Leadership Insights

Unpacking the SolarWinds Hack

By now, we are sure you know that hackers exploited SolarWinds to launch an attack against targets in the United States. Although this hack used SolarWinds to deliver the payload, this new threat to the software supply chain is a concern to all organizations. The impact of this attack is large and far reaching. Besides FireEye and the United States government, one of the impacted organizations was Microsoft, and they discuss the impact in this Microsoft Security Response Center Update.

The SIM DigiRisk SIG held a townhall regarding this hack on December 29, 2020, and a recording with the slide deck is now available to all members on the SIM Townhall Blog Post. This group will conduct deeper dives every Wednesday in January at 3 PM CST and members can register to attend these meetings on the DigiRisk SIG site.

Bottom Line: even if your organization does not use SolarWinds Orion, one of your third parties may use it. All organizations should examine their security portfolio and adjust plans and defenses, as necessary.

Chad Strunk
SIM Minnesota, Treasurer


Enterprise Architecture Facilitates Delightful Customer Experiences
by Lisa Schurch, MBA

Customers demand responsive, seamless online services and information enriched products. They want up to date information that can be accessed through any of their devices. They want this data quickly and easily. Imagine logging into your bank account and finding the deposits that you made at the bank a couple days ago missing. As a result of this negative experience, you would lose confidence that your bank can manage your money. To provide a delightful experience to customers, business must digitally transform by creating digital offerings that are supported by digitized operations and digitalized business processes. Enterprise Architecture facilitates the digital transformation effort.

Digital Transformation is the adoption of digital technology to transform services or businesses, through replacing non-digital or manual processes with digital processes or replacing older digital technology with newer digital technology. The days of using paper or Microsoft excel to support critical business processes are over. When a bank teller receives your deposit information in the form of a paper deposit slip (analog), it must be converted to digital right away so you can see the transaction online immediately. Can you imagine if the bank’s deposit process were to stack the paper deposit information on a person’s desk for someone to perform data entry a couple days later? The bank would not provide the service that their customers expect and, as a result, the customer would go elsewhere.

Enterprise Architecture is the holistic design of people, processes, and technology to execute digitally inspired strategic goals. Every negative customer interaction via a company app, website, telephone call, or service provider exposes your architectural inadequacies. Left unresolved, these issues will destroy formerly great organizations. Enterprise Architecture aligns customers expectations and company strategies to the technology components available, facilitating both operational excellence and adaptability to change. In the bank example, the teller’s process has three steps; to look up your account, verify the deposit information and submit the transaction. Each of these steps are components that can be used in many innovative ways to serve the customer as customer needs change.

Customers expect a responsive experience and will quickly go elsewhere if not satisfied. To provide this experience, digital offerings must be available that are supported by back-end digitized operations and digitalized business processes. Enterprise Architecture scans across business and product silo’s to design integrated & interoperable solutions, which require that people work across product lines. I truly believe that companies must rethink how work gets done and how that work relies on people, processes and technology. Enterprise Architecture guides leaders through this radical redesign.
Join us at our next SIM Minnesota meeting on November 22nd where we will discuss the role of Enterprise Architecture and the value that it brings to an organization.


One Man’s Limited Perspective on our Lives During the Covid-19 Pandemic
by Harold Knutson, SIM MN President

“With time, comes perspective.”  It sounds a lot better than “When you’re as old as I am, you view these things with a broad lens.”

Yes, I’ve been around a while longer than many of my IT industry colleagues and, I must admit, I have never seen anything exactly like our current pandemic.  Having said that, I have actually seen a lot of things that, at their points in history, had never happened before; Viet Nam, Swine Flu, Bird Flu, SARS, Financial Black Monday, 9/11, the Housing Crisis, Zika Virus, Global Warming, etc…..

One thing that has always stood out for me is that in virtually ALL of these ‘unprecedented’ events in our history, there is usually a person or two whom, with great intestinal fortitude, stood up and called out what was actually happening and what needed to be done about it even though there were very powerful and influential people who had a stake in maintaining the status quo.  Perhaps not a complete case of Speaking Truth to Power but often, these truth-tellers did so at great risk to their personal well-being if not their actual lives.  It was often these voices that were the catalyst to the people of this great nation rallying behind solving these crises and advancing our well being.

I should point out that this diatribe is NOT a commentary on current political figures (although it may be difficult to resist that).  It is about absolute admiration for those who’s professional training and experience coupled with incredible personal commitment to their profession and their constituents compels them to speak up when the easiest thing to do would be to tow the party line. Go along to get along, as they say.

In this current environment, I am so incredibly thankful for the courageous leadership exhibited by Dr’s. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx.  Thankful that they had the dedication, knowledge, and the interpersonal skills (EQ?) to navigate the politically hyper-charged environment in Washington to get the message out that we were in trouble and it was going to quickly get worse if we didn’t take action across the entire nation.  I marvel at their adept performance during press conferences where they carefully direct kudos to stroke the ego of the man in the most powerful position in the free world while still clarifying the facts and factually communicating the reality of the situation to keep us from becoming complacent.

Thinking back on my career, there were times where I wish I had demonstrated even 1/2 the professionalism and intestinal fortitude of these two doctors.  That is because I have a strong belief, perhaps from living through some of the unprecedented events above that, if we understand the facts and the reality of the situation - supported by data, we can deal with anything.  Where we get into trouble is when we say what people want us to say and hear what we want to hear rather than what is actually going on.

I encourage each and every one of us in leadership positions to ensure you are providing your organizations with the unadulterated facts and truth about all situations - even if that’s an unpopular position to take.  With that, your people will surprise you with how well they can constructively address the situation.

For Covid-19, I’m hoping we’re now on the right track.