Our people weigh in on the issues of the day.
Blue Slate's people think a lot about the challenges facing their industries today. In the process, they often come up with completely unexpected slants on current issues, or new ways of thinking about business problems. Bluespeak is where they share those thoughts. Feel free to read and reflect.
[Any views or opinion represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blogger and do not represent those of Blue Slate Solutions.]
I had the pleasure of attending the Semantic Technology and Business Conference in Washington, DC last week. I have a strong interest in semantic technology and its capabilities to enhance the way in which we leverage information systems. There was a good selection of topics discussed by people with a variety of backgrounds working in different verticals.
To begin the conference I attended the half day “Ontology 101” presented by Elisa Kendall and Deborah McGuinness. They indicated that this presentation has been given at each semantic technology conference and the interest is still strong. The implication being that new people continue to want to understand this art.
Their material was very useful and if you are someone looking to get a grounding in ontologies (what are they? how do you go about creating them?) I recommend attending this session the next time it is offered. Both leaders clearly have deep experience and expertise in this field. Also, the discussion was not tied to a technology (e.g. RDF) so it was applicable regardless of underlying implementation details.
I wrapped up the first day with Richard Ordowich who discussed the process of reverse engineering semantics (meaning) from legacy data. The goal of such projects being to achieve a data harmonization of information across the enterprise.
A point he stressed was that a business really needs to be ready to start such a journey. This type of work is very hard and very time consuming. It requires an enterprise wide discipline. He suggests that before working with a company on such an initiative one should ask for examples of prior enterprise program success (e.g. something like BPM, SDLC).
Fundamentally, a project that seeks to harmonize the meaning of data across an enterprise requires organization readiness to go beyond project execution. The enterprise must put effective governance in place to operate and maintain the resulting ontologies, taxonomies and metadata.
The full conference kicked off the following day. One aspect that jumped out for me was that a lot of the presentations dealt with government-related projects. This could have been a side-effect of the conference being held in Washington, DC but I think it is more indicative that spending in this technology is more heavily weighted to public rather than private industry.
Being government-centric I found any claims of “value” suspect. A project can be valuable, or show value, without being cost effective. Commercial businesses have gone bankrupt even though they delivered value to their customers. More exposure of positive-ROI commercial projects will be important to help accelerate the adoption of these technologies.
Other than the financial aspect, the presentations were incredibly valuable in terms of presenting lessons learned, best practices and in-depth tool discussions. I’ll highlight a few of the sessions and key thoughts that I believe will assist as we continue to apply semantic technology to business system challenges.[Read More] The Cognitive Corporation™ – Effective BPM Requires Data Analytics
The Cognitive Corporation™ is a framework introduced in an earlier posting. The framework is meant to outline a set of general capabilities that work together in order to support a growing and thinking organization. For this post I will drill into one of the least mature of those capabilities in terms of enterprise solution adoption – Learn.
Business rules, decision engines, BPM, complex event processing (CEP), these all invoke images of computers making speedy decisions to the benefit of our businesses. The infrastructure, technologies and software that provide these solutions (SOA, XML schemas, rule engines, workflow engines, etc.) support the decision automation process. However, they don’t know what decisions to make.
The BPM-related components we acquire provide the how of decision making (send an email, route a claim, suggest an offer). Learning, supported by data analytics, provides a powerful path to the what and why of automated decisions (send this email to that person because they are at risk of defecting, route this claim to that underwriter because it looks suspicious, suggest this product to that customer because they appear to be buying these types of items).
I’ll start by outlining the high level journey from data to rules and the cyclic nature of that journey. Data leads to rules, rules beget responses, responses manifest as more data, new data leads to new rules, and so on. Therefore, the journey does not end with the definition of a set of processes and rules. This link between updated data and the determination of new processes and rules is the essence of any learning process, providing a key function for the cognitive corporation.[Read More] The Cognitive Corporation™ – An Introduction
Given my role as an enterprise architect, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many different business leaders, each focused on leveraging IT to drive improved efficiencies, lower costs, increase quality, and broaden market share throughout their businesses. The improvements might involve any subset of data, processes, business rules, infrastructure, software, hardware, etc. A common thread is that each project seeks to make the corporation smarter through the use of information technology.
As I’ve placed these separate projects into a common context of my own, I’ve concluded that the long term goal of leveraging information technology must be for it to support cognitive processes. I don’t mean that the computers will think for us, rather that IT solutions must work together to allow a business to learn, corporately.
The individual tools that we utilize each play a part. However, we tend to utilize them in a manner that focuses on isolated and directed operation rather than incorporating them into an overall learning loop. In other words, we install tools that we direct without asking them to help us find better directions to give.
Let me start with a definition: similar to thinking beings, a cognitive corporation™ leverages a feedback loop of information and experiences to inform future processes and rules. Fundamentally, learning is a process and it involves taking known facts and experiences and combining them to create new hypothesis which are tested in order to derive new facts, processes and rules. Unfortunately, we don’t often leverage our enterprise applications in this way.[Read More] Semantic Web Summit (East) 2010 Concludes
I attended my first semantic web conference this week, the Semantic Web Summit (East) held in Boston. The focus of the event was how businesses can leverage semantic technologies. I was interested in what people were actually doing with the technology. The one and a half days of presentations were informative and diverse.
Our host was Mills Davis, a name that I have encountered frequently during my exploration of the semantic web. He did a great job of keeping the sessions running on time as well as engaging the audience. The presentations were generally crisp and clear. In some cases the speaker presented a product that utilizes semantic concepts, describing its role in the value chain. In other cases we heard about challenges solved with semantic technologies.
My major takeaways were: 1) semantic technologies work and are being applied to a broad spectrum of problems and 2) the potential business applications of these technologies are vast and ripe for creative minds to explore. This all bodes well for people delving into semantic technologies since there is an infrastructure of tools and techniques available upon which to build while permitting broad opportunities to benefit from leveraging them.[Read More]