Friday, February 23, 2007

"A bit of BIT" available on eBay

"A bit of BIT" book is now available on eBay for Australian buyers. LINK.

The selling item is titled as "A book on Business Information Technology".

It does not allow to make available this item for the buyers from other countries. I will try to do something about that in the near future.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Adaptive Buisiness Intelligence

Last night I participated in a presentation on Adaptive Business Intelligence organised by Telecommunication Society of Australia (TSA). As ACS and TSA are working closely now, we were also invited. It sounded like a more of an ACS subject than a TSA one though!

Presenter, Prof. Zbigniew Michalewicz of School of Computer Science , Adelaide University was an interesting person and he is like the icon in Adaptive BI. He said that the word 'Adaptive' is his creation in AI world, and is gaining popularity now and has been included into the curriculum by few universities and now is planning on many things to further popularise it in the next few years(eg: a conference about it). He runs a company by the name of SolveIT (, which develops ABI solutions for major companies.

Traditional AI/BI spoke about predicting and decision making, but he argues that it is no use if it can not be adaptive to situations, so his solutions has an additional layer for adaptivity. He has co-authored a book on Adaptive Business Intelligence.

Presentation was very good and hybrid in nature, I would call, covered theoretical basics using ppt slides but also did explain 3 practical examples by showing us the actual applications. These were systems he has done for companies like General Motors. Grahical representation of adaptivity was cool.

Something that really struck me was even though he was an academic, he understands business realities and priorities so well and is flexible towards them (He himself is a businessman now!). For example, even though optimisation is essential in AI, he is not very fussed about it like pure academics. Solutions do have an optimisation factor, but he does not try to near 100%.(100% is anyway difficult, so after achieving an acceptable level that deliveries significant profits/cost savings, putting lot of effort after that does not make a big difference in a business sense because improvement will be by decimal percents)

By the way, last week, I participated in another talk on "Business Value Analysis" which tried to analyse 'The creation or destruction of Value' through IT project investments. Anthony Cavallaro, a Project Manager at EDS did this presentation. This was organised by ACS Project Management SIG (Special Interest Group). PM SIG meets every month and discusses about something like this with the help of a facilitator. This presentation was fairly theoretical, provided with the tools for this analysis and tried to encourage further reading rather than provide in-depth information.

Completed a Project Management Course

I completed a Project Management Skills Development course yesterday at IPAA, of course sponsored by my project. Now I have some kind of a certification for PM stuff!

As we all know, PM is not only limited to IT projects, but when we work on IT world, you feel like its a pure IT thing. At this course, I met people from all areas and the course also was delivered as a common methodology rather than an IT specific thing, which is correct, even PMI does the same. It was hard to believe but there were very successful (Judging by their age, experience and achievements) project managers in that group who don't use MS Project! In IT, we have a feeling like, PM is MS Project, but it is not, it's just the industry that has lead us to be Software tool users for everything. Surely, its an effective tool and definitely advisable to use, but clearly, project management is a lot more than that. It involves your organizing,directing, controlling, monitoring and planning skills.

Effectiveness of project work as oppose to traditional hierarchical structures is proven and gaining popularity, so no wonder that more and more industries, work are being moved to be projects. Software, I guess was always project based from the very beginning.

All the basics were covered from Project initiation to Closure. Importantly, some interesting tools were given which could be used to build communication plan/strategy, issue identification and resolution etc. The issue identification tool using sticky notes involving all stakeholders sounded really interesting , novel and effective and its called the Affinity Model.

Course was highly interactive and used our own experiences very much. Both individual and group work were given high prominence. Group work proved to be effective and very productive, because you get years worth experience onto the table from many people to be discussed and learnt.

Monday, February 12, 2007

ACS Contacts Page Updated

The Executive Committee for 2007 was elected in end 2006 and now we have started work for the year. ACS is active and events are very helpful to the IT community.

Now the ACS contacts page has been updated with the names of committee members for the year 2007.

My previous blog regarding my election to the body is given below.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Changes in MS Project 2007

Whilst going through MS Project 2007 to identify differences from 2003 & 2000 , I noticed that apart from the improvements in look and feel (As usual for Microsoft!), there are some actual advantages. For example, there are improvements with regard to metrics and also reporting. Sometimes, VBA Code had to be written in older versions to change the reporting as required for different audiences as they were not provided by default which is tedious. (Finding people who have that skill is tedious as well)

I did a quick search to see the differences and found this page from Microsoft.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

The Independence Day

Today (February 4th) is Sri Lanka's Independent Day. We gained our independence back from Britishers on February 4th, 1948. We were under Britishers for over 100 years, even though they have given us good things such as Plantation Industry, Majority of the Road Network, Train Transport System, Administration System and many others, they did a great harm to our culture, values, religion, village and to our lifestyle at large. Before Britishers, Portuguese and Dutch also had stints of rules in Sri Lanka, they too had contributed to the above damages in our society. Our society and its values are based on 2500 year old heritage, which was never understood by the western rulers.

We are lucky that our society was not totally devastated by the foreigners though. For example, there are south American and African countries where they managed to convert almost 100% of the population to speak their language or believe their religion. This never happened to us. Even today, except for official work that requires international dealing, our people use either Sinhala or Tamil predominantly for communications. Except for about 7% of the people who converted to Christianity or Catholicism due to benefits given by the foreign rulers, about 93% of the people remained and still have the faith in their original religions. This 93% is represented by 69% of Buddhists, 17% of Hindus and 7% of Islam roughly. Nationality wise, majority of the Sri Lankans are Sinhalese (74%) and Tamils and Muslims are minorities which represent 18% and 7% of the population respectively. On the other hand, we were brave enough to fight against English rule whereas countries like South Africa struggled to gain their independence till 1990s.

Let's be happy and proud for what we have done, for who we are and let's make it the foundation to build our nation.

Incidentally, Australia's national day was on January 26th, last Friday, which was a public holiday, we went to see their celebrations. This day marks the landing of the First Fleet of Britishers in Australia. Australia is predominantly comprised of the British settlers sent from England. After the loss of the United States, Britain needed a new penal colony for the relocation of convicts in its overcrowded prisons, so the selected place was Australia, so a country got created in this continent. The country was originally owned by Aboriginal people who's history in Australia runs back to centuries but numbers wise, they represent a very small minority.

The Last King of Scotland

We watched another movie yesterday at a theatre,,"The Last King of Scotland". We have been watching many films lately at film halls as well as at home.

We watch a DVD movie at home almost each weekend, however, couldn't do that over the past few weeks. The city council library has a good collection of books and dvds. Service is really great as everything is free of charge and also they have full web capability so we do all ordering and stuff online. Sasani picks up books/dvds whenever they are ready as she passes the library everyday and they update us whenever the order is ready via email/sms! A great service without having to pay a cent. This has resulted in we reading a lot of books and watching many movies.

Back to 'The Last King of Scotland'. This is an Academy Award-nominated 2006 British film based on Giles Foden's award-winning debut novel of the same name. The story revolves around how a young doctor from Scotland (A fictional character), Nicholas Garrigan, becomes, by chance, the personal physician to the Ugandan President Idi Amin. Garigans is loosely based on the real britishman named Bob Astles. Amin, as we all know was a very cruel dictator, and this film gives a good idea about who he really was using his relationship with Dr. Garrigan.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Father's Appointment as Secretary of Plantations Industries Ministry of Sri Lanka

My father, Mr. J. Abeywickrama has been re-appointed as the secretary of the Plantations Industries Ministry of Sri Lanka.

He held this position for several years now, and has gained high acceptance for his role, if not in Sri Lanka, remaining in the same place for a long time would not be possible. Plantations is an interesting sector and one of the most important industries for the country because it's one of the three main sources of income. Sri Lankan Tea (branded as Ceylon Tea) is considered the best Black Tea in the world and Sri Lanka is the highest tea volume exporter.

This re-appointment is a result of Sri Lankan Cabinet of ministers being reshuffled last week and many members of the opposition joined the government, highlighting the acceptance that has been built by President Mahinda Rajapakse, who is a leader who shows love and respect for our culture, heritage & independence and has nationalistic views rather than westernised objectives. Importantly, JHU, which represents the buddhists and the buddhist clergy at large also joined the government and accepted the ministerial portfolio of Environment and Natural Resources, which I think is very suitable for them, considering the background and people and also the values they represent, which is based on Buddhism. Buddhism highlights the importance of the environment and its conservation, Buddha was a religious leader who was born, attained enlightenment (Buddha-hood) and passed away under trees.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

'A bit of BIT'

Its almost one year since I published my first book. It was released on 4th of March, 2006. I named it as 'A bit of BIT. It was a collection of articles on Business Information Technology (BIT). Those articles were written over 2 years for various reasons on different topics but I was able to adjust them to come under the banner BIT with some difficulty. All articles were readjusted to suit a larger audience, and I wanted it to be a book suitable to anyone new to the field covering more breadth than depth even though it gave detailed information in some instances.

Originally, I had the plan to release it around mid 2006, but as I had to travel to UK in March, I decided to finish it off quickly before I leave. It had been dragging on for too long, so didn't want to drag anymore. Two years for a small book is a long period of time, I guess. I checked with few publishers but decided I did not want to take the trouble of going behind them, so I published it myself. It was a race against time, but somehow managed to succeed with the help of many. My wife was right behind me during the whole process, if not for her it would not have come that quickly, because when I was dragging it, she was the one who encouraged me to go faster with a deadline in mind. Other family members also guided a lot whilst many friends helped immensely. Friends even offered to sell the book for me and they actually did a good job with that. Wish to thank you all here on web even though I have definitely thanked them personally for the effort.

This whole exercise gave me so much experience about the book industry (printing, publishing, distributing, selling, libraries, marketing, income, expenses, etc.) I did most of them personally myself travelling around in my small Maruti car! Virtusa (my previous employer) was also helpful and since working hours weren't tightly fixed, I had time to get things done, of course I had to work till midnight to cover-up, which anyway was very common and normal for us! Coming from a family where no one has been into writing or anything like that, this truly was all new to me.

The book was published only in Sri Lanka and I don't have any expectations to publish it elsewhere because the book was written in a Sri Lankan context, most of the original articles were not like that but, when it came to the book, I edited it to be simple and to be helping Sri Lanka. Given this background, many people requested it to be republished in Sinhala language. After one year, I still haven't done anything to get this done, so I am at 0 with regard to that but this is still on my agenda and will try to do something about it.