Dashboards and BI

Intelligent Enterprise has an article on executive dashboards. It highlights the difference between enterprise portals and executive dashboards:

An enterprise portal is just that: a portal. It’s a browser-based gateway to integrated information and applications to promote information sharing, consistency, and accessibility to members of the organizational value chain. An executive dashboard — although it uses the same underlying technology — is a much smaller-scale subset of portal technology that provides specific, performance-based information to upper-level management.

In short, a dashboard is a one-screen “cockpit” of all critical measurements for piloting a company, offering actionable information at management’s fingertips, business performance measurements at a glance, and up-to-date information on status and forecasts against benchmarks. Executive dashboards are ideal proof-of-concept BI projects, and they’re an absolute must for any organization that wants to keep a finger on the pulse of its business activities.

The article had a reference to this picture which shows the executive dashboard flow, and which has part of this article from Forbes on business intelligence software (April 2002):

Each year companies spend billions on software, databases and storage systems to help them figure out what’s going on in their business. The typical big company now owns some 400 applications, few of which were designed to share information with one another. Every nine months the amount of data doubles as they store records about customers, inventory and employees–and most of the data go to waste. IBM figures companies use less than 1% of their data for analysis.

A new breed of software, called business intelligence (oxymoron, anyone?), aims to turn all those useless bits into valuable insights. It promises to grab data in any form from incompatible applications run by far-flung business divisions and convert the information into neat-looking tables, charts and maps. The graphical interfaces are dubbed cockpits, or dashboards, because some customers insist on feeding their metrics into airplane dials and sports car tachometers. Managers can combine their favorite inventory, sales, production and employee metrics with other information to form a personalized at-a-glance view of their fiefs.

Global PC Sales

From NYTimes comes a story that IDC has cuts the sales forecast for computers through 2003:

Total worldwide PC shipments are now expected to reach only 135.5 million in 2002, an increase of 1.1 percent, and to grow 8.4 percent in 2003.

The world’s only relatively bright spot appeared to be Asia, where in Japan, purchases were approaching expectations, although remaining weak. Only China, Australia and India, where PC ownership is relatively low, are expected to generate double-digit growth this year, International Data reported.

Global consumer demand for personal computers has collapsed since the end of the dot-com boom, the researchers found. Worldwide salse growth in personal computers peaked at 47.2 percent in 1999, fell to 26.6 percent in 2000 and sales actually declined 9.8 percent last year.

The indications are clear: just as people are living longer, as are computers! The computer industry has to start addressing the next generation of users. For that, hardware and software will need to be available at a tenth of today’s prices. This will mean dramatically rethinking every aspect of the value chain.

Packet Express

Arnold Kling articulates a vision for the architecture of electronic communications:

The Packet Express is the network that delivers Internet packets. It consists of communication lines (including radio spectrum) and routers..It appears to me that Packet Express is going to consist mostly of the fiber-based Internet backbone and wireless relay stations.

Thingies are devices that receive digital envelopes from Packet Express and convert the messages into human-usable formats. Thingies will replace telephones (including cell phones), televisions, personal computers, stereos, car radios, and other legacy electronic devices.

The simplicity and flexibility of this architecture comes from the fact that Thingies all process the same sort of packets. Packet Express does not need to know whether it is delivering television programs or phone calls in its envelopes. The Thingies that open the envelopes can figure it out.

The ultimate realization of this architecture will mean that Packet Express is ubiquitous, and any Thingy can connect. Wherever you might be, if you have a phone-Thingy, you can make a phone call. If you have a TV-Thingy, you can watch a movie or TV program.

Wake up to China

From the Boston Globe:

If you asked Leslie Valdasz, an Intel Corp. founder and head of the chipmaker’s venture group, where on the globe he sees the greatest possibilities for technology, you might be surprised by his answer.

”China,” he said.

OK. What about his other top picks?

”First, second, and third – China,” he said. ”If I was a 30-something, I’d be working in China.”

Fortune has stories on two Chinese companies: Legend and Haier. Another company to watch is Huawei.

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Beyond the Browser

Writes Kevin Werbach:

Lots of people agree we need to get beyond HTML and the page-based browser interface. Only three companies, however, have large enough distribution to have a realistic shot at getting there with a software client: Microsoft, Sun, and Macromedia. (Napster might have in a parallel universe, but ’twas not to be.)

Java seems destined to be a crucial piece of back-end infrastructure but a bit player on the client side. Flash has >90% penetration, and it’s on devices like Tivo and mobile phones as well as PCs. If something other than Internet Explorer is going to be the interface of the future, Flash is most likely to succeed. Not that it will be easy. It’s a risky strategy for Macromedia, because it goes away from the company’s traditional focus and puts it directly in Microsoft’s cross-hairs. But the payoff could be huge. The back-end hooks and runtime are in place. What’s missing, so far, are compelling applications.

This is a topic I am writing about in this week’s Tech Talk in my “Rethinking the Desktop” series.

100 Days Ago

I have added a section in the right column entitled “100 Days Ago”. This links to my blog posts from the past. It is interesting to see what I was thinking a quarter ago. For example, as I was writing yesterday on the desktop, I found a reference to a post on June 6 (100 days ago) on “A New Desktop“. The similarity in thinking was quite uncanny, even though I had approached the same issue from a different angle.

One of the things blogs are not good yet good at is extracting similar past posts. The Related Entries that we’ve done is a good start, but quite primitive, and requires me to manually give a set of keywords. Blogs capture ongoing thinking, and so it is necessary to be able to put posts in context, provide the bigger picture. Blogs currently have only two navigation parameters: time (calendar) and categories.

Would be good to create “Blog Maps” or more approrpiately, Mind Maps, which show how thinking may have evolved over time, or even the type of posts that one has been doing over time.

TECH TALK: Rethinking the Desktop: Desktop to Browser to …

Last week, we saw how a set of new ideas has the potential to become the foundation for the next-generation desktop. These ideas included weblogs, RSS, publish-subscribe, outlines, open source, XML and web services, and IM/SMS. Before we discuss how these ideas can be integrated together, let us step back and take a look at how our work and use of the computer has changed in the past decade.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Personal Computer was just that – our very own. It was not networked. It has self-sufficient as a standalone machine. We used it at home for games, accounting, writing letters and little else. In the office, the computer was just becoming part of the network. Those were the heydays of Novell Netware. We discovered how we could use desktop productivity applications and share files with other users on the network. Enterprise applications were just starting to come into their own. The desktop notion didn’t really exist in the days of the DOS command prompt. In the early days of Microsoft Windows, the desktop meant icons and folders.

Much of this changed with the advent of the Internet and the Web Browser. Mosaic and then Netscape opened up the wide world of the Web on the computer. Suddenly, one could read documents and interact with computers across the world. Email and later Instant Messaging came to the fore as the computer morphed into a communications and collaboration tool. Sun’s mantra – the network is the computer – has epitomised this period of the late 1990s till about now.

Our work pattern too changed: so much more information to be managed as everything became HTML-ised or Web-enabled, they were so many more people to interact with, and so many more conversation threads to keep with. But in all this, our desktop changed little. Yes, we got some new applications (email and IM clients, and the web browser), but the computer was still little help to manage a world which had become almost suddenly become much richer and complex.

Even as the processing power of computers has kept on doubling every 18 months, our software has fallen behind, using less and less of what is available on the desktop. Consider also the screens that we see in front of us: what was a 14-inch monitor may now have become a 17-inch LCD screen, increasing the visible area by just 50% in a decade. It is almost like we are riding bullock carts on six-lane highways.

However, there are signs of hope as we look ahead to see what the next-generation desktop should become. What is needed is a set of applications which better leverage the most critical resources of today: our time and attention. Userland’s Radio, a client-based blogging platform (with an integrated news aggregator and web server) and Groove, a peer-to-peer collaboration platform, are two examples of applications that showcase the desktop’s future. Between them, they capture two key trends which will be the cornerstones for tomorrow’s desktops – the two-way web which enables writing as easily as it does reading, and collaboration between ad hoc groups across geography and enterprises.

Tomorrow: The Next Generation Desktop

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