Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Predictive Sales

HURRICANE FRANCES was on its way, barreling across theCaribbean, threatening a direct hit on Florida's Atlantic coast. Residents made for higher ground, but far away, in Bentonville, Ark., executives at Wal-Mart Stores decided that the situation offered a great opportunity for one of their newest data-driven weapons, something that thecompany calls predictive technology.

A week ahead of the storm's landfall, Linda M. Dillman,Wal-Mart's chief information officer, pressed her staff to come up with forecasts based on what had happened when Hurricane Charley struck several weeks earlier. Backed bythe trillions of bytes' worth of shopper history that is stored in Wal-Mart's computer network, she felt that the company could "start predicting what's going to happen, instead of waiting for it to happen," as she put it.

The experts mined the data and found that the stores wouldindeed need certain products - and not just the usual flashlights. "We didn't know in the past that strawberry Pop-Tarts increase in sales, like seven times their normal sales rate, ahead of a hurricane," Ms. Dillman said in a recent interview. "And the pre-hurricane top-selling item was beer.

"Thanks to those insights, trucks filled with toaster pastries and six-packs were soon speeding down Interstate 95 toward Wal-Marts in the path of Frances. Most of theproducts that were stocked for the storm sold quickly, the company said. Such knowledge, Wal-Mart has learned, is not only power. It is profit, too. Plenty of retailers collect data about their stores and their shoppers, and many use the information to try to improve sales. Target Stores, for example, introduced abranded Visa card in 2001 and has used it, along with anarsenal of gadgetry, to gather data ever since.

But Wal-Mart amasses more data about the products it sells andits shoppers' buying habits than anyone else, so much so that some privacy advocates worry about potential for abuse. With 3,600 stores in the United States and roughly 100 million customers walking through the doors each week,Wal-Mart has access to information about a broad slice ofAmerica - from individual Social Security and driver's license numbers to geographic proclivities for Mallomars, or lipsticks, or jugs of antifreeze.

The data are gathered item by item at the checkout aisle, then recorded, mappedand updated by store, by state, by region. By its own count, Wal-Mart has 460 terabytes of data stored on Teradata mainframes, made by NCR, at its Bentonville headquarters. To put that in perspective, the Internet hasless than half as much data, according to experts.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

the mobs

Flash mobs and smart mobs are the newest types of temporary technology on the business scene today. With organizations growing so quickly and building so readily, there must be some type of device to keep everyone connected. Mob stands for mobile, (thanks Brynn) and a good example of a smart mob would be text messaging. If a company wants to make money they must realize that time is of the essence and messages must be sent quickly and responded to even more quickly. Smart mobs constantly add new links in order to keep users updated. This helps them to respond more efficiently to each others needs.
As Danielle states, a flash mob on the other hand will communicate through the internet and then meet at a public setting for a brief period of time. Their goal is to meet in a public place, accomplish an unusual task for no particular reason quickly and then disperse. While I don't get the point, I do understand the purpose.
Smart mobs are a very important aspect of the business world. They become more efficient with our growing technology. i.e. Cellular phones and text messaging. The new SideKick phone is built for quick text and multimedia messaging for the purpose of keeping co-workers in tact constantly. Think of a wall street investor who needs to be in touch with the fluctuating market at every single minute of the work day, while at the same time staying in touch with clients and co-workers. A constant flow of information could give a company that extra boost to edge out the competition. The more we know faster the better off we are in the fasting moving corporate world of today.

Monday, November 08, 2004

communication problems

Communication has evolved immensely over the past decade. Among other devices, e-mail has become the premiere source of communication for big business. It has completely changed the way the world thinks and operates. Along with these changes in communication come both benefits and hinderances.

The first problem with e-mails is that they are not personal. It lacks interface. With increasing reliance on e-mail as communication (*especially among the youth) we are losing an important interpersonal dynamic that had once existed on an everyday basis. While e-mail may serve an important, time-saving, efficient purpose in the business world, I feel it is abused by many young people today. Talking through e-mail and instant messenger is no way to communicate among friends. Sure it serves its purpose, i.e. I'll meet you at the coffee place at 9; or what was the homework due Monday? However, it is not a feasable replacement for face to face interaction. Over the last ten years there has been an enormous decline in the quality of conversation and interaction among young people. The internet, cel-phones, e-mail, video games and the constant reliance on machinery for social interaction has cheapened our ability to function socially. Just look at this site for video games. Look at the amount of links and options designed to pull you into the world of video games. One could literally get lost in a site like this for hours, which I believe is unhealthy.

Okay, I'm not sure how relevant that all was, but, that stuff just pisses me off. Anyway, e-mail may have its set backs due to mass mailing lists, (just as the telephone was perfect before telemarketing) but these marketing hinderances are all part of the game. It is the nature of telephones and e-mails to expose us to the marketing methods of upcoming businesses, whose method of advertising is to get into our business by any means possible. Exposure is the only way to make money, therefore the easier it is for us to connect to one another, the easier it is for those who we don't want to connect with us to reach us as well.

Wikis and blogs are a very effective means of communication in the business world. Instead of sending out mass e-mails, which Meghan points out can be erased or overlooked by certain employees, there is just one cell. We don't duplicate the cells and send them out to everyone, we send everyone to the single cell. This way there is no excuse for someone to be thrown out of the loops. Our class is a good example of the benefits of weblogs.

One of the problems with these posting boards is security. If someone from a competing company wanted to obtain classified information off a wiki or weblog it would be fairly easy. Also, if someone were incline they may be able to doctore information and alter messages. This form of corporate sabotage could cost the company a lot of money.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Command & Control

The chapter discusses how a business operates from top to bottom. A vertical allignment of processes from different aspects of production to sales that make a business what it is. Many businesses today employ other companies to help with the manufacturing of their products. Rosalyn pointed out some downfalls to this reliance on other companies in other nations as a reason for big businesses to reconsider constantly counting on seperate organizations to produce their products.
Despite some of the important points she makes, also referencing Sarah's page; there are some very beneficial aspects to producing overseas. As this is a topic of high controversy at this time, I hope not to offend anyone that may know someone whom has lost a job to the overseas market. Labor in America is extremely expensive. Even though a particular company must purchase the raw materials which are used to produce their product, ship it in large mass overseas at expensive rates and spend money to finance plants, education and production; they are still apt to save much more money than creating the product in the U.S. Even if a company like Microsoft has some sort of large set back due to natural disasters, or civil disturbances within a less advanced and equipped country, they are still going to make more money despite those losses than if they were to produce the product in America. (Many people have problems with the ethics of this b/c of "exploitation" of labor; I keep in mind the fact that if these people were not working at these plants they would be jobless as well as the fact that $1 to us is a lot more to them.)
One dilema of early oversea expansion was problems with licensing. As companies would contract in other countries like China, they would do so assuming only the specific company they had contracted with would be producing the product. The problem was that the education about how to create the product would be passed on to "bootleggers" who would also create the product and smuggle it across customs to "fencers" who pass it on to bootleggers in the U.S. This results in revenue loss for the company on a larger level, as their product's name is compromised, and even less people purchase because they are able to get the same thing at a cheaper price.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

SNA's

The Social Network Analysis determines whom connects to what in a network. It is a diagram which efficiently illustrates the different connections of interface as well as the connection strength with in the network. While one may look at the hierchy chain of an organization and be lead to believe that communication flows directly downward; the "kite network" shows the different sub-chains and dimensions of communication within a network more appropriately. We call the different connections in a netork, nodes.
Lyvene gives a good quote that helped me to better understand SNA. She states that the messages "flow through a vast web of informal channels." The entire system is made more complicated by the idea of authority. That is, certain nodes in a system are contacted more frequently and therefore are deemed as more important to the organization. The more any node communicates with a node with high authority, the higher its authority becomes.
When reading some of your posts about the relationships within the network I thought of another one which exemplifies why it is not only important to know what the link is, but the quality and strength of that link. If you look at an airline map you can see the node (airport) that you are at plus all the other nodes (airports) that it flies too. However, you would not be able to see how many flights a day or week that your particular airport flies to the other areas on the map (you would not see the strength of the connection between the nodes).
Stephanie C. made a good correlation with our principle and the Kevin Bacon game, which connects the worldly actor with anyone else in the movie industry within six links. I thought of the human body. The heart and other major organs are high authority nodes. Blood, oxygen, etc all must flow through these organs for a person to stay alive, they must be constantly connected. On the other hand, if something like the foot were to become infected and put the rest of the system in jeopardy, you would just cut it off.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

meanings in networks

I looked at a few different posts before even beginning to write about this assignment, as I had a little trouble interpreting the textbook. Elizabeth M's post really helped to clear everything up for me. The fact is that meanings are in people, however the context which applies that meaning lies within the network.
While the words are the common bond, they can mean very different things in different situations. I enjoyed Stef T's blog too because it made me think of some interesting things. A network doesn't even have to be some sort of secret code. If two or three people are having a conversation and another person walks into the room, not knowing what the other three are talking about, they are not in the network of that particular conversation. How many times have you been having a conversation when one of your dumbass friends walks into the room and asks a question that really has nothing to do with what your talking about; either because they misinterpreted something you said (which they didn't understand because they were out of their element), or they just felt like being an asshole. Moreso, by doing this they have destroyed the network which existed between the two people who were conversing, and created another one. Even looking at my old college's website vs. Marymount's, I saw differences in the type of language and slang used, as well as formatting differences.
If anyone watched the Yankees, Red Sox ALCS match up, the fans applied a new meaning to the term "who's your daddy" while chanting it at Pedro Martinez every chance they got. Then, today, while the New York Jets were playing the New England Patriots in a big football game out in Boston, the Boston fans reversed the taunt and chanted it back at the Jets as their team eventually took the game. What was once a simple slang expression created in the hiphop world, has now become the common taunt between two warring cities (as far as sports are concerned).
One last thing, have we been holding classes? I think i'm missing something here.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Sassure & Jakobson

Ferdinand de Sassure introduced the most central concept to help complete Shannon and Weaver's communication model; the idea of signs and symbols. The way that the Shannon & Weaver model was originally designed, it lacked an explanation of its function in everyday life. Also a pioneer in the field of linguistics (better explained at the following site) Sassure helped to define some of the most major aspects and factors in the method humans communicate. He explained that linguistics or speech as the most advanced grouping of signs in humans (as better explained on Lyneve's page about linguistics).
I feel this is what seperates us from the animals. The development of speech and language is the foundation for any advancement that our race has ever come about from a social structure standpoint. Our ability to communicate verbally has greatly reduced any confusion brought forth by misinterpretations of body language and facial expressions. This explains the difference between the actual source and the receivers' interpretation of the source.
Bringing back the idea of redundancy; by repeating ourselves we further reduce the chances of being misinterpreted. Of course there are certain instances where cultural differences will always lead to miscommunication and mixed messages, however language has made communication much more efficient.
Mixed messages can be better explained by Sassure's concept of signifier. As stated on Michelle's blog, the signified is what you actually say (the words), the signifier is what you mean (we now use the words denotation and connotation). If you'd like a better idea of how we think of connotation and denotation with regards to literature and linguistics take a look at this brief explanation. Feedback is another important aspect of communication. It can be as simple as a head nod, or eye contact, but it symbolizes that the communication has taken place; the message was received.