Monthly Archives: March 2005

Business intelligence, data warehousing and analytics editorial from DMReview

This is a leading publication for strategic use of BI. In the current issue, there is an interesting analysis of new emerging role of the BI Director – now one of the highest-paid in corporate IT.

Business intelligence, data warehousing and analytics editorial from DMReview


Microsoft Scientists Use Visualization to Bring Information to Life

Microsoft Scientists Use Visualization to Bring Information to Life

Microsoft Scientists Use Visualization to Bring Information to Life
Researchers in the field of human-computer interaction show how innovative information visualization tools can transform the way business users, consumers and software developers process and organize today’s ever-increasing amounts of data.
PORTLAND, Ore. — April 5, 2005 — This week, computer scientists from Microsoft Research labs worldwide will share the results of more than 25 research papers at the CHI 2005 conference, a leading forum for the exchange of ideas and information about human-computer interaction (HCI) sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interactions (ACM SIGCHI). Three of the papers are Best Paper Award nominees.
The bulk of the work presented by Microsoft Research focuses on the study of information visualization and can potentially change the way businesses, software developers and consumers process and organize information. The work is the result of collaboration with computer research scientists at more than 16 universities and several corporations from around the globe.
At the event, Senior Microsoft Researcher Susan Dumais will be inducted into the CHI Academy for her substantial contribution to the study of HCI and the leadership role she has played in shaping that field. More information about Dumais is available in her profile at
Innovation That Builds on a Decade of Work in Information Visualization
People today are inundated with information, from e-mail and instant messages to images, documents and search results. Scientists at Microsoft Research recognize that as technology continues to advance, giving people access to even more information, tools are needed to help users comprehend and process that information in order to identify what pieces of data are most important to them.
Information visualization takes the digital bits of information stored on a computer, personal digital assistant (PDA) or Microsoft® Window Mobile (TM) -based Smartphone — such as documents, Web pages, e-mail messages and schedules — and displays them visually, rather than as text. This technology benefits users by exposing patterns and trends in the torrent of data they work with daily, so the most important information becomes automatically visible.
“Information visualization is a hot topic today because computer system and graphics capabilities have reached a point where the visual representation of information can come to life,” said George Robertson, senior researcher at Microsoft Research. “We can now experiment with information visualization technologies that we’ve been developing in the lab over the past 10 years and expand on them for the benefit of users and the research community.”
Microsoft Research studies have shown that information visualization can reduce the amount of time people spend deciphering which pieces of information are important, thus helping them be more productive. The technology has practical applications in numerous daily activities including managing e-mail, navigating information on small devices, and effectively organizing family events and communicating in the home.
Visualization Tools Bring Useful Insights to Businesses, Consumers and Developers
Information visualization tools will help businesses better manage the vast amounts of data they are accumulating on customers, products, employees, production requirements and more. The technology also is expected to change how information workers process e-mail1 by presenting it in a “glanceable” graphical manner that is nondisruptive, yet able to signify urgent and important communications. Ease-of-use improvements for mobile devices include tools for one-handed thumb navigation,2 more-effective browsing functions such as zooming and scrolling,3 and preservation of Web page layouts designed for viewing on a PC.4 Microsoft Research found that better preservation of page layout helped participants locate content in Web pages about 41 percent faster while having to scroll 51 percent less. For mobile workers, this translates to greater efficiency because they can quickly find information that is meaningful without having to scroll through multiple screens of text.
Information visualization tools benefit software developers as well. Visualization technologies will simplify the viewing of schemas, making it possible for users to effectively focus on the most relevant items while de-emphasizing or removing items of no relevance for a particular interaction.5 Visual representation also will change how software developers and other information workers design timelines,6 because it allows users to specify the relative ordering and causality of events without specifying exact times or durations. These capabilities will help streamline the project development process by simplifying planning and execution.
Microsoft researchers are also exploring the consumer applications of information visualization tools in the home, specifically, how to effectively keep families organized and connected. For example, they have developed a method of presenting digital photo collections in a visual manner that makes photo organization and retrieval significantly easier:7 study participants were able to find photos 45 percent faster in their personal photo collections averaging 4,000 items. Researchers also created an electronic “bulletin board” that allows family members to send text messages from their mobile devices to a centrally located message board displayed in the home.8
“To date, technology for the home has focused on entertainment and security systems, and the development of smart homes that know when to turn on the oven for dinner or provide automatic lighting,” said Alex Taylor, a researcher with the Interactive Systems Group at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, England. “We’re studying the real, day-to-day concerns of ordinary households, including how families interact, share information, prioritize their schedules and delegate responsibilities. Our goal is to develop in-home technologies that assist family members with tasks such as scheduling, bill paying and delegating household responsibilities, while accommodating the rich and diverse ways in which individual families organize their homes.” Taylor’s research into organizing the home is presented in the paper “Artful Systems in the Home,” a Best Paper nominee at the conference.
CHI 2005 Best Paper Award Nominees
Three Microsoft Research papers are nominated for the Best Paper Award at the CHI 2005 conference. The Microsoft Research nominated papers are as follows:
“Artful Systems in the Home” 9 introduces the idea of organizing systems in the home through the use of calendars, paper notes, to-do lists and more. It discusses general implications for designing information technology for the home and accommodating the rich and diverse ways in which people organize their homes.
“AppLens and LaunchTile: Two Designs for One-Handed Thumb Use on Small Devices” 2 focuses on interfaces designed to support one-handed thumb navigation of mobile devices. AppLens and LaunchTile work with a traditional cell phone keypad as well as a PDA-style device with a touch-sensitive display.
“Snap-and-Go: Helping Users Align Objects without the Modality of Traditional Snapping” 10 covers snapping, a widely used technique that helps users position graphical objects precisely. Snap-and-go simplifies the user interface by eliminating the need for deactivation, introducing snapping to application scenarios in which traditional snapping is inapplicable.
The 23rd annual CHI conference runs through Thursday, April 7, at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. More information about CHI 2005 can be found at
About Microsoft Research
Founded in 1991, Microsoft Research is dedicated to conducting both basic and applied research in computer science and software engineering. Its goals are to enhance the user experience on computing devices, reduce the cost of writing and maintaining software, and invent novel computing technologies. Researchers focus on more than 55 areas of computing and collaborate with leading academic, government and industry researchers to advance the state of the art in such areas as graphics, speech recognition, user-interface research, natural language processing, programming tools and methodologies, operating systems and networking, and the mathematical sciences. Microsoft Research employs more than 700 people in six labs located in Redmond, Wash.; San Francisco; Silicon Valley, Calif.; Cambridge, England; Beijing; and Bangalore, India. More information can be found at
About Microsoft
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.
1 “Info-Lotus: A Peripheral Visualization for Email Notification,” Leizhong Zhang, Microsoft Research Asia (China); Nan Tu, Tsinghua University (China); David Vronay, Microsoft Research Asia (China); April 2005
2 “AppLens and LaunchTile: Two Designs for One-Handed Thumb Use on Small Devices,” Amy K. Karlson, University of Maryland (U.S.); Benjamin B. Bederson, University of Maryland (U.S.); John SanGiovanni, Microsoft Research (U.S.); April 2005
3 “Learning User Interest for Image Browsing on Small-Form-Factor Devices,” Xing Xie, Microsoft Research Asia (China); Hao Liu, Chinese University of Hong Kong (China); Simon Goumaz, Microsoft Research Asia (China); Wei-Ying Ma, Microsoft Research Asia (China); April 2005
4 “Summary Thumbnails: Readable Overviews for Small Screen Web Browsers,” Heidi Lam, University of British Columbia (Canada); Patrick Baudisch, Microsoft Research (U.S.); April 2005
5 “Visualization of Mappings Between Schemas,” George G. Robertson, Microsoft Research (U.S.); Mary P. Czerwinski, Microsoft Research (U.S.); John E. Churchill, Microsoft Research (U.S.); April 2005
6 “Flexible Timeline User Interface Using Constraints,” Kazutaka Kurihara, University of Tokyo (Japan); David Vronay, Microsoft Research Asia (China); Takeo Igarashi, University of Tokyo (Japan); April 2005
7 “Time Quilt: Scaling up Zoomable Photo Browsers for Large, Unstructured Photo Collections,” David Huynh, MIT CSAIL (U.S.); Steven Drucker, Patrick Baudisch, Curtis Wong, Microsoft Research (U.S.); April 2005
8 “TxtBoard: From Text-to-Person to Text-to-Home,” Kenton O’Hara, Richard Harper, Microsoft Research Cambridge (U.K.); Axel Unger, IDEO (Germany); James Wilkes, Bill Sharpe, Marcel Jansen, The Appliance Studio University Gate (U.K.); April 2005
9 “Artful Systems in the Home,” Alex S. Taylor, Microsoft Research (U.K.); Laurel Swan, Brunel University (U.K.); April 2005
10 “Snap-and-Go: Helping Users Align Objects without the Modality of Traditional Snapping,” Patrick Baudisch, Microsoft Research (U.S.); Edward Cutrell, Microsoft Research (U.S.); Ken Hinckley, Microsoft Research (U.S.); Adam Eversole, Microsoft Research (U.S.); April 2005

Letter database: languages, character sets, names etc

Useful database providing characters from all languages. This is useful for those of us who encounter a strange, unknown character as we extract data from worldwide ERP systems. I have had entire global master data loads fail due to a single foreign character being entered for a Slovakian supplier’s internal part description (manufacturers part description) in material master data.

Letter database: languages, character sets, names etc

Search Engine Watch: Tips About Internet Search Engines & Search Engine Submission

Top-rated site for search engine marketing strategies… can help you with free advice, and for $100, far more detailed tools.

Search Engine Watch: Tips About Internet Search Engines & Search Engine Submission

Search Engine Watch: Tips About Internet Search Engines & Search Engine Submission

Top-rated site for search engine marketing strategies… can help you with free advice, and for $100, far more detailed tools.

Search Engine Watch: Tips About Internet Search Engines & Search Engine Submission

Blog Marketing – Chicago Tribune

This is a helpful review on the rationale and methods for blog creation for business professionals and individuals. & WOOD TV8 – Grand Rapids news and weather – Steelcase to close three facilities and cut 600 jobs over next two years

Steelcase to close three facilities and cut 600 jobs over next two years:

This news article from my former employer Steelcase is an example of the larger macroeconomic change that is transforming business models in the manufacturing industry.

I’ve written previously of Tom Friedman’s new book “The World is Flat“, which gives a thorough review to to this transformation – driven by enabling technologies – in the ability of companies to manage manufacturing and the supply chain globally. I think of it as a shift in the liquidity of production resources. Companies can move factors of production globally with much greater flexibility these days. Unfortunately, but inevitably, this process can be devastating to local manufacturing economies.

In 2002, executives at Steelcase realized the key role of technology in this transformation and brought in SAP for the first installation of the SRM / SCM suite in North America. I was responsible for the Business Intelligence analytics.

Steelcase calls the implementation SupplySync. The Supplysync site contains functionality that handles all of the workflow for new supplier registration and qualification, then allows internal employees and external suppliers to share data and web services.

On the SAP BW side, I created BW web reports published to the SAP Enterprise Portal with authorization variables. This allowed external suppliers to flexibly access a variety of BW queries giving them invoice status, product line production planning data, and product specifications, automatically filtering to only thier authorized data but sharing a single query with all other suppliers.

I was a witness to the painful nature of these changes to my white- and blue-collar colleagues, as a survived the wrenching process of seven rounds of layoffs totalling over 10,000 employees in a three-year period. And, there have been two more rounds since then. Have you in your personal career, or your has your company, fully responded to the realities of a flat world?


Steelcase to close three facilities and cut 600 jobs over next two years
(Grand Rapids, March 29, 2005, 9:40 a.m.) Steelcase announced Monday that it will close three manufacturing facilities in the Grand Rapids area over the next two years. Production will shift to other Steelcase manufacturing sites, some of which are in the West Michigan area.
The losses go beyond jobs and sites. Kent County has lost 5,000 furniture manufacturing jobs in the last five years. Steelcase is the single largest taxpayer in the city, and when it quits production it will be the first time in company history it will not produce furniture in here.
“We complain about not having enough space in Grand Rapids for new plants. Well, we’ve got lots of space now,” said Mayor George Heartwell.
Grand Rapids city officials are discussing the impact these job cuts will have the city’s economy. The company’s seating plant, systems plant, and the core steel plant will close, resulting in the loss of 100 salaried and 500 hourly positions. Thirty of those jobs will go to Mexico, while the rest will be moved to a plant in Atlanta, Georgia. Employees with less than 17 years of seniority could be looking for a new job.
The company says the move will lead to annual pre-tax savings of $35 to $45 million.
The announcement comes just one year after Steelcase president and CEO James Hackett said he was optimistic about the future of Steelcase locally. “I am very optimistic…the volume will pick up, in which case we’re off the pressure of reductions of the employees,” Hackett said in April 2004.
On Monday, Steelcase spokesperson Jeanie Hill said this move was made to streamline the company’s manufacturing process, putting production facilities closer to component facilities and suppliers.
“The changes we’re making today are not reflective of economic conditions. Or as you’ll see on Wednesday when earnings come out, necessarily an impact to our company’s profitability. What this is looking at is a plan to modernize and revolutionize our industrial system,” adds Jeanine Hill.
Steelcase says that it will explore options to sell or redevelop the facilities, which are valued at approximately $30 to $35 million.
Despite the job cuts announced Monday, Hill says half of the company’s manufacturing jobs will remain in West Michigan. Behind the 600 positions, another 300 jobs will be moved to facilities in Gaines Township and Kentwood.
“It still pays the bills for at least another year or so. I guess that’s one way to look at it,” an employee who has worked for the company for 19 years told 24 Hour News 8.
“They’re going to be shutting down the chair plant, so even employees like me who are going to be staying, we don’t really know what’s going to happen to us,” said another employee.
The employees 24 Hour News 8 talked to say working at Steelcase the last couple of years has been tough, to say the least, because of layoffs, after layoffs, after layoffs. Many of them worried when the axe would fall on their position. For 600 of them, it happened Monday morning.
“Very quiet. Everybody is just real quiet…hardly any talk going on at all,” said one employee. “You can wish them well and stuff, but it’s still a matter of there’s not a lot of hope.
“I think it’s going to get a lot worse before they’re actually done with it,” said the 19-year veteran employee.
Workers have three options – they can take an early retirement, a voluntary buyout, or accept an involuntary severance package.