Privacy, security on the Web require business know-how
- By Rich Kellett
- Mar 22, 2000
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.