Aug 25, 2005

Ethics and Values

Last night I started the class that I have been dreading my entire college career, Ethics and Values. It’s not that I don’t believe in ethics or values… my main problem with the class (or I should say, the thought of the class) is that I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to respectfully respond to anyone challenging my idea of ethics and values.

Last night my view of the class changed. Not too surprisingly, the instructor seems reasonable and impartial. We also receive our first assignment, which I will be including as part of this post.

We watched a 30-minute interview with Bill Moyer and Michael Josephson that discussed ethics in America. Michael Josephson was a successful lawyer who gave up his practice and started his own institute that teaches ethics to businesses and anyone else that wants to learn. I was frankly delighted by the interview. Here are some of the main points that were discussed:

• Ethics is “Right” and “Wrong”
• Civilizations and History teach us that ethics build enlightened and prosperous civilizations
• Civilizations may not agree on what is “right” or “wrong”, but they do agree that it is important to know the difference
• We are too concerned, in America, with competing or winning
• “Shades of Gray” ethical decisions are based on our values and must be looked at by the situation
• Ethical behavior pays off in the long run although it may require immediate sacrifice
• Sub-cultures, such as gangs, find some success based on their own set of values temporarily. But the success is temporary and will give out to tried and true values in the long run
• It’s our responsibility to fix unethical conditions & circumstances
• We must reward the role-models that we believe in
• We need to have more role models that we can be proud of for standing up for what is right
• Constituents need to hold elected officials to high ethical standards
• Money drives politics in our day – we need to change this by electing individuals that are driven by ethics
• An ethical person should do more than is demanded and less than he is allowed
• Be proud of the people we are and the contribution that we’ve made to others
• Lying takes away another persons possibilities for input
• Self righteousness, a desire to make the world run how you think it should be run without regard for others, leads to unethical behavior

Michael Josephson makes some very good arguments as to why we should be less competitive and more ethical. I personally feel that seeking to do what is right, rather than convenient, offers more rewards than those that try to cheat or take advantage of others or their circumstances.

Aug 2, 2005

Impending Daylight Savings Change

I'm very surprised to not be hearing rumblings anywhere about the impending daylight savings change that is included in the Energy Bill that is expected to be signed into law soon (or may already have been). The bill extends daylight savings from mid March to mid November.

Does anyone else see a huge problem with this technologically speaking? How many programs and technologies do you use in a day that have algorithms to figure out daylight savings? I would venture to say that the majority of these algorithms will need to be changed in order to be compatible with the new schedule.

My gut tells me that this issue was grossly overlooked and this *could* (at most) turn out to be another Y2k to the industry. Do you think I'm blowing smoke? I would love to see your comments.

Aug 1, 2005

The Report Lifespan

It occurred to me today that reports have a lifespan. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to realize this, but I was in a meeting today where the thought came to me.

I have been an administrator of a reporting system for years. Something that I wish I had realized sooner is that reports have a lifespan. What I mean by “lifespan” is this: When a report is requested, it is usually based on some business objective that is underway. But what happens to the usefulness of the report once that business objective has either gone away or morphed into something else? The answer is that it sits in storage consuming IT resources and slowing down your Business Intelligence system. The lifespan of the report is essentially over.

In the ideal world of Business Intelligence, organizations come up with some objective that they want to accomplish in the organization. They then go to an IT department with an idea of how to track information that will drive their objective. IT then builds something – a system, a report, or whatever, to track the information that is wanted. Once the information is available, the business decision maker uses that information to make an informed decision.

Ad-hoc Reporting systems, such as Business Objects Web Intelligence or Micro Strategy, can be used more efficiently to create reports specific to business objectives. These reports are intentionally created to have a short lifespan. They are usually very specific and may contain non-standard reporting metrics. Because these reports are generally only viewable to a select audience and are stored as personal documents, the report consumer naturally cleans them up once the lifespan of the report has expired.

There is, and probably always will be, a need for standardized reports that are used across the organization or departments. These reports should be created with the “lifespan” concept in mind. By standardizing metrics across the viewable audience and including abilities to filter and drill, these reports can be consumed by many viewers for long periods of time. Problems arise when one-off reports begin to spawn for specific audiences that want to see the data tweaked for their need. As soon as this happens, the lifespan of the report dramatically shortens.

In my opinion, organizations that can embody ad-hoc reporting abilities instead of creating one-off reports can dramatically decrease the amount of stale reports in there systems. To do this, report consumers must be trained to go to the ad-hoc systems for their one-off needs, rather than requesting tweaks that are specialized just for them from existing reports. Implementing tools that monitor report usage can also help administrators cut down on stale reports piling up.