When someone comes up to a business person and starts talking about data, the conversation usually slides one of two ways. Firstly, in terms of the IT support your organisation has and how effectively it operates and lets you get on with what you are doing or, in the alternate, it falls to the information that you use to generate business and sales, commonly referred to as your ‘database’.
However, these days it is, in reality, every piece of information about your business and anyone or anything related to it; and more importantly it is something that must be given great consideration by business owners and society alike. This is because it will be how we, as a society, deal with this ‘data’ in the future that will have a lot to do with what that future will look like, and how we will cope with it.
In a recent article on ‘Open Data’ Denton’s (solicitors) were commenting on the recent release of the Productivity Commissioner’s “report on Data Availability and Use, which recommends reforms to improve access to, and use of, data in Australia…”. The focus of their article was the banking sector, but the concept of greater access to data is becoming increasingly the flavour of the month. Those younger than I appear to have an almost insatiable desire to make everything about their own life as public as possible! Thus they show no concern for open data. What was also of interest was a recent comment by one of the senior members of one of the American security agencies about a leak that had clearly come from inside, where his biggest issue was that he questioned the individual’s view of transparency. Clearly the Staffer’s view was “transparency – fully visible to all” thus leaking the data was in their mind appropriate. The implied view of the Leader was that transparency meant society could see what had been considered appropriate for them to see, certainly not less, but equally not more.
On a side note it will be interesting to see if it will be easy for Liquidators and Trustees to get information because I can assure you that at present it is very easy to block, deny and/or delay access as desired! Particularly if you are willing to invest money in lawyers.
It is not my intention to deal with what should or should not be seen, but rather how we must now start to understand what the future will look like so that we, as human beings, may develop behaviours and practices that will accommodate this new order.
In a recent conversation with a friend in the trucking industry, I was enlightened to the ‘data’ that is accessible by regulators from the individual trucks data management system. Engine data, fuel usage, gear usage, speed, lengths of stops, and much more, thus someone trying to bodge a manual log book will be quite easily caught out. One step further would be to add a GPS to the package then, after finishing your trip, you could pull into the local regulator and be issued with all the fines or notices resulting from every error you made on the trip! In fact if you take that one step further, put a data link into the package, connect it to the regulator and you can receive your speeding ticket by email whilst you’re still in the act of speeding!
With properly designed algorithms someone with an appropriate programme will be able to connect to your ‘data’, trawl it to identify the areas of concern, query them on the spot and then react. Suddenly you can be put on the spot to explain away, potentially without time to prepare, those frailties of being human, that is making mistakes. What’s worse though, is that depending on the system you could quickly face penalties for nothing more than being human, something that in our past had never been exposed to such unbelievable levels of scrutiny.
With the continuing focus on accountability and revenue collection at all levels the accounting ‘data’ in your business will become a prime target. With a programme’s ability to trawl through a year’s transactions in minutes and provide potentially pages of anomalies on the spot then business owners will find themselves in a very different environment to that in which they grew up.
The biggest issue with such systems of course is how it is controlled and most importantly is it applied fairly, equally and to all! There is always someone arguing that either it does not apply to them or in the alternate that they are outside the system.
The real issue at the end of the day though is how we as mere mortals will accept and come to grips with that level of control. The time to look to the future is now!