Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Next Big Thing in Big Data

Stanford's Graduate School of Business recently held a conference on entrepreneurship and the rise of Big Data  - yet another example of Big Data's far-reaching impact.  Big Data continues to spur all sorts of technology innovations- everything from hardware to analytics software. Some examples discussed in this article include using Big Data to improve health care by inferring mood and predicting behavior to build advanced risk profiles for the insurance industry.  With the seemingly endless supply of new ideas for Big Data, how does one effectively separate the key innovations from all the noise?

Read the article.

(submitted by Mithun)

How Much is that Undergraduate Business Degree Really Worth?

Over the last few years, those trained in technology have had to broaden their portfolios.  It's not enough to simply learn/speak technology; to be an effective technologist these days, one must understand and solve real-world business problems.  Businesses and their leaders are reluctant to spend money on technology for technology's sake.  Coincidentally, a similar transformation is occurring for people on the business side of the house; it's no longer sufficient to be trained solely on the nuts and bolts of business.  Today's problems require a broader range of skills including critical thinking, problem solving, essay writing, debating, and reading.  These skills are developed by studying the social sciences and humanities (history, philosophy, psychology, etc...).  This article describes how universities are changing their undergraduate business degrees to incorporate more of these disciplines.  In fact, this may be representative of a larger trend in which social scientists play key roles in business and analytics.  Consider text analytics and sentiment analysis where machines are trained to process and structure text.  This field requires the skills of linguists,  so the study of languages and linguistics will increasingly be a hot commodity.  Ultimately, this reflects a change in how business talent is assembled and organized.

Read the article.

Chinese Social Network Losing Money

Renren, one of the largest social networking sites in China, recently reported a $13.6 million loss for Q1 2012, citing weaker advertising revenues. This loss is up from $2.6 million for the same period last year, even as the number of users increased 9 million over the previous year.  This news, coming on the heels of Facebook's less than stellar IPO, should serve as a warning of the volatility of social media business models.  Perhaps these companies haven't quite figured out the value proposition and how to generate a more robust revenue stream rather than simply relying primarily on advertising sales.  The good news is Renren, Facebook, Twitter and other social media juggernauts have strong brands and products, now they just need to figure out how to successfully monetize them.

Read the article.

Linked In Passwords Hacked: Change Your Password Now!

LinkedIn acknowledged yesterday that they experienced a major security breach of their password database.  A Russian hacker posted a file of 6.5 million LinkedIn user passwords in an online forum.  If you have a LinkedIn account you should change your password immediately.  If you use the same LinkedIn password on other sites you should changes those as well because hackers have been known to grab usernames and passwords from one site and use them to access other sites.

A major security breach like this was inevitable given the allure of social networking sites combined with the relatively weak security controls in place.  Web sites that rely solely on username/password as the security control are quite not only susceptible to major security breaches like this, but also to the more mundane (and common) phishing scams where users are tricked into divulging their credentials.  This should be a wake-up call to adopt more stringent security requirements, not only on social networking sites, but more critical sites like online banking and stock trading sites as well.

Read the article.

You're Fired! 5 CEO's That Need to Go

Last month listed five CEOs who should have already been fired, including two from top tech companies.  Cisco's John Chambers was listed as #5, cited for not giving the company a good growth strategy. Microsoft's Steve Balmer topped the list of chief executives needing to leave: as the author notes, "[w]ithout a doubt, Mr. Ballmer is the worst CEO of a large publicly traded American company today."  Over the last few years Microsoft has been lacking strategic direction and has completely missed the mark on key growth markets (mobile, cloud, tablets, and now Big Data).

While it is fun to pick on Microsoft, the real story here is how tech companies perform as they approach middle age.  The hi-tech companies that emerged in the late 70s and early 80s are now moving into a new and somewhat uncharted phase of development.  These tech giants are now being undercut by the younger and nimbler companies they once were themselves.  IBM's success is probably the best precedent to follow, but keep in mind it had to totally transform itself into a different company.  So the question is what do these middle-age tech companies need to do to stay at the forefront of a rapidly changing tech market,  and more importantly, what type of CEO is required to lead them?

Read the article.