I was in a New York City taxi this weekend and as I was driven around, I thought of Robert Moses, and the incredible book ‘Power Broker’ by Robert Caro. Once you’ve read it, it’s impossible not to think of Moses when in the city. A blurb from the jacket always comes to mind, not just because of who said it, but the magnitude of what he said,
“Surely the greatest book ever written about a city.” — David Halberstam
The book, and story of Robert Moses, truly is amazing. I recommend adding the book to your summer reading list,
Robert Moses was, for almost half a century, the single most powerful man of our time in New York, the shaper not only of the city’s politics but of its physical structure and the problems of urban decline that plague us today.
…He personally conceived and completed public works costing 27 billion dollars–the greatest builder America (and probably the world) has ever known. Without ever having been elected to office, he dominated the men who were–even his most bitter enemy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, could not control him–until he finally encountered, in Nelson Rockefeller, the only man whose power (and ruthlessness in wielding it) equaled his own.
Moses was obsessed with city planning, and most especially the automobile. If traffic moved, commerce and prosperity moved with it. He was single minded and ruthless about it. He was focused on one thing, and did what was needed to make it happen. Form letters were sent, eminent domain declared, and people were told they had 90 days to get out. These people were standing in the way of progress! Moses ripped apart countless neighborhoods in this manner to build things like the Cross Bronx Expressway, and so many other projects, it is jaw dropping. Moses critics excoriated him for what he did to neighborhoods. They said he didn’t understand people, communities and the basic elements of a civil society, like due process. They called him a tyrant.
Crossing the Manhattan Bridge, a Moses project, I wondered how effective he truly was. Did his obsession and single mindedness cause him not to see, or understand, other things that were equally important? He did some amazing things, but at what cost?
Like Moses, we ignore our customers’ reality
It dawned on me that the security industry is facing a similar situation. Robert Moses ignored how his work impacted people. Too many security solutions push technology first without taking the people using them into account. These solutions are complex, difficult to deploy and even harder to operationalize. They require skill sets that are in short supply.
We have not recognized (or listened to customers telling us) that workflow and usability is every bit as important as the latest threat detection bell or whistle. Our single minded focus on technology has left the user behind. The reality we’ve built for customers today is that they’re left to aggregate and make sense of millions or even billions of alerts from a variety of layered solutions. They provide very little context, yet not all alerts are the same. Most are just noise. Some are a clear-and-present danger. Figuring out the difference is the most time consuming aspect of an analyst’s job today.
Finding and keeping good security professionals is a huge challenge – teams are understaffed, under-resourced and lacking skilled personnel. While this is well known in the industry, the majority of solutions are still too difficult to use and manage.
Bottom line: When only the very best team members can use these technologies, they’re not scalable, or truly, very helpful. Products that take months to deploy and require highly specialized skill sets to use properly are not effective solutions.
The threats will continue to accelerate, and by definition, morph as each new defense is put in place. That is the reality. It’s time to find a better balance between technology, usability, workflow and people.
New York would be a very different place if Robert Moses had done the same.
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