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Latest insights and trends in Personal Analytics, Operational Intelligence, and Workplace Productivity.

Dec 20
A Management Lesson from a Holiday Party

There was plenty of nautical talk at a recent Northern California Chapter--Institute of Management Consultants holiday party I attended, especially about Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's yacht.  Earlier this year, Ellison’s Oracle Team USA boat came within an inch of losing the America’s Cup yacht races to Emirates Team New Zealand, only to stage an improbable comeback that saw Oracle take the final race after trailing the series 8-1.  I had a front-row seat at the America’s Cup finish line on September 25th at Piers 27/29 across the street from Hypersoft’s San Francisco office and had marveled at the boatspeed of the 72-foot catamarans that could hydrofoil upwind at 30-32 knots.  Chapter President Don Scellato, who crewed on a winning America’s Cup boat in college at the US Merchant Marine Academy, was able to vouch that this incredible performance had never been seen before in the America’s Cup. 

The winning USA boat in 2013 employed an abundance of Silicon Valley know-how:  more than 300 sensors collected vast amounts of performance data (over 3000 variables monitored as often as 10 times a second) that measured everything from strain on the mast to the angle of the wing sail.

Oracle Team USA's success in adapting new types of computers, sensors and big data to maximize performance is also a good metaphor for how the 40-year-old software company needs to adapt to remain in the race against smaller, aggressive technology competitors, especially since the way people access, transmit, and store information is trending away from the traditional Oracle enterprise database approach and towards mobile devices, apps, and newer models of cloud computing such as personal clouds. 

At least that’s the view of IT research and advisory company Gartner, which recently identified its top 10 strategic trends and technology for 2014 that managers should consider incorporating into their 2014 business strategy.  These include mobile apps, which Gartner predicts will grow in importance, making HTML5 and the browser a mainstream enterprise application development environment, as well as the “era of personal cloud.”

The term “personal cloud,” which came into vogue in 2013, refers to a person’s collection of digital content, services and apps that can be seamlessly accessed from the Internet.  The “era of personal cloud” is all about users being able to use any device, anywhere, to securely access any service including those for standard business processes, storage, databases, emails, messaging, and watching and sending videos or photos.  

A new generation of applications and services is already evolving in this new Personal Cloud era.  For example, the cloud-based Goalspan software solution from management consultant Jeff Hunt takes employee performance reviews and manager goal setting to new levels.  Similarly, OmniContext™ Personal Analytics helps both employees and managers make sense of the huge amount of data employees generate every day in their work environment.   As a result, managers are able to track and improve their team’s productivity and use of web resources—and gain useful insight into how close they and their employees are to achieving both personal and business goals.

Gartner’s trends were in line with the opinions of several of the management consultants at the holiday party, whose talk focused on the innovations, opportunities and economic risks that keep managers awake at night as they move to the next generation of business-driven solutions.  The main take-away lesson from this particular party was that business managers and CEOs—like successful America’s Cup skippers--must avoid using old economic models in the new digital reality.


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