38 episodes

A weekly podcast with stories and pragmatic advice for CIOs and other IT leaders.

Beneficial Intelligence Sten Vesterli

    • Technology

A weekly podcast with stories and pragmatic advice for CIOs and other IT leaders.

    Gaming the Metrics

    Gaming the Metrics

    In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss gaming the metrics. We measure things to be able to manage them. But when we start using metrics to reward individual employees and teams, people will start gaming them. Newton's third law for business says that for every system the organization implements, the employees will implement an equal and opposite workaround that negates the system.  
    Amazon is managing a huge workforce of delivery drivers. To ensure they drive safely, they require drivers to be logged in to a mobile phone app. The app uses the accelerometer to measure acceleration, braking, and other parameters and gives each driver a score. But because Amazon is also ruthlessly pushing their small subcontractors to deliver a lot of packages very quickly, the delivery companies have started instructing their drivers to game the metrics. Drivers say they are instructed to drive very carefully for the first two hours each day to achieve a good score. After that, they are also instructed to put their phones into airplane mode and drive like the devil for the rest of their 10-hour shift to achieve the number of deliveries required. 
    Andy Grove, who used to be the CEO of Intel back when they were successful, was known for understanding productivity. He formulated the rule that for every metric, there should be another ‘paired’ metric that addresses the adverse consequences of the first.  
    As an IT leader, getting your measurements right is one of the most important parts of managing your IT organization. If your metrics are used in any to praise or blame individuals and groups, you can be sure people will try to optimize for them. If you are not carefully establishing paired metrics, you can be sure your metrics are being gamed.

    Beneficial Intelligence is a weekly podcast with stories and pragmatic advice for CIOs, CTOs, and other IT leaders. To get in touch, please contact me at sten@vesterli.com

    • 10 min
    Accidental Publication

    Accidental Publication

    In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss accidental publication. There are two ways organizations lose data: Through break-ins and through carelessness.  It is hard to protect your systems against determined hackers, but it should not be hard to protect yourself against carelessness. Strangely, this is just as big a source of data leaks as determined hacker attacks. 
    Some accidental losses are the result of individual failures to follow procedures. The British MI6 is famous for losing classified laptops in taxis and having them stolen from unattended cars. In Denmark, the health authorities produced two unencrypted CD-ROMs with data on every Danish citizen and their illnesses. They were accidentally sent to the Chinese embassy instead of the national statistics authority. 
    Other losses happen because organizations are accidentally publishing data to the entire world. By now, every tech journalist who sees a ?id=48375 in a web address will try to change the number to something else. That's how the State of California accidentally published information about all donations Californians made to NGOs and political organizations. 
    Another way is through badly secured APIs. A 19-year old college student shopping for student loans found he could check whether he qualified for a loan by simply entering his name, address, and date of birth. Looking at the web page source, he quickly discovered that the website was calling an unsecured API at credit scoring company Experian. 
    As a CIO or CTO, you can no longer allow the security strategy of your IT organization to depend on a lack of IT skills in the general public. Are you sure every system your organization rolls out has been subject to a security review? If not, you might be the next organization to find that you have accidentally published confidential data.

    Beneficial Intelligence is a weekly podcast with stories and pragmatic advice for CIOs, CTOs, and other IT leaders. To get in touch, please contact me at sten@vesterli.com

    • 7 min
    Irrational Optimism

    Irrational Optimism

    In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss irrational optimism. IT people are too optimistic. It is a natural consequence of our ability to build something from nothing. Our creations are not subject to gravity or other laws of physics. A...

    • 8 min
    Risk Aversion

    Risk Aversion

    In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss risk aversion. The U.S. has stopped distributing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It has been given to more than 7 million people, and there have been six reported cases of blood clotting. Here in...

    • 5 min
    Biased Data

    Biased Data

    In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss biased data. Machine Learning depends on large data sets, and unless you take care, ML algorithms will perpetuate any bias in the data it learns from.  The famous ImageNet database contains 14...

    • 7 min
    Price transparency

    Price transparency

    In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss price transparency. In the U.S., a coronavirus test can cost $56 if you pay yourself, but $450 if your health insurance pays it. This lack of price transparency makes the U.S. healthcare system the...

    • 7 min

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