Global Optimization: Gaia Revisited

Analytics are the steering wheel that humanity uses to drive the world — or at least that portion of the planet over which we have some influence. Without the sensors, the correlators, the aggregators, the visualizers, the solvers, and the rest of what analytic applications depend on, we would be only a passenger, not a copilot, on this, our only home.

If you’ve spent any time around advanced mathematics and analytics, you’re bound to run into the phrase “global optimization.” All in all, this has little to do with optimizing the globe we live on; instead, it refers to techniques for solving a set of equations under various constraints. Nevertheless, I love the phrase’s evocative ring, in that it suggests the Gaia Hypothesis, a controversial conjecture that the Earth is a sort of super-organism. Specifically, it models the Earth as a closed, self-regulating, virtuous feedback loop of organic and inorganic processes that, considered holistically, maintains life-sustaining homeostasis. This hypothesis suggests that the planet as a whole is continuously optimizing the conditions for our ongoing existence — and that the biosphere may perish, just like any organism, if it falls into a vicious feedback loop of its own undoing.

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The Big Deal About Big Data for Customer Engagement — We Are Keen To Hear From You!

We’ve all heard, spoken about, or at least mentioned big data as a key trend for the technology industry in the past year. While it’s a no-brainer that big data is definitely affecting businesses today, little has been said about its relevance and how it affects consumer engagement. In an effort to make sense of this hype and decode the impact of big data on organizations’ relationships with customers, I’ve decided to write a report entitled “The Big Deal About Big Data For Customer Engagement.” Yes, big data is definitely a big deal — in fact, it’s a bigger deal if not handled with prudence!

To better understand this space, I’m keen to engage with both vendors and senior decision-makers at organizations that are either currently grappling with big data or planning to launch a project to manage this situation.

Once I hear from you, I or one of my colleagues will reach out to you with a premise document that covers the main questions that I would like to discuss with you during the course of a 30-minute interview. Just to share with you, we are looking at conducting these interviews over the next month. It goes without saying — but it’s best when said — we will honor all requests for confidentiality and will send you a copy of the report when it is published.

Please leave a comment with your contact details or send me an email at sgogia (at) forrester (dot) com.

Big Data, Analytics, And Hospital Readmission Rates

The US government will start tracking hospital readmission rates. Why? Because we spend some $15B each year treating returning patients. Many of these would not need to return if they followed instructions — which involve meds, follow up out patient visits, diet, and you get the picture. To be fair, it's sometimes not the patient's fault. They often do not get a proper discharge summary and in some cases they are just not together enough to comply. They may lack transportation, communication skills, or the ability to follow instructions. Doesn't it make sense to figure out those at-risk patients and do something a little extra? It does. No question. And translates to real money and better care, and this is where big data comes in — and it's nice to see some real use cases that do not involve monitoring our behavior to sell something. Turns out — no surprise here — the structured EMR patient record, if one exists, is full of holes and gaps — including missing treatments from other providers, billing history, or indicators of personal behavior — that may provide a clue to readmission potential. The larger picture of information —mostly unstructured —can now be accessed and analyzed, and high-risk patients can have mini workflows or case management apps to be sure they are following instructions. IBM is doing some great work in this area with the analytics engine Watson and partners such as Seton. Take a few minutes to read this article.

Turning Data Into Business Value

Join us at Forrester’s CIO Forum in Las Vegas on May 3 and 4 for “The New Age Of Business Intelligence.”

The amount of data is growing at tremendous speed — inside and outside of companies’ firewalls. Last year we did hit approximately 1 zettabyte (1 trillion gigabytes) of data in the public Web, and the speed by which new data is created continues to accelerate, including unstructured data in the form of text, semistructured data from M2M communication, and structured data in transactional business applications.

Fortunately, our technical capabilities to collect, store, analyze, and distribute data have also been growing at a tremendous speed. Reports that used to run for many hours now complete within seconds using new solutions like SAP’s HANA or other tailored appliances. Suddenly, a whole new world of data has become available to the CIO and his business peers, and the question is no longer if companies should expand their data/information management footprint and capabilities but rather how and where to start with. Forrester’s recent Strategic Planning Forrsights For CIOs data shows that 42% of all companies are planning an information/data project in 2012, more than for any other application segment — including collaboration tools, CRM, or ERP.

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Cisco’s Turn At Bat, Introduces Next Generation Of UCS

Next up in the 2012 lineup for the Intel E5 refresh cycle of its infrastructure offerings is Cisco, with its announcement last week of what it refers to as its third generation of fabric computing. Cisco announced a combination of tangible improvements to both the servers and the accompanying fabric components, as well as some commitments for additional hardware and a major enhancement of its UCS Manager software immediately and later in 2012. Highlights include:

  • New servers – No surprise here, Cisco is upgrading its servers to the new Intel CPU offerings, leading with its high-volume B200 blade server and two C-Series rack-mount servers, one a general-purpose platform and the other targeted at storage-intensive requirements. On paper, the basic components of these servers sound similar to competitors – new E5 COUs, faster I/O, and more memory. In addition to the servers announced for March availability, Cisco stated that it would be delivering additional models for ultra-dense computing and mission-critical enterprise workloads later in the year.
  • Fabric improvements – Because Cisco has a relatively unique architecture, it also focused on upgrades to the UCS fabric in three areas: server, enclosure, and top-level interconnect. The servers now have an optional improved virtual NIC card with support for up to 128 VLANs per adapter and two 20 GB ports per adapter. One in on the motherboard and another can be plugged in as a mezzanine card, giving up to 80 GB bandwidth to each server. The Fabric Interconnect, the component that connects each enclosure to the top-level Fabric Interconnect, has seen its bandwidth doubled to a maximum of 160 GB. The Fabric Interconnect, the top of the UCS management hierarchy and interface to the rest of the enterprise network, has been up graded to a maximum of 96 universal 10Gb ports (divided between downlinks to the blade enclosures and uplinks to the enterprise fabric.
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How To Survive And Thrive At #SXSW If You’re Not From Texas

I’ll be in Austin, TX this weekend to participate in South-by-Southwest Interactive. My panel “Big Data Smackdown on Cybersecurity” will be held Sunday, March 11 from 12:30PM - 1:30PM at the Austin Hilton Downtown. Hope to see you there.

Now, I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as soon as I could. I’ve lived in Dallas, TX for 30 years so I consider myself an adopted native-Texan. I’ll be at South-by-Southwest Interactive this weekend, so I thought I’d share some tips for all my current and future friends. For those of you from out-of-state – known as furriners – I hope you’ll find this advice helpful.

You’re coming to a foreign country.

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Social Technologies Will Drive Businesses To Focus On The Complete Customer Experience

Consumers across Asia Pacific are using multiple touchpoints to obtain and share information and purchase products and services. Organizations — both public and private — are struggling to support and enhance these new customer experiences across rapidly evolving channels like application marketplaces and mobile devices that are increasingly contributing to revenue growth.

  • Customer relationships will continue to change faster than CRM tools. Organizations are unable to cater to non-traditional touchpoints using their legacy systems. They are beginning to understand how these new touchpoints are impacting engagement at every phase of the customer lifecycle and across multiple channels and touchpoints. Organizations that truly value customers will invest in social tools (and platforms) in 2012 to better manage relationships.
  • Organizations will increasingly be forced to evolve from "transactional" customer interaction methods to customer "engagement." Organizations across multiple industries like FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods), retail, professional services, and media & entertainment in Asia Pacific are already thinking about the customer lifecycle beyond legacy CRM tools — which were typically designed to support organizational processes, not customer ones. Over 2012, we expect organizations across Asia Pacific to expand their use of social technologies, mobility solutions, and analytics to improve engagement.
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