Why collaboration can get you control and expand your business.
Is your marketing department directing the focus of the selection and purchase of new technology while you in the IT department are left to cope, trying to integrate a plethora of inappropriate systems? Does the competition for resources result in a focus on friction between departments and not on the needs of customers? What if while you are busy dealing with these internal battles, your competitors are busy taking your forgotten customers under their wing? Well with integration and collaboration, you can avoid this situation and concentrate on growth.
Technology spreads through every aspect of your company. The task of maintaining and upgrading existing systems designed for so many different purposes is mammoth. Forrester Research Analyst, Peter Burris has reported that when it comes to the IT budget, ‘70% of spending is on maintaining and upgrading existing systems.’ The danger is that the IT Department are people only seen when things go wrong. In addition to this, with technology so endemic in every area of life, everyone thinks they have to be a technology expert. In fact, according to The IBM Power in Data 2013 Survey, 16% of businesses have actually shifted responsibility for the technology budget to the Marketing team. But as we know, there is a massive difference between knowing how to use technology, and actually understanding technology systems and how they work together (or don’t).
It is vital that your Marketing teams remember that your IT department is more than a maintenance department… that you are a group of highly specialised, creative experts who could help revolutionise their performance rather than struggle to make inappropriate systems work in synergy. And the resistance is not as great as you fear. The IBM Power in Data 2013 Survey showed that 85% of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) ‘feel a need for an integrated cross platform marketing strategy’, and 38% of marketing teams have spent time ‘deepening technology knowledge in the marketing team.’ While the responsibility for the selection and use of technology in marketing is increasingly falling to the CMO, it seems there is confusion and a lack of confidence for the task. As Forrester analyst Sheryl Pattek says ‘With this much complexity, it’s no surprise that many CMOs are ill-equipped to provide the vision and strategic direction required to make sound and effective marketing technology purchase decisions.’
The answer is communication and collaboration between the CMO and the CIO. Is the Marketing team aware of all the technology they could utilise that you could provide? And just as important, have you been given a clear vision of what your CMO wants to achieve? With the IT department retaining control of the systems used in your business, imagine how much more time and cost-efficient maintenance and integration of technology would be. How much budget could be freed up for the acquisition of new technologies? Think how much your CMO could gain from specialist advice on systems that could not only achieve their marketing goals, but perhaps provide far more than they had hoped.
The best decisions are made when they are fuelled with data from more than one perspective. As Marketing Expert, Gil Press has recently professed, ‘In organisations where the CIO is expected only to cut costs and “keep the trains running on time,” the responsibility—and purchasing authority—for the tools enabling the digital transformation will reside with other senior executives. In organisations where the CIO is expected to play a key role or even lead this digital transformation, he or she will no doubt help the CMO—and other senior executives—navigate the complex and rapidly-changing landscape of all emerging digital technologies and tools.’
With less revenue wasted on inappropriate technology and the Marketing team exceeding their goals, there will be plenty of resources left for your most important commodity: your customers.
What are your views on this topic? Are you already working in an environment where departments collaborate in ‘multi-disciplinary’ teams to benefit from a wide range of expertise? What are the benefits and disadvantages of working in this way? We’d love to hear your views. Visit us on Facebook or give us a Tweet @ITRecruitment
Is your business safe from modern hackers?
The world has been stunned in the last couple of weeks by news of the death of Barnaby Jack, the famous hacker who made ATMs spit out money without so much as a bank card (an action since named ‘Jackpotting’), resulting in the upgrade of software by many big banking corporations. He also demonstrated his ability to deliver an electric shock from 50 foot away to someone wearing a pace maker and deliver a potentially fatal dose from an insulin dispenser within 300 feet without the need for a serial number. He was sadly found dead in his apartment just as he was due to attend the 2013 Black Hat conference. He was to give a presentation on the vulnerabilities of various pieces of medical devices and give safe demonstrations of attacks.
While Jack’s intentions were noble, his work illustrates the level of threat to all modern day businesses and individuals. Even major companies in the technology industry have not escaped modern day hackers. PlayStation and Apple are but two of the major organisations that have experienced major breaches of their secure data. The breach of PlayStation compromised over 77 million accounts and Apple’s ‘downpocolypse’ is at the very least an embarrassment: very scary stuff and certainly something you do not want for your own company.
The good news is that there are a number of policies you can put in place to safeguard your data and reputation. Last year, writer Mat Honan was famously hacked and his digital world dissolved. His Twitter account was hijacked and used to publish racist and homophobic comments and all data was deleted from his Cloud account, resulting in the loss of family photographs spanning the lifetime of his child as well as preventing him from regaining access to his account. The hacker’s motive had not begun as an attack on Mat’s personal information but on his Twitter account purely to create havoc. Mat, himself admits that had he followed some simple security advice the intrusion would have stopped here and his personal and professional data would have been kept safe.
The even better news is that every one of your employees can help to protect your company’s security. As it turns out, the most common breaches of security are not caused by super-hackers but by people with much intent but little technical knowledge. With some basic training from you in the IT department you can stop these intruders in their tracks.
Social engineering is one of the most common ways through your security. This is a particular danger in large businesses with a high staff turnover and believe it or not it involves employees simply handing log in names and passwords to the attacker. The methods and stories vary, of course, but the usual method is for the intruder to pretend to be from the technical support team in your own IT Department. They will claim that the individual’s computer is causing a problem on the network and request the log-in name and password. More often than you would believe, the information is simply handed over.
Are your colleagues aware that this information would never be needed by the technical staff who will already have this access, and if such information is requested it should be reported immediately to the IT department?
Phishing emails come in many disguises. They appear to have come from a reputable organisation such as a bank and may tell you that your account has been suspended and request your password as verification to reactivate your account.
There are many ways of spotting a phishing email and most people these days are quite savvy at detecting them. However, some can be remarkably deceptive. Do your colleagues know to look for misspellings, subtle differences in company logos and broken English in the text? Most importantly, they should know that reputable companies would never ask for such personal information via email.
The age old problem of personnel receiving an email with an attachment containing a virus or Trojan horse: when the attachment is opened, the Trojan horse will create a security hole allowing remote access to your network.
The problem here is that even attachments from trusted senders could be infected if their own security has been breached. Do you have a policy that states that no unexpected attachments should be opened until the sender has been contacted to verify the legitimacy of the document?
While it seems obvious that passwords should be highly confidential and secure, as well as hard to guess, it is still extremely common for people to use passwords such as, well… ‘password’, or even simply a repetition of their user name. In these cases it will not take more than a few moments to gain access to the network. There are a number of ways you can combat this issue.
- Best password policy. Passwords are essentially an outmoded method of securing a network and all of them can potentially eventually be cracked. A 100 character password would take a life time to guess but would be extremely impractical. The good news is that a 12 character password containing different cases, numbers and symbols is considered a strong form of defence. However, do you have different passwords for each account? Mat Honan himself admits that had all his accounts not been ‘daisy-chained’ the effects of being hacked would not have been nearly so great.
- Two Factor Authentication: The concept behind the use of ATM cards: The security is created by a combination of what the user has (the card) and what the user knows (the PIN number). This method can also involve a thumbprint or facial recognition. The key is that as well as a password, some other form of information is also required to access a network. A common method is the use of a smart card in combination with a password.
- Password Managers: once considered a bit of a risk as one password could unlock all the passwords for a user, there are now useful password managers on the market. They come in many different guises, from Cloud based software to mobile devices and are a way of being able to use many long effective passwords while only having to remember one extremely strong combination of characters.
It’s a great idea to practice self-auditing of your security. Why not ask one of your IT team to attempt to access various accounts across your business with extremely limited information? This should give you an idea of how secure your network is.
There are plenty of ways to be proactive about protecting data from basic staff training through to the use of technology and your expertise. If you need help in implementing any of these methods perhaps we could help you to hire an IT contractor who could devise a security policy as part of a project or to cover existing work whilst an expert from your own team heads the project up.
Have you got any further ideas on this topic? Have you been hacked or stopped a potential hack? We’d love to hear from you. Why not give us a Tweet @itrecruitment
Finally let us remember the important work of Barnaby Jacks which has prevented many security breaches and has potentially saved lives. In the words of security expert Dan Kaminsky, ‘Nobody caused such hilarious trouble like @barnaby_jack.’
Google used to use questions like this a lot in their interviews, but they have recently banned this practice as a “complete waste of time”
The question is raising its head again – what is the best way to identify the best candidate for a role by simply interviewing? Interviewing is such an important part of the selection process and getting it wrong can prove not only costly, but can also have an impact on your team, service delivery and reputation, all of which can take an awful long time to rectify.
Google say that brain teasers serve only to make the interviewee “squirm”, they don’t prove or predict anything. Our candidates state that no matter how much they prepare for the interview, they are never completely ready when a brain teaser does pop up and this can leave them feeling that they have “fluffed” the interview. Would you discount a strong candidate if they slipped up on the brain teaser? What does it tell you? Some may say it shows the logical and problem solving ability of the candidate.
If you simply ask a list of questions with yes or no answers, are you just testing the candidates knowledge or are they simply giving rehearsed answers? Does this really give you an insight into the candidates ability or how they would integrate into your existing team?
Since past behaviour predicts future behaviour, one thing that many agree with is to ask scenario based questions of things that really relate to the role. Asking candidates to explain how they have dealt with certain situations can really give the interviewer a window into how the candidate will perform “on the job”. However, this is all very well if the interviewer has actual experience in the role that they are interviewing for or are a seasoned interviewer, but what if you are neither of these?
Consistency is the key when it comes to selection or shortlisting after first round interviews –
- Set questions to ask all the candidates
- Consider introducing a scoring mechanism to form part of the selection process
- Use scenario based questions based on recent issues or situations you or your colleagues have experienced
- Prepare a list of prioritised and measurable criteria
- Be prepared to justify the use of any required employment “test”
- Facilitate open communication
Even if this is not your area of technical expertise, to completely understand the role and what the technologies used actually do, asking the right probing questions will not only enable you to evaluate the candidates communication skills, but also, by the time you have completed two or three interviews, you should also have a good understanding, from a layman’s perspective, of the more technical side of the role. It is not always necessary to be able to undertake a role to successfully interview for it, but simply have the confidence that you understand it.
Although now most consider brain teasers a no-no in an interview situation, I’m sure they will be back in vogue someday soon. However, there is still very much a place for this technique in open training sessions and such like.