Skip to Content

Data Sheet—Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Good morning, Data Sheet readers. Just because analytics technology can predict the “best” answers for a business decision, doesn’t mean humans must use them. Wal-Mart Stores was the biggest IT spender-of-them-all last year. Plus, want to see comedian John Oliver make Edward Snowden laugh? Seriously, though, expect government surveillance policies to dominate headlines again as we approach the June 1 deadline for renewing certain provisions within The Patriot Act.

Our newsletter delivery transition is almost complete. Please add datasheet@newsletters.fortune.com to your address book and safe senders list to make sure Data Sheet doesn’t wind up in spam. Have a super productive Tuesday!

TOP OF MIND

Algorithms at work. Practically speaking, it makes a lot of sense to harness analytics software for finding marketing prospects or making loan decisions. Especially if it helps an organization speed the process or accommodate more applications.

Executive recruiter Korn Ferry even uses an analytics approach for finding C-suite executive candidates—although this is a highly unusual tactic. It now owns a data warehouse containing information about more than 2 million individual assessments. “We now have enough information to start answering questions like, ‘What’s differentiating leaders in different context and cultures and jobs,’ ” Korn Ferry vice president of global talent assessment and analytics told Harvard Business Review. “When you pull all the data together, you start to see the patterns.”

Increasingly, however, both ethics specialists and artificial intelligence geeks are calling for more human scrutiny of the “why” behind the results. “The key thing that will make it work and make it acceptable to society is story telling,” one expert, Danny Hillis, told New York Times reporter Steve Lohr. “How does it relate to us? How much of this decision is the machine and how much is human?”

It sure begs the question: who is accountable for the algorithms?

TRENDING

Watch this patent case. How much should technology companies be able to charge in royalties for “standards-essential” patents? Google and Microsoft are on opposite sides of the answer.

Hey, big spender. Nine of the world’s top 10 information technology risk-takers increased their budgets last year, contributing to a total pie of $895 billion. Wal-Mart Stores spent the most.

Dropbox goes to Japan. The cloud storage company’s primary sales partner is Japanese telecommunications giant Softbank.

These companies are going to Indiana after all. Employees of EMC, Cloudera and Platfora are making travel plans for a big data conference there early next month. They originally pulled their sponsorships over the state’s controversial “religious freedom” law but changed their minds after the legislation was updated. The controversy is far from over, though.

Do you really need a resume? More than 2 million people apply for jobs at Google every year, but the tech giant spends twice the average company on recruiting. Its formula for finding the best hires comes down to this strategy: grade candidates on how well they handle a real-world project.

Plus, Microsoft’s latest diversity initiative. It’s testing strategies for managing employees with autism.

THE DOWNLOAD

Still use spreadsheets for financial modeling? Host Analytics would like a word. One hypothetical benefit of putting enterprise performance management applications in the cloud—circumventing spreadsheets in the process—is the advantage this brings when it comes to collaboration.

The problem with that approach is many individuals and teams outside the finance department contribute to forecasting—or, at least, they should.

Little wonder that Host Analytics talks up why its latest offering, Modeling Cloud, is so spreadsheet-friendly. “Excel has persisted for a reason, and it’s not all bad,” said Host Analytics CEO Dave Kellogg said, referring to Microsoft’s dominant application.

The simplest one: most teams do planning calculations of their own, which creates pockets of forecast information that aren’t well integrated.

Take the case of analyzing the upside revenue impact of adding a five new sales reps against the downside of their compensation, an exercise that shouldn’t be limited just to the sales planning team.

Host Analytics’ thesis is that cloud modeling tools must get better at accommodating data pulled from more sources, especially spreadsheets. Lo and behold, its new service lets managers share information in the same Excel reports they’ve been using for years. At the same time, the data can be rationalized across different departments and rolled up into forecasts. “It’s a super practical approach to bring these people back into the fold,” Kellogg said.

As Ventana Research analyst Robert Kugel observes: “Despite their many shortcomings, users find spreadsheets easy to use, and software vendors have been historically challenged to deliver a modeling environment to match that ease-of-use.”

Other companies championing the cause of enterprise planning in the cloud include Adaptive Insights, which hired a new CEO in January; Anaplan, which grew bookings by 200% last year; and Tidemark, which tripled its revenue under contract over the past 12 months with customers like Chiquita, Hostess and Netflix.

ALSO WORTH SHARING

Don’t cross this lawyer. Jay Edelson’s Chicago-based firm, which specializes in class-action complaints, has won an estimated $1 billion since 2000. So far, he has tackled Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Here’s what makes him tick.

Smartphone makers Samsung and HTC will both beat first-quarter expectations, although for very different reasons. The former’s new high-end model, Galaxy 6, is doing better than expected. The latter is gaining traction with its mid-tier products, especially in emerging markets. Both share a need for new revenue generators.

IIX makes its presence known. The Internet interconnection company—which enables direct connections between cloud software providers and corporate customers—just closed another $20 million round of financing, this time from TriplePoint Capital. That brings its total to more than $36 million. Why you care: its accounts include Box, Google, and Microsoft.

$20 million more for hybrid cloud manager CliQr. Its Series C round was led by Polaris Partners, and also includes more money from Foundation Capital, Google Ventures, and Translink Capital. The startup was founded by former VMware engineers, and references include Lockheed Martin and Motorola. This infusion brings total backing to $38 million.

Google Ventures bets on software “containers.” It’s leading a $12 million round in CoreOS, which sells software for businesses managing applications distributed across both on-premise and cloud data centers. Other investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Fuel Capital, and Accel Partners.

From HTC to Fitbit. Jonah Becker, who designed the HTC One M9 smartphone, is now vice president of design for the wearables technology company.

You can preorder Intel’s mini-PC-on-a-thumb-drive (aka the “Computing Stick”), but there’s no telling when you’ll actually get your hands on one. Incidentally, Intel’s first-quarter results are due out next week. Expect more details on its mobile-tech profit aspirations.

MY FORTUNE BOOKMARKS

Edward Snowden’s most outlandish interview yet by Robert Hackett

The former CIO of Nike is joining a bitcoin startup by Daniel Roberts

This gaming company is worth $1 billion, and you’ve probably never heard of it by John Gaudiosi

Apple Watch buyer’s dilemma by Philip Elmer-DeWitt

Do B-school rankings really matter? by Glenn Hubbard

Ex-Google exec Andy Rubin raises $48 million for hardware incubator by Dan Primack

The latest controversies surrounding Yelp by Colleen Kane

ONE MORE THING

Room with a digital view. Global hotelier Starwood will spend $100 million over the next two years on tech amenities. Here’s how it will prioritize.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

Knowledge15: Automate IT services. (April 19 – 24; Las Vegas)

RSA Conference: The world talks security. (April 20 – 24; San Francisco)

Forrester’s Forum for Technology Leaders: Win in the age of the customer. (April 27 – 28; Orlando, Fla.)

MicrosoftIgnite: Business tech extravaganza. (May 4 – 8; Chicago)

NetSuite SuiteWorld: Cloud ERP strategy. (May 4 – 7; San Jose, California)

EMC World: Data strategy. (May 4 – 7; Las Vegas)

SAPPHIRE NOW: The SAP universe. (May 5 – 7; Orlando, Florida)

Gartner Digital Marketing Conference: Reach your destination faster. (May 5 – 7; San Diego)

Cornerstone Convergence: Connect, collaborate. (May 11 – 13; Los Angeles)

Cloud Foundry Summit: Open source development. (May 11 – 12; Santa Clara, California)

Annual Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference: JP Morgan’s 43rd invite-only event. (May 18 – 20; Boston)

Signal: The modern communications conference. (May 19 – 20; San Francisco)

MuleSoft Connect: Tie together apps, data and devices. (May 27 – 29; San Francisco)

MongoDB World: Scale the universe. (June 1 – 2; New York)

HP Discover: Trends and technologies. (June 2 – 4; Las Vegas)

Hadoop Summit San Jose: Mainstreaming adoption. (June 9 – 11; San Jose, California)

Red Hat Summit: Energize your enterprise. (June 23 – 26; Boston)

Brainstorm Tech: Fortune’s invite-only gathering of thinkers, influencers and entrepreneurs. (July 13 – 15; Aspen, Colorado)

LinuxCon North America: All about open source. (Aug. 17 – 19; Seattle)

VMworld: The virtualization ecosystem. (Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, 2015; San Francisco)

Dreamforce: The Salesforce community. (Sept. 15 – 18; San Francisco)

BoxWorks 2015: Cloud collaboration solutions. (Sept. 28 – 30; San Francisco)

Workday Rising: Meet and share. (Sept. 28 – Oct. 1; Las Vegas)

HP Engage: Big data, big engagement. (Oct. 4 – 6; San Diego)

Gartner Symposium ITxpo: CIOs and senior IT executives. (Oct. 4 – 8; Orlando, Florida)

Oracle OpenWorld: Customer and partner conference. (Oct. 25 – 29; San Francisco)