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Archive for July, 2011

Some Thoughts on Intelligence From the Past Week

Monday, July 25th, 2011

In the New York Times Sunday, July 24th, addition, a headline that caught my eye……

July 23, 2011

Slowing Down to Savor the Data

“DATA beats opinion” has long been a mantra at Google, where evidence-based research tends to rule. But now the company is showing its softer side with Think Quarterly, a business-to-business publication whose first United States issue is to make its debut online this week.Although the Web site will be accessible to the public, the e-zine is designed as a business marketing vehicle, promoting Google’s insights and analyses of consumer behavior to clients like digital advertisers and publishers. The company worked with Fantasy Interactive, a digital design agency in Manhattan, to make the publication look sleek on iPads and smartphones.  But Google is turning to a retro technique — snail mail — to try to create buzz for the online project, printing a limited edition of Think Quarterly as a hardcover book. This week, a small group of marketing executives and agencies are set to receive it. How many? Google declined to say.But we can tell you that the book comes packaged like a billet-doux: fastened with a blue ribbon and secured with an old-fashioned-looking embossed seal. In other words, the fast-information company is inviting its clients to a data slow dance.“Since we are such believers in the power of digital information,” says Lisa Gevelber, head of global ads marketing at Google, “you especially would not expect us to produce a book.” The hard-copy format is intended to be disruptive, she says, with surprise tactile elements. The front cover can be used as a magnetic word-board, for example, and the heat-sensitive end papers react like mood rings.The company has conducted in-house research for years, often packaging it for the public in products like Google Trends or Google Insights for Search . But at a time when data is proliferating faster than ever, Google is playing devil’s advocate with the new publication, a leisurely read that noodles over the business implications and applications of innovation and information.Think Quarterly includes articles by Google executives, profiles of managers at other companies, bright illustrations, data visualizations and large-font quotations that look like Google search results. Like the Slow Food movement, which advocates savoring locally grown produce, it could be seen as an argument for Slow Data. After all, ruminating over selective data seems a logical antidote to wholesale data collection.

The publication aims to highlight information that is “the most salient to how the world is changing,” Ms. Gevelber says, and to identify trends that marketers might harness. Dataphiles may find the site interesting as well.

There’s an article by Amit Singhal, the engineer responsible for developing Google’s search engine, envisioning more accurate and more personalized search technology. There’s a top 10 list of novel ideas — for example, the Gross National Happiness Index developed by Bhutan — selected by Hannah Jones, a Nike executive.

There’s also an article by Dennis Woodside, Google’s president of American sales, on the next big marketing trends. By 2015, he predicts, payment via smartphones will rival credit card use, and niche online content produced by specialists will likely nudge out more general content.

It’s probably not a coincidence that Mr. Woodside’s article underscores the importance of experts. Marketing Google as the pre-eminent data curator seems to be Think Quarterly’s raison d’être. It’s Wired magazine re-imagined for digital marketing executives.

Just don’t call it content creation — a move that would have Google competing with the publishers that are its customers.

“It’s not in any way intended to be a publishing endeavor,” Ms. Gevelber avers.

Sure thing.

Whatever you want to call it, the publication represents the latest entry in a long line of high-profile business-to-business marketing and media projects. Dell’s Web site, “The Power to Do More,” promotes Dell products like electronic medical records. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has “Knowledge at Wharton,” a site that publicizes faculty research.

BUT Think Quarterly is unusual because, in addition to promoting Google’s own people and products, it seems designed to spur private conversations between Google and its most forward-thinking clients, says Gary Lilien, a research professor of management science at Pennsylvania State University who studies business-to-business marketing. “I think it’s a mechanism for Google to build a community with their advertisers and content providers,” Professor Lilien says. The Web site may be freely accessible to the public, he adds, but “they are not trying to broadcast this — it’s more of a closed club.”

The publication is part of a Google effort, started last year, to package the company’s data analyses and trend forecasts for its clients as the “Think” brand. There are conferences called think events, for major advertisers and business partners, and a Web site called “think insights” for marketers who are interested in research on consumer impressions. Earlier this year, the company published a British-centric online edition of Think Quarterly and delivered it in book format to executives in Britain.

The effort to sort, select and summarize data for others is not new. It’s an ancient, pragmatic response to feeling beleaguered by information, says Ann Blair, a history professor at Harvard and the author of “Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information Before the Modern Age.” In earlier ages, however, the sense of being inundated with information was felt mainly by scholars. After the printing press was invented, Professor Blair says, they felt even more overwhelmed by the sheer number of books available.

Now the public is facing a digital data tsunami. “What strikes me as unique about our age isn’t so much that, as individuals, we feel overloaded and panicked about all the information we should know,” she says, “but the fact that everyone, whatever your walk of life, everyone now experiences overload.”

Google may be positioning itself as the curator for digital marketers. The rest of us, however, may have to fend for ourselves.

The latest Information Week issue, dated July 11, 2011, in an article titled “The Data Mastery Imperative”, this headline caught my eye……

Path To A Single Source Of Truth

Let business drivers, data volatility and project scope determine your approach and deployment style for master data management.
By Sreedhar Kajeepeta ,  InformationWeek
July 11, 2011

For a few years now, IT organizations have geared their optimization efforts toward infrastructure, process logic, and user interfaces. But focusing on data is the only way to achieve services-oriented IT. Here are four steps to determine if your company will benefit from a master data management initiative.

Cloud computing is a major departure from the traditional IT service delivery model.

Discover 4 strategies for moving to the cloud. 1. Rate yourself on the five attributes that predict your ability to profit from MDM:

>> Compliance and privacy obligations, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and meaningful use.

>> Portfolios of broad, retail-oriented offerings that can benefit from cross- and up-selling.

>> Complex supplier network that can benefit from a consolidated view of transactions.

>> Multiple data entry and data transfer channels that require a centralized data quality and governance process, including activities related to data cleansing and authorization and validation.

>> A federated business services strategy based on service-oriented architecture that demands a complementary data services strategy.

2. Your principal business drivers dictate one of three main methods of use:

>> Collaborative MDM is aligned with the business process layer. It’s used to manage entities whose attributes are owned and maintained by a diverse, yet interlinked, group of users.

>> Operational MDM is aligned with the services layer and works closely with the SOA stack.

>> Analytical MDM works on the side, with business intelligence applications to push out changes related to master data integrity.

3. Your data volatility determines the implementation style:

>> Registry style is a rudimentary implementation that provides read-only access to master data.

>> Coexistence style, where master data is refreshed periodically, works best in a nonvolatile environment.

>> Transaction style, where master data is always in sync with transactional systems, requires robust support for SOA, messaging, and transactional monitoring.

4. Your scope determines the number of domains needed:

>> Most initiatives include customer and product data domains, but businesses have been feeling the data pinch in other critical areas, including partners and suppliers, contracts, and locations and shipping.

>> MDM’s scope is expanding to incorporate additional services, such as identity analytics and event management, and products that specialize in newer domains and niche verticals. Watch developments there.

–Sreedhar Kajeepeta (

Charlie Allen’s comment, “Well, the greatest weakness of the IC is the loss of good substantive analysts who really know their craft.  Technology never replaces critical thinking…..We have lost analytic capability.” continues to generate lots of replies:

Most agree with Charlie’s perspective:

From a State Department expert in Afghanistan: “Charlie is absolutely correct.”

From a sociocultural phenomenon expert in Afghanistan: “I agree.  The issue is that the best analysts tend to be non-standard and have operational backgrounds.  As a friend of mine observes ‘We are starting to breed more hemophiliacs…..who bleed out when their analysis is bruised by reality.'”

But some have a different perspective:

“With all due respect, I’m not sure Charlie is right. I think the challenge for analysts today is the complex and diverse set of issues they have to analyze. The world is changing and we are still struggling with the complexity of the environment.  In addition to the legacy nation state pol-mil issues, the expansion of terrorism to a more viable international entity, the concerns for environmental issues that threaten national interests and create unrest, the introduction and integration of new collection disciplines (e.g., identity management, social-cultural implications, threat finance, cyber, etc), and the rapid evolution of technology all make the job tougher.  While some of the real analytical legends are walking out the door, there is a huge group of young, bright, and aggressive analysts who are already making a difference.  I think our challenge is to embrace the change, get excited about it, and create an analytical discipline that is much more dynamic.”

What caught your eye this past week?  What topics would you like to see us focus on?  Let me know what you think and we’ll share it with our 4,500+ readers.  Comment on the Roundtable at, or send me a note at


Charlie Allen’s Comment on Last Week’s Note: “Sensemaking: A Structure for an Intelligence Revolution”

Monday, July 11th, 2011

The note on David Moore’s book created more interest and commentary than any other note to date!

And one comment summed it all up very nicely.  Charlie Allen’s note:

“Well, the greatest weakness of the IC is the loss of good substantive analysts who really know their craft.  Technology never replaces critical thinking…..We have lost analytic capability.”

Thanks, Charlie.

Let us know what you think.  Make a comment on the Roundtable at, or send me a note at, and we’ll share it with our 4,500+ readers.



Great New Book “Sensemaking: A Structure for an Intelligence Revolution”

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

David Moore’s new book, Sensemaking, published in March of this year by the National Defense Intelligence College, is an excellent examination of the thinking and reasoning intelligence professionals must do.  So tidbits to convince you to make the read:

*”His approach to sensemaking takes us from intelligence foraging, harvesting and marshalling into understanding. He looks at various forms of tacit knowledge, and he and the other contributors report on some intriguing tests of sensemaking.”


*Intelligence cannot truly be reshaped until it reshapes its products.”
Forward by Greg Treverton of RAND

*”in collaboration with managers and tradecraft cells….these new structures and guidelines present an intellectual challenge as well as a bureaucratic maze for the collector and analyst struggling not only to ‘produce’ intelligence in a timely fashion but also to improve their product…..This is why improving the way in which all analysts think is so important and why an understanding of sensemaking will help advance the profession beyond the ‘established analytic paradigm’ for complex problems and create greater possibilities for the application of imagination in the IC.”

Forward by Christian Westermann, Dept of State

*”David Moore in contrast argues that a complex environment full of mysteries, not puzzles, requires holistic thinking (as opposed to simply disaggregation of problems), mindfulness (as opposed to mindlessness which he also elucidates), and a dynamic willingness to  change paradigms, shift perspectives, and abandon strongly held perceptions.  The book also develops the notion of sensemaking rigor and shows how metrics of rigor can be applied to several studies examining the rise and impact of non-state actors.”

Forward by Dr Phil Williams, University of Pittsburgh

David Moore starts his book this way:

“Despite directives to ‘fix’ the structures, and most recently the means, by which intelligence is created, we insistently fail at our obligation to make early sense of vital threats and opportunities.  What is our problem?”

A great, but “heavy” read.

Please share your thoughts on this note, as well as other intelligence topics of general interest, either through a comment on the Roundtable at, or send me a note at, and I’ share your thoughts and views with our readers.


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