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Three Simple Things America Can Do With Data, To Make Their Lives Easier

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that the 2017 natural disasters damage cost in America is around $306 billion.

These disasters include hurricanes, forest fires, tornadoes, droughts, flooding and other severe weather events.

With available technology and the progress, we have made as a civilisation, it is sad to see natural events still turn into disasters. Sensor technologies, big data analytics, communications, robotics and even artificial intelligence are here to improve the conditions of our lives and to make lives easier. There is no reason why the American infrastructure systems and their responses to natural events should be so inadequate.

American infrastructure seems to be crippling and it appears that natural events are creating havoc and it appears as if there is no respite in sight.

The 2017 Infrastructure Report Card indicates that the cost to improve the infrastructure to an acceptable standard would be around $4.59 trillion.

Given the challenges of climate changes, fiscal constraints and indeed all other politics, can data and related technology help America?

The answer to this a resounding “Yes”.

Here are three simple things which the leaders, the decision makers and indeed the engineers could consider to commence the ‘bailing out’ process and improve the conditions of the ageing American infrastructure systems:

1. Accept that the ‘ability to act on data’ is Very Low or indeed, non-existent in some cases.
2. Acknowledge that data and indeed technology is a friend of the engineering process and is the best bet to salvage the infrastructure systems.
3. Create a master plan and enable ‘the datapreneurs’ involved in the management of infrastructure systems to deliver results in a systematic manner, starting today!

An apple seed, when planted results in an apple tree and an apple fruit. An orange seed, will result in an orange tree that bears orange fruit.

Clearly, we reap what we sow.

America urgently needs to sow seeds for a safer, efficient and an effective infrastructure system. And the sowing of this seed starts with acknowledging that there is a problem and a commitment is needed to ensure that America pursues a “zero disaster world.”

Data and technology are available to us in this world and we should only learn to put them to the right use. And right use is to make this a better world.

Let’s put data and technology to work. Let’s get America’s infrastructure into peak performing state

Forget GDPR. Think Person.

Organisations spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars on regulatory initiatives. It’s easy to get muddled up in regulatory details and lose focus on what actually matters.

Yes, the pragmatist would say – let’s just focus on what the document says and get done with it. That is true. We must stick with the details of the regulatory documents. No doubt about this.

However, it is more important for everyone involved in responding to this regulation, to imbibe the true spirit of this regulation, and that is about the ‘protection of the person.’ And in the process, an opportunity is likely to be created to better manage your billion dollar byte.  Otherwise, your regulatory spend will just become a sunk cost and that will hurt you over the coming years and there could be a tendency to view this regulation pessimistically. And that would be sad.

Here are five points to help the busy executive or technologist manoeuvre this topic.

  1. The General Data Protection Regulation has been published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

The Legislative acts has been documented with the title below:

REGULATION (EU) 2016/679 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 27 April 2016

on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation)

  1. GDPR is about personal data

It’s all about the person and their personal data. This data is the most important and the most valuable, in the digital age and in the digital world. This is the reason, I call this the ’The Billion Dollar Byte.’

  1. GDPR is all about protecting personal data as a fundamental right

The regulation sets out principles and rules on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of their personal data in order to  respect their fundamental rights and freedoms, in particular their right to the protection of personal data, regardless of their nationality or residence.

This Regulation is intended to contribute to the accomplishment of an area of freedom, security and justice and of an economic union, to economic and social progress, to the strengthening and the convergence of the economies within the internal market, and to the well-being of natural persons.

Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (4) seeks to harmonise the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons in respect of processing activities and to ensure the free flow of personal data between Member States of the European Union.

The processing of personal data should be designed to serve mankind, and rightly so.

  1. The right to protection of personal data is not an absolute right

It must be recognised that the right to protection of personal data is not an absolute right; it must be considered in relation to its function in society and be balanced against other fundamental rights, in accordance with the principle of proportionality.

This Regulation respects all fundamental rights and observes the freedoms and principles recognised in the Charter as enshrined in the Treaties, in particular the respect for private and family life, home and communications, the protection of personal data, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression and information, freedom to conduct a business, the right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial, and cultural, religious and linguistic diversity.

  1. Everyone’s personal data needs to be protected in a rapidly developing world

Rapidly changing technological developments and globalisation have brought new challenges for the protection of personal data. The scale of the collection and sharing of personal data has increased significantly. Technology allows both private companies and public authorities to make use of personal data on an unprecedented scale in order to pursue their activities. Natural persons increasingly make personal information available publicly and globally. Technology has transformed both the economy and social life, and should further facilitate the free flow of personal data within the European Union and the transfer to third countries and international organisations, while ensuring a high level of the protection of personal data.

GDPR – Up Your Data Game With Your Process Discipline

From the 25th of May 2018, rights of individuals in the ‘cyber world’ will be strengthened and businesses must acknowledge this by law. The price of not doing so could result in fines due to violations of regulations. Previously this was merely a directive. These fines could potentially run into millions or even billions.

It will be important for every enterprise to acknowledge that individuals need to be recognised as a “data subject” and more importantly, a very valuable one. This is the reason, I refer to the most important data in any enterprise as the data related to the involved persons in the business model.  In fact, I even call this – ’the billion-dollar byte!’

Person centric data in any enterprise must be protected and managed like a ‘heartbeat.’

My book, The Billion Dollar Byte, was honoured as the finalist in the 2017 American Book Fest. For me as a first-time author, it was an acknowledgement that the life of a person in the digital world is just as important as in the physical world. Only now, it is being legally enforced through a regulation.

Like with everything else in life, it is either good or bad, depending on your perspective.

Data has always been, is today and will be tomorrow, a mere reflection of a processes. The only difference, is that today, the processes are being digitalized.

In any enterprise, if the processes are well managed, the data will be too. However, not every enterprise is disciplined enough to manage their processes well and unfortunately, this gets reflected in their data too. You will tend to hear of these symptoms with labels like, ‘data quality’, ‘data swamps’, ‘data something or other’. But, the real root cause is a lack of discipline with the enterprises processes. And if the processes are cross-border, you are coming close to nightmare scenarios with data protection.

Since, the ‘process of life’ has now gone digitally global for almost everyone who has an internet connection, so has the data too. The good news for individuals is that now there is a good chance to be protected against in-disciplined businesses, legally.

For enterprises though, they will need to reinforce, their processes, if they have not already done so, to enable individuals have more control over their personal data, including through:

  1. The need for the individual’s clear consent to the processing of personal data
  2. Easier access by the subject to his or her personal data
  3. The rights to rectification, to erasure and ‘to be forgotten’
  4. The right to object, including to the use of personal data for the purposes of ‘profiling’
  5. The right to data portability from one service provider to another
  6. It also lays down the obligation for controllers (those who are responsible for the processing of data) to provide transparent and easily accessible information to data subjects on the processing of their data.

Knowing how certain enterprises ‘frighteningly’ manage their data, I am glad that these protections are being enforced.  As for enterprises that aren’t good at managing their data, a good start is to get a grip on the business processes that manage the life cycle of the persons data and this may well be a start in your pursuit of your billion-dollar byte.

Five Reasons Your Organisation Must Invest in The Datapreneur

On the 7th of December 2017, LinkedIn’s 2017 U.S. Emerging Jobs Report was published.

According to this report, the job market in the U.S. is brimming with fresh and exciting opportunities for professionals in a range of emerging roles.

New types of jobs mean new potential for workers at all levels, especially for those looking to change careers. December is typically a time when most people in careers, revisit their career plans and take the time during the holidays to ‘strategize’ their next career move.

The good news is that the future looks bright with job growth expected to outstrip growth during the previous decade, creating 11.5 million jobs by 2026. It is interesting to note that 65% of children entering primary school today ultimately hold jobs that don’t yet exist.

The not so good news is – are you and your organisations really prepared to manage this change?

With the onset of the digital age there are two certainties. We will have lots and lots of data and of course we have people.

The people and organisations that are most likely to be successful are the ones that can manage both their data as well as their people, well enough to manage emerging changes effectively.

To this end, in my book The Billion Dollar Byte, I introduce the datapreneur. Where datapreneurship is a mandatory competency for digital age success.

The linkedin report interestingly points out five reason, which in fact support the need to invest in the datapreneurship competency.

Here are five reasons the from the LinkedIn report.

Tech is king

Jobs with the top growth potential are tech-focused, with demand coming from tech and non-tech companies alike. Machine learning engineer, data scientist, and big data engineers rank among the top emerging jobs — with companies in a wide range of industries seeking those skills.

Soft skills matter

Not all of the emerging tech jobs require technical skills. Sales development representative, customer success manager, and brand partner rank among the top emerging jobs at companies where a technical background is not a necessity. Traditional soft skills like communication and management underpin all of these emerging jobs.

Jobs with high mobility on the rise

Several top emerging jobs reflect broader societal trends, such as wellness, flexibility and location mobility. More people are getting healthy which could explain why barre instructor featured among our emerging jobs. Not quite as surprising, licensed realtors ranked highly as the post-Great Recession recovery of the real estate market rolls forward. Just in the past year, the number of licensed realtors has surged 40 percent. This type of roles tend to be more widely distributed across U.S. regions.

Low supply of talent for top jobs

Data scientist roles have grown over 650 percent since 2012, but currently 35,000 people in the US have data science skills, while hundreds of companies are hiring for those roles – even those you may not expect in sectors like retail and finance – supply of candidates for these roles cannot keep up with demand.

Future-proofing skills is critical

Some of these emerging skills didn’t even exist five years ago, and many professionals are not confident their current skill set will be relevant within the next 1-2 years.

Honey: Will You and Your Enterprise Disappear?

 

Are you in the 40% who will disappear?

According to an IDC report released in October 2017, by the year 2020, 60% of all enterprises will have fully articulated an organisation-wide digital platform strategy, and will be in the process of implementing it.

Considering that we are now in December 2017, we are about two full years away, before the above mentioned enterprises would have articulated a platform strategy.

From what is observable in various business landscapes organisations have different levels of maturity in their digital journeys. Some are advanced and some are not.

What is worse, is if your organisation is making up the 40% who are just not prepared for the transition into the digital age! This is scary, of course only if you care about your enterprise, your career, your pensions and/or stock options.

In my book, The Billion Dollar Byte, I mentioned that four hundred plus companies disappeared from the Fortune 500 list because they were unable to transform. We labelled this as ‘creative disruption’.

And this sounds good to read and talk about, as long as it is not YOUR organisation or your enterprise, or indeed some one’s you care about.

But, what if it is?

What chances do you have to save a company from disappearing?

Our best bet as a society is to trust what each and every enterprise would have. And that is their data and indeed, their own people.

The best chance for any organisation to win in the digital age is their data and their people. These are the most valuable assets, which for some strange reasons do not appear on the balance sheets yet.

The important point for any organisation to consider, especially if you are in the 40% who are not prepared, where do you and your organisation stand in this journey, today? And how do you get to where you must be?

Want to See What the Journey into the Digital Age Looks Like? Check out in this graphic here.

Once you are clear about your road map, the data strategy blueprint will guide you in your journey in to the digital age.

The data strategy blueprint itself has three easy to understand stages which any company, in any sector can adapt to set the right course for the digital age.

Since most of these transformational journeys involve spends to the tune of billions of dollars, ideally the sponsors will be as careful as the shareholders.

Being in control of such spends and outcomes is critical. There is no excuse for not transitioning into the digital age.

Well, if we are honest with ourselves, if your organisation does not transform and transition successfully, there is a high likelihood that your organisation, as you know it today, may not be recognisable in about five years from now.

Please do let me know of your digital age journey.  Just drop me a line or connect with me on linkedin.

Let’s keep this conversation going and let make it well beyond the other end of the transition. May the force be with you, until the last jedi!

Knowing that I am RED

90 days to the life you desire.  This is the promise of author Tom Dutta in his heartfelt book, The Way of the Quite Warrior.

After a very hectic 2017, I managed to get some time in December to revisit this book. I read this book in a hurry a few months ago and was touched by it. So, made a self-note to revisit this. So, here’s my catalogue of my experiences as I now, study this book and apply the learnings to my life. Many people I know personally, will benefit from this too.

The first phase in the Way of the Warrior is called, ‘The Self’. If we are truly accountable individuals, no endeavour of any proportion or intent is ever possible without a thorough measure of the self. I strongly believe this.

Regardless of your profession, any conscious individual needs to be aware of their strengths, limitations and purpose – however, that is understood today. In my opinion, this is likely to change as our life experiences unfold.  Perhaps, that’s what makes life so meaningful.

Author Tom discusses the application of Dr. Taylor Hartman’s colour code personality assessment in the first phase of this book. I took the test. My test revealed that my Personality Style is RED.

The book revealed that a Red personality is motivated by power, not being good or bad, but a sense of getting things done, moving from A to B; this is how Red personalities love the world.

People who dislike or hate me could interpret this as my ‘sinister’ personality. We might have to do a poll to check how many people I would have interacted in my life felt “used and abused” in order to meet my selfish goals.

On the brighter side, the Reds are confident, assertive, motivated, decisive and often have a natural talent for vision and leadership. It appears that if you are lost in a strange city, you want people like ME, a Red personality by your side because, within minutes, Reds will find the nearest landmark and map out a route and they won’t stop until a problem is solved.

Apparently, Steve Jobs is a classic example of a Red leader, someone with an incredible vision who truly created a dent in the universe and inspired us all into the digital age, with www.apple.com.

My big idea of “Getting to Yes, Now!” with the combination of data and indeed people, and my journey of enabling professionals and leaders transition into the digital age is probably an expression of my Red personality.

Will keep you posted on my progress with ’The Way of the Quite Warrior”.

If you have not yet got your hands on it, it is available here.

Data Security – More than Just an IT Matter

Data, for the most part of the past few decades, has always been something that exclusively belonged to the IT departments. They would acquire it, transform it, enrich it, enhance it, and shape it. In fact, they would even protect it for the organisation.

At least, so it seemed up until recent years, when data breaches have started to become frequent events and even started to wipe out large financial value.

As the level of complexity associated with data compounds along with technology evolution, the role of protecting data is beginning to go beyond the confines of the IT department and rightly so. After all business models and business processes are not confined to just IT departments.

In order to protect data, companies need to do more than just reinforce their IT departments. They need to invest in not just tools and technologies but indeed in reskilling their workforce for the digital age. And this reskilling is not limited to technologists alone. That’s one of the main reasons that data security is not just an IT matter anymore.

In fact, company boards need to be made accountable for data breaches, if digital age success is an aspiration.

In a June 2017, an IBM sponsored Ponemon Institute Research Report on the Cost of Data Breaches, three root causes were highlighted as reasons for data breaches.

They are as follows:

  1. Malicious or Criminal Attack
  2. System glitch
  3. Human Error

Forty-seven percent of incidents involved a malicious or criminal attack, 25 percent were due to negligent employees or contractors (human factor) and 28 percent involved system glitches, including both IT and business process failures.

As per the report, the per capita cost of data breaches due to malicious or criminal attacks was $156. This is significantly higher than the per capita cost for breaches caused by system glitches and human factors ($128 and $126, respectively).

Malicious or criminal attacks cause the most data breaches and this includes negligent insiders who are actually individuals who cause a data breach because of their carelessness, as determined in a post data breach investigation.

Incidentally, malicious attacks can be caused by hackers or criminal insiders, in the form of employees, contractors or other third parties. However, the most common types of malicious or criminal attacks include malware infections, criminal insiders, phishing/social engineering and SQL injection.

While System glitches are understandably very IT centred in nature, both Malicious or Criminal Attack as well as Human Error are both indeed more about the human element of data breaches.

And the best place to address the human element of data breaches is probably the boardrooms and certainly not the IT back rooms.

Why a Disciplined Process is More Important than Expensive Technology

We all have a good idea of what cloud computing is by now and why organizations and businesses are moving towards it. The cloud is scalable, versatile, flexible, secure and what not! Plus, with names like Microsoft and Amazon providing these services, you might think there is very little that can go wrong.

However, as we have seen in the past few years, things do go wrong. More often than not, organizations, in their eagerness to transition into the cloud, end up exposing their data to possible breaches.

In fact, security experts state that configuration errors are a common occurrence when companies move to the cloud. They usually happen when the company makes the mistake of providing access to outsiders such as vendors. Vincent Liu of security firm Bishop Fox says that improper configuration is the number one cause of data theft or loss.

The cloud is a juggernaut

Cloud computing is an unstoppable force and the problem with unstoppable forces is that you can’t slow them down in order to measure the exact impact that they might have. Gartner predicts that cloud computing will be worth around $247 billion by the end of 2017, as cloud infrastructure services continue to dominate the race.

Ironically, these are the very cloud services that are prone to configuration problems. Since rapid cloud adoption has mainly been the result of users looking for quick access to computing services, there really is inadequate focus on security. A lot of the transition occurs under the shadows with IT departments being left ignorant of the transition.

The need for governance

Pete Chronis, Chief Information Security Officer at Turner Broadcasting System Inc., blames the trend on the lack of proper governance within organizations. IT departments have to be informed about concerns such as online assets, how critical applications are connected, software patching, and high risk changes made by employees such as software developers.

However, with cloud computing, that’s impossible, as the application exists in the cloud instead of the organization’s own data center.

So, how can companies/organizations overcome this?

The answer lies in establishing a disciplined process to ensure that the transition is carried out with the right approval and in a secure manner. Employees or vendors cannot be trusted to focus on security at all times and the technology itself is dependent on the user’s expertise.

However, by creating a robust process, organizations can ensure that the transition to cloud services occurs with minimal risk. For instance, they could create measures that would alert IT departments when an employee purchases a particular service using the corporate credit card.

We Need to Become an Ethical Society Before AI Becomes Mainstream

A few months ago, researchers at Stanford University created quite a stir by testing an Artificial Intelligence (AI) program that could detect and identify homosexuals. The program used a machine learning algorithm to look at images and guess who is more likely to be a homosexual.

Now, despite the researchers claiming that their intentions were good (they wanted the AI to help in protecting homosexuals), the study attracted major criticism. LGBT advocates such as GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign came out strongly against the idea of what is now jokingly being referred to as “the gaydar.”

They believe that the AI can be misused by governments to actually persecute homosexuals, which, to be honest, isn’t hard to believe.

There’s a bigger problem

Using AI to identify gay people is a problem alright, but, this particular case points to something even more insidious – the sheer lack of ethics when it comes to matters involving AI. Even at the research level, there is no ethical framework to guide researchers on AI-related projects. Rules are often made up ‘on the go’ and naturally, this problematic attitude has leaked onto the commercial side of things as well.

In a world where AI is beginning to seep into our daily lives, the ethical aspects of this major transition are growing to be a major concern. In fact, the problems are already at our doorstep.

When robots, bots and AI become mainstream, replacing roles (not jobs!) are people adequately trained and educated to cope with this dramatic shift? In case of driverless vehicles for example, how are we going to deal with the dilemma of having to choose between having people employed and reducing human error on the road?

The need for ethics

The problems with AI have very little to do with the actual technology, itself; they have more to do with the ethical systems that seem absent. We need measures in place to establish ethical frameworks that can guide researchers, product and service creators. Other than that, we also need to have more consensus on AI-related matters from the wider society as well as our governments.

Only then can AI prove to be as fruitful as advertised.

Ethics has played a primary role in all human endeavours and to neglect its function within the area of Artificial Intelligence would be foolish.

 

What Every Leader can Learn from Satya Nadella’s Reading List

Ever since Nadella took over the reins at Microsoft, things have only gotten better for the software giant. So, what makes this CEO unique and, needless to say, effective? Well, there are a ton of factors involved. However, if you were to ask Nadella himself, he would tell you that a lot of his leadership prowess comes from his voracious appetite for books.

In fact, he’s even recommended a few of them for the benefit of other leaders like him across the globe. So, let’s explore the CEO’s reading list and find out what we can learn from them.

Deep Learning by Aaron Courville, Yoshua Bengio, and Ian Goodfellow

Deep Learning is probably the only example of its kind to delve into the more intricate aspects of machine learning. The book discusses a wide range of topics connected to the primary subject. We are introduced to matters such as numerical computation, probability theory, linear algebra, optimization algorithms, and a whole lot more.

Nadella considers this book to be very beneficial for software engineers who aim to incorporate deep learning into their products and for anybody who aims to make a career in this area.

The Great Transformation by Karl Polanyi

 It is believed that Nadella read this book after it was recommended to him by his father. The Great Transformation explores the concept of society-driven economic change against the backdrop of the British economy during its developmental phase.

The Great Convergence by Richard Baldwin

 The Great Convergence discusses how telerobotics and telepresence will change the way people will cross borders from one location to another. Nadella states that he found quite a few analogies in the book to Microsoft’s HoloLens, which he thinks will have the same impact in the near future.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Nadella credits his leadership abilities to this book. The story in the book focuses on an underdog crew team from the University of Washington that took part in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Nadella believes this book to be an excellent lesson on teamwork, which is something he considers to be a core focus of his as a CEO.

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg

Nadella used this particular book to fix the combative culture that plagued Microsoft before his arrival. The book highlights the importance of collaboration, authenticity, self-awareness, and empathy in the workplace and in every other atmosphere that people might find themselves in.