Can security operations be run as though it were a Professional Services Firm (PSF)? Management guru and firebrand Tom Peters thinks so, and so do I. I first read Tom’s book, “The Professional Services Firm 50″, when it first came out, back in 1999. And I have to say, after spending the first few years of my infosec career listening to those that had tread before me bemoan the “lack of attention” or “poor management support” for their programs, it opened up a whole new world to me. It set me on the path that has defined my career for the last 10 years (and counting).
Tom understands what makes people tick, and more importantly how they can tap into that energy and change how they are perceived and valued within their organizations. By drawing parallels between our daily grind as white collar professionals and the work of “traditional” professional services firms such as those in advertising, legal, accounting, and other disciplines, he weaves together a model that each of us can use to great advantage in our day-to-day work.
If we choose to.
Tom’s fundamental understanding of the PSF boils down to three simple axioms. Here they are, in his own words:
The Professional Service Firms. “PSFs,” as I call them, sell one and only one thing: Creative Intellectual Capital.
PSFs depend on one and only one thing: Superb Client Relationships.
The PSF bedrock consists of one and only one thing: Superior, Animated, Creative TALENT … dedicated to…EXCELLENCE.
As security practitioners, we have been stellar at understanding and trumpeting the first point, often to our very own discredit. You see, we tend to imbue the information security universe with a certain mystique, an air of the supernatural.
Unfortunately, it has backfired, and something fierce.
In creating this atmosphere of complexity and high-tech mumbo-jumbo, we have alienated our stakeholders, the very people we are supposed to be educating and working with to manage risk. Perhaps it’s our IT backgrounds, or the glut of TLAs (three letter acronyms) in our field that have built this Tower of Babel. The root cause is irrelevant; the end result has stayed the same. We have destroyed Tom’s second point, often before we even realized it. Our “client” relationships are in shambles. We don’t have a seat at the big table. We aren’t taken as seriously as we would like, or feel that we deserve to be.
And despite our focus on Tom’ s third point, the fresh and exuberant talent we bring in gets poisoned by our own jaded worldview. We are destroying the future of our profession, one new hire at a time.
Thankfully, this trend can be reversed. All it takes is a fresh look at how our operations are run, and how we choose to measure our success.
You can just click here to jump to Amazon and pick up a copy of Tom’s book, “The Professional Services Firm 50“.
If you’re the impatient type, and just want the highlights, then click the button below to download “PSFs Are Everything”, the e-book he has been gracious enough to allow us to redistribute.