Carole-Ann’s 2011 Predictions for Decision Management

Carole-Ann’s 2011 Predictions for Decision Management

For Ajay Ohri on DecisionStats.com

What were the top 5 events in 2010 in your field?
  1. Maturity: the Decision Management space was made up of technology vendors, big and small, that typically focused on one or two aspects of this discipline.  Over the past few years, we have seen a lot of consolidation in the industry – first with Business Intelligence (BI) then Business Process Management (BPM) and lately in Business Rules Management (BRM) and Advanced Analytics.  As a result the giant Platform vendors have helped create visibility for this discipline.  Lots of tiny clues finally bubbled up in 2010 to attest of the increasing activity around Decision Management.  For example, more products than ever were named Decision Manager; companies advertised for Decision Managers as a job title in their job section; most people understand what I do when I am introduced in a social setting!
  2. Boredom: unfortunately, as the industry matures, inevitably innovation slows down…  At the main BRMS shows we heard here and there complaints that the technology was stalling.  We heard it from vendors like Red Hat (Drools) and we heard it from bored end-users hoping for some excitement at Business Rules Forum’s vendor panel.  They sadly did not get it
  3. Scrum: I am not thinking about the methodology there!  If you have ever seen a rugby game, you can probably understand why this is the term that comes to mind when I look at the messy & confusing technology landscape.  Feet blindly try to kick the ball out while superhuman forces are moving randomly the whole pack – or so it felt when I played!  Business Users in search of Business Solutions are facing more and more technology choices that feel like comparing apples to oranges.  There is value in all of them and each one addresses a specific aspect of Decision Management but I regret that the industry did not simplify the picture in 2010.  On the contrary!  Many buzzwords were created or at least made popular last year, creating even more confusion on a muddy field.  A few examples: Social CRM, Collaborative Decision Making, Adaptive Case Management, etc.  Don’t take me wrong, I *do* like the technologies.  I sympathize with the decision maker that is trying to pick the right solution though.
  4. Information: Analytics have been used for years of course but the volume of data surrounding us has been growing to unparalleled levels.  We can blame or thank (depending on our perspective) Social Media for that.  Sites like Facebook and LinkedIn have made it possible and easy to publish relevant (as well as fluffy) information in real-time.  As we all started to get the hang of it and potentially over-publish, technology evolved to enable the storage, correlation and analysis of humongous volumes of data that we could not dream of before.  25 billion tweets were posted in 2010.  Every month, over 30 billion pieces of data are shared on Facebook alone.  This is not just about vanity and marketing though.  This data can be leveraged for the greater good.  Carlos pointed to some fascinating facts about catastrophic event response team getting organized thanks to crowd-sourced information.  We are also seeing, in the Decision management world, more and more applicability for those very technology that have been developed for the needs of Big Data – I’ll name for example Hadoop that Carlos (yet again) discussed in his talks at Rules Fest end of 2009 and 2010.
  5. Self-Organization: it may be a side effect of the Social Media movement but I must admit that I was impressed by the success of self-organizing initiatives.  Granted, this last trend has nothing to do with Decision Management per se but I think it is a great evolution worth noting.  Let me point to a couple of examples.  I usually attend traditional conferences and tradeshows in which the content can be good but is sometimes terrible.  I was pleasantly surprised by the professionalism and attendance at *un-conferences* such as P-Camp (P stands for Product – an event for Product Managers).  When you think about it, it is already difficult to get a show together when people are dedicated to the tasks.  How crazy is it to have volunteers set one up with no budget and no agenda?  Well, people simply show up to do their part and everyone has fun voting on-site for what seems the most appealing content at the time.  Crowdsourcing applied to shows: it works!  Similar experience with meetups or tweetups.  I also enjoyed attending some impromptu Twitter jam sessions on a given topic.  Social Media is certainly helping people reach out and get together in person or virtually and that is wonderful!

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What are the top three trends you see in 2011?

  1. Performance:  I might be cheating here.   I was very bullish about predicting much progress for 2010 in the area of Performance Management in your Decision Management initiatives.  I believe that progress was made but Carlos did not give me full credit for the right prediction…  Okay, I am a little optimistic on timeline…  I admit it…  If it did not fully happen in 2010, can I predict it again in 2011?  I think that companies want to better track their business performance in order to correct the trajectory of course but also to improve their projections.  I see that it is turning into reality already here and there.  I expect it to become a trend in 2011!
  2. Insight: Big Data being available all around us with new technologies and algorithms will continue to propagate in 2011 leading to more widely spread Analytics capabilities.  The buzz at Analytics shows on Social Network Analysis (SNA) is a sign that there is interest in those kinds of things.  There is tremendous information that can be leveraged for smart decision-making.  I think there will be more of that in 2011 as initiatives launches in 2010 will mature into material results.
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  3. Collaboration:  Social Media for the Enterprise is a discipline in the making.  Social Media was initially seen for the most part as a Marketing channel.  Over the years, companies have started experimenting with external communities and ideation capabilities with moderate success.  The few strategic initiatives started in 2010 by “old fashion” companies seem to be an indication that we are past the early adopters.  This discipline may very well materialize in 2011 as a core capability, well, or at least a new trend.  I believe that capabilities such Chatter, offered by Salesforce, will transform (slowly) how people interact in the workplace and leverage the volumes of social data captured in LinkedIn and other Social Media sites.  Collaboration is of course a topic of interest for me personally.  I even signed up for Kare Anderson’s collaboration collaboration site – yes, twice the word “collaboration”: it is really about collaborating on collaboration techniques.  Even though collaboration does not require Social Media, this medium offers perspectives not available until now.

Brief Bio-

Carole-Ann is a renowned guru in the Decision Management space. She created the vision for Decision Management that is widely adopted now in the industry. Her claim to fame is the strategy and direction of Blaze Advisor, the then-leading BRMS product, while she also managed all the Decision Management tools at FICO (business rules, predictive analytics and optimization). She has a vision for Decision Management both as a technology and a discipline that can revolutionize the way corporations do business, and will never get tired of painting that vision for her audience. She speaks often at Industry conferences and has conducted university classes in France and Washington DC.

Leveraging her Masters degree in Applied Mathematics / Computer Science from a “Grande Ecole” in France, she started her career building advanced systems using all kinds of technologies — expert systems, rules, optimization, dashboarding and cubes, web search, and beta version of database replication – as well as conducting strategic consulting gigs around change management.

She now tweets as @CMatignon, blogs at blog.sparklinglogic.com and interacts at community.sparklinglogic.com.

She started her career building advanced systems using all kinds of technologies — expert systems, rules, optimization, dashboarding and cubes, web search, and beta version of database replication.  At Cleversys (acquired by Kurt Salmon & Associates), she also conducted strategic consulting gigs mostly around change management.

While playing with advanced software components, she found a passion for technology and joined ILOG (acquired by IBM).  She developed a growing interest in Optimization as well as Business Rules.  At ILOG, she coined the term BRMS while brainstorming with her Sales counterpart.  She led the Presales organization for Telecom in the Americas up until 2000 when she joined Blaze Software (acquired by Brokat Technologies, HNC Software and finally FICO).

Her 360-degree experience allowed her to gain appreciation for all aspects of a software company, giving her a unique perspective on the business.  Her technical background kept her very much in touch with technology as she advanced.

She also became addicted to Twitter in the process.  She is active on all kinds of social media, always looking for new digital experience!

Outside of work, Carole-Ann loves spending time with her two boys.  They grow fruits in their Northern California home and cook all together in the French tradition.

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Interview John Moore CTO, Swimfish

Here is an interview with John F Moore, VP Engineering and Chief Technology Officer, Swimfish a provider of business solutions and CRM. A well known figure in Technology and CRM circles, John talks of Social CRM, Technology Offshoring, Community Initiatives and his own career.

Too many CRM systems are not usable. They are built by engineers that think of the system as a large database and the systems often look like a database making it difficult to use by the sales, support, and marketing people.

-John F Moore

JohnMoore

Ajay – Describe your career journey from college to CTO. What changes in mindset did you undergo along the journey? What advice would you give to young students to take up science careers ?

John- First, I wanted to take time to thank you for the interview offer. I graduated from Boston University in 1988 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. At the time of my graduation I found myself to be very interested in the advanced taking place on the personal computing front by companies like Lotus with their 1-2-3 product. I knew that I wanted to be involved with these efforts and landed my first job in the software space as a Software Quality Engineer working on 1-2-3 for DOS.

I spent the first few years of my career working at Lotus as a developer, a quality engineer, and manager, on products such as Lotus 1-2-3 and Lotus Notes. Throughout those early career years I learned a lot and focused on taking as many classes as possible.

From Lotus I sought out the start-up environment and by early 2000 and joined a startup named Brainshark (http://www.brainshark.com). Brainshark was, and is, focused on delivering an asynchronous communication platform on the web and was one of the early providers of SAAS. In my seven years at Brainshark I learned a lot about delivering an Enterprise class SAAS solution on top of the Microsoft technology stack. The requirements to pass security audits for Fortune 500 companies, the need to match the performance of in-house solutions, resulted in all of us learning a great deal. These were very fun times.

I now work as the VP of Engineering and CTO at Swimfish, a services and software provider of business solutions. We focus on the financial marketplace where we have the founder has a very deep background, but also work within other verticals as well. Our products are focused on the CRM, document management, and mobile product space and are built on the Microsoft technology stack. Our customers leverage both our SAAS and on-premise solutions which require us to build our products to be more flexible than is generally required for a SAAS-only solution.

The exciting thing for me is the sheer amount of opportunities I see available for science/engineering students graduating in the near future. To be prepared for these opportunities, however, it will be important to not just be technically savvy.

Engineering students should also be looking at:

* Business classes. If you want to build cool products they must deliver business value.

* Writing and speaking classes. You must be able to articulate your ideas or no one will be willing to invest in them.

I would also encourage people to take chances, get in over your head as often as possible.You may fail, you may succeed. Either way you will gain experiences that make it all worthwhile.

Ajay- How do you think social media can help with CRM. What are the basic do’s and don’ts for social media CRM in your opinion?

John- You touch upon a subject that I am very passionate about. When I think of Social CRM I think about a system of processes and products that enable businesses to actively engage with customers in a manner that delivers maximum value to all. Customers should be able to find answers to their questions with minimal friction or effort; companies should find the right customers for their products.

Social CRM should deliver on some of these fronts:

* Analyze the web of relationships that exists to define optimal pathways. These pathways will define relationships that businesses can leverage for finding their customers. These pathways will enable customers to quickly find answers to their questions. For example, I needed an answer to a question about SharePoint and project management. I asked the question on Twitter and within 3 minutes had answers from two different people. Not only did I get the answer I needed but I made two new friends who I still talk to today.

* Monitor conversations to gauge brand awareness, identify customers having problems or asking questions. This monitoring should not be stalking; however, it should be used to provide quick responses to customers to benefit the greater community.

* Usability. Too many CRM systems are not usable. They are built by engineers that think of the system as a large database and the systems often look like a database making it difficult to use by the sales, support, and marketing people.

Finally, when I think of social media I think of these properties:

* Social is about relationship building.

* You should always add more value to the community than you take in return.

* Be transparent and honest. People can tell when you’re not.

Ajay-  You are involved in some noble causes – like using blog space for out of work techies and separately for Alzheimer’s disease. How important do you think is for people especially younger people to be dedicated to community causes?

John- My mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age 57. My wife and I moved into their two-family house to help her through the final years of her life. It is a horrible disease and one that it is easy to be passionate about if you have seen it in action.

My motivation on the job front is very similar. I have seen too many people suffer through these poor economic times and I simply want to do what I can to help people get back to work.

It probably sounds corny, but I firmly believe that we must all do what we can for each other. Business is competitive, but it does not mean that we cannot, or should not, help each other out. I think it’s important for everyone to have causes they believe in. You have to find your passions in life and follow them. Be a whole person and help change the world for the better.

Ajay- Describe your daily challenges as head of Engineering of Swimfish, Inc How important is it for the tech team to be integrated with the business and understand it as well.

John- The engineering team at Swimfish works very closely with the business teams. It is important for the team to understand the challenges our customers are encountering and to build products that help the customer succeed. I am not satisfied with the lack of success that many companies encounter when deploying a CRM solution.

We go as deep as possible to understand the business, the processes currently in use, the disparate systems being utilized, and then the underlying technologies currently in use. Only then do we focus on the solutions and deliver the right solution for that company.

On the product front it is the same. We work closely with customers on the features we are planning to add, trying to ensure that the solutions meet their needs as well as the needs of the other customers in the market that we are hoping to serve.

I do expect my engineers to be great at their core job, that goes without question. However, if they cannot understand the business needs they will not work for me very long.My weeks at Swimfish always provide me with interesting challenges and opportunities.

My typical day involves:

* Checking in with our support team to understand if there are any major issues being encountered by any of our customers.

* Challenging the support team to hit their targets. I love sales as without them I cannot deliver products.

* Checking in with my developers and test teams to determine how each of our projects is doing. We have a daily standup as well, but I try and personally check-in with as many people as possible.

* Most days I spend some time developing, mostly in C#. My current focus area is on our next release of our Milestone Tracking Matrix where I have made major revisions to our user interface.

I also spend time interacting on various social platforms, such as Twitter, as it is critical for me to understand the challenges that people are encountering in their businesses, to keep up with the rapid pace of technology, and just to check-in with friends. Keep it real.

Ajay-  What are your views on off shoring work especially science jobs which ultimately made science careers less attractive in the US- at the same time outsourcing companies ( in India) generally pay only 1/3 rd of billing fees to salaries. Do you think concepts like ODesk can help change the paradigm of tech out-sourcing.

John- I have mixed opinions on off-shoring. You should not offshore because of perceived cost savings only. On net you will generally break even, you will not save as much as you might originally think.

I am, however, close to starting a relationship with a good development provider in Costa Rica. The reason for this relationship is not cost based, it is knowledge based. This company has a lot of experience with the primary CRM system that we sell to customers and I have not been successful in finding this experience locally. I will save a lot of money in upfront training on this skill-set; they have done a lot of work in this area already (and have great references). There is real value to our business, and theirs.

Note that Swimfish is already working with a geographically dispersed team as part of the engineering team is in California and part is in Massachusetts. This arrangement has already helped us to better prepare for an offshore relationship and I know we will be successful when we begin.

Ajay- What does John Moore do to have fun when he is not in front of his computer or with a cause.

John- As the father of two teenage daughters I spend a lot of time going to soccer, basketball, and softball games. I also enjoy spending time running, having completed a couple of marathons, and relaxing with a good book. My next challenge will be skydiving as my 17 year old daughter and I are going skydiving when she turns 18.

Brief Bio:

For the last decade I have worked as a senior engineering manager for SAAS applications built upon the Microsoft technology stack. I have established the processes, and hired the teams that delivered hundreds of updates ranging from weekly patches to longer running full feature releases. My background as a hands-on developer combined with my strong QA background has enabled me to deliver high quality software on-time.

You can learn more about me, and my opinions, by reading my blog at http://johnfmoore.wordpress.com/ or joining me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JohnFMoore