>Watson Can Swim

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Watson2

With IBM’s Watson beating the pants off Jennings and Rutter in Jeopardy, a lot of people want to know can computers can really think?

Both sides of this debate have shown up in the last few weeks in some fascinating editorials in the Wall Street Journal.

On one hand, on 23 February 2011, John Searle of the University of California, Berkeley wrote that “IBM invented an ingenious program–not a computer that can think.” According to Searle, Watson (or any computer for that matter) is not thinking but is simulating thinking.

In his most passionate expression, Searle exclaims: “Watson did not understand the questions, nor its answers, not that some of its answers were right and some wrong, not that it was playing a game, nor that it won–because it doesn’t understand anything.

Today, on 14 March 2011 on the other hand, Stephen Baker, author of “Final Jeopardy–Man vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything” took the opposing view and stated: “Watson is an early sighting of a highly disruptive force…one that can handle [information] jobs held by people.

To the question of whether machine thinking is “real” thinking? Baker quotes David Ferrucci, IBM’s chief scientist who when asked if Watson can think, responded “Can a submarine swim?”

The analogy is a very good one.

Just because a submarine doesn’t swim like a fish or a person, doesn’t mean it can’t swim. In fact and in a sense, for the very reason that it doesn’t swim exactly like a fish or person, it actually can swim better.

So too with computers, just because they don’t “think” like humans doesn’t mean they don’t think. They just think differently and again in sense, maybe for the very same reason, in certain ways they can think better.

How can a computer sometimes think better than a person? Well here are just some possible examples (non-exhaustive):

– Computers can evaluate options purely based on facts (and not get “bogged down” in emotions, conflict, ego, and so forth like human beings).
– Computers can add processing power and storage at the push of button, like in cloud computing (people have the gray matter between their ears that G-d gave them, period).
– Computers do not tire by a problem–they will literally mechanically keep attacking it until solved (like cracking a password).
– Computers can be upgraded over time with new hardware, software, and operating systems (unlike people who age and pass).

At the same time, it is important to note that people still trump computers in a number of facets:

– We can evaluate things based on our conscience and think in terms of good and evil, and faith in a higher power (a topic of a prior blog).
– We can care for one another–especially children and the needy–in a altruistic way that is not based on information or facts, but on love.
– We can work together like ants in a colony or bees in a hive or crowdsourcing on- or off-line to get large jobs done with diversity and empowerment.
– We are motivated to better ourselves and our world–to advance ourselves, families, and society through continuous improvement.

Perhaps, like the submarine and the fish, both of which can “swim” in their own ways, so too both computers and people can “think”–each in their own capacity. Together, computers and people can augment the other–being stronger and more effective in carrying out the great tasks and challenges that confront us and await.

>Leading With Business Intelligence

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Check out this great video on Mobile Business Intelligence (BI) put out by MicroStrategy (Note: this is not an endorsement of any particular vendor or product).

Watch the user fly through touchscreen tables, charts, graphs, maps, and more on an iPhone and iPad— Can it really be this easy?

This fits in with my firm belief that we’ve got to use business analytics, dashboarding, and everything “information visualization” (when done in a user-centric way) to drive better decision-making.

This is also ultimately a big part of what knowledge management is all about–we turn data into actionable insight!

What is so cool about this Mobile BI is that you can now access scorecards, data mining, slicing and dicing (Online Analytical Processing–OLAP), alerting, and reporting all from a smartphone or tablet.

This integrates with Google maps, and is being used by major organizations such as U.S. Postal Service and eBay.

Running a business, I would want this type of capability…wouldn’t you?

As Federal Judge John E. Jones said: “What gets measured get’s done, what gets measured and fed back gets done well, and what gets rewarded, gets repeated.”

>Match Me With You

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eHarmony and Match.com and other matchmaking sites are all the rage on the single scene with recommended partners for people being done by computer algorithm.

Now this concept of matching of people is going beyond people’s love lives and into the world of business.

CIO Magazine (1 Nov. 2010) reports in an article called “Call Center Matchmaking: Analytics pair customers with the right agents for better service” that companies are using similar technology to match customers and call centers reps in order to get higher satisfaction ratings and increased retention rates—and it’s working!

Since implementing the IBM system called Real-Time Analytics Matching Platform (RAMP), for example, Assurant has increased customer retention rates by 190 percent.

Other companies have been doing customer matching on a more elementary level for some time—for example, financial service firms route calls from high-net worth or high-balance customers to “premier agents.” Similarly, calls made at certain time are “routed to Boise instead of Bangalore.”

With computer systems like RAMP, there is a recognition that customers can do better by being matched with specific customer service representatives and that we can use business analytics to examine a host of data variables from sex and age to persistence in calling to match a customer to “the right” representative to handle their issues.

Based on success rates, computers have been shown to perform sophisticated business and data analysis, and to successfully match people for more successful business (and life) transactions.

If we can successfully pair people for love and for customer service, it makes me wonder what’s next (maybe happening already)? For example, will we pair people to “the right”:

  • Potential adoptee parents?
  • Neighborhoods?
  • Schools?
  • Jobs?
  • Bosses?
  • Coworkers?

In essence, as the “bar is raised” in a highly global and competitive environment, will we be pushed to seek to maximize our potential for success interaction with others—for developing high-performance and highly profitable interactions—by pairing exclusively with those that “screen” positive for us?

With genetic testing already being used to screen for babies that people want—like an order at Burger King—“hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us…”—we are already well on our way to “special ordering” the people in our lives.

Companies have also started to use intelligence and personality tests to weed out applicants, and the use of personality tests like Myers Briggs is already being employed for better understanding each other and working together.

However crude all this may be, it is essentially a high-tech way of trying to optimize our performance. The question is can we use technology to enhance personal interactions and elevate performance without subjecting people to undue bias, criticism, and violation of their privacy? This is a very slippery slope indeed.

Another potential problem with computer matching is that when we rely on computers to “tell us” when we have a good match, we are potentially missing potential opportunities for matches with others that cannot be easily quantified or summed up by a computer algorithm? As they say, for some “two birds of a feather flock together” and for others “opposite attract”—we shouldn’t limit ourselves to any creative, positive possibilities in relationships.

>Policing, Armed And Data-Rich

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http://news.yahoo.com/video/us-15749625/predictive-policing-22251759

Watch how COMPSTAT (COMPuter STATistics) and technology is being used for predictive policing.

Data, geographic information systems (GIS), and business intelligence/analytics come together to predict and fight crime in major U.S. cities like LA, NY, and others.

As one officer said: “Information can predict the future. Information can lead you to make good decisions and it’s shown in a business model everyday!”

>The Perilous Pitfalls of Unconscious Decision Making

>Every day as leaders, we are called upon to make decisions—some more important than others—but all having impacts on the organization and its stakeholders. Investments get made for better or worse, employees are redirected this way or that, customer requirements get met or are left unsatisfied, suppliers receive orders while others get cancelled, and stakeholders far and wide have their interests fulfilled or imperiled.

Leadership decisions have a domino effect. The decisions we make today will affect the course of events well into the future–especially when we consider a series of decisions over time.

Yet leadership decisions span the continuum from being made in a split second to those that are deliberated long and hard.

In my view, decision makers can be categorized into three types: “impulsive,” “withholding,” and “optimizers.”

  1. Impulsive leaders jump the gun and make a decision without sufficient information—sometimes possibly correctly, but often risking harm to the organization because they don’t think things through.
  2. Withholding leaders delay making decisions, searching for the optimal decision or Holy Grail. While this can be effective to avoid overly risky decisions, the problem is that they end up getting locked into “analysis paralysis”. They never get off the dime; decisions linger and die while the organization is relegated to a status quo—stagnating or even declining in times of changing market conditions.
  3. Optimizers rationally gather information, analyze it, vet it, and drive towards a good enough decision; they attempt to do due diligence and make responsible decisions in reasonable time frames that keep the organization on a forward momentum, meeting strategic goals and staying competitive. But even the most rational individuals can falter in the face of an array of data.

So it is clear that whichever mode decision makers assume, many decisions are still wrong. In my view, this has to do with the dynamics of the decision-making process. Even if they think they are being rational, in reality leaders too often make decisions for emotional or even unconscious reasons. Even optimizers can fall into this trap.

CIOs, who are responsible for substantial IT investment dollars, must understand why this happens and how they can use IT management best practices, structures, and tools to improve the decision-making process.

An insightful article that sheds light on unconscious decision-making, “Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions,” was published this month in Harvard Business Review.

The article states: “The reality is that important decisions made by intelligent, responsible people with the best information and intentions are sometimes hopelessly flawed.”

Here are two reasons cited for poor decision making:

  • Pattern Recognition—“faced with a new situation, we make assumptions based on prior experiences and judgments…but pattern recognition can mislead us. When we’re dealing with seemingly familiar situations, our brains can cause us to think we understand then when we don’t.”
  • Emotional Tagging—“emotional information attaches itself to the thoughts and experiences stored in our memories. This emotional information tells us whether to pay attention to something or not, and it tells us what sort of action we should be contemplating.” But what happens when emotion gets in the way and inhibits us from seeing things clearly?

The authors note some red flags in decision making: the presence of inappropriate self-interest, distorting attachments (bonds that can affect judgment—people, places, or things), and misleading memories.

So what can we do to make things better?

According to the authors of the article, we can “inject fresh experience or analysis…introduce further debate and challenge…impose stronger governance.”

In terms of governance, the CIO certainly comes with a formidable arsenal of IT tools to drive sound decision making. In particular, enterprise architecture provides for structured planning and governance; it is the CIO’s disciplined way to identify a coherent and agreed to business and technical roadmap and a process to keep everyone on track. It is an important way to create order of organizational chaos by using information to guide, shape, and influence sound decision making instead of relying on gut, intuition, politics, and subjective management whim—all of which are easily biased and flawed!

In addition to governance, there are technology tools for information sharing and collaboration, knowledge management, business intelligence, and yes, even artificial intelligence. These technologies help to ensure that we have a clear frame of reference for making decisions. We are no longer alone out there making decisions in an empty vacuum, but rather now we can reach out –far and wide to other organizations, leaders, subject matter experts, and stakeholders to get and give information, to analyze, to collaborate and to perhaps take what would otherwise be sporadic and random data points and instead connect the dots leading to a logical decision.

To help safeguard the decision process (and no it will never be failsafe), I would suggest greater organizational investments in enterprise architecture planning and governance and in technology investments that make heavily biased decisions largely a thing of the past.

>Integrated Marketing Communications and Enterprise Architecture

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There is a better way to showing customer love than inundating them with marketing and communications that are not coordinated, not focused, redundant, inconsistent, and not cost-effective.

This is the case of many organizations that have multiple, decentralized, lines of business (LOB) that have their own revenue and profitability targets. Typically LOBs, branches, and call centers solicit customers and their business independently, with distinct marketing campaigns, promotional offers, and customer surveys.

What’s the way to improve our customer interactions?

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is “a planning process designed to assure that all brand contacts received by a customer or prospect for a product, service, or organization are relevant to that person and consistent over time.” (American Marketing Association)

In DM Review, May 2008, Lisa Loftis provides us a vision of IMC utopia, where customer contact are coordinated, targeted, is helpful to the customer, and profitable to the firm:

“Imagine being able to coordinate and prioritize your entire program of promotions and communications across all customer touchpoints. You could eliminate conflicting offers across channels. You could stop inundating you bet customers with multiple marketing campaigns, You could deliver a seamless dialog with customers where every interaction is relevant to the customer, delivered at exactly the right time and satisfies a significant customer needs. In this universe, the very act of communicating with your customer fosters a positive experience, facilitates trust and expands the relationship.”

Why is IMC important?

“Timely, relevant communications go a long way toward increasing satisfaction, and there is no question that satisfied customers add to the bottom line.”

How is IMC related to User-centric Enterprise Architecture?

User-centric EA relies on IMC to make the architecture end-users experience more satisfying and beneficial to them and thus more valuable to the organization’s decision making. As opposed to traditional EA that often is user/customer blind and develops esoteric and convoluted “artifacts”, User-centric EA seeks to provide end-users with IMC-style information products based on relevant information that is easy to understand and readily available.

What are the enterprise technical solutions that need to be architected in order to build the overall organizational IMC capability?

  1. Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) systems—utilizing CRM system to manage customer contacts. This includes an organization “building a database about its customers that described relationships in sufficient detail so that management, salespeople, people providing service, and perhaps the customer directly could access information, match customer needs with product plans and offerings, remind customers of service requirements, know what other products a customer had purchased, and so forth.” (www.techtarget.com)
  2. Business Intelligence capabilities—“understanding customer behavior and preference through sophisticated predictive analytics, wading through myriad potential contacts to determine the highest-priority opportunities and tuning your data warehouse to work in conjunction with specific contact optimization applications.” (DM Review)
  3. Organizational Culture—adopting a customer contact optimization strategy in an organization that is decentralized is a tough sell.

In the end, developing true IMC capabilities involves moving the organization towards a more centralized model of asset management. That does not mean losing your agility and nimbleness in the marketplace in terms of strategy and decision making, but rather using your consolidated organizational assets (such as data warehouses and business intelligence, CRM systems, and the breadth of depth of your product offerings) to your advantage. You want a unified brand and voice when talking with the customer.

>Executive Dashboards and Enterprise Architecture

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Enterprise architecture makes information visible to enable better decision making in the organization. One tool to help do this is the executive dashboard.

In management information systems, a dashboard is a executive information system user interface that (similar to an automobile’s dashboard) is designed to be easy to read. For example, a product might obtain information from the local operating system in a computer, from one or more applications that may be running, and from one or more remote sites on the Web and present it as though it all came from the same source. (Wikipedia)

Dashboards help manage information overload:

  • “After three decades of aggressive computerization, companies are drowning in data and information. People produced about five exabytes of new information in 2002, twice the amount created just two years earlier” (Trend: The New Rules of Information Management by Jeffrey Rothfeder)
  • Dashboard are a way to take the fire hose flood of information that we get every day and make it more actionable by structuring it, focusing it, and making it more understandable often through visual displays. Note, this is similar to User-centric Enterprise Architecture’s use of principles of communications and design, such as information visualization to effectively communicate the baseline, target, and transition plan in the organization.

Dashboards provide business intelligence:

  • Dashboards, like enterprise architecture itself, contribute to translating data into business intelligence. EA does this by capturing, analyzing, cataloging, and serving up information in useful and usable ways to enhance decision making by the end-users. Dashboards do this by capturing and aggregating performance metrics, and displaying them in easy-to-read and often, customizable formats.

Dashboards generally focus on performance:

  • Dashboards generally are used for displaying, monitoring, and managing an organization’s performance metrics. Note, “performance” is one of the perspectives of the enterprise architecture, so dashboards are a nifty way to make that EA perspective really come alive!
  • According to DM Review, 15 April 2008, “Dashboards Help Drive and Improve Performance Metrics…Presented in highly visual charts and graphs, this data can provide each level of the organization with the information it needs to best perform…Dashboards also can be a key driver of performance improvement initiatives, offering a simple and graphical way to make key performance indicators (KPIs) visible throughout the enterprise.”

Dashboards typically provide activity monitoring and drilldown capability:

  • “The most effective dashboards allow users to drill down into the KPIs to find root cause or areas likely to cause problems. Some can even be configured to alert maintenance or support personnel when performance drops” or dangerous thresholds are crossed. Dashboard also help “make comparisons of multiple data sources” over time. These functions are called business activity monitoring, and when applied to the organization’s network, for example, is referred to a network monitoring.
  • The ability to monitor and manage performance using the dashboard is similar to ability to monitor and manage the organization’s track along it roadmap using EA!
  • The most effective dashboards, like the most effective enterprise architectures, are those that provide information in multiple layers of detail, so that the executives can get the high-level summary, the mid-level managers can understand the relationships between the information, and the analysts can drill down and get the detail.

Dashboards—an effective human-machine interface:

  • Dashboards done right, are an effective EA tool, and serve as a window into the organization’s performance; they provides real-time, summary and granular information for making quick and specific decisions to positively affect performance.