Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Tale of Two Bobs

This is the tale of two Bobs. One Bob—let’s call him Robert, works for a large financial services company as a senior IT executive. The other Bob, let’s call him Bobby, is a super quick, super smart, super happening twenty-something having graduated from that amazing university around the corner with a tree as its mascot. He went from Palo Alto to somewhere between San Francisco and pathetically wealthy, way too early. 

Robert has had a different career trajectory. Twenty six years, three months, six days, fourteen hours and thirty three minutes at the same company slogging it out through the ranks. Boom, his slightly above average pay check comes every two weeks whether he needs it or not. He evaluates, he tests, he researches, he does an ROI, he purchases, he implements, all in the hopes that the technology he just bet his reputation on will help make his company “faster, better and cheaper.” 

Robert set in New York. Bobby flitting to and fro, somewhere south of San Francisco.  Their worlds seemingly, well, worlds apart. Yet they collide.

The article in the October 22, 2013 Wall Street Journal read, “Request by CFTC has Deutsche Bank, Citibank, and Others Sifting Through Trader’s Emails, Chats.”  So what’s the big whoop -- a bunch of financial services companies have to produce some business records to a regulator. And by the way, why does that have anything to do with Bobby?   You read on, “Deutsch Bank, the world’s largest foreign-exchange dealing bank… is spending millions of dollars scouring traders’ emails, and chat sessions…” This is the deal-- there are many Bobby-types that each and every day work of developing new technologies for whomever will buy them.  Then someone working at Big Company brings some new technology into the enterprise. While some companies preempt such conduct, many others leave the door wide open.  And when there is nothing to prohibit the introduction of technology “from the street”, new technologies made by the Bobbies of the world find their way into your business.  What the Roberts of the word forget about is that, for each new technology that Bobby makes, there will be some informational output.  Increasingly, there are mountains of informational output that make Robert’s job increasingly more challenging in several kinds of ways. More information, in more places, that doesn’t lend itself to easy management. And when Bobby builds, he usually is not thinking about how the new technology will be used by a financial services company with very stringent records keeping requirements. As the Wall Street Journal article makes clear that new casual information output may be a company record that needs to be retained and possibly produced to a regulator down the road. Unearthing information is invasive, complex and costly.

Over the years, not surprisingly, the laws have reacted to the technology marketplace.  Over the years the financial services regulators have been dealing with the creations of the Bobby’s of the world. Regulations and laws have already popped onto the legal landscape to deal with legality of storing electronic information on computers, retention of email, chat technologies and social media. There are rulings on just about every new communication technology being used in the financial industry and if not it will be coming in one form or another.

Which brings me to my real point.

1.  Companies are failing at information management and can’t discern records requiring retention and information that can be disposed. That needs to change.

2. Companies are not proactive enough when allowing or implementing new technologies—companies need policy first that tells employees what to do and technology needs to be utilized that manages the lifecycle no matter how long or short.

3.  Just because Bobby makes cool technology, unless there is a legitimate and documented business reason to allow technology, the technology shouldn't be allowed. Only after the business case has been satisfied, then the company needs to understand what their obligations with that new information chunk is and manage it accordingly.