Friday, September 18, 2015

Tech Coast 2015 - Executive Leadership Roundtable

Well, it has been a while since I post here or write anything for any publication for that matter. I have been wanting to get back to it and thought hat my notes on this session that I attended would be a great start. I already have other content that I have written and will be posting more consistently and frequently. Writing is something that I have always enjoyed because I learn and hopefully give back to our community in the process. Here we go...

The Executive Leadership Roundtable

Last Friday 9/4/15 I had the privilege to participate in the second annual Tech Coast Conference as a speaker in the Executive Leadership Roundtable presenting and leading a discussion with CIOs, CISOs and other leaders around Information Security alongside my peer Kirk Hale, Director of Information Technology and CISO at Brooks Rehabilitation.

In this format both Kirk and I presented a topic which was immediately followed by a discussion on it where we challenged the audience with a question so that we could hear what ideas came out that could be useful to everyone (whole session went almost two hours with a very engaged audience). Here are my key take away:

World Class Security in a Budget – Kirk Hale
  • World Class (Best In Class in Regency Center’s world, the organization I work for) is defined by your organization who you want to be. However, you should also keep an eye on what your industry and local community peers are doing as it can provide great insight.
  • Define your risk organization’s level\appetite.
  • Understand industry risks, compliance requirements and trends.
  • Document Risk and Risk Management Program.
  • Pick a framework that aligns with your goals. In REG’s case we are heading towards National Institute of Standards and Technology Special Publication 800-53 (NIST SP800-53). This was popular in the room as many of the attendees seems to either already adhere to this framework or in the process of doing so.
  • Have a strategy, Build a Program and define roles.
  • Leverage existing staff. Sometimes you can offload some of the tasks to several areas of your IT Organization. I don’t necessarily agree with this because of several reasons including separation of duties, and accountability among others. However, every organization is different and not many can have the luxury of an internal security organization.
  • Perform regular assessments (annually at the very least). This depends on your requirements.
  • Hire the right staff – Choose Threat Intelligence over Technical Skills. People that can make sense of the information at hand and can speak to it in business terms. Look for passionate, engaged individuals; security is not always very exciting so passion is key.
  • Use best in class tools but choose carefully as it is easy to over buy. Some of the technologies that are becoming essential to have now:
    • Phishing Protection
    • Advance Malware Protection (beyond Antivirus)
    • Sandboxing \ URL Wrapping
    • Activity Monitoring (Events Monitoring) – Do not over monitor though. Your monitoring strategy should align with the risk and security programs and if you monitor what you don’t need you bring yourself a problem because you must comply with it.
  • Use of 3rd party partners.
    • Some do little on this area but they do use them for Vulnerability Assessments, health check, compliance audits, risk assessments and education and configuration services.
    • At Regency we rely heavily on a few different partners who can monitor and remediate issues 24x7x365 and are a great addition to our staff. I wrote about this in 2011 in an article titled DevelopingStrong Network Security with a Services-Integrator Approach.
  • Have an incident response plan. Things will happen and the plan should include:
    •  Well defined roles.
    • Communication of the plan.
    • Testing the plan.
  • Go for the low hanging fruit:
    • Access and privilege management
    • Strong password
    • Hardened hosts
    • Patching
    • Holy Grail - User Awareness
  • Group ideas and approach:
    • Data Classification. Know what you need to protect and where it is, then build walls around it.
    • A large number of companies in the room referred to Security Awareness as an invaluable tool.
    • Periodic vulnerability and risk assessment.
    • Any effort must have leadership support and it should be driven by the company’s top executives.

The Human Firewall – Carlos Rodriguez

The idea around my presentation is that we should strive to help our people become our first line of defense because the bad guys aren’t coming after our servers and routers and firewalls anymore. They are coming after The Center of any organization, our people. We can achieve this by making the educational efforts personal so that we can influence behavior whether our people are inside or outside the company. You can find a copy of my presentation here.

I used the following two examples through the presentation:
  • On the Phising attacks: 
    • A retailer wanted to gain insight about sales in a particular area where a REIT owns a shopping center with similar tenants.
    • They want to know their sales, demographic, etc. Any info they do not possess about that market.
    • Someone at the retailer, say in the IT Department, creates a fake Facebook account that impersonates someone that works at the REIT and request to become the VP of Finance’s friend.
    • She finds out that this VP loves and coach soccer.
    • Creates an email about a new soccer tournament in town that he should look at for his team. The VP / Coach loves the tourney, clicks the link and she drops malware. Phases I, II & III of the Kill Chain achieved (Recon, Weaponization, Delivery).
  • I am attending an IT Leadership Academy course and the first session session in Chicago was hosted at very large and well-recognized organization’s Global Technology Center. One of the things that caught my attention while I was there was this very well known character that represents \ identifies this company who was all over the place running their Information Security Awareness Training with messages from “wear your badge” to “shredder your paper” and everything in between. I can visualize him doing videos, etc in this campaign. This approach sticks because it makes it personal (many people are likely aware of this guy and my cereal is very personal) and it also shows how to leverage the company culture and resources to deliver the message.
  • Everyone agreed that this is where’s at; that building a culture where people behaves the same way inside the company’s building / network and outside of it is critical to build that culture. There were a lot of great ideas coming from the group and here are some.
    • One of the companies has a successful campaign based on humor. They love their CISO’s emails and the messages sticks.
    • Another company has SAM (the Security Awareness Man) and they are also trying to build a rewards program similar to those healthy life challenges \ programs that many companies run. This is a healthcare organization and again, this method works for them because is their culture and who they are. I thought that was a great idea.
    • Some companies have programs where they reward people with recognition, again, make it personal. They announce when people shows great behavior around security and the reward may also include either an incentive (gift card, money, PTO, etc) or something as simple as lunch / dinner with a top executive (or both). I thought that was a good idea too.
    • A few companies did launch an internal phishing campaign that had a high “clicking” ratio. One company also dropped a few USB sticks with malware and about half got plugged into the network (they labeled something like payroll or compensation). They did let at least executives know they were doing it; in some cases they told the whole company and still got undesirable results.
    • Before launching a program build a team \ focus group that includes internal people from different areas, IT, HR and 3rd party experts in this area that can help you with both the creation and delivery of the program.
What are some of the things that you are doing to build a Best In Class Information Security Program?
How are you building your company's Information Security Program?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Book Review: America the Vulnerable: Inside the New Threat Matrix of Digital Espionage, Crime, and Warfare

I guess I am in like a book posting series for now but since I had to do a book review to earn CPE credits for my CISSP certification I thought it would get a cheap blog entry this month with it.

This book was a great follow up to Fatal Systems Error for me. Joel Brenner, the author, is a former Inspector General of the National Security Agency, NSA, and was also the head of U.S. Counterintelligence for the director of National Intelligence.  This book explores both Cybercrime and Cyberwarfare with more emphasis in the latter. The author does give the reader a primer on Cybersecurity and how some attacks such as DDoS for example take place. However, because of Brenner’s insight into the US national intelligence system, the book focuses on what State-sponsored Cyberthreats represents to the international community, especially so to The US without going into much detail into how attacks happen. It describes how Cybercrime has evolved as a potential lethal weapon to a nation’s critical infrastructure (e.g. power, financial, communications, and military industries) by using the internet to disturb communications and information flow during warfare and references to how Serbians manipulated these tools during the Kosovo War; most recently you could probably relate to the Egypt Revolution and the critical role that communications and Social Media played there, and continues threats by the Iranian government to shut down communications in their country as a way to control and intimidate their opponents. When The People´s Republic of China, PRC, realized that they were too far behind from The US economics and military forces they identified an opportunity to explore other ways to build their technology and industries by exploiting the weaknesses of our current industries and military forces to steal classified information and intellectual property that they have used to catch up with the our technology and use it against us. Both government and the private sector are at fault here by not implementing the necessary security control and most importantly by failing to educate and create security awareness within their organizations. 

The moment of truth for me during this read was when I came acrros the excerpt below. The reason being that I work in a mid-size law firm and I couldn’t agree more with this statement which actually comes from a lawyer and partner in one of the largest 100 law firms in the US.

"The Chinese have other even subtler methods of stealing our know-how. Several years ago, while serving as the national counterintelligence executive, I sat with colleagues discussing how we would plan an espionage attack against an American business. And then a lightbulb went on: the law firms! Of course: A company’s outside intellectual property lawyers have its technical secrets, and their corporate law colleagues are privy to strategic business plans. And lawyers don’t like taking instructions from anybody, particularly their less well paid underlings who are responsible for network security. They’re impatient. In some firms the rainmakers have nixed even simple steps, like requiring a password on mobile devices that connect with the firm’s servers. They couldn't be bothered. Privileged with secrets, highly paid, often arrogant and usually impatient, lawyers are the perfect targets. I cannot disclose what I know because it's classified, but I can disclose that I know that my surmise was soon justified. U.S. law firms have been penetrated both here and abroad. Firms with offices in China and Russia are particularly vulnerable, because the foreign security services are likely to own the people who handle the firms' physical and electronic security. These services are not interested in stealing brilliant legal briefs; they want information about the firm's clients. Every law firm with offices in several continents holds privileged and sensitive electronic documents worth millions of dollars to a foreign service, ranging from investment plans to negotiating and business strategies, and much more." Think I got hooked up here? No kidding! This is what I am dealing with every day and is such a great challenge and opportunity for me as a professional. If you are in legal and have kept up with the news then you now know what Brenner knew. There are plenty of articles out there on how Chinese are attacking firmssecurity in law firms, or recent incidents such as Anonymous attacking law firms. Dear lawyers, this is a real issue for us and you guys need to pay attention.

Brenner also does a great job on identifying one of the most important problems that governments face: finding balance between transparency and privacy. While transparency says “Open Up”, privacy says “We are watching you and you are very restricted to what we want you to do.” Both transparency and privacy are about information which he refers to as being liquid. I love that analogy because information as liquid can take any form and be anywhere. The problem is that once liquid leaks, it is hard to figure out how, when and where it happened, not to mention that it is nearly impossible to recover it all. During this segment the author also references how organizations such as WikiLeaks operate by “turning the hose on” to let the precious liquid out. The appearance of WikiLeaks was a critical milestone to the proliferation of Hactivist groups such as Anonymous which supported them by launching DDoS to organizations such as PayPal and MasterCard that froze WikiLeaks funds in an attempt to stop their operations. It is important to note that WikiLeaks has a more organized structure governed by their decision maker Julian Assange, while hactivist groups do not have any type of hierarchy or governing entity and function as a group of people that support the same “values or ideas”.

In chapter 7, the author presents a hypothetical scenario where he illustrates how China could potentially create serious damage and pretty much “own” The US on the verge of war using techniques such as shutting down entire power grids in the US, sending off undetectable submarines to face The US Navy crafts and disturbing the financial markets. He actually mentioned that while his scenario is fictional, some of the penetrations and techniques used by the PRC have actually already happened.

Finally, Brenner presents what he believes are good practices to get both the public and private sectors together. Many of them are widely known, yet not practiced much. Here they are in a nutshell:

Public Sector:
  1. Stronger trade regulations and contracting. Requiring higher security standards from its vendors.
  2. Make Service Providers accountable. For example require ISP to notify customers whose machines are infected by a botnet.
  3. Stronger Energy Standards. Limit connectivity to a public network.
  4.  Tax code. Use tax incentives to encourage investment in cybersecurity
  5. Encourage and found research.
  6. Securities regulations
  7. International relations. International community needs to come together in all of these efforts.
Private Sector:
  1. Clean up your act! Assume that you have been attacked so monitor and mitigate.
  2. Control WHAT is in your system.
  3. Control WHO is in your system.
  4. Protect what is valuable.
  5. Patch, patch, patch.
  6. Train, train, train.
  7. Audit for operational effect.
  8. Manage overseas travel behavior.

    Monday, March 12, 2012

    Reading List Q1 2012

    It has been a couple of months since I last posted. I have a lot going on right now and I have a few posts coming with updates on many exciting initiatives that I have been involved with, but I wanted to get back with something quick in one of my preferred activities, reading. I have been focused primarily on Information and Network Security lately, even if I did not intended to. So here is what I have been reading since November.
    Security Strategy: From Requirements to Reality, by Bill Stackpole and Eric Oksendahl. Not only is a good book around information and network security, but it is also a good book for someone starting to do more strategic work like me.
    In Section I: Strategy, the authors discuss methods of how to think strategically, different types of strategic frameworks, and how to develop strategic plans, which require strong leadership skills in order to follow through the planning process which includes performance, monitoring, evaluation and adjustment. Once they lay the ground with these concepts they start going through scenarios that describe how to be strategic about security and why Information Security programs, when aligned with both the culture and overall business strategy, can enhance processes and can even become a great marketing tool and bring competitive advantage. The importance of security convergence or the integration of logical and physical security is also described, as is the need for the increasing need to change the focus from security to risk management. They also describe three different models that organizations use for the delivery of products: In-house Security Model, Security Services-integrator and All Security Services Outsourced.
    In Section II: Tactics, Stackpole and Oksendahl  go into how to go about implementing your strategic plans. I liked how they laid out four main tactical areas of information security: Defense in Depth, Excellence in Identity Management, Excellence in Security Engineering and Excellence in Operations. The authors also emphasize the importance of observation as a quality of any information security professional and staff cross-training among others. They also give great advice and present good models of delivering Security Awareness Programs for organizations.
    Fatal Systems Error, by Joseph Mann. The book starts introducing Brett Lyon as the central character and how he started fighting Distributed Denial of Services attacks (DDoS) to defend companies within the gambling industry from extorcionists. This eventually led Lyon to the creating of Prolexic Technologies, which specialized in fighting Cyberattacks. Lyon moved on to become an entrepreneur and a well-known security industry figure that eventually participated in high profile federal investigations around Cybersecurity in The US. This book offers great insight on how Cybercrimal mobs operate, and how different countries have put themselves in a position where they either serve these organizations, such as the Russian Business Network (RBN); or have felt so behind that they really can't counter or control their attacks. A second character emerges in Europe, British agent Andy Crocker “who followed his leads and plunged deeper than any previous Westerner into hacking the former Soviet Union”. The work of these two men has been critical to “the good guys” advancements into Cybercrime and Cyberwar because they are pioneers that relentlessly explored areas that nobody had before.
    The book gives a technical overview on how Cyberattacks such as DDoS and Botnets amongst others work. Mann, does a good job on describing how Cyber-threat has become a very prolific industry and references to many famous cases such the hacks perpetrated on T.J. Maxx and Heartland Payment Systems and how they were discovered by some of the most brilliant minds in the business such as Lyon, and Croker as well as Joe Stewart of Dell SecureWorks or Mikko Hypponen of F-Secure to name a couple.
    America The Vulnerable, By Joel Brenner. Mr. Brenner is a former Inspector General of the National Security Agency, NSA, and was also the head of U.S. Counterintelligence for the director of National Intelligence. This book was a great follow up to Fatal Systems Error. While the previous book focused primarily on Cybercrime with slight insight into Cyberwarfare, this book does exactly the opposite. Because of Brenner’s insight into the US national intelligence system, the book focuses on the threat that State-sponsored Cyberthreats, especially from China, represents to our country. It describes how Cybercrime has evolved as a potential lethal weapon to a nation’s critical infrastructure (e.g. power, financial, military industries). It also illustrates the weakness of our current infrastructure and how the People’s Republic of China, PRC, and other nations have been able to exploit The US’s military forces and industries to steel classified information and intellectual property that they have used to catch up with the our technology and use it against us. The author also references how organizations such as WikiLeaks operate and how Hactivist groups such as Anonymous have derived from these organizations.  Through a hypothetical scenario, he illustrates how China could potentially create serious damage and pretty much “own” The US on the verge of war. He actually mentioned that while his scenario is fictional, some of the penetrations and techniques used by the PRC have actually already happened.
    I have to say that if you work on Information security and you want to catch Sr. Management attention’s you need to read this book and also put a copy in front of management.
    The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and The Girl Who Played With Fired, by Stieg Larsson. I don’t remember when the last time I read a fiction book was. Holy Enigmatic Girl Batman! I could not put these down. I finished the latter on one night with 200+ pages to go, the most I have ever read in one day…by far! The story of the first book develops around a journalist and owner of Millennium Magazine, Mikael “Kalle” Blomkvist, who is hired to resolved a family mystery about the murder of a girl. Blomkvist does resolve the case by relentlessly digging into the family business with put his life in danger. In the process he runs into Elisabeth “Liz” Salander, a very weird girl whose social skills are not “normal” who happens to be really smart and great at investigations, which she carried on by means of observation and electronic hacking (security theme again, and this time unintentional). Salander becomes the perfect complement to Blomkviest and together the start discovering new facts and connecting dots until they resolve the case. They also engage on a deep and weird personal relationship, which ended abruptly at the end. Salander also managed to get a hold of millions of Kronor (Swedish currency) by means of Cybercrime…really, I did not mean to get here on the Information Security track again, but Salander is a heck of a hacker herself!
    The second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire is about an investigation on the illegal sex trade and the prostitution industry carried on by Millennium Magazine through Dag Svensson, a freelancer, and his girlfriend Mia Johansson. While the investigation is going on the story also revels Liz Salander’s turbulent past and how society discriminated and labeled her as a socially challenged. As Svensson got close to the head of the sex traffic industry a link between that beast and Salander surfaces and Svesson and Johansson as well as Salander’s legal guardian are all assassinated by the same weapon which happens to have Salander’s finger prints and the hunt to find her starts. On one side we have the police services desperately yet ineffectively trying to track Liz Salander down. On the other hand, Blomkviest launches his own investigation to probe’s Salander’s innocence. At the end, the head of the mob and Liz engage on a brutal and bloody battle and both end up in critical condition at a Gothenburg hospital and Salander innocence of the three murders is clearer, yet not proved yet. I have to get to the 3rd book for that!
    My next books include the 3rd book on Stieg Larsson’s saga, “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest” which I am reading now and “The Hunger Games” saga. As for professional reading, I am going to turn my attention back to my roots, the network, and read “Designing Cisco Network Service Architectures (ARCH) in order to prepare towards completing my CCDP certification (and I sense that there will be a need to become better versed around SAN technologies and virtualization). I also want to read David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”.

    Friday, December 30, 2011

    2011: A Year Of Learning

    Hello everyone. I feel like I have abandoned my blog but I have been quite busy lately working in a few projects. I have been writing though, with two blog entries and two articles for the International Legal Technology Association, ILTA.

    What I want to accomplish with this post is not only summarize the highlights of my year, in terms of my career, but also what I learned from each project and situation and how I grew as consequence of them. So here I go.

    I thought it was appropriate to start with this blog. It was launched in February with a goal of posting at least once a month but most importantly adding value. I did pretty well until the end of the year, when I got busy with our Windows 7 Roll out which I actually blogged about here and here. I feel like I continued to improve and define my writing style, and I learned how powerful social networks could really be. I never thought that I would reach over 1ooo people in three different continents with just a few posts and I hope I am adding value. Furthermore, I confirmed something that I know and practice; not taking action in your ideas and projects is a bad habit. Keep posting is a commitment that I made to myself and I am happy with the results primarily because I also participated in our ILTA Connected Community blog, but there are a couple of entries that I started and I think that would have been great and timely but never finished. So the take away is that once we have an idea or commit to something we must take action and finish it.

    Many of you know that I serve as the Servers Operations & Security Peer Group VP for the International Legal Technology Association, ILTA and we launched a new blog which we hope will add value to our members. You can read not only our posts, but other formidable entries regarding Legal Technology here. In addition I wrote an article on Network Security for ILTA’s Risky Business White Paper and another for their Peer to Peer Magazine which describes how I work on strengthening my mind to achieve results and goals which you can read here. Again, I was reminded that I really need to make sure that I know and understand what I am writing about, which is the case, because of the impact that it could have in others. I re-affirmed that the goal is to add value.

    I was pretty busy at Nexsen Pruet early in the year with infrastructure projects that included enhancing our dual MPLS network architecture by adding a second router to each location (formerly dual-homed in a single router). I learned more about BGP and EIGRP routing during this project and that while our network got more robust, it also did get more complicated. I also learned that Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity (DRBC) is an ongoing process that needs to be tested and adjusted properly as network and system topologies evolve. Besides, I again confirmed the importance of keeping good network and systems documentation up to date.

    Four other major projects took place: an upgrade to our Video Conference infrastructure (VC), which I posted about here, the introduction of Application Level Monitoring through Riverbed’s Cascade appliance, expansion of Mobile Device fleet by introducing iPhones and MobileIron as our MDM solution, and a merger. I learned that while our VC system was heavily used the quality of experience by both the participants and IT folks in our team was very poor. Yes the investment was hefty, but the user experience has improved dramatically and in the last 2-3 months the adoption of desktop video both internally and externally has grown and is already in demand for 2012. That in addition to the ease of management tools of the new systems has probed the investment worthy.

    We now have a better idea of what is going on in our network as far of traffic. We had been using Netflow collectors for a while which gave us a good picture of who was doing what, but I now personally have a much stronger understanding of how our applications interact with users and each other. Cascade gives us a great picture of all pieces interacting in a user action within our network and when there is a problem, it could tell us where it is, whether it is the network, servers, or clients. We are still on learning mode with this tool.

    The introduction of iPhones and a merger kept me busy for a while. Whereas I learned a lot about mobile technologies and enhanced my knowledge of general security practices, I also discovered one a new passion on these two projects: Project Management. I have been managing projects since I became the Network Manager at the firm especially around telephony and facilities having c0-managed the last office move from a technology standpoint. The reason I like PM and that I will make an effort to continue to learn about this topic is because it gives me skills outside IT that I feel I need in order to continue to advance my career, specially so Risk Management, an area of great interest to me at the moment. I am not at a PMP level yet but I think that I am doing well and in fact, I have been tasked with building our Technology Project Management practice at the firm and now have a very talented PM reporting to me.

    The rest of the year was dedicated to our Windows 7 and Office 2010 rollout. I learned so much that I don’t know where to start; from how many specialty applications we are running, to how attorneys and their staff work and use those apps, to how successful you could be when everyone is on board and rowing together towards the same goal. This was the most rewarding, and one of the most successful projects that I have been part of, and again, project management and planning was the key. My role during the project was of Deployment Manager in two different offices and Project Manager in two others. I learned a lot about how attorneys at different offices and practicing different laws work, and how unique their practices are. The most satisfying part of the project though, was seeing how so many talented people in our Technology Department grew during this project. This project also let me understand how important making adjustments while staying focus is; things go wrong, get delayed or even completely pushed out of the initial plan, but you must remain focused on the end goal and adjust as you go, which means that you must evaluate where you are constantly.

    I will never want to stop learning on this area, period. It is such a broad and complex, yet intriguing topic that I think evolution is the key to its mastering, if there is such thing. Anyway, as mentioned earlier I lead a group of legal technology professionals for ILTA. I got appointed as the VP for the Servers Operations Peer Group in August. One thing that I learned firsthand is how important succession is. My predecessor, Bob DuBois, did a great job getting me ready for the transition by assigning task with great visibility into both our team and the whole organization. Task that might seem trivial such as participating in calls with his peer officers or running our meetings really built confidence and got me ready to take it to the next level. This is something I have been doing since day one I became a manager but I had never seen in practice. I got promoted to a management role like many others because of achievements and results in the operations area without little management training or experience and it was a little tough at the beginning, but while adjusting and keeping focus made a difference then, I can now appreciate how much better it could’ve been if we planned ahead. I also learned how to deal with a larger team and building a new team, not to mention how different it is to manage your team at your company compared to managing a team of volunteers.

    I also learned that leadership is about value, communication and helping others grow. Bob did a great job helping me transition to my Officer role and I recognized that and will always try to apply it as a way to help other grow. As we were getting ready for full deployment of Win7 my director and other project leaders recognized that the 3rd party Project Management that we had hired for the project would not be a good fit going forward. He did a great job getting us to a point but things started to not go so well during the first office deployment. My Director approached me and asked me to take over as the Lead PM because we had discussed moving PM under me based on success in projects that I had led. Because of my passion for this area I was excited and honored by just being asked to take over such an important task. However, I also recognize an opportunity to build and help someone grow. We had hired our current PM a few years ago as a PM, but he never really had a chance to lead any project because of many different reasons. I saw this as his chance to grow into the role and gain credibility. He had just completed his Project+ certification and I ask my boss if he would be willing to let him lead the project instead. He hesitated a bit but I asked him to trust me, and most importantly, to trust him and he agreed with the condition that I stayed on top of it behind the scenes, which I did by mainly emphasizing communications. The rest of the project was a big success and I was greatly satisfied by seeing this person succeed when people doubted him.

    So what is it about value? This year, during some hard times when the dark side wanted to take over me, I really had to dig and rediscover my core values. I learned that if I stick to those my whole life will make more sense to me and my family anyway, and I will in turn, be able to add more value to those around me. I thank Randi Mayes, Executive Director of ILTA, for her wise words on this topic and continued commitment to helping ILTA's officers and volunteers to grow.

    My most precious take away about leadership, is that I am now learning how to apply all of these concepts to my personal life. While I think that friends and family have always looked up to me and willingly followed me, I never saw it as an opportunity to lead. Leading my family is my most important task and growing together as successful people is my most rewarding and precious treasure and I can now do it with a leadership approach which is enhancing our already strong relationship and making our core values stronger. It doesn’t get any better than that!

    That's it. It was a year of learning, and it will always be. I will soon post on what is ahead for the 2012 year. I hope that it bring energy, health and prosperity to all of you and your families.

    Here to a great 2011 and an even better 2012! Happy New Year!

    Thursday, September 8, 2011

    Win7/Office 2010 Deployment Office 2, Days 3 & 4

    Last week I covered the first two days of our Window 7 & Office 2010 deployment in this blog. Today I am going to tell you how we close the deal during days 3 and 4.

    Day 3. Closing the Deal
    After a relaxing night closed out with a walk at one of Hilton Head beaches’ shore we were re-energized and it showed as soon as we got to the building. The first group, the support team, got to the office very early to be available to help the office staffers that got newly imaged PCs with the new OS and Office Suite as well as some new or upgraded applications, including our iManage DMS application. The deployment team arrived to the office later that morning to continue working on re-imaging machines and addressing escalated issues.

    “Any change, even a change for the better,
     is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.”
    Arnold Bennett

    Yes, there was a lot of change and the next few days, and weeks will bring a lot of adjustment for our firm while dealing with a new interface that touches pretty much everything they do in a daily basis. However, I can’t emphasize enough the great performance delivered by our Training Team. This showed during the whole day. While there were a lot of different activities going on at the same time, the day went very well; I really had expected more issues and questions from our users but they held up and dealt with the massive change extremely well and they actually did bring up some very valid questions. Once again, Kudos to our Training Team here, and they were not done yet.

    After a nice group lunch in the office the big test for our team arrived; attorney training. The challenge wasn’t only to engage them and keep them involved but also efficiently deal with the many activities going on at the same time. We had two people doing floor support, two folks conducting attorney training, and three re-imaging the rest of the machines of those in training. Once I finished imaging one of the machines assigned to me I saw the need of switching my role into that of a Project Manager. Issues were still coming up and the vast majority was being efficiently and promptly handled by the support team, while some would need more advance troubleshooting and help from the engineers back at The Mothership. Thus, I saw the need to become the central information repository and I started to centrally compile all issues in our log dedicated to that. We always intended to approach the project this way but we had to deviate a bit from it for many reasons. However, we were able to quickly adapt and react to the new situation and get that PM role going again, which will now be part of all future role outs as it should. The PM will focus on being the “Central Communications Center” as well as the data collector so everyone can stay focused on their tasks. So I started walking around and making sure that everyone was doing what they were supposed to while collecting information that we needed to pass on to the rest of the team.

    At the end, we were able to re-image all remaining machines and complete both support and training. It was a long day for most, but the preparation and planning that went on for months paid off again. I think that the main challenge for most was adjusting to the new iManage interface and Idol search engine as well as the obvious adjustment to the Office Ribbon.

    Day 4. The Attorneys & Training; Need I Say More?
    I do indeed! But this time I wasn’t impressed because of the amazing job that our trainers did. They really engaged the attorneys who also did a great job embracing the new interfaces and really going for it and trying to make the most out of the new systems.

    “Change brings opportunity.”
    Nido Qubein

    As I mentioned these attorneys were really trying to adjust and make the most out of the system. They had great comments about the iManage EMM plugin for email management, which was not being used by all of them; some were exploring the IDOL search engine and began to like it a lot; heck we had attorneys using Win7 Snipping Tool!!! One of then used this tool to create a Memo and here is how she summarized her experience: “This upgrade has revolutionized my day! I did a two-page memo faster than I've ever been able to do before”. Now, getting this type of comment on Day One, I mean like the morning after the attorney was trained and facing massive change?…Priceless, for everything else, there are Windows XP & Office 2003!

    Now, there were still issues and one that we are looking at how to better handle in the future is synchronizing OST files over the WAN. When a person travels to a remote office and logs for the first time to a different computer, Outlook will start synchronizing its caching and could potentially cripple the bandwidth to the office depending on the situation. The way we approached the initial deployment was by bringing OST file from last production day, in this case Friday, with us so that we could sync up locally without going over the wire. The switch to cache mode presents a new challenge not only during the migration but on an ongoing basis going forward, especially for offices with small bandwidth capacity. I will be looking at how our Riverbed Steelhead can help here.

    Thanks to the amazing work of the support team, the deployment team was ready to return home by 3:00 pm. Our trainers remained behind and assumed support responsibilities the rest of the week which went very well. In fact, I’ve been checking with our service desk analysts and the call volume from the offices that have been converted have been very low according to them.

    We are working on the next deployment which starts this upcoming weekend in our main office here in Columbia, SC. This will be the largest deployment so far and will tell us a lot for the rest of the way but I am confident that our team will deliver once again. From this point on I will be
    occasionally posting updates about the whole project as we go on. I will continue to be in some of the deployments as either the Operations Manager or Project Manager. Meanwhile, my team is coming behind the Win7 team rolling out Endpoint and Media Encryption using Credant's Mobile Gurdian at the offices that have been migrated to the new OS already and I will be blogging about that project as well.