Quadra

Connecting Technology and Business.

Reduce the noise in your data to improve forecast

The cloud and big data


When the cloud came into being, it brought with it immense storage power at cheaper rates. It ushered in the era of Big data. As a result, it also raised expectation levels in the minds of statisticians - and decision makers who depended on them - that this would do wonders to their decision-making processes.


Boon or bane?


The sample space had drastically increased due to social media and IoT, leading to more data being made available now. Applying statistical models to this huge data would improve the probability of a predicted event occurring (or not occurring) or improve the reliability of the forecast by pushing the R squared value to near unity. Right? Wrong. The data deluge only added to more noise than dependable signals.

 

Illusion or disillusion?


As time went by, people became disillusioned by the failure of the system to aid them with reliable information in decision-making. So as their hyper-expectations were not met, they just drop off quickly without pursuing further this journey.


The signal and the noise


It was now the turn of the experts to come with their reasons as to why such huge data could not help them decide better. One significant reason is that while there is enough data - and more – for the model, it requires a great deal of cleaning – removing the noise in the data that could distort the results and predictions before this data can be put to any use at all.

 

Persistence pays!


Early adapters of technology gained over the long run. Microsoft and Amazon are examples of winners who persisted in their vision to make this big data the fuel to their decision-making engine. They soon gathered themselves up from the trough of disillusionment to the slope of enlightenment by applying scientific methods to the data gathered and adopting newer methods to remove noise and false signals from the data. This way, they could arrive at real signals that aided in building reliable data models. They have climbed to the plateau of productivity now with their data models helping them in better decision making based on information.

 

Here are a few points to ponder:


  • People expect a lot from technology today, but the problem is while we have a lot of data, there are not enough people who possess skills to make this big data useful and not enough training and skill building efforts being put to make data scientists out of this huge population of technology experts.
  • Cleaning up data is the first big problem in predictive analysis – there are many external factors that might tend to distort the data that has been collected.
  • If we are considering a correlation between two variables and don’t know what causes this correlation, it is better not to consider this correlation at all. (Star fish predicting the FIFA world-cup winner or a baseball team’s win or lose determining the movement of the share-market).
  • Seeking for signals desperately, people end up with more noise than signals – so they make decisions with their instinct / gut feeling / experience playing an 80% part and statistics playing the last 20%. Instead, we should be guided by statistics 80% and leave the rest to our instincts and that too only if there is a drastically negative indicator in the statistical model. 

Here are some suggestions to reduce the noise and arrive at signals:

 

Start with a hypothesis / instinct and then keep refining it as you go ahead with analysis – this might sometimes lead to reverse your hypothesis.


Think probabilistically


When predicting, consider the margin of error (uncertainty) of the historic data and then include that in the prediction to make a decision. The person that discloses the greatest uncertainty is doing a better job than the one who conceals this uncertainty to his prediction. Three things to carry with while predicting: Data models, Scientific theories that influence the situation and experience (learn from the number of forecasts made and the feedback about the forecast)


Know where you come from


Consider the background and the existing biases of the possible forecaster / decision maker and the situation the data is being collected / considered


Try and err


Companies need to focus on the 80% effort for the last 20% results to retain the competitive advantage – real statistics of a few customers would be better than hypothetical data of a huge number of customers.

 

Notes:

 

  • Large and smart companies especially Technology firms should dare to take risks in the competitive advantage area. Most of the risk-taking will pay off. As they are big, they can bear failures unlike small firms and individuals in which case this might be termed as gambling.
  • People make better inferences from visuals than just data presented as raw data. Charts must show simple essential info. Unless required to bring greater clarity, we must avoid showing more information that crowd together on the charts to create more noise.
  • People must become Bias detectors – raise business questions and be apprehensive about magic bullet solutions.
  • Analysts should disclose the limitations to their analyses.


- Insights from a session by Nate Silver

Innovations in Excel that users love

Real-time collaboration—As with other Office 365 apps, you and your co-workers can securely work simultaneously within an Excel file from any device (mobile, desktop, and web). This allows you to know who else is working with you in a spreadsheet, see where they’re working, and view changes automatically within seconds, reducing the time it takes to collect feedback and eliminating the need to maintain multiple versions of a file. Live, in-app presence indicators through Skype for Business make it easy to connect with available co-workers in the moment.

Powerful data modeling—Get & Transform is one of Excel’s most powerful features, enabling you to search for data sources, make connections, and shape your data to meet specific analysis needs. Excel can connect to data sitting in the cloud, in a service, or stored locally. You can then combine different data sets from these sources into a single Data Model for a unique, unified view. Plus, you can create a Data Model to import millions of rows of data into Excel—keeping your analysis in one place.

Insightful visualizations—Excel is an inherently visual tool, giving you new perspectives through a variety of charts and graphs. We continue to enhance visualization in Excel—with geographical maps and waterfall charts—to provide easier analysis and a better, more impactful way to share insights across your company.

Dashboard creation and sharing—Power BI is the cloud-based data visualization tool that allows you to create and publish dashboards. We intentionally designed Power BI and Excel to work together, so you can surface the most relevant insights for the task at hand. Excel data can be imported into Power BI, while Power BI reports can be analysed in Excel for new perspectives. You can then easily share these dashboards and insights with others in your company.

Built-in extensibility—Like other Office 365 applications, Excel can be customized to meet the specific needs of your company. Excel’s rich ecosystem of add-ins and other tools can help you work with data in more relevant ways. Plus, the Excel platform is flexible enough for IT admins or Microsoft partners to develop custom solutions.

-Office Blogs, Dec 2017

Ignore these 9 tips to stay safe online at your own risk!

The risk. More and more hours are spent online by us as there is proliferation of devices, availability of internet connectivity and usage of apps for everything – from official work to personal use, social networking and entertainment. These require a login so that we can have a better experience. The devices and apps require creation of an account most of the time to log in so that we can enjoy a better experience – downloading files, accessing premium features or content or moving to higher levels in a game. We need to be doubly careful with our personal information so that none of it is accessed by the device builders, app developers and hackers.

Here are some tips to keep ourselves safe from risks to our information that lie online.

  1. Password. First and the foremost is to have a strong password – a different one for each of our accounts or a single strong password under a single sign-on system that cannot be easily guessed. Avoiding dictionary terms and easily guessable words or a combination of words and figures would be good methods when choosing passwords.
  2. Multifactor Authentication. We might have multiple email accounts – one or more official and many personal too. Most email service providers also provide a second authentication mechanism apart from a login name and a password. Making use of this multi-factor authentication feature will require the user to provide an additional authentication factor in the form of an OTP (One Time Password) received in a mobile device or in an alternate email or a phone call. This available in also most of the social networking apps too.
  3. Apps. We are enticed by a lot of apps that keep asking for permission to access our content – contacts and personal information in our devices. We must be discerning as to whether we need to allow these apps to access such information unless the situations warrant it. If we had not been paying enough attention here, it is high-time we revisited our apps and removed such privileges to the respective apps.
  4. Social Networks. Almost every information we provide when we create our social networking accounts and subsequently post in our name are at risk of being misused by the service providers and sellers interested in pushing their goods and services. Even our likes or comments to others’ posts are at risk of being monitored and accessed for dubious usage like targeted advertisements and offers. There are also recommendations from various sources that we remove our Facebook accounts so that we can protect our privacy. Others would have to go to Ad preferences option in such accounts to minimize risk of being spied by intruders.
  5. Personal devices. We must be careful when we allow others to use our devices in which we not only store a lot of our personal information but also login to access our various accounts. It is better to log off and allow them to login with a different profile / account in the same device. This will keep them from away from our information.
  6. Browsing history. Our browsing history and stored cookies must be deleted as frequently as possible to keep our personal information private. This will delete our search history, passwords and other vital information we provide in web sites and apps - probably for file downloads or registering for events and webinars. It will also be better to use the in-private browsing option in browsers when we know that we might have to provide personal information or search for confidential information.
  7. Temporary files. All files and content of temporary / short term value must be deleted as soon as it loses its relevance so that any private content is inaccessible from these sources. Files of permanent value and longer relevance must be backed up and stored in secondary storage devices or cloud services locked up with strong passwords.
  8. Phishing and Ransomware. Anti-phishing tools and software that will guard us from zero-day attacks and ransomware are essential these days to help us remain protected from hackers and attackers who are after not only our information but also information about others stored in our devices like phone numbers and email addresses.
  9. Wi-Fi. While connecting to Wi-fi networks, we must be very careful as to who is the Wi-fi provider and whether it is a public network. Public networks that allow you to connect without a password or those that are provided in railway stations and airports are risky connections. They come with an added risk of exposing our content to others connecting to that network. Deny permission to make your device visible to others in the network if you are connecting to unknown networks.

Convey a Certain Idea or a Concept Stylishly

Need to insert an icon that conveys a certain ideaLightbulbor conceptsThought bubble,Head with Gears, but you don't want to draw it yourself? Microsoft has introduced a very easy and stylish way of doing this in your Word documents Documentor Presentation slidesFlip Calendar.

Check out the Icons button on the Insert tab. Choose a category like people, technology, or sports. Then click the icon that represents the idea or concept you have in mind.

 

You have 25+ categories to choose icons from.

These Icons can be managed and manipulated like any other graphic using the Graphics Tools that will appear as a contextual tab when the icon is clicked.

Share File Links – Not Attachments – in Mails

When you attach a file in a cloud location such as OneDrive or SharePoint, Outlook will send your recipients a link to the file. Permission to access the file is granted automatically to every recipient. This makes collaboration easy because you don't have to worry about attachments being dropped, and you can be sure that everyone is collaborating on the same (and most up-to-date) version of the file.

  1. In Outlook, create a message.

Note: For an existing message, click Reply, Reply All, or Forward.

  1. On the ribbon, click Attach File, and choose Browse Web Locations.
  2. Choose OneDrive, the file you want to attach, and then choose Insert.
  3. In your email message, choose the down arrow for the attachment.
  4. Choose Change Permissions, and then choose one of the following:
    • Recipients can Edit if you want recipients to be able to modify the file.
    • Recipients can View, the default option, if you want recipients to be able to read, but not modify, the file.

Change Permission options include Recipients can edit and Recipients can view

 - Microsoft Support

 


File Sharing Hacks

If you want to receive a file of a type that is blocked by Outlook, you can ask the sender to either make the file available without using Outlook, or make it less likely to be blocked by Outlook. The following are some safe ways to share files with people that you trust.

  • Use a shared server    You might want to ask the sender to save the attachment to a server or an FTP site that you can access. This can include a secure network share server such as SharePoint. The sender can send you a link to the attachment on the server or FTP site. You can click the link to access the file and save it to your computer.
  • Use a file compression utility    Using a compression utility, such as WinZip, creates a compressed archive file that has a different file name extension. Outlook doesn’t recognize these file name extensions as potential threats. Therefore, it doesn’t block the new attachment. Many third-party compression utilities are available.
  • Rename the file    You can request that the sender rename the attachment to use a file name extension that Outlook doesn’t recognize as a threat. For example, an executable file that has the file name extension .exe could be renamed as a Word file that has a .docx file name extension.

Ask the sender to resend the renamed attachment to you. To save the attachment and rename it to use the original file name extension, do the following:

  1. Locate the attachment in the email message.
  2. Right-click the attachment, and then click Copy.
  3. Right-click the desktop, and then click Paste.
  4. Right-click the pasted file, and then click Rename.
  5. Rename the file to use the original file name extension, such as .exe.

- Microsoft Support

Six tips to a better engaged online meeting

15 percent of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings, as reported by the Harvard Business Review. But as technologies change, workloads increase and attention spans shorten, truly reaching your audience can be a challenge. Making use of tools like Skype for Business (SfB) for such meetings can not only reduce the challenges of distance and travel but also give the participants an added luxury of attending the meeting from wherever they are – not necessarily at their office meeting rooms. Result? More attendance. More savings in travel costs.

But there is a flipside to this.

A major hurdle is addressing the audience across multiple locations. Attendees might join from a conference room at office or might connect from various enterprise or home connections. Involving the audience and making them feel that their efforts are appreciated will go a long way in making the meeting successful. But, this might be an unsurmountable challenge.

Here are six tips to make your SfB meetings and webinars more interesting and fruitful:

Send a meeting request in advance – Use your Outlook calendar to open a new meeting and choose a suitable date and time. You can make use of the Scheduling Assistant for this purpose. Include all the names of the invitees to the event one below the other. (Include also names of people who you want to just inform of this meeting – though they might not participate – and mark them as optional attendees). Then choose the date and the time slot in which all required attendees are available. Optionally, add a room if you want, to book it for your convenience. (This must be enabled already in your enterprise). Set a reminder for the meeting depending upon the preparation time required for the meeting.

Make joining hazel-free—Click the “Skype meeting” option to include the auto generated hyperlink Join Skype Meeting appear in the body of the meeting invitation. Also, include any audio bridge numbers, participant PINs, document attachments (Optionally, include a Meeting Notes OneNote notebook page) in the invitation. Add reusable parts of documents – if any - that have been already shared among the users internally by clicking on the Document Item feature. Once the invitation is received at the participants’ end, all that he/she needs to do to join the meeting is the one-click on the Join Skype Meeting link.

Take control of your meeting - Make use of the Meeting Options feature to choose who all should wait in the lobby or join the meeting without waiting. You can also nominate / manage presenters for and during the meeting. This will provide an uninterrupted flow to keep everyone’s attention on the content being presented. You can also set some limitations – disabling IM, mute attendees, block attendees’ video – only presenters can always share audio and video.

Show, don’t just tell, important information—Effective visual communication is key to employee engagement in meetings. Show videos, presentations, websites, pictures and presenters themselves—instead of a static image that’s easy to ignore. On-site employees shouldn’t get a different meeting experience or information from people joining the meeting from other locations.

Allow for feedback, comments and engagement—If employees feel that they can’t ask questions or get involved in a meeting, they’re likely to pay little or no attention to the proceedings. Keep watch on the IM window for comments or suggestions flowing in. Appoint a person (moderator?) to attend to questions from the audience so that queries can be addressed promptly. Conduct polls at intervals to receive feedback from the participants, to gauge the interest of the participants on the topic being handled, whether they are following your line of thought and also to make sure you are driving home your point.

Mind the anywhere any time any device access - Since the meeting attendees are given the freedom to choose which devices they use to join the meeting, it is also more likely that you will hold their engagement through the duration of your meeting. (It gives everyone the freedom to participate whatever works best for them: on-the-go, at their desk or from anywhere their devices are connected to the internet). Keep this distributed audience in mind when you are speaking and keep addressing them - if possible, by individual names - so that they feel engaged well.

Follow these and your next meeting might be the most productive ever.

Check this out…

Many times we require a Check mark inserted in our documents. Many keep searching for this in the Webdings or Webdings fonts, then they copy and paste this in the document.

There is a quicker way to insert Check marks - a Tick mark or a Cross mark in Word.

You should use the character code of the Checkmark symbol. Remember that you will have to use the numerical keypad rather than the QWERTY keyboard. There are a series of codes that will enable you to insert these Check marks.

First you have to change the current font to “Wingdings”

Now, hold down Alt and use the numerical keypad (not the numbers at the top of your QWERTY keyboard) and enter any one of the following combination of numbers:

For Ticks

  • ALT + 0252 (without a box) ü
  • ALT + 0254 (with a box) þ

For Crosses

  • ALT + 0251 (without a box) û
  • ALT + 0253 (with a box) ý

Remember to switch back to your original font for continuing with your document.

You can also choose the Webdings font and use the following shortcuts to insert Tick marks and Check marks:

Type a for a and r for r

The Versatile Clipboard in Microsoft Office

No, the office clipboard does not hold just the last item that was Copied (Ctrl + C) or Cut (Ctrl + X). The Microsoft Office Clipboard holds up to 24 items at a time. Want to see the last 24 items that were clipped in the current session? Go to the Home tab, find the Clipboard panel at the far left and click on the dialog launcher (the diagonal arrow at the lower right of the panel). The Office Clipboard pane opens and anything you copy to the clipboard gets saved in the pane.

 


You can select any item, right-click on it, and select Paste or Delete. You can also Paste all of them in a document at once by clicking the Paste All button.

The Jumplist of Outlook

You can launch a New E-mail message, a New Appointment, a New Meeting, a New Contact or a New Task from the Windows Task bar. You should have pinned the Outlook application to the Task bar prior to taking advantage of this feature. Then, when you want to launch one of the windows  mentioned above, just right click the Outlook icon on the task bar. A Jump list pops out. Just choose your option. That is all!

 

 

This is one very powerful feature that many fail to notice. Saves you time and effort. Great productivity booster. Impress your colleague sitting next to you.