May 2, 2014  5:47 PM

New Target CIO to tackle data security; Snapchat adds text, video

Fran Sales Fran Sales Profile: Fran Sales

If this week’s Searchlight demonstrates one thing, it’s that the Interwebz is consumed with all things data.

First, the biggie: Retail goliath Target says it has taken a huge step in addressing last year’s customer data snafu by appointing big-leaguer Bob DeRodes to the CIO post (former CIO Beth Jacob resigned in March). And his responsibilities don’t sound like a walk in the park: On top of the infamous breach that compromised 40 million credit cards, not to mention 70 million other records filled with customers’ personal information, DeRodes also has to tackle the digital innovation that Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel says is part of the company’s long-term strategy.

Piece o’ cake it ain’t — so is DeRodes the man for the job? Considering he was senior IT advisor to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Secretary of Defense, as well as CIO at Home Depot for six years (where the company says he led a “significant IT transformation”), it sure sounds like he’s equipped to do so. Time will tell.

Onto social and mobile data: Here goes another round in the social platform boxing match! Snapchat announced Thursday that it’s adding text messaging and real-time video chat to its platform. On the same day, Foursquare revealed that it’s splitting its app and launching Swarm, a “social heat map” that will allow users to search for nearby friends and check in to share their location. Eventually, the company will ditch the check-in feature and focus on search and discovery. We’ll see how this divided version of Foursquare competes with Yelp and Facebook.

Other news this week: The White House (finally?) released a report addressing private data dealing and its potential to lead to abuse and discrimination; plus, 3-D glasses on praying mantises can actually help the robotics world!

Read all about that (data) jazz by heading over to Searchlight!

praying mantis, image, wikimedia

Now available with 3-D glasses. [Source: Wikimedia Commons]

April 26, 2014  6:58 PM

Facebook on quest for mobile content; CIOs should follow suit

Fran Sales Fran Sales Profile: Fran Sales

Hey, CIOs, it’s time to take a page from Facebook’s playbook and focus on user content and mobile engagement. Facebook sure has, with mobile making up an impressive 59% of its $2.27 billion in ad sales for Q1. Add to that the 34% rise in the number of users accessing the site through mobile devices, and it’s probably safe to say the social networking site is getting the hang of the whole mobile engagement thing.

Facebook, as we know, has also made some very expensive bets on how users like to communicate, with its $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp, a rejected swipe at Snapchat for $3 billion, and the launch of the Instagram direct-share function and its very own chat app, Messenger.

The social media giant is homing in on its users’ personal conversations – what CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls private content – and it wants more of them. In our latest Searchlight, take a look at how Facebook is playing it smart by enabling users to create and share more private content, further expanding what Zuckerberg says is “an ecosystem that’s [already] growing incredibly quickly.”

And it’s not just personal content you can use to further your business: public content – namely what your customers have told you about their experience with your products and how they prefer to engage you with their feedback – is also a nifty tool, say, for public relations. Panelists at the recent CDO Summit in New York urged for companies to understand their “brand story”: Know what your users are saying and use it to move the conversation.

In other tech matters this week: “Heartbleed” isn’t over yet; environmental sensors on the iPhone horizon?; Obama’s friendly soccer match – with a robot; and more.

Check them out in this week’s Searchlight column!

April 24, 2014  7:27 PM

AT&T CSO: Your perimeter security architecture won’t hold — get thee to the cloud

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

Ed Amoroso, chief security officer at AT&T, knows how to work up a crowd. Speaking at the recent Landmark CIO Summit in New York, Amoroso told an audience packed with financial sector CIOs to run, not walk, to get their data to the cloud. “If you’re not doing it now, run back to your security team and ask, ‘What’re our plans to move to the cloud?'” This was not some sales pitch from a cloud vendor, Amoroso said, raising his voice in emphasis. “I am here as a CSO and that is what I am doing. I am rushing to move things out to a much better model and a much more flexible model — and one that users love.”

Many people would disagree, said security expert Samuel Visner, the panel’s moderator, referring to cloud security, not to the observation that users love cloud. Visner is the general manager of global cybersecurity at Computer Sciences Corp., the IT services (including cloud) provider.

Agree or not, Amoroso said, the status quo no longer holds. Think about it. “Every person in the room is associated with some organization that created security architecture in the mid-1990s — and hasn’t changed it since,” he said. Ignorance in the name of compliance is partly to blame.

“The only reason the perimeter defense is still there, is that we have compliance requirements and we have regulators and auditors who are about 10 years behind everybody in understanding how bad the perimeter is at stopping attacks,” Amoroso said.

Best  practices in cloud security?

Cybercriminals (and high schools hackers) can learn the best practices published by the regulators as easily as enterprise security teams can, he pointed out. “We’re talking sophomore year, midterm exam question: ‘How do you break into such-and-such an organization?'”

The perimeter defense still favored by many companies not only doesn’t work, it invites cyber-attacks — from a class of criminal that is smart, vigilant and unnervingly patient.  Modern-day adversaries have been known to set up camp in a company’s network for the long haul — months or more — and can end up knowing more about the enterprise architecture than IT folks do. They look for R&D and the labs where it takes place. They pay attention to acquisitions and study the acquired company’s network as another way in to steal valuable data.

So if the cloud is the answer to the modern-day cybercriminal, what then passes for best security practices in the cloud? Amoroso offered up a handful, from encrypting your data to using containers for mobile data to using run-time virtualization to duplicate the data protections you have on premises in the cloud.

“You’re way better off with these kinds of modern protections,” Amoroso argued, because they are not the kinds of things any kid in a sophomore computer class could easily untangle.  We’ll dig into that.

Security as competitive advantage

By the way, Amoroso isn’t the only one arguing that the perimeter defense no longer holds. This week on SearchCIO, we have two pieces saying much the same thing. “Block the cyberhacks, play cyberoffense” by columnist Harvey Koeppel, former CIO at Citigroup’s Global Consumer Group, advises any CIO who still relies on a strong perimeter defense for protecting the enterprise to “awaken from your nap.” Of course, the rub for CIOs and CSOs, is how to drum up the money to pay for investing in new security architectures. One way might be to argue that security is actually a competitive differentiator. Our editorial director, Tina Torode, interviewed IT leaders who are trying to do just that. Read their tips here

Let us know what you think; email Linda Tucci, executive editor.

April 18, 2014  7:51 PM

From crisis management to crime networks, getting social pays off

Fran Sales Fran Sales Profile: Fran Sales

Hospital emergency personnel and other first responders were — rightfully — heralded as heroes during last year’s Boston Marathon bombing. Their valiant performance aside, there were still valuable IT lessons learned, detailed in this week’s Searchlight.

This year, Boston’s hospitals have noticeably improved their crisis management processes. Along with a new, centralized single-page disaster tracking system, which all Boston hospitals can access, social media and its by-the-minute updates will play an even bigger role for crisis responders. Hospitals will closely follow social posts, particularly Twitter, and use them as an early warning system to better prepare medical response teams.

Mining social data isn’t a boon just for crisis teams – law enforcement agencies are making interesting finds because of it as well. Turns out, criminal networks and our very own social and business networks look kind of similar. By applying social network theory to mobile phone data, police agents are getting a unique look into what really makes up the social side of crime.

Also this week: Install the Windows 8.1 update or bust!; (soft) robots of the future; bid on Bill Clinton’s ’90s laptop; and more.

Check out the week’s highlights over at our Searchlight column!

April 15, 2014  11:49 PM

Treating data as an asset gives a leg up on the competition

Nicole Laskowski Nicole Laskowski Profile: Nicole Laskowski

Looking for a competitive advantage? Look no further than your own data.

“Every organization has information that’s worth more [by] sharing [it] than keeping it for itself,” Frank Buytendijk, an analyst at Gartner, said at the recent Gartner Enterprise Information and Master Data Management Summit.

An easy-to-point-to example is General Electric and its sensor-driven, money-making industrial Internet. But even for companies that aren’t dealing with industrial-grade jet engines, MRI machines and wind turbines, the concept of data as an asset can open new doors, Buytendijk said.

Take, for example, John West, a U.K. canned-seafood manufacturer. The company tags each tuna it catches with a unique number, which follows the fish from the boat to the grocery-store shelf. Customers can punch that number into the company’s website and learn when and where the fish was caught and the boat that caught it.

Providing visibility into the fishing process adds consumer confidence, according to Buytendijk. “Every company can do something like this within six months,” he said. But every company won’t. By 2016, Gartner predicts only 30% of companies will have figured out ways to exploit their own data, a figure small enough to suggest that businesses that successfully find new roles for company data will have a leg up on the competition.

That’s if the data is used ethically and doesn’t exploit the customer. Amsterdam-based TomTom International, a manufacturer of automated navigation systems, found that out the hard way. A pioneer in geolocation systems, TomTom was the first to introduce bi-directional traffic information, Buytendijk said. For a monthly fee, customers’ traffic information was pushed to the TomTom servers, and consolidated traffic information more reliable than they’d find on the radio was provided to them.

Buytendijk called it a “fantastic business model,” driving revenue and creating customer value. TomTom also disclosed that it would anonymize customer data and sell it. And the company did — to the government. Selling to the agency in charge of roadwork made sense and provided even more value to the customer. But TomTom also sold data to police, who used the information to set up speed traps.

“It’s an efficient use of taxpayer money,” Buytendijk said. “But it got slaughtered in the papers.”

The negative publicity might have been prevented if TomTom had only followed a basic data privacy/ethics rule of thumb. “The more the analytical use of data is removed from your original intention of measurement, the bigger the potential issue,” Buytendijk said.

April 14, 2014  8:16 PM

Two CTOs talk the power of un-persuasion in promoting value of IT

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

Show, don’t tell, is a lesson we all learned in high school English class. (The only spell Macbeth is under is his unseemly ambition….Evidence?!!? C-) At the Landmark CIO Summit in New York last week, CTO Abe Cytryn of Time Inc. and CTO Rajiv Pant of The New York Times suggested the schoolroom lesson also applies to communicating the value of IT.

“Show don’t tell. It means getting real visual, taking them through the experience,” said Time’s Cytryn. “Make a little video if that’s what it takes.” He employs his own design team to help with such presentations.

And don’t make it only your idea, he added. “Make it a shared idea.” Give the business side a kernel, let it marinate and check back the next week to “suss them out” on the idea.

Picking up on the “suss” perhaps, moderator Anthony Juliano, CTO of summit organizer Landmark Ventures, raised the issue of office politics. With today’s tight budgets and the perennially large egos generally associated with big companies like Time, persuading the business of the value of IT must call for political savvy.

But Cytryn was not taking the bait. “If you’re persuading it’s not their idea,” he said, sounding a little like my 11th grade English teacher. As for political savvy, “I don’t use the term politics; I use relationships.”

“That’s very political of you,” Juliano said, to laughs.

Rajiv Pant, The New York Times CTO, backed up his Time counterpart. “In particular, people like us who come from engineering background shouldn’t try to persuade, because we tend to persuade with a very mathematical, logical argument,” he said. “And that really drives stakeholders and business people away.”

What Pant has found useful over the years is to think of himself not as the CTO of a venerable institution but as a business owner, and of his colleagues as his customers. “What do I need to do to keep their business?” he said. “The moment I start to think I have a monopoly on IT for the business, I would tend perhaps to act in arrogant ways that turn off my customers.”

The first thing he does in honing his IT strategy is ask himself what he needs to do to make his business side colleagues successful. “And the best way is to ask them,” he said. “Just the act of asking somebody — whether they are the head of marketing or sales or editorial — ‘What are your goals and how can I make you successful?’ really takes people off guard,” he said, and makes them less likely to argue against your idea. (If only Macbeth had remained the good soldier — the great soldier! —  he was and continued fighting for the larger cause.)

Let me know what you think about the blog post; email Linda Tucci, Executive Editor.

April 11, 2014  8:51 PM

Hearts aflutter as ‘Heartbleed bug’ threatens personal information security

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

This post was written by Fran Sales, SearchCIO’s associate editor.

This week, media outlets (and all my friends and coworkers) have been abuzz with news and speculation about the so-called Heartbleed bug, an OpenSSL security flaw that has existed in as many as two-thirds of (the loooong list of) websites we use and in our consumer devices — from cable boxes and Internet routers to IT equipment and networking hardware — for almost two years.

To add insult to injury, security experts’ advice varies depending on whether you’re a consumer or an IT leader. If you’re in the latter party, they say, assume that your company’s systems have been infected, and put Internet-facing systems at the top of your priority list. But don’t throw yourself into a tizzy just yet: Check out our coverage in this week’s Searchlight and see what resources you can provide your consumers — and check out yourselves — to still your hearts over Heartbleed.

Also this week: It ain’t easy for CIOs at technology firms; is everyone really all that GaGa for Twitter’s new Facebook-esque profile pages?; a bid for one Swiss team’s solar plane to fly around the world — without fuel; and more.

Head over to SearchCIO’s Searchlight column!

April 8, 2014  6:07 PM

Seven not-so-obvious roles your analytics pro will have to play

Nicole Laskowski Nicole Laskowski Profile: Nicole Laskowski

What skills do CIOs and IT leaders either need to develop or bring in-house to take on big data and advanced analytics? According to Carol Rozwell, that question isn’t necessarily the best place to start.

“We should begin with the problems we’re trying to solve,” said Rozwell, an analyst for the Stamford, Conn.-based consultancy Gartner Inc., at the recent Gartner Business Intelligence and Analytics Summit.

Phrasing initial questions from a business perspective — such as, “How will the analysis be used once it’s completed?” — can shine a light on both specific skills and soft skills that can help round out a candidate profile. That, in itself, could be a differentiator because, Rozwell said, most companies look for a candidate who can fill vague requirements such as excellent communications skills or works well with others. “Will those types of general statements bring us the people we’ll need?” she asked.

After speaking with vendors, consultants and businesses, Rozwell created a list of seven not-so-obvious roles analytics pros and data scientists will have to play within the enterprise. CIOs looking to draft up a job description might want to take note. They are:

1. Storytellers. The ability to explain analytics to different constituencies across the organization is essential and will “help the business person understand exactly what the information is and … how the analysis can be applied,” Rozwell said.

2. Artisans. Vendors are forging new ground in the world of visual analysis, but they’re also creating what Rozwell called “a blind spot.” Visualizations, she said, aren’t necessarily self-explanatory, and an employee’s ability to consume a visualization “will vary based on the experience and background of the decision maker,” Rozwell said. CIOs and IT leaders should find someone who can bridge the gap.

3. Behaviorists or social anthropologists. People are idiosyncratic, so an analytics pro who is aware that employees do and will react to new information in ways that may not be logical or rational will go a long way. “Regardless of geographic orientation, background, any other dimensions you might cut, we all have instinctive reactions to situations,” Rozwell said.

4. Detectives. Seek out nosiness and someone who is interested in “searching through and ferreting out information that may not be intuitively evident,” she said. Also, find candidates with a passion for finding the truth because, Rozwell said, any data set is inherently biased. CIOs and IT leaders will want to find people who know when “there is enough information, enough analysis, enough modeling to ensure they’re representing at least a facsimile of the truth,” she said.

5. Philosophers. “This was my best label for the person who needs to deal with ambiguity,” Rozwell said. New information, such as unstructured data, will change as the situation does. Analytics pros should take that into consideration and be aware they’re only analyzing “a snapshot of a point in time,” she said.

6. Jazz musicians and improv actors. Find someone who is creative and can build off of others on the team (like a jazz musician). Improv adds another dimension: When improv actors are on stage, rejection is not an option. and they mix every on-the-fly idea into the skit. Rozwell believes the same concept should hold true for analytics professionals. “We’re all contributing,” she said. “We need to keep testing out [ideas] to make sure we’re poking at the right issues for the business.”

7. Conductors. Find someone with the ability to bring different kinds of people together and “help them focus on a single business outcome,” Rozwell said.

April 4, 2014  6:17 PM

High-frequency trading and technology-enabled competitive advantage

Rachel Lebeaux Rachel Lebeaux Profile: Rachel Lebeaux

If you ask me, some of the best moments of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show are his interviews with journalists. In his unofficial role as a media critic for the millennial set, Stewart usually draws out the best in reporters looking to tell the stories behind the stories — and his interview last week with financial journalist Michael Lewis was so incisive that the show dedicated two full segments to it.

Lewis, who was promoting his latest book, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, discussed the rise of high frequency trading (HFT) on Wall Street — and the longer he spoke, the more clear it became that some traders — ahem, I mean their computers — have a competitive advantage over the rest of the market. Pay heed, DiCaprio: These new wolves of Wall Street are using technology in ways we couldn’t have fathomed 20 years ago.

Read all about HFT in this week’s Searchlight column.

Wolf of Wall Street Leonardo DiCaprio Defends Wolf of Wall Street Amid Controversy

Stock-trading computers have come a long way, Leo.

April 2, 2014  7:48 PM

Getting started: Five key big data analytics decisions to consider

Nicole Laskowski Nicole Laskowski Profile: Nicole Laskowski

LAS VEGAS — Analytics and big data will soon transition from a supporting role to the center stage. Together, according to more than one speaker at the Gartner Business Intelligence and Analytics Summit this week, they’ll become the heartbeat of the enterprise, underpinning just about every process, customer interaction and business activity.

Thinking in such broad terms “opens up your mind as to where analytics can be used,” John Hagerty, program director for big data and analytics category marketing at IBM, said during his presentation. But making the actual leap is easier said than done. To help CIOs and IT organizations make the transition, he presented five key pragmatic decisions to make on big data and analytics.

1. Build a culture that infuses analytics into everything you do
Not everything associated with big data requires plunking down a fistful of dollars. Establishing a successful big data program also requires a change in mindset, which costs the business practically nothing. “This is about people,” Hagerty said. And it’s about curiosity by supporting people to figure out what works, what doesn’t and why.

It also means making big data and analytics a core competency — a part of what everyone does, embedded into the way the company operates. That shift in mindset will help the organization “move from the select few to the empowered many” and put “statistics and predictions and prescriptions into the hands of individuals and processes,” he said.

2. Find the right use cases
For the folks building an architecture, looking for use cases before investing in technology might not come naturally. In many cases, Hagerty said, they’re looking “for all of the pieces that may be used in order to solve any potential problem.” But going that route leaves the company open to poor or, even worse, useless investments. So start with the problem first and “look at it from the outside in,” Hagerty said.

It’s also not a bad idea to brainstorm ideas by looking at what other businesses are doing. As a little food for thought, Hagerty provided six types of use cases:

  • Attract, grow and retain customers.
  • Optimize operations and reduce fraud.
  • Manage risk, especially for financial institutions and insurance companies.
  • Transform financial and management processes in HR, balance sheets, profit and loss, and so on.
  • Build a nimble architecture to support the business.
  • Figure out ways to create new business models.

3. Invest in the technology to support your use cases.
You knew investment had to be on the list somewhere. But part of the goal here involves becoming fluent in all forms of data and analytics. Those two terms overlap to a degree but shouldn’t be seen as the same thing.

From a data perspective, ask yourself if you’re getting all of the data you need. Answering that question means considering the world beyond the data warehouse. Think, for example, about the streaming data and dirty data in which data scientists like to poke around, and the loads of third-party or external data sources. From an analytics perspective, consider the full spectrum — data discovery, text analytics, predictive and, yes, even prescriptive analytics.

4. Be proactive about privacy, security and governance
“If you don’t take a proactive approach, you’re going to get bit in the butt at some point,” Hagerty said. He should know: He’s had his financial information exposed due to company breaches. That’s why he recommends securing the data used for big data analytics as you would “your most trusted, internal financial information,” he said.

Building in security, privacy and governance strategies will help to establish a high level of trust in the data for internal customers, but it will also create company value in the eyes of your external customers, Hagerty said.

5. Understand the levers you can pull to differentiate your programs
Start with use cases but think big. Once a big data analytics program is operational, it will need to be cared for, attended to and, hopefully, stretched beyond its original intent. Based on research published by IBM’s Institute for Business Value, here are three tips to help you establish a successful program:

  • Be aware and understand what’s valuable, what your measurement practices are and what your platform is to support analytics going forward.
  • Drive better performance from these programs by making sure you’ve got the right data and establishing trust.
  • Amplify the program by incorporating such areas as sponsorship, funding and new or additional expertise.

BONUS: Understand your deployment options. Consider the following: “You now have choices: Do you want it to run on premises, in the cloud, as a service or take a combination of that approach?” Hagerty said.

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