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Where does security fit in bi-modal IT departments?

Mary K. Pratt | Sept. 17, 2015
There seems to be disagreement as to whether security workers should be in the innovation camp or look after the day-to-day operations.

That’s a big benefit, he says. The team members who are delivering innovation know they’ll handle it operationally, too. “You don’t lose the brain drain, you don’t lose out on the knowledge piece when a project transfers from innovation to operations,” he adds.

Security is everywhere

Robert Quarterman, vice president of Infrastructure Architecture and Technical Services at Service Benefit Plan Administrative Services Corp., is wrestling with how to bifurcate his IT team of 360 IT employees and 90 contractors.

With regard to the security task, he says, “security is moving at a pace that’s outpacing even agile at this point based on the cyber threats that are quickly emerging.” As a result, security has become a foundational function, “so security is embedded in every aspect of our lifecycle from the beginning, so we design our solutions for performance and security and functionality and that’s the only way we’re going to be successful with it.”

“That’s the way we’re approaching it, security is everywhere,” Quarterman says, noting that security people will be embedded in projects.

He says operations “is really about running the business, so once innovation is done, it becomes operationalized.”

He says that side of the house “operates at a different speed. They have different priorities, and different funding.” Funding for operations comes from the central IT department, he explains, whereas funding for innovation comes from business units – as does advocacy for individual projects.

Quarterman says the speed of technology advancements combined with the speed at which business wants to capitalize on them is pushing IT leaders like him to make the move. He says a split could also help improve talent management.

“We’re thinking about how to segregate them because we don’t have a clear distinction today so we lean on the same expertise in the organization to do the innovation but they’re still doing maintenance, too, so we end up with conflict on what gets priority,” he explains.

In other words, those on his team that are assigned innovative tasks are also expected to continue with their regular operations duties, too, he says. That means they’re sometimes pulled off an innovation project to handle an operational issue, which impacts IT’s ability to deliver projects as quickly as possible.

Brian A. Haugabrook, CIO of Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Ga., wants his employees to be creative and innovative at the same time. He doesn’t have plans to split his IT staff of 60 full-time workers and 40 part-time workers in two. He says he sees benefits in having people work on both innovation and operations.

That doesn’t mean that everyone is doing an equal split between the two tasks. The infrastructure team generally spends about 80% of its time on operations, for example. The same goes for the tech support team.

 

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