Editor's Note: Welcome to SmartAdvice, a weekly column by The Advisory Council (TAC), an advisory service firm. The feature answers three questions of core interest to you, ranging from career advice to enterprise strategies to how to deal with vendors. Submit questions directly to [email protected]
Topic A: After the extended economic downturn, we need to create a new vision for the organization. How do we do that?
Our advice: An organization's vision should communicate what the organization wants to be, to both internal and external audiences.
A vision is a statement of self-worth. Its purpose is not only to motivate employees to take meaningful action, but to give leadership a standard for monitoring progress. It also tells external audiences how your organization wishes to be viewed.
A successful vision is dependent upon:
Here are some things to consider about each step:
The timing is right for a new vision, one that will reinvigorate and imbue optimism in your organization. But remember, no matter how idealistic it is, it also must be realistic.
-- Sourabh Hajela
Topic B: In the past 10 years, E-mail has become the dominant business messaging medium, but not without problems (e.g., spam). Looking forward, what technologies should we adopt for business messaging?
Our advice: Don't look now, but your staff may have already made the decision for you. Check out what your employees are using these days to communicate; you might be surprised to find that E-mail is no longer the medium of choice in many companies. The flood of E-mail has become so overwhelming that many have switched to communicating using instant messaging, integrated tools (Microsoft Exchange/Outlook, Lotus Domino/Notes) and various wireless-based systems.
Since IT people are frequently early adopters of new technologies long before the rest of the business catches up, they can be a bellwether for where messaging technology is headed. Then, as the technologies mature, you'll be prepared to deploy the ones appropriate for your company.
-- Beth Cohen
Topic C: What actions should Microsoft Windows users take to address its well-publicized security issues?
Our advice: From a fundamental, architectural perspective, the Windows NT family (NT, 2000, XP, 2003) is as sound as any other generally available operating system. In contrast, the MS-DOS-based versions of Windows (95, 98, ME) are fundamentally flawed, and shouldn't be used in any environment where security is a concern.
Coding bugs, especially stack-buffer overflow bugs, have been a serious problem with Windows. The only way to deal with them is to install Microsoft's security patches promptly upon release. After testing with their own applications, Windows administrators should install the latest Service Packs for their respective Windows versions, as well as any subsequent security patches. Windows administrators also should subscribe to the Microsoft Security Notification Service.
Inappropriate defaults are another problematic artifact of Microsoft's attempts at "ease-of-use." Systems that retain these default settings are particularly vulnerable to hackers and viruses. The Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer tool enables an administrator to check for inappropriate default settings on all the NT-family systems on a network.
Although not a problem with the operating system per se, another reason for Windows' poor security reputation is that it's more likely than other operating systems to be installed and configured by people untrained in basic IT-security practices. Combined with inappropriate defaults, this can lead to untrusted users having access to far more information, and therefore having more ability to cause damage, than they should. This problem can be solved by ensuring that all Windows administrators have appropriate security training and job-performance metrics.
Because so many systems run Windows, it's the most popular target of hackers and viruses. Nonetheless, we don't believe that it's necessary or appropriate for Windows users to undertake the effort, disruption, and expense of moving to another operating system for reasons of security. Properly managed and maintained, Windows 2000, XP, and 2003 are as secure as Linux or other operating systems.
-- Peter Schay
Sourabh Hajela, TAC Expert, has more than 15 years of experience in strategy, planning, and delivery of IT capability to maximize shareholder value for corporations in major industries across North America, Europe, and Asia. He is a member of the faculty at the University of Phoenix, where he teaches courses in strategy, marketing, E-business and leadership. Most recently, he was VP and the head of E-business with Prudential Financial.
Beth Cohen, TAC Thought Leader, has more than 20 years of experience building strong IT delivery organizations from both user and vendor perspectives. Having worked as a technologist for BBN, the company that literally invented the Internet, she not only knows where technology is today but where it's heading in the future.
Peter Schay, TAC executive VP and chief operating officer, has 30 years of experience as a senior IT executive in both IT vendor and research industries. He was most recently VP and chief technology officer of SiteShell Corp. Previously at Gartner, he was group VP of global research infrastructure and support, and launched coverage of client/server computing in the early 1990s.