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Category Archives: General Informaion

General information, news, family affairs, and other items of a non-professional nature. This is a personal blog after all.

Aside

I realize the site is still a bit of a mess. I certainly appreciate the comments thus far, and for my followers bearing with me as I consolidate content from old versions of this site, rework material from my portfolio to be more suitable to public presentation, and work through an effective presentation of my professional profile.

I realize that can be read as “my resume is a wordy wreck”, or “I have no real focus”; but I firmly believe in the value proposition of blending the CIO/CTO roles in many organizations. At the very least the value in having business analysts, strategists, and technologists aligned horizontally within an organization in order to identify and solve problems both internally, and externally is necessary for many types of process efficiency and innovative developments in application. That dual role and practice of utilizing internal capabilities as customer offerings, and those that are developed as products/solutions being adopted internally is occasionally a difficult bridge to cross.

The cultural aspects of change, the need for transition and turnaround expertise, and thought leadership all need to come together in a singular and concise vision which I’ve found difficult to generalize and distill. It seems from my self-reviews that discussing top and bottom line profitability/growth in the same sentence as business transformation has me sounding like an out-of-touch idealist & the descriptions either become excessively verbose, or somewhat esoteric. Not good on either end.

So while I’m still getting it all together, and am occasionally slow to respond – I wanted to take the opportunity to reach out and thank those that follow and send me comments.  Keep them coming and I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can.

//Levii

The Site, It’s Still Coming Together

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2014 in General Informaion

 

Invited to Present at the UIS Cyber Defense and Disaster Recovery Conference

CCDR

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything of substance … being buried in transitioning a new 24-person software development contract, academic papers for the PhD program, and bid & proposal efforts, it’s likely to be a bit yet.  Even so, I thought it worth posting that I’ve been invited to present at the 2014 Cyber Defense and Disaster Recovery Conference (CDDR) at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) on Thursday, March 13.  There should be a mid sized (~225+) paid audience of practitioners, business people & academics.  The event is sponsored by InfraGard Springfield with coordination and support by the FBI and UIS.

For more information on the conference, take a look at their archives – they’ve had a great list of presentations and speakers; and I’d certainly be privileged to be among them.

The theme I’ve been asked to present is on security incident and response as firms migrate to distributed storage technologies, and I just about proposed a presentation title of The bits be everywhere – keeping them in their tubes & cleaning up the mess when they spring a leak.  I did come to my senses, and the actual topic is TBA after I’ve confirmed my availability, but the general subject remains the same & is something I’ve written around the edges of on this blog in the last year.  The working title (at least for the moment) is a bit more professional, and is something on the order of Minimally intrusive governance & distributed storage systems: Considerations for disaster recovery and contingency planning in a mobile world.

Knowing that there will be small business leaders in attendance, and having been asked to make the presentation instructional; I’m tempted to fall back to the broader areas of governance, compliance & risk.  When considering the ways that varied attendees might prepare for security and incident response, and the answer being “it depends”; I think a broader perspective of the criticality of good governance and orchestrated process of BCP/DRP specific to distributed data storage should be appropriate.  If there’s one thing I know, it’s that awareness of security is insufficient, as is the presentation of a solid business case.  The competing priorities of security and workflow efficiency must be addressed or people will work around the controls.  Though a recent area of study, Albrechsten (2007) and Takemura (2011) both provide very good evidence of this, with an identified need to blend not only awareness, but the practical actions that can be embedded into process, without significant impact to the overall efficiency of operations.

Viewed from the broader perspective, these are not easy challenges to solve; and unfortunately the problem is less frequently technological in nature, and more often is tied to the behavior of the organization itself.   Addressing change in technology, workflow, and culture (regardless of reason) require a more deeply rooted desire to change behavior patterns from those that must implement them. In a fashion similar to the myriad theories and models of change management and/or organizational behavior, it’s the individuals within the group that have to be effectively targeted.  Throw in a twist of technological adoption and the typical fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) normally used in areas of security & that are often seen as “keeping people from doing their jobs” … you’ve got the perfect storm of things that are tough to change. Focusing then, on the intersecting issues of storage management, IA, and the optimization of information security investments within a framework of process re-engineering & adoption strategies borrowed from the TAM (Venkatesh, 2000, 2003, 2008; Morris, Davis, G., & Davis, F., 2003); I’ll be pulling from other research and courses I’ve developed to combine as a one-hour session.

At the very least, it did force me to take a look at my short bio … which I haven’t done in far too long.  While not fantastic, I think it still gets the point across & I’ve attached it here for my own entertainment. I’ll post more detail as this gets flushed out over the coming weeks, and as always I welcome any comments or input you have.

Short Bio – Levii Smith

//Levii

References

Albrechtsen, E. (2007). A qualitative study of users’ view on information security. Computers & Security, 26(4), 276–289. doi:10.1016/j.cose.2006.11.004

Takemura, T. (2011). Statistical Analysis on Relation between Workers’ Information Security Awareness and the Behaviors in Japan. Journal of Management Policy and Practice, 12(3), 27–37.

Venkatesh, V., Morris, M., Davis, G., & Davis, F. (2003). User Acceptance of Information Technology: Toward a Unified Veiw. MIS Quarterly, 27(3), 425–478.

 

 

Strategic Generalization – Staffing and Training Efficiently

Strategic Generalization – Staffing and Training Efficiently

Don’t discount generalization. Build a strategy of integration from multiple supporting specialties.

I began writing an introduction and synopsis of my academic and professional career to date, which was initially intended to be a single document and page on Levii.com in the effort of filling some gaps in information and completing a profile of my personal brand. Doing so carried a secondary goal of sharing my perception and insight of what I’ve observed to be a typical path from a young & “geeky IT weenie”, through the disciplines of technology, and into the application of that background into the various domains of business.

Of course there are differing approaches, skills and background needed for strategic planning, business development, management, negotiation, etc. that are required to grow beyond “simply IT”, and within IT there are often very good reasons not to generalize beyond a specific discipline.  IT is, however, foundational to the modern enterprise, and for IT professionals planning options for growth; a pragmatic perspective of the art of the possible, and appropriate places for technology to support the business plan, are essential skills to learn.  These skills necessarily require a degree of generalization outside of technology, and provide opportunistic basis to strategically develop multiple specializations over time.

I would, by no means, marginalize the achievements and value that specialists afford in every industry, and in virtually every organization that’s grown beyond a small(ish) size. While I unfortunately can’t provide empirical evidence or models of staffing profiles to generate an optimum balance of specialists to generalists; I can generalize from observation, provide some stories and cases of interest, and infer anecdotal evidence from successes and failures covering 15+ years of review.  My background, and therefore this discussion, focuses on the value of strategic generalization.

Pigeonholing Specialists, and Discounting Generalists

For whatever reason, the role of the generalist has developed into the false dichotomy between specialization in a targeted domain, and the application of critical thought and skills across a broad spectrum of problems. Even a google search for related terms returns virtually no discussion of the concept, and debate and perceptions that these must be either-or is a logically fallacious non sequitur.

Before I’m accused of arguing against fallacy with a different fallacious argument (presumably this one), I encourage anyone interested to consider the great minds of the ages.  The concept of the learned gentleman certainly fell out of popularity with the aristocracy, and it’s understood that many fields require a lifetime to master.  Admittedly, the notion that a single person could know all that was known in their chosen field, while also having a more than a hobbyist’s knowledge of the arts, philosophy, math, sciences, etc. is nonsensical in the modern age of knowledge creation.

Even so, the polymaths of the renaissance aren’t unheard of, and a similar capacity for ingenious connections and creation isn’t impossible to achieve today.  I’d argue that it is instead something that should be encouraged, and for anyone capable and willing to put the necessary time and effort into achieving that goal; it can be a rewarding experience.

While reviewing the lists of lessons learned, brainstorms on current research, and trying to develop roadmaps for technologists to identify where some of the most effective opportunities and areas might be; I found it necessary to further define the scope and nature of organizational structure and behavior to chart this better for those I mentor.  Since I place a focus and challenge each of them to develop a broader set of skills and to become generation of leaders to follow, I had to address what are near-constant reminders on how “computer people” are perceived.  How then to address the empirical argument that it’s far more common to move from business into IT management than it is to successfully move from IT into business management?

As many times as I’ve seen this trend, and through participation in numerous discussions and panels that fielded questions about roles; it remains clear to me that it’s far more effective to have a smaller, but highly talented workforce.  Projects and programs with personnel that are multifaceted with a broad spectrum of subject intelligence and skills tend to complement each other, develop specialty where none existed before, and reach out when necessary to request the support of true experts within a specialty.

It’s an odd finding then, that while useful and valuable when overall firm success is used as a measure; the increased horizontal perspective and specialist level-of-depth in select areas aren’t necessarily seen as valuable, and often lead to perceptions of over-qualification.  It should be realized that this nature of favoritism and need to pigeonhole expertise leads to larger and more narrow focus, decreased innovation in process and product generation, and an organization with a footprint that is greater in cost than is ordinarily necessary.

The rationale isn’t too hard to find often coming down to the overlapping areas and relevancy of the generalist’s expertise. With pattern matching systems used for HR databases, a generalist is easily overlooked, and given the limited space and non-descriptive task-based requisition; it’s difficult for an organization to see where a role might emerge that combines multiple positions into some functional subgroup that numbers less, but brings more to the table.  Of course there’s a human factor involved on both sides, in forming a recruitment & staffing process that takes abstract generalities and redefinition of need into account, and in a candidates ability to “sell” themselves into a role, rather than a job.

Focus on the need, not the specific skill

Consider technology, where roles have emerged that may or may not be associated with a specific job title or skill. It is often the role of the architects or the abstractionists to tie competing concepts together into a viable solution to the problem at hand.  In more cases than not, this requires expertise and experience spanning multiple domains which were developed as a grouping of specializations over time.  I’d argue that this is a specialization in its own right, and often one that’s expensive to acquire (for both the entity needing the skill, and for the person providing it).  While the currency of labor at the lowest-level of implementation tends to be lost; those are often commoditized areas of positions requiring “butts in seats” best classified as jobs, and not positions, where what is provided is labor, and not the creation of value.

Of course, not all organizations, thinkers, or leaders fall into this either-or trap; but it remains the language by which it is typically discussed.  There are a number of arguments that can be made against specialization, and supporting models for when it makes sense.  For my money, I’ll take a team of T-Shaped people that have access to expert specialists, as necessary, any day.

To sum this whole misconception up, popular sayings on tools can be readily applied to skills. In both cases they overly simplistic, and incomplete.

  • Use the right tool for the job.
  • The more tools in your toolbox, the more options you’ve got.

What should be added to the discussion, and find its way back into the mindset of leaders, professionals and practitioners, is the value afforded when we bridge the gap between commodities and specialties.  We need to realize that it’s not an either-or situation, and introspectively look across our organizations to determine roles and capabilities to fill the needs in meeting overall objectives rather than the jobs that fill up available time by creating work over value.

On specialties

  • If you’re missing tool that will be used frequently, consider getting it.
  • If you don’t have a tool that is difficult to borrow when you need it, consider getting it yourself.
  • If a tool is specialized, expensive, or won’t be used frequently enough to be worthwhile getting yourself; work with the person that already has it.

On commodities

  • If the tool is inexpensive, infrequently used, but common enough that it’s easy to borrow, work with the person that already has it.

As with anything else there’s a cost/benefit associated with each scenario.   When you need something frequently, absorbing the cost isn’t difficult to rationalize as a necessity; and occasionally having a tool is important for no reason other than the difficulty or cost of finding it in the time constraints it is needed.

Whether specialization in staffing is effective, or if a truly generic workforce will suffice … how many varieties and combinations of all-in-one tools are sensible, or whether outsourcing of labor (commoditized, specialized, or otherwise) is the more effective scenario; and to which degree the mix is optimal remain unique to each case.

To evaluate some of these, the rest of this series will focus on some instances from my own background, combined with a smattering of research and retrospective analysis; where abstract and special reasoning, combined with both breadth and depth of knowledge really are their own unique tool in the toolbox.

As always, I look forward to a continued discussion and any insight or commentary you have in any of the forums you find me.

//Levii

Additional References & Related Links:

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2014 in Business, General Informaion

 

A Holiday Break

With the holiday season upon us, I’ll be taking a break from writing original posts and/or papers for a couple of weeks.  I won’t be taking this time to rest on my laurels, however.  I have plenty of projects to complete around the house, a decade of photos to sort and upload, and a number of older works that need dusted off and posted so that there is a possibility of others getting value from them.

Happy Holidays

I’ve continued the love of open collaboration, and strive to share my knowledge and expertise freely to those who ask of it. As every new cohort began, I opened with the same statement; which I still hold to be a positive truth:

Though I may be billed as your teacher, trainer, or as the course instructor; none of these are necessarily true. As a room of professionals, each of you have chosen to be here. I cannot teach those that don’t want to learn, nor can I instruct those that don’t wish to listen. I can guide, assist, advise, listen, and mentor. I will freely answer any question to which I’m familiar and certain, and research answers to those I am not. I’m a resource, coach, and your collaborator; and I look forward to the next 40 days we’ll spend here together.

It’s in this spirit that I’ve selected the training decks from the CNAP program to post over the next couple of weeks. The first series to follow this post will be the Cisco Networking Academy Program (CNAP) training material, slides, labs, and other handouts that I prepared as an instructor between 2000 and 2005.  They’ve been touched on from time-to-time, and although no longer relevant for the CCNA exam; the underlying technical concepts and theory aren’t the type of things that will age into irrelevance in the very near future.

In my opinion, the development, mentorship, and transparency in thought-processes are among the most defining characteristics of good leadership. Though I have largely moved out of the classroom, the lessons learned and training received in instructional design, pedagogy, and confidence in my subject-authority will undoubtedly stick with me; and be valuable in all aspects of my life. I hope any good information I might impart while republishing this series may be as valuable to you as it was to me.

Happy holidays to all, and I  look forward to our continued conversation.

//Levii

 

Site Redevelopment

Though this site doesn’t have a substantial following, I do have some resources linked here and photos shared for friends, family and colleagues – so I did want to note that this site will be undergoing an overhaul in the next couple of weeks.  I’m finally moving off of a legacy Joomla! installation and onto WordPress.  There are a variety of reasons, but the most significant is to enhance media sharing and to more easily manage content and whitepapers that I’m putting together from academic, personal and professional research.

I’ve been working quite a bit with some of the open source ERP systems; specifically ERPNext and OpenERP, which are both python based so a move to a VPS is in order on the DreamHost side – which will also allow me tighter integration with my various Windows Azure resources.  Python itself is new to me, as most of my development has been done in C#, ColdFusion, .JS, ASP, VBS, Perl, or Java … so this should be a good chance for me to work in what’s rapidly becoming the defacto language for scientific applications.  I will be digging out source, applications, papers, and training materials to post as part of this effort — so it might be a bit clunky for a bit while I develop a taxonomy of content … if I’m lucky I might even be able to get Tara to post!

While I’m at it, I’m working on cleaning up the site to organize my papers, publications, work, etc., as a part of building out and demonstrating my personal brand.  I’ll come back to this later, but for now I’m testing the integration and links between sites.  Starting out with my  , I’ll be pulling all of my online presence together here to ease management & maintain ownership/control of the content.

Keep in touch.

//Levii

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2013 in General Informaion

 

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A Facelift for Levii.com

Not that I have many people that watch the site, just a few friends and family. Regardless I’ve decided that the legacy CMS the site is built on needs a forklift upgrade and since I’m going that far I may as well make it more useful for my other projects.  To that end, I’ll be moving the site over to an Azure instance, and from php to C# .NET.  I’ve decided on the Orchard CMS and once I’ve got it in place the site will shift over. This should, hopefully, make it easier for Tara and I to keep our photos up to date by taking advantage of some of the iCloud APIs until we get off of the iPhones.  Until then – keep in touch via Facebook, LinkedIn, email, phone, letter, or your communication tool of choice.

//Levii

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2013 in General Informaion

 

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Happy 13th Birthday Tiana

I hope you have a fantastic birthday as you leave the ‘tweens and enter your teenage years.  Now is when you start shaping who you will become – make the most of every opportunity, and make the best of every setback.

Love,
//Levii

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2013 in General Informaion

 

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