Hiccups Along the Data Highway?
There is also a dark side to the promise that connectivity and data analytics represents, noted several roundtable participants, who pointed out several potential roadblocks. Cybersecurity
factored prominently among the concerns these CEOs expressed.
“Larger corporations are very sophisticated about how they secure their networks, but as you look down the size spectrum at companies deploying technology to try to transform business processes, some of them do not have the [proper] security,” says Dan McCarthy, CEO of Frontier Communications. “Cyber attacks are an everyday event, so when people are not careful about what they deploy, it leaves them very vulnerable to the extraction of IP and other horrible things. There are plenty of access systems that can be hacked, as well as a lot of unprotected devices.”
Privacy issues and data ownership represent related, but separate issues, noted Tom Rogers, CEO of TiVo. “All individuals and all businesses are sitting on a vast amount of data and information, some of which is mined and analyzed but much of which is not,” he pointed out. “As granular data becomes more and more valuable, the issue of privacy and who owns it will become huge.
You have a dynamic of a younger generation with very little concern about the data they throw out there and a business world that is driven more and more by the value of data.”
Finally, several CEOs expressed doubts about whether America’s workforce has the necessary skill sets for an increasingly technological world and about how a technologically focused future will impact employment.
Ethan Allen’s Farooq Kathwari suggested that all CEOs should be considering the social issues of our increasingly high-tech business world. “This is all great for the kids coming out of MIT and schools like it, but what about the rest of the people?” he asked. “What kind of social problems will this create?”
Ultimately, it will fall to businesses and the CEOs who lead them to address some of these issues, noted Walker. “We’re clearly going to have to reinvent what it means to have a job in the good sense of the word,” he said. “People will look to business people and say, ‘Okay, you’re the leaders. We’re willing to work; tell us where the jobs will be.’ And the answer can’t be, you’re all going to become software engineers. We’re going to have to answer that question because no one is going to figure it out for us.”