Luckily, though, my feeds have also served up three great reads about how to manage through disruption as well. I've summarized them and explained why I think they're important.
Whitney Johnson: "No idea what will come next"
The first is Whitney Johnson's post in the Harvard Business Review blog, entitled "Disrupt Yourself." A former investment banker, Johnson describes the risks and fear involved in walking away from a seven-figure salary to become an entrepreneur and shares the lessons she's learned in the six years since. Briefly, they are as follows:
If it feels scary and lonely, you're probably on the right track
Be assured that you have no idea what will come next
Throw out the performance metrics you've always relied on
Your odds of success will improve when you pursue a disruptive course
Marc Andreessen: "Even books are software"
The second read is Marc Andreessen's Wall Street Journal piece, "Why Software is Eating the World." Andreessen's is a voice for optimism in a stream of gloomy economic news. Shunning the speculation of another "internet bubble," he sees companies like Facebook, Zynga and Foursquare building high-growth, high-margin and highly defensible businesses. He explains:
My own theory is that we are in the middle of a dramatic and broad technological and economic shift in which software companies are poised to take over large swathes of the economy/ [...] More and more major businesses and industries are being run on software and delivered as online services�from movies to agriculture to national defense. Many of the winners are Silicon Valley-style entrepreneurial technology companies that are invading and overturning established industry structures. Over the next 10 years, I expect many more industries to be disrupted by software, with new world-beating Silicon Valley companies doing the disruption in more cases than not [...] Today, the world's largest bookseller, Amazon, is a software company�its core capability is its amazing software engine for selling virtually everything online, no retail stores necessary. On top of that, while Borders was thrashing in the throes of impending bankruptcy, Amazon rearranged its web site to promote its Kindle digital books over physical books for the first time. Now even the books themselves are software.
Jack Mason: "Sharing has become the defining quality of digital society"
The third is the blog post "The Social Contract in a Social Business," by fellow IBMer Jack Mason. Here, Jack looks at the equally influential and equally disruptive trend playing out in business and beyond: our increasing comfort with living and sharing our lives online, and the benefits of our doing so. Mason writes:
Individually and collectively, we appear to be growing more comfortable living in public like this through our profiles, social networks and mobile communications. Like all exponential changes, this shift in attitude and practice has crept up on us. [...] [S]haring has become the defining quality of digital society. At IBM, this new stratagem is often referred to as �social business.� It entails more than just business use of social software and networks for external purposes such as marketing. In the fuller view, social business is about re-shaping organizations to become more collaborative, communal and capable in fostering human relationships. my informal social contract with IBM is pretty great � I�m not just able to devote time and energy to strategic sharing and innovating in social media, I am generally recognized and rewarded for leading by these examples.
What these pieces have in common
If you've made it this far, why do I think these are important? I can offer two reasons: first, they're the kind of eloquent, thoughtful pieces that, together, suggest a framework to help me better understand the broader trends currently at play in our world. Second, they align quite nicely with the role IBM sees for software in business today.
If either of these scenarios sounds appealing, where do you start? I can point you in two directions: first, go back to the top of this post and read the full articles. Print them out if need be. (trust me, you read slower on hard copy, and you'll absorb more, too); second, make a point to attend this year's Information On Demand conference. It's there that you'll make the connections, learn the skills and see examples of companies that are using information and analytics software to manage through the disruption to reinvent themselves for success.
One day I'll write with the same level of insight as Mason et al. Until then, i'll continue to rely on the ideas they put forth to better understand times we're living in. Where will you start?
You know one of the interesting things I've noticed, and it's not really specific to security, is that the more interconnected the world becomes, the harder it is to find the root cause when something goes wrong. If we look at the financial/mortgage crisis for example, if you wanted to point the finger at one person or event, could you do it? I've wanted to for a long time, tracing this chain back to some single point of failure, but it's really not possible. When something like this happens, where there isn't one root cause, accountability becomes a big mess because everyone can push the problem onto someone else. The problem is that if everyone pushes around problems, problems never get solved. So, the way that we need to look at it is that instead of there being limited accountability, there needs to be a lot of accountability.
This type of complex interconnected failure isn't so different from what we see in the news around data breaches. People want security to be simpler and they want to find that single point of failure, and sometimes it's there, but often times, it's really not. Our technology world has grown to become a complex systems of systems where legacy systems are communicating with new systems, the notion of a perimeter is dissolving, new consumption and delivery models are popping up all the time and we have to secure all of this.
Let's face it, the majority of attacks today don�t operate in little silos. They can cross users and endpoints, applications, networks, databases, etc. So despite the fact that you might have different teams responsible for all of these areas of your system, and you might see them as separate, attackers see this as one, connected system. As a result, when breaches happen, often times it is often a combination of insufficient security controls, problematic policy and even things like a lack of user education. When we live in a world of complex and networked technologies, the notion of a single point of failure is disappearing.
So what do we do about this? Obviously a layered defense is imperative. You need to think about your data, how it moves, where it rests, how it gets accessed, which data is most important and how you can apply security controls all along the way. Moving away from just the technology, one of the other things that people talk about is accounting for the human element in security. When people are talking about this they are generally referring to the fact that users will click on just about anything, so security has to acknowledge that users are going to constantly put their organizations at risk. But there's another side of that human element that I think is important, and that is establishing a culture in your organization that security needs to be top of mind, and that everyone is responsible. Whether you are a developer, a DBA, an executive who might be targeted or an IT manager, security is something you need to consider. Yes, new technologies will help, but changing culture and process, while never easy, is almost always an essential element of dealing with systemic issues, whether they be financial markets or security concerns.
The last bit worth acknowledging is the dangers of ignoring something that appears broken, but ignoring it because it hasn�t actually broken yet. So in this case we�re talking about warning signs around the economy but the market still going up, and IT decision makers saying, "well we haven�t been breached, so we must be secure," regardless of their actual security posture.
Despite what we would all like, these aren�t issues you can just sweep under the rug and cross your fingers hoping that a problem won�t pop up. Organizations need to confront these issues.
Steve Jobs' story is fascinating to me for two reasons: first, because I've used Apple products long enough to remember when they weren't cool; second, because more than any other person of our era, Bill Gates included, Jobs redefined our relationship with technology and revealed its possibilities in a way that, since his return to Apple in 1996, continually captured our imagination. In this sense, I put Jobs on the same plane as Kevin Kelly, whose views on the intersection of humanity and its machines carry strong aesthetic, philosophical and even religious attributes. I'll admit it: these are the the kinds of things you tend to think about when you work for a mammoth technology company with equally ambitious and visionary goals.
It's not news anymore that Jobs is stepping down as CEO of Apple for health reasons. While industry watchers, fans and investors sort out what it all means for him and for the company he built in his own image (Will his hand-picked successor Tim Cook also work for $1?), I've shared a few snippets that came through my social feed in the last few hours and that attest to the vision, influence and undisputed business success of the man. Feel free to comment, share or add your own:
In his own words:
�Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn�t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That�s because they were able to connect experiences they�ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they�ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. [...] The broader one�s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have." Wired, Feb. 1996
"When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don�t put in the time or energy to get there. We believe that customers are smart, and want objects which are well thought through." MSNBC and Newsweek, Oct. 2006
"[Y]ou can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life." Stanford Commencement Address, June 2005.
"I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. Humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing about a third of the way down the list....That didn't look so good, but then someone at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle and a man on a bicycle blew the condor away. That's what a computer is to me: the computer is the most remarkable tool that we've ever come up with. It's the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds." Interview for the documentary "Memory and Imagination," 1990.
"My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other's kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That's how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person, they're done by a team of people." Interview with 60 Minutes, 2003
"We try to pick things that are in their spring. So we have a history of doing that, we went from the 5-inch floppy disk to the 3.5 inch with the Mac and sometimes when we get rid of things like the floppy disk drive on the original iMac, people call us crazy. But sometimes you have to pick the things that look like the right horses to ride going forward." D8 Conference, June 2010
Andrew McAfee, AndrewMcAfee.org: "Jobs and Apple have done the best job of answering with their products the question posed by wiki inventory Ward Cunningham: What�s the simplest thing that could possibly work? As I�ve stressed before, most technologists / nerds / geeks don�t think this way � they think that success comes from cramming in features and functions, bells and whistles."
Umair Haque, HBR Blogs: "Steve's goal in paying obsessive attention to all things Apple wasn't merely to "listen" but to discern people's wildest expectations, and then firmly take a quantum leap past them, instead of merely discovering the lowest-common-denominator of what people wanted most today, and then pandering to it. Leapfrogging your customers means creating new markets, not just new products. And Apple's created (or rejuvenated) market after market by applying the logic above"
OmMalik, GigaOm: "While I wish for him to have more time with his family, I am also being very selfish. I will miss the thespian who made inanimate objects like a computer become a thing to behold. A few years ago, I compared Steve to Howard Hughes using the line, �Some men dream the future. He built it.�
John Gapper, Financial Times: "Mr Jobs, at the age of only 56, stands as one of the great business leaders � arguably the greatest � of the postwar era. For the past 30 years, he has not only led the wave of technological change emanating from Silicon Valley � the personal computer, the internet, the tablet � but stamped his aesthetic on the world. He has combined the iconoclasm and creativity of the rebel entrepreneur with the ability to assemble a world-beating manufacturing, design and marketing team around him. In the past few years, Apple has been not only unbeatable but hardly even matchable. Its competitors have fallen by the wayside in frustration."
John Biggs, TechCrunch:"I wasn�t always a Mac lover. I thought they were over-priced and pretty. [...] But over the past decade I learned the satisfaction of a machine that just works. It�s a machine that [Jobs] put most of his life into, a machine that has the heart of a much older thing, a thing that lay blinking and frantic in a Stanford computer lab somewhere and then, over time, shrank down to something you and I can fit into our pockets. Many complained that the ecosystem that he created was a walled garden, but I�d equate it to a pasture. �The reason everything looks beautiful is because it is out of balance,� wrote Zen master Shunryu Suzuki. �But its background is always in perfect harmony.� In the front, anything can happen. In the back, perfect calm and order."
It's a conversation that's long overdue and if you�re at all interested in getting in on it, I strongly suggest adding a few sessions from the Social Media & Customer Analytics track at Business Analytics Forum. It�s a new track this year, and � full disclosure here � the one I�m most interested in covering. Social media activity is driving explosive growth rates in unstructured data. And whether you�re working for a restaurant chain, a fashion brand or global technology vendor - you need to make sense of it all if you're going to stay in the game. These largely technical sessions will help IT professionals understand our current offerings (including IBM Cognos Consumer Insight, IBM SPSS Modeler and IBM Coremetrics) and how business professionals can use them to create more targeted marketing strategies, build predictive models that reduce churn and that ultimately transform all that unruly data into actionable insights.
Like business intelligence, all over again
Your reasons for pursuing a social analytics strategy should be a lot like the ones you used to pursue business intelligence in the first place: too much data in too many places that take too long to report on, for too little insight. The only difference is that now, all the data lies on the other side of the firewall. And much like your first business intelligence deployment revealed opportunities to cut costs, boost revenue and manage risk, your social analytics deployment will help you build a strategy to analyze sentiment, identify influencers and turn customers' frowns upside down.
Predictive Social Media Analytics (Session BSC-1539): Graham Mackintosh and Olivier Jouve of IBM will show you how to proactively monitor and manage consumer-generated content about your brands, categories and products. You�ll see how to combine this information with customer data to inform marketing strategies and predictive models and to optimize campaigns.
Using IBM Cognos Business Intelligence and IBM Cognos Consumer Insight (Session BSC-2761): Christopher Wright will illustrate how to address all aspects of your social media investment, view historical, real-time and predictive information, perform scenario modeling and planning to investigate issues, and use real-time alerts, workflow and mobile applications to monitor the pulse of the business.
Watson Update: After Victory on TV�s Jeopardy! What Comes Next? (Session BSC-3556): Bernard Spang will provide an overview of Watson technology and show you how it relates to exciting initiatives in natural language analytics now and in the future.
While we're on the topic of social networks, don't forget to expand your own network in person while you're there:
if you can�t wait until October and would like a head start, why not sign up for our August 25 Webcast? It�s called �Making Chatter Matter: Monetizing Social Media Through Analytics.� It features Don Pepper and Graham Mackintosh and it will show you how to move from seeing social media as a �shiny object� toward an integrated element of your customer interaction strategy.
We�re less than two weeks away from the IOD Early Bird deadline of Aug. 31. Ready to register? Click here.
Once again, IOD offers an abundance of learning opportunities to help you increase your product knowledge, sharpen your professional skills and get the information you need to solve problems or move your project forward. I've scanned the Business Analytics Forum Guide (BA Forum being a major component of IOD 2011) to highlight 10 ways you can leave Vegas better equipped to turn insight into action. Some of the opportunities are located in the EXPO, others are breakout sessions that you'll need to schedule in your Agenda Builder.
1. Play in the Usability Sandbox: Share your experience to shape product direction. Test-drive new prototypes and meet with our usability experts in small-group design review and feedback sessions. You'll also have the chance to vote on and prioritize use requirements. This year's sessions include Dashboarding (BGN-1545), Mobile BI (BGN-1549). Advanced Data Modeling (BGN-1550) and Social Networking Analytics (BGN-1554). See page 67 of the Business Analytics Forum Guide for a full list.
2. Learn to better navigate IBM Support: New this year, our "Navigating IBM" drop-in area lets you talk one-on-one with subject matter experts who can guide you through the programs, processes, policies and systems you need to use for Support and Training. We've geared these sessions to focus on increasing your satisfaction with demonstrations and discussions focused on online support and knowledge resources, searching and enrolling in training, Web IDs and IBM Customer Numbers (ICNs) and using the support request tool. You'll find it in the EXPO.
3. Drop in on our Demo Theaters: These 30-minute sessions help you lean more about topics that might not be covered in full breakout sessions. Join our product managers as they guide you through new solutions and little-known product features in IBM Cognos 10, IBM Cognos TM1, IBM SPSS Decision Management and more.
4. Labs! Labs! Labs!
Our Hands-on Labs feature experienced professional instructors providing classroom-quality training. Each three-hour session takes you on a deep dive directly into a specific product to give you a greater understanding of its features and potential. Many of the nearly 20 sessions at this year's event were suggested by last year's attendees. Titles include Foundations of Predictive Analytics: IBM SPSS Statistics (BGN-3469), New Self-Serve Reporting Capabilities in IBM Cognos BI (BGN-3632) and Advanced Generated SQL Concepts and Complex Queries (BGN-3696). See page 63 of your Business Analytics Forum Guide for the full list and be sure to add these sessions to your Agenda Builder.
Our Products Lab lets you test drive our products at your own pace and on your own schedule with step-by-step instructions and direct input from product experts who are always on-hand. You'll find it in the EXPO and you can drop in any time.
Also in the EXPO, our Services and Education Lab lets you explore our training options, discover our new new approaches and work one-on-one with our consulting services team. Discover how to share your knowledge with your team back home with Web-based training courses, self-paced virtual classroom options, IBM Cognos embedded learning videos and instructor-led online training. Drop in whenever, no need to book.
5. Take advantage of pre-conference training: Get a head start on the conference with two full days of hands-on training specially priced for Forum attendees. This year's sessions include Professional Report Authoring (B51C9), Automated Data Mining (0ACG2), Data Management and Manipulation (0G5C9) and Authoring Reports with Multidimensional Data (B51C1). See page 18 of your Forum Guide for more.
6. Get certified for free: Save up to $600 by taking three IBM Software Certification exams at no charge, and take as many more as you'd like for 50 percent off the normal fee. Certification exams are available throughout the conference and a full list of certification exams is available here.
7. Boost your business leadership skills in our Business Leadership Forum: It's an industry-specific program for executives, managers and decision-makers. We've put together a rich curriculum of customer case studies, panel discussions and industry solution overviews focused on resolving key business challenges. Choose from 34 sessions exploring operational efficiency, customer and financial analytics, risk and compliance. Session titles include "How Banks Can Improve Customer-Centricity with Advanced Customer Customer Profitability Analytics" (LFM-2609), "Driving B2B Sales with Predictive Analytics" (LSA-2268), "Fighting Fraud in Government Services" (LGV-1999) and "Getting Business Value from IBM Watson" (LSA-3008). See page 54 of your Forum Guide for a full list.
8. Have lunch with your peers: Our "Birds of a Feather" lunches let you discuss your challenges, strategies and successes with people just like you in a relaxed and informal setting. This year's topics include BI and Cloud Computing, Professional Report Authoring, Predictive Analytics, Statistics and Support. Our Industry Lunches let you discuss the challenges you're facing and the strategies you're using to resolve them. Whether you're in Banking, Retail, Healthcare or Manufacturing, these lunches are also a great way to reconnect with friends and expand your network with new contacts. You'll find a list of sample topics and customer attendees by industry on page 16 of the Forum Guide.
9. Talk to Support: Schedule time with an IBM Cognos or SPSS technical product expert for 30 minutes of one-on-one attention to resolve your toughest technical challenges. These experts have deep expertise within and across our Business Analytics product portfolio, so nothing is off-limits. Just be sure to indicate the issue and/or product you'd like to discuss. Previous topics have included Integrating BI with Active Directory authentication, Recommendations for fail-over while building cubes and Predictive modeling tips, techniques and best practices.
10. Schedule a workshop: This year's event offers a wide range of in-person and interactive workshops. You'll work in small groups with experienced IBM subject matter experts to boost your Analytics Quotient (BAW-3805), explore a Business Intelligence Competency Center (BAW-3808), or become a Value Integrator in Finance (BAW-3807). You'll also have a chance to meet Tim O'Bryan, author of the new Proven Practices blog. A full list of workshops is on page 60 of your Forum Guide.
With the exception of fellow Canadian Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan did more to advance our understanding of electronic media and instant information than anyone before or since. McLuhan would have turned 100 last month, and I thought I'd use the occasion to reflect on his work and how it can help as we (and you) prepare for Information On Demand.
New media, new assumptions
In McLuhan's view, every new medium challenges the basic assumptions people live and work by. In The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962), Understanding Media (1964) and other works, he explored the disruptive effects of electronic communications on the linear, print-based media landscape of the time. In the same way the printing press wrested control of information away from the church, McLuhan saw radio and television driving a new and equally dramatic transformation - away from a linear way of absorbing information toward more a more instantaneous, organic way of responding to it. Explaining the famous phrase
McLuhan believed that the medium conveying information had as much of an impact on the recipient as the information itself; hence, "The Medium is the Message." Whether the technology was moveable type or radio tubes, new technology reshaped information to suit a new form factor and made it more accessible to more people, in more places, more quickly. The more people consumed this information in these new and different ways, the more dramatic the effect on people's perceptions of (and attitudes toward) businesses, government and the world around them.
Consider one of his earliest "probes" from 1960: "When any new form comes to the foreground, we naturally look through the old lenses. We ask ourselves, 'how will our previous political and educational patterns persist?' We're trying to fit the old assumptions into the new form instead of asking, 'What is the new form going to do with all of the assumptions we had before?'"
On the internet (1966): "Instead of buying a book, you will go to the telephone and describe your interests, needs or problems. With the help of computers they will send you all the latest material from all the libraries of the world, just for you. They send you the package as a direct personal service. Products increasingly are becoming services."
On instantaneous information (1976): "At the speed of light, everything happens at the same instant...Everything happens at once. There's not continuity, there's no connection. It's all now."
On pattern recognition (1968): "We're living in a world where things change so rapidly that anybody can spot the pattern of change. We're living increasingly in a world of pattern recognition instead of isolated items."
McLuhan died before the world he saw came into being, but his influence permeates our language and culture. He coined the term "global village." His quip "the medium is the message" is quoted in Mad Men. Kevin Kelly named him Wired Magazine's "patron saint of the information age." Among my friends, his cameo in the film "Annie Hall" ranks as one of the funniest scenes ever. And comedy troupe Radio Free Vestibule recast "Marshall" McLuhan as a wild west sherriff
Sadly, we will not see McLuhan walk onstage in the middle of the IOD opening session, exclaiming "You know nothing of my work!". We will, however, be living with the implications of his insights and the world he foresaw for the foreseeable future. Luckily, events like Information On Demand can help us understand - and take advantage of - the disruptions, transformations and innovations happening all around us.
The Information Management 2011 Business Partner Awards recognize IBM Business Partners who have demonstrated excellence in delivering exceptional business value with Information Management software. Winners will be invited to a special reception at the Information on Demand (IOD) 2011 Conference and will be recognized throughout the week of the event, October 23-27, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Information Management Solution Excellence Award. This award recognizes one IBM Business Partner who had adopted and leveraged the latest Information Management technology to demonstrate a unique and powerful information on demand solution. To qualify, this solution should already be deployed in the marketplace to at least one customer.
CTO Innovation Award. This award recognizes one visionary IBM Business Partner who is leading the charge in exploiting Information Management's latest capabilities innovative, cutting-edge, and exciting new ways. This one-of-a-kind solution will be a driver of tomorrow's markets, and it is not required that the solution be deployed yet in the marketplace.
Rookie of the Year Award. This award recognizes the outstanding performance and value-add provided by a Business Partner who is new to selling Information Management software. (If you've sold or supported Information Management software prior to 2010, you do not qualify as a rookie.)