Enterprise hits and misses - the dark side of big data edition

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed July 13, 2015
A cheeky weekly review of which articles hit (or didn't) - on diginomica and beyond. This week: the dark side of big data, Paris Cloud Week critique, Reddit's meltdown, and why I called a whiff on myself.

Cheerful Chubby Man
diginomica hit: Welcome to your privacy nightmare! Is big business getting out of hand with Big Data? by Cath Everett

quotage: "Big Data and predictive analytics technology raise major privacy concerns as businesses gather more and more personal information about all of us. The big question is are they starting to abuse their corporate power?"

myPOV: In a well-considered piece grounded in research rather than ideology, Cath looks at the underbelly of big data, starting with views from the Richard Hollis of the information security firm Risk Factory, who believes that "the ability of big data and predictive analytics systems to profile customers is generating ;huge problems' in privacy terms ."

My view is that from our own preferred vendors, we get the privacy we deserve (e.g. vote with your wallet). But - I share Cath's concerns about such data falling into the wrong hands and exploited. Then there is the problem of data gathered about us by third parties we have never consented to. Cath offers some solutions (e.g. greater transparency and more effective/modern regulations), and she's right: the time to have this debate is now.

Happy children eating apple
diginomica five: my completely subjective "top five" stories on diginomica this week
  • Regulatory compliance is an ever expanding concern for CIOs - in a sobering take for disruptors everywhere, Charlie walks us through a daunting list of regulatory bodies CIOs are contending with, plus advisory on how to think about regulations with business models in evolution/flux.
  • Seven steps on the path to a frictionless future - Missed Phil's talk at Paris Cloud Week? Get the personal rundown here instead. My fave step? "Set the business free" - e.g. free business users up from endless IT change orders. The ability to iterate software changes while sparing IT from the burden of patch frenzy is definitely "frictionless" in my book.
  • Paris Cloud Week – retour vers le futur! - Yep, that's "back to the future" for you non-Francophiles. Our own Chris Middleton provides another view from Paris Cloud Week, this one a narrative of the week's events with a hot take at the end. Chris is right to point out the implications of the Greek economic elephant in the room, today's resolution notwithstanding, and a mention of the problems women face in open source communities face is an inconvenient truth Chris also brings to light.
  • All change – a third of firms will buy new HR management systems this year - Janine analyzed the latest Towers Watson’s 2015 HR Service Delivery and Technology Survey. which found that a third of respondents - an all time high from 18 years on the survey - plan to replace their HR management systems this year. A primary driver? The desire to have cloud-based HR management systems. But it's not all cloudy - a third of all orgs are still using paper-based methods to manage bonuses and variable pay (sounds fun!) - to cite one example of "nook and cranny" processes firms are still trying to eradicate.
  • G-Cloud awareness shockingly low as public sector distrusts cloud computing - All is not well in the UK public sector cloud push, as Stuart finds parsing the data from a Huddle study: "So how’s that UK government drive to the cloud working out then? Not very well at all it seems with 92% of 5000 civil servants polled saying that they don’t trust the cloud." The accumulation of hype-shattering stats from this report are a wake-up call indeed. Stuart managed to get a preliminary (and sunnier) response from the G-Cloud leadership. Expect future updates as Stuart digs further, but for now, as Stuart says, "something has to change."

Vendor analysis, diginomica style -  An armload of fresh vendor use cases this week, starting with a Tableau pair from Derek, easyJet on-board with Tableau to improve BI reporting and Scotland is embedding data into the culture of the NHS with Tableau. Two common threads - empowering casual users with visual analytics, and sharper insights by comparing across data sets. Jessica is up to her usual use case mischief in Yakult eases data digestion with Tibco Spotfire, with the art of ingesting diverse new data types (don't you love it when data goes down smooth?).

Phil chimes in with Marketing must monitor online payments, warns Avangate - when you realize that the recovery rate when following up on new subscribers whose payment fails can be as high as 70 percent, you get what the fuss is about here. Den put a wrap on his PowerPlex coverage with PowerPlex 2015: a model for 21st century application software conferences. Sidenote: we could use more of those "mercifully long lunch breaks" if you ask me - not sure why vendors always send us scrambling around with mystery meat sandwiches. And: Derek's got the skinny on BI shaker/mover Alteryx in Alteryx focuses in on UX and collaboration as it nears 1,000 customers (always a good debate on power/limits of self-service BI versus "data scientists only").

Jon's grab bag:  As an Apple not-a-fanboy who thinks iTunes is one of the most bloated and disappointing pieces of software ever released, even I had to nod in agreement at Gail Moody-Byrd's Apple Music’s launch: three upselling lessons for enterprise. Moody-Bird's point about pleasing the end users, not the geeks, hits home (too close to home for this geek, but she's right - ouch!). The PR whiff on (initially) not paying artists during the free period notwithstanding, Apple seems to have played their cards right here. That said, go Spotify!

Meantime, Martin wins diginomica headline-of-the-week in a landslide with Automating political apoplexy for a dystopian future? (The story, a satirical skewering of the wonders of automation spurred by the Chancellor's UK Budget statement, does not require deep UK know-how to appreciate.

Looks like I have fellow company in the dystopian work future camp, with Martin blasting off with "That is one possible scenario: maybe the human race should just die off and leave it all to computing." Then a biting point of a more practical nature: "Without individuals having a source of income, no products, services or other forms of output will be purchased, and the system will implode." Martin, as Alice Cooper once said, welcome to my nightmare.  Finally - a lovely/introspective piece by Den (feels weird to call a piece by Den lovely, but hey, it is what it is): Cindy Jutras and the exquisite art of solving for gender inequality.

Best of the rest

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer
No special accolades this week (blog harder. people!) but here are some standouts:
  • The Discriminatory Dark Side Of Big Data - continuing the "big data/big problems" angle, SAP's Chirag Mehta wrote a thoughtful piece on how dangerous big data can be once predictive scenarios put you in an unwanted, or unwarranted category. Google's ad system is exhibit A. As Mehta says, "The challenge with Big Data is not Big Data itself but what companies could do with your data combined with any other data without your explicit understanding of how algorithms work." Me: the "any other data" aspect is huge - it's a tad scary what smart machines can figure out about you by deducing behavior you may have agreed to share in piecemeal, without realizing how razor sharp/intrusive the compiled profile would be.
  • Plex Systems and Workday like each other, Capgemini goes digital, and Rimini Street does its thing -  In our #ensw news roundup, Cindy Jutras explains the 2-tier ERP logic behind the Workday and Plex Systems partnership in Enterprise Odd Couple: Plex Systems Partners with Workday (Mint Jutras SaaS 2-tier ERP data points are included). Holger Mueller has nice things to say about Paris, and also Capgemini, in Progress Report - CapGemini is ready for the Digital Economy - but challenges remain (he has some cautions for Capgemini as well, e.g. digital-skilling the European workforce). If Rimini Street is facing a major challenge ahead with its ongoing Oracle lawsuit, you wouldn't know if from the earnings reports. Larry Dignan has the story in Rimini Q2 revenue up 36 percent as Oracle trial looms.
  • Facebook concedes small victory to human judgement, adds human touch to Newsfeed algo. And: Netflix flummoxes a pundit - in a story under-appreciated for its implications for algos big and small, Facebook is making some (overdue) changes to theirs, making it easier for those not named Robert Scoble to tweak their newsfeeds based on parameters that Facebook notoriously struggles with (e.g. close but not active/noisy relationships). OK, so it was unfair to say that Ben Thompson is flummoxed by Netflix, but in a nuanced post, he looks at how he underestimated Netflix's digital dexterity, without sugar-coating its content production challenges. Kudos for coming up with the analogy of  "Airbnb for travelers, Uber for commuters, and Netflix for the bored."
  • Everyone’s talking Digital and it’s Dangerous - In which Agile Elephant's David Terrar provides the warning that "digital" is turning into an empty container into which all kinds of vile potions can be poured (my words, not his). As a staunch advocate for digital transformation, when Terrar expresses such concerns it's worth noting. Plenty of useful resource links are included, and as a bonus, given that I'm typing this from London now, Agile Elephant also published a nice Wimbledon analytics ditty, What is this “Tennis” thing anyway, Watson? which includes more analysis of the human-tweaked algorithm.

Honorable mention
Customer references and strategic relationships  - productive musings and field views.
Why Collaboration Fails - fruitful sifting through the rubble of the hype that once was.
S&OP: A Tough Nut to Crack - your supply chain trail mix.
The era of ever-cheaper cloud services is over - insightful, if a bit too concise (yes there is such a thing).
Confused About Spark? Six Facts You Need to Know - Spark is so hot, pretty soon it won't be enough to drop it into a keynote - we'll have to be able to explain what it actually does.
Pao Out as Reddit CEO; Co-Founder Huffman Takes Over - I guess we can call that a downvote? Which lead us to...


Overworked businessman
Yup - I'm calling a whiff on myself. When I published What can enterprise communities learn from Reddit’s meltdowns? I neglected a part of the story. No, not the news of Pao's ouster - that happened about an hour after I hit "publish" (that was just brilliant crappy timing on my part). I touched on Reddit's affinity for free speech. But the truth is that the ugly side of Reddit is not small, and it's based in irresponsible cruelty posing as speech - the worst of the anonymous Internet. Too often, that cruelty is directed at women, and Pao - though I think she made some terrible decisions - was an undeserving recipient. I should have found a way to address this.

As Reddit board member Bob Altman put it, "As a closing note, it was sickening to see some of the things redditors wrote about Ellen. The reduction in compassion that happens when we’re all behind computer screens is not good for the world. People are still people even if there is Internet between you,” he wrote. “Disagreements are fine. Death threats are not, are not covered under free speech, and will continue to get offending users banned."

Yes. But while Reddit can ban threats and other clear violations, I don't like Reddit's chances of infusing compassion into the ruthless free speech doctrine that the community is steeped in. I'm a huge free speech advocate, but we have to think hard about what that means in a community context. Once you create a community, you're kind of stuck with it. Besides, this reeks of a bad hire - so much so that conspiracy theories have been propagated.

Officially off-topic

This week's "don't try this at home" award is a photo finish between two worthy contestants: Boyband member collapses on flight after wearing all his clothes to avoid extra luggage costs and Russia starts 'safe selfie' campaign after dozens of deaths (I had no idea how many different ways people have died trying to take a selfie).

If a very scruffy pack of boys doesn't do it for you, how about a GoPro-wearing turtle giving you a guided tour of Australia's Great Barrier Reef? And even if soccer/football ain't your thing, Carli Lloyd's epic goal from midfield was a championship outing for the ages.

On the media consumption front, I will confess to enjoying the uneven/stylish end-of-rope character study known as "True Detective season 2". I also recommended some Netflix documentaries to pals Spath and Powlas, which included Freakonomics, Thin Blue Line, The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin, Hendrix: Hear My Train a'Comin', and, one of the more haunting films I've seen, The Imposter. That should get you to next week...

Which #ensw pieces of merit did I miss? Let us know in the comments.

Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed. 'myPOV' is borrowed with reluctant permission from the ubiquitous Ray Wang.

Image credits: Cheerful Chubby Man © RA Studio, Happy Children © Anna Omelchenko, Waiter Suggesting Bottle © Minerva Studiom, Overworked Businessman © Bloomua, Man © Dudarev Mikhail - all from Fotolia.com

Disclosure: SAP, Workday, Rimini Street, and Plex are diginomica premier partners as of this writing.