A New Start

A little over two years ago, I started working in the UK rail sector. Before then, I'd been in the IT industry for too many years to say, with companies ranging from large multinationals to startups and across sectors from financial services to security to leisure/entertainment. I was brought across and into rail by a friend who was a respected professional with many years in the sector; among his (unpublished) goals was to bring in an "outsider" to assess from the inside (and from several layers down the org chart!) just how projects were being delivered and whether internal IT processes and support were acceptable, and most importantly whether technology was being used in the best ways, was able to deliver efficiencies or savings, or could enable projects that otherwise would not work. The purpose of this blog is to capture thoughts and observations over that time, and ideas for the future. …more

Dashboards vs Reports vs What? First steps on the Analytics path

This is a post about the differences between dashboards and reports, and where they overlap, and how either (or both) can be used to form the foundation of an analytics framework. While most (if not all) of the main points apply across multiple sectors and industries, the focus will be on the use of tools in the rail and also wider transport sectors - that's the intent, anyway!

The first thing is to ask what is the difference between a dashboard and a report - isn't a dashboard a collection of reports or highlights? The answer is, unfortunately, "yes and no": all too often, that is exactly what a dashboard presents, so 'yes'. It is not, however, what a dashboard should be (in my view, anyway): a dashboard should provide, in one place, an overview of the information and facts an individual needs to know at the time they view that dashboard. Not a snapshot, some time-based 'photograph' of how things looked the last time the reports were run, but up-to-date information, and it certainly should not require a full data re-import each time it loads for a specific user. …more

Legacy Systems

What is a legacy system anyway? Wikipedia offers "a legacy system is an old method, technology, computer system, or application program, 'of, relating to, or being a previous or outdated computer system.' [Merriam Webster]", and notes it is often a perjorative term. For most enterprise IT vendors, a legacy system is one that is older than the one they would quite like you to buy. When UNIX servers were 'the thing', mainframe and AS/400 systems were legacy; when lower cost PC networks became available, UNIX servers & workstations were pictured as legacy; when Internet systems first became available and "three tier' architectures were in vogue, those same PC networks became the latest 'legacy'. For a while, on-premises systems were legacy and the cloud was where things are - until people started to look at what happens when connectivity fails, other considerations such as latency and contention: at the time of writing, hybrid systems look very attractive, but who knows what next year will bring? …more