Friday, December 22, 2006

A different bandwagon

IBM's Almaden Location in Second LifeI've been experimenting today with Second Life, Linden Labs' virtual reality environment. The environment is socially-oriented and derives much of its value from user generated content through scriptable objects that users can gift or sell through an in-game economy (although 'game' is a bit of a misnomer). There was news recently of Second Life's first virtual real-estate millionaire.

Various 'first life' businesses have also begun to make the move into Second Life: IBM have, for some time, had a dedicated set of Islands for their own use, which they've recently opened up to the public (see picture). Reuters have opened up a bureau dedicated to Second Life news, and Harvard Law School recently ran real classes in the environment.

The key to the success of Second Life is it's social aspect. Think of it as the next evolution of IRC, instant messaging, and collaboration software, rather than a game. This collaborative aspect may hold some possibilities for business intelligence. Academic and consultant Richard Hackathorn argues that Second Life holds some interesting possibilities for data visualisation. While true, I don't think that a "forest of data" is really the main benefit that this kind of environment can deliver. Rather, it's the collaborative aspect, the ability to meet in a virtual environment that relaxes the real-world laws of physics, the ability to share information in a new way that will deliver any benefits that might accrue. Assuming the technical hurdles are overcome, it may be one more way in which creative decisions can be supported.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Strategy and Russell Ackoff: One More Time

I promise this is the last post I will do for a while talking about Russell Ackoff, but I thought this was too good to ignore. I was browsing Tom Peters' blog when I came across this entry. In his post, as well as other places, Tom criticises strategic planning as a useful business activity. To back this up, he quotes Ackoff as cited by Henry Mintzberg in his book The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning:

Recently I asked three corporate executives what decisions they had made in the last year that would not have been made were it not for their corporate plans. All had difficulty identifying one such decision. Since all of the plans are marked 'secret' or 'confidential,' I asked them how their competitors might benefit from possession of their plans. Each answered with embarrassment that their competitors would not benefit.

Imagine if the same question was asked in relation to some of the latest BI tools - especially executive dashboards. I wonder how many senior executives with a dashboard available to them made a decision that would have been different if they didn't have access to it? What would be the outcome if their competitors managed to get a glance at it? I suspect that the reactions would not be too dissimilar to Ackoff's questions, unfortunately...

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

New Blog Links

I've added links to two new blogs in the sidebar - Stephen Few's Visual Business Intelligence and Andrew Vande Moere's Information Aesthetics, both worth reading.

Friday, December 1, 2006

And speaking of Russell Ackoff...

He's got a new book out called Management f-LAWS. As the name suggests, the book is about how management really works, rather than some idealised view of managerial utopia. Essentially a set of management homilies based on Ackoff's insights from decades of observation, the freely downloadable part of the book ranges from the interesting ("Managers who don't know how to measure what they want settle for wanting what they can measure") to the whimsically silly ("The legibility of a male manager's handwriting is in inverse proportion to his seniority"). Perhaps a useful book for BI professionals, but look for the commentary from Sally Bibb on each of the 'f-LAWS' for the real value.