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Mike Tarrani
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Thursday, February 28, 2002


Connecting the Dots. Kate Hartshorn is playing a larger role in this weblog, and its sister, Notes from the Field. Kate will be posting here in the near future, but until then her ideas and expertise in business and competitive intelligence, and business strategy will be embodied in my entries.

Today's theme is business and competitive intelligence. I'm going to provide raw intelligence and techniques, but it will be up to you to connect the dots and arrive at your own conclusions.

Definitions. There is a distinction between data, raw intelligence and processed intelligence. Here are my definitions:

  • Data - a fact, observation or symptom.
  • Raw intelligence - collection of data that have been put into context, categorized or classified, calculated or summarized.
  • Processed intelligence - information that can be used to make decisions or take actions. The state of information that is considered to be processed intelligence meets four criteria:
    1. Compared: how does this information in this situation compare to information in similar situations?
    2. Consequences: what are the implications of this information for decisions and actions?
    3. Connections: how is this information related to other information that is known?
    4. Conversation: what do people who are knowledgable about this information think?
One view of the transformation process wherein data becomes information is a management information value chain. Linda and I developed a quick reference card of Things to Consider in Technical Communications that depicts this value chain, as well as other information qualities.

As a side note, you may want to visit our Technical Communications Resources and Business and Strategic Planning Resources pages, both of which contain related information.

Sources. The following are sources of processed intelligence that you may find helpful in strategic planning, competitive intelligence or market analysis:

  • Three sets of results from surveys conducted by The Intellor Group, Inc.. The surveys provide raw intelligence about industry business intelligence initiatives, XML database trends and XML adoption.
  • A paper on Recalibrating Demand-Supply Chains for the Digital Economy, which is classified as raw intelligence because there is insufficient information upon which to base a strategy or action. It does, however, provide a starting point from which a strategy or an initiative can be launched after the intelligence has been processed.
  • An excellent example of raw intelligence is a paper titled Dynamic Content Software Services, which makes a case for basing the component architecture for Internet Distributed Computing around SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol). This paper is rich with raw intelligence, but does not pass the tests for processed intelligence.
  • Choosing an Architecture for Wireless Content Delivery is a report that is filled with raw intelligence about the topic, plus news that falls into both data and raw intelligence in the last half of the report.
The above files are provided as examples of raw intelligence, and I have attempted to find examples that reflect contemporary issues in IT strategic planning and business/competitive intelligence.

Using Information. Two papers that show how to transform raw intelligence into processed intelligence, then use that to support decision making are:

  1. A Learning Model for Forecasting the Future of Information Technology
  2. Modeling and Forecasting the Information Sciences
I've also included Zip archive with two PowerPoint presentations that will give ideas about how to think about and use data.

End Notes. An article from Government Executive titled White House official outlines cybersecurity initiatives contained an interesting comment about encouraging information sharing among companies to avoid cyber attacks. The proposed initiative reported in the article is a partnership between government and business for information sharing. Why is this important? Here are a few news articles that I read only today that show why this is needed:

One final highlight: It looks like corporate America is shedding its wool this time around. Microsoft is rolling out a $200M ad campaign to "sell" .NET, and according to ZDNet's 25 February article titled, The world of Web services (according to Microsoft) there is a healthy amount of skepticism. Maybe--just maybe--the wolf won't be eating mutton; have the sheep wised up? I think that the growing awareness of product flaws coming out of Redmond may have something to do with it. The following direct quotes from the article mentioned previously, Critics squash bug-reporting plan, underscore this:
[A]s an example, Guninski draws on the recent disclosure of a bug in Microsoft's .Net framework and the Windows operating system by software risk management firm Cigital. Although Cigital said it followed the unwritten rules of responsible disclosure in the company's announcement, some security experts--including Microsoft--criticized it as being irresponsible.

He goes on to say, "I don't find it logical for it to be responsible to sell under-tested and under-quality software, and for it to be irresponsible to disclose a bug," he said. Furthermore, any vendor who sells software with disclaimers that disclaim any liability should not use the word "responsible", according to Guninski.

My take? With the focus on security, especially post 9/11 awareness, it may take more than a $200M ad campaign to convince corporate America that .NET is in their best interests. Let's hope so.