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5/26/2015
04:36 PM
Chris Murphy
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7 Bold Tech Ideas That Will Make You Uncomfortable

Elite tech leaders pushed the boundaries at the InformationWeek Conference. At least one of these ideas should make you squirm and think, "We need to do that."
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'Industrialize' Analytics. One-Off Isn't Enough

ConocoPhillips had some success using data analytics to improve the performance of oil and gas wells in its Eagle Ford oilfields in south Texas. But it felt like a one-off achievement that wasn't going to move the needle enough for the $52 billion a year company. 

'We realized those particular successes were through hard work and some creative thinking by particular members of our company, but we wanted to industrialize that,' ConocoPhillips CIO Mike Pfister said. 'We believed a different analytics platform would allow that to be the norm, instead of the exception.'

So the company created a corporate function to drive this kind of analytics platform. Richard Barclay, who moved into a new role leading a centralized advanced analytics group, described two broad, critical capabilities: Getting data from multiple sources into one place, and creating visualizations that let people explore and tell clear stories with that data. 

'Simply the visualization of the data in a combined manner leads to a lot of breakthroughs,' Barclay said.
 
Pfister and Barclay shared lessons learned in the ongoing development of a centralized analytics effort: 
Focus early analytics efforts on the high-value areas. 'Don't focus on your platform first,' Barclay said. 'Focus on your problems, and the other things will follow.'
Figure out where the data may be. Some will be internal, but they hadn't realize how much public data is available that's valuable to use in combination with company data.
Take time with data. Spend the time and effort capturing data and making it available for broad use. Pfister calls it 'removing friction' between users and data.  
Pfister was candid about the challenges -- it was 'a bit scary' for some of the operating units at ConocoPhillips to hand data over to a corporate function, without control over how it might be used. The central team engaged with technical leaders to convince them that aggregation of data from many sources would be valuable. 
One final lesson came around modeling. ConocoPhillips, like many highly technical companies, has a lot of modeling, analytical, and statistical talent, and it has done leading-edge modeling for years. So the central team had to prove this was something new. The power, Barclay said, lies in the combination of new data sources and new visualization tools.
'The real killer app we found isn't just a great predictive model, it's not just the visualizations,' Barclay said. 'It's combining the outputs of models and the visualization of the raw data that really gets people thinking differently and seeing things differently, and leads to a lot of opportunities.'
(Image: InformationWeek)

"Industrialize" Analytics. One-Off Isn't Enough

ConocoPhillips had some success using data analytics to improve the performance of oil and gas wells in its Eagle Ford oilfields in south Texas. But it felt like a one-off achievement that wasn't going to move the needle enough for the $52 billion a year company.

"We realized those particular successes were through hard work and some creative thinking by particular members of our company, but we wanted to industrialize that," ConocoPhillips CIO Mike Pfister said. "We believed a different analytics platform would allow that to be the norm, instead of the exception."

So the company created a corporate function to drive this kind of analytics platform. Richard Barclay, who moved into a new role leading a centralized advanced analytics group, described two broad, critical capabilities: Getting data from multiple sources into one place, and creating visualizations that let people explore and tell clear stories with that data.

"Simply the visualization of the data in a combined manner leads to a lot of breakthroughs," Barclay said.

Pfister and Barclay shared lessons learned in the ongoing development of a centralized analytics effort:

Focus early analytics efforts on the high-value areas. "Don't focus on your platform first," Barclay said. "Focus on your problems, and the other things will follow."

Figure out where the data may be. Some will be internal, but they hadn't realize how much public data is available that's valuable to use in combination with company data.

Take time with data. Spend the time and effort capturing data and making it available for broad use. Pfister calls it "removing friction" between users and data.

Pfister was candid about the challenges -- it was "a bit scary" for some of the operating units at ConocoPhillips to hand data over to a corporate function, without control over how it might be used. The central team engaged with technical leaders to convince them that aggregation of data from many sources would be valuable.

One final lesson came around modeling. ConocoPhillips, like many highly technical companies, has a lot of modeling, analytical, and statistical talent, and it has done leading-edge modeling for years. So the central team had to prove this was something new. The power, Barclay said, lies in the combination of new data sources and new visualization tools.

"The real killer app we found isn't just a great predictive model, it's not just the visualizations," Barclay said. "It's combining the outputs of models and the visualization of the raw data that really gets people thinking differently and seeing things differently, and leads to a lot of opportunities."

(Image: InformationWeek)

Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek and co-chair of the InformationWeek Conference. He has been covering technology leadership and CIO strategy issues for InformationWeek since 1999. Before that, he was editor of the Budapest Business Journal, a business newspaper in ... View Full Bio

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Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Ninja
5/26/2015 | 9:25:55 PM
Bold Tech Ideas
Re:"Karaboutis leads three tech organizations: Enterprise IT; a global data office that manages scientific and medical analytics; and digital health tech, which works with outside partners on potential new product areas, such as new sensors." The concept of a global data office that manages medical analytics and also involves digital health technology sounds intriguing to me. If successful, I think this could be very advantageous to patients and the rest of the medical/health industry. I think such a concept has room to develop into something really great.
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Ninja
5/27/2015 | 10:54:38 AM
A common thread...
Interesting that most of these thought leaders are all very focused on the aspect of speed. Speed is great, but it often comes at a cost, whether that cost is accuracy or assurance of the proper amount of testing. It'll be interesting to see how all these ideas about speed (seemingly above all else) play out over time. Usually, it just takes one big fiasco to make people stop for a second and say "whoa, maybe we should think this out a little more instead of just running with it."
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
5/27/2015 | 11:20:10 AM
Risk
In my understanding it is always better to take risk provided there is a plan B. This will help in reducing the impact of the risk.
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
5/27/2015 | 11:24:34 AM
Re: A common thread...
I agree with you. "Speed" is another factor which has adverse effects on quality. If the quality is not met, "Speed" becomes a question mark.
Somedude8
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Somedude8,
User Rank: Ninja
5/27/2015 | 12:42:38 PM
Re: A common thread...
Walmart rollingout patches to their POS without fully testing will stop the first time those terminals get breached, and if they are rolling out patches willy nilly, they absolutely will get breached. Hmm, that may be the first time I have used 'willy nilly' in a sentence!

The idea that legacy applications are holding a company back is spot on. Possibly the most under rated skill in programming today is the ability to refactor crusty old code in to shiny new code.

I often find it hard to get to the core concept that these folks are trying to relate though, as it is often so 'spun' toward their point of view. Its like the higher up the corporate chain, the more everything they say is part of their personal marketing message.
JeffreyC531
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JeffreyC531,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/27/2015 | 1:53:28 PM
As the Old saying goes..
Speed, Quality, Cost.....Pick two
Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
5/27/2015 | 2:40:41 PM
Re: A common thread...
I absolutely agree.  Many times when you go higher up in an organization, innovation and speed trump back end requirements, primarily security.  When it comes to tech, there are so many ways we can do things faster, more effectively, with more insight, but we forget the backend upheaval required to make these things happen.

Yes, application modernization will go a long way, but figuring out if those legacy systems have a place in the new technology plans or if they need newer solutions to replace them are required speed bumps we need to make sure are used before we get too ahead of ourselves.

Pulling data for the sake of analytics is also great, provided the right security and privacy controls are in place and the legwork is done in advance to make sure the information is actually going to be worthwhile, both from a "what can we connect and talk to" perspective, but more importantly "Now that we have all this data, what does it mean and what do we do with it?". 
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
5/27/2015 | 3:22:57 PM
Mean time to recovery -- a brave, new metric
I remember thinking with Karenann Terrell said this that "mean time to  recovery" is a great metric for IT shops to adopt. Instead of presenting the IT mask of infallibility, it suggests bad code will occur even with the most careful forethought and preparation. Getting hobbled by the possibility of failure is not the right idea. Getting practiced and fast at recovery will embolden a team to try more things and respond to business needs more frequently.
mdortch570
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mdortch570,
User Rank: Strategist
5/28/2015 | 10:45:57 AM
Re: A common thread...
Mom always said I was naively optimistic, but I believe that the speed focused on by several of the tech leaders featured here can be a win, if it's done right. I'm reiminded of the day I didn't sleep through a high-school physics class, and learned the difference between vector and scalar quantities. Speed of IT transformation is essential, IF it has a specific direction, or goal. And that goal should always be improvement of agility, resilience, and/or trustworthiness ("ART") of an enterprise. 

Little if anything transpires faster than the speed of human thought. So if the direction of IT transformation is well thought out and focused on improving business operations, speed will thrill, not kill. But speed without clear direction is nothing more than a major catastrophe waiting to happen.
asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 2:48:20 PM
Pfft!
I think Walmart should focus on keeping its self-checkout POS stations in operable condition before it worries about anything else.  As is, those things are constantly out of order.  And management doesn't like to bring in more than 1 employee to run register for every 50 customers standing on the checkout line.
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