More wiki goodness. Scenario Thinking….

Scenario planning has an interesting history.  Check it out on Wikipedia.  Folks like Shell have used it for years, Arie De Geuss probably being the most well known exponent.  Those that have an interest in South Africa may remember the stuff Clem Sunter did while he was at Anglo American,  the new books he has done with Chantell Ilbury are also well worth a look. The scenario letter they sent to George W Bush in early 2001 is  eerily prescient.

Simulation and scenario planning  has been popular with military types for ages.

Wargames – 1983, a digression

Those of you of my vintage will remember this movie, starring Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheeny. With this immortal line.  There is a slightly odd shrine to the movie here. You need to know the password though.

Cool modem….

 All that norad mainframe stuff and some mad folks planning thermonuclear war.   Hamish would argue that not much has changed in nearly quarter of a century. There is a sequel planned and there is a domain name squabble….

Scenario thinking revisited.

The web has made techniques like Delphi so much easier to do.  Whether these are large scale wisdom of the crowd predictive efforts,  or small focus groups, applying rigour to prediction has never been more important- and technically feasible.  Witness the emergence of prediction markets. (interesting blog here)

Those interested in predictive markets should visit Inkling. (tip Dennis) There is even an Apple iphone market.   There  is  more academic stuff on forecasting here. 

I stumbled across a fabulous site yesterday courtesy of an SAP colleague.  It is managed by company  based in Amsterdam called the DTN (Digital Thinking Network), and they specialize in scenario thinking.   Daniel Erasmus runs it, and he teaches at the Rotterdam Business School, one of Europe’s best schools.

 he also established the world first wiki site dedicated to the topic of scenario thinking and planning, on which people who are interested in scenario planning can publish their ideas freely and share knowledge with each other

This site is a wiki that explores scenario thinking in depth.  There is a super example on the future of Google,  and a whole lot more here.

Three points- why this is important.

1. New collaboration tools make it easier for researchers to tap the “wisdom of the crowd” where appropriate.  There is a quantum leap in terms of reach, affordability, ease of collection and depth of analysis.  

2. Many graduate  students moving into the workplace are very comfortable with both the technology and the methods to do this sort of research.  They will want to exploit collaborative forms of research in their jobs, and use the technologies that support it.  Simple 2.0 technologies such as social bookmarking, online surveys and tagging, and the extensive use of wikis for project collaboration and presentation will become commonplace.  Are you providing these tools?

3. These technologies facilitate closer involvement with customers,  partners, consultants, academia and even competitors in the planning processes.  Companies that are comfortable with transparency will be able to tap the market sentiments far more precisely than “closed” thinkers.

Scenario thinking isn’t the answer to every problem but it forces you to think beyond your current situation.  It is good to shatter your assumptions every now and again.  You then think again before rebuilding them.

If you were looking at the future of the software  industry what  scenarios would you want to model?

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A very important engine

There are two Thomas’s in our house. Me, and far more importantly,  Thomas the Tank Engine.

I was very pleased to discover  that Thomas the Tank Engine  runs SAP.  

Congratulations to RC2 and  to the SAP VAR, Chelford.  I trust that James, Oliver, Henry, Percy,  Arthur, Edward, Daisy, Douglas and even Gordon are pleased by Sir Topham’s decision.   I understand that Bob the Builder will run the implementation using Smartstart.  

I wish Bob had been at my house this weekend. He could have helped with my   implementation , read all about it here in HRO magazine.  I could try and tie this together with a really complex metaphor about platforms,on time projects  and SOA, but I need to get home and read about James and the naughty coal trucks.


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Enterprise Data Management meets 2.0

Sam Lowe wrote a very thoughtful post about the potential impact of web 2.0 on Enterprise Data Management.  Add him to your feed.  I suggest you read it all, but here is a quote…

So Web 2.0 will undoubtedly introduce new technologies like RSS, Wikis, REST, Blogs, AJAX etc into enterprise usage. But perhaps more interesting than the new technologies is the potential influences will have on Enterprise Systems design and the way Enterprise Data Management will adapt.

Thinking about what Sam is saying, it made me look back to models of IT, and how we like to put things in boxes.  I’m a fan of models – Mcfarlan-McKenney, McAfee, and  lately Rangaswami for instance, but I can’t help thinking  once you grasp the principles of any given model, whatever the discipline,  the really interesting spaces are the lines between the boxes, where stuff seeps from one set of assumptions and definitions into the other.

We need to be cautious about placing the structured application world into one box, hermetically sealed off from the emergent, ” collaborative”.  The two worlds  interact, data and processes do span and leak. 

If I follow Sam correctly, the place where this change will have a major impact is in the very way that we model and design.  I think there are some fundamental questions about data ownership,  governance, identity and privacy that we haven’t even begun to address. 

But this is an issue not just for the enterprisey models and processes, yes, these have to become more become more flexible,  adaptive and emergent -it is a challenge for the 2.0 vendors and evangelists as well.  The demands of COBIT and the like don’t vanish when you sprinkle 2.0 dust.

I’ll ponder this as I read “Enterprise Architecture as Strategy” by Ross,Weill and Robertson..


Passion and the Enterprise.

There is a new adaptation of  Sense and Sensibility  unfolding. It is set in the blogsphere. It is a noteworthy tale.  Starring Rod , Ed and Alan. Jeff, Nathan and Zoli have small but significant (cameo) roles in the comments.  It lacks the lyrical and tightly crafted prose of the original, but the unbridled passion and tension …The story unfolds over several acts, but  the final  comments are where the climatic action is.  I won’t spoil the drama here.

  In the days before blogging this would have been settled as below.

Today, the market will adjudicate.

Moving on, IBM, Second life…….

The folks at Redmonk have been chatting with IBM, as is their wont.  Check out what Cote had to say.   I posted on portals etc the other day, and in the comments I asked the Redmonkers  if they felt that Notes had seen better days.

James responded.

Notes get(s) “cannibalised” by Ventura if anything. but the Lotus Hannover release is pretty frigging slick, so i wouldnt be writing it off soon. IBM has just completed a multi-year refactoring of Notes/Domino and the benefits are going to be felt from here on in.

For details of Ventura read here.  IBM impresses me. When I am that age I hope I’m that agile and open to new things. CEO in second life and all that. The notes folks are strongly ensconced in second life too. Alan said…

At the moment I’d say it is a mix of hype and actual usefulness, but the point is, we’re at the dawn of “something”, and it is great to be a part of it.

Bringing things noteworthy  swiftly back to SAP, there is some good doc on the SAP- Notes integration over on the IBM Redbook site.    I have seen some clever stuff done with Notes and SAP, and lots of customers use them together. 

I also saw that IBM are also using a wiki to build new redbooks, a fine thing, as Tesha wiki at SAP would attest.  If you visit the Redbook wiki, and you dig around carefully, you will see that it is powered by not Notes, not Qedwiki, not Ventura but by Confluence

Something for everyone. Much Like how Sense and Sensibility ended.

Actually,   I’ll end with a quote by the mighty Jane herself, from a letter she wrote in 1817, and leave it as friendly advice to both protagonists….

I… do not think the worse of him for having a brain so very different from mine. … And he deserves better treatment than to be obliged to read any more of my works.”

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Google applies analytics to HR

Over the last 100 years or so, organisational psychology has developed a number of methods and tests to assess personality and competency. Yet despite lots of scientific evidence that proves these tests are dramatically more effective than interviews as a selection technique, most managers dismiss psychometric testing as hocus-pocus.  Yahoo’s position is sadly, all too common.

Yahoo does not use tests, puzzles or tricks, etc., when interviewing candidates,” Jessie Wixon, a spokeswoman for Yahoo, said.

Perhaps Jessie should have a chat with my friend Adrian Furnham,  one of the worlds’s leading psychologists and author of masses of books, including this one. 

It is great to read that Google are apply testing to their recruitment processes. Mr Bock from Google is spot on. Interviews and academic scores suck as predictors for employee success. 

I picked this up from James and Jon Battelle’s search blog.

Deriving Talent, Algorithmically

How will Google scale its massive hiring ramp-up while maintaining its famously intricate screening process for ‘Googley’ employees? With an algorithm of course.

After months of interviewing their employees to decipher trends in personality and interests that mark Googlers, Google has ‘derived’ a complex hiring questionnaire. Google will begin using the surveys with all applicants this month.

I hope Google based this algorithm on valid, fair, reliable, psychological research, that deals with issues of culture and gender bias in testing, and that the results are treated with the privacy they deserve. If they have, you can forget about gaming it.  (if you are interested to see similar tests check out SHL) Judging from the NYT article it looks as if they have involved some psychological rigour to it, but if anyone has anymore info please drop me a comment or an email. 

So, my HR readers, if you have pushback from line managers who think testing is nonsense, then quote them the Google example.

Also, Google, you might have a brilliant HR product here, I’m just not sure that I want my Neo  Disc,  Myers Briggs and  16pf scores  in your cloud.

I wonder how the cosy world of HR testing products would cope with Google muscling in?



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Portaling like it is 2001.

Warning, long rambling post….

Dan Farber picks up on JP’s four pillars. I’d been meaning write something about JP Rangaswami’s four pillars thinking for some time.   Dan has done the job for me.  JP’s Confused of Calcutta is one of my favourite blogs, he writes with a lyrical yet jaunty style, and he covers a broad range of topics insightfully. I would like to meet him one day. We could talk about cricket and old books.

JP’s 4 Pillars: 

information–syndication(smartly disseminating content),

search (collaboratively filtered),

fulfilment (the transaction chain) 

conversation (collaboration)

Some other time I ought to compare this with Andrew Mcafee’s model. –  Function, Enterprise, and Network IT. Both provide excellent frameworks to analyse and understand enterprise applications. 

JP points to  Netvibes. He discusses its strengths and weaknesses. 

I’m still trying to work out whether this is a revolution, evolution or rerun of the earlier wave of the portal. If I think back 5 years, portals were all the rage. Plumtree was riding high, SAP bought TopTier, signed a partnership with Yahoo!, and formed a separate company called SAP Portals. Herewith the slightly giddy 2001 press release.

Partners Share a Vision
The vision of SAP and Yahoo! for enterprise portals is aligned: to provide employees – as well as the extended business community of customers, partners, suppliers and other stakeholders – with convenient access to the resources they need to manage the immense flow of business information, processes and transactions. The new enterprise portal will provide interactive information, application and process services to support people in the new e-business work force.

The enterprise portal will leverage role-based personalization so people can view information that is important and relevant to them. The content will be determined by their roles within their organization, with services and applications based on their tasks and responsibilities. In addition, people will be able to customize content to meet their unique needs and preferences. For example, an individual may have everything from human resources information or sales tracking applications to financial news, industry marketplaces, personal stock portfolios and collaboration tools all in one easy-to-use place. SAP will supply key e-business applications and services, SAP Portals will provide tailored role-based business information, analytics, enterprise portal services and third-party unification, and Yahoo! will provide a global Internet platform and access to content and personalization services.

I’m not sure why the Yahoo-SAP partnership never really blossomed. It may have been a case of the vision being ahead of the technology, standards, and the market, or the business model?

I dug out a screen print of the SAP portal from 2001. (It looks less dated than I thought it would..!-)



Even back then this had some neat features, including linked iviews (change the data in one and then the others change too)

Dan mentions the command and control nature of enterprise portals.

Enterprise portals and portlets have more constraints, driven by security issues and command and control cultures. They are also costly and complex to implement, which is another reason JP is rethinking enterprise software in a new context, taking a lesson from consumer technology, just as he did in bringing blogs and wikis into the enterprise.  

Dan has a point, but command and control has its place.  I think it is a key part of the fulfilment bit of JP’s model.  The role concept is partly  about the organisation determining what “should” appear on the desktop of the user.

For many roles and many processes, this is still needed. The reality of many jobs is not “what do I want to do to day” but “what do I have to do today.” An accounts payable supervisor portal can be pretty structured and predefined, and the stronger the role is linked to transactional activity the more structured the role is likely to be. I also believe this requirement won’t vanish. The emergent-pull processes will grow dramatically, but this doesn’t mean the death of push.

What has changed since August 2005 when  Forrester commented?

The portal market vanished as quickly as it appeared by morphing into application server platforms, interaction platforms, and information workplaces. In the past four years, independents have been gobbled up by Sun Microsystems (iPlanet), SAP (TopTier), and Vignette (Epicentric). And now BEA Systems is buying Plumtree Software, the last of the portal pure-plays.

The 2.0 goodness (RSS, RIA and so on) is part of the new story, but is there something else I’m missing? Are we heading for a portal renaissance?

Anne (the rednun), in a post this week on the webworker blog, reviews top AJAX start pages.  She praises Netvibes for the dynamic ecosystem of add-on modules and the feedreader, but she is critical of the mail integration.

Con: The POP mail module is virtually unusable with its inability to mark items as read. Showing a total of unread items at the top based on inaccurate numbers in the mail modules is just pure noise to the brain. Needs a quick email send capability.

She concluded.

We’re Not There Yet

What did this review of Ajax start pages (and one Flash start page) tell us? That they have a ways to go before they provide the informational richness and immediate action that this web worker needs.

For now, my web start page is Firefox with one tab for email, one for my calendar, and one for my RSS reader. What’s yours?

Over on her Tech decentral blog she is a tad more direct.

Some have asked if these personalized home pages represent Portals 2.0. Absolutely not. They have barely progressed beyond My Yahoo! circa 1999. Yes, most of them have open APIs for module development and they’re trying to build active developer communities to create cool widgets. But the platforms themselves aren’t a revolutionary improvement over what we already had

The Netvibes ecosystem looks impressive, but I couldn’t find any examples of enterprisey integration yet.Perhaps there is some scripting whiz out there that could get SAP Self Services working there.  I’ve commented before on the iview studio, this began as an early attempt to build a market for custom built portal content. It has been mildly successful, but I’m  hopeful that it will develop new lease of life as SAP invests in the powered by Netweaver ecosystem model.

Here at SAP we have to do a better job at tools for managing unstructured, emergent data. I see a lot of stuff bubbling in research and development,  and expect to see it moving into the mainstream SAP experience soon. To get a sense of this trend, have a look at SAP second life development. RSS and widgets are also receiving a lot of attention here in starship enterprise. The power of the wiki has not gone unnoticed, and this too, is influencing application design thinking.

Yet I’m also not convinced that the portal model is the centre of the universe that it was 5 years ago. I have written before about SAP UI strategy, moving away from the portal über alles mode to multiple access modes, Duet being just one example of this. If you want to learn more about what is going on with the SAP Portal stuff, check out this event.

IBM aren’t sitting still either. Cote writes here about the glass bus and QEDwiki. He comes up with a great new motto.

If successful, we might actually get those widgets that know your time zone without you telling them. That is, software that does the right thing without you rubbing its nose in the steaming pile of righteousness.

Cote goes on to note.

Now, savvy coders have created bridges and adaptors between ERP and behind-the-firewall systems. I’d like to see more vendors going full-bore on these approaches rather than having them in the “research” arms of development. It’s why we get so excited over seemingly boring things like layering Ruby on-top of ABAP…….

The hope is that taking previously boring data and workflow into a new context and adding in new data will result in exciting new software.

Hear hear….

There is a lot to learn from the consumer start page, and the need for a much greater focus on aesthetics, but at the risk of quotation repetition syndrome, Einstein said it best, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”



eeek Mouse

Nigel James has a super post about the mouse.

The whole world is too attached to their mice, but this is what I would like to achieve: to be able to drive all applications from the keyboard with out having to resort to moving my right hand 15 cm to the right to grab the mouse to have to click on a button or menu item because there is no other way to activate the action.

Sound words indeed.


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Barbie, art, copyright, trademark, parody?

Kathy Sierra made a “My First Scoble Doll” for Christmas out of Blaine, Ken’s mate.  Ken is Barbie’s on and off boyfriend. 

For My First Scoble, I also needed to make a label/logo for the front to cover up the “Barbie”. And just for fun, I changed the shirt to a white one I had from another doll, so that I could make it into one of Hugh’s Gaping Void t-shirts. The cartoon on the shirt is actually one that Robert’s been photographed in many times.

 It ranks up high on my “it is the thought that counts” present list,  but then I wasn’t stuck in a blizzard. 

Barbie’s politics, history, sociology and law though, make fascinating reading.  The wikipedia entry provides a start, but the juicy bits are in the unauthorised biography

Barbie has taken considerable flak  as portraying women in an unfair, and anatomically impossible light.  In 1997, Barbie’s dimensions changed- Salon  has some great commentary, especially on Barbie’s rather naughty German  ancestry.

There are several Barbies in our house, mainly on the fairytopia theme, and the Barbie DVDs have given my girls an early appreciation of classical music, so not all corrupting me thinks.  

On the downside the girls can imitate Barbie’s accent perfectly, and do so at every opportunity.

Anyway, one of the protests  involved switching the voiceboxes between GI Joe and Barbie, and then returning them to the shop. (directions here).    GI Joe would then say, “let’s bake a cake, maths is hard” and Barbie would reply, “eat lead.”  (more details here)

So what does this have to do with this blog?  Well I’m researching the relationship between law and technology (Geek law as it is sometimes called) I have written before on the relationship between IP and Art,  prompted by a dinner chat with  Tittin.

Kathy’s handiwork reminded me of a copyright case.  Tom Forsythe, an artist, was sued by Mattel, Barbie’s creators,  for creating a series of art works called the Food Chain Barbie. 

  This led to a series of protests, culminating in the  2004  Barbie in the Blender Day.  The case is described well here, and the piece provides some guidelines on the parody defence under US copyright.  Tom eventually won the case with costs.  More here at the freeculture blog.

The Forsythe case highlights the increasing challenges faced by those who wish to comment on popular icons, symbols, or cornerstones of culture, most of which are copyrighted by large corporations. “If you want to talk about the problems with society, all of the widely recognized figures are copyrighted,” says Nelson Pavlosky of “In the past, cultural icons belonged to everyone…[now] if you want to use a relevant character to critique society, you’ll get burned by companies who can silence you, not by winning in court, but by outspending you and forcing you to cave in or lose all your money.”

Other examples of Mattel’s aggressive use of copyright and trademark include  the distorted Barbie case.  This is documented by Harvard cyberlaw, and there is a transcript of an interview with Mark Napier, the artist.  

When archeologists dig into the ruins of our world they will find the Venus DiMilo of the 20th century: Barbie.  Mark Napier

Barbie also went after the Aqua Barbie Song.  They lost this case as well. (pity)

(BTW.The Harvard cyberlaw site is one of best sources of information on internet law.  A gem indeed.  If you follow  cyberlaw be sure to read Palfrey’s blog. I’m also very impressed with the Duke Law School site,  the comicthat James Boyle, Keith Aoki and Jennifer Jenkins have put together,  the movies here, and iblawg has just joined my feed read.)

I’d be interested what Geeklawyer and Pangloss, two of my favourite UK law bloggers would make of the copyright position for parody under UK law, especially given the recent Gower review.

For more on  other art that challenges trademark and copyright,  Illegal Art is a brilliant  site. Check it out.

Robert Scoble, flushed with his brush with politics,  recently posted about the  need for an IT lobby.  He commented:

Hey, maybe we should think about how the tech industry could work the political system to protect its interests.

He is right. The media industry is tremendously well organised, and I fear, too powerful.  It is easy to get carried away about  the power of social media and blogs undermining them, but I’m not convinced.   Have a look at the EFF site,  and watch this little video clip. 

Us bloggers could do a lot worse than learn a bit more about intellectual property. Copyright, trademark and patents impact most of what we do. The EFF bloggers guide is well worth reading.

It is not just Barbie. Barney is also a pretty litigious dinosaur, never mind Mickey..

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George Orwell rocks.

Continuing the simplicity riff..

I read the post by 37-signals, Complicating Simplicity, and Joel’s  post on Explaining Steve Gillmor.  They reminded me to revisit  a piece George Orwell wrote  – Politics and the English Language.  Most of us know George Orwell because of 1984 and Animal Farm, but he was a prolific journalist and essayist too.

His six rules.

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

The essay is 60 years old.   I’ll have to suggest that Gapingvoid adds it to his manifesto list.  

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Google toolbar and Amazon shopping.

I live and work in Germany, my notebook has an operating system in English.  My browser is set up with English as the default language.  So why when I type do I get sent to  If I want to go to Google de then I’ll type that, surely?

Secondly, I downloaded the google toolbar the other day, and again it sent me the German version.  As far as  I can see I will need to deinstall it if I want to have it in English.  This is plain dumb, and it  points to a basic design fault at Google. It seems they have combined  two distinct data items – language and country.  

Hamish speaks of the challenges of  PC languages  in French speaking Switzerland, so I’m not the only one who has a problem.

Google please stop trying to turn me into a German. 

I’ve mentioned the multicountry design issue that I have with Amazon here.

I would like to set up an affiliate with Amazon, and depending where you are, Amazon would invoice in the right currency, handle the taxes, and ship from the cheapest location. With the current set up this seems impossible to do this.

Amazon would have no way of knowing that the Thomas Otter in .de is the same as the one as on

Amazon’s architecture is not global, the country versions seem to be copies of the us one, with very little integration. This must be costly to run and maintain. We can learn a lot from Amazon online retail and SOA, but it looks as if they could learn from us boring boring ERP guys in Walldorf about global architectures

If you architect a solution for one market and one language, it will come back and bite when you deploy it globally.  This is the same whether you are building an ERP solution, deploying a wiki, searching the the web or sprinkling SaaS dust.



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