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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!

November 2007 Archives

The evidence is substantial that the amount of information that is received impacts strategies for processing information and making choices, the time spent in decision making, and decision accuracy/quality. The relation between increasing information and improved decision making is not however linear. Rather the relation is an inverted U, that is decision making improves as more information is received, until an inflection point is reached where no impovement occurs and then more information creates an overload and decision making performance declines. Decision support systems should help manage information load.

The impact of information quantity does vary based on cognitive capabilities, but the range of capabilities among managers is narrow compared with the general population. So in our managerial DSS user interface designs we should be able to anticipate load problems and reduce them.

Why am I blogging about information load today? Because I'm inundated by information on the Web and the volume is increasing. How can we manage information load better? Take a quick look at DSSResources.com or www.b-eye-network.com. So much information!!!! No one can be expected to read it all. So we creates topics and categories, and "best of the best" lists, to organize and manage information. And we still need people involved to do this well. The hope has been that people who post information will tag it and that the Web can be self-organizing through search engines and other "meta" aggregation tools. Perhaps ... but I still think knowledge repositories created by experts in a topic area will be the best sources of information and the best way to manage information load. I need to do more on my sites ... managing information is an ongoing struggle and new technologies provide me new tools, but finding the time to use them is however a challenge.

So I'll work on improving the categorization, topics, tags and navigation of DSSResources.com, PlanningSkills.com and DecisionAutomation.com. I'm also planning to expand the information content at the same time. This is a new year's resolution made early.

This blog contributes to the information load ... I put this posting in a new category called Decision Support and I tried to write an informative title.


Posted November 29, 2007 9:27 AM
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Flying back and forth to San Francisco for Oracle OpenWorld I read Neal Stephenson's 1992 novel "Snow Crash". Stephenson is credited with defining and popularizing major terms associated with virtual worlds. Terms like avatar and Metaverse are integral to Stephenson's fictional future earth. Stephenson paints a bleak, anarchic view of first life in Los Angeles, overpopulated, drugs, confusion, corruption and franchises for everything. Also, he decribed the rich guarded suburbs and the storage container slums.

But, Stephenson paints a version of the Metaverse that is very similar to Linden Lab's Second Life (http://secondlife.com). The similarities are striking, but happily Stephenson's Metaverse doesn't have the capacity constraints and some other limits of Second Life. For example, the amphitheater in Metaverse can hold a quarter million cheering hackers. Also, if desired, avatars can look more like the "real life" person complete with realistic facial expressions that can be controlled. Finally, a big plus, the hero of "Snow Crash" named "Hiro Protagonist" has the same name in both the real universe and the Metaverse. This is a fun story and quick read even though we want to avoid the real world future that is described.

The other major virtual world classic is Daniel F. Galouye's 1964 novel "Simulacron-3". Galouye's novel is the basis for Joseph Rusnal's 1969 movie "The Thirteenth Floor". Galouye imagined a simulectronic world much like Second Life and the Metaverse.

Yesterday Midwest Association for information Systems (MWAIS) held a workshop in Second Life titled "Beyond first life: e-Learning in Second Life". I was supposed to moderate the panel, but I confused my time zones, ran late with my MBA MIS class I was teaching, and then couldn't log on probably because of capacity constraints at our venue. I finally got on Second Life and attended the last 20 minutes of the event. Simha Magal the organizer kept things going in my absence. I'm sure the voice comments of panelists Blake Ives, Brian Mennecke, Benn Konsynski and Tony Adams were interesting. I don't think we had a recording. e-Learning using Second Life still has problems, but there are advantages as well.

The Metaverse, the simulacra is here. Now our challenge is to figure out how to use this and other information technologies to shape a positive future for our planet Earth and for all of our people.

If you are on Second Life, IM me aka Leinad Meriman and/or join the Decision Support group.

References

Galouye, D. F., Simulacron-3, New York: Bantam Books, July 1964.

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

Stephenson, N. Snow Crash, New York: Bantam Books, 1992.


Posted November 18, 2007 9:05 AM
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My visit to Oracle OpenWorld is wrapping up on a tired, but hopeful note. For almost an hour from 3-4pm today, I listened to the product "brain trust" at Oracle discuss current developments, strategy and hopes. Chuck Rozwat, Ed Abbo, Thomas Kurian, Andy Mendelsohn and Steve Miranda reiterated the Oracle product message to a global press/analyst group.

Rozwat stressed Oracle wants/has the leading products in every category it participates in ... The goal is 1) complete solutions, 2) openness of the product line, and 3) adopting industry standards.

The message for Oracle Fusion middleware from Rozwat and Kurian is "we are on target" and some components will be released in 2008. The commitment to a service oriented architecture, Web 2.0, an integrated development "stack" and a secure, scalable deployment environment is more than marketing.

It seems that Oracle wants to pull together its diverse product line and that can only be positive for building innovative enterprisewide decision support. Whether we have IT folks who can step up and exploit the integration and diverse capabilities is more problematic. Why? Just coping with the increased complexity and rapid change in the current business IT environment is hard.

Oh well ... we'll muddle through somehow.

Mark Hurd, CEO of HP, is a good tennis player and regularly thumps Larry Ellison (inferred from Hurd's comments). Nonetheless, I don't see HP integrating forward and buying Oracle in 2008. Hurd answered "man on the street" videotaped questions in his keynote and didn't have a clear message.

Paul Otellini, President and CEO of Intel, reassured a crowd of 8-10,000 that Intel will deliver more computer processing speed and capacity using less energy. He noted data centers currently account for 1.5% of the energy consumption in the United States. By videotape, Paul introduced us to 3 Intel engineers working on the microprocessor architectures of the future. The videos were not inspiring ... incremental change, no breakthroughs from my vantage point.

Thomas Kurian, the middleware fusion guru at Oracle, gave a keynote and he was very impressive. It wasn't what he said as much as how he said it. If anyone can create the integrated development and administrative environment envisioned in Oracle Fusion Middleware, I think it is Kurian.

I did get to a Hyperion session and spoke briefly with some Hyperion partners. Perhaps some new customers are being exposed to Hyperion here, but Oracle decision support including business intelligence needs a more dedicated conference and showcase.

Well we are all using the futons for catnaps ... the days and nights are busy and long. I hope everyone walks away from Oracle OpenWorld with one good idea for improving enterprisewide applications where they work.

I'll be on a "red eye" heading back to Cedar Falls later tonight.


Posted November 13, 2007 5:10 PM
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Last night, Sunday, November 11, 2007, Larry Ellison reminisced for approximately 45 minutes about the early days of Oracle. Larry dedicated the opening session at Oracle OpenWorld to Bob Miner, the first President of the company that became Oracle. Bob died of cancer in 1994. Larry, Bob and Ed Oates co-founded Software Development Laboratories in November 1977.

After listening to Larry, I am once again impressed with the dominating influence that vision has on creating a successful company. Larry, Bob and Ed wanted to create the first commercial relational database product and they did. They knew little about business and their efforts were under capitalized, but they sold the idea and then delivered the product and kept pushing to innovate and improve the product. The initial capitalization was $2000, but a "big" contract and risk taking got Oracle started and on it's way to success. The first release of Oracle was version 2. Larry joked who would have wanted to buy version 1.

This morning I listened to Charles Phillips, Oracle co-President, and Hector de J. Ruiz, President of AMD. Phillips with help from Chuck Rozwat basically provided a high-level product demo with a focus on various "needs" including using business data for actionable insight, i.e., operational data-driven decision support. I was bothered that Phillips and the Oracle product people call the business intelligence, performance management and other data-driven DSS development products middleware. Perhaps use the term development tools, but I don't think use of the "middleware" category will catch on.

Integration of operational business decision support and transaction processing was the message, but the example presented of a manager seeing a sales problem caused by insufficient product and then directly processing an order in an inventory system seems unrealistic. We will need to consolidate a number of distinct roles in the organization hierarchy to create that type of task integration. It is not enough that technology can support task integration ... but will organization roles allow, encourage, and permit it?

Ruiz with help from customers and partners identified 3 business needs that are the "point of the arrow" for technology innovation: 1) improved global communication and collaboration for project teams, 2) real-time analytics and compelling web content, and 3) simplifying IT management and reducing IT maintenance so more time can be spent on creative applications. Shane Robson briefly mentioned HP's Halo which is a high cost solution to need #1. John Fowler of Sun focused on the real-time solution for MLB.com. Finally, Mark Jarvis, a Dell Marketing guy, tried to address the simplification/creative applications need and failed. Oh well Mark, we don't know the answer yet! Keep trying.

I spent 2 hours on the exhibit floor and toured around with an Intel guide. So far I have only been in the South building of Moscone for exhibits. The West building has another exhibit area. I am already information overloaded and I can only imagine what customers must be feeling.

I'm heading to hear Mark Hurd discuss the information challenge in the technology sector. Information technology is enabling and creating business opportunities, but perhaps sometimes the industry folks get ahead of the management crowd. We will see.


Posted November 12, 2007 2:10 PM
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My trip from Cedar Falls to San Francisco was uneventful. My son Alex met me at the airport and I spent the night with him. We stopped by Google and I signed the non-disclosure so not much to say. We drove up to my hotel/motel in Colma. Then we took BART into the city. By the time I decided to attend OpenWorld, the hotels downtown were full. ... Well I get to experience a commute.

I registered Saturday afternoon and today came straight to Moscone North and the press room. This is a "huge" event. In about 48 real-time hours, DBAs, IT staff of various sorts, CIOs, and some non-IT managers will have the opportunity to attend more than 1600 sessions, 350 live demos and various social events.

I'm already feeling the information overload. My plan is to attend sessions at the "vision" level primarily and attend a few Hyperion sessions. Later today I plan to spend 4-6pm on the vendor show floor (100s of vendors), listen to Larry Ellison and Safra Catz in an opening keynote and then attend the welcome reception in the Howard Street and Yerba Buena Tents.

Oracle claims that it is dedicated to helping "harness the power of information." From my vantage point Oracle is generating too much information at OpenWorld. My goal is to see how the diverse Oracle applications come together to improve business decision making. Also, I am curious to find out where Oracle executives are headed in terms of innovative decision support.

As part of my "vision" approach to OpenWorld, I'm looking forward to hearing keynotes by Mark Hurd, CEO HP, and Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel. I met Hurd a few times back when he was leading NCR Teradata. Both Hurd and Otellini are shaping the possibilities for computerized decision support and I am curious about how explicit they will be on mobile platforms and real-time decision support.

Well in addition to Oracle, the other major sponsors of OpenWorld include AMD, Intel, Dell, Hp, Sun, NetApp and EMC.


Posted November 11, 2007 1:15 PM
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This past week I was in a videoconference and I had various meetings in Second Life. Given I try to blog at least weekly, I thought I would comment on the pluses and minuses of each technology.

Approximately once a month, 5 or 6 colleagues and I use Marratech for a Midwest Association for Information Systems (mwais.org) board meeting. We have been meeting regularly since January 30, 2006.

The current Treasurer of MWAIS, Chelley Vician, Associate Professor of Management Information Systems at Michigan Technological University (http://www.mtu.edu) in Houghton, Michigan, arranged for us to use the Michigan Tech Marratech® server.

The Marratech website (marratech.com) describes the technology scenario. "Imagine holding meetings and video conferencing on the web, face-to-face, whenever you want. To talk, see each other and share applications and documents without being in the same room, the same building, or even the same country - that's exactly what Marratech® will do for you."

To participate in the video conferences I purchased a Logitech QuickCam IM with a headset for approximately USD$35 at Wal-Mart. The camera has a flexible clip so I could mount it easily on the top of my flat panel display. Installation was easy. I also downloaded and installed the free Marratech client software. Chelley sent me some directions and a web link. I signed on about a half hour prior to the first meeting and Chelley helped familiarize me with the operation of the talk button and the whiteboard.

I have been using Second Life (secondlife.com) for small and large group meetings since May 2007. SL materials note "Say good-bye to conference calls and say hello to real-time 3-D collaboration. The Second Life Grid allows for projects as limitless as the imagination."

Well I like using both technologies. Each has a role to play in decision support. It is great to see moving images of the people you are talking with and have access to the whiteboard using Marratech. In some ways the videoconference is more task oriented and more ordinary. Using Second Life adds an imaginative dimension and the meetings are somehow more creative.

The MWAIS Executive Board has held one meeting in Second Life and more than 20 video conferences. It will be interesting to see how much and for what purposes we choose to use Second Life rather than a video conference.

Midwest Association for Information Systems (MWAIS) is sponsoring a workshop in Second Life with the theme "Beyond first life: e-Learning in Second Life" on Saturday, November 17, 2007:

Panelists: Blake Ives, Brian Mennecke, Benn Konsynski, and Tony Adams
Moderator: Dan Power
Audience: Faculty and Ph.D. students (and other interested parties!)
Organized by: Simha R. Magal

Reference

Power, D., "How does the use of a Communications-Driven DSS impact a
decision-making meeting?" DSS News, Vol. 7, No. 4, February 12, 2006.


Posted November 4, 2007 8:07 AM
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