Tech and security leaders are often asked: What keeps you up at night? Typical answers include “a major breach,” “the bad guys are too good” and “not enough money.”

As I think back over my years working to protect data and people from cyberattacks, including stints in the U.S. Department of Defense and private sector, I worry most about talent.

Do we have the right people? Are they doing the right things? Will they stay? Who will replace them if/when they leave? How can we build a better team? What are we missing?

Why Are People Most Important?

With the endless list of scary headlines describing ID theft, Edward Snowden revelations of NSA monitoring activities or even talk of global cyberwar, why place such a premium on finding, attracting and keeping the right people?

Success requires excellent technology, tested processes that work and staff members with the right skills. But if I had to pick one, the right people will ensure that the best technology and processes are implemented. The best technology won’t help if the wrong people are on the team.

A look at the percentage of failed tech projects worldwide (that were well funded) demonstrates the need for more than just top tech and business processes. Talented experts can even find the money and build the business case for more resources, despite a tough fiscal environment.

Sports fans know that success comes from the players on the team, the manager’s decision-making and the team’s chemistry. The same is true for operational and strategic security success. Experienced leadership is needed to change the culture of organizations.

If you’ve been on a high-performing team on a winning streak, you know what I mean. Work becomes fun, and achieving difficult goals becomes the norm. Conversely, keeping that team together or rebuilding it when essential players leave is the major challenge.

Michigan has lost several outstanding security professionals in the past few years. Backfilling those positions with experienced staff is becoming harder than ever.

Simple Answers Simply Won’t Do

There are thousands of articles on how to attract the best staff, create a top 100 workplace or build a succession plan. But do those ideas work in government? Pay packages often don’t attract the best people, and it’s tough to compete with stock options and more offered by companies like Google, Facebook or tech startups.

So what’s to be done (and avoided) to build effective teams and find/keep talent? Here are seven ideas:

1. DO — Know your team. Reward the performers in currency that matters to them. (Tip: Maybe money is less important than time off, recognition or opportunities to speak publicly.)

2. DO — Provide a mix of vendor and government staff that work well together. Build trust.

3. DO — Train your people. Bring in students. Build a security career path. Mentor rising stars.

4. DON’T — Outsource security or hire staff augmentation that doesn’t fit in or work for the medium to long term. “Experts for hire” who fly in from across the country probably won’t last if an opportunity becomes available closer to home. I try to find local talented people, if possible, who plan to stay in the area beyond a quick resume boost.

5. DO — Partner with companies that can offer long-term stability and be held accountable for specific deliverables and services. If vendor staff leave, your partner must cross-train and find you the right replacement.

6. DON’T — Buy into vendor promises that a “new black box” will solve all of your problems. Solutions require answers in people, process and technology categories. People issues are the hardest and most important element to success.

7. DO — Have fun. Celebrate successes. Throw a party just because.

A final thought: Football coach Lou Holtz once said, “Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you’re willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it.”

Leaders must identify all three — the skills, motivation and right attitude in our teams.

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