2017: A year in review (and a preview of 2018)

Wide Angle View of Tall Grass Prairie

2017: A year in review (and a preview of 2018)2017 was an interesting year for me.

I bought a new house in February after being homeless for about 4 months. In October 2016, my wife and I sold our house and spent the 2.5 months of 2016 and the first 1.5 months of 2017 traveling around the Southwest (we spent the time in Colorado and New Mexico). Our plan was to spend 6 months to a year traveling around the country but we both realized quickly that we need a ‘home base’ and weren’t cut out for living out of vacation rentals. Additionally, most of these vacation rental owners’ ideas of ‘high speed internet’ are not the same as mine (most places had low-end DSL…ugh).

Beyond the travel and new house purchase, I spent most of this year focused on helping organizations use their data better. Most of my time was spent helping companies (and people) understand the data, organize their data better, collect more diverse data-sets or help them understand whether they should dive into big data, machine learning and/or deep learning.

One thing I noticed that was a bit different in 2017 than in previous years: organizations are more ‘data smart’ than they used to be. This is a good thing. It saves me (and other consultants) from having to explain the basics of data management and focus more on the ‘sexy’ stuff around data. Don’t get me wrong – there are still plenty of companies that are still managing their multi-million dollar organization with excel spreadsheets and access databases (with no real clue what data quality / data management means) but these organizations now better understand the need to introduce more a sophisticated approach to their data.

Looking back on the types of projects I worked on over the year, I noticed a trend continuing that started in 2016. I’ve been spending more of my time in a ‘strategic’ role vs a tactical role. Sure, there are still some projects that saw me being very hands-on with data science, machine learning and deep learning initiatives, but about 60% of my time in 2017 was spent working with CxO level leaders in what I’ve come to call ‘data science strategic consulting’.

From a blogging / writing standpoint, I’ve written a bit in 2017 (but not as much as I want to or should be doing). A few of my favorite articles from the year are:

So…what does 2018 look like?

I’m not one of those people who puts together forecasts for the coming year. I have no idea how folks come up with their predictions. That said, I can tell you what 2018 looks like for me personally.

For one, I’m going to be a traveling more both personally and professionally. I’m going to make a point to get out to a few conferences this year so look for me at some of Big Data and MarTech conferences. Most of my client work is remote so I don’t do a lot of travel for work other than the occasional face-to-face meetings, but I’m hoping to get out a bit more regularly to meet with clients / potential clients – especially if there’s some good landscapes for my take photos of 🙂

Additionally, in my role as CIO at Sundial Capital Research (publishers of sentimentrader.com), I’ll be focused on continuing to make our operations more efficient as well as find new and innovative ways to use stock market market related data. I’ve found the financial world to be a fascinating one and more and more of my time is being spent focused on this role versus my own consulting practice. That said, I’m going to be a bit more focused on this role in 2018 while leaving about 50% of my time available for consulting.

On a personal level, I’m planning on getting out in the ‘wild’ more. I absolutely love to be out in nature with my camera and I’ve started blocking out time in my calendar to try to get out into nature more this year. I’ve got a portfolio that I need to continue filling out – and in order to do that, I need to be outside. Here’s a semi-gratuitous image that I recently made for your viewing pleasure:

2018 looks to be a good year for me and mine…here’s hoping it turns out that way for you.

Repetitive Redundancy and the Search For New

Search Help By misterbisson on flickrI’ve been reading a lot of new blogs lately.

Not really sure what I’ve been looking for, but I feel like something is missing. I feel like I’ve been reading and writing about the same thing over and over (and over).

So I’ve been surfing around reading a bunch and really good stuff in the interwebz – most has been around topics not related to my core areas of IT and  technology.

I worked my way through tons of blogs and read some great posts…but there was something in my subconscious gnawing at me.

I wasn’t really sure what that something was until later when I jumped over to my Hootsuite tab to take a glance at what was going on in twitter-land. The stream looked kind of slow and repetitive so I jumped over to one of my saved CIO & IT streams that I like to look at for ideas for new posts and it seemed repetitive to me too.

And then it hit me. I realized what I’d been searching for. I was searching for something new.

That’s what my blog surfing was all about. Something new. New insights. New stories. New directions.

And my CIO / IT twitter stream helped highlight it for me.

Why?

With no disrespect meant to anyone on the stream, what I was seeing felt like the same thing I’ve been seeing on the stream for many months. Lots of people talking about the same things. Cloud computing. Virtualization. IT Leadership. IT Innovation. Alignment. Etc Etc.

Don’t get me wrong…all excellent topics and all worthy of discussion…but I don’t see anything new out there. Nor do I see any real change happening. I see a lot of people talking about the need for new thinking, re-thinking and innovation in IT. I see people talking about aligning business with IT.

But…all things that have been talked about for months and years. Has there been any real progress on any of these topics?

Oh sure…I’d like to think there are plenty of people out there making these things happen in the real world…but I haven’t run across anyone really talking about the “new IT”. I haven’t seen anyone talking about the real-world implementation of the Re-imagined IT group. I’ve yet to see any new case studies or new stories about real-world IT groups taking the reigns and leading innovation within the business or recreating themselves to make the ‘new’ IT a reality.

Am I just missing these stories? Or…are those stories just not there? Perhaps all of us blogging and tweeting about it are just talking amongst ourselves while the real IT pros out there are keeping their head down and doing their jobs to the best of their ability.

So…what’s my point with this post?

Its not really a critique of the IT & CIO bloggers and twtitterers….er…tweeterers….er…twits…er whatever the name is. Not at all….I love reading these guys. Heck…I love writing about IT, the New CIO and other topics. I grew up in IT and technology and will continue to write about these topics.

But I have to ask….is it doing any good?

Is the stuff I’ve been writing about, thinking about and reading about for the last few years doing any good? Are we making any difference in the ‘real world’? I’d like to think we are but for some reason I keep seeing the same topics repeated year after year.

That repetition tells me that most in the IT world are working too hard to ‘keep the lights on’ and a lot of what is being written about is ignored. Does this mean all of us bloggers and writers are just talking amongst ourselves? Or are we just not hitting the topics that real-world technologists and IT pro’s are looking for so they can do their jobs better? Or…am I just missing out on the real deep case studies from those companies that are doing the things we are all talking about?

I realized what my subconscious was telling me. I’ve been subconsciously searching for something new. New topics for IT. New Topics for CIO’s. New topics in marketing / technology. New topics for you and for me 🙂

I’d love your thoughts on the subject…what are some new topics that you’d like to see covered in IT, Marketing, Project Management and Technology?

Image credit – Search Help By misterbisson on flickr

A Veterans Day Thank You

Veterans Day
By eqqman on flickr

This post is a bit off topic from the norm but I wanted to take this opportunity to say Thank You to anyone who’s ever served in the armed forces.

For those of you outside the US, November 11 is Veterans Day and is also celebrated as Armistice Day / Remembrance Day in other parts of the world.

Its a day that we Celebrate and Remember our Veterans.

Its a day that’s celebrated as a federal holiday but few people truly take the time to remember the reason for this day.

This day should make you stop and think about those people who served, whether in peace or in war…our veterans have done more for us than most people give them credit for.

Those bastards of the Westboro Baptist Church can protest at military funerals because of our veterans. Sorry for the strong language…but its the mildest word I will use to describe those people.

People who spend their day bashing our government can only do that because our veterans have defended their right to bash.

People who call our President anything other than “Mr. President” have the right to do so because of our veterans.

While some people may disagree with reasons for war, nobody can disagree with someone putting their life on hold to protect this country and our freedoms.

My father, Dwain Brown, was a part of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, the Redcatchers, in Vietnam.  He didn’t want to be there.  My grandparents didn’t want him to be there. My mother didn’t want him to be there.  But he was there…and he served.

Thankfully, he returned unharmed and has been able to lead a great life and has been a wonderful father to me and my sister.  There’s no words to tell him how thankful I am that he served his country when asked.

Very few Vietnam Veterans were ever told Thank You when they returned home, which I think is a travesty…hopefully those people that spat on our Vietnam Veterans saw Karma come back and bite them.

My great-uncle, Woody Kinnear, was a member of the 101st Airborne in World War II and saw action during D-Day and the subsequent movement through Europe.  He saw action in every major engagement in the European Theater including the Battle of Bulge.

I never got to say Thank You to uncle Woody before he died and I’m truly sorry for that. I hope someone, somewhere told him Thank You for serving.

Whether you’re in the USA or elsewhere, take a moment to remember your Veterans.  Say Thank You to them for serving.

Some Veterans show an outward injury…perhaps they’ve been physically injured in some way. But…many other Veterans are injured on the inside as well…they’ve seen things that they shouldn’t have to see.

The simplest act of saying “Thank You”, said with sincerity, can do amazing things to help that Veteran out.

Say thank you to a Veteran today….and every day.

A Social Approach to Knowledge Management in Projects – A White Paper

I recently submitted a paper to be considered for an academic conference on the topic of IT Project Management.

The conference uses a double-blind review process to review papers and provide feedback.  In this double blind-review, reviewer’s aren’t provided with author(s) information and author’s aren’t provided information about the reviewers.

Good and fair process….and one that I’m about to completely tear apart today. 🙂

My submission, titled A Social Approach to Knowledge Management in Projects, was conditionally accepted for inclusion if I were to address a major concern on the part of the reviewer.

The main concern was a claim of plagiarism.

The reviewer believed that the author (me) had plagiarized a good part of the paper.  They pointed to a website that they claimed proved that the author had used content from and note cited.  That website was mine – https://ericbrown.com.

Plagiarism is defined as:

the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work.

I can see where the reviewer might have thought plagiarism existed as some of the work in the paper has been previously published here on my blog.  I’m actually quite excited that someone out there found my site interesting enough to cite as the original source of something that might have then been used in a plagiarism matter.

While this could be considered a case of self-plagiarism (if you believe in such an oxymoron), it’s not plagiarism.  The conference organizer requested that I cite my own work published on this blog within my article and also rework the article to ensure that the majority of the paper was significantly different than any other paper / article I’ve written.

Because I don’t believe in ‘self-plagiarism’, and because I’m feeling a bit rebellious this morning, I’ve decided to withdraw the paper from the conference and publish it, in its entirety, as a PDF here.  You can download the full paper using the link at the bottom of this post.

In the paper, I try to look at ways to answer this question:

Can a project team use Web 2.0 / Enterprise 2.0 platforms to communicate and share knowledge during a project? Can this communication be indexed and mined to capture relevant knowledge about the project, project team members and project technologies without adding additional burden to the project team members?

Download a PDF copy of A Social Approach to Knowledge Management in Projects today

Enjoy.

Are you keeping your eyes open?

Have you ever gotten so used to doing something that you stop thinking about how or why you’re doing it?  BTW – this is another one of my ‘linear thinking‘ posts.

I’m sure there’s a scientific name for it but I’m too tired to look it up right now…sorry. 🙂

How many of you are stuck in a rut in your life and/or business and just doing the same thing over and over and over.  Ever thought about why?

Maybe it’s because you haven’t been keeping your eyes open to see things changing.

Take this little story as an example…

A few weeks ago I’m driving to the local target.  I decided to go a back way through neighborhoods rather than the main road.   I get up to one of the main roads that I have to cross to get to the target and hit a red light.

This particular intersection is fairly new.  In the past, you could only turn left or right at this intersection, but about three months ago a new road was opened that allowed you to go straight through this intersection.

I planned to go straight as it was a shorter route to get into the Target parking lot.

Now…this particular light is extremely long.  It felt as if I sat there forever waiting for the light to turn.  I also noticed that the car behind had their right turn blinker on. And the car behind them did too.  Oh well…that’s the way life is right?  Always stuck behind the guy going straight when you want to turn right.

While waiting I heard a horn honk. Sounded like it came from behind me.

So I rolled my window down…and heard the horn again as well as someone screaming and looked in my mirror and noticed it was the driver behind me.

He was yelling at me and honking his horn.

Can you believe that?

He was screaming at me.

Then…he opened his car door and started getting out.  Wow.

OK then. I’m not going to be caught sitting in my car while some crazy dude is standing outside my window.

So I got out of my car. Probably not the safest thing to do but I did it.

He was walking toward my car screaming to me.  He was saying “turn man turn”.

What?  I’m going straight across I tell him.  I also pointed at my blinker and politely said ‘do you see a blinker?’.

And…I may have yelled it. And…I may have said a few other choice words that can’t be repeated here.   And I may have called him something that wasn’t polite.  I may have also told him to get back in his car or he’d be getting into an ambulance in 3 minutes.  Might have been bad of me to say…but, he started it 🙂

His response was “oh…you can go straight?  I didn’t know that”.

While he was walking back to his car, he was apologizing and trying to ‘make nice’ with me while also saying “I’ve driven this road a couple times a day for two years and didn’t realize you could go straight.”

Lessons from this story?

Its an easy one.

That man, who almost got himself in some trouble, was so sure that he was right that he was willing to risk his health (and his life?) to get out of his car and scream at an unknown person in a car in front of him.

According to him, he’d been through that intersection multiple times over two years. He’d gotten so used to only being able to turn left or right that he’d failed to realize that a third option was now available to him and to all other drivers.

He’d gotten into a mindset and wasn’t able to see the changes taking place around him over the years.

Sound familiar?

How many businesses do you know today that are in this same mindset?  What about your manager or leader? Have they allowed themselves to get so comfortable with their surroundings that they fail to notice the changes?

What about you?  Are you keeping your eyes open for changes?

BTW – link below for anger management techniques for those of you (and perhaps me too) who get a little too angry 🙂

The importance of story

Stories and StorytellingI love a good story.

I love to read a good story and I love to create stories…although they may not always be “good.:)

In fact, I love a good story so much that I’m researching the topic of stories and storytelling as a mechanism for knowledge capture & transfer within project teams.  See a presentation I did on that subject here -> Stories, Projects & Knowledge Management. Oh..here’s another article of mine on Using Stories to Share Knowledge.

Stories have a ton of good qualities. They help set context.  They help share values and beliefs.   There are lots of good things about stories.

But the most important is one that we often overlook.  It’s the importance of YOUR story to your life.

Chris Brogan pointed me toward Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (affiliate link) a few months ago.

Chris recently said the following about Miller’s book: “It’s about the importance of living your life as if you’re the main character in an important story.

He hit it spot on.  This is a wonderful book.  Not only did it make me laugh, it made me think long and hard about MY story.  And about YOUR story too.

What’s my story?

I used to think that my story was one of small town farmboy who makes a name for himself in the big city.  I was going to work hard and climb the corporate ladder and become the CEO of a large organization one day.

But…as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that my story is changing.

I no longer want anything to do with being employed by a large organization. I’d rather be a part of  small group of people doing something fun and important.

My story has evolved and I’m evolving with it.  I’m longer interested in the office politics that some people play. I’m more interested in finding that smart group of people who want to do something fun and challenging.  Those folks that see that things CAN be different.

My story has evolved from one of perpetuating the ‘sameness’ that is corporate America to one that of wanting to be a part of (and perhaps starting) a small business.

My story includes me working hard and playing hard.   It includes my wife and I spending more quality time together traveling and actually engaging in our passion of photography rather than wishing we could.

My story isn’t the classic American Story, but I think its one that will become the neo-classical American Story.

I think people are getting fed-up with the large, bureaucratic environment found in most large busiensses. Those businesses that look at the numbers before they look at the people.

That said, my story is my story and I’m living it as though I’m the lead character.  My story is one of hundreds of millions in this country, but its an important one to me.

What’s your story?

I look out at the people I interact with on a regular basis and realize that, for the most part, I don’t really know their story.

I have almost 1400 followers on twitter but i really only know less than 20 of them. On Facebook, I’ve kept my friends to those that I know fairly well but there are still folks who I don’t really know what well.

This blog receives about 6000 visitors a month and has ~1800 RSS subscribers but I don’t know the story of every one of these visitors or subscribers.

Of course, there’s no way for me to know everyone, but I do get curious about what drives people to my site and why they decide to come back (or subscribe).

I’m always interested in hearing your story so drop a line and let me know what you are working on and/or where I can learn more about you.

The Importance of Story

As I’ve said, story is important.   Not only does your story help define who you are, it helps define were you’ll go.

Based on this post and the little bit of background I’ve provided, can you tell where I’m headed in life?  Do you know the next chapter in my story?

Do you know they next chapter in your own story?  Are you writing your own story or letting someone else?

Me – I prefer to write my own…and hope to continue doing for the rest of my life.

BTW – if you DO know the next chapter of my story, don’t tell me 🙂