Lowy Institute: Snowden, Wikileaks and the Future of Espionage

So I went to a talk at the Lowy Institute for lunch in the gap in my day between fiddling with spreadsheets and fiddling with powerpoint. It was a somewhat odd session in that it touched on many important matters but a lot of time was spent on the less important. The disagreement between Allan Behm (career civil servant says leaking = bad, always) and Andrew Fowler (career journalist says leaking = good, sometimes) was predictable and protracted. And it wasn’t entirely clear whether the session was about leaking and intelligence or Australia’s relationship with Indonesia (hence the presence of Greta Nabbs-Keller). But enough of that, what were the important things?

  1. Manning and Snowden were mega-leakers – in terms of the sheer volume of material that they took. Their mega-leakage through digital technology. A similar stunt in the 70s would have required a convoy of trucks (and Kris Kristofferson). This kind of leaking activity is rare, say one in 10 million per year. But when you have millions of people engaged in the US security services, that implies that this will happen every few years. And when it does happen, the digitised nature of intelligence material means that you are only a detachable hard drive away from terabytes of data going AWOL. Long tail, asymmetric threat, innit.
  2. Australia has yet to face a mega-leaker. Our intelligence embarrassments seem so much collateral damage rolling on from the US. Is this because our intelligence agents are more upright? Or scared? Or that our secrets are better protected? Or just that our military-industrial complex is so much smaller than the US? A “one in 10 million” chance for us may take a decade or 2 to play out.
  3. Mega-leakage is the unintended outcome of responses 9/11. The huge investment in intelligence gathering (or perhaps trawling is better descriptor) and the attempts to share information across silos mean there is more data to leak and more people with access to it.
  4. As far as I can see, most leaking to the press in Australia is undertaken by politicians and their staffers for political ends with very little fear of comeback.
  5. And while the fact that states routinely spy on each other was taken as given, the extent to which Australia’s own intelligence have been hopelessly comprised by its friends, enemies and frenemies didn’t get much airplay. Exactly how secure are our secrets?
  6. How good is most “intelligence” anyway? A very interesting topic that was grazed across during the discussion. Perhaps this quote from Daniel Ellsberg is one of the most astute on this topic.
  7. “Open sourcing” intelligence. Andrew Fowler took this to refer to journalists but it also applies to efforts such as the IARPA ACE programme. This presents a really interesting set of questions. What would opening up the gathering of intelligence look like? What would opening up certain data stores of state intelligence look like? What does disruption look like here?
  8. It was suggested that senior decision makers don’t really understand this “big data” malarky. Which is probably true. It’s generally treated as either nonsense or magic* by senior decision makers. However I remain unsure as to what to do about this.

*Unlike Games of Thrones – which is both nonsense AND magic.

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Information Management for Sales & Marketing

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Sales and marketing has a poor reputation among the general public. We encounter many salespeople in the course of our lives and not enough of them are excellent at their jobs. We also encounter the products of bad marketers, for example, advertising as interruption and products with no clear value to the user presented. However, this does not mean that sales and marketing are not valid activities to undertake. At their heart, the goals of good sales and marketing are admirable: to ensure that products and services meet a customer need and that potential customers understand how a product or service can meet their need. We only notice bad sales and marketing because it interrupts and annoys us. Good sales and marketing is rarely noticed and appreciated.

Information plays a critical role in good sales and marketing. Sales and marketing professionals do not always acknowledge this. Many are too busy selling or marketing to reflect on the resources that they draw on or the processes in which they engage. Information professionals do not necessarily have a sales or marketing background and so as outsiders may struggle to articulate the roles that they play in these processes.

This article highlights the role that information plays in sales and marketing and provides an overview of three key areas of information for this domain. It explains to information professionals some of the different archetypes that make up the sales and marketing world and the role that information plays in their lives. The final section discusses the role of information technology in sales and marketing – a role that for the last 20 years has been revolutionary.

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Knowledge Management in Professional Services – the song remains the same

Last week, I found myself at Knowledge Management in Professional Services.

Some comments:

  • There has been a lot of M&A activity in the legal and engineering consulting sectors. Since 2010, Norton Rose Fulbright has grown by M&A / JV from a set of largely national firms to an international network. SKM has been acquired by Jacobs and GHD has made a number of US acquisitions.
  • This M&A activity has led to more globalised firms. While the ‘official’ working language for these organisations remains English, they also have to cope with increasingly linguistic and cultural diversity among staff. In some respects, this is simply professional services following their clients – “following” implying they are both tracking them and also trailing them.
  • Global M&A also means integrating systems and processes and trying to forge common standards while being sensitive to local regulatory and client needs.
  • Operationalising and embedding KM activities so they are part of work rather than an optional extra remains an issue everywhere. This is not a new observation but it is an important one.
  • Getting sponsorship, aligning with business strategy, showing value, measurement are cropped up (as they always do at events like this).
  • Technology integration was also a common theme. Not just from M&A activity but trying to integrate CRM, social, document mgt, records mgt, email, etc to make life simpler rather than more complicated for staff.
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    Sydney Facilitators Network – Human Sound Project

    The Sydney Facilitators Network ran a session with the Human Sound Project (or Simon Jankelson). I have to say it was good. Bonkers but good.

    For a taste, please see (and hear) here:

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    Enterprise search

    This article provides an introduction to the issues around enterprise search for information professionals. It begins by outlining the differences between public search and enterprise search. It identifies the major players in the enterprise search market. It ends with recommendations for enterprise search implementation and some comments about the future of search.

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    Mobile everything

    This article provides an overview on recent developments in mobile computing. It begins by outlining current mobile usage trends in Australia and the range of mobile technologies currently on the market. It then discusses different options for information presentation via mobile devices, responsive web design and emerging user behaviours. The final section examines enterprise applications of mobile devices and ends with the key takeaways for information professionals wanting to use mobile devices as part of an information management strategy.

    Download here.

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    Big data for information managers

    This article explores the elements of Big Data such as the
    increasing production of machine readable data, tools for its
    storage and techniques for its analysis. The implications of Big
    Data for different sectors are discussed. The implications for
    information managers are approached from two angles: first,
    the emergence of new roles such as data librarian; secondly, the
    applications of Big Data capabilities to information management
    issues. It ends with six recommendations for readers.

    Download now.

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