Enterprise 2.0 – A Way to Innovate

The world today is undergoing rapid changes. The traditional way of doing business no longer holds importance. As the Great recession is fading away, a new business environment is emerging which poses new challenges to the organisations. The businesses have become a matter of survival. Those who will not change with time will be thrown out from this new landscape. As per this year’s Bloomberg/Business Week/Boston Consulting Group (BCG) annual survey of top executives, eighty three percent of the executives surveyed said innovation will play a major role in benefiting from the recovery. So, businesses are trying to innovate more & more to stay ahead of the competition.

Earlier, organisations had pre-defined innovating team consisting of engineers, researchers etc. But under the changed circumstances, they no longer want to have a limited team for innovation. They now have a broader view on this topic and they invite ideas from every corner of the world. There are many organisations which have already adopted this philosophy e.g. Procter & Gamble which applied open-innovation strategy through its website. It not only shows what it knows & what it can do, but also publicizes what it needs. P&G is looking for & inviting new ideas from everybody and about anything from the way they do marketing to the way the organisation functions as a whole. It has recently bought a new technology for an antimicrobial product from a company that submitted its proposal through P&G’s website. So, we see how P&G innovated to bring customers, partners and employees under same umbrella of their website. One of the ways to innovate is to adapt to new technologies. Today, technology has the power of making new industries and breaking existing industries. Some years ago when e-mail technology arrived, most of the companies adopted it to increase collaboration and help its workforce to do the work more rapidly. People also adopted it comfortably in their personal and professional life. But as the environment around the companies is getting more complex, they need new technologies combined with innovation to increase the collaboration.

The organisations are trying to bring in the power of Web 2.0 tools and social software platforms which enable people to collaborate and/or form online communities into enterprises to create – Enterprise 2.0. It is a term coined for the Web 2.0 technologies that liberate employees from the constraints of using earlier communication tools like e-mail. It is a web of inter-connected services and applications which provides managers with the right information at right time. It provides organisations with a competitive advantage in terms of innovation & productivity. The new Web 2.0 technologies are not just for socializing like Facebook, Twitter etc., but if applied in a proper manner can help organisation in solving severe problems, capturing fast changing knowledge, leveraging expertise, generating and refining ideas and harnessing the wisdom of the crowds. The web 2.0 can be used to improve communication, cooperation, collaboration and connections which has been called the 4Cs of social software by Niall Cook in his book titled – Enterprise 2.0 – How social software will change the future of work. It can help organisation in making information exchange and collaboration among its employees and among its partner network more simple and agile, keeping the organisation ahead of the competition.

According to a study conducted by IBM in 2010 named – Working beyond borders, most of the surveyed Chief Human Resource Officers said that they need to better capitalize on collective intelligence of their organization. The study also shows that the companies which outperform financially are 57% more likely to use social networking and collaborative tools so that different teams spread across world can work more efficiently than those companies which under-perform financially. Of the 707 executives surveyed, 78% HRs think that their organization is not effective at encouraging the use of collaborative and social networking tools. Instead of this, only 21% companies have increased investment in collaborative tools.

A survey by IBM showed that 19% of the respondents use collaborative tools to identify skilled individuals, 23% use it to preserve critical knowledge and 27% use it to spread innovation. It also showed that many organizations are still at a very nascent stage of deploying social networking and collaborative tools.

Today, social software is being adopted in the organisations to have better performance of their work forces. This gives employees a bigger platform to collaborate and communicate than e-mail. Due to this, relationships between company and employee and also among employees are changing rapidly. This is helping organizations to reshape from bottom to up. There is also an increasing trend where customers share their problems, new products and opinion on improvements in real time on the web. New ideas generation today are taking place on the web where your competitors can see your changing strategies and can act accordingly. This means companies need to continuously innovate and take fast decisions. Enterprise 2.0 helps manufacturing companies to integrate their suppliers through secured communication network, thereby reducing the cost and improving the quality. In this flatter world where even the smallest companies want to compete at global level, social software provides them a means to find and connect with new customers and thus expanding their business.

Going forward, industries not only need to innovate but also to manage and strategize innovation as per the need of the time. They will also need to adopt new technologies as early as possible to increase productivity and collaboration and there by staying ahead of competition.

Federal Cyber Security: Are We Winning or Losing?

At the recent Security Innovation Network (SINET) event held in Washington D.C recently a sober assessment of our nation’s capacity to maintain an adequate cyber defense emerged.

The state of our cyber defense was summarized by Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security when he concluded that it may take “a digital 9-11” to get business, consumers and governments to fortify their cyber security defenses. In effect we are fighting an asymmetrical war and, at present, we appear to be losing.

Echoing this theme, Mr. Vivek Wadhwa, a respected cyber security analyst, argues, “Government simply can’t innovate fast enough to keep pace with the threats and dynamics of the Internet or Silicon Valley’s rapidly changing technologies.”

Wadhwa goes on to point out that innovative entrepreneurial technology advancements are needed but the government, because of it overwhelming dependencies on large contractors, is not equipped to take advantage of new and powerful cyber defense technology.

Wadhwa concludes that true innovation developed through smaller entrepreneurial firms is being stifled by Federal Government procurement practices.

The Federal Government Acquisition Strategy is Inadequate:

Although Wadhwa’s argument is focused on technology development only it also applies equally to service providers who adapt new technology to new and improving defensive tactics such as vulnerability assessment, analysis of threats and remedial action.

Since effective defense against cyber attacks is an on going process of monitoring and taking coercive action, the role of services and the cyber warrior is also critical and outdated Federal buying patterns are equally harmful.

Much of the problem stems from the present buying and acquisition patterns of the government. For years now the government has preferred to bundle requirements in to large “omnibus” or IDIQ contracts (with negotiated task orders) that favor the largest contractors but stifle innovation and flexibility. Cyber security requirements are treated on a like basis with Information technology requirements and this is a mistake.

In addition, recent Congressional contracting “reforms” have encouraged protest actions on new contracts and task orders for both new and existing contracts, resulting in a significant delay of the procurement process. In the fast evolving world of cyber security, delayed deployment of often obsolete technology solutions increases the risk of a successful attack.

Because these contracts are extremely large, they require many levels of approval-usually by Congress or senior administration officials. It typically takes 3-4 years for government to award these and successful bidders frequently have to go through a grueling “certification” process to get approved to bid. Proposal efforts for large bundled contracts cost millions of dollars to prepare and to lobby government officials and political leaders in order to win.

Because of buying patterns that are slanted toward large, slower moving contractors new technology required to meet the multitude of cyber threats will be ignored in the coming years. This puts the nation at risk.

Small contractors are often overlooked in favor of large contractors who frequently use contract vehicles to provide services and solutions that are often out of date in the rapidly changing cyber world.

Startups can’t wait this long or afford the cost of bidding. But it is not enough to demonize large contractors when the root cause lies is how the government procures technology.

In order to remedy this problem an overhaul of the acquisition and procurement process is required to level the playing field for small cyber security companies: it must be made easier for startups and small service providers to bid for government contracts.

One effective way to do this is to unbundle the cyber requirements for IT acquisitions and use more small business set asides for contract awards. In addition protests at the General Accounting Office must be discouraged and reserved only for obvious abuses of the contracting process.

Procurement times should be reduced to months rather than years; some projects should be done in smaller steps so that the major contractors, whose goal is often revenue maximization and placing unqualified bench staff, aren’t the only ones qualified to complete them.

Cyber attacks on our sensitive infrastructure and government agencies have increased significantly. We need the latest technology and best tools in order to win the cyber war.

Computer Security Expert Reveals WiFi Vulnerability

The arrival of cloud-based computing, which facilitates online file storage demonstrates continuous advancements in the field of computer technology. Users can store and create online backup for those files and documents, which are required on a regular basis. They can have access to the stored files from any computer, without the need to store data in thumb drives and other external hard drives. In the recent times, WiFi networks have also gained in popularity. Both Cloud computing and WiFi networks add to the convenience of the user and are capable of revolutionizing workflow in organizations.

However, like every other technology, both cloud-based computing and WiFi technology may be misused by offenders. Recently, a German information security professional used a cloud-based computer to intrude into WiFi networks. Thomas Roth, who is based in the German city of Cologne hired a cloud-based computer – Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) from Amazon and used it to hack into WiFi networks near his home. He used brute-force attack to crack the passwords to hack the WiFi networks protected by Wireless Protected Access (WPA) protocol.

The brute force attack involved one million attempts in 3 seconds. A successful attack may provide the hacker unauthorized access to a personal or business network. Attackers can gain remote access to the device, install arbitrary codes and seize confidential information. Such attacks pose threat to information security, confidentiality and integrity. Fortunately, in this case, the researcher does not have any malicious intentions and only intends to highlight the weaknesses. The breach questions the perceived infallibility of the WPA protocol. The breach also underlines the reality that security threats will continue to complement the advancements in technology. While developers face the challenge of coming up with innovative products, criminals constantly strive to explore and exploit vulnerabilities. Therefore, manufacturers and product developers must conduct regular evaluation tests such as ethical hacking to understand and mitigate the security flaws. Network administrators must adopt multi-factor authentication to ensure safe computing for WiFi users.