Friday, March 13, 2015

Transparency and Leaks the Fayre of Today and Tomorrow


Corporate Affairs Managers are in it up to their neck.  

Transparency issues and leaks from the organisation how companies are now as porous as a sieve.  Its a PR Nightmare in the making for you all.

Ever more digital intelligence adding two and two on a big data scale is now swaying corporate stakeholders once so benign and now so demanding. Daniel Newman in Forbes says "Social and PR are integrated, and so are search and content–we can’t and shouldn't think of one without the other." I take that many stages further.

 To add to such ills are corporate directors and senior managers caught wrong footed by the nature of digital impact on their area of expertise and responsibility. Many are not armed with the intellectual tools to rationalise the current and future extent of  change and rate of exchange.

 Perhaps this is the most significant issue for corporate management and then there are the functional aspects. Here I offer insights into all these aspects of current corporate evolution.

 It has to be said right up front: ‘If you are not being affected and  challenged by digital influence take the pension while you can.’

I will also add that the PR industry has to consider the wider ethical issues. What if your organisation's product could be sentient. Would that be a 'good thing' and deserving the vote at the Board meeting?

If you were a car manufacturer these issues are relevant today. "An autonomous car will have to decide between crashing into the person crossing the road with a pram, surely killing the person and the baby but probably not the occupant of the car, or into a wall, surely killing the occupant of the car. These are not easy decisions to make and require ethics to make well," says Professor Toby Walsh.

 Senior managers have always needed to be able to spot the key events of the day from a forest of briefing documentation. This has not changed. What has changed is the extent to which employees at every level are now challenged by the extent of rich and relevant information that is becoming available in rich abundance. They too now use many systems for keeping competently,  if not over informed. The availability of devices that can bring them insights from the office work-station to home PC, tablet, mobile phone and a growing range of public and personal devices offering information.

 These devices attached to capabilities that extract new inferences by processing divers data sets, is, as we shall see,  now becoming common place. Then there is the network structure of digital relationships that include the many interests of many, now connected individuals acting on the data. This is now a multi-dimensional soup of dynamic relationship values and other data values. Many of these values are shared between employers, employees and clients as well as a wide range of other value holders. For many these values are very real assets. No wonder there is a  level of bewilderment among senior managers. 

 Once, the organization had both physical walls and  limited, often local community, exposure through employees. No longer. The nature of sub contracting across all areas of activity is a common reality, furthermore, the information value/asset intersection requires some considerable mental gymnastics to comprehend.

 It is only the naive who pretend that it is possible for an employee to  lock the office door and leave it all behind.

 Much of the information about organisations is made available as part of corporate and government ‘transparency’ activity.

 Each of such actions often seem quite benign. However, they bring great benefits and significant threats as the transparency action of one organisation is combined with the transparency action of another. 

 Forbes.com already uses an artificial intelligence provided by Narrative Science Inc to generate automated news from a range of live public data sets and content harvested from previous articles. What makes it possible is that business news content tends to be formulaic and data-heavy, listing places, stocks and company names. The LA Times, meanwhile, uses robots to report on earthquakes: the organisation relies on an algorithm that pulls in data on magnitude, place and time from a US Geological Survey site and matches it with information from ‘The Cloud’. Studies show that ‘automated journalism’ is quite acceptable in tests with readers.

How soon then will it be before organisations also generate ‘news’ automatically. Such content might be available to employees, local communities, the political audiences or vendors etc as part of a plan to create a corporate information cloud.

There are some people with less exciting views. Microsoft's Eric Horvitz, who recently predicted humanity would never lose control of AI contradicting Stephen Hawking, told Fairfax Media Hollywood has given many people an inflated idea of how close we are to developing a truly sentient system.