Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Unbiased informed purchasing services!

On the 26th Feb on LinkedIn Sonya Sherman wrote:
"At last week's Records & Information Officers' Forum in Melbourne, Michelle Phillips highlighted survey results where organisations estimate 70% of their data has no value; and 90% of their IT spend is wasted. ..

I have been thinking about the value for money received by businesses from BI and IT service providers and I am considering the idea of providing a professional middle layer service between the business and the BI/IT providers.  This layer will provide 'unbiased informed purchasing services', it keeps the BI/IT delivery guys focused and the business realistic. Thus would ensure value is reached every time.

Why do this?

The answer is that the BI/IT company has a responsibility to maximize profit. After all they are a company, that is what companies do. Thus they do not believe it is their responsibility to correct the business decision maker when they request an action which is not in their own best interest. Why they do this is explained herein.

It plays out like this;

Business says "we need to make evidence based decisions, we need a Enterprises Data solution"

A request for proposals is released and the business sits back and waits for industry to swoop in and solve all the problems.

Here is the rub. The responding companies have a simple agenda - provide the business what it asks for. The problem is that the business has a business outcome in mind and the service provider has a technology output on offer.

Technology is seldom the solution to business decision making.

So the dance begins. The service provider delivers a brief,  the business look it over but they are not technology people so they don't really understand it. The business isn't stupid, it clarifies what the document means. The service provider assures the business what is proposed will meet their need.

Work begins, milestone are met, payments are made. The business gets nervous because the development is been going for a while now and there is lots of technological stuff delivered but nothing the business can use yet.

A progress meeting is called. The big question is asked by the business.

"When will we have something we can use?"

To which the service provider explains;

"Our proposal was to build a BI framework, which we are doing. When that is finished we will have to build a reporting framework on top."

At this point the penny drops for the business. They have sank their budget into building one small part of what is needed.

This is where it all goes pear shaped. The business panics. Here it comes "How can we get business value from what we have so far?" can we ........ insert request for an action which is not in their long term best interest.....?

The service provider says sure and offers a hack fix. They know this is a very bad idea, but good or bad they still get paid so they keep the customer happy and do what they are told.

So the business starts changing the scope in an effort to meet the delivery dates they promised the executive, all the while not realizing that the hack is not sustainable and is exactly the opposite to an enterprise solution.

Eventualy the business finds that it is costing more and more to prop up the hacked system and finaly they scrap the whole thing not realizing that the ground work was solid, just unfinished.

From the business point of view the whole project was a disaster.

From the service providers point of view it was a great success as it made them a pile of money.

Why would the service provider do anything differently?

What You Think?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Too Late Minister Gay, Open Source already did it free.

Today Duncan Gay MLC Minister for Roads and Ports issued a Press Release announcing a new free app for iPhone* that "alerts motorists are about to enter a school zone.
"Roads Minister Duncan Gay today announced the release of the NSW Government’s new smartphone app, that includes alerts motorists are about to enter a school zone. 
Minister Gay said "the best way to avoid a speeding fine was not to speed - but for those wanting additional reminders the new app would literally warn them with an audio alert. 
“It’s heartbreaking to hear of child fatalities or injuries around schools and we need motorists to understand that school zone speed limits are there to save lives,” Minister Gay said. 
“For those motorists who don’t notice school flashing lights or school zone signs there is now another means to understand you are entering a school zone. 
“It’s called our ‘Speed Adviser’ but I’ve dubbed it the ‘Last Chance’ app. 
All the above is great and I for one welcome another choice for consumers, but I take offence at the myopic view that this is the only app of its kind.
“It is the only app with information on every school zone in NSW and informs motorists they are approaching an operational school zone with a speed limit of 40 km/h. 
The above claim is arrogant, isn't that why we reformed transport in the first place. A search of the Apple app store or the Google play store returns a list of such apps - see Speed Alert or Speedzone NSW both are free and both are mature.
Speedzone NSW is even open source, creative commons and on GitHub. Duncan, its free, stop spending my tax dollar building solutions that already exist, just use what is there, its why it was built in the first place, to help save lives.
“The App also alerts drivers when a speed limit changes and warns drivers if they exceed the speed limit – repeating the warning continually until the legal limit is complied with. 
What will get real old real quick, this is an optional feature in the other apps. I believe drivers adhere to the speed limit when they are aware what it is through gentle reminders. As was mentioned in TV's Nine News Sydney motorists want the reminders, but the physiology is simple "advise me" but "DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO". doing that guarantees a fast trip to the uninstall basket.
“Motorists can set it before they leave home or work and it will provide audio alerts. There is no need to interact with the app at all while driving, in line with laws applying to mobile phones and GPS devices. 
Yep, we all have that. but  Speedzone NSW doesn't even require you to set it, it detects that you are driving and auto-starts, no getting 200m into traffic and remembering you have to start it. Which you would never do because you are driving and that is against the law.
“I caution drivers that this app doesn’t replace speed limit signage, judgment about conditions and vigilance which all drivers need to exercise. 
“Like all new apps, it will evolve as we further enhance it. As we trial the app, users can send us feedback at speedadviser.com.au or roadsafetytechnology@transport.nsw.gov.au
I admire the attempt to crowd source corrections for the speed zone database but the process chosen is flawed, I don't expect users will jump online and fill in the lengthy form provided, yes 9 data fields to be entered that is extreme even for benevolent humans, I got tired counting the fields for this blog, nevermind actually filling them in.

I am no expert, but I am a user who wants to help (provided its not too hard). My approach is to allow a passenger press anywhere on the screen if the speed is incorrect and this tags that length of road and queues a system message in the notification bar that the user can action at a later time. Giving then the option of sending an email or not with the error detail. One click now, two clicks later, done.

A message to Minister Gay

Duncan, someone need to be looked at with an angry eye, I suspect this app is a great piece of positive PR for the government and that is good. It is the advisors who allowed this app to be commissioned or continued without due diligence, that is letting you down and the people of NSW. The apps mentioned above have been around for a while. Why are we developing apps at all? We are bad at it, we have proven that beyond doubt! My solution, release the data sets in a sustainable way and the community will do the work for you, and better I might add. The open data policy launched by your colleague Andrew Constance was designed to allow data sets to be proactively shares and the synergies would amaze us all. When is this likely to happen? 

The Community is very clever let them surprise you, let then help you and every other citizen of NSW!

I will update you when I get a chance to try the app for now all I can find is a placeholder page

*Don't get me started on the choice to go with iPhone first. yes iPhone makes more revenue but for a free app you want penetration and Android has nearly 80% share, so why iPhone first, suppose the developer is more comfortable with iOS, is that cynical?

What you think
  1. will you use this app?
  2. Is it value at $150,000? - I am guessing here, but this is ball park for commercial apps
if you want to build your own app check out:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Maps Engine styling by zoom level

This a quick and dirty tutorial on setting different styles for your map so that you can avoid feature clutter at low zoom levels (high altitude)

Step 1: open maps engine admin console. Select "Layers" followed by the layer you want to work on. 

Step 2: With the Layer open the "Edit layer style" menu item becomes available, click it.

Step 3: Layer style editor opens, by default all zoom levels are covered by one style, to add different styles click the "Add Rule" button.

Step 4: the "Add Rule" button brings up an additional options box, set the zoom using the slider and whatever style is defined is used when the zoom matched the slider.

Step 5: Once you are happy with your settings click "Apply"

In the last two images the line feature is red at zoom levels 4 to 9 and green from 11 to 24. 


In the example above teh line feature is NOT visible in layers 1,2,3 or 10 because no rule exists for these layers, this may be useful for eliminating clutter at zooms like all of Australia (or where ever).

Happy Mapping and if anything is unclear leave a comment.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Setting up a company in Australia

Where to start?

That was the question I asked myself, well ASIC has a great website full of great info if you can hold your nerve. Here is "Step 1" of 8 steps and to be honest, I decided not to do this myself as I like my liberty and I am too pretty for jail.

Step 1: Decide if a company or a business structure is right for you

You need to decide if a company or a business structure best suits your needs. We recommend that you seek legal or other professional advice about your circumstances. At this stage you should also make sure you understand what your legal obligations will be if you become a company officeholder: see 'Step 4: Understand your legal obligations as an officeholder' below.

So what other options do I have?

Having mentioned my frustration to my wife, she pointed out that one of our friend works at one of those agencies that sets up companies.

Perfect?....Now so much!....It turns out that they just do the admin for accountants and layers, who decide the appropriate structure. So , I asked could they give me the name of an accountant with whom I could get this done.

You guessed it. They couldn't offer opinion due to ethical / conflict of interest issues. So where do you get an accountant you can trust? FACEBOOK.

I put out the call to Facebook and the overwhelming response was DIY - do it yourself, so I jumped on to google can did a search for "starting a company in australia". The top listing was eCompanies

  1. Company Registration 24/7 - ecompanies.com.au‎ $494, 

  2. So I clicked...

I have to admit, it was easier than I could have ever imagined. there were a couple of seemingly curly questions that my mate David  answered for me.
    • register for GST, yes
    • register for PAYG, No
    • Shares, 1 Ordinary
    • Share Value, $1 
I followed the bouncing all and paid $550 and I was done, (the extra $50 is to register with the tax office).

So that wasn't bad, I suppose ASIC make it look hard to keep the themselfs from getting sued by those who need a scape goat.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Starting from Scratch

After 25 years of moving from one job to next within public sector, I have decided try my luck in the private sector.

AND I feel like a babe in the woods...

So, I am having to challenge everything I have thought to be true. Resumes are no longer a list of everything you have done, thus the bigger the better. Now more that 5 pages and you hit the bin. Sticking in a job for more than three years is now a liability. I thought that changing employer three times in three years meant you could't hold down a job. Not so, this shows career drive.

It is now day three of job seeking in earnest and even though I don't yet understand the rules.
Thus far I am very optimistic as I have looked on Seek and found lots of jobs I can do.

But it isn't "what you can do", it's what you can convince a prospective employer you can do.

I have had to learn new phrases too, well in this space anyway.
  • "competitive advantage" 
  • "personal brand"
  • "cultural fit"
So what the hell is my competitive advantage?

I suppose it is that I can pretty much see the problem at hand. Huh, I hear you say? Can't everybody see the problem? Cos, well, it's the problem. 

Not so much, most problems are mistakenly defined as the "negative symptoms" that result from the problem, so, the adopted solution is the one that attempts to cure the symptoms. This is why the solution fails to hold up over time.

Let me give you the "whack a mole" example from a wonderful lady Susan Scott's book Fierce Conversations. The story goes  that for the better part of her younger years her family has a mole problem, the moles would dig holes all over their backyard and it was her brothers job to set mole traps and then dispose of the moles that were caught. This went on year after year. 

Can you see what's happening? The moles are NOT the problem they are a symptom. So, what IS the problem, well, it turns out that its the "grubs".

Grubs are small bugs that the moles eat, get rid of the grubs and the moles have no reason to dig up your garden, and for $10 at any garden supply you can buy a grub killing fertiliser.

So knowing the problem, the real problem can be priceless.

As for personal brand and cultural fit. Your guess is as good as mine. I suppose I will figure that out as we go.