Big Data, cloud, social and mobility make up Gartner’s Nexus of Forces, aka super disruptors of the digital age. In a previous related post, I discussed how such forces impact the concept of intellectual property, and in this post I’ll focus on two major issues that impact and influence big data.
Although a lot has been written about big data and the challenge / opportunity it presents to enterprises and individuals, the sparks really start to fly whenever commercial exploitation of digital information and content (incl. big data), enters the realms of personal privacy and IP rights (IPR).
According to a recent Forrester report , your typical firm has on average 125TB of data but only actually utilise 12% of it. This shocking statistic brings home a key attribute and challenge of big data, namely the sheer volume, velocity and variety of data that resides and travels across multiple channels / platforms within and between organisations. As a result, many organisations have turned to ever more advanced analytics and business intelligence solution (including big data and social media) to extract value from the sea of information.
Given such powerful tools, and the vast amount of replicated information across various sources, it is relatively easy to get a picture of any individual’s situation, strengths and limitations. For many organisations, such data could become “toxic” if and when they suffer any loss of control. However, personal privacy is subjective at best, and there are differing world views on whether it should be considered a constitutional or fundamental human right.
Furthermore, the explosion in speed / type / channel of interaction may have brought about a certain degree, (perhaps even an expectation or acceptance), of reduced privacy. However, although some users may be happy to share personal data in exchange for financial gain, according to a recent SSRN paper, data protection and privacy entrepreneurship may have their place, but “people should not have to pay to protect their privacy or receive coupons as compensation”, especially as this might further disadvantage the poor.
In addition to the above issues, organisations also have to deal with the drama of IP rights and how they apply to the masses of unstructured data and content. In other words, every last piece of the aforementioned 125TB of big data held within your average organisation will have some associated IPR which must be taken into consideration when collecting, storing, processing or sharing that information. According to some legal experts, companies need to think through certain fundamental legal aspects of IPR, e.g. “who owns the input data companies are using in their analysis, and who owns the output?”
If you consider all the information / content, (including employee ‘personal’ content), sloshing around in every organisation, then you might begin to perceive the scale of the problem. There may be a lucrative opportunity for information mining and analysis algorithms aimed at the computer audit and forensic investigations market.
The way forward
Below are 3 things that organisations should bear in mind when dealing with the issues and problems posed by big data, privacy and IP:
- Information is the lifeblood of business – implement the right policies for big data governance. The right information, at the right time, for the right user, is the holy grail for business, and it demands capabilities in Data Science and increasingly Data Art .
- Soon it may not really matter who owns your data – Personal information is becoming another currency with which the customer can obtain value. There is a growing push to focus big data governance / controls on data usage rather than data collection.
- It’s not the tool, but how you use it – technology is not really that much a differentiator, rather it is the architecture and infrastructure approach that make all the difference – e.g. Forrester’s report recommended the “Hub and Spoke” model for decentralised big data capability3
In conclusion, although it may appear that the heady combination of big data, privacy and IP could be lethal for any organisation, we mustn’t ignore real opportunities to reap the benefits of big data insight, but first the organisation must put its house in order by adopting the right policies and principles for big data governance.
Note: The above post is adapted from my article of the same title, which was published in the September edition of ITNow magazine, by the BCS Chartered Institute for IT.
- Gartner – Information and the Nexus of Forces: Delivering and Analyzing Data (26, June 2012) – Analyst: Yvonne Genovese
- BCS TWENTY:13 ENHANCE YOUR IT STRATEGY – Intellectual property in the era of big and open data (01-03-2013) – Jude Umeh FBCS CITP
- Forrester – Deliver On Big Data Potential With A Hub-And-Spoke Architecture (12, June 2013) – Analyst: Brian Hopkins
- SSRN – Buying and Selling Privacy: Big Data’s Different Burdens and Benefits (30-June-2013) – by Joseph Jerome (Future of Privacy Forum) – Ref: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2294996
- Out-law.com – Big data: privacy concerns stealing the headlines but IP issues of equal importance to businesses – Ref: http://www.out-law.com/en/articles/2013/march/big-data-privacy-concerns-stealing-the-headlines-but-ip-issues-of-equal-importance-to-businesses-says-expert/
- BCS Edspace Blog – Big data: manage the chaos, reap the benefits – (17-May-2013) Marc Vael (International VP of ISACA) Ref: http://www.bcs.org/content/conBlogPost/2196
- Capping IT Off – Forget Data Science, Data Art is Next! – Simon Gratton Ref: http://www.capgemini.com/blog/capping-it-off/2013/07/forget-data-science-data-art-is-next
According to a recent Forrester Benchmarks Report, (somewhat provocatively entitled: “CIOs Are Not Ready To Support Business Innovation”), there are 3 levels of capabilities required to sustain innovation which any aspiring innovative organisation will do well to take notice. These key capabilities are clustered around 3 levels of: idea, implementation and control (see diagram below):
Figure: Forrester’s 3 Level of capabilities for sustainable innovation*
Some key findings from the report indicate that:
- Sustainable innovation requires “repeatable, manageable and measurable processes” across the 3 capability levels. However, it is also worth bearing in mind that incremental change does not necessarily equate to innovation.
- Ideas management (including: ideation, incubation and portfolio management capabilities) is ad hoc and under managed across many organisations. Incidentally, this is the layer in which many organisations concentrate their efforts, especially during the initial buzz of launching of a new innovation initiative or program (usually with a team of dedicated people, or part-time volunteers within the organisation).
- Various process and cultural issues will challenge implementation (e.g.: change management, incentives and communication capabilities). The processes and culture of many organisations will need major adjustment to cope with / support sustainable innovation. The occasional one-off innovation, and / or slow incremental change, may not present much of a problem, but constant, sustained innovation is challenging and sometimes disruptive.
- Clear differences exist between organisations and their approach to innovation control (i.e. governance, funding and measurement capabilities). Innovation programs require different governance and control capabilities than the rest of the organisation, especially for timelines and outcomes, but these need clear boundaries on behaviour, funding and metrics / KPIs. I recently reviewed a book about “the architecture of innovation”, which discusses this and some of the other items above, in some depth.
Based on the above, it could be argued that many organisations, (and their CIOs), are not yet fully prepared to support sustainable innovation. So the obvious question to ask: what are you planning or doing about it in your organisation?
Please Note: This post kicks off a new innovation topic series on which I plan to blog regularly. The topic seems to have become pervasive of late. For example, I lead a small innovation group in my business unit at work and we blog a lot about innovation, plus I write about “Tools for Innovation”, on behalf of the BCS Entrepreneurs Group. Given my keen interest in / involvement with creative entrepreneurs, investors and innovative technologies, It just made sense to pull these strands of related posts together under one “innovation series”. Disclaimer: As ever, except where stated otherwise, all opinions / observations / critique remain mine, and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer, The BCS Chartered Institute for IT, or any other groups in which I’m involved.
Certainly seems like there’s a lot of change in the air, what with the threat of Apple’s latest toy to tablet PC dominance, or the challenge of streaming music services, and even news of Swans getting divorced! I wonder what’s next, and how will it affect the creative industries of music, film and publishing?
First of all, there were lots of opinions and perspectives on the ever changing digital media landscape at the just concluded MIDEM conference in Cannes, including:
- Perhaps as a sign of shifting attitudes, at least one major artiste and the keynote speaker did not offer the usual tirade against file-sharing, but actually appeared somewhat in favour of it as a “taste test” by end-users, (which roughly translates into something along the lines of “good quality works will be successful in spite of file-sharing”).
- There was also an interesting discourse on media and cultural change in an interview with the “Cult of the Amateur” author, Andrew Keen, who slated the amount of amateur rubbish being put out there in the name of reality shows and user generated garbage, erm content.
- Forrester’s Mark Mulligan provided some great insight on the state of the music industry and various emerging trends, challenges and opportunities, speaking of which, one panel session speaker actuallylikened mobile music apps to babies in that “they’re easy to conceive but hard to deliver!”.
But please don’t think this is just about the music industry, because here is an equally damning insight into the book publishing industry by Phil Cooke, a publisher and self proclaimed change catalyst. Interestingly, most of these observations were covered in Lawrence Lessig’s book, Remix, which I recently reviewed here for the BCS. It would seem that music, publishing and other creative industries are just playing catch-up with key messages from this book – which claims, among other things, that the future creative and commercial landscape will have room for sharing, charging and otherwise hybrid business models.
However, one dire trend that looks set to continue is the involvement of lawyers in the tensions between rights-owners and file-sharing fans or pirates, depending on your point of view. Hmmm, I wonder how much the lawyers charged those Swans for their quickie divorce! But, on a serious note, it might be easy to blame lawyers for any number of things, given they stand to make their fees one way or another regardless of outcomes, however the real problem is that, despite ongoing efforts to find a lasting solution, today’s Intellectual Property laws are still hopelessly unable to cater for digital content, Internet distribution and emerging consumer usage patterns. Period.
Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.