Management Watch


How hypothetical is Kundra's 'hypothetical' cloud threat?

In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, former Federal CIO Vivek Kundra urged the U.S. government to follow the lead of Japan and India and embrace cloud computing in times of belt-tightening and other economic challenges.

"As foreign governments prioritize investment in the cloud, the United States cannot hesitate because of hypothetical security threats that serve the entrenched interests of the IT cartel," he wrote.

Kundra's comment about an alleged IT cartel struck a nerve with federal contractors and industry insiders. But while that phrase was generating reaction, others were debating whether the security threat for cloud computing is hypothetical or real.

Sam Ceccola, senior director of technology at Blackstone Technology Group, declined to comment on Kundra's article specifically, but said that in general, security approaches have not matured as rapidly as cloud technology has -- which means security can be diffcult to ensure.

“With cloud and mobile devices, we don’t have one entry point anymore," Ceccola said. "It’s always easier to secure one door, but if the entire perimeter is a hundred doors, that’s a lot more difficult to secure using traditional methods."

We'd like to hear from our readers: How hypothetical are the threats Kundra alludes to in his article? Are agencies aware of the challenges that come with a cloud transition? Did Kundra downplay the threat? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Sep 08, 2011 at 12:19 PM11 comments


Survey: Employees trust gut more than data

Most businesses are unable to take advantage of data assets to create a competitive edge or boost corporate performance because the majority of employees don't have the necessary skills to make good business decisions, according to a new survey.

The Corporate Executive Board’s survey of 5,000 workers at international companies reveals that an “insight deficit” is emerging because “employees fail to complement data with the necessary judgment to arrive at optimal conclusions.”

And that lack of judgment affects everyone in the food chain: CEB found that the insight deficit was particularly common among managers, with more than 50 percent of senior managers having insufficient analytical skills.

The research shows that 43 percent of employees trust data without questioning the results. Nearly 20 percent choose to trust their gut feeling instead of data-driven insights, and only 38 percent of the average workforce today consists of individuals with strong analytical skills. CEB has dubbed this cohort "Informed Skeptics."

To overcome the insight deficit, CEB suggests that executives begin cultivating Informed Skeptics across their organizations by:

  • Hiring more employees with analytical skills.
  • Educating employees on the limitations of data and encouraging them to ask critical questions.
  • Creating an analytical training curriculum to support employees.
  • Building a team of coaches.
  • Formalizing decision processes and making performance metrics transparent.

Does the same situation exist in government? The CEB survey didn't consider government organizations, but what have you observed? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Sep 07, 2011 at 12:19 PM1 comments


Older IT pros feeling the squeeze from younger workers

Is the IT industry ageist? An article in Computerworld suggests just that, saying age bias has been the IT industry’s dirty little secret — or even the big, open secret. Many IT workers over age 50 say they have experienced some sort of ageism, be it stagnating salaries or fewer opportunities for advancement. Other signs: Older workers feel less likely to be included in training programs. They're also often the first ones to get laid off but the last ones to get hired.

There are plenty of misconceptions and stereotypes about older IT workers: Their skills are not as current as those of younger employees; they expect higher salaries than younger people; they become set in their ways and narrow-minded with age; or they’re less energetic than younger workers.

“While none of these generalizations is necessarily true for any particular candidate, each is a stereotypical assumption about older workers,” Computerworld’s Tam Harbert writes. “What's more, they are all logical and legal reasons for an employer to fire, or not hire, someone.”

Recent data indicates that unemployment rates for older IT workers spiked faster than they did for younger tech employees since the start of the recession three years ago. It’s an industry that doesn’t favor older workers, Jing Quan, an associate professor at Salisbury University in Salisbury, Md., told Computerworld.

But IT is not the only industry where older employees will be vulnerable if they’re not at the top of their game. As examples, Computerworld cites administrative assistants who don’t know the latest office software and journalists who lack multimedia skills as facing the same conundrum as IT workers.

So what can older IT workers do to stay relevant? To age gracefully in IT, Computerworld has a few suggestions.

  • Keep your skills up-to-date.
  • Consider moving into IT management, where your experience won’t be perceived as a strike against you.
  • Network and build relationships so you have contacts to reach out to in case you get laid off.
  • Learn to use social media to promote yourself and connect with potential new employers.
  • Dress like your colleagues to fit in.

Do you agree with the article? Is the IT world ageist? Is there more bias there than in other professions? Have you experienced such bias? If you’re over the age of 50, how do you stay relevant in the workforce?

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Sep 06, 2011 at 9:03 AM8 comments