Build More Effective Data Visualizations

Boris Evelson
Industry-renowned data visualization expert Edward Tufte once said: "The world is complex, dynamic, multidimensional; the paper is static, flat. How are we to represent the rich visual world of experience and measurement on mere flatland?" He's right: There's too much information out there for knowledge workers to effectively analyze — be they hands-on analysts, data scientists, or senior execs. More often than not, traditional tabular reports fail to paint the whole picture or, even worse, lead you to the wrong conclusion. AD&D pros should be aware that data visualization can help for a variety of reasons:
  • Visual information is more powerful than any other type of sensory input. Dr. John Medina asserts that vision trumps all other senses when it comes to processing information; we are incredible at remembering pictures. Pictures are also more efficient than text alone because our brain considers each word to be a very small picture and thus takes more time to process text. When we hear a piece of information, we remember 10% of it three days later; if we add a picture, we remember 65% of it. There are multiple explanations for these phenomena, including the fact that 80% to 90% of information received by the brain comes through the eyes, and about half of your brain function is dedicated directly or indirectly to processing vision.
  • We can't see patterns in numbers alone . . . Simply seeing numbers on a grid doesn't always give us the whole story — and it can even lead us to draw the wrong conclusion. Anscombe's quartet demonstrates this effectively; four groups of seemingly similar x/y coordinates reveal very different patterns when represented in a graph.
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Why IBM Bought The Weather Channel: My Quick Thoughts

Ted Schadler

Today, IBM "has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire The Weather Company’s B2B, mobile and cloud-based web properties, including WSI, weather.com, Weather Underground and The Weather Company brand." This deal does not include The Weather Channel programming.

I spent my early cable TV years watching Jim Cantore and his colleagues tell us which storm was about to slam us. We watched while those cheery commentators predicted a massive Nor'easter in Baltimore on my wedding day in January 1996. Oh boy did we get that storm. The city shut down for almost a week. (We just kept the party going.)

So why did IBM do this deal? In a conversations with IBM's Bob Picciano and TWC CEO David Kenny, it became clear that three things drove this deal:

  • Massive amounts of atmospheric data. Digital weather is the most important exogenous data source on the planet. Weather sets the mood of the nation and all us citizens. If you want insight into people's actions, the  global supply chain, and myriad risks and opportunities, forecast the weather. TWC already handles 26 billion API calls for this data each and every day.
  • A powerful data ingestion platform. TWC ingests 40 terabytes of every day, maybe 15 times more data than even Google. TWC's data from sensors, cameras, satellites, radar, and 150,00 citizen meteorologists is the largest source of crowdsourced and engineered environmental data on the planet. 
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Digital Experience Software: Best-Of-Breed or Suite? Yes.

Mark Grannan

by Mark Grannan and Ted Schadler (click to see his post)

The market for digital experience software is rapidly expanding -- as in thousands of vendors in the market – and it’s also converging on a core set of six core capabilities led by content, customer data, marketing, and commerce.

We call this convergence a digital experience platform: software to manage, deliver, and optimize experiences consistently across every digital touchpoint. The cloud, RESTful integration, the relentless demands of digital customers -- and the very high cost of product integration -- are driving this convergence.

So should enterprise organizations take a best-of-breed or suite approach for digital customer experience (DX) software? The answer is, at least for now, “yes.” Or rather, it depends on your specific needs.

In our second round of the Digital Experience Platform Wave, completed in Q4 2015, we sharpened our criteria around both core capabilities and portfolio integration and extensibility.

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Digital Experience Software: The Next Major Packaged Software Market

Ted Schadler
by Ted Schadler and Mark Grannan (click to see his post)
 
It happened with ERP in the 90’s. It happened with CRM in the 2000’s. It’s happening now with the digital experience software to serve up content and interactions on every screen along every step of a customer's digital journey. 
 
This highly fragmented and factured market -- amusingly and powerfully captured in Scott Brinker's chaos of vendor logos -- is starting to to converge and consolidate as major software vendors like Adobe, IBM, Oracle, SAP, and Salesforce as well as smaller vendors including Acquia, Demandware, EPiServer, SDL, and Sitecore build or buy the building blocks of a great digital experience. We just evaluated these vendors' digital experience platform portfolio in our Forrester Wave(tm): Digital Experience Platforms, Q4 2015.
 
Four forces are driving the convergence. 
  • First, digital consumers and business customers need consistent experiences across every channel, screen, and step in their journey. No more passoffs from marketing to commerce to service to loyalty. No more fractured experiences between online and offline channels. No more clunky mobile adaptations.
  • Second, content, customer, and analytics are core assets that span every product category. They are shared assets delivered as software components, no longer bound up in the delivery software.
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Forrester Quick Take: AWS QuickSight Will Disrupt Business Intelligence And Analytics Markets

Boris Evelson

Get ready for AWS business intelligence (BI): it's real and it packs a punch!

Today’s BI market is like a perpetual motion machine — an unstoppable engine that never seems to run out of steam. Forrester currently tracks more than 50 BI vendors, and not a month goes by without a software vendor or startup with tangential BI capabilities trying to take advantage of the craze for BI, analytics, and big data. This month is no exception: On October 7, Amazon crashed the party by announcing QuickSight, a new BI and analytics data management platform. BI pros will need to pay close attention, because this new platform is inexpensive, highly scalable, and has the potential to disrupt the BI vendor landscape. QuickSight is based on AWS’s cloud infrastructure, so it shares AWS characteristics like elasticity, abstracted complexity, and a pay-per-use consumption model. Specifically, the new QuickSight platform provides

  • New ways to get terabytes of data into AWS
  • Automatic enrichment of AWS metadata for more effective BI
  • An in-memory accelerator  (SPICE) to speed up big data analytics
  • An industrial grade data analysis and visualization platform (QuickSight), including mobile clients
  • Open APIs
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The Time Is Now To Invest In Knowledge Management

Kate Leggett

All that customers want these days is effortless engagement. 55% of US online adults say that they are very likely to abandon their online purchase if they cannot find a quick answer to their question. 77% say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service

Customers increasingly use web self-service as a first point of contact with a company. In fact, last year, web self-service was the most commonly used communication channel for customer service, exceeding phone use for the first time ever.

Companies are not only investing in customer-facing knowledge. They are also using knowledge management solutions to add order and easy access to content for customer-facing personnel - specifically for customer service agents. Our data shows that 62% of technology decision-makers say that they have implemented or are expanding their implementation, and 21% plan to implement their knowledge implementation in the next 12 months.

Knowledge delivered to the customer or the customer-facing employee at the right time in the customer engagement process is critical to a successful interaction. When done correctly, deeper knowledge can be used to personalize an interaction, increase customer satisfaction, reduce call handle time, lead to operational efficiencies, increase customer engagement, and ultimately drive conversion and revenue. 

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Do Developers Need a Hippocratic Oath?

Jeffrey Hammond

"I will utterly reject harm and mischief."

These words, taken from the Hippocratic oath, are ones that I think application development and delivery professionals should consider carefully as we watch the latest example of "Software eating the world" gone wrong. In this case the software algorithms in the "defeat device" that Bosch created for VW defeated emissions testing for millions of diesel cars. Now, 7 years later, VW is setting aside $7.3 billion to remediate the result. But this is just the latest example of developer complicity in creating algorithms of questionable quality. Consider:

  • Facebook's manipulation of users' news feeds. In 2014 Facebook revealed that it had manipulated the news feeds of over half a million randomly selected users to change the number of positive and negative posts they saw. It was part of a psychological study to examine how emotions can be spread on social media.
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World Retail Congress and kicking the discounting habit

George Lawrie

McGarrigle, Chairman of the World Retail Congress, makes his keynote opening address. © World Retail Congress

 

 

If you follow me on Twitter or if you attended WRC at the beautiful Cavalieri hotel in Rome  you’ll know that I had the privilege to moderate a panel of distinguished retailers to discuss the subject of discounting, specifically selling for less than the planned margin.

One of the event’s sponsors JDA had earlier presented data from a survey of retail leaders showing that their top foiur risk concerns included : increasing competitive threats (41%); margin erosion and cost reduction (39%); data security threats (25%), and attracting and retaining customers (24%).

Our panel, hosted by Congress sponsor and price optimisation software vendor Revionics, tackled the margin erosion issue asking: ‘How do we kick the discounting habit?’. The panellists, ranging across wholesale, fashion and apparel and general merchandise sectors, established a consensus view that discounting for its own sake, without a clear strategic goal and tactical execution, could be more damaging than beneficial to the bottom line – as was also arguably seen more recently with some of the more negative sentiment generated around Amazon Prime Day, as well as Black Friday.

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Some Thoughts On Shippable Software And Microservices

Ted Schadler

Stop reading now if you don't care about the machinations, architectures, and human reality of software. This post is for software philosophers and architects.

Dries Buytaert, the founder and core committer in chief of open source Drupal (according to Built With, the second most popular content management system software among the top million web sites) posted thoughtfully on keeping his open source software always in a shippable state. He writes this after a 3-year delay in releasing Drupal 8:

"We [will] create a feature branch for each major feature and only core committers can commit to feature branches. . . . Once we believe a feature branch to be in a shippable state, and it has received sufficient testing, we merge the feature branch into the main branch. A merge like this wouldn't require detailed code review."

This is sensible and now standard practice: Develop new features as decoupled components so committers and software managers can add them to the application without breaking it. That keeps the application always in a shippable state.

But the future of software is more than decoupled components. It also requires highly decoupled runtimes. That's called a microservices architecture: decoupled components available over the Internet as decoupled services. Think of it as a software component exposed as a microservice -- a microservice component. 

A microservice to place an order is decoupled from a microservice to alert you that your shoes have shipped. A microservice to display an image sized to your phone or computer is decoupled from a microservice to paint the page.

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Creating Security Conscious Developers

John M. Wargo
I recently completed preparing a presentation for the Forrester Digital Business Forum in Chicago this fall. The session I’m delivering is on delivering mobile app quality, and through my research, I’ve learned that security is an important part of app quality. My colleagues Michael Facemire and Tyler Shields recently published a report on The Future Of Mobile Security Development and that, plus some experiences I had working with a development team in a previous position, started me thinking about what it takes to make a developer that understands how to code apps securely. The report I listed above covers the security topic well, and makes some recommendations on how the security aspect of app development is likely to change, but beyond security capabilities and tools, how do you ‘create’ the type of developer that understands exactly what to do to build security into their apps?
 
I know trial and error works, but that’s expensive. Tools exist that can validate security aspects of an application, even tools that enforce security on apps, especially mobile apps, but those are last mile solutions – what do you do to help developers implement solid security into their apps in advance of those tools? If you have insights into this topic, can you reach out to me and let me know? I think this would be an interesting report to write.