Archive for September 2014

Book Review – “Big Data @ Work” by Thomas Davenport

It is quite rare that somebody admits they were wrong about a major trend in IT which was overseen in the past. Quite rare. Fortunately, Thomas Davenport is not that kind of person – on the contrary. In the preface of his new book (“Big Data At Work) published by Harvard Business Review Press, he actually admits that he initially dismissed the concept as being just another technology hype. And you can hardly blame him – there are many gurus or specialists or journalists who still think that the “big data” concept represents another form of selling clound and analytical services. Promoted, of course, by the big IT companies who happen to endorse the concept quite actively.

From this perspective, Harvard Business Review Press has done some justice to the hype surrounding the concept. “Big Data at Work” was in a sense a long waited for book – people were maybe familliar with the concepts, but wanted maybe to know more about:

– how big data is implemented and used by various companies (the famous “case study” approach patented by the Harvard Business Review (one of the biggest business case studies publishers in the world by the way); Read more

How To Compile a Top 10 Investing Books List

Last night me and several investor friends had a long conversation about the best investing books ever. True, one can find on the market so many titles that it is almost overwhelming. Investment books can range from advice for beginners, technical trading books, Forex guides – to even excel-oriented investing books or guru’s promising you fortunes in exchange for a one hour a day.
I would dare to say that the investment books market is so diverse that not even ten lifetimes would help you to digest all of them.
Yet, most of the investor-oriented books have several features in common:
– they have a limited theoretical background behind them (which means that once you mastered the main ideas, you will hardly read about new investing techniques in a new book);
– investing books can be divided into technical/mathematical and behavioral. One without another is not possible;
– they are “readable”, not arid and obscure financial compendiums.

New Deal Means A Sort of Old Liberal Keynesianism

Yesterday I noticed an interesting trend on the financial investments blogs – many started to talk recently about a New Deal. Which is normal, don’t get me wrong – with stagflation and investments decimated in the US, with the BRIC markets trailing behind expectations and a sluggish Europe, things look hardly “rainbowy” for the global asset managers.
Which of course gets the economic policy makers and thinkers worried. Especially in the US, the world’s powerhouse in economics 101. No wonder that famous and serious bloggers, such as Rortybomb, turned their attention to that. After all, what’s easier than taking an old wheel, polishing it and using it to restart a virtuous economic cycle?
My short answer is – everything. The neo-liberal thinking pushed the US economy in this prolonged recession – by allowing the US government to throw billions of dollars into several sector’s arms which used them sub-optimally. Of course, all those blogs are against this policy. Or pro this policy with changes (big or small).
Then, what’s the problem? Why do I argue for a new paradigm?
It is very simple. It is called “behavioral finance”. And NLP. 2 in 1, crash course my friends:
1. New Deal is an old paradigm Read more

Is Big Data Just Noise?

Judging by the amount of information available on big data, I would say that paradoxically that the concept is poorly supported. More of a giant with feet of clay. Let us do for example a Google keyword analysis: “big data” search reveals 829,000,000 results in 0.44 secs. (which means that Google has spend some time about it). Apparently a lot.
The problem reveals after you start browsing the pages. The first 10 pages of results show in all cases either definitions and white papers about big data (very vague and fluffy), either selling links. Virtually there was no value added info on the concept itself (except maybe for the Wikipedia article, which is showing some well structured info at the introduction level).
And then we go. All resources which are published up to page 100 are consisting in what I call “meta-information”, information about information which reduces the meaning below a value-adding level. Actually, the more you read about big data over the web, the less you are likely to be convinced about the topic. I know this sound very semiotically or Foucault like, but my perception became a bit one of a frustrated librarian who cannot put the finger on the concept. Read more

(An Almost) Perfect Profile of a CEE CFO (2)

As usually, when you start analyzing a topic, other collateral findings start to pop up. More recent articles, written by practitioners, shed a more enlightning picture on the CFOs’ hurdles in East Europe.

First of all, most of these new articles show that CFO’s have been really abated and overwhelmed by the depth of the crisis. With the massive deleverage taking place in 2009-2011, markets are still suffering and CFO’s are still trying to find new sources of profitability. And if there was any reluctance of restructuring the finance departments during the initial years of the crisis, in 2014 the situation changed – restructurings are still taking place, with many companies still having finance (and others) hiring freezes – or even promotion freezes.

This might make the CEE CFO’s more risk averse than ever, with an ever increasing amount of work on their desks. Read more

What Is The Perfect Profile Of A Central East And East Europe CFO?

Recently I was browsing a few articles on the CFO job in Central East and East Europe. Actually quite interesting readings, even if you are not a boring finance professional trying to make his/her way to the top. Whilst reading them, I had two major surprises:
– The articles on the topic were few and far in between, and quite old (we are in 2014, they were from 2007-2010, when probably the enthusiasm and the PR needed to recruit high-caliber professionals for CFO jobs were substantially higher);
– Surprise to surprise – despite their aging, the CFO blogs had some interesting insights which are still valid so far.
What were the key findings of these headhunter blogs related to the ideal CFO?:
– CFO’s in CEE need to have superior technical finance knowledge, especially related to the complexity of accounting standards, fiscal requirements, M&A’s and financial analysis (the Western Europe CFO’s who deal with much fewer and more developed countries need paradoxically less of such technical skills);
– Communication skills are highly priced in CEE for the senior financial leaders of the companies; Read more

Reflections on Big Data

Here we go with some of my reflections on the fast emerging concept of big data – more of aphorisms then everything else:
Big data is a programming concept re-packaged for the experienced MS Office user.
Big data is a tool, not a concept. It can be applied to small data or to billions of users.
Big data means nothing without a clear understanding of the analysis goal. And this is paradoxical.
No data can also revelate big data (to quote Ernest Hemingway).
Bigger data cannot be reduced to big data without deleveraging its meaning.