Monthly Archives: April 2010

SAP BusinessObjects Certification Update

From April 30, 2010, there will be new SAP Business Objects exams available. These exams have been updated to be better aligned with the SAP certification program. The existing Business Objects exams will be retired and replaced by the following three exams, all of which lead to a full SAP Business Objects Associate certification.

  • C_BOCR_08: SAP Certified Application Associate – Crystal Reports 2008
  • C_BOE_30: SAP Certified Application Associate – SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.x
  • C_BOWI_30: SAP Certified Application Associate – BusinessObjects Web Intelligence XI 3.x

From April 30, 2010, these exams can only be registered via the Pearson VUE SAP registration page. For any questions relating to this please contact your local SAP Education office.

The Next Wave in BI: Decision Analysis

We’ve come a long way in business intelligence, but there are still plenty of miles to travel. We’ve gone through three distinct eras: Data Warehousing, Business Intelligence, and Performance Management. I think the next era is Decision Analysis.

In the 1990s, we focused on building repositories of integrated, historical data (i.e., the era of Data Warehousing); in the late 1990s and early 2000s, we focused on tools for reporting and analyzing information in our data warehouses (i.e., the era of Business Intelligence); in the late 2000s, we focused on using information to improve performance by monitoring key performance indicators (i.e., the era of Performance Management.)

The next decade will focus on improving the way we make decisions. There is a lot to say here, and I haven’t completely formulated all my thoughts, but this era will take a long time to bear fruit because it involves understanding how the human mind processes information and how people interact in social groups to make decisions. To take BI to the next level, we need better insights into human behavior and perception. In other words, it’s time to recruit psychologists onto our BI teams.

In 2010, you will see the first fruits of the era of Decision Analysis. Specifically, you’ll see more robust collaborative capabilities embedded within BI tools and the first attempts to deliver formalized methods for evaluating the effectiveness of decisions made with those tools.


Most leading BI vendors are applying social media conventions to their toolsets to improve collaboration and decision making. For example, the online-based reporting service, Swivel, lets users rate and comment on charts published online by themselves or others. Following the lead of Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media sites, some BI vendors will let you “follow” people whose analytical skills you admire and be alerted when they publish a new report. BI vendors will also beef up their guided analytics capabilities, enabling users to review the steps that a trusted analyst took to create a great report using a macro-based replay function. And expect every BI vendor to offer some form of annotation, threaded discussions, and tighter integration with email.

We’ll also see a host of new independent collaboration platforms that could provide the glue to link people, process, and documents in more seamless, transparent ways and improve decision making. For example, SAP is working on an online collaborative environment call 12Sprints that provides templates for specific types of collaboration activities. And Google recently debuted Google Wave, its latest collaborative environment that lets groups engage in seamless instantaneous conversations. Of course, many companies already use Skype, Google Docs, Google Groups, Facebook, and Web conferencing systems, such as GoToMeeting, to foster formal and impromptu collaboration. These incumbents will slowly become more formally integrated with BI tools and decision making processes.

Decision Governance

Although many BI teams do a great job monitoring BI usage, most have done little to nothing to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of what users do with information they give them. We need to begin tracking the decisions that users make with BI tools and measure the effectiveness of those decisions against business goals and plans. We need to start studying the decision making process and apply procedures to increase the probability that users will correctly interpret the data and take appropriate actions. We can only do this by applying the same types of feedback loops we’ve applied to our BI systems themselves.

A terrorist’s attempt to blow up Northwest Airlines flight 253 last month revealed some fatal flaws in our country’s intelligence gathering activities, including a lack of coordination and information sharing among agencies. But another intransigent problem, it turns out, is the faulty assumptions that analysts apply to evidence and the lack of organizational controls for testing and challenging those assumptions.

A recent article in the Boston Globe called, “Think Different, CIA” provides some instructive lessons for companies using BI tools to make decisions. The article describes a phenomenon that psychologists call “premature cognitive closure” to explain how humans in general, and intelligence analysts in particular, can get trapped by false assumptions, which can lead to massive intelligence failures. It turns out that humans over the course of eons have become great at filtering lots of data quickly to make sense of a situation. Unfortunately, those filters often blind us to additional evidence–or its absence–that would disprove our initial judgment or “theory.” In other words, humans rush to judgment and are blinded by biases. Of course, we all know this, but rarely do organizations implement policies and procedures to safeguard against such behaviors and prevent people from making poor decisions.

The Next Wave

To take BI to the next level, we need to provide a collaborative environment to improve decision making and evaluate the effectiveness of decisions on a continuous basis. We need to establish processes and procedures to ensure people and teams properly interpret the data, identify and challenge each other’s assumptions, and keep an open mind about the drivers of business activity. By applying collaboration and governance to decision making, we can help our companies get even more value from their BI dollars. This really is the next wave of BI.

By Wayne W. Eckerson


NASA searches for micro signs of life

The search for life in space has been the focus of much attention  in recent days.If you’re looking for alien life in the solar system, it might be best to start small.

That was the message from NASA on Wednesday as researchers listed eight possible missions that would look for alien life by closely examining microorganisms and minerals.

“Astrobiology and the search for life is central to many of the most important missions that we are studying,” Steve Squyres, a researcher with Cornell University, said on a conference call with reporters.

“It is one of the key drivers for solar system exploration.”

The possible missions, which include using robots to get soil samples from Mars and looking for life in water on distant moons, have not been approved.

NASA has to decide which of the missions to fund.

By looking for patterns created by living organisms, NASA hopes to learn about the scope of life in the solar system and also to probe for clues about how life began on Earth.

The continuing search could include the following missions: sending landers to Mercury; analyzing methane on Mars; probing into the oceans of Europa, a moon of Jupiter; looking for organic material on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons; and even looking for signs of life on comets.

The news comes as much public attention is focused on the search for alien life — both in our solar system and beyond.

British physicist Stephen Hawking said recently that aliens might be traveling the cosmos right now.

Hawking talks about his view in a Discovery Channel series, “Into the Universe With Stephen Hawking,” which began airing this week.

On the show, Hawking suggests that extraterrestrial beings might not harbor goodwill toward people on earth. He imagines that aliens might have the technology to harness energy from whatever star they’re near. The process, he proposes, could open a wormhole that could let them travel large distances.

Hawking’s warning contrasts with the excitement some are showing about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

Just last week, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence said it was releasing its data to astronomers and researchers all over the world, hoping more people would join the search.

NASA’s search has extended outside the solar system as well.

Last year, NASA launched a Kepler spacecraft equipped with a special telescope to try and find Earth-size planets in this galaxy.

The spacecraft is on a three-and-a-half-year mission hunting planets, but NASA has been able to download data.

But even without the evidence from Kepler, some believe there are aliens floating somewhere out there.

The CNN Wire Staff contributed to this report.


HP to Acquire Palm for $1.2 Billion

HP (NYSE: HPQ) and Palm, Inc. (NASDAQ: PALM) today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which HP will purchase Palm, a provider of smartphones powered by the Palm webOS mobile operating system, at a price of $5.70 per share of Palm common stock in cash or an enterprise value of approximately $1.2 billion. The transaction has been approved by the HP and Palm boards of directors.

“We look forward to working with HP to continue to deliver industry-leading mobile experiences to our customers and business partners.”

The combination of HP’s global scale and financial strength with Palm’s unparalleled webOS platform will enhance HP’s ability to participate more aggressively in the fast-growing, highly profitable smartphone and connected mobile device markets. Palm’s unique webOS will allow HP to take advantage of features such as true multitasking and always up-to-date information sharing across applications.

“Palm’s innovative operating system provides an ideal platform to expand HP’s mobility strategy and create a unique HP experience spanning multiple mobile connected devices,” said Todd Bradley, executive vice president, Personal Systems Group, HP. “And, Palm possesses significant IP assets and has a highly skilled team. The smartphone market is large, profitable and rapidly growing, and companies that can provide an integrated device and experience command a higher share. Advances in mobility are offering significant opportunities, and HP intends to be a leader in this market.”

“We’re thrilled by HP’s vote of confidence in Palm’s technological leadership, which delivered Palm webOS and iconic products such as the Palm Pre. HP’s longstanding culture of innovation, scale and global operating resources make it the perfect partner to rapidly accelerate the growth of webOS,” said Jon Rubinstein, chairman and chief executive officer, Palm. “We look forward to working with HP to continue to deliver industry-leading mobile experiences to our customers and business partners.”

Under the terms of the merger agreement, Palm stockholders will receive $5.70 in cash for each share of Palm common stock that they hold at the closing of the merger. The merger consideration takes into account the updated guidance and other financial information being released by Palm this afternoon. The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of domestic and foreign regulatory approvals and the approval of Palm’s stockholders. The transaction is expected to close during HP’s third fiscal quarter ending July 31, 2010.

Palm’s current chairman and CEO, Jon Rubinstein, is expected to remain with the company.

Via Businesswire

Ice On Asteroid Suggests Earth’s Water Came From Space — Scientists have found lots of life-essential water – frozen as ice – in an unexpected place in our solar system: an asteroid between Mars and Jupiter.

The discovery of significant asteroid ice has several consequences. It could help explain where early Earth first got its water. It makes asteroids more attractive to explore, dovetailing with President Barack Obama’s announcement earlier this month that astronauts should visit an asteroid. And it even muddies the definition between comets and asteroids, potentially triggering a Pluto-like scientific spat over what to call these solar system bodies.

This asteroid has an extensive but thin frosty coating. It is likely replenished by an extensive reservoir of frozen water deep inside rock once thought to be dry and desolate, scientists report in two studies in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.

Two teams of scientists used a NASA telescope in Hawaii to look at an asteroid called 24 Themis, one of the bigger rocks in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. They examined light waves bouncing off the rock and found the distinct chemical signature of ice, said University of Central Florida astronomy professor Humberto Campins, lead author of one of the studies.

Astronomers have long theorized that hydrogen and oxygen and bits of water locked in clay are in asteroids, but this is the first solid evidence. And what they found on 24 Themis, a rock more than 100 miles wide with temperatures around 100 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, was more than they ever expected. About a third of the rock seemed to be covered in frost.

Furthermore, scientists didn’t just find ice; they found organic molecules, similar to what may have started life on Earth, Campins said.

“This asteroid holds clues to our past and how the solar system and water on Earth may have originated and it also has clues to our future with exploration of near-Earth asteroids,” Campins told The Associated Press.

“We’re showing that they’re wetter than we thought,” Campins said. “We’re showing they have organic molecules that might have been the building blocks of life on Earth.”

Earth, when it formed billions of years ago was dry, scientists say. So where did the water come from? One leading theory is from crashing comets, that are essentially icy snowballs.

But comets come from the outer reaches of the solar system and tend to have more heavy hydrogen than the water in our oceans, said Donald Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program office. Icy asteroids between Mars and Jupiter might have the right heavy hydrogen ratio to match what’s on Earth, said Yeomans, who wasn’t involved in the studies.

MIT’s Richard Binzel, also praised the studies, calling the findings “one more piece in the puzzle for an abundance of water arriving on Earth and having available the ingredients for life.”

Normally, the ice on the asteroid should have escaped Themis as a gas over thousands of years, but it’s still there after a billion years or so, Campins said. That means there’s likely a supply of ice inside the rock, replenishing the surface, he said.

And if that’s the case for other similar asteroids – especially those that come closer to Earth – then it would be a boon for visiting astronauts, Campins and others said. The astronauts could use the water to drink and to help make fuel. The new NASA space plan calls for astronauts to head to a nearby asteroid sometime in about 15 years as a stepping stone to Mars.

The icy asteroid also just makes a mess of the differences between asteroids and their cosmic cousin, the comet. The general definition has been that asteroids are dry rocks and comets icy snowballs.

Now it seems to be more a continuum of dry and icy with not much difference between asteroids and comets, Campins and others said.

And that, said Andrew Rivkin of Johns Hopkins University, co-author of the other study in Nature, could wind up another cosmic controversy like the debate a few years ago about whether Pluto was a planet. Pluto wound up demoted and is now called a dwarf planet.

Via Huffington