D. Justhy's Blog

"Getting to Yes, Now!"

Datapreneurship for the era of data responsibility

In Jan 2018, Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, IBM Corporation posted an article on www.weforum.org. It was titled, “We need a new era of data responsibility.” According to a Boston Consultancy Group report, the value of personal data could reach EUR 1 trillion by 2020. There is no question about the value of data. Specifically, person centric data. This is the reason, I titled my book – The Billion Dollar Byte.

However, “responsibility” only comes with the good understanding of what data is, and what it is not.

Unfortunately, many leaders in organisations aren’t very clear about how to manage data, particularly for economic value. Incidentally, data management is often confused with “data governance” alone, that too only for regulatory purposes. Walk into any large organisation, such as a financial institute and talk to the Chief Data Officers, Chief Information Officer or even the Chief Architects.  You will find that every individual has their own point of view and convictions around it. But, they will be doing very little about data and its financial valuation.

For the simple minded, though, data is just a reflection of a business process, which in turn is a reflection of the business model and which in turn is a reflection of the business strategy.

Data is only as valuable as the involved process. In fact, if the involved process has an involved person, you bet that is valuable. So, valuable that parties are even waiting to steal it!

The best bet for any responsible enterprise is to first acknowledge that businesses are only as disciplined as their processes and their people. And this discipline gets reflected in their data usage and consumption.

Interestingly, merely holding data and managing it for the sake of it, is not a guarantee for taking good actions. In January 2018, I had published an article in Scientific American about the America’s Ageing Infrastructure and how big data could help. It is clear that there is sufficient opportunity to capture and manage data. But, what is more important is an organisation’s ability to act on that data. To take meaningful action in meeting goals and objectives.

The issue is more about people, than it is about technology.  In fact, it is only about people, because people make all the choices and decisions. I will also go to the extent of saying that it is all about leadership.

It is clear that any person considering themselves to be a leader in the digital age is due for an urgent upgrade in their competencies. Industrial age competencies are no longer serving us well. It is time we switch to a newer set of competencies that are strongly founded on the use of data for decision making and taking action on data. It is a function of our ability to act on data.

This new competency is called ‘datapreneurship’. Because data creates value only when people want it to and it is a responsibility which every digital age leader must embrace, as Ginni Rometty mentioned.

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.

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.

The One Resource to Master for Digital Age Success

Time, as they say, is of the essence. Intelligent management of time is something that eludes executives in top level management, but it is indeed the resource to master to be able to succeed in the digital age.

Time is the most valuable resource to master

Financial pressures from stakeholders and performance related issues are common issues that plague many leaders. If leaders understand how to better manage time to make better choices and decisions at the right time, drastic consequences would not need to be faced, such as the ones that led to the executive suicides in some companies.

Time is indeed of prime concern to the digital age leaders and without intelligent time management, leaders find themselves with not enough time for family, recreation, education or even health.

Working smart involves prioritizing tasks intelligently into compartments instead of working all the time without getting anywhere. Leaders also need to understand that data reflects the business processes which in turn impact the business model that reflects the overall business strategy and outcomes. Such clarity would lead to prioritizing and using time in a more efficient manner to make critical decisions in a timely manner that can save businesses as well as lives!

How can leaders manage time better?

When leaders focus on the priorities of the shareholder, customers, and employees, they have a better understanding of how to utilize their available time. The key to understanding these priorities is having a good data management strategy that saves huge amounts of time and is, in fact, the tool for succeeding in the digital age.  Data management tools such as Data As An Asset Index will assist in mastering time better and is a must have for company boards.

The DAAS Index tool is a resource that offers a standardized way of measuring the relative importance of data systems. Using the DAAS index tool, companies can measure the data that is relevant to their business.

Leaders are also in a better position to make informed decisions when it comes to investments in IT and this is more of a relevance to Fortune 500 companies that have expenditures to the tune of billions of dollars.  In such scenarios, even minor shortfalls in managing data systems can result in huge expenses that could easily be avoided with the efficient use of the DAAS Index.

Funds are mismanaged due to errors in estimating the value of data systems and further, this can lead to failure to create value for the business. Such mismanagement is a drain on time as well as money which leaders can avoid by using the DAAS Index tool.

The One Skill That Makes A Fearless Digital Age Leader & A Digital Age Professional

Leadership has many definitions in different contexts. One definition is that “leadership involves the capacity and will to rally people to a common purpose together with the character that inspires confidence and trust“. Another definition of leadership, a process of social influence in which the “leader enlists the support of others to accomplish a common task”.

In the digital age or information age, the role of the leader remains the same while the approach slightly shifts to accommodate changes in technology in terms of Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, networking, open source technology, and smartphones.

The One Skill A Fearless Digital Age Leader Must Possess

With the knowledge society taking over, the one skill a fearless digital age leader or professional needs to nurture is that of openness to learn and adapt to the digital revolution.

A survey was conducted whose participants included about 1,293 millennial employees based in the U.S., U.K., India, France, Brazil, and China. The results published in Millennial Compass Report indicate that the participants highly admired those with knowledge and experience rather than power or authority. Now, keep in mind that the millennials constitute a majority of the workforce.

The benefits of openness to learning

  • Understanding technology to make intelligent use of data and processes to not only provide direction to the team but to guide the integration of trends across all sectors is secondary to this openness to learning.
  • Openness to learning the technological shifts in areas such as cloud computing, robotics, and automation will enable the digital age leader to be fearless in integrating these into the functions of the business organization.
  • Constant learning will also help the leaders cultivate a symbiotic interaction and relationship with technology.
  • It is important for digital age leaders to think like journalists and adapt investigative journalism. While the digital age leader is open to learning all that technology has on offer, he or she does not force conclusions but rather offers evidence based insights to be debated on.
  • With the openness to learn comes the willingness to constantly experiment and change as necessary as change is the only constant in the new digital age. When leaders are fearless in learning and understanding the information, thinking can become expansive and forward looking.
  • With these traits, it is easy for the digital age leaders to develop teams that are integrated with the technological advancements and think dynamically as well. Such adoption of expansive thinking allows teams to shed traditional and conventional thinking in lieu of the demands of the highly competitive digital era.
  • As data becomes more extensive and specialized skills are developed, informed leaders can better integrate processes with these hyper specialists.

Technology is constantly evolving. The only way to remain a “Leader” in this digital age is to embrace it!

Leadership Rules for the Digital Age


In a digital age where data is power, a company’s competitiveness depends greatly on its management’s attitude to data. The days of taking decisions within a ‘time window’ are behind us. Today, decisions are made in real-time. Decisions made using data are quicker, more precise and more effective than those with no data or outdated data. Which means the two important questions leadership should ask are:

 Are we making the right decision at the right time?

Has the company embraced changes to stay competitive in a technology-driven business landscape?

 For data to be available on-demand and in an easily comprehensible format, a robust data strategy must necessarily be in place. Part of that strategy is to identify tools that allow the company to make sense of increasingly complex data systems.

How best can we plan our technology investment to ensure that the tools we implement are delivering their true economic value?

 As data strategies and investments will be planned, controlled and overseen by executives, it goes without saying that companies need the best people in leadership roles. Data strategy is, after all, person-centric; the most powerful technology is useless in the hands of incompetent teams. What, then, are the rules on ‘ideal leadership’ in the digital age?


  1. Ensuring that the people who make data work are given the freedom and autonomy to state their views in key conversations. They should be empowered to act as leaders to drive innovations and positive transformations with data. These ‘datapreneurs’ should have representation in senior leadership, on the board, and at the managerial level.
  2. Datapreneurs’ don’t necessarily need to hold a formal leadership role but be regarded as influential, valuable assets whose expertise is called upon during strategic business meetings. Though they may be technical gurus, their value lies in aligning technology and business to drive new value. They are entrepreneurial first and technical if required. They are concerned with leveraging data in improving business processes and bringing everything together.
  3. You can pick datapreneurs’ from your existing workforce or hire entrepreneurial self-starters into key positions at every level of the organization. These individuals must be technically adept and entrepreneurial minded, with the ability to create, pursue and realize a vision. They must be able to identify opportunity in order to monetize data investment; influence and gain support in the ecosystem; raise funding for the effort; build a team to create and deliver the value proposition; and scale out the proposition to create lasting value.

Engaging Your Employees in a Digital World


A lot of the conversation around the digital workplace has focused on the impact of  robotics and artificial intelligence on human jobs. On the one hand, there is fear that automation will make human talent disposable; on the other, there is optimism around the innovation that human assets will be able to lead when robots take over repetitive tasks.

At first glance, changes brought about by the digital age may seem threatening. On closer look, you will realize the unlimited potential it offers – for the enterprise and its people. It is only when the  enterprise can frame a people strategy that communicates an evolving business model aligned to the digital age can employees gain a clearer, logical view of key players and participants.

Sure, there may be robots too, but people will always be there. That’s because one of the chief goals of digitalization is to gain insights and identify patterns aiding the creation of products that serve PEOPLE better, empower EMPLOYEES to think innovatively, and create better CUSTOMER experiences to encourage loyalty and customer lifetime value.

In other words, ‘going digital’ benefits people (customers) and is for the benefit of people (employees). The new digital, data-driven business model is, in fact, designed to serve its shareholders. What platforms and tools are enabling is the easy access to data, which is organized and structured for easy searchability and quick, on-demand retrieval. Data repositories in the digital world are ‘person centric’, whether that person is the customer, supplier, employee or business partner.

To be data-centric is to be person-centric; a data strategy will always have elements of people strategy.

Take Airbnb : the online hospitality service uses machine learning and big data to help hosts find prices that earn them (and the company) more money. Data is being leveraged to improve decision-quality – that could mean better productivity or more exciting projects for employees just as it has translated into higher incomes or better deals for other stakeholders. That data is the new gold is also being acknowledged by traditional incumbents in such sectors as telecommunications and insurance. New or allied business models are being conceived to extract the potential of data in strengthening capabilities and enlightening customers.

When digitalization is viewed through the humane lens of ‘serving people’, it is bound to be welcomed instead of feared by employees. ‘The datapreneur’ who can champion digitalization of processes without disturbing the core value that employees cherish, will be able to encourage the enthusiastic adoption of both the advanced tools as well as the mindset needed to excel in our rapidly expanding digital world.