Ford Taps Cloud-Based Prediction Market

The cloud-based system from Inkling helps Ford Motor decide which new ideas are worth pursuing. Would you like an in-car vacuum?


Ford Motor Company’s stock price on the New York Stock Exchange has almost doubled in the past year, but that’s not the only stock market the company has interest in. The car maker is also tapping a cloud-based prediction market system to get a better handle on which new ideas to pursue.

The simulated stock market, being used by more than 1,300 Ford employees in the United States and Europe, encourages members to comment on various topics and issues through stock market-like trading. Ford is using a cloud-based collaborative prediction platform offered by Inkling, which has a number of other blue-chip clients in its stable, including CNN, Cisco, General Mills and Johnson & Johnson.

Tom Montgomery, a technical expert with Ford’s Research & Advanced Engineering group, said Ford first developed its own predictions market software in 2006, but moved to Inkling in 2009. “It’s their software and theirservers, they host everything, but we brand the interface,” Montgomery “The important thing for us is that the information we collect is proprietary and they offered the security and guarantees we wanted.”

Ford said it is testing the predictions market system as an adjunct to traditional customer research, which is more time consuming and expensive. Participants have “traded” on such items as potential new car features and topics like sales volume, electrification and economic issues such as gas and commodity prices. The system posts questions for traders, asking them to select an answer and then handicap the chances of that choice being rated highest.

Atefeh “Atti” Riazi says she is a big believer in gut instinct. But when it comes to IT and business alignment, she’s convinced that intuition must give way to decisions based on business intelligence, predictive analytics in particular.

After all, CIOs have not exactly excelled at predicting the future, Riazi noted, judging from the profession’s black eyes over technology spending that failed to deliver an ROI or customer value.

"We are guessing the future based on the knowns that we have," said Riazi, CIO of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). "The problem is we don’t know what we don’t know," she said, channeling former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield.

Corralling IBM’s consulting services (pro bono, due to the vendor’s interest in creating energy-efficient “smart buildings”), Riazi is using business intelligence and predictive analytics to challenge — as she puts it — “urban legends and sacred cows” of public assistance programs. Everything — from how best to reduce operating costs and increase building efficiencies, to which investments will actually improve the quality of life of more than 400,000 NYCHA residents — is being examined with BI and predictive analytics tools.

Applying Predictive Analytics to Achieve Customer Intimacy 

Predictive analytics is a subject we’re keeping an eye on this year. Today we’re taking a look at some of the ways predictive analytics are being used by businesses: to predict customer attrition rates, monitor IT systems and issue alerts when appropriate, optimize prices for auctions and prepare for GMAT tests.

Five Ways Pixar Makes Better Decisions - Tom Davenport - Harvard Business Review


How did Pixar make that and other good decisions? There seem to be several factors going on:

Its managers give its directors a lot of autonomy. The studio prides itself on being “director led” and gives them a high degree of autonomy. “Managers like to be in control,” but Pixar fights it, according to an interview with Catmull at an event The Economist put on in March.

Even though directors have autonomy, they get feedback from others. “Dailies,” or movies in progress, are shown for feedback to the entire animation crew. In The Economist interview, Catmull also describes a more extensive periodic peer review process:

We have a structure so they get their feedback from their peers. … Every two or three months they present the film to the other filmmakers…and they will go through, and they will tear the film apart. Directors aren’t forced to respond to the feedback, but they generally do — and the films are generally better for it.

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IBM announced a major enhancements to its performance management software designed to help CFOs and finance managers accelerate the adoption of business analytics and drive smarter decisions for better business outcomes. The new analytic finance solutions can reduce customer planning cycles in half and reduce reporting cycles from days to minutes. C-level executives today are looking to Finance to provide more accurate data more quickly, to aid in risk management and forecasting decisions, and to help drive the bottom line. As a result, Finance departments are under increased pressures with higher demands for real-time data production and analysis, increased regulation on reporting and compliance, and reduced budgets.

Whether you’re a CEO, CFO, CIO, or CTO, the ability to analyze large volumes of data from multiple sources and to improve decision making at all levels is critical to success," said Bashar Kilani, Business Unit Executive, IBM Middle East, IBM Software Group. "Business intelligence that provides detailed reporting and analysis, made relevant with real-time response, enables forward thinking organizations to better understand and respond to events, enabling them to perform smarter, and ultimately to gain competitive advantage.

In our interconnected and always-on world, business lifecycles get shorter and shorter. Companies have always expected to change business models from time to time, but now many keep updating them rapid-fire. Sometimes, when the model continues to meet your organizational goals for revenue, cost and competitive differentiation, you don’t have to change it right away. But you must be ready to update it at any time, and you must know when and how to do so.