Ashu's Blog – left, right, and all in between

Data Visualization
September 25, 2014


Sure a picture is worth a thousand words. But didn’t the dude in Matrix see numbers and know the stories behind this? Well, only in movies. According to research, Data visualization is so powerful because the human visual cortex converts objects into information quickly. As we continue the journey of Data – Information – Knowledge – Wisdom, the feedback loop of models and visualization to see patterns is key.
 
Data Visualiaztion 1  
 
As Big Data grows, it’s clear that the technology to gather and store data far EXCEEDS the ability to Analyze it. However, not all visualizations are actually that helpful. You may be all too familiar with lifeless bar graphs, or line graphs made with software defaults and couched in a slideshow presentation or lengthy document. The best data visualizations are ones that expose something new about the underlying patterns and relationships contained within the data. Understanding those relationships — and being able to observe them — is key to good decision making.  
 
Retail:
  • Pizza and Cola sell together more often than any other combo – is there a cross-marketing opportunity?
  • Does Plant and Clay Pot sales IMPLY sales of Soil?
  • Milk sells well with everything – people probably come here specifically to buy it. Should we raise prices since less price elasticity?
  • What is the one item you want to have in your store in case of a hurricane?
  Hospitality:
  • Does buying any kind of pepper also denote sales of  banana?.
  Healthcare:
  • Does buying any kind of pepper also denote sales of  banana?.
  Insurance:
  • Which customers are most likely not to have an accident?
  An important distinction lies between visualization for exploring and visualization for explaining. Exploring data is all about statistical acumen and understanding the nature of what the data represents in your enterprise. Visualization tools are an aid but they have been around for eons. Once you have explored, you will almost always find less than a handful of factors stand out and need explanation. Your presentation should not be about fancy graphs but the right power point / keynote /video storyline for your audience. It seldom needs voluptuous graphs ... if you are trying to describe more than this handful of points, then you are already lost in your quest.  
 
The key is use the right Visualization for the right Data at the right Time. I found this chart very helpful to decide the decision tree for which types of visualizations to use for different scenarios:
 
Charts  
 
There are so many tools to do this kind of analyzes:
  • Qlik, SAP, SAS, and Tableau Software deliver the latest table stakes in visual discovery: storyboard capabilities.
  • Google Fusion Tables: Bust your data out of its silo and combine it with other data on the web. Collaborate, visualize and share
  • Datawrapper: An open source tool helping anyone to create simple, correct and embeddable charts in minutes
  • Infogram: Infogr.am is user-friendly interface to help develop creative, interactive infographics
  • Piktochart: Piktochart is a simple WYSIWYG editor to help develop and design charts and infographics
    Visualization for explaining is best when it is cleanest. Here, the ability to pare down the information to its simplest form — to strip away the noise entirely — will increase the efficiency with which a decision maker can understand it. As big data becomes bigger, and more companies deal with complex datasets with dozens of variables, data visualization will become even more important.  
 
Data Visualiaztion 2        




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Techniques in Predictive Analytics
September 13, 2014


So last week when I wrote about Predictive Analytics, I got responses from folks saying, “The value from such areas is clearly there. But the challenge is which technique to use and the ever-sliding sword of showing ROI so there is buy in for these analyses”.  
 
In framing the Analytics problem – we need to balance data, SME knowledge, and performance. One of the things I have noticed in my work is when the analysts build models the real skill in creating effective analytic model is knowing which models and algorithms to use. They can use different techniques: neural networks, decision trees, linear regression, naïve Bayes, etc. But these days many analytic workbenches now automatically apply multiple models to a problem to find the combination that works best. One needs to explore different paths – they look at the problem from different perspectives. When these algorithms are combined there is resulting synergy. Once the modeling data sets were finalized, the largest incremental gain was not achieved by fine tuning the training parameters of an individual algorithm, but by combining predictions from multiple algorithms.  
 
So with the myriad tools and techniques that exist, the way to approach this is to ask the questions that are really important for what the company is trying to solve:  
  • Strategic Customer Questions
    • Who are the most/least profitable customers?
    • Who are the most/least satisfied customers?
    • What is fastest/slowest customer segment?
    • What are the reasons for customer attrition?
    • What are the costs of customer transactions?
  • Strategic Product Questions
    • What are our most/least profitable products?
    • What are our production costs & how can we lower them?
    • What is our cycle time & how can we lower it?
  • Strategic Employee Questions
    • Who are the most productive salespeople, employee?
    • Which managers have the highest retention rates? What do they do?
    • What is the cost of turnover?
  • Strategic Financial Questions
    • How accurate are the financial forecasts?
    • How much financial data is used to answer business decisions?
    • What impacts the demand of our product?
    • What items are affecting our margins the most?
  Based on this one has to look at some of the following techniques:  
  • Classification – predicting an item class, “Decision Tree”
  • Association – what occurs together, “Market Basket”
  • Estimation and Time Series – predicting a continuous value
  • Web and Text Mining – extracting information from unstructured data
  • Clustering – finding natural clusters or groups in data
  • Deviation Detection – finding changes or outliers
  • Link Analysis – finding relationships
   




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Predictive Analytics
September 1, 2014


These days it’s tough to walk out of any meeting with Business or IT organizations without touching the topic of Big Data or Analytics. Lot of people struggle with what this is – everyone BELIEVES that it can help if done rightly. But what is it?
 
The way as I look it: As organizations mature on their Business Intelligence capability, the questions they ask mature too. It’s not about only looking at what the data tells about problems you need to solve. But can data tell you to THINK OF NEW PROBLEMS that you can solve. Things you didn’t know. THINK of something different. Organizations are faced with ever increasing business challenges: Driving new sources of growth, Cost management and cash conservation, Increased business complexity and the need for operational excellence, or Business restructuring in an increasingly global business environment. Ubiquitous computing and technology capabilities have increased dramatically the volume of data at companies’ disposal, yet there remains little in the way of actionable insights (Big Data). Companies need timely, in-depth actionable insights if they are to remain competitive globally to effect a “whole business” approach to big data analytics to deliver business results. Analytics-driven optimization of key business processes
  • Staking out distinctive market strategy (CRM Strategy and Loyalty programs)
  • Finding the best customers, and charging them the right price (Revenue Management )
  • Minimizing inventory and maximizing availability in supply chains (Inventory Optimization)
  • Understanding and managing financial performance (Forecasting)
   

Predictive Analytics

    Business Intelligence technologies are deductive in nature validating the hypotheses of the business problems you want to solve. Examples:
  • Product shortage by market
  • Vendor spend by category
  • Brand health by market
  • Periodic trend analysis
  • Periodic P&L and Financial      Reports
  Predictive Analytics is Inductive in nature - pull out meaningful relationships and patterns and tells you of different things that might be addressing the same or new problems. Example:
  • Business Mix Optimization      (Product, Geography, etc.)
  • Price sensitivity by consumer      segment
  • Customer Behavior Modeling
  • Performance/profitability      analysis
  As an example, NETFLIX, a US movie delivery company, asked engineers and scientists around the world to solve what might have seemed like a simple problem: improve Netflix's ability to predict what movies users would like by a modest 10%. From $5 million revenue in 1999 reached $4.3 billion revenue in 2013 as a result of becoming an analytics competitor. By analyzing customer behavior and buying patterns created a recommendation engine which optimizes both customer tastes and inventory condition.
 
As another example, Analyzing Love: Data Mining on Match.com in AllAnalytics, Match.com, online dating service, tries to predict the likelihood of attractions between people.  95% of relationship can be predicted by analyzing as few as 10 characteristics in each profile. The find things like:
  • Members with accounts on Twitter, which only allows for messages of no more than 140 characters, have shorter relationships.
  • People identifying themselves as Republicans are more willing to connect with Democrats than the reverse
  Predictive Analytics 2 Predictive Analytics 3    




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Global Sourcing
August 18, 2014


In this day and age there is an assumed maturity in the way initiatives within a business are sourced and out-sourced. When it comes to IT applications and their development and maintenance, there are 4 possible scenarios that companies deal with:
  • Insource  - Maintain control internally (usually for reasons of intellectual property, privacy, or strategic responsiveness)
  • Staff Augmentation - Save money while maintaining responsibility for application support and maintenance activities
  • Co-source- Leverage external cost structure benefits and expertise while maintaining an appropriate level of control
  • Outsource - Delegate IT (or selected functions therein) to an external organization for which it is a core competency
With this industry evolved over the years, the rationale for IT outsourcing decisions has shifted from cost being the sole consideration to include a number of strategic factors. No doubt cost is still top of the mind, especially with this economy. But a lot of other considerations are in play:
  • Strategic Importance
    • Relative impact of a service area on the company’s revenues and overall profitability
    • How strategic is the function to my organization today? How does it fit into our future plans?
  • Current Capability
    • Relative strength of a service area's technical & business know-how, processes, and tools
    • What are the capabilities of the function?  How do those capabilities compare to our requirements, and to our peers?
  • Perceived Value / Cost
    • Perceived value of a service area relative to the costs incurred
    • What is the function’s capacity to adapt and change?
  • Ownership Preference
    • Relative preference of management to own, share, or transfer out IT assets based on company beliefs, values, and sourcing experience
    • How easily can the function be transitioned to another sourcing strategy?
    Business Quarterly indicates 75% of US executives considered financial motivations as secondary to other strategic objectives when outsourcing. Business Week reports, “The really smart business owners have figured out how to use outsourcing as a strategic tool instead of simply looking for savings.” CIO magazine reveals strategic value rivals cost reductions for outsourcing motivations.   Based on some reports by The Outsourcing Institute the top reasons for outsourcing look as below:

Sourcing

  No matter what the goals, the key success factors of outsourcing are always:
  • Be clear about objectives-- cost, process improvement, and the ability to focus on the core business are the most common
  • Incorporate business outcomes as a performance measure from the outset of the arrangement
  • Look beyond price and promises of cost reductions for an outsourcing provider that brings a wide set of skills and strengths, and a long-term track record of delivering results
  • Give as much attention to performance measurement and the quality of your relationship with your provider as you do to the contract
  • Use active governance to manage the outsourcing relationship for maximum performance
  • Task talented executives with optimizing outsourcing arrangements
 




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Business Cases – Show me the Money !
July 29, 2014


Ever since Jerry Maguire blurted this out, people have been using this as a corporate euphemism for ROI/ Business case.
 
sales
 
One of the critical roles for any organization is to manage the value achievement of the initiatives they pursue. They need to ensure sponsor and executive ownership of the business case. The business case allows the stakeholders in IT projects to jointly address their key concerns with project investments:
 
stakeholders
 
  Business cases highlight the initiatives that create the greatest value, support decision- making, and help track program performance. It is good to define the business case early and plan on many iterations since it:
  • Demonstrates how a major investment creates value
  • Includes both quantitative and qualitative rationale
  • Supports business decisions by weighing choices or options
  • Creates a way to track performance and measure success after a decision has been made
  • Gains alignment and management consensus for a project
  In some organizations, the term ‘Business case’ may also be referred to as
  • Cost/benefit analysis
  • ROI analysis
  • Feasibility study
  • Capital funding request
  • Case for action
bizcase2  
  • Once the team has understood the importance of having a business case to guide the investment decisions of the initiatives, there is debate on what level of detail should it have. There are many approaches to building out a business case and the main elements are
    • Benefit models
    • Cost models
    • Cash flow models
    • Assumptions (timing, dependencies)
    • Sensitivity Analysis
    • Qualitative Factors Analysis (non-financial benefits, risks)
  The financial models can be Top-Down (more high level and helps form an initial hypothesis wider ranges to reflect uncertainty) or Bottoms-Up (more quantitative and time spent on thorough data collection and analyses). But the key point is that you need to build the business case with ranges and confidence levels. Once the numbers were compelling, the ranges could change but they would not change the decision.    




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IT Service Management
June 27, 2014


At a BPM event recently in Orlando, I was chatting with a colleague about IT and the BPM responsibility. This guy is the SVP of IT operations and handles Infrastructure for his company. When someone asked him who from the business was responsible for the BPM aspects in his firm from the business side, his response was “We in IT are actually responsible for the BPM aspects and optimization therein.” Another guys goes, “The only real applications the business is concerned about is e-mail”   That set me thinking about IT Service Management, etc. Having spent some time doing ITIL work, I am familiar with the concept of IT service management, which involves moving:
 
  From...
  • Multiple points of contact with the business
  • Service defined and measured in technical terms (if at all)
  • Work driven by technology
  • Organized to support systems
  To...
  • Managed relationships established with customers
  • Service defined, measured and reported on in business terms
  • Work driven by service requirement
  • Organized to deliver service
So ITSM is all about better service at lower cost. But the challenges with a full blown ITIL deployment is that ITIL is far too generic for an organization to implement at a fast pace, in totality. Process reengineering and change management are always required and are rarely considered. Some practitioners have said that it complements other IT management methodologies like CMMI, etc. But the way I look at this is that CMM focuses on improving and appraises the maturity of application development.  ITIL is focused on best practices around IT Operations and Services. This kind of demarcation:  

ITSM 1

  The ITIL v2 broke these Operations into Service Support (ensuring that the customer has access to appropriate services to support business functions) and Service Delivery (IT services are provided as agreed between the Service Provider and the Customer).   But the key to achieving good IT service management even at a small scale is by using the following guiding principles:
  • Business Relationship Management: Ongoing liaison and relationship building with Client community.  Maintain an understanding of the business and IT requirements.
  • Service Delivery Management: Understand the IT Services provided and the businesses reliance on these Services.  Carry out the appropriate business liaison and escalation for Service issues.
  • Service Performance Review: Formally review service performance against agreed upon SLAs. And good luck with that J
  • Service Level Agreement Management: Maintain service definitions and assess implications of any changes
  • Service Enhancement Request: Receive and shape requests for new/enhanced services
 




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Supply Chain Excellence
June 7, 2014


Achieving supply chain excellence is complex and challenging, but success in achieving supply-chain driven competitive advantage enables superior customer service, profitable revenue for growth and significant increase in shareholder value. Inventory Management is the conductor of the symphony for Retail Supply Chain execution. It is critical for customer service since Inventory management is what initiates all merchandise movement and controls the timing within the supply chain
  • Supply chain assets and inventory usually comprise at least half of all non-store based assets
  • Supply chain activities typically account for as much as 40 – 70% of operating costs (including procurement  and markdowns)
  Some of the statements from retailers across all kinds of products:
  • “Assisted Inventory Management (AIM) helped us exceed our inventory-turn goal, making us the leader among national drugstore chains in this important productivity measure. We achieved inventory turns of 5.0 times for the year, up from 4.6 times in earlier years.” – CVS
  • “Positioned among the best in retail, our supply chain helps drive sales, reduce costs and ensure the availability of products our guests most want and need.” – Target
  • “We completed the conversion of each of our operating divisions to a common technology platform with greatly enhanced inventory management tools, permitting more sophisticated inventory planning and more precise by-store inventory allocation.” – Saks
  The three main components of the Inventory Optimization program address both the process and physical infrastructure of the supply chain.  
  1. Inventory Management Process  - this addresses end-to-end inventory management built on two core processes:
  • Foundational for continually replenished basic merchandise. Periodic automatic replenishment, long life, stable supply, short lead time to continually meet normal demand
  • Highly Variable which is typical of merchandise with high demand spikes due to promotions, fashion, short life and seasonal demand
 
  1. Network and Flow Strategy - Network Optimization starts with establishing a vision of alternative flow paths and ends with a full evaluation of end-to-end physical supply chain and a recommended distribution network strategy. One  has to assess merchandise flow paths to provide revenue growth, minimize supply chain costs and support overall inventory strategies.  Then one has to determine alternative distribution      strategies including buildings size and location, transportation strategies, inventory deployment strategies, and benefit based business cases.
 
  1. Store Operations – Design and implement a well-defined process for store operations related to receiving, shelf stocking, perpetual inventory accuracy and plan-o-gram maintenance.
  • Organization & Labor Planning
  • Life Cycle Management
  • Shelf Replenishment
  • Data Integrity Maintenance
  The idea is to push operations from
  • Stores Ordering for basic merchandise to Automatic Replenishment Approach which is centrally  maintained and helps with enhanced High Performance forecasting and allocation abilities
  • Store Reviews ( All replenishment orders to supplement simple forecasting & ordering logic) to Exception Only Reviews. No store review for standard items and examples of exception reviews: items with high inventories, poor service levels etc.
  • Limited Standards & Policies (In-stock policies and Service levels) to Standard Policies Across the Supply Chain. This is through reliable & repeatable inventory management processes and uniform service standards based on merchandise goals and category/SKU profitability
Forecasting SCM 2  




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RFID in the age of Mobility
May 10, 2014


Having done a lot of work in the supply chain industry, I am so intrigued by RFID and its potential once the costs go further down. Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a generic term for technologies that use radio waves to automatically identify individual items. RFID technology is not new or complex; it has been around since the early radar systems in the 1940’s. What is new is how manufacturing advancements have reduced costs of implementing RFID systems (particularly tags). These silicon-based electronic identification tags, consisting of a tiny processor, memory, antenna and can be read and written wirelessly and can be made cheap, without a battery. The main components of this technology are:
 
Tags
  • Device made up of an electronic circuit and an integrated antenna
  • Radio frequency used to transfer data between the tag and the antenna
  • Read-only or read / write
  Antenna
  • Receives and transmits the  electromagnetic waves
  • Wireless data transfer
  Reader
  • Receives commands from application software
  • Interprets radio waves into digital information
  • Provides power supply to passive tags
  IT Infrastructure
  • Reads / writes data from / to the tags through the reader
  • Stores and evaluates obtained data
  • Links the transceiver to an applications, e.g. ERP
 
 
Of course there has been a major drag in the adoption of this technology. The key challenges have been:
 
  Costs
  • Not only costs of tags and readers, but the costs of integration of the RFID technology into the IT technology stack - e.g. ERP, etc.
  Standards
  • Lack of worldwide data standards
  • Country-specific frequencies allocation
  Market
  • Vendors are very fragmented
  Technology
  • Tag and data overload – How do we handle the data?
  • Read-rate accuracy
  • Tag and reader collision – Signals can interfere with each other
  People
  • Privacy fears from the tracking provided by this technology
 
 
But more and more this technology is coming into mainstream. Especially after Walmart mandating the use of RFIDs in their supply chain management. Walmart believes that they can cut out costs and make their supply chain even more lean with this deployment.  
 
The uses of this technology are of course endless. I was recently reading about the CyberTM Tire from Pirelli Tire Systems that transmits information on road conditions and friction coefficients to the car's computer. Already some hospitals are using RFIDs to tag patients with wristbands to scan by hospital staff using PDAs or tablet PCs connecting to patients' data using a WLAN.  
 
And as this become more prevalent there are other uses that are surely ridden with privacy issues. There is much research where people are looking at ways to monitor real time health in individuals. There is a RFID implanted in the human wrist that send signals to the health insurance company at all times. When you wake up in the morning and go for a jog; you arrive at work and an email from the company (always monitoring your vital stats) sits in you inbox, proclaiming a reduced premium for the day. You have breakfast at McDonalds over the weekend. Lo and behold, your premium just went up.    
 
RFID
 
RFID 2




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IT Spend Analyses
April 26, 2014


A few days ago I was in a CIO roundtable in Atlanta and one of the CIOs mentioned that despite the state of the economy their IT Organization was thinking of spending some if their budget on some innovative initiatives so that when we get to the bottom of the J-curve in the economy, they’d be ready to win over strategic goals. Really set me thinking – how are companies dividing their IT spend on keep-the-lights-on operations and strategic or innovative investment. Top executive management these days has two main questions:
  1. How can the IT organization be transformed to be an enabler of creating  business value rather than just being a cost of doing business?
  2. How can we achieve better results at a lower cost?
  I guess it’s always important for the IT organization to evaluate internally how IT’s value contribution to the business should be planned, managed, and assessed. Unfortunately, the link between business value and IT is often not understood by executives and especially in times like these IT spending levels are overly-squeezed. The common issues that we have seen:
  • Typically, IT spending level is based on historical or competitive benchmark levels
  • Lack of recognition for IT contribution on business side
  • Short term, simple IT cost cutting drives down value adding and innovative IT initiatives first
  • As a result, IT capabilities deteriorate and mid-term IT operating costs rise
  • Eventually, higher IT operating costs eat away funds for innovations and this furthers the overall IT budget explosion. A big vicious circle!
  Of course a company’s position on its spending is dependent upon many macro factors:
  • Number and size of competitors
  • Industry growth rate and rate of change
  • Industry margins/pricing
  • Product differentiation factors – physical products or knowledge assets
  Mandatory or non-discretionary IT investments are for keep-the-lights-on functions - IT Operations, regulatory, etc. Things like technical support, IT infrastructure management, technical upgrades to infrastructure components, required maintenance, enterprise-wide project support fall in this category.
 
  Discretionary spending, which is about IT investments that are Strategic, Enabling, and Sustaining, are on things like R&D (focus on future technologies), etc. These investments should create a strategic or economic advantage in the market, create barriers to entry, etc.   As written by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema in their classic book, Discipline of Market Leaders, there are three basic "value disciplines" for a company to pursue – operational excellence, customer intimacy, and /or product leadership. If the direction of the company is clear, well-communicated, and well-understood, then some strategic IT investments are driven from the same:  
  • If there is a product/service innovation  focus, then the company needs to focus on increasing value to existing customers, developing new markets and channels, etc. Examples of initiatives are eInnovation, eDesign Collaboration, PLM, etc.
  • If the company is focusing on Customer Intimacy, then the company needs to improve understanding of its customer needs, increase customer insight, etc. The initiatives fall in realms like Customer Insight (Inbound Marketing), Integrated View of Customer (DW, Analytics), etc.
  • If the company is trying to create new scales and reduce interaction costs between partners and customers, it needs to invest in increasing service levels at lower costs, concepts like “Super” Distributor, Supplier Collaboration, etc.
IT Spend  




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Fleet Management
April 2, 2014


Fleet Management, of which Strategic Sourcing is a core part, is an integrated set of actions, which occur in a rational and logical manner, with the overall objective of attaining lowest Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Key issues in fleet management involve capital commitments and management, as well as operating effectiveness and cost.  Fleet asset utilization is not typically tracked or measured, which leads to unwanted outcomes, such as having more vehicles than necessary, additional operating and maintenance costs and not always having the right vehicles for the jobs they are needed to do.  Additionally, fleet costs are usually   fragmented and a rarely captured in total, which leads to problems in trying to adequately and accurately assess operating efficiency and evaluate out-sourcing opportunities.   The first step for true optimization is getting a good handle on the existing fleet in terms of its make-up, utilization and operating cost, reviewing the administrative and operating practices related to procurement, operations, maintenance and disposition, as well as determining replacement scheduling. The foundation is based upon the following three areas:
  • Strategy (replacement scheduling, outsourcing/insourcing and fleet organization)
  • Operations (vehicle pooling, maintenance & repair, inventory management, fuel management)
  • Administration (Standards & specifications, fleet utilization, budget & cost reporting)
  The areas to explore the fleet management practices:
 
Data
  • Fleet inventory (including but not limited to manufacturer and model year, type, location, VIN #, GVWR, acquisition price, options purchased, lease payment, annual operating and maintenance costs, sale price if retired, auction fees and class – how it’s used)
  • Equipment Utilization – Miles, hours or both on equipment where there may be two measures of utilization
  • Fleet “spend” at invoice level and at options level if available.
  • Current agreements and in progress negotiations
  • Current leases, short term rentals, and ownership models

 
Fleet Rationalization, Utilization and Fleet Mix - Once the standards and specifications process has taken place, putting rigor and focus in the area of rationalization and utilization brings value and savings to the company and fleet. The goal of this component of the process is multi-dimensional:
  • Ensuring that the proper utilization targets by class and location (e.g.,: metro v. rural) are set and used to reduce the number of low-use vehicles in the field
  • Rationalizing the fleet based on job function and job assignment.
  • Developing a fleet policy that optimizes the use of pooling vehicles, how and when to use short-term rentals and take home vehicles.
  • Identify fleet operating needs that may include needs for surplus vehicles including seasonal work requirements, construction projects, regulatory mandates, etc.
Focus on the 80/20 rule when it comes to prioritizing fleet opportunities.  Develop standards and specifications for the portion of the fleet that can be standardized and will provide the highest value/impact, such as passenger vehicles, SUVs, LD and MD trucks aerial and digger derricks.  Utility and construction equipment is often overlooked  
  • Fuel - In most cases, not incorporating the sourcing of bulk fuel (v. fuel management services) as a part of any fleet sourcing engagement. Past   experience has shown that this exercise returns almost no incremental  value and usually devolves into an exercise around sourcing transportation from supplier fuel racks to client bulk tank facilities.
  • Maintenance & Repair - Achieving the lowest TCO for fleet, maintenance and repair is an integral component of the equation. Inherently  maintenance and repair costs will decrease as an output of developing the standards and specifications and replacement schedule process. Other areas should also be evaluated, such as opportunities for network consolidations of maintenance and repair shops, etc.
  • Determining a “Levelized” Replacement Schedule - Developing a “Levelized” Replacement Schedule is a key concept in improving fleet management and obtaining benefits from strategic sourcing. Sharing the information with both internal finance and external vendors and suppliers is instrumental in planning for future fleet acquisitions and capital needs as well as structuring multi-year deals.
   Fleet TCO  
 
In summary, maximizing fleet effectiveness depends on managing it like a business, in an integrated and holistic fashion, across two major dimensions.
  • FLEET OPERATIONS – Operating revenue, Operating costs, Contribution margin, Productivity metrics and measures, Performance metrics and measures
  • FLEET ASSET MANAGEMENT – Fleet sizing, Standards and specs, Strategic sourcing, Life-cycle management, Maintenance and repair, Disposition management
Fleet Mngt 2      




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Supply Chain Excellence
March 30, 2014


Achieving supply chain excellence is complex and challenging, but success in achieving supply-chain driven competitive advantage enables superior customer service, profitable revenue for growth and significant increase in shareholder value:
  • Supply chain assets and inventory usually comprise at least half of all non-store based assets
  • Supply chain activities typically account for as much as 40 – 70% of operating costs (including procurement and markdowns)
Retail 3      
  1. Scientific Retailing: Overview of the High Performance Retailing framework, demand and supply value drivers
 
  1. Inventory Management: Inventory Management is the conductor of the symphony for Retail Supply Chain  execution. It is critical for customer service since Inventory management is what initiates all merchandise movement and controls the timing within the supply chain
    Some of the statements from retailers across all kinds of products:
  • “Assisted Inventory Management (AIM) helped us exceed our inventory-turn goal, making us the leader among national drugstore chains in this important productivity measure. We achieved inventory turns of 5.0 times for the year, up from 4.6 times in earlier years.” – CVS
 
  • “Positioned among the best in retail, our supply chain helps drive sales, reduce costs and ensure the availability of products our guests most want and need.” - Target
 
  • “We completed the conversion of each of our operating divisions to a common technology platform with greatly enhanced inventory management tools, permitting more sophisticated inventory planning and more precise by-store inventory allocation.” – Saks
    The three main components of the Inventory Optimization program address both the process and physical infrastructure of the supply chain.  
  1. IM Process:
  • Addresses end-to-end inventory management built on two core processes:
  • Foundational for continually replenished basic merchandise: Periodic automatic replenishment, long life, stable supply, short lead time to continually meet normal demand
  • Highly Variable typical of merchandise with high demand spikes or problematic supply: Demand characteristics are promotions, fashion, short life and seasonal while supply is typically private imports and private label
 
  1. Network and Flow Strategy
Network Optimization starts with establishing a vision of alternative flow paths and ends with a full evaluation of end-to-end physical supply chain and a recommended distribution network strategy.
  • Assesses merchandise flow paths to provide revenue growth, minimize supply chain costs and support overall inventory strategies.
  • Determines alternative distribution strategies including buildings size and location, transportation strategies, inventory deployment strategies, and benefit based business cases.
 
  1. Store Operations
  • Determines store level inventory processes that maximize the customer perceived in-stock (several studies show 40-70% of outs occur due to store defects).
  • Design and implement a well-defined process for store operations related to receiving, shelf stocking, perpetual inventory accuracy and plan-o-gram maintenance.
    • Organization & Labor Planning
    • Life Cycle Management
    • Shelf Replenishment
    • Data Integrity Maintenance
    The idea is to push operations from
  • Stores Ordering for basic merchandise to Automatic Replenishment Approach which is centrally maintained and helps with enhanced High Performance forecasting and allocation abilities
  • Store Reviews ( All replenishment orders to supplement  simple forecasting & ordering logic) to Exception Only Reviews. No store review for standard items and examples of exception reviews: items with high inventories, poor service levels etc.
  • Limited Standards & Policies (In-stock policies and Service levels) to Standard Policies Across the Supply Chain. This is through reliable & repeatable inventory management processes and uniform service standards based on merchandise goals and category/SKU profitability
Forecasting SCM 2        




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Lean and Six Sigma
March 16, 2014


Recently I was on the panel of a CXO discussion around how to optimize costs and increases business productivity, when someone from the audience asked about Lean Six Sigma and its relevance, especially in today’s economy. They asked is it Six Sigma that has been more effective or have Lean principles helped more? And how exactly do they differ? That set of dialog encouraged me to write this post. There is always debate about Lean and Six Sigma being so close that practitioners love to dichotomize in their thinking.  

So what is Six Sigma?
  • A Metric? - Less than 3.4 defects per million opportunities of product produced/ service rendered
  • A Vision? - Six Sigma is an overall strategy to accelerate improvements in processes, products, and services
  • A Value? - Strive for continuous improvement in all activities
  • A philosophy? - A proven “pursuit of perfection” business initiative that creates breakthroughs in profitability, quality, and productivity
Six Sigma practitioners follow these tenets as a business philosophy:
  • If something cannot be measured, we really do not know much about it.
  • If we don't know much about it, we cannot control it.
  • If we cannot control it, we are at the mercy of chance.
Six Sigma started in the manufacturing industry with emphasis on management of efficient processes, efficient management of people, dedication to measurement systems, etc – mostly Operational Excellence. But it became apparent that business success was more than the absence of negatives (defects, delays, cost overruns). Six Sigma then began to encompass positives like customer loyalty and delighters in new products. From operational excellence, Six Sigma has moved towards Customer Intimacy and Product Leadership value disciplines through its DFSS / DMADV tools. There is always debate that Six Sigma does not go that well with a Innovation focus. But all said and done the tools offered are used everywhere in different flavors and different terms:
  • SIPOC - A top level process mapping tool to document a process in the context of suppliers who provide inputs which are transformed into outputs for the customer.
  • Cause & Effect Matrix - A process of identifying problems, finding their causes, and creating the best solutions to keep them from happening again (fishbone diagram).
  • Failure Mode & Effects Analysis (FMEA) - A tool used to identify ways the process can fail, estimate the risk of the failure, identify causes of failure, prioritize actions to reduce failure risks, develop control plans to prevent failures
  • VOC - The “Voice of the Customer”; the customer specifications/ requirements that dictate acceptable and unacceptable outcomes and drive actions.
  • VOP  - The “Voice of the Process ”; the companies processes doing what they need to produce products/ services.
  • CTQ - “Critical to Quality”; characteristics that significantly influence one or more of the customer requirements.
Of course, recently Six Sigma has begun to be used in the IT industry as Six Sigma for Software.  

And what is Lean?  A philosophy that shortens the time line between the customer order and the shipment by eliminating waste (non-value-adding activities). This philosophy is based on the following principles:
  • Value – what the customer buys
  • Value stream – how value is delivered
  • Flow – putting value added steps in sequence. The “flow” or “value-stream” perspective represents a shift from vertical to horizontal thinking. Flow is enabled when materials and processes are standardized across the supply chain to reduce complexity.
  • Pull – triggering flow from the customer needs. E.g. have only projects in IT that the pipeline can take i.e. Demand Management.
  • Perfection – continuous improvement
  Value Added
  • Any activity that increases the market form or function of the product or service.  (These are things the customer is willing to pay for.) For .e.g in the Airline industry – actual flying time or in the Healthcare industry – diagnosis/treatment.
Non-Value Added = Waste
  • Any activity that does not add market form or function or is not necessary.  (These activities should be eliminated, simplified, reduced or integrated.). For e.g. in the airline industry – lining up to check –in or in the Healthcare industry – sitting in the waiting room waiting for an appointment. There are specific categories of waste that Lean targets:  
  1. Excess (or early) production - Overproduction
  2. Inventory - documents, forms, supplies
  3. Waiting  - e.g. delay in obtaining an appointment or test results
  4. Transportation (to/from processes)/ Motion – for e.g. leaving exam rooms for equipment, chart forms
  5. Extra Processing like inspection
  6. Defects
  7. Underutilized people / resources
The way I look at it is the Lean is the management philosophy and Six Sigma is a great set of tools that help you chart your path. You have got to use the Six Sigma to first reduce variation and then deploy Lean management to take your processes to a newer level altogether. Some thoughts to leave you with what I always do :-)  

SIX SIGMA is about supporting different situations with different and specific tools: ss 1  

And LEAN is about looking for efficient solutions and reducing waste: ss2




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Payment and Transaction Processing economics
January 5, 2014


Ever since I worked at American Express and I still hear from folks that “oh these credit card companies make 4% of the transaction dollars”, I feel like documenting the whole flow of this industry and see the economics behind this. The way the transactions work are very well explained on this virtual school link: http://virtualschool.edu/mon/ElectronicProperty/klamond/credit_card.htm The mix of payment instruments evolves from the dynamics between customers, retailers and issuers – cash, checks, credit cards, debit cards, fleet cards, mobile payments, biometric payments, etc. From the retailers’ perspective, the range of instruments that retailers choose to endorse depend on the costs and benefits of each – with remaining transaction values as below:  CC processing 4  

For credit card transaction processing industry in particular, the value chain of this industry is as below:

CC processing Value Chain

But the current trends in this industry are as below:

  • Merchants, like Starbucks, have expanded pre-paid and store-card operations with payment processors, bypassing high cost clearing/ settlement networks
  • A consortium of major banks, such as BofA, Chase and Citigroup, have started or purchased a rival clearing / settlement network
  • Game-changing mobile and  internet initiatives, like GSM and Paypal, have expanded into the traditional payments marketplace and captured a small but growing market share
  • New lower cost alternatives, such as RevolutionMoney,  have successfully attracted merchants in direct competition with traditional providers and established a low cost credit card alternative
  • Core banking providers have developed integrated payment solutions embedded in their core banking applications
  • Interchange is the fee Processors pay to the issuing banks via VISA/MasterCard and these rates are set by VISA/MasterCard through their associations. Typically interchange rates are based on a % of volume for credit cards & a rate per item for debit cards. This is evolving as new players are jumping in.


Plus add to this the mobile payments with companies like Google Wallet jumping into the fray. The mobile ecosystems consists of the usual players- retailers/merchants and financial institutions but also adds handset manufacturers and network operators.

CC processing 1

Due to these platforms that needed built, the adoption varies in geographic areas. Currently the percentage of people that currently use a mobile phone for Banking Transactions at least once a month (according to EDC-GSMA Mobile Financial Services Survey):

CC processing 2




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Big Data – within, at, and outside your Company boundaries…
November 16, 2013


So the title of this blog is so uninviting and overflowing in people emails that I will have to do Push marketing to make people read this :-) .But with all our clients in almost all industries - from hospitality to financial services to retail - I never leave some strategic meeting where people wonder about the true strategic value of Big Data and get questions like “Is it really that new? “You know us oldies in business and technology, we have seen it all and someone just came up with a new buzz.” “What is this hoopla about the elephant called Hadoop?"
 
Well, like all things in life there are always perspectives and point of views. The usage of a process or technology to effect the top line growth and operational efficiencies is up to the culture, intent and execution mastery of organizations.
 
So Big Data from social media impacts a lot of business functions but greatest is in the front end of any business – your customer relationship management (CRM) processes and systems. It implies a fundamental shift in the way organizations interact with prospects, customers, employees, partners and other stakeholders. Leaders must take the first critical step of changing their mindsets and revising some long-held beliefs about building and managing customer relationships.
 
Big Data1
 
The traditional 4 Ps of marketing (famous framework by Jerome McCarthy) has a new dimension – PEOPLE. The technology has enable people to talk to anyone within the organization or outside.  
  • Outside the organization there are Customer Peer - Customer peer conversations (Opinion sharing, Discussions, Idea sharing, Complaints, Questions, Jokes, Gossip, News, Etc.) for Information sharing, Relationship building. These are “Off Board” Outlets – (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) Public Internet Outlets that organizations do not control, but can choose to participate in
  • At the company - customer touch points there are Customer - Employee conversations (call centers, chats, forums, Sentiment Monitoring, Brand association monitoring, etc. for Information sharing, Relationship building. These are “On Board” Technologies – that can be integrated into your public facing website to engage your constituents. Examples include discussion forums, ratings and reviews, idea solicitation communities, blogs, etc
  • Within the company walls there are employee – employee conversations (Opinion sharing, Questions, blogs, Etc.) for Information sharing. Hopefully nothing like NSA goof-up. “In Board” Technologies – that leverage social media techniques to facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing between an organization’s internal employees.
So Big Data especially in the Entertainment & Hospitality business is surely evolving and rapidly for usage. Hotels, travel agencies, airlines, vacation clubs, and other industry players are unlocking the power of Big Data to dramatically improve products and services, thereby enhancing their competitive position and benefitting customers.  
  • Enhanced revenue management: Hotels recognize that data analytics are helpful in establishing the optimal price for rooms and ensuring that as few as possible are empty. Hotel chain Marriott takes this approach further, using big data for price optimization in restaurants, catering, and meeting spaces too.
  • Better relationships with hotel guests: When customer data is aggregated, instead of being fragmented across a hotel’s various divisions, the analytical insights lead to better marketing and customer service.
  • Targeted Marketing Promotions and Targeting is being focus even more to enhance extra marginal revenue.
But a major caveat to using all this is – data quality. I was on a Consulting panel recently where a good friend mentioned that companies are like true organisms – with a brain, muscle, fat etc. But the data is truly the blood that keeps this organism alive and running. I loved this analogy and carried it further in my head. Bad data can spoil the functions. Also polluted data (aka too much alcohol in the blood) can be devastating. Some threshold is OK. But that’s why we have data czars (aka police) catching folks doing DUI (aka management making wrong decisions under the influence of bad data). Now with sudden infusion of more diluted blood into the stream, how can we use the RBCs (red blood cells) properly. The elimination of a lot of White Noise in this big data to get to the little clusters of information wealth is where value is. The things to note on Big Data are:
  • User-generated content is often triggered by emotion
  • Amplified via the “viral effect”
  • Impact cannot be stopped or undone
  • Does not follow the conventional rules of commerce
  • Forces companies to act in shorter cycle times
  • Fast and truly global




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Healthcare Payment Integrity
October 10, 2013


A lot of Health Plans can generates incremental prevention savings by improving existing business practices, increasing the enforcement of claim payment policies, and developing new, robust solutions to increase claim payment accuracy.   PI - 1    
 
Health claims functions everywhere face a similar set of challenges which inevitably lead to claims overpayments.  Claims overpayment is one driver of increased medical cost that clearly can be controlled. In this world of Obamacare and the uncertainty associated with it, a lot of Healthcare companies are honing up this capability.  
 
PI - 2  
 
      The typical methodology for calculating incremental prevention savings is structured around the establishment of a savings baseline using the four following inputs:  
  1. Payment Ratio Report: To calculate a      ratio that can be applied to a denied claim in order to derive the      expected value of the denied claim (i.e. to determine the value of the      claim, had it been paid). This is generally done by extracting all finalized      paid claim lines over a 12 month period. Then one has to group the data at      the claim type level (Facility/Professional) and calculate the ratio of      the paid amount (net of any member liabilities) to the billed charges.
 
  1. Denials Baseline: To determine the value of historical denials associated with a particular payment integrity initiative prior to prevention implementation.  This establishes a savings baseline that the company seeks to exceed through implementation of robust prevention measures.
 
  1. Leakage Baseline: To determine the value of claims inappropriately or inaccurately paid associated with a payment integrity initiative prior to prevention implementation.
 
  1. Denial Rate: The Baseline Denial Rate represents the percentage of the total suspect population that the Client would expect to deny for a particular claims payment integrity initiative prior to prevention implementation. This is done by dividing the value of the Denials Baseline by the value of the total suspect population for the initiative.
    PI  




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Customer Loyalty
May 21, 2013


  customer_loyalty  

Over the years working with Loyalty programs with so many companies in the Retail sector, I feel I can summarize some observations:
  • True customer loyalty is created when the customer becomes an advocate for the organization
  • Rewards alone don’t generate loyalty. If a loyalty marketing program is just about earning points you end up buying loyalty not earning it.  The loyalty      is to the program not the product or the company.
  • Rewards-only programs can be easily replicated by the competition, will quickly be commoditized and become a defensive play that no competitor can afford to unwind.
  • Loyalty can be attained, but the organization has to work at it, continuously, and it will not possible with all customers.
  • These is NO One-Size Fits-All Loyalty Program
  • A win-win relationship must be established, and this cannot be accomplished if both parties cannot realize benefit. The two poles must be attracted to each other.

loyalty 1

1. Compelling Value Proposition
  • That which provides the customer with a tangible benefit if he or she decides to join a benefit program.
  • Leading organizations adapt the value proposition for different segments of clients.
 2.     Satisfaction
  • Customer satisfaction is the degree to which customer feel their needs are met.
  • Short-term perspective, very much based on the transaction with the customer.
 3.     Loyalty
  • It is a feeling of connection to, and belief in and enterprise and its proposition, created by a “feel good” factor from interaction that lead to continued relationships.
  • Loyalty is ultimately the crucial measure and it is more difficult to achieve than satisfaction.
  • A customer can be dissatisfied despite being loyal.
  • Loyalty can only be created on the basis of trust and repetitive positive experiences over time.
 4.     Advocacy
  • The pinnacle of customer loyalty is where the      customer acts as an advocate for the enterprise.
In the last years, many banks talked a lot about the importance of customer knowledge but only few of them have put successful actions behind their words. Companies still struggle with the basics of revenue growth areas:
  • Customer Segmentation: Who are my customers, and how do they differ?
  • Differentiated Treatment: How should I treat each customer segment?
  • Optimization: How can I optimize treatment decisions to maximize value at an individual level?
The ability to classify or cluster customers / prospects based on certain business rules or inherent customer data behavior, pattern using advanced statistical modeling tools and techniques.  To effectively use the gold mine of customer information, banks must develop at the same time the capabilities to aggregate, analyze, and use the customer data. And the best way to develop these capabilities is to create a specific unit at Headquarter level / enterprise level. Let’s call this unit “Marketing Factory”.
  • The first is create an integrated view of each customer: marketing analytics achieves this goal developing superior data management capabilities
  • The second goal is understand and predict customer behaviours: marketing analytics achieves this goal
    • Developing propensity score
    • Realizing segmentation and profiling analysis
    • Realizing analysis of customer profitability and long term potential value
    • Developing analysis on customer satisfaction and loyalty
    • Develop marketing and sales dashboard
  • The third goal is to provide insights that directly improve sales effectiveness. Marketing analytics achieve this goals:
    • Identifying relevant commercial events and related offer
    • Defining next product to offer for each customer
    • Identifying the most profitable combination of customer segment/channel/product thanks to optimization tools
  loyalty 2  




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A fool with a tool is still a…
March 7, 2013


Today I was chatting with the global CIO of a fortune 100 company and just discussing how the alignment of his initiatives was going. He had some interesting analogies of how the business conducts the IT aspects of its business. He said, “If you run a small business and you buy MS Excel, it doesn’t mean that you can manage cash flow better. Accounting is has a process to it, a language, etc. that is key to understand before you do things on XLS.” He added, “Its like my daughter buying an expensive digital camera - doesn’t mean the pictures will be better. You need to understand the basics of field of depth, lighting, speed, apertures, before you can leverage that tool to your advantage”.   The debate between TOOLS vs PROCESS and what is more important happens at every strategic meeting and decision making juncture. The third leg of the stool – PEOPLE – is always assumed present or can be brought in easily.   Processes and tools go hand in hand, so the question again is which one comes first though- the chicken or the egg conundrum. It all depends on the industry you are playing in, the position you are in and so most importantly which CAPABILITIES you need.  Technology is ever evolving, and with tools resulting from technology, one can argue that tools must lead the way for the activities we perform. But a good product, for example, has a limited life span in the marketplace. A good product development process, however, enables a company to create appealing new products over and over again. The alignment of processes and tools, is about Efficiency - it is all about HOW the organization should be doing what it decides to take on. For this companies need to think in 3 dimensions:
  • Differentiation “on the outside”—They need to have a clear view of what makes them unique—product, sales, service, brand, or business model. They need to deliver a consistently positive experience for customers in each market segment.
  • Simplification “on the inside”—They need simplicity in everything they do and this means standardized or componentized internal products, processes, and systems, with scalable and repeatable business models across the enterprise.
  • Execution mastery—They need to prioritize execution as a core capability with the right leadership skills, culture, and change and risk management.
 




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Metrics Galore…
February 16, 2013


As more and more companies embark on historical looking metrics to gauge performance or future looking predictive analytics to make savvy business decisions, the debate on what to measure is often always on in the c suite.   The importance of measurement is widely understood to try to effect the right behavior. Data translates into information, which finally morphs into knowledge or wisdom that can be used by the organization to create some sustainable competitive advantage.  But before we explore why we need to measure and what we need to measure, it’s good to understand the different nuances of measurement systems:
  • A Measure is a quantitative indication of the extent, amount, dimension, capacity, or size of some attribute of a product or a process. It is a single data point (e.g., number of defects from a single product review).
  • Measurement is the act of determining a measure.
  • A Metric is a measure of the degree to which a system or process possesses a certain attribute.
  • An Indicator is a metric or series of metrics that provides insight into a process, project, or product.
  The use of metrics or scorecards should encompass the following objectives:
  • Verify achievement of deliverables associated with the initiative/project.
  • Behavior Modifier - Verify achievement of financial gains anticipated from the initiative/project.
  • Cause and Effect Relationships -Verify benefits achieved were a result of the efforts of that particular initiative/project.
  • Accountability for results - Make sponsors accountable for results within their areas.
  • Enable reuse of processes, models, etc. for future initiatives.
  Some of the good principles while designing these metrics:

    
  1. At Level 1, you need to restrict the number of KPIs at each organization level to 10
  2. These should be linked to strategy
  3. The organizational structure is guiding for KPI breakdown, with special “perspective” reports
  4. Selected KPIs must be valid, simple, measurable and controllable
  5. KPIs must be structured in a logical, mutually exclusive, breakdown structure and should consolidate upwards
  6. Define clear and structured ownership of KPIs to avoid local optimization
  7. High quality of KPI structure is crucial for organisational acceptance and needs to be prioritized during KPI design
  8. KPIs are designed to govern results on group level. Governance culture must be in line with the governance structure on which the KPI design is based
 




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Agile Development and Testing
February 8, 2013


I was working with some digital marketing folks and they have agencies doing the websites and mobile apps for them. The discussion with business on trying to get to short time-to-market always leads to how IT and agencies are building the websites. “Agile” comes up without fail. I have written a bit before about Agile Methodology and received feedback from so many readers.   Before analyzing the points of the Agile Manifesto in detail, it is important to consider the last sentence. The Manifesto does not state (as an example) that “responding to change” is important and that “following a plan” is not important.  This is a common misinterpretation.  Looking more closely, it states that both items provide value, although “responding to change” provides more value than “following a plan.”  In other words, it is important to follow a plan, but it is even more important to respond to change.   There are several different flavors of Agile Development that I wrote in details about - Extreme Programming (XP), Crystal by Alistair Cockburn, Scrum by Ken Schwaber, Feature Driven Development by Jeff DeLuca, Dynamic Systems Development Method. But the Agile themes and principles are somewhat uniform:  
  • Welcoming change:  Embrace change in order to promote faster delivery of value to the customer and, ultimately, a superior and more creative solution.
  • Deliver working software early and often:  Deliver working software to the customer as early and as often as possible.
  • Simple design (YAGNI):  Add only what you need to the system. YAGNI = You Aren’t Going to Need It.
  • Pair programming:  Developed code by having two developers working on a single computer with one being a developer who thinks tactically about the method being created, while the other thinks strategically about how the method fits into the class.
  • Continuous integration:  Integrate software changes into the evolving solution as quickly and continuously as possible.
  • Close customer collaboration:  Work closely with the customer to ensure that their concerns are incorporated into the systems development process.
  • Measure progress through working software:  Measure progress by measuring the number of required features, or user stories, that are actually working in the application. Maintain constant pace.  Work a reasonable schedule with no “heroic” peaks.
  • Continuous improvement. Consider what is working well and what is not working well—and then adjusting the process accordingly.
  • Test-driven development:  Test early and often. The test is used to drive design and programming.
    • Continuous Integration: This can occur as recommended by Agile, but instead of going directly to Production, new functionality goes to a “Staging” environment, enabling thorough functional testing and providing a platform for users to observe the impact of the sprint.
    • Addresses concern for quality: The V-Model Test Stages exist for a reason.  Agile Methods theoretically drive exceptional Component (and possibly Assembly) Testing but do not take a holistic view of validating functional requirements or integration with upstream and downstream applications.  The “Staging” and “Integration” environments enable the execution of Application Product Test and Integration Product Test.  Also, normal Product Test documentation would be required and entry/exit criteria would be adhered to entering IPT (but not APT).
    • Folks generally advocate limiting the number of mid-pass releases into a test environment to avoid disrupting that test (and injecting quality issues). However, it is assumed that lower-level Testing (i.e., Component and Assembly Testing), through the concept of Test-Driven Design, will enable higher quality code to be delivered to APT which offsets the need for tightly controlled code drops in the test environment.




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A Smart phone a day keeps the doctor away
January 24, 2013


Another splurge on the media in the New Year is the deluge of ads for health and weight loss. They know the new year’s resolution is the time to close new members into gyms, diet courses, equipment sales, etc. But in this day and age of health options and the onslaught of mobile technology, it’s amazing to see how this industry is evolving. The interactions with people and patients is going from “episodic” to “continuous” with the advent of this technology:  
  • SIMpill: Smart pillbox to monitors medication and communicate with doctors
  • Proteus Pill: Ingestible sensor which sends digital signal to on-body receiver
  • Asthma Assistant: A 6-month pilot study of children and teens with severe persistent asthma found that the technology-enabled daily communication helped patients to better manage their conditions. Over the study period, patient adherence was high and there were no emergency department (ED) visits among the study population, compared to a national average of 2-3 annual visits among asthma patients. This technology enables data collection by the patient and then on a as needed basis monitoring by the medical team and provide feedback based on medical algorithms.
  • Diabetes Assistant: LG Glucophone is already in use in S. Korea – this works alongside Infobia’s Eocene diabetic management system to ease the task of blood glucose management. The results of the blood tests will be sent to a secure server that graphs and manages the disease, sets up automatic texts of results and creates reminder alarms.
  • Texting for health: Available at http://www.texting4health.org/page5/page5.html. Nearly three-quarters of the people in the US have cellphones. SMS can be used to remind patients about their medications and also deliver info and encouragement to help patients manage their health.
    • In 2006, the drug maker PediaMed launched a mobile compliance campaign called 8TDAZE involving a prescription acne treatment called TAZORAC. – remind teenagers to apply the treatment regularly.
    • Text4baby is a free mobile information service designed to promote healthy birth outcomes and to reduce infant mortality among underserved populations.
  • Mobile Imaging: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080429204303.htm
    • Nearly three quarters of the world population don’t have access to essential medical imaging technologies (ultrasound, MRI, etc.). UCB researchers are creating portable medical imaging using mobile phones (data acquisition + display; remote computer for processing). The data acquisition device can be made with off-the-shelf parts that somebody with basic technical training can operate. As for cell phones, you could be out in the middle of a remote village and still have cell phone access. 
  • Diagnosis:
    • Symptom Navigator: Use the Symptom Navigator to figure out what you’re suffering from.
    • iEyeExam: With this app, you can give yourself a quick eye exam.
  With 85% of physicians using smartphones, there are many areas that mobile solutions will get into on the provider side too:
  • Schedule and scheduling management
  • Clinical record management
  • Patient accounts management
  • Accounts receivable management
  • Electronic insurance billing
  • Insurance claims management
  • Online patient registration and communication
 




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