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BLOG: The CEO and his elusive token

Steve Watts | May 13, 2011
A tale of inadequacy, woe and career destruction – or is it? (Based on a real life story)

Let me tell you a story. It has everything a gripping tale needs - conflict, a power struggle and a gripping climax. Best of all, it's loosely based on true accounts - could this be your story?

Paul Brown is CEO of a FTSE 100 retailer. It's summer and he's jetting off with his family for three weeks on Safari in Kenya. He's done his research and the reserve he's travelling to offers wi-fi access, his mobile is unlocked and set to roam wherever he does, and IT has been exceptional in making sure he knows all the passwords, processes, and exactly how to input the authentication codes that will grant him access to the network remotely. He's even been shown how to use another computer, not owned by the company, to open the bowels of the network in case his own develops a problem. His secretary has his full itinerary, contact details and the mobile number of his dedicated guide.

Paul's got it all covered, or so he thinks.

At the airport he hands over the keys to his car for the valet parking service before heading into departures. Paul has no inkling that this innocent action will be the catalyst to his fight for survival.

Waiting to pounce

Before he's even collected the bags at the airport, Paul gets his first suspicion that trouble is brewing. There's a message from Sharon, the company secretary - the share price has risen suddenly with rumours that the company is the subject of a hostile takeover.

It has been two months since the call with Martin, the CEO of S&E Plc and Paul's main competitor. Martin had made an offer for the company. Paul had laughed, rebuking it and stating he'd never let Martin, or his cronies, get their feet under his table. He'd meant it then and, even now six thousand miles away, he still believed the offer was bad for business, bad for shareholders, and definitely bad for him. He would fight this takeover.

Paul needed to get online, now.

It was then that the visual image of his authentication token, swinging from his keychain as he handed over the car keys, hit him as hard as a charging elephant. Without the little bit of plastic he couldn't log onto his laptop or connect remotely from another computer. Paul felt sick.

Calling his secretary, Paul sheepishly explains the situation, and gets her to tell him exactly what's going on. The two-hour journey to the reserve passes in a flash as he dictates e-mails he needs her to send, briefs her on calls she needs to make, and pleads with her to get IT to remove all the security precautions blocking his access to the network.

 

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