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I continue with the third part in my series on enterprise system pitfalls and now discuss the problem of what I call the infrastructure imbalance. I have two previous posts that introduce the topic of pitfalls of enterprise systems and discuss the pitfall of over abstraction.

Today I continue my series on enterprise system pitfalls and discuss the problem of over abstraction. Be sure to read my previous post which lays the foundation for this series.

Are we getting the economic return we should be with new technology innovation? In this article, I’m starting a series reflecting on common weaknesses in enterprise systems development, and am going to try to unpack as concisely as I can these pitfalls we fall into.  We’ll analyze why we stumble into these problems, our struggle recognizing the root causes, and the results.

HU talks with Bob Diachenko, the cybersecurity expert who discovered the breach, about steps hotels can take to prevent data incidents

A groundbreaking new report by the Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C. explores sustainability in the hospitality industry and examines ways in which hotels are incorporating eco-friendly best practices into both operations and construction. The study includes insights from leading hotel owners, developers and investors.



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Big Data: The Vulcan Blind Side

07/15/2015
by Michael Schubach
There is a commodity available in great abundance in the 21 Century: data, which steams toward us in a 24x7x365 relentless torrent. Diamonds used to be forever but data is the new infinity.
 
My inner English major is dying to remind readers that the word “data” is an oft-forgot plural form of “datum,” which is a single fact, reference or point of information.  As a plural, data refers to a collection of individual datum.  You don’t hear those distinctions much anymore; in coping with the enormity of today’s available information, it’s all become one omnipresent mass.  The human capacity that really does separate us from the animal kingdom is our ability to express that separation mathematically and statistically.   

We’re very invested in our ability to produce data – after all, this is the Information Age and we take our data-related efforts very seriously.  We collect data, store it and review it, and in so doing we believe that we’ve brought order to the universe.  If we were being honest, many of us would have to admit to a love affair with data – or perhaps something even loftier.  Information has become its own modern religion, and we worship at its altar. 

For the sake of visualizing my point, let’s give data its own patron saint.  Let’s let him be Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame, with a hat tip to the late, great Leonard Nimoy.  Spock seems perfect for the job – he’s somewhat human but somewhat more elevated.  He understands the human condition but rises above it.  He is dispassionate, logical and, in the parlance of the 21 Century, data driven. There is a right answer to every problem, which crystalizes before his eyes in an Excel spreadsheet. He does seem more than up to the challenge of the Information Age.  

But there’s data and then there’s data; some of it defies deification or sainthood.  The trick to being successfully data driven is to use information in order to make the best decisions. If every decision were Excel oriented, such as a go/no-go decision on an investment return, then Spock would reign supreme.  But our industry makes decisions that revolve around issues such as recognition, acknowledgement, loyalty, comfort, sincerity and satisfaction; how do you use Excel data to help you surprise, delight and win over an often-jaded frequent traveler?  To, paraphrase St. Spock himself in Star Trek’s earliest episode, “Emotion? Oh, yes, I’ve heard of it. It’s one of those human feelings you people deal with.” Thanks for nothing there, Spock Boy.

What we forget about being data driven is that data is not the final product; it’s simply a means to an end. An electronic spreadsheet is a presentation tool, not a Magic 8-Ball of answers. To get actionable insight from data, we must use a variety of interpretative tools, and more and more businesses are realizing that the “unquantifiables,” experience, intuition, empathy and insight, are as crucial to logic as math and statistics; for some decision sets they matter more. In short, it takes emotional intelligence and maturity to make the most logical data driven decisions. 

The Spock devotees are stymied. On Vulcan, there are two words that are the opposite of logical: ‘illogical’ and ‘emotional.’ Humans — excluding a slender subset of English majors – often think that a word’s antonyms are all essentially interchangeable, and therefore emotional decisions are also illogical. Spockians are dismissive of the unquantifiable values:  what is experience but having dealt with circumstances that no longer exist? What is empathy but hand wringing?  What is intuition but western voodoo?   

Aside from pointy ears, a Vulcan’s most identifiable characteristic was an emotional blind side. Spock could coolly calculate the financial impact of a personnel cut but couldn’t foresee its effect on employee confidence, morale, turnover and attrition. However, an insightful empath would avoid an employee stampede for the door. Spock would be a mess trying to understand the interplay of trade show presence and buyer confidence but an experienced intuitive would nail it.

Remember that the universe of big data includes other types of fascinating datum that are completely indecipherable to the Vulcan aliens among us:  a look, an uneasy feeling, a set of been-there, done-that déjà vu sensations that enlighten the insightful just as clearly as signal lights and semaphore flags inform a sailor.  Are such messages real? You bet your sweet spreadsheet they are; each is a genuine datum that differs only because it is presented in another language.    

We are, after all, human. The business community needs to mitigate its data deification and remember how to use those unquantifiable frailties that are among the most valuable of human assets. Live long and prosper, Jim… and, by the way, pay careful attention to me when I arch my eyebrow.  

About The Author
Michael Schubach




Michael Schubach is a regular contributor to Hospitality Upgrade.

 
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