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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.

But they are still expected to focus part of their time on innovation, and Haugabrook says that yields real results. The infrastructure team, for example, is pushing innovative solutions using cloud technologies. The tech support team dropped its response time from two hours to under 15 minutes by looking at how successful police departments use data to enable rapid response to calls.

Keeping security centralized

Rob Meilen, vice president and CIO at Hunter Douglas North America in Broomfield, Colo., believes security is such an important part of the company that it cannot be broken out.

It’s easier to maintain security when you’re more centralized. It sort of bakes into the way you do these processes when you’re centralized,” Meilen says.

He oversees an IT team of 120, supplemented by another 30 to 40 workers in outsourced or contract positions. Like other CIOs, Meilen says work often falls into one of two camps, with one focused on new technology-enabled business initiatives and the second focused on keeping everything up and running smoothly.

“We don’t have a formal separation, but in the past two years we’ve been talking more about the different focus of those two areas,” he says, noting that the company is beginning to review how it budgets and allocates resources to reflect those two IT functions.

Meilen says it makes sense. Operations is driven by efficiency; there’s a constant push to do better but use less time and money. The initiative side is driven instead by the need to enable business requirements and to do so quickly.

IT workers, too, seem to fall into these two buckets, Meilen says, although like the work itself, there’s usually some overlap.

“We have a lot of our folks who tilt more in one direction or another, but there are very few folks who do only one or the other. The size of our organization doesn’t lend itself to that,” he says, noting that most of his IT workers tilt 70% in one direction, with the remainder focused on doing work or pursuing interests in the second camp.

Although Meilen says there seems to be a natural split. He says he uses that for planning and tracking purposes, but he doesn’t anticipate drawing a stronger line between the two.

“We are moving toward a harder-line distinction in how we budget for costs and allocate costs to business unit customers. We track time for what people work on and our capital spending, we track operational cost spending. We believe we can get a pretty clear picture on how these two spheres are operating without drawing a hard artificial line on an org chart,” he says.


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