Insights of an innovation enthusiast, PhD candidate, efficiency junkie, and technology optimist. Or, things I find interesting.

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Workflow management: the key to cutti...

Workflow management: the key to cutting the gordian knot of paid crowdsourcing

Just got back from CrowdConf 2011 where I shared the poster below. I met some great people and hope to describe some insights from the conference here soon.

Workflow management will cut the gordian knot of using cloud labor (labor-as-a-service) in everyday business settings. Two companies seem to have caught on to this. Cloudfactory has a new GUI to construct “assembly lines” (think manufacturing) which when run create “production runs”. And CrowdEngineering has a new tool (announced yesterday) called Crowd4Self which looks more along the lines of what I am doing with Runmyprocess.

http://www.slideshare.net/tim_olsen/workflow-management-of-microsourced-tasks-using-a-business-process-management-system-bpms

Hyperspecialization will transform th...

Hyperspecialization will transform the developing world

Cross posted from G+. see post

I have recently posted about hyperspecialization (breaking work down into smaller pieces that can be done by several people in sequence or at once). Think of it as the vertical disintegration of the knowledge worker. This concept has profound implications. Two anecdotes coming from China and Nepal point to the hope of what hyperspecialization will bring.

The first comes from CloudFactory. While I was chatting with developer support, I learned that they were not based in Silicon Valley as I had imagined, but rather Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. They just launched last month with the audacious goal of creating “1M jobs in the developing world starting in Nepal.” I think cloudfactory has a fantastic product, and I like how they see themselves akin to Kiva. “Kiva connects people for microloans, CloudFactory connects people for microwork.”

The second was from the conclusion of a paper by two scholars at Nan Kai University in Tianjin, China. I quote: “The development of crowdsourcing will play a key role in the transition process from “made in China” to “created in China”.

So there you have it. Three people in the developing world who see the tremendous potential for microsourcing/microwork to dramatically change their economy. I see it as well, and am excited to see how this plays out.

Teaching Business Process Management ...

Teaching Business Process Management with RunMyProcess
During my studies at Georgia State, I have had the privilege of developing and teaching courses on Business Process Management. When this comes up in conversation followed by blank stares. I typically explain it as model driven execution:
  1. Model your business process.  (like the one to right, created by one of “my” students)
  2. Press a button — code is generated –you have just created an application (and automated a process).

Sounds too good to be true right? Well, you do also have to create forms and route the data around. But, this is all fairly straight forward. It is important to note what is doing all the heavy lifting — what makes this all possible: the Business Process Management System (BPMS).

There are many BPMS systems available see: Gartner’s magic quadrant. We started using TIBCO, which is a fantastic product, but proved too taxing on student (budget) laptops. Then we used a lightweight product called BizAgi, which has a fantastic modeler and a great backend BPMS system which we deployed on AWS. Recently, I have been fascinated by RunMyProcess a BPMS which runs entirely in the cloud. Here are some of its advantages from my perspective:

  • No install necessary (a huge plus for students)
  • Integrates with any webservice. Want to send text messages, send invoices, read or store information into a database of google spreadsheet, call someone with a pre-recorded statement, check exchange rates, the weather, or micro-outsource some work to mechanical turk as part of your process? No problem, there are thousands of connectors to fabulous RESTful webservices waiting for you(e.g. Twilio, Zoho, Google Spreadsheets, Freshbooks, mTurk).
  • Email just works. Setting up email notifications can be a hassle on other BPMS systems when you have them hosted yourself. RMP also has email receptors (i.e. start a process by sending an email to a specific email address… nifty).
  • No hosting required.

I was showing this system at a recent conference and a chief scientist at Google described it as Mash-ups (or MashApps) for the enterprise. Like other BPMS systems you also get the Business Intelligence insight through process monitoring and measuring tools. There are similar platforms-as-a-service out there, but it has been very rewarding to see many light bulbs turn on as students catch the vision that BPM purports. This usually starts to happen when they design a process which sends themselves a text (SMS) message with stock exchange rates, or a customized haiku poem written by turkers.

Focus of Academia: a set of problems

Focus of Academia: a set of problems

Recently I was in New York for the BPM 2010, and Human Potential conferences and I took the opportunity to visit from friends at Columbia University.

While there, in Hamilton Hall, I saw a well written paragraph on the importance of problems and question in academia. Click the thumbnail to see a larger image.

It reads:

The focus of Academia can be defined as not so much a set of topics but as a set of problems. Physicists, economists, historians, and so on have problems that are specific to their fields, and are collectively working on points of intersection in order to solve these problems. Consequently, in every peice of academic writing ther is some problem, some issue, some motivating question that is being explored.. at the heart of every piece of academic writing is academic inquiry.

I was surprised to find this randomly, in the only room at Columbia which I visited. I like it, and though it worth sharing.  I think it highlights the importance of publication as a conversation as Anne Huff’s book points out. Also, the importance of asking great and exciting questions. While at BPM 2010, I met Vasant Dhar from NYU who talked about what issues or questions are at the heart of education and research in the information systems field. They serve as a useful guide for those wondering what IS is, and a starting point for further questions. From Vasant’s paper:

Business Centric Questions

  • How does IT transform industries and change the boundaries between them?
  • How do platforms alter existing business models and create new ones?
  • What determines success with a firm’s IT investments?
  • How do firms effectively get value from and govern data?
  • Why do incumbent companies frequently miss large, new IT-based opportunities?

Technology-Centric Questions

  • How do unique characteristics of digital goods impact business models?
  • Why do network effects pervade IT-based businesses and how do they alter strategy?
  • How does human behavior/interaction differ in spaces mediated by Information Technology?

Dhar, V., & Sundararajan, A. (2007). Issues and Opinions–Information Technologies in Business: A Blueprint for Education and Research. Information Systems Research, 18(2), 125.

Shared Services in the news

Shared Services in the news

My research involves IT Shared Services. Shared Services is a management concept which has been around since the late 80’s. Often when new articles and press releases come out they pop up on my radar.

I thought I’d share a few good ones that I have seen in the past few months:

In the general Shared Services area (not IT-specific):

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