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Monday, February 28, 2011

Personalizing the retail experience to create demand

Personalizing the retail experience to create demand

By Don Cooper-Williams, Executive Director, SAS Asia Pacific | Sep 17, 2010

Current economic conditions have changed the arena for retail, as business owners struggle to match oversupply with the scarcity of demand. In this case, personalizing the shopping experience may prove to be key to growth and success.

"Know the customer" is a retailing mantra that's been repeated ad nauseam since the dawn of the 21st century. Nonetheless, today's successful retailers are only now beginning to achieve customer-centricity by replacing the product focus that dominated the 20th century with a deep understanding of the consumer.

How are these retailers getting there? They start by evaluating detailed consumer data from multiple sources to understand who the best customers are, then combine that information with what and how they like to buy.

Retailers need to anticipate and shape future demand to come as close as possible to satisfying each customer's unique needs.

Achieving this at such a detailed level requires automated processes enabled by solutions with the latest in predictive analytics and optimization capabilities.

The ultimate goal is tailoring the entire shopping experience to create an emotional bond with the customer. In effect, this means turning today's multi-channel retail enterprise – in a consumer's eyes – from "the store" to "my store."

For instance, Korea's online shopping mall uses analytics to learn more about customers and improve its targeted marketing efforts. Using SAS for Customer Experience Analytics, has laid a foundation to help members receive tailored services that are a better fit for their lifestyle. Through SAS, web traffic data collected is used to analyze the behavior of online customers. can now analyze unique visitors and additional data from the company's various websites. Analytics has provided a better understanding of the status of visitors and purchasers, the popularity of each category and product, plus click-through patterns, campaign results and more.

Understand customer segments
How can retailers understand customer segments from data in a timely, cost-efficient manner? Can you personalize customer communications, merchandise each store with the right assortment displayed effectively and optimize pricing in each individual store without hiring an army of analysts? With decision process automation (DPA), the answer is "yes." DPA includes both the full automation of manual processes and the integration of analytic and optimization routine results into process workflows that increase and speed decision-making capabilities.

Automation is the key
Automation is the key to enabling the delivery of just the right offer to each consumer, deploying exactly the right assortment to each store and optimizing the regular price for millions of SKUs.
It is not just about the analytics; the analytics are the critical enabler and the "brains" behind the automated decisions, but they must be complemented by a configurable workflow that allows users to quickly evaluate exceptions and execute any remaining manual activities.

DPA allows the retailer to embrace a consumer-centric approach across all marketing and merchandising activities.

Take for example, Myer, the venerable Australian retailer that wanted to maximize its Myer one loyalty program. By consolidating its customer information into a repository that could mine and analyse data, Myer was able to leverage analytics into its merchandising and marketing processes. This helped segment customers, as well as monitor how customer segments responded to different marketing messages.

With detailed intelligence available, the company can now engage in meaningful dialogue with its customers. Myer's use of customer intelligence extends to finding out its customers' attitudes at the brand level, their likes and dislikes. At the macro level, Myer knows how customers feel about their Myer shopping experience and how it compares with their experiences of Myer's competitors.

Just three years after the launch of MYER one, the company the investment in the program was recovered three-fold. This shows that with analytics in place, merchandisers can stop thinking in terms of what product "we should sell" and instead come closer to providing what each unique customer wants to buy in "her store."

NEC’s retail solutions to empower Chinese airport

NEC's retail solutions to empower Chinese airport

By Enterprise Innovation Editors | Jun 24, 2010


A retail solution and POS system dispatched by NEC Corporation is set to make waves in the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in China, after the latter chose the solution to help facilitate branding and marketing strategies by the airport.

In recent years, the rapid economic growth of mainland China has been accompanied with a dramatic increase in the country's volume of air travel. China's airport's now represent significant business opportunities and market potential as their value added services and usability become increasingly important.

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport is one of the three largest airports in mainland China. As one of the most advanced airport facilities, the newly established terminal covers an area of 300,000 square meters, including 20,000 square meters of commercial space with more than 300 retail shops.
NEC's Retail Solution and POS System was selected by Baiyun International Airport as part of establishing the facility's specialized branding and marketing strategies that are expected to increase revenue from commercial activities by encouraging travelers to take advantage of high quality brands and services.

The TWINPOS5500Ui features a stylish design and compact dimensions that are ideal for a wide variety of counter layouts.

The POS System uses durable materials with a lead free welding and chromium steel plate that reduce its environmental impact.

The TWINPOS5500Ui is a core retail IT solution that offers a 2GHz processor, enhanced CPU performance and 2GB of main memory, which enables smooth POS operation, multimedia promotions, and a variety of middle-ware. ECC (Error Correction Code) functions with memory modules automatically detect and correct memory errors for more stable POS operations. Furthermore, the new NEC POS model saves approximately 30% on electricity consumption as compared to conventional POS models.

These cutting edge Retail Solution technologies support Plug-n-Play for retail device peripherals, create operator and customer interactions through empowering components, and provide integrated management tools for store operations and management.

In the future, travelers' expectations of airport services will continue to increase. NEC's new Retail Solution represents an advancement in the retail industry that meets the demands of increasingly sophisticated airport travelers. Looking forward, NEC will continue to provide its Retail Solution in support of the Baiyun International Airport and other facilities in need of logistics and retail marketing that enable greater efficiency and superior services while ensuring the highest levels data security.

Facing the cloud: top 10 risks to avoid

Facing the cloud: top 10 risks to avoid

By Laura Smith, | Feb 21, 2011

With the growing popularity of public cloud systems and their stellar promise of cost-effectiveness, flexibility and scalability, firms are often pushed past the threshold and forced to adapt. Here are top 10 risks CIOs must be wary of before making the jump.

Some lists of top public cloud computing risks are sweeping and philosophical, such as the Top Threats to Cloud Computing, v.1.0, developed by the Cloud Security Alliance. Most include some combination of the following items:

1. Security on the network
This remains far and away the No. 1 concern among IT executives, and includes such subcategories as data protection and privacy, physical security and application security from a Software as a Service (SaaS) provider, and cutting through the hype.

For one, don't believe the "Trust me, I'm SaaS-y" marketing, said Steve MacLellan, senior vice president of enterprise architecture for financial services at Boston-based Fidelity Technology Group. Be sure to ask questions about their security policies, and visit the data center to ensure physical security, he added.

Then, do your part to protect data. "We make sure our data is encrypted leaving us -- it happens in the data center before it hits the wire," said Peter Toth, manager of IT operations at Princeton, N.J.-based GfK Custom Research North America, a division of the German research and development company GfK Group.

For others, security is no more a threat in the cloud than it is in one's own backyard. "I like to say the cloud, even the public cloud, isn't inherently more or less secure than your internal environment," said Rich Mogull, CEO and analyst at Phoenix-based consultancy Securosis LLC. "It's all a matter of what controls are available and how you implement them."

2. Identity management
Passwords are problematic, especially because malefactors now have the compute capacity -- ironically, available on public clouds -- to bust through them. The federal government is taking a leadership role in the development of a federated ID ecosystem that would protect against cyberfraud. Earlier this month, the Obama administration announced it would create a Trusted Identities in Cyberspace program, to be led by a newly formed National Program Office within the Department of Commerce.

3. Compliance
Speaking of borders, they might in fact be virtual but they might just as well be physical. New regulations for the financial services, health care and insurance industries place restrictions on where data physically can reside and how long it should be kept. "At Fidelity, we hear this [need to comply with new regulations] a lot," MacLellan said. "The regulatory environment is a little hostile," perhaps to overcome a notion that the cloud is a free-trade zone. For example, some information might not be able to cross the boundaries of a country, but it's next to impossible to know where in the public cloud data exists. Furthermore, the onus is on cloud customers to make sure that cloud providers are compliant with the regulations affecting their company's data, according to Drue Reeves, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner Inc.

4. Data integration
One danger in using public cloud services is the natural aggregation of data in cloud silos. Integrating data residing in the cloud with an enterprise's back-end systems is no picnic, especially if the enterprise hasn't undertaken the organizational challenge of information integration. Companies that have organized their data sets well enough to use them across multiple platforms will be best positioned to take full advantage of cloud services, according to James Staten, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

It also will be important to get into the habit of encrypting data, tagging fixed data and consolidating storage repositories, according to EMC Corp.'s Leadership Council for Information Advantage, an IT executive group whose members discuss challenges in cloud computing. To stave off a huge integration effort down the line, try to limit the number of cloud platforms that have to be supported, the group advised.

Cloud experts also advise the use of ETL (extract, transform, load) tools to simplify the conversion of data from one format to another. The goal is to convert information into one common format -- most likely into the extensible markup language, or XML -- to make it more portable and searchable.

5. Vendor lock-in
This thorny issue comes down to the evolution of standards for interoperability among different cloud providers. Let's say you don't like a change in policy made by your public cloud provider and want to move your workloads to another cloud provider. In this case, the cloud might as well be the proverbial Tower of Babel, even though many vendors are making interoperability more of a priority.

Microsoft's Azure platform, which is tied directly to .NET, now has an open source software development toolkit for developers working with the PHP script language; and Inc.'s once proprietary development platform supports Java application development.

6. Vendor viability
The cloud currently has 10,000 providers of one sort or another, according to Tom Bittman, distinguished analyst at Gartner. "Somebody needs to help us arbitrate that," and give enterprises "a single throat to choke," he said. He anticipates the rise of cloud brokers as the new systems integrators, helping with data integration among enterprises' back-end systems and cloud services. Rather than being consumed directly, by 2015, 20% of cloud services will be consumed via cloud service brokers, up from 5% today, he predicted.

That "single throat" might also be the result of consolidation among the cloud service providers. With competition in the extreme, it's not necessarily the smaller providers that will fail. Choosing the right provider is one of the critical decisions IT executives will make this year, according to Bittman. "We've seen providers go out of business, and the data is just gone," he said.

7. Manageability
It's not like having your own infrastructure that you can modify. You have no control over what else is running on the cloud that could degrade performance.

Cloud services might not provide the same level of manageability that enterprises expect. The ideal would be a single, end-to-end view of on-premises and cloud applications, according to CIOs including Phil West, CIO of Gainsco Inc., a Dallas-based provider of nonstandard automobile insurance. Last fall, several vendors including Vizioncore (now part of Quest Software Inc.), Veeam Software Inc., LogMeIn Inc., Precise Software Solutions Inc., Compuware Corp. and Microsoft announced monitoring tools and plans for providing end-to-end visibility from the enterprise to the cloud.

8. Availability
Enterprises can't put up with interruptions in service, regardless of their cause, from bandwidth constraints to distributed denial-of-service attacks. "It's all about quality, not about low-cost services anymore," said Lalitendu Panda, global CIO of D&M Holdings Inc., based in Japan. "Interruption of service is an issue; we have had a couple of 'situations,'" he said. "It's not like having your own [infrastructure] that you can modify. You have no control over what else is running on the cloud that could degrade performance."

9. Shared resources
Because of its multi-tenant nature, the public cloud hosts numerous companies sharing the same infrastructure. The dependency of tenants sharing a single cloud creates a potential for catastrophic risk, according to Drew Bartkiewicz, CEO of CyberRiskPartners LLC, a New York-based provider of cloud insurance. "Public cloud providers are mitigating risk through contracts and an enormous amount of hope that nothing will happen to them," he said.

The point of the cloud, on the other hand, is that you're sharing space, said Tanya Forsheit, a founding partner of InfoLawGroup LLP in Los Angeles. "If you're going to use [the public] cloud, you have to accept the notion that that's true, or use a private cloud to segment data," she said.

10. Legal ambiguity
The fact is, liability in the cloud is not black and white, and that's due in part to a lack of public cases that could set a precedent. If a public cloud computing provider compromises data that is subject to regulatory issues, the provider should share in the liability, Gartner's Reeves said. "The IT organization should be writing their contracts in such a way that it comprehends regulatory issues and the provider shares the liability. Why would the consumer bear all the liability if he has told the provider what the data requires?" he said. Cloud liability is a work in progress; providers may waive hosting fees when a connection goes down, but there's no remuneration for lost business, he added. Imagine a new ecosystem of cloud insurance brokers before the dust settles.

No going back
This isn't so much a risk as a reality, and yet people in the IT trenches worry about what will be lost when the enterprise adopts public cloud computing. "Once you step out of the private house and go to public processing, your needs and wants of going back are almost impossible," said Danny Jenkins, BlackBerry administrator at J.C. Penney Corporation Inc. in Plano, Texas. The risk is that you "give up your in-house knowledge base."

The 10 most annoying employees

The 10 most annoying employees

February 24, 2011, 11:21 AM PST
By Steve Tobak

Takeaway: Certain behaviors are almost guaranteed to drive your boss crazy. Unfortunately, you might not even know you're doing it — until the day you're shown the door.

These days, we've got heavy competition for our products and services and even stiffer competition for our jobs. The one thing none of us needs is to make matters worse by shooting ourselves in the foot.

Over the years, I've noticed a number of behavioral attributes that really annoy the heck out of managers, especially senior executives. We're not talking light-hearted annoyances, like constant interruptions or incessant whining. We're talking career-limiting behavior that's bad for business and bad for the organization and that far outweighs whatever benefits you might bring to the party.

When he was annoyed with someone in a meeting, one CEO of a large technology company would imagine the person's compensation — dollar sign and all — emblazoned on the person's forehead and decide right then and there if he or she was worth it. Cold-blooded, I know, but a true story nevertheless.

I've seen otherwise bright, capable people dig deep holes for themselves when they thought they were doing the right thing. They weren't. And while I've typically been on the annoyed side of the equation, I have to admit, I've been on the annoying side once or twice myself — and really, really wished I hadn't. So be forewarned. Here are the 10 kinds of employee you don't want to be.

Note: This article originally appeared as an entry in BNET's Corner Office blog. It's also available as a PDF download.

1: "Trust me"

If you're a star performer who has proved your worth time and again, you're one of an elite group of trusted individuals. But if you're not in that category, saying "trust me" or "don't worry" to a skeptical senior executive sends up a red flag a mile high. Just don't do it.

2: Fearless risk-taker

People mistakenly think that entrepreneurs, executives, and VCs are huge risk-takers. They're not. They're calculated risk-takers. Their job is to minimize risk for their stakeholders in a risky environment. When they see someone dive into the deep end without looking, they don't just get annoyed, they get rid of him.

3: Know-it-all

Everyone hates a know-it-all, but it's particularly annoying to senior executives who didn't get to where they are by not knowing what they don't know. And they know you don't have all the answers, either. Know what I mean?

4: Teflon guy (or gal)

Nothing sticks to the Teflon guy. He won't engage and he won't be held accountable. You tell him over and over to take the bull by the horns, and he says okay, but it never happens. When you follow up, all you get are excuses. And the worst thing about it? The crap he won't deal with ends up on your plate, and that just ain't right.

5: "I can do anything you want"

For some reason, some employees think that no matter what you want or need, all they have to do is smile and say, "Sure, I can do that" — whether they can or can't. They mistakenly think that's a "can-do" attitude. It's not. It's promising what you can't deliver. I call that "can-say, can't-do."

6: Star-struck "yes" person

Say what you will about bosses wanting employees to kiss their butts and kowtow to them. Sure, they exist, but they're the weak ones. Successful executives want to know the truth, and they want it straight. To them, sugar-coating "yes" people are worthless, period.

7: Talk, talk, talk, never shut up

Most executives are pressed for time. They want you to tell them what they need to know, listen to what they have to say, and get the hell out. If they want to chitchat, you'll know it.

8: Drama queen

It's always something: a personal saga, a coworker's out to get them, or a litany of excuses. Whatever it is, it's more important than getting things done. Excuse the gender reference; it's just an expression.

9: Bureaucrat

This type responds to every request with a boatload of inane reasons why he or she can't do it or arcane things that must happen first. The opposite of a flexible, can-do attitude.

10: "This is how we did it at XYZ company"

It's one thing to apply your experience to new situations. But you can't just blindly assume that because it worked there, it'll work here. Every situation is different; there are lots of ways to do things, and one size rarely fits all. Besides, it's really annoying.

Those are my top 10. What employee behavior annoys you the most?

Why aren't more CEOs fired?
February 24, 2011, 5:55 AM PST

Takeaway: Despite an environment of record layoffs of workers, you don't hear very often about a CEO being fired. Why is that?

The past couple of years have set a record for employee layoffs. Unfortunately, because of this, news of layoffs have all the shock value of a "78 degree and clear" weather forecast in San Francisco.

But what does perk interest is when a CEO is ousted from an organization. Data shows that only 2% of Fortune 500 CEOs on average are fired every year. It seems like a CEO can be the spawn of Satan and routinely taser his employees and still stay gainfully employed. It's always seemed a little weird to me that a company can be bleeding money so much that they have to lay off 25% of their workforce but retain the CEO. I understand that revenue loss is mainly due to uncontrollable economic conditions, but the management of the top guy or gal has to play into a poor financial picture more often than we are led to believe.

So what's the deal? Why aren't more CEOs ousted by their Board of Directors? Wharton finance professor Luke Taylor wondered this same thing. He set out to model the decision to fire a CEO and quantify the forces at work.

One of the conclusions Taylor reached was that more CEOs aren't fired because of personal reasons, including the directors' own ties to the CEO, or considerations that firing the CEO may put their own jobs as directors at risk, or hurt their chances of being nominated to other boards.

I think these conclusions all make sense. I have much sympathy for those who have emotional ties to the CEO. However, middle managers are forced to face this issue time and time again.

As for a firing putting a board member's job at risk, I would say so. The implication for shareholders is that the board members were accomplices to the behavior that caused revenue loss.

I can also see how a CEO firing could affect chances of being nominated to another board. Let's face it, unless a CEO committed some egregious sex crime, a board member's participation in his ouster could be looked upon suspiciously. It's not necessarily just, but I think most CEOs would subconsciously consider such a person capable of forming a cabal against him at some time in the future.

I'd like to hear from anyone who has witnessed a CEO firing who can attest to the fallout.

10 reasons for quitting IT

February 25, 2011, 9:58 AM PST

Takeaway: There are a lot of upsides to working in IT — but depending on your situation, you might find yourself considering other career options.

Jack Wallen describes a few factors that could be the last straw for some IT pros.

Raise your hand if you've nearly quit your job on at least a few occasions. Go on. You don't have to be shy. We all know that IT is one of the more stressful careers you can choose. And unfortunately, universities don't teach you coping mechanisms for getting through the days/weeks/months that can turn into long years. Let's take a look at a few reasons you might decide to leave that beloved career in IT.

1: Stress

Don't let anyone ever tell you that a career in IT is easy going. It's a rare occasion that someone will have a job in the IT field where there isn't stress. Remember, IT is disaster management. When a client or user calls you, it's almost always an emergency that must be taken care of immediately. And when you are working on those jobs, you had better get everything right, as failure could cost you a contract or a job. What makes this worse is that the stress rarely lets up. Every minute of the day, you are working and working harder than you might expect.

2: Hours

If you want a Monday through Friday, 9-to-5 job, look elsewhere — IT seems to be a job you carry around with you 24/7. Not only do you put in more hours in the office (or the field) than your average professional, you also have to work outside the office to keep your skills up and make sure you're better than the guy standing next to you. And the people who aren't your clients or users (friends and family, for example) will want to take advantage of your knowledge and keep their computers running smoothly for free.

3: Getting paid

If you are an independent contractor, one of the most stressful issues you face is getting paid. I can't tell you how many consultants I know who have had to make threats or use an attorney to get paid. And when you're freelancing, if they don't pay you, you don't eat. That is some serious stress there. You don't have the advantage of having that regular check coming in weekly or biweekly. Honing your interpersonal skills is key to keeping those relationships as good as possible. Good relationships (even with not-so-good people) will go a long way to make sure you do eventually get paid.

4: People (in general)

This one I hate to mention. A long time ago, I was a positive, upbeat, people-loving kind of person. But after being in the consulting business, I've found myself getting taken advantage of, used, abused, unpaid, underpaid, unappreciated, and more. It's a constant fight to resist wanting to retreat to the woods and off the grid. That is not to say that people, in general, are bad. It's just that when you have your IT hat on, people seem to look at you in a different light. You are both savior and sinner in one stressed-out package.

5: The chain of command

Let's face it. Not many higher-ups understand your job. They think you should be able to get everything done on a shoestring budget, with no help, and you should treat end users as if they were better humans than yourself. And to make matters worse, the higher-ups want you to magically make those PCs last for more than a decade. This misunderstanding of both duty and technology does one thing: It makes your job impossible. When the powers-that-be begin to micromanage your department for you, every single bad element is exacerbated. You know your job and you know you know your job. Management does not know your job, but they don't know they don't know your job. It's all a vicious Mobius strip of stress.

6: Technology

Have you ever had one of those days when it seems like the whole of technology has rebelled against you and it looks like the singularity might very well be on the horizon? Those days will have you wishing you were walking out of the building with your belongings in a cardboard box. This has been one of the issues I have had to deal with since working with a consultancy that deals primarily with Windows clients. It seems that entropy has a strong hold on the Windows operating system, and every day is a battle to keep PCs and systems working. Some days you win that battle, some days you lose it. The days you win are always lost in the pile of days you lose.

7: Competition

One thing you can count on — there will always be someone better than you. But in the IT industry, it isn't a 1:1 ratio. Instead, it seems that for every one of you there are one hundred IT pros who are smarter, faster, and better equipped. That ratio is quickly realized in dollar signs. Remember, the IT landscape is constantly changing, and if you can't keep up, you may not be hired or remain employed. The longer I am in this business, the more I realize it's a young person's game. Being as agile as necessary, being able to work the necessary hours… it all adds up. I'm not saying us older folks can't run with the pack. We can. But every day we work is another day even more competition is added to the field, and the competition is fierce.

8: The cloud

Every time I hear an actor on TV speak the phrase "to the cloud" I want to pull out my hair and kick in the television. The cloud has been one of those aspects of IT whose definition has been, and probably always will be, in flux. What exactly is the cloud? Should I be using it? Is the cloud safe? How much does the cloud cost? I get hit with these questions all the time. Generally, I just answer by asking the clients if they've used Google Docs before. If they say "yes," I tell them they are already using the cloud. But that is never satisfying. Clients and end users want the cloud to be some magical experience that will make all their work easier, better, and faster. If only they knew the truth.

9: Lack of standards

Our lives would be infinitely better if some sort of standards could be applied, across the board, in IT. Many open source projects have done everything they can to achieve a set of standards, only to be knocked down by proprietary software. Those proprietary software vendors want to keep their code closed and not compliant with standards so they can keep their bottom line as padded as possible. I get that, I really do. But while they are refusing to conform to any sort of standard, they are causing end users and IT pros any number of horrendous headaches on a daily basis. There is no reason why standards can't be followed without preventing proprietary software vendors from making a killing.

10: Respect

The general public has a bad taste in its mouth for IT professionals. Why? There are many reasons. They've been burned before. They've been ripped off before. They've had consultants who only seemed to want to sell them bigger and better things. So long has this gone on, and so jaded has the public become, that IT pros have a hard time earning respect. Oh sure, when they see you walk in the door you are their best friend… for the moment. But the minute you get that one "impending doom" issue resolved, it's time to go off on you or insist you do more than they hired you to do (or more than you have time to do).

10 tips for time management in a multitasking world

Posted to: Time management
December 10th, 2006

Time management is one of those skills no one teaches you in school but you have to learn. It doesn't matter how smart you are if you can't organize information well enough to take it in. And it doesn't matter how skilled you are if procrastination keeps you from getting your work done.

Younger workers understand this, and time management is becoming a topic of hipsters. One of the most popular blogs in the world is Lifehacker, edited by productivity guru Gina Trapani, and her forthcoming book by the same name is a bestseller on Amazon based so far on pre-orders.

In today's workplace, you can differentiate yourself by your ability to handle information and manage your time. "Careers are made or broken by the soft skills that make you able to hand a very large workload," says Merlin Mann, editor of the productivity blog 43 Folders.

So here are 10 tips to make you better at managing your work:

1. Don't leave email sitting in your in box.
"The ability to quickly process and synthesize information and turn it into actions is one of the most emergent skills of the professional world today," says Mann. Organize email in file folders. If the message needs more thought, move it to your to-do list. If it's for reference, print it out. If it's a meeting, move it to your calendar.

"One thing young people are really good at is only touching things once. You don't see young people scrolling up and down their email pretending to work," says Mann. Take action on an email as soon as you read it.

2. Admit multitasking is bad.
For people who didn't grow up watching TV, typing out instant messages and doing homework all at the same time, multitasking is deadly. But it decreases everyone's productivity, no matter who they are. "A 20-year-old is less likely to feel overwhelmed by demands to multitask, but young people still have a loss of productivity from multitasking," says Trapani.

So try to limit it. Kathy Sierra at Creating Passionate Users suggests practicing mindfulness as a way to break the multitasking habit.

3. Do the most important thing first.
Trapani calls this "running a morning dash". When she sits down to work in the morning, before she checks any email, she spends an hour on the most important thing on her to-do list. This is a great idea because even if you can't get the whole thing done in an hour, you'll be much more likely to go back to it once you've gotten it started. She points out that this dash works best if you organize the night before so when you sit down to work you already know what your most important task of the day is.

4. Check your email on a schedule.
"It's not effective to read and answer every email as it arrives. Just because someone can contact you immediately does not mean that you have to respond to them immediately," says Dan Markovitz, president of the productivity consulting firm TimeBack Management, "People want a predictable response, not an immediate response." So as long as people know how long to expect an answer to take, and they know how to reach you in an emergency, you can answer most types of email just a few times a day.

5. Keep web site addresses organized.
Use book marking services like to keep track of web sites. Instead of having random notes about places you want to check out, places you want to keep as a reference, etc., you can save them all in one place, and you can search and share your list easily.

6. Know when you work best.
Industrial designer Jeff Beene does consulting work, so he can do it any time of day. But, he says, "I try to schedule things so that I work in the morning, when I am the most productive." Each person has a best time. You can discover yours by monitoring your productivity over a period of time. Then you need to manage your schedule to keep your best time free for your most important work.

7. Think about keystrokes.
If you're on a computer all day, keystrokes matter because efficiency matters. "On any given day, an information worker will do a dozen Google searchers," says Trapani. "How many keystrokes does it take? Can you reduce it to three? You might save 10 seconds, but over time, that builds up."

8. Make it easy to get started.
We don't have problems finishing projects, we have problems starting them," says Mann. He recommends you "make a shallow on-ramp." Beene knows the key creating this on ramp: "I try to break own my projects into chunks, so I am not overwhelmed by them."

9. Organize your to-do list every day.
If you don't know what you should be doing, how can you manage your time to do it? Some people like writing this list out by hand because it shows commitment to each item if you are willing to rewrite it each day until it gets done. Other people like software that can slice and dice their to-do list into manageable, relevant chunks. For example, Beene uses tasktoy because when he goes to a client site tasktoy shows him only his to do items for that client, and not all his other projects. (Get tasktoy here.)

10. Dare to be slow.
Remember that a good time manager actually responds to some things more slowly than a bad time manager would. For example, someone who is doing the highest priority task is probably not answering incoming email while they're doing it. As Markovitz writes: "Obviously there are more important tasks than processing email. Intuitively, we all know this. What we need to do now is recognize that processing one's work (evaluating what's come in and how to handle it) and planning one's work are also mission-critical tasks."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Learning Lessons From Email Blunders in 2010

Learning Lessons From Email Blunders in 2010

by Enterprise Innovation Editors, 10 February 2011

While technology continues to become more sophisticated every year, users still trip on their own feet when using them, particularly in the case of e-mail, where blunders may not only cause hilarious outcomes, but financial losses as well.


Below is a sample list of infamous email blunders in 2010. Some of the snafus are embarrassing, some are painful and some are hilarious.



An Australian banker became an overnight sensation after he was caught on live television viewing images of scantily clad supermodel, Miranda Kerr, on his computer. While clearing his emails, he had opened one containing pictures of Kerr unaware that a colleague was doing a live television interview behind him about the Australian economy. The incident became a YouTube hit catapulting the banker into an apologetic celebrity.


Royal Dutch Shell has an excellent record of work place safety and corporate governance. It works with its employees to develop a safety culture. In February 2010, a breach of a different kind of safety occurred. Personal details of more than 170,000 employees and contractors were accidentally emailed to several non-governmental organisations including Greenpeace, Friends of Earth and Shell Guilty. The embarrassing security breach has cost Shell valuable trust of its employees.



In March 2010, it was discovered that an online catalogue company had been sending out the credit card numbers of their online customers in plaintext emails confirming purchases. The emails also contain an Internet link or URL that contains the recipient's name, address and credit card details. If the customer clicks on the link, the URL containing the personal information would become part of the customer's browser history where it could be vulnerable to cyber snoopers. Two victims of the security lapse reported their credit card details stolen after receiving the vulnerable emails from the retailer. Needless to say, the company lost many customers.


A reporter, who was incessantly bothered by requests to cover a presentation by a blind speaker, thought he was sending an email to his editor in which he called the blind motivational speaker a "blind [expletive]. Unfortunately for the reporter, the email was sent to the blind man's public relations manager instead. The reporter was fired by his editor who thought the reporter should not have prejudices against the disabled.



An university application agency in the UK was forced to apologise to angry students after sending out misleading emails from Hewlett Packard with the subject line "you have been accepted". The title of the email message should have been "You have been accepted to receive big discounts on HP laptops!" But because of the way some email programmes truncate the title of emails, the message had appeared to some as "You have been accepted…" This caused some distress to the students who were anxiously waiting for their 'A' level results, and they were not amused.


Simple tips

1. Keep email anti-spyware up-to-date. By updating your anti-spyware, you are able to keep your virus lists current. Make sure that the software offers both outgoing and incoming message security.


2. Set up your email account so that you can read messages in a plain text format. Malicious emails messages tend to use HTML codes as platform to deliver malware, phishing viruses and the like.


3. Refrain from clicking links you are not sure of. If the message looks suspicious but comes from a familiar source like from a co-worker or from a client, do contact them and check if the email message is legitimate.


4. Avoid using your corporate email to send non-work related links and attachments. Employees tend to send photos or links from websites and share it with other office colleagues. Without the right anti-virus software and systems, an employee's email address can create an "email bomb" throughout the system. Email bombs occurs when a virus uses a person's email address and sends a large number of email messages to flood inboxes rendering the email server useless.


About the Author

Enterprise Innovation is a sister publication of CFO Innovation.

What's the fuss about? Revenue cycle management

February 18, 2011, 6:10 AM PST

Takeaway: Cash is no longer king, and the IT infrastructure to build the healthcare provider networks into one happy family, aka regional health information exchanges, will fall to the shoulders on the IT administrators and programmers.

"Write it down in dollars, and cash it" has turned into "collect it electronically and analyze what happened" in healthcare IT circles. Cash is no longer king, and the IT infrastructure to build the healthcare provider networks into one happy family, aka regional health information exchanges, will fall to the shoulders on the IT administrators and programmers. All this is under the heading of "revenue cycle management." For many years, paper was the answer to claims management for healthcare providers, but federal mandates created programmatic changes to the entire process of getting paid by payers, turning this into an electronic exchange of data. (Example: The final transition to the National Provider Identifier numbers, or NPIs, mandated by HIPAA Administrative Simplification Standards became all-inclusive and mandatory on May 23, 2007. The 10-position NPIs replaced the legacy provider identifiers that were once used by healthcare providers, clearinghouses, health plans, and many others for billing and claims identification.)

These early steps to the electronic medical record, formerly labeled claims management, now encompass much of the integration necessary for a healthcare institution down to a physician practice to be an accountable care organization, as well as a profitable organization.

Accountable care is still being defined in the federal circles where it matters most for even more mandates, but generally speaking, touching the entire lifecycle of the patient and making the payment system work so that the healthcare delivery mechanisms are responsible for proper care and profitability are at the heart of it.

This innovation of electronic claims processing has raised the benchmark on what can be done with this data to levels involving improved patient care, reduced costs, increased productivity, and increased reimbursements. Revenue cycle management can no longer be defined as just "claims management," but it has evolved to a bridge between clinical care issues and IT integration up to and sometimes including the electronic medical record. By tracking and being in dialogue with the payers involved, cash flows and allows for a stronger assessment of where the patient is at, recommendations for the patient, and the ability to get it done before the patient arrives for the treatment protocol.

So how can a physician practice or even a hospital figure out the best path in the revenue cycle management game? For a list, you can go to the Fierce Marketplace HealthTech that lists "2011 Top Revenue Cycle Management Companies" and begin to read their white papers. The promise of all the white papers is performance, profitability, and better patient care. But at the heart of the choice is always confusion until basic needs are sorted out at the healthcare IT level.

The best principles in revenue cycle management boil down to simple ideas, building on the flexibility for the patient and the payer to pay securely, including:

  • Improved cash flow
  • An expanded patient base
  • Better client retention rates
  • Higher sales revenues

The adoption of the electronic medical record is no doubt being spurred on by the executive of a $27-billion incentive program under the HITECH Act, and the shift is not going to stop. Evidence is mounting that revenue cycle management will soon include in all its discussions the leap to the electronic medical record. Louisville-based Zirmed, a revenue cycle management player, just announced another partnership on Feb. 3, 2011, with an EMR topping 2,000 clients, Altex Business Solutions, which will enhance the end-to-end payment management capabilities. The explanation goes like this, from Lee Orsag, Owner of Altex, "Altex clients now simply process charges entered in EHR/Practice Management, and the integrated ZirMed system automatically pulls and translates them to clean claims which are then submitted to payers. From there, using the unique claims history function, clients can monitor their claims' statuses at every step until reimbursement is complete. Bottom line, ZirMed offers our clients more control over their entire revenue cycle management function." Is this more than a product offering and a real trend? Yes.

In fact, Dr. David Blumental of the HITECH office, involved in writing the federal regulations, has indicated recently that the percentage of doctor's offices with EMRs have moved in the last two years from 19.6% to 29.6%. This past week the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has awarded two organizations with contracts to evaluate the effectiveness of electronic health records and the progress of health information exchanges.

So what are the revenue cycle management firms doing about it? It's a time of redefinition and new buzz words. McKesson has declared Horizon Enterprise Revenue ManagementTM supports the reinvention of revenue management practices, thereby creating a new category of financial management: enterprise revenue management.

Heads are rolling at some companies, and new blood is being brought in. For example, Streamline Health– Solutions, Inc. (Nasdaq: STRM), a leading provider of document workflow solutions for hospitals, announced today that Robert Watson has been appointed President and Chief Executive Officer effective February 1, 2011. J. Brian Patsy, founder of Streamline Health Solutions and current President and Chief Executive Officer since its inception, has retired at the request of the Board of Directors from both positions and has also resigned as a director of the company.

For CIOs of healthcare institutions, there may be some answers at Revenue Cycle Management 2011, the DecisionHealth summit for physician practice revenue growth on August 7-9, 2011, in Las Vegas.

Selecting the best solution is more about knowing where you are at and what needs integration than it is about evaluation of an outside system before the fact. There are many flavors of ice cream, but until you know how hungry you are and what the flavor of the month choice is, the rainbow sherbet you've got looks mighty good.

Dawn Yankeelov will be speaking on ACOs at a Healthcare Transformations event regarding healthcare reform for rural hospitals in April 2011 in Lexington, KY.

IIT - Indian Institute of Technology - World's Best Educational Institut...

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A documentary movie on IIT and its brand reputation. The world's toughest educational institute to get into. Acceptance rate- less than 1.7%. Its a famous saying that combine Harvard, MIT and Princeton - then you will get a feel of the level of IIT. It is very economical and students pay only $700 to study the best-in-the-world education. There are 15 IIt in India, the best ones being Mumbai, Delhi, Kharagpur, Chennai, Kanpur and Roorkee.

Some of Notable alumni include Vinod Khosla, Shailesh Mehta, Narayan Murthy, Rajat gupta, Arun Sarin and many more

The biggest Indian hit movie, '3 Idiots', was based on author Chetan Bhagat's experiences in his engineering life at IIT Delhi.

Students all over India start dreaming of IIt when they are 10 and when they finish their 10th class, they join specialized coaching institutes and study for 10 hours everyday (minimum) for next 2-3 years, and then if they do well then some lucky 3000 people are accepted at these top institutes out of almost 200000 plus applicants. Its a dream.. a way of life.. the best of life.. its best of the India.

The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are a group of 15 autonomous engineering and technology-oriented institutes of higher education established and declared as Institutes of National Importance by the Parliament of India. The IITs were created to train only scientists and engineers.

In order of establishment, they are located in Kharagpur (1950; as IIT 1951[2]), Mumbai (1958), Chennai (1959), Kanpur (1959), Delhi (1961; as IIT 1963), Guwahati (1994), Roorkee (1847; as IIT 2001), Ropar (2008), Bhubaneswar (2008), Gandhinagar (2008), Hyderabad (2008), Patna (2008), Jodhpur (2008), Mandi (2009) and Indore (2009). Apart from these ITBHU Varanasi is also slated for conversion as IIT Varanasi.

For more details Google or Wiki-

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Email and Conferencing Overview

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History of the Internet

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"History of the internet" is an animated documentary explaining the inventions from time-sharing to filesharing, from Arpanet to Internet. The clip was made by Melih Bilgil —
The history is told using the PICOL icons, which are available on You can get news about this project on .

Voice-over by Steve Taylor
You can get more information on this movie on my website
or on the PICOL-Project site where you can download a pre-release of the icons.

If you are interested in more Internet history you can also read/watch:
- ISOC: History of the internet:
- Geschichte des Internet (german & link to Amazon):
- Computer Networks: The Heralds Of Resource Sharing

Credits for subtitles:
(The correctness of the subtiles depends on the people listed down here)
English: Stefan Badragan |
Italian: Stefan Badragan
German: me
Turkish: Zeynep Can
French: Arnaud 'dehy' DE MOUHY
Bulgarian: Andrian Georgiev
Chinese: Terry Lee
Portuguese (Brazilian): Guilherme Euler
Spanish: Mauricio Diaz Orlich
Polish: Agnieszka Marciniak
Greek: Pantelis Bouboulis
Swedish: Paul Lindström

Also thanks to: Frederico Goncalves Guimaraes

Why your backups may disappear

Michael Horowitz's picture
Michael Horowitz

Defensive Computing

Why your backups may disappear

On the heels of my writing about accidentally deleted files disappearing from backups, an article yesterday in the Wall Street Journal suggested using Dropbox for accessing data files when traveling.
The topic was online storage and Dropbox certainly offers that. But, it normally offers replication rather than true backup. Replication is similar to backup, but anyone choosing an online storage company should fully understand the difference.

The big difference involves deleted files. Like the previously discussed Mozy, Carbonite and Backblaze, Dropbox deletes their copy of files you have deleted after 30 days. Plus, files in the Dropbox folder can be deleted on any computer connected to a particular Dropbox account. Trend Micro's Safe Sync also deletes the backup copy of a file 30 days after it's been deleted.

If this is what you want or need, fine. But, stuff happens, and files get deleted accidentally all the time.

Windows Check Disk Utility

I often run the Windows Chkdsk utility. More often than not, it turns up errors in the NTFS file system. While it normally corrects the errors, the file system is always a potential point of failure. If it hiccups, files may disappear from the operating sytem without any human involvement.

Replication, also known as synchronization (or sync for short) aims to replicate a folder somewhere else. Programs such as Karen Kenworthy's excellent Replicator, do this with on-site storage. The previously mentioned companies do off-site replication.

With either scheme, files added to the original folder are added to the replicated/backup copy. Files renamed in the original folder, get renamed in the copies. Updated files have new versions of themselves shipped out to the replicated copies.

Deletions are another matter.

When a file is deleted from the original folder, a system doing replication/synchronization will delete the file in the replicated copies it maintains. Granted, the companies mentioned here wait 30 days before deleting files, but they will delete them. A system doing true backup, will not delete the backup copy of a deleted file.  

There are exceptions. 

Karen's Replicator program offers the option to replicate deletions or not. Dropbox offers their paying customers a Pack-Rat option that they describe as:

Pack-Rat is a Dropbox Pro add-on feature that saves your file history forever. Dropbox saves a history of all deleted and earlier versions of files for 30 days for all Dropbox accounts by default. If you have the Pack-Rat add-on, Dropbox saves those files for as long as you have the Pack-Rat add-on. With Pack-Rat, you never have to worry about losing an old version of a file.

In contrast, a company such as is in the backup businesss. You pay them x dollars for y gigabytes of storage and they never delete anything.

Judging by their name, SugarSync is a synchronization service. How they handle file deletions however, is not clear; even after trying the software, reviewing their website and reading the User Guide. There may be more than one answer as they offer multiple types of folders (Sync folders, Shared folders and a Magic Briefcase). In addition, they maintain a folder of deleted files, and also a web archive folder specifically for files they will never delete (which implies that they normally do deletions). 

A final point about Dropbox: their Windows software was not designed with restricted/limited users in mind.

Yes, outside of the corporate world, hardly anyone runs Windows as a limited/restricted user, but I do. It's the Defensive Computing thing to do.

Most software, including Dropbox, will not install when logged on as a Windows XP limited user. Google's Chrome browser is a notable exception.  

So, I installed Dropbox while logged on as an administrator and then logged back on as a limited user, and it was gone. There was no trace of the software, it didn't even show up in the list of installed applications (Add or Remove programs in the Control Panel).

To use Dropbox as a limited user under XP (I have not tried it under Windows 7 or Vista), you have to logon as an administrator, change the limited user account to an administrator, logon as the formerly limited user, install the software, logoff, logon as an administrator and change the normally limited user back to limited. You won't find that on their website.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bermaz aims to sell over 5,000 Mazda cars this year

Saturday February 19, 2011

Bermaz aims to sell over 5,000 Mazda cars this year


PETALING JAYA: Bermaz Motor Sdn Bhd, the official distributor of Mazda cars in Malaysia, expects its vehicle sales to exceed 5,000 units in 2011 as it will be offering completely-knocked-down (CKD) models from this year.

Bermaz Motor chief executive offer Datuk Ben Yeoh said the company had invested RM15mil in a CKD programme and will start offering a CKD version of the new Mazda3.

"By investing in a CKD programme, we can sell the vehicles at competitive prices that will allow us to compete (more effectively) against other Japanese brands," he said at a media briefing yesterday.

Yeoh said the Mazda3 began rolling out of the production line last month at the Inokom assembly plant in Kedah, where production is expected to be 3,000 units a year.

He added that the Mazda3, which would be available in 1.6-litre and 2-litre variants, will be launched next month at its Mazda Motor Show which would be held at the 1-Utama Shopping Centre from March 2 to 6.

The price of the Mazda3 will be revealed at the launch. Yeoh said Bermaz sold 4,300 Mazda vehicles last year, adding that the (Mazda) brand was ranked 12th (in 2010) in terms of total passenger car makes.

"Bermaz acquired the Mazda distribution rights from Cycle & Carriage Bintang Bhd in 2008 and our (sales) numbers have been increasing on a yearly basis," said Yeoh.

He, however, declined to reveal specifically how many units Bermaz expected to sell this year.

"It's not ethical to disclose how many units we hope to sell. (It's) best we keep the numbers to ourselves."

He also said Bermaz had plans to introduce other CKD models, but did not go into specifics.

"We hope to offer other CKD models, which is in line with the Malaysian NAP (National Automotive Policy)," Yeoh said.

Women power at the helm of consumer spending

Saturday August 16, 2008

Women power at the helm of consumer spending


DOMESTIC consumption is the new revolution in Asia's economy. It has played and will continue to play an increasingly important role in the growth of Asian economies, which were generally export-dependent.

Asian economies have come a long way since savings and frugality were the mainstay of the day. Now that the economies have matured, the path to a balanced and sustainable growth lies in understanding the way people spend and the reason behind it because a sustained rise in private consumption is the ultimate engine of economic growth in Asia for the coming years.

When analysing the consumption equation, MasterCard found an important trend, that is, women are at the helm of it. Stretching across generations – from Silent Generation to Baby Boomers, Generation X to Generation Y – women are found to be the driving force of the consumer market.

From left: Shekila, Lim, Lai, Tan, Cheah-Foong and Yau at the MasterCard discussion.

The rising discretionary spending power of women consumers will be a key driver of Asian consumer markets, and no business can afford to ignore them.

"Women are the buyers and key decision makers in the purchase of most consumer goods," Hedrick-Wong says.

"Therefore, no company can hope to be successful in Asia's consumer markets without a deep understanding of the woman consumers of Asia as they account for the rising share of consumer power as well as increasingly taking centre stage in deciding how, when and what to spend," he adds.

Recently, MasterCard organised an informal discussion with five successful women to understand how they perceive women consumers as the driving force of economic growth and the importance to empower them henceforth.

The session was moderated by MasterCard International Asia/Pacific vice-president of communications Georgette Tan. Participants Logica Malaysia Sdn Bhd managing director (Malaysia and Singapore) Shekila Ramalingam, Rampai Niaga Sdn Bhd managing director Datin Mina Cheah-Foong, Malaysia Deposit Insurance Corp general counsel Lim Yam Poh, Ireka Corp Bhd executive director Monica Lai and MasterCard Worldwide vice-president of member relations and marketing Yau Su Peng share their view.

On woman consumers...

MasterCard sees women very much as the driving force of the consumer market. It recognises that they are the ones making decisions and having the capacity to make things happen for themselves as well as their families.

Shekila: Women consumers are a rare breed. First, we must understand that women, unlike men, do not just shop for themselves but also for the whole family. Most women are equal or near equal contributor to their family funds. They make most buying decisions in the family because they are natural caregivers. They are also the ones who make decisions on savings.

Cheah-Foong: Generally, women make the purchasing decisions for their households, spanning across groceries, household stuff, clothes for children and holidays, etc. For instance, the owner of a credit card may not be a woman, but decisions on how to spend with the credit card most of the time are determined by a woman.

Lai: Women have assumed the responsibility of tending to the needs of their loved ones, besides their own. Increasingly, women take on the responsibility for buying larger items such as cars and properties.

For example, in my line of work, I have never been able to close a deal with a man without him saying "I must check with my wife first".

Yau: Women are better decision makers because they tend to judge the practicality of a product. A product has to meet her "predetermined criteria" before she is willing to spend her money on it. Women consumers have a "checklist" of sorts.

Lim: Women are very detailed beings. Take travel. Women are usually the ones who plan the details such as which hotel to stay and mode of transportation to take.

On women's spending habit ...

If women are driving the consumer market, it is imperative for businesses to understand their buying habits to target this important customer group.

Shekila: Women have a good eye, I think. They are cautious in what they buy. I am sure they do a lot of window shopping, but when it comes to actually purchasing an item, they think of value, not so much of cost.

As consumers, women live under a good deal of pressure. They have to find ways to feed their families on a limited budget. They search for a balance between affordability, nutrition and availability, countered with the personal preference of their families. And because women are key decision makers in consumption of a household, keeping them happy is important because women tend to talk about their experiences. You give excellent customer service to a woman, and you will gain 10 more new customers.

Brand loyalty programmes are an excellent avenue to reward a woman consumer.

Cheah-Foong: Women are natural word-of-mouth spreaders. They are also loyal to brands. Once they get attached to a certain brand, it can be difficult to detach the brand from their lives.

Lim: Women are brand-loyal customers. They can be using the same brand for years but, of course, there are certain things that they look for in the brand. The philosophy of a brand is what we believe in. Women are usually the ones who read and compare the product labels.

Yau: Family members are the priorities of a woman's life. Hence, women tend to read product labels to ensure they are getting the best for their family members as well as for themselves.

Lai: Depending on a woman's upbringing and financial background, she would be very willing to invest in expensive goods for its quality. Not all women would buy something for the sake of buying. On top of that, I agree that women are loyal brand customers.

On empowering women ...

According to the fourth annual MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women's Advancement 2008, Malaysia ranked third highest within the Asia-Pacific region with a score of 76.89, after the Philippines (86.82) and Hong Kong (77.37).

The Index measures the socioeconomic level of women in relation to men using four key indicators, that is, tertiary education, labour force, managerial position and above-median income.

Within the four indicators, Malaysia's score are: tertiary education (135.02), labour force (59.0), managerial position (65.91) and above-median income (47.62). (A score under 100 indicates gender inequality in favour of males, while a score above 100 indicates gender inequality in favour of females.)

The statistics show that for every 100 men who have tertiary education, there are 135 women with the same qualifications. But despite the fact that women are educated in Malaysia, their labour force participation is quite low as indicated by the statistics.

Shekila: Being educated does not level the playing fields. Any woman as per her male opponent must have the right skills for the job. On top of that, we need to create a society that accommodates women and their needs. In Australia, for example, women do not hesitate about entering the workforce because they have a proper support structure in place, such as childcare facilities and a flexi-hour work environment where women are allowed to work from home once or twice a week.

Lai: A single woman may find it less challenging to participate in the labour force, but once a woman gets married and have children, she may be asked to leave the working world, and sometimes it could just be a natural progression.

There is the tendency of a woman falling into a gender scenario once she is married. There is an expectation for her to perform the traditional role of a homemaker.

Cheah-Foong: A woman's work has to be valued, even if she is just a homemaker. Being paid to do work at home is not a privilege, it is a right. For a woman to be successful and financially independent, it is important to have a supportive family that encourages her to excel.

For example, in my case, when I was young, my parents have always instilled in me the importance of education and being financially independent even when married. But in some families, girls would never get this kind of encouragement.

No doubt, culturally, women have less status in most families and societies. Some women have to opt out from contributing to the economic and national developments even when they are highly educated, resulting in a "brain drain" of sorts.

Without a firm support structure in place for women in the workforce, Malaysia will not be able to see an increase of women participation in the labour force.

Lim: Malaysia has a pool of women talent who are smart and dependable. However, due to some constraints, some are not able to join the workforce. If we could fix this to encourage more women in the workforce, that would be great.

I believe childcare facilities are very important for working mothers and should be made available to them. It is also important to make such facilities affordable for working mothers from all walks of life. Childcare facilities are important because they give these women a sense of security, knowing that their children are under the care of responsible hands. This will enable them to concentrate on their work.

Yau: Besides the responsibilities at their workplaces, women have very demanding roles to play in their families, especially so if they are mothers. So, childcare facilities should be made accessible to them.

According to Harvard professor emeritus David Landes, a woman's role in society is one of the most important determinants of a country's economic development. His study finds that women must contribute fully to the economy and lead full social lives for a society to experience robust growth.

Women are the rising force that drives the economy. Hence, no business and government can afford to have policies that do not encourage the advancement and growth of this group of dynamic force.

MasterCard says women in the key markets of Asia Pacific total more than 1.3 billion to date. The number is expected to reach 1.5 billion in 2014.

Update: Twitter suspends rival's mobile apps

UberMedia CEO says company is working with Twitter to get apps reinstated

By Sharon Gaudin
February 18, 2011 04:49 PM ET

Computerworld - Twitter on Friday suspended three major third-party mobile applications for allegedly violating its use policies.

The social networking company announced in a blog post that it cut off UberTwitter, which is for the BlackBerry platform, Twidroyd, for Android devices, and UberCurrent, which can be used on iPhones and iPads. All three are owned by UberMedia, which has been in the news recently because it's planning to acquire popular Twitter client TweetDeck.

To complicate matters, TweetDeck competes directly with Twitter's Web and mobile clients.

"Today, we suspended several applications, including UberTwitter, Twidroyd and UberCurrent, which have violated Twitter policies and trademarks in a variety of ways," Twitter spokeswoman Carolyn Penner wrote in an e-mail to Computerworld. "These violations include, but aren't limited to, a privacy issue with private Direct Messages longer than 140 characters, trademark infringement, and changing the content of users' Tweets in order to make money."

Penner added that Twitter has been talking with UberMedia about the violations since April. "We continue to be in contact with UberMedia and hope that they will bring the suspended applications into compliance with our policies soon," she said.

In an e-mail to Computerworld, UberMedia CEO Bill Gross said the company is working to get the apps reinstated with Twitter.

"We were immediately in touch with Twitter, and the changes they asked us to make were very small," said Gross. "As a result, we have completed the changes, and new apps are currently being posted to their respective stores. Twitter has assured us that as soon as those changes were complete, they would reactivate our applications."

He also noted that because Twitter asked them to change the name of UberTwitter, they polled users three weeks ago and are changing the name to UberSocial.

"To our millions of loyal users, we appreciate your patience during this temporary period," added Gross. "We look forward to continuing our innovations on the Twitter platform."

Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, said Twitter dropped a bomb on UberMedia with these allegations.

"Users are highly sensitive to privacy violations and companies trying to make money off of their personal info," he added. "Twitter hitting UberMedia with that puts a damned big dent in UberMedia's reputation. The charge that UberMedia is actually changing customer tweets to make money is particularly damaging -- if it's true."

When the news hit Friday afternoon, users quickly took to Twitter to vent their frustrations. And much of that frustration was aimed at Twitter itself.

Someone identified as TimBledsoe tweeted, "I feel a great disturbance ... as if millions of voices cried out and were suddenly silenced. #ubertwitter #twidroyd #failwhale @twitter."

To exacerbate the situation, Twitter was using its home page to promote its own TwitterMobile, an application for using the microblogging site on mobile devices.

And users were quick to notice. Someone using the handle Poncho_fletch tweeted, "So #ubertwitter gets shutdown and now #twittermobile is promoted #tt!! Cant knock the hustle!!"

Olds noted that while users shouldn't be too angry, since they have many alternatives to the suspended applications, this move could hurt UberMedia.

"At this point, being suspended by Twitter is a nightmare-like scenario for UberMedia." He said. "They've collected a bunch of twitter-centric clients and now they're banned? Ouch. Twitter holds all the cards here and has the power. The longer Ubermedia is banned from Twitter, the less valuable they become. "

However, Olds added that the suspensions could come back to bite Twitter.

"With this move, Twitter is causing quite a bit of consternation in the user base," he said. "Twitter is going to need to back up their allegations with facts, and soon. What Twitter doesn't want is for this to look like they're banning UberMedia on trumped-up charges in order to give an advantage to Twitter's own mobile apps."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld.

IBM Watson: A System Designed for Answers

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Watson, the IBM computing system that can understand natural language and deliver a single, precise answer to a Jeopardy! clue, is truly an example of a smarter system. Building Watson involved integrating custom algorithms, terabytes of storage and thousands of POWER7 computing cores into an optimized solution greater than the sum of its parts.

Visit for more information.

Building Watson involved integrating custom algorithms, terabytes of storage and thousands of POWER7 computing cores into an optimized solution greater than the sum of its parts.

Brain behind IBM's Watson not unlike a human's

Like humans, Watson only uses a fraction of its memory to generate answers to Jeopardy questions

By Lucas Mearian
February 18, 2011 01:28 PM ET

Computerworld - IBM's Watson supercomputer, which shellacked Jeopardy's top human champions during airings of the game show this week, is powered by 90 servers and a network-attached storage (NAS) cluster with 21.6TB of data.

In the end, though, its brain only uses the equivalent of 80% of the processing power of a human brain.

Tony Pearson, master inventor and senior consultant at IBM, explained that Watson only uses about 1TB of data to process real-time answers to Jeopardy questions after its back end storage is configured as RAID, and then the data is further culled to be loaded into the clustered server system's memory.

Pearson cited the estimate of technology futurist and author Ray Kurzweil that the human brain can hold about 1.25TB of data, and performs at roughly 100 teraflops. In comparison, Watson is an 80-teraflop system with 1TB of memory.

"So it's 80% human," Pearson said. "Yes, we could have handled a lot more information. We could have put more memory in each server, but once we got the answers to three seconds, we didn't need to go further."

Pearson explained that reaching the three-second answer threshold was just a matter of simple mathematics.

The original algorithm ran as a single threaded process on a single core processor took two hours to scan memory and produce an answer. So the IBM technologists just divided two hours by 2,880 CPUs, which produced the ability to answer questions in three-seconds.

If IBM's Watson were just some other human Jeopardy contestant, viewers probably would have tuned out in the midst of such a landslide victory. Instead, interest in the man vs. machine battle gave the show its highest ratings in nearly six years.

Competition between humans and computers have long captured the public's imagination. Remember the 1996 chess match between IBM's Deep Blue computer and the reigning world champion Garry Kasparov?

In this case, though, Watson has more in common with humans than Deep Blue. Like us, he only uses a small percentage of his massive memory capacity to answer questions.

Behind Watson's simple scribble-faced avatar that he used as a Jeopardy contestant are 90 IBM Power 750 Express servers powered by 8-core processors -- four in each machine for a total of 32 processors per machine. The servers are virtualized using a Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) implementation, creating a server cluster with a total processing capacity of 80 teraflops. A teraflop is one trillion operations per second.

On top of the processing power, each server has 160GB of DRAM to provide the full machine with almost 15TB of memory.

On the backend of the computer is IBM's SONAS General Parallel File System (GPFS). SONAS, or Scale-Out NAS, is a Linux-based clustered file system that IBM released almost exactly one year ago.

The clustered storage model provides massive throughput because of an increased port count that comes from cobbling many storage servers together into a single pool of disks and processors all working on a similar task and all able to share the same data through a single global name space. In other words, all of the disk drives appear as one big pool of storage capacity from which Watson can draw.

Watson's SONAS is populated with 48 450GB serial ATA (SATA) hard drives for a total of 21.61TB of capacity in a RAID 1 (mirrored) configuration; that leaves 10.8TB of raw data that is used by Watson every time it's booted up. Three terabytes of that, however, is used for the operating system and applications.

But it's not SONAS's disk-based storage that makes Watson so darned fast; it's the CPUs and memory. Every time Watson boots, the 10.8TB of data is automatically loaded into Watson's 15TB of RAM, and of that, only about 1TB is scanned for use in answering Jeopardy questions, Pearson said.

In case you're wondering, 1TB of capacity is still quite significant; it can hold 220 million pages of text or 111 DVDs.

"The amazing thing is that you can get all those answers with such a small data set," said John Webster, an analyst with the research firm Evaluator Group. "After multiple iterations of loading and testing and loading and testing and updating the database on SONAS, IBM came up with a version of the database that would generate the data set that got loaded into memory."

Enter Australian computer programmer and SAMBA developer Andrew Tridgell.

Tridgell created the computer algorithm running on top of Watson's hardware that culls out the data set. Tridgell developed the open-source Clustered Trivial Database (CTDB), which the SAMBA file protocol uses to simultaneously access the memory across Watson's 90 servers.

More importantly, the CTDB makes sure none of the servers are stepping on each other as they also update information after a Jeopardy show.

During the show, Watson is read-only - meaning nothing gets written to its backend SONAS. After the show, Watson is powered down and the computer scientists go to work updating information and debugging it -- trying to figure out why it gave erroneous answers, such as choosing Toronto as the answer for a question about an American city.

"I'm sure they're scratching their head on that one," Pearson said.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld.