A new department
Maarten was happily working at a knowledge institute for long-term care when the phone rang. The caller asked whether he was interested in a job at NWO-I as Team Leader Information Management. The head hunter managed to persuade him. ‘The opportunity to further develop myself at NWO-I in what I do well is what attracts me.’ His previous jobs included a period at Cap Gemini, where, besides hardware and software, he also gained experience in managing. There, he developed himself as a team leader. After that, he ended up on the client side of ICT as a service manager, and at a further education college as manager of a team of workplace and application managers. At the NWO-I office, Maarten has been asked to give shape to the new information management department. When he arrived, there was already a small team for security and privacy as well as the ambition to develop this further.
What is information management about? Maarten explains that information management is the process of translating an organisation’s information needs into an adequate provision of information. ‘So, for example, if people need a system to manage diaries, then ICT must select an application for this. They can either purchase it or produce it themselves. Information management also covers security and privacy but mainly concerns information. Everything starts with two questions: what do we want both functionally and technically? I will now take care of the technical aspects. Departments such as Finance and P&O determine what their functional needs are.’
‘An example of where the functional and technical aspects come together is the current financial system U4ERP’, states Maarten. ‘That arose due to the merging of several administrations. Over the course of time – we’ve had U4ERP for seven years now – different wishes arise. The next step is transferring all harmonised processes to a single new application or to several applications that communicate with each other. An additional fact is that the contract with a supplier may only be extended twice to ensure that other suppliers also have a chance to offer their services. That stage has now been reached, so we will be starting a tender process.’
Institutes as sports teams
To realise more collaboration in the areas of ICT, privacy and security, Maarten works on location at an NWO Institute for one day a week. ‘Collaborations already exist between Information Security Officers (ISOs) and privacy coordinators, but there is no such collaboration for ICT yet. I talk with the ICT managers and institute managers about the strategy and tactics. Some things are discussed at the central level, such as the integral monitoring of threats to ICT – such as hacks and ransomware attacks – by the external Security Operations Center at SURF (SURFsoc). Two institutes have already joined SURFsoc, and others will follow. Recently, the ICT managers met each other in person for the first time. We do not all need to operate from one large ICT island, but we can share knowledge from our own little islands. SURFSoc could be a step towards a joint security operation centre.’
The institute managers (IMs) meeting was transformed into an operational meeting after Jan van der Boon’s departure; all IMs are the “owner” of a functional domain. ‘It was a turbulent six months but this commitment is binding’, he believes. Two IMs were interested in the ownership of the domain information management, namely Arjen van Rijn (Nikhef) and Martin van Breukelen (DIFFER). ‘I’m very pleased about that. As a trio, we keep each other sharp and we can develop and elaborate a shared vision.’
He enthusiastically adds that when he visits the institutes, he always falls under the spell of the researchers and the pride the scientists take in their work: ‘They are like sports teams who work towards the next victory. I think that by working together, they will be capable of realising even better performances still. The research technology and ways of working at one institute can prove helpful to another institute. There are many similarities in the research methods and the type of data that researchers have to work with. I want to demonstrate those commonalities.’
A field in which the institutes have been working well together for some time now is improving employee awareness about working safely with ICT. Maarten jumped on this bandwagon and now, together with the institute managers, Martin van Breukelen (DIFFER) and Marjan Fretz (ARCNL), he has initiated the NWO-I-wide awareness campaign for securely working with ICT, including privacy and knowledge security. ‘For some people, such a campaign just means going over the same ground again, but for others, it is vital. The hack that took place at NWO a few years ago was partly due to a lack of awareness. We need to transition from unconsciously incompetent to consciously incompetent. I like user-based computing: everything starts with the user. What do they need and how can we ensure that everybody can do their work as well and securely as possible? You need to make things as simple as possible, which means, for example, not expecting people to enter a password of 14 or more characters ten times per day.’
NWO-I and NWO-D
How does Maarten work together with the NWO domain organisation (NWO-D)? ‘I try to act as both a client and a partner.’ The NWO-I office follows NWO-D in the project “New Digital Foundation” (NDF). Maarten explains that, amongst other things, NDF seeks to realise a transition to working in the cloud: ‘Users will no longer go to a G disk but to the cloud that will enable them to approach information from anywhere, in a secure manner. I’m convinced that you can also place fences around the cloud so that only people who must have access can gain it. I also strive to realise good agreements about the services provided by NWO-D. I’m working with Elisa Meijer, Strategic Adviser Real Estate Portfolio, about gates and cameras at the NWO office in Utrecht. If there is a technical issue, then people can phone me. And for NWO-D, I’m also the contact person for SURF.’
Knowledge sharing and collaboration
Which other projects will colleagues notice in the near future? ‘Together with my team, I’m trying to obtain an NWO-I mail address, so: @nwo-i.nl instead of @NWO.nl for all employees at the NWO-I office. That will hopefully make us better recognisable for the institutes but also within NWO-D. It will also enable us to set our own course a bit more. In addition, from various quarters, people have expressed the need to make the internal information of NWO-I (such as policy and reports) easier to find as well. An external website is not the right solution for this. And with SURFconext, it should also be possible to easily disclose this information to everyone at the institutes. Collaborating in an online environment is still something of a challenge but it should nevertheless be genuinely possible to do so. Accordingly, I first of all want to examine the possibilities that SURF provides for this purpose. Preferably in a user-friendly manner, of course!
About Maarten ter Bekke
Ter Bekke (52) is married and has 3 children. His daughter aged 15 still lives at home. The family lives in Den Bosch. In his spare time, Ter Bekke is a keen hockey referee: ‘It keeps me fit and I can use my skills. Sometimes, I am really strict and sometimes I let things go. And I can really enjoy deliberately not intervening (and giving an advantage) because sometimes that results in the finest goals. I also like water sports. I played water polo for a long time and I still enjoy sailing and diving as well.’
Text: Anita van Stel
Newsletter Inside NWO-I, November 2023.
You can find the archive of the newsletter Inside NWO-I on the NWO-I website.