Thursday, November 6, 2014

Enterprise Architecture Practice - Capabilities

Enterprise Architecture (EA) function now have an unprecedented chance to lead the way in identifying new business opportunities, thanks to the innovations in the web and mobile technologies and businesses realizing the business advantages of such advancements. EA serves a strategic business purpose by enabling business capabilities to be implemented via IT architecture and related IT delivery processes.

Though Enterprise Architecture is not a very new practice, the maturity level is still not the optimal in most enterprises. Seeing the benefits that the EA function can bring to the table,  many enterprises are attempting to setup the EA practice within, but are in fact struggling to get it right. EA not just science and not just art as well. It is a combination of art and science. Successful EA practice has been found to being able to demonstrate certain key capabilities. In the EA world, there is no such thing as 'one size fits all', as it is highly dependent on the enterprises' business, its objectives, goals, strategies and priorities, which is never the same across enterprises.

While the objective of this blog is to discuss about the key capabilities that the EA function should be able to demonstrate, it is also good to highlight out what EA is not.

What EA is not:
  • EA is NOT a project
  • EA is NOT about review 
  • EA is NOT a one-time activity
  • EA is NOT for IT
  • EA is NOT a strategy
  • EA is NOT all about cost-reduction
  • EA is NOT one-man show

A successful EA practice should consider practicing and demonstrating the following key capabilities:

Staying Relevant

As we all know, it is highly unlikely that an architectural solution that works well for one enterprise will work well for another in the same industry domain. This is because each enterprise has its own vision and mission to win over the competition and constantly wish to stand alone in the crowd in certain key areas. Staying relevant helps the EA function in aligning strategic and operational views of business with the underlying technology and service delivery processes. For this reason, the EA practice should strive to understand the vision, mission and strategies of the enterprise and continue to stay aligned to the same, so that the architectural solutions continue to stay relevant for the enterprise.

Technology & Architecture Vision

No doubt that modern enterprise largely depend on technology and in certain cases, the business in fact is driven by technology. Irrespective of whether technology drives the business or not, technology is a key enabler of the business. So, it becomes essential to have a technology vision, which is aligned to the business vision. It is needless to mention that having a vision will not be just enough, and the same shall be driven down to the operational processes and practices. Every architecture and governance process should derive the technology vision as envisaged and so the solutions continue to stay relevant and yield the intended results. The technology vision and strategy shall be such that leverages both new tech innovations and existing capabilities that will enable the business to achieve the target state. 

The goal of the architecture vision is to articulate how the proposed architecture will enable the business goals, respond to the strategic drivers, conform to the principles, and addresses the stakeholder concerns and objectives.

Transforming and automating operations

While leveraging the existing knowledge and resources is key in saving costs, it is important for the EA function to stay on top of the technology and business innovations and explore opportunities of leveraging the same so that the enterprise stays on course of achieving its target mission and vision. This is where the EA teams should consider leveraging Agile approaches, so that the target reference architecture also stays dynamic and relevant. The EA framework shall have an evolution cycle, so as to improve the framework itself and similarly the architecture solutions should also be continually evolved based on feedback and availability of enabling technologies and innovations.

It is needless to mention here that the EA function shall equally consider the 'Business As Usual' as any transformational initiative should not derail the enterprise from achieving its intended mission and vision.

Being the Change Leader

EA is all about bringing change for the good. i.e. EA programs is all about driving the enterprise from its current state to the target reference state, which is nothing but identifying and driving changes to various resources at various levels, so that the target state is achieved. This is yet another key capability that come down to the old adage of building “better, faster, cheaper” systems that provide agility to change or expand capabilities, in response to ever-changing business requirements. EA function leads the planning for these new system and technology capabilities, ensuring the best solutions to the business requirements by providing blueprints and implementation road maps to the design and delivery teams. They also provide a service to the other organizational functions by ensuring compliance of these solutions at critical design and delivery milestones.

Mitigating risk

As the emphasis shifts from cleaning up the legacy of systems and technologies to better planning and governance of new IS and IT initiatives, we see a corresponding shift in the role of the EA practice. The focus shifts from driving out costs to reducing risks associated with new programs, while ensuring timely delivery of new capabilities. 

Every architectural initiatives shall be subject to a risk review and decisions shall be made based on the business value expected out of it. The changing business and regulatory conditions might also impact the solutions and at times could end up the enterprises not being able to realize the intended value out of it. This where the "Fail Fast" approach would help in making the right decisions. Periodic reviews of the change or transformational projects should be conducted with a view to ascertain whether the intended value is not impacted with the current conditions. Thus being able to manage and mitigate the risks well is a key capability that the EA practice should demonstrate.

Overseeing investments

It is natural for enterprises to look for Return on Investments (RoI), as the capital has a cost. The EA practice shall consider the cost of capital and the investment requirements for various change initiatives and work with the related other functions to ensure that the benefits are quantified so as to ensure the investments yield desired returns. In cases where the benefits are not directly quantifiable, the EA team shall identify such indirect benefits derived out of such investments and shall ascertain the monetary value in a best possible manner. 

Governing the architecture

As said earlier, EA function is not a project and it is a continuous function. EA function shall put in place necessary framework to monitor and manage the architectural activities in a constant basis. Business architects in the EA function monitor the project portfolio, while IT architects govern technology solutions, leveraging reference architectures to build the future state in alignment with strategic road maps. The governance principles shall be applied to various architecture activities with an objective to ensure the strategy alignment, risk management, measuring & monitoring, optimal resource utilization.

Integrating people, processes, and technology
Considering the innovation around the areas of web, mobile, big data powered by social media, modern enterprises are looking forward to leverage these to derive maximum business value. In this direction, to stay competitive and relevant to the customer business, most successful organizations are rapidly moving towards the system of engagement architecture supported by digital collaboration platforms and social strategies devised by EA where EA would create an effective social governance model and an overall enterprise strategy. It necessitates a pervasive social layer that spans many different system of records and departments within an organization. Discussion would also enlighten more focus on expanding social footprint by delivering consistent digital experience and utilizing social content and online communities to increase collaboration with customers and other stakeholders.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Information Security - Cost Analysis

Reports indicate that the Information Security is now a Board Agenda and the security spending by enterprises is on the rise. This is more because of the raise in the data breaches worldwide and the increased hacking and cyber attacks. This impacting all enterprises, be it small, medium or large and across various segments, i.e. not only financial but also all domains. The increased exposure and financial damages associated with security risks have pushed enterprises to increase the budget allocations and mitigate if not avoid such risks.

The following recent predictions of Gartner influence the Information Security spending among enterprises:

  • By 2015, roughly 10% of overall IT security enterprise product capabilities will be delivered in the cloud.
  • Regulatory pressure will increase in Western Europe and Asia/Pacific from 2014.
  • By year-end 2015, about 30% of infrastructure protection products will be purchased as part of a suite offering.
  • By 2018, more than half of organizations will use security services firms that specialize in data protection, security risk management and security infrastructure management to enhance their security postures.
  • Mobile security will be a higher priority for consumers from 2017 onward.

In the best interests of the investors, any spending or investment should be backed up with an appropriate cost-benefit analysis. Applying this cost-benefit-justifications to Information Security function is gaining focus but remains a challenge. Quantification forms the basis for being able to perform the cost-benefit analysis. The advantages of quanti fication are its accuracy, objectivity, and comparability. In addition, quanti cation is the basis for calculations and statistical analyses. While costing is a comparatively easier aspect, quantifying the benefits is still a challenge as it depends on the occurrence of uncertain events.

Starting with the idea of a Return on Security Investment (ROSI) several concepts have been developed to support the decision for or against an information measure. On way to do this is to apply the concept of Net Present Value (NPV). NPV-Formula for information security investments could be as below:


The following are the four aspects of Information Security costs:

  • Information Security Management - This is about the costs associated with the Information Security function, which comprises of People, Process and Technology. Though quantifying this aspect of the cost is straightforward, measuring the benefits is not.
  • Incidental costs of Information Security related decisions - As we all know, Information Security is a cross functional task and every personnel and process in the organization need to contribute towards Information Security. As such, implementation of any security control will cause additional overhead in other departments or functions. For instance, regulating the fair use of the Internet will require some extent of involvement from the HR function in the form of policies, code of conduct, ethics etc. Quantifying of both costs and benefits is not as easy.
  • Cost of capital for Security investments - Like any investment, capital invested in security function has a cost and quantifying this element of cost is not at all a challenge.
  • Costs arising out of security incidents - This is more like a Risk Management and all the principles of measuring the risks apply here as well. The risk measure for security incidents can be measured as a product of the probability and the impact. However quantifying this in absolute value requires the identification of the impacted information and / or related resource and the value of such resource. Many people have opined that information is the currency of the organization, but it has a dynamic value, i.e. the value of information depends not only on its significance to the organization but also its significance to others.

A common way of categorising and structuring costs in a repeatable and comparable way is required to manage the associated challenges. Building on that basis it becomes possible to identify cost-drivers and to analyse di fferent security management approaches like the following:

  • Balance Sheet Oriented Approach - where the costs are categorized and quantified under personnel, hardware, software and services. This approach does not take into consideration of the cross functional aspect of the security function.
  • Life Cycle Oriented Approach - where the costs are categorized and quantified against the various life cycle phases of the security function. Typically, the life cycle of the security function would be in the lines of Plan - Do - Check - Assess, in which case the costs are quantified with respect to each of the life cycle phases. This approach takes the project management approach and can be useful for quantifying the incremental cost of a specific security initiative, but this approach will not be useful for assessing the costs for the security management function as a whole.
  • Process Oriented Approach - where the costs are categorized into direct and indirect costs at process level. Direct costs could comprise of People and Technology and the Indirect costs could comprise of cost allocated by various functions towards a specific process, the quantified costs of risk avoidance and risk mitigation. This approach can be customized further to suit the varying needs of the enterprise.
  • Control Oriented Approach - where costs are categorized with respect to individual security control, which can be added up to ascertain the cost for a security area. However this approach has challenges abound in putting a standard approach and framework for ascertaining the costs at control level. The costs that every control comprise of are that of a share in the fixed organizational overhead, in addition to the variable costs of people, technology and the processes.
  • Layer Oriented Approach - where information security costs are categorized against the different layers of the ISMS layers, namely Management System, People & Processes, Architecture & Concepts, Operational Measures and Pre-requisites.

While quantifying the benefits is not very easy, by applying the Quantitative Risk Analysis techniques, the cost of not implementing a specific security process or control can be ascertained, which can be considered as the benefit of implementing the control or process. Another technique that can be useful to categorize and visualize the cost-benefits is the modeling and simulation.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Information Security Controls Relating to Personnel

Information Security in an organization largely focusses on the Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability of data, information and related resources. While the risk of threats are increasing, study says that the threat is more from the inside than from the outside. This has mandated the need for framing polices, procedures and controls around the employees of the organization, so that such risks arising from within can be mitigated or managed well.

Whilst personnel security controls cannot provide guarantees, they are sensible precautions that provide for the identity of individuals to be properly established. In circumstances where risk assessments indicate that the necessary thresholds are met, they provide for checks to be made of official and other data sources that can indicate whether individuals may be susceptible to influence or pressure which might cause them to abuse their position or whether there are any other reasons why individuals should not have access to sensitive assets.

Personnel security aims to:
  • reduce the risk of loss, damage or compromise of Australian Government resources by providing assurance about the suitability of personnel authorised to access those resources
  • create an environment where those accessing Australian Government resources are aware of the responsibilities that come with that access and abide with their obligations under the PSPF
  • minimise potential for misuse of Australian Government resources through inadvertent or deliberate unauthorised disclosure
  • support a culture of protective security.

Controls designed around the following aspects would certainly help an organization to achieve the said purpose:


Information security awareness and training

Organizations must have a program to provide information security awareness and training for personnel on an on-going basis, focusing on information security policies including topics such as responsibilities, consequences of non–compliance, and potential security risks and counter–measures. It is human nature to lose or forget training content over time. Providing ongoing information security awareness and training helps keep personnel aware of issues and their responsibilities.

Information security awareness and training programs are designed to help personnel to: become familiar with their roles and responsibilities; understand and support security requirements; and learn how to fulfil their security responsibilities. Methods that can be used to continually promote awareness include logon banners, system access forms and departmental bulletins or memoranda.

Specific controls may be designed around the following aspects of information security awareness training:
  • Accessibility of the Information Security Policies and Procedures
  • Number and type of such programs to be offerred to personnel
  • Degree and content of information security awareness and training, which may be based on the roles of employees and on the target systems to which they have access to.
  • A scoring system for employees designed to establish the level of awareness by employees. A gamified approach would work better here.
  • Establishing responsibility and accountability for security of the information assets.
  • Review and feedback system for content and process improvement

Authorisations and Security Clearances

Depending on the roles and responsibilities, the employees gain access to various systems, data and information. It is important that only appropriately authorised, cleared and briefed personnel are allowed access to various such systems. For the purpose the systems, data and other information resources shall be identified and classified based on the sensititivity. Similarly, a mapping of various roles that would have different types of access on such resources is also created. This mapping will typically be based on the "need to know". Exceptions are also documented and are handled with additional clearances or approvals.

Employees seeking access to a system need to have a genuine business requirement to access the system as verified by their manager. Once a requirement to access a system is established, giving personnel only the privileges that they need to undertake their duties is imperative. Providing all personnel with privileged access when there is no requirement for privileged access can be a significant threat to a system. Any temporary access to information resources shall be time bound and the same shall be subject to close observation. Similarly, during emergency situations, privilege escalation may be required to carry out certain critical tasks. Such authorizations shall be documented and appropriate additional authorization shall be mandated.

Specific controls may be designed around the following aspects:
  • Existence of a process for ascertaining employee's background and trust worthiness
  • Documented inventory of information assets with appropriate security and sensitivity classification
  • Documented roles and responsibilities of personnel
  • Establishing the identity of the employees or contractors as the case may be
  • Mapping of roles with the information assets
  • Authorization for process for grant of privileges
  • Change management process for privilege escalation or downgrade
  • Maintenance of Access logs with necessary details
  • Periodic review and audit of authorizations and access logs

Internet Usage

Use of internet is a major source of security breaches as it may facilitate external threats in the form of malware, virus. etc. There shall be a fair use policy with respoect to Internet, which shall set out the Do's and Don'ts for the employees. Employees should be made aware on how to report any suspicious contact and what suspicious contact is, especially contact from external sources using Internet services. Organizations should implement measures to monitor their personnel’s compliance with their internet usage policies.

Employees need to take special care not to accidentally post sensitive or classified information on public websites, especially in forums, blogs and social networking sites. Employees holding any key position may attribute an appropriate disclaimer that such posts carry his personal views and do not bind the organization.

The following specific controls may help in implementing the policies and procedures around this aspect:
  • Existence of a Fair Use Policy
  • Collection of logs and data for monitoring violations to such policies
  • Initiation of disciplinary action against policy violations
  • Enforce appropriate system security and privacy policies for internet usage
  • Monitor the use of unspecified or unauthorized websites or applications that access internet.0