Archive Monthly Archives: January 2018

Concerned About Carillion? Why Your Small Business is Safe

In January 2018, U.K.’s second-largest outsourcing construction company, Carillion, collapsed, leaving many people confused and others significantly out of money. When a company this large has to completely go into liquidation, projects simply cease to continue, and a lot of questions have since been raised. While the media has been discussing the issue of private contracts being combined with public services, companies who outsource services are also concerned, but for different reasons. This is making the general public a little uneasy when it comes to the idea of outsourcing overall.

However, there are lessons to be learned from a company like Carillion. And, especially if you’re a small business, you really don’t need to worry. Just check on these:

Communication is Key

In any business, bad communication can lead to even worse problems. In order to make sure things don’t go wrong, having open communication is imperative. Unfortunately, with Carillion, communication may not have always been as clear as it could have been, and when things started to going downhill, a rescue plan was too late to execute. Of course, this can be inevitable when you’re running such a big operation.

Luckily, as a small business leader, communication between you, your CIO, and your IT team is not only easy, but it’s kind of the whole point of outsourcing to begin with. An unbiased CIO allows there to be a smooth conversation among all parties, ensuring that no one is left out of the loop, and instructions are given to the right people. It also helps to make sure businesses stay compliant, as they should be advised their own role in compliance along with the CIO and IT.

Always Pay Attentions to Contracts and SLAs

If your biggest worry about hiring an outsourced CIO is the legitimacy of the contracts and service level agreements, that’s a valid concern. A contract that’s not treated seriously or that doesn’t clearly outline what it will encompass, can potentially cause a lot of damage. Additionally, contracts should also be flexible; as a client, it’s nice to have the freedom to go back in and make changes as needed — changes that won’t put anyone at a disadvantage. Carillion didn’t really have this option, as they mainly worked with long-term contracts.

An SLA is the single most important thing you can consider before moving forward with outsourcing your CIO. But, as a small business with very specific needs, it’s likely you’ll be in good hands no matter what.

How Busy is Your CIO?

In the case of Carillion, they were managing way too many contracts at once — many of which didn’t pan out. When you’re taking on contracts to build everything from schools to roads to hospitals for the government, it can get a bit too overwhelming to keep everything in order. Any outsourced CIO may be able to relate to this to some degree. After all, a CIO who wants to provide the best support for their clients needs to be available on a regular basis, and know what to do and how to do it.

It goes without saying that if the CIO you’re looking to hire seems too busy with other clients, then a similar situation to Carillion — though, on a smaller scale — may happen. Would it affect you? Not necessarily. But, it’s still important to work with someone who isn’t stretching him or herself too thin.

Outsourcing Your CIO is Still a Great Idea

Though the Carillion situation might be a bit scary when it comes to the thought of outsourcing, unfortunately, they had factors going against them that won’t be the case for small businesses. One of the reasons Carillion had a downfall was because, at the end of the day, they took on more than they could handle. This was one of the rare times where we see the potential negative side of outsourcing. That being said, even though potential customers may have some reservations, the benefits certainly outweigh those concerns by a long shot.

For businesses who don’t have the time to handle their technology needs, outsourcing to an expert CIO can make a world of difference. They do what they need to do to make sure your network runs smoothly, letting you take care of business. Of course, a good CIO will work with your IT team while still keeping you in the loop. Overall, outsourcing your CIO saves you time, money, and the stress.

Still worried? Hopefully, this made you feel a bit better about your outsourcing plan.

Why The CIO/CTO Must Co-Create And Not Just Facilitate

You live with insight most people are still coming to understand. You know ahead of others that technology is not an important part of your business, it is your business. You know that customer experience is your commodity. You also know that there is lack of agreement among key influencers as to what digital transformation really is, that executives need critical buy-in now because market-changes occur at the speed of blur, that budgets are still lacking, and more, that talent is at a critical deficit: Advances in technology outpace the education required to keep up.

You know that 1.2 trillion dollars was spent on digital transformation technologies in 2017. You also know that 2019 will see that figure increase to 2.1 trillion dollars. Yet, people’s poor digital literacy keeps them pinned to the conviction that they are keeping up with advances so long as they use whatever technology customers use.

Because technology is “important,” the CIO/CTO has been invited to the table. What companies don’t realize is that the traditional long table with a head that listened and then made decisions has been replaced by the round table. Today’s CIO must co-create, not just facilitate, the very nature of how business is done. The CIO is transformational not transactional.

Co-Creation Requires Three CIO/CTO Initiatives

First, the CIO/CTO must create a whole new way of thinking. Digital is not a solution. It is not a way to optimize the way business is done so that old ways are now simply faster and cheaper and to the customer’s satisfaction. Digital is a way of being. Customers aren’t just creating new habits. Digital instinctual behavior is being wired into brains. The CIO/CTO as a co-creator must constantly, intentionally and strategically vision cast digital transformation. Fear will try to interfere: People will be political, protecting their interests; people will hold to old ways because they are their ways and they don’t want to be found to be irrelevant (or incapable of learning what is essential in the future). But the technological shift has already happened. The key behavior of the CIO is to identify the benefits for those who need to catch up:

  • They have a problem
  • You have a technology that could be the solution
  •  You show them their “happy ending” when they adopt your solution.

Second, the CIO/CTO must create a new focus. Technology is not about them – a department – but about us, the company. We cannot move at different speeds, reading from different pages. Since no one can keep up with the pace of advances in technology, the company must create a culture of learners. Across the board, people must learn different aspects of applications, and then be cross-pollenated to help frame right applications. Work teams must have people who represent the user-experience. The belief that perfect exists or that being bulletproof is real must give way to “ready, fire, aim.” Rapid application development models must take hold. Roll-out, review and adjust based on customer experience now prevails over design delays that feared the repercussions of imperfection. Engage the customer now or lose the customer soon. In helping people see that technology is the business, failure is seen as a friend, not an enemy. If every lesson learned teaches a company about customers, it is a valuable lesson learned. The CIO/CTO must build a culture of feedback loops, where the focus is on improving for the sake of the end user. The old days of criticism of an imperfect product must be relinquished: It is now the engaged experience of the customer that counts. Companies want to make the best product they can, of course. But the cost of getting it perfect the first time is not greater than the cost of customer alienation. Your competition, which has broadened, thrives on customers who feel neglected. Companies must put more value on having an improved product based on actual customer feedback than on not making an imperfect product.

Third, the CIO/CTO must create a new direction of innovation. IT has now recognized that it must innovate or be left out. Architects of digital transformation know that there are two foundational constructs: improve customer experience and create digital revenue streams. Digital will represent 40% of revenue one year from now. Those who have anchored such innovation in their companies are 26% more profitable. Both customer experience and revenue streams require an outside-in perspective versus the traditional inside-out paradigm. Practically, this is why companies are moving from an executive down “buy-in” strategy. Instead, they are using cross-departmental collaboration to co-create solutions and then demonstrate the opportunity to C-Suite executives. As CIO/CTO, you envision every technology development as having begun in the street. Then you walk it in to the office. Data and analytics are re-engineering business processes and shaping new value creation. The CIO that co-creates knows the customer journey map, and is able to articulate the opportunities and obstacles toward digital value and revenue.

As a CIO/CTO, you have stepped into a bold, new future. You have been lifted up from the underground of systems. You see differently. You see further. By nature of your field, you see what others cannot. Since a company’s horizon is only as small as the limit of their sight, your vision can no longer take what others seek and try to make it better. You must be in the beginning. You must create.

It’s Time to Start Giving Your Data the Respect It Deserves

Many of us like to think of data as bits of information floating around in the cloud — after all, what other way is there to envision something that’s more or less invisible to the naked eye? Well, if that’s how you refer to the data in your network, then it’s likely you’re treating it as such, too. The problem with this is that data deserves more respect than it’s getting. When companies make big decisions based on what they consider a ‘single-entity of data,’ they might be missing a lot of worthy information and could end up making a costly choice because of that.

The Deal with Data

There are currently a lot of trends surrounding data, but sometimes it’s not about the data itself — it’s about how you’re managing it. Because data is so fundamental to business operations, it’s time that we start treating data as a valuable asset to the company. Whether you need to imagine data wearing a suit and tie to work every day or that it’s sitting in the conference room at a team meeting, that’s fine. But,  if you don’t, there may as well be big consequences for your company.

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. The problem is, data is just too big. When it comes to gaining real value from interpreting data, it’s impossible to know where to begin. This is why companies are starting to look at data lakes and other solutions to help find what’s valuable, without wasting time on shuffling through data that might not serve a purpose. While data lakes might be out of the question for your business, there is a lot you can do on your own, first.

How to Make Data a True Asset

Just as you would set certain protocols and management tasks as a company leader, data shouldn’t be left out from this. Remember, data in many ways is an enterprise. Therefore, those same protocols and principles you assign to anything else in your company should also be assigned to data. Just as you would measure an employee’s performance, calculate your sales, or monitor your network’s security, you should monetize, measure, and manage your data the same way. This way, you can be sure that the information you gain from this data is truly meaningful, without any part of it being overlooked.

Apply Analytics to Data

How would you really internalize potentially imperative information at your company?

You would analyze it.

So, data needs to be analyzed, too, in the appropriate manner — just as you would apply analytics to any other aspect of your business. If you want real ROI, then it’s absolutely necessary to put data under the microscope. This can be hard when there is just a plethora of data out there, waiting to be sorted. Therefore, data needs to be evaluated while being combined with the analyses done on sales, marketing, and feedback.

If you’re not quite sure how to go about this, keep in mind that there are several lenses with which to look at data. According to James Burke, director at ISG, you can proceed this way:

  • Descriptive analytics: What happened?
  • Diagnostic analytics: Why did something happen?
  • Predictive analytics: What will happen next?
  • Prescriptive analytics: How can we make something happen?

Today, there are many resources companies can utilize to help analyze their data correctly and treat that information as an asset. When done consistently, companies will see positive results.

How Outsourcing a CIO Can Help With This

The right data can tell us about our business. If your company is eager to find strategies to grow, then it’s worth looking at that data to see if it holds any clues. Likewise, companies don’t want to spend money on resources they don’t need, especially if that budget is needed elsewhere. When treated as an asset, data can be very valuable in terms of understanding your business because it can give companies a better visual of what’s really necessary. But, this is difficult for companies to do on their own.

The solution?

Outsourcing your CIO — a professional who knows how to do all of this. They know what to look for, how to analyze it, and how to apply it to future decisions. They know what to take from a large amount of data, putting it under the microscope to find what’s valuable. They know what they are doing and how to help you. Investing in a CIO, then, will save your company a lot of time and money in the long run.

Pay Attention To These Top 5 Security Concerns for 2018

Cybersecurity is hands down becoming one of the most talked about issues today. Companies nowadays have to put their security before anything else they do, and this can be a costly venture if not done correctly. While one aspect of managing security involves hiring an unbiased third party to take care of it, it’s also important to know what you could be doing for yourself and your company to keep everything that matters secure. Each year, the cybersecurity conversation is constantly changing, though, due to the ever-increasing sophistication of data breaches that we typically see.

These are the security issues you want to pay the most attention to as 2017 comes to an end:

1) Machine Learning

It may not be Judgement Day yet, but we might be well on our way to the land of the “Terminators.” Machine learning is happening fast, and next year we will have technology that doesn’t need to be programmed to learn a new task. Sound scary? Well, the implications machine learning can have for people with bad intentions looks good for them, and very bad for everyone else. Hackers out there with such intentions can use machine learning to their advantage.

2) Digital Baggage

Remember all those Facebook photos you posted back in college? Okay, maybe you didn’t grow up during the Facebook age, but if you have children now that are online, it’s something you need to know. That’s because 2018 will be a year where we discuss “Digital Baggage” in terms of cybersecurity. These days, minors can essentially post whatever they want online, and there aren’t too many regulations in place to stop it. While some parents are very cautious with this, most are too busy to pay too much attention. Regardless, anything that you post online can have the potential to hurt you later on. Next year, companies will start looking into this when it comes to hiring new staff or getting rid of employees they already have.

3) Biometrics and Serverless Architectures

Technology is continuing to expand into realms that we have never seen before. Next year, we’re likely to see biometrics — such as face and fingerprint scanning — be incorporated into device verification. We will also start to see more serverless architectures which are apps that can be built without having to host them on a managed server.

What do these two things have in common? Well, whether it’s the ease of use, low-cost, or user-friendly interfaces, biometrics and serverless architectures are pretty attractive. However, while they seem to be some of the most secure methods out there, there are still some inconsistencies and questions being raised. For instance, how secure really is a face scan? And, aren’t serverless apps immune to DoS attacks?

4) Wireless Breaches

We are in an era now where everything is connected. You may have heard it described as the ‘Internet of Things.’ Pretty soon, things like smart homes will be the norm. We will be connected in every aspect of our lives, on every device possible. As we already know, Wi-Fi isn’t always as secure as we want it to be, and the more connected we become, the more we need to pay attention to our security on each of those devices.

5) A Closer Eye on Companies

It seems that no matter how many times big companies make headlines for data breaches, we still continue to see this happening in the news over and over again. Because consumers rarely read privacy regulations (often checking off the “agree to terms” box to get to the next step), companies tend to cut corners and take advantage of this in order to save themselves money. At the same time, companies who do experience data breaches seem to think that ignoring it or covering it up will keep customers on board. Unfortunately, after what we’ve seen with Yahoo!, Uber, and other companies, the more they’ve tried to hide it, the more they’ve made the problem worse.

Next year, you can be sure that there will be more watchful eyes upon companies when it comes to their cybersecurity. And, these watchful eyes won’t just be from auditors, but from the customers themselves. Therefore, the more you make security a priority, the better off you will be.

In 2018, anything involving data, machines, Internet, etc., will certainly have more streamlined processes. However, it’s important to keep in mind that there are two sides to everything. What’s easy in one aspect could be a nightmare in other aspects, in this case, security. Get ahead of the game and know what to look out for next year so you’re company is prepared. 

>