Category Archives: Starting out with BI

Who we are

Founded in March 2014 by Wim Kotzé, Birds Eye is a leading enabler of business metrics analysis through QlikView. Birds Eye is partnered with EOH (QlikView South Africa) and with Qlik.

Our strength is combining business intelligence with mathematical decision science to provide a level data modelling functionality not normally associated with a BI environment. This includes forecasting, regression analysis, numerical pattern analysis, distribution analysis and control charts. This is done in an environment that retains the incredible slicing ability that QlikView is known for.

Birds Eye has assisted clients in South Africa and abroad, in mining, retail, wholesale, manufacturing, finance and logistics to unlock value in their business.

To this end we have acquired expert knowledge of the technology tool we use, QlikView. This includes creating the desired data model (“scripting”), as well as creating visualisations that speak to the issue at hand.

The bird’s eye

So we trade as Bird’s Eye Metrics.

A metric is a measurement, a check point, a score. We must measure to improve, and our measurements must be such that we can trust them, and recreate them. That is the philosophy of an athlete aiming to improve upon a personal best, of a student’s marks, of efficiency in an industrial process, of sales, and of the reported measurements in a business to unlock shareholder value, or to drive the competitive edge. We perform by knowing, by quantifying our goals, putting a number to it.

But what is in a bird’s eye? A bird, of course, has the prime vantage point, a bird sees the big picture. This ties in well with my philospophy,to regard the big picture, understand the business, and partner to drive the bottom line. But there’s more to the avian eye and, and the analogy to our mission. Below I’ve collated some fun facts.

  • Birds have the largest eyes relative to their size in the animal kingdom.They are also noted for the number connections from the eye to the brain
  • Birds have four types of colour receptor cells in their eyes, making them tetrachromats. Humans with normal colour vision are trichromats, as are, to a lesser extent, most “colour blind” humans as well. Pigeons are probably pentachromatic. From a bird’s point of view, our colour vision must be severely impaired.
  • A large number of birds can see ultra violet light, and consequently, some of the plummage colours are in the ultra violet spectrum. (Perhaps the joke is on us for disregarding that little grey bird?).
  • There is some evidence that migratory birds can perceive the earth’s magnetic field with their eyes.
  • With the ability to resolve moment at more than 100Mhz, that new TV set that refreshes at twice the rate that we can perceive, will still not cut it for those birds.The only thing cutting edge (to them) about your fancy TV set, as that they would be cutting the edges of themselves if the were to use that technology to fly through branches
  • Not all birds can fly, but it seems all birds have good eyesight, unlike mammals, reptiles or fish. A pigeon has been described as eyes with wings. Ever wondered how throwing some tiny seeds onto your lawn can draw crowds of pigeons?
  • An American Kestrel (presumably other similar birds of prey) can reportedly see a 2mm insect from the top of an 18m tree. The luxury of a high vantage point, if it has to have meaning, does not preclude the ability to focus.
  • Birds don’t have teeth, and they don’t have strong bodily armour. Their jaws are weak. The bird’s weapon is the never ending feed of updated intelligence to the command centre, it is the weapon of knowing. This allows the bird of prey to time it’s attack to perfection, the vulture to locate the carcass, the pigeon to pick the seed between the grains of earth.

    At Bird’s Eye Metrics, we endeavour to empower organisations to manage by knowing. It means, to have the right information in hand, and to have confidence in it’s integrity, to enable business to act timely. Is no

    Perceptions playing tricks..

    Measurements vs Perceptions

    Climate is one of the areas that most strikingly illustrates that our perceptions can play tricks on us. I took one example, that may resonate with those somewhat familiar with South African geography.

    Consider the following cities: Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.Few that claim to know a little about these cities would disagree that Bloem is known for biting cold winters (relative to the others), Joburg for generally a pleasant climate, Durban for a climate supporting beach holidays (if a bit uncomfortable in summer), and Cape Town for long wet winters.

    I just took a few selected “public facts”, of course each of these cities have other peculiarities that they are known for (Joburg thunder storms, Cape Town wind etc).

    Now some questions

  • Which one of these for cities is the driest (lowest average annual rainfall)?
  • Only one of these cities fail to have any month in which the average temperature exceeds 20°C. Which one?
  • Which of these cities has the highest temperature in the middle of summer?
  • Which one of these cities has the least amount of annual sunshine?
  • The answers

    • The answer to the first question is Cape Town. The city known for it’s long rainy winters (which is very uncharacteristically for Africa), is also the driest city in the group.
    • The second question’s answer is Johannesburg. The city that is known for a pleasant human friendly climate fails to reach an average of 20°C, even in January, it’s warmest month. Many people consider 20°C the hallmark of summer.
    • As for the third question, Bloemfontein has the highest maximum temperatures in summer.
    • The answer number four shows is that sunny Durban is the cloudiest city in the group.

    Assessment and Explaination

    So how did you do? Perhaps you deliberately made counter intuitive guesses because you recognised where this post was going.

    The thing is, we confuse measures. We confuse likelyhood of rainy weather in daytime with amount of rain, we confuse warmth with sunshine. We assume that places that are cold in winter would have cooler summers. We confuse rain and cloud cover. We confuse dreariness with cold and rain, and heat-humidity discomfort with high temperatures.

    Lessons

    It depends what we want to measure. Our perception of Cape Town is on the money if we assess necessity for umbrellas (due to the nature of the rainfall), but if it is provision for storm water draineage, than the info conveyed by our perception is wrong.

    Our perception of heat discomfort is a function of a few things, of which temperature is but one. An important one, but not the only one. So for an operation that require us to make a decision based on temperature alone, it would be wrong to infer that from heat discomfort.

    Our perception of sunshine is based on a few things, including the nature and seasonality of cloud cover, and the effect on cold induced discomfort.

    If we want to determine a site to suitable for solar power, we should also know that amount of sunshine (which is roughly the amount of hours when a shadow can be distinguished on the ground) is not the same as the amount of solar radiation a place receives. Not all sunshine hours are equal, let alone all cloudy hours.

    Conclusion

    I’ve used a subject which we can all relate to. In Business many of the same lessons, albeit it with different concepts apply. In order to make optimal decisions, we must know the difference between Revenue and Margin, Sales and Quantity.

    We must also be honest with ourselves as to

    • which measures are useless
    • which combination of measures do not show a purpose being shown alongside each other, even if they are valuable in their own right (that is another topic).
    • what the context is (what does it mean when we say Durban is not particularly sunny)

    when are we busy with costly hair splitting (also another topic)

    I am not discounting perceptions as having no role in decision making. The words “perceptions”, “stereotyping” and “generalization”, in spite of their negative press, are valuable tools we use in our minds to reduce noise in data, to weigh the role of factors, for sanity testing of systems that claim sophistication, and to use in in the absence of the availability proper quantification. What is more is that we can sharpen and hone those skills if we frequently calibrate them with well presented facts. You would be right to pack warm clothes for your winter trip to Bloem, and your umbrella for Cape Town, but wrong to assume that Cape Town receives higher volumes of rain than Durban (about twice that of Cape Town), Johannesburg (about 1.5x times that of Cape Town) or Bloemfontein (about the same as Cape Town and London, UK).

    Another point illustrated here is that these cities (that are reasonable choices for evenly spaced cultural / economic centres, though one could argue for cities like Port Elizabeth to be included) are not representative to say much about South Africa’s climate. For example, a Martian may not find it worth mentioning that South Africa receives any winter rain at all, due to the small area to which it applies, so he may dispose the advice that in general, South Africa does not receive any winter rain. But that approach would ignore the fact that a significant cultural and tourist centre, Cape Town, is situated slap bang in the heart of that area.