Using Visualization to Reduce Risk

When I worked for IBM, I had the pleasure of working with some of the smartest, most reliable people in the world. At the top of that list was a visionary leader named Jim Hile. Jim has a unique gift for seeing opportunities, and he is fearless in doing the work required to seize the  day.


After his retirement from IBM, Jim invested in a struggling technology company in the virtual reality space (VR). Through his tireless work, great leadership and a healthy dose of capital, the firm was turned around and sold.  Jim saw the opportunity and seized it.

While Jim was running the firm, I got a tour, and a demonstration of how virtual reality systems work.  For those not familiar with VR, the most advanced systems are room-sized 3D immersion systems.  You can create any environment or simulated physical reality that you want. For those of you familiar with Star Trek, this is the closest we have come, so far, to a “holodeck.”

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Visualizing Schedule Risk In Your Mind’s Eye: You See Trouble Ahead

An Idiomatic and Sensory Investigation of Interactive Visual Risk Assessments


What do we mean when we say “I see trouble ahead?” Notice that we don’t say, “I’ve reviewed a tabular report and I prognosticate problems,” or, “I touched the report you sent, and I feel trouble on the way.” Sometimes people say they can smell trouble, or smell trouble brewing, but most often it is seeing it on a wall, in a diagram, or in our minds eye that enables clear cognition of impending calamity. It’s fair to say that visualization is a key factor in recognizing risk in general.

When it comes to schedule risk, until recently, visualization options have been limited, and disconnected from the actual schedule. Until the development of the Graphical Path Method (GPM) and NetRisk, there was no way to see a schedule on a timescale and interactively visualize the impact of a particular risk on the schedule.

Most conventional schedule risk tools work by importing information from an outside scheduling tool such as  Oracle Primavera Risk Analyzer or Acumen Risk. Once the data is imported, it gets massaged further, ranged and iterated to generate a series of graphs and tabular reports. Experts then interpret these reports and recommend mitigating measures to apply to the schedule.

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