Data Scientist: Important New Role Or Trendy Job-Title Inflation?

The big data universe revolves around this seemingly new role called “data scientist.” For IT professionals who are just now beginning to explore big data, the notion of a data scientist may seem a bit trendy, hence suspect. How does it differ from such familiar jobs as statistical analyst, data miner, predictive modeler, and content analytics specialist?

Yes, data scientist is a trendy new job title to emboss on your business card. But it’s also a very useful new term for referring to a wide range of advanced analytics functions that heretofore have had no consensus category label. The term recognizes that advanced analytics developers, like scientists generally, spend their careers exploring new data for powerful insights that may not be obvious on first glance.

Indeed, one might define a data scientist as someone who uses statistical algorithms and interactive exploration tools to uncover nonobvious patterns in observational data. This definition is broad enough to encompass a wide range of data scientists doing various types of analyses against many data types. The tools may be usable by any intelligent person, or they may be so specialized and abstruse that you practically need a Ph.D. in higher mathematics to get started. The underlying algorithms may be limited to the most common multivariate regression approaches or may include the latest advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning. The exploration may be highly visual, or it may also involve trial-and-error iteration through complex statistical models.

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Welcome To The Nook Signing

 It’s a tried-and-true in-store promotional tactic: the book signing. Authors tour bookstores, meet their fans, and sign copies of a book that was bought in the store that day.

How can book signings be updated for the 21st century? Barnes and Noble, with its Nook devices and its rapidly expanding Nook Boutiques, has an opportunity to create a total product experience around its Nook devices and digital books. Let's call it a Nook Signing, a theoretical Forrester product idea for Barnes and Noble to consider.

Leveraging its in-store Wi-Fi, Barnes and Noble could host a series of Nook Signing events – special book signing events only for owners of Nook devices (or those willing to buy them in store that day).

The event would feature marquee bestselling authors like George RR Martin or other authors with vociferous, loyal fans. (Barnes and Noble would have to incentivize these authors).

Attendees would get to meet the author, but more importantly, would receive an in-store download over Barnes and Noble’s Wi-Fi, receiving unique, brand-new content on their Nooks. For example, Nook Tablet and Nook color devices could receive a video from George R.R. Martin offering up an exclusive tidbit about his next book.

What happens next? Nook Signing attendees use their Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts to tell the world the news about George R.R. Martin’s next book ... which they learned about at the Nook Signing.

What does this event accomplish?

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Scoring Our 2011 Cloud Predictions

Around this time last year, Forrester published its predictions for what we expected to happen in the cloud computing market in 2011. While some of those prognostications were on the mark, in general we learned once again that markets move much slower than any of us would like.

It might be best to think of last year’s predictions as less about what would happen in a twelve month period and more about trends we identified that we felt would have lasting impact on the infrastructure & operations (I&O) professional and the market in general. Thus we felt progress was made along most of these lines. Here's a quick look at what we predicted and where we went astray:

1.       And The Empowered Shall Lead Us. Correct. Forrsights surveys and discussions with clients continue to show that the early adopters of cloud services are not I&O, and this gap rose in 2011. And the trend of Empowered employees and developers not telling I&O about their use of cloud continued in 2011. Thankfully we saw more I&O leaders begin to proactively engage these leaders by demonstrating how I&O can make their use of these services more predictable and productive. Far more of this type of engagement is still needed as the pressure on business to move more quickly and autonomously grows as the risk of a double-dip recession rises.

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Customer Service Done Right In 10 Easy Steps: Step 5

Part 5 of my 10-part blog series on how to master your service experience is also short and to the point: Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and tell them when they should expect an answer from you.

Step 5: Keep your customers in the loop

Not all customer questions can be answered in real time; some require offline research time. Other questions, like those that come in by email or a web form, have inherent delays. It’s important to communicate service expectations — and meet them so that your customers learn to trust you. Here is a good example of an acknowledgement of an email sent to Starwood’s customer service organization; it tells the customer to expect a reply within 48 hours, but if this is too long to wait, the customer can contact the company via phone for help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is surprising is that SLAs are communicated to the customer for customer service via Twitter. Here is a rare example that lets users know that Twitter is offline for the night:

 

 

 

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Smarter Cities Rio: From Blueprint To Proof Point For Cities Large And Small

This past week I attended IBM’s Smarter City Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the fourth in a series of global events highlighting the opportunities for cities to improve their systems — and themselves as a “system of systems.” This event felt different from the previous summit I had attended in Shanghai. Obvious political and cultural differences aside (not to dismiss them, as they were significant), the big difference I observed here was that the sessions were more real. And I don’t mean that as a slight on the Shanghai event. Rather, in Shanghai, the focus was on moving from vision to execution– creating the blueprints for smart cities. In Rio, we had moved from blueprints to proof points. (Yes, you can quote that . . . it is mine.) Mayors from cities across Latin America and some from even farther came to share their experiences.

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New HR Analytics Research Focuses On Improving The Talent Management Processes

Boris Evelson and I have published research entitled “Use HR Analytics To Optimize Talent Processes.”

The premise: HR analytics have taken on new importance as companies work to find, develop, and retain top talent. Using analytics requires asking the right questions that address key organizational pain points and determining the metrics and best practices that will move the company toward greater productivity. We anticipate that this report will help guide HR professionals as they focus on analytics to support recruiting, performance, and learning.

HR faces a challenge of proving its value in helping to set business priorities. Data from technology solutions now give HR the opportunity to become a valued business partner in determining the appropriate metrics to help the executive suite and people in other lines of business make important talent management decisions. The tactical role of advertising for and finding employees, negotiating the hires, and bringing employees on board is no longer enough; HR must become a strategic business partner.

We recommend that you start with solid foundational components including data sources, data extraction and integration processes, master data management (MDM), and an HR data mart as the official HR data repository. Once that’s in place, you need to build queries, reports, and dashboards. Medium-size organizations may use a packaged solution, but large global enterprises with many business units will have to assemble these components.

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Making Business Sense Of Consumerization

I am currently setting up a research project on the impact consumerization is having on companies. Just as a quick reminder, we define consumerization as:

An approach by which employees use technologies such as smartphones, tablets, and cloud Internet services that they master at home or discover on their own to get work done. 

The more I dive into the subject, the more difficulty I have making sense of it. Based on interviews and discussions with experts and practitioners, I’ve divided opinions on this topic into two camps. Let me profile them clearly to make the differences evident:

  • Marketing people tend to see consumerization as a Groundswell phenomenon: Give your employees access to social platforms from Facebook to Twitter, arm them with tablets and access to apps, and let a new era of creativity and innovation explode.
  • IT experts need a clear implementation plan — waterfall-like if possible: First you capture requirements; then you plan the implementation and secure budgets; then you develop, integrate, and test the apps, etc.
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Did Hell Freeze Over? Not Yet, But It's Getting Cold!

A couple of weeks ago, I proposed that I&O Professionals should repeal Mac prohibition and find ways to empower employees who are choosing Macs in increasing numbers and bringing them to the office. This was based on fresh 2011 research with Forrester clients, vendors and survey respondents, and concluded that not only were the numbers of Macs in enterprises increasing rapidly, but that the people choosing their own technology for the office, are often the highest performers.

Philip Elmer-DeWitt of Fortune's Apple 2.0 picked it up right away and made a very astute observation: that Forrester's stance on Macs in the enterprise had seemingly flip-flopped. His conclusion was based on a 2007 Forrester report on enterprise desktop trends in which Forrester observed: "Macs can be ignored for all but niche business groups." The conclusion was based on the data of the time, which showed Microsoft's enterprise desktop market share at 95%, but also noted that Apple's had doubled. We also observed in the same report that "Microsoft is not innovating," and "Vista is having a tough time in enterprises," based on data which showed slow uptake of Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 7.

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Customer Service Done Right In 10 Easy Steps: Step 4

Part 4 of my 10-part blog series on how to master your service experience is short and to the point: Understand what your customers are trying to do and keep this in mind when designing and delivering your service strategy.

Step 4: Understand what your customers are trying to do

Offering the communication channels that your customers want to use and linking them together is a big first step. You must also steer your customers to use the right channel for their question and maximize the value of that channel for them. For example, don’t let them use email for time-sensitive requests; guide your customers to using a live-assist channel like chat or the phone. Don’t blindly port your web self-service capabilities to mobile devices; look at their value-add capabilities, such as the built-in camera, video, or geolocation features that these devices offer, and use them to add value to the self-service interaction.

Intuit, for example, allows customers to take pictures of their W-2 tax forms with mobile phones, answer a few questions, and e-file their taxes, which streamlines the entire process. Many automobile insurance companies allow customers to take pictures of accident damage with their mobile device’s cameras, again adding value by simplifying the insurance claim filing process.

How many of you are right-channeling your customers’ issues to maximize their satisfaction and control your costs?

 

Extending The Best Practices From The Data Center To The Campus

Last week Vendor X was briefing me on a set of new switches. The projector started rolling with a nice webconference slide deck and a voiceover highlighting customer requirements. It wasn’t long before I felt like Phil Connors (Bill Murray) from the movie Groundhog Day, listening to a radio DJ ask listeners if Punxsutawney Phil was going to see his shadow. This déjà vu moment wasn’t another data center networking briefing but, surprisingly, one about network campus switches.

The past five years have been an era of contraction. Businesses put cost-cutting on the top of their lists and virtualization and consolidation were the panacea for efficiency gains, becoming the shiny ball vendors used to lure customers into buying new solutions. As a result, every networking vendor has been rolling out solutions to address virtual machine (VM) mobility and storage convergence. However, priorities are changing: Revenue growth has just outranked cost-cutting in a Forrester survey of IT executives. I&O teams are altering their focus from where the VMs connect to the other edge where users hook in.

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