QUESTION: I read that IT security breaches are becoming more common. What basic steps can I take to secure my IT systems?
NICHOLAS MARTIN, eBusiness advisor at Invest NI, replies: The security of your IT
systems can be breached by system failure, theft, inappropriate usage, unauthorised
access or computer viruses. To protect against these you need to have a number of
safeguards in place.
It's a good idea to start with a risk analysis. This will help you to understand where
the threats might come from, the potential cost to the business if IT security is
breached and what measures you need to take.
A common security risk is unauthorised access to applications and information. This
can be from within your organisation or from outside. Your internal procedures need
to include passwords, which must be regularly changed. You should also have a policy
which sets out acceptable use of the Internet and e-mail.
To combat the threat from outside hackers you need to install a properly configured
firewall for your Internet connection. If you are using wireless technology it's especially
important not to use the security default settings and to check your configuration files.
Computer viruses are another worry, so you need to make sure you have anti-virus software
and content scanners for emails and attachments. Advise your staff not to open suspicious
or anonymous emails.
The key to effective IT security is a good security policy. This should set out who
is responsible for IT security, what standards, guidelines and practices should be
followed and details of the process for reporting, responding to and resolving security incidents.
It's important to update the policy as technology and employee requirements change.
You can find a lot of good practical information on nibusinesinfo.co.uk in its IT section.
QUESTION: How can I make my business more environmentally friendly without incurring
David Bell from Invest NI's sustainable development team replies: The good news is
that you can save money at the same time as helping protect the environment. The first
step is to assess your business activities to identify where and how you can make
your business 'greener' by making changes that will also reduce costs.
A useful tool to help you with this is the interactive questionnaire on Invest NI's
Entitled Identify Where you can Save Money by Going Green www.nibusi nessinfo.co.uk/gogreen)
it is a series of questions about the nature of your business, use of resources, handling
of waste and so on.
By answering these questions you will get tailored advice about steps you can take
such as reusing waste, cutting down on raw material use, redesigning your products
using fewer non-renewable resources, saving energy and using renewable energy.
You will also get links to further information on these topics and to other specialist
websites such as the Carbon Trust, Envirowise and Invest NI.
As well as providing comprehensive information on environmental issues these websites
give information about loans that are available to help you become more energy efficient.
If you are serious about reducing your environmental impact in the long term you should
consider setting up an environmental management system. This provides a framework
to help you put practical measures in place to comply with environmental legislation,
reduce your environmental impact and improve your efficiency.
QUESTION: I think of myself as a capable and confident business person, but I seem
to have trouble inspiring my team and getting them to pull together. Where am I going wrong?
ALAN BRANAGH, chairman of the Northern Ireland branch of the Academy for Chief Executives,
replies: Each person that you lead will have different needs, so your approach should
be different with each one. Some will demonstrate high competence/high commitment,
while others will show high competence/variable commitment, some competence/low commitment,
or low competence/low commitment.
Changing circumstances can also force a change of leadership style - for example,
some executives operate at a high level when doing deals, but find themselves less
skilled or motivated when it comes to administration or VAT returns. It is important,
therefore, to pass on these tasks to others - 'followers'.
You can direct - define the roles and tasks of the follower and supervise them closely;
coach - define roles and tasks, but seek ideas and suggestions from the follower;
support - pass day-to-day decisions, such as task allocation and processes, to the
follower; or delegate - remain involved in decisions and problem-solving, but pass
control to the follower.
It is important to change your style of leadership according to the nature of the
tasks, the abilities of the follower, and the stage of their development - for example,
some people may require coaching support to instil confidence, while others will learn quickly.
Flexibility is the most important principle to apply in any of these situations. People
do not neatly fit into boxes, so their needs are never met simply by one single approach
and you may see changes in their performance that require changes in your approach.
The lesson is that it is a mistake to try and lead a team, rather than individuals,
because only when we lead individuals can a team begin to emerge.