• Benjamin Levy

Here be Dragons

Updated: Sep 23, 2019

It should come at no surprise to anyone that maps show more detail where the map maker has had more data and less so where data is missing. This is as true of start-up roadmaps as it is of centuries-old maps. The difference is that modern business people usually try to hide their ignorance and fill in the unknown parts of their maps with assumptions while the cartographers of old were a little more forthcoming. Look at very old maps, in them the places of the truly unknown were labeled with three words intended to dissuade even the bold from going there.

Hic Sunt Dracones

Here be Dragons
Stay Away

As you would expect the dragon-infested regions used to be located towards the edges of the map, far away from the well-known and inhabited regions. In a way entrepreneurs of old had an advantage over us today; they at least knew what they didn’t know. I bring this up because in the arena of business-to-business innovation there are no more green fields and blue-oceans (or whatever new color metaphor we’re using this week). Sure, we can come up with wonderful new tools, but those tools have to fit and work in an increasingly complex environment with interfaces and regulations that are ignored at one’s own peril.

Case in point:

Last week I had a long chat with someone in the business of secure file transfers and storage that brought into sharp relief just how complex the process of innovation has become in the past few years. I hear you thinking: “File transfers? Sharing? Please, there’s Google Drive for that, or Dropbox, or Box, or half a dozen others. Where’s the innovation in this?” To that I simply say, bear with me, this one’s worth it. I spoke with Marc Schieder, CIO and Managing Director for technical strategy of Dracoon, someone that knows more about this area than you’d ever care to learn.

The biggest challenge in this market is that most of the dangerous places are not clearly marked on the map as the playing ground of dragons. In terms of the storage, transfer, and sharing of documents in the business world the real problem is that the dracones might be lurking right under your feet. There are literally hundreds of regulations and practices that make up the modern data sharing regime (all of them are important, most of them not well-known) and any one of them might prove seriously expensive if overlooked.

Let’s say one of your employees is negotiating a contract with a technical supplier and takes a picture of one of the diagrams of the system under discussion. That picture is then shared with others within the company. Some time later that same employee erases the picture on their phone because they need the memory space; what should happen to the shared document? Well, in most European jurisdictions that photo should be stored for fifteen years regardless of what they employee did on their phone. Were you aware of that? I wasn’t.

Or let’s say that you run some sort of an exchange. Contracts are signed and executed every day, maybe hundreds of times a day. One fine day, one of the traders leaves the exchange and under GPRS regulations demands “to be forgotten.” Now what do you do? On the one hand they have a right to be forgotten, on the other you need to keep records for fifteen years. There’s an answer to that, but even if you know what it is would you know how to execute it? And let’s say you do know how to execute it, how many people would have to work on it for how many hours?

Scared of the dragons yet? Here’s the kicker, take these two examples and add two hundred other, different cases. Now multiply that by a hundred employees, or a thousand, or five-thousand. You see where I’m going with this don’t you? Very soon what you thought was well-known and safe ground becomes terra incognita harboring any number of a nasty fire-breathing lizards underneath.

But wait, there’s more.

Let’s set regulations aside for a second and think about ransomware. At least one-quarter of a million computers have been affected by the WannaCry infection alone over the last twelve months, and that’s a conservative number. Typically, businesses do most of their file-sharing over email and if your business is still sharing files as email attachments you are practically begging to be the target of a ransomware attack, you really are. Now, wouldn’t it be nice if your document sharing and storage service knew how to defend itself—and you—from ransomware? It’d be like having your very own dragon-slayer along for the ride when you sail towards the edges of the map wouldn’t it?

You don’t know what you don’t know and what you don’t know can kill you, or more precisely, what you don’t know can kill your innovation drive. If your company has to dedicate time and resources to dealing with this mess those are resources will not be going to creating something new of value. You need someone that knows what you need better than you do and will take care of the slaying of dragons for you, as it were. It is, I think, as good an example of customer intimacy as I’ve seen in a good long while.


Kivati Innovation Strategy

The Nootka Nation of Puget Sound in what is today the American Northwest had a highly specialized mythology with deities, heroes, and gods for all purposes.

Kivati Innovation takes its name from the "cheerfully optimistic god of Transformation and Improvement."

We help companies transform themselves into more innovative and profitable organizations.

To learn more, drop me a line:

benjamin (at) kivati (dot) net.

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