Sunday, February 16, 2014

To Solve a Problem, Make Sure it’s Well Defined

“If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.” - Albert Einstein.

It may be obvious that you can't solve a problem that's not well defined. However, people often neglect this detail. The next time you think you're ready to go into problem-solving mode, consider the following:
Establish the basic need for a solution
Why does the problem need solving? Articulate the problem in its simplest and most basic terms. Focus on the heart of the problem and the desired outcome, not the solution. This clarifies the importance of the problem, and helps to identify the resources needed to solve it. Defining the scope of the problem is also important to set the priority for its solution.

Justify the need
Is the required effort aligned with the company's strategy? Explain why your organization should attempt to solve the problem. Understand if the effort to solve it is aligned with the company's strategy. It may be the case that an issue is perceived as a problem only because it is no longer aligned with the company's current strategy.

Give it perspective
What approaches have you or others already tried? Find out if there are already solutions to solving the problem that you can apply in this instance. Examining past efforts to solve the problem can save time and effort. In addition, determine if there are constraints on the solution that you must consider.

Write a problem statement
Take your answers to the above questions and write a full description of the problem you are seeking to solve and the requirements the solution must meet. This will establish a consensus on what the solution will be, the urgency, the effort required, and the resources required to achieving it.

Companies and staff need to be effective at assessing issues and tackling problems. Without the above steps, a company can waste time, resources and costs, miss opportunities, and pursue initiatives that may not be aligned with the company's goals.

David Schuchman

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Are Your Passwords Safe?

With the growth of social media websites, and more businesses letting you do transactions via the Internet and mobile devices, you have a growing number of online logon ID's and passwords that you must remember. Every time you sign up at a new website, you face the challenge of what to enter as your password. Here are some password dangers you need to avoid, and steps you can take to mitigate them:
Picking Bad Passwords
Selecting a simple or common password that is easily remembered by you (e.g. “password”, “123456”, “qwerty”) is also easily guessed by hackers.

A best practice is to create “strong” passwords that are difficult to guess. Strong passwords have all of these qualities:
Length of 8 or more characters
Includes a mix of upper and lower case letters
Includes numbers
Includes special characters (e.g. !, @, #, %, etc.)

Not Locking Your Mobile Devices
With new mobile devices, the default setting is to not have an unlock code to access the device.   If you lose your phone and don’t have an unlock code, and you don’t have a way to remotely wipe it, the finder has free reign to go through your emails, contacts, apps and other personal information you store on, or access via, your device.

As soon as you set up your new mobile device or phone, create an unlock code or password.

Reusing Passwords Across Multiple Sites
You run the risk that if one of the website sites you use gets hacked and the website doesn’t store passwords in encrypted format, hackers will use automated programs to scan 1000’s of websites trying to see if your username and password works on one of them.

To mitigate this issue, use a number of different logon ID and password combinations. This is especially true for “like” accounts. If you have multiple bank or credit card accounts from different banks, use a different logon ID and password for each. That way if a hacker does learn the access for one, the hacker does not have the access to the others.

Sharing Your Passwords
When you share your password, you share your identity and possibly your personal and financial information. If you share your password with someone that uses that information to commit a crime, you will likely become a suspect in that crime.

Do not share your logon ID and password with others.

Not Changing Your Passwords
Having old passwords means that someone who previously had access to your accounts, still has access to your accounts.

Change your passwords several times each year. It could be as simple as changing one character. In addition, do not reuse prior passwords within the same logon ID.

Writing Your Passwords Down
If you write your passwords down on a piece of paper, remember that it’s just a piece of paper. You run the risk that you may lose it, it may not be with you when you need to login on, or someone may simply take that piece of paper and gain access to your accounts.

Do not write down your passwords on a piece of paper.

There other high-tech ways to secure passwords and account access, such as password storage programs, biometric readers and smart cards. Some are costly or require the host system to accommodate them. We'll investigate those in a future post.

David Schuchman