Who is watching you?

Last week I was interviewed on Australian national breakfast television, on Channel Nine’s Today program, on the rise of public surveillance cameras. In the wake of the London bombings, Australian cities – and many others worldwide – are rushing to install video cameras everywhere. On the program I was interviewed together with the Lord Mayor of Perth, the Australian city which has the most public video cameras. These are subtle issues to address in a popular television format, yet ones that everyone should be engaged with. I am not against having some public video cameras in some circumstances. However it is a knee-jerk reaction to decide suddenly that more video cameras must be better. A rapid rise in video camera installation, together with more sophisticated monitoring and recognition technology, could well mean it is not long before every individual’s movements can be tracked, while recording everyone they interact with in a public space. What value do we place on anonymity? What are we prepared to give up for greater security, and to what degree does this scrutiny actually protect us, particularly against suicide bombers? The world 20 years hence will be vastly different from today. What our governments do today will shape that world, as loss of privacy is almost always a ratchet, not something you can regain. As in many other debates of today, many are taking a black-and-white stance on a subtle issue. However, today, the primary danger is that ill-considered actions lead us swiftly into a world where continual surveillance of our every move is accepted as normal and inevitable.

Book Now Launched!

The second edition of Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships is now out, with the Global Book Launch in New York in late June a big success, despite storms that evening. It will still take another couple of weeks before it’s in bookshops outside the US, but it’s available from online booksellers. Two free chapters are available from the book website. Chapter 1 provides the high-level treatment of the idea of knowledge-based relationships, and the critical new theme in the book of professional services leadership. Chapter 6 is entirely new to this edition, covering how to develop and implement key client programs. Further book launch events or workshops are scheduled or in planning in Sydney, London, Hong Kong, San Francisco and various other US cities in the fall – see my global schedule for details as these are finalized. Please let me know if you have any thoughts or feedback on the book, and in particular further examples of leading practice in the field – I’m very interested to hear from you.


Review of Collaboration in Financial Services Europe

A few weeks ago now I chaired the Collaboration in Financial Services Europe conference in London. The White Paper on How Collaborative Technologies are Transforming Financial Services is now available from my website. If you’re interested in the topic, the review of the original Collaboration in Financial Services conference in New York last September is also worth a look. Both in moving on nine months from the New York conference, and crossing the Atlantic, the shift in themes was striking. It was a great day, exploring in detail many of the fundamental issues the financial services industry faces in an economy increasingly centered on collaboration. The key sponsor of the Europe conference, Reuters, has played a significant role in the development of instant messaging in financial services since David Gurle left Microsoft to spearhead the company’s collaboration initiatives. Reuters has established interoperability with all the three public IM vendors. Now, companies like Facetime, Aconix, and IMLogic have provided the wraparounds to make public IM secure and compliant. At this point we can say that IM is pretty much a robust corporate tool, though the space will certainly evolve considerably in the next year or two. One of the most interesting aspects of Reuters’ positioning is its emphasis on chat and building communities. It wants its major financial institution clients to use chat as a primary medium for knowledge-sharing, and to create spaces that link buy-side and sell-side, for example for conversations around research issued by the firms. Intelligent agents will identify posts that are of particular interest to individuals, so they don’t need to trawl through everything themselves. In addition, they want IM to become embedded in workflow, for example automating trading and integrating into STP (straight-through processing). Another domain that was explored in detail at the conference was insurance. I moderated a panel with Christoph Harwood of Kinnect and Alex Letts of RI3K. Both are essentially new-breed B2B exchange for the insurance industry – Kinnect was set up by Lloyds of London for commercial risk, while RI3K is in the reinsurance space. Their challenges and progress over the last few years are great case studies for similar initiatives that can bring great benefits to an industry, but require collaboration between many players. Clifford Chance also presented on an advanced in-house system that provides partners and staff with a portal view of activity and communication around a particular client or matter, which is just being rolled out. As far as I’m aware, the system is more sophisticated than any of the investment banks have implemented for sharing information on complex transactions.

Whether to outsource….

Every issue of Harvard Business Review includes a hypothetical case study, together with commentaries by leading practitioners on what they recommend in the situation. The case study in the July-August issue, written by Nitin Nohria, titled “Feed R&D – or Farm it Out?” is a very interesting examination of a company that is wondering whether to outsource part of its R&D to India. Issues raised include accessing best-of-breed and potential loss of intellectual property. Of the four very interesting commentaries, the most striking is written by Azim Premji, chairman of Wipro, one of India’s top three technology services companies. He is cautious on the merits of outsourcing in this case, spends most of his analysis on the internal dynamics of the company involved, how to support collaboration, and emphasizes the importance of providing strong contractual protection of IP.

Keep on Blogging!

It’s once again been a while since I’ve blogged. For me and many others, blogging is one of those “important but not urgent” activities that often seem to slip off the agenda in the face of more pressing concerns. I will soon be relaunching this blog to make it more accessible and useful, so my resolve to blog regularly is firming. I do come across many interesting ideas in the course of my travels, so I’ll endeavor to share more of these than I have been. To this end, I’ll experiment with sometimes making shorter postings, with more links and less commentary. Part of my problem is that as soon as I start writing about a topic, there are so many related issues I want to touch on that it soon risks becomes a full treatise, so daunting I never even get started. Perhaps if I contain my enthusiasm, I’ll end up communicating more…