Operations Management

Operations Management
How much time should your enterprise architecture (EA) team spend on operational tasks versus strategic planning?

Top Answer : It depends on the company size and what you're working on. Right now I have a very small direct team, so we try to have a balance. I spend more time on strategic stuff whereas I have one or two engineers who spend probably 50% of their time on tactical stuff. But the ideal split could be 60/40, or 70/30. But I think if you're trying to bring in change, some of your engineers might spend about 80% of their time on the ground building stuff. And over the years I've always done enterprise architecture as code, so that architecture is not too abstract.

How can companies best cope with accelerated growth in terms of IT operations?

Top Answer : My company’s experiencing accelerated growth for sure and that creates all kinds of broken glass. My hypothesis was that any amount of velocity creates broken glass and at this rate, it must be really tremendous. And it's true, there's a lot of broken glass. The problem that we're solving is one that every company has, which is trying to stitch a lot of different technologies together. We're providing all the stitching operations for our customers, but I think this space is still maturing, in general. To me, it's a bit of a science project even now.

ERP Usage and ChallengesERP Usage and Challenges

How are decision-makers using Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tools? Benchmark with your peers.

What are your thoughts on SaaS management platforms (SMP)?

Top Answer :

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What Operational Technology (OT) vulnerabilities keep you up at night?

Top Answer : What you need to consider is the attack surface. Who's really going to hit these lab machines? With research, generally you'll be looking at state-level attacks. That's a big fish to fry. But at the actual individual machine layer, you're probably not going to get hit by a huge flood of attacks directed at them because there isn’t an easy way to monetize that. You're dealing with corporate espionage and state-level espionage. You're not getting the volume that you’d get with a bank or a credit card processor that's so easy to monetize.  Although if the last couple of years have taught us anything, it's that the whole industry has changed its strategy around monetization and now they're targeting all the low hanging fruit with ransomware and DDoS for bitcoin. So even that's becoming a false sense of security more and more every day.

What are the key cyber security challenges facing Operational Technology (OT)?

Top Answer : I worked in biotech for 15 years and we've always had these labs with very expensive sequencers and robots, etc., which are hooked up to Windows XP machines that I couldn't put AV on. I couldn't patch them or do anything else to them because it wouldn't work with the firmware on the robot if we did that. We had to figure out all kinds of ways to protect those things not only from the internet, but from each other so things wouldn't spread.

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Have you ever experienced an Operational Technology (OT) security breach that turned into a digital transformation effort?

Top Answer : Just when we thought we had everything locked down, the technician from the robot company came to update the machine’s firmware and inserted their USB drive. Of course, their USB had viruses all over it, so it infected that machine and spread to others as well. I almost got fired twice because our lab was down for a week or two weeks while we were cleaning up the mess. And that's not good when you're running a diagnostics test in a lab that’s Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certified. After that happened once, we put a rule in place that technicians can only use our encrypted USB drives and we would take whatever the firmware update was, transfer it to the clean USB drive, scan it for viruses and everything, and then we would allow them to update it. We had to put a process around it so that the lab managers knew not to let anybody in our lab with USB drives or anything else. Nobody can touch a computer without being escorted by somebody in IT.

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Why is it virtually impossible to upgrade Operational Technology (OT)?

Top Answer : Look at companies like Schneider Electric—the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is a huge customer of theirs but they don't want to use the updated firmware or the updated versions of it because everything's validated on a specific version. And we have the same problem in lab environments: Once we do the validation process, which is a total pain, you don't want to go through all that again. We do our best to avoid it and we end up on these laboratory information management systems that are five revs out of date. And we keep using them—that's the reality in biotech. Until we get the people to do it.

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