Posts Tagged ‘Jordan’
Thursday, October 6th, 2011
John Jordan, clinical associate professor of supply chain and information systems, reflects on the accomplishments of Steve Jobs:
The passing of Steve Jobs is a cultural milestone; his greatness is unquestioned. He was responsible for five seismic changes in the computing landscape: the original Macintosh, Pixar studios (home of “Toy Story”), the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad. For all the justified talk of Jobs being a visionary, however, his name is on 313 different Apple patents, demonstrating an attention to detail rare in a chief executive.
Why are people bringing personal notes and tributes to Apple stores? With Steve Wozniak, whom he treated shabbily, Jobs helped invent the personal computer. But it is only in the past decade that the computer has become truly personal, part of our daily life: iPods are in our ears, iPhones in our pockets, and iPads get read in bed. This intimacy, the quality of computing that stops being called computing, results from Jobs’ attention to design. He studied calligraphy as a teenager, and his love of typography helped defined the graphical user interface. The iPod has no screws or fasteners visible, and Apple’s signature white plastic cases are actually clear, with white backing. Even something as non-essential as the magnetic case for the iPad 2 is incredibly clever. The net result of such fastidiousness is tools that become fun to use, not alien forces to be wrestled into submission.
But such triumphs were not inevitable. Perhaps the most salient point of Jobs’ career is that his greatest moments emerged from personal failure. After the original Mac failed to sell in large numbers, Jobs was forced out of the company he co-founded. Apple drifted for more than a decade, and when he returned, Jobs’ first move was to tighten relations with Microsoft, disappointing the us-against-them crowd and, incidentally, obtaining a desperately needed cash infusion. The turnaround that followed was among the greatest success stories in the history of American business.
In part, technology had advanced to the point where Jobs’ vision could be executed: processors got fast and cool enough for slim designs. Flat-panel displays replaced bulky CRT monitors. Miniaturization of components, increased storage density, and ubiquitous wi-fi made the hand-held computer known as the iPhone possible. But Apple was never only about the technology, it was about human imagination and aspiration. When Jobs talked about “insanely great,” he referred both to the hardware and to the people at the company responsible for it. He will be remembered as an icon alongside Henry Ford, a man largely responsible for the dawn of an era.
Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
Speaking at a town hall meeting last week in Illinois, President Obama said that one of the challenges of creating jobs in our economy is that businesses have used technology to become incredibly efficient, thus reducing their need for employees.
“When was the last time somebody went to a bank teller instead of using the ATM, or used a travel agent instead of just going online?” the president asked. “A lot of jobs that used to be out there requiring people now have become automated.”
The impact on the unemployment rate of information technology and its concomitant automation is not at all clear. The effect is highly variable across different countries, for example. Looking domestically, travel agents were never a major job category: Even if such jobs were automated away as the number of agencies dropped by about two-thirds in the decade-plus after 1998, such numbers pale alongside construction, manufacturing, and, I would wager, computer programmers whose positions were offshored.
The unfortunate thing in the entire discussion, apart from people without jobs obviously, is the lack of political and popular understanding of both the sources of the unemployment and the necessary solutions. Merely saying “education” or “job retraining” defers rather than settles the debate about what actually is to be done in the face of the structural transformation we are living through. On that aspect, the president is assuredly correct: He has the terminology correct, but structural changes need to be addressed with fundamental rethinking of rules and behaviors rather than with sound bites and band-aids.
Jordan offers more detailed commentary and analysis in the August edition of Early Indications.
Monday, February 7th, 2011
“Governors around the U.S. are proposing to balance their states’ budgets with a long list of cuts and almost no new taxes, reflecting a goal by politicians from both parties to erase deficits chiefly by shrinking government,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “Some state officials and lawmakers say they have a chance to reshape government in ways that might not have been politically palatable in years past.”
In his newsletter Early Indications, Smeal’s John Jordan writes: “The process of resizing government … needs to begin with a look at what governments can and need to do, as well as how they do it. Furthermore, there are tasks that at one time were essential, but technological obsolescence is slow to alter governments.”
Jordan proposes that there are at least five questions that need to be answered when talking about resizing government:
1. What must government do, and how can other entities help deliver necessary services?
2. What can government stop doing entirely?
3. What is the right level of organization?
4. How can interested parties self-organize?
5. How can government do what it needs to do, more efficiently?
Elaborating on the fifth question, Jordan writes that, when it comes to IT, government could take a few cues from the private sector:
IT in government remains a sore subject. President Obama’s chief information officer, Vivek Kundra, recently put forth a 25-step plan to reform federal IT management. Many of the items are broad and seemingly self-evident to anyone familiar with industry (“consolidate data centers” and “develop a strategy for shared services” for instance). The fact is, however, that industry does not follow federal acquisition or implementation practices; getting federal IT to perform at a reasonable fraction of an Amazon or FedEx would be a massive achievement. Many of the most notable IT project failures of the past decade are government implementations: systems development disasters at the U.S. Census and the FBI are prime examples of the performance gap.
Compared to customer service in travel, banking, shopping, or information businesses (iTunes, anyone?), finding even basic information on most government websites can be painful. Transparency can be difficult to track down. Control of bills passing through legislation is a key perquisite of power, and holding up the process with committee hearings that happen very slowly and/or erratically is common, so clear, open calendars are not always the rule. Like legislatures, regulatory bodies can be opaque, in that budget and headcount information is typically difficult to obtain, unlike the information readily available in a private company’s annual report.
If information can be hard to find, the state of on-line transactions is even more dismal: compare getting a fishing license or renewing other permits to checking in for an airplane flight. While efficient government looks much better to citizens on the outside than to gainfully employed government workers on the inside of slow-moving bureaucracies with no incentive to improve customer service, perhaps the current crisis can provide the impetus for real change to commence. In a sector that lags private industry by many performance metrics, a combination of new tools and more focused motivation has the promise to improve service, cut costs, increase accountability, and enhance security.
Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
Writing on Forbes.com, Smeal’s John Jordan looks at the growing use of analytics to make business decisions, arguing that “numbers-driven decisions are no longer the exclusive province of people with hard-core quantitative skills.” Loosely defining analytics as using “statistical and other methods of processing to tease out business insights and decision cues from masses of data,” Jordan indentifies three examples of the growing use of data-based decision making:
- The “flash crash” of May 2010 focused attention on the many forms and roles of algorithmic trading of equities. While firm numbers on the practice are difficult to find, it is telling that the regulated New York Stock Exchange has fallen from executing 80 percent of trades in its listed stocks to only 26 percent in 2010, according to Bloomberg. The majority occur in other trading venues, many of them essentially “lights-out” data centers; high-frequency trading firms, employing a tiny percentage of the people associated with the stock markets, generate 60 percent of daily U.S. trading volume of roughly 10 billion shares.
- In part because of the broad influence of Michael Lewis’ bestselling book Moneyball, quantitative analysis has moved from its formerly geeky niche at the periphery to become a central facet of many sports. MIT holds an annual conference on sports analytics that draws both sell-out crowds and A-list speakers. Statistics-driven fantasy sports continue to rise in popularity all over the world as soccer, cricket and rugby join the more familiar U.S. staples of football and baseball.
- Social network analysis, a lightly practiced subspecialty of sociology only two decades ago, has surged in popularity within the intelligence, marketing and technology industries. Physics, biology, economics and other disciplines all are contributing to the rapid growth of knowledge in this domain. Facebook, al-Qaida and countless startups all require new ways of understanding cellphone, GPS and friend/kin-related traffic.
Also on Forbes.com, Jordan lists nine reasons for “The Data Analytics Boom.”
Tuesday, August 10th, 2010
In the latest edition of his e-newsletter Early Indications, Smeal’s John Jordan offers a review of Apple’s iPad, calling it “a milestone that redefines how people and technology interrelate.” In the excerpt below, Jordan offers his opinion on the tablet’s e-reader capabilities (and limitations):
The iPad rapidly changed some of my long-standing habits. Reading, however, is not one of them. I have yet to get on board the e-reader bandwagon, and have left several texts I should read for work untouched: I literally forget they’re loaded and waiting for me. In part this is because I read scholarly books idiosyncratically, never starting at page 1 and proceeding to 347. Rather, I’ll start by looking at the plates if the book has them, checking out the pictures bound somewhere randomly in the middle. From there I might look through the endnotes, or the jacket blurbs. I’ll often skip chapter 1, at least initially, preferring instead to start with what often turns out to be the first body chapter with real evidence and real argument rather than introductory matter which some people find very hard to write. The point is that e-readers do not support non-fiction reading as well as they do a good mystery, where there’s only one way through the story. Pagination also presents a real issue when you need to footnote a source.
To stay with the question of reading, what was widely called “the Jesus tablet” in the publishing industry can not yet serve as a replacement for a physical magazine—particularly at the prices being suggested: $4.99 a week of Time or Sports Illustrated is not going to fly, I don’t believe. Merely exporting static, dated dead-tree content to a new medium (which happens to be dynamic, real-time, and capable of multimedia) follows a familiar trap. The Wright brothers did not succeed by mimicking a bird. Printed books did not find a market mass-producing hand-lettered scrolls. Television quickly stopped presenting radio shows with visible people. Businesses are continuing to learn that the Web is not “television except different.”
You can read his complete review here.
Friday, October 30th, 2009
“By the middle of next year, Internet surfers will be allowed to use Web addresses written completely in Chinese, Arabic, Korean, and other languages using non-Latin alphabets,” The New York Times reports. “In an action billed as one of the biggest changes in the Web’s history, the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers—or Icann—voted Friday during its annual meeting, held in Seoul, to allow such scripts in Internet addresses.”
Smeal’s John Jordan weighs in on the business implications and historical significance of this decision:
The expansion of the Internet domain name system from 37 Latin characters (26 letters, 10 digits, and a hyphen) to include character-based languages is a landmark event for the globalization of communications. More than 100,000 characters will eventually be added, so at one level the decision by Icann to accept the technical challenge (particularly, but not exclusively, at the level of the root name servers) is noteworthy. From a business standpoint, the decision marks a recognition of the growing importance of such character-based languages as Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Billions more people will be able to connect to the Internet using their native language and keyboards.
The decision raises a variety of fascinating questions. Given the rapid adoption of mobile Internet in the developing world, how will the availability of domain names in numerous character sets affect the design of smartphones for these markets? Given that Chinese relies on about 6,000 characters, for example, a RIM Blackberry-style keyboard would be difficult or impossible to implement. On the marketing front, how will global brands adapt to the wider availability of non-Latin representation online? How will native-language Internet naming affect literacy efforts and measurements? How will a vastly multiplied character set affect security efforts?
At another level, the action is a splendid piece of historical timing: The first Internet message was sent 40 years ago this week, and the Netscape Navigator browser launched 15 years ago this month. Predicting where the international, mobile Internet will be in even five years is impossible; coping with change of this magnitude at this speed is unprecedented in human experience.
Tuesday, April 7th, 2009
Nokia recently launched an online forum called IdeasProject, which is ”an entirely new way to connect with some of the most visionary and influential thought leaders in communications technology and their disruptive ideas.” The site features video clips, articles, podcasts, and other media that address issues and forecast coming trends in communications technology.
One of the most recent “big thinkers” to be featured is Smeal’s John Jordan, executive director of the Center for Digital Transformation. In the video below, Jordan explains how the value of Web sites like Facebook and eBay depends on the number of users that they have. As the number of users increases, so does the usefulness of the site—to a certain point.
Tuesday, March 31st, 2009
The Sun-Times Media Group, publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times and several regional newspapers, today announced that it’s the latest newspaper publisher to file for bankruptcy. The Tribune Co., publisher of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, and Philadelphia Newspapers LLC, publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer, also recently filed for bankruptcy. In addition, two major newspapers in Denver and Seattle were recently shuttered by their publishers.
In the latest edition of his e-newsletter Early Indications, Smeal’s John Jordan explains how the digitization of news has led to the downfall of the newspaper industry. He says that many facets of the newspaper have been “separated out by standalone Web businesses, each taking some segment of the readership and unbalancing the [newspaper's] former cross-subsidies.”
More from Jordan:
Sports readers can go to the league sites (with heavy video footage), television spinouts from Fox/ESPN/CNN+Sports Illustrated, fan-driven blogs and/or message board efforts, or to any number of sites updating them on favorite cricket, soccer, or other international sports the metro dailies can barely cover, if at all. News is still primarily gathered by the usual suspects, but commented on, linked to, and re-aggregated by everyone from Google News to bloggers to ideology-driven destination sites. Daily A-Z stock charts aren’t a particularly helpful way to watch the financial world, opening the door to broad distribution of previously professional-grade charting, archiving, and analytics; less professional message boards, blogs, and other mechanisms spread the wisdom (or lack thereof) of crowds.
The papers’ extremely profitable classified ads were hit hard by multiple competitors. eBay then later Craigslist took over the realm of random objects, Monster and others (including the hiring firms directly) redefined the help-wanted field, and Edmunds and Cars.com along with eBay Motors improved on the car-buying experience by improving information availability and transparency. Match.com and eHarmony improved on the user experience and inventory levels of the personal ads, while real estate agents alone and in their trade association aggregated and augmented millions of property ads with photos, maps, and video walk-throughs.
In the end, most any page of a 1990s-era newspaper was challenged by an online outlet. With the readership in decline, both ad and subscription revenue spiraled downward, and the splintered nature of the competition made coordinated response impossible.
Monday, March 9th, 2009
The national unemployment rate rose in February to 8.1 percent, the highest it has been since 1983. Since the start of the recession in December 2007, the United States has lost 4.4 million jobs.
“And economists expect that unemployment will continue to rise for the rest of the year and into early 2010, with the unemployment rate reaching 9 to 10 percent by the time a recovery begins,” The New York Times reports. “But even then, with so many job losses centered in manufacturing, economists say that many positions devoured during this recession will not be coming back.”
Smeal’s John Jordan, executive director of the Center for Digital Transformation, writing in the January edition of his newsletter Early Indications, also ponders, “Where will all the new jobs come from?”
Mass hirings are infrequent even in the best of times: “GM adds 4,000 new machinists” wasn’t something one saw in the news, regardless of the era. Jobs get added far more slowly and in more dispersed fashion than they get cut, especially when some firms are measuring severance in the tens of thousands. Part of the policy challenge is the asymmetry between the big cuts and the reality that small, growing firms add jobs by the handful or dozen.
… The rapid shift of the U.S. economy to a services-driven structure with a massive trade imbalance presents the Obama recovery team with many new challenges. Government employment is already high, and will be limited by falling tax revenues. The M&A activity of the previous decade has generated some very large organizations that, along with Detroit’s Big Three, are shedding jobs at a rapid rate. Even though a “knowledge economy” sounds intuitively appealing, at some point U.S. manufacturing will need to be redefined for employment and trade to behave more sustainably.