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by: Robert.hillard
27  Oct  2015

Predicting which jobs will be disrupted

Parents everywhere are wondering about the career choices that they should encourage their children to pursue.  While some careers are already badly disrupted, others seem to be flying.  How do you tell which activities will be valued in the decades ahead?

Depending on your country, the legal profession is a good example of the different impacts of disruption.  Lawyers are not going out of business, but legal firms are experiencing unprecedented pressure on their rates.  What is most interesting is that those who are dedicated to arguing in court (barristers in countries such as the UK or Australia) have the greatest success in charging a premium while those who are responsible for advising through legal processes seem to be the most affected by the downward pressure on rates.

This is a microcosm of the challenges and opportunities facing accountants, architects, technologists, management consultants and so many other professions.  Disruption is no longer a theory about the future, it is with us now and the situation is getting worse for so many incumbent professions while other, often closely related, jobs seem to be immune.

There are some consistent themes to those roles that are protected and those that are most disrupted.  For all of the talk of new technology, it is traditional economic principles of supply and demand which are at play, the role of the internet has been to free-up some of the friction in the system and allow these dynamics to come to the fore.

I’ve argued for a long time that the internet allows small business and individuals to compete with big companies.  There are a number of mechanisms, but the most prolific is the rise of aggregation platforms.  These platforms allow different groups to offer their spare or primary capacity in new and interesting ways.  We are seeing this with taxis, accommodation, designers, lawyers and management consultants.  New providers are appearing all of the time.

Platforms allow a number of small market participants to offer an integrated service.  Drivers offer a global service through Uber and accommodation owners combine through Airbnb.  Both of these are services that lend themselves to commoditisation and standardisation so will tend to reduce in unit cost.  This leads us to three rules to use to determine which jobs are most at risk.

Rule #1: Commoditisation even of personal or highly technical skills

Platforms support commoditisation of otherwise individualised services such as driving or private accommodation.  Similarly, many of the activities of design, medical diagnostics and legal advice are turning out to be relatively easy to break into units of work, which can be distributed and disrupted.

One of the assumptions that many have on the future of IT is that it is being offshored and outsourced.  In fact, this is an early example of the trend that skills that can be defined in a standardised way that can be disrupted.  However, that does not necessarily mean that all IT can be defined in standard units of work, meaning that much, if not most, of the profession is less prone to disruption.

Rule #2: Skills where the outcome is incremental

Consumers of services will pay a small premium for a great experience.  If the bill is high, however, the premium they will pay for the same outcome with a slightly better service is only small.

For instance, most people choose their builder based on price even if they know that they will have to manage the process closely.  Many of these same people will choose an architect based on their creative talents rather than price because the difference between two architects is an entirely different building.  However, where the building is a standard shape or configuration, architects have a hard time pitching their wares against each other or even against less qualified designers.

This rule explains why legal professionals who mount the argument in court are less subject to the commoditisation of their services than those who provide legal advice on the process.  While the legal process is relatively defined, even a small difference in the quality of the court appearance can make the difference between winning and losing.

Leadership is a really good example of a unique skill where stakeholders are prepared to pay a premium given that each decision has a ripple and long-lasting effect.  CEOs are unlikely to receive a pay cut anytime soon!

Rule #3: Deep knowledge is no protection

It used to be that having narrow but deep knowledge of a topic was likely to protect your job.  Where the first generation of knowledge systems could codify simple processes and provide access to knowledge, the current generation of cognitive analytics can replicate the process of applying complex knowledge assets to similar but different problems based on patterns of previous responses.

Not only is this disrupting those who solve customer problems and provide complex advice, it is increasingly threatening medical professionals who interpret images as well as legal and tax experts who interpret tax legislation.

So what is safe?

The reverse of each of these rules is similarly true.  I’ve argued before that your insight might protect your job.  The careers that are most likely to attract a premium in the future have: skills which are difficult to commoditise or involve complex integration; roles where there is a binary outcome for a small difference in capability; and activities that require insight rather than knowledge.

Unfortunately, the jobs that most of us do today have elements that lend themselves to disruption but also activities that are more likely to garner a premium.  The exciting thing is that it is the latter that are usually the most fun.  I’m an optimist, I think the business of tomorrow will recombine the most interesting elements of today’s jobs and open up even more interesting careers for the next generation.

Category: Enterprise2.0
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by: Robert.hillard
26  Sep  2015

Email works too well

Everyone who regularly feels overwhelmed by their email would agree that there is a problem.  The hundreds of articles about the issue typically make the same assumption and are wrong. Writer after writer bemoans email as inefficient and an obstacle to productivity. The problem isn’t that email is inefficient, rather, it is too efficient and knows no boundaries.

If email wasn’t productive, only a fraction of today’s emails would be sent.  It allows today’s worker to answer more questions from, and give more directions to, their colleagues in a shorter amount of time than past generations could have imagined possible.

Personal boundaries

In years gone by, work was done at the office.  To continue working at home meant loading paper files into a briefcase, a process that put natural limits of how much could be done out-of-hours.  Even if a large number of memos were written, replies were not going to be received until they went through the internal mail or postal service.

I’ve written before about using email more effectively (see Reclaim email as a business tool).  While there is much that we can do individually, I believe that email is the sharp edge of a technology wedge that challenges our fundamental assumptions about the way we work.

This technology wedge has removed many natural barriers to working as much as we choose.  Many argue that the freedom to work puts the onus of responsibility back on the individual.  This may be true, but we have not invested in developing skills for individuals to know how much work is enough.  We also need to decide, as a society, what attributes we want to encourage in our most successful workers.

A competitive economy means that the most ambitious constantly outdo each other to deliver value for their workplace.  Many see pulling-back, by putting boundaries in place, as reducing their competitiveness in a tough world.

Recognising this, some countries have attempted to put in place limits, most famous is the French 35-hour working week.  The challenges of global employers and an economic downturn have arguably blunted the impact of limiting the hours that individuals work.  In a world where work and play can be divided into seconds as an email is checked while waiting in a supermarket queue, what is the meaning of working hours anyway?

If countries can’t put limits in place, some employers are taking matters into their own hands in an attempt to improve the wellbeing of their staff.  For instance, Daimler employees return from leave with an empty inbox.

Alternatives to email

Given that email overload is such a problem, it is no wonder that there are a wide range of alternatives that have been suggested.  Workflow and Enterprise Content Management (ECM) have been high on the list for a long time now yet neither has made much of a dent on our inboxes.

Perhaps the issue is the shear flexibility of email and the cost of trying to configure workflow or ECM solutions to each individual use case.  They definitely have an important role to play but the amount of email they actually displace is relatively small (and in fact they rely on email as their notification mechanisms).

More recently social media has been heralded as the email killer.  As much as messaging on these platforms is both convenient and used extensively, they have not replaced the inbox.  In fact, more and more are configuring their email clients to be their interface into the messaging stream.

The reason that each of these technologies have so comprehensively failed in their quest to rid us of email overload is that email works really well if your goal is to do more work.  It is however encouraging us to work too much and facilitating a form of communication that is often confrontational and can damage the feeling of wellbeing of staff and relationships between employees.

The opportunity

To replace email, designers of new solutions have to throw out their old assumption of email being an inefficient tool.  Rather than trying to make email more efficient they need to focus on fixing the three real issues: 1) email is efficient but overwhelming; 2) there is no way of naturally limiting the amount of work hitting our inboxes; and 3) job sharing and delegation while absent does not work well.

Before launching headlong into building new products, there is a huge opportunity for research into each of these issues.  How can the problems be measured?  Which organisations are better at reducing their impact and what are the attributes of the solutions they have used?  Is there any evidence that junk email is actually taking a material amount of time for the average worker?  What are the health impacts of information overload and does it matter to society?

Just because existing email alternatives have missed the point, by assuming that email is somehow unproductive, that doesn’t mean there aren’t better solutions.  Freed to look to email as a productivity tool, the focus will move from email filtering and simplification to workload management and sharing.

We need to decide as professionals how we want to work.  Should time away from the office be protected?  Do we really know how much work we are really doing in an average week?  Is it OK for those seeking to get ahead to simply do more work than anyone else?

Those of us in the middle of our careers are the first generation to work electronically.  As pioneers we have a responsibility to set the tone for generations to come.  Will we sentence our children to work in white collar sweatshops or realise the potential of technology to create better workplaces for everyone?

Category: Enterprise Content Management, Enterprise2.0
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by: Robert.hillard
29  Aug  2015

Behind the scenes

Before the advances of twentieth century medicines, doctors were often deliberately opaque. They were well known for proscribing remedies for patients that were for little more than placebos. To encourage a patient’s confidence, much of what they wrote was intentionally unintelligible. As medicine has advanced, even as it has gotten more complicated, outcomes for patients are enhanced by increasing their understanding.

In fact, the public love to understand the services and products that they use. Diners love it when restaurants make their kitchens open to view. Not only is it entertaining, it also provides confidence in what’s happening behind the scenes.

As buildings have become smarter and more complex, far from needing to hide the workings, architects have gone in the opposite direction with an increasing number of buildings making their technology a feature. It is popular, and practical, to leave structural supports, plumbing and vents all exposed.

This is a far cry from the world of the 1960s and 1970s when cladding companies tried to make cheap buildings look like they were made of brick or other expensive materials. Today we want more than packaging, we want the genuine article underneath. We want honest architecture, machinery and services that we can understand.

I find it fascinating that so many people choose to wear expensive watches that keep time through mechanical mechanisms when the same function can be achieved through a great looking ten dollar digital watch. I think people are prepared to pay thousands when they believe in the elegance and function of what sits inside the case. Many of these watches actually hint at some of those mechanics with small windows or gaps where you can see spinning cogs.

The turnaround of Apple seemed to start with the iMac, a beautiful machine that had a coloured but transparent case, exposing to the world the workings inside.

Transparent business

So it is with business where there are cheap ways of achieving many goals. New products and services can be inserted into already cluttered offerings and it can all be papered over by a thin veneer of customer service and digital interfaces that try to hide the complexity. These are the equivalent of the ten dollar watch.

I had a recent experience of a business that was not transparent. After six months, I noticed a strange charge had been appearing on my telephone bill. The company listing the charges claimed that somewhere we had agreed to their “special offer”. They could not tell us how we had done it and were happy to refund the charges. The real question, of course, is how many thousands of people never notice and never claim the charges back?

Whether it is government, utilities, banking or retail, our interactions with those that provide us products and services are getting more complex. We can either hide the complexity by putting artificial facades over the top (such as websites with many interfaces) or embrace the complexity through better design. I have previously argued that cognitive analytics, in the form of artificial intelligence would reduce the workforce employed to manage complexity (see Your insight might protect your job) but this will do nothing to improve the customer experience.

Far from making people feel that business is simpler, the use of data through analytics in this way can actually make them feel that they have lost even more control. Increasingly they choose the simpler option such as being a guest on a single purpose website rather than embracing a full service provider that they do not understand.

Good governance

Target in the US had this experience when their data analytics went beyond the expectations of what was acceptable to their customers (see The Incredible Story Of How Target Exposed A Teen Girl’s Pregnancy)

In this age of Big Data, good data governance is an integral part of the customer experience. We are surrounded by more and more things happening that go beyond our expectation. These things can seem to happen as if by magic and lead us to a feeling of losing control in our interactions with businesses.

Just as there is a trend to open factories to the public to see how things are made, we should do the same in our intellectual pursuits. As experts in our respective fields, we need to be able to not only achieve an outcome but also demonstrate how we got there.

I explained last month how frustrating it is when customer data isn’t used (see Don’t seek to know everything about your customer). Good governance should seek to simplify and explain how both business processes and the associated data work and are applied.

The pressure for “forget me” legislation and better handling of data breaches will be alleviated by transparency. Even better, customers will enjoy using services that they understand.

Category: Enterprise Data Management, Enterprise2.0, Information Governance
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by: RickDelgado
26  Aug  2015

The Implications of San Disk’s New Wireless Flash Drive

SanDisk’s new wireless flash drive hit the scene with mixed opinions. Some argue that it serves as a solution to transferring documents, photos, videos, and music from one mobile device to another, or to a PC, in a way that is not complicated or unreliable. Others argue that this wireless flash drive is only one of many storage options, and not very spectacular at that.

Let’s take a moment to evaluate what this new wireless flash drive can do, and how it could indeed make an impact on the storage industry, mobile devices, and even data protection.

What It Can Do

The new SanDisk wireless flash drive has the ability store data such as photos, videos, documents, and music from any device, boosting the storage capacity of mobile devices up to 64 GB. With the use of SanDisk’s app, all your data will be accessible and manageable remotely. Its most appealing trait is its ability to connect to a range of devices, including the iPhone, Android, iPad, Kindle Fire, and even your PC.

How This Will Affect the Storage Industry

The cloud offers many large storage options, but the downside is its lack of accessibility without an internet connection. This device is a nice companion for users who don’t have enough room on their phones and tablets, and who don’t want to delete data to make room. With this wireless flash drive, you don’t have to spend money upgrading to the latest iPad with its increased storage.

How can this make a difference in the industry? This drive offers privacy by excluding the internet and simplicity with its easily manageable app; why struggle with the security hazards and the price updates of online storage when you can have all your data in your pocket? This makes it an appealing option over the competition, which could change how people view internet storage.

How This Will Affect Mobile Devices

Most of us have experienced the headache of trying to transfer media from our phone to our computer; this wireless flash drive eliminates this issue. Simply transfer your data onto the flash drive, plug it into your computer via USB, and move your media with ease.

Beforehand, if you had multiple devices from many brands, it was difficult to share data across each without struggling to find the right software to bridge the gap. This SanDisk flash drive eliminates this issue, and can affect mobile devices in the way we approach their barriers. This could encourage users to use many different brands rather than one, allowing the SanDisk flash drive to serve as the bridge.

How This Will Affect Data Protection

Its remote access allows up to eight different devices to access its data — up to three devices at the same time. You can share storage and transfer data over your many devices or with your friends – all with no internet connection. With this drive’s ability to allow remote access to many users at many locations, it makes people suspicious of how protected their data actually is. SanDisk combats this by allowing users to set up a personal password, as you might do with your WiFi, so only you or those you’ve shared the password with have access to the data.

As a smaller, private storage device, it’s less likely to become a target of cyber terrorism as we see often with online cloud storage. Why would a hacker want your family photos or your few downloaded movies? Since you can personally store only your data on the drive, rather than sharing a storage device with many, it gives you a lower profile. This peace of mind could sway the opinions of the public from online storage.

As one of many flash storage options, this flash drive cannot necessarily be called revolutionary, but it offers the public many useful features and advantages that are not often found in our internet dependent age. This is likely to encourage other companies to look more closely at the unique needs of users and how to bridge the gaps, sparking the development of new wireless flash drives that are more secure, more remote, and able to store more without the use of internet.


Category: Information Management
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by: Bsomich
25  Aug  2015

Where in MIKE2.0 Should Data Protection and Privacy Live?

With the ever increasing demand for compliance with outside regulators and statutes, should MIKE2.0 look to expand data protection and privacy as a solution offering?

This question was posed by a community member in our forum this week with the context below:

While Information Security as a solution may cover some aspects, the wider requirements will need to involve the same information and data. In the UK, a subject access request means any data / information in structured, semi structured or unstructured form about an individual can be demanded. Similarly, Freedom of Information requests need analysis and assignment. These need a cross functional management system that deals with the same assets and resources as covered by the rest of information management.

It is a day-to-day, cross functional management activity that needs responsibility assigned. Accountability can tie in with the governance part of MIKE 2.0., but does it need added to the solutions? And if so, where?

We’d love your feedback on this potential offering in the comments section below.

Category: Information Development
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by: Jonathan
25  Aug  2015

How Big Data is Transforming Airports

South of Iran, east of Saudi Arabia, and north of Oman is Dubai, an emirate (political territory) of the U.A.E. (the United Arab Emirates). In addition to being the location of Burj Khalifa (“Khalifa Tower” in English), the current tallest building in the world, Dubai also hosts an international airport unlike any other. The Dubai International Airport (DXB) holds the record for the world’s busiest airport. This “mega-airport” expects to serve a staggering 120 million customers this year. Compare that to the measly 94 million passengers that the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia handled in 2013, and the 72 million that passed through London-Heathrow Airport in the United Kingdom in 2014.

Any traveler who has missed a connecting flight because the gates were too far apart, or ended up standing in the wrong line because either the writing on the boarding pass or the announcements over the intercom were in a different language has to wonder how an airport of any size could handle 120 million people — successfully.

When asked about the likelihood of issues such as people getting lost and luggage being left behind, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths explained at the ATIS (Air Transport Industry Summit) that the efficient and intelligent analysis of real-time big data will keep the airport running as secure as a Boeing 717. “We keep increasing the size of the pipe but actually what our passengers want is to spend less time going through (the) process,” Griffiths said in an interview with Gulf Business. “This is where technology comes to the fore with more efficient operations. It’s about the quality of the personalized customer experience where people don’t have to walk more than 500 meters. That is the design goal and technology is central to that.”

 The big data that Griffiths referred to is a massive collection of information about distances between airport gates, baggage handling efficiency, and flight durations among other statistics. All of this information interpreted by “intelligent systems” will transform DBX and airports like it in three ways:

 1.    Increased Efficiency. The Dubai International Airport is an exception to the rule that larger airports are more difficult to traverse. Real-time calculations will allow the air traffic control tower to guide airplanes to terminals close to the connecting flights each passenger requires.

 2.    Improved Customer Experience. Everything’s getting smarter, including the boarding passes. Instead of printing everything only in Arabic and English, the analysis of big data information such as a person’s native language will result in better, readable, personalized boarding passes tailored to each individual.

 3.    Cost Reduction. An increase in customers, plus increased efficiency, plus an improved customer experience means that Dubai’s profits will soar. When the statistics are examined a year from now undoubtedly the money saved by not having to reroute passengers and pay for missed flights and hotel stays will be the final proof that big data analytics tools are transformative.

“I believe that technology will take center stage in the future of aviation,” Griffiths said. “Airports, for too long, have been considered just infrastructure businesses. Actually, we have a vital role to play in enabling a level of customer service that certain airlines have already got right in the air but some airports have let them down with on the ground.”


Category: Business Intelligence
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by: RickDelgado
17  Aug  2015

Differences between Large and Small Companies Using BYOD

Regardless of company size, Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) has become quite popular. According to Gartner, half of employers surveyed say they’re going to require workers to supply their own devices at work by 2017. Spiceworks did a similar study, finding about 61% of small to medium sized businesses were using a BYOD policy for employee devices. Businesses of all sizes are taking BYOD seriously, but are there differences in how large and small companies handle their policies?

 Gaining experience is important in learning how to implement and manage a mobile device policy. Small companies are increasingly supporting smartphones and tablets. Companies with fewer than 20 employees are leading – Spiceworks says 69% in a survey are supportive. By comparison, 16% of employers with more than 250 employees were as enthusiastic.

 According to this study, small companies appear to be more flexible in adopting BYOD. There are certain aspects, however, where they may lag behind their larger counterparts. Here are some examples.

 Mobile Device Management

 Larger corporations often have more resources available to implement Mobile Device Management (MDM) systems. For example, Spiceworks said 56% of respondents were not planning to use MDM mainly because the company does not see a big enough threat. Lost or stolen devices, or misuse by employees, are seen as substantial risks. On the other hand, 17% of the responding small businesses were engaging in active management and just 20% said they would within six months.

 The perks of MDM include barriers against data theft, intrusion, and unauthorized use and access. It also helps prevent malware infections.

 Larger businesses seem to be more understanding of the need for a proactive MDM system. They tend to possess more knowledge of the technology and the risks and face fewer budgetary hurdles. By comparison, many small companies lack knowledge, funds, and insight into the risks of connecting mobile devices to their network. Cloud-based MDM solutions are a growing alternative. The same Spiceworks study found 53% of respondents were going with a hosted device management solution.


The risks are clearly great for any sized company. A BYOD policy can boost revenue and risk management into the millions of dollars. Corporations usually have multiple layers of security. For a small business, it doesn’t take much to bring the company down. One single cyber-attack can be so costly the company won’t be able to survive.

 Security, and the training that goes along with it, is costly for a small company. It might not be able to afford any of the tools necessary for adequate protection. Even if a company was going for savings, data breaches will make these seem like pennies. Such events can cause millions of dollars in damages for even the smallest businesses.

Data leakage is another security risk, besides cost. Mobile devices are prone to data theft without a good MDM system. Gartner highlights the fact mobile devices are designed to support data sharing, but lack file systems for applications. This makes it easier for data to be duplicated and sent to applications in the cloud. It is up to IT to be up on the latest technologies and uses. Obviously, larger companies have the upper hand in this area as they have a better security posture.


Both large and small companies are using BYOD. The differences lie in the willingness to adopt comprehensive Mobile Device Management systems and security policies. These come with the obvious costs which smaller businesses must wrestle with. It often comes down to comparing the daily policy operating costs with those of the risks. When a breach happens, for example, a small business feels the pain and wishes having had the right system in place. Cloud MDM systems are becoming more affordable. These are providing smaller entities with the resources of larger organizations. Time will only tell whether small and medium sized business will become as accepting of mobile device security and management as larger organizations.

Category: Information Governance
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by: Bsomich
30  Jul  2015

MIKE2.0 Community Update

Missed what’s been happening in the MIKE2.0 data management community this month? Read on!



Data Governance: How competent is your organization?

One of the key concepts of the MIKE2.0 Methodology is that of an Organisational Model for Information Development. This is an organisation that provides a dedicated competency for improving how information is accessed, shared, stored and integrated across the environment.

Organisational models need to be adapted as the organisation moves up the 5 Maturity Levels for organisations in relation to the Information Development competencies below:

Level 1 Data Governance Organisation – Aware 

  • An Aware Data Governance Organisation knows that the organisation has issues around Data Governance but is doing little to respond to these issues. Awareness has typically come as the result of some major issues that have occurred that have been Data Governance-related. An organisation may also be at the Aware state if they are going through the process of moving to state where they can effectively address issues, but are only in the early stages of the programme.
Level 2 Data Governance Organisation – Reactive
  • Reactive Data Governance Organisation is able to address some of its issues, but not until some time after they have occurred. The organisation is not able to address root causes or predict when they are likely to occur. “Heroes” are often needed to address complex data quality issues and the impact of fixes done on a system-by-system level are often poorly understood.
Level 3 Data Governance Organisation – Proactive
  • Proactive Data Governance Organisation can stop issues before they occur as they are empowered to address root cause problems. At this level, the organisation also conducts ongoing monitoring of data quality to issues that do occur can be resolved quickly.
Level 4 Data Governance Organisation – Managed
Level 5 Data Governance Organisation – Optimal

The MIKE2.0 Solution for the the Centre of Excellence provides an overall approach to improving Data Governance through a Centre of Excellence delivery model for Infrastructure Development and Information Development. We recommend this approach as the most efficient and effective model for building these common set of capabilities across the enterprise environment.

Feel free to check it out when you have a moment and offer any suggestions you may have to improve it.


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This Week’s Blogs for Thought:

Anxious About BYOD? Here are Some Tips for Success

Has your organization caved to the pressure of establishing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy and is now having second thoughts? Making company-wide policy changes and satisfying tech-savvy employees’ desires is just the beginning. Once BYOD is up and running, there are many challenges. The difference between success and failure means addressing key concerns and finding ways to overcome these issues.

Read more.

Are We Missing the Mark with Real-Time Marketing?

If any press is good press, then Totinos can chalk up its latest Super Bowl marketing antics for a win. However, it’s questionable whether the brand will gain any true business value from live-tweeting the game a day early. In fact, marketers should step back and consider whether our obsession with vanity metrics and viral campaigns is distracting us from the true potential of real-time and data-driven marketing.

Read more.

Don’t seek to know everything about your customer

I hate customer service surveys. Hotels and retailers spend millions trying to speed our checkout or purchase by helping us avoid having to wait around. Then they undo all of that good work by pestering us with customer service surveys which take longer than any queue that they’ve worked so hard to remove!
Perhaps I’d be less grumpy if all of the data that organisations spend so much time, much of it ours, collecting was actually applied in a way that provided tangible value. The reality is that most customer data simply goes to waste (I argue this in terms of “decision entropy” in chapter 6 of my book, Information-Driven Business).

Read more.


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Category: Information Development
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by: RickDelgado
30  Jul  2015

Enterprise Storage: Keeping Up with the Data Deluge

The increasing demands found in data centers can be difficult for most people to keep up with. We now live in a world where data is being generated at an astounding pace, which has lead to expert coining the phrase “big data.” All that generated data is also being collected, which creates even bigger demands for enterprise data storage. Consider all the different trends currently going around, from video and music streaming to the rise of business applications to detailed financial information and even visual medical records. It’s no wonder that storage demands have risen around 50 percent annually in the past few years, and there appears to be nothing on the horizon that will slow that growth. Companies have reason for concern as current data demands threaten to stretch their enterprise storage to its breaking point, but IT departments aren’t helpless in this struggle. This data deluge can be managed; all that’s needed are the right strategies and technologies to handle it.

It isn’t just the fact that so much new data needs to be stored, it’s that all the data should be stored securely while still allowing authorized personnel to access it efficiently. Combine that with the rapidly changing business environment where needs can evolve almost on a daily basis and the demands for an agile and secure enterprise storage system can overwhelm organizations. The trick is to construct infrastructure that can manage these demands. A well designed storage network can relieve many of the headaches that are generated when dealing with large amounts of data, but such a network requires added infrastructure support.

Luckily, IT departments have many options they can choose from that can meet the demands of the data deluge. One of the most popular at the moment is storage virtualization. This technology basically works by combining multiple network storage devices so that they appear to be only one unit. The components for a virtualized storage system, however, can be a tough decision for companies to make. Network attached storage (NAS), for instance, helps people within an organization access the same data at the same time. Storage area networks (SAN) help make planning and implementing storage solutions much easier. Both carry certain advantages over the more traditional direct-attach storage (DAS) deployments seen in many businesses. DAS simply comes with too many risks and downsides, making it a poor choice when confronting the current data challenges many companies face. Whether choosing NAS or SAN, both can simplify storage administration, an absolute must when storage management has become so complex. They also reduce the amount of hardware needed thanks to converged infrastructure technology.

But these strategies aren’t the only one companies can use to keep up with enterprise storage demands. Certain administrative tactics can be deployed to handle the growing volume and complexity of the current storage scene. Part of that strategy is avoiding certain mistakes, such as storing non-critical data on costly storage devices. There’s also the problem of storing too much. In some cases, business leaders ask IT workers to store multiple copies of information, even when the multiple copies aren’t needed. IT departments need to work closely with the business side of the company to devise the right strategy to avoid these unnecessary complications. By streamlining the process, it can become easier to manage storage.

Other options are also readily available to meet enterprise storage demands. Cloud storage, for example, has quickly become mainstream and comes with attractive advantages, such as easy scalability when businesses need it and the ability to access data from almost anywhere. Concerns over data security have made some businesses reluctant to adopt the cloud, but many cloud storage vendors are trying to address those worries with greater emphasis on security features. Hybrid storage solutions are also taking off in popularity in part because they mix many of the advantages found in other storage options.

With the demands large amounts of data are placing on enterprise storage, IT departments are searching for the answers that can help them keep up with these challenges. The options are there that help meet these demands, but it’s up to companies to fully deploy those solutions. Data continues to be generated at a breakneck pace, and that trend won’t be slowing down anytime soon. It’s up to organizations to have the right strategies and technology in place to take full advantage of this ongoing data deluge.


Category: Enterprise Data Management
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by: Robert.hillard
25  Jul  2015

Don’t seek to know everything about your customer

I hate customer service surveys. Hotels and retailers spend millions trying to speed our checkout or purchase by helping us avoid having to wait around. Then they undo all of that good work by pestering us with customer service surveys which take longer than any queue that they’ve worked so hard to remove!

Perhaps I’d be less grumpy if all of the data that organisations spend so much time, much of it ours, collecting was actually applied in a way that provided tangible value. The reality is that most customer data simply goes to waste (I argue this in terms of “decision entropy” in chapter 6 of my book, Information-Driven Business).

Customer data is expensive

Many years ago, I interviewed a large bank about their data warehouse. It was the 1990s and the era of large databases was just starting to arrive. The bank had achieved an impressive feat of engineering by building a huge repository of customer data, although they admitted it had cost a phenomenal sum of money to build.

The project was a huge technical success overcoming so many of the performance hurdles that plagued large databases of the time. It was only in the last few minutes of the interview that the real issue started to emerge. The data warehouse investment was in vain, the products that they were passionate about taking to their customers were deliberately generic and there was little room for customisation. Intimate customer data was of little use in such an environment.

Customer data can be really useful but it comes at a cost. There is the huge expense of maintaining the data and there is the good will that you draw upon in order to collect it. Perhaps most importantly, processes to identify a customer and manage the relationship add friction to almost every transaction.

Imagine that you own a clothing or electrical goods store. From your vantage point behind the counter you see a customer run up to you with cash in one hand and a product in the other. They look like they’re in a hurry and thrust the cash at you. Do you a) take the cash and thank them; or b) ask them to stop before they pay and register for your loyalty programme often including a username and password? It’s obvious you should go option a, yet so many retailers go with option b. At least the online businesses have the excuse that they can’t see the look of urgency and frustration in their customers’ eyes, it is impossible to fathom why so many bricks-and-mortar stores make the same mistake!

Commoditised relationships aren’t bad

Many people argue that Apple stores are close to best practice when it comes to retail, yet for most of the customer interaction the store staff member doesn’t know anything about the individual’s identity. It is not until the point of purchase that they actually access any purchase history. The lesson is that if the service is commoditised it is better to avoid cluttering the process with extraneous information.

Arguably the success of discount air travel has been the standardisation of the experience. Those who spend much of their lives emulating the movie Up in the Air want to be recognised. For the rest of the population, who just want to get to their destination at the lowest price possible while keeping a small amount of comfort and staying safe, a commoditised service is ideal. Given the product is not customised there is little need to know much about the individual customers. Aggregate data for demand forecasting can often be gained in more efficient ways including third party sources.

Do more with less

Online and in person, organisations are collecting more data than ever about their customers. Many of these organisations would do better to focus on a few items of data and build true relationships by understanding everything they can from these small number of key data elements. I’ve previously argued for the use of a magic 150 or “Dunbar’s number” (see The rule of 150 applied to data). If they did this, not only would they be more effective in their use of their data, they could also be more transparent about what data they collect and the purposes to which they put it.

People increasingly have a view of the value of their information and they often end-up resenting its misuse. Perhaps, the only thing worse than misusing it is not using it at all. There is so much information that is collected that then causes resentment when the customer doesn’t get the obvious benefit that should have been derived. Nothing frustrates people more than having to tell their providers things that are obvious from the information that they have already been asked for, such their interests, family relationships or location.

Organisations that don’t heed this will face a backlash as people seek to regain control of their own information (see You should own your own data).

Customers value simplicity

In this age of complexity, customers are often willing to trade convenience for simplicity. Many people are perfectly happy to be a guest at the sites they use infrequently, even though they have to re-enter their details each time, rather than having to remember yet another login. They like these relationships to be cheerfully transactional and want their service providers to respect them regardless.

The future is not just more data, it is more tailored data with less creepy insight and a greater focus on a few meaningful relationships.

Category: Enterprise Data Management, Enterprise2.0, Information Development, Master Data Management
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