December 4th, 2012
CIO — Even as companies are relying more on technology to come up with innovative business models and fresh ideas for finding new revenue, many boards of directors don’t understand enough about IT to keep up. Few CIOs sit on boards and, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, just 1 percent of directors have any technology background at all. Discussion of IT issues in meetings around the mahogany table can be measured in minutes.
There’s a dangerous lack of confidence in the board’s digital literacy, revealed in our exclusive survey of 250 IT leaders. Sixty-four percent say the board “doesn’t do its homework” about technology matters and 57 percent say directors rely heavily on what they read in the press to evaluate IT strategy. Some 40 percent say board members “don’t really care about IT.”
The Board Institute, which educates and evaluates directors about corporate governance, finds that just 6 percent of companies have a board-level technology committee, where directors are assigned to focus on the strategic use of IT. Vastly more common are boards that confine IT to the audit committee, where the outlook is not proactive or innovative, but risk-averse: Protect against security threats, comply with regulations and manage the risks of big projects and technology spending.
When it comes to strategic IT, says Susan Shultz, CEO of The Board Institute, “Directors are not informed.”
CIOs can change that. In fact, as senior officers with fiduciary duties and as strategists responsible for corporate growth, CIOs must change that. A board that holds a narrow, defensive view of IT leaves the company vulnerable to competition, says Evelyn Follit, a former CIO of Radio Shack who has served on the boards of six companies.
An undereducated board can also stymie innovation, says Helen Cousins, CIO of Lincoln Trust. “If they don’t know about technology,” she says, “they can’t imagine what I’m imagining.” (Read more in “Boards Want to Learn About Emerging IT Issues.”)
But you have to be smart about making change. Boards are long-established institutions with norms and conventions that date back to the days of the 13 colonies. Each has its own quirks and politics. Understand that the prime duty of a board is to oversee what the executives are doing on behalf of the stockholders. Directors don’t want to compare Amazon’s cloud to Google’s. They want to know whether–and maybe a little bit of how–to use cloud computing to create a more valuable company. CIOs should avoid technical terms but be able to explain technology. Anticipate the directors’ questions and artfully lead them to the ones they should be asking.
CIO – By Kim S. Nash
March 28th, 2012
Smartphones will soon be the primary news source for most Americans. That’s if anyone can still make money by reporting
Pew research has a new survey showing that tablets and smart phones are now 27% of Americans’ primary news source. The overwhelming share of this is phones, not tablets; and a reasonable view says this will rise to 50% in three years.
Makes sense: just as radio became one of the big purveyors of news because it was the medium that traveled with you, so should mobile.
But it is also a depressing development, portending, once again, the end of the world as we know it: the news business has been plunged into a crisis because web advertising dollars are a fraction of old media money. And mobile is now a fraction of web: the approximate conversion rate is $100 offline = $10 on the web = $1 in mobile.
In part, the reasons are purely mechanical: you can cram three or four ads on a web page, meaning an average web CPM (cost per thousand views) of $1.00 (if you’re lucky) can become a rate-per-page per thousand (RPM) of $4.00 (versus $20-$40 CPMs in traditional media). Mobile CPMs are running at something closer to $0.25 – and we’re only able to fit one ad on those miniature pages.
And to some extent, the problem defines the medium: who wants to pay for inattention and a cursory scrawl? (How much of mobile news is consumed by people behind the wheel, even?)
And yet, this resistance, or lack of interest, on the part of advertisers challenges the bedrock logic of marketing: follow your customers.
Brands and big agencies continue to announce their commitment to and excitement about the revolution at hand. They surely want to be seen as players and cool people. I don’t know anybody in consumer marketing who isn’t gaga about digital and mobile. But these are the same people and big brands who have doubled down on television, your dad’s medium, making 2011 a golden TV advertising year.
Now, there’s an optimistic and stubborn view that this must change, that agencies and brands can’t hold on to the past for ever. Almost every digital executive and booster will, at this point in the conversation, outline his or her children’s media consumption habits as anecdotal evidence in support of the coming digital ad boom. But, as it happens, the patterns seem to get only worse. According to a recent report by Kanter Media, broadcast TV was up was 7.7% in the fourth quarter of 2011 (up 2.4% for the year), while internet search advertising was down 6.4% (down 2.8% for the year); and internet display advertising was down 5.9% in the fourth quarter (and down 5.5% for the year). Mobile does not even get its own break-out category.
There is another bleak element here: a basic shift in how advertising is bought and sold. More and more digital space, both web and mobile, is moved through a real-time auction process: audiences (or demographic segments) are sold like soy beans. Curiously, for all other commodities, the auction process raises prices. In a virtually unlimited world of digital advertising space, it lowers them.
If the news business on the web is depressing, contributing to the existential angst that has gripped every established news organization, mobile turns the story apocalyptic: there is no foreseeable basis on which the news establishment can support itself. There is no way even a stripped-down, aggregation-based, unpaid citizen-journalist staffed newsroom can support itself in a mobile world.
Hence the new consensus about the pay wall – on the web, but even more optimistically on anything handheld. In a very short time, the industry consensus has moved from “it will never work” to “it’s inevitable”. It doesn’t seem to matter that this has happened without any evidence that it can work, other than on the most incremental basis. It does seem to be, however, the only alternative – or roach-like adaptation, no matter how meager and clawing in the dirt – to ad-based oblivion for large news organizations. (And even so, they surely won’t be large anymore if they are to be supported on a paid-for basis.)
And then, there is the share-based news economy. In this new model, news is essentially voted for – that is, it achieves its views and its values by being passed along in the social quick-stream. This model, at a $0.25 CPM, depends on mass appreciation – on numbers so large that it makes television news look like a targeted audience. All of the sins of ratings-driven television news are, accordingly, algebraically magnified. Shared news is, more often than not, insipid happy news (qv Facebook).
Finally, there is “disintermediated” news. This model assumes that roaches, in the form of individual obsessives and low-paid scriveners (a monkey-with-a-typewriter model), continue to produce the ever-rising content pool, which is then parsed and selected, not by editors and reporters, but by your self-selected peer group – through tools supplied by easy-to-use mobile and web-based platforms (qv Twitter).
The bleak or non-existent future for news professionals in a mobile-dominated world is further compounded by our remoteness from, and antipathy to, the thing that has always fed us: advertising. The news business began and thrived on the basis of an historic, if anomalous partnership between the immediate and the commercial. Freedom of the press had as much to do with department stores as with the constitution.
We continue to need some genius – or greedy so-and-so – to figure out how to make a connection between news and moving the merchandise. Or we are lost
February 27th, 2012
Big data this, big data that, everywhere you look these days there are stories and adverts for big data products, and services. We know why the industry likes big data, it’s because they expect it to be a $50 billion market in the next five years. Many of us have also come to accept that big data can offer a real competitive advantage to those who use it effectively.
So, if it’s safe to assume that big data is real, and that you should be investing, where do you start and what should you expect as you go through the adoption process? Big data today, is what the web was in 1993. We knew the web was something and that it might get big, but few of us really understood what “big” meant. Today, I believe we aren’t even scratching the surface of the big data opportunity.
A good example of potential big data use models can be found here.
Current issues with adoption.
There are a number of issues that will affect your ability to successfully adopt and make best use of a big data solution, but the three I believe are most critical are:
Useable enterprise tools — The tools that will allow any business to fully utilize big data aren’t ready.
How will these adoption issues affect big data as a business opportunity?
Useable enterprise tools — The current suite of products include Greenplum, Cloudera’s Hadoop and others, which are making headway in many large enterprises. However, these tools are still new and generally require large technical teams trying to solve issues for companies like eBay and Sears. A smaller company would be less likely to gain the appropriate return on investment, because of the high complexity of implementation combined with low overall volume.
Lack of staff expertise — This area is similar to enterprise tools. Even if you’ve got 10 people working on the refinement of the system, it’s likely going to boil down to that one wizard/expert who can work magic with your data. Putting a large number of people on the problem won’t guarantee success.
Data gravity — Considering the strong possibility that most organizations will struggle to fulfill the promise of their big data strategy with internal resources, we are likely to see a proliferation of services from various cloud providers. My concern here is that the use characteristics of Big-Data-as-a-Service aren’t being thoroughly examined.
The questions and big picture concerns.
Thanks to complex implementations, the data divide could grow.
When thinking about democratizing the use of data, the following questions come to mind. They can relate to your implementations, but also are worth thinking about in general. They are:
Where will your data reside?
So what’s the solution to bring data to as many businesses as possible?
To make big data available to everyone we need quite a few things to happen. We need to figure out simple use cases for data to solve common problem sets. Then we must make those available to developers so they can build tools that make solving those set problems easy. We need to continue to push the boundaries of cost-effective disk storage and network capacity, or provide ecosystem environments that allow for direct access over a private network. In an ideal world we will do both.
We’ll know big data has arrived when the use of the service is integrated into common business software tools that are used by the majority of your businesses employees. Also key will be the ability of any knowledge worker to run their own questions/queries against internal and external data sources. The average business won’t be able to call big data truly successful or accessible as long as its usability is being defined and managed by a small disconnected team of IT scientists.
Mark Thiele is executive VP of Data Center Tech at Switch, the operator of the SuperNAP data center in Las Vegas. Thiele blogs at SwitchScribe and at Data Center Pulse, where is also president and founder. He can be found on Twitter at @mthiele10.
February 6th, 2012
Facebook’s new “frictionless sharing” enables someone to automatically post what they are doing online in a stream of status updates. To some, this is a little too much sharing. However, “enterprise frictionless sharing” should be the norm for internal social network sites.
As a result of Facebook’s frictionless sharing I am constantly seeing what songs some of my friends are listening to through Spotify or what news articles they are reading on Yahoo. If granted permission, Facebook applications (e.g., Spotify or the Yahoo news reader) are able to write to your wall without requiring explicit acknowledgement. In essence, these updates become a by-product of some (non-social network-related) action you perform, such as listening to a song or reading an online article.
Many in the blogosphere have criticized this new level of sharing and even go so far as to say that “Facebook is ruining sharing.” Personally, I have stopped clicking links coming from one of the “frictionless” news readers because I know it will first ask me to install a Facebook application, implying that I too want my Facebook friends to see all the articles I am reading on Yahoo (for example). To me, this is just too much information to share with friends on Facebook.
What About Enterprise Social Network Sites?
However, for enterprise social network sites “frictionless sharing” should be the norm and what architects aspire to provide. It represents a new core IT capability that can turn social network sites from a seemingly interesting diversion (“Oh look, a corporate version of Facebook”) to something that becomes an indispensable tool that information workers like to use because it can help them get their job done.
I should first explain that my use of “frictionless sharing” (let’s call it “enterprise frictionless sharing”) is slightly different than how Facebook uses the term. Instead of posting an update about every song I listen to on Spotify (or every article I click on Yahoo), “enterprise frictionless sharing” entails monitoring a business application for significant changes to an entity of interest (e.g., a customer in a CRM system, activity within a project workspace, or a release in a product management system). Similar to Spotify, these updates are posted to a social network activity stream as a by-product of something happening within the application (e.g., a customer makes an inquiry, a document is uploaded, or a product is released to production). So, instead of having to go to a business application in order to check on the progress of (for example) a product release, appropriate workers (e.g., managers, analysts, or engineers) can simply “follow” the product release through their social network site feed to learn of any significant change.
Now granted, there is a risk that notifications of these activities will over-run a news feed (and, in my opinion, the effectiveness of these feeds will differentiate products in this market). However, the surfacing of application-generated activities have the opportunity to turn an internal social network into a dynamic work environment that:
Improves the effectiveness of individuals through proactively bringing them information they need. By offering something of value to them, more people are likely to want to use the social network, rather than viewing it as yet another place to go.
Provide opportunities to spark conversations in response to events (e.g., someone posts a comment stating they have friend who works for a potential new customer).
Build a powerful knowledgebase that can be searched in the future (e.g. to help an information worker avoid answering the same question again and again).
Source: Author link
January 13th, 2012
Big data is hot, but infrastructure-level platforms such as Hadoop, which focus on storage and processing, still need help to take them into the mainstream. They need a killer app or two that will let companies analyze, visualize and act on all that data without hiring a team of Stanford Ph.Ds, or that will let developers write big-data apps without having to reinvent the wheel.
Here are five startups (in alphabetical order) either in stealth mode or just out of it that could help take Hadoop and its ilk to the promised land.