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Why is Security on NASCIO’s Top 10 This Year

Earlier this month the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) published their 2014 top 10 list for polices and technology issues facing state governments.  NASCIO Top 10  Security, consolidation, cloud services and enterprise portfolio management topped the list. While security has made the list the last several years, this year’s survey is the first time security has ranked #1.  “It is significant that security has now risen to the number one priority on our top 10 list,” said NASCIO President and Mississippi Chief Information Officer Craig Orgeron. “As I presented in congressional testimony before the Committee on Homeland Security last week, cyber-attacks against state governments are growing in number and becoming increasingly sophisticated. Security has to be the top priority for all sectors.”

In a March 2013 report by Government Security News on the topic of why government agencies are potential targets for security threats, Christopher Pogue, Director of Digital Forensics and Incident Response at Trustwave wrote…the retail industry emerged as the top target for cyber attacks in 2012, surpassing the food and beverage industry (2011) and the hospitality industry (2010). While government agencies did not emerge as a Top Three target, retail, food and beverage and hospitality services are provided within the government infrastructure and can be targeted by organized cyber-criminals in the same manner, which is why all government agencies must be vigilant and implement a thorough data security strategy.

Many government agencies store, process and transmit cardholder data.  Citizens pay taxes, fines and various permit fees with credit cards, either online or in person. So, how do government agencies know those citizens’ personal data is being protected?

After performing nearly 1,500 investigations during the past five years, Trustwave security experts know that it is only a matter of time before a government agency becomes a victim. Given the widespread ramifications of successfully breaching a government-owned payment system, businesses within the government infrastructure must act now and implement a thorough, in-depth cyber security plan, in addition to making sure they comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, an information security standard created to increase controls around cardholder data to reduce credit card fraud.”

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Public Service is a dangerous job. No, really, it is!!

According to a recent Governing Magazine article the Public Sector typically faces a greater risk of suffering injury on the job than the Private Sector.

“Across all areas of local government, federal data estimates 6.1 nonfatal job-related injury or illness cases occurred for every 100 full-time employees in 2012. State governments recorded a rate of 4.4 per 100 workers. The situation is somewhat better in the private sector, where there were 3.4 cases for every 100 workers.”

It’s true, Public Safety is a dangerous job, but put that group to the side for just a moment and read further about the other public worker groups in peril such as transportation and state operated hospitals.

The Most Dangerous Government Jobs and Why They’re Riskier Than the Private Sector by | November 19, 2013

Best Practice Sharing Isn’t Just For Leaders

We all know the expression, “Let’s not re-create the wheel”.  Still, employees and employers alike find themselves doing that every day.  Why is it that leaders are encouraged to share best practices with other organizations, but employees and managers within departments often sit in silos not knowing what the other department, agency, group, etc… are doing?  Best practice sharing isn’t just for leaders, it’s for everyone.

Karin Hunt, blogger and creator of Let Leaders Grow, talks in a recent blog about how important it is for leaders to listen to their own employees.  She goes on to talk about the powerful advantages to “story-telling” and how to learn through collaboration.  I know in my personal experiences when I sit down with my counterparts I’m often amazed at some of the things they are working on and how easily I could apply them to my own goals and objectives.  And all it takes is one-hour a month out of our busy schedules to have this informal group “chat”.

Even when it doesn’t seem to make sense that one group could possibly learn from another, it doesn’t hurt to try.  Leaders need to cultivate an environment that encourages sharing.  What if the Parks & Rec Dept created a process for scheduling seasonal workers that the Transportation Dept could adopt during the snow season?  What if the IT Dept had a solution to resolve incoming requests quickly that the Clerk’s Office could benefit from?  This makes me think of  that other expression we hear so often, “You never know unless you try”.

To read more about what Karin Hunt has to say about story-telling, visit her blog posted Oct 4th titled, Simplest Ways to Hear the Best Stories.

I’ve Fallen, But I Can Get Up…Lessons in Government Productivity and Efficiency

We are close to being blessed by a new driver in our house.  I use the word “blessed” a bit tongue-in-cheek, because I’m not sure the steep increases in car insurance and the fresh cloud of worry hanging over our heads are any consolation to having a kid with a driver’s license.  You’ll also note that I said, “close to being blessed,” because it turns out the visit to the DMV didn’t actually render a new license.   It’s not that our daughter isn’t a good driver and failed the test, rather the arduous processes and mountains of paperwork required to actually get a license these days disassembled our plan.  We ultimately determined that we would need to take our daughter out of school and ask for a half day vacation if she is going to be successful securing a legal spot on the highway.

One doesn’t have to look far to find a multitude of empirical data that indicates productivity advancements in the public sector (i.e. the DMV) have not kept pace with increases in the private sector.  Killefer, 2006.  To actually improve productivity, and to make notable gains in operational efficiencies, government workers would have to figure out creative ways to eliminate bureaucracy and to improve communication amongst themselves and the citizens they serve.  This challenge got me thinking about human resources processes inside government organizations, because my experience has taught me that HR is likely one of the most operationally inefficient areas of government. Think about a typical time-off request.  If I’m a public servant in most government organizations today and I want to take a day off, I have to complete a 3-part leave form ahead of my leave.  This form moves from me to my supervisor for signature and approval, and then the original form is shuffled to an envelope that has to make its way across town in the back of a mail truck.  Hopefully the form lands on the desk of someone in Payroll, because the Payroll Administrator will have to make a manual entry in the official system of record so that the system can keep track of how many leave days I’ve taken.  And heaven help the poor citizen who may need my services on my day off, because there’s a high probability no one will know where I am.

The workforce leave process and the DMV process for a new license are two simple examples of productivity gaps in the public sector.  Fortunately technologies exist today that have the ability to manage these processes more efficiently.  It just becomes a game of budgets, weighed against pain, weighed against vocal employees and citizens.  The pain is high.  Perhaps our voices need to become louder.