Building the Bridge Between Strategy and Governance Aboard the IT Enterprise – An Interview with Kevin Gray of the City of Burbank

Building a Bridge Between Strategy and Governance Aboard the IT Enterprise – An Interview with Kevin Gray, CIO of the City of Burbank

Eleventh in a series of in-depth interviews with innovators and leaders in the fields of Risk, Compliance and Information Governance across the globe.


Kevin Gray is the Chief Information Officer for the City of Burbank, leading an IT department responsible for administrative and network management, geographic information systems and technical services for more than 1400 city employees across 15 departments. Before assuming this role he served as VP of Global Media and IT for Viacom, one of the world’s premier entertainment companies, overseeing an international team located across six continents. He received his Bachelor of Science from California State University, Long Beach and is a certified Scrum Master and PMP. I spoke with him over lunch this May about aligning governance with business strategy, balancing risks and opportunities in AI and his insights on career growth.


Kevin, you began your career path at Orion Pictures administering Unix systems and then directed data center ops for DreamWorks. How did this early hands-on experience with application design and DB administration prepare you for future IT leadership positions at Viacom and ultimately the CIO role with the City of Burbank?

Well I started out on a service desk actually, really at the entry levels in IT, and I’ve been lucky to have grown up through all aspects of it. I think climbing that ladder one rung at a time definitely helped give me a clear vision to see across all the disciplines of technology.  It enabled me to see the forest through the trees, the big picture, gave me the ability to design operations, develop strategy… and equipped me with a vision to incorporate it all. And now I can more thoughtfully pull together a clear plan for how to run an organization, understand how to innovate, how to drive change through both a specific business unit or an organization. Experience is what best prepared me to lead.

One of your focal points has always been the importance of properly aligning IT governance with an organization’s business strategy. What are some of the practical ways IT teams accomplish this goal and how critical is the relationship building component that accompanies that synchronicity?

I think the most practical way to accomplish this is to focus on the people. Focus on the people developing the strategy and look at how their business is trying to implement it, because the most important thing is to be in alignment with the shared goal, in alignment with the people you’re partnering with. You have to be a true partner with the business. And that has to be the focus, not the technology. The technology is the secondary piece. Technology is what you use to try to find the solution for the business problems that they’re trying to solve. And those business problems don’t always stay the same, they change. They change based on economic conditions, they change based on market conditions, they may change based on who might be occupying the seat that you’re trying to partner with.

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So, you have to stay close and you have to stay connected. That allows you to stay aligned. Then you can figure out the solutions that are going to help solve that business problem. You have to be agile. You have to be able to switch directions. When the business switches direction, you have to be able to switch direction. And I think too many times, IT organizations, they don’t stay connected. They believe that they’re trying to solve this business strategy, that they’re trying to solve the business’ problems. But then the business problems change, the strategies change, and they’re suddenly not connected and eventually they’re heading down the wrong direction for another three to six months, which is a lifetime in technology.

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Williams Records Management - Information Governance Solutions

Strengthening Protections and Embracing Connections – An Interview with Douglas C. Williams of Williams Data Management

Strengthening Protections and Embracing Connections – An Interview with Douglas C. Williams of Williams Data Management

Tenth in a series of in-depth interviews with innovators and leaders in the fields of Risk, Compliance and Information Governance across the globe.


DougWilliams - Information Governance PerspectivesDouglas C. Williams is CEO of Williams Data Management and Chairman of the Board for the Vernon Chamber of Commerce. He has over thirty years of experience helping Fortune 500 clients with their document storage, destruction and data security needs. I had an opportunity to sit down with him earlier this year in Los Angeles and collect his thoughts on data protection, business continuity, civic responsibility and professional growth.


Doug, your family has been involved in the Records and Data Management business for the better part of a century and you’ve seen a lot of players come and go. How do small businesses like Williams remain resilient in the disruptive world of digital transformation, and what should executives be thinking about in terms of their long-term information management strategies?

Commercial Records Management, the holistic approach at 50,000’, includes the digital component, as well as the legacy hard copy component.  Our transition in the early 1980s into the commercial records center business from industrial freight warehousing and distribution, witnessed similar disruptions.  Those disruptions had mostly to do with the shift to the service economy from the industrial/manufacturing economy.  Our client base includes enterprise size businesses as well as mid-size businesses and SMBs.  Executives in charge of information assets need to recognize the holistic scope of those information assets, whether they be structured or unstructured, and apply the information governance and regulatory guidelines to each equally.  Knowing that digital technologies will change at light-speed, CEOs and their executive teams need to be fully knowledgeable and ready for changes in forensic discovery and know the impact of retention milestones for each type of information asset.  We all know that text messages, email, and all social media posts have a permanent residency somewhere to be found.  Each and every business, large or small, has to accept a contingent liability regarding the action or inaction of maintaining a strict policy regarding their information management policies – irrespective of the resident media.

In 2015, you were interviewed by Adam Burroughs of Smart Business Los Angeles and highlighted a growing alarm over data breaches. Here we are just a few years later and data protection is a daily news flash. With California recently passing the California Consumer Privacy Act, do you still feel the majority of organizations are taking security and privacy for granted or are you now starting to see a trend toward proactive management of data?

I do.  They are taking for granted it won’t happen to them, and if it does, they are insured.  But guess what, that is delusional.  Again, the proactive plan requires a holistic approach to information management.  The IT department knows how to protect the data, but typically do not know why, i.e., what are the governing rules for each type of data. That is the province of the CIO or the Director of Information Governance, or the General Counsel if an enterprise size firm. The breaches in the headlines are preventable; however, because of human errors in social media, emails, texts, data sharing, lack of encryption and the like, entryways into personal information data sets are available.  In our case at Williams Data Management, because we are social media users, we installed front end data intrusion software, pioneered and patented by Oasis Technologies, known as TITAN, which blocks over 500,000 intrusions attempts per week from getting into our networks.

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Marketing The Moving Targets of Digital Transformations – An Interview with Dux Raymond Sy of AvePoint®

Marketing the Moving Targets of Digital Transformations – An Interview with Dux Raymond Sy of AvePoint

Tenth in a series of in-depth interviews with innovators and leaders in the fields of Risk, Compliance and Information Governance across the globe.


Dux Raymond Sy is the Chief Marketing Officer of Avepoint® and has successfully driven business and digital transformation initiatives for commercial, educational and public sector organizations across the globe. He’s a Microsoft Regional Director (RD), a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) and has authored numerous books, articles and whitepapers on IT and business process strategy. He received his Bachelor of Science from Southern Polytechnic University in Telecommunications Engineering. I interviewed him recently about the unique challenges of marketing digital products and services, the future of cloud computing, O365 and the shifting IT career landscape.


Dux, Avepoint specializes in leveraging the breadth of Microsoft technologies including SharePoint and Office 365 to help companies migrate and manage their cloud, on-premises and hybrid environments. There are some trend reports indicating a few enterprises have shifted back toward hybrid stacks after overextending themselves in the cloud. Do you believe most enterprises eventually will evolve, or are there factors such as data protection that will always prevent full cloud adoption for certain entities?

When it comes to enterprise technology, we rarely move backwards. The cloud’s cost, scale, efficiency access, and yes, even security advantages, are too great for on-premises  or hybrid infrastructures to prevail long-term.  What I will say is the transformation will take much longer than the advertising of cloud providers would have you believe. Most organizations are not all-in the cloud today. We did a study in 2017 that showed about 70 percent of organizations were still in hybrid architectures. We sponsored a study with AIIM this year that showed 1 in 3 organizations is maintaining at least 2 versions of SharePoint. Attitudes towards the cloud have changed, now the conversation is mainly focused on how to get there rather than the why. 

Lastly, there are capabilities that the cloud offers that cannot be delivered on-premises s. Cloud-based advanced services, like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data analytics, open new opportunities for technical teams to drive business value.

AvePoint and Office 365 - Information Governance Perspectives

The free e-book “Designed to Disrupt” unpacks this in full detail: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/resources/designed-to-disrupt-reimagine-your-apps-and-transform-your-industry/

How is Infrastructure, Platform and Software-as-a-Service changing the organizational hierarchy of IT departments, reporting structures and collaborative teams? Are companies beginning to hire more administrators and get along with fewer developers, architects and support staff? Where will the best IT jobs be in the next few years at the current pace?

This is a great question! My colleague Hunter Willis recent wrote a piece about this that sparked a huge debate on Twitter. What we have found is that people and organizations evolve more slowly than the technology. Right now, most organizations are just shifting on-premises  roles to the cloud. So if you were the SharePoint admin or the Exchange admin, you are now the SharePoint Online admin or Exchange Online admin. But what about applications that don’t exist on-premises ? Who owns PowerApps? This also ignores the advanced workloads and connections between apps that exist in the cloud. What you do in Microsoft Teams impacts your Exchange and vice versa. What organizations need, and we haven’t seen yet, is an Office 365 admin that truly owns the platform and looks at these platform wide issues. If were seeing some of these issues just within Office 365, imagine what we will see as multi-cloud architectures become more popular. The best IT jobs in the next few years will be business enablers who have a love of learning. You will need to be agile in the era of tech intensity.

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Building a Framework to Sustain the Coming IoT Tsunami – An Interview with Priya Keshav of Meru Data

Building a Framework to Sustain the Coming IoT Tsunami – An Interview with Priya Keshav of Meru Data

Ninth in a series of in-depth interviews with innovators and leaders in the fields of Risk, Compliance and Information Governance across the globe.


Priya Keshav is the founder and CEO of Meru Data LLC, a software company focused on building solutions that simplify and achieve corporate information governance goals. Prior to Meru, she was the leader of KPMG’s Forensic Technology Services Practice in the Southwest United States. She received her MBA from University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business Administration. I had the chance to sit down with her this January and discuss IG, the Internet of Things, consulting, and software development.


Priya, you’ve written extensively, often in collaboration with thought leaders in IG including Jason Baron, about the enormous ethical questions emerging from IoT. Do you think there is yet a universal, cross-industry awareness of these challenges or are business drivers in this area primarily the result of European or US regulatory pressures?

I think there is universal recognition that the use of IoT will bring unique challenges and ethical questions. However, I would not call this universal awareness or understanding at this point. The use of IoT is rapidly increasing, the solutions being developed are integrating multiple industries and we are just scratching the surface of what is possible with IoT. I think today, we are at a point where we recognize that some unique challenges are going to arise. I do not believe we have fully understood the nature of these challenges, especially as the uses and applications for IoT are rapidly evolving.

Both industry and regulators are at the same point – thinking about appropriate frameworks for discussing and addressing these challenges. I don’t believe regulatory pressures from either Europe or the US are the primary drivers for the growing awareness. It does seem regulators have more of a focus on the challenges while the industry focus is more around creating newer solutions. There are multiple efforts underway to understand challenges with IoT, driven by both industry and regulatory interest. However, I do not think this is primarily due to regulatory pressure. There is regulatory interest that has industry taking notice but even the industry is realizing the need to manage the unique challenges from the use of IoT. Existing regulations like the GDPR, COPA etc. obviously would apply to IoT. There is increased scrutiny and regulations around data privacy and security in general and that might look like there is increased regulation around IoT. However, there are very few IoT specific regulations like the California SB327.

Regulatory efforts around IoT to date have been more guidelines focused and have tried to not slow down the uptake of IoT. Examples include the recently issued NIST draft report on IoT cyber security standards that provides a great discussion of how risks from IoT are unique and how organizations could adapt their policies to handle this. There have also been integrated efforts with working groups to review existing IoT security standards and initiatives in the US (by the National Telecommunication and Information Administration) and in Europe (Working Group 3 formed by Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation). Other agencies like the the Consumer Products Safety Commission and the FTC have also been gathering comments on their roles in regulating IoT.

With the Meru Data platform, you’ve strived to develop a functional and reporting tool that simplifies and sustains data governance programs for your customers. Is most software today built around policy frameworks, such as FINRA compliance or privacy-by-design, and are these types of approaches even feasible amidst shifting customer wants and seemingly prescriptive laws like GDPR?

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Harnessing Analytical Insights and Illuminating the Physical Realm of Dark Data – An Interview with Markus Lindelow of Iron Mountain

Harnessing Analytical Insights and Illuminating the Physical Realm of Dark Data – An Interview with Markus Lindelow of Iron Mountain

Eighth in a series of in-depth interviews with innovators and leaders in the fields of Risk, Compliance and Information Governance across the globe.


Markus Lindelow leads the IG and Content Classification Practice Group at Iron Mountain, the world’s largest information management company, where he’s been pioneering breakthrough analytic techniques for over a decade. He holds a Master of Science degree in Computer Information Systems from Saint Edwards University and consults across a broad set of industries. I interviewed him in November to discuss his thoughts on the evolution of metadata, content classification, AI, and how organizations are using the new pillars of data science to break down their silos, help customers get lean and discover the hidden value in their big data sets.


Markus, you work with all kinds of companies to help them better understand and address the often incomplete metadata tied to some of their most valuable information assets in the form of historical paper records and materials retained over decades. In many cases, institutional memory has been completely lost and they’re struggling to figure out whether to dispose of these business records, balancing costs of over retention with risks of untimely destruction. How does your team leverage diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive analytics to make sense of what little data they might have to make informed decisions?

Our content classification process focuses on making the best use of the available metadata. This means classifying records with meaningful metadata as well as analyzing the classified inventory in order to create classification rules for records with little or no metadata. We have identified a number of attributes within the data that tend to correlate with classification conclusions. We assess the classified records associated with an attribute to create a profile that may inform a rule to classify the unclassified records sharing that same attribute…

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Navigating The Global Digital Economy – An Interview with April Dmytrenko, CRM, FAI

Navigating The Global Digital Economy – An Interview with April Dmytrenko, CRM, FAI

Seventh in a series of in-depth interviews with innovators and leaders in the fields of Risk, Compliance and Information Governance across the globe.


April Dmytrenko - Information Governance Perspectives

April Dmytrenko, CRM, FAI is a recognized thought leader in the field of information management, governance, compliance, and protection. As both a practioner and consultant, she works with global organizations on key initiatives and best practice approaches for the enterprise; developing sustainable solutions; integrating legally compliant programs focused on information/digital assets; motivating and facilitating multi-disciplined groups to collaborate on achievable goals; and building strategic partnerships with internal and external teams. She serves on industry action committees and governing and editorial boards, and is an active industry speaker, trainer, and author. I had the pleasure of sitting down with April this September to discuss privacy, the role of industry associations and key concerns for leaders navigating the global digital economy.


April, almost five years ago I asked what the next big frontier would be for those of us managing data, and more importantly where the jobs would be. You wisely predicted that privacy would be on the horizon. Well we now have a number of legislatures drafting regulations and CPO positions can’t seem to be filled quickly enough. Do you believe there is still time to enter this emerging field and make an impact?

Right now we are experiencing an amazing transformation of the business environment based on many things but particularly the evolution of technology and the global digital economy. It is indeed an exciting time but we are acutely “headline news” aware of the impacts of compromised data security and privacy, including financial impact on brand and reputation, litigation, and the overall burden and distraction on the business. The exponential growth rate of incidents of data theft, damage, loss or inadvertent disclosure continues to expand not only in frequency but scope, and complexity. While privacy concerns gained attention over 100 years ago, and became topical about 15 years ago, it is still truly in an infancy state. Privacy offers IG professionals a rich and important opportunity to expand their leadership or advisory role in maturing a unified approach to protection, compliance with laws and regulations, and incident response and recovery.

April Dmytrenko - Governance - Not Taking Risks
Courtesy ARMA International

In your role as a fellow of ARMA International, you’ve helped to connect organizations with practitioners who truly understand the discipline and benefits of Information Governance. How has this evolved over the years and what steps do you think organizations like ARMA and the ICRM need to keep taking to remain relevant?

This is a great question as the core IG professional organizations have been dealing with an identity crisis for some time, and still struggle to have a clear and concise “elevator speech” on mission and value. IG, while it has a wide breath, has many in the industry confused, and still is a term that does not universally resonate with senior management. These associations have tremendous value and passionate support but numbers speak volumes and membership and conference attendance have been decreasing for years. We are seeing the technology vendor market taking over a leadership role and may serve as the new defining force in setting direction and guiding the industry – self-serving yes but it could be what is needed going forward. I am not concerned about relevance as it will continue to be all about information and technology, and the management, protection and leveraging of information asset. While the role of a traditional Records Manager may not continue to be relevant, I don’t find it concerning – the relevance is in the work and it evolves.

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Using Blockchain for the Common Good – An Interview with Ashish Gadnis of BanQu

Using Blockchain for the Common Good – An Interview with Ashish Gadnis of BanQu

Sixth in a series of in-depth interviews with innovators and leaders in the fields of Risk, Compliance and Information Governance across the globe.


Information Governance Perspectives - Ashis Gadnis of BanQu discusses Blockchain

Ashish Gadnis is CEO of BanQu, Inc. and a recognized thought leader in the blockchain community. He chairs the Financial Inclusion Working Committee for the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance and travels the world explaining how this revolutionary new technology is transforming the way we think about supply chain economics. He holds an MBA from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and graduated from the Global Leadership and Public Policy program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. I spoke with him this July about blockchain, business administration and professional development.


Ashish, you recently spoke at the MER conference where the theme was “Records for Humanity,” how data governance impacts the human condition. And your company, BanQu, offers a unique solution to the challenge of extreme poverty by leveraging blockchain. With BanQu, people ensure their economic identity with an immutable record of their transactions in a system benefiting the entire supply chain. But how exactly do you, your clients and big brands set about prioritizing and realizing these goals?

Over the last two and a half years we’ve realized that 2.7 billion people, that includes refugees displaced and those in extreme poverty zones, participate in some sort of a supply chain. That can mean you’re the poorest farmer in Congo growing coffee, cacao or shea butter, you know, the ingredients that go into cosmetics, and your contributions show up in brands like eight dollar lattes and expensive body lotions. And in examining this, we realized that that current models for getting people out of poverty have failed. Those models have failed because they look at the ability to help people out of poverty separate from enabling people in poverty to participate in the supply chain. And so we actually took the other route. And nobody had ever done it. We said, “What if the people who are absolutely in that last mile, if they get to equally participate?” Then the value for the brand is suddenly more relevant.

Let’s use a simple example. If you’re buying cacao in Ghana and you’re a large chocolate company, there’s a good chance today that your last mile farmers are extremely poor and also invisible. No matter much traceability, transparency or fair trade you implement, until and unless that farmer can participate in his data, to know for example “I’m selling 40 kilos every other week to this big brand,” then that farmer will continue to live in poverty. And this is kind of a long answer, but the detail is important because that poor farmer today has everything stacked against him or her, especially if conditions are so rough. I was just in Zambia a week and a half ago and I saw firsthand some of this problem, which was that women farmers have to borrow at a higher price point.

Women farmers are always at the short end of the stick because they’re not allowed in many cases to prove their history. So what happens if you happen to be selling 40 kilos upstream and there are seven middlemen… after I sell my coffee… somebody picks it up, then brings it to somebody else, the next one goes to the warehouse and eventually you’ve lost the ability to track. And while the internet has come to people in poverty it hasn’t pulled people out of extreme poverty permanently. There’s mobile money, there’s big data, AI, etc., but none of those models actually have ever allowed that mother, that farmer, to participate equally.

When I say participate equally, it’s very basic. To me participate equally means that one, she has a physical (stored digitally) copy of that transaction that nobody can ever steal or manipulate. Two, she has the ability to prove her transaction history which legitimizes her existence in that supply chain. And three, it allows her to now leverage that data in a way that reduces her cost of borrowing. It allows her to be portable. That’s how we decided to look at blockchain and nobody in the world has ever done this. People keep talking about how they’re going to use blockchain for good and we’re the only ones doing it everyday, taking a commercial approach while being simultaneously deeply purpose driven. We started a for profit, for purpose software company and now the largest brands are coming to us because it solves two sides of the problem for them. One side is that the supply chain now becomes more cost effective and efficient. They get better visibility into the supply chain in terms of quality, market access and forecasting which enables an ecosystem for crop insurance, climate protection, education. And the other side of the coin is now they can start addressing issues like gender equality, labor rights and other important issues.

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