Sage Conversations: What does a Next-Generation Integrator Look Like to a Next-Generation Security Executive?

Feb. 10, 2012
An interview with Mike Howard, CSO of Microsoft

Over the last few years I have had the opportunity to watch Mike Howard, the chief security officer (CSO) of Microsoft, lead his organization through a number of significant transitions. Howard has shared a number of these transitions within the context of ‘The Great Conversation’ hosted by the ASG Security Summit and Expo every March in Seattle, which I have had the pleasure to facilitate.

Since he has been on the leading edge of change as a security executive and has been a voice within organizations like International Security Management Association (ISMA), InterCEP’s Global Risk Network and the Security Executive Council, I wanted to have him share his views on the ‘Next Generation Integrator.’

“It is implied that an integrator should have an expertise in the implementation of a product,” said Howard. “But to be more than that, they must come to the table with an understanding of the business.”

To Howard, the business has dependencies that must be understood which will dictate how the organization defines, manages and responds to its risks. The integrator then can apply its knowledge of technology solutions in context of the organizational objectives. By meeting these objectives, the integrator has created the foundation for a value premise and a strong return on investment.

“In today’s business environment,” said Howard, “anything that does not drive value to the business will be questioned, scrutinized or ignored. We need the integrators to step up, understand this, act like an advisor and help drive the value premise.”

Are you a next-gen?

Howard and his team can recognize a ‘next-generation integrator’ by their language and their actions. “They speak our language, understand our processes and work hard to understand our metrics”, said Howard. “They are transparent. They are insightful. They are creative. If they are responding to our RFP they go beyond the questions and attempt to provide a strategic perspective. They ask the questions we didn’t ask.”

Howard acknowledged that many CSOs are not close enough to their integrators. “It was a revelation to me what a smart, talented community we have in the integrator field,” he said. “They have to do a better job understanding us, partnering with us and other integrators that we may need to build our global reach. But there is no question that when they do, we can use them to advance our value and purpose within our organizations.”