In 2005, the Michigan Department of Information Technology had just passed its three-year mark, and the service upgrades, cost savings and other benefits that came from consolidating all government IT into a single department were becoming clearer. Although early results were impressive, scary storm clouds were on the horizon for our young department.

Auditors were stopping by more often than they ever had. We didn’t have anything to hide, but these well trained pros from the federal government and our state legislative branch had a whole new set of questions that we’d never been asked. One enterprisewide security audit took more than a year to complete.

And as new laws surrounding compliance emerged, we were required to implement new internal controls to protect systems that had Social Security numbers, health records, credit cards and other sensitive data.   

Our agency clients also were seeking help in addressing their audit issues. Several major new systems were planned, but we still needed to remediate existing system vulnerabilities or explain to the auditors why we were holding off. The agency sentiment became, “You manage the people and systems — so you own the audit findings.”

The breadth and depth of these challenges covered multiple agencies, programs and business areas. The scope seemed overwhelming and expensive. Staff complained that they couldn’t keep up with audits and day-to-day tasks. We needed a new strategic approach to legal and policy compliance. 

Why bring up this compliance topic in 2011? This strategic audit/compliance issue is surfacing nationally, and we’re getting many calls asking for advice. We like to convey an age-old adage for agencies partnering with the private sector or using the cloud: You can outsource the system, but you can’t outsource the responsibility.

From payment card industry requirements to new health information exchange laws, business project survival often relies on an ever-changing, complicated checklist of controls. “Our new consolidated IT department had a big red target on its back,” said one respected state CIO. “We’ve never dealt with this level of scrutiny before from the auditors.”

Compliance is a part of the new normal. Your agency is now on center stage, so you’d better get used to crowds showing up. What’s to be done? Here’s our advice: Build an internal audit team to navigate the process. You need certified auditors who can speak the techie and auditor languages and translate as necessary. 

Assign one senior person who understands the enterprise compliance requirements to coordinate strategy. Your list of systems, audit findings, remediation plans and timetables must be a priority. Ensure this person has the right players at the table with proper executive authority.

Establish a measurable and repeatable internal controls framework, such as the Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology. Our team has templates for internal controls assessments, audit communication plans, business process controls, responsible parties, corrective action plans and more.

Get team buy-in. Discuss requirements and expectations with your internal and external partners to ensure that they are meeting compliance regulations in each critical area. Ensure contract wording is in place, business areas have points of contact, and technology infrastructure and software development managers are accountable for results.

Remember that although it may not feel like it, auditors can be helpful to your organization. Early audit findings surrounding cyber-security helped steer enterprise priorities. This audit action data allowed us to obtain funding for key security and infrastructure initiatives during difficult budget times. We even gave our auditor general the results of internal security assessments. By developing positive relationships and building trust with auditors, you can solve problems simultaneously — like obtaining compliance and strengthening security.

Leaders must follow through with audit remediation plans. Corporate memory is often lost with staff turnover, but remember compliance because the auditors won’t forget.

Dan Lohrmann is Michigan’s CTO and previously served as the state’s first chief information security officer. He has 25 years of worldwide security experience, and has won numerous awards for his leadership in the information security field.

Dan Lohrmann Dan Lohrmann  |  Michigan's Chief Security Officer

Daniel J. Lohrmann became Michigan's first chief security officer (CSO) and deputy director for cybersecurity and infrastructure protection in October 2011. Lohrmann is leading Michigan's development and implementation of a comprehensive security strategy for all of the state’s resources and infrastructure. His organization is providing Michigan with a single entity charged with the oversight of risk management and security issues associated with Michigan assets, property, systems and networks.

Lohrmann is a globally recognized author and blogger on technology and security topics. His keynote speeches have been heard at worldwide events, such as GovTech in South Africa, IDC Security Roadshow in Moscow, and the RSA Conference in San Francisco. He has been honored with numerous cybersecurity and technology leadership awards, including “CSO of the Year” by SC Magazine and “Public Official of the Year” by Governing magazine.

His Michigan government security team’s mission is to:

  • establish Michigan as a global leader in cyberawareness, training and citizen safety;
  • provide state agencies and their employees with a single entity charged with the oversight of risk management and security issues associated with state of Michigan assets, property, systems and networks;
  • develop and implement a comprehensive security strategy (Michigan Cyber Initiative) for all Michigan resources and infrastructure;
  • improve efficiency within the state’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget; and
  • provide combined focus on emergency management efforts.

He currently represents the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) on the IT Government Coordinating Council that’s led by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He also serves as an adviser on TechAmerica's Cloud Commission and the Global Cyber Roundtable.

From January 2009 until October 2011, Lohrmann served as Michigan's chief technology officer and director of infrastructure services administration. He led more than 750 technology staff and contractors in administering functions, such as technical architecture, project management, data center operations, systems integration, customer service (call) center support, PC and server administration, office automation and field services support.

Under Lohrmann’s leadership, Michigan established the award-winning Mi-Cloud data storage and hosting service, and his infrastructure team was recognized by NASCIO and others for best practices and for leading state and local governments in effective technology service delivery.

Earlier in his career, Lohrmann served as the state of Michigan's first chief information security officer (CISO) from May 2002 until January 2009. He directed Michigan's award-winning Office of Enterprise Security for almost seven years.

Lohrmann's first book, Virtual Integrity: Faithfully Navigating the Brave New Web, was published in November 2008.  Lohrmann was also the chairman of the board for 2008-2009 and past president (2006-2007) of the Michigan InfraGard Member's Alliance.

Prior to becoming Michigan's CISO, Lohrmann served as the senior technology executive for e-Michigan, where he published an award-winning academic paper titled The Story — Reinventing State Government Online. He also served as director of IT and CIO for the Michigan Department of Management and Budget in the late 1990s.

Lohrmann has more than 26 years of experience in the computer industry, beginning his career with the National Security Agency. He worked for three years in England as a senior network engineer for Lockheed Martin (formerly Loral Aerospace) and for four years as a technical director for ManTech International in a U.S./UK military facility.

Lohrmann is a distinguished guest lecturer for Norwich University in the field of information assurance. He also has been a keynote speaker at IT events around the world, including numerous SecureWorld and ITEC conferences in addition to online webinars and podcasts. He has been featured in numerous daily newspapers, radio programs and magazines. Lohrmann writes a bimonthly column for Public CIO magazine on cybersecurity. He's published articles on security, technology management, cross-boundary integration, building e-government applications, cloud computing, virtualization and securing portals.

He holds a master’s degree in computer science from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Valparaiso University in Indiana.

NOTE: The postings on this blog are Dan Lohrmann's own views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the state of Michigan's official positions.

Recent Awards:
2011 Technology Leadership Award: InfoWorld
Premier 100 IT Leader for 2010: Computerworld magazine
2009 Top Doers, Dreamers and Drivers: Government Technology magazine
Public Official of the Year: Governing magazine — November 2008
CSO of the Year: SC Magazine — April 2008
Top 25 in Security Industry: Security magazine — December 2007
Compass Award: CSO Magazine — March 2007
Information Security Executive of the Year: Central Award 2006