Linked Data & Business Intelligence – Is this a two sided coin?

I haven’t blogged much lately and there is good reason for that, firstly I’ve recently gone through a restructure and redundancy process, I still work for the council but have moved somewhere else as part of the redeployment process (more on this in a separate post).

However one of the things that remains the same is that I’m still lucky to get involved in very interesting projects and this creates many problems for me. 1) I try to create links between projects when none clearly exist, but when they do they make a lot of sense, 2) my mind is never really quiet for long periods to allow me to find inner peace and 3) there is so much to get involved in that I have to ensure that I stay focused on the now, whilst keeping an eye or two on the future.

I’m fortunate to be involved in some Linked Data work that going here, mainly thinking and planning first steps but it is really fascinating and I can see why Linked Data fans champion the need to do more – I really do see the value, but we need to actually provide it through real world application before some senior folk will really support it.

For those who don’t know what Linked Data is:

Linked Data describes a method of publishing structured data, so that it can be interlinked and become more useful. It builds upon standard Web technologies, such as HTTP and URIs – but rather than using them to serve web pages for human readers, it extends them to share information in a way that can be read automatically by computers. This enables data from different sources to be connected and queried
Via Wikipedia

We had a session today to learn more about Linked Data and the practical first steps we can take in order to start proving value not just internally but across some partnerships.

One of the others areas that I’ve been involved in but not so much on a practical level is looking at the Business Intelligence capability across the council.

For those who don’t know what business intelligence is:

Business intelligence technologies provide historical, current and predictive views of business operations. Common functions of business intelligence technologies are reporting, online analytical processing, analytics, data mining, process mining, business performance management, benchmarking, text mining and predictive analytics……..Often Business Intelligence applications use data gathered from a data warehouse. However, not all data warehouses are used for business intelligence, nor do all business intelligence applications require a data warehouse
via Wikipedia 

 

Now one of the interesting aspects for me is that there are similarities in these two areas which I think I need to explore further as I learn more about each over the coming months etc.

On face value they seem to be two sides of the same coin – Linked Data looking primarily externally to create meaning and context, whilst business intelligence looks across internal systems and applications to create meaning and context.

I would think it is fair to say that we are in the very early stages of each of these projects and it will take time for us to get to grips with how we want to see both develop.

But I can’t help but think that we need to bring these two agendas together somehow without compromising each project – perhaps through shared learning, data modelling, data cleansing and approaches to master data management.

I could be wrong and I maybe over complicating two very complicated areas already….but surely the outputs of the internal business intelligence tools should form the basis of our published linked data for others to consume.

I guess time will tell 🙂

 

Its always been about collaboration

A collection of thoughts went through my mind when I scanned this presentation on slideshare…

My first set of thoughts focused on a set of products and or tools, two  in particular popped into my mind:

NB: There are other tools and products available, but these were two which were on my mind at the time of thinking.

Both tools clearly have a primary focus, but in the context of progressing towards Collaborative Enterprises, which is moving beyond Social Business. They have a common purpose – provide tools which equip the organisation with components to progress towards being a Collaborative Enterprise.

My second set of thoughts were about how the skills of collaboration are fostered in society.  My children who are aged 6 and 4 and both in school are always talking about how they worked with their friends or other classes (or even other schools) to deliver a class project.

So collaboration is an essential part of education and learning – that isn’t really news, but it is interesting because when you arrive in work, in most cases, your collaboration opportunities are reduced and you are restricted to poor channels of collaboration and are even forced into particular processes which do not resemble anything you have previously encountered.

My third set of thoughts were about how the progress made on all things social is merely a short-term distraction on our way toward Collaborative Enterprises.

In my experience within Local Government, the word “Social” is often counter productive and I have always preferred the term Business networking instead of social networking – semantics, I know, but it is important. However what we really need to get right is how the collaborative processes of the organisation are either supporting of hindering progress with social tools, that will be the best place to start if you wish to change your organisation.

The word “social” is over used in a lot of terms now and I’m not personally convinced that everyone using it, understands what the implications and impact is – it is also complicated by terms like social business, as this could sound similar to social enterprise, in terms of meaning but this is a completely different context.

My final set of thoughts were about how the presentation misses one key component that I believe any collaborative enterprise will possess and understand and that is Gamification. There are huge opportunities to bring together the skills and approaches of games into the design and architectures of organisations to create truly Collaborative Enterprises.  This is still a new area of thinking for me, but it is something I want to explore more of in the coming months and years.

 

Your Social Business Maturity Level

I was looking at my RSS feeds earlier and came across an excellent post by Jeremiah Owyang – The Web Strategist.  The post is called Spend wisely –  finally an investment roadmap for social business buyers.

The main thing I loved about the post was this one side maturity assessment, which could be used in conjunction with the Social Media Strategy and Framework in a previous post of mine.

Another thing I liked about the post was the following graphic which gives you a very broad overview of how you can match spending or resource commitment to your social business maturity.

Check out the full report here on slideshare

Facilitating a Social Media Strategy

Updated: included wordle graphic

I’ve had quite a number of conversations  about social media strategy at the council recently,  as well as with a number of people via twitter and other networks.

So I thought I’d share my thinking on this and also share the strategy (co-developed by Martin Howitt) which I use to help others as well as a framework to developing a Social Media Action/Implementation Plan.

This is intended to be a reusable framework and strategy – as the detail and local variations will come in your own action plan.

To put this into context the council has already made significant progress around Social Media – In January 2010 the Council introduced a Social Media Policy and Guidelines which states:

Devon County Council is committed to making the best use of all available technology and innovation to improve the way we do business. This includes using all reasonable and cost-effective means to improve the way we communicate, reach out and interact with the different communities we serve.

It includes guidance around personal and professional responsibilities, using social media in different scenarios and key things to consider.

We don’t yet have a formal Social Media Strategy (yet), but the following is what I am personally using and promoting internally as a method and approach to adopting social media within our business operations.

The Strategy:
We will maximise the positive impact of our use of social media in support of the councils business aims and social objectives.

Principles:

  1. The use of social media, like anything else the organisation does, must be informed by business strategy and social objectives.
  2. Social technology does nothing on its own. To create value from social media, it is people and processes that must change.
  3. Becoming a truly social organisation will yield benefits in terms of sustainability, responsiveness, reputation, lower operating costs, and higher social impact.
  4. Social media can in theory pervade every part of the organisation’s value chain. But it should only do so if there are defined and (where possible) measurable positive business impacts.
  5. There is no such thing as a social media project: there are only business projects that utilise social media tools to some extent to achieve their objectives.
  6. A social media capability must therefore be built or adopted specifically to serve the objectives and current projects of the organisation.

Tactics:

  1. Identify which organisational processes / service areas which might use social software or social media tools
  2. For each process / service area – state the key objectives and outcomes
  3. List the available tools and their best-value use cases
  4. For each process/service area identified in (1), identify the most useful tools from (3) and map the potential benefits to objectives/outcomes in (2)
  5. Consolidate the list in (4) by channel and/or by organisational role.
  6. For each role identified in (5), evaluate the cost, benefits, and risks
  7. Create a prioritised portfolio of projects, expected benefits, and Key Performance Indicators based on the outputs of (6)

I appreciate that this may sound easier than it actually is, but to be honest if it were that easy everyone would be doing it and no one would have trouble justifying its use. If you can build this approach into the service business planning cycle you (as facilitator) and the service area will yield higher results in terms of potential Social Media projects supporting and delivering business outcomes – that is the theory anyway 🙂

As a starting point I’d recommend that you look at your own service area as well as highlighting or at least acknowledging other “high value” organisational processes which could benefit from this exercise, so that you can get familiar with the process and the level of understanding you will need around some of the tools and best value use cases.

It is worth trying to separate the cross cutting processes from the actual service areas for example “community engagement” might be a service area in your organisation as well as it being a cross cutting activity. In my opinion you are likely to identify a better value proposition looking at the cross cutting process of community engagement then the service itself.

In my Council a sample list might look something like this:

Process / Activity Areas

  • Community Engagement
  • Customer Service
  • Staff Engagement
  • Community Consultations
  • Staff Consultations
  • Personal and Self Directed Learning
  • Knowledge Sharing
  • Policy Development
  • Service Planning
  • Emergency Communications
  • Press and PR Relations

I’ve separated the activities of engagement and consultation on purpose as different social value can be created depending on your approach.  By tackling a cross cutting process or activity you can influence and impact a greater number and range of people who can add value when you start looking at this on a service perspective.

Service Areas

  • Trading Standards
  • Libraries
  • Road Safety
  • Highways (roads and traffic)
  • Waste Services
  • Registration Services

The reality here is I could have included a list of nearly all services, but you really need to stay focused and work on a service by service basis sometimes.

I envisage that the best approach would be a twin track approach –  During the prioritisation process outlined in stage 7 – try selecting one activity area alongside a service area to increase the organisational learning opportunities.

Hope this is helpful –  and I wish you luck….I’d be very keen to hear your stories on how this works or doesn’t for you.