That is, it has never been more important for CIOs to think about competitive advantage as a business philosophy.
Today, every bit of technology usage amounts to some sort of competitive advantage. It’s a factor in big data and business intelligence, outsourcing, and cloud.
Now technology for competitive advantage is starting to count as a benchmark for CIO success, writes SearchCIO.com Senior News Writer Linda Tucci. Gathering competitive intelligence has become a daily task for George L. Reed II, CIO at Seven Corners Inc., a privately held global travel insurance provider in Carmel, Ind. “You learn who’s taking risks,” he said.
Fortunately, this is the right time for CIOs to come to their CEOs bearing competitive intelligence, which would lead to new ideas — or as Michael Porter might say, what not to do.]]>
Should CIOs care about their Klout score? Dorrie Clark thinks so.
The hackers are at it again: This time, as many as 1.5 million MasterCard and Visa numbers were breached on Friday.
Those Millennial-generation traits continue to bewilder baby boomers and Generation X leaders. Almost 90% of Millennial workers feel it’s important to be constantly learning at their jobs, and 70% feel they need “me time” at work, versus 39% of baby boomers.
Why aren’t more women in leadership positions? Mega-billionaire and Virgin mastermind Richard Branson thinks companies should be forced to have more females on their board of directors.
You want big data? You can’t handle the big data. IBM and ASTRON (an astronomy organization based in the Netherlands) plan to collaborate to explore the origins of the universe with a Square Kilometer Array. The telescope can scan an area roughly the span of the continental U.S. at once.
With the death of Steve Jobs, the tech world eagerly awaits the next great visionary to emerge. Despite what Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg would like you to believe, it seems that great leaders are in short supply.
Are Millennial-generation traits leading to more young women suffering major burnout at work?]]>
Jonas, chief scientist of the IBM Entity Analytics group and an IBM Distinguished Engineer, doesn’t fear large data sets. He’s working on systems that work better and more efficiently, the more data there is to crunch. “Big data, new physics,” he calls it.
“It’s really about big data in context,” he said. “On this journey, with context, you end up with having higher-quality predictions because both your false positives and your false negatives are declining.”
Whereas data managers for years have worried about data cleansing, data hygenics and data sterilization, Jonas says that more data — and more information about that data — helps define patterns in data that otherwise would not be found. “Your bad data becomes your friend. It turns out you don’t want to overly clean your data.”
The next generation (dubbed G2) of business intelligence systems Jonas is working on will be able to evaluate new observations vs. previous ones in real time, he reported. It also will be able to handle “abstract entities” and “exotic features,” and become tolerant of “uncertainty or disagreement.” In other words, G2 will be able to “learn.” And all in a response time of less than 200 milliseconds.
Is there any limit to our ability to understand the world around us through data? That’s the big question.]]>
Jonas took a puzzle and removed 10% of the pieces, threw another four partial puzzles into the mix, then a duplicate of the first puzzle, also with pieces missing. He watched how long it took four teenagers to realize that they had been duped (a little under three hours) and how long they sorted out duplicate “data,” as well as data that didn’t belong to the picture they were creating.
For instance, what was a Las Vegas neon sign doing in a puzzle that clearly depicted “hillbillies” on a porch? Jonas explained how this represented exactly the constraints our big data analysis efforts operate under. Midmarket companies aren’t playing with a single puzzle showing the neon landscape of Las Vegas or a charming vignette of some country types playing jug-band music.
As IBM’s chief scientist explained, until you have context, you wonder if the puzzle piece with flames on it is showing a fire in a fireplace or a fire in the kitchen. As the puzzle experiment at PartnerWorld demonstrated, we are in danger of throwing out “bad data” that could become useful in the future. Scott Lowe discussed this phenomenon in our tip last week on Big Chaos.
As a big data analytics junkie, I see the inherent value in using technology to make these connections. For instance, at PartnerWorld, Jonas cited the example of a top five major U.S. retailer at which two out of every 1,000 new hires had been charged with theft from that very same retailer. It boggles the mind that HR wasn’t talking to the loss prevention department, and yet it’s easy enough for a giant enterprise to make such a glaring oversight. Jonas calls this enterprise amnesia and cautioned that companies must stop trying to squeeze data out of the puzzle pieces. Instead, “the data must find the data and the relevance must find the user.”
Of course, IBM PartnerWorld exists to encourage midmarket CIOs to use its big data analytics, under the wing of Jonas, its resident genius and chief scientist. I do wonder, though, if midmarket companies aren’t being coaxed to apply the big-data-analytics square peg into a round hole. It’s rarely a case of pulling out a snazzy GUI to call up a magic answer, as much as departments outside IT would like to imagine.
Big data analytics requires some level of finesse, not to mention some intuitive leaps, to yield the gold in them thar hills. Are midmarket companies ready to take the dive? I suspect many midmarket companies’ big data analytics might be driven from departments outside the CIO’s control. But smart CIOs will have anticipated this movement and taken some proactive measures to insure that the right action is taken at the right time.]]>
Victims of hype? No. More likely, victims of expectations that were set too high for very complex technology initiatives. In the world of the CIO, we see this all the time. So in that spirit, here are a couple of trends I think will retreat in 2012.
Bring your own device (BYOD). This will be the year of BYOD backlash. Certainly, many companies are already allowing employees to use their own iPads, etc., for day-to-day work. But I sense that there will be some more serious thought put behind it this year. For one thing, companies may be all for iPads but will start to buy them and hand them out as company issue. Kind of takes the fun out of it, doesn’t it? Likewise, a good percentage of IT or security managers will revolt outright and ban the use of outside devices or make users register their own so usage can be monitored.
Big data. Raise your hand if you are sick of hearing about big data. Just remember that you cannot buy “big data” products, as much as vendors would like you to know they are the big data source. Big data is not even a set of technologies; it more closely resembles a strategy toward business intelligence. Watch this space this year for more information about how to create a BI strategy that can embrace all the data you have at your disposal. Until then, consider the benefits of “small data.”]]>
First, with more than 70 million users affected, the PlayStation Network breach could potentially be the biggest identity theft event in history.
Second, and I think more egregious, is the incredibly slow response from Sony. As of this writing, the breach is a week old and the network is still down and could be for another week.
Third, Sony, a noted technology vendor, visionary and pioneer (and also perpetrator of the infamous CD digital rights management scandal a few years ago) should be ashamed of the scope of exposure to its network.
But there is a ray of hope. For the millions out there who are addicted to the PSN multiplayer versions of Call of Duty: Black Ops and the new craze, Portal2, as my two sons are, there is a rare opportunity for a respite from the virtual world and a chance to face reality.
Time for Sony to do the same.]]>
My first thought was that at least companies are getting less squeamish about putting out breach notifications. By now, businesses understand that a security breach doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be put out of business, which we learned with the TJX data breach.
But what is different in the wake of the Epsilon attack is that cybercriminals don’t necessarily have to get all of your personally identifiable information anymore to be able to get an edge on the consumer. Here, they just got names and email addresses. But that may be enough: A mere notification may be enough to spur someone to reply to a phishing email and inadvertently give away much more information than the original breach garnered.
Just as companies all have to have security and privacy policies, so do individual consumers when dealing with cybercrime. The same rules apply, however — awareness, diligence and taking the responsibility to know with whom you are doing business.]]>
The Sierra Club, on the other hand, mystifies me. Every other month or so I get a fat envelope stuffed with different pieces of paper — letters, brochures, maps, return envelopes, etc. — enticing me to join and support the cause. That much paper from an environmental group would be truly revolting if all of it didn’t say that it was 100% recycled. But still, what are they smoking?
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is not exactly a competitor, but the nonprofit organization does solicit funds from many of the same people. The WWF does have a different way of going about it, however.
I met recently with Phil Redmond, director of e-business information technology at the WWF, who explained how his organization has a business intelligence strategy that keeps its member and donor recruitment process streamlined.
The WWF uses SAS Institute’s DataFlux Data Management Studio to manage, clean and keep up to date its rolls of members and donors, and the intelligence gathered from the software can help determine who gets what kind of solicitation.
For instance, he said, donors can get an email soliciting funds, but, depending on their profiles and other data, select people could get a more personal treatment. “Using SAS doesn’t replace the handwritten note they send out to the big donors.” If the Sierra Club did this, I would be free of the recurring fat envelope.
The WWF is using BI not only for member management, but for creating data on wildlife itself, and has set up a business intelligence strategy around tracking migration patterns and populations of endangered species.
One result of this effort is a text for Tigers campaign. Now that’s an intelligent use of business software.]]>
What is everyone using Microsoft Excel for? As I mentioned earlier, project management and BI are often top Excel candidates, but Bhatia said he sees it extend out everywhere.
For example, Bhatia has been using an Excel spreadsheet as an impromptu bug-tracking and logging system. Anything he comes across, or is alerted to, gets prioritized in his Excel spreadsheet.
But, while it’s a quick, cheap way to keep things in order, it won’t work as well for long as the company continues to grow, he said. “Excel can take you a long way,” he said, “but many users, like myself, usually reach a point where they need a more specialized tool.”
It’s not as easy as it sounds to find that tool — especially in small companies — and it’s easy to get lost in all the noise. A lot of the solutions are either too niche — handling one solution well but also requiring yet another tool to log in to and manage — or too broad and include a lot of “stuff” that Bhatia said he just doesn’t need or care to use.
And sorting through all of that is time-consuming and not necessarily worth the effort in the short term, he said.
“In a small business, you need to prioritize and make decisions quickly so you can continue to grow,” he said.”If you’re mulling over a possible solution to a problem that’s not mission critical, you’re wasting your time.”]]>