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Archive for December 27, 2009

Book Review: “The New Data Imperative: Managing Real-Time Risk in Capital Markets” by Dr. Raj Nathan, Irfan Khan, & Sinan Baskan

Nude Sunbathing
Image by STML via Flickr

It seems that since the arrival of the Great Recession everyone has rushed a book out explaining why it happened and how to prevent it in the future.   The feeding frenzy includes folks from all sorts of backgrounds who barely know what Sarbanes-Oxley, a financial statement or a CobiT control is.  For many of these “experts,” the reasons for the recession are clearly not financial or regulatory or linked to Globalization, but deeply ingrained in our dysfunctional and narcissistic society and by nasty “capitalism,” which to many is as deadly a tormentor of society as the Black Plague was 700 years ago.   The damage caused by the recession is viewed as evidence that there is a need to educate the masses in new righteous ways to make money and  legislate new rules over corporate conduct.   The new Robin Hoods of course  are poised to make lots of money by selling new training programs, conducting seminars in Las Vegas and devising new green and “humane” ways to dismantle capitalism.

Although, writen by Sybase excecutives, The New Data Imperative by Dr. Raj Nathan, Irfan Khan and Sinan Baskan is not one of those new opportunistic books I am so disappointed to see in the book stores today.   This book is a breath of fresh air in that it does not overshoot its scope and intent.   Although, discussing the recession and using it as a backdrop, the book in its 115 pages manages to convey the what, how, when and why of the information infrastructure behind today’s globalized financial markets, and why changes to these are needed.  It does this in language that is understandable to non-technical business people (auditors, compliance, legal and financial management), who for the most part  are the ones who need to understand these things, so they can participate in future implementations and improvements to existing  systems.

In the next three to five years Risk Management will see an increase in the complexity of analysis,  the need for faster data acquisition, faster reporting and the integration of more diverse data sources from in-house and  from “the cloud.”   Not to mention a likely increase in Regulatory Compliance  mandates.  For these reasons, the way we approach the infrastructure that supports the  Risk Management function(s) needs to be  re-conceptualized.    “The New Data Imperative” provides a quick snapshot of how to achieve this.  The book looks at the state of current Risk Management “silos,”  their data feeds, analysis cycles, reporting structures and overall data infrastructure, explaining why these current systems fell short during the recent financial crisis and provides us with a well conceptualized picture of how to transition, often without major and costly changes, into the data environments needed for the new Risk Management processes now being proposed by regulators, the Big Four and some of the leading international financial standards organizations.

In addition to its clarity, in my opinion the book serves another important purpose.   That of attempting to educate “legacy” type IT managers who in many organizations today have “stale” skill sets and  are often ignorant of industry best practices  and trends.   As many an experienced IT auditor can confirm,  these managers are ill prepared for the future  and  can not visualize the infrastructure changes needed to implement and maintain the Enterprise Risk Management systems of the post Great Recession era.  Because these folks can not visualize the future, they tend to be serious obstacles to improving performance and strategically positioning IT investments for competitive advantage.    Although, high in authority because of seniority or organizational politics,  these folks have managed to carve out positions where they appear to provide value not by what they do, but by how they stop others from doing.   They are in a way the “Gate Keepers” against innovation and process improvements.    If by some miracle some of  these individuals were to read “The New Data Imperative,” I think great technological achievements would take place in their organizations.

If you are an IT Auditor or a Risk Manager for a financial institution, I highly recommend that you familiarize yourself with this book.   I believe the book will bring you up to date on the latest real time risk management concepts and will open your eyes to some of the technological challenges we will be facing in the next three to five years as Enterprise Risk Management evolves to a more mature level.

Because the book is small and unassuming, I also recommend it as a gift for those “legacy” type IT managers I mentioned earlier.   It may be the most eye opening technology book they’ve read in the last 10 years!

If you’re wondering about the “Nude Sunbathing” sign above…. let me explain why it’s here.   This picture was taken last July one block away from the Jacob Javitz Convention Center in NYC, on the day the National Enterprise Risk Management Club of Buenos Aires, Argentina, was holding its national awards for the most creative use of Twitter in a crisis situation.   When members saw this sign they Twitted all the participants, and half the Jacob Javitz Center emptied as the men rushed to the Hudson River to watch the annoyed sun bathers.   Now the question being debated by serious Harvard sociologists is:  Did Twitter empty out the Jacob Javitz Center, or was it the naked sunbathers and their uncontrollable effects on the hot Latins from Argentina?

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