Three little words: security, stablility, consistency

Security, stability and consistency have for many years been three little words which have been my mantra. Guiding principles upon which much of what I do is based. Every so often, events or circumstance remind me of the importance of these words.

As a technology manager, I am responsible for providing facilities used by hundreds of individuals – both business users, and in our case students also. I want to share with you my three little words, and how they apply to environment in which I work.

Security

Even with the explosion in consumer technology, users generally aren’t technology experts, but they do have higher technology expectations than any previous generation. Expectation doesn’t always match ability or understanding, and therefore Security is (and always has been) the first of my three little words.

Your users – whether they are customers or colleagues – require a secure environment to work in. Their safety when using technology is your responsibility. Nothing should undermine your responsibility as a technology manager to maintain a secure environment. Vulnerabilities must be swiftly addressed. Obsolete or insecure products should be retired. Operations must always include security considerations. Strategy must be guided toward safe, secure and manageable future provision. Your users must be well informed about the importance of security and how most of the facilities you provide depend upon this for effective operation.

Your users may not be aware of the measures security you provide – they don’t always need to be, although it will greatly improve user competence and behaviours if they are. Your network should silently demonstrate its ability to maintain the safety of your users, handling most threats and risk without the user needing to be concerned.

Stability

What good are your systems if they don’t work? Your systems should be rock solid. That doesn’t mean they won’t fail – everything will fail once in a while, even with best laid plans to mitigate risk.

Build your infrastructure carefully. Remove risks and weak spots. Consider whether your broad list of assets – physical and logical – provide an adequate foundation to deliver a stable environment for your users.

Should anything fail, your focus must be on recovery. For the user, recovery of the service is usually more important than the recovery of data. In other words (and in very simple terms), users will be most appreciative of having rapid access to the tools they need to do their job, rather than immediate access to the stuff they have already done.

Consistency

Wherever you work, you know where you are working, right? What I mean is, you turn up at 8AM to start work for ACME Company, and because everything around you is ACME Company, you know you are in the same place.

Your network should evoke the same feeling – wherever I login, whatever device I may be using, ┬áit should be clear that I am working within the same network and my experience is connected by uniform characteristics. Policies should apply broadly and consistently. Systems should behave uniformly and capably. Most importantly, your methods for providing support must leave your users with no doubt about how to find assistance.

I should point out that whilst these words have regularly appeared in my job descriptions over the years, the two aren’t directly connected. If I had no job description, my mantra would be unchanged.

I hope you find my three little words useful, and maybe have taken a moment to think about what your own guiding principles. In their very simplest form, what are the words that best describe your motivation, your mantra?

Becoming a generalist (the many hats of a technical manager)

I've been a technical manager for many years, and before that a technical specialist.

I continue to manage technical teams, so you might say that I am a technical manager. However, 'technical' is now the least demanded of my skills. Having a technical background – where the bulk of my skill was previously focused – makes some of the roles I must now fulfil pretty challenging and mentally demanding, but in very different ways than when addressing technical needs or problems. Does this make me less of a specialist, and more of a generalist?

It’s been a while

It’s been a while. I’ve not written a post for several months now, and it feels quite strange. So what’s been going on?

Lots, actually. For the most part, my daily focus has been drawn to organisational priorities. Plenty of change going on, lots of roles changing and much anxiety among colleagues as the process of business evolution makes some significant leaps.

This change in focus means that my activity here, and in other spaces like the Mahara Guide, hasn’t been as productive as I might like. It leaves me a little sad, knowing that I’ve made considerable investment of professional and personal time in building a reflective platform through which I can share and express some of my experiences. I don’t want the effort I have already made to be wasted, or for my blogging habit to lapse, but certainly need time to find my place here once more.

The question I have been asking all the while is ‘should I actually be writing my way through this period of changing priorities in order to help find clarity?’. Although I haven’t done, the answer was probably ‘yes’. It’s difficult though. The desire to write about the experience is always moderated by the need to maintain the conduct and confidentiality of a manager dealing with considerable organisational change which is having a significant impact upon many of those people with whom I work.

Being at the centre of change has (perhaps without my fully realising it) become a central aspect of my role, and I would like to discover the necessary skills to communicate the lessons I am learning in an appropriate form. Perhaps I need to look closely at how other bloggers continue write about their experiences of challenging situations, like those I have experienced.