CFOs and Their Digital Competencies: Ah, Ha, Forget Taxes and Demonstrating Revenue Growth

January 26, 2021

No joke. The title of this write up is serious, or as serious as mid tier consulting firms’ experts can be. “Gartner Details the Five Digital Competencies CFOs Must Wield in 2021” does not mention Excel. I assume that CFOs are pretty good at that software. After all, one cannot catch spreadsheet fever and generate charts showing exponential revenue growth without the child of the long-dead VisiCalc.

What are these digital competencies? In order to avoid allegations that I am carjacking these ideas, I shall mention three and direct you to the original article in CFO Tech. Here we go:

CFOs have to be technologically literate. That’s a noble goal. I am confident that quantum computing cooling technologies, the spectrum result from vector computations, and security technology employed by SolarWinds-type companies are directly germane to the CFO job. But it seems to be a safe generalization, particularly to thumb typing MBAs fresh from their second failed start up.

Digital learning is another gem. I wonder how many CFOs are paying for their kids’ college education which now includes sitting in a dorm or the family basement watching Zoom. How is that for value. With meet and greet conferences struggling in the time of Covid, how else will a CFO learn. Zoom, reading books by Ivy League economists, or talking with their friends in the financial sector? I go with Zoom. So digital learning. Yeah, revelation.

The final digital competency I will highlight is a wonderful consulting jargon word weirdness thing: Digital ambition. No, I don’t know what that means. That’s why one hires consultants from mid tier consulting firms.

For the other digital competencies check out the original write up. There is one which is not part of the Google management play book and one that converts a numbers person into a performer at a TED conference.

Just don’t forget to show revenue growth and cost suppression. That applies to both CFOs and mid tier consultants. Yeah, digital ambition.

Stephen E Arnold, January 26, 2021

KPMG: Ignoring the HR Block Case Example or That Will Not Happen at the Exceptional KPMG

January 19, 2021

Here’s a fact of life at allegedly blue chip consulting and service firms. Miss those billability goal, and you are invited to find your future elsewhere.

I read “KPMG’s Marisa Ferrara Boston embraces Auditing Disruption with Watson.” My immediate reaction was id the capable, dutiful Marisa Ferrara Boston overlook this article in Beyond Search: “Watson and Block: Tax Preparation and Watson.” Probably. Business analysis from rural Kentucky is not on the KPMG list of suggested readings.

The point of my write up was in early 2017:

The idea is that H&R Block paid cash money to IBM to integrate Watson into the H&R Block proprietary tax preparation system.

The problem, based on information available to me, the Block Watson service added complexity to the tax workflow.

Oh, oh.

Here’s what KPMG has in mind:

KPMG has partnered with IBM to integrate Watson Discovery and Watson Machine Learning into the auditing workflow. KPMG uses Watson as a backbone to a question-answering pipeline for auditors and risk analysts, enabling KPMG audit professionals to better review, classify, and search across documents to extract important attribute values.

Interesting idea. Replace billable humans with super smart, reliable, fast IBM software.

What could go wrong?

If the Block IBM deal went nowhere, the resistance came from the tax professionals the system was supposed to help. Block and IBM parted company.

At KPMG, the litmus test will be billability. Unless the smart software generates more billable hours (regardless of how the bean counters fiddle the calculations), the KPMG IBM deal is likely to be found wanting. Nothing creates more waves in a blue chip professional services firm than a partner responsible for a number who misses his/her bonus. Nothing.

This quote from the IBM blog misses the point for a big time consulting firm. IBM writes:

“I feel really lucky to be able to be in a position where I’m still in the fight to be able to help push these things along,” says Marisa. But deployment is only half the battle. When it comes to maintaining innovation in automation over time, “it’s never over,” she says. “These AIs are living. They need to be nurtured in an appropriate environment. They’re not just something that you create and consider the job to be done. If so, you have failed, and probably in a very expensive way.”

Notice that employee revenue is not mentioned. Cost control is not mentioned. The partner bonuses are not mentioned. The ire of an unhappy KPMG client who is “surprised” is not mentioned. What about the managing partner who learns that a baby Enron or Autonomy has been birthed by the energetic Watson? Exciting? Yep. Very.

Perhaps some KPMG wizards who will find themselves working at HR Block will be able to ask their new colleagues, “What did you think of that IBM Watson integration?”

Stephen E Arnold, January 19, 2021

Digital Content: Confused Yet? I Am

January 19, 2021

I read “CMS Vs. DMS: Understanding the Key Differences.” The write up did not unlock my understanding. From my vantage point, there is a trade association called ARMA. You can get information about this organization from its Web site. As I recall, there are individuals who receive certification to deal with certain types of “records”; for example, nuclear power plant information. Other groups get involved with the nuclear industry, and there are hoops through which one can jump to figure out how to keep track of engineering change orders, the entities touching specialized components, and figure out who has been trained on what.

I am not exactly sure how other entities got involved in some of these often complicated tracking and managing functions. An organization called the Association for Intelligent Information Management used to be called something else. Maybe “imaging” when that seemed to be a great way to get members and run conferences.

What’s this abbreviated history have to do with the CMS versus DMS thing?

Yep, that’s a very good question. For the life of me, it seems as if document management evolved from the records management effort. But the document management experts quickly figured out that lawyers and pharmaceutical companies had to keep track of their information and had some specialized needs which ARMA either couldn’t or didn’t want to upset its apple cart.

Then the Web happened and the content produced for Web pages was even crazier and more disorganized, volatile, and multi-media enhanced than anything the vendors of software and services for nuclear, pharma, and legal eagle sectors possessed.

Enter content management systems. Wow. These were often tricky beasts, whether it was the wonderful Broadvision or the more Volkswagenish Ektron, a new business was born. The customers for CMS were not nuclear types or the chemical structure folks inventing drugs to help people at very reasonable cost absolutely everywhere.

Now let’s get the straight scoop from the CMS versus the DMS write up. Ready? Here we go:

The differences between document and content management systems are nuanced and depend on the scale to which you are using them…

I interpret this to mean that there is no difference. Your mileage may vary.

And how about this:

Where a DMS excels is at the preservation and organization of company documents (records), a CMS is often focused at content presented at websites, which is not specifically locked in individual documents, according to Elmendorp [another expert]

But what about systems focused on company records. Maybe the type of records the ARMA professionals are trained to manipulate, archive, and retrieve?

But do these systems work? Ho, ho, ho.

But here’s the key to the “key” in the title:

Where BPM, EFSS and CCM Fit In

What? What are these acronyms? But even more stunning is the inclusion of “multi-repository search tools known as Enterprise Search.”

Whoa, Nellie! Enterprise search is a solution to the management of content within an organization. News flash! Enterprise search is a utility often embedded in crazy software wrappers to allow someone to have a shot at locating the information needed to answer a business question or an eDiscovery mandate. Chemical structures, linked engineering change orders? Ho, ho, ho.

Who can figure out the differences, whether “key” or not?

Gartner. A diffused group of experts who have to sell information about the vendors to the potential licensees of these systems.

Confusion is the fertilizer for growing consulting revenues. What’s the “key”? Hire consultants. There you go. Insight.

Stephen E Arnold, January 19, 2021

Mindfulness Meets High School Science Club Management Methods

October 23, 2020

I read “Silicon Valley’s Corporate Mindfulness Hypocrisy.” I found my “mind” full of thoughts. The main point is that consulting savants are booking engagements and billing for educational sessions which teach employees how to be mindful. (No, I don’t know what that means, and, to be frank, I am not particularly interested in the snake oil coated academic guruish explanations.

The essay contains an interesting sentence:

Corporate mindfulness is a poor substitute for organizational change. By reframing structural and systemic problems as an individual-level pathology, by putting the onus of responsibility all on individuals – telling them, “Just do this mindfulness practice” –is akin  to victim-blaming.

The bound phrase which I noted is “organizational change.”

Why on earth would a Silicon Valley company making money, keeping the funding sources at bay, and employees working from home want substantive change.

The purpose of high school science club management methods is to institutionalize anti-adult behavior. Entitlement, money, and Clubhouse fame are goals. The other stuff like the well being of the lucky people who get paid to filter content that semi smart software cannot be trusted to block is not a big deal.

In my opinion, HSSCMM are the norm, and they seem to be working for some outfits. Change is hard. Let the employees learn how to channel their inner demons. The top dogs want to check out the new Porsches.

If you don’t get it, you don’t belong to the science club, and you probably won’t be noticed.

What’s the science club saying about the upcoming Congressional hearings in late October? Scary, right?

Stephen E Arnold, October 23, 2020

Gartner Predictions: Fresh from the Patisserie

October 20, 2020

I spotted “Gartner Reveals the Top Strategic Tech Trends for 2021.” The write up is an information croquembouche. Here’s what Wikipedia offers as a typical confection whipped up by trained chefs:

image

This is a croquembouche. A tower of sugar-filled balls, filled with custard. Caramel enlivens the gourmet experience.

What are those delicate balls of goodness? Maybe empty calories or evidence of the wisdom for the saying, “A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips?” The write up states without one reference to a poire à la Beaujolaise or tasty teurgoule. I had to content myself with the jargon and buzzword equivalent of pièce montée.

Here are some examples. Please, consult the original article or the menu available directly from Gartner for the complete list:

  • Artificial intelligence engineering, perfect for those who have mastered plain old AI
  • Anywhere operations, the bane of real estate professionals with empty buildings and clients who are missing their lease payments. Just WFH and do “operations” from one’s bedroom.
  • Cybersecurity mesh. I have zero idea what this means, but there will be reports, speeches at WFH conferences, and maybe a podcast or two from the merry band of brownie makers.
  • The IoB or Internet of Behaviors. Yep, that’s where the Rona makes its entrance. Remarkable.

To wrap up, what’s in a croquembouche, a cream puff tower. For starters one needs:

  • 30 eggs (raised by a mid tier farmer in New Jersey)
  • 4 sticks of butter (from cows who produce milk while consultants’ sales pitches are played in the barn)
  • 5 cups of sugar. So far no government health warnings are required.

Perfect those cream puff towers of knowledge and deep thoughts. Who wants seconds?

Stephen E Arnold, October 20, 2020

Gartner: Sweetening Its Data Confections

October 19, 2020

The dead tree edition of the Wall Street Journal (October 19, 2020) ran an interesting story. The ingredients made my mouth water. My interest in technology activated like yeast as well. Imagine the implements a confectioner requires: A spreader, piping nozzles, melt drippers, cookie cutters (templates), and sugar, spice, and everything nice.

The title of the write up is “Reboot. Career Reinvention: A Cordon Bleu Trained Pastry Chef Ditched Desserts to Become a Data Analyst at a Global Advisory Firm.” (Note: This Hyperglycemic write up is locked in the cupboard, and one without a subscription must pay.) What was the name of the “global advisor firm”? Answer: Gartner Group, the chefs behind the hype cycle!

The write up states:

But after more than five years in the kitchen, he [Chris Pariso, the cordon bleu pâtissier] realized he wanted to do more with my life than bake cookies and brownies all day long.

Gartner’s human people people spotted the talented brownie expert and slotted him into “assessing cyber security risks” or “digging into concerns of possible fraud or internal waste” or developing “modes to forecast the company’s expansion.”

Gartner is apparently a stressful employer. The write up notes:

Habits he learned as a chef, such as working calmly under stressful, time-sensitive situations are useful in his job… Experience in open kitchens has given me some great inter personal skills.

And those Gartner reports: Sweeter than ever. Empty calories? Absolutely not. Sugar frosted? Hmm. Good question.

If you are working in food service, consider Gartner, a global advisory firm.

Stephen E Arnold, October 19, 2020

Journalists Do More Than Report: The Covid Determination

October 17, 2020

One of the DarkCyber research team alerted me to “Facebook Greatest Source of Covid-19 Disinformation, Journalists Say.” That’s the factoid, according to the “real” journalists at a British newspaper.

The main point of the write up may be an interesting way to send this message, “Hey, we are not to blame for erroneous Rona info.” I hear the message.

The write up states:

The majority of journalists covering the pandemic say Facebook is the biggest spreader of disinformation, outstripping elected officials who are also a top source, according to an international survey of journalism and Covid-19.

The survey prompted another Guardian article in August 2020.

Let’s assume Facebook and the other social media high pressure data hoses are responsible for bad, weaponized, or just incorrect Rona info. Furthermore, let’s accept these assertions:

Journalism is one of the worst affected industries during the pandemic as hundreds of jobs have been lost and outlets closed in Australia alone. Ninety per cent of journalists surveyed said their media company had implemented austerity measures including job losses, salary cuts and outlet closures.

The impression the write up creates in the malleable Play-doh of my mind is that journalists are no longer reporting the news. “Real” journalists are making the news, and it is about time!

The sample probably reflects the respondents reaction to the questions on the survey, which remain unknown to me. The survey itself may have been structured as a dark pattern. What better way to explain that bad things are happening to “real” journalists.

What’s interesting is that “real” journalists know that Facebook and other social media systems are bad.

One question, “How long has it taken “real” journalists to figure out the harsh realities of digital streams of users unfettered by internal or external constraints.

Maybe the news is: “It is too late.” Maybe the working hypothesis is that “better late than never”?

Stephen E Arnold, October 17, 2020

Work from Home: Stating the Obvious and a Newish Word

October 12, 2020

I read “Organizations Have Accrued Technical Debt in the Shift to Remote Work, and Now They Have to Face the Fallout.” Three facets of the article snagged my attention. The first was this observation attributed to a Security Awareness Advocate at KnowBe4, a information services firm:

“Many organizations have accrued a lot of technical debt, for lack of a better term, to get people working remotely,” said Malik. “They’ve enabled remote access to servers that they traditionally would never have given access to, or they might have relaxed some security rules. I heard of an organization that actually dropped 2FA to allow all of their employees to easily connect into the office, because they didn’t have enough resources to deploy 2FA to everyone, or train them up, or to deal with the number of tickets that would inevitably come in.

Okay, the obvious has been stated.

Second, the use of the phrase “technical debt” indicates that services firms want to make clear that taking one set of technologies and applying them to remote work has risks.

No kidding. News? Hardly. Reports from assorted cyber security companies have been pointing out that phishing has become a go-to mechanism for some time. A useful report is available from Interpol.

The third facet of the article was the use of the portmanteau “websem.” The coinage appears to be a combination of the word “webinar”, itself a modification of “seminar, and the now ubiquitous term “Web.”

Observations:

  1. Recycling Interpol data does not constitute an insight worthy of a consulting gig
  2. Whipping up jargon adds some froth to the Reddiwip analysis

Why not cite sources and use words WFH’ers will understand; for example, Zoom-eeting. Mammals braying, excitement, and snacks with toppings? The fallout? Plump targets for phishers.

Stephen E Arnold, October 12, 2020

After Decades of the Online Revolution: The Real Revolution Is Explained

October 9, 2020

Years ago I worked at a fancy, blue chip consulting firm. One of the keys to success in generating the verbiage needed to reassure clients was reading the Economist. The publication, positioned as a newspaper, sure looked like a magazine. I wondered about that marketing angle, and I was usually puzzled by the “insights” about a range of topics. Then an idea struck me: The magazine was a summarizer of data and verbiage for those in the “knowledge” business. I worked through the write ups, tried to recall the mellifluous turns of phrase, and stuff my “Data to Recycle” folder with clips from the publication.

I read “Faith in Government Declines When Mobile Internet Arrives: A New Study Finds That Incumbent Parties Lose Votes after Their Citizens Get Online.” [A paywall or an institutional subscription may be required to read about this obvious “insight.”] Readers of the esteemed publication will be launching Keynote or its equivalent and generating slide decks. These are often slide decks which will remain unfindable by an organization’s enterprise search system or in ineffectual online search systems. That may not be a bad thing.

The “new study” remains deliciously vague: No statistical niceties like who, when, how, etc. Just data and a killer insight:

A central (and disconcerting) implication is that governments that censor offline media could maintain public trust better if they restricted the internet too. But effective digital censorship requires technical expertise that many regimes lack.

The statements raise some interesting questions for experts to explain; for example, “Dictatorships may restore faith in governments.” That’s a topic for a Zoom meeting among one percenters.

Several observations seem to beg for dot pointing:

  1. The “online revolution” began about 50 years ago with a NASA program. What was the impact of those sluggy and buggy online systems like SDC’s? The answer is that information gatekeepers were eviscerated, slowly at first and then hasta la vista.
  2. Gatekeepers provided useful functions. One of these was filtering information and providing some aggregation functions. The recipient of information from the early-days online information systems was some speed up in information access but not enough to eliminate the need for old fashioned research and analysis. Real time is, by definition, not friendly to gatekeepers.
  3. With the development of commercial online infrastructure and commercial providers, the hunger or addiction to ever quicker online systems was evident. The “need for speed” seemed to be hard wired into those who worked in knowledge businesses. At least one online vendor reduces the past to a pattern and then looks at the “now” data to trigger conclusions. So much for time consuming deliberation of verifiable information.

The article cited above has discovered downstream consequences of behaviors (social and economic) which have been part of the online experience for many years.

The secondary consequences of online extend far beyond the mobile devices. TikTok exists for a reason, and that service may be one of the better examples of “knowledge work” today.

One more question: How can institutions, old fashioned knowledge, and prudent decision making survive in today’s datasphere? With Elon Musk’s implants, who will need a mobile phone?

Perhaps the next Economist write up will document that change, hopefully in a more timely manner.

Stephen E Arnold, October 9, 2020

Cyber Threat Intelligence Report

September 24, 2020

DarkCyber finds cyber-centric research interesting. We spotted a new report, current through June 30, 2020. The report costs about $1,600. The publisher / creator identifies 62 vendors, includes contact information, and details about each firm. For the $1,600, the information hungry buyer receives a 34 page report and — hang on to your hats — an Excel spreadsheet. One enthusiastic reviewer reports that vendors included in the report are:

Anomali
DarkOwl
Intsights
LookingGlass Cyber Solutions
Recorded Future acquired by Insight Partners in 2019
Sixgill (named after a type of fish)
SpyCloud
ZeroFOX

Factoids from the report include:

Funded companies had healthy growth despite the headwinds; for example, Sixgill almost doubled in size.

Headcount among the sample grew at an astounding three percent.

And revenue across the 62 companies, more than $500 million by December 31, 2020.

Want more information? Navigate to IT Harvest.

One minor point, DarkCyber could not rely on the firm’s blog posts through September 21, 2020. Here’s what was available in that service:

image

Yep, nothing. What’s that say about the firm’s attention to detail?

Stephen E Arnold, September 24, 2020

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