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Dan Power

Greetings to all of my friends who work in the area of computerized decision support. This blog is a way for me to share stories from my encounters related to decision support, to comment on industry events, and to comment on other blogger's comments, especially those of my friends on the Business Intelligence Network. I'll try to state my opinions clearly and provide an old professor's perspective on how computers and information technology are changing the world. Decision making has always been my focus, and it will be in this blog as well. Your comments, feedback and questions are welcomed.

About the author >

Daniel J. "Dan" Power is a Professor of Information Systems and Management at the College of Business Administration at the University of Northern Iowa and the editor of DSSResources.com, the Web-based knowledge repository about computerized systems that support decision making; the editor of PlanningSkills.com; and the editor of DSS News, a bi-weekly e-newsletter. Dr. Power's research interests include the design and development of decision support systems and how these systems impact individual and organizational decision behavior.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Dan's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

October 2007 Archives

A quiet Sunday morning in Cedar Falls, so a good time to catch up on my IT/DSS reading. Although most of my reading is web documents, I still receive a few print IT trade publications. The information world comes to me here in Cedar Falls. What do I read? How do I keep up with the fast pace of change?

I only read 2 weekly trade pubs, InformationWeek and eWeek. I also regularly check the websites of these 2 publications. I also receive in the mail Teradata Magazine and Oracle Magazine. No more Intelligent Enterprise, stopped reading DM Review. Despite being more selective, I am inundated with content about DSS/IT. So I scan, skim and read selectively; I attend a few conferences, email people and read press releases and check web sites of major vendors. My friends at BI Network add advice, opinions and perspective to my thinking about decision support.

I just finished reading an interview in eWeek with Patrick Piccininno, IHOP's VP of IT. Piccininno argues the role of the IT executive has changed and that CIOs need to "put their technology hat aside and focus on what it is the business needs to be successful ...". Piccininno explains how IHOP is using Linux as part of a transformational initiative and hints it will help integrate Applebee's successfully into the IHOP organization. Applebee's uses Teradata and MicroStrategy for data-driven decision support especially for company owned restaurants. The IT staff at Applebee's have frequently presented at Teradata Partners. The problem is IHOP is focused on efficient transaction processing and is a Linux/Oracle shop. Sadly business intelligence didn't make Applebee's the victor in the sit down dining world. My concern from a decision support standpoint is that this marriage, IHOP and Applebee's, will be one made in IT hell.

Computerized decision support is a strategic transformational initiative. Applebee's spent a lot and focused on menu planning. The decision support at Applebee's was often delayed and never seemed focused on either tactical or strategic decision making. The data warehouse helped the financial/marketing analysts prepare reports. Piccininno barely mentions business intelligence and decision support at IHOP.

The reality is that if CIOs really want to contribute at the strategic decision making table, they need to update their knowledge about transformational decision support. The world of decision support is complex, fast moving and certainly not as simple to understand as Linux vs. Unix vs. Windows. Decision support is not about TCO, total cost of ownership. Transformational decision support is about TPL, total profit in the long-run and surviving to compete.

What about Linux? eWeek also reports "Linux Losing Market Share to Windows Server". The introduction to the story notes, "Experts say that migrations from Unix to Linux have slowed down because all the low-hanging fruit has now been picked." I agree. Linux has many advantages over proprietary Unix. Oracle has made a significant commitment to Linux and that plus the IBM support makes Linux viable in the enterprise. But Microsoft wants a larger slice of the pie.

I'll explore Oracle on Linux at Oracle OpenWorld. Also, I hope the Hyperion acquisition by Oracle has been a success and that product enhancements have occurred.


Posted October 28, 2007 8:49 AM
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Friday, November 9, 2007, I'm taking a late flight to San Francisco for Oracle Open World (URL http://www.oracle.com/openworld/2007/index.html).

A few years ago, I covered an Oracle Developer's Conference, but this will be my first Oracle OpenWorld. Why Oracle? Why now? Oracle is the enterprise database company and with acquisitions, Oracle is focused now on much more than transaction processing. When it comes to deploying customer relationship systems and tactical data-driven DSS, Oracle has some definite advantages over competitors. As far as the timing, I can fit the conference in my schedule, Oracle approved my media/press/analyst credentials, and my son Alex is now in the Bay area, so I can visit him, check out his new apartment and see what the Google campus is like. Alex seems to be enjoying his job as a site reliability engineer on the search team at Google. The Google work environment sounds outstanding based on his phone comments.

But my quest is to kick the Oracle product tires, listen to the operational BI and CRM sessions, especially case studies, and sort out how much commitment Oracle is making to decision support applications.

Readers probably know Oracle acquired Hyperion. The program materials claim "With the acquisition of Hyperion, Oracle offers the industry's most complete business intelligence product line for our customers. In this track, you'll learn how Hyperion's enteprise performance management software, coupled with Oracle's business intelligence tools and analytic applications, forms an end-to-end performance management system that includes planning, budgeting, consolidation, prebuilt operational analytics, and compliance reporting. Find out what's new and how to get better results with business intelligence and analytic applications from Oracle." I'll spend most of my time in this track. OpenWorld has more than 1,600 sessions! Clearly, I'll take the decision support slice of the pie.

If you are at Oracle Open World, check for me at sessions of the Business Intelligence and Analytic Applications track.

Well, the CSI: NY episode featuring Second Life should be starting soon. I'm teleporting to Kim Smith's aka Rissa Maidstone's CSI PARTY at Dr. Dobb's Island. Kim (Rissa) asks "Will we survive the 20,000 people expected to log into SL tonight for the CSI NY and SL episode?" I am sure I will survive, Second Life will too.


Posted October 24, 2007 6:23 PM
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According to Wikipedia, a mind map is "a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. It is used to generate, visualize, structure and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing."

Mind map technology can be used for special decision support studies and to build document and knowledge-driven DSS. In general, we have too many documents and too much knowledge and we need innovative ways of organizing what we have written and what we know if we want to use the documents and knowledge to support decision making. We have shorter lead time for retrieving documents and knowledge if it is to impact our decisions.

Today, I met with George Kurtz aka in SL Butch Dae to get a demonstration of his work with a 3-D mind map. George has assembled a great team with avatar Goedeke Messmer as lead programmer and avatar Llanna Lane as lead builder on the Virtual Information Technology World (VIT World) projects.

George is using mind map technology to organize a vast amount of information he has collected on virtual worlds, virtual humans and other emerging IT concepts. To make that knowledge more accessible in Second Life, Llanna Lane helped him bring his 2-D map into SL. She developed three representations of George's mind map including an interesting tubular display. The displays let avatars get the "big picture" and read node names in the static map. The 3-D tube browsing tool might be very powerful in the future, if it becomes interactive and easy to traverse. I tried flying in the knowledge tube and that didn't work too well. Probably a reflection of my poor SL flying skills.

Programmer Goedeke Messmer has been developing a 3-D interactive shell for accessing a database of content and links. The tool can display in Second Life nodes and provides for drill down into the knowledge or document data base. The tool needs refinement, but the feasibility has clearly been demonstrated. George and his team are also looking at other 3-D representations of documents and knowledge.

George is a strong believer that 1) you can do anything if you've got the right information and 2) knowledge is "king" and we need to create knowledge faster. I agree and George is quick to acknowledge Ray Kurzweil's influence on his thinking.

George Kurtz is semi-retired. His background is in Integrated Systems Management and IT Architectural design. He has made an extensive commitment to Virtual Worlds and Linden Labs' Second Life in particular.

You can find the SL VIT World mind map at http://slurl.com/secondlife/Quiricosta/224/148/109.

George notes "Developing a Mind Map helped me build the hierarchical structure of The Virtual Information Technologies Concept. Using the Mind Map, I can examine the relationship of all the components and by grouping the like components; I can identify the emerging patterns and sequences in today’s rapidly developing technologies."

Thanks George for the interesting demonstration. I look forward to our future interactions.


References

Wikipedia, Mind map, URL http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map .


Posted October 22, 2007 10:26 AM
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At 7am today Standard Linden Time, i.e., Pacific Daylight Time, I visited Tom Samson, known in Second Life (SL) as Samson Francis, at his new office and meeting facility in SL. Teamwork Dynamics is part of an entire island called Association Works dedicated to supporting team collaboration, meetings and training of managers and staff of not-for-profit associations.

Tom is managing partner of Teamwork Dynamics, a real life (RL) Dallas, Texas consulting firm that works with executive and senior management teams. Association Works Island was developed to provide an introduction to the use of virtual technology as a communications platform for real life teams.

Tom's facilities are very attractive and professional and have many useful meeting tools. The entire island is beautiful and yet very functional. Check http://www.associationworks.com/secondlife.htm. I am impressed that John Paul, principal with Association Works, and Tom Samson have made such an extensive commitment to supporting managers in Second Life.

For more than a decade, Tom and his associates have conducted research about the critical success factors that allow teams to create a dynamic environment that consistently delivers expected results. Now Tom has decided that Second Life can support training team members, facilitating team processes and support ongoing team activities. Both Tom and Paul are carrying their enthusiasm for virtual worlds to real managers.

Two developers, Karly Charlton and Murgatroid Mincemeat (SL names) developed Association Works Island. They did a great job! Tom did some of his own scripting and developed some interesting meeting tools. Thanks for the tour Tom. I look forward to future interactions with Tom in SL.

Another impressive meeting and convention facility in Second Life is called Alpine Executive Center on MeetingSupport Island. Tony Adams aka in SL TonyEMS Heying developed and operates the facility. Tony is based in Zurich and has been a long time advocate of computer supported meetings. Alpine Executive Center is also worth a visit for managers interested in holding meetings in SL. Tony can support small as well as 70-80 person group meetings, lectures and multi-day conventions with speeches and breakout rooms. Tony has built a complete Alpine environment that includes skiing and snow boarding. So recreation can be programmed into an SL meeting event. For more information check www.groupvision.ch and www.meetingsupport.com".

I recommend readers try a meeting in Second Life, it will change your perception of the future. Check DecisionSupportWorld.com.

Also, for more information read my article: Power, D., "What are the best Second Life resources for communications-driven decision support?" DSS News, Vol. 8, No. 14, July 15, 2007, URL http://dssresources.com/newsletters/194.php.


Posted October 19, 2007 7:14 PM
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Thursday, October 11, I took a "red eye" flight from Las Vegas and Teradata Partners back to Cedar Falls, Iowa. Then, I taught my Business Planning and my Decision Support Systems classes that afternoon. My body and brain are still recovering from the lack of sleep and the caffeine. So why did I go? To learn about Teradata products and those of their partners, to meet with vendors, to identify sources of articles and case studies, to meet with people in the front lines of data-driven DSS in Fortune 2000 companies. Mission accomplished!

Since then I worked on a new article, caught up on grading and prepared an Excel assignment on Pivot Tables for my DSS students. At Teradata, I especially enjoyed talking with Kristina Kerr, Senior Product Manager, Microsoft Business Intelligence. The team in Redmond seems to finally be taking decision support as a serious market niche. "Microsoft® SQL Server™ 2005 has been positioned in the Leaders quadrant of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Warehouse Database Management Systems, 2007." But it is Excel 2007 and PerformancePoint Server that are the future of decision support at Microsoft. Kristina was in London today for the UK launch of Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007. Hope it went well Kristina -- check http://www.microsoft.com/bi/ .

I also met with Michael Whitehead, CEO of WhereScape. WhereScape is all about prototyping tools for building data warehouses. I'm looking forward to an article for DSSResources.com from Michael and Marc Demarest on data warehousing prototyping. Marc is working with WhereScape.

Well back here in Cedar Falls I have also been working in Second Life. I added some SLUrls to the DecisionSupportWorld.com web page. Also, I met with colleagues from Midwest Association for Information Systems (MWAIS) about a workshop we are holding in Second Life on November 17, 2007.

This morning at 8am SLT, I attended an interview with Giff Constable aka in SL Forseti Svarog, VP of Business Development for The Electric Sheep Company, conducted by Mitch Wagner aka in SL Ziggy Figaro, Executive Editor of Information Week. About seventy people met at Dr. Dobbs Island in Second Life for the interview. Television is finding Second Life. The October 24, 2007 episode of CSI: NY will send detective Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise) into Second Life to solve a murder. Electric Sheep has been working with CBS's Anthony Zuiker to create the media integration. CSI: NY will invite fans (16 million) to visit Second Life with a new "easy-to-use" viewer from Electric Sheep. The CSI fans can visit a virtual New York and solve crimes. Sounds like a game, but this development demonstrates the media convergence that is occuring. Also, the new SL viewer sounds exciting for bringing managers into Second Life and for integrating the 2-D and 3-D webs..

Also, on October 25, the comedy called The Office will visit Second Life. As Mitch Wagner jokes The Office will paint Second Life "as yet another haven for slightly twisted, socially inept, loser oddballs." I'm not a fan of The Office, what do those losers know!

Also, I'm not a gambler. Only Shawn Rogers, Hugh Watson and I discussed Second Life at Partners ( recall my prediction in a previous Blog posting). The reality is that after October 25, 2007, Second Life and virtual worlds will be a much more viable platform for business decision support. I may even have a chance to attend a future Teradata Partners Conference hosted in Second Life or a similar virtual world in the not too distant future. I'm sure you will soon find workshops on business intelligence and decision support in Second Life. I'll even host some of them. Stay tuned. It will sure be nice to reduce the "red eye" trips and the caffeine.

Please IM me when you visit Second Life, Dan Power aka in SL Leinad Meriman, attend a decision support workshop, or come chat at my virtual office. Also, join the SL Decision Support group.

***************************

10/12/2007 - Microsoft is positioned in leaders quadrant of latest magic quadrant for data warehousing, check http://dssresources.com/news/2269.php.

Wagner, M., "'The Office's' Dwight Joins Second Life," posted Oct 15, 2007 06:13 PM at
www.informationweek.com. Check http://www.informationweek.com/blog/main/archives/2007/10/the_offices_dwi.html;jsessionid=VJAEAKZSBQ5SMQSNDLPSKHSCJUNN2JVN .

Disclaimer: Teradata provided financial support for my participation in the Partners conference.


Posted October 16, 2007 8:44 PM
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Actions speak louder than words and the Teradata Partners conference demonstrates the commitment of BI Network experts to bridging the gulf between the realm of practice and the realm of teaching. Let me cite some examples:

Tuesday morning Jill Dyche, Claudia Imhoff and Ron Powell took the time to attend the Teradata University Network (TUN) board meeting. I've covered the board meeting for 6 years and TUN has made extensive progress, but the key is getting the "real world" experts to interact with those in higher education who are teaching the next generation of data warehousing, decision support and business intelligence practitioners. That's happening thanks to people at Teradata like Ron Swift, Scott Gnau and Mary Gros and University Faculty like Hugh Watson, Jeff Hoffer and Barbara Wixom.

Ron Powell and Shawn Rogers have been recording podcast intereviews here at Partners and they even interviewed a few academics. I'll listen to the podcasts and point to some of the best ones in a later blog entry. My major problem is finding time to listen to all of the podcats at b-eye-network.com . Perhaps I'll spend a few days and try to catch up and put together my list of the 10 "best" podcasts on the b-eye-network.

Finally, last night I chatted briefly with Richard Hackathorn. Richard taught DSS for many years and he understands how important it is that we share our knowledge. Richard has a Thought Leader interview in today's Teradata Times. A few quotes:

Hackathorn: "I think anybody who is following current best practices is realizing business value from their data warehouse."

Hackathorn: "We need to tap into what frontline workers are doing, seeing and experiencing and feed that knowledge back into the data warehouse."

I've gotta run to a meeting with Shawn Rogers about enhancing DSSResources.com, PlanningSkills.com, DecisionAutomation.com and DecisionSupportWorld.com. I wish I had time to report on the great sessions here at Partners ... more in my trip report.


Posted October 10, 2007 11:29 AM
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Insights into Action is the theme of this year's Teradata Partners User Group Conference. The conference started for me on Sunday, October 7. It was a busy day with a workshop from 8am-12:30pm conducted by Stephen Brobst, Chief Technology Officer of Teradata on Active Data Warehouse Deployment. Stephen's workshop was a great blend of strategic concepts and technical issues associated with building and deploying tactical DSS.

This morning Michael Koehler, President and CEO of Teradata, reminded an opening session audience of approximately 3000 that Teradata was the first database product designed especially for decision support.

According to the new slogan, Teradata is "focused on raising intelligence through data warehousing and enterprise analytics". The reality is that Teradata provides an array of products that can help information Technology staff build and deploy strategic and tactical data-driven decision support systems.

Until about 1999, users of data warehouses and data-driven DSS focused on periodic reporting, ad hoc queries, strategic analyses and creating decision support special studies. Today once the data warehouse infrastructure is in place and a need is established, we can build and deploy data-driven DSS that assist in frontline, operations decision making and real-time performance monitoring.

Brobst draws a distinction between Online Transaction Processing (OLTP) systems, traditional DSS and tactical DSS. What I call tactical data-driven DSS have many characteristics that are similar to OLTP as far as systems performance, flexibility of queries, systems availability, update frequency, query type and indexing. The major difference is the contrasting purposes of OLTP and tactical data-driven DSS, i.e. recordkeeping/bookkeeping versus supporting operations decision making. A tactical data-driven DSS will also have more integrated data, historical data as well as current OLTP-like data.

This blog isn't the right format to explain tactical data-driven DSS, but perhaps in a future article or column I can expand on the concept. The conclusion is clear -- the technologies are available today to build sophisticated data-driven DSS to support business logistics decisions, customer service decisions, inventory management decisions and many other operations decisions that can benefit from current, timely facts.

I'll prepare a trip report on Teradata Partners for the next issue of DSS News that will be published Oct. 21, 2007. Yesterday's DSS News included my column titled "What are common DSS architectural patterns or styles?"


Posted October 8, 2007 11:12 AM
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Today's GridTalk in Second Life sponsored by Dr. Dobbs/Information Week focused on discussing the upcoming Virtual Worlds Conference in San Jose, Oct. 10 & 11. At 8 a.m. PST/SLT, John Jainschigg CTO of CMP Metaverse/Dr. Dobb's Journal, (aka John Zhaoying in SL) and Kim Smith, CMP Metaverse, Director/Operations & Sales, (aka Rissa Maidstone in SL), led an hour plus discussion with about 25 in attendance.

I can't attend Virtual Worlds, instead I'll be at Teradata Partners in Las Vegas. My guess is that Shawn Rogers, Ron Powell, and I will be among the few discussing Second Life and Virtual Worlds at Partners. That lack of visibility in the DW community will change as data warehousing technologies are used to support Virtual Worlds and as Decision Support comes to Virtual Worlds.

If you are at Teradata Partners, say Hi (check http://www.teradata.com/teradata-partners/). Congratulations to all the employees at the newly autonomous Teradata company.

You can find out more about the Virtual Worlds conference at http://www.virtualworlds2007.com/index.html .

Also, I'm designing a new web site focused on Virtual Worlds for decision support called DecisionSupportWorld.com. At the web site, there are links to three recent Ask Dan! columns:

Power, D., "Can multi-user visual simulations provide real world decision support?" DSS News, Vol. 8, No. 13, July 1, 2007, URL http://dssresources.com/newsletters/193.php .

Power, D., "What are the best Second Life resources for communications-driven decision support?" DSS News, Vol. 8, No. 14, July 15, 2007, URL http://dssresources.com/newsletters/194.php .

Power, D., "What are the advantages and disadvantages of using Second Life for decision support?" DSS News, Vol. 8, No. 15, July 29, 2007, URL http://dssresources.com/newsletters/195.php .

The 3-D Web and Virtual Worlds are the frontier of collaborative computing and visualization. We can compare the 2-D Web we are so familiar with to automobiles (cars) and the 3-D web to airplanes (planes) . Both technologies will co-exist and complement each other. The 2-D technology is more advanced than 3-D today, but the pace of development of the 3-D web is amazing.

I want to share some excerpts from today's discussion:

[8:09] Jeffronius Batra: Perhaps we should talk about how to make sure that more people understand what VW are all about and what the benefits are.
[8:09] Shamir Katsu: Another grand scheme was an idea Goldie and I were kicking around. She talked about it here: http://www.viddler.com/explore/goldiekatsu/videos/60/
[8:09] Leinad Meriman: I am pushing benefitting managers with DecisionSupportWorld.com.

[8:12] Yazzara Robbiani: It does feel like Internet in early 90s, but with one important difference
[8:12] Jeffronius Batra: Agreed on OpenSim, they've made remarkable progress in just a few months.
[8:12] Rissa Maidstone: I totally agree.
[8:12] John Zhaoying: The big difference: the fact that we've all seen the Internet in the 90s already?

8:16] Rissa Maidstone: Yazzara, I think if you took a good look at what happened recently during the 6-day Life2.0 conference here in SL, you'd be inclined to change your mind.
[8:16] Leinad Meriman: I compare the WWW to the car and the 3-D web to airplanes, both transportation and one follows the others
[8:16] Rissa Maidstone: Love it Leinad.

[8:24] JayR Cela: Soph / that is why I beleave we should all be supporting the OpenSimm project
[8:24] Jeffronius Batra: Mitch and Philip have a great vision but sometimes it is so utopian and big picture that it scares away the more practically minded sounds.
[8:24] Rissa Maidstone: Its interesting, the industry I came from, which has little to no relation on a market segment, encouraged "sleeping with the enemy" so to speak--working with your competition, teaming up to bring improvements to the field, competing against each other in order to offer a variety of choice and technical challenge.
[8:24] Dancer Morris: I think that ultimately there will be consolidation in social networking, just as there was in other parts of the net earlier
[8:26] Dancer Morris: ultimately I'm not sure that there is room for more than one metaverse in the world.. but I'd like that one metaverse to be open-source with choices of software to run it and access it
[8:26] Rissa Maidstone: I see many similarities between what's happening here, and what needs to happen in the physical world.
[8:26] Sophrosyne Stenvaag: Rissa, that's a terrific model - and I imagine gained a lot of sticky support -

8:28] Leinad Meriman: we don't want 3-d viewer integrated into the desktop OS like IE
[8:28] JayR Cela: Zero has been with LL for about 2 years and was brought aboard for the Open Souce effort / but even he is getting resistance from Phillip and others
[8:28] Sophrosyne Stenvaag: woot, Leinad!

[8:38] John Zhaoying: The current estimate is something like 50,000 users with positive monthly linden flow.

[8:39] Dancer Morris: 50,000 is about all that the current infrastructure can support

[8:40] Jeffronius Batra: John, OpenSim people tell me that the current infrastructure is maxing out at that 50K.

[8:43] JayR Cela: ultimately it will be Google vs. Microsoft and LL will die in the dust

[8:44] Jeffronius Batra: My wife and my son have had a family reunion in SL.
[8:45] Jeffronius Batra: Here's my blog post about it: http://www.jeff-barr.com/?p=972 . I write this stuff to get others to think about doing the same.

My excerpts don't really do more than capture a few highlights. A chat discussion has so many threads and 10 or so people chatting concurrently can be hard to follow. The good news is we have a transcript.

So Virtual Worlds are here to stay. We are in the early stages with Linden Lab's Second Life. The concurrency, load, open sim issues are major hurdles. Microsoft and Google are on the horizon.

Find out about Virtual Worlds.

Dan Power aka in SL Leinad Meriman


Posted October 2, 2007 6:20 PM
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