Monthly Archives: October 2014

Ownership + Focus on use

One of the problems with Information Governance is that no one person “owns” it, or the majority of “it.”  Chief Data Officers are changing that.

“Tons of Data. Now To Put It to Use.” Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2014 R6. The CDO at Nationwide Mutual Insurance acts as “the ombudsman for the data.”  He “keeps track of [the data], vouches for it, and ultimately is responsible for figuring out how to turn it into profit.”

He finds that Ph.D.’s in psychology have many of the right skill sets, especially the ability to deal well with ambiguous data sets and a familiarity with statistics.

Key success factor: getting the other executives to trust the process.

Now, a CDO focusing on using analytics to make money is not the same as having someone “own” all of Information Governance, it certainly is an improvement on a CIO who doesn’t work the data or own the results.

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Filed under Analytics, Information, Ownership, Use, Value

Does too much information distract us?

Lots of information lessons around the Ebola outbreak.

“Mapping Ebola Spread Requires Wealth of Data,” Wall Street Journal, October 18-19, 2014 A2. In June, researchers developed a model that predicted there would be only one or two subsequent infections from a person who came to the US with Ebola.  The data supporting this prediction included census data and Dun and Broadstreet and other available data about schools, maps, and transportation hubs.  Add a long list of assumptions, and voila, a prediction.

In Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where census data is a lot less available, WHO data plots the number of Ebola cases since mid-March to September, showing more than 8,000 cases and 4,000 fatalities.

The point?  Masses of data allow calculation of likely impacts with apparent precision.  Lots of assumptions, and lots of local interest.  Actual facts showing the real impact get a nice graphic.  Do we sometimes get misled by bunches of data to the point that we put the emphasis on the wrong syllable?

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Filed under Analytics, Data quality, Information, Use

The Framers and Technology

As widely reported, Apple and Google are making technological changes to your phone that will make it impossible for Apple or Google to turn over to the FBI data that your store on your phone.  Probably responding to market demand.

“FBI Chief Warns on Phone Encryption,” Wall Street Journal, October 17, 2014 B2. FBI Director “urged” phone manufacturers not to make it impossible for the phone manufacturer to help the FBI access data on your phone, even with a warrant.  He actually said this, publicly.

I guess the Framers didn’t envision companies building technological barriers that result in the protection of “the right of the people to be secure in their … papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches….”  The Director apparently wants legislation to ban technology that makes his job harder, as warrantless searches or searches based on warrants served on someone other than the data owner aren’t enough. Or to require built-in back doors.

I guess the government could make its own phone and see who buys it.  What does this say about the culture in the FBI and their view of the Fourth Amendment?

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Filed under Communications, Culture, Governance, IT, Privacy, Security

The “st” metric

One form of information is metrics, or measures. But what do the metrics really measure, and are they being spun a bit?

“TV’s New Metrics,” Wall Street Journal, October 17, 2014 D1. Lots of data about the new TV shows, and how many and what people are watching them.  Which one has the most viewers? Between ages 18 and 49? Is that different from the biggest audience? Which is the funniest? Who has the highest score?  The most Twitter followers?

Common to the superlatives is a word with an “st” in it, e.g., most, biggest, funniest, highest.  Borrowing from Richard Levick‘s work on crisis management, on how communications capture eyeball share.  What information do you collect to which you can apply an “st” word to make your claim stand out? And how do you recognize the limitations on the “st” claim, when you are the reader?

How is all that information being used?

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Filed under Collect, Data quality, Management, Reliance, Use

What’s no information worth?

250 Swiss Francs.  That’s what UBS nee Swiss Bank charged account holders if they did not want the bank to mail them account information.

“Trail Turns To ‘Secrecy’ At UBS,” Wall Street Journal, October 16, 2014 C3.  The bank is alleged to have assisted US taxpayers with avoiding US tax or hiding assets.

I guess it’s a red flag if someone doesn’t want a service that’s normally included in the price.  Apparently, it’s worse if you charge someone for the convenience of getting their information.  Profiteering, or maximizing profit opportunities?  Culture at the bank?

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Filed under Board, Business Case, Compliance, Culture, Culture, Definition, Governance, Information, Privacy, Risk, Value

Is it live or is it Memorex?

Frustrating, isn’t it, the way the search results you want in Google or Yahoo are buried beneath ads or “sponsored” links?  How do you find only what you want to find, rather than what others pay to have you find?

“Deceptive Web Ads Draw Flak, Little Action,” Wall Street Journal, October 14, 2014 B1. The big search companies apparently are ignoring the “guidelines” issued by the Federal Trade Commission.

What does this say about the culture of those companies that they intentionally disregard guidance from the FTC?  What other rules and guidelines are they ignoring?  What does it do to the “value” of the search results?  Or does the consumer just not care?  Would you pay to not get the ads?

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Filed under Board, Business Case, Compliance, Compliance, Compliance, Controls, Culture, Culture, Governance, Information, Risk, Value


Doug Laney, now at Gartner, has written and spoken a lot over the past several years on the topic of what he calls “infonomics.”  He looks at how companies do and don’t place a real value of information.  He was kind enough to speak to my class of MBA students at Rice this past winter.

“What Is All That Data Worth?” Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2014 B1. This article quotes Doug and explores the dilemma of the value of information, and why it isn’t really measured with anything close to precision.  Is this the fault of the accounting profession not keeping up with the times? How do investors deal with this?

I highly recommend reading the entire piece, and following what Doug says about the topic in his blog at Gartner. Why doesn’t this get explored more in business schools, with the information-based economy?


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Filed under Information, Value

Minor error, major headache

0.05 of a rating point.  That’s all it was.

“Nielsen Says Glitch Affected Fall TV Ratings,” Wall Street Journal, October 11-12, 2014 B3. A small error introduced through a software update in March caused Nielsen to mis-report how many people watched certain TV shows at the start of the fall season.  Downstream impact on the millions of dollars of ad buys, the cost of which depends in part on the ratings as reported by Nielsen.

Are you in the information reporting business?  Nielsen certainly is.  Do you rely upon an information reporting business to accurately report information to you?  What if the information is wrong?

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Filed under Business Case, Collect, Controls, Data quality, Management, Protect, Reliance, Risk, Third parties, Use, Value

New sources of information

A departure from the stories on hacking at banks, NSL gag orders, NSA leaks and how Apple and Google are responding by making your phone less searchable.

“Imaging Innovators Win Nobel Prize,” Wall Street Journal, October 9 2014 A11. Scientists discover way to “see” at the molecular level, breaking the assumed physical  threshold of how small an object can be seen with a microscope.  Opens an entire new view of biochemistry.

Do advancing technologies make more information available to your business?  Will that disrupt your business model?  How will you respond?

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Filed under Business Case, New Implications, Risk, Use, Value

Watch what you write

In a blog post on May 18, 2014, I commented upon the 69 words that GM’s lawyers told the engineers not to use. Pretty bog-standard stuff on watching what you write.

“Lawyers, Judges Modify View That Adverbs are Mostly Bad,” Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2014 A1.  Lawyers and their view on adverbs in statutes and legal opinions.  Are adverbs inherently ambiguous?

I gave hundreds of “Watch What You Write” presentations to business folks during my 30+ years of legal practice.  I cautioned people to watch out for adverbs, adjectives, and absolutes, as they are inherently imprecise.  And difficult to explain five years later in litigation.  I also suggested that people consider that the medium is part of the message, and gauge the permanence of the medium to the importance of the message.  Email lasts forever. Think of content + container.

Does your information governance program address controlling the actual words people use?  Should it?

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Filed under Business Case, Communications, Content, Controls, Definition, Discovery, Duty of Care, Information, Internal controls, Oversight, Protect assets, Protect information assets, Risk