Monthly Archives: October 2008

The Risks with OpenID

A few months ago, PuneTech carried an article by Hemant Kulkarni of Pune-based giving an overview of OpenID, an up and coming technology that addresses a real pain point of anybody who has used the web – it removes the need to remember different passwords for different sites. This is called single-sign on or SSO in security parlance. More importantly, it achieves this with high security, without having to pass passwords all over the place. Actually, OpenID is much more than than this – read the whole article for more details.

Now, Rohit Srivastwa, founder of ClubHack (a group of volunteers dedicated to increasing awareness of security issues in Pune and elsewhere), has created a presentation on the risks associated with OpenID (for more information about Rohit, see his PuneTech wiki profile):

Risks With OpenID

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: clubhack openid)

Basically, he points out that a bunch of standard, well-known security attacks (we’ve listed some of them at the end of this article) that have been developed by hackers will also work against your OpenID provider (if you don’t know what provider means in this context, you really should skim that overview article), and that results in the criminals being able to access all your online accounts with the convenience and security of single-sign-on provided by OpenID. Not the effect you were trying for, eh?

So what is to be done? This doesn’t mean that OpenID is bad. In fact, it is great and will make online life much easier. All you need to do is be aware of the risks, and be more careful. Specifically, don’t use OpenID or single-sign-on for banks or credit card account access until we tell you otherwise. Always use https. When in doubt, be paranoid – just because you aren’t paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t all out to get you. And don’t take any biscuits from strangers (you’ll be surprised how many people do that on Pune-Nashik buses). And get free education on security issues from the activities of ClubHack.

Some background about security attacks

These days, one of the most important (and easiest to fall for) security risks is the possibility of getting phished. A phishing attack is one in which criminals create a website that looks just like some other website (e.g. your bank’s website) and then tricks you into divulging important information (like account number, password etc.) to them.

There are a bunch of other scary attacks possible – man-in-the-middle attack, replay attack, cross-site request forgery, and cross-site scripting attack.

A man-in-the-middle attack is when an evil website sits between you and your bank website. It pulls all information from the bank website and shows it to you – so it looks like the real thing. And it takes inputs (account number, PIN codes etc.) from you and passes them on to the bank site so that it is able to access your account and show you authentic information from your account. However, along the way, it has managed to get access to your account without your knowledge.

A cross-site request forgery is an attack where malicious code to access your bank account is embedded (and hidden) in the webpage at another website – maybe some chat forum that you visit. Here’s an example from the wikipedia:

For example, one user, Bob, might be browsing a chat forum where another user, Mallory, has posted a message. Suppose that Mallory has crafted an HTML image element that references a script on Bob’s bank’s website (rather than an image file), e.g.,

If Bob’s bank keeps his authentication information in a cookie, and if the cookie hasn’t expired, then the attempt by Bob’s browser to load the image will submit the withdrawal form with his cookie, thus authorizing a transaction without Bob’s approval.

A cross-site scripting (XSS) attack, is a vulnerability in which a hacker can inject malicious scripts (i.e. a little program that sits inside your webpage) into otherwise genuine webpages, and hence it is able to do something terrible either to your local computer, or your account.

Note: these exploits are not specific to OpenID. These are well-known attacks that are used all over the web in all kinds of situations. Wikipedia claims that 68% of all websites are vulnerable to XSS attacks. If you are now afraid of using your computer, shouldn’t even read this article that gives an idea of how the underground hacker economy works. But do contact ClubHack to get yourself educated on basic security hygiene. To paraphrase QuickHeal‘s marketing message, aap ke PC meiN kauN rehta hai? Hacker ya ClubHack? (Incidentally, QuickHeal happens to be a Pune-based company, which is giving multi-nationals like Symantec a run for their money (incidentally, Symantec happens to have its largest R&D center in Pune (incidentally, did you notice that Pune is a very happening place technologically? (incidentally, I think you should let everybody know about how happening a place Pune is (technologically speaking) by asking them to subscribe to PuneTech)))).

Neilsoft acquires another overseas company

Pune-based CAD/CAM/CAE/PLM services and software company Neilsoft is spreading its wings. Last year, it acquired a majority stake in Triplan-AG Technology services, based out of Germany. Now it has acquired (press release 1, press release 2)US-based CADFORCE, which provides outsourced AEC (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction) services. In other words, I believe it is a group of architects, interior designers, draftsmen for hire. Or more formally:

Today, CADFORCE, headquartered in Marina del Rey, California, has more than 400 clients located in 36 states, including many of the world’s foremost architectural firms, homebuilders, engineering and construction firms. Regional offices and production facilities are strategically located in 10 cities across the globe, and our workforce and now numbers more than 200 architects, drafting supervisors, draftsmen and technologists. [They have] completed more than 1500 projects ranging from single family homes to high-rise office buildings and complexes, multibillion dollar mixed-use developments and major university, municipal and hospitality projects.

Neilsoft gains a strong presence in the US, and people who understand the market well, and also gets access to a large number of customers for its software and other technology services in the same market segment. CADFORCE gains the backing of a now international company, and probably a needed infusion of money, for extra stability in these troubling financial times.

Interestingly, Neilsoft’s acquisitions are happening in spite of the fact that Neilsoft is not a publicly traded company. Founded in 1993 by Ketan Bakshi, it received one round of funding, worth $1.5 million in 2000, and another round of $7 million in 2007.

Like any services company worth its salt, Neilsoft also claims to have a products business. Specifically, it sells:

  • DiEdifice — a 3D design application used for pressure die casting die design, by tool rooms, die casting design centers and die-casters. It analyzes casting geometry and designs a Gating System (gates, gate-runners, runners, overflows and vents) based on user inputs and its own design decisions.
  • FlowSim — a simulation tool to help the die designer validate die-cavity filling through the designed gating system design.
  • e-PDLM (Engineering-Product Defect Lifecycle Management)— Neilsoft’s enterprise-wide web-based collaborative software solution to systematically identify, record, review, track, resolve and analyze defects / issues arising in a project.
  • Cabin Design Application — an intelligent 3D modeling software for designing accommodation areas for different kinds of ships. This helps achieve reduction in accommodation area design time.
  • Outfit Steel Module — a modeling tool for creating auxiliary steel structures. It reduces outfitting steel design time by automating the design process for creating ladders, staircase, walkways, masts and equipment foundations.

In general, Pune has a very strong presence in the CAD (Computer Aided Design), CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing), CAE (Computer Aided Engineering) and PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) spaces. In addition to services (which pretty much all the major services providers, from Geometric to Persistent) provide in these spaces, Pune also has development centers for all the major software providers in this space, like AutoDesk (makers of AutoCAD) and Catia. If you, or someone you know, understands this space (or wants to understand this space) and would like to cover the news, technology, people, events, companies and organizations in this space for PuneTech as an editor, please get in touch with us.

Growing a Community Powered Website

(In this article, Manas Garg, a regular contributor to PuneTech, explores the various factors involved in the growth of a community powered wesbite. These ideas are relevant to any website/company that expects to get a lot of its content from the actions of its users – and there are a number of such sites from SadakMap, and JustMeans to the Pune OpenCoffee Club, and of course, PuneTech itself. Even otherwise, these are important issues that any technologist living in a web-2.0 world must understand.)

Community Powered Websites (CPWs) are a rage today. And there are good reasons for that. First, you only build a website and the content (which is the primary value to these sites) comes from people. These people don’t charge you anything, in fact, you can make some money by running ads to these very people.

Secondly, the people who bring in the content also become the users of the website. Which means, people bring the content, people consume the content, and you just provide a framework for doing that using a website. Great!

Two primary factors contributing to the success of a Community Powered Website (CPW) are its tendency to grow and its immunity to abuse. This is, of course, in addition to the functional value that this website has.

Growth for a CPW means, more data, more contributors and more users. Simple. And immunity to abuse means when bad people come to your site to do bad things, your site can shrug off these attacks and get on with life. For Wikipedia, a bad thing is someone putting spam on a page. For twitter, a bad thing is someone hacking the system and making thousands of people follow him/her.

In this article, I have put down some of my thoughts on how we can make a CPW “tending to grow”. I do not claim expertise in this area. Nor do I claim to be exhaustive. I am just trying to make sense out of the way web is evolving today and community power is a very interesting phenomenon in that.

So, let’s start…

For any CPW, we anyway have to do things which people find valuable/useful and for which they would want to use the website in the first place. For instance, facebook, delicious, twitter, wikipedia have some fundamental value for which people would like to use them. On top of that functional value, there is a social design which makes them “tending to grow”.

A simple example is Blogger. It has some functional value (i.e. a blogging platform) for which people use it. But as long as the game is purely functionality based, people will choose Blogger only if its functionality is the best. Tomorrow, if a new blogging platform with better functionality comes along, new blogs may use that platform. That’s the reason blogger team is adding some social touch so that more and more people “choose” blogger if their contacts are already on blogger.

So, this is the “tendency to grow”. It is outside the purview of functionality. And it’s becoming more and more important because it’s becoming very easy for anyone to match a given set of functionality.

Now, let’s look at the contributors to this “tendency to grow”…

The Network Effect

In short, network effect is when a service becomes more and more valuable when more and more people use it which thereby increases its adoption and hence the value. This creates a self sustaining loop. The loop doesn’t go infinite as eventually there is a max limit to the final value. But it can certainly take us very far.

The general purpose social networking sites are the best examples of network effect. More the users we have, more the chances of getting more users. That’s why they have grown phenomenally in a short time span. Delicious doesn’t trigger the network effect even though it is social. There is no reason for me to join delicious even if all my friends are using it. On the other hand, I would naturally join LinkedIn because all my “connections” are using LinkedIn. Blogger, by being more social, is trying to bring in the network effect.

How to bring in the network effect is a subject worth another complete article or may be a book. Suffice it to say that a network effect has to be designed for in any CPW. Once we have modeled our website, we can test that model (mentally of course) for what kind of network effect this model can produce. If we are building a CPW but don’t design it for network effect, we are limiting the mileage we can get out of it.

Ease of contribution

It’s difficult to have a general purpose definition of what contribution is as it depends on the website. For flickr, photographs are contributions, for facebook, pretty much everything a user does on the site is a contribution. Even visiting someone’s profile on facebook is a contribution to facebook as the very fact that you visited that profile is shown on that profile.

On every Wikipedia page, you’ll see a clear “Edit” link to edit that page. For every section within the page, the edit link for that section is well placed. It almost “invites” you to edit. When the very design of a website has a look that invites you for contributions, it’s got the tendency to growth 🙂

For receiving contributions, there are two possibilities –

  1. Unintentional contribution. We contribute bookmarks to delicious for our own purpose. We contribute photographs to flickr for our own purpose. While we are doing our own things, unintentional contributions are being made to the system. When we share something with our friends on facebook, the system is getting richer automatically even though the users are not working towards making the system richer 🙂
  2. Intentional contribution. Wikipedia is a place where people specifically contribute with the intention of making the system richer. It’s not like sharing something with friends or saving something for future reference. There is an explicitness here.

Needless to say, it’s easier to get people on board when their contribution is unintentional i.e. they are doing their own thing and the system just gets richer. This lends a greater tendency to grow to the CPW.

I am sure there would be several other aspects of making a CPW tending to grow which escaped my limited knowledge and the retarded mind. Will some people with experience in this area throw a little bit of light here?

About the Author – Manas Garg

About the author: Manas is interested in a variety of things like psychology, philosophy, sociology, photography, movie making etc. But since there are only 24 hours in a day and most of it goes in sleeping and earning a living, he amuses himself by writing software, reading a bit and sharing his thoughts.
About the author: Manas is interested in a variety of things like psychology, philosophy, sociology, photography, movie making etc. But since there are only 24 hours in a day and most of it goes in sleeping and earning a living, he amuses himself by writing software, reading a bit and sharing his thoughts.
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Shop online this Diwali at Laxmi Road shops using

Laxmi Road Pune
Laxmi Road Pune

Here’s a Diwali themed post for you as PuneTech takes off for a few days.

Legendary Marathi author Pu.La. Deshpande once said (and I am paraphrasing here) that there is no need to travel the world, because you can buy anything that you would really want at Pune’s Laxmi Road. Unfortunately however, thanks to the globalization of Pune traffic, even a trip to Laxmi Road is a major journey these days, something that most people would want to avoid.

That is where comes in. It’s an online shopping portal that allows you to shop at your favorite Laxmi Road shops (including sweets from Chitale Bandhu and Karachi Sweets, and Marathi (and other) books at Varma Book Store) from the comfort of your browser, and get delivery at home within 24 hours. Currently this service is available in Pune only – sorry, PuneTech readers in California, and 86 other countries including (and I am not making this up) Croatia.

Indian Express clarifies the motivation for someone to use

Instead of fuelling the engine of her car to sail through the sea of extremely congested moving -to-office traffic on a Monday to satiate her kids sweet tooth needs, Pradnya Jawadekar simply switched on her CPU to log on to and shopped online for Bakarwadi and Moti chur ke laddu to her heart’s content. For Jawadekar who stays in Aundh finding about the very city centric online portal was pure bliss. “The idea of hunting for a parking place in the shopping pockets of the city makes me shudder and Laxmi road tops the chart of the busiest shopping hubs in the city. The thought of honking repeatedly in that traffic and slipping like a snail in itself is very de – motivating for a shopping spree. So many a times with a heavy heart we have compromised with the kind of stuff we get in Aundh and its surroundings, only occasionally mustering up enough courage to fight the traffic to go to Laxmi Road or Camp,” shares Jawadekar who now simply buys online thanks to the 43-day old portal.

There are gift vouchers, and Diwali specials. PuneTech advisor Amit Paranjape even managed to put in a request for a book that was not listed in the online catalog and got it delivered the next day.

Type in 15 languages using Lipikaar – winner of Manthan award

Pune-based startup Lipikaar, creator of software that allows typing of 15+ Indian languages using a standard English keyboard, and which was one of the companies selected for in this July’s, is once again in the news – for winning the Manthan award.

The Manthan Award is a first of its kind initiative to recognize the best practices in e-Content. It was launched on 2004, by Digital Empowerment Foundation in partnership with World Summit Award and American India Foundation. The Manthan Award South Asia 2008 had received 284 nominations from 8 countries across 13 categories. Participating countries were India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. The award cites Lipikaar for its coverage (15+ languages), its ease of use, and it applicability to the masses.

Here is a profile of Lipikaar from the PuneTech wiki:

Lipikaar sells software tools that allow a simple method for typing in Hindi (and 15 other Indic languages) on an ordinary keyboard. It requires no learning, and within a few seconds you will be able to type in Hindi any word that you can imagine.

Lipikaar aims to be different from all other transliteration competitors due to its use of patented technology which allows anybody to enter text without requiring any knowledge of English, which is a requirement for most other method

[edit] Features

[edit] Desktop Software

The Lipikaar technology is available as downloadable desktop software for Windows. It works as a keyboard overlay, which means that once installed, it allows you to input Indic language text into any application – Microsoft Office (i.e. Word, Excel), all websites, chat and e-mail.

[edit] Firefox Addon

Lipikaar is also available as a Firefox add-on that allows the user to enter Indic text to create emails, blogs, scraps, comments, chats and search in your favourite language on any website. Unlike the desktop software, this add-on is free.

[edit] Web publisher services

Webmasters wishing to allow local language text input on their website can avail of Lipikaar’s services, and they will work with the webmasters to integrate their technology in the website.

[edit] Languages Supported

Lipikaar supports 15 languages – Arabic, Hindi, Marathi, Sanskrit, Nepali, Konkani, Sindhi, Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Urdu.

[edit] Links

[edit] Awards

[edit] Articles

[edit] People

Code Camp – A hackfest organized by PLUG

What: A two-day hackathon, with (possibly) a focus on developing open-source and/or linux software
When: From 22 November 9am to 23 November 10am (overnight!)
Venue: Bhaskaracharya Prathishthan
Registration and Fees: This event is free and open to all. No registration required


Code Camp is a 24-hour hackfest organized by the Pune Linux Users Group (PLUG). The idea is for a bunch of developers to get together and develop code, talk about code, answer each others’ coding questions on specific coding projects.

Code Camp is a new type of community event where developers learn from fellow developers. All are welcome to attend and speak. Code Camps have been wildly successful, and this one is  going to bring that success to Pune.

The Code Camp Manifesto consists of six points:

  • by and for the developer community
  • always free
  • community developed material
  • no fluff – only code
  • community ownership
  • never occur during working hours
Here are more details about Code Camp Pune in the words of one of the organizers:
Over the past 2 weeks a few of us have been working in the background to get things moving for the code camp. Initially we had decided to restrict the number of problem statements to 2. However we felt that by doing so we might end up keeping away quite a few potential participants. Hence we have decided to allow any number of problem statements to be tackled, as long as it is a serious effort.

There also seems to be a misconception that this is some sort of an ‘event’ that is being ‘managed’ by ‘PLUG’. Quite like the misconception the the ‘Government’ is responsible for running the ‘country’. This is not going to be an event where a few people will swoop down from different places and give you some gyan. This is an event where you, in your individual capacity, have to make things happen. This event is for you to get together with a few like-minded and come up with something constructive. The ‘organisers’ will just provide a few facilities and try their best to keep things from getting in the way of your main task. Things like creating a wiki to enable you to discuss. The wiki is at You can follow the ‘Code camp’ link and see whether you find anything interesting. If you don’t find anything interesting, but have something interesting to propose to others, and have the drive to take it to the end, then you can add it to the wiki.

So, here are a few facts:

  • The Venue is confirmed: Bhaskaracharya Prathishthan
  • Dates: 22nd November 0900 hrs to 23rd November 1000 hrs.
  • Provision for overnight stay for at least 12 people has been confirmed (if you wish to hack away through the night)

Also, its improbable that you think of something a couple of days prior to the event and successfully finish it on the day. Generally a lot of groundwork is needed to even freeze on a good problem definition. I would suggest that anyone who is interested should start now. Start discussing on the wiki, start exploring, and start coding now. The idea is that on 23rd November we have something substantial, usable and useful to show. i wonder whether the ‘community’ is capable of doing that.

TRDDC to invite international experts for seminar on Decentralized and Cooperative Computing

What: Weeklong seminar on Decentralized and Co-operative Computing, with instruction from international experts
When: Jan 5 to 9, 2009 (but last date to apply is Nov 7, 2008)
Where: TRDDC, Pune
Fees and Registration: It is free, but there is a selection procedure.


TRDDC (Tata Research Development and Design Center), the research wing of TCS is organizing a week-long seminar in Decentralized and Co-operative Computing, with experts from all over the world descending upon Pune in the second week of January, to bring the highest quality education in Computer Science to the most gifted young computer scientists here. The “TCS Excellence in Computer Science (TECS)” Week is an yearly workshop conducted jointly by the International Institute for Software Technology (IIST), United Nations University and Indian Association for Research in Computing Science (IARCS).

Decentralized and Cooperative Computing is the topic for this year’s TECS Week. This course will cover a broad spread of issues, including design of decentralized, cooperative systems that can operate correctly even when individual nodes deviate from their specifications because of failures, errors in software configuration, malicious attacks, or even selfish behavior resulting from nodes attempting to maximize their own utility; design and analysis of peer-to-peer and social networks; as well as challenges in designing protocols for the Internet – a very large decentralized and cooperative computing platform.


Please note, if you wish to attend this seminar, you need to apply, and only selected applicants will be invited. Selection is competitive as the number that can be accommodated is limited. The aim is to ensure that those who will benefit most from participation in TECS Week 2008 are selected. Applicants who wish to participate in TECS Week 2009 need to apply at TECS Week 2009 before  7 November 2008.

If you don’t get selected, you can always check out the PuneTech Calendar for other interesting tech events you can attend in Pune.

Contact Information

For further information, contact Rekha Tulsani at TRDDC (+91 20 6608 6265 / 6608 6333; tecs at tcs dot com).

Liveblogging POCC’s Startup Speed Date – Meet Pune’s startups

I’m liveblogging the Pune OpenCoffee Club‘s “Startup Speed Date” meetup. This is a meeting to get to know a bunch of Pune startups in a short amount of time. Here is a list of the startups here, with a short introduction.

Pringoo – personalized products. Go to their website, create your own T-shirt, using your own images or text. Or a mug, or mousepad, or keychain. Print it and have it delivered to your home. You can order even a single T-shirt, at reasonable rates.

Sokrati – a product for search engine marketing and optimization. Targeted towards SMBs. $1million revenues so far this year. Moved to Pune from Seattle last month.

Kaboodle – Social network for shopping. Each person can upload information about things they’ve bought, or want to buy. Can check the same info for friends and others. If you can’t decide what to buy, you can create a poll that your friends vote in. You can create a style statement by putting together an interesting assortment of products that would go well together. Clientele is mostly young women. One of the top sites in the US.

VirtuaResearch – SaaS for equity research. A web-based platform for getting equity research. The provide the website, they also provide the actual equity analysis. In addition, they allow free-lancers to add their own research, which others can use. Sort of a social network for equity analysis.

Lipikaar – Be able to input text in 17 Indian languages, anywhere – website, desktop software. Blog, gmail, etc. Unique, patented, key entry method, different from all other competitors, especially easy-to-use for people who do not know any English. – in-text, customized, content and ad-delivery platform. Widgets to insert in your blog which can automatically add content from various websites (e.g. wikipedia) or third-party ad network. a service for managing events, invites. a service for creating webpages for college festivals.

Chroma Systems – Image analysis software as well as hardware.

Alabot – Wants your computer / mobile phone to understand you when you talk to it. Natural language processing. For example, be able to send an sms for buying some train tickets without having to learn any specific command formats.

Markonix – Help startups with marketing their products in the US and elsewhere.

IndicTrans – A non-commercial group aim at building ‘social capital’ through making the communication and networking feasible and affordable among the people knowing indian languages. This we believe is a primary requirement for a democratic regeneration of our society as also a condition for harmonious globalisation. – Provides you with an ability to shop online at Laxmi Road shops (for example Chitale!) and get delivery within 24 hours.

startupforstartups – Helping a wannabe entrepreneur build the first prototype of their startup without having to spend a lot, or build a team, or even quit your current job. See PuneTech interview with the founder.

Wissen Technologies Hukum Mere Aka is a learning program sitting in a instant messenger window that can talk to you and understand your commands, and get you data from its database based on your queries.

Seminar on Xen Virtual Machine – 20th Oct

What: Seminar on Xen Virtual Machine architecture and server virtualization
When: Monday, October 20, 2008 from 5:00pm – 7:00pm
Where: Auditorium, Building “C”, Pune IT Park, Bhau Patil Road, Aundh
Fees and Registration: This event is free for all. Register here

KQInfotech presents a seminar on the Xen Virtual Machines. We would present various server virtualization technologies in general. Xen virtual machine architecture will be presented in more detail. That would be followed by comparison of various virtual machine architectures.

This event is free for all.

You would need to register at to attend this seminar. Select Xen Virtual machine course from this page, it will take you a login page. Please select a login id for yourself and login. Please fill in the details.

Or you could just RSVP to alka at kqinfotech dot com

As usual, check the PuneTech Calendar for all happening tech events happening in Pune (which, incidentally, is a very happening place). Also, don’t forget to tell your friends about PuneTech, the … ahem … techies’ hub for bonding (as reported by the Pune Mirror yesterday).

Liveblogging CSI Pune Lecture: Applications of Business Intelligence

I am liveblogging CSI Pune‘s lecture on Applications of Business Intelligence by Narender C.V. of SAS R&D India. These are quick and dirty notes of the lecture – not intended to be a well organized article, but hopefully it gives you enough of a flavor for the area to get you interested and excited enough to check it out on google and wikipedia.

The amount of data is doubling every 11 months. And we have easier and easier access to all this data from all over the world. The problem is making sense of all this data. The amount of time at our disposal remains the same. So we have to use sophisticated software and algorithms to figure out how to use this data to improve business and efficiency. That is Business Intelligence (BI).

This talk is the second in a series of talks on BI. PuneTech covered the first talk which gave an overview of BI and data warehousing. This lecture focuses on who uses BI and why. A major portion of this talk will be a bunch of examples of use of BI in real companies. So on to the examples:

Example 1: Getting a better grip on Reality (i.e. Seeing problems earlier)

First case study will focus on using BI to simply get a good picture of the situation as it exists. Seeing Reality. Last year, US based companies paid $28 billion in servicing warranties or recalls. This is money you don’t really want to spend. Biggest problem in this is identifying these problems as early as possible. Seeing reality early. Typically, an issue first appears. A little while later, the issue becomes visible to the company, and it is prioritized. Later it is “defined” and decisions taken by the decision makers. Finally the issue is resolved, and money paid out. A study by SAS shows that the “detect” part of this cycle takes about 90 days, the prioritize part takes 20 days, and the define part takes 75 days. That’s a total of 185 days to fix the problem.

A business intelligence system helps to reduce each phase of that sequence because of better data gathering and statistical analysis. This results in 27 days detection, 5 days, prioritization and 46 days to prioritize, for a total of 78 days. This is a huge improvement, and each day saved results in money saved.

How is this done? First simple reports: defects per thousand, per product. Dashboard with easy to see defect reports. Then a library of reports that various people in the company can use easily to see and analyze defects and warranty claims. Then a statistical analysis engine to detect “emerging issues”. Use algorithms that can detect, from early trends, issues that are likely to become “big” later on. Text mining and analysis to read unstructured reports of service technicians and being able to determine, simply by looking at the keywords, which product or part or defect was the cause of that particular incident. And there are other analytics, like forecasting and trend analysis that are used. Bottomline? Shanghai GM was able to reduce detection and definition time by 70%, resulting in reduction of costs by 34%. Which is pretty cool for simply running a bunch of mathematical algorithms.

Example 2: Manage and Align Resources to Strategy

Everybody agrees that it is important for a company to have a strategy. And that everyone should understand and execute according to that strategy. Obvious?

This is a reality based on a survey: Only 5% of the workforce of a large company understand the company strategy. Only 25% of the managers were incentivized based on the strategy. 60% of organizations do not link budgets to the strategy. 86% of executive teams spend less than one hour per month discussing strategy.

How can BI help in this case?

It is possible to define objectives for each person/team in the company. Then it is possible to define how this objective can/should be measured. Then BI software can be used to capture and analyze this data, and figure out how everybody is contributing to the end objectives of the business.

Example 3: Retail Optimization

The problem to be solved. Need to stock the exact quantity that people are going to buy. Stock too much and you lose money on unsold items. Order too little and you get out-of-stock situations and lose potential profits. Need to be able to forecast demand. Optimize which sizes/assortments to stock. All of you must have an experience of going to a shop, liking an item, and not having that available in your size. Sale lost. Profit lost. Can this loss be reduced?

Use BI for this. In case study, a department store sent the same mix of different sizes to all stores. SAS did clustering of stores, to create 7 different sub-groups that have different size mixes for each sub-group of stores.

Example 4: Personalized, real-time marketing

Take the example of marketing. Consider a traditional marketing mail sent from a company. Customers hate that and the success rate is a pathetic 3% or so. That’s just stupid, but exists when there is no alternative. Better is event based marketing. When you do something, it triggers a marketing push from the company. This is often convenient for the customer, and has a 20% success rate. But the best is customer initiated interaction which has a 40% success rate.

Note that as you go down that list, it gets more difficult to quickly, in real time, determine what marketing message exactly to push to the customer. If you call a pizza delivery place and they point out that that they have a buy-one-get-one-free offer, it might or might not be interesting for you. Better would be an offer focused specifically on your needs. Use BI to analyze individual customers and forecast their needs and then tailor the offer for you. An offer you cannot refuse.

Another example. Customer puts digital camera in online shopping cart. The online shopping software contacts the BI system for offers to push to customer. It looks at customer history. Figures out that customer is non-tech savvy customer who buys high-end products. Also, customer’s demographic information is consulted, and finally some accessories are suggested. Since this is very specific recommendation, this can result in a high chance of being accepted. This significantly increases profit on this transaction.

Example 5: Understanding Customers

Mobile company, simplistic view: Customer is leaving. Offer them a lower value plan. The might or might not leave. BI gives you better tools. Cost is not the only thing to play with. Understand why people are leaving, and also understand the effect of them leaving on your business. (Sometimes it might be best to let them leave.) And based on this, determine the best course of action – what / how much to offer them.

First, use predictive analysis to get an estimate of how much profit you are going to make from a customer over the course of next N years based on the data you have gathered about them so far. Use this figure, the “customer value”, to drive decisions on how much effort to expend on trying to get this customer to stay. Forget the low value customers, and focus on the high value ones!

Another possibility. If you have marketing money to spend on giving offers to some customers. Let us say there are 3 different kinds of offers. Use BI analysis to figure out which offers to send to which customers, based on customer value, and also chances of customer accepting that offer. This optimizes the use of the “offer” dollars.

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