INSIGHTS Salesforce Gets Granular

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If you need an example of digital disruption, you can’t do better than the retail banking industry. A byzantine collection of rules and regulations plus the overhang of many legacy systems have conspired to prevent banks from becoming more involved with their customers.

Even innovations like the ATM, which entered the scene several decades ago, only serve to distance banks from their customers. This leaves plenty of opportunity for upstart technology vendors to disrupt the applecart.

Combine this with a generation of potential customers who were raised on digital products and services, and the result is that an important demographic is now up for grabs, setting the stage for disruption.

Making It Easy

Not long ago, Salesforce recognized those dynamics in play and moved to develop vertical applications for selected industries — including banking, where large institutions need to address the requirements of large customer bases. It came up with the Financial Services Cloud for Retail Banking, announced last week.

Some of what Salesforce…

CTO chairman delivers speech at the opening of SOTIC

Caribbean Tourism Organization chairman Dionisio D’Aguillar

Caribbean Tourism Organization chairman Dionisio D’Aguillar delivered the following speech at the opening of State of the Tourism Industry Conference (SOTIC):

This year’s State of the Tourism Industry Conference (SOTIC) comes at a trying time for Caribbean tourism.

Never in the history of the planning this event have situations, circumstances and conditions in our member destinations, and by extension, the Caribbean, changed so dramatically, so drastically, and so disturbingly in such a short space of time.

When planning began for SOTIC 2017, our realities were far different. None of us ever imagined that two hurricanes, Irma and Maria, would have had such a far-reaching and radical impact on our lives.

I wish to take this opportunity to express, on behalf of the entire CTO family, heartfelt condolences to the Governments and peoples of the countries impacted by those horrendous storms over the tragic loss of life and property, as well as the destruction of infrastructure.

The planning of SOTC began against the background of our challenge to grow our share of the world tourism market, which has held steady at 2.4 per cent despite record arrivals to the Caribbean.

Our emphasis was on how to keep pace with the latest trends and developments that make travel and tourism attractive, yet competitive. How technologies such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence and 360 influence travel; how we could develop a tourism product and experiences that are so outstanding that visitors take away much more than what they expected and immerse in experiences that they can get nowhere else; how, in essence, we could supercharge the Caribbean brand and make the region more appealing to the new explorer.

However, the monstrous category five hurricanes that so mercilessly battered some of our members last month have added new perspectives to our situation.

Yes,…

Alion names new chief strategy, tech officers

Alion Science and Technology has created a new executive position in the chief strategy officer role and moved its current chief technology officer there.

CTO Christopher Zember will become strategy chief for the McLean, Va.-based government services contractor and be responsible for corporate strategy with an emphasis on new technology and engineering offerings, Alion said Monday.

In conjunction, Alion has hired former Thales USA executive Todd Borkey for the CTO…

Thomas Duryea Logicalis CTO exits for Versent

David Gulli has vacated his position as chief technology officer (CTO) of Thomas Duryea Logicalis, exiting the technology provider after four years to join consultancy start-up Versent.

Promoted to the role in July 2016, Gulli was responsible for the development of technical strategy at the company, alongside establishing go-to-market frameworks and reference architectures.

ARN can reveal that the industry specialist will now join Melbourne-based Versent in a principal consultant role, as the cloud provider continues to expand reach and capabilities across Australia.

“After four years it was time for a new adventure,” wrote Gulli, via a social media post. “Thank you to all at TDL, the people makes the place buzz and I have no doubt you will continue to be massively successful.

“To everyone outside of TDL I’ve collaborated with – it has been a pleasure working with you and I have no doubt we will cross paths again.”

Prior to taking the CTO role, Melbourne-based Gulli was previously solution architect within the mobility and collaboration team, specialising in technical pre-sales across Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure platforms.

Before joining then Thomas Duryea in December 2013 – before the company’s acquisition by Logicalis – Gulli held technical…

HPE Gave Russia Deep Dive Into Security Software Used by Pentagon

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Hewlett Packard Enterprise allowed experts working with Russia to review the source code of cybersecurity software that is used by the U.S. Defense Department, Reuters reported this week.

The Pentagon uses HPE’s ArcSight software to protect sensitive computer networks, according to the report. Hewlett-Packard acquired ArcSight in 2010 in a deal valued at US$1.5 billion.

The review was conducted by Russian firm Echelon on behalf of the Russia Federal Service for Technical and Export Control, a defense agency that deals with cybersecurity issues.

“HPE has never and will never take actions that compromise the security of our products or the operations of our customers,” the company said in a statement provided to the E-Commerce Times by spokesperson Kate Holderness.

HPE has “worked with select third parties to test a narrow set of products for backdoor vulnerabilities before selling into the Russian market,” the company said, noting that this is a “year’s old requirement” that has not changed recently.

“All testing was done in HPE controlled sites and entirely under the supervision of HPE’s cybersecurity specialists, to ensure that our source code and products were in no way compromised,” HPE said, adding that “no backdoor vulnerabilities were detected within ArcSight.”

Pentagon Protocol

The Defense Department has policies in place to guard against such…

Banking startup BABB appoints new CTO and Lead Technical Adviser

BABB anticipates launching its banking app before the end of the year.

Blockchain-based banking startup BABB has announced that it is augmenting its technical team with the appointments of entrepreneur and fintech expert Jorge Pereira as CTO, and Adi Ben-Ari as Lead Technical Adviser.

The appointments come as the company approaches its Token Sale in late November, proceeds of which will fund the further development of the world’s first blockchain-based bank account.

As CTO, Jorge Pereira will bring with him a wealth of technical leadership experience across the payments and cryptocurrency space. Jorge will be leaving his position as Chief Technical Officer and Executive Vice President at FinTech startup Uphold to join BABB. He is also Founder of digital product development agency Seegno, where he continues to serve as Advisor.

Jorge has deep expertise in the development of financial services products and technology, including key areas for BABB such as cryptocurrencies, distributed ledgers, regulatory compliance, KYC/AML, data analysis, security and risk mitigation.

Adi has been extremely active in the blockchain space for…

Vodafone security CTO: ‘High-profile data breaches are becoming the new norm’

Vodafone security CTO: ‘High-profile data breaches are becoming the new norm’

Andrzej Kawalec, CTO of Vodafone Enterprise Security Services, says infosec readiness and resilience is the only answer in the face of high-profile data breaches.

Andrzej Kawalec is CTO and head of strategy and innovation at Vodafone Enterprise Security Services.

Prior to this, he was chief technologist for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise’s Enterprise Security Services group.

‘The way we see it, organisations that can respond and recover the fastest and build this cyber-resilience are the ones that will be able to manage their risk most effectively’
– ANDRZEJ KAWALEC

Kawalec spent 15 years at some of the world’s largest IT companies, including Compaq, Digital and Siemens, and has worked in board-level positions across the public and private sectors to help define and promote information strategies. Kawalec has degrees in international business and German from Ottawa and Bradford Universities.

In recent weeks, Kawalec presided over a Vodafone report that indicated that tightening up cybersecurity is actually helping businesses embark on new innovation journeys and to seize new opportunities.

Are firms getting better at cybersecurity or are they becoming more opportunistic as digital transformation opens new horizons?

I think there is an interesting link between those two concepts. The motivation for the research is that we are all very used to traditional security reports that count up the number of attacks over the last six to nine months and tell us how many more incidents have occurred and how many more data records have been stolen. And whilst that is really important and we recognise that, one of the things we realised is that very few people are looking forward to seeing the changes in behaviour: what are decision-makers doing? How is that affecting what people do?

The conclusion we drew was that not only are people who are the early adopters of technology (whether cloud, IoT or mobile) finding new ways of working and leading the way, but they are taking greater benefit from security. But this was one of the first times we were able to quantify a meaningful, tangible business benefit.

Andrzej Kawalec, CTO of Vodafone Enterprise Security Services. Image: Vodafone
Would you say businesses are realising a return on their cybersecurity investments?

The age-old difficult question has always been: what has been the return on investment on cybersecurity projects? Because if you do it right, ideally, nothing happens.

That’s where we’ve been stuck for many years as an industry, but now we are starting to see business benefits around faster time to market, about the security enabling employee productivity, increasing customer loyalty, all the way to being able to charge a price premium for enhanced security.

Early…

‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia

Justin Rosenstein had tweaked his laptop’s operating system to block Reddit, banned himself from Snapchat, which he compares to heroin, and imposed limits on his use of Facebook. But even that wasn’t enough. In August, the 34-year-old tech executive took a more radical step to restrict his use of social media and other addictive technologies.

Rosenstein purchased a new iPhone and instructed his assistant to set up a parental-control feature to prevent him from downloading any apps.

He was particularly aware of the allure of Facebook “likes”, which he describes as “bright dings of pseudo-pleasure” that can be as hollow as they are seductive. And Rosenstein should know: he was the Facebook engineer who created the “like” button in the first place.

A decade after he stayed up all night coding a prototype of what was then called an “awesome” button, Rosenstein belongs to a small but growing band of Silicon Valley heretics who complain about the rise of the so-called “attention economy”: an internet shaped around the demands of an advertising economy.

These refuseniks are rarely founders or chief executives, who have little incentive to deviate from the mantra that their companies are making the world a better place. Instead, they tend to have worked a rung or two down the corporate ladder: designers, engineers and product managers who, like Rosenstein, several years ago put in place the building blocks of a digital world from which they are now trying to disentangle themselves. “It is very common,” Rosenstein says, “for humans to develop things with the best of intentions and for them to have unintended, negative consequences.”

Rosenstein, who also helped create Gchat during a stint at Google, and now leads a San Francisco-based company that improves office productivity, appears most concerned about the psychological effects on people who, research shows, touch, swipe or tap their phone 2,617 times a day.

There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called “continuous partial attention”, severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ. One recent study showed that the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity – even when the device is turned off. “Everyone is distracted,” Rosenstein says. “All of the time.”

But those concerns are trivial compared to the devastating impact upon the political system that some of Rosenstein’s peers believe can be attributed to the rise of social media and the attention-based market that drives it.

Drawing a straight line between addiction to social media and political earthquakes like Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump, they contend that digital forces have completely upended the political system and, left unchecked, could even render democracy as we know it obsolete.

In 2007, Rosenstein was one of a small group of Facebook employees who decided to create a path of least resistance – a single click – to “send little bits of positivity” across the platform. Facebook’s “like” feature was, Rosenstein says, “wildly” successful: engagement soared as people enjoyed the short-term boost they got from giving or receiving social affirmation, while Facebook harvested valuable data about the preferences of users that could be sold to advertisers. The idea was soon copied by Twitter, with its heart-shaped “likes” (previously star-shaped “favourites”), Instagram, and countless other apps and websites.

It was Rosenstein’s colleague, Leah Pearlman, then a product manager at Facebook and on the team that created the Facebook “like”, who announced the feature in a 2009 blogpost. Now 35 and an illustrator, Pearlman confirmed via email that she, too, has grown disaffected with Facebook “likes” and other addictive feedback loops. She has installed a web browser plug-in to eradicate her Facebook news feed, and hired a social media manager to monitor her Facebook page so that she doesn’t have to.

“One reason I think it is particularly important for us to talk about this now is that we may be the last generation that can remember life before,” Rosenstein says. It may or may not be relevant that Rosenstein, Pearlman and most of the tech insiders questioning today’s attention economy are in their 30s, members of the last generation that can remember a world in which telephones were plugged into walls.

It is revealing that many of these younger technologists are weaning themselves off their own products, sending their children to elite Silicon Valley schools where iPhones, iPads and even laptops are banned. They appear to be abiding by a Biggie Smalls lyric from their own youth about the perils of dealing crack cocaine: never get high on your own supply.

One morning in April this year, designers, programmers and tech entrepreneurs from across the world gathered at a conference centre on the shore of the San Francisco Bay. They had each paid up to $1,700 to learn how to manipulate people into habitual use of their products, on a course curated by conference organiser Nir Eyal.

Eyal, 39, the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, has spent several years consulting for the tech industry, teaching techniques he developed by closely studying how the Silicon Valley giants operate.

“The technologies we use have turned into compulsions, if not full-fledged addictions,” Eyal writes. “It’s the impulse to check a message notification. It’s the pull to visit YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter for just a few minutes, only to find yourself still tapping and scrolling an hour later.” None of this is an accident, he writes. It is all “just as their designers intended”.

He explains the subtle psychological tricks that can be used to make people develop habits, such as varying the rewards people receive to create “a craving”, or exploiting negative emotions that can act as “triggers”. “Feelings of boredom, loneliness, frustration, confusion and indecisiveness often instigate a slight pain or irritation and prompt an almost instantaneous and often mindless action to quell the negative sensation,” Eyal writes.

Attendees of the 2017 Habit Summit might have been surprised when Eyal walked on stage to announce that this year’s keynote speech was about “something a little different”. He wanted to address the growing concern that technological manipulation was somehow harmful or immoral. He told his audience that they should be careful not to abuse persuasive design, and wary of crossing a line into coercion.

But he was defensive of the techniques he teaches, and dismissive of those who compare tech addiction to drugs. “We’re not freebasing Facebook and injecting Instagram here,” he said. He flashed up a slide of a shelf filled with sugary baked goods. “Just as we shouldn’t blame the baker for making such delicious treats, we can’t blame tech makers for making their products so good we want to use them,” he said. “Of course that’s what tech companies will do. And frankly: do we want it any other way?”

Without irony, Eyal finished his talk with some personal tips for resisting the lure of technology. He told his audience he uses a Chrome extension, called DF YouTube, “which scrubs out a lot of those external triggers” he writes about in his book, and recommended an app called Pocket Points that “rewards you for staying off your phone when you need to focus”.

Finally, Eyal confided the lengths he goes to protect his own family. He has installed in his house a outlet timer connected to a router that cuts off access to the internet at a set time every day. “The idea is to remember that we are not powerless,” he said. “We are in control.”

But are we? If the people who built these technologies are taking such radical steps to wean themselves free, can the rest of us reasonably be expected to exercise our free will?

Not according to Tristan Harris, a 33-year-old former Google employee turned vocal critic of the tech industry. “All of us are jacked into this system,” he says. “All of our minds can be hijacked. Our choices are not as free as we think they are.”

Harris, who has been branded “the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience”, insists that billions of people have little choice over whether they use these now ubiquitous technologies, and are largely unaware of the invisible ways in which a small number of people in Silicon Valley are shaping their lives.

A graduate of Stanford University, Harris studied under BJ Fogg, a behavioural psychologist revered in tech circles for mastering the ways technological design can be used to persuade people. Many of his students, including Eyal, have gone on to prosperous careers in Silicon Valley.

Harris is the student who went rogue; a whistleblower of sorts, he is lifting the curtain on the vast powers accumulated by technology companies and the ways they are using that influence. “A handful of people, working at a handful of technology companies, through their choices will steer what a billion people are thinking today,” he said at a recent TED talk in Vancouver.

“I don’t know a more urgent problem than this,” Harris says. “It’s changing our democracy, and it’s changing our ability to have the conversations and relationships that we want with each other.” Harris went public – giving talks, writing papers, meeting lawmakers and campaigning for reform after three years struggling to effect change inside Google’s Mountain View headquarters.

It all began in 2013, when he was working as a product manager at Google, and circulated a thought-provoking memo, A Call To Minimise Distraction & Respect Users’ Attention, to 10…

ANALYST CORNER Are You Ready for a RoboCEO?

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Here’s a disturbing thought: A RoboCEO powered by artificial intelligence — possibly based on IBM’s Watson — could be running some companies within the next decade. Not every company will warm to the idea, to be sure, but it’s conceivable that the practice could begin.

Are you ready to work for a RoboCEO? Though it seems farfetched, this idea has started to bubble to the surface, with leaders like Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma apparently taking it seriously.

As with computers, the Internet and other technological leaps, there’s quite a bit of both good and bad around artificial intelligence. How would working life be different under a RoboCEO? If we widen the focus, how might it impact our life — and, in fact, our society in general? Things will change, whether or not we are ready for a revolution.

Would a RoboCEO running on AI be unforgiving? In what ways might that be so? Who would be the judge if employees should have grievances against a RoboCEO?

AI software might be challenged to make some thorny judgments. Take this hypothetical problem from the automotive world: If an accident involving a self-driving car were inevitable, how would the AI decide between negative outcomes? If harm inevitably had to come to someone, how would the AI software choose?

Why consider appointing a RoboCEO? For starters, it wouldn’t need a multimillion-dollar salary and bonus package. Like RoboWorkers in general, the RoboCEO would never need rest, never get sick, never have to eat, go to the bathroom, take a Starbucks break. It would never take a vacation. It wouldn’t need healthcare, life insurance or retirement benefits, and it wouldn’t require a lavish working environment.

Still, the idea of spending one’s working life under the leadership of a RoboCEO could generate quite a bit of angst. There are plenty of good, bad and unknown potential consequences.

Who among us would be the best types to do well in this experimental setting? Or should RoboWorkers be the only employees who have to answer to a RoboCEO?

For Better and Worse

A RoboCEO likely would be more effective leading an army of RoboWorkers rather than humans….

How well do you know your CTO?

In the fast-paced tech industry, it’s no surprise that the role of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is continually evolving. Your job might look very different to a CTO in another company – but the ideas you need to embrace to reach the top are remarkably similar, says Andy Brown, divisional director at cloud technology specialist Access Alto.

Compare the daily activities of a CTO at a start-up to their counterpart at a global corporation and you’d be forgiven for wondering if it’s actually the same role.

In a fledgling business, where job descriptions are more fluid anyway, the CTO typically takes a more hands-on approach. Responsible for setting out the company’s technology strategy, this person makes crucial decisions on what software should be deployed, where data is stored and what security measures are needed. Since they have a blank canvas on which to work, they can also set the benchmark for business success.

At an established firm, where the technologies and processes are already in place, the CTO implements existing strategies rather than devising them from scratch. Yes, they will take the lead when implementing new software – but they usually have a roadmap to follow. Unlike their colleagues in start-ups, they work as part of a wider team, with knowledge shared among more people.

While no two CTOs are the same, they can be grouped together according to their shared characteristics. Loosely defined, they fall into the following four categories:

Infrastructure Commander

In charge of IT infrastructure, you’ll see this CTO at an established firm as opposed to a start-up. Their work usually involves implementing the business’ existing technical strategy, managing the technology blueprint and leading their team on all aspects of implementation, as well as data security, maintenance and network oversight.

Technology Visionary

Unlike the Infrastructure Commander, the Technology Visionary can be found in emerging businesses, which draw on the CTO’s skills to conceptualise how technology will be used within the company. This can include systems for supporting operations and driving customer and product success. When setting out the strategy, the CTO is not only looking at what works today, but also how future technology can be aligned to business goals.

Customer Champion

In some cases, a CTO is the conduit between a company and its customers, responsible for maintaining relations, understanding the target market and influencing IT projects in a way that meets their needs. You’ll normally see a Customer Champion in tech companies, particularly software providers, but the term can equally apply to any CTO who uses technology to deliver customer excellence and strong UI (user interface) and UX…