I have just been reading David Cameron's blog where he talks about an interesting hack from India. You can read the story here but in short it is about Arun Ganesh, a student at the National Institute of Design in Bangalore, who was frustrated that the poor quality of the bus timetable for Chennai. With over 5,000 bus routes this was a real world problem for Chennai's 4 million residents. How did Arun solve this? He created his own map, crowd-sourced data from his fellow bus passengers and then published the new improved map along with an accompanying app BusRoutes.in for interactive route planning. The maps use OpenStreetMap - a free editable map of the whole world. In 3 days he had crowd-sourced enough data to kick-start everything. An impressive solution to an everyday data problem.
I know that corporate crowdsourcing for R&D is nothing new and prediction markets are gaining some traction. Take a look also at InnoCentive for some very serious idea outsourcing of industrial problems and Brand Tag for insight into what people really think of your brand.
I wonder if it is possible to apply similar ingenuity for information management problems within the corporation? What problems am I talking about? For me today in my role they include:
- Creating a single business glossary across a conglomerate of businesses
- Building a knowledge portal to collect information useful to management report writers and users
- Identifying solutions to complex analytic problems such as:
- predicting propensities to substitute physical products with digital ones
- measures of copyright protected revenues.
My initial thoughts are to invest in the following capabilities:
- Business Glossary - set-up an intranet portal (probably using SharePoint because that's what we use internally) to publish glossary term definitions and link these to discussion forums where anyone who is interested can discuss, provide feedback and mediate agreement on standard terms and definitions
- Knowledge Portal - another portal linked directly into our reporting platforms (SAP, Oracle, TM1, etc.) so that our:
- Decision makers have access to use and can contribute to wiki's, FAQ's, known issues and documentation (tutorials, reporting guidelines, etc.) about our information assets and related business processes.
- Project Staff and Analysts have access to the scope, structure and lineage of data from the report semantic layer back through the data marts and warehouses and into the source systems where data is created.
My hope is that these investments will deliver not just better support to our decision makers but also better engagement with the information they use. Give them a sense that they not only own their management reporting but also feel empowered to improve the information asset without relying on IT experts.
This may not be as innovative as people like Arun have achieved, but in the my corporate world these are sufficient wins. Maybe we will even create more super users in the organisation? Sounds good to me.
Looking again out into the rest of the world and taking a lateral step from directly involving your users, kaggle is a site that aims to facilitate better predictions by providing a platform for data mining, forecasting and bioinformatics competitions. As a side note, it is interesting to see that 'kagglers' favourite software is R, with SAS now a fairly distant 3rd in popularity. SPSS is even further away with only a quarter of the users that R has.
If you want to learn more about open innovation I suggest you start at Open Innovators website.