Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for August 2012

Breaking Bad Habits

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I recently gave up my HBO habit.

I was tired of paying the premium through my AT&T U-Verse subscription, and I’d been putting off for far too long giving some money to The New York Times digital edition, content from which I consume daily.

So far, it’s been a mostly fair trade.

Though I’m going to miss shows like “Game of Thrones” and “The Newsroom” and “True Blood,” as well as Bill Maher (especially during the political season), I figured being able to get all of the Times’ content on any of my digital devices (and I have many!) at any time was easy math: The digital paywall became more forbidding than the bundle became enticing.

No sooner do I make this move, than I read in Variety this morning that HBO is going to give the Nordic countries the opportunity to cut the chord by allowing folks to subscribe to HBO without having to have an HBO pay-TV subscription.

The Variety story dug deeper into the Nordic permafrost, indicating this was a competitive matching move, an announcement short on the heels of Netflix announcing its move into Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark.

I laugh at this — I don’t live in a Nordic country, what good does this do me??!!

I did visit Stockholm once — could that qualify me for a subscription???

It’s no wonder more and more people are cutting the cord on cable TV.

Cable has a business model for offering content that is completely antiquated, and entirely out of line with the direction of more a la carte offerings in a digital world.

I only cut a small piece of the cord…this time around…but unless I’m giving more choices and flexibility in content soon, as opposed to their traditional bundling…well, HBO isn’t the only habit I can break.

Written by turbotodd

August 31, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Getting Ready For Smarter Commerce

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Happy Thursday.

We’re getting down to the wire for the IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit, taking place in Orlando, Florida in the second half of next week.

Scott Laningham and I have been working hard preparing for all the interviews we’ll be conducting (and trying to find a hotel room!).

Seats are going fast.  That’s not Turbo marketing speak.  They’re literally going fast.  But, I’m sure we’ll be able to make room for you if you still wish to register!

In terms of the speakers and attendees, I’ll just say this: It’s an esteemed and distinguished group of folks.

I’ve been doing research on all my interviewees, and I’ve been very impressed with the caliber of their backgrounds, experiences, and accomplishments.

Not that I’m surprised, mind you…it IS an IBM sponsored event.

Now, what do I think you’re going to hear about if you do attend (or, via the social stream, in case you don’t).

Simply put, I think there are a few overarching themes I’ve been surmising from my research.

First, marketing is changing dramatically. Lower entry costs through the cloud and pervasive broadband and wireless, combined with social media and the emerging mobile extensions via tablets and smartphones, means you can (and should?) reach out and touch and communicate with your customers early and often.

But if you do so with a fragmented and uncoordinated approach, don’t be surprised when you read the hate Tweets two minutes after the hour.

Second, brand still matters…maybe more than ever. Think about the notable brands of the world.  Some of my faves: BMW, Titleist, Coca-Cola…

The quality of the product or service still matters, sure. But the brand isn’t just about what you say…it’s about what you DO, and how your brand responds to all those new stimuli.

Third, if you really want to know what’s going on with your customers and the marketplace — and, to distinguish yourself from your competition — you have to know what’s going on out there, again, early and often.

You have to know what’s going on from the broadest market level, to the category level, to the product level, to the influencers who shape the market conversation around your products and services.

That means having the means, methodologies, and talent in place to take advantage of increasingly real-time analytics.

So, a quick recap: Synchronicity, Constant Awareness and Communication With Your Constituents, and Market Understanding.

If you’re joining us down in Orlando next week, you’ll hear from world-class experts on these topics and many more.

If you can’t make it, be sure to follow the conference hashtag (#ibmscgs), along with #smarter commerce, to hear about all the new technology, best practices, industry perspectives and visionary thinking that can help you optimize your business.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Big Tennis Meets Big Data

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Major sporting events like the U.S. Open are not only exciting to watch and follow, but are also a living lab for how “big data” can translate into big business. This year, the USTA is using predictive analytics and cloud computing to improve the experience for everyone: fans, tennis players, event organizers and broadcasters. USTA’s Phil Green and IBM’s Rick Singer explain how.

I mentioned in my post yesterday that in 2005, as Hurricane Katrina was blowing into the Gulf Coast, that I was flying up to NYC to cover IBM’s involvement in facilitating technology solutions for the U.S. Open tennis tournament.

Well, here we are seven years later, and that partnership continues. Today, the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) announced a new round of technologies to help fans become immersed in the 2012 U.S. Open action.

This year, IBM is going to apply predictive analytics, cloud computing, and mobile technology expertise to connect tennis fans, wherever they are, to the action on the courts.

IBM has created a unique digital environment that provides U.S. Open spectators, athletes and media uninterrupted access to data, facts, stats and content via their tablets, smartphones, PCs and other devices.

This enhanced, interactive fan experience uses new technologies that thousands of businesses worldwide are embracing to up their game by uncovering insights from big data.

New iPad App: Streaming Matches

New for this year’s tournament is an iPad app that serves accurate streams of match data, access to live video, highlights and in-depth statistical information.

Enhanced social media features will enable fans to communicate with other fans around the world (but be nice!). The iPad app also delivers an insider’s view of who’s gaining the edge on the court and most likely to win — well before the final score tells the story.

This app complements iPhone and Android apps that mobile fans can access to connect to U.S. Open action in real-time from around the world. Off the court, IBM’s analysis of the U.S. Open action will extend to the social media arena by determining the Twitterverse’s favorite male and female players.

IBM is applying advanced analytics software to millions of public tweets generated throughout the tournament to assess which players are the social fans’ favorites. The IBM Social Sentiment Index will analyze buzz around the U.S. Open, providing a better understanding of fan sentiment.

The analysis will also illustrate how analytics technology can identify important, and otherwise non-obvious trends, to help businesses make better decisions about how to connect with customers.

If you’re on site at the Tennis Center, IBM has built the IBM Game Changer Interactive Wall, which extends many of the USOpen.org and mobile app features, providing greater insight into the U.S. Open, both on- and off-court using the power of analytics.

Fans will be able to interact with the wall to access live scores, match analysis and data visualizations from the IBM Social Sentiment Index analysis, as well as information about local weather and its effect on player nutrition and hydration, and more.

Broader Applications Of Analyzing Action On The Courts

Delivering insights into what’s happening on the courts at the U.S. Open requires an ability to capture and analyze each serve, volley and point. The same kind of analytics technologies that

IBM is using to deliver insights to tennis fans, players, coaches, media and sports event organizers are being used to monitor babies in prenatal wards, help police departments prevent crime and enable financial services firms to improve customer service.

“Big Data is impacting so many aspects of sporting events, that it’s no longer a stretch to say that it is changing the way fans watch and enjoy sports,” said Rick Singer, vice president, Sports Sponsorship Marketing for IBM. “Whether on the court or in the board room, Big Data is being leveraged to achieve similar goals, such as keeping operations up and running seamlessly, having accurate data readily available for quick decision making, and improving productivity.”

A Predictive Slam

One of the most insightful features of USOpen.org is IBM’s SlamTracker. Based on predictive analytics technology, it leverages historical and real-time match data to deliver a better understanding of what’s going on during a match.

SlamTracker’s ‘Momentum’ feature maps player momentum throughout a match in real-time, visualizing key turning points such as aces and winning shots, allowing fans to interact with the data to learn more about why a player is winning. In addition, SlamTracker’s ‘Keys to the Match’ feature analyzes seven years of historical Grand Slam data to determine the top three things a player must do in order to perform well in a specific match.

Serving The U.S. Open Web Traffic Appetite

During the two-week tournament, USOpen.org transforms into a massive, data hungry environment that demands unhindered access to accurate and reliable content to serve the demands of millions of tennis fans. Each year, IBM helps the USTA expand its infrastructure to meet these demands and then scale back to support regular operations following the tournament.

This elasticity is made possible by the IBM SmartCloud, which enables the rapid creation and dynamic allocation of resources while offering transparent and real-time access by a multitude of devices, such as smartphones, tablets and televisions.

This cloud environment — powered by IBM servers and storage in three geographically dispersed locations virtualized as one — ensures continuous availability and scalability required to support such a high profile event. The benefits include reduced costs and reliable operations.

You can go here to learn more about how IBM is helping the U.S. Open tap into Big Data to transform the fan experience.

The Big Iron Cloud

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It’s Tuesday, August 28, 2012, and I’m having flashbacks to early the week of August 30, 2005.

Gulf Coast, I’ve got my fingers crossed for ya.

Seven years ago this week, I was flying up to NYC to cover IBM’s involvement in providing technology support for the U.S. Open.

When I left that Monday morning, all was well, but by the time I arrived at JFK, the levees had broken.

Here’s hoping NOLA built that $14 billion levee rebuild well!

Back here on the technology front, there’s some big news from Big Blue today, this time in the mainframe world.

IBM’s new zEnterprise EC12 mainframe computer, the result of a three-year, $1 billion R&D investment by IBM that includes new security and analytics technology to boost cloud computing performance, extending the mainframe’s leadership as the enterprise system for critical data.

IBM announced a new mainframe server, the zEnterprise EC12, one built around nearly 50 years of enterprise computing experience and which will help IBM customers take their analytics capabilities to the next level.

The IBM zEC12 offers 25 percent more performance per core, with over 100 configurable cores and 50 percent more total capacity than its predecessor.

This new system is the result of an investment of over $1 billion in IBM research and development by IBM, including in Poughkeepsie, NY and 17 other IBM labs around the world, and in partnership with some of IBM’s top clients.

Secure Transactions

This new mainframe is also one of the most secure enterprise systems ever, including built-in security features designed to meet the security and compliance requirements of a range of industries. It’s the only commercial server to achieve Common Criteria Evaluation Assurance Level 5+ security classification.

The zEC12’s state-of-the-art crytopgraphic co-processor called “Crypto Express4S” that provides privacy for transactions and sensitive data, and can be configured to provide support for high quality digital signatures (used with applications for Smart passports, national ID cards, and online legal proceedings).

Driving Business Insights

The zEC12 also advances performance for analytics, inceasing the performance of analytic workloads by 30 percent compared to its IBM predecessor.

And support for the IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator that incorporates the Netezza data warehouse appliance into zEC12 enables clients to run complex business and operational analytics on the same platform.

Big Iron Cloud

The mainframe’s virtualization capabilities also make it well suited to supporting private cloud environments, where clients can consolidate thousands of distributed systems on to Linux on zEC12, lowering their IT operating costs associated with energy use, floor space, and even software licensing.

If you go here, you can learn more about the IBM zEC12 and can also contact an IBM rep or Business Partner to see how this bigger and better iron might be able to bolster your business results.

The Captain’s Picks

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Boy, I need a vacation to recover from my vacation.

As I mentioned in the next to the last post, I tried to not spend too much time thinking about work while I was on vacation and trying to improve my golf game.

The best laid intentions and all that.

No, I did fine on not worrying too much about work (although I have a hard time not reading the news, being a news and blog junkie), but on the golf front, I guess there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.”

After the three days of golf school, my dad and I had five days (and, therefore, rounds) of golf lined up, but what I didn’t count on was going on the injured reserve list.

Whenever you learn a whole new A) grip B) swing C) stance for your golf game, you also discover new muscles you didn’t know you had, and for me, I found one under my chest plate.

My dad and I played Tuesday through Saturday at various courses within an hour’s drive of Austin, and I even broke a new 9-hole record, shooting a 37 on the front nine of a local track here in Austin (back nine was a 44, for a total of 81).

So, golf school definitely had some positive impact, despite the injury, but by Saturday, I was barely able to turn back a swing for a drive, so I played a little more recreationally and a little less competitively.

But, my dad and I were able to catch most all of The Barclay’s on DVR replay, the first tournament in the “playoffs” for the 2012 PGA FedEX Cup Championship, and because it was played at Bethpage Black, the site of the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens, it was an extra special tournament to watch.

Not to forget the grueling 7,300+ yards, a course distance that gives us mere mortal golfers nightmares of 3-woods and hybrid clubs for days, never mind the short hitting pros.

No, it was the A.W. Tillinghast greens and beaches of sand that were this year’s Barclay’s stars, and ultimately it was Nick Watney who stole the show, playing consistently, and consistently in the fairways, and putting like a true genius.

Tiger Woods went low for a day or two before dropping back into the pack, and Sergio Garcia, despite not being seemingly able to find a steady caddy, hung near the top and/or the lead through the weekend, before giving Watney just enough distance for him to take the Barclays.

It was like watching the U.S. Open all over again.  Nothing gives me more satisfaction than watching the pros struggling to play a really difficult course — it reminds me that they, too, are subject to the vagaries and frustrations of the game.

Next stop in the FedEx Cup is the DeutscheBank, being played this holiday weekend at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass.

All you Bostonian amigos of mine, feel free to send me a plane ticket and a course pass — I could stand a long weekend on another golf course — just so long as I don’t have to swing a club myself just yet!

Of course, all this drama is really just a big build-up for individual players to the ultimate 2012 golf denouement, which is the ultimate team golfing event, the Ryder Cup, being held September 25-30 at Medinah, just outside Chicago.

Team Europe’s captain, Jose Maria Olazabal, announced his squad earlier today, and quite frankly, I’m tempted to root for Europe.

The team includes Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia (that pick was a no brainer, the way Sergio’s been playing), Peter Hanson, Martin Kaymer, Paul Lawrie, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, and Nicolas Colsaerts.

It is a team, in short, that is a frickin’ golf powerhouse, with a solid balance between players who have been playing lights out golf of late, and veterans of the pressure cooker that is the Ryder Cup.

American captain David Love III will announce his captain’s picks next Tuesday.

I know I don’t get a vote, but for my money, you have to seriously consider Brant Snedeker, who went 7 under and took second at the Barclay’s with his brilliant putting, and Jim Furyk, who brings some much needed adult seasoning, despite his chokes at the U.S. Open and the WGA.

Otherwise, the core stable of Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, and Phil Mickelson is also a formidable force, although it’d be great if Mickelson could try and keep his drives in Medinah somewhere close to the fairways, and get his putter rejiggered to boot.

I’d say Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan, and/or Bill Haas will be the likely other two captain’s picks, but Love has another weekend to watch their play before making his final choice.

I hope and pray he picks well!

Written by turbotodd

August 27, 2012 at 9:01 pm

IBM To Acquire HR And Talent Management Firm Kenexa

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IBM today announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Kenexa Corporation, a publicly held company headquartered in Wayne, PA, in a cash transaction at a price of $46 per share, or at a net price of approximately $1.3 billion.

“Every company, across every business operation, is looking to tap into the power of social networking to transform the way they work, collaborate and out innovate their competitors,” says Alistair Rennie, general manager, social business, IBM, explaining IBM’s rationale for acquiring HR and talent management provider Kenexa Corporation for $1.3 billion cash earlier today.

The acquisition bolsters IBM’s leadership in helping clients embrace social business capabilities while gaining actionable insights from the massive streams of information generated from social networks every day.

The adoption of social business technology is supporting the growth of big data and the need for analytics in the enterprise. A recent global IBM study revealed that 57 percent of CEOs identified social business as a top priority and more than 73 percent are making significant investments to draw insights into available data.

The survey also reveals that 70 percent cite human capital as the single biggest contributor to sustained economic value. The combined strengths of IBM and Kenexa are key differentiators at a time when organizations of all sizes are looking to increase workforce efficiencies and gain more insight from their business information.

Kenexa: Providing World-Class Social Business Capabilities

Kenexa is a leading provider of recruiting and talent management solutions. They bring to IBM a unique combination of cloud-based technology and consulting services that integrates both people and processes, providing solutions to engage a smarter, more effective workforce across their most critical business functions.

Kenexa complements IBM’s strategy of bringing relevant data and expertise into the hands of business leaders within every functional department, from sales and marketing to product development and human resources. As a result of this synergy, clients will be able to attract and develop the right skills to build the right teams, for the right projects, the first time.

Social media has pervaded the lives of consumers, helping them connect with each other in new ways. However, a shift is occurring in the enterprise as business leaders look for ways to generate real value through the use of social technologies to evolve their front-line business operations.

According to Forrester Research, the market opportunity for social enterprise apps is expected to grow at a rate of 61 percent through 2016.

“Every company, across every business operation, is looking to tap into the power of social networking to transform the way they work, collaborate and out innovate their competitors,” said Alistair Rennie, general manager, social business, IBM. “IBM is uniquely positioned to help clients generate real returns from their social business investments, while helping them gain intelligence into the data being generated in these networks to be more competitive in their markets.”

Social Business Creating Value In The Enterprise

Today, Kenexa supports more than 8,900 customers across a variety of industries, including financial services, pharmaceuticals, retail and consumer, including more than half of the Fortune 500.

With Kenexa’s world-class front-office process solutions, IBM will be able to offer strategic consulting, a social technology platform, and expertise on a global scale to help clients enable a smarter workforce and gain a competitive advantage in any market.

By creating a smarter workforce, employees can resolve problems before they arise to improve customer service, drive innovation to bring products and services to market faster, and increase sales by building new skills — linking the right experts to the right clients.

The Kenexa acquisition will complement IBM’s social business and HR business services leadership. More than 60 percent of Fortune 100 companies have licensed IBM’s solutions for social business.

Through its combination of social software, analytics, content management, and deep industry expertise, IBM is uniquely positioned to help organizations capture information, create insights and generate interactions that translate into real business value.

With operations in 21 countries worldwide, Kenexa has approximately 2,800 employees. Consistent with its strategy, IBM plans to continue to support Kenexa clients and enhance Kenexa technologies while allowing these organizations to take advantage of the broader IBM portfolio.

IBM expects the transaction to close in the fourth quarter of 2012, subject to Kenexa shareholder and regulatory approvals and the satisfaction of other customary closing conditions.

A Cinderella Golf Story

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I’m on vacation this week, so I’m purposely trying to stay away from the computer (and anything else with a keyboard for that matter).

The practice range at Austin’s Academy of Golf Dynamics, where Turbo spent last weekend blistering his hands and starting to undo 30 years of very bad golf habits.

However, I figured I should keep my writing chops up with at least a post or two, so long as it’s recreation or vacation-related, which this post is.

So here’s the question: Have you ever done something for 30-something years, only to discover that you’ve been doing it all wrong?

Well, that’s precisely what I learned this past weekend in the aforementioned golf school I had mentioned in a prior post, and though I’ve been doing it all wrong, I’m so glad I was finally made aware of this fact.

You see, for me, and my father, golf is kind of like a religion.  If you read the blog regularly, you know I’m a golf fanatic.

I grew up playing, even played on the golf team in junior high and high school, but honestly have never been that great.  My handicap in recent times has hovered around a 12-13, and even at that I very much enjoy the game.

But I also knew that I had ceilinged out, and I believed I was capable of doing much better.

So after attending the Academy of Golf Dynamics here in Lakeway just outside of Austin over a three day weekend, I worked to start unlearning thirty years of bad habits, and I have the blisters, and sore muscles, to show for it.

But man, what a blast…and that includes the bunkers!

The Academy says on its Web site FAQs that Golf Magazine has rated it as “one of the top 25 golf schools in the country,” and Money Magazine says “that they are one of the very best in value.”

I can only say this: Old habits die hard, and I’m going to be spending a lot of time over the next year trying to undo these past 30 years…but the Academy was a very well-structured, rigorous, yet palatable method by which to start undoing them, and I can honestly say I highly recommend it for anyone who’s serious about wanting to improve their game.

The Structure

I was fortunate, as I was in a class of about 10, with three roving instructors, so the personalized attention I received was substantial.

We started the first day working on pitch shots, not realizing that was the time that gave our instructors all the signals they needed to start analyzing our grips, stances, postures, and swings, so that they could then give each of us the guidance we needed to help our respective games.

For me, it all started with a bad grip, too wide a stance, and an over the top swing, which I was able to start correcting the first day, especially after seeing the before and after on video.

In fact, later that afternoon, I went out and played the Academy’s practice holes and hit some iron approaches and 100 yard wedges that any amateur player would be proud of, shots within 10-20 feet of the hole.

On the par 5 practice hole, utilizing the same swing, I hit a rocket ball 3-wood 230 yards just to the left of the green, a shot that, in my prior swing life, would have easily veered right of the green and possibly into the woods.

This was a great start, and as a reminder, this was all on the first day.

Over the rest of the weekend, we got lots of other instruction: On pitch shots just off the green, on improving our putting game (get more over the ball!), on sand shots (both good and bad lies), on hilly lies (up, down and sideways)…even under trees, an area I’ve tended to specialize in over the years, and so much welcomed the assistance.

Since class ended, I’ve played two full rounds, both well over my normal handicap (I usually shoot in the high 80s, and for those two rounds shot 95, and 99, respectively).

I also fully expected this. Changing 30 years of bad habits doesn’t happen overnight.

In today’s round, my dad and I were playing a Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed course in Salado, Texas, and I spent some time racking up some big numbers, much of it on my short game — which any good golfer knows is as much feel as skill. Relearning how to play those short shots with the new grip/stance/etc. is going to take some getting used to.

But the difference maker, at least for me, and the reason I knew what I had learned was starting to stick, was being able to step up to a 200 yard par 3, or up to a 150 yard approach shot, and be reasonably confident that I would likely put the ball on or near the green, and not instead veer off into the wilderness.

And that, my friends, is exactly what I did.

In fact, on the signature 18th hole, a par 3 that must have dropped nearly 100 feet, I was able to club down to an 8 iron to hit what was yardage wise, 185 yards, and strike the most gorgeous, straight line shot you could imagine into a green, and plant it 20 feet just past the hole.  That for a shot that, before the class, would have had me scared into a fetal position off to the side of the teebox, afraid to even hit it.

Of course, then I went on to three putt, so clearly I have much work to do.

But what the Academy of Golf Dynamics three-day workshop gave me, more than anything else, was the tools and self-awareness to understand those things that makes the shot go where it does…or doesn’t.

Yes, the new grip and stance and swing plane are going to take some time to get used to, no question.  When I step up to the ball, it feels kind of like someone who’s quit smoking, but refuses to start again.  It’s uncomfortable, irritating, and thrilling all at the same time.

But my passion for the game has already increased 100 percent, because I now have an understanding of what my body is doing that makes/made the ball do what it does…and that, I have a feeling, is knowledge that’s going to help me improve my game in ways I had never even imagined.

And as any golfer will tell you, what keeps us coming back is when we hit those sweet, precise, elegant shots that send a warm jolt of endorphins streaming through our bloodstream.

I have no doubt moving forward that I’m going to have many, many more of those shots than I used to…I just have to keep working at it.

So, if you’re looking to improve your own game, and are willing to expose yourself to the blisters and humility three days of such abuse requires, you can find out more about Austin’s Academy of Golf Dynamics here.

And tell them Turbo sent you…they might just give me a discounted rate for when I come back next year!

Written by turbotodd

August 22, 2012 at 12:38 am

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