Sinking in a data storm? Ideas for investment companies

Posted on : 30-06-2013 | By : richard.gale | In : Data

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All established organisations have oceans of data and only very basic ways to navigate a path through it

This data builds up over time through interaction with clients, suppliers and other organisations. It is usually stored in different ways on disconnected systems and documents

Trying to Identify what it means on a single system is a big enough challenge, trying to do this across a variety of applications is a much bigger problem with different meaning and interpretations of the fields and terms in the system

How can a company get a ‘360’ view of their client when they have different identifiers in various applications and there is no way of connecting them together. How can you measure the true value of your client when you can only see a small amount of the information you hold about them.

Many attempts have been made to join and integrate these data sets (through architected common data structures, data warehouses, messaging systems, business intelligence applications etc) but it has proved a very expensive and difficult problem to solve. These kind of projects take a long time to implement and the business has often moved on by the time they are ready. In addition early benefits are hard to find so these sorts of projects can often fall victim to termination if a round of cost cutting is required.

So what can be done? Three of the key problems are identification of value from data, duration & costs of data projects and ability to deal with a changing business landscape.

There is no silver bullet but we have been working with a number of Big Data firms and have found a key value from them is the ability to quickly load large volumes of data (both traditional database and unstructured documents, text, multi-media). This technology is relatively cheap and the hardware required is both generic and cheap and again can be easily sourced from cloud vendors.

Using a Hadoop based data store on Amazon cloud or a set of spare servers enables large amounts of data to be uploaded and made available for analysis.

So that can help with the first part, having disparate data in one place. So how to start extracting additional value from that data?

We have found a good way is to start asking questions of the data – “what is the total value of business client X does with my company?” or “what is our overall risk if this counterparty fails?” or “what is my cost of doing business with supplier A vs. supplier B?” if you start building question sets against the data and test & retest you can refine the questions, data and results and answers with higher levels of confidence start appearing. What often happens is that the answers create new questions and so answers etc.

There is nothing new about using data sets to enquire and test but the emerging Big Data technologies allow larger, more complex sets of data to be analysed and cheaper cloud ‘utility’ computing power makes the experimentation economically viable.

What is also good about this is that as the business grows and moves on – to new areas, systems or processes then loading the new data sets should be straightforward and fast. The questions can be re-run and results reappraised quickly and cheaply.

As we have discussed previously we think the most exciting areas within Big Data are the Data science and analytics – find which questions to ask and refining the results.

Visualisation of these results is another area where we see some exciting developments and we will be writing an article on this soon.



Time for the “Super PMO”

Posted on : 28-06-2013 | By : jo.rose | In : General News

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In todays technology change organisation, the Project Management Office (PMO) is a vital component; it creates consistent governance and project metrics, a central pool of expertise that can give help and guidance to project managers, standards, policies, methodology etc… and offload the routine tasks that get in the way of effectively controlling a project.

The success of the PMO hinges on;

  1. the quality of the tools used to implement the project management method adopted by the organisation
  2. the ability of the PMO tools to reach all participants in the project – not just project managers but the staff, contractors and suppliers who deliver

Forrester Research recently carried out a study into the benefits of implementing project portfolio tools. The benefits and how these tools help included reduction in project failures, cost overruns, throughput times and administrative effort. No surprises, but often these tools can be cumbersome and badly implemented.

PMO software requirements have grown significantly over the past few years as the emphasis has shifted from the planning process to cost control, corporate governance, project interdependencies and reporting.

Best of Breed PMOs today have a much wider range of responsibilities than earlier instances, including:

  • Identify and manage inter-project dependencies;
  • Resolve resource conflicts before they impact the project and resolve
  • Prevent duplication of business case benefits
  • Eliminate duplication of project management data and processes
  • Establish processes that enable the consistent management of all projects within defined project types.
  • Encourage cooperation across project teams and organisational boundaries
  • Provide timely metrics in a variety of formats useful for management decision support, proving regulatory compliance and monitoring risks

However, since the success of the PMO depends to a large extent on the tools that they use, it is unfortunate that
most project software is not designed to handle the additional data and workflows for cross-project dependencies, risks and supplier management.

As a result, PMOs have had to augment the core planning functionality with a mish-mash of discrete and disparate tools, which can only record and match data at the overall project level and which require cumbersome and costly manual processes.

Introducing to Super PMO

What organisations need is a solution that not only meets all the needs of a modern PMO but addresses the new end-to-end service model needs by ensuring that everyone works from  the same information, whilst offering a flexible, cost effective and agile implementation model.

An example of this is Deffinity. Their enterprise operations hub integrates every aspect of project management with the relevant business processes within the organization; including procurement, PMO, Project Teams, Suppliers, Operations and Finance.

At the same time, Deffinity exploits modern technologies such as Cloud and Mobile access to bring external customers and suppliers within the system, and deliver real-time control to project managers.

The “Super PMO” service encompasses three core concepts:

  1. A real-time information management framework that integrates plans with business workflows, activity tracking, issues, risks and programme management
  2. A “Live” project environment for running projects on an Exception basis
  3. A comprehensive ‘operational analytics’ capability that delivers the insights to support continuous process refinement and reengineering

All data is captured in tables and documents within the system, making it searchable at a granular level down to individual activities and contractors.

In summary, Deffinity “Super PMO” provides:

  • The ability to build and maintain project plans that take account of actual resource availability, locations and skills
  • Automated reporting of actual against planned activity as each task is completed
  • A resource management function that can display current resource assignments, appropriately filtered, to project managers and sponsors ensuring plans are consistent with real availabilities (and reducing conflicts before they occur)
  • On-demand metrics displayed in configurable dashboards for executives, sponsors and project managers; each tailored to show information useful to the viewer’s role
  • A selection of pre-configured reports documenting progress towards delivery and highlighting risks and issues as they are reported
  • Timesheet and expense data supported by an approval workflow that informs reports and dashboards
  • Store and index documentation supporting project plans service agreements, change history and other relevant materials


If you would like to see how Deffinity can help to manage your end-to-end service model and reduce operational costs, please contact Nadeem Mohammed.



Business & Digital alignment – how close is your firm?

Posted on : 28-06-2013 | By : john.vincent | In : General News

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Over recent years we have seen the rise in prominence and status of technology with organisations. If we take the Gartner Hype Curve analogy, we spent much of the mid 1990’s through to mid 2000’s in “The Plateau of Productivity”, with technology being an integral underpinning necessity or enabler, but less frequently an innovator or driver of competitive advantage, outside of stability and speed of execution (although, some business leaders might point to a “Trough of Disillusionment”).

Todays world and, in particular, the relationship between business and technology is much changed with organisations introducing new governance structures and roles to more closely take advantage of digital innovation and their ability to disrupt business models. Indeed, we have seen the introduction of the Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Digital Officer with elevated positions in the corporate structure.

That said, from a company’s board perspective, how can they ensure that the business direction and technology are aligned effectively to capitalise on digital innovation. Below are some themes/questions which are useful as a test of capability:

How is our industry changing as a result of technology innovation?

It is important to understand how new innovations are breaking down the boundaries of business models and reducing the barriers of entry. This is not simply keeping abreast with the latest trends in mobile, cloud, data analytics etc… but how new technologies are being exploited by competition and new entrants which can potential erode business revenues. This is difficult, as often the it is not obvious where the challenges will come from. Some can be predicted, such as trading engines and decision support built from social media sentiment analysis, or the myriad of mobile payment solutions. Others, however, are more difficult to predict like the introduction of gamification techniques across industry or the introduction of big data analytics for operational efficiency/intelligence such as with applications like Splunk.


What is our structure and process for nurturing developing digital technologies?

A recent survey by McKinsey showed that organisations are still coming to terms with how to develop, nurture and commercialise ideas within the organisation. From 2240 respondents, 50% stated “We have pockets of successful innovation but it is rarely scaled” and only 36% thought “We have the right balance between good ideas and effective commercialisation”.

So, does your organisation have someone responsible for driving forwards digital advancement? (such as Chief Innovation Officer)…or, is there a way to garner ideas within the grass roots and ensure that they are given enough runway to develop, through incubation mechanisms?


Have we the correct governance structure and a defined technology roadmap?

Business and IT alignment is often talked about but not really executed upon. Having the CIO/CTO or IT Director in operational or strategy governance meetings does not provide an optimised solution as often the focus is on efficiency, budgets, risk etc… and very rarely on a close (bi-directional) coupling between business priorities and “technology possibility”.

We see new models emerging where business and technology are brought together under specific “Digital Units” on an equal footing, where the goal is to build a technology roadmap which is completely not only aligned, but in many cases, actually informs and drives business into new customer markets and revenue opportunities.


Have we aligned our business operating model and portfolio of change effectively to the underpinning technology investments?

A natural lead in from the previous question. By putting the correct governance in place and removing internal barriers, it is much easier to ensure that the business operating model is driving technology investment and vice versa. Too often, organisations still operate a model from which the business change portfolio is defined and the “handed” to the technology leadership to deliver. And when we talk about large/global IT programmes, how many of these turn into “Black Swans“?

CEO’s need to look at, and question, the cross functional aspects of their business and technology organisations. We often see technology departments “aligned” to business units, but how often are more permanent/product related horizontal structures created?…and do individuals move in both directions through their careers to strengthen and embed competitive business knowledge and drive innovation?


What are we doing to increase the commoditisation and agility of technology resources?

The agility objective has been largely “etched into” power-point presentations for many years as they’ve made their way into the board room. “We’ve outsourced and increased agility…”…”Our ratio of perm to contract resource has increased from X to Y allowing us to be more agile.”….(tick in the box then).

What CEO’s need to gauge is truly how fast their internal technology organisation can respond to changes in business services from all aspects be that functionality, new products or volumes? (and the important part of this is whether can they be scaled down or switched off?)

Whilst the move to a more commoditised service model needs to be evolutionary, particularly in terms of risk and compliance, what CEO’s should look for from their technology leadership is a committed multi year roadmap which lays out the resource model for infrastructure, applications and people, with associated metrics/budget. Without this, and with the pressure of day to day efficiency challenges, CIO’s cannot be blamed for maintaining previous models.