Archives For #Digital

Preface*: The Data Leadership Nexus (Copyright 2013) connects Data, Information, Analytics, Executive Leadership and Organizational Culture to create strategic impact, differentiation and enterprise value within every organization striving to become a true Predictive Enterprise.

Body: As we all prepare to attend this May’s (Information Age) “Data Summit” (http://bit.ly/1sznhbV) and to celebrate those chosen as the (Information Age) “Data 50” for 2017” (http://bit.ly/2o6OjaP), I wanted to reflect on how far we have progressed (or not) on the notion of Data Leadership since I began to write about it in these pages (Information Age) in 2013.

The origins of the Data Leadership conversation go back several decades to my time in the supercomputer sector and the “Grand Challenge” problems that we had been tasked in solving. In those days, CPU speed (and cooling requirements) and Network bandwidth dominated the discussion, while Data drove the outcomes. During that time in history Leaders had deep backgrounds in Science, Engineering & Math and all understood first-hand the scope of these challenges, as well as the limited means to surmount them.

Fast forward to today and we find that much has changed since then in terms of the characteristics & competencies of Leaders, as well as Computing & Networking hardware. Today, Data is recognized as centric (in all respects) to solving all Challenges, Grand or not, but not very well understood by those who ultimately have leadership accountability for it.

During this span of time the Data Management Team (an IT function) remains for the most part in charge of all data within each and every Organization. Whether it is under the auspices of a CIO, or an anointed proxy leader such as a CDO, data is still managed by IT at the direction of technical leaders. This is not a measure of any progress whatsoever in respect to either treating data as a key Organizational asset or establishing accountability for its creation, use (via Analytics) and stewardship by the CEO and Board. How can this be one should ask?

I have boiled it down to one common theme; Does your CEO (and Board) have the Right Stuff to do the job (of Data Leadership)? The simple answer is (emphatically), “No, not yet!”

For those who are fans of the book/movie, “The Right Stuff”(1) you might have been persuaded to believe that it was a story about Astronauts and their early struggles & successes, but in reality, it is one about Leadership. NASA as a program was successful not by having better technology, but by leveraging competent & capable Leadership from the top-down. Each Leader in their hierarchy had” The Right Stuff” in respect to fostering the mission & vision of the Program from a position of strength in respect to their core knowledge, skills and acumen. These same strengths are the foundations of Data Leadership as well.

To fully realize the power of digital, data & analytics in any Organization, no matter the sector, the entire leadership team must be competent and capable in exploiting these capabilities in every activity they undertake. They cannot delegate these requirements to so-called Data Scientists, Proxy Leaders e.g. CDO’s, or those in the IT Department who provide service delivery to them. They alone must accept responsibility for the successful execution of your data-driven strategy and be accountable to their superiors (including the Board) if they fail to do so. A true Data Leader must be more than a cheerleader who demands that others provide fruitful outcomes from digital, data & analytics. He/She must lead by example and be “hands on” in terms of approach and delivering the goods. This is the essence of having The Right Stuff, not the Leadership Fluffery that I continue to see across all Sectors. Creating Competitive Advantage from your Digital, Data & Analytics investments and capabilities is a Leadership Accountability that every Data Leader must step up to in order to succeed.

In today’s world, bona fide Leaders are hard to find under the best of circumstances. True Data Leaders are an exceptional find for any Organization and most are an amalgam of many talents. They cannot educated for this role, but rather molded into it based on a variety of life experiences and inherent capabilities. True Data Leaders are well rounded, comfortable with their responsibilities and always have a bit of swagger associated with those who have The Right Stuff.

Please join us on May 18th for the Information Age “Data Summit” and learn more about “Data Leadership and The Right Stuff”.

(1) “The Right Stuff” (’79) – Tom Wolfe’s epic tale of the NASA’s early days and the Mercury 7 Astronaut Program”

*-This posting appears in edited for as an article in the April 2017 edition of Information Age (www.information-age.com) and can be accessed on the IA Hub (www.informationagehub.uk)

Preface: The UK Digital Strategy and the refreshed Government Transformation Strategy went from MIA (for more than a year) to DOA (as with all UK Gov strategies in recent months e.g. Brexit, Industrial, Digital Economy, etc.). Perhaps they should have stayed Missing in Action?

Body:* 

After interminable delays the UK Government finally unveiled both its “Government Transformation Strategy (2017-2020)” and its “UK Digital Strategy” (parts of the notion of  a Digital Economy). To say they landed with loud thuds would be far too kind in my viewpoint.

These strategies were delivered by the Cabinet Offices’ “Top Digital Emperors” (Ben, Matt & Karen) and have been positioned “as the means to restore trust in the way that Government works with people, much less Democracy itself” as well as “to Create a Digital Economy that works for everyone”. Those are pretty tall orders for a Brexit-rattled Government that cannot define what their Leave Strategy actually entails.

Strategies come and go, but few have been set up for failure so substantially as these two.  These strategies are a Dog’s Breakfast of vague promises & aspiration that are the result of folly & fantasy of feckless Digital Emperors in Government, all of whom are desperate to show some “Digital” progress (and justification for their profligate spending). They pander to rising Nationalism and employ the tired practice of wrapping up their plan in empty patriotic rhetoric and slogans such as “The Government wants to serve” & “We have a plan for Britain”.

As expected, the facile Tech Press, Gov’t Funded Institutions and recipients of Corporate Welfare have all rallied around the Governments’ plans (or in some cases have remained silent so as to not draw attention to themselves) and are doing their best to promote its value to the UK, much less mankind itself. I am not a member of either of these camps and would like to share my unvarnished opinions with our readers.

To convey my view on these strategies I have chosen ten key points to focus attention on. Each will have a short note about itself.

  1. Substance (something worth fighting for). [Rating: very little].
  2. Leadership (someone you believe it). [Rating: virtually non-existent].
  3. Value (is it worth it?). [Rating: unquantifiable].
  4. he Notion of Government as a Business including Corporate Functions (Governments are not Business’ and vice versa). [Rating: hard to fathom].
  5. The use of Repetition as a Filler Mechanism (See if you can count the number of times that the same platitudes are cut ‘n pasted throughout). [Rating: high marks for repetition rate, but low marks for the content used].
  6. The Notion of Digital People (not a Culture of Digital) (an absurd reference to the fact that digital is special). [Rating: Nonsensical at best].
  7. The use of Farcical Financials (a tribute to bogus projections & other similarly dubious metrics) [Rating: expected, but the use of extreme specificity exposes it farcicality].
  8. The referencing of favorable Reference Points & Case Studies (cheery picked for maximum alignment w/themes) [Rating: these are bad and belie the fact there is no measurable success or financial benefits so far].
  9. Finding a way to “Blame it on Brexit” (If it fails (and it will); who do we blame?). [Rating: rubber stamp completed].
  10. The Level of Incompetence & Risk in the entire plan (not just mere whimsy, but rank incompetence). [Rating: doomed to fail, but it will still be heralded as a success].

While these evaluation points might be seen as harsh (or perhaps inconsequential) measures by some, let’s be clear; Strategy is a point in time view of a plan to get where you want to be. If it is crafted by people with no vision whatsoever (other than the next election cycle), with a mission that consists only of attaining & maintaining political power, and goals that benefit only those in power, then it is of little value, because as we all know “Execution of the strategy is 99.5% of the effort and consumes all of the money”. I see little to persuade me that precision in execution of these strategies will be the norm as the NAO continues to point out.

Brexit, no matter how it ends, will require all the Gov’t strategies to be completely re-thought and re-vamped. To create a “Digital Government which supports a Digital Economy made up of Digital Citizens” is a great political slogan, but means very little to the Electorate as it stands today with the greatest crisis in generations facing it; “What will Britain be like after Brexit and how does it affect me?” These abominations of a Digital Strategy and Transformation Program will not help whatsoever in bringing comfort to any Citizen in the UK.

 

*This posting in an edited form appears in the March 2017 issue of Information Age (UK) (www.information-age.com)

The UK’s: Government Digital Service (GDS), the US’s: Digital Services (USDS) and Australia’s: Digital Transformation Authority (DTA) are all train wrecks in every meaningful measure of success.

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Preface: I did not write a formal posting on the Data for Policy confab this past September, but wanted to at least share the materials that I presented and discussed during the conference.

Abstract: The notion of Data-driven Policy making and its associated Governance, is often challenged by the fact that the vast majority of Politicians, Civil Servants, Champions of Industry & Non-Profit Leaders are basically illiterate in the domains of data, analytics & decision science. Most of these leaders have come up through their careers making decisions based on gut instinct (experience), group think (consensus) or by using a modicum of summary data & visual analysis, but few have either a base in decision science or statistics, much less have bootstrapped themselves along their careers to become Data & Analytics Literate.

Educators today are faced with the daunting task of preparing future generations of Leaders who must have deep competencies & acumen in all aspects of data, analysis & decision science. Many have chosen to focus on the dubious discipline of so-called Data Science. These endeavors are for the most part a cynical attempt by educators to latch onto the latest fad and to create degree programs based upon cobbling together a hodge podge of disciplines which is sold to unsuspecting students as either an Undergraduate or Post Graduate degree opportunity. All fail at their mission and leave graduates, much less future leaders, with a degree that is sorely lacking in the core skills and competencies required to succeed with.

In my presentation at the Conference I endeavored to trace the roots of how we got into such a mess, what needs to be done to prepare individuals to become Data-driven Leaders and how Educators must re-think their approach to creating/adjust curriculum and programs to put all students on a path to Data & Analytics competency and mastery no matter their chosen field of endeavor. I focused specifically on the notion of Top-down Data Leadership that I coined several years ago and use to drive convergence on the key issues and competencies required by all Leaders, Managers & Employees to be use data, analytics & decision science pervasively across their Organizations.

Handouts & Videos:

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U-tube Interview: http://bit.ly/2iK4DPZ

 

Definition: Post-TruthA phenomena found “after the continuous use of facts & experts derived from “for hire” sources to bolster seemingly outrageous arguments where the public (Electorate) switches off its acceptance of any facts, figures or “truths” and now consciously wants to be deceived (its new comfort zone).

Definition: DecisioningThe art of decision making. A combination of Facts, Evidence, Decision Science, Gut & Instinct. How each is weighted greatly affects the accuracy of the decision.

*Body: For several decades now, Business, Government & Non-Profit Leaders have been pursuing the common goal of Fact (Evidence) based Decision Making. What started out as the notion of Decision Support in the early ‘80’s, soon moved to the emerging field of Decision Science in the ‘90’s & beyond. Decision Science (a widely recognized branch of science) is where Data, Analytics, Algorithms and Decision Theory coalesce into a formalized discipline for Decisioning*. It’s use can be found across many geographies, within all sectors in small & large Organizations. The “Data-driven Cultures” created in these Organizations are much more pervasive than those who simply embrace the marketing term “Data Science” which seems to be focused exclusively on “self-aggrandizement & data wrangling”.

In recent times however, as Decision Science has become much more mature and widely adopted, we find that it has run head-long into the buzz saw of Politics where Data, Facts, Evidence and ultimately the Truth are bent, twisted & broken to fit the needs of ideologies, platforms and agendas in respect to achieving outcomes which are “counter-factual”. One only needs to examine the three most recent Elections/Referendums in the UK, as well as the current US Election cycle, much less the current Brexit negotiations (or the EU Phony War if you rather) to appreciate just how much of a Post-Truth World we have now entered.

In today’s Post-Truth World, not only are stated facts meaningless i.e. lacking in veracity, but the pursuit of the Truth has become derided by many.  The arc of this effect has reached the point where the majority of the Electorate are now demanding that it be lied to by its figureheads so as to constantly reinforce its own particular ideology in spite of the reality around it. This is a clear threat to every democracy around the world where an informed, much less literate, Electorate is required to provide checks & balances to government overreach, much less holding them to account in respect to delivering the services & protections that society demands. For someone who has just arrived on Earth and is observing this effect first hand they might ask; “Are there any real differences between so-called Democracies and Authoritarian Regimes?” These effects are no less profound in the Commercial and Non-Profit Sectors where we constantly see “Dubious Data, Questionable Facts & Outright Lies proffered by Executives, spokespeople and PR hacks.

How should we cope with this challenge?

 First and foremost, wherever your role lies in the data, information & analytics supply chain you cannot abandon your mission to deliver the highest-quality information & insights in support of Decisioning at every level. You must insure that strong & independent Data Governance & Data Ethics bodies are in place and their guidance is employed by all practitioners and consumers of these deliverables and that regardless of the outcome, the Facts stand on their own merits (subject to peer review and A/B testing, etc.). Only by creating (if not already established) a bedrock data foundation for Decisioning, built on transparency, veracity, lineage, proven rigors & pristine quality can a platform for the “Truth” be achieved, much less maintained. It is critical that as the Post-Truth paradigm plays itself out that this foundation for the Truth be maintained and protected at all costs. The old adage that the “first victim in war is the truth” applies to everything in the Decisioning Supply Chain and those who support it, much less rely on it, must be ever-vigilant to protect its transparency.

Each of us will be challenged to maintain our individual (much less collective) sanity during the course of time that this Post-Truth era plays itself out. We may sound more barking mad at times than those who embrace the Lies and Deception, but this will pass as well. One day when the Light of Truth returns we will be rewarded for beings its stewards, but until then we must “keep buggering on” (KBO as Winston used to say).

* A version of this posting appears in the October 2016 issue of Information Age (www.information-age.com)

PostScript:

On November 29, 2016 the UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill passed into law by Royal Assent. Many in recent days have tried via an online petition to re-open debate on this bill as a desperate last attempt to stop its progress. I ask those who signed this petition, much less all the celebs in the Tech industry as to where their voices were over the past two+ years as this bill made its way through Parliament and the House of Lords? Once again, a passiveness has been exhibited by the Press, the Electorate and all sorts of Activists as new draconian measures are put into place in the UK Surveillance State. I suggest that this will be the case again as the so-called “Digital Economy Bill” reaches its finalization in the coming weeks. It will soon be time to “reap the whirlwind” that these infringements of Human Rights will bring.

Prelude:

The notion of Personal Privacy aka “The Right to be left alone” dates back centuries in Law and its practice is enshrined in the foundations of all Democracies and Human Rights proclamations. These protections were created well before the invention of digital computing, databases, etc. and yet have been essentially undone in short order since their arrival.

Body:

In the very near future, the UK will most likely have passed into law one of the most far reaching efforts ever by any Democracy to spy (and snoop) on each of its citizens, residents & visitors at home, much less abroad; all in the name of Security. Mundanely referred to as the Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill) it is widely derided as “The Snooper’s Charter” (and rightfully so). It is a law with literally no purpose other than to legitimize the illegal spying that the UK Government has been engaged in for decades via its Security, Services, while increasing the scope of their activities beyond reason. Promised as necessary (and proportional) to providing Security to the country, it in essence guts everyone’s right to Privacy as far as the State is concerned. Of course, this flies in the face of established Privacy Laws that the Public, Private & Non-Profit sectors are currently held to account for, much less the EU Human Rights Charter, which Brexit will soon undermine, if not eliminate altogether.

Why is the Electorate in the UK being cowed into accepting the false equivalency that; “If you trade away your Privacy to us (the State) we will provide you with Security (and protection)”. It does seem that the average citizen cares little about their personal Privacy today as long as they are safe in their beds away from the clutches of the latest bogy man that the State can conger up. Add to this, the parallel effect observed by users of social media or online shopping where they accept the bargain of; “As long as you offer me some sort of instant gratification, I don’t care about my Privacy one iota (no matter how creepy you act with my data)”. How did the Human Right to Privacy become so easily traded away by almost the entire population? The root cause of this effect can be found in data that is all around us and you don’t’ need to be a so-called Data Scientist to figure it out.

We now live in a world that is awash in data. We create it as individuals during ever moment of our lives and consume even more of it from various sources and services that we seek out. There is so much data about us that is collected, processed, sold and exploited that we have become oblivious to the entire process. It is as if there were an invisible anesthetic in the air that numbs our senses to the fact that something a very wrong with all of this. Privacy is a right, that until recently has been fiercely protected and a line that few Governments’ have been willing to cross in respect to monitoring their citizen’s (at least publicly). Now, it is only an afterthought that arises when some egregious act or data breach is exposed by the press or on social media and everyone sounds off about how violated they feel (all the while creating more new data to be exploited by others). We now have a Perfect Storm of events where Privacy as a right (or in the US as a Civil Liberty) is lost in the conversation, while everyone focuses myopically on National Security or the pursuit of the latest game (Pokemon Go comes to mind) or app (Facebook is a constant in being the worst offender). The Individuals’ right to Privacy has become an insignificant consideration, much less an afterthought.

As the UK plans its exit from the EU, the notion of Privacy will be further eroded as the State will focus all its attention on Sources of Commerce & Trade, Border Security & Immigration. These negotiations will be another opportunity for Privacy Rights to be further traded away in return for hollow promises of gold or enhanced security. In the end it should be clear to all members of the Electorate that not only did the UK sleepwalk its way out of the EU, but it sacrificed the notion of personal privacy along the journey. There will be no way to put this Jeanie back in the bottle once this happens regardless of which party is leading Government.

This article in an edited version first appeared in the September 2016 issue of Information Age (www.information-age.com).

Preface:

Governments cannot embrace, much less promote Big Data, Open Data, Analytics, Machine Learning & Ubiquitous Algorithms without protecting the Citizens’ whom they work for. Social Engineering must be by choice, not by default through illiterate political leaders.

Body:

The UK Government as part of its “Digital Economy” initiative has just released with great fanfare the “Data Science Ethical Framework”. Its ministerial champion has characterized it as “harnessing the Progressive power of Data Science while protecting the Public”. It does neither, but clearly illuminates the lengths to which the UK Government (along with others) will go in trying to influence/dictate behavior in areas where they have no literacy at all in respect to understanding the underlying capabilities (Data, Analytics & Algorithms), nor the consequences of the harm (or actual good) that can come if left to their own devices. Not to be left to a footnote however, is the fact that these attempts at behavioral influence do not apply to the Intelligence community or Police services, both of whom want unlimited powers to surveil, gather data on everyone’s daily lives (and perhaps thoughts) and to then use these to ultimately predict behaviors i.e. The Snoopers Charter.

Ever since the notion of Big Data has come onto the scene, many have extolled its virtues in changing the world as we know and understand it. They have hyped with a zeal not previously seen the notions of Data Science, Data Scientists, Algorithms & Machine Learning, etc. Virtually all of them have advocated for its wide-scale use to analyze and predict citizens’ behavior in order to gain deeper insights, without any controls as to “just how creepy” this activity could get in terms of interacting with the public at large. Any attempt to limit the “how and where” Big Data & Analytics should be applied was met by the fury of these same advocates who characterized it as “stifling economic growth and wealth creation”. Not surprisingly, most advocates have been highly influential in getting Governments to go along with their thinking and to take a “hands off” approach. This has not worked out well for consumers who now see their daily lives dissected, analyzed and ultimately manipulated by the algorithms & machine learning associated with the deep behavioral insights now available to almost every organization who invests in Data & Analytics capabilities.

The backlash that now arisen from this lack of control is significant enough that many Governments have created Ethics Councils and other bodies who have gone on to generate reports & recommendations on the issue of  “Ethics in the age of the Algorithm”. Additionally, these same governments (US, UK, EU, etc.) are also major advocates of Digital and have undertaken major Digital Strategy & Transformation efforts within their countries[1]. These efforts have served to further exacerbate the Ethics Problem that we are now experiencing. A common thread found amongst all of this is the seemingly cluelessness that Government Leaders, Ministers & Civil Servants exhibit each and every time they make an address or pronouncement on the topic of Privacy, Ethics, Governance, etc. associated with Big Data, Analytics, Algorithms, Digital, etc.  Clearly, they don’t understand the underpinnings of the issues, nor the reasons why this topic has become so paramount in the public’s mind and their stated demands that it be resolved to their satisfaction.

Data (Big or Small), Analytics (Creepy or Helpful) & Algorithms (Evil or Good) are major influences in how the Digital World around us evolves, much less serves us. Beyond the well-rehearsed platitudes, there needs to be a fundamental mastery of the details associated with these domains by Leaders & Policy Makers who are ultimately accountable for making Citizen’s lives better, much less protecting them from threats. Without strong & competent Leadership, and controls (governance) , these same citizens will be victimized rather than benefited by Data, Analytics, Algorithms & Digital. The requirement for competent leadership is not a political platform for campaigning on, but a focal point for Government action in order to uphold basic human rights, no matter what pace of transformational change the country is experiencing.

An Ethics Framework that relies on self-governance, best efforts and serendipity to insure that consumer Privacy is protected and that Citizens are not victimized by their own data is a recipe for disaster. Government Leaders must commit themselves to leading at all levels and across all domains. They must be literate and competent in the areas that they promote as catalysts for change and not leave Citizens to the vagaries of Data Science, and all that portends to be.

[1] The UK Government has gone so far as to make the “Digital Economy” a centerpiece of the Queens’ Speech in spite of not being able to come up with a companion “Digital Strategy” that was promised quite some time ago.

  • An edited version of this posting appeared in the June 2016 issue of Information Age (UK) (www.information-age.com)