Current Blog Entries by Larry Fry, CCP, MBA

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Does Predictive Analytics (BI) Field Represent a Potentially Major Disruptive Innovation?

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Does the burgeoning field of Predictive Analytics (PA) and the competitive advantage that it can potentially reap represent a potentially major disruptive technology of the near future?  Or will it go by the wayside (i.e., in terms of being disruptive) in the same manner that Artificial Intelligence (AI) computer technology and applications did in the 1980s and 90s?

Several big name companies like IBM and SAIC are making serious runs at developing PA based software applications as their major business models.  IBM is pulling out all the stops here as it recently bought out Cognos and SSPS for their PA assets and high levels of expertise in order to build up its new PA consulting model for its Global Business Services consulting group.  In addition, engineering firm SAIC has recently announced a major PA application system that is now market ready (i.e., SAIC plans to market this new PA application on a worldwide basis alongside its hardware and consulting services).

To elaborate, SAIC’s new “Distribution Monitoring System” is designed to proactively predict the occurrence of failures in distribution and transmission systems in a matter of days, weeks, or even months before they occur.  The utilization of a “complex-event” processing engine evaluates masses of data (i.e., data mining) against rules laying out the relationship between specific, fairly obvious events in the life of a particular device and the likelihood that such a device will fail (and when it will fail).  Millions of records containing event driven data can be run either daily or in real time against these rules of thumb (or indicators) that have been designed to identify potential failure points and the timing of their occurrence.  This process then utilizes a knowledge database that can correlate  faults and failures (i.e., it learns to proactively detect problems that can cause failures).  A neural network is then utilized which can determine whether a failure will occur at some point and can also assess, with a stated probability, when the failure will occur.

In support of the above premise that PA could become a major disruptive technology in the near future, a recent study by McKinsey Consulting Group infers that corporations are going to have to embrace disruptive technologies that will shape the new economic terrain that is evolving out of the latest global economic downturn.  As economies around the world emerge from the recent economic downturn, many companies are starting to grasp that what follows most likely won’t be just another typical turn of the business cycle.  The resulting new economic terrain will undoubtedly be shaped by persistent uncertainty, tighter credit, lower consumer spending, greater consumer saving, and more pronounced government involvement in business (i.e., McKinsey terms this as being the “new normal”).  The use of powerful PA and Business Intelligence (BI) technologies may be the difference maker for companies in terms of removing the persistent uncertainty factor and, as a result, being better able to proactively address potentially serious problems before they become detrimental to the bottom line (i.e., a distinct competitive advantage).  The premise here is that those organizations that don’t invest heavily (or effectively) in PA and BI technologies may be left behind the “eight ball” in the currently evolving new economic order.

So the key question here is, does the burgeoning field of Predictive Analytics and the competitive advantage that it can potentially generate represent a major disruptive technology of the near future (i.e., in terms of dominant business models and profitability)?  Or does it represent just another trendy (and costly) “fad” that will go by the wayside without much impact?  My bet is on the former.

Addendum:  One factor to consider in the disruptive technology genre is the impact of the new technology (or innovations) on the existing business model.  It seems as if many disruptive innovations are really not “disruptive” in terms of the technological challenges presented, but are disruptive from the standpoint of the resulting business model challenges that don’t get managed properly.  Polaroid’s handling of the digital imaging technology when it was new is a real good example of this (see Case below).  It lends creedence to the premise that promising new technologies can end up falling through the cracks due to the failure of their supporting business models (and companies).  As a result, the necessary business model changes also need to be considered and implemented whenever a  new disruptive technology is being implemented in order to be successful.

 Case -> Comparing Polaroid’s Film-Based Business Model with Apple’s iTunes Model –

I).  Being a technology driven company, Polaroid was all about the technological “challenges” presented by the instant photo processing industry at the expense of marketing challenges involved (resulting in Polaroid’s eventual bankruptcy filing).  When digital imaging came on the scene Polaroid was able to deal with it from a technological standpoint, but it could not change its existing film-based business model based on polaroid film sales over to one based on digital imaging/processing  (i.e.,  no film involved).  As a result, the arrival of digital imaging technology served as a very disruptive innovation from a business model standpoint for Polaroid as it went from being very profitable to “collapsing” revenues in a short period of time.  This was evidently due to Polaroid’s propensity to view the new digital imaging technology as a technological challenge only, while ignoring the business model challenges presented by the technological change.  The key point here is that disruptive innovations are not primarily technological challenges, but actually business model challenges instead if not managed competently.  

Footnote:   In Polaroid’s defense, there are numerous hurdles involved in restructuring business models, which include  a). re-educating employees;  b). initial lower profitability;  c). current product cannibalization;  d). increased  management/stakeholder/customer conflicts;  e). complex organizational changes (including culture, etc.);  and f). conflict with traditional (i.e., successful) core competencies. 

 II).  Also being a technology driven company, Apple too is driven by the technological challenges presented by the computer and electronics industries. But unlike Polaroid, Apple is also driven by defining the new business models that need to be adopted in order to help propagate its ”disruptive innovation” types of products.  Apple’s iTune has basically turned the recording (or record) industry “on its head” in that consumers can now purchase and download individual songs at home instead of having to pay for entire albums of songs bundled onto CDs at record stores.  As a result of this “disruptive” business model, record stores are now a thing of the past as iTunes has revolutionized the music industry at the retail level due to its lower costs, increased conveniences,  and more desirable product selection changes.  As a result, some retail record stores have moved over to the movie/DVD side of the industry, but it is just a matter of time before this extended business model meets its demise too due to the arrival of even more disruptive innovations in the movie industry.  These innovations will primarily be based on new delivery technologies (e.g. better internet streaming methods, et al).

NOTE:  Interested LinkedIn members having disruptive technology interests are invited to join LinkedIn Group ”Disruptive Technologies” http://www.linkedin.com/groups?about=&gid=1027037&trk=anet_ug_grppro .

Tech Professional Certification: ICCP’s CCP vs. PMI’s PMP Debate.

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For starters let me state that I do value my Certified Computing Professional (CCP) certification and display it proudly (along with the certificate number) on my resume and LinkedIn profile.  Originally my certification was the Certified Data Processor (CDP) designation, which I obtained in 1990, with specializations in Core IT Skills, Systems Development, and Management.  These specialties complement my MBA degree, which I obtained in 1989 from the University of Houston with concentrations in Management Information Systems and Management (and now Finance as well).  In addition, it was an MIS professor at UH who recommended that we obtain the CDP certification to complement our MBA (in MIS) degrees with.  Then the CDP certificate became the CCP at some point during the 1990s due to the restructuring/reorganization move that occurred within the Institute for Certification of Computer Professionals (ICCP) at the time.  Anyway, I believe that the name recognition and status that was then associated with the CDP designation went out the door somewhat with the ICCP mandated name change.

As far as the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is concerned, it seems as if many of the IT team lead and/or project management job requirements being published these days either require the PMP or state that it is a desired credential.  This is why I have stated in previous discussions that the PMP appears to be the credential in vogue these days.  Again, this is primarily due to its claimed recognition of demonstrated knowledge and skills in leading/directing project teams and delivering project results within the defined constraints of schedules, budgets and/or resources.  These skills are what technical project management types are distinctly looking for these days, so perhaps the ICCP should tailor the CCP exams to become more like the PMP, but with a strict adherence to IT applications (i.e., not the generic things that could apply to any technical/scientific project like engineering, etc).

In addition, I firmly believe that the Project Management Institute (PMI) does a real good job of promoting and/or marketing the value-added properties of the PMP certificate to companies and consulting firms (e.g., Accenture, IBM, et al).  And a big part of the issue here has to do with the perceptions (i.e., image) that are out there.  As a result, maybe the ICCP needs to gear up and study the techniques being used by the PMI in order to see what could be implemented to promote the same value added properties of the CCP certificate to IT organizations.  Perhaps the CCP should be marketed as being a certificate that proves to IT (and user) organizations that the holder has obtained the requisite proficiencies in both the basic IT technologies and project management areas.

In terms of comparisons, the highly regarded Certified Public Account (CPA) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designations both command a lot of respect within professional circles due to their being required certifications in order to practice and advance within the applicable professions.  In addition, they are both difficult to obtain and take countless hours (and dollars) of dedication and hard work just to get prepared to take each level of the multi-level exams.  There are always a large number of candidates willing to go through all of the “hoops” to obtain these certifications due to the high level of professional status that they both afford and because the top-tier (i.e., high paying) firms require them as basic credentials in order to become employed and move up the ladder to more lucrative positions.  If these requirements were not in place, then no one would be willing to go through the time and expense involved to obtain these two certifications.  Therein lies the problem for the ICCP -> because the CCP is currently not a required credential within the IT project management world, it can never become the demanding, highly statured designation that the CPA and CFA have become. The PMI folks seems to recognize this issue and are doing a good job of promoting (or marketing) the PMP certificate as being a required credential for IT and other types of technical project management openings.  In addition, one other factor that lends credibility to the PMP certificate is that the PMI requires a minimum number of years in a leadership position (e.g., 4 years of project management work) on top of passing the difficult exams in order to get chartered as a PMP.  

One caveat to the importance of certifications is that alot of them seem to come and go based on changes in technology and business models.  I remember when the Microsoft certifications were hot items for a few years (in the 1990s), to the point where MS had convinced IT professionals and companies that it was a necessary credential in order to work on MS products.  But this is no longer the case as the existing products have evolved and other companies’ products have eclipsed some of MicroSoft’s products in the industry, thus rendering the old MS certifications pretty much useless.  The CCP and PMP should not have this particular problem, but it just seems as if PMI is doing an excellent job of promoting the PMP as the certification of choice in the IT world and is convincing alot of companies that it needs to be a required certification (i.e., much like the CPA and CFA). 

In conclusion, the ICCP has a lot of catching up to do if it wants to keep the CCP designation from being entirely eclipsed by the PMP designation over the next few years as a lot of companies seem to be getting on board with the PMI’s mantra.  As a result, I firmly believe that the ICCP needs to study the successful marketing techniques being employed by the PMI in order to emulate them for use in promoting the CCP certificate and bringing it up to par with the PMP in terms of name (or brand) recognition within the IT project management world.  One advantage that should be publicized by the ICCP is that one must pass all ICCP exams with a score of 70% or higher in order to get certified as a CCP; whereas one only needs to pass the PMI exams with a score of 60% or higher in order to get certified as a PMP.  In addition, the ICCP exams are applicable strictly to the IT sector of technology, whereas the PMI exams are not really IT specific in scope as they seem to try to encompass all types of project management sectors (e.g., engineering, etc).  So there are several areas of advantage that the ICCP has over the PMI in the IT certification sector that need to be exploited and publicized by the ICCP in order for it to become a more recognized player in the industry.

NOTE:  Interested LinkedIn members having IT/Technological interests are invited to join LinkedIn Group ”Disruptive Technologies” at http://www.linkedin.com/groups?about=&gid=1027037&trk=anet_ug_grppro .

Administration Vows to Get Tough with China?

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Due to the large amount of U.S. government debt currently being held by China, we are pretty much at its mercy and remain beholden to it as one of our largest (i.e., most manipulative) debt holders.  This is not a good position to be in!  We can make demands and issue hollow threats all we want, but when we need to borrow more money or refinance the huge debt of ours that the Chinese currently holds, then we end up having to acquiesce to doing things their way again (i.e., the same old broken record).  Insisting  that China should implement the same types of labor laws, products pricing mechanisms, and currency regulations that put us in an uncompetitive position in the global economy is laughable when they are the major holder (i.e., manipulator) of the U.S. government’s debt.  The U.S. dollar itself is also a potential hostage here as China’s large $2.45 trillion collection of foreign exchange reserves consists of a tranche of U.S. dollars that makesup approximately 67  percent of the entire collection, giving China some absolute leverage over the USD’s value should it decide to make significant “policy” changes.

So, per the old saying “Those who pay ($) have the say”, China is definitely in the driver’s seat in terms of driving the global economy; they are definitely beating us at our own game.  I assume that Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger never foresaw this in their wildest dreams when they implored Maoist China to open up to the West in the early 1970’s.  The recent paradigm shift over there has been amazing; I just keep waiting for their oversized (and state induced)  bubble to pop.  If and when it does, then watch out rest of world as the resulting collateral economic damage will be widespread!

Written by Larry Fry, CCP, MBA

September 16, 2010 at 1:24 pm

For Teens, Bleak Job Picture Not Looking Brighter?

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American teen jobless rate hits 26 percent in worst summer season since 1940s –

In taking a trip through the Boston and Cape Cod areas this summer, I was amazed to see that just about all of the restaurants and bars (and hotels as well) were being manned by eastern European youths.  With our unemployment rate being so high these days (and getting worse), why are we allowing young people from eastern European countries to come in and take away jobs (and training) that traditionally have gone to our American high-school and college aged youths (i.e., who remain unemployed and untrained)?  Either we resolve to train and employee our American youth for these types of jobs, or we should quit all of the complaining about their high unemployment rate and let the folks from overseas continue to come in and run everything in the hotel/restaurant industries, etc.

Click on URL below for link to referenced msnbc.com’s business story:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38666248/ns/business-eye_on_the_economy/

Written by Larry Fry, CCP, MBA

August 30, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Cuba Updating the State’s Role in the Economy?

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If the Cuban government (i.e., Castro) is really serious about taking a stab at state capitalism, then let’s offer to close out the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and convert it into a mega-resort and cruise ship terminal complex for Caribbean destined tourists.  The idle Cuban work force could be employed as laborers for the project and then trained as hospitality workers to be employed at the complex once it has been completed.  Cuba has a lot of potential as a Caribbean tourist destination and the Cuban government needs to recognize this fact and start trying to “capitalize” on it in order to pull the nation out of its current state of economic malaise.  The conversion of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (which is no longer needed these days) into a pristine resort complex by a top-flight entrepreneurial group would be a “win-win” proposition for all parties involved. And communist countries such as China (and now Viet Nam) are proving that state capitalism is far better than no capitalism at all, so the Cuban government needs to take heed and take action before it is too late.

Written by Larry Fry, CCP, MBA

August 2, 2010 at 10:52 am

The Great Sirius XM (SIRI) Stock Debate!

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More and more, Sirius XM stock (ticker symbol ‘SIRI’) appears to represent a good, low cost bet on making some attractive  gains in the not too distant future. Nothing is ever guaranteed in life (other than the two main stays), but now seems to be very opportune time to get on the train at the beginning of what could be a very profitable ride based on the increasingly cost-effective commercial uses of satellite-based technologies (led by SIRI, for one). In a nutshell, the currently low price of SIRI stock coupled with its promising future based on the vertical integration of its product lines makes it a very inviting bet in my book.  And the announcement today of the availability of Sirius XM’s new app for Android-powered smartphones (coupled with existing apps for BlackBerry and iPhone) is just the latest in a ever expanding portfolio of value adding products being offered.  Finally, SIRI is starting to  remind me of Apple’s stock in the late 1990′s, when it was priced around $2.00 per share and the introduction of Apple’s industry changing iPod products was just around the corner.  Stay tuned!

Click on URL for the latest on SIRI stock:  http://www.thestreet.com/quote/SIRI.html

Written by Larry Fry, CCP, MBA

May 28, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Wall Street Bankers’ Bonus Abuse Issue!

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The notion that Wall Street keeps its gravy train rolling by lining the pockets of our top-tier politicians with money and other influence-peddling gifts in order to condone the financiers’ actions is quite disturbing. In fact, the financiers’ claims per the paramount importance of their work as an excuse to enable them to get away with whatever they deem appropriate for themselves (e.g., awarding of excessive tax-payer financed bonuses, etc.) is very disturbing as it smacks of greed and self-centered conceit.  But the biggest rub is that these absurd bonuses were largely financed via the billions of dollars in taxpayer-financed funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and trillions in loans from both the Federal Reserve and the FDIC.  These sources of aid money were designed to help the Wall Street financial institutions deemed too big to fail to survive their own terrible misdeeds, not to excessively reward their executives for jobs NOT well-done.  This has got to be perhaps the biggest misappropriation of our hard-earned tax money that has ever transpired in the history of this country. 

Finally, as long as big money talks and remains the primary influence driver in the current socio-political (or cultural) climates across the globe, then people in power will apparently continue to walk in the direction deemed appropriate  by the big money purveyors (e.g., Goldman Sachs, George Soros, et al.).  The condoning by governments of  their large scale market manulation shenanigans for their personal gain at the expense of the taxpayers of the world speaks for itself.  And their latest ploy of shorting the Euro while playing credit default swaps (CDOs) shows that there’s no shame on their part.  Finally, even President Obama is softening up his tone towards the big banking entities and their actions. And speaking of being “too big to fail’, perhaps the US socio-economic system and federal government is falling under this same exact definition.  This splitting up (i.e., per the splitting up of  giant oil corporation Standard Oil over 100 years ago) is becoming a more realistic option over time in terms of gaining more value and growth opportunities from the resulting smaller entities that would result.

Written by Larry Fry, CCP, MBA

March 2, 2010 at 11:55 pm