Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Go Code Colorado is back for 2016!

Pikr Knows from the 2015 Go Code Colorado
Go Code Colorado has been an incredible addition to Colorado’s thriving tech and innovation community. Go Code is helping Colorado achieve a more meaningful, healthier government and business environment through a number of competitive events that challenge entrepreneurs and developers to build data-savvy apps that help businesses make better decisions. Go Code is an initiative of the Colorado Secretary of State’s Business Intelligence Center, which works to make state-managed, public data more accessible with the help of the Governor’s Office of Information Technology’s Colorado Information Marketplace (CIM) at data.colorado.gov.

Go Code will host its third app challenge in 2016 and we couldn’t be more excited! But first, we thought we would follow up with one of the winning teams from 2015 for a little Q&A. We contacted Jordan Majdolashrafi from the Pikr Knows team who helped develop a tourism app for Colorado residents and visitors that suggests a variety of activities based on the user's needs. Here’s what he had to say about his team’s winning app:

What is the progress of Pikr Knows’ winning app today?

Jordan: We're finishing up the last stages of a mobile version of the app and plan for a release on both iOS and Android. Once the mobile app is online, we plan on taking down the version on our website and focusing purely on a mobile experience.

What’s the coolest thing that has happened to you since winning the 2015 Go Code Colorado?

Jordan: Personally, job offers and a nice salary boost. After winning, I've had several people approach me asking to consult for or join their company. Since Go Code is one of the biggest hackathons in the region and has a good amount of media coverage, it looks really good on a resume.

Editor’s note: Go Code Colorado organizers avoid the “hackathon” label. They call the competition a civic app challenge. Read more about the distinction in this blog post.

What was the biggest challenge Pikr Knows faced during last year’s competition?

Jordan: Team dynamics. Everyone on our team was very talented - however, we couldn't agree on anything and we were constantly stepping on each other's feet. It was easy to get burned out on the project quickly. Now that we've had some time to rest and settle our differences, we are excited to finish up the mobile app.

Do you have any recommendations for next year’s competitors?

Jordan: Yes! Choose your team carefully, you'll spend so much time around them that they'll become family by the end of the competition. Define specific roles for every team member and trust your team members to make the right calls and follow through. Offer your opinion on matters, but respect and realize the final decision is made by the member whose role is in charge of that matter.

Kick off for next year’s app challenge will take place on Feb. 3, 2016, so start building your team up. For more information on upcoming events or building a team, visit GoCode.CO. We hope to see you there!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Google Apps are trending in Colorado. Kickass!

The State of Colorado has been using Google Apps for Government since 2012. We chose this enterprise solution in order to eliminate 15 aging and disparate email systems, as well as streamline budget and work time through the use of these cost effective, user-friendly, collaborative tools. And because, let’s face it, Google Apps are amazing.

To date, Colorado’s use of Google Sites alone has resulted in $4 million in cost avoidance. We are also very proud that Colorado’s website coloradounited.com, established during the flood disaster of 2013, won the 2014 CITE award for Best Use of GIS (geographic information systems).

Before jumping into the world of Google, we had to get a few ducks in a row. The State of Colorado was the first entity worldwide to obtain Google’s Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Business Associate Agreement. This ensures that Protected Health Information (PHI) is being safeguarded when using Google’s core applications. Our Google Services Team also works closely with our Office of Information Security in maintaining a private Chrome store for third party applications and extensions that have been vetted for use on the Google Apps for Government system.

Even our power users of Google know that there’s always more to learn. Google Apps was designed to make people more efficient and productive; you don’t have to be “tech-savvy” to use them. The Gooru (a part of our BetterCloud administrative, auditing and security suite) just posted its Productivity Guide for Google Apps with tips and insights into all of your Google Apps. We definitely learned a thing or two, so take a look if you are a Google lover, user, or simply need a new method for collaboration.

Are you a state employee? If you want to access The Gooru’s online toolset directly within the state environment, you can click on the navgrid (the nine little boxes at the top of each Google page whether you are in Gmail, Drive, Sites, etc). In that window, click “more” and then click on BetterCloud icon. If you haven’t done this before, it may prompt you to authenticate your account. Go ahead and authenticate. From there, you will be taken to a landing page where you can access a variety of Gooru tools, arranged from beginner to intermediate to gooru (expert!).

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Food, fun, parties, and lots of online shopping.

Today’s blog content is in partnership with MS-ISAC, the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center, Stop. Think. Connect., and the Center for Information Security.

It’s that time of year again—food, fun, parties, and lots of online shopping. Online shopping can be a savior, allowing you to find the perfect gift while saving time, but it can also end with identity theft, malware on your computer, and other cyber unpleasantness. Rather than letting it ruin your holiday season, you can take a few simple security precautions, and be careful where you shop, to help reduce the chances of you being a cyber victim.

When purchasing online this holiday season—and all year long—keep these tips in mind to help minimize your risk:
  1. Be cautious what devices you use to shop online. Mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, make shopping convenient at anytime and place, but they frequently lack the security precautions of a regular computer. If you use a mobile device to shop, make extra sure you are taking all the precautions listed below.
  2. Do not use public computers or public wireless for your online shopping. Public computers and wireless networks may contain malicious software that steals your information when you place your order, which can lead to identity theft.
  3. Secure your computer and mobile devices. Be sure to keep the operating system, software, and/or apps updated/patched on all of your computers and mobile devices. Use up-to-date antivirus protection and make sure it is receiving updates.
  4. Use strong passwords. The use of strong, unique passwords is one of the simplest and most important steps to take in securing your devices, computers, and online accounts. If you need to create an account with the merchant, be sure to use a strong, unique password. Always use more than ten characters, with numbers, special characters, and upper and lower case letters. Use a unique password for every unique site. The August Newsletter contains more information about the dangers of password reuse and is available at: http://msisac.cisecurity.org/newsletters/2015-08.cfm
  5. Know your online shopping merchants. Limit your online shopping to merchants you know and trust. If you have questions about a merchant, check with the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission. Confirm the online seller's physical address, where available, and phone number in case you have questions or problems. Do not create an online account with a merchant you don’t trust.
  6. Pay online with one credit card. A safer way to shop on the Internet is to pay with a credit card rather than debit card. Debit cards do not have the same consumer protections as credit cards. Credit cards are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act and may limit your liability if your information was used improperly. By using one credit card, with a lower balance, for all your online shopping you also limit the potential for financial fraud to affect all of your accounts. Always check your statements regularly and carefully, though.
  7. Look for "https" when making an online purchase. The "s" in "https" stands for "secure" and indicates that communication with the webpage is encrypted. This helps to ensure your information is transmitted safely to the merchant and no one can spy on it.
  8. Do not respond to pop-ups. When a window pops up promising you cash or gift cards for answering a question or taking a survey, close it by pressing Control + F4 for Windows and Command + W for Macs.
  9. Be careful opening emails, attachments, and clicking on links. Be cautious about all emails you receive, even those purportedly from your favorite retailers. The emails could be spoofed and contain malware.
  10. Do not auto-save your personal information. When purchasing online, you may be given the option to save your personal information online for future use. Consider if the convenience is really worth the risk. The convenience of not having to reenter the information is insignificant compared to the significant amount of time you’ll spend trying to repair the loss of your stolen personal information.
  11. Use common sense to avoid scams. Don't give out your personal or financial information via email or text. Information on many current scams can be found on the website of the Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission.
  12. Review privacy policies. Review the privacy policy for the website/merchant you are visiting. Know what information the merchant is collecting about you, how it will be stored, how it will be used, and if it will be shared with others.
What to do if you encounter problems with an online shopping site?
Contact the seller or the site operator directly to resolve any issues. You may also contact the following:
http://msisac.cisecurity.org/    https://www.stopthinkconnect.org/

Debbi Blyth: Chief Information Security Officer. Colorado native (almost!), beach lover, deep sea diver, Sunday school teacher. I'm the queen of keeping Colorado safe online. Find me on Twitter at @debbiblyth.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Credit card chip technology finally makes its way to the U.S.

EMV (Europay, Mastercard, and Visa) is becoming the standard for U.S. consumers and business owners. While many other countries have already adopted this technology, the U.S. has lagged behind. These new and improved cards are equipped with a small computer chip that’s extremely hard to counterfeit. With compromised credit cards and data breaches on the rapid rise, the U.S. payment industry is slowly making the transition to EMV technology.

In 2014, data breaches totaled 1,540 worldwide -- up 46 percent from the year before -- and led to the compromise of more than one billion data records. In addition, approximately 31.8 million U.S. consumers had their credit cards compromised last year, more than three times the number affected in 2013. Although the deadline for the transition was to be complete by Oct 1, 2015, some merchants still do not have EMV card readers readily available, making them fully liable for their losses in any data breach.

So what does this mean for consumers? Well, without the upgraded machine the chip doesn’t come into play -- consumers will have to swipe the magnetic strip instead and therefore forfeit the card’s fraud fighting protection. The card will also lose its security benefits if a PIN is not attached to the chip -- card holders must assign a PIN to the card’s chip to enable full protection.

Experts hope that chip-enabled cards will significantly reduce card fraud in the U.S. However, online fraud is expected to grow because EMV technology only protects consumers when they insert their card into an EMV-ready card reader, so shoppers will still need to take extra precautions when making purchases online. For more information on how chipped credit cards function, check out the FAQs page on CreditCards.com, or attend the Rocky Mountain Information Management Association’s upcoming session, “EMV Chip and PIN: Will it save us?” on Dec. 10, 2015, in Denver.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Holiday travel? Have no fear, Bustang is here!

Last week kicked off another busy holiday season on Colorado roads, and we all know that highway traffic can cause quite the headache.

Enter Bustang™ -- the new Colorado interregional express bus (with WiFi!). Connecting major populations, employment centers and local transit entities along the I-25 front range and I-70 mountain corridors, Bustang now makes commuting as simple as saddling up to ride Colorado’s big purple bus. Check out the Bustang schedule, routes and prices online here.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) announced Bustang’s service launch on July 13, 2015, with 13 buses in rotation on each respective route. Each coach is equipped with restrooms, bike racks, free WiFi, power outlets and USB ports. Coaches offer a 50-passenger capacity and are handicap accessible.

Our Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) teams played a big role in this exciting new transportation offering -- watch our Bustang video to find out how.

So take a much-needed break from steering the wheel this holiday season and grab a seat on the Bustang!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Top 4 Reasons Why Tech is Booming in Colorado

Silicon Valley or Silicon Mountain?

Colorado has become one of the hottest places for startup innovation. According to the news and tech website Mashable, “the tech scene in Colorado is on fire, particularly for companies that specialize in natural food, computer storage and biotech.” Here are the top four reasons that the Colorado tech scene is booming:
  1. Magnet for Tech Talent and Jobs
    For the first time, Denver, Colorado leads Forbes’ 2015 list of the best places for business and careers as #1 out of 401 metropolitan areas in the U.S. The Denver metro area is regarded as having one of the most diverse and highly educated labor forces in the country, with more than 100,000 out-of-state migrants moving to Denver between 2010 and 2014. As The Wall Street Journal states, "Millennials are flocking to the Mile High City, and it isn’t just the nearby ski slopes, microbreweries or urban hiking trails that are attracting them: It’s the jobs." In the past 12 months, more than 4,000 new technology jobs have been created across multiple industries in the state of Colorado. From large tech companies like Google, HP, Oracle and IBM -- who have a significant presence in the state -- to the budding start-ups, Colorado has a very strong tech ecosystem.
  2.  Startup-Friendly Environment
    For entrepreneurs looking to get their idea funded, Colorado is a great place to be. Investment is flowing into Colorado. More than $1 billion in venture capital was put into Colorado-based companies in 2013, with half of that amount allocated toward tech companies. Also, there are a variety of state level funding opportunities such as Colorado’s Venture Capital Authority, and the Advanced Industries Accelerator Grants Program.

    Additionally, there are many great networking and connecting opportunities in Colorado. Once a year, multiple cities across Colorado, such as Denver, Colorado Springs, Longmont, Fort Collins and Summit County, host “startup weeks”, where startups can network with business leaders and learn how to scale up. Colorado is also home to several innovation centers: Galvanize (Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins), Industry (Denver), Innosphere (Fort Collins), and Impact Hub Boulder where networking events, education, and incubator programs allow Coloradans to support one another in their journey toward innovation.
  3.  Getting from Place to Place
    In an effort to improve Colorado’s growing pains, Governor John Hickenlooper (as mayor) launched Denver’s FasTracks program, which established 121 miles of commuter light rail tracks, bus rapid transit, and park-and-ride locations. More recently Gov. Hickenlooper pledged $100 million to make Colorado the very best state for biking. These public transportation options help to keep Colorado green and make it easy for employees to ride the lightrail to the airport (soon!), as well as to major technology employment centers such as the Denver Tech Center, downtown Denver, and the Interlocken Loop.
  4.  Work Hard, Play Hard
    Coloradans enjoy incredible amenities, making the state an attractive place to live and work. Colorado has world-class sports teams, endless sunshine, a diverse range of restaurants and breweries, and boundless outdoor activities within the great Rocky Mountains! This amazing state is also home to several unique events such as the Great American Beer Festival, the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, and the Denver Film Festival, just to name a few.
With all of these great reasons for tech companies and employees to locate here, Colorado is poised to become the next great technology hub for innovation, or is it already? As we continue to attract world-class talent, the next BIG idea and the next BIG company could already be in the works, right in our own backyard.

Monica Coughlin: Chief Strategy Officer. Sports enthusiast, volunteer, proud aunt, world traveler. I tell the IT industry why Colorado is the place to be. Find me on Twitter at @MonicaCoughlin.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Separation is a useful strategy (in today’s always-on, ever-connected world)

Today’s guest blog comes from John Everson, Director of Information Security at DISH Network.

Separation, containerization and segmentation are all tried and true security tactics in fields such as IT and accounting, but the principles are just as critical for consumers in their everyday lives. As technology continues to blend, and more and more of our information is stored online, this separation can seem difficult to accomplish. Here are a few ways you can protect your privacy and increase your security posture.

Use a separate Internet browser or “private browsing” for online finances. 
  • You wouldn't believe how much information about you is made available via a web browser, especially a browser that has been customized with an add-on tool bar or plug-in. In addition, many of the sites that you visit on a regular basis are interconnected with tens, if not hundreds, of other sites that are able to track and correlate your activity using online identifiers. For a better understanding of this, check out the “disconnect.me” web site (please note that this is not an endorsement of the company or their services, but they do some cool stuff). 
  • Consider using a different Internet browser for working on online finances (banking, bill pay, credit card sites, etc.) versus the browser you use for everything else (email, social, shopping, browsing, etc.). Alternatively, you could use “private browsing” or “incognito mode” for working on finances. Either way, if you do use a separate/dedicated browser for financial activities, make sure you don’t have any add-ons or tool bars enabled for that browser since these services have direct access to your browsing information.
Credit Cards 
Use different credit cards for different types of purchases.
  • Credit cards help isolate the funds in your bank account from the merchants that are selling you goods and services. Credit cards also offer fraud protection, a grace period, and in many cases, rewards (free money if you pay off the balance every cycle). On a side note, debit cards generally don’t offer the same benefits, and I usually advise people to use credit cards versus debit cards when making any purchase.
  • Credit cards make shopping online easy and convenient. But that ease-of-use extends to anyone who has your card information (including those who steal it). Consequently, consider using a different card for different types of purchases. For example, I generally do all of my online shopping on a specific credit card. I do not use this credit card for in-person purchases, and I have another (separate) card that I use to pay utilities and regular monthly services (e.g. electricity, water, DISH, etc.). 
  • Using different credit cards for different types of purchases allows me to better track and manage my expenses. For example, an online purchase made on my in-person card would be an immediate red flag.
Online Accounts
Use personal accounts for personal use, business accounts for work.
  • As more and more applications are moving to “the cloud,” we are starting to see personal and business lines blur. Many of the web applications (e.g. Facebook and Dropbox) that were created for casual or personal use are now being used in businesses.
  • This is a reality, but businesses and employees should take caution. Using a personal account to conduct business can put the business at risk as personal accounts are controlled by individuals and not by the company. In other words, the company may not have visibility or control of these accounts, so they may not know that an account even exists, much less how the account/service is being used. Under certain situations, this could result in data loss for the company and potential legal exposure for both the company and the individual. 
  • And a word of caution: Did you know that you may be assigning ownership of information to the service provider when you upload information into their application? You would be surprised by what is in the terms of service of many web applications (e.g. Prezi).
  • At the end of the day, people should use business accounts (and services) for business and personal accounts/services for personal use. Don’t mix business with personal use and don’t register for a new web application or service without the appropriate approvals from your employer.
Don’t use your work information (e.g. username, password, email address) when signing up for personal services.
  • This one might be the most obvious, but let’s look at a good example of “why not?” When website hackers leaked data from the Ashley Madison breach, data-crunching firm Dadaviz revealed the top ten companies who had email accounts registered with the dating site designed for married individuals. It’s perhaps a top ten list companies don’t want to be on. While data analysts suggested taking the figures with a grain of salt, as a third of all Ashley Madison accounts are fake, it’s still an example of risk to a business simply by people signing up for a personal site with a business email account.
  • It’s a good practice to only use work usernames, passwords and email addresses with employer-approved web applications, sites and services.
The items above are just a few areas that you should be aware of. There are many more out there so keep checking this blog for more tricks and treats in the future. In the meantime, be safe and think before you act.

John Everson is the Director of Information Security at DISH Network. DISH is headquartered in Englewood, Colo., and provides television, phone and broadband services in the United States. Sling TV is part of the DISH family of services.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Cybersecurity Smarts (VIDEO BLOG!): Mobile Safety

Today's CyberSecurity Smarts blog is our first ever VIDEO BLOG, with mobile device security tips from Daniel Teyf, our Application and Database Security Architect. Watch it below, or view it on YouTube here.

Video Transcript: Daniel Teyf, Applications and Database Security Architect.

Today we're going to talk about the mobile device any in particular, any brand and the security that comes along with it.

Updating Your Device
A device like this also has an operating system, which manages all the components of the device, and with programs that run on it. It's important to make sure you update your device's operating system on a regular basis. Different vendors will handle this differently:
  • Apple has the ability to directly target your phone and send you an update
  • Android does it through the service provider
  • Microsoft offers updates directly from the Microsoft cloud
Encrypting Your Device
The iPhone, for the most part, is already encrypted. But it's important to make sure that you have a PIN on there. On the Android, you set up a PIN (called a screen lock) in your settings, and then further into the settings you will see the security tab with an option to encrypt the phone. It's highly recommended that you encrypt your phone so that if you lose it, that information is harder to get at.

Turn Off Your WiFi
Let's not forget what happens when we connect our phone on our home WiFi. The first time around, your have to find your network. It shows you all of the available networks to connect with, and then your phone's got it memorized. The next time you are at home your phone automatically connects to that network again. The same thing goes for your work network, or the coffee shops that you visit. Anywhere you go after that your phone tries to see if those same networks are available. How does it see? Knock, knock, knock. It sends the network name, the SSID, out to see if anyone is going to respond to it. 

What's interesting is sitting at a hotel, and putting up a wireless receiver, you can see all of these phones running around trying to connect to various networks and they are sending out the network name. You can almost build a profile about which people have relations do they work together, do they visit the same coffee shops, do they live together, etc.

Lesson to be learned: If you are not connecting to the WiFi at a location, simply turn it off.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

It's Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and you're terrified.

Image via Flickr
Terrified by the latest hacks, identity thieving, and online scams? Are you just realizing that "password123" was probably not the best choice for a password? Shaking in the corner wondering if some odd man on the other side of the world is chasing down Beanie Babies with your credit card number? Don't worry; everyone is. The Internet can be a dangerous place, and there’s a lot to remember when using it.

Last year wasn't easy on anyone. Corporate giants Sony Pictures, eBay, Jimmy John’s, JP Morgan Chase, and Home Depot just to name a few were all hacked hard. The world got the big wake up call that no enterprise, regardless of the size of security investment, is immune to attack. Attackers’ weapons are advancing daily, technology keeps changing, and businesses are in a constant state of evolution — requiring rapid response and preventative tools to protect ourselves.

On average, there are more than 1.5 million victims of cybercrime across the globe every day (seriously, every day), and most of them could have avoided the attack if they were more educated on cybersecurity. Here in Colorado, our teams defend against approximately 8.4 million cybersecurity events every day (seriously, every day!).

Which is why today has special significance for us it’s Oct. 1, the official start of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. It's a month-long opportunity to create awareness about hackers and their techniques, and to let people know how they can protect themselves.

So use October to learn something new about cybersecurity: We'll be posting cybersecurity tips, facts, Q&As, and video blogs by experts with the hashtag #CoCyberHelp across social media, and you can also browse our website resources at colorado.gov/cybersecurity/help.

Hot cybersecurity subjects include:
  • Staying clear of those pesky phishing scams: Sigh. We are all so tired of these. These little scammers are constantly evolving to avoid detection, and can be quite the trickster to avoid. Learn what they are, how to protect yourself, and what to do if you get tricked.
  • Ensuring your home computer is not screaming "Hack me!": Use a firewall, scan for viruses, scan for spyware, and stay up-to-date. Computer updates often take care of known vulnerabilities in your computer, but you need to educate yourself (use strong passwords and then laugh at people who don't, know what scams to watch out for, stay abreast of latest tech news), secure your home network and mobile connection, and back up your most important information.
  • Keeping your beloved kids safe online: The really scary stuff right? Trying to protect those we love is enough to stress anyone out. Communication is key to knowing when they are encountering dangers, read our blog and get familiar with as much as you can.
  • Not leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for the bad guys when traveling: Back up files, update security software and clear your browser history before you leave for your trip, plus learn what to do while on the road, and what to check for when you get home. 
  • Things to think about to ensure better security when carrying or using your mobile phone. Did you know that your mobile phone is always looking for a wireless network to connect to? Have you ever thought about what that might reveal about you, and how someone may be able to impersonate the network(s) your phone is seeking, to steal the data on your phone? 
Obsessed with cybersecurity? We are too. Learn what the State of Colorado is doing by reading Secure Colorado — the state’s award-winning, multi‐year security strategy.

Debbi Blyth: Chief Information Security Officer. Colorado native (almost!), beach lover, deep sea diver, Sunday school teacher. I'm the queen of keeping Colorado safe online. Find me on Twitter at @debbiblyth.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Cybersecurity Smarts: Tips for Travel

Internationally, protections and safety on the Internet can vary widely from our own. According to the FBI, “In most countries, you have no expectation of privacy in Internet cafes, hotels, airplanes, offices, or public spaces. All information you send electronically can be intercepted, especially wireless communications.” This can put you at risk when you are traveling, especially if you’re bringing your laptop or smartphone with you when you go. Not only are your technological valuables at risk from physical threats, but cyber threats as well.

To ensure you have the best and safest travel experience as possible, you may want to take some steps to ensure your security.

Before You Go:
  • Make sure all of your files are backed up on an external hard drive.
  • Make sure all of your security software is up-to-date.
  • Clear your browser history, cache, cookies, and passwords; otherwise these could give people information to your browsing habits and personal information.
While Traveling:
  • Keep your technology in a secure spot, and know it’s whereabouts at all times.
  • If you leave your laptop in a hotel, make sure to store it in the safe when you leave the room. In some countries (such as Russia and China), it is recommended that you keep all technology with you at all times; even the hotel safe cannot be trusted.
  • Beware of wandering eyes if using your computer in public. You may want to invest in a privacy screen -- just in case there’s a not-so-friendly neighbor sitting next to you on the plane.
  • Beware of public WiFi, it’s much easier for hackers and scammers to infiltrate and gain access to your data on it.
  • Clear your Internet browser after each use to limit the access of data that can be retrieved.
  • Avoid using public computers. These may have keyloggers and other types of data capturing software present. If you do use a public computer, change your password for any accounts you accessed, as soon as you can, from your personal system.
When You Return Home:
  • After returning home, you may want to keep an eye on your bank and credit card statements for a little while, just in case someone did gain access to any of your information.
  • Run a virus check on your computer to make sure no viruses or malicious programs were placed on your computer without your knowledge.
  • Change passwords to all accounts you used while traveling.
If you do run into problems while traveling, make sure to contact the right people:
  • If you are traveling internationally and your computer gets stolen, report it to the nearest US Embassy to get help.
  • If someone gains access to sensitive information, especially for your job, be sure to contact the head of IT at your work. Hackers can use this information to infiltrate the whole network and compromise sensitive information for the entire organization.
  • Contact any banks or credit companies if you think any of sensitive information has been exposed.
Good luck on your explorations, and just remember: Don’t invite hackers to join your travel adventure.

Debbi Blyth: Chief Information Security Officer. Colorado native (almost!), beach lover, deep sea diver, Sunday school teacher. I'm the queen of keeping Colorado safe online. Find me on Twitter at @debbiblyth.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Colorado Crank: Hitting the Open Road On My Bike

Update - Sunday, Sept. 20: After nearly 2m 15 sec in Nebraska, was great to be back home in #Colorado - and then… DONE! 200 miles in 3 days across Eastern Colorado. Now, music and food time!

Read more on this topic from Brandon and check out his pictures from the ride so far on coloradocrank.com.

Update - Saturday, Sept. 19: ...Talking today with Kelly Kinnie of Kinnie Farms in Julesburg actually opened up an opportunity for the State to help on the technology front. Kelly uses GIS to track and locate his harvesters. Kelly is a Google user. There are no additional cost tools, such as Google Maps, that allow the State to take an active role in education to make Colorado farmers even more productive with easy to use access tools that the State has expertise and support in...

Read more on this topic from Brandon and check out his pictures from the ride so far on coloradocrank.com.

Update - Friday, Sept. 18: Tech won’t make you healthy… but it won’t hurt. As an avid triathlete and, recently, when talking about gearing up for the Pedal the Plains, I am often asked by friends, family and colleagues about training, how to get started and how to keep it up. First thing I always say is that you have to make time and start slow. Some people have a goal of doing an Ironman, others to lose a few pounds or to just feel better.

Technology won’t make you healthy, but today’s world does make it easier to get organized, track your progress and make it easier to balance life, play and work...

Read more on this topic from Brandon and check out his pictures from the ride so far on coloradocrank.com.

Today’s guest blog comes from Brandon Williams, Director of Google Operations for the Governor’s Office of Information Technology. Brandon and his team are responsible for supporting nearly 30,000 Colorado state employees using Google Apps for Government.

Tomorrow, I -- and many friends I have yet to meet -- will set out on a three day tent-n-ride adventure for the annual Pedal the Plains tour through eastern Colorado. And I can’t wait.

I can’t wait for a number of reasons. Instead of my normal race-event mindset (I live and breath Ironman) with race plan and nutrition at the forefront, this event is going to be a chance for me to just enjoy riding through beautiful country, see amazing places and experience a part of Colorado I rarely get to enjoy at pace. Food, new towns, people…it should be amazing.

I will be writing and snapping pics along my way to share with you. The event is sponsored by the Governor’s Office and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and as the Director of Google Operations for the Governor’s Office of Information Technology, this is a chance for me to view technology in a different light. I want to observe how it plays into not only fitness and sport, but also how it connects us as we ride with the communities and people we serve.

Specifically, I will be looking at the intersections of technology and fitness, the State of Colorado’s first responder communications systems, agriculture technology, and how local, rural communities are leveraging technology for tourism and information purposes. Also being both a history nerd, a person who is fascinated by all things weird, and a food-lover, there will be a lot shared on those fronts, too.

Pedal the Plains is a one-of-a-kind cycling event, celebrating the agricultural roots and frontier heritage of Colorado’s Eastern Plains. Described by the Governor as “a ride for the rest of us,” the event engages riders of all abilities. The 2015 tour will hit northeastern Colorado and highlight three unique communities in Julesburg, Holyoke, and Sterling.

A lot of the tech stuff will be posted on this blog, but I will also be posting to coloradocrank.com, on Twitter @bwwilliams and on facebook at facebook.com/coloradocrank. So, if you can’t join us for the ride, be sure to check in!

Brandon Williams
Director of Google Operations, OIT
On Twitter at @bwwilliams

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Waves of Change: Municipal & State Government Annual Conference

This year, for the first time in history, the Colorado Government Association of Information Technology (CGAIT) is partnering with the Colorado Information Management Association (CIMA) to bring both municipal and state employees the very best annual conference yet! This joint conference, Waves of Change: Oceans of Opportunity, is taking place Wednesday, Sept. 23 through Friday, Sept. 25, in Colorado Springs and focuses on all aspects of information technology for all Colorado governmental employees (state, county, city, higher education, K-12 and other local governments).

This year’s conference includes awesome speakers in the categories of IT security, technology, application development, project management, and employee enrichment. There will also be networking events and a vendor hall. Click here for a current list of speakers and to see the conference schedule.

This is a great opportunity for public sector employees to gather and learn from each other, and I hope you consider attending. Register here to join us (do so by Friday, Sept. 11, at midnight to snag the $80 rate -- that’s a $120 discount)!

CIMA is an educational association specifically for the government information technology professional or technician. CIMA provides educational opportunities in the field of information technology to employees of governmental units within the state of Colorado.

CGAIT promotes advancements in information technology in order to facilitate networking, collaboration, cooperation and education among government information technology leaders in Colorado -- resulting in greater efficiencies and effectiveness for member organizations, while enhancing services to Colorado communities and its citizens.

Exciting things are happening across the country in government, and our beautiful Colorado is no exception. We look forward to seeing our public sector peers at Waves of Change: Oceans of Opportunity in Colorado Springs, as we all work to elevate the services we provide to Coloradans.

Suma Nallapati: Colorado Secretary of Technology and Chief Information Officer. Colorado lover, business owner, mom, nuclear physics junkie. Find me on Twitter at @Suma_Nallapati.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Cybersecurity Smarts: How to Keep Kids Safe

Kids are becoming more and more savvy about technology every year. We’re getting to the point where toddlers know how to use iPads better than we do. So, as parents, what do we need to know to keep our kids safe?

The Threats:

There are a variety of things that can be a problem for kids when they start using the Internet. These things can put your computer, identity, and private information at risk. Some of the cyber scaries include:
  • Viruses and Malware
  • “Hacking”
  • Scams, misinformation, and fraud
  • Privacy violations (exposure or theft of your personal information, or personal information about your children)
  • Gambling
  • Explicit content
  • Predators
  • License violations (illegal downloading of music, movies, etc.)

Tips & Tricks:

The most important aspect of keeping your kids safe online is information. Be informed on what your kids are doing on the Internet -- what websites they are going to, what they are downloading, and who they are talking to -- and inform them of how to be “digital citizens,” or those who use the Internet regularly and effectively.

1. Get to Know Your Technology
  • Make sure to have a good security system in place on your computer (anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall protection).
  • Know the parental controls of your browser and computer (here are links to Windows and Apple to do this). Each computer come with options to set up parental controls that you can find in your computer’s settings.
  • Create separate user accounts for kids on your computer. As an administrator, you can change the privileges for each user.
2. Communicate With Your Kids
  • Talk to them about the potential dangers of being “wired” -- like viruses, phishing emails, and personal privacy.
  • Ask them to think before they post. What goes on the Internet remains there permanently for people to find. Your kids should be aware that before they post about themselves or a friend that it could impact them long-term.
  • Remind them to keep all online profiles private.
  • Make them aware of mobile security -- online traffic is moving toward more mobile than desktop. This means your child’s location can potentially be shared when they post something from their phones. You may want to turn the location settings off, at least for some apps.
  • Talk to them about cyberbullying. Being anonymous online sometimes encourages bad behavior. Cyberbullying is a serious issue, and if they see it or experience it they should report it to authorities (parents, school administrators, or -- in some cases -- the police).
The Internet is a great resource that helps our kids in tremendous ways. It advances learning, creativity, transparency, and allows people to maintain relationships. But, in the wise words of Spider-Man, “with great power, comes great responsibility,” and we need to ensure that our kids use this resource safely.

For more safety resources, visit Connect Safely, Get Net Wise and NetSmartz Kids.

Debbi Blyth: Chief Information Security Officer. Colorado native (almost!), beach lover, deep sea diver, Sunday school teacher. I'm the queen of keeping Colorado safe online. Find me on Twitter at @debbiblyth.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Mo’ Data, Mo’ Problems: Managing data in a dynamic environment

Today’s guest blog comes from David Luhan, a director at the Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT). David's views below are based on his years of IT experience; they do not necessarily represent OIT policy.

Data management is a business imperative. Success hinges on the ability to make informed and effective decisions, and although organizations have been collecting and storing information for years, they continue to wrestle with quality, availability, and retention of data -- day in and day out.

With the uptick of e-commerce, social networks, and mobile devices, data is collected and stored in an overwhelming number of formats. Data management requires constant attention to ensure adequate storage, enforce security, and ease of use. Data management is essential; end of story.

But there are many obstacles, and they are not easy to overcome. Businesses and IT leaders are consistently faced with the following:

  • Rampant data growth from capturing unstructured data and a “keep everything” attitude.
  • Intensification of data velocity where there is an influx of rapidly-changing data that is decreasing in value over time.
  • Data that was once confined to a single data store is being replicated and repurposed across multiple departments and beyond.
  • The increasing propagation of data imported into new applications and repositories.
  • New applications creating content from sources that come with varying requirements for access, security, and retention.

That’s a lot. So, how should we handle data in a dynamic business environment? Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Establish Controls
    Review the data and the process by which data it is collected and managed. Establish rules on access and modification rights based upon job function. Identify the opportunity for database consolidation to establish a single point of data truth that feeds reporting and applications.
  2. Develop a Data Map
    One key to effective data management is determining what data you are going to collect and why. A data map shows the “flow” of data from intake to output, how various systems integrate, and define the use for each database field. The data mapping process will support the controls that have been established and will ensure better data consistency.
  3. Segment Your Data
    Segmentation is the on-going process of building several ‘profiles’ in the database depending on the product or service offered. Using characteristics of your customer, target audience profiles can be developed. Segmentation allows you to effectively gain attention with targeted key messages, leading to better engagement.
  4. Establish a Regular Data Archive Process
    Implementing a data archive process is an essential consideration for every department. Determine how frequently you will need to access the information and timeframe for records retention.
Adopting a data management strategy like this will help to alleviate the pain around reporting, compliance, and space provisioning. And, if you do it right, your IT leaders will foster a collaborative environment to enable a comprehensive and secure data repository that becomes a valuable -- and permanent -- resource. And that’s certainly a happy ending for today’s data management challenge.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Change: Let's Face IT

Photo credit: Connectedsocialmedia.com
Most people would prefer not to deal with change, wanting life to remain constant and predictable. However, in the world of IT, innovation and transformation are part of the fabric of our world. Changing technology, business processes, and ways of interacting with the customer constantly evolve. So, how do we deal with it?
  • No one can tell you how to feel or make you feel anything. Face your feelings and own them. I often write things down, or I send myself an email venting all of the frustrations or worries I have. When I hit send, I can “let it go.” After I receive this email from myself, I can choose to read or delete it. Usually, I delete the email and move on knowing that I have been able to express myself and to get those thoughts out of my head. Oftentimes this process allows me to formulate a constructive plan for moving ahead, whether or not I choose to send relevant ideas from the note to my teammates or others.
  • Control what you can; let go of what you cannot. It is easy to get caught being negative or resistant to change. When something interferes with our daily routine -- like when another team steps on a process -- I notice it is a human trait to look to fix the other person’s problem. It sure is easier to point the finger and find flaws elsewhere. I take a step back and focus on what I can control -- myself and my team. This not only improves the entire process and situation but it also gives me (and us!) something productive to focus on. When we are focused and choosing to be in control of ourselves, we don’t feel the stress of change as much.
  • Find ways to be grateful and look for benefits of the change. When change happens, it is often our first reaction to be angry. I try to get past this (after sending my angry email to myself) and focus on being grateful about what the universe is offering me with this change. If I reframe the change as an opportunity, I can see the possibilities. I have found that as soon as I “let go” of resistance and worries, I can see the ways to make the change work for me. Often I will reach out to a key coworker, family member, or friend to discuss my feelings and frustrations. This gets the worry out of my head and provides perspective. Others may see the benefits for me when I cannot.
  • Take care of yourself -- relax and do something you enjoy. This concept applies at all times but certainly makes a big impact when stressed or dealing with change. I find the time to just take a walk around the building. Or, I read a chapter in a favorite book during a quick break at work. Not only does this give me control of key moments in my day, it also recharges my personal battery. We can’t help ourselves, or others, if we don’t take care of ourselves first. Find what works for you and take control of the time you need to refresh your attitude and your mind.
  • Keep breathing, and embrace change as a natural part of life. If we can see change as normal, and not as something being “done” to us, we can transform how we think about it. I envision myself going on that trip I have planned next month, catching that new movie in two weeks, or even just having dinner at home with my family tonight. When I can see the normal things in life occurring in the future, the change and stress of the moment are less worrisome. I know I can survive it; life goes on.
  • While change may be an ever present part of life, stress does not have to be. Successful change and stress management is learning how and when to take control. It’s important to remember that you control how change affects you.
You always have a choice; and that means you do have control of how you deal with change.

William Chumley: Chief Customer Officer. Weekend color guard judge, computer science study, traveler, bookworm. He knows how to get it done and is always listening to the customer. Find me on Twitter at @WilliamMChumley.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Cybersecurity Smarts: Don’t Go Phishing

Phishing is an all too common occurrence we see everyday -- just check your spam box. Unfortunately, people in Colorado are estimated to have lost millions of dollars last year to scams. So what is it, what does it look like, and how do you ensure you aren’t a victim?

What is Phishing?
Phishing is done through email (most common) or phone by someone who is posing to be a legitimate business or organization. These requests will ask you for personal information or encourage you to download something to your computer. Oftentimes these emails contain links that can install viruses on your computer and permanently damage it. While many people receive these emails, generally those who are less technology-savvy are most vulnerable to phishing scams.

Examples of Phishing Scams
Phishing scams usually contain some request for information or action, such as clicking a link. This is how the scammers gain information to attack your computer and identity.

Phishing messages could look like this:
  • "We suspect an unauthorized transaction on your account. To ensure that your account is not compromised, please click the link below and confirm your identity."
  • "During our regular verification of accounts, we couldn't verify your information. Please click here to update and verify your information."
  • “Our records indicate that your account was overcharged. You must call us within 7 days to receive your refund.”

How to Avoid Phishing Scams
There are some steps you can take to avoid being a victim of phishing attacks:
  • Be cautious of all emails from addresses you don’t know.
  • Also be cautious of generalized emails, even from people you do know. Often scammers hack into emails of other people and send messages through friends.
  • Only give personal information through secure, official websites (ie. Amazon). Tip: look for the ‘s’ in the https:// in the URL. The ‘s’ means secure. If it just says “‘http://” it is not a secure website.
  • Do not click links or download files from unknown senders.
  • Don’t click on links in unsolicited emails -- if FedEx (for instance) sends you an email that you weren’t expecting, rather than clicking on the link in the email, go to your browser and type in the URL that you typically use to access that site.
  • Do not enter personal information on a pop-up screen.
  • Never send personal information through email -- your bank will never ask you for your address, social security number, account number, or any information in email.
  • Make sure you keep all software, including your operating system, up to date.
  • Run anti-virus software, and keep it up to date.
  • Examine the security controls your bank, email providers, and other service providers you use offer -- you may be able to take advantage of 2-step verification and other controls that would prevent your stolen credentials from allowing unauthorized access to your account.

What To Do if You Think You’ve Been Scammed
Unfortunately, bad things do happen and someone could gain access to your sensitive data. There are some steps you can take to minimize the damage scammers can do to you, once they’ve already gained access to your data.
  • Change all your PINS and passwords for your online accounts.
  • If you know any accounts that were accessed fraudulently, close those accounts promptly.
  • Contact the bank or merchant directly if you suspect the email sent on their behalf is not legitimate.
  • Run a virus and security scan on your system to make sure there are no residual threats.
  • Request a free credit report to see if any other accounts were opened under your name.
  • Report the scam so it can be stopped in the future.

Reporting Phishing Scams 
The State of Colorado is particularly interested in stopping scammers. That’s why the Attorney General’s Office has started a campaign to stop fraud, and even created a website dedicated to stopping scammers. Visit StopFraudColorado.gov to report and help stop phishing.

Debbi Blyth: Chief Information Security Officer. Colorado native (almost!), beach lover, deep sea diver, Sunday school teacher. I'm the queen of keeping Colorado safe online. Find me on Twitter at @debbiblyth.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Tomorrow’s tech talent

If you read our post earlier this month, you already know Colorado is becoming THE place for tech companies -- the “Silicon Mountain” actually. And, if the predictions are correct, the tech industry is only going to keep growing. Colorado’s tech industry is big on collaboration -- with events like the Colorado Tech Tour to help make Colorado tech companies the best in the nation, and the introduction of its own programs to ride the increasing technology wave.

This past May, Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill that would allow students to graduate with a high school diploma and associate’s degree related to technology -- all in the same amount of time it would take to graduate high school in the traditional way. This program, Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, would enable more of the state to be prepared for the accumulating technology employment opportunities, especially those individuals who come from disadvantaged circumstances. In Colorado, one school will open with the P-TECH program for the 2016-2017 school year, with plans of opening more programs throughout the state over time. The students that recently graduated from the Brooklyn P-TECH are now poised to start 4-year college programs and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers. This is huge -- especially when most of these teens would have been without the opportunity to pursue degrees beyond their high school diploma.

Being able to gain knowledge and experience in STEM positions is an invaluable resource for emerging IT talent these days. OIT has even established its own program to develop the workforce -- Tomorrow’s Tech Talent, or T3. We bring in students and interns who gain real-world experience working with us, while we benefit from their fresh perspective and know-how with the newest technologies. It’s a win for the students, for us, and for Colorado’s economy. If you know any tech talent superstars who would be interested in our T3 program, contact us at oit_jobs@state.co.us.

Monica Coughlin: Chief Strategy Officer. Sports enthusiast, volunteer, proud aunt, world traveler. I tell the IT industry why Colorado is the place to be. Find me on Twitter at @MonicaCoughlin.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

3D printing: What is it, how it works, and why should you care.

My 3D printer and a few creations
So maybe you’ve heard about 3D printing, maybe a friend of a friend got one, but what is it really? Remember the Star Trek replicator -- press a couple of buttons and anything your heart desires appears? For those of you who haven’t seen Star Trek, a 3D printer gives you the ability print a three-dimensional object very much the same way as you would print a document for work. For the home 3D printer this is typically plastic objects (think toys, replacement broken parts, new designs, yourself...anything really).

However, 3D printing is not just plastic objects; bakers are printing chocolate, home builders are experimenting with using giant 3D printers to print cement buildings -- the possibilities are endless. The technology works by printing a single layer of plastic, layer by layer, until you have a complete design. It’s very much like laying bricks to build a house.

So, why should YOU care?

This technology is completely redefining several industries -- manufacturing, art, custom design, and more. For example, if you had an amazing idea five years ago, it would have taken tens of thousands of dollars and multiple months (maybe years) to see a real world example of that idea that you could actually hold, touch, and test. Make a mistake or don’t like the design? Start all over from scratch.This was completely unaffordable for the average American. Now for the price a 3D printer you can see, touch, and use an object within hours. If you don’t like the 3D print, make a modification and reprint -- just like your book report in high school. This technology is empowering the average person to create like never before.

Ok, you’re not into manufacturing and you’re not a designer, should you still care?

3D printers are endless hours of fun for the average family. There are thousands, maybe millions, of designs and things already created that you can download and print off the Internet. The average person can start printing as soon as they unbox their new 3D printer. My brother-in-law and I spend hours (seriously...hours) mesmerized with my 3D printer. Watching the first couple of prints was like how watching your first TV show must have been -- it’s like nothing you have seen before to watch something appear out of nothing. My eight-year-old son is already designing 3D objects and learning what works and what doesn’t. I couldn’t have imagined this possibility or the value to his education even three years ago.

Let’s get to the important question, what have I printed on my 3D printer?

First was the X-wing starfighter (had to, obviously); then I printed guitar wall hangers, iphone cases, printable jewelry for my sister, plastic pieces for my car, my kid’s pinewood derby car (his design, legal, and yes it won first place). Again, the possibilities are endless.

In conclusion, should you go buy one?!
My wife was skeptical of the 3D printer purchase -- not all of my technology toys have been worth the money. She actually made me sell my Google glasses to pay for it. And yet, she has been the most surprising advocate of this technology and thinks it's been the best technology investment we have made in the last five years. For me, that’s really saying something. I’m a techno geek, and I’m willing to walk the bleeding edge of technology and deal with all the failure that can come with it. If you need your technology purchases to just be for function only, like a microwave or a refrigerator, you probably need to wait one or two more years before making the jump to a 3D printer. That said, if you’re a brave adventurer willing to test the waters before anybody else, now is the time. Printers range in cost from $400 (build your own) to $2,000 for a best-in-class consumer model. Watch a few videos on YouTube or go down to your electronics superstore and check out a 3D printer firsthand.

See the future, live the future, make the future.

David McCurdy: Colorado’s (tech junkie) Chief Technology Officer. Honey bee keeper, 3D printer enthusiast, dad, football superfan. Find me on Twitter at @OITColoradoCTO.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Go on tour with your fellow “geeks”

Tech Tour Today is national Embrace Your Geekness Day (true story), and so we thought we would talk about Colorado’s awesome advancement of its geekness. If you didn’t know already, Colorado is THE place for tech -- the perfect home for geeks.

We continue to grow as a tech leader, with 11.3 percent of Colorado’s GDP coming from the technology sector last year. The state’s broad scope in technologies -- from outdoor tech to software development -- lets each “geek” find their niche and allows companies to meet growing technology demands.

That’s why I’m so excited that our friends at the Colorado Technology Association (CTA) are giving tech from all parts of the state an opportunity to gather and learn. They are hosting the Colorado Tech Tour -- with happy hour events taking place July 20-24 -- where we can come together and gain insights on how to continue to advance Colorado local economies.

With our large concentration of tech workers (aka amazing geeks), collaboration is key for Colorado to grab the top technology spot. And we definitely are a top contender: Colorado is one of the top 10 places to work for STEM graduates, has the fastest growing economy in the nation, and has 4 cities in the top 10 spots for tech start-ups.

The upcoming Colorado Tech Tour is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the wide-ranging tech expertise that this state offers, and will allow us all a way to meet and find solutions to common struggles. It’s a snapshot of the growing and versatile tech industry in this state -- RSVP if you’re interested in meeting your fellow “geeks” for cocktails (tech-tails...?!) at one of these free evening happy hours: Telluride, Grand Junction, Frisco, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins

Monica Coughlin: Chief Strategy Officer. Sports enthusiast, volunteer, proud aunt, world traveler. I tell the IT industry why Colorado is the place to be. Find me on Twitter at @MonicaCoughlin.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

#StateOfCO, #StateOfKind

Improving the lives of Coloradans is a mission that state employees take very seriously, and it is a commitment that starts at the top. Governor Hickenlooper challenged Colorado earlier this year to commit 10,000 random acts of kindness. Schools, businesses, and individuals have been asked to lend a helping hand to someone else and to share these acts of kindness on social media using the hashtag #StateOfKind.

The Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) strives to make life easier for all citizens of Colorado, and we’re thrilled to take part in this campaign. One recent example is the creation of real time eligibility for Medicaid applicants. This was a team effort between OIT, Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF), and private partnerships. The result? An average of 16,000 applications per month are now being processed in real time. That means the application process is being trimmed down from 45 days to 45 minutes. Once the system determines a client is eligible for Medicaid, the client can often immediately obtain a medical card and start accessing health care through authorized providers. That is life changing for many people who have long-ignored, serious health problems.

Another revolutionary project at OIT to improve the health and safety of the state is the FirstNet Colorado initiative. The goal of this initiative is to launch the first public safety broadband network and provide emergency responders -- the heroes of our communities -- with a dedicated, nationwide, high-speed data network. When launched, FirstNet would help 5.4 million rescuers effectively respond across 3.8 million square feet of land nationally. This is especially important for aiding people during emergencies in isolated areas. FirstNet has the potential to exponentially increase collaboration to help emergency responders save more lives, solve more crimes, and keep our communities safer. Colorado is at the leading edge of this effort and, through the Adams County Communications Center, Inc. (ADCOM 911), deployed the first operational public safety LTE pilot network.

Over the past year, the OIT team has shown why we truly are the #StateOfKind. We have become increasingly engaged and customer-focused, and I could not be more proud of our work. Here is my #StateOfKind Facebook post in appreciation of all they do.

So help Governor Hickenlooper reach his goal of 10,000 acts of kindness in Colorado: Post your own #StateofKind thoughts on Facebook or Twitter -- or reshare or retweet one of ours.

Suma Nallapati: Colorado Secretary of Technology and Chief Information Officer. Colorado lover, business owner, mom, nuclear physics junkie. She’s the boss. Find me on Twitter at @Suma_Nallapati.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Your oxygen first: Breathe in, breathe out

If you have traveled on an airplane, you will be familiar with the safety briefing and the directive to "put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others." I keep this thought in my head when I consider how I interact with team members and when I think about how best we can deliver for our customers.

If I am not focused or able to follow through on a request, or if I am facing competing priorities, it is up to me to speak up and take care of myself -- and ultimately the customer. For example, six months ago a critical situation was discovered with software and a vendor. A Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) staff member immediately contacted the customer to inform them of the issue. Unbeknownst to this team member, management and other team members were already working to address the issue and everything was resolved by the time the customer escalated based upon the earlier notification. This gave OIT a “black eye” in a moment when we actually shined. If our own team had only worked internally to resolve and build a common customer message, we could have taken care of ourselves first while ultimately serving the customer.

In another recent situation when I was asked to address a process gap on a project that had caused a customer outage, I realized quickly this was not my problem to solve alone. I needed to pull together the relevant team members and analyze the situation and expectations. In the end, the outcome was to hold the customer more accountable for signoff and testing. Decisions about risk and change need to be made by the business. OIT needed to work internally as a team before presenting a unified approach to process and communication.

I want all our OIT employees to consider OIT first, and to protect our image and reputation above all else. This means we should challenge each other to be more accountable for our ultimate delivery of customer commitments. However, the final customer delivery cannot occur without alignment, accountability, and agreement from within (personally and organizationally). When faced with any challenge, I look inward (where I focus on my own capabilities and perceptions and how I can shift reality); to my broader team (where I focus on leveraging strengths, talents, and perspectives different from my own); and to OIT (where I focus on broader team services and our statewide view). I have seen many instances where team members share issues too readily -- and too early -- with the customer. Often, one internal conversation could have resolved the issue, and the customer need never be concerned with annoying turbulence and could just enjoy the journey.

If we take care of ourselves first, and then OIT, we ultimately take better care of the customers while we create a more cohesive and consistent customer experience. Put your oxygen mask on first, then breathe in and breathe out.

William Chumley: Chief Customer Officer. Weekend color guard judge, computer science study, traveler, bookworm. He knows how to get it done and is always listening to the customer. Find me on Twitter at @WilliamMChumley.