What makes a good CTO? With all the buzz about a first-ever federal CTO, more attention is being paid to that question. Whether on a national scale or at a company with ties to federal customers, the need for CTOs to bring the best in IT solutions and cybersecurity to the table is essential. Few understand this better than Lee Holcomb, director of the Center for Cyber Security Innovation at Lockheed Martin, and former CTO for the Department of Homeland Security. Recently, Holcomb spoke with ExecutiveBiz, and offered best practices for CTOs to manage talent, processes, and technology. Here's his rundown.
Use agile methods. “A lot of times people bite off too much,“ says Holcomb. He advises using agile methods, and iterating on a solution. “That approach allows you to mature your requirements as you mature your solution,“ says Holcomb. By contrast, if you use a traditional waterfall solution, you tend to spend a lot of time upfront defining requirements. There is a downside from using a traditional waterfall solution. For example, “When you're dealing with a customer who may not understand their requirments “” or if you are moving a customer into a new operating mode “” they may not know their requirements just yet,“ says Holcomb. An agile method, by contrast, allows capability and functionality to grow over time.
Establish teams of modest size. “Many of the things that we take on require large teams to accomplish, but if you can break work into modest-sized teams and then set clear measures of success and objectives, you have a much better chance of success and not having to rework things,“ says Holcomb. He offers Google as an example. “They tend to divide work up amongst teams of modest size “¦ when they get too many people on a team they can't move quickly,“ he says.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. “You can't underestimate the importance of communications,“ says Holcomb. He recalls his time at DHS. Upon Tom Ridge's behest a series of meetings were held with CEOs of major companies that had undergone significant change. One CEO who spoke was Carly Fiorina, then CEO of Hewlett Packard. Having just completed the HP/Compaq merger, Fiorina spoke about the importance of having a clear external message and one internal message “From a company standpoint you want one external portal and one internal collaboration portal,“ says Holcomb.
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