Privacy, security on the Web require business know-how

The idea that privacy and security might be symptoms and not the problem

emerged from a recent Webmaster focus group discussion with the Office of

Personnel Management on defining Webmaster classifications.

We worked through the usual issues of defining technology Webmasters and

content Webmasters. As we moved from the discussion of specialists to the

issue of World Wide Web managers, an interesting perspective emerged from

our discussions. Anecdotes and informal surveys are showing that about half

of the Webmaster community works in mission-oriented program offices, which

are not information technology organizations.

This led to a discussion of the difference between managers in program organizations

and managers in technology organizations. Web managers in program organizations

tend to be business managers and Web managers in IT organizations tend to

be technology managers. The conclusion of this discussion was to define

a "breed" of Web manager under an IT series that is a technology manager

or "Web technology manager"

So, what about the concept of a classification for a Web business manager?

I asked the group if anyone knew of a classification for business managers

in the federal government. To my surprise, there does not appear to be one.

It is important to pause at this point and consider what this means. Individuals

who obtain business degrees, undergraduate or higher, have qualifications

in an area recognized by the private sector as a unique skill and a profession

in its own right. These skills are essential to running large programs that

deliver the government's products and services to the public or other agencies.

When I developed the top skill areas that a federal Web manager needs so

that the Webmaster can deliver programs online, to my own surprise, most

of the required skills originated from business skills, such as accounting and financial management and budgeting.

As I looked across government, I found surprisingly little information on

what it means to run a business in the federal government context. There

is plenty of information on, for instance, project management, but managing

a project is not running a business. There is plenty of information on policy,

but carrying out policy is not a running business. There is plenty on management,

but management skills are not the only skills required to run a business.

Courses in small business or college programs in business administration

provide samples of the curriculums that define the skills needed to run

a business. Running a business over the Web in government is about understanding,

integrating and applying principles and processes related to leadership,

culture, business processes and components, management, policy, and technology

into a functioning organization that delivers a set of products and services

to the public or other agencies.

The issues of privacy and security are difficult to incorporate into Web

sites because they challenge our abilities as business managers. Privacy

and security are not "modules" you can buy off the shelf. It is not solely

a technology issue, a people issue or a system issue. Privacy and security

are "embedded and threaded" throughout the business processes, the organization's

working knowledge and the supporting technology infrastructure.

At each level of the architecture and in the operations of the business,

people and assets (routers, servers, operating systems and other components)

Web masters must incorporate privacy and security concepts and solutions.

To solve privacy and security requires a commitment to re-inventing business

processes, developing the organization's business and technology skills,

and improving the underlying infrastructure.

This is the stuff of a Web business manager. This is far beyond just "plugging

holes" in operating systems or applications. Solving privacy and security

is an enterprisewide issue that requires Web business leaders working with

other business leaders in the agency.

With the Web becoming the central construct for delivering products and

services, the government is going to need Web business managers. We have

many now, and we need to continue to grow this portion of the work force.

So, where does that leave us? Not surprisingly, it is a business decision

to decide whether to solve these issues by funding them appropriately, to

develop business processes that incorporate privacy and security, and to

build and continuously improve our organizational knowledge for putting

in place privacy and security solutions. We can spend a lot of time on chasing

privacy or security holes or solve the problem more efficiently and in less

time by looking at the whole business.

— Kellet is founder of the Federal Web Business Council, co-chair of the

Federal Webmaster Forum, and is director of GSA's Emerging IT Policies Division.


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