Building a World Class IT Organization

The Secret to Sustaining an Empowered Culture

At StrataFusion, we like to share what we are seeing and learning at Information Technology and Services organizations that are in sync with the business and delivering great results. One of the best predictors of success is a vibrant culture. In the systems world, we stress the importance of people, process and technology, and there’s a reason why the word “people” comes first. So what can you do to connect with your teams and build a strong culture?

Three Keys to Unlock World Class IT Culture

  • Articulate your message. First and foremost, ensure your IT strategy, project portfolio and focus areas are directly and dynamically tied to business imperatives and goals that your team understands.
  • Encourage participation. The perspectives people bring to the table are crucial for success, and a feedback loop instills collaboration and enriches contribution. Value diverse knowledge sources by bringing in team members from other business areas to cross-pollinate and innovate.
  • Invest in your people. Winning the talent war is a never-ending journey. Organizations must hire and continuously provide training and development opportunities to people who are energetic, tolerate ambiguity and are excited to learn new approaches and skills.

The Power of Culture 

Culture plays a bigger role in IT success than many leaders think. It’s an attention-getter that shines through in your best people, as they also recruit the highest potential new employees. Culture must clearly articulate authentic company values, and these enrich your product and services. A strong culture is built on a foundation of trust. This means maintaining an environment that challenges the status quo and offers learning experiences – from success and failures – to clear the way for risk and rewards. It also means enabling teamwork and promoting diversity, because everyone brings a unique skill set and point of view to the table.

How can you strengthen culture? Hire, train and then empower employees to work with accountability. Take an agile approach and provide maximum flexibility to meet business needs. Reward self-management successes and discourage micro-managers. Never neglect communication of good or bad news so people understand the organization’s goals, IT strategy, plan and results.  It’s crucial to update progress frequently and get input about how your team can tangibly support it.

Today’s IT teams have innovative ideas to bring to business collaboration, so take advantage of it. When you are truly committed to cultivating a culture of growth, the payoff is huge.

This is the first blog installment in a series on building world-class IT. The next installment will focus on building teams and careers.

Maureen Vavra

StrataFusion Expands Expertise in M&A, Large Project Space and IT Outsourcing with Partner Jim Murphy

StrataFusion’s growing partnership of trusted advisors is giving clients the expertise they need to solve the challenges they face. Earlier this year, StrataFusion welcomed Jim Murphy, who has been advancing business through the application of technology for JMurphy9-2018more than 25 years. His executive experience spans a number of demanding and high-profile roles, particularly in the large project space, from M&A to IT outsourcing.

“StrataFusion’s Partners are industry-recognized executives with incredible credentials,” Jim says. “I’m honored to be part of this team and truly enjoy the collaborative approach to provide clients with world-class advisory services.”

Previously, Jim served as CIO of Hewlett Packard’s Outsourcing Business and oversaw the IT integration of EDS, one of the largest technology acquisitions of all time. He also served as the VP & GM of HP’s multi-billion-dollar Server Support business, where his global team provided mission-critical services in some of the world’s most demanding environments.

“The experience each of our partners bring to StrataFusion is a winning combination for our clients,” says Ken Crafford, StrataFusion’s founding partner. “As trusted advisors for organizations and companies in a variety of industries, it’s crucial we have diversity of experience to meet the many challenges our clients face as the business landscape evolves.”

Need guidance from a trusted advisor? Learn more about StrataFusion here.

StrataFusion Announces New Partner Greg Higham

Higham photoStrataFusion is pleased to announce that Greg Higham has joined the firm as its newest partner. A customer-focused Silicon Valley technology executive, Greg has enabled growth for businesses of all sizes across many industries, from public companies to start-ups.

“We are thrilled to have Greg join StrataFusion and bring a strategic mindset of revenue growth, optimization and an incredibly deep understanding of customer service, which provides a unique lens for today’s business landscape,” said Ken Crafford, StrataFusion founding partner. “Greg’s compelling record of success gained from three decades driving strategy, world-class technology infrastructures, global operations management, acquisition integration and scalable business growth adds an exciting dimension of executive-level insight to advise StrataFusion clients.”

Navigating the technology challenges of fast, transformational growth and acquisitions, Greg brings a leadership perspective of business needs, technology solutions and customer experience. He co-founded Periscope Group, where he put into action a powerful combination of technology expertise and business acumen. As CIO of Marketo, he helped navigate a successful IPO and subsequent sale to Vista Equity Partners for $1.7 billion. Greg has honed his leadership skills and deep industry knowledge through senior leadership roles across many fast-growing global organizations, including Witness Systems, FrontRange Solutions, Epiphany, Inovis, Peregrine Systems, Harbinger, Premenos and Tandem Computers.

Greg earned a degree in Computer Technology from CDI, San Francisco and is also a graduate of Stanford University’s Professional Education program.

About StrataFusion:

StrataFusion delivers a full portfolio of CIO/CTO/CISO oriented advisory services for today’s most difficult business and technology challenges. StrataFusion leverages refined methodologies with proven experience, empirical data, industry best practices, and analytical models to build programs that reduce project complexities and accelerate investment returns. With executive-level technology and operational experts, clients access deep industry experience spanning fast-growth enterprises to Fortune 500 corporations.

View all Partner bios here.

Reflections on Black Mirror – Cautionary Tale about Tech in Our Lives

Streaming media has taken over from network TV. Among the many shows we’ve binged on Netflix, one of our favorites is Black Mirror.

Each episode is a unique story, much like The Twilight Zone and others long ago. Uniquely, the Black Mirror stories are each cautionary tales about technology in our lives – the risks of misuse, loss of privacy, loss of intimacy.

One episode for example follows a mother who tracks her daughter through an implant and tablet app that allows for real-time geolocation and vitals, but also displays what her daughter sees and even blocks disturbing content from her vision. Other episodes also extend the reach of today’s technology to fictionalize uncontrollable security robots, intrusive virtual dating apps and other scenarios that focus generally on the dark side of ‘future’ technology adoption by consumers. In nearly every episode, the focus is on consumer devices, phones, pads, sensors, and the use of massive amounts of machine data spewing from these devices, shown for either better or usually detrimental impacts on the individual.

In reality, even with the technology – devices, software, analytics and machine learning we have today, we face these ethical dilemmas. My kids, both millenials, give their data freely, and expect to gain advantages from its mining. And having worked at Splunk, understanding the potential of ‘big data” analytics and artificial intelligence, I am of like mind. Sharing freely with attendant benefits outweighs security concerns – the exception being behaviors which can directly lead to identity theft.

A recent news show segment  featured a British security expert explaining what data we are sharing via Fitbit and similar devices, how our whereabouts and travels could be shown on a heat map, what implications that has for military personnel, etc. Yet the benefits of using a Fitbit and openly sharing geolocation and your vitals is well established. Another positive example of using analytics and AI to mine data for its potential was highlighted in a show about Chicago police, social workers, and clergy who have teamed together to mine data collected on potential felons in order to predict criminal behavior by these individuals (yes, without the imprisoned beings depicted in Minority Report!). Once they have a list of high risk subjects, a member of the police squad, a social worker, clergy, etc. actually visit the subject at home and try to convince them to enter into counseling, job training, and other programs. It’s not even at a 50% acceptance rate, but every point on that graph matters, and lives are saved. These points offer some light to go with what is often assumed to be a darker path via big data. And the implications for running a better business, endless!

Doug Harr

Career Showcase – Meet and Hire the Future of Cybersecurity Friday, March 23 at Merritt College in Oakland

With an increasing number of cyber security threats and an estimated 1M security positions open today, the tech world is facing a crisis.  To address these issues, the Consortium of Information Systems Executives (CISE) CIO group has worked with Merritt College in Oakland to develop and launch a fully accredited two-year degree program https://cisesecurity.com/

Summary of program is below:

  • The CISE program at Merritt College is the only California community college that offers an Associate Degree in Information Security.
  • Our success was recently showcased when students from our program recently placed 4th in the Gold Bracket (highest level) against over 175 schools in the annual national Cyber League competition.
  • Courses designed and co-taught by security industry experts from leading San Francisco Bay Area companies
  • Program includes “hands on” labs to develop student’s technical security skills
  • Internships with San Francisco Bay Area companies to work in information security field while students study for their degree
  • Class projects include forensics of a pharmaceutical organization that suffered a security breach, securing systems on Amazon Web Services, and developing Information Security strategies

Agenda: 9:00-3:00

  • Welcome and introductions
  • CISO Panel on how to address our security staffing crisis
  • Keynote Speaker: Congressmen Ro Khanna from Silicon Valley
  • Merritt Faculty panel on information security skills required for staff in the future
  • Merritt Student panel on putting together winning team at NCL completion
  • Meet students from program

Action

You will get a chance to meet our students and talk with them firsthand about the training and solutions they would bring to your company.  We are focused on placing these students with leading Silicon Valley and Bay area companies where they can apply their knowledge and training around cybersecurity.  Please participate to demonstrate that your company is a great place for cyber security professionals to begin their career, your commitment to improving diversity in the workplace and to support our local community. Please contact info@ciseeducationfund.com to register for the event.

Mark Egan

Merritt College – Gearing Up For Its Third Year At National Cyber League

Merritt College is gearing up for 3rd year of competition at the National Cyber League Competition.  NCL provides a cybersecurity training ground in a high-fidelity simulation game environment that requires participants to play individually during Fall Regular Season and in teams during Fall Postseason Games.

Merritt College Cybersecurity students have participated the past two years with great results and success. In 2015, Merritt student s won second place, beating out 125 other colleges and universities.

Quotes from Team:

  • Sandy Keh: “It is exciting to begin another year of competition in the National Cyber League. This year we have a record, 37 students willing to participate and we hope to be ready for the challenge ahead.”
  • Norman Weekes: “Our success in the NCL is a testament to how lucky we are to be taught by teachers who have a long track record in the infosec business. In class and the NCL, we have learned how to tackle new problems as a team, in a short amount of time.”

The Applications and Infrastructure Security program is in its third year, is a fully accredited two-year degree program that is the result of a partnership with Merritt  College and the Consortium of Information Systems Executives (CISE). The program is a huge win in working to solve the cybersecurity crisis and has the support of Congressman Ro Khanna. Our objective is to place graduated (and soon-to-be-graduated) students within companies in the Silicon Valley. We’re looking for companies that are progressive and innovative in their approach to solving the cybersecurity issue.

We have students available for full-time and internship positions, and to streamline the hiring process we’re happy to announce that their resumes are available now at Jobvite.

Please contact me and I will put you in  touch with students.

Mark Egan

mark.egan@stratafusion.com

Transforming Intelligent Medical Applications

Scenario

Imagine it is early afternoon. Alexa, tracking your schedule, asks if you want her to call you an Uber.  She has already computed the 40-minute ride based on traffic and how long the wait will be for the driver arrives.  She recommends you take an umbrella for the rain. As you get into the car, your home lights are dimmed and turned off, the AC is turned down and the TV show you were watching changes to record/mobile mode so that you can stream it on your mobile device or watch it later after your meeting. Mobile Alexa from your phone asks if she should set the alarm and lock the doors.

Now, and into the future, everything we do, will most likely use the Internet of Everything (IoE) to create a smart eco-system and facilitate our time so that our lives are easier, convenient, and more comfortable.

In the medical world, a patient interaction would leverage the same smart eco-system. Imagine a similar tech-driven scenario, this time with healthcare ramifications.

Mark and Sandy, married, are driving to Napa for dinner. Mark starts to feel chest pain.  Sandy calls the digital assistant and asks for directions to the nearest hospital.  Directions display on the car’s navigational system, and Siri asks if she can sign the family into the ER using the hospital’s SmartAttendant App. Sandy says (or clicks) “yes,” and the app is downloaded and auto-completes your medical registration forms.

Siri asks for the chief complaint (“What brings you to the hospital today?”) to complete the forms, and Sandy states “chest pains”.  A moment later, Siri tells her to park in the emergency parking beside the ER door, that there will be a valet attendant to take care of the car, and a wheelchair will be curbside with an RN awaiting her arrival.  Bio-signs from the husband’s Fitbit and cell phone are being directly fed to the ER Attendant, who sees on the iPad he is using to track the situation, that the patient (Mark) is 4 minutes out with traffic.

Mark’s doctor has been notified and his medical history and latest EKG are already being reviewed by the attendee who alerts the Cardiac CATH lab that a patient is inbound. Balloon time is 12 minutes.

At this time, Mark and Sandy’s family members receive an SMS message with a notification of the situation at hand, which includes a link to hospital services.  The link will outline for the family everything from directions to the patient’s room, meal choices, and even the amount of wait time at the nearest restroom.

Fortunately, Mark’s records are kept in his medical blockchain, and all relevant information is readily and securely available.  With a touch of a button or a verbal command, Mark (or Sandy) can determine who can access, update and change his information.  After his visit, his prescriptions are automatically ordered and set for next day delivery at his home.  His insurance is automatically billed and his next appointment dynamically scheduled.  Auto-magically, the hospital also submits all related expenses, which are processed behind the scenes.

The above example is already becoming a reality.  We are on this evolutionary journey as our knowledge-based society over the next 5-10 years works to create intellectual value that is consumed by the ubiquitous connectivity of people, devices, information, services and processes.

What is needed for this reality to prosper?  

Most of the tools needed to make this dream a reality already exist.   IoT, IoE, Blockchain and AI are all torch bearing technologies that will continue to shape this future.

For example, IoT with its foundational principle of enabling devices and things to communicate, is smart-enabling everything from tires to watches. As this concept evolves from one-way broadcast communications to bi-directional conversations, systems are being developed to talk and interpret these communications.

IoE, where everyone and everything has reliable ubiquitous internet, is becoming the defacto standard.  It fundamentally leverages the omnipresent connectivity of people, devices, sensors, items that Interact on behalf of humans.  This interaction with other devices and systems, allows us to integrate “things” together and automate digital business models.

Blockchain is the engine that makes BitCoin possible and it has emerged as a revolutionary and visionary method of a public secure ledger.  It allows for the recording of a secure, validated transaction that can be public or private.  It is also a component of SmartContracts, which enables rules and commands such as “pay the rent on the 15th on the month from my checking account” to automatically execute based on specific criteria encoded into the contract.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is needed to gain insights from the mountains of sensor data generated by the IoT.  The real winner in this environment is machine learning, with its ability to process massive amounts of information, identifying patterns, habits, trends, cycles, etc.  These patterns, and statistical analysis of massive data pools, have evangelized machine learnings importance, which is a core component of AI.

The final piece of the puzzle

As we change from a post-industrial/mass production marketplace to a knowledge-based environment, we need to pivot the paradigm so that it is not about delivering a physical product or service, and instead, it is about how we offer a “smart” service for an intelligent consumer.

To do this, “Smart Contracts” need to become consumer friendly.  Mass market adoption can only occur when every age and demographic (your grandmother) can create a contract.  Today’s contracts are still only created by developers, which is limiting mass adoption.  It is estimated that developers are only 0.0035% of the population. Therefore, natural human interfaces have to be developed.

Given that, we are in for an exciting, dynamic ride for Intelligent Medical Applications over the next few years.

Henry Ivey