Broken Mirror Reflections D.C.

Smashed Mirror.jpeg.jpg

So I took this photo of a smashed mirror hanging out of a corner trash can in downtown D.C.

Half is reflecting the garbage in the can and half is reflecting the buildings and trees outside. 

Such a metaphor for the society we live in these days. 

Where we are broken, and society is broken, and certainly lots of government is broken. 

And the shards of glass reflect on the both the garbage of what has piled up inside us and the system, but also the possibilities on the outside for development, growth, and change. 

The broken mirror with the sharp glass shards is dangerous, but perhaps by seeing the mess we are in, we can finally step up and do something to fix it. 

No more circling the wagons, infighting or deflecting from the issues; no more blaming the past or demonizing the opposition; no more excuses for stagnation, incompetence, or impotence; no more whitewashing and red tape; no more firefighting, shoddy quick fixes or waiting for another break/fix; no more whirlwind spin around the dazed and confused; no more sugar-coating, backpedaling, or dressing up or down the facts; no more playing politics or deceiving ourselves and others–is that even possible any longer?

Instead, we change to a model of acknowledging that which is broken and teaming together to fix it–doing something positive, and constructive for ourselves and the world–oh, fix it Dear Henry, please fix it.  😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Climbing The Tower, Remembering 9/11

 
Never Forget Tower Fire Truck Firefighter Little Firefighter

It’s the weekend before the anniversary of 9/11, and today in full gear, about 100 firefighters and police officers climbed the 28-story tower in Rockville 4 1/2 times today equaling the 2,000 stairs in the World Trade Centers.

This to remember the 343 firefighter and 71 police officer heroes that fell that fateful day.

Also, to raise funds for the firefighter burn fund. 

While some are war weary and would rather forget or pretend it never even happened…

It is so important that we not forget the devastating terrorist attack by Islamic extremists on 9/11 that took us by surprise and cost this nation so dearly. 

Reckless pacifism, appeasement, cowardice, and running from the fight without defeating the enemy and restoring societal order will only bring the fight to us. 

We need ongoing vigilance, investment and improvements to homeland security and our national defense, and the spread of freedom and human rights across the globe.

(The interview with the firefighter was narrated by me, Andy Blumenthal)

(Source Photos: Me as well). 

The iFirefighter


This the the first fire fighting robot and is built by Howe and Howe called the Thermite. Key features:– Moves steadily on treads instead of wheels– 1 ton of fire fighting power

– Fits through most doorways

– Douses fires with 600 gallons per minutes

– Doesn’t tire like a human firefighter 

– Costs about $96,000 per unit

– Useful in chemical, radiological and other hazardous incidents

While I generally like these fire fighting robots, there are a number of  thoughts that come to mind about these:

– If someone is caught in a burning building or otherwise needs to be rescued, I believe that for now we are still going to be on the lookout  for the real human hero to come through the door and save the day. 

– The next advance will be autonomous firefighting robots (firefighting drones that can identify the fire, encircle it, and put the right suppressants to work to put it out quickly and safely.

– Soon it will be drones, drones everywhere–fighting everything from fires to the enemy and we will no longer be just people, performing alone, but surrounded by our little assistants–perhaps pulling the majority of the weight, leaving higher value activities to us humans.

Leadership Cloud or Flood Coming?

Flood

I came across two very interesting and concerning studies on cloud computing–one from last year and the other from last month.

Here is a white paper by London-based Context Information Security (March 2011)

Context rented space from various cloud providers and tested their security.

Overall, it found that the cloud providers failed in 41% of the tests and that tests were prohibited in another 34% of the cases –leaving a pass rate of just 25%!

The major security issue was a failure to securely separate client nodes, resulting in the ability to “view data held on other service users’ disk and to extract data including usernames and passwords, client data, and database contents.”

The study found that “at least some of the unease felt about securing the Cloud is justified.”

Context recommends that clients moving to the cloud should:

1) Encrypt–“Use encryption on hard disks and network traffic between nodes.”

2) Firewall–“All networks that a node has access to…should be treated as hostile and should be protected by host-based firewalls.”

2) Harden–“Default nodes provisioned by the Cloud providers should not be trusted as being secure; clients should security harden these nodes themselves.”

I found another interesting post on “dirty disks” by Context (24 April 2012), which describes another cloud vulnerability that results in remnant client data being left behind, which then become vulnerable to others harvesting and exploiting this information.

In response to ongoing fears about the cloud, some are choosing to have separate air-gaped machines, even caged off, at their cloud providers facilities in order to physically separate their infrastructure and data–but if this is their way to currently secure the data, then is this really even cloud or maybe we should more accurately call it a faux cloud?

While Cloud Computing may hold tremendous cost-saving potential and efficiencies, we need to tread carefully, as the skies are not yet all clear from a security perspective with the cloud.

Clouds can lead the way–like for the Israelites traveling with G-d through the desert for 40 years or they can bring terrible destruction like when it rained for 40 days and nights in the Great Flood in the time of Noah.

The question for us is are we traveling on the cloud computing road to the promised land or is there a great destruction that awaits in a still immature and insecure cloud computing playing field?

(Source Photo: here with attribution to freefotouk)

Robot Firefighters To The Rescue

Meet Octavia, a new firefighting robot from the Navy’s Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research (LASR) in Washington, D.C.Octavia and her brother Lucas are the the latest in firefighting technology.These robots can hear commands, see through infrared cameras, identify patterns, and algorithmically make decisions on diverse information sets.While the current prototypes move around like a Segway, future versions will be able to climb ladders and get around naval vessels.It is pretty cool seeing this robot spray flame retardant to douse the fire, and you can imagine similar type robots shooting guns on the front line at our enemies.

Robots are going to play an increasingly important role in all sorts of jobs, and not only the repetitive ones where we put automatons, but also the dangerous situations (like the bomb disposal robots), where robots can get out in front and safeguard human lives.

While the technology is still not there yet–and the robot seems to need quite a bit of instruction and hand waving–you can still get a decent glimpse of what is to come.

Robots with artificial intelligence and natural language processing will be putting out those fires all by themselves…and then some.

Imagine a robot revolution is coming, and what we now call mobile computing is going to take on a whole new meaning with robots on the go–autonomously capturing data, processing it, and acting on it.

I never did see an iPhone or iPad put out a fire, but Octavia and brother Lucas will–and in the not too distant future!

>The Many Faces of the CIO

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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.

>Strategic Decision Making Trumps The Alternative

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A strategist frequently has to temper the desire for structured planning and strategic decision making with the reality of organizational life, which includes:

· Organizational politics (who has the power today to get their way).

· Subjective management whims (I think, I believe, I feel, but mainly I want—regardless of objective facts).

· Situational knee-jerk reactions (due to something that broke, a mandate that came down, an audit that was failed, and so on)

· People with some cash to throw around (they have $ and “its burning a hole in their pockets” or can anyone say “spend-down”?).

The result though of abandoning strategic decision-making is that IT investment decisions will be sub-optimal and maybe even big losers—some examples includes:

· Investment “shelfware” (the seals on the packages of the software or hardware may never even get broken)

· Redundant technologies (that drain limited resources to operate and maintain them)

· Systems that are obsolete by the time they make it into production (because they were a bad idea to begin with)

· Failed IT projects galore (because they never had true organizational commitment and for the right reasons)

Why does strategic decision-making help avoid bad organizational investments?

1) Having a vision, a plan, and an enterprise architecture trumps ping-pong balling around in the firefight of the day, because the first is goal-oriented—linear and directed, and the second is issue-oriented—dictated by the problem du-jour, and generally leads to nowhere in particular.

2) Having a structured governance process with analysis of alternatives and well-thought out and transparent criteria, weightings, and rankings trumps throwing an investment dart into the dark and hoping that it hits a project with a real payoff.

3) Taking a strategic view driven by positive long-term outcomes for the organization trumps an operational view driven by short-term results for the individual.

4) Taking an enterprise solutions view that seeks sharing and economies of scale trumps an instance-by-instance approach, which results in gaps, redundancies, inefficiencies, and systems that can’t talk with each other.

5) Taking an organization view where information sharing and horizontal collaboration result in people working together for the greater organizational good, trumps functional views (vertical silos) where information is hoarded and the “us versus them attitude,” results in continuous power struggles over scare resources and decisions that benefits individuals or groups at the expense of the organization as a whole.

Certainly, we cannot expect that all decisions will be made under optimal conditions and follow “all the rules.” However, as leaders we must create the organizational structures, policies, processes, and clear roles and responsibilities to foster strategic decision-making versus a continued firefighting approach.

Understanding that organizations and people are imperfect and that we need to balance many competing interests from many stakeholders does not obviate the need to create the conditions for sounder decision-making and better organizational results. This is an IT leader’s mandate for driving organizational excellence.

While we will never completely get rid of the politics and other sideline influences on how we make our investments, we can mitigate them through a process-driven organization approach that is based on a healthy dose of planning and governance. The pressure to give in to the daily crisis and catfight can be great that is why we need organizational structures to hold the line.