Fast Track Your Data: An IBM Machine Learning Event Recap

I had the pleasure and privilege to attend IBM’s Machine Learning event, Fast Track Your Data, recently in Munich, Germany. While the event covered a number of topics including hybrid cloud data management, governance, and machine learning, a couple items stand out for marketers and communicators to pay attention to.

Simplifying Data Science

Data science, largely the provenance of highly trained specialists and subject matter experts, continues to see demand accelerate for its output: better, faster insights. The reality is that the number of well-trained, experienced data scientists in the world is relatively static. Though universities are cranking out new graduates in data science at a record pace, many of these newly-minted people lack the business experience and domain expertise that companies need to achieve results in a timely manner.

How do companies remediate the demand for answers from data science without sufficient numbers of data scientists? One of the solutions is to make data science more friendly for business users. At Fast Track Your Data, one of the demonstrations showed how the IBM Data Science Experience (DSX, now available in the EU) offers data science capabilities such as automatic clustering and classification to business users without them necessarily needing to know how to write code.

The average business user, for example, probably doesn’t know the difference between K-means clustering, logistic regression, and random forests. However, their data may call for one of these techniques. DSX will help business users choose the right model and process their data to create analysis and insights faster.

GDPR Deep Dive

As we wrote about recently, GDPR is a big deal for businesses around the planet. Compliance with the law, which impacts anyone processing the data or EU citizens or offering goods and services to EU citizens (and yes, downloads behind a registration wall count as offering goods as services), is mandatory. I had the opportunity to sit down with John Bowman, Senior Principal at Promontory Financial Group (an IBM company), who was the lead negotiator for the UK in the formation of GDPR.

I asked John pointed questions about how the law applies to businesses outside the EU and the reality is that if a business processes the data of an EU citizen within the EU, or offers goods and services to EU citizens regardless of location, it is subject to GDPR. For marketers and advertisers, there are two additional key points to GDPR that we will need to adopt if we do business in any way with residents of the EU:

  • We will likely need to undergo audits of our data to prove that we have obtained lawful, scoped consent for data. Scoped consent means that if we obtain an email address and permission to send a newsletter to an individual, we will need to obtain separate consent if we want to send them promotional materials or use their email address for retargeting, because those are different scopes of use for their personal data.
  • We will need to be prepared to implement “Right to be Forgotten” for any EU citizen who requests that their data be deleted. This also includes any third party vendors we work with; if we use consumer data for advertising, we will need to relay Right to be Forgotten requests to our advertising partners to also remove the data from their systems, and be able to prove that they have complied with the law.

To ensure we are compliant, most companies will need to engage the services of GDPR specialists, legal counsel, and other professionals. IBM, of course, offers auditing services through its Watson GRC platform.

Part of the reason for the severity of GDPR is that companies have done a generally poor job of securing their systems, and an especially poor job of communicating data breaches to the public in a timely manner. GDPR forces the hand of corporate communications teams, at least in companies that process European data, by requiring disclosure of data breaches and other privacy infringements within 72 hours of the breach occurring. As such, communicators should be prepared to update their comms plans to reflect the new, faster nature of revealing bad news – burying the press release until a slow point in the news cycle won’t be permitted any longer.

Be Ready for Change

GDPR and data science for business users represent only two of many changes ahead for marketers, communicators, and businesses. If we put our heads in the sand and wish these things away, we set ourselves up for disaster. If, however, we take an early lead by adopting new technologies and new methodologies, we may ensure our relevance, if not dominance, in our respective industries for years to come.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

Disclosure: IBM paid for me to attend Fast Track Your Data. No other forms of compensation were provided, nor were I or SHIFT Communications compensated to provide a review of the event.


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