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IT leaders must embrace integrity across the board

Tue 31 Oct 2023

In this feature, Richard Luna, CEO of Protected Harbor, dissects the critical issue of integrity for IT leaders and the technology sector as a whole.

As technology continues to evolve at an unprecedented rate, the need for accurate information, expertise, and ethical conduct has become increasingly crucial. Misinformation and a lack of integrity can not only harm businesses but also pose risks to cybersecurity and data management.

Richard offers his perspectives on the importance of integrity, accountability, and transparency, aiming to foster a culture of ethical conduct and expertise in the tech community.

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The public is fascinated by technology and the media rushes to cover everything that is new, different, or the latest cyberattack. However, everyone who is commenting on these topics in the news and sharing their thoughts online are often far from being experts or even qualified to discuss certain topics.

Reading headlines makes the speaker a talking head and not an expert. The commentary coming from their perspective is not only inaccurate, but can be harmful by spreading misconceptions.

It is for this reason that professionals in the technology sector must refocus our efforts and demand integrity.

The Difference Between Commentators and True Experts

So-called ‘experts’ in the news are usually salespeople, not direct problem solvers or people who have actual experience. They have not trained, studied, or even embraced real intellectual curiosity to find out about what they are sharing.

There are many people in the technology space who talk as though they are experts in the field and they may even have ‘titles’.  However, they know little about what they are talking about because they have never truly worked on the front lines facing a cybersecurity threat or data breach, for example. They lack the experience in diagnosing what a ransomware attack is, how it happened, and cannot explain what steps need to be taken to resolve issues.

True experts will know how a breach occurred and they will be able to uncover the warning signs that led to the attack. The knowledge that it takes to understand this complex type of situation, as well as the warning signs, must be within the expert’s grasp.

Being a commentator is different than being a real expert. A cybersecurity director’s job is to know the technology. He or she must understand vulnerability points.

If these professionals have never diagnosed a cyber or ransomware attack. or have not learned how compromises happen, then there is a real issue. In this scenario, the individual has not achieved a level of knowledge to give him or her the integrity to claim that they can handle the job.

This is regardless of what the individual learned in school or their degree. In the IT world, knowledge and integrity come from experience and having a clear understanding of networks as well as the nature and severity of the attack. Identifying and deciphering a firewall log and seeing a hundred thousand attacks in an hour, for example, creates a clear perspective allowing for a person to look, think, and respond differently.

Discussing and explaining these complex issues requires deep knowledge and an understanding of how technology works, as well as current challenges and trends.  Simply watching a few downs of American football does not give you the full perspective of the entire game or an understanding of the sport and its rules. The same is true in the world of technology.

These issues need to be looked at from different angles, including the perspectives of clients, end users, managers, department heads, and CIOs.

The Importance of Integrity

The need for integrity in the IT sector goes even deeper. For example, when a project costs two times over budget and takes twice as long to complete, it is a clear indicator that the provider did not know what they were doing and never understood the full scope of the solution.

This problem is unfortunately common, but thankfully the solution to prevent it is not difficult to achieve.

When choosing vendors or partners, ask for three or more references relating to projects completed successfully on time and on budget. Providers who willingly share this information demonstrate their integrity.

Those unwilling to share are often the ones who are known for missing deadlines and come across as being untrustworthy.

Being Accountable and Transparent

Accountability is critical in ensuring integrity for the provider and more broadly for everyone in the sector. Integrity and accountability are linked. Without one, you cannot have the other. Transparency is then the important element needed to ensure both integrity and accountability.

With integrity established, the expert can then speak with a less technically savvy client and provide proof of their knowledge by explaining complex approaches and solutions clearly.

Real tech experts must be open to answering questions and taking the role of educators. In addition, tech leaders must also reinforce integrity with their staff members, reminding them to be transparent and direct with customers.

The tech sector must champion integrity in all aspects of business, for both themselves as well as peers.

How Can We All Ensure Integrity?

One approach we have seen and embraced, which also elevates integrity and accountability, is flat rate billing and transparent pricing. Every client must know in advance what to expect financially, and whenever possible, exactly how long a project will take.

Accountability starts at the beginning of a project when the proposal is developed and presented. The provider of service must be held accountable in terms of timelines, budgets, and scope of work.

We do recognise that many factors may impact a project, but the initial intent and agreement should closely reflect the work that will be done. Providers must stick to their commitments and live with them when at all possible.

Often, a breakdown in integrity and accountability can be traced to a failure to communicate effectively or in a timely manner. Before and during any project or client engagement, communication must be ongoing and transparent with both customers and staff. When issues arise, and we all know they do, it is always best to share and get feedback immediately.

Sharing information, managing expectations, and tracking performance are additional building blocks that strengthen integrity. From time to time, there may be projects that do not hit exact deadlines, but integrity, backed up with communications, ensures that there are no surprises or major issues.

Navigating Growth While Maintaining Integrity

The IT sector continues to grow, and with this, new players are emerging. For those new to the business, do not take on a project that you cannot successfully accomplish. Saying no to a project, is saying yes to integrity and protecting your reputation.

We know that for some people who are entering the tech sector or exploring areas outside of their core want to grow, but this is where they get in trouble all the time. Never over promise and under deliver.

Integrity means sticking to your strengths, knowledge, and capabilities. Moving outside of these boundaries, seeking the spotlight, or over promising and under delivering will cause issues and problems.

Integrity, combined with accountability and transparency, allow leaders and companies to build reputable brands. With this they can both thrive and serve customers effectively.

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Your Voice Matters

If you have insights, opinions, or expertise related to any aspect of the technology sector that you would like to share, we want to hear from you. Please contact our Editor, Stuart Crowley, at [email protected] to contribute to the ongoing dialogue in the tech community.

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