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July 29, 2016

Why Data Governance Is a Must for Enterprises

Posted by Ramakrishnan K (View Profile | View All Posts) at 4:14 AM

Why Data Governance Is a Must for Enterprises

Companies are now at a point of inflection where they can leverage huge troves of data to run sophisticated analytics programs and grow business. However, for an organization to be able to leverage all this data in the most efficient way possible, establishing a clear governance protocol is the starting point. This governance protocol helps it to deal with issues that might arise from the various pools of data and the information it provides. There is data coming from everything and anything, and it is imperative to govern and channelize these well. Data governance is about establishing rules on all aspects of an enterprise's data such as its source, owners, validity, and security. Just as the subject of corporate governance arose out of necessity, so did data governance. Today, having a robust system of data governance is no more a luxury - it is an imperative.

Data is growing exponentially year on year. In fact, according to a report by IDC, data is doubling in size every two years. The report further goes on to state that "data that we create a copy annually will reach 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes." A sound approach to data governance allows organizations to save time by knowing how and where to search for data that helps them.

Companies know that to be responsible stewards of data they must have a system of checks and balances in place so that their data libraries don't run amok. Being accountable for a company's data is a sign to stakeholders that the entity can responsibly manage the information it takes in and is up to par with the realities of the digital era. Enterprises buy data governance software that is designed solely for that purpose, or they might customize aspects of data management tools to perform such governance functions. But experts tend to agree that data governance goes well beyond just software. It begins and ends with people within the organization. That's why enterprises have formed committees entrusted with the responsibility of establishing data governance protocols. Hence, data governance is not about technology or tools alone, but it is also more to do with the people who are the custodians of data that define the lineage, authenticity, ownership, security, as well as leverage the data to derive insights. Humans must facilitate the software and take responsibility for implementing and upholding the governance policies of the organization.

Sound data governance is all about establishing the basic and required objectives, as well as policies, procedures, and standards to leverage data for making decisions. Ask yourself: When was the last time your company set forth defined objectives about what it wants to do with the data it receives? Who is the custodian of this data and what is the quality of this data? Answering these questions will get your company's CIO and CFO on the same page, at least to agree on the need for data governance and the issues with data management.

Another common perception or expectation in organizations is for their IT department to take responsibility for data governance protocols established by the system of governance or the committee. Like the software itself, IT is important for implementing the technological aspects that enforce the governance standards. But IT employees themselves are not enforcers of the governance standards. A data governance program has many stakeholders and overseers, including the various lines of business within an organization, application owners, third parties, data analysts and hence, it must be developed thoughtfully. It must be given enough time so that everyone is onboard with the defined protocol on ownership, authenticity, security, etc.

Yes, data governance is important and setting up a program takes time and effort. But it is all well worth it. Consider overall reliability. An enterprise and its stakeholders can better account for key findings, and a spirit of data ownership improves both the trust and confidence of the stakeholders parsing and reporting the data - externally and internally. Traceability is equally important. When a company establishes end-to-end data lineage, it enables better audit controls. Companies also become more resilient and responsive to changes through comprehensive impact analysis. And let's not forget governance vis-a-vis authenticity. Stakeholders want to consume data from authoritative assets that are certified for authenticity.

Without data governance, an enterprise cannot properly and responsibly manage its exploding data. And without proper management, the organization loses valuable, actionable insights that can give it distinct advantages over its competitors in an increasingly demanding marketplace. Again - having a robust system of data governance is no more a luxury today- it is an imperative.

July 27, 2016

Back To School For All

Posted by Sandeep Dadlani (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:25 AM

STEM Integration in K-12 Education [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlPJ48simtE]

The 'back to school season' in the U.S. is like a holiday, celebrating education - and new backpacks. But for too many, celebrating education stops at graduation. Far too often, when classrooms become cubicles, K-12 becomes 9-5, and students become employees, that commitment to learning stops.

It shouldn't.

Today especially, when the speed of change is measured at the speed of light, workers must continually sharpen their skills and bolster their knowledge. And importantly, employers have to help. Companies need to ensure their workforce is the most innovative and productive it can be. Companies must make training and professional development a priority.

I've seen the quick pace of change firsthand. When I graduated in Electronics Engineering in 1995, I was proud to know how to code in Basic. Today? Javascript, HTML5, and Python are the "basics." And parents, who remember typewriters in high school, now have children who use iPads in elementary school.

These aren't just anecdotes; the evidence agrees. The world is adopting new technology faster than ever. It took decades for the telephone to reach 50 percent of households. It only took five or so years for cellphones to do the same.

And just as quickly, job descriptions are becoming more demanding. The ability to employ big data, analytics, automation and even artificial intelligence is in high demand--but low supply. By 2018, the U.S. could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts who can use big data in their decision-making.

In a rapidly changing marketplace, that's a crisis of qualification.

The solution? It starts in schools. Coding, STEM and computer science education must be a core curriculum in schools and colleges: for everyone. Women and minorities are underrepresented in STEM. That's something we need to change. To help, Infosys Foundation USA proudly funds and supports STEM initiatives, and computer science education across the U.S. However, technology changes so quickly that re-focused schooling isn't enough. Learning can't stop at graduation.

Just ask a doctor. Years and years of schooling and training aren't enough. There's always a new life-saving procedure or drug. After graduation, doctors don't surrender to educational complacency. They keep learning. It's a white coat and never a white flag.

All workers need that commitment to continual learning. All employers need it too.

Training and education have been priorities for Infosys for more than 30 years. It's a proud heritage that's made us one of the world leaders in corporate education.

And it all starts with our graduate training program. Through our 23-week residential training program, we help new hires transition from success in the academic world to success in the corporate world. Over 10 years, we've trained more than 100,000 engineers--all at the Mysore Infosys Global Education Center, one of the world's largest corporate universities in the world.

But training can't be constrained to a corporate campus any more than a college campus. So our social learning platform, Digital Tutor, brings learning online and allows us to tap into the Infosys expertise available across the world. The platform has more than 2,000 training videos on nearly 300 topics made by Infosys employees and made available to Infosys employees. Even our Dr Vishal Sikka is an active teacher and has created a module on artificial intelligence.

Beyond just a new skill, we train a new awareness. As part of our Zero Distance innovation program, every employee is expected to find ways to help our clients find new solutions to old--and new--problems. To assist, we've trained more than 100,000 people on Design Thinking, a problem-solving protocol that's like a reliable roadmap to innovation.

Altogether, our employees and our company work better because we make continual education a priority. A well-trained workforce is a heritage, not an accident.

Across the U.S., it's back to school season. As students and communities re-commit to education, employees and companies must too. In a world moving so fast, we can't stand still and expect to get ahead. Employers must make workforce training and development a priority, because workers trained for success will drive companies to success.

This back to school season, let's all commit to get back to learning.

July 26, 2016

Telematics Makes a Comeback

Posted by Manish Tandon (View Profile | View All Posts) at 12:33 PM

Telematics makes a comeback

The world was awestruck when, about 20 years ago, General Motors unveiled its OnStar system in its Cadillacs. The service connected the driver via a Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite to a live OnStar agent with the press of a button. The driver could also speak to the agent with two hands on the steering wheel because the conversation was conducted over in-car speakers and a dashboard microphone. OnStar could also sense if your car had been in an accident and immediately call for an emergency medical response team to be sent to the site of the crash. And, of course, it could remotely unlock your car door if you left the keys inside. The technology was known as telematics, and it was heralded as the future of the luxury car.

Today, GM has moved OnStar beyond just Cadillac to all of its models as an option. If you think back to how different the world was in those days - the Internet was still gaining traction among mainstream consumers. But with the passage of time, OnStar became less relevant because the services it offered in the mid-1990s are now easily accessed on a smartphone. The death-knell of telematics, right?

Continue reading "Telematics Makes a Comeback"»

July 22, 2016

How Can We Balance Security With Usability?

Posted by Dr. Ashutosh Saxena (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:24 AM

Tesla Autopilot Fatal Crash Raises Safety Questions [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mA9zuN_pfG8]

I read with sadness a report about the first documented highway death of a 'driver' in a self-driving car. The investigation into the recent fatal crash is still in its early stages. But we know a few facts: First, 94 percent of all traffic accidents involve some kind of human error. Second, there is no turning back from automation and self-driving technology. Said one expert about the recent crash: "The path to mobility is paved with tragedy."

The incident got me to wondering: My car has a top speed of 137 miles per hour (220 kmph). While driving on the highway I often cross the 75 miles-per-hour mark (120 kmph). I often wonder if I should speed up and push the vehicle closer to its full-scale capabilities (and get to my destination much faster). Most of the time I choose not to do so, and there are many reasons for my decision to stay within the official speed limits. For one, I cannot be sure that someone driving erratically will be in a parallel lane up ahead. I also cannot accurately predict the condition of the road in front of me. There also could be an abrupt mechanical flaw in my own vehicle because of general wear and tear (or a manufacturing glitch). While I drive my vehicle within the stated security limits, there are always times I need to accelerate. When I do, I proceed with a more calculated risk.

It's the same case when it comes to security and information technology. Imagine that you want to read emails coming from a specific individual even without entering your ID and password of email outbox. This would be highly convenient (high degree of usability), but it would have a very low degree of security. You're almost taking a calculated risk on this because IDs and passwords can be compromised. The only way out, if you think about it, is to obtain a one-time password via a secondary channel to access emails each time. This method, although has a high degree of security, the usability is very low.

With many organizations adopting the smartphone, there is the inevitable tussle between the CIO and Chief Security Officer (CSO). In a so-called 'bring-your-own-device' (BYOD) environment, the CIO would probably tout the benefits of user satisfaction, increased productivity, and reduced total cost of ownership. The CSO, on the other hand, would seek to control the devices stringently or avoid the BYOD environment altogether. We all know that while leaving the house we properly lock it and close all the windows from the inside. When we return we need some kind of authentication process to enter our houses (having the right key!). The same is true in the case of BYOD in order to prevent the enterprise data leak.

Security protocols are designed to prevent unauthorized access to information within a system and to ensure that the system is available for authorized access. Ideally, security protects a user's IT infrastructure and the information stored on it. A company-provided laptop might have its own built-in hard drive encryption. An employee could opt to use the BitLocker drive-encryption tool in Windows so that they can have use the same username and password to gain access to the drive with which they access both the computer and the network.

Using a single-sign-on tool for various apps and services can also reduce the burden on users while maintaining the desired security posture. Centrify, Okta, Ping Identity, and many other firms offer Cloud-based identity management tools to pool user log-ins. If the user is 'VPNing' into the network, one might consider looking into modern options in Microsoft servers like Direct Access, which replaces VPN connectivity and allows for an always-on connection based on certificates rather than tokens or passwords.

Why do we routinely ignore security advice, particularly given by cyber security professionals about the need for strong passwords that are changed frequently? It seems there is a significant disparity about what we do and what we want. Do we prefer security or usability? Or does one have to exist entirely and independently of the other? Well, I predict that in the near-future, the security/usability trade-off will no longer exist. Systems with a proper balance of security and usability will emerge so that to a large extent they will go hand in hand. As consumers we won't be forced to trade one for the other.

July 12, 2016

How To Help Businesses 'Sweat Their Assets' Leveraging A.I.

Posted by Sanjay Nambiar (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:48 AM

Kodak: From Blue Chip to Bankrupt [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwfwr8eYP50]

Ah, the benefits of hindsight. Let me begin this blog by giving you three examples of companies that reacted differently to technology disruption and, in some cases, paid the price for it.

Imagine if you could have gone back in time to warn the executives of Eastman Kodak Co. that they might be better off leaving the photography business altogether, earlier than they did. They wouldn't have taken you seriously - even after numerous strategies failed to save the company's traditional line of business. The Eastman Kodak brand was synonymous with photography. The truth is that when a business is built on a legacy technology that is categorically different from the market's new standard, even perfect foresight (in this case, the demise of film or CDs) would not have solved the core problem that digital replacement is fundamentally less profitable.

Then there are the success stories. In the late 1990s, PolyGram was one of the world's top record labels, with a roster boasting stars from Bob Marley and U2 to many of the world's top classical artists. In 1998, however, Cornelis Boonstra, CEO of PolyGram's Dutch parent, Koninklijke Philips, flew to New York, met with the investment bank Goldman Sachs, and arranged to sell PolyGram to Seagram for $10.6 billion. Why? Because Boonstra had come across research showing that consumers were using the new recordable CD-ROM technology (which Philips co-invented) largely for one purpose: to copy music. In hindsight, this is a good example of how, in the early stages of disruption, demand begins to 'purify' and lose the distortions imposed on it by businesses.

Another example of how a company can effectively cut through the chatter and distortions of legacy technology in order to embrace rapid change is General Electric. The conglomerate's former CEO, Jack Welch, made it known during his tenure that if a GE subsidiary was not in the top three of businesses in that industry, the company would sell it off so that it could better focus on those businesses with which it did dominate the market. Welch did not allow a sense of legacy sentimentality to get in the way of his razor-sharp strategy and business acumen. According to recent reports, AirBnB, by the end of this year, will be five times larger than the largest hotel chain in the world. Imagine the speed of change. Two years ago, how many of us knew about the company?

Today, in the new digital world, change is at its slowest ever in the context of what awaits the future. The three business examples I have just mentioned are proof that enterprises need to look at adapting to change rapidly. Long gone are the opportunities for enterprises to conduct a multi-year transformation program to adapt to change. In the precious time it takes to run the program, both the business model and the technology would have dramatically changed.

In my mind, the following four core aspects will drive digital transformation within an enterprise and across its business partners:

  1. Frictionless experience: It is about providing a customer experience that is fluid, intuitive and delightful.
  2. Ecosystem: No company can succeed in isolation. Today's business is about leveraging a network economy to maximize benefits for all partners in the ecosystem.
  3. Insights: Business intelligence is like driving a car by looking at the rear view mirror. How could predictive insights steer tomorrow's business and make them more agile and adaptive?
  4. Automation: Driving cost efficiency and, at the same time, delivering consistency and reliability within and across the organizations in their everyday processes.

In this blog I will focus on the core - Automation - which is disrupting the way enterprise business processes will run in the future. With significant advances in computing technology and associated affordability, Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) capabilities like machine learning as well as others, will fundamentally change more and more business processes to help enterprises become truly digital and touchless (using automation).

Here is a quick example snapshot of what things look like now in an enterprise: Applications have become more complex in the context of an enterprise. Under the hood of a single business process there might be many applications running on different Virtual Machines, operating systems, middleware, and storage technologies. Add in many switches, multiplied by the accelerating speed of changes under the DevOps paradigm, and the issue the firm faces is that context is always lost between the various layers. So finally the ability to solve problems is limited to how quickly the IT development and IT support teams can process large amount of information, both for problem diagnostics and problem prediction.

These kinds of rapid capabilities can only come from an A.I. platform that is tailored for enterprises. The A.I. capability set will not only change the way the enterprise operates, but will enable the enterprise to transform but leverage constantly curated knowledge of the enterprise, all while taking automated actions.

This is where the A.I. platform tailored for enterprises will play a crucial role. At the core, machine learning and A.I. rely on two key ingredients: advanced algorithms and data sets to train those algorithms. Novel algorithms are increasingly making their way into the public domain in the form of open-source libraries. The key differentiator for companies (including startups) working in this space and ultimately their long-term competitive advantage is access to proprietary data sets and use cases.

In an enterprise scenario, proprietary data sources that are essential to train next-generation machine learning models are easier to amass in the enterprise space rather than the consumer realm. The most persistent and longest running example of this scenario is the security space, where many start-ups have built lists of exploits and attacks. Because these attacks evolve over time, no single company owns a monopoly on the exploit database. Thus, an A.I. platform acting as a 'system of systems' will help enterprises reinvent themselves for a challenging and dynamic future, to ensure enterprises are able to 'sweat their assets' in the most contextual way.

True, the exploit database is not dominated by any one organization. Entrepreneurs, did you just read the previous sentence? Fertile territory for the right innovator...

July 5, 2016

Why Finance Is Key To Climate Change

Posted by Rangarajan V. R. (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:13 AM

Learn about the potential of perovskite-based solar cells [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHOawKWFE7A]

The Top 10 Emerging Technologies 2016 list, compiled by the World Economic Forum's Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies, was released right before last week's WEF summit in Tianjin, China. One of the most promising emerging technologies is the perovskite solar cell. According to WEF experts, this new photovoltaic material offers three improvements over the classic silicon solar cell: it is easier to make, it can be used just about anywhere, and it generates power more efficiently than older solar cells. In some ways, the perovskite solar cell is a metaphor for the Asian economies. These nations and their people are helping to spearhead the Fourth Industrial Revolution (this year's summit is called 'Annual Meeting of the New Champions'), but are also keenly aware that this time around, the revolution must take place with climate in mind.

Therefore, I was honored to be part of one of the most interesting panel discussions of the summit - 'Policy, Incentives, and Finance for Climate-Smart Growth.' Stemming from the crucial United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris last year, where global leaders signed an agreement to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees celcius compared to pre-industrial levels, our discussion focused on incentivizing climate investment, carbon pricing and the energy revolution.

While discussing government priorities with regard to climate change, there were some crucial revelations. Most governments across the world are yet to acknowledge that we are facing a serious problem. According to the World Meteorological Organization, between 1990 and 2014 there was a 36 percent increase in warming due to greenhouse gases. The World Resources Institute estimates that the number of people exposed to flooding each year is at risk of tripling from 21 million to 54 million by 2030. Acknowledging a problem is the first step towards finding a solution. Secondly, many governments have instituted ministries for environment and energy initiatives, but they often work in silos. When it comes to climate investments, the decision is taken by the finance ministry, which often has no idea about the environment and energy imperatives. It is crucial for these ministries to collaborate to bring about a positive change, led by finance, who holds the proverbial 'coin'.

This September, China will host the G20, and I applaud China for placing climate finance as a core topic for the G20. Without a doubt, organizations should be encouraged to invest in green initiatives, but it should make financial sense for them to do so as well. That's why governments must give financial subsidies or tax rebates to companies that are keen to approach their businesses with eco-consciousness. And even for banking institutions, specific targets should be set to ensure that a larger percentage of their funding is awarded to companies/individuals investing in green initiatives. When it comes to climate change, public-private partnerships are key.

July 1, 2016

Increasing Transparency Through Technology

Posted by Sudip Singh (View Profile | View All Posts) at 8:26 AM

Increasing Transparency Through Technology

With so much technology around, it is fairly easy to be lulled into a false sense of security. But, let me give you a few examples. Not too long ago - a rogue trader at UBS bank cost the company over $2 billion, despite the trading process being completely digitized. What stops a citizen in any country from paying someone a nominal amount to get their driver's license? One can fill in an application form online, but they still have to spend agonizing hours standing in line to get the license through proper channels.

What I'm referring to is that technology, even with its strongly associated attribute of transparency, in itself cannot eliminate corruption. Technology, by itself, will not flip the equation. It will contribute to changing the culture, of which people are an integral part. This, and so much more, was discussed at the World Economic Forum's panel on 'Technology for Transparency' in Tianjin, China earlier this week. I was delighted to participate and learn from this spirited panel, which included representatives of various governments and corporations.

In Star Wars, Jedi Master Yoda often spoke about the 'dark side'. Technology sheds light on this darkness where malpractices and corruption are naturally high. And because there are different kinds of technology around today - there is more transparency, more 'light'. In some countries, paying off public officials to get the right permits and pass safety codes has been a part of the construction industry for as long as people can remember. In other countries, watching a pirated DVD is almost the norm. The truth is that most consumers do not know where the illegal money ends up when they offer a bribe/buy pirated DVDs. A small group has been working tirelessly to bring this issue to the fore. Delving into the Dark Web, the group has been able to show people the naked truth - that most of this money ends up in the hands of criminals, arms dealers and the like. The honest truth (and transparency) allows us all to appreciate and understand what our actions (like paying bribes) are contributing to. This helps change the perception, and in turn, the behavior of the common folks.

My conviction that technology will improve transparency also stems from the larger IoT adoption. If one were to look under the hood, the reason why IoT is catching fire is because it is shedding 'light' into traditionally 'dark' business processes. We are all aware of the tremendous excitement - because of tangible business benefits - that IoT is commanding across corporates globally. In a successful IoT architecture, information captured through sensors is analyzed in near-real-time. That's 'shedding light' on the dark side of business. IoT drives business metrics that are critical for organizations - healthier topline, increased efficiencies, higher customer satisfaction. And tied to the hip is increased transparency. Think of the retail store supply chain that becomes 'smarter' and 'connected' in an IoT world. The retailer is able to bring actionable insights to meet customer demands/desires, while driving an optimal inventory across the value chain. And thanks to that, the challenge around store pilferage reduces significantly.

The future is certainly bright with technology, but it cannot be a panacea to all problems around transparency. Government support is equally important. The panelists discussed at length that while governments in relatively smaller countries have been successfully using technology to fight corruption, the story unfolds a little differently in countries with large populations. In the case of the latter, successful marriages between technology companies and the governments (public-private partnerships) are key. Then there is the question of the technology itself. Blockchain, for example, is poised to disrupt the financial services industry due to the transparent nature of its transactions - but are we ready to responsibly use technologies such as these? These are evolving every day and it is crucial to figure out the best way to leverage them, working in tandem with tech experts and governments.

Increasing transparency isn't easy. That's why governments should continue to collaborate with technology companies to spread a message of positive change. But how far are we going to go to make things transparent? In Norway, for instance, everyone's tax records are available online. If I'd like to see your tax records, I can - but you will get a prompt saying that someone has been looking at them. Are we culturally ready for technology enabling that kind of transparency, for the greater good? Well, the jury is still out on that one. However, what I am confident about is that technology will play a definite role in shaping the culture towards a more transparent world.

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