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Gold as reserve currency – Part 1

In the time of economic distress, Gold is often seemed as the last man standing. To help understand the role of gold we need to understand how is gold related to the fiat currencies and how it works now as compared to how it worked in the past.

It all started with IOUs being issued against the gold reserves. So in a classical sense the domestic gold supply is directly proportional to the country’s stock of gold. On the international trade front, the notes issued against the gold reserves would be constricted when a country experiences a deficit in trade in terms of gold due to the loss of gold while importing more than the exports.  This depresses the price levels and makes the exports more attractive to other countries while making the imports more expensive. This leads to an automatic correction of the country’s deficits.

What follows is sterilization under a gold standard where the exchange rates are fixed so there is no currency appreciation or depreciation. When a country has net surplus of gold in-flowing from deficit countries, the inflation of that country rises since people will have more gold to buy more imports. And over time since the imports will also increase due to the increased capacity of the nation’s citizens to buy more, the deficit will be corrected.  There will also be declines of export from deficit countries because of the higher prices. The deficit countries will also end up exporting instead of consuming part of their production to correct the deficit. Countries like US and France used the Sterilization in 1920s and 1930s with some success whilst stocking up piles of gold. Around early 1930s this model had detrimental effects on the global economy and was abandoned.

This classical gold model turned out badly in practice due to depletion of gold stocks in some countries while explosion in practice of hoarding gold.

Service Management

Typically customers will pursue the service provider that best enables them to achieve their goals and will offer the greatest advantages.

The true value of a service is comprised of

  • Utility or fitness for purpose
  • Warranty or fitness for use

Utility refers to how useful a service is to a customer. There are two ways of improving utility, the first one being performance improvement. This can be achieved by improving the skills of staff, providing cutting edge and the latest technology that will keep them competitive while also encouraging creativity and innovation.

Next is to remove the constraints and bottlenecks on performance. Constraint is anything that impacts the execution or delivery of the service.  The constraints could be limited hardware or unavailability of resources, not having proper access to the information, administrative delays etc. Appropriate method or actions can be used to tackle each of the bottlenecks individually.

Warranty or Service level agreement –

An SLA or a warranty ensures continuity of service, security to offer reliable solution and dependency & support for after delivery of the service and reduction of risk from the customer’s side, on schedule delivery, type of support. Failing to provide warranty can reduce overall service for customers. Service level agreement is part of any client vendor contract agreements and it ensures consistent, timely and quality service.

Brainstorming on Project Kickstarter – Creating the next social media Assistant and Trend mapper powered by your posts

•       Users can pose a question to the crowd.

•       Questions to be sorted and organized by categories.

•       Questions posed will appear on user’s screen based on the keywords, interests, topics a user picks while creating their profile.

•       Users to get points if they decide to answer a question.

•       Best answer to be decided or promoted by their number of endorsements (up/down) or once a limit of endorsements is achieved.

•       Over time, a database will be created with best answers.

•       Users can view other answers by their ranking.

•       Any question previously asked will get an automatic answer based on the best answer.

•       Information to be distributed based on the popularity of the crowd. Crowd powered.

•       Analyze replies to decide on agree/not agree on the original post.

Collection of Database Concepts

I will use this section to add bits of assorted information related to databases and with time I will revisit this section to add more mini-topics.

Schemas-

In a big organization what are the chances that groups or individuals would create views with the same name? It happens very often, for example let’s say there are separate divisions operating under a parent company selling products in completely different category and market. The business lines will obviously have their own strategies, processes and the way they do their daily business in every aspect while making sure their fundamentals are aligned with the parent company’s goal. IT resources from both divisions working on sales data from the parent company’s database will most likely create logical views or macros to support their line of business and the chances are that out of hundreds of views, some will be named the same. To avoid this scenario, RMDBS provides a hierarchical cataloging of views/tables/procedures by their schema names. The database admin can create a schema for any user or group and the schemas can have views with the same name. This helps in identifying the right entity and provides flexibility in designing and working on multiple applications by multiple groups in a company. The views would be used by the schema name followed by the view name. For ex schema1.inventory, schema2.inventory.

So in short a schema is basically a space for different users or groups with separate access privileges and gives the ability to store, run or edit views or stored procedures.

Joining Fact Tables -

Each business process translates into a dimensional table containing related contextual data based on the similar category of description. For example a sales model can have a fact table containing the measures of different quantities of unit sold with a bunch of dimensional tables surrounding this fact table. There can be a location table that would contain information of the retailers who sold the unit quantities; this information would contain retailer code, name, address, zip code, store open indicator, active flag and so on. Another table would be sales calendar containing the company sales calendar with different groupings by, say for example, week end dates, month, quarter, year etc.  Each of these dimensional tables would have a primary key through which they can be joined on a many to one relationship with the fact table.  In the simplest form a fact is surrounded by a number of dimensional tables joined through a key. This allows the query engine to pick up the data requested by the constraints and scan the fact table for related entries.

Dimension Tables for Textual Context Usage

Dimension tables are integral part of any fact table dimensional modeling schema. Dimension tables contain textual context that are associated with a business process measurements stored in fact tables.

Such a table can contain anywhere between 20 to 100 attributes or columns. These tables are smaller in terms of number of rows but are considered wide with much large text content.  Each dimensional table has to have a primary key through which they can be linked or associated to the fact table. The attributes serve as primary source of grouping, query filters, constraints or labels. Attributes can at times have cryptic or coded names but it is considered good practice to name them according to the description of the content of a column. This makes it easier for user/developer to understand and use rather than memorizing what each coded name means.  Although many time the operational codes have some logic to the naming convention which is aligned with the applications and the source data used. For example, the first four letters could be related to area and the next three could be district and so on.

It is said that the analytical power of any DW/BI is directly proportional to the quality and depth of the attributes.  A dimensional table designed to contain multiple levels ranging from the most granular to the highest possible under the business rules and capabilities will give the most flexibility in usage of the contained data in any Business Intelligence application or tools. These levels being in hierarchical grouping allows different tools to produce resultant data in the form required or as needed according to the specification.  The hierarchical data should have description added as a column in spite of the redundancy of data. This allows ease of use and better overall query performance. Dimensional tables should not be normalized to a degree where descriptive information is stored in another supplemental table in form of snow flaking. Since dimensional tables have significantly fewer rows than a fact table, further normalization would rarely make a difference in database size.

Confronting to resolve conflicts

With employees and personals working closely in any organization, too often situations arise where difference of opinion and collision of ideas, opinions and thoughts are inevitable. This could be due to various reasons such as personality differences, egos, die-hard habits, own way of doing things etc. In corporate world, it should be an accepted fact that not everyone is going to be on the same level of understanding and it should not be accepted that all employees will get along well with each other.  In fact it’s the differing nature of the ideas in people that brings out the best outcomes when the resolution process is followed correctly and efficiently.  In my experience there were many instances when either party was wrong or both were right in their own way. Sometimes it is tough to be in the position to mediate or confront to resolve such issues due to the nature of circumstances and the type of people involved.

It is essential to be non-judgmental and leaving any preferences aside, the right and accepted process should be followed. The process could involve collaborating, confronting, forcing or accepting to achieve the right outcome. The forcing technique should be sparsely used but is effective and is needed where the conflicting party is too stubborn and non-conforming of the documented policies. In spite of the realization, certain employees due to the amount of time and energy they invested in their ideas would find it hard to accept the opposing decision. Managers would be left with no choice but to force them to accept and follow the correct protocol.

Certain cases need delicate attention due to the fact that your team members may be equally right about a certain issue on hand but have their own ways of doing things. But avoiding resolution of conflicts tends to make problems worse because the lingering issue still exists until fully resolved. It is essential to be assertive, clear, calm and firm while being non-judgmental. Confrontation can result in a positive outcome if the right negotiation skills and used with the right communication techniques.

To summarize,

  • Conflicts are part of life and should be accepted in terms of occurrence
  • They can bring out the better outcome
  • Conflicts should be confronted when possible
  • The resolution process should be followed non-judgmentally and without any pre-conceived preference.
  • Adhere to policies of the organization regardless of any personal opinions.
  • Right techniques of communication and negotiation skills should be employed.
  • Train your employees to follow the documented procedures.
  • Minimize the possibility of confrontational situation or buildup of circumstances that could lead to confrontations.

Problem Types and Model for Decision making and solving problems

A problem can be defined as unexpected disruption or gap between current and desired state. There are different methods of tackling any particular issue using analytical, practical or creative approach.

An effective way would involve the progression through following stages

  1. Ascertaining what the problem is
  2. Identifying causes and opportunities
  3. Generating solutions
  4. Evaluating and choosing the best solution
  5. Implementing and monitoring actions

A systematic approach leads to the best possible outcome and in a way guarantees that the steps would result in being positively accepted by the general public while backed up by a suitable rationale. The outcomes would also be more consistent with aligned agenda on hand.

Often we come across a difficult question or choices that seem to go either way. Sometimes people see decision making or problem solving as a single step process or a single action of affirmation or negation. Although it may seem as a straight forward course, the mind iterates though multiple levels of processing.  To break it down and study the steps involved would not only help make a better decision but allows being confident in the outcome that leads to desired state. Whether a decision is tough, easy, difficult it is essential to iterate through the flow of various process broken down at its lowest level

Six Step model

  1. Defining the question accurately
  2. Searching for all possible answers
  3. Examining the impact and outcome of each answer
  4. Weighing the pros and cons and related risks & rewards
  5. Choosing the best solution that is solely designed to fit the question
  6. Monitor the outcome
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