March 31, 2010

Balancing Freedom and Security

There is a new vision for security technology that blends high-tech with behavioral psychology, so that we can seemingly read people’s minds as to their intentions to do harm or not.

There was a fascinating article (8 January 2010) by AP via Fox News called “Mind-Reading Systems Could Change Air Security.”

One Israeli-based company, WeCU (Read as we see you) Technologies “projects images onto airport screen, such as symbols associated with a certain terrorist group or some other image only a would be terrorist would recognize.”

Then hidden cameras and sensors monitoring the airport pickup on human reactions such as “darting eyes, increased heartbeats, nervous twitches, faster breathing,” or rising body temperature.

According to the article, a more subtle version of this technology called Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) is being tested by The Department of Homeland Security—either travelers can be passively scanned as they walk through security or when they are pulled aside for additional screening are subjected to “a battery of tests, including scans of facial movements and pupil dilation, for signs of deception. Small platforms similar to balancing boards…would help detect fidgeting.”

The new security technology combined with behavioral psychology aims to detect those who harbor ill will through the “display of involuntary physiological reactions that others—such as those stressed out for ordinary reasons, such as being late for a plane—don’t.”

While the technology married to psychology is potentially a potent mix for detecting terrorists or criminals, there are various concerns about the trend with this, such as:

1) Becoming Big Brother—As we tighten up the monitoring of people, are we becoming an Orwellian society, where surveillance is ubiquitious?

2) Targeting “Precrimes”—Are we moving toward a future like the movie Minority Report, where people are under fire just thinking about breaking the law?

3) Profiling—How do we protect against discriminatory profiling, but ensure reasonable scanning?

4) Hardships—Will additional security scanning, searches, and interrogations cause delays and inconvenience to travelers?

5) Privacy—At what point are we infringing on people’s privacy and being overly intrusive?

As a society, we are learning to balance the need for security with safeguarding our freedoms and fundamental rights. Certainly, we don’t want to trade our democratic ideals and the value we place on our core humanity for a totalitarianism state with rigid social controls. Yet, at the same time, we want to live in peace and security, and must commit to stopping those with bad intentions from doing us harm.

The duality of security and freedom that we value and desire for ourselves and our children will no doubt arouse continued angst as we must balance the two. However, with high-technology solutions supported by sound behavioral psychology and maybe most importantly, good common sense, we can continue to advance our ability to live in a free and secure world—where “we have our cake and eat it too.”


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March 28, 2010

How To Brainstorm and Not Tempest

Thinking “out of the box” is fundamental to free us from the prevailing status quo. Brainstorming can enable us to tackle problems creatively and open up new possibilities for the future.

An Insight piece from Psychology Today (February 12010) called “[How To] Brainstorm” by ChiChi Madu points to some of the typical challenges with brainstorming and offers a new approach to it.

The challenge: “A typical brainstorming session can involve clashing personalities, uneven contributions, hurt egos, and hours of precious work-time wasted.”

When people come together to brainstorm, there are two things going on—one is the brainstorming and the other is the interaction between the people. And if the interaction is not collaborative and is dysfunctional because of the pervasiveness of functional silos, groupthink, competitiveness, or power politics, then the brainstorming and overall problem solving is going to suffer as a result.

Let’s face it, productivity is in large part of function of people’s ability to pull together rather than push apart!

A new approach: One way to work more collaboratively comes from an approach called “brainwriting,” by Peter Heslin. Brainwriting works as follows:

  • Write—Everyone writes an idea, in a different color pen on a piece of paper and passes to the next person.
  • React—Each person reacts to the idea they received and adds their own idea—“feeding off the others.”
  • Review—Once the slips of paper have about five ideas, they move to the center of the table for “systematic consideration of each.”
  • Select—Everybody lists their favorite ideas and the most popular ones are selected.

What is great about brainwriting is that everyone has a chance to contribute ideas, to have their ideas considered by others, and for them to consider the ideas of their peers carefully and thoughtfully. Moreover, brainwriting actually facilitates ideas to be incrementally built and improved on by having group members feed-off of the idea they received, rather than just hastily dismissing them or talking over others. Finally, since everyone has to put ideas and reactions to ideas down on paper, no one can just “sit it out” and not participate—and the more earnest the participation, the better the brainstorm will be.

People can innovate amazing things, solve problems, and really work together constructively when: the underlying process facilitates information exchange, collaboration, and the freedom to say what they really think. If we encourage and facilitate more brainwriting activity and other constructive engagement between people, we will be able to take on and resolve the ever larger and more challenging issues facing our organizations and society.


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March 20, 2010

Leading In Times of Crisis

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of the death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23-4).

We all go through difficult times—we are all human. What differentiates us is how we react to adversity—some of us will crumble beneath the weight and others will be strengthened by it.

Harvard Business Review (January-February 2010) has an article called “How to Bounce Back from Adversity” by Margolis and Stoltz.

The article defines psychological resilience as “the capacity to respond quickly and constructively in a crisis.” A challenge indeed, when at the depths of the crisis, we feel “paralyzed by fear, anger, confusion, or a tendency to assign blame.”

It is certainly understandable that those suffering under crisis conditions can succumb to feelings of depression, helplessness, and perhaps hopelessness. The vision of all they do have—faith, family, friends, and more—becomes obscured by the darkness of a bad situation, which they cannot seem to see through in those moments. Hence, the saying when there is hope again for “seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The authors define resilient managers as those that can “shift quickly from endlessly dissecting traumatic events to looking forward, determining the best course of action given new realities. They understand the size and scope of the crisis and the levels of control and impact they may have in a bad situation.”

When something bad happens, there is a natural period of shock and despair, which is part of the healing process. If someone doesn’t react to the pain of a situation, there is probably a lot more to worry about, then if they do cry out. But resiliency means that like the analogy with children who fail off a horse, “you get right back up and ride again.” You feel the bruise on your buttocks, but you shake it off and go on to ride on—you go on to fight another day.

Leaders when faced with challenges cannot fail back into their chair and close the door for long, because others are waiting outside for their direction. While we all need to resiliency to persevere, a leader has a special need for resiliency, because others are looking to them for a way forward. The actions of the leader affect not only him/her, but also the people they are charged with. So the trait of resiliency is especially important for leaders.

Demonstrating leadership means quickly moving to “response-oriented thinkingactions to improve, impact, and contain the situation. This is in contrast to “cause-oriented thinking”—which instead focuses on a “woe is me” attitude and asking over and over again “why is this happening?”

Time waits for no one, especially someone in a leadership position. The message of hope for our organizations from leadership is that we “replace negativity with creativity and resourcefulness, and get things done despite real or perceived obstacles.”

Why do leaders have trouble with responding in crisis as well as acting proactively to prevent it?

Certainly, one big issue is the fear of acting or reacting badly. This is the misguided thinking that it is better to do nothing and “be safe”—not make mistakes and not be blamed (i.e. take the heat)—then to do something and be accountable for the results—good or bad.

Difficulty rebounding from crisis can be seen as understandable – rooted in the desire for self-preservation. After all, crisis management takes strong action, and it is easy to take potshots at the leader, and turnover among senior executives tends to be high. Unfortunately, we tend to back away from leaders who make strong and difficult choices, and so we end up with crazy organizations—where just sitting in the chair and not “making a mistake” perpetuates a paycheck. This situation leads to a de-prioritization of the organization’s real needs, which is, to put it mildly, unfortunate.

One lesson that I’ve absorbed from working in law enforcement, is that you do what needs to be done for others first and deal with your own needs later. Law enforcement and first responders in general are the ones who you see running to the scene of trouble, when everyone else is running away. That is real “response-thinking” and I believe it teaches us a lesson about how leaders of any organization can respond to crises and rebound effectively.


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March 19, 2010

Overvaluing the Outsider

Harvard Business Review (HBR), April 2010, has an article entitled “Envy At Work” by Menon and Thompson that describes research that shows that “people want to learn more about ideas that come from other companies than about ideas that originate in their own organizations.”

The reason that we value outside opinions over inside ones is that we fear elevating the person whose opinion we espouse. In other words, if we endorse an idea of a person in the organization, then we risk being seen as not only supporting the idea, but the person, and then having our power potentially being subsumed by that person.

The HBR article states: “When we copy an idea from an outsider, we’re seen as enterprising; when we borrow an idea from a colleague, we mark that person as an intellectual leader.”

This kind of thinking harms the organization. For rather than seeing our colleagues as teammates, we see them as competitors. We work against each other, rather than with each other. We spend our time and energy fighting each other for power, influence, resources, and rewards, instead of teaming to build a bigger pie where everyone benefits.

According to Menon and Thompson, “The dislike of learning from inside rivals has a high organizational price. Employees instead pursue external ideas that cost more both in time (which is often spent reinventing the wheel) and in money (if they hire consultants).”

I’m reminded of the saying, “You can’t be a prophet in your land,” which essentially translates to the idea that no matter how smart you are, people inside your own organization will generally not value your advice. Rather they will prefer to go outside and pay others to tell them the same thing that it cannot bear to hear from its own people.

Funny enough, I remember some consultants telling me a few years ago, “That’s what we get paid for, to tell you what you already know.”

Remember the famous line by Woody Allen, “I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member”? The flip side of this is that as soon as the organization brings you into their club, they have contempt for you because you are now one of them.

How do we understand the capability of some people to overcome their natural tendency toward envy and be open to learning from others inside the organization? More specifically, how do we as leaders create a culture where such learning is facilitated and becomes a normal part of life in the workplace?

One way to start is by benchmarking against other organizations that have been successful at this—“Most Admired Companies” like Goldman Sachs, Apple, Nike, and UPS. When one starts to do this, one sees that it comes down to a combination of self-confidence, lack of ego, putting the employees first, and deep commitment to a set of core values. It may not feel natural to do this at first – in a “dog-eat-dog” world, it is natural to fear losing one’s slice of the pie – but leaders who commit to this model can delegate, recognize, and reward their people without concern that they personally will lose something in the process.

The leader sets the tone, and when the tenor is “all for one and one for all,”— the organization and its people benefit and grow. This is something to be not only admired, but emulated.


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March 14, 2010

Hard On Issues, Soft on People

There is a classic article in Harvard Business Review entitled “The Hard Work of Being A Soft Manager” (1991) by William H. Peace, which sums up “soft leadership” this way: “the stereotypical leader is a solitary tough guy, never in doubt and immune to criticism. Real leaders break that mold. They invite candid feedback and even admit they don’t have all the answers.”

The author recalls his mentor whom he says “taught me how important it is to be a flesh-and-blood human being as well as a manager. He taught me that soft qualities like openness, sensitivity, and thoughtful intelligence are at least as critical to management success as harder qualities like charisma, aggressiveness, and always being right.”

To me, there is a time and place for hard and soft leadership qualities. Leaders must be firm when it comes to driving organizational results and performing with the highest ethical conduct and integrity, but they should act with greater flexibility when it comes to open communications and collaboration with people.

I believe that leaders would be wise to follow the leadership adage of “be hard on issues and soft on people”. This means that great leaders stand up and fight for what they believe is best for their organization and they team and collaborate with their people to make results happen. In this way, leaders and their staffs are working in unity of purpose and as a genuine team, with leaders seen as human, credible and worthy of people’s dedication and hard work. To me the perfect example of this leadership style is Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks who is relentless in his pursuit of a successful global coffee retailing company, but is also passionate about taking care of his diverse stakeholders from employees to coffee growers and even the environment.

In contrast dysfunctional managers are hard on people and soft on issues. They are indecisive, waiver, or are seen as subjective on business issues and this is hard on their people. Moreover, these managers let out their professional and personal frustrations on the very people that are there to support them in the enterprise. Here, leaders alienate and disenfranchise their people, fragment any semblance of teams and fail at their projects. The leaders are viewed as powerful figures that rule but do so with injustice and without meaning. An example of this failed leadership style is “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap who relentlessly cut people to cut costs, but as Slate put it (31 August 1997) “built his ‘turnarounds’ on cosmetic measures designed to prop up stock prices.”

By being unyielding in doing what is right for the mission, and acting with restraint with people, leaders can bring the best of hard and soft leadership qualities to bear in their positions.

Of course, these leadership traits must be used appropriately in day-to-day situations. Leaders should be hard on issues, but know when to throttle back so business issues can be worked through with stakeholders and change can evolve along with organizational readiness. Similarly, leaders should be soft on people, but know when to throttle up to manage performance or conduct issues, as necessary. In this way, hard and soft qualities are guidelines and not rules for effective leadership, and leaders will act appropriately in every situation.


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March 13, 2010

Can Microsoft Stomp Out The iPhone?

So much for letting the best product win. According to the Wall Street Journal, 13-14 March 2010, Microsoft is forcing their employees to “choose” Microsoft phones for personal use and to push those who don’t into hiding.

Is this a joke or a genuine throwback to the Middle Ages?

Apparently this is real: “Last September, at an all-company meeting in a Seattle sports stadium, one hapless employees used his iPhone to snap photos of Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer. Mr. Ballmer snatched the iPhone out of the employee’s hands, placed it on the ground, and pretended to stomp on it in front of thousands of Microsoft workers.” That sends a pretty clear message!

I guess the employee can consider himself lucky that Mr. Ballmer didn’t put him (instead of the iPhone) on the ground underneath his foot or perhaps maybe even just burn him at the stake for heresy against Microsoft.

Further, in 2009, Microsoft “modified its corporate cellphone policy to only reimburse service fees for employees using phones that run on Windows.”

While many workers at Microsoft can evidently be seen with iPhones, others are feeling far from safe and comfortable doing this. According to the article, one employee told of how when he meets with Mr. Ballmer (although infrequently), he does not answer his iPhone no matter who is calling! Another executive that was hired into Microsoft in 2008 told of how he renounced and “placed his personal iPhone into an industrial strength blender and destroyed it.”

Apparently, Mr. Ballmer told executives that his father worked for Ford Motor Co. and so they always drove Ford cars. While that may be a nice preference and we can respect that, certainly we are “big boys and girls” and can let people pick and choose which IT products they select for their own personal use.

While many employees at Microsoft have gone underground with their iPhones, “nearly 10,000 iPhone users were accessing the Microsoft employees email systems last year,” roughly 10% of their global workforce.

My suggestion would be that instead of scaring the employees into personally using only Microsoft-compatible phones, they can learn from their employees who choose the iPhone—which happens to have a dominant market share at 25.1% to Microsoft 15.7%—in terms why they have this preference and use this understanding to update and grow the Microsoft product line accordingly. In fact, why isn’t Microsoft leveraging to the max the extremely talented workforce they have to learn everything they can about the success of the iPhone?

It’s one thing to set architecture standards for corporate use, and it’s quite another to tell employees what to do personally. It seems like there is a definite line being crossed explicitly and implicitly in doing this.

What’s really concerning is that organizations think that forcing their products usage by decree to their employees somehow negates their losing the broader product wars out in the consumer market.

Obviously, IT products don’t win by decree but by the strength of their offering, and as long as Microsoft continues to play medieval, they will continue to go the way of the horse and buggy.


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March 12, 2010

The Many Faces of the CIO


The Chief Information Officer is a complex and challenging role even for those highly experienced, well educated, and innately talented. In fact, Public CIO Magazine in 2009 stated that the average tenure for a CIO is barely 24 months. What is it that is so challenging about being a CIO?

Well of course, there is the technology itself, which some may consider challenging in terms of keeping pace with the quick and ever changing products and services and roles that the IT plays in our society.

But one of the reasons not so frequently addressed is that the CIO role itself is so multi-faceted and requires talents that span a broad range of skills sets that not a lot of people have mastered.

In the CIO Support Services Framework (CSSF), I talked about this in terms of the varied strategic functions and skills that the CIO needs in order to plan and execute effectively (instead of just being consumed in the day-to-day firefighting)—from enterprise architecture to IT governance, from program and project management to customer relationship management, and from IT security to performance management—the CIO must pull these together seamlessly to provide IT capabilities to the end-user.

I came across this concept of the multifaceted CIO this week, in a white paper by The Center for CIO Leadership called “Beyond the Crossroads: How Business-Savvy CIOs Enable Top-Performing Enterprises and How Top-Performing Enterprise Leverage Business-Savvy CIOs.” The paper identifies multiple CIO core competencies, including a generic “leadership” category (which seems to cross-over the other competencies), “business strategy and process” reengineering, technology “innovation and growth”, and organization and talent management.

Additionally, the white paper, identifies some interesting research from a 2009 IBM global survey entitled “The New Voice of the CIO” that points to both the numerous dimensions required of the CIO as well as the dichotomy of the CIO role. The research describes both “the strategic initiatives and supporting tactical roles that CIOs need to focus upon,” as follows:

Insightful Visionary Able Pragmatist
Savvy Value Creator Relentless Cost Cutter
Collaborative Business Leader Inspiring IT Manager

Clearly, the CIO has to have many functions that he/she must perform well and furthermore, these roles are at times seemingly polar-opposites—some examples are as follows:
  • Developing the strategy, but also executing on it.
  • Growing the business through ongoing investments in new technologies, but also for decommissioning old technologies, streamlining and cutting costs.
  • Driving innovation, modernization, and transformation, but also ensuring a sound, stable, and reliable technology infrastructure.
  • Maintaining a security and privacy, but also for creating an open environment for information sharing, collaboration, and transparency.
  • Understanding the various lines of business, but also running a well honed IT shop.
  • Managing internal, employee resources, but also typically managing external, contracted resources.
  • Focusing internally on the mission and business, but also for reaching outside the organization for best practices and partnerships.
However, what can seem like contradictions in the CIO role are not really incongruous, but rather they are mutually supportive functions. We develop the strategy so we can faithfully execute. We invest in new technology so we can decommission the legacy systems. We invest in new future capabilities, while maintaining a stable present day capacity, and so on. The role of the CIO is truly multifaceted, but also synergistic and a potent platform for making significant contributions to the organization.

While certainly, the CIO does not accomplish all these things by him/herself, the CIO does have to be able to lead the many facets of the job that is required. The CIO must be able to talk everything from applications development to service oriented architecture, from data center modernization to cloud computing, from server and storage virtualization to mobility solutions, from green computing to security and privacy, and so much more.

The CIO is not a job for everybody, but it is a job for some people—who can master the many facets and even the seeming contractions of the job—and who can do it with a joy and passion for business and IT that is contagious to others and to the organization.

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March 9, 2010

Attention User-Centric EA Blog Readers

Please note:
I have consolidated the User-Centric EA blog into The Total CIO blog, and all posts (including archives) can now be found here.

Hip Hip Hooray!

This has been "architected" to simplify and standardize my information roadmap :-)

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March 8, 2010

Social Order In Chaos And In Calm

Less than two months after devastating earthquakes on 12 January 2010 toppled much of Port-Au-Price, Haiti leaving more than 220,000 dead and 1.3 million homeless, there are indications of social order reemerging (WSJ 8 March 2010).

The rise of social order in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake is occurring in the tent cities that have sprung up and is especially amazing given that the formal government is still in disarray.

In the tent cities, “committees agitate to secure food, water and supplies in high demand from international aid organizations.”

In one encampment, the makeshift “President” of the tent city of 2,000 stated: “we knew we wouldn’t receive any assistance unless we formed a committee…there is no government but us.”

So the people organized and formed an “executive committee,” took a census, provided aid organizations lists of their residents to help in the distribution of aid, and have even started to issue identification cards. Committees are also setting up people to work as security guards for “keeping the peace.”

To me, there are many lessons from this story of hope and reemergence:

1. Order prevails over chaos: Even amidst some of the most horrific events shattering lives and communities, social order takes root again and drives away the surrounding chaos. While conditions on the ground are still horrific, people realize that they are stronger planning and working together for the greater good than wallowing in a state of pandemonium and fighting each other.

2. Governance emerges even in the absence of government: Structured decision-making is so basic to societal functioning that it emerges even in the absence of strong formal government institutions. So certainly with government intact and vital, we need to establish sound governance to meet the needs of our constituents in a transparent, organized, and just fashion.

3. “Where there is life, there is hope”—this is an old saying that I used to hear at home from my parents and grandparents and it seems appropriate with the dire situation in Haiti. Despite so much death and suffering there, the people who survived, have reason to be hopeful in the future. They are alive to see another day—and despite its enormous challenges—can rebuild and make for a better tomorrow.

These lessons are consistent with the notion to me of what enterprise architecture is all about—the creation of order out of chaos and the institution of meaningful planning and governance as the basis for ongoing sustainment and advancement of the institutions they support.

Finally, it shouldn’t take a disaster like an earthquake for any of us to realize that these elements of social order are the basic building blocks that we all depend on to survive and thrive.

The real question is why in disaster we eventually band together, but in times of calm we tear each other apart?


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March 7, 2010

A Turning Point for the Government Cloud

Los Angeles is moving to the cloud, according to Public CIO Magazine March 2010, and “they are the first government of its scale to chose Gmail for the enterprise.”

“It turned out that Washington D.C., was using Gmail for disaster recovery and giving employees the option to use it as their primary e-mail.” But LA is implementing Gmail for more than 30,000 city employees (including police and fire departments) as well as planning to move to Google Apps productivity suite for everything from “calendar, word processing, document collaboration, Web site support, video and chat capabilities, data archiving, disaster recovery and virus protection. “

CTO Randi Levin is leading the charge on the move to cloud computing, and is taking on concerns about cost, data rights, and security.

  • On Cost: “The city estimated $5.5 million in hard savings form the Google adoption, and an additional $20 million savings in soft costs due to factors like better productivity.”
  • On Data Rights: Nondisclosure agreement with Google includes that the data belong to the city “in perpetuity,” so “if the city wants to switch to another vendor after the contract ends, the city will be able to recall its archived data.”
  • On Security: “Google is building a segregated ‘government cloud,” which will be located on the continental U.S. and the exact location will remain unknown to those outside Google. The data will be “sharded”—“shredded into multiple pieces and stored on different servers. Finally, Google will be responsible for “unlimited” damages if there’s a breach of their servers.

LA conducted an request for proposal for software-as-a-service (SaaS) or a hosted solution and received responses for 10 vendors including Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. Google was selected by an Intradepartmental group of IT managers and a five year contract issued for $17 million.

Currently (since January), LA is conducting a Gmail pilot with about 10% of its city employees, and implementation for the city is slated for mid-June.

Additionally, LA is looking into the possibility of either outsourcing or putting under public-private partnership the city’s servers.

And the interest in government cloud isn’t limited to LA; it is catching on with Google Apps pilots or implementations in places like Orlando, Florida and within 12 federal agencies.

Everyone is afraid to be the first in with a major cloud computing implementation, but LA is moving out and setting the standard that we will all soon be following. It’s not about Google per se, but about realizing the efficiencies and productivity enhancement that cloud computing provides.


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March 6, 2010

Overcoming the Obstacles to Cyber Security

There continues to be a significant shortfall in our cyber security capabilities, and this is something that needs our determined efforts to rectify.

Often I hear a refrain from IT specialists that we can’t wait with security until the end of a project, but rather we need to “bake it into it” from the beginning. And while this is good advice, it is not enough to address the second-class status that we hold for IT security versus other IT disciplines such as applications development or IT infrastructure provision. Cyber Security must be elevated to safeguard our national security interests.

Here are some recent statements from some our most respected leaders in our defense establishment demonstrating the dire strait of our IT security posture:

· “We’re the most vulnerable, we’re the most connected, we have the most to lose, so if we went to war today in a cyber war, we would lose.”- Retired Vice Admiral Mike Mullen (Federal Computer Week 24 February 2010)

· The United States is "under cyber-attack virtually all the time, every day” - Defense Secretary Robert Gates: (CBS, 21 April 2009)

· “The globally-interconnected digital information and communications infrastructure known as “cyberspace” underpins almost every facet of modern society and provides critical support for the U.S. economy, civil infrastructure, public safety, and national security. This technology has transformed the global economy and connected people in ways never imagined. Yet, cybersecurity risks pose some of the most serious economic and national security challenges of the 21st Century.” (White House CyberSpace Policy Review, 2009)

Further, the number of attacks is increasing; for example, SC Magazine 20 November 2009 reported that the number of cyber attacks against the Department of Defense was increasing year-over-year 2009 to 2008 by some 60%!

And the penetration of our critical systems spans our industrial, civilian, and defense establishment and even crosses international boundaries. Most recently reported, these included the following:

· F-35 Joint Strike Fighter $300B program at Lockheed Martin,

· The Space Shuttle designs at NASA

· The joint U.S. South Korean defense strategy

· The Predator feeds from Iraq and Afghanistan and more.

Thankfully, these events have not translated down en-masse and with great pain to the individuals in the public domain. However this is a double-edged sword, because on one had, as citizens we are not yet really “feeling the pain” from these cyber attacks. On the other hand, the issue is not taking center stage to prevent further and future damage.

This past week, I had the honor to hear Mr. James Gossler, a security expert from Sandia National Labs speak about the significant cyber security threats that we face at MeriTalk Innovation Nation 2010 on the Edge Computing panel that I was moderating.

For example, Mr. Gossler spoke about how our adversaries were circumventing our efforts to secure our critical cyber security infrastructure by being adept and agile at:

· Playing strength to weakness

· Developing surprising partners (in crime/terror)

· Changing the rules (“of the game”)

· Attacking against our defenses that are “na├»ve or challenged”

In short, Mr. Gossler stated that “the current state-of-the-art in information assurance [today] is significantly outmatched” by our adversaries.

And with all the capabilities that we have riding on and depending on the Internet now a days from financial services to health and transportation to defense, we do not want to be outgunned by cyber criminals, terrorists, or hostile nation states threatening and acting in ways to send us back to the proverbial “stone-age.”

Unfortunately, as a nation we are not moving quickly enough to address these concerns as retired Navy vice admiral Mike McConnell was quoted in Federal Computer Week: “We’re not going to do what we need to do; we’re going to have a catastrophic event [and] the government’s role is going to change dramatically and then we’re going to go to a new infrastructure.”

Why wait for a cyber Pearl Harbor to act? We stand forewarned by our experts, so let us act now as a nation to defend cyber space as a free and safe domain for us to live and thrive in.

There are a number of critical obstacles that we need to overcome:

1) Culture of CYA—we wait for disaster, because no one wants to come out first—it’s too difficult to justify.

2) Security is seen as an impediment, rather than a facilitator—security is often viewed by some as annoying and expensive with a undefined payback, and that it “gets in our way” of delivering for our customers, rather than as a necessity for our system to work

3) We’ve become immune from being in a state of perpetual bombardment—similar to after 9-11, we tire as human beings to living in a state of fear and maintaining a constant state of vigilance.

Moreover, to increase our cyber security capabilities, we need to elevate the role of cyber security by increasing our commitment to it, funding for it, staffing of it, training in it, tools to support it, and establishing aggressive, but achievable goals to advance our capabilities and conducting ongoing performance measurement on our initiatives to drive results.


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March 5, 2010

Next Generation IT Project Managers

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Check this out...

Maybe we should hire these guys to do our IT projects in the future?

These guys have it all from planning to implementation. :-)


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March 4, 2010

Pushing Out The Edge


These are my remarks from the MeriTalk Innovation Nation 2010 Conference, "Edge Warrior" Panel today. I was the Moderator and this was my introduction to the discussion by the panelists on Edge Computing.

As I thought about the concept of edge computing an image came to my mind—of a cliff—, representing the limits of what is possible today. Then the cliff started to expand--to-grow in size- -with the edge constantly being pushed further out. This is a way to think about the future of technology. We want to be "leading edge,” and some may even want to be “bleeding edge, but we certainly don’t want to go “over-the-edge, so we need to expand and create new opportunities in our organizations.

Both the public and the private sectors are pushing into new frontiers in a variety of innovative technologies that take us to the edge, everywhere. We’re hearing about many of them today at the conference – cloud computing, social computing, mobile computing, green computing and more. And it’s exciting to think about what we can accomplish if we put promising new technologies to work for the government.

But, we must be careful not to fall into one of two extremes, either jumping in prematurely and making costly mistakes, or avoiding and resisting change in favor of the “tried and true” or what I would call the perpetual status quo and never growing to our true potential as individuals, agencies, and a nation.

To me, true leaders don’t fall into either extreme, but rather they brings both sides together to find a balanced approach to innovation, growth, change, and yes, even some elements of managed risk. In any organization, technology leadership is not about leading employees to the edge of the computing cliff, but rather about pushing out the edge so that their capabilities are constantly increasing, while the risks are also constantly being mitigated.

In fact, technology leadership is not very far from the vision that we saw on the show, Star Trek. The show pushed the boundaries of what was possible—going where no one had gone before, but always striving to keep the ship intact and the crew safe.

While we are the stewards to keep our agencies secure to serve the public, we must also acknowledge that we live in a dynamic, competitive, rapidly changing, and increasingly global environment and we cannot afford to stand still while others press ahead. To meet the challenges that face us, we must constantly seek out better ways of executing our mission, and new technologies are critically important in helping us to do this in all directions and at all the edges.

Finally, this is especially true in today’s world, when agency computing is no longer restricted to our brick and mortar office buildings but rather is ubiquitous. From the corner Starbucks to the most remote regions of Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, our customers demand to be productive everywhere, to carry out their mission.


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