See things clearly

Lately, we have been thinking about.... (135)

Holding the CxO to account

Over at the FSClub Blog, Chris Skinner summarises a discussion he had with a senior manager in finance about bank operations.  He writes,

“...most firms struggle with enterprise management.

It is down to the very nature of fragmented structures, legacy systems, merged and acquired operations, that make the enterprise view hard.

Hard but achievable, so why is it not…


Added by Paul Wallis on September 14, 2012 at 9:24 — No Comments

Blood flow, data flow, and OBASHI

One of the analogies I sometimes use to describe how understanding data flow is becoming ever more important in business, is that of the doctor understanding blood flow through the human body.

Medical professionals have a clear understanding of the vascular system, which carries blood, and how it interacts with other physiological systems, and the various parts of the body.

When a vascular disease occurs, most often, blood flow in the sufferer’s body is…


Added by Fergus Cloughley on August 30, 2012 at 5:00 — No Comments

NASA, finance, and the engineering approach

There is an interesting juxtaposition between the brilliant success of NASA landing the Curiosity Rover on Mars last week, and the recent ‘software glitch’ at Knight Capital, which nearly wrecked the company.


NASA projects like Curiosity are highly complex and highly dangerous, yet, when we consider what they entail, failures are rare – why?


A key explanation is that good engineering practice is at the heart of space exploration projects.




Added by Fergus Cloughley on August 17, 2012 at 2:57 — No Comments

A few more data flow disasters

“Data flow disaster” is the term we use here at OBASHI for an event where a flow of data is interrupted or compromised, so that there is a negative business impact on those who use, or interact with, that flow of data.


During what has been an extraordinary few weeks for major IT problems, there have been numerous such events, around the world and across many business sectors.


Here are a few examples, in no particular order:

  • Payments…

Added by Fergus Cloughley on August 2, 2012 at 7:30 — No Comments

Standards and data flows

Three assertions that I hold to be true:

  1. The understanding of the flow of data is fundamental to an organization’s financial well-being. [more]
  2. Business resources, including people and IT assets, are either providers of data, consumers of data, or they provide the conduit through which the data can flow. […

Added by Paul Wallis on July 18, 2012 at 4:00 — No Comments

What explains the IT problems in banks?

The citizens of both California and Japan live in the shadow of ‘The Big One’ – earthquakes of catastrophic and devastating power that will inevitably occur, one day.


Before these events, numerous ‘foreshocks’ will take place, smaller earthquakes, associated in time and space with the ‘mainshock’.


Unless things change, the finance sector will one day suffer its own ‘Big One’ – a combination of events that will cause…


Added by Paul Wallis on July 4, 2012 at 4:18 — No Comments

Technology risk and governance

“Technology Risk Management Guidelines”, is a research paper published by The Monetary Authority of Singapore.


The objective of the guidelines is, “to promote the adoption of sound processes in managing technology risks and the implementation of security practices”, in regulated financial institutions.


Although the…


Added by Fergus Cloughley on June 29, 2012 at 3:53 — No Comments

Is the financial system becoming too complex to depict?

As I walked away from the bank HQ 6 years ago, Han Solo’s famous Star Wars quote came to mind,

“I got a bad feeling about this”

During the meeting I’d just attended, a manager from the bank had explained how some transactions with other financial institutions occurred.  The transactions were very valuable, worth millions of pounds, and happened regularly.  To paraphrase,

“...basically, traders transact deals, each using their own…


Added by Paul Wallis on June 14, 2012 at 5:04 — No Comments

The simple big picture helps communication

“So how does that bridge work?”


A few years ago, one summer evening I was with my son and daughter, wandering the shore of the River Forth, the majestic road and rail bridges towering over us.


“Which one?”


“The curvy one” “The road bridge, that's a suspension…


Added by Fergus Cloughley on May 30, 2012 at 5:17 — No Comments

Data is lifeblood

In Chapter 3 of the OBASHI Methodology, we describe how understanding various flows has been critical throughout economic history:

1770s - mechanisation, factories, and canals – water 

1830s - steam engines, coal, and iron railways – steam 

1870s - steel and heavy engineering,…


Added by Fergus Cloughley on May 18, 2012 at 4:39 — No Comments

Seeing the next flash crash coming

Last week, in “Systems Thinking, Safety and Risk Management”, IBM Fellow Irving Wladawsky-Berger discussed a round table breakfast about, ‘Protecting Financial Markets in the Age of the Cloud

“...Several participants cited the sharp rise in volume and speed of high-frequency trading over the past decade as an example of a current practice that is…


Added by Paul Wallis on May 10, 2012 at 14:06 — No Comments

Finance and transparency

Strike!...Everybody Out!


It’s hard to imagine a group of people less likely to go on strike than the floor traders at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.  But, a few weeks ago, brokers in the Eurodollar options pit did just that.


They were protesting because they were unable to participate in the pricing of ‘block trades’ in Eurodollar futures, believing the system is ‘…


Added by Paul Wallis on May 3, 2012 at 12:30 — No Comments

Why do IT projects fail?

In his blog “Who’s accountable for IT failure?”, Mike Krigsman argues that there are three reasons that IT projects fail.


  • Unrealistic and mismatched expectations – too many execs have misconceived ideas about what technology can actually do to solve business problems.


  • Conflicts of interest among customers,…

Added by Fergus Cloughley on April 19, 2012 at 2:30 — No Comments

Governance, OBASHI, and the UK CNC

The Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) is a specialist armed police force, which looks after all of the UK's nuclear assets and resources, both nationally and internationally. 


Recently, I asked Paul Stone, Deputy CIO at CNC, why he, and his colleague Mark Verrier (CIO), had decided to become OBASHI accredited, and use the OBASHI Methodology, and software.


Paul’s reply is,

“OBASHI is a straightforward methodology with simple diagrams and…


Added by Paul Wallis on April 4, 2012 at 7:30 — No Comments

OBASHI and data governance

In the LinkedIn ‘Data Governance and Data Quality’ group, Gary W. Griffin asks for opinions on this,

Data Governance could be enhanced by clearly specifying data value chains and explaining how the Information Supply Chain connects the data value chains.

The concept of governance is one which is long established within the Oil and…


Added by Paul Wallis on March 22, 2012 at 11:37 — No Comments

Another bunch of data flow disasters

On my way to meet friends the other day, I took a train to Waverley Station, the main railway terminal in Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh.


Although I was looking forward to the get-together, the tail-end of a heavy cold meant that I wasn’t feeling 100% fit.


As I made my way out of the station, I was delighted to discover that, as an alternative to the fearsomely steep steps on the main exit route from the building, escalators had been…


Added by Fergus Cloughley on March 9, 2012 at 3:09 — No Comments

The tyranny of technology?

A few years ago, some of the OBASHI team were on the road, driving to an important meeting.


The driver, who shall remain anonymous, was behind schedule, so when he hit the motorway he, ‘put the foot down’.


Unbeknown to him, a speed camera system was in place on some of the gantries above the road.


So, a week later, he was rather shocked to receive a speeding penalty notice through the post.  The document contained a crystal clear snapshot of…


Added by Fergus Cloughley on February 24, 2012 at 2:57 — 1 Comment

Dubious events in finance

The dubious events at brokerage MF Global demonstrate yet again how vulnerable investors are in today’s data flow-reliant financial markets.


During late 2011, MF Global had been losing money on its currency market bets, and, to stay afloat, it delved into customer accounts and used customer money in attempts to cover its precarious financial position.


The attempts failed and the company had to file for bankruptcy.


According to the liquidator’s…


Added by Paul Wallis on February 17, 2012 at 9:20 — No Comments

Davos, data flow and "meaningful discussions"

In advance of the recent Davos conference of business executives, think tanks and leading politicians, the World Economic Forum (WEF) published its “Global Risks 2012” report.


The report is a ‘call to action’ to global leaders.  It seeks better coordination and collaboration of

“...public and private sector efforts to map, monitor, manage and mitigate global risks...” …


Added by Fergus Cloughley on February 10, 2012 at 3:05 — No Comments

Data flows, land, sea & air

In my last blog about data flow and the development of ‘autonomous vehicles’, I argued that,

“...while the dream of a safer, and more efficient, road transportation system is worthy, it won’t be happening on a large-scale anytime soon...


...computers aren’t yet intelligent enough to reliably make safe, on-time decisions about everyday driving…


Added by Paul Wallis on February 3, 2012 at 4:31 — No Comments

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