Feb 27, 2014

Forecast 2014: How to master disruptive technologies - Computerworld

Social, mobile and analytics technologies are disrupting business as usual at companies in all industries. In 2014, the disruption will continue, morphing into a new kind of business as usual with enterprises expanding their reliance on the cloud, mobile technologies, social media and, increasingly, predictive analytics. The goals: reducing costs, creating new revenue streams, boosting customer satisfaction and beefing up brand awareness, to name a few.
In the next three to five years, the five technologies most likely to upset the status quo are social networking, the cloud and software as a service (SaaS), self-service IT, predictive analytics and mobile payments, according toComputerworld's Forecast 2014 survey of 221 IT executives.
At Washington-based Special Olympics, that disruption is already well underway and yielding significant benefits, according to Noah Broadwater, head of digital products and technology.
"We have no real data center, and most things are cloud-enabled. We're already entirely on Office 365," Microsoft's SaaS-based suite of tools, says Broadwater.
Additionally, the nonprofit international sports organization, which has seven offices around the world and program offices in all 50 states, has hired a social networking expert and significantly expanded its presence on dozens of social sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest. Broadwater measures the return on this investment not in dollars, but in doers.
"As a nonprofit, it's all about getting volunteers and getting people to come to events," Broadwater explains. "Social media is perfect for that. We use it as a means to get the word out and get people involved." The medium has been instrumental to the success of an initiative called Project Unify, which aims to include people with intellectual disabilities in established athletic events.
"We use social media to get people to be ambassadors for the program, and it has been phenomenal how successful it has been. We are targeting millennials and the generation after millennials, and social media is where they are," he notes.
Leveraging the cloud for data collection and analysis is another key initiative for Special Olympics, which, according to Broadwater, maintains the world's largest online database of health records of people with intellectual disabilities.
Looking ahead, the plan is to build data marts that integrate health data and competition data with a goal of understanding if and how health and participation in competitive athletics are related. "We're also tying in clinics that do nutritional studies," Broadwater says.

A New Approach to Manufacturing

At EWIE Co., an Ann Arbor-based commodity management and manufacturing services company, the goal in combining cloud and analytics technologies is nothing short of changing the $340 million company's strategic approach to its core business -- machine maintenance.
"In the past, the mindset was to fix a machine when it breaks," says CIO Raman Mehta. That meant waiting for a failure to occur, then interrupting production -- which could involve bringing down an entire assembly line -- to make repairs.

Cloud and analytics technologies are now disrupting that way of doing business, enabling EWIE to shift to "condition-based monitoring," which entails machines continually streaming data about temperature, vibration levels, scrap production and other factors to a cloud-based EWIE system, so EWIE engineers can proactively intervene before a problem occurs.

"We are one of the first companies trying to get in to the core of manufacturing with a cloud offering," Mehta says. "It's one of our important growth opportunities," he says, noting that the new cloud-based monitoring and diagnostic service offering positions EWIE as a single point of contact with manufacturing customers for diagnostics, parts and repairs.

Additionally, EWIE engineers who work on-site at customers' manufacturing facilities -- which can span the length of two or three football fields -- now carry mobile devices so they can directly enter data about a machine's status, rather than jotting down the information and entering it into the system later.
"Once you capture data at the point of performance, the accuracy of that data is much higher," Mehta explains. And more-accurate data yields more-accurate maintenance schedules.
Mehta says top management at EWIE "loves the speed" at which IT can enable new service offerings by using the cloud. "They don't have to wait weeks for IT to procure more hardware and a software license and then be in a perpetual software [upgrade and enhancement] schedule," he says. Another benefit is that internal IT staff can shift their focus away from what Mehta describes as "nuts and bolts techie" concerns to become more aligned with the company's business goals.
The greatest challenge with the cloud, Mehta says, is ensuring the integration of older back-end systems to the newer cloud-based applications and services.
"It's easy to take your enterprise to the cloud, but very difficult to bring the cloud to your enterprise," he says. "We are not a greenfield company, so any cloud offering has to integrate and interoperate with existing information assets." That's why Mehta advises others looking to implement cloud technologies to focus on integration and the architecture behind the integration. "Integration is absolutely critical," he says.
His other advice is to work closely -- perhaps more closely than before -- with leaders in the business units so they understand that moving to the cloud involves trade-offs. For example, to collect information on mobile devices, EWIE had to change its established workflow to accommodate the software.
"The business gets speed and agility, but you also give up some customization," Mehta points out. "Once in the cloud, you are working with constraints that the software imposes. There needs to be a willingness to align our business processes and adapt."

Quick Action Required

Dave Finnegan, chief information and interactive officer at $394 million Build-A-Bear Workshop, knows all about adapting to outside forces and adjusting quickly to constraints imposed by providers. In the midst of rolling out its new "store of the future" concept, which incorporates leading-edge mobile and interactive touchscreen technology plus analytics and gamification elements, one of the St. Louis-based retailer's key technology providers decided to discontinue development on a technology that was a cornerstone of the project.
"One of the key challenges is that [vendors] can also change platforms really quickly, and not just move to a newer version of it, but discontinue it completely. We had to scramble for the next platform and how to build the next store-of-the-future elements. When [vendors] cancel or change direction, we have to be able to react," Finnegan says. "Things like that cause my biggest heartburn."
Finnegan has formed a core team of IT professionals dedicated to managing disruptive technologies and outside service vendors. "It helps us be really nimble with external players," he says.
The ROI on these technologies also has been significant. Last year, sales at newly designed store locations were up 30% or more.
Another -- perhaps bigger -- benefit of mastering disruptive technologies can't be measured in dollars but contributes directly to the company's long-term success.
"There's an excitement that is generated from stepping into the future," Finnegan says. "We found that our store-of-the-future initiative has served as a catalyst to thinking about innovation in our company in a unique way. We can use what we learned in the store-of-the-future concept and apply it to other parts of the business and how we drive innovation."
"It helps to breed next-generation thinking," he adds. "In that way, it's a very positive disruption for us."
Forecast 2014
Advice for Would-Be Disrupters
• Become best friends with your company's legal department before contracting with cloud vendors and other service providers. That's the first step in protecting your company's record retention and data privacy.
• Hire or train a procurement specialist who understands both technology and contracts.
• Find a partner in the business to jointly conduct pilot projects with disruptive technologies. Figure things out together in a controlled way.
• Have a content plan, not just a technology platform, for social media.

15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand CIO.com

15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand CIO.com

NOAA wants to turn its ocean of data into jobs - Computerworld

From ocean sensors to orbiting satellites, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) collects about 30 petabytes of environmental data annually. But only about 10% of the data is made public, something the agency now wants to change.
NOAA wants to move its vast amount of untapped data into a public cloud, but without having to pay a whopping cloud services bill.
The agency believes the data has a lot of value to it, and is now seeking partnerships with commercial entities, universities and others. An ideal partner might be someone who can apply advanced analytics to the data to create new products and value-added services that also generates new jobs.
"It's not just about getting the information out there, it's about creating jobs and creating new businesses," Joe Klimavicz, NOAA's CIO, said in an interview.
While the data can be used to create new commercial products, NOAA wants it to also be publicly available without charge. "American citizens have already paid for this data and we don't believe they should have to pay for it again," said Klimavicz.
NOAA got the ball rolling on its plan last Friday with the release of a request for information (RFI). The RFI gives the government the ability to collect ideas without obligation.
It is seeking partners who can rapidly scale and handle traffic surges, "removing government infrastructure as a bottleneck to the pace of American innovation and enabling new value-added services and unimaginable integration into our daily lives."
Klimavicz doesn't want a static site that acts as repository of data, but something that is continuously updated and linked to advanced analytics and computational capabilities.
The agency doesn't have the budget to accomplish this task on its own, said Klimavicz.
Those responding to the RFI, are being asked to describe their "vision of potential innovations, products, or opportunities," and how "NOAA's data could create jobs or spur the economy."
There are technical challenges as well, including a request in the RFI for describing "a viable methodology for extracting environmental data" that is dispersed geographically.
The agency wants the ideas by March 24.
 covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues forComputerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at Twitter @DCgov or subscribe toPatrick's RSS feed Thibodeau RSS. His e-mail address ispthibodeau@computerworld.com.

Feb 26, 2014

Weapons Transfers in Syria, Guy Bechor

As the fighting in Syria worsens  , becoming clearer  the military weakness of the triad Assad - Hezbollah - Iran. According to reports , Israel found the weak point of this , and it was there that she presses . This technique was Napoleon 's favorite maneuver ,' manoeuvre sur les derrières,'  and Hezbollah and Assad feel helpless in this weak point . But what about the strategic implications of the move ? On behind the scenes of the Israeli bombing - seemingly in Syria and Lebanon. 
 Mysterious Israeli bombing : Has military weakness of Hezbollah - Assad  been found?

By Dr. Guy Bechor

Fighting in the northern suburbs of Damascus and the mountains Kalmon between the Assad regime and various Sunni insurgent groups - are at their fiercest . After the total collapse of the " Geneva Conference " and personal failure of U.S. Secretary of State , John Kerry ,further fighting flared  in Syria , and today is full on , with the number of fatalities  approaching  150,000 . Iranians have decided to take an active part in the battles , they have no choice , and are sending experts to Syria , weapons and soldiers. The key fighter is Hezbollah , the Lebanese Shi'ite militia , maintaining Iran's  vital interests . Once it was the front against Israel , and today it is saving the regime of Bashar Assad , which Iran sees as the supreme interest for her.

Hezbollah needs to move into Syria active fighters and military equipment as needed , especially missiles. But here is proving  to be the weak link of this Shiite axis : the border between Syria and Lebanon .

Once it was a powerful  Hezbollah ,  smuggling missiles and military equipment from Syria to Lebanon . The border was controlled , at least in many points , and Hezbollah used it . But the situation has changed . Today the border is full of Sunni insurgents , harassing convoys of Hezbollah and harming them using roadside bombs and missiles. The exposed crossing for Hezbollah has been difficult , but it has no choice , this is the life line for Syrian Shiite and Hezbollah is operating under instructions from Tehran .

According to reports from around the world this week Israel attacked convoys of weapons from Lebanon to Syria. Once it was going in the opposite direction , but now weapons , including advanced missiles , making their way from warehouses in Lebanon to Syria. When the weapons are taken out of the warehouses , and must be exposed , there is vulnerability and weakness of the Iranian axis - Hezbollah - Assad . And weaknesses that Israel struck , according to the world media , and perhaps even struck.

Hezbollah , Syria and Iran feel helpless in the face of these air attacks , because if they admit it, they confirm  themselves  their weapons are flowing from Lebanon to Syria , along with Hezbollah fighters . They also turn the attention of Sunni , Salafi insurgents  to this border . And therefore they are silent , the only way left . Everything they say will only cause more damage. Ironically,  the defense minister in 1982, Ariel Sharon wanted to sever the ties between Syria and Lebanon geographically , and now such a thing becomes reality.

 Israel created a situation of a butterfly screw . To either tighten the screw or loosen it .  Shiite need these crossings as a matter of existence. It is a chink in the armor of the Iranian - Syrian - Hezbollah allience .Israel is using this butterfly Screw politically and militarily  as an asset .

What happens behind the scenes of the alleged air raid  ?

1 Assad troubles are escalating and his expanding operations at the border between Syria and Lebanon , a border that actually does not exist anymore, indicate that . Once the weapons were passing from Syria to Lebanon , but now the direction is reversed. These weapons are designed to come into play in battles in central Syria , indicating the intensity of the fighting, and the degree of severity .

This is a war of attrition , a clear indication of the direction the war is taking, is still not in sight , but each side is paying a heavy toll , especially Bashar's regime .


2. Hezbollah can not take over the breached border , which is a growing problem  . It's not just that it was trying to get into Syria , but also that the Sunnis are trying to incite Lebanon against Hezbollah. Car bombs targeting enormous transports of explosives ,  has been exploding at a rate of twice a week in Hezbollah command areas in southern Beirut . This border is the weak link of the Hezbollah not only with regard to Syria , but also with regard to the protection and its existence . This is the way it penetrates the border , but  also its its enemies .


3 high quality intelligence . Iran Axis - Assad - Hezbollah should be very worried about the quality of military intelligence  . How does the army know when's the important convoy on its way along the border , where and at what time , and why not another particular convoy . Actually , no intelligence organization in the world has such high quality intelligence about what is happening in Syria , Iran and Lebanon as the IDF , which should greatly worry the Axis of Evil .  That creates a kind of paranoia , probably justified, and lack of confidence. In this climate of pressure, they may make mistakes.

Why the paranoia ? Because they never know when  and if an aerial strike will be upon them.


4 In the past it was an Israeli attack on introducing weapons  from Syria into Lebanon , but here you will notice that the movement is reversed. If this weapon was designed for use in the Civil War , why should Israel intervene ? It will still be clarified . Is it our job to serve as a kind of " judge " along the long border between Syria and Lebanon ?


5 Hezbollah continues to bleed as it has never bled before. Hundreds of fighters are being killed in Syria , and the bodies are transferred secretly and at night to Lebanon for burial quietly and fast .Hezbollah is also involved in the civil war Sunni - Allawi in northern Lebanese areas of Tripoli , and it suffers every week car bombs and suicide  Sunni bombers  in areas of its command in southern Beirut , Regional Beer Hassan , or the North Valley Lebanon , where it has military bases . Sometimes Sunni insurgents are shelling bases in the Bekaa from inside Syria.

 6 Assad was brutally crushed in the last two weeks , even though he and his Iranian his Iranian backers , have responded with uncompromising ferocity . Assad has already lost the Southern and Northern Syria , and now he is fighting for what's left of the center. Unfortunately , each side sees this campaign as matter of life and death , so he does not want to nor can he give up . War in Syria is constantly changing , as and when internal and external factors intervene ..

7 According to foreign reports, Israel signaled Hezbollah military  through indirect and diplomatic means that it was not interested in engaging militarily with it . Direct hostilities against Israel by Hezbollah is certainly strong , it has a reserve that can borrow fighters and fire missiles . But it did not expect and  is powerless in light of the Israeli attack from its flanks , and , the border between Lebanon and Syria . This was a favorite battle tactic of Napoleon.A surprise attack from the flanks , 'manoeuvre sur les derrières' , as he called it . The method of Napoleon : his army half concentrated against the enemy in front, and the other half hid and attacked from the flanks. The surprised enemy was beaten because he had not expected to come at him from the side. Worse still, as the enemy ,  turn to face this threat , and largely abandoned the  front they lost the battle . For example , The Battle of Arcole ( November 1796 ) , the Austrians faced Napoleon's army , and this flank attack led the French to victory .

 8 All  power of Hezbollah in Lebanon is crashing , because its face was always south, towards Israel , with the abandonment of his neck to the north and east . Now all its enemies are coming against it from the north and east , so its old battlements are useless . A dug-in Hezbollah also made it static and vulnerable. Had the IDF used distraction techniques and a classic maneuver , the Second Lebanon War would have attacked Hezbollah from its wings , where it is vulnerable, North and Nast. As did in Sidon Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan in the First Lebanon war against the PLO .

9 Iran is deeply involved in the fighting in Syria , but it is very far away , and  the distance hurts . It also has no common border with Syria .The Iraq supply routes are very difficult , so it holds the satellite founded organization , Hezbollah. Iran is having trouble supporting the Bashar regime , and understands its power is not as  vast , as she would hope .

Will Hezbollah or the rest of the military  react against Israel ? No doubt they are seething , but to open a military front with Israel , it would be suicide for them , and they do not want to commit suicide, at least not yet against the Israelis. Could also they come from the flanks? We'll wait and see .

10 Finally, there is no doubt that this is a clever tactic of the Israeli army , but for what purpose? If the past military involvements it was justified with five IDF bombings in Syria and Lebanon , for transporting weapons . Today bombardment is due to transfers of weapons in the civil war . Is it in Israel's interest to intervene and take a side in the civil war ? NO , this is the basic position of this site from the first day , three years ago .

There is no doubt that the Sunnis would like to see the Israel march into Syria , but it is certainly NOT in Israel's interest . It worries me to hear news of tightening ties between Israel and the rebels. Which rebel , Salafis ,Al Qaeda Al Nusra?The Nationalist rebels are in retreat , so it is best not to contact any party , this is not our war .

War in Syria is worsening , and it involving other countries. The biggest asset we have is neutrality , and it would be very serious if we sacrifice this asset. In this instance the strategy needs to overcome even the most brilliant military tactics .

ABC boss Mark Scott signals new corrections policy

ABC managing director Mark Scott has signalled a dramatic shift in the way the national broadcaster publishes corrections and apologies after becoming embroiled in a series of controversies over the standard of its reporting and its refusal to admit mistakes.
Mr Scott, who is also editor-in-chief of the ABC, last night rejected suggestions the broadcaster did not publish corrections but conceded to a Senate estimates hearing that it needed the equivalent of a “page two”, where newspapers typically run corrections, apologies and clarifications.
The ABC has been criticised this year for airing allegations that Australian navy personnel deliberately burned the hands of asylum-seekers intercepted at sea, and then being slow to correct the record and apologise when the incidents could not be proved.
It has refused to apologise for portraying Chris Kenny, a columnist for The Australian and television personality, having sex with a dog, triggering a defamation action. And last night, the corporation’s Media Watch program ended a week of stonewalling by indicating it would correct false claims The Australian was losing $40 million-$50m a year, although host Paul Barry was resisting an on-air correction. The newspaper is lodging a complaint with the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
Heading into the Senate hearing last night, Mr Scott declined to comment directly on the broadcaster’s policies on issuing corrections, saying: “The ABC has the most detailed set of editorial policies and guidelines of anyone in the Australian media and that is what guides our journalism and our decision making.”
Inside the hearing, Liberal senator Anne Ruston told Mr Scott it was her impression “you pick up the paper many times in the morning and on page two, there’s often an apology or a correction or some inaccurate information”.
“I’m an ABC listener and an ABC watcher, so, and it’s been my predominant station that I watch, I can honestly say that I’ve never, ever heard a retraction, an apology or a correction on the ABC,” she said.
Mr Scott said the ABC had run “well over 100” corrections last year. “We’ll be happy to run corrections and clarifications because we take our accuracy very seriously,” he said. “What I want to do is create a space where people can look for it just like newspapers have a page two.”
He added: “It depends on the story but ... we need to make it easier for our audience to find corrections or clarifications on stories and we are most likely to create one place, one website - prominently displayed - which will carry all of those rather than people having to go to individual stories or sites.”
Before Mr Scott’s appearance, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull told The Australian the ABC’s “obligations to be accurate and impartial are set out in its act, and the board has the obligation to ensure they are complied with”.
“I am the minister, not the editor-in-chief, and I don’t propose to run my own version of Media Watch commenting on every controversial story on the ABC, or anywhere else,” he said. “I would simply note as I have in the past that the ABC, like The Australian and any other news outlet, enhances rather than diminishes its credibility by acknowledging, correcting, and where appropriate, apologising for errors where they have been made.”
His comments came after The Australian revealed Media Watch had likely breached the ABC’s editorial code of conduct for failing to seek comment on a story and for misleading the public over the claim the newspaper was losing up to $50m a year - a claim editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell has dismissed as “incorrect”.
The ABC’s Code of Practice and Editorial Policies places the obligation on the ABC to make reasonable efforts to ensure that material facts are accurate and presented in context.
The ABC’s lawyers tried to argue that Media Watch did not have to seek comment for stories, in defence of Barry’s failure to contact any representatives of the newspaper before airing inaccurate claims about the newspaper’s profitability. “There was no obligation or journalistic imperative to seek a response from your client in the circumstances of this broadcast,” ABC’s senior lawyer, Grant McAvaney wrote in a letter on Monday night.
Media Watch also misrepresented an interview given by Mitchell, selectively editing the clip to make it appear the paper had a bleaker future than was the case. The edit omitted his comment the claim of $50m in losses was “completely incorrect, we have not even gone close to that”.
Yesterday, Barry denied he had cut the interview in order to mislead viewers. “We had to come in and come out (of the interview) somewhere. We had already said it was factually incorrect,” he said.
In an email to the newspaper last night, Barry said Media Watch would “certainly correct the record” on the program’s website. But he would not issue an on-air correction until the newspaper revealed its financial results for the previous year.
Mr Scott last night defended Media Watch but confirmed The Australian had not been directly approached before the program aired, speculating on the paper’s profitability. He said the question about whether the paper should have been approached directly in relation to the story “is a matter which will be reviewed independently by our audience and consumer affairs division”.
He played down the journalistic integrity of Media Watch, saying it was “closer to David and Margaret’s At the Movies than it is to a news program”. However, he said it was reviewed under the broadcaster’s editorial policies “and if in fact a breach is held, a breach can be upheld against Media Watch or if Mr Mitchell is unhappy with that finding he can pursue that with the ACMA”.
Of the 21,280 written complaints made to the ABC last year, 3177 were investigated. A total of 220 complaints were upheld with the ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs unit determining that “editorial standards had not been met”

Feb 21, 2014

Jobs must go, but who’ll help the jobless? | The Australian

Illustration: Eric Lobbecke
Illustration: Eric Lobbecke Source: Supplied
THIRTY years ago, John Button, the industry minister in the Hawke Labor government, began the process of dismantling the protectionist walls that surrounded our country. The process has been going on for all of those three decades and continues today. Probably the first workers to be sacrificed for the greater good were in the textile, clothing and footwear sector. I well remember the closure of a large mill in Wangaratta. It was my first experience of how devastating the removal of hope was for those affected. When you live in Wangaratta your home isn’t worth much, and the market goes into a tailspin when hundreds of people realise they will all have to move to a big city to have any chance of getting a job. I wonder now if the government of which I was a member really did enough to help those who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.
My natural inclination as a young senator was to query whether these decisions should be taken. The longer I served the more I learned, and the more I learned I came to realise it was simply not possible to keep every industry running. At that stage I had come to understand that Australia could not efficiently make everything. Now I am beginning to wonder if we can make much at all. Right around the developed world, the number of people employed in the manufacturing sector has been declining, and it would seem it is most unlikely that trend will change.
You don’t need a PhD in economics to understand that throwing huge sums of money at the car industry would not keep the Australian production lines running. Ben Chifley was so proud when he was photographed standing next to the first FX Holden to come off the line. I doubt Tony Abbott, assuming he wins another term, will be too keen to be photographed with the last Ford, the last Holden or the last Toyota. But I do not believe the PM or his government is responsible for the decisions of foreign companies to close their Australian automotive plants.
In the early 1950s, when Holden began to be the preferred choice of Australian motorists, who could have envisaged the world of today? China was still suffering from the after-effects of WWII and its revolution. These convulsions meant famines were common. There was little or no power, infrastructure or a skilled workforce. If anyone had suggested China would become the superpower it is today, they would have been pilloried. Anyone who suggested that by 2014 China would hold a big chunk of US national debt would have been locked away in a mental institution.
The high dollar and the fact our production lines are about 10 per cent of the size they need to be to produce the right economies of scale was enough to convince me the old thinking had to be jettisoned. Those people desperately clinging to the view that a few hundred million here or there would be enough to save these enterprises were ignoring reality.
It is easy for me to come to this point of view. It is an intellectual exercise, pure and simple. It’s easy for economists and academics to fill the opinion pages of our financial press with their textbook analyses. For them, as for myself, there are no consequences. We don’t lose our jobs. We do not suffer dislocation. Our hopes and dreams are not shattered. We do not have to worry about feeding our families. For us, life will go on.
But for tens of thousands of our fellow citizens, a potential death knell for the way of life of them and their families has been sounded. With the announcement of the closure of the Port Henry aluminium smelter in Geelong, hundreds more families are trying to cope with an uncertain future. These people are smart enough to know that if Australia can’t succeed in the simplest form of secondary processing, the chances of jobs in manufacturing are pretty low. For some among them, the chances are very low indeed.
What kind of future can a 55-year-old fitter working in a car plant look forward to? That person has probably never been unemployed. It is hard to undertake retraining at that stage of life. No matter what skill set you may possess, no matter what field you work in, if you are over 50, finding a job can be well-nigh impossible. Employers show little liking for older workers, and their preference lies with the young.
On this page and on other forums I have supported the government’s stance. Be it cars, smelters or canned fruit, I have put my hand up to agree enough is enough. That having been said, the real question that must be answered is what will be available to displaced workers? I do not question where Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey stand on the issue of what can be done to help them. The problem is that pious words and good intentions are not good enough. They must be backed up with real action.
Tens of thousands of workers need to be told urgently what assistance is available to them. What kind of retraining at what cost? What help can be given to look at where the new jobs are going to be? Will there be a package for workers who have to uproot their families and move to another city? Will counselling be provided? The questions go on and on, and unfortunately I have seen very few answers so far.
I can understand why the PM had no plan to save these jobs. What I cannot understand is why there seems to have been so little planning on helping the people. Modern politicians have to follow the doctrines of natural economics, I get that. But what our politicians have to understand is that when they make rational decisions they can sometimes ruin the lives of way too many. I want the Prime Minister to go to Geelong and Melbourne and Adelaide and tell all those facing an uncertain future exactly what he plans to do for them. Button was sure of the direction he took. At least some of the funds not being paid in protection should be spent on those whose lives are in the balance. This is above politics, and it is a test Abbott must pass.

Feb 20, 2014

Big Data, Big Blunders - WSJ.com

Companies are finding that big data doesn't necessarily translate into easy success.
Experts who specialize in computer-driven analysis of large streams of information say too many companies throw themselves into big-data projects, only to fall into common traps and end up with nothing to show for their efforts. Some 44% of information-technology professionals surveyed by business-software firm Infochimps Inc., for example, said they had worked on big-data initiatives that got scrapped.
Here are five mistakes companies commonly make with big data and tips from experts on how to avoid them.
1. Data for Data's Sake
Experts say too many companies have been seduced by the promise of big data, and start a project without first asking themselves this basic question: What is our goal with this information? Technology isn't a substitute for leadership when it comes to deciding business objectives.
Steve Sommer, chief marketing officer of big-data company Splunk Inc.,SPLK -0.47% says a large investment-management firm came to him about a year ago because it had 100 engineers in Bangalore, India, who had been working for a year on a big-data project that produced nothing of value. It isn't uncommon to see firms gathering up gobs of data "with no clear objective," he says.
Darian Shirazi, founder of Radius Intelligence Inc., calls this a problem of "haystacks without needles." Companies too often "don't know what they're looking for, because they think big data will solve the problem," he says.
Companies should have an objective in mind before starting a project. What do they want to learn? What questions are they trying to answer? But companies need to be flexible enough to tweak goals if the data take them to unexpected places, experts say.
2. Talent Gap
The McKinsey Global Institute has estimated U.S. demand for employees skilled in data analysis could outstrip supply by 50% to 60% by 2018.
"It's an acute skill shortage out there," says Jesse Harriott, chief analytics officer ofConstant Contact Inc., CTCT -0.59% a small-business marketing company.
Annika Jimenez, of EMC Corp.'s EMC -0.90% Greenplum data-analytics business, recommends companies start prepping their internal talent pools now, while big data is still in its infancy. "Now is the time to find those people and start elevating them," says Ms. Jimenez, senior director of analytics solutions. One option, she says, is to give existing analytics specialists new training in big-data skills such as the programming language Python.
Educational institutions are setting up certification programs and new degrees under names like data science, decision sciences and machine learning, which may help ease the shortage.
Experts also anticipate that technology eventually will make it easier for nonexperts to crunch sophisticated statistics—much like services such as WordPress and Tumblr made it easy for novices to create websites.
3. Data, Data Everywhere
Too many companies collect reams of data but fail to keep it organized.
A pharmacy chain, for example, may have a consumer's phone number in a database of loyalty-card customers, and the same consumer's email address in a database of website shoppers, says Roman Stanek, chief executive of business-intelligence firm GoodData Corp. Big-data software may be able to link the data fragments together, but that takes time, money and resources away from the project's main goal, he says.
To avoid this, companies should do a "data audit" before starting a project to ensure the information they want to mine is in a single database and format, says Michael Gluck, owner of VGMarket, a market-research firm specializing in videogames.
4. Infighting
Big-data initiatives can be waylaid by organizational friction, including territorial spats between departments over who owns a project. Ms. Jimenez says she saw this happen at a previous employer.
To avoid infighting, more companies are hiring "chief analytics officers" or putting someone in a similar role to set the tone from the top about the importance of big data, she says.
Companies seeking to weave data-driven decision making into their organizations "must place the transformation front and center at the C-level table, or risk significant erosion of comparative advantage to the first movers who are getting it right," she wrote in a recent blog post.
5. Aiming Too High
Too many companies start out with expensive and high-risk big-data initiatives, says Michael Chui, a principal at McKinsey Global Institute. Big-bang implementations are "rarely a path to success," he says.
There are times when a complex problem requires a complex approach—say, building software from scratch or adding data centers—but often companies can get more bang for their buck by embracing smaller projects with narrower goals.
Racking up tangible results quickly with smaller projects builds confidence within the organization and gets skeptics on board, experts say.
Ms. Ovide is a Wall Street Journal reporter based in San Francisco. She can be reached at shira.ovide@wsj.com.

Why Six Sigma Projects Often Fail - WSJ.com

What do weight-loss plans and process-improvement programs such as Six Sigma and "lean manufacturing" have in common?
They typically start off well, generating excitement and great progress, but all too often fail to have a lasting impact as participants gradually lose motivation and fall back into old habits.
Many companies have embraced Six Sigma, a quality-control system designed to tackle problems such as production defects, and lean manufacturing, which aims to remove all processes that don't add value to the final product. But many of those companies have come away less than happy. Recent studies, for example, suggest that nearly 60% of all corporate Six Sigma initiatives fail to yield the desire results.
We studied process-improvement programs at large companies over a five-year period to gain insight into how and why so many of them fail. We found that when confronted with increasing stress over time, these programs react in much the same way a metal spring does when it is pulled with increasing force—that is, they progress though "stretching" and "yielding" phases before failing entirely. In engineering, this is known as the "stress-strain curve," and the length of each stage varies widely by material.
A closer look at the characteristics of improvement projects at each of the three stages of the stress-strain curve—stretching, yielding and failing—offers lessons for executives seeking to avoid Six Sigma failures. The discussion that follows is based on what happened at one aerospace company that implemented more than 100 improvement projects, only to determine less than two years later that more than half had failed to generate lasting gains.
Stretching Phase
When a metal spring is pulled initially, the material stretches to accommodate the increase in pressure. In much the same way, the people involved in a process-improvement project generally find themselves stretching and willing to tackle all necessary tasks in the early going.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • 1. Has your organization achieved lasting gains from process-improvement programs such as Six Sigma?
  • 2. Do you pay much attention to these programs once they move past the initial stage?
  • 3. Are you involved enough in them to judge for yourself whether they are worth continuing?
  • 4. Have you tied employee-performance appraisals to process improvements?
  • 5. Do you plan on keeping a Six Sigma or other improvement expert on your staff long-term?
If you answered no to any of these questions, you should understand how and why so many process-improvement programs fail. Too often, after the project expert moves on to another project and top management turns it focus to another group of workers, implementation starts to wobble. Understanding where the stress and strains are offers managers an opportunity to avoid them.
At the aerospace company, an improvement project typically began with the formation of a team consisting of 10 to 18 members from various departments. A Six Sigma or other improvement expert was assigned to the team to guide and train them. At this stage, teams were excited to learn and apply what they were being taught.
Team members collected data on their current working environment and, with the help of the Six Sigma expert, identified the changes they most needed to make to achieve their stated goal—say, a reduction in the rate of defects in manufactured parts or fewer mistakes in order writing and billing. The expert developed a "to do" list that included action items, responsibilities and deadlines and made sure needed resources were available.
Because top executives were paying close attention to the project at this stage, managers made clear to employees that the improvement initiative was their top priority. For example, producing error-free bills became more important than processing a certain quantity of bills each day.
While daily production slipped initially when the team transitioned to the new way of working, it improved when the group grew accustomed to the new process. When the team reached its goal—say it reduced billing errors by a certain percentage—the improvement project was declared a success.
The director who was spearheading the company's Six Sigma initiatives shared the teams' achievements with others in the company. Team members were given rewards such as gift certificates to restaurants, and their pictures appeared in the company newsletter. The division vice president reported on the team's success to the company's other vice presidents and to its top executives.

For Further Reading

See these related articles from MIT Sloan Management Review.
  • Process Management and the Future of Six Sigma
    By Michael Hammer (Winter 2002)
    Savvy companies have learned that their six-sigma initiatives must serve the larger endeavor of process management.
  • The Art of Making Change Initiatives Stick
    By Michael A. Roberto and Lynne C. Levesque (Summer 2005)
    The seeds of effective change must be planted by embedding procedural and behavioral changes in an organization long before the initiative is launched.
  • Designing Organizations That Are Built to Change
    By Christopher G. Worley and Edward E. Lawler III (Fall 2006)
    Many executives talk about the need for greater flexibility and adaptability from their companies. But the truth is that most businesses have organized themselves in ways that inherently discourage change.
Yielding Phase
Unfortunately, the story doesn't end there.
If a metal spring continues to be pulled, there will come a point when the material yields as it struggles to support the increase in pressure. Though still intact, the spring becomes permanently deformed—stretched out, for example—as the bonds between atoms are broken and new ones formed.
Similarly, in the middle stage of an improvement project—when the Six Sigma expert moves on to another project and top management turns it focus to another group of workers—implementation starts to wobble, and teams may find themselves struggling to maintain the gains they achieved early on.
With the departure of the Six Sigma expert, the teams at the aerospace company lost their objective voice and the person who performed the sophisticated statistical analysis that allowed them to prioritize the tasks that most affected performance, thus needed fixing the most. Without the expert to rein them in, some team members began pushing agendas that benefited themselves and their departments, making it harder for the team to agree on new goals.
While teams at this stage continued to look for the flaws in their current working environments, they got bogged down trying to perform the statistical analysis previously handled by the expert. Some teams started spending too much time on the improvement project, which affected their ability to meet production quotas and other daily responsibilities.
Amid the confusion and facing pressure from managers to keep up with day-to-day duties, some team members started reverting to old habits in the much the same way a person who recently lost weight might start skipping gym sessions when work and family demands heat up. The team's performance stopped improving and, in some cases, started to regress.
When reporting on the status of their projects, teams tried to make themselves look better by highlighting what they hoped to accomplish in the future, instead of what they were accomplishing now. Some team members became discouraged and started to doubt the benefits of the improvement strategies.
Leif Parsons
The improvement director, whose salary and bonus depended on the success of the company's Six Sigma initiatives, highlighted projects that were showing great progress and ignored those that weren't. As a result, company executives were unaware that some improvement teams were slowly starting to crack under the pressure.
Failing Stage
Over time, pulling will cause the material in one area of the metal spring to narrow, creating a neck that becomes smaller and smaller until it is unable to sustain any pressure at all. At that point, it breaks into pieces. Similarly, in the final stage of a process-improvement project, team members find themselves unable or unwilling to tackle improvement tasks, and the effort ultimately collapses.
With the improvement expert long gone and no additional training in Six Sigma or other improvement strategies provided by the aerospace company, team members became increasingly discouraged by their failure to build on earlier success. They eventually stopped caring about the improvement project, partly because it wasn't tied to their performance reviews.
As morale sagged, no one stepped forward to assume leadership of the improvement project, so the team lost interest in looking for ways to improve their current work environment. The company allowed newly formed improvement teams to poach people and resources from older teams, so the only improvements that were made were those related to safety—and even then, only the bare minimum was done. Members steadily regressed to their old ways of working, and the group's performance returned to what it had been before the project began.
With projects failing miserably, many teams reported their achievements incorrectly, giving a false sense of success. Because the director continued to communicate only about projects that were showing excellent results, it took several months for the division vice president to become aware of the widespread failures and reluctantly inform the company's top executives.
Lessons Learned
Four lessons from our research stand out.
First, the extended involvement of a Six Sigma or other improvement expert is required if teams are to remain motivated, continue learning and maintain gains. If the cost of assigning an improvement expert to each team on a full-time basis is prohibitive, one improvement expert could be assigned on a part-time basis to several teams for an extended period of one to two years. Later, managers could be trained to take over that role.
Second, performance appraisals need to be tied to successful implementation of improvement projects. Studies point out that raises, even in small amounts, can motivate team members to embrace new, better work practices. Without such incentives, employees often regress to their old ways of working once the initial enthusiasm for Six Sigma dies down.
Third, improvement teams should have no more than six to nine members, and the timeline for launching a project should be no longer than six to eight weeks. The bigger the team, the greater the chance members will have competing interests and the harder it will be for them to agree on goals, especially after the improvement expert has moved on to a new project. And the longer it takes to implement improvements, the greater the chance people and resources will be diverted to other efforts.
Fourth, executives need to directly participate in improvement projects, not just "support" them. Because it was in his best interests, the director in charge of the improvement projects at the aerospace company created the illusion that everything was great by communicating only about projects that were yielding excellent results. By observing the successes and failures of improvement programs firsthand, rather than relying on someone else's interpretation, executives can make more accurate assessments as to which ones are worth continuing.
— Dr. Chakravorty is the Caraustar professor of operations management at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga. He can be reached atreports@wsj.com.