Cyber Security – Don’t Be Tomorrows Front Page News

idgcybersecIt’s all too easy to relax your stance on combatting cyber security but in truth every organisation is at risk.  Larger attacks are front page news for the media but small and medium-sized businesses are prime targets.

A PWC survey found that companies with revenues under £50m actually cut security spending by 20% in 2014, compared to a 5% increase in security investments by larger companies – making smaller organisations an attractive prospect for hackers.  It may just be a case of haggling with suppliers to save the difference in costs or surveying the market for a better and more secure solution at a lower cost but you cannot lower your vigilance.

With the spate of recent high-profile security breaches, it seems all to easy to gain access to the most seemingly secure organisations whom we entrust with our most personal data. Unfortunately, it’s not until an organisation suffers a serious breach do we find out about how lax and un-regimented their security protocols were such as storing our passwords and data in unencrypted files or as clear text.
How many other well-known organisations are still doing this with our data and hoping every day that they are not the next name in the media gaze after having suffered a major breach. With organised crime now clearly targeting cyber crime as a substantial revenue stream, the number and complexity of breaches is and will continue to rapidly escalate.

The cost of a serious breach can be financially severe but more importantly can be catastrophic to your commercial reputation with many organisations failing to ever recover, often with further reputational damage inflicted through poor handling of the aftermath. I’m a great believer in all boards having a technology subcommittee to question and guide on technology issues as all boards have audit, remuneration etc. committees.

To prevent your organisation being susceptible to cyber security you must institutionalise your vigilance and make certain that your policies are well documented and clearly understood by everyone from the mail room to the boardroom (security should already be high up on your boards agenda).
It is imperative that everyone feels a sense of responsibility, is motivated to adhere to your policies and able to accept responsibility on an individual level.
It also means tightly integrating security in to your corporate strategy rather than trying to shoehorn it in at a later stage where it may be compromised or not fully engaged.

Simple things like passwords are still one of the easiest measures to tighten up as they have long been a thorn in the side of any organisation with many using seemingly simple to crack, often generic passwords across multiple services.
Going forward biometrics may resolve a large proportion of password issues and the cost of implementation will fall over time. Biometrics are seen as the next evolutionary stage of managing personal security with sectors like banking currently looking to implement fingerprint technology in to your future debit and credit cards to add an additional layer of purposeful security.

The truth is that many companies may not even know they have been hacked or their security probed until a ‘back door’ is found and exploited well after the attack(s) have taken place.  This is a scary scenario and one that shows serious lapses in security practices which are ripe for exploitation by those so inclined.

So to reiterate, make sure your security practices and policies are well documented and clearly understood with everyone motivated and as vigilant as possible to ensure they are adhered to at all times.
After all, you don’t want to be tomorrows front page news!

This post has also been featured on the HP Business Value Exchange here 


The As-A-Service Economy is here to stay

IDGAsAServiceIn modern times we have become very much a consumer culture driven by an abundance of choice spurred on by deregulation, capabilities of new technology, market disruption and innovation.
The As-a-service economy has been fuelled by all of these key factors and allowed multiple organisations to enter these markets, providing both the technology platforms and innovative products for consumers to feast upon it.

The only way for vendors to rise above the melee of available products and services is too constantly innovate and supply services or products which are not available elsewhere with Apple being the undisputed current master here for all to mimic.
Other cloud vendors such as Salesforce are also strong in the As-a-service space for similar reason, by constantly seeking to renew and energise their platform with new innovation, features and tools.
You would not be able to build such innovation, tools and features into in-house platforms and systems at this pace, which lends more strength to the As-a-service argument of whether or not to include at least subtle flavours of it in your enterprise offerings.
The cloud platform may scare many with its ‘perceived’ insecurities and lack of control of data and feature but it enables organisations to set themselves up securely and grow rapidly with little initial capital outlay compared to the complexity of how things used to be.
Cloud services provide easy access, mobility, standardised practices and instant access to well qualified product(s) and subsequent features with often straight forward upgrade paths and clear product roadmaps.
It has also enabled a whole raft of brilliant applications, services and products for organisations of all sizes to augment their system and service portfolio’s with without huge capital outlay and can no longer be ignored.

The rise of consumerisation has driven much of the innovation we see today and this drives a constant lust for innovation and the rapidity of it when utilised in the commercial space.
We all want the flexibility, tools and services we are used to using at home to be available in the workplace and organisations that don’t respond to this will quickly lose staff to those that do.

The other main driver of the As-a-service economy is customer service.
In this more interactive and collaborative mobile focused world, the need for high quality customer service does not diminish but needs to evolve with customers now deserving more dynamic and engaging interaction beyond the traditional call centre or ‘look here’ approach.
If you are not presently positioned as a socially aware organisation that offers high quality, consistent and quick response customer service, your customers may force your hand and go elsewhere or insist you rapidly change your approach. With the advent of the power and pace of social media your poor service can quickly reach epidemic levels if not quickly resolved.

Innovation plays a key part in the way the As-a-service economy evolves with many technologies and platforms to fuel this not yet developed or ready to market with the whole Internet of Things model set to explode it out even further.
As a result, the As-a-service economy is here to stay and will only grow stronger and more prevalent in augmenting the enterprise system and product portfolios that organisations deliver and the services which all of us consume in our daily lives.


This post has also been featured on the HP Business Value Exchange here 


Transformation – What level of surgery do you need?


In a surgical analogy, a transformation programme is relative to ‘open heart surgery’ as it is one of the most important and powerful opportunities you can undertake to change the purpose and strategic direction of your organisation.
Transformation programmes are a blend of business, people and technology change including root and branch process review. They are mainly focused around improving customer engagement, commercial return and re-energising the customer experience.
In the planning of any transformation programme, its imperative you fully understand the objectives you are looking to achieve and that your board or leadership team are fully aligned with and agree on the prioritisation of its primary objectives. Everyone must agree that the results you’re looking for are not only achievable and affordable but necessary for you to progress as an organisation.

For any transformation to be successful you will need the full support and buy-in of your whole organisation. Not just key stakeholders but all affected parties including key clients and partners, so you will need to have a full and open communications strategy at all times.
You will need to work out through internal and external consultation the level of necessary change and thus ascertain the degree of transformational surgery you need to perform including the level of process change you can readily consume alongside any necessary new systems, platforms or infrastructure to support it.
It is imperative you keep this communications line open and a continuous dialogue with your key clients to understand what they want from your organisation, what products and subsequent features they use or need and how they wish to consume them (don’t forget to focus on mobile consumption as this will affect your design and performance criteria). You should also take this opportunity to learn of competing solutions and how your products rank against them, which will often give you valuable feedback.

Strong leadership is required during any transformation programme so that it stays true to its principles and delivers its agreed objectives whilst staying open to internal and external client feedback throughout.
The leadership team will need to control the direction and pace of the transformation so that business as usual operations are not interrupted or allowed to veer off track (an obvious but often overlooked dilemma).
It is imperative the leadership team understands both the technology and business goals and how decisions in either can have a knock on effect in the other. Managing this critical symbiotic relationship will not only ensure adherence to the project plan but also limit costs and surprises along the way.

Most transformation programmes will require fine tuning and subtle alterations through their lifetime as not all necessary objectives will be deliverable without some form of tweaking.
Some objectives may not act as desired once in development or testing and require reworking, postponing until later in the programme or removal. This is where strong leadership and a firm hand on the tiller is imperative.

A full training, implementation and internal/external support plan is a major but often overlooked component of any transformation programme. Skip this stage at your peril as it will cause your transformation programme to fall spectacularly and very publicly at the last hurdle.
Transformation programmes of any size are major surgery on your organisation and subsequently need constant follow up and handholding of both internal staff, partners and external clients to make sure all of your implemented objectives are delivering as planned. This will allow you to make any necessary amendments and fine tuning whilst showing proactivity and desire to deliver the best possible results you can.

Transformation is an important process in reengineering an organisation and ensuring it stays relevant in how it operates, making sure its products and services are commercially relevant as well as improving the strength of the customer experience it delivers. It should not be taken lightly but when done well it can give you an enormous competitive advantage, re-energised staff, revenue generating products and an engaged client base.


This post has also been featured on the HP Business Value Exchange here and here on the IBM Middleware site in my position as a member of the IBM VIP Influencer Programme


Member of Awards Judging Panel – Datacloud Global Congress & Exhibition

I was delighted to have been asked and accept the opportunity to become a Member of the Awards Judging Panel for the prestigious annual Datacloud Global Congress & Exhibition.

Datacloud creates the leading platform for datacentre and cloud IT infrastructure end users, software, solutions providers, experts, investors and all companies engaged in this expanding sector. The conferences explore the very latest in technologies and markets, to inspire through rich content and uniquely host senior executives to meet, connect, collaborate and do deals. Events include Europe (Global Congress), Nordic and South East Asia.

Datacloud Global Congress & Exhibition (DCG) returns for a third year to the Grimaldi Forum with an even better format, in Monaco, June 8-9 2016.

More detail about the Datacloud Global Congress and Exhibition can be found hereDatacloudEuropeLogo


Open Data – how far do we go?

IDGOpenDataTechnology has now woven itself in to our daily lives to such an extent that we cannot imagine how we ever lived without its features and relevant products as we do today.
At the heart of this huge technological transition is data: commercial and personal data which we all have nightmares about people trying to access or gaining control of.
Conversely, we are all rightly concerned about what data is captured about us but we are very open to reward for sharing it with organisations we trust such as supermarkets and other loyalty purchasing schemes.

Open data is the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control.
The goals of the open data movement are similar to those of other “Open” movements such as open sourceopen hardwareopen content, and open access.
Why then does the very topic of open data cause such consternation and alarm? Open data is seemingly all about enabling everyone to access information to use for the greater good, but unfortunately the definition of its use will always appease and infuriate the populous in equal measures.

No area is this ‘sharing’ of open data more prevalent than in the medical world. You share your data with your doctor so that they can have a record of your medical history and thus better diagnose and/or treat you as a patient but would you go a step further and share your personal medical data with academic or professional institutions for research purposes to help society combat disease?

The power of open data is clear with Wikipedia one of the largest and most used proponents of it.
Its well known that they don’t pay their editors but still people have built the most amazing repository of human knowledge. I use it so often without ever thinking of how else I would so easily find access to the rich seams of data that it serves up and briefly thinking about it not being available is daunting but it does make you ponder further about the merits of open data.

With the next transition of technology opening up the so-called ‘internet of things’ the amount of captured data is only going to increase exponentially and if its going to fulfil its world-changing potential the need to aggregate and share that data is clear.
Will the lure of what we gain through its various services and features loosen our ties to the data we share to achieve them?

I think we all agree that there should be a degree of open data and we are happy to add elements of our ‘personal’ data into the pool but there needs to be controls in place where we can view exactly what is available and legal recourse to remedy any subsequent issues.
Getting these standards and processes in place and adhered to globally is the most difficult part of this whole issue, and crucially the knitting that binds it all together.
It won’t happen overnight and how far we go with open data is up for debate but the most critical point is that it must not be at the expense of social freedom.

This post has also been featured on the HP Business Value Exchange here 


BCS Digital Leaders 2015 E-Book

bcsdigleaders2015I was delighted to be asked to submit a piece to the 2015 BCS Digital Leaders e-book, which you can read on page 130 here.
As a fellow and chartered IT professional of the BCS, I think its important to contribute and add value when I can to the societies publications.

Digital Leaders is a publication written by IT professionals for IT professionals to help them influence their organisations away from using outdated practices, governance models and structures to a more cutting edge world, but without depriving people or communities.
Aimed primarily at C-level managers and senior decision makers, Digital Leaders can enhance any organisation’s IT strategy – visit for related articles and blogs.

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