easily relate.On the third point I want to emphasize is talk in narratives, tell stories, we relate with good…

Who shouldn't be taken lightly in the Search Space?

Here are the top 5 search providers, as ranked by Comscore for March 2010. Just for fun I’ve added % growth since January 2009.


I have been discussing with friends how though Microsoft waits to gear up on several fronts (developing secretly, waiting and watching), its a fierce competitor once in the space it enters. Just look at the  right hand column a 58% per cent growth is mind boggling. Smart strategies include in making Bing official on Yahoo and making Bing the official search engine on Windows as well as iPhones (Cover (60% of the mobile space). For Google and Apple getting things ugly didn't help but has given Microsoft the opportunity to propel forth forward in its penetration strategies.  Google is trying hard to diversify into gaming, TV and the mobile space the question is ...Is it too late? Or will it be over-spending and long term low return on inves…

'Open Innovation' - Knowledge Brokering

I have always been fascinated with the concept of open innovation, a few years (well many years) back while I was in B-School I read Tom Peters famous pictoral book 'Circle of Innovation' and ever since been arguing (with myself mostly) if - Is it innovation that sustains you in marketplace or is it better processes that nurture that innovation?. I am slowly beginnning to understand that its actaully a  balance of both and more importantly right timing. I say right timing because innovation at the wrong time is thrown out of the marketplace because the market is nor ready to accept that innovation.  Innovation at the right time changes the landscape of the society and brings financial success and sustainability to the company .  So what is open innovation? Since it has begun transforming global companies coming out with new products and been influential in bringing variety of strategic-operational solutions to organizational problems.

  Open innovation is creating a culture of …

Now that every Joe has blogged about the iPhone

Now that every blogger on the planet has reviewed the endless stories about the iPhone, I have decided to do a head to head honest comparison with HTC HD vs iPhone (I am sure this is done somewhere) but I couldn't resist putting this one in as my friends got HTC HD 4G and I am the lone iPhone player waiting in the wings to jump at the iPhone 4 but a wise man waits ...waits...waits and waits...and then writes a comparative review ...and then waits a little more...

I took eight sections concerned to me to make a good decision (Design, Screen Size, Cameras, Battery, Apps, Networking, Multitasking & Music)

The HTC HD known as HD on the widows platform, EVO as the android version at first look attacks the iPhone on the gorgeous screen size 4.3" compared to 2.32 inches of the iPhone of which you really only get 2.28, end to end screen and more real estate on the HTC makes it a winner when you want to fire up those YouTube videos and movies. Talking about movies HTC comes with tw…

Yacht Design

One of my favorite yacht design and manufacturing companies is italian called CRN yacht. They launched a new web site and just like their yachts the user interface is really cool. Check out their website at

Check out the 2D schematics of my favorite design in their line up - "Romance"

Employees First, Customers Second - Value Maximizers

I recently read a case study surprisingly coming from a little known (internationally speaking) hardware/software company from India called HCL.  Coming from India I knew HCL from its garage phase and followed its visionary leader Shiv Nader who was instrumental in taking this organization to good heights in spite of bureaucratic controls of the late eighties.

The management philosophy they follow is 'Employees First and Customers Second'. The attempt here was not to emphasize some HR satisfaction or motivate employees to do a better job by giving benefits or even just implementing good HR policies/practices but discover within the company how employees can add value to services. The ethos behind this thinking is brilliant because adding value to existing services or adding value to bring something new into the market encouraged innovation within HCL. Added value meant higher levels of achievement among employees translated directly to the end result being transferred to the m…

Purpose Maximizers

Just saw a fantastic presentation and findings of Dan Pink on what motivates people and how we can build organizations that better serve for the larger purpose of common good. I like the term he uses 'Purpose Maximizers' as they are people who are motivated by challenge, purpose, and are drawn into building something bigger than themselves. For example one of my foremost passions and purposes is to build the kingdom of God and that may translate in my realm & passion  in terms of bringing education and a biblical world view to the customers that I serve. Though this may be the purpose that drives me I still need to pay the bills and provide for my family. But the latter becomes secondary in terms of achieving something great collectively and that really becomes a motivating force/factor when you get people who are like minded in executing this purpose. I follow Bill Gates foundation and at his last speech at Harvard and TED the challenge he has been throwing out to the bri…