Information Security Training: Merritt College Enters Its Third Year

 

Merritt College logo

Merritt College in Oakland, CA will start its third year of classes this Friday, August 26.

We’re excited to be entering the third year of this program, having graduated our first set of students this past June 2016. The Merritt College Applications and Infrastructure Security program (as a reminder) is a fully accredited A.S. degree with majors in Applications and Infrastructure Security.

This program results from partnership with the CISE CIO Organization, Merritt College, and CIO’s/CISO’s from leading San Francisco Bay Area companies. These groups have given their time and expertise toward building up this program from its inception. Donations from the CISE CIO group now amount to $130K, and with this amount, we have developed the current curriculum and put a new cybersecurity lab in place.

This program and its impact couldn’t be more timely, given that one of the biggest threats to companies is a lack of trained cybersecurity professionals.

You can find an overview of program here.

We are also looking to place our recent first class of June graduates into Information Security roles with leading companies and organizations. Please contact Mark Egan you are interested in hiring our students to improve your Information Security programs.

StratraFusion – Values

Values balls

 

The pace and evolution of enterprise technology more than ever calls for strategic advice on how best to use this technology to optimize your business.

We formed The StrataFusion Group as a unique technology and business consulting practice based on knowledge gleaned from practitioners and their years of in-house “hands on” leadership and experience. Our Partners have driven technology and business strategies in disruptive Fortune 500 companies and fast-growing enterprises and firms, and they bring years of practical knowledge into solving each opportunity in its complexities and challenges.

We advise and assist our clients on how to leverage their technology investments to increase revenue, and improve customer satisfaction while reducing risk and cost.

We originally conceptualized and founded The StrataFusion Group to provide expertise ”for CIO and CTOs, by CIOs and CTOs.” The practice has, unlike many other technology consultancies, continued to emphasize the personal operational experience of our Partners. This expertise is then applied directly to your problems and issues by our Partners — not inexperienced stand-ins. You receive our personal attention and commitment to efficient and effective engagement management.

Our passion is to empower companies to be business innovators by combining leading-edge insights with significant experience-based knowledge of markets, technologies and industries. We focus on adding client value, delivering ultimate professionalism, applying team cohesion to expand experience and focus success, with respect for individual values and goals. We truly seek to earn the “Trusted Advisor” status. When you have a serious technology problem we want you to think of StrataFusion, not Ghostbusters!

We offer proven solutions for the most difficult business challenges, focusing on these practice areas:

StrataFusion Practice Areas

  • CIO / CTO Advisory
  • Information Security
  • Digital Transformation
  • Big Data / Cloud Analytics

As we go forward and continue to build on our consulting practice areas, how we were formed, our foundation and core values continue to drive how we approach each company with their unique set of of challenges. Underlying all of our work is our set of guiding principles:

StrataFusion Guiding Principles

  • We challenge and reinvent the vision
  • We create through teamwork
  • We nurture the independent, entrepreneurial spirit
  • Our personal and operational competence and professionalism is clear and at our clients’ disposal

We look forward to working with you.

John Dick, Partner and Co-Founder, StrataFusion

Measuring What Matters

Measuring stick

By Maureen Vavra

Our clients often call on us at StrataFusion Group to help with Business Intelligence projects to validate and monitor major corporate initiatives. BI and Big Data have become fundamental in managing profitability and improving efficiency for business today. Managing with data can also make a big difference in smaller internal change management or projects, too.

It doesn’t need to be too complex, and the payback is clearer understanding up front and a better grasp of what an initiative needs to accomplish to be successful. I find that working with clients to identify a few key measures is a good way to quantify the level of change they want and can realistically achieve.

For projects or initiatives, define success before you start – which needle do you want to move?

  • Any big effort has to boil down to a few quantifiable outcomes, usually along the lines of the project management mantras of cost/schedule/performance. Define your outcomes and your tolerance for variance. Make it all explicitly clear.
  • For any change, the Performance area is the most important. Before you start to plan a project or a major change, define the outcome, and what success looks like. Make sure you can measure impact.
  • Keep a close eye on the business imperatives you don’t want to adversely impact – and reward people for maintaining their high standards. It’s called “managing multiple priorities.”

Measure what matters – don’t spend a fortune on reporting in the early stages

  • Ask the people doing the job or receiving the service what really matters.
  • If any effort is monitoring more than 4-5 key measures, you have overthought it.
  • On a “replace functionality” project, cut the number of reports you generate in half (even if you just did that.)
  • Think about metrics as if you’re driving a car – how many dials can you watch and still get somewhere?

Got a problem or roadblock? Value the naysayer

  • Vocal employees are saying what others are thinking. Examine the barrier: real? big? how can it be tackled? Make it a measure you knock down.
  • Accept it: good employees who are negative about a new project or change usually have a point – get them to quantify why they think something won’t succeed and help turn it around.
  • Challenge critical thinkers deliberately: to suss out what could go wrong, develop risk mitigation tactics, and help quantify and test the system for failure points.

Take a victory lap that boosts morale

  • Set solid milestones for internal initiatives, monitor and acknowledge when they are met. Recognizing specifically what worked, why something is more efficient, provides better job clarity.
  • If something fails and you catch it early, credit your measures for giving you an early warning – that’s a major value add.
  • Tie your measures to the bottom line, saving or making $, improving quality, increasing Customer Sat – it keeps the CFO happy.
  • People like to be rewarded for specifics, to know what to do to succeed – show them that something they did made a difference.

Finally, once a change management initiative or project completes, having quantifiable data can be invaluable in assessing key learnings and planning for follow-on activities as well.  If there is a larger BI or reporting effort required, the foundation has been set.

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned green image

In our recent StrataFusion Partner leadership meeting the topic of lessons we have learned, or the ‘big mistakes’ we have made, with our subsequent learnings, came up in our discussion. Lately there seems to be a proliferation of these learnings, and we thought it would be a good time to present some of ours.  Below our Partners have recapped some of their biggest lessons learned.

Maureen Vavra:

  1. Focus on building relationships with the business leadership and aligning with their goals at the beginning of a new consulting relationship.
  2. On projects: Have a defined sponsor and a clear set of measurable business objectives before you allow a project to start.

Mark Egan:

  1. Be proactive with low performing staff, putting an improvement plan in place, before waiting too long to take any action, with hope that things would improve.
  2. Gage and focus on projects that help the company build high quality products/ services or sell products/services.

Reed Kingston:

  1. Stay focused on critical projects. Verify constantly.
  2. Let projects be led and driven by data and facts instead of “enthusiastic hopes,” hanging on to some projects/initiatives/products too long.

Doug Harr:

  1. Taking too long on a termination believing the person in question could be coached to success.
  2. Make the timely effort to establish a great relationship with the peer customer on your management team to reap the benefits of great communications and emotional deposits🙂

Ken Crafford:

  1. Cement the approval and support from all executive stakeholders before engaging in large, critical projects.
  2. Understanding that managing up the organization is as critical as managing down the organization.

 

Improve Your Information Security Program and Give Back to the Community

Merritt College Cybersecurity Students In Action

We are very excited to announce that Merritt College in Oakland, CA has graduated its first Information Security class. Merritt College serves the San Francisco Bay Area Central East Bay School districts, which include students from less advantaged backgrounds. The Merritt College Information Security program is a fully accredited A.S. degree with majors in Applications and Infrastructure Security. This program has been two years in the making and results from the partnership with the CISE CIO organization, Merritt College, and CIO’s/CISO’s from leading San Francisco Bay Area companies.  Please find a fuller summary of the program below:

  • Courses are designed and delivered by security thought leaders from leading companies including Symantec, Wells Fargo Bank, and McAfee
  • Security program includes 30 credits of Information Security classes, hands on labs, and internships with Bay Area companies
  • Class projects include forensics of a pharmaceutical organization that suffered a security breach, securing systems on Amazon Web Services, and developing Information Security strategies

We are now looking to place these graduates into Information Security roles with leading companies and organizations. Contact Mark Egan if you are interested in hiring our students to improve your Information Security programs.

 

The Cloud – All In

TheCould_AllIn_72dpi

By Doug Harr

This post will be the first of several outlining my passion for moving IT software and services to the cloud, articulating the exponential value this move provides.

My journey began in early 2000’s when I was VP of IT at Portal Software; there, we moved the function of doing performance reviews out of our data center and into the SaaS / cloud service, Successfactors. This change cut costs in half; this kind of savings we saw almost every time we moved another software package or custom written application off site and into the cloud. Success with this model led me to take the helm at two other high tech companies (most recently at Splunk) where we ran virtually all of our business software and half of our infrastructure in the cloud, via services like Netsuite (financials), Salesforce (CRM), and Amazon EC2 (servers, storage).

These experiences were so positive and influential on my outlook that I’ve been espousing the “all cloud” IT sourcing strategy for some time now. Finally, and most recently, both Microsoft and Google have made it possible to go “the last mile,” to move your corporate domain, which houses the identity of all your employees, along with their organizations and access rights, into the cloud. This positions new companies and more aggressive existing companies to get to the point where you’ll find two fat pipes to the internet as the only technology installed at the company’s offices. The pipes terminate in a set of wireless access points, which themselves can now be managed via a cloud service!

Why is this all nirvana to me?  What does it mean for IT?  It means a lot. In almost every case I’ve seen service improve, both in terms of the time it takes to get things done, and the ability to focus on higher-level concerns, while more control accrues to the business. The focus of the CIO and IT Management team then changes – setting up a strategy, sourcing these cloud services, managing the vendor relationships, monitoring the services, integrating and securing them. We get to the ultimate goal of IT – maximizing the effective use of these systems, and harnessing the information that can be extracted and analyzed from those services. Not too shabby, right?  Sounds like a busy and more enabling, productive IT department, even if the roles have changed.

In future posts, we’ll address how the move to the cloud changes the nature of what resources each department needs to hire in order to effectively run the cloud applications. With sales operations, customer support operations, HR operations, etc., there is the ability for internal corporate employees to be more directly involved in optimizing, running and supporting the applications they use.

More to come.

On Collaboration Technologies

At StrataFusion, we are always working to understand the impact that emerging technologies will have on business. And I have spent a large part of my career working with financial executives, who as a group are legendary tree-huggers, generally looking to avoid change whenever and wherever possible.

These days I am looking closely at the broad category of tools that are grouped together as “collaboration” technologies. I see these being used many different ways, and by different functional groups. I put this word in quotation marks because there is also the question of what sectors these tools most aptly serve. I’ve seen them used in engineering, marketing, supply chain/operations, system integration, and more. But I don’t see a lot of adoption in finance functions—and I am seeking to understand why. I don’t see anything inherently different in the finance function. Quite the opposite – almost everything they do can be characterized as a “project” (preparing a budget, closing the books, preparing the reports and filings, etc.) And most of the collaboration tools are explicitly designed to help teams plan and manage projects.

So what gives?

I was running this question by a good friend and very successful public company CFO who has run both mid-size and very large companies. And I asked him: “If you (the CFO) leave suddenly, things usually move forward without too much of a hiccup. But if your Controller leaves suddenly, it’s a train wreck. Why is that? And why aren’t you using collaboration tools to broaden everybody’s knowledge base and share more information about the important processes and key decisions that flow across that one person’s desk?” And my friend replied: “You just told me why we aren’t using those tools…the knowledge my Controller has is an essential part of the value he or she provides to the organization. Maybe democratizing that information is actually a threat vs. an aid to their productivity.”

As we talked this over, I was struck by how some knowledge workers create value by how they disseminate and process team knowledge in order to coordinate team efforts – like the marketing team using Basecamp, the system integration team using Smartsheet, the software development team using Slack. But if my CFO friend is right, maybe there is a inherent cultural tendency in finance to “hoard” that knowledge. Over lunch, we sketched out the following picture of what we thought was going on:

Reed Collaboration image

There is no value judgement implied in where we put the Controller in the chart above. The job has evolved over decades, with limited tools. A whole lot of what a controller knows and does for their company is in their head, and in their email. Good luck finding either when he or she leaves.

But there is an interesting implication. In an environment where accumulated knowledge has value, the introduction of collaboration tools is assuming a large shift in culture and shared values…and maybe it is much harder to be successful trying to force changes in work methods that aren’t aligned with those.

Which leaves me – exactly where I started. I see great opportunities for improving corporate financial processes and allowing more people in the organization to make meaningful contributions by leveraging collaboration tools, and establishing a new paradigm of continuously adapting and changing. But it is much clearer to me why there is so much institutional (and subconscious) resistance.

Reed Kingston is a managing director at StrataFusion. Contact him at rkingston@stratafusion.com. Follow Reed at twitter.com/reedkingston.