Digital Magna Carta time?

Recently I seem unable to avoid reading material on security risks associated with the use of technology.  It is certainly a good thing that the topic has a growing profile as that can positively drive upward awareness of the risks.  However, I do worry that many articles only tend to articulate the risks and remain silent on the potential benefits arising from technology enabling our lives.  Writing about the dangerous downsides of how easily Internet of Things (IoT) context devices can be hacked will definitely get attention.  This is fine if we also gain the value of people being more aware and then engaging on an informed basis with technology and related information security risks.

I noticed recently that the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) had sponsored and circulated a publication called Navigating The Digital Age: The Definitive Cybersecurity Guide (for Directors & Officers) to every NYSE listed company board member.  This was produced in partnership with Palo Alto Networks and a wide and impressive range of contributing writers and organisations.  I found it an excellent read.  What I particularly liked was the recognition clearly conveyed that people as much as technology (or process) are at the heart of both the information security threat and the defences.   The need to educate both the consumers of technology enabled solutions and those operating and defending them was well articulated.

The criticality of all of us being aware of the risks to our data and the steps we can take to mitigate them is becoming clearer to most people.  The publicity around corporate hacks like Sony and the recent press around the cyber “front” in the current challenging situation in the Middle East are hard to avoid.  However, in recent weeks the questions I have been asked most often around information security have been related to stories on many and various IoT devices that have allegedly proved vulnerable to hacking.  People have raised many concerns with me on a wide range of devices from connected car systems to house alarms to healthcare wearables to pacemakers.   I remember reading, but annoyingly cannot now find, an article which used the term “Internet of Nosey Things” in its discussion of the type and value of data involved.

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Indeed the ISACA 2015 Risk Reward Barometer declared that its 7000+ contributors saw IoT as being the prime area of information security concern.  The survey reported that over 70% of respondents saw a medium to high likelihood of attack via such devices either in the consumer or in corporate context as they become more common in the workplace.  This concern is then compounded by the (ISC)2 Global Information Security Workforce Study 2015  which forecasts that we will simply not have enough security skilled people in the workforce to provide adequate defences.  They see the gap being as many as 1.5 million security workers too few by 2020.

If that forecast proves true then we need to have placed information security at the centre our technology design process.  In fact if you look at the automation and machine to machine implications of IoT then we clearly have to ensure our defences are not operator dependent.  The imperative to automate defences is nicely highlighted by the HP Cyber Security Report 2015.  This is a sobering read of results from interviewing 252 companies in 7 countries.   What particularly stood out in the material is that the time to recover from a cyber-attack has risen from 14 days in 2010 to 46 days in 2015; that the number of successful attacks reported has risen by 46% since 2012; and that the average cost of cybercrime per participating company was $7.7m.

So having started saying I was wary of scare mongering articles on information security I have now drifted towards the negative perspective.  It is quite hard to avoid when considering this topic I fear.  As the benefit delivered by technology is huge and alluring so does it comes risk and as ever some people don’t see a problem with acting illegally to make money.  In that sense this challenge is nothing new and we have a good track record across many societies of working out how to protect ourselves (eventually?!) from such threats.

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Perhaps we do indeed need a digital age Magna Carta or its mirror incarnations across the globe.  The content of this updated Magna Carta was built on the input of over 30,000 people having begun as an initiative focused on school children.  The British Library site hosting the debate has lots of other excellent material worth reviewing.  The good news is that the debate is still open as to what this digital age Magna Carta should state. Why don’t you go and place your vote?

Images via Shutterstock,com.

Customer Experience – Digital Imperatives? (Part 2)

Customer experience is fundamentally about the quality of the interaction between the consumer and the company offering the service.  Companies are very keen to ensure that their declared brand values are seen as represented within their delivery experience.  A company called Havas Media publishes annually a report called “Meaningful Brands®” which seeks to measure that customer assessment of the overall experience.   It is fundamentally a report focused on measuring and understanding the dynamics around brand strength.  However, it adds the context of looking at how our quality of life and wellbeing connects with those corporate brands, i.e. the value judgements we make as we experience the service.  The research scale is impressive, 1,000 brands, 300,000 people, 34 countries and covering 12 industries. The report states that it “covers all aspects of people’s lives, including the impact on our collective wellbeing (the role brands play in our communities and the communities we care about), in our personal wellbeing (self-esteem, healthy lifestyles, connectivity with friends and family, making our lives easier, fitness and happiness) and marketplace factors, which relate to product performance such as quality and price”.

The Meaningful Brands® 2015 research shows that customer experiences that are felt to contribute significantly to the consumer’s individual quality of life or that of their society are rewarded with stronger business results.   In hard commercial terms the research claims that well rated Meaningful Brands outperform the stock market by some 133% and on average gain 46% more “Share of Wallet” than less well perceived players.  This analysis appears to support the assertions that many analysts have made that the transparency implicit in the digital age (reviews/referrals being examples) makes the integrity of the brand and the reality of the customer experience critical.   Interestingly as a technologist there are 5 technology companies in the top ten global performers and 3 in the top five; Samsung, Google and Sony. Geographic variations are also interesting, only 31% of brands are trusted in Western Europe and only 22% in America.  The percentage of brands that are perceived to contribute positively to quality of life are only 7% and 3% respectively.  In Latin America that measure is reported at 38% and even higher in developing countries in Asia at 75%.   Maria Garrido, Global Head of Data & Consumer Insights at Havas Media is reported as saying:  “Brands that enhance the wellbeing of people, communities and societies are more meaningful. In the West, we have a more functional relationship with brands so continuous innovation and product delivery is key. In high growth markets, the relationship between people and brands is one that focuses more on personal benefits. In these regions people look to brands to help them achieve economic status, better experiences and every-day inspiration”.   There is a wealth of information and analysis to be found on the Meaningful Brands website and it repays the time spent reviewing.

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I would argue that customer experience is not just about the quality of the interaction during the purchase transaction.  It is about the values of the brand and how they are felt by the customer as they experience the service and the degree to which they feel connected to that company.  The integrity of relationship and the ease with which disappointment can be widely shared are key factors in providing a compelling customer experience.  Digital technologies are enabling more direct interactions for companies with their customers.  The cost of direct engagement with customers relative to the recent past has dropped and is continuing to do so.   Equally at the same time digitalization makes information to assess service quality easily accessible and is enabling ever more transparency.   This complex relationship is explored in an excellent article in The Drum by Tash Whitmey entitled “Creating Experiences Customers Actually Value”.

Delivering highly valued customer experiences certainly includes the quality of the product offered and the qualitative nature of consuming it.  However, it also seems to be increasingly about how that consumption experience relates to the declared brand values and whether they are consistently lived by the company.   Indeed we have seen over the last year or so the impact on corporate reputations which have been tarnished by perceptions over their entirely legal but not admired tax optimisation strategies.  At the heart of this dynamics is a complex relationship between consumer and vendor.  How that relationship is valued by either party and how the integrity of the interaction is defined has become far more holistic and interesting in the digital age.

This post was previously published on the Business Value Exchange.
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Engagement Drivers?

Many companies gather employee feedback at this time of year wishing for an engagement score that is an improvement over the previous results.  I find that people often confuse employee satisfaction with employee engagement.  High satisfaction levels with a current employer do not necessarily indicate that the workforce is actively striving to deliver to the corporate goals with a high degree of emotional investment and willingness to “go the extra mile or more”.  Indeed I have sometimes seen a team deliver demonstrate fantastic commitment to the cause whilst simultaneously being extremely ambivalent about the company itself and its declared vision.  There needs to be a binding force that propels the team to collective and collaborative success, but that is not always a positive endorsement of the corporate goals.  People are complex but team dynamics arguably even more so.

Perhaps the most frequent cul-de-sac I see companies rush into at high speed is to confused engagement with a multitude of technological enabled interaction channels.  This particular vice seems most likely when the senior management feels it has to engage with the younger segments of its demographic.  A fixation on terms like “Generation Y” or “Millennials” and the imperative to focus on digital world based interaction above all else.   Clearly taking advantage of the opportunity presented by social media to engage with the workforce is today an essential step.  However it is equally important to have the compelling content to stimulate debate and sell the key messages to the team.  At the risk entering a world of clichés the right approach is to have a well-articulated and compelling set of messages conveyed via a communication strategy blending a range of channels to enable individuals to engage, absorb and contribute in the manner most relevant and comfortable to them.

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Identifying the behavioral drivers for individuals, teams and entire organisations, and effectively aligning those to the corporate objectives is a key part of the workforce engagement puzzle.  Over recent years I have seen a rising number of situations where a key component of a successful engagement strategy has been placing those actions and desired goals beyond personal or corporate gain to having a positive impact on society itself.  In short to have a clear link to a clearly articulated corporate social responsibility commitment.  I am not discounting the criticality of having an employee engagement strategy with integrity that ensures convergence of vision, values and actions.  I am arguing that the truly high performing organisations with highly engaged and motivated employees frequently seem to create a balance between the drivers of the individual, the company and the society within which they sit.  My musings along this line of thought were triggered by reading an excellent interview with Adam Grant a professor from Wharton Business School discussing his recently published book “Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success”.  I think his material does hit on some key themes which need to be contemplated when considering what exactly does employee engagement mean and how is it used as a force for good.


Image via Shutterstock, Engage – 223446205