Today's post comes from Sydney Shealy, Market Segment Manager, Application Security.
In their annual report released this month, the IBM X-Force Research and Development team labeled 2011 as the year of the security breach. The report pointed out that attackers did not discriminate by sector, company size, or location. With this remarkable amount of activity (also confirmed by the recently released Verizon 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report), the steady occurrence of data breaches and attacks on sensitive and confidential information suggests data protection must be a critical component of an organization�s leadership and governance strategy.
If this is the case, it's crucial to understand what senior executives think about the value of corporate data protection efforts within their organizations, as well as to understand what these executives believe are the most important factors and activities to consider when safeguarding sensitive information and complying with increasing regulation. To understand this perspective, IBM partnered with Ponemon for the 2012 Business Case for Data Protection. Here are a few highlights:
Ninety percent of senior executives surveyed say their company has had a data breach and almost half (forty-eight percent) expect more data breaches to occur.
Senior executives believe the most important information to safeguard is non-financial confidential business information, typically stored as unstructured data. This is followed by intellectual property and business customer information.
Senior executives concur that mobile devices in the workplace are putting sensitive and confidential information at greater risk and they acknowledge that they are challenged to secure them.
Thirty-nine percent of executives say their companies do not address security issues in application development, waiting until the launch or post-launch phase.
Seventy percent of organizations in this study use public, private and/or hybrid cloud computing resources. Senior executives in organizations using cloud resources are more confident that their organization will not suffer a data breach in the next 12 months.
Executives believe spending to achieve compliance with regulations is diverting spending from IT security and is causing data to be less secure.
Senior executives estimate that, on average, their organizations saved $19 million last year as a result of data protection efforts. This is an increase from $16 million in 2009.
To download your copy of the complete report click here.
I've done it again. I've rearranged my iPhone icons in (yet) another attempt to make sense of my world.
It's probably another fool's errand, but I can't help myself. I'm a compulsive organizer. I bus my own tables. As a kid I organized my bookshelf by book height and used a ruler to line up all the spines.
The beauty of the iPhone (and presumably all smart phones, for that matter) is that you can arrange your apps and screens in near limitless ways to suit your specific preferences. The drawback is that the system - any system - never works for very long.
Sure, I tell myself: "This time, I think I've come up with a structure that works. Social apps on the page one, news and radio apps on page two, games and other diversions on page 3"
Sure, the apps appear orderly, all nicely arranged in that familiar 4 X 5 grid, but it's merely the veneer of organization:
This attempt - like so many of years past - is doomed to fail, and I've finally figured out why.
I'm unable to resolve three fundamental conflicts:
Read now or Read later: There are all kinds of apps that let you save articles to read later. But, later when, exactly? "Later" never seems to come.
Expand or Contract? The beauty of the social web is that that there's no shortage of viewpoints, images and infographics to browse and bookmark for future posts. But that thinking has led to 200 subscriptions and more than 1,000 unread items in my blog reader. The punchline? I subscribed to these blogs to gain a better understanding of what's going on. (If you're interested, here's my list).
One app per site or One app to rule them all? Flipboard and Pulse offer easy and elegant aggregation of your social content streams that fit the mobile form factor. Yet, that's not how I want to scan my content, at least not all the time. Flipboard gives me breadth but not depth. Facebook gives me depth but doesn't pull in all my blog feeds or the new sites I discovered...in Flipboard. So for the time being I'm resigned to keeping both on my phone.
Truth is, I'm simply not as consistent in my social media habits as I'd like to be or as this new configuration would have you believe. Real life is still far too messy and the media landscape is too dynamic to produce anything coming close to an effective organizational principle.
Has this ever happened to you, or am I simply overthinking the matter?
Now it's time to introduce the second benefit, agility. Again, the IBM team has produced a nifty video that should incent you to learn more on April 11. This time, the team is following up the video with a tweet chat on expert integrated systems. It starts tomorrow at 4 PM ET. Simply tune your Twitter client to follow #expertsyschat and follow @IBMSmtrCmptng to share your views on why agility in IT - remains an elusive goal. If this is your first tweetchat, you can learn more about how they work here.
I have a friend in Canada who doesn't trust technology. For years we've discussed this over the Internet -- the standard communications platform for people who want to argue at great length, across great distances, to no apparent benefit or conclusion. His idea is that since he didn't design and build the tech himself, he can't really trust it. But my idea is that in discussing this over the Internet with me, he is trusting it.
The Internet, after all, is really an unimaginably complex �system of systems� comprised of switches, routers, microprocessors, storage arrays, networking protocols, various transmission media including fiber and copper and radio waves, and other elements ad infinitum. All of them interoperate to deliver holistic value for users.
If any one of these elements were fundamentally untrustworthy, so, too, would be the Internet as a whole, and our argument could not continue. But year after year, it does continue... which would seem to endorse the tech.
Lately, I've been pondering just how many other aspects of modern life could similarly be characterized as systems of systems or -- things we casually think of as a monolithic entity, like the Internet, but which are in fact far more complex and have complex systems embedded in them. A short list:
Smartphones. Apps, operating systems, processors, cameras, multiple simultaneous radio links. These aptly named devices are not exactly a tin can on a string.
Cars. Many embedded processors, running dedicated software, handle myriad tasks from tracking transmission performance to calculating gas mileage to determining global location.
Airplanes. See the cars description, except that in this case, the system of systems also plays a major role in keeping the airplane from falling out of the sky.
In every case, software running behind the scenes is responsible for orchestrating the total functionality, and taking care of that so perfectly we don't even think about all the complexity. Instead, we just trust it to work.
It's a good thing the software developers know what they're doing -- and have some outstanding tools to help them do it.
Optimize your software development process and working environment, and you're one step closer to optimized code
One such is the IBM Rational solution for systems and software engineering. The entire Rational portfolio, of course, helps development teams deliver quality code that's feature-complete, and as bug-free as possible, in a governed, methodical manner -- often, under budget and within target deadlines.
But this particular capability is intended for the kind of ultra-complex, system-of-systems software design I've described above, in which many individual systems, each with its own specifications and requirements, must not only work properly, but also collaborate with other such systems to deliver services.
To get the inside story on what the Rational offering is all about, I was fortunate to be able to speak to Greg Gorman, Program Director of World-Wide Systems Engineering Strategy and Delivery, IBM Rational Software, and Hans-Peter Hoffmann, PhD, Chief Systems Methodologist, IBM Rational Software.
Both of these experts were quick to point out how neatly the capability fits into IBM's larger Smarter Planet story. �How can you even have a smarter planet without smarter products?� asked Gorman hypothetically.
It's a fair question. IBM conceives of the Smarter Planet essentially as the ultimate system-of-systems, the superset of all others because it is, in fact, the Earth's complete infrastructure.
While I have, as a former IT guy, a fairly solid understanding of just how complex software development can be, I've really never thought of it on this kind of scale before. But IBM has.
�Many systems today have millions of parts -- and miles of wiring,� said Gorman. �Our customers create incredibly complex systems -- airplanes, ships, missiles, cars, etc. Each of those consists of hundreds if not thousands of smaller subsystems, that all have to cooperate for the system to perform its intended function. It requires coordinating vast numbers of requirements, tests, source code, designs, changes -- you name it -- across a large team of engineers and developers, sometimes at many different companies and locations. A huge challenge that the Rational tooling and practices help them solve.�
That, it turns out, is key to the value proposition of the Rational offering. It's not just about getting code to interoperate, but, far beyond that, all the stakeholders associated with that code -- developers, architects, line-of-business guys, executives and end users.
And the Rational solution for systems and software engineering also spans the entire software development lifecycle, from project conception to ultimate retirement and every stage in between. Just as today's systems-of-systems need effective, governed orchestration to work properly, so, too, do the projects that make those systems possible in the first place via high-quality software.
An engaging past, tied to a bright future
IBM has an incredible depth of experience in business technology, of course -- what other IT solution provider is a century old? -- but I was curious how IBM first got its feet wet in systems-of-systems project optimization of this type. It turns out that the inciting event was America's space program.
�Among other, very early contributions, we built NASA's Apollo mission control in Houston -- you know, 'Houston, we have a problem?' -- that mission control,� said Gorman. �Obviously a complex system-of-systems challenge, to say the least, given the available technology of the time.�
Today, IBM's client roster is interested in a lot more than space exploration, though that, too, continues. I asked Hoffman what kinds of projects he might typically consult on.
�Monday and Tuesday, maybe consulting with an aerospace company on a spacecraft project,� he said. �But Wednesday? A diesel-electric locomotive project. And Thursday could be a medical company, for a pacemaker project. It's all software engineering, but each domain has its specific viewpoint and requires a different approach.�
This really struck me as a diverse range of applications for one guy -- or, for that matter, one consulting company -- to handle in such short order. How has IBM managed to become so expert, in so many fields? Turns out that there are abstract principles that remain fairly constant, though their specific implementation will vary from case to case.
�Based on our experiences in the A&D, automotive, industrial automation and medical industries, we identified best practices that are key to systems engineering, covering both the selected tools collaboration as well as the methodical approach,� said Hoffman. �In our engagements, we help our customers to adopt those practices that give them the most benefits, i.e., higher quality requirements and a significantly shorter development time.�
One particular case study that stands out in Gorman's mind: Invensys Rail, a European provider of on-board signaling systems used by Portugese and Spanish railway systems.
When you've got hundreds of trains flying along at 200 mph or more, the margin for error in the way you schedule them is very close to zero. So is the opportunity to improve your software later. Getting it right the first time is not just a goal; it's a mandate.
IBM's Rational technology played a key role in ensuring that outcome, while also making it relatively simple for Invensys to comply with various government regulations -- despite the fact that those regulations are in a constant state of flux.
And looking ahead, Gorman sees tremendous potential for even more complex, domain-spanning system-of-systems integration in the future.
�Imagine a car wreck,� he said. �Telemetry technology links to the car's GPS data, then broadcasts the car's exact location, notifying emergency first responders that a medical situation applies. The first responders, in turn, can find out even before they get to the scene who the car's owner is, and having accessed medical records, establish that he is allergic to certain medications and is a diabetic. Checks could even automatically be run to locate cellphones within a specified range, to discover any probable witnesses of the event who might be needed for legal or insurance reasons. The possibilities are really endless.�
About the author Guest blogger Wes Simonds worked in IT for seven years before becoming a technology writer on topics including virtualization, cloud computing and service management. He lives in sunny Austin, Texas and believes Mexican food should always be served with queso.
There�s a hidden side to everything. That�s the premise of the New York Times best-seller, blog and recent movie, Freakonomics.
But it�s also the premise behind analytics. Organizations often find insights in their data, but they have to be willing � and able � to ask good questions.
Stephen Dubner was in Chicago recently speaking at the IBM Performance and IBM Finance Forum events. My colleague at IBM, Crysta Anderson, spoke with him about the truths hidden in data and how companies are applying analytics to their advantage � or not. See some highlights below.
Dubner finds it �encouraging� that companies are starting to really use their data, but he cautions against data for the sake of data. The rise in data has led to meaningless statistics, like the hemline index or Groundhog Day index. Such indices often reflect correlation rather than causation. As Dubner explained, if someone landed here from Mars and noticed that people used umbrellas whenever it rained, they may conclude that putting away umbrellas would stop the rain.
More data has also prompted more attempts at visualizing data, as seen by the plethora of infographics. While some people � including Dubner � prefer their data in tables, others want to see graphs or images to represent the information. But infographics have also made it easy to visualize those meaningless statistics, sometimes leading to bad decisions.
So how do we decide what data matters? And how can we best use the data at our disposal?
Exciting news yesterday from the IBM Watson team: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and IBM have agreed to collaborate to develop a powerful tool built on IBM Watson to provide medical professionals with improved access to current and comprehensive cancer data and practices.
Cancer is prevalent in my family, so I'm more than a bit excited about this particular announcement. The press release continues:
The resulting decision support tool will help doctors everywhere create individualized cancer diagnostic and treatment recommendations for their patients based on current evidence. The initiative will combine the computational power of IBM Watson and its natural language processing ability with MSKCC�s clinical knowledge, existing molecular and genomic data and vast repository of cancer case histories, in order to create an outcome and evidence-based decision support system. The goal is to give oncologists located anywhere the ability to obtain detailed diagnostic and treatment options based on updated research that will help them decide how best to care for an individual patient.
Sloan-Kettering and IBM are already developing the first applications using Watson related to lung, breast and prostate cancers, and aim to begin piloting the solutions to some oncologists in late 2012, writes BusinessWeek. Wider distribution is planned for late 2013.
The Watson team also created a nifty infographic to share:
Twice a year IBM's X-Force Research and Development team, in partnership with several other organizations from around the IBM Security team come together to publish data, analysis and operational advice for security professionals and the broader community of internet and computer users around the trends we are seeing in IT security. You can visit X-Force on the web atibm.com/security/xforceand download this report, as well as any of the other threat reports we have published, on thedownloadstab of that site.
We've been doing the X-Force Trend and Risk Report for many years and for a long time we've been reporting on things that are essentially gloom and doom. The amount of vulnerabilities were steadily rising along with a similar rising trajectory in the number of exploits. While 2011 may not be the last year we ever refer to as "Year of the Security Breach," the security issues we knew existed, and had been seeing grow in significance over the years, really came into sharp focus as a number of somewhat independent variables all collided with one another at the same time.
We've seen APT (advanced persistent threat) articles that date all the way back to 2006, but in 2011 it became a focus in a way it really hadn't been previously. I can't recall how many conversations I saw just on Twitter debating what APT meant, whether "advanced" referred to operational capabilities or technical ones, whether "persistent" meant an attacker would keep attempting to break in until they succeeded or if it meant an attacker invested in doing long-term network surveillance. In addition to these attackers who were invested in silence, you had the more politically motivated hacktivists who were invested in noise. Their campaigns were often based on making sure that a targeted organization wound up in the headlines that day. Much was made about the extent of this group's technical capabilities, but after calling 2011 the "Year of the Security Breach," there isn't much left to be said about their success.
In security it does frequently seem like we wind up in conversations around what was old is new again, and this year actually didn't prove to be much of departure from that. I like to read many of the other threat reports that come out because every one tells a piece of the story from a different angle. However, one theme I'm picking up on from this year is around passwords. Mandiant reported that in 100% of the targeted attacks they investigated the attackers were using stolen, valid credentials. Trustwave just published their report of security breaches and found that over 80% of incidents were due to weak administrative controls, such as bad passwords. In fact, the most common password they found was, "password1." We see some of this same activity but from a different angle. We noticed a dramatic spike in the amount of SSH brute force activity (programs designed to break bad passwords).
This particular challenge was something that came up on a podcast I did today with Tom Cross and Caleb Barlow that covered much of the data new report. You can listen to that full podcast here.
We also saw a sustained increase in the amount of shell command injection over the course of the year. Similar to SQL Injection in the way the attack is delivered, shell command injection is delivered through the inputs in web applications. However, while SQL Injection is an attack on the database, shell command injection is aimed at the web server itself. The results of this tactic basically give the attacker control of the web server, at which point they can do a number of different things depending on their motives. This would include using the site to deliver malware, defacing the website or even just taking it down altogether.
All of this came to deliver a year in which security really began to move its way into board level conversations as senior level executives were all wondering if this could happen to them, or worse yet, if it was currently happening to them and they just didn't realize it yet. However, despite the increased focus on security, this is also not an issue that many organizations, to their credit, are just waking up to. In fact, years of hard work and awareness (hopefully through reports like this one and those of our peers) have begun to yield progress in certain areas. First off, many vendors seem to be doing a better job with security. We have noted dramatic improvements in patching coverage and processes over the course of the last 4 years. In 2008, over 50% of all vulnerabilities had no patch and that number is now in the mid 30s. Secondly, using things like sandboxes, vendors are also making it more difficult for exploits to yield any real results, and this is likely one of the reasons why the number of exploits is going down. The number of web application vulnerabilities also went down for the first time since recently reaching 50% of all disclosed vulnerabilities. Today, that number is down to 41%. Why is this such an important stat? Given the sheer volume of new web apps springing up every day, the security with which they are designed, developed and deployed is often questionable. The average developer might not take the time to do something like secure input and output validation to combat the attempts at the various types of code injection I mentioned above. However, a decline in web application vulnerabilities could speak to the larger development community beginning to take the problem more seriously and using security tools and best practices as part of their development processes. While we will need to see this trend sustained over time before we start feeling all warm and fuzzy, it is a positive indicator.
Cloud and mobile continue to be hot topics and the Trend Report has some valuable insight on both. In the mobile space we continue to see a rise in the number of exploits YtY. As more and more employees bring their own devices into the office, the opportunity that these devices represent will only continue to grow. Taking a somewhat different approach than we typically do, the cloud article is not about the technology as much as it looks at the nature of the relationship between consumer and provider and the key considerations organizations need to make, especially around what an exit strategy would look like. It seems cynical to consider the relationship in this manner, but it's best to enter into this marriage planning for divorce. That's not to say that the relationship won't be mutually beneficial for all parties and for a long time, but the consequences of not planning this way are too great.
While security will never be a solved problem, and new technologies and new attack techniques will always drive this back and forth between attackers and the security community, it is good to see progress being made in some of the areas that are central to computer and internet security even during a year that was defined by breach headlines.
Each of the below videos contain overviews of the report given by Tom Cross, Manager of Threat Intelligence and Strategy, with varying levels of depth. The first is a quick overview while the second is about 15 minutes on the top trends.
On-hand at New York's Grand Hyatt Hotel to make the announcement were IBM Software Senior Vice President and Group Executive Steve Mills, Senior Vice President, IBM Middleware Software Robert LeBlanc and Senior Vice President IBM Software Solutions Mike Rhodin. Joining this august trio was Bridget van Kralingen, Senior Vice President, IBM Global Business Services. Portions of the event were broadcast via live video and you can watch the replay here.
Align, Anticipate, Act
IBM Smarter Analytics solutions draw upon capabilities from across the IBM Software portfolio, such as Big Data, Predictive Analytics and Decision Management. Broadly speaking, they enable organizations to accomplish three critical tasks:
Align information around information
Anticipate, predict and shape outcomes
Act with confidence at the point of impact
Organizations that do all three of these create a virtuous cycle of continuous transformation and learning: applied insights drive breakaway results, which in turn create new learnings, which are then transformed into a new insights, and so forth.
If you'll pardon the pun, it's a tremendously smart way to run an organization. Our world is increasingly interconnected, instrumented and intelligent; it's also a lot more competitive. With analytics, organizations can build their customer base, improve operational efficiency, prevent fraud, manage risk and automate tedious but required financial processes.
Happily, organizations in every industry are seeing the benefits. Consider that with Smarter Analytics solutions from IBM:
Insurance company Santam saved $2.4M through better fraud detection and cut claims handling to a mere 48 hours.
Electronics manufacturer Jabil enjoys greater insight into its financial performance and cut its close time in half.
Analytics-driven Organizations Outperform
The evidence is there: organizations that embrace analytics are outperforming their competition and the gap is widening between the leaders, learners and laggards. Analytics-driven organizations are extracting insights not only from enterprise data, but also from big data that's continuously flowing in from a variety of new sources. These insights help them make better, faster decisions and automate processes. And more organizations are indeed getting on-board: IDC estimates enterprises will invest more than $120 billion by 2015 to capture the business impact of analytics, across hardware, software and services.
New Signature Solutions
To help clients take the next - or the first - step in their analytics journey, Tuesday saw the rollout of three new IBM Signature Solutions:
IBM Smarter Analytics Signature Solution � Anti-fraud, Waste & Abuse: Advanced algorithms embedded directly into business processes to provide government agencies and insurers the ability to detect fraud in real time � before funds are paid out. The solution recommends the most effective remedy for each case, optimizing an organization�s finite resources. For example, the system might recommend that a simple letter requesting payment be sent to resolve one case, while recommending that a full investigation be opened in another.
IBM Smarter Analytics Signature Solution � Next Best Action: Delivering a comprehensive view of individual customers derived from traditional enterprise data and customer sentiment gleaned from social networks, logged customer service interactions and web click stream data. Real-time analytics predict customer behavior and preferences to inform decisions on the next best action on behalf of that customer.
IBM Smarter Analytics Signature Solution � CFO Performance Insight: For icreased insight, visibility and control over financial performance with predictive capabilities applied to key metrics and data on past performance. Predictive analytics, combined with what-if analysis and traditional business intelligence in an executive-style dashboard guide users with root-cause analyses. Organizations can uncover relationships among performance metrics, anticipate performance gaps and assess alternatives with scenario planning.
"These new capabilities target the agendas of global business leaders operating in a world of accelerating complexity, unpredictability and massively available information,� said van Kralingen, �By integrating analytics into business processes and converting new insights into action, IBM is helping organizations transform big data from a threat into an opportunity, one that will be their most valuable natural resource.� Insights from 20,000 engagements
These new solutions are based on insights from more than 20,000 IBM analytics engagements around the world. They can be delivered by IBM consultants, supported by industry-leading applications management services capabilities, and cloud offerings.
Big Data to play a Big Role
Naturally, these solutions depend on lots and lots of data. Luckly, organizations are seeing no shortage in that area. So abundant is data in all forms now that "Big Data is is the new natural resource," according to Steve Mills in a blog post on the Smarter Planet Blog. "In fact, information is becoming the petroleum of the 21st century. But we need a new generation of analytics technology and expertise to help us make the most of it [...] humans are creating fifteen petabytes of new information every day�about eight times the information housed in all the academic libraries in the United States. "
Mills continues: Clients can access these capabilities through IBM�s big data technology platform that includes Hadoop, stream computing, data warehouse, and information integration and governance capabilities, along with visualization and discovery, application development, systems management and industry accelerators. To date, the IBM big data platform has been adopted by more than 100 business partners, bringing a new class of analytics solutions to market and extending the reach of IBM analytics offerings for clients."
You can begin your own analytics-driven journey by joining the IBM Smarter Analytics conversations on Twitter (#smarteranalytics), Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.
Just over 15 years ago, authors of a book entitled, �The Discipline of Market Leaders,� asserted there were three (and only three) ways for a company to lead their market(s).
Their thesis is not complicated: invest in unmatched value (best product, best total solution, or best total cost) in the core marketplace, while meeting minimum standards across other measures of value. Focusing the entire enterprise on improvement in the chosen value to customers will result in growth in shareholder value over time.
We're seeing that increasingly "best total solution" is the value proposition of choice because of global changes over the past 15 years. Competing on "best product" is very difficult today as the horizon on an innovation-led technology advantage is shortening all the time. The market penetration for televisions 60 years ago to reach 50M users took 12 years. The internet took four. Tablet computers took just two years.
Competing on "best total cost" is a global undertaking where massive scale is frequently the core economic requirement. By its very nature, this strategy limits the field of competitors to a select few who drive globally integrated supply chains as a core competency.
So, in today's environment "best total solution" is where so many enterprises are focused.
But, it requires an intimate understanding of the customer, the customer's customer (sometimes) and the context in which they make their purchase decisions.
With the advent of social networks, we can define the "best total solution" by thinking of the social web as a massive focus group. Enterprises who lead in "best total solution" today are Social Businesses who mine insights and analyze them to precisely understand how customers feel.
Today's leading enterprises apply scientific methods to their social business activities � continuously harvesting the data associated with the process of establishing & maintaining relationships across the customer-set.
This data is priceless to compete effectively today because customers are expressing their needs in the context of their ongoing social network activities. All enterprises need to do is listen � scientifically � to separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff and uncover the core insights that lead to happier customers.
IBM has been working on applying scientific analysis to the petabytes of social network data. We are focused on enabling businesses to become more socially skilled as they engage the "massive focus group" that is the social web.
The "data exhaust" from social business engagement is the input to sophisticated Social Analytics which interpret customer sentiment, evolving topics of discussion and unmet needs.
We are working closely to help our customers improve their capabilities in Social Analytics. Many feel less well-prepared for these challenges than they would like.
Consider recent results from the IBM Global Study Chief Marketing Officer study of what CMOs feel unprepared for. Notice that the top four areas involve social analytics because it's about huge data-sets, social web content, new social channel options and a diversity of ages & geographies to consider.
I will be doing a webinar tomorrow, March 22, 2012, entitled, �Social Analytics is Key to being a Social Business,� and will be discussing how enterprises can get started on the topics above and it touches on all four areas of unpreparedness. You can register here.
One theme you'll see me strike is how our clients are focused on adding their social analytics insights to the larger corpus of datasets that they use to run their business today.
Consider this view of the typical "360 Degree Customer View." We have tried-and-true behavioral and descriptive data, and a lot of interaction data. But, the attitudes our customers have are more elusive.
We have to conduct costly, time-consuming surveys to capture their sentiment � the "Why" behind the "How, Who and What."
So, as our clients serve the needs of their clients better, it's largely through the predictive lens which comes from blending two key things:
�Scientific interpretation of social business interactions (The "Why")
�Modeling of traditional datasets, including the attitudinal data from social media and surveys
For more information:
�Listento the webinar I recently did with BrainYard and InformationWeek, "Social Analytics - Putting the Science into Social Business." A replay is available here and the presentation is available on SlideShare here.
�Watchthe video below for a strategic viewpoint from Deepak Advani, vice president of products and solutions at IBM, on social analytics and why it�s so important today
Every so often you experience an eye-opening moment that brings into clear focus the realities of the world around you. I experienced such a moment recently reading a quote from Google's chairman Eric Schmidt. It was this: �Every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization until 2003.�
My goodness. We've become quite the information-creating monsters, haven't we? And we�ve got technology to thank for it.
Granted, some of this has to do with a dramatic population increase, and some of it has to do with the fact that as a society we�re addicted to instantaneous communications.
Still, it seems to me the biggest difference between now and the dawn of society is that our lives, personal and otherwise, rely on an infrastructure of zeros and ones as much as they do wood and steel - perhaps even more so. This modern infrastructure that we�ve recently built is both the source of, and answer to, the complexities of this brave new world.
When IBM talks about the world becoming a smarter planet , this, indeed, is the sort of thing it has in mind. Beyond the obvious tech underpinnings -- desktops, laptops, servers -- think of all those billions of smart phones and millions of tablets out there, not to mention embedded processors, device sensors, switches and routers, RFID tags, software applications, device drivers, middleware and innumerable other instances of binary tech.
Each creates and sends data in some form. And all of it, combined, is the information Mr. Schmidt is talking about. We don't just create information ourselves, directly; we've created tools on a vast scale that, in turn, create information, too.
The question is: What are we doing with all that information? What could, and should, we do with it? And what might be the benefits, if we did?
IBM is determined to infuse analytics smarts everywhere it can -- almost literally boosting the Earth�s IQ
I found out recently that I'm not the only one impressed by the Schmidt quote or the volume of data that seemingly permeates our daily lives. It is one of the core topics that Mike Rhodin, Senior Vice President for IBM Software Solutions Group, talked about at the IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference in New Orleans.
Mr. Rhodin also brought up a number of related points during a recent keynote address at CeBIT 2012 that may be worth your consideration:
There are 1.8 trillion gigabytes of information available in today's digital world.
Every day the New York Stock Exchange creates and captures more than a terabyte of trade information. That's a hundred thousand times more data created daily than the storage capacity of the first IBM mainframes only 50 years ago.
Two hundred million tweets are sent every day -- roughly 12 terabytes of unstructured data from tens of millions of devices.
Given that approach, how are we (on the largest possible scale of �we�) utilizing all that data to make the world a better place -- the Smarter Planet of IBM�s dreams?
�This explosion of data from incredibly diverse sources is creating tough complexities but also new opportunities to better understand the new realities of our world,� said Rhodin. �We are in the era of big data, and it is ushering in a new approach to computing, one that�s more insight-driven, more intelligent, and leverages technology designed to be more cognitive.
Enter IBM Smarter Analytics -- a new strategic initiative from IBM that turns information into insight and insight into business outcomes. Basically, it helps organizations transform big data into big business opportunity.
As part of this initiative, IBM is releasing a suite of signature solutions � outcome-based, industry-focused analysis of mass data volumes. These solutions are specifically designed to tackle some of the most pressing analytics challenges organizations face today (reducing fraud, managing financial risk and accelerating consumer intelligence) that drive better outcomes through better insight.
According to Rhodin, solutions of this type are not just needed, they�re critical for long-term success. And IBM has really stepped up by putting analytics front-and-center in its strategy.
Today IBM is weaving advanced analytics capabilities into the fabric of its products and services to support our evolving digital infrastructure and the nearly limitless things we use it to do.
�The role of big data and advanced analytics does not just sit at the center of this evolution -- it permeates it � through every computing system, process, connection and data source,� said Rhodin. �On a smarter planet, analytics becomes the central nervous system through which information is received, analyzed and acted on, in a single fluid motion.�
Get on board with analytics, and you and your customers will both win
According to recent studies conducted by IBM and the MIT Sloan Management Review, some 57 percent of responders cited analytics as a key competitive advantage.
Organizations with advanced analytics were cited as 260 percent more likely to substantially outperform analytics �beginners.� And top-tier performers were 84 percent more likely to have analytics already integrated into both core strategies and day-to-day operations.
The lesson seems clear: If you're not up to speed on analytics, you're probably falling behind your peers. It's not simply an IT topic, but, increasingly, the IT topic -- the one of highest priority, because it informs and optimizes everything you do.
Rhodin concurs. �When we first launched Smarter Planet a few years back, we knew advanced analytics would have a fundamental role to play,� he said. �[But] it has quickly become the silver thread woven throughout our portfolio.
�Analytics is no longer advancing single organizations, it is transforming entire industries,� added Rhodin.
And the new IBM Smarter Analytics solutions prove that point in no uncertain terms. Consider the following, very diverse examples:
Smarter customer interactions. If you want to succeed in business, you can't do much better than constantly pleasing your customer base. To do that, Smarter Analytics can help you understand much more precisely who those customers are, what they want, how best to deliver it, and even how to communicate its value to them. Essentially, this is CRM 2.0, re-imagined for the 21st century and done right.
Smarter CFO insight. How efficient and cost-effective are operations in one area compared to another? How profitable are strategies, products and services in different contexts and aimed at different demographics? These questions are very close to a CFO's heart. And IBM's new solutions can generate the necessary answers.
Smarter fraud management. The insurance industry has long been driven by stats and analysis, of course, but fraud identification remains a thorny and expensive issue. IBM's Smarter Analytics solutions can help underwriters determine when they've paid too much in the past, predict when and where fraud is likely to occur in the future and score current claims in real time to trigger immediate investigation in appropriate cases.
Here�s the pudding. See the proof?
If all that seems a little abstract to you, bear in mind that many of these solutions -- albeit in earlier versions -- have already been deployed by, and have created incredible value for, all kinds of organizations in all kinds of ways.
Take the case of Vestas Wind Systems , for instance. It routinely uses IBM InfoSphere BigInsights to sift through two petabytes of weather data and thus determine exactly where their turbines should go -- as well as roll those turbines out faster, and keep them up and running longer.
Or look at a wildly different case of XO Communications. By using IBM Business Analytics and an IBM Netezza analytic appliance, they were able to reduce its customer churn rates by nearly 50 percent and helped save XO millions of dollars by uncovering deeper insights into customer behaviors, spotting trends and identifying those likely to defect. With a better overall customer experience, XO is now able to stay competitive against other carriers and improve its overall satisfaction.
And if private sector instances aren�t enough for you, ponder the Sonoma County Water Agency. They are using IBM's Smarter Analytics solutions to optimize pressure valves throughout a distribution network that delivers water to more than 600,000 people all over the California wine country -- reducing needless water loss and predicting future problems with equal ease.
In what areas is your organization using analytics? And how has it improved your business?
Hear Mike Rhodin�s keynote speech at CeBIT 2012 About the author Guest blogger Wes Simonds worked in IT for seven years before becoming a technology writer on topics including virtualization, cloud computing and service management. He lives in sunny Austin, Texas and believes Mexican food should always be served with queso.
Developed in Kenya as a way to increase the productivity of subsistence-level dairy farming, iCow replaces a farmer's grueling 40-mile, three-day walk to market with direct access to buyers and sellers. It also delivers information about cows' gestation periods through voice and SMS. Since its inception, 42 percent of farmers using iCow have reported increased incomes; half of these farmers attribute the rise to an increased milk yield ranging from 1.5 to 3 liters per cow. Farmers also cited benefits including:
Reduced spending on commercial feed due to knowledge on homemade production
Increased markets and incomes for livestock and livestock by products
Reduction of animal illness and mortality due to efficient access to relevant experts
Storage of feed in preparation for drought and dry conditions
From dairy farmers in Kenya to the recent Arab Spring, Ross explored the ways social media and other emerging, widely available technologies are rewriting the social contract between the governors and the governed. Much of the disruption stems from two concurrent trends: a dramatic increase in both both processing power and network access over the last two years. These trends, said Ross, are driving a global redistribution of power from hierarchies to individuals and networks around the world. And in the case of iCow, they're also driving innovation and improving outcomes in the lives of people around the world.
Processing power & network access on the rise
Governments looking to drive similar outcomes for their own populations would do well to follow the iCow example. Two years ago, neither the app itself - nor the Apps4Africa, for that matter - would have been possible without a major investment of technology, infrastructure and foreign expertise. iCow, said Ross, represents an entirely new approach to foreign development - one that leverages the potential of our increasingly powerful and available technologies with the deep skills and knowledge of people on the ground. Not only are these solutions more immediately effective, they're more likely to be used: 82 percent of the farmers who signed up to iCow on its release are still using the service. "This isn't a solution that someone in a shirt and tie back in Washington would come up with," said Ross.
The interactive portion of SXSW is over but the ideas and implications will linger, indeed. I've only just now begun to sift through the 3,000-plus words I jotted down at the various presentations, panels and keynotes I attended and with any luck, I'll be distlling them into useful pieces for you to ponder.
IBM completed its acquisition of Worklight and announced the news at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. By combining capabilities, IBM and Worklight aim to help CIOs fulfill what analysts say is their #2 priority � to improve mobile capability.
This likely involves a two-pronged approach: first, organizations need a comprehensive mobile solution to provide a better experience for customers interacting on a variety of smartphone and tablet devices; second, businesses may also need to support the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) practice of their employees.
Accomplishing these mobile goals is a tall order, but IBM and Worklight offer software capabilities to do just that. These mobile enterprise capabilities help organizations build mobile applications, connect them securely to back-end systems, manage mobile devices and applications, and extend and transform their businesses on mobile. Worklight and IBM experts introduced IBM�s mobile strategy at the IBM Application Developer Conference during Mobile World Congress. For those of us not lucky enough to have traveled to lovely Barcelona, we can view the event�s strategy presentation by Bob Sutor, vice president of IBM Mobile, from his blog or on the Slideshare presentation below.
In addition, Sutor describes the challenges of building a mobile enterprise and how to get a good start with security controls and standards in an interview in IBM Smart SOA & BPM Newsletter. And InformationWeek features a webcast this month on �Harnessing the Power of Mobile in the Enterprise� with Ron Perry, CTO of Worklight, and Dirk Nicol, program director of IBM Mobile Strategy and Product Management. The IBM Mobile Enterprise web site has additional information on the various software and services available.
Software is expected to drive nearly half of IBM's profits by 2015 according to its 2011 Annual Report. In her first Letter to Shareholders, new CEO Ginni Rometty ushered in IBM's second century by highlighting record revenue, profit, free cash flow and earnings per share. "Our strong strategic positioning, solid balance sheet, recurring revenue, robust profit streams and unmatched global reach give us confidence that we will achieve success in the next five years, as we have during the past decade," she wrote. I've extracted some highlights below. The full report is available here.
$107 billion in revenue, up 7 percent from 2010
$21.6 billion in operating pre-tax income, up by 9 percent (a record)
$16.3 billion in operating net income, up 9 percent from 2010
$13.44 operating EPS, up 15 percent from 2010 and the ninth consecutive year of double-digit growth
$16.6 billion in free cash flow, up for the ninth straight year
$18.5 billion returned in share repurchases and dividends
Operating pre-tax income margin of 20.2 percent, up for the ninth straight year and up 10 points since 2000.
Business mix changes drive growth
IBM continually changes its business mix toward higher-value, more profitable technologies and market opportunities and is "well on track" toward meeting its 2015 RoadMap Goal of $20 operating EPS. Software drove 44 percent of IBM income last year; by 2015, that figure is expected to reach 50 percent. Rometty outlined four specific growth plays that will drive growth into the future:
1: Growth Markets. Revenue for Growth Markets Unit was up 11 percent at constant currency for the second year in a row. Growth markets contributed 22 percent of IBM�s geographic revenue in 2011, up from 11 percent in 2000, and IBM expects them to approach 30 percent by 2015.
2:Business Analytics. Analytics business grew 16 percent for the year. Having spotted early the emergence of �big data,� IBM built the world�s leading analytics software and consulting practice, and we are translating it into powerful new capabilities, which enable our clients to identify, manage and even predict outcomes that matter to their success. Sign up for next Tuesday's Smarter Analytics Leadership Summit to see where we're going next.
3:Cloud. IBM has helped thousands of clients adopt aspects of cloud computing, where IT resources are virtualized, highly automated and accessed by self-service. Our cloud revenue in 2011 was more than three times the prior year.
4:Smarter Planet. All of this comes together in our solutions to build Smarter Planet systems, transforming systems such as supply chains, retail, energy, transportation, telecommunications, food and water. It includes the successful establishment of large new market categories, such as Smarter Cities and Smarter Commerce. Smarter Planet revenue grew by almost 50 percent in 2011.
"The next decade holds enormous promise for IBM, most importantly because of what it holds for business and society at large," writes Rometti. "We are uniquely positioned to deliver the benefits of a vast new natural resource�a gusher of data from both man-made and natural systems that can now be tapped to help businesses and institutions succeed in an increasingly complex and dynamic global economy."
The March issue of the IBM Software Newsletter has been in inboxes for just a little more than 24 hours, but already it looks like the new IBM SmartCloud offerings, announced at Pulse 2012, are getting most of the attention from our readers. Here�s a quick reader�s/viewer�s guide you can use to ramp up on the offerings, and what they can do for your organization:
Start with the press release announcing all the new IBM SmartCloud offerings
Another SmartCloud capability, announced in advance of Pulse, is also attracting clicks: IBM SmartCloud Enterprise � Object Storage, which dramatically simplifies management of unstructured data (emails, social content, documents, and other non-row-and-column data) in the cloud. For more information, visit the SmartCloud Enteprise web page, and scroll down.