Blog post

Things I learned at SIM Boston

By Jack Santos | November 13, 2015 | 1 Comment

Congrats to the Society for Information Management (SIM) Boston chapter on a great day-long local event yesterday.  For those of you that follow my blog, you know that my relationship with SIM goes back to the early 80s when my boss and mentor (Richard Connell, retired CIO from Selective Insurance) help start the Hartford Chapter.  I now attend Boston Chapter meetings.  Yesterday they held their annual event – by local companies for local companies.  Here are some of the takeaways/observations:

Nigel Travis (CEO at Dunkin Brands) was a delight; Brits don’t come much funnier and entertaining 😉  He pointed out that his single best decision ever at Dunkin was going with a single POS for franchisees  – and the benefits came in consistent, deep, data analytics.  His support and enthusiasm of his CIO is second to none – but maybe he was just playing to the audience;  I doubt it if in fact he has put his CIO in charge of company strategy, as he mentioned.  On the down side, Nigel was deer in headlights when it came to “What is Dunkin doing with IoT”, and started rambling on the benefits of the internet.  In his defense, as a franchisee based company maybe the runway on analytics is so huge that IoT just isn’t that big on the radar.  Note that payment systems and mobile ordering, though, are – because their data shows that digital based transactions are always higher spend transactions.

I was particularly intrigued by the panel discussion of Bose employees on their use of Agile development techniques.  I good mix of developers, scrum masters, managers, and the CIO. Now Bose, for those of you who are audiophiles, has to be one of the most innovative companies around (in their grand tradition).  I find it interesting that they are in the bulls eye of being a Digital Business, and in competition with new products like the Amazon Echo; a world of cloud based consumer IoT products.  So agility is key, no doubt.  And Bose has jumped into the Agile world with both feet.

I have had more than a few calls these past few  weeks from Gartner clients on “remote work” and (in particular) how agile fits in.  Clearly, Bose did not have an answer to that question (or, more correctly, their answer was “collocate only to achieve true agility” – they encourage geographic colocation and redesigned shared/open/collaborative workspace).  Great questions from the audience about metrics, budgeting, forecasting, and Portfolio management – for which the team at Bose is still working its way through.  The bottom line: Lean/agile continues to be a journey, and every organization is taking that journey differently.  What became clear to me is that we are on the cusp of collaboration products (especially for development) like Slack, and Jira that not only help agile teams communicate, but may be the tools that start cracking the colocation question.  Bose puts a premium on geographically collocated staff.  Most of the other attendees at the conference clearly felt that dispersed  teams (whether work at home, or as a labor source/attractor) as a huge part of the future labor equation – for IT as well as the rest of the business.  Gartner’s shadow weighed big on this discussion, as the whole question of bimodal became a major piece of the discussion – and answers varied from “everything can be agile” to “not so fast”.  Even the relationship between agile and devops was one that caused serious angst amongst both the panel and the audience.  It’s a journey  (read: we’re still figuring it out).

A panel with the FBI on cybersecurity was interesting, with these two tidbits:  Join Infragard if you are really serious about preventing breaches (FBI agent), and get your hands on the Verizon breach report (Bill Brown – CIO at Veracode).  BYOD? old news. BYOA (applications) is the issue.  Its more about the data, rather than the device as attack vector.  A couple of interesting audience surveys: How many people keep IP logs? (every hand goes up).  How many look at them regularly? (1 or 2 hands go up).  The real concern, in an era of “hybrid IT” (cloud + on premise) was how well companies are vetting their cloud suppliers.  Brown pointed to Bitsight (another local startup) as one method.

Certainly the gem of the day was Jeff Ma – one of the kids (now middle age) from MIT  written about in “Bringing down the house and made into the movie “21”.  He took his experiences and applied them as management lessons.  Jeff is at Twitter now;  Twitter bought Jeff’s company (TenXer). What was intriguing to me is that TenXer was working on measuring employee digital footprints (in social media, email, anywhere online) to anticipate performance and psychological issues — and (alternatively), use of that software/analytics by employees to help themselves and affect their own performance.  That’s an intriguing premise – especially as it relates to my work in Professional Effectiveness.

A session on corporate culture was intriguing.  The highlight for me was seeing an old Liberty Mutual acquaintance (Paul Brady), now at the helm of Arabella Insurance as CIO.  I didn’t work closely with Paul (our careers only slightly overlapped), but he did work closely with Joanna Young (now CIO at Michigan State) who was key  in our Usability lab when it reported to me.  It is great to see colleagues careers grow, and half the reason I stay in touch with SIM.

One other interesting session was on the kind of data analytics innovation going on in healthcare – mainly driven by reporting and health outcomes management requirements from Affordable Care act legislation.  South Coast Health systems displayed what it did with Oracle Endeca to keep track of health system performance.  Endeca is a tool we use at Gartner as well – and it really has become a big hit for Oracle.

Great program all in all by my SIM colleagues.  They run monthly meetings as well, which are always a treat and well worth attending. Check it out.



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  • Great concept. I would argue that we could also consider a fourth bucket, perhaps called the “Operations Bridge Oriented Use Cases”. These would be the use cases related to the impact of an organization’s operational practices on security posture/practices. How is the execution (or not…) of the change management process affecting security results? How does the cadence of IT operations align with the pace of security-specific events? How costly is it – in terms of operational complexity – to implement specific security initiatives or controls?. Basically, leveraging the SIEM platform to inform not only on the state of security controls within the organization, but on the maturity and operation of the security program itself.