Data management professionals have long and sometimes rather Quixotically driven organizations to “get past the spreadsheet culture.” Maybe that’s misguided. The recent furor over a widely read social science paper may show how we can look to scientific peer review for a way to govern data, spreadsheets and all.
Recently, it was found that a key study underpinning debt-reduction as a driver of economic growth based its conclusions on a flawed spreadsheet. As this ArsTechnica article describes, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff’s Growth in a Time of Debt seemingly proved a connection between “high levels of debt and negative average economic growth”. But, per a recent study by Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash, and Robert Pollin, it turns out that the study’s conclusions drew from a Microsoft Excel formula mistake, questionable data exclusions, and non-standard weightings of base data. The ArsTechnica piece finds those conclusions fade to a more ambiguous outcome with errors and apparent biases corrected. Continue reading
This is the latest entry in an occasional series on followership. The premise, as stated here, is that not everyone gets to be a leader, and most leaders are also followers in their own right. The project manager follows instructions from the project sponsor, the CEO from the board, the politicians from the polls, and so on. Whoever you are, you spend a lot more time following than leading. As Bob Dylan put it so well, “you gotta serve somebody.”
The good follower is not a “yes man“. In the professional world I inhabit those who move “up” the hierarchy tend to retire technical skills in favor of architecture, proposal writing, and management. The relationship of manager to employee becomes more like agent to actor or musician, where the supervised employee is the “talent”.
In these conditions the old concept of top-down decision making seems quaint. Important choices require information from all perspectives, and organizations shut out those with knowledge of the details at their peril. The best decision makers search out diverse ideas before choosing a direction. Continue reading
When Tom Petty sang, “Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out” he wasn’t referring to business intelligence (BI) reporting but he might have been. Current generation reporting engines, AKA data visualization or data discovery tools, market their products with statements like these, emphasizing quick development and ease of use:
- “The democratization of data is here. In minutes, create an interactive viz (sic) and embed it in your website. Anyone can do it— and it’s free.” (Tableau Products Page)
- “Easy yet sophisticated report design empowers your employees to design professional and telling reports in minutes not days” (Windward)
I like these tools, and I do believe that they can provide a leaner, more productive, and more informative approach to BI reporting than some more mature products. However, none is a silver bullet for all data integration and reporting woes. Continue reading
“A child of five could understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five!”
– Groucho Marx
Recently my colleague Sara Shelton posted an article listing non-technical things we IT specialists need to do to maintain our careers. Each of the nine items on Sara’s list is a key to IT professional success. One particularly worthy of a drill down was learning:
“It is critical for the technical professional to hold themselves accountable…to learn new languages, new tools, emerging technical trends, and best practices. With technologies changing more than ever, technical professionals need to focus on their own learning to stay on par with or ahead of the curve.” Continue reading
One of the key skills needed in today’s IT shop is communication, and one of the best ways to improve ability to communicate is to write blog posts and articles.
In spite of “IT guy” stereotypes, communication and analytical thinking about business are among the most important skills in application development. Developers, analysts, and managers require ability to interact effectively with business people, to conceptualize solutions that match business needs, critically evaluate those solutions, and effectively make the case for one of them. Of course this is true of the overall project business case, but more importantly it applies to the daily “IT guy” to business person conversations that happen throughout analysis, design, development, and testing. Continue reading
The March 2010 issue of The Atlantic features an article called “Management Secrets of the Grateful Dead.” It’s a great read, especially the second half, which tells of the band’s innovations in organization, fan loyalty, and, perhaps counterintuitively, creating value by freely giving away their product. The success of these measures seems self evident: the Dead were “one of the most profitable bands of all time” and almost singlehandedly created an entire product category, jam bands. As a result, the article recounts, the Dead are replacing companies like Southwest Airlines and GE as management training examples of strategic innovators.
As good as it is, to me the article conjured an unlikely vision of the Dead as business men in hippie drag self-consciously making strategy decisions that altered the marketing landscape. I agree that the Dead took the actions cited on purpose, but I believe core product, not marketing strategy, consumed the band’s energies during its formative and peak years. Could it be that their innovative market strategies grew organically from a quality product, where quality included the entire fan experience? Continue reading