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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!

January 2008 Archives

Micky Long and Sumair Dutta recently completed a report for Aberdeen Group titled "Get Smart: Business Intelligence for Service Organizations".

Do managers and executives need to make faster and more accurate decisions? especially in customer service situations? Supposedly YES and in general I agree.

Can Business Intelligence (BI) and analytics tools help reduce decision cycle time? YES if deployed correctly. No magic in reducing decision cyclye time AND making more accurate decisions. Faster decisions can lead to less accurate decisions if decision support technology is poorly implemented.

"Aberdeen found that nearly 80% of service executives surveyed either have in place or plan within the next twelve months to implement a BI / analytics solution within their service operation."

The marketing email I received from Aberdeen Research claimed:

"Best-in-Class firms gained 37% in first-time fix rate since adoption of business intelligence or analytics."

"Best-in-Class firms gained 42% in performance on service level agreement since adoption of business intelligence or analytics."

"Best-in-Class firms gained 57% in performance on customer retention since adoption of business intelligence or analytics."

The 20+ page report costs USD $395. I haven't read it, but I am very skeptical of a report based on survey data when few firms have adopted a specific decision support technology for the same purpose. It is so easy to compare and tabulate apples and oranges, very different DSS. Also, is "best-in-class" the early adopters?

I would need to know much more information about the sample, the questionnaire and the data analysis before I used this report to justify purchasing technology in a service organization to enhance customer service. If you have read the report and think it is an important contribution to understanding the impact of BI and analytics, please send me an email: power@dssresources.com.


Posted January 28, 2008 3:48 PM
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Readers know I have been working on DecisionSupportWorld.com and on a Second Life headquarters for Decision Support World and 2 major in-world decision support projects. So I read with interest the executive summary of Forrester's report "Getting Real Work Done In Virtual Worlds" (1/7/2008). Erica Driver, Paul Jackson and crew are definitely optimistic about the future of virtual worlds for decision support. The executive summary reads:

"Virtual worlds like Second Life, There.com, and more business-focused offerings are on the brink of becoming valuable work tools. Major companies and public-sector organizations — such as BP, IBM, Intel, and the US Army — are investing heavily in virtual world technologies. But it's still early, pioneering days. You've practically got to be a gamer to use most of these tools — setup can be arduous, navigating in a 3-D environment takes practice, and processing and bandwidth requirements remain high. But within five years, the 3-D Internet will be as important for work as the Web is today. Information and knowledge management professionals should begin to investigate and experiment with virtual worlds. Use them to try to replicate the experience of working physically alongside others; allow people to work with and share digital 3-D models of physical or theoretical objects; and make remote training and counseling more realistic by incorporating nonverbal communication into same-time, different-place interactions."

The 24 page report costs US $279.00.

Check
http://www.forrester.com/Research/Document/Excerpt/0,7211,43450,00.html.


So how did Driver and Jackson reach these conclusions? I haven't met them in Second Life.

"Forrester interviewed 14 vendor and user companies, including Forterra Systems, Gemini Mobile Technologies, IBM, Icarus Studios, Kaneva, Linden Lab, PA Consulting, Qwaq, SAP, Sun Microsystems, Unisfair, Virtual Heroes, Vivox, and VRWorkplace." Definitely a small sample!

What did they get right? It is time for major companies with distributed operations to seriously experiment with using Second Life for decision support.

What did they get wrong? There is a learning curve, but you certainly do NOT need to be "a gamer to use most of these tools". Setup is a bit time consuming because the client is large, updates are still too frequent, bandwidth should not be a problem in most global companies. Corporate IT people can easily handle set for Second Life. Training managers to use Second Life will help and an in-world mentor is a big plus. We can do this!

Visit me (aka Leinad Meriman) in Second Life at
Decision Support World
http://slurl.com/secondlife/VIT%20World/201/63/23.

Also check Decision Support World
DecisionSupportWorld.com.

Thanks to George Kurtz aka Butch Dae for forwarding me Virtual Worlds Weekly, Volume 2, Issue 2, January 15, 2008, which had a story on the Forrester report.


Posted January 16, 2008 7:09 AM
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Some readers may have noticed that my turnout forecasts for the Iowa Political caucuses were extremely inaccurate. "In 2004, 125,000 Iowa Democrats caucused. Turnout for 2008 should be similar, about 230,000 total." Well predicting demand using just a few data points generated 4 years apart is definitely a mistake. In reality, about 239,000 Democrats and 120,000 Republicans caucused. Why the enormous error and what is the impact of "bad" forecasts?

Why? Many new attendees encouraged by the well organized campaigns, extensive media barrage, no incumbent candidate, good weather .... Turnout was also very high in New Hampshire.

What is the impact of a "bad" forecast? Resources are misallocated, polling can be misleading, and perhaps worst of all, behavior may be impacted, voter, campaign staffers, media.

Could we have avoided the horrible forecasts for turnout? Perhaps, combining historical data with voter intention data from phone surveys could have helped.

Could we have made more accurate projections of votes for winners and losers? Maybe, but the electorate is undecided and some of us decide at the last moment. Also, in voter preference polls, people don't always tell the truth. The margin of error is very high right now for many reasons (certainly more than statistical sampling error).

The best demand forecasting tools require that the future is an extrapolation of past behavior and that intentions capture future behavior. ... A very weak set of assumptions this year.

Regarding Second Life:

Group Notice From: Leinad Meriman aka Dan Power

You are cordially invited to Decision Support Systems Workshop #3 with host
Richard Hackathorn (Hack Richard) for the topic "Serious Games in Virtual
Worlds: The Future of Enterprise Business Intelligence". It will be held
Friday, Jan. 18, 2008 at 8am PST (16:00 GMT, 17:00 CET) at TechTalk@SL
Discussion Center. Everyone is invited - the workshop is free and open to the broad SL audience.

check http://www.b-eye-network.com/view/4163

Also, please visit the new Decision Support World global headquarters in Second Life. It is still under construction, but you can get a sense of what is planned.


Posted January 14, 2008 7:25 PM
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Decision Support World (http://decisionsupportworld.com) sponsored the first Decision Support Workshop in Second Life this morning, Friday, January 4, 2008, at 7am PST. I (Dan Power aka Leinad Meriman) spoke at the workshop on the topic of the most recent Decision Support Q & A in DSS News "What is a modern decision support system?". The workshop was hosted by Emil Stoyanov at the TechTalk@SL discussion area. We had 12 people for the workshop, but a great start.

Next week, Friday, January 11, 2008 at 8am PST (1 hour later than today's session), DSW will sponsor Decision Support Workshop #2. The workshop focuses on a recent column in DSS News. Check

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.

Also, check Richard Hackathorn's article "Serious Games in Virtual Worlds: The Future of Enterprise Business Intelligence" in his expert channel. I'll ask Richard to host a workshop on that topic at a future DSW Decision Support Workshop in SL.

Decision Support Workshops are planned as a regular series of weekly workshops with new presentations each week. I will present at initial workshops and then we hope to have guest experts. The workshops are free and open, so join us and share this information with people interested in computerized decision support. Also, in SL please join the group Decision Support.

Workshops in Second Life will be a supplement and in some cases replacement for Webinars.

Today was a return to normalcy for me. The politicians are gone, decision support is center stage once again in my life both RL and SL. Last night I was elected as one of 2 Clinton delegates for my precinct to the Black Hawk County, Iowa Democratic convention in March. That is the next step in the Iowa caucus process. In my precinct, 257 of my neighbors attended and we filled a gym at the local middle school. 114 people registered to vote as Democrats at the entrance to the caucus room. Many were independents, many young voters, and most came to caucus for Senator Barack Obama. Obama brought many new people to the caucus process. In my precinct Obama received 5 delegates, Clinton 2, and Edwards 2. The race is under way to the Novemeber 2008 elections. My guess is both parties need much better decision support.


Posted January 4, 2008 11:12 AM
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Richard Hack and I just met in Second Life at the new Decision Support World facility and chatted about decision support using Second Life and tonight's political caucuses here in Iowa. Using the voice client we could chat and sit and explore the 3-D SL world. We are hoping Jill, Claudia, Colin and our other BI Network friends will come and explore the possibilities of the 3-D web

Well this is Decision-day in Iowa. At 7pm CST, Iowa Democrats will break into preference groups and allocate delegates to groups with at least 15% of the attendees in the precinct. The Republicans will have a secret, winner-take-all ballot in their caucuses.

I got up early this morning to head to Jameson's Pub in Waterloo to meet with Senator Joe Biden. Yesterday I attended a campaign event with Former President Clinton and then one with Senator Barack Obama. The media frenzy, phone calls, and door knocking is intense.

Following his speech, I briefly shook hands with Barack Obama and looked him in the eyes. Obama looked back! He is clearly not some puppet on a string. Barack is a man of great passion and intellect with a smart talented wife. The crowd of 750 people were "pumped up" and so was Barack. Live music and shouting, it seemed like a rock concert.

Bill Clinton was more subdued and his crowd was about 400 at the National Cattle Congress Pavillion. He believes Hillary will make a great President and he knows what the job demands. From watching the two of them together, Bill will be a trusted advisor, but Hillary will be the President, the Chief Executive Officer and Commander in Chief.

Joe Biden is a strong, experienced leader. In my opinion, he can lead this country through the difficult times that are certainly ahead. Perhaps 100 of us gathered to hear his stump speech and enjoy being with Joe.

So the time for decision draws near ... 8 hours and counting. I want to make a pragmatic decision, not solely an emotional one. What is a pragmatic decision? One where the decision maker has looked at the practical consequences of each proposed course of action. Pragmatism is an analytical philosophy that is the foundation for computerized decision support and especially systems to provide business intelligence to managers.

Senator Biden suggested an exercise to help make the decision tonight. I will share it based on my interpretation:

Close your eyes and imagine that each candidate is the President of the United States. Assume they were President today and had to deal with the crisis in Pakistan, the war in Iraq, the domestic issues of recession and a housing crisis. What would the person be doing? Is the person ready and able? Thought exercises are fun and potentially informative.

Emotion is "indispensable in rational decision making", but a pragmatic decision should not be based solely on emotional response. According to the coherence theory of decision (Millgram, Thagard, Barnes), "people make decisions by assessing and ordering various competing actions and goals." Supposedly, "The rational decision maker chooses complex plans that are most coherent with currently held goals."

My overriding goal is a strong American which is a great, safe place for my children to live and work, where I can enjoy my retirement years and with hope hug grandchildren one day. I want a positive, sustainable world for the next 100 years and beyond.

Based upon what I have read, my impressions of the candidates I have met and my goals, I will stand up for Senator Joe Biden during the first caucus division tonight. If for some reason, Seantor Biden is not viable in my precinct I will caucus with the supporters of Senator Hillary Clinton.

Senator Barack Obama has demonstrated that he is a viable contender and that very fact creates new hope for those who have been excluded and sometimes ignored in our society, but when I close my eyes and imagine Obama as President I hesitate. As for the other contenders, each has strengths and should continue to work to make America the leader of the "free world" once again.

A door knocker for John Edwards is at my front door as I finish this blog post. Volunteers for Barack Obama were outdoors in 15 degree winds on the streets of Waterloo, IA at 7:30 am holding political signs as people drove to work. The volunteers for the campaigns are out in force. Iowa is all about the future of our country today. Pray for those of us who must decide tonight.

References

Barnes, A. and P. Thagard, "Emotional Decisions," URL http://cogsci.uwaterloo.ca/Articles/Pages/Emot.Decis.html .

Pragmatism, from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pragmatism

Thagard, P., & Millgram, E. (1995). Inference to the best plan: A coherence theory of decision. In A. Ram & D. B. Leake (Eds.), Goal-driven learning: (pp. 439-454). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


Posted January 3, 2008 9:51 AM
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