Courtesy of Rudyard Kipling
I keep six honest serving men
They taught me all I know
Their names are WHAT and WHY and WHEN
and HOW and WHERE and WHO.
27 Nov 14.
There was an excellent "Schumpter" article in the 18th October edition of the Economist on how many of the predictions of the impact of the internet have been wrong. Not just slightly wrong, but completely out of phase with reality. Schumpter looked at these three predictions:
It would be possible to write books on the failure of each of these three predictions, but it is the lack of disintermediation that I find particularly interesting. Having talked to various recruitment agencies recently in my search for contract IT work I can say that they seem to perform two functions. One is a simple pattern-matching exercise to match candidate expertise to job specification. They have lots of CVs to process, so this seems to be a strict exercise with no room for thought outside the box. It could be done by a machine. The second stage is to call and validate what the filtered set of candidates have said they can do. I have done some technical interviews. Typically they don't last long, with the candidate soon apologising for putting some acronym on their CV when actually they have only had the most fleeting exposure to it.
It seems then that intermediaries continue to thrive, and new forms of intermediation will grow, for two reasons. Firstly, the virtual world is just too big. Many people would not know where to start searching, and even if they did they may not have the time and knowledge to sift through all the data that would be returned. Secondly, that world is full of companies and people who might not be all that they first seem. Who can you trust? Most people would know that online reviews are open to abuse, and would treat them as only a rough guide. They may not have realised until recently that those price comparison sites will act as a broker, taking commission and quite possibly not showing them the best deal if more commission is available on other deals. Who guards the guards?
So how do people cope? They cope by relying on brands. They cope by relying on personal networks: the old school tie, colleagues and local contacts (we're back to the importance of proximity again). There has been disruption, but not the huge disruption that was forecast. Instead, the internet has increased barriers to entry and reinforced old behaviours. I forecasted the importance of brands 15 years ago, but didn't realise the importance of contacts, otherwise I might have gone to more old school and college dinners and joined linkedIn earlier.
13 Nov 14.
Whizzing round the Olympic velodrome last weekend with my family was great fun, if not slightly terrifying as you go up the banking. Not surprisingly data was the last thing on my mind! But at the end we received certificates which were all misnamed. This is pertinent for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it shows there is a manual interface in place. Somebody had copied our names from a screen (our online booking), or printout onto a piece of paper and passed that paper to someone else to create the certificates on another system. That interface was obviously seriously error prone. Secondly my name is John Davis. It is quite common (I blame my parents), and most clerical workers would know that it could be John or Jon, and Davis might be Davies. My son, Guy Davis, became Gille Davies.
So the great experience was tainted by a certificate that was wrong for every single member of the family. No one had thought through the consequences of the data quality issues and had taken a bit more care. We won't be framing it and putting it on our wall, or tweeting a picture of the certificate or sharing on Facebook - losing the Velodrome valuable free marketing. These issues with missing interfaces and poor data quality are the same ones that I came across when I started working in computing and business analysis in the 1980s. Things may have improved for a while, but now that companies have some applications in the cloud we have returned to a situation of many silos, and often some imperfect interfaces between them.
A focus on data quality is an issue that will run on. This is partly an issue with supervision and the reinforcement of the importance of getting data correct before you can rely on it to drive your business (It needs that great MBA stalwart, "Senior Management Commitment"). This will get no easier as the workforce is infiltrated by a younger generation who are accustomed to txting and spreading their focus across a number of apps on a number of devices, with a commensurate loss of attention to detail (am I sounding old now?). Nevertheless we can do better, taking out scribbled manual interfaces by calling APIs, using our systems to do more validation and checking at the point of original data capture, and reconciling data between silos and against other sources. Not only is this more efficient, companies get happy customers as it shows they care about the little things - our names, and who we are!
If you need help with your processes, data, or interfaces, then give me a call. I'm the red and black blur.
4 Nov 14.