Big data, data science and machine learning explained

Data are considered the new secret sauce, are everywhere and have been the cornerstone for the success of many high-tech companies, from Google to Facebook.

But we always used data, there are examples from the ancient times dated thousands of years ago.
In the latest centuries data started to find more and more practical applications thanks to the emergence of statistics and later by the Business Intelligence. The earliest known use of the term “Business Intelligence” is by Richard Millar Devens in 1865. Devens used the term to describe how a banker gained profit by receiving and acting upon information about his environment, prior to his competitors.

Big Data

It is after the WWII that the practice of using data-based systems to improve business decision-making – surely driven by advances in automatic computing systems and storage possibilities – started to take off and be used widely. Digital storage becomes more cost-effective for storing data than paper and since then, an unbelievable amount of data have been collected and organised in data warehouses, initially in structured formats. The term Big Data started to be used meaning just a lot of data.

In a 2001 research report and related lectures, analyst Doug Laney defined data growth challenges and opportunities as being three-dimensional, i.e. increasing

  1. volume (the amount of data reached peaks that could be handled only by specific systems)
  2. velocity (speed of data in and out, including the emergence of real-time data)
  3. variety (the range of data types and sources, often in unstructured formats)

Gartner, and now much of the industry, quickly picked this  “3Vs” model for describing Big Data which, a decade later, has become the generally accepted three defining dimensions of big data.

Continue reading “Big data, data science and machine learning explained”

My new book: “from Zero to Agile”

cover

I have just published on Amazon my new book about Agile.

Agile is on great advance, more and more organisations and teams adopting it. But what is it exactly? And how do you become agile?

In this book I want to show how is possible to introduce gradually a series of changes so that at the end your organisation will be agile (i.e., it has understood the Agile values and principles and know how to apply them), not only does some kind of Agile practices.

Through examples you can see how to introduce and tailor the Agile principles, week after week: in 8 weeks we took a team with no prior experience of Agile into changing its mentality and attitude.

I hope this journey can help your team (and further: the entire organisation) to do a similar one toward the same goal: being Agile.

The examples show which are the general principles and why / when they make sense, so you will be able to inspect your situation, adapt these principles (as needed) and adopt them, finally repeating this cycle continuously.

Build your method up, don’t tailor it down.

Finally, this book is about agility as values system, culture, mind-set, and not about a specific process or methodology. All the currently most used methodologies – Scrum, Lean and Kanban – will be described, each one with its advantages and disadvantages.

The book contains revised versions of the posts published here in the past plus several brand new chapters (about Kanban, how to scale Agile and many examples of retrospectives for each topic introduced every week).

[Link] Embracing Agile


The article “Embracing Agile” in the May 2016 of Harvard Business Review
by Darrell K. Rigby, Jeff Sutherland and Hirotaka Takeuchi is a landmark in the history of management, especially considering that is in an institution such as the HBR magazine that an article about Agile appears.

After a brief introduction and a brief history about its genesis, the article explains its manifesto, its principles and how Agile works goes using the three most used frameworks: Scrum, Kanban and Lean, but mostly Scrum.

Innovation is what agile is all about. Although the method is less useful in routine operations and processes, these days most companies operate in highly dynamic environments. They need not just new products and services but also innovation in functional processes, particularly given the rapid spread of new software tools. Companies that create an environment in which agile flourishes find that teams can churn out innovations faster in both those categories.

Following is a section about where Agile works better (authors use the terms “where it works and where not” …)

And finally a large section about how to introduce agile: start small, first learn then adapt, get top support, remove barriers.

Large companies typically launch change programs as massive efforts. But the most successful introductions of agile usually start small. They often begin in IT, where software developers are likely to be familiar with the principles. Then agile might spread to another function, with the original practitioners acting as coaches. Each success seems to create a group of passionate evangelists who can hardly wait to tell others in the organization how well agile works.

Bottom line, the final paragraph:

Agile innovation has revolutionized the software industry, which has arguably undergone more rapid and profound change than any other area of business over the past 30 years. Now it is poised to transform nearly every other function in every industry. At this point, the greatest impediment is not the need for better methodologies, empirical evidence of significant benefits, or proof that agile can work outside IT. It is the behavior of executives. Those who learn to lead agile’s extension into a broader range of business activities will accelerate profitable growth.

A great companion of this article is the review written by Steve Denning on Forbes.

It’s a generally positive review but Steve Denning highlights a couple of points which are missing or incorrect, primarily that Agile is a mindset and not a methodology, it’s a different culture and requires that the entire organisation embraces it.

For those who live and breathe and implement Agile on a daily basis, Agile is a mindset. Agile isn’t just a methodology to be implemented within the existing management framework. Agile is a dramatically different framework for management itself. In the community of Agile practitioners, which now numbers in hundreds of thousands, Agile begins with a different view of the goal of the organization. […]

Agile aligns with Peter Drucker’s 1954 foundational insight: “The only valid purpose of a firm is to create a customer.” It is the management basis for the emerging Creative Economy. It is the foundation for continuous innovation. […]

“The highest priority,” as the Agile Manifesto states, “is to satisfy the customer.”

This is a revolutionary declaration. In most public firms today, the highest priority is not to satisfy the customer. The highest priority is to maximize shareholder value as reflected in the stock price.