D. Justhy's Blog

"Getting to Yes, Now!"

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.

 

Three Superior Human Skills in the Digital Age

Technological advancements have allowed for organizations to stay connected to people within and outside the company walls. While face-to-face interaction isn’t the norm today, technology has brought forth the need for managers and subordinates to develop a specialized set of human skills that can help employees navigate these technological times.

In-season skills in the age of technology

While new skill sets are certainly prized, managers around the world stress on three traditional skills which are essential for employees of the digital age. In fact, managers and business leaders believe that these evolved traditional skills will help their personnel better manage the challenges and opportunities of new-age technology-based organizational environments.

Here are three superior human skills that you need to cultivate, in order to be successful in the digital age:

  1. Collaboration

With new technology being developed on a continuous basis, technical know-how will only get more specialized and out of reach. It’s important for personnel with this new knowledge to work together with their team, to facilitate sharing of technical knowledge and experiences.

Additionally, with team members working remotely from various corners of the world, collaboration with both people and machines becomes a priority to effect positive operational and strategic results.

  1. Communication

While technology has certainly been a blessing to organization-wide communication, it must be acknowledged that a lot of information gets lost in the system. Technology can only do so much when it comes to data processing, analysis, and communication. The rest is up to people.

From something as simple as tips on troubleshooting to highly confidential business information, employees need to learn how to navigate this complex technological landscape in order to effectively communicate pertinent information to their peers and supervisors.

  1. Emotional Intelligence

Technology has long been credited for being the cause of the loss of humanity in today’s organizational setting. While it’s debatable whether this is an undeserved allegation or not, the operational and strategic benefits of being emotionally responsible and responsive must be recognized.

The ability to sympathize, empathize and connect with people is a human gift, one that must be actively cultivated by employees across the organization. Being able to express and navigate emotions will help employees read non-verbal cues that data and technology fail to identify, allowing business leaders to take important decisions.

Human skills will only serve to complement digital know-how. Developing and cultivating these skills will equip employees with the skills needed to be successful in this digital age.

 

Nature First. People Second. Machines Later.

Technology specialists and business leaders have long predicted that technology will make people obsolete in workplaces and this prediction has partly come true. The World Economic Forum recently revealed that robotics and AI would result in loss of over 5 million jobs worldwide. Does this mean that we are prioritizing machines over people?

Machines in the form of automobiles and other carbon generators have had serious environmental impacts, leading to an enlarged carbon footprint and loss of biodiversity. It would seem that with the recent technological advances, we are not just putting machines over people; we are also putting them over nature.

But is this entirely true?

The new epoch

While technologies are reducing the human touch from the organization’s day-to-day operational activities and while they are having a negative impact on the environment; technological developments today are trying to preserve ecosystems and livelihoods.

Let’s address the issues individually. First, we have the problem of job automation leading to a loss of livelihood. Scientists and technology experts, including Tesla’s Elon Musk, believe that augmenting ourselves will help us avoid the threat of job automation.

Brain augmentation has become a reality. Scientists at Harvard are using technology – ultra-fine electronic meshes – to boost the human brain’s ability to receive, process and act upon neural inputs. This will allow our brains to behave like supercomputers, reducing our necessity to depend on actual computers. The objective is to use technology, not to replace people, but to complement and supplement their natural skills. An additional advantage of augmentation would be the easy identification of degenerative neural disorders, which will help doctors save millions of lives. It seems quite obvious that we are putting people ahead of machines.

Now for the second problem – technology’s impact on the environment. Google, on its 19th birthday, released a video of how the Charles Darwin Foundation was using its Street View software to map the Galapagos Islands, in an attempt to preserve this unique ecosystem.

Closer home you might see a carbon capture plant being set up. Global Thermostat and Carbon Engineering are two carbon capturing companies who plan to use technology to capture as much as 300,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year and use this carbon to make eco-friendly materials such as AirCarbon, which can in-turn, be converted to items such as chairs and baking soda. These are just a few of the examples of how technology is putting nature ahead of machines, and by extension, we are considering the well-being of people ahead of the welfare of machines.

A balancing act

While machines aren’t completely without blame, they mustn’t be blamed entirely either. At the end of the day, how we utilize technology and what we prioritize is up to us, as humans.

Get Rid of Poor Data Quality Once and for All

The impact of poor quality data is felt both in terms of revenue as well as the reputation for organisations. Data quality issues cost businesses $600 billion per year according to a report by TDWI (The Data Warehouse Institute). A 2016 report by IBM estimates that the losses caused by poor data quality are almost $3 trillion annually.

Organisations also incur damage to their reputation which can vary from minor to major. One example is the roll out of Maps by Apple in which most of the data was inaccurate and not usable. Reputation damage also has a direct impact on revenues.

Striking the balance

While many businesses realise the criticality of data quality, they are not effective in striking the right balance in allocating resources to address data issues. Although businesses respond to regulatory demands to invest in data management, return on investment is a subject that eludes CFOs and COOs.

According to a report by KPMG, 84% of CEOs are not confident about the quality of data they are basing their decisions on. Two out of three executives are overwhelmed by the quantity of data that need to be analysed. In the digital era, technologies including Internet of Things and automation are leading to exponential growth of data. To be able to stay ahead of the competition, managing the data quality is becoming increasingly important for businesses.

A 10% increase in data accessibility can boost the net income by $65m for Fortune 1000 companies. Simplifying the data deluge management process with the right tools, methods, people and processes is basic to solving data quality issues.

The solutions

The first step to getting rid of poor data quality is to understand the relative importance of data. Focusing on the most important person-centric data, followed by products and services is critical to managing data quality.

  • The person-centric data should be of the highest quality and also well managed to enable businesses to run efficiently. In this context, businesses should know the relationship between Business Strategy-Business Model-Business Process-Data.
  • The most critical data for the business needs to get 100% in terms of quality. Before getting into big data analytics, it is crucial to get the quality of person-centric data right. The cost of not managing the quality of person-centric data can run into billions or trillions for businesses.

The Data as an Asset (DAAS) Index is a tool that helps create transparency required to address and manage data quality.  Just like in the industrial age – ZERO DEFECTS – is a possibility.

Patience and discipline is the basic foundation, though.

In the midst of burgeoning technologies.

It does Matter: A Case for Making People Relevant in the Age of Machines

In the age of big data, machines and artificial intelligence the relevance of people can be questioned. And the question may be justified when viewed with certain lenses. After all, this is a world in pursuit of ‘profits’.

However, good leaders do realise that businesses are made up of people who have a stake in them. These stakeholders include the employees, shareholders, consumers, partners, and vendors. These individual stakeholders in fact, drive the economy as a whole.

People create value

Since every enterprise is an orchestration of people, processes and technologies – purposeful value creation is based on how well people come together along with processes and technologies. Value can only be created by people for people. Digital age companies can only succeed when they ask themselves, “Do we have the right people in the right place to steer this ship in this age of uncertainties using the tools and technologies available?”.

Investing in people is the right strategy for companies. A successful company is only possible when successful teams are put together. The right talent at the right place is still going to be the critical factor for digital age success. People who have the right competencies across the value chain drive the success of enterprises.

Decision making with empathy is critical in the digital era

Data is available from every channel imaginable and machines are becoming smarter by the minute. But without the right people, who can understand and channelize all that data – progress is just not possible. Data must not only be well organized but be in the hands of the right people so that it supports managerial and executive decisions, followed by subsequent outcomes.

All business outcomes are a result of decision making. Right and well timed decisions result in good outcomes while a series of systematically bad decisions result in failure of businesses.

The culture within an organization is also set by people, and people only. Certainly, not by machines or AI! Creating a strong and adaptive culture in an enterprise is critical to succeeding in the digital age. Going digital is not about things or machines, but about “how you do things better. More importantly – for a better world!” The “how” of doing things is always up to the right people who can make the right decisions based on the tools and technologies available to them.

The right capabilities can help companies keep pace with their customer needs as digitalization changes consumer behaviour rapidly. Technical capabilities such as big-data analytics, artificial intelligence, digital content management, etc are crucial for success in the Digital Age.

But nothing to replace what a human and only a human can do best, in any process.  And that is – to empathize!

Digital Age Leadership Books to Read

In the digital age, harnessing the power of data along with displaying entrepreneurial skills is key to creating value for enterprises. People who can combine leadership roles with their ability to analyze big data are the datapreneurs.

Skills digital age leaders need

Datapreneurs must be entrepreneurial in their use of data besides taking ownership of their responsibilities. Not only do they need to develop strategies based on data but be able to find innovative solutions to the task at hand.

In the digital age, a leader can be redefined as the one who can harness the power of data to make the right decisions. Data, processes, and technology must be used in a smart way by these leaders to create value.

Using the right resources will help fine-tune the abilities of digital age leaders. Being self-driven, taking initiatives, and knowing how to influence people and policies are some key skills of digital age leaders.

The books to read for digital age leaders

 Digital to the Core: The book written by Mark Raskino and Graham Waller talks about how business leaders must recognize the ‘impact of the digital revolution’ on industries and leadership practices and styles. The authors present a detailed insight into 30 top C-level executives from Ford, McDonald’s, GE, and Tory Burch.

The Case for the Chief Data Officer (CDO): Recasting the C-Suite to Leverage your most Valuable Asset:  Authors Peter Aiken and Michael Gorman discuss how to obtain a data advantage, the definition of a data chief in the digital age, and how data needs a dedicated focus as given to technology.

Digital Destiny: How the New Age of Data Will Transform the Way We Work, Live, and Communicate. Written by Shawn DuBravac with a foreword by Gary Shapiro, the book talks about a new era that has been ushered in by the digital ownership. The core of the book is dedicated to how the data will relate to the day-to-day lives of people and how every area of work, life, and communication will be impacted by data.

The Digital Transformation Playbook: Rethink Your Business for the Digital Age: Author David L. Rogers discusses how enterprises with a legacy of technology can transform into digital organizations. Also given is a step-by-step guide on the processes involved in such a transformation. The author believes no playbook exists for management to understand how to cope with the challenges