The IT Summit

April 5, 2010

Reformatting IT Strategy and Moving Beyond Tech for Tech Sake

Filed under: Cloud Computing, IT Strategy, Uncategorized — admin @ 3:26 pm

“Clouds of Change”

In the mist of one of the greatest economic crisis faced since the Great Depression, and the collapse of businesses and financial industries that once stood firmly rooted in the past and tradition, IT moved quietly and further into the shadows of the back office.  In attempt to save money and cut cost, companies were quick to reduce IT spending and eliminate project managers, business analyst, and anything that during more normal times would be considered “non-core.”

In the defense of IT Executives, when executives are forced to cut cost, they are stuck with little time and become caught up violently executing on measures that had they had time or the wherewithal, they would have done things much differently—consider the long-term needs in addition to the short-term and make the right blend of cuts.

However, hindsight is twenty-twenty, the clouds of change (and cloud computing) have set in where the landscape has become globally competitive. Education and skill development is increasingly becoming the new currency, and many organizations are lost and not sure where to go from here and what to invest in. Furthermore, institutional knowledge and IT staff reductions will have further implications downstream when companies attempt to rehire.

Questions that must be asked by IT Leaders: What has been lost in the process? And will I be able to buy that same talent back, should the IT market become competitive for talent as it did years prior to the real-estate boom. If you recall, after the bust, many of the highly paid IT professionals went into real-estate and mortgages…is there an inverse relationship between IT and real-estate? If there is then perhaps there will be increased demand for IT over the next several months. All of these questions need to be answered regarding the business needs as technology leaders do their part to lead the way back to organizational recovery: Ergo the new IT Executive Reformatted with a business-minded operating system, that is capable of interpreting the language of the business and resolving complex problems with strategic solutions (not Technical).

“The Worlds is Flat”
As a CIO, and through talking with peers, the days of pursuing “Tech for Tech Sake” is indeed a thing of the past and that IT spending should have an ROI that can be quantifiable whether as a savings or as increased profitability that converts to dollars and sense. Let’s face it, budgets are smaller, and much like Thomas Friedman’s theory, “The World is Flat” everyone is a simple Google search away of being knowledgeable of what their options are and what technology could solve their problems. The true value is becoming the translator and integrator of these solutions.

Generally speaking, IT professionals have had the comfort and ability to talk over the heads of the business units in the room, over the past decade there has been a great shift. The business is no longer challenged with speaking IT, rather, IT is challenged with speaking “business”—a skill that is assumed, yet is extremely difficult if you have spent most of your professional years in the back-office or did not actively obtain the educational underpinnings required to understand business strategy, sales, procurement, contracts, portfolio management, businesses analysis and project management.

What are the skills that will be in demand?

Linda Leung wrote about the Global Knowledge/TechRepublic 2010 Salary Survey, conducted at that end of last year, one of the questions put to respondents was “What skill set will your company be looking to add in 2010?” In her write up, she discussed the heavy emphasis on business. Her top ten included Project Manager, Business Analysis, Business Process Improvement, and Security, all of which reflect the strong emphasis and the “Reformatting of IT Leadership”.

1. PROJECT MANAGEMENT: *Must understand the business
2. SECURITY: *Must understand the business
5. BUSINESS ANALYSIS: *Must understand the business
6. BUSINESS PROCESS IMPROVEMENT: *Must understand the business

New Version of IT Leadership 2.0

Given the need for IT to move away from the days of “Tech for Tech Sake,” the new IT Executive will be not taking a techno-centric view of the world, rather they will be focused on the universal language of business. We are indeed in a global market, and business is universal. In order to be successful, the new IT leader must be willing to reformat their thinking and move more towards interfacing with the business units in a more user-friendly manner.

What this means to IT leaders, is that they (all levels) are actively involved in having whiteboard sessions in which the marker is past around from IT to the Business, and from the Business to IT?  After all, although prehistoric, drawing and sketching is arguably our most universal language.

Conversely, public speaking is ranked ahead of people’s fear of dying—and communications has been identified as the cornerstone of moving up the career ladder. With all of this considered, it is clear that IT leaders become facilitators, project managers and “friends of the business.” These are no longer “nice to have skills,” rather they are “must have skills!”

These skills can only be done through training of staff, reaching out to identify problems, calculated risk taking and an intense curiosity to study and examine the business with a scientific curiosity. Additionally, new IT leaders should have the ability to become one of the arts: that is fluent in blending all of colors (markers), tools, words, emotions, shapes, drawings (diagramming), creative thought, and merge them into one romantic-holistic view of the organization as a living-breathing-organism, that appreciates poetry in motion.

Ty Howard is the founder of Biz-Nova Consulting and has several years experience as a Senior IT Leader and CIO. Mr. Howard has been recognized by both CIO and Computer World magazine for his leadership. He is a Project Management Professional (PMP), a professional facilitator, trainer and can be reached at [email protected] or 877 494 8342.

What is a Security Integrator?

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 1:36 pm

“What is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – Shakespeare

I continue to be amused when I meet new people in the security industry who refer to themselves as Security Integrators.  I don’t know why people feel the need to give themselves fancy sounding titles. For example, trash collectors are now called Waste Disposal Technicians or Sanitation Specialists. Maintenance personnel are commonly referred to as Building Engineers. Secretaries no longer exist for some reason, but have been replaced with Administrative Assistants. Mechanics are now automotive technicians, and salespeople everywhere are now consultants or account executives.

I noticed this trend 18 years ago when I first broke into the security industry. I thought I had just been hired as an alarm installer, but you can imagine my surprise when I got my first paycheck and it showed my title as Installation Technician. When I saw the title I asked one of my co-workers what their title was to see if their title was different since they had been with the company for about 6 months longer than me. To my surprise and amusement within the installation department we had 8 technicians with 6 different titles and in our service department we had 4 technicians, each with a different title. The amusing part to me was that there was actually very little, if any difference in what the 12 of us actually did on a day to day basis. When I moved into sales it was no different. I thought I was going to be a salesman, but instead I became a “Security Sales Consultant”. Within 6 months I had done so well that I was “promoted” to Security Account Executive. My job did not change, and my pay only changed when I sold more, but I kept getting new, better sounding titles. I guess some people felt awkward saying they were a salesperson, but I figured I just had not sold enough to qualify for such a prestigious title. J

The security industry has taken buzzword bingo to a whole new level though. If it wasn’t bad enough that many security salespeople are still calling themselves “security consultants” (my apologies to Security and Risk Managers everywhere) when most don’t know what a real risk assessment is, today’s most prevalent misnomer in the security industry is the term Security Integrator. Not all electronic security equipment installation and service companies are equal. Some are good at residential alarm installations, while others specialize in commercial, industrial or institutional systems including electronic access control, intrusion detection systems, networked video solutions and voice communication systems. While no two electronic security installation and service companies are the same, and their capabilities widely vary, they all now seem to call themselves security integrators. This begs the question, what does integration mean?

Residential alarm installation and service companies might argue that they “integrate” the alarm system with the house. But does this mean that the alarm systems are integrated by form, or by function? Likewise, most commercial electronic security providers would say that they are integrators because they have the ability to integrate certain access control systems with certain video systems. One example that is often used is when a card is presented to a card reader, the access control system is able to display associated video from the video system. In this example though, the ability of the access control system to display the associated video is dependent upon what drivers the access control manufacturer has written in their application. The “Integrator” is simply selecting the function from a predefined list of supported video manufacturers. In this scenario, wouldn’t the manufacturer be considered the integrator and the installation firm the… well… installation firm? Don’t be fooled by the titles.

Opinions vary, but a common definition of integration is “to bring together or incorporate parts into a whole”. For real security, this means ALL parts of a security program, not just some of the electronic tools that are used to control and monitor various areas within a facility or campus. This requires a true integrator to have a thorough understanding of an organizations security program. A real security integrator should be able to evaluate an organization’s emergency practices, personnel security, physical security and information security and then provide solutions that unite the various parts into a single collaborative program. This includes the ability to converge disparate systems, processes and procedures so that they work together to reduce risk, automate process and improve efficiency, with the ultimate goal of protecting lives, protecting property and maintaining continuity of the organization. One common example is the integration of personnel identity management systems. Many organizations are replicating personnel data across multiple systems due to the fact that these systems don’t intuitively communicate with each other. A new employee may have their first name and last name entered in to an HR/Payroll database, then again into an IT directory for logical access on a network, and yet a third time for an electronic access control system. When these three disparate systems are truly integrated, it not only saves time/cost by eliminating two thirds of the entry required, but it can also provide added security for the organization by automating the removal of access to critical areas and systems upon employment termination.

There are many other examples of what integration can do for an organization. The differentiator between real integrators should not be that of capabilities but rather the ability of the integrator to understand their customers systems and processes, and then use their imagination and innovation to make all the different parts work together to form a system that offers sustainable value for all stakeholders of the organization. Of course I could be wrong. After all, I’m just a security guy.

Rueben Orr, CPP