MAKING TECHNOLOGY DECISIONS BASED ON BUSINESS NEEDS

By Ron Mente, Director of Cloud and Emerging Technologies

The primary role of the information technology group within a company is to support the business objectives of the organization.  Although this may seem obvious, all too often technology decisions are made using other criteria, leading to projects with bloated budgets that fail to meet their objectives. 

With new offerings constantly coming to market, it can be hard to make smart, strategic IT choices.  Not only do various solutions take different approaches to solve the same problem, but they are also built on independent financial models, so normalizing your options against each other becomes a challenge.  Our recommendation is to always evaluate your choices on three separate axes: technological, financial, and operational.

Technological Factors

Before bringing a solution to the business, it is important to look at the technology options available that may meet your needs. Some questions to ask include:

  • What are the features? 
  • How do they solve my business problem? 
  • What is its position in the market – is it a mature offering with many reference customers or a newer product tackling the solution in a new and innovative way?

One of the most important questions to ask is if the solution you are evaluating meets the need, just falls short, or is more than you need.  This last one is the hardest to acknowledge in an industry where “more” is sometimes considered better.  It is important to not spend time and money on a product with 17 features when you only need three of them. 

Lining up your options in this way will allow you to narrow the field to those offerings that offer the “right” fit for your need, have a maturity level that matches your technology risk tolerance, and provide enough features to give you the business agility you are looking for without being overly complex.

Cost Factors

The second axis is cost.  This feature sometimes takes a larger portion of the discussion than it should.  It is important to note that acquisition is usually not the largest portion of the total cost of ownership (TCO) of any given solution. 

When cost is the first (or only) motivator, the best technology choices are not always made.  This is not to say price is not important – it should be given at least equal weight to the other considerations. However, you should be thinking about the relationship between your technology investments and the business value derived from them.

A primary challenge with cost is to normalize the TCO among the various offerings.  In a traditional purchase, this is a straightforward exercise – you can line up the costs of the hardware, software, and services against each other.  In newer consumption-based solutions this becomes more challenging. You are projecting what you “think” the spend will be, but you will not really know until you have consumed the solution for any given month. 

Whether looking at a traditional capex purchase, or one that is opex-based, do not ignore the downstream costs associated with the solution.  These include platform costs (on-premise, cloud compute and storage infrastructure), network costs (in particular charges related to the movement of data) and software costs.  Over time, these items often cost the company more than the upfront investment itself. 

The impact of software costs on a technology choice cannot be overstated.  We have spoken to numerous customers who made a decision to deploy an environment and months later they realized the software impact on the OS, database, user, or security licensing was not what they anticipated.  This sometimes occurs when software is a centralized purchase, but solution decisions are made by individual business units.  The effects of ignoring this aspect of the selection can be devastating; ensuring that all stakeholders are aware of these downstream effects is of paramount importance.

Operational Factors

The third area to consider is the operational side of your technology decisions.  Today’s modern IT worker spends a significant amount of their time maintaining the systems that are already in place.  “Keeping the lights on” often distracts these highly skilled resources from being able to work on the more strategic initiatives of the organization.  As new solutions are brought into the company, this unbalance between the maintenance of the environment and adding value becomes a not-so-virtuous cycle. 

When a new solution is purchased, there is often a lot of assistance in getting it implemented. External services are part of almost all IT projects at this point.  It is important, therefore, to focus on the post-project state of the environment:

  • Will the provider who helped install it help you maintain it? 
  • What is the role of your staff in keeping the environment healthy? 
  • How will you maintain availability, patching, grooming, and growth? 

The personnel costs associated with the overall investment are often larger than the solution costs and most times increased headcount is not considered, even as more and more technology is deployed.  Thankfully there are ways to mitigate this impact by always including staff training as part of the deliverable, automating processes as much as possible to reduce time spent on rote work, and leveraging third party resources (as appropriate) to augment your operations team.

Final Thoughts

With the pace of technological change increasing, making IT decisions has become complex.  It is important to keep the focus on the business problem you are looking to solve, and grounding in that as you sift through your options. 

A balance is required to ensure you are reviewing your choices through a few different metrics.  You will need your engineering team to vet the technology itself, your financial team to validate the TCO and ROI and your operations team to ensure the solution continues adding value once the initial implementation is complete. 

By taking this thoughtful approach to decision making you will find that worthy projects get approved and are adding the value your company needs to survive and thrive.

Predictive Analytics to Provide Operational Insights

Gain Operational Insight with Data Center Analytics

 The traditional data center was generally not designed to effectively harness data for insights on operational efficiency and system resilience. Nor were they able to effectively predict, prevent, and solve problems without human intervention.

 

This lack of insight means that IT departments are constantly reacting to problems, with considerable time spent on troubleshooting and other non-value add activities.

 

Download this free e-book to learn how IT departments are pivoting from a reactive role to a proactive stance where operational problems are anticipated and solved.

DECIPHERING THE ANALYTICS HYPE: HOW LEADING DIGITAL COMPANIES LEVERAGE ANALYTICS

This blog is the first in a series of three blogs where we look at how leading digital companies leverage analytics.  Look for the remaining posts in the coming weeks.

GROUNDING IN THE BUSINESS CHANGE

Consider the Change

Begin by asking, “What is changing and what are the impacts?” Many factors can drive change. Business demands may lead to updating the pricing strategy, customer feedback may require a different type of engagement and organizational change can drive the need for process optimization. Whether researching the introduction of a new product or service or the optimization of a process, the nature and source of the change should be explored. Deciphering the context in which these changes will or have taken place, can provide an understanding of its impacts. With this information, the approach needed to measure or predict impacts and the data requirements start to take shape.
 

Deciphering the Context

Clarity around the context and the impact of the changes can be gained by focusing on the company’s business and operating models. Breaking down their components enable thoughtful consideration of data collection and analysis approaches that can be useful in practice.
 
Assess the business model: Ask yourself how the activity at hand impacts the ways that the company services its customers or makes money. Does it create new offerings or generate new revenue streams?
 
Consider the operating model: Will the current operating model support the new activities or does it require a new or updated operating model?
 
Measure in every stage: Analysis plans should be created for the various stages of an initiative. Consider market-level analysis that can be performed before, during and after the business model and operating model changes take effect. How will a new offering be priced? How will success be measured? What are the measurable impacts on the operating model?
Below are sample questions that can help ground in the business context and describe the impacts of change on the business and operating models.
Armed with an understanding of the business context and the potential impact of change, business leaders can set out to define the analysis approach and data requirement to support it. In the next installment of our Deciphering the Analytics Hype series, we will dive into the definition of practical analytics approaches based on the context of change.

The Idea in Brief

A company’s business model combines how value is created for its customers and how profit is driven from delivering that value.
Operating models evolve to streamline the delivery and execution of the business model and is by design resistant to change.
Market and internal data are critical in the definition, operation and measurement of the effectiveness of a company’s business model.

 

The Idea in Practice

Understanding business and operating models, along with their interrelation constitutes a critical component of leveraging analytics to the fullest. A series of factors should be considered as decisions on data collection and analysis are made. These will ensure that data is collected purposefully and analysis is performed in context, maximizing the value derived from human and financial investments.
 
Keep in mind:
  
Business Model:
A company’s business model is made up of the way that it serves customers, the products and services it provides, and offerings and differentiators that make a customer want to engage in business. Another important component is how the company profits from the services it provides (licensing, subscriptions, managed outcomes, etc).
  
Operating Model:
A company’s operating model evolves in order to deliver on its business model and, as such, it constitutes the part of a company that is most resistant to change. Its structure, organization, processes, and assets work in coordination to serve their customers.

ACHIEVING BUSINESS AGILITY: FOCUS ON VALUE CREATION

By Lisa Cavanagh, Practice Executive

This is the second
blog post, in a series of five, about achieving business agility as experienced
by a technology business partner. Look for the remaining posts in the coming
weeks:

  1. Business Agility: What is it & Why is it Critical to your Business?
  2. Achieving Business Agility: Focus on Value Creation
  3. Achieving Business Agility: The role of Data
  4. Achieving Business Agility: Modernizing Operations
  5. Achieving Business Agility: Confronting Reality

In my first blog, I reviewed the concept of business
agility and why, now more than ever, it is critical for organizations to evolve
to achieve greater agility.

I also discussed that while each organization’s transformational journey is unique, there are several key tenants that every organization can leverage to support their transformation. I have been fortunate to be a part of several transformations, with the most recent as a team member of a technology business partner.  In this blog, I will be discussing the importance of focusing on value creation and sharing our approach and experiences as a part of our evolution to drive greater business value for our customers.

FOCUS ON VALUE CREATION

“Digital” may play the role of a disruptor in digital transformation, yet the actual transformation is grounded in the business. As you embark on this journey, you have to ask:

  • What does your business value?
  • What drives the business?
  • What do you want the business to represent?

Micro Strategies’ founder and CEO, Anthony Bongiovanni, was very clear on the answers to these questions.  He had an awareness of what contributed to the organization’s success and the changing market conditions that were impacting the organization, as well as an understanding of where the organization needed to evolve to continue to achieve success. His ability to have that awareness, as well as articulate a clear direction, allowed the transformation to be grounded in the key values he established. Anchoring in those key values, we then turned our focus to the creation of highly empowered teams organized around those value areas.

Although this may sound straight forward, this a common misstep for organizations. In many approaches, teams are formed around technologies or organizational structures.   It is common to default to an organizational structure that is driven by technology or business skill sets, yet this approach does not take into consideration the complexities as to how the technologies integrate to deliver business value.  

Another common shortcoming is to focus too heavily on
tactical items such as team size.  I have
witnessed consulting firms stressing the importance of “two pizza box teams;” the
belief that the right size team is no larger than the number of slices in two
pizza pies.   If only it were that easy.  

There are many factors that need to be integrated into
the establishment of value stream teams. 
It is not to say that skills, technologies and team size are not factors
to be considered, but first and foremost is the value the team is driving.  A few questions you need to ask yourself when
considering the teams for your organization are:

  • Can these teams become “micro” businesses within
    the organization?
  • Can they support their own P&L? Do they
    drive enough value for the cost of the team members?
  • Can we align critical business objectives to
    them?
  • Are the objectives the teams are focused on short-
    or long-term?”  

At Micro Strategies, we anchored in the core
organizational objectives set by our CEO. We then identified the components
needed to achieve those objectives allowing us to drive value for our customers,
our partners and our organization. 
Ultimately we built teams around those components, taking into
consideration leadership requirements, skills, resources and size implications
of each team. This process was iterative; there wasn’t a simple checklist that
we followed.

WHY ORGANIZE AROUND VALUE

You may be wondering why such thoughtfulness is required
to develop these teams.  Why is
organizing the teams around value so important? 

Every organization’s goal is to drive some type of business value and to be able to understand the outcomes and impacts of that value.   The technology and resources needed to support driving value continue to become increasingly complicated due to the number of options available, the integration points between them and the speed in which they need to be delivered.

When aligned to value, each of these teams become individual organizations within one organization, considering critical questions to ensure that the “micro” organizations are healthy and appropriately contributing to the “macro” organization.  Each of Micro Strategies’ teams focuses on their strategy, identifying and developing solutions that combine intellectual property, service offerings and technology sourced from a variety of partners or suppliers. The process of developing these solutions is informed by our customers’ internal needs and the external demands placed on customers due to market conditions. As the teams focus on delivering solutions, they integrate learnings, enhancing the solutions to achieve greater business outcomes for our customers with shorter time to value cycles due to streamlined implementation approaches.

This cohesive approach to strategy and execution tied to business outcomes is only achieved if the alignment is focused on business value.  In this approach the team’s objectives are clear, the technologies, skills and resources needed to achieve those objectives are understood, the costs associated with those technologies, skills and resources are identifiable, and the outcomes and impacts can be associated with those costs.  This provides tremendous visibility for organizations.  You are able to create an internal  “investment portfolio,” understanding the returns your investments will drive, when it may make sense to invest as well as how much is needed to invest in new value areas, and when it may make sense to divest value areas given current market trends.

Like many other organizations, Micro Strategies is on a
digital transformation journey.  Yes, how
we define ourselves continues to evolve as a result of the “digital”
disruption.  What remains the same is our
perseverance to consistently drive value for our customers, partners and the organization.  To achieve this, we recognize that as we transform
we must always ground in focusing on the value areas which enable our
objectives and organizing the teams around them.   

This post is the second in a series of blogs on achieving business agility as presented from a technology business partner’s perspective. Interested in hearing more? Check out the first blog or contact us.


BONGIOVANNI RACING/MICRO STRATEGIES DRIVERS SCORE BIG POINTS AT ATCO DRAGWAY

Bongiovanni Racing took to the track this past weekend, competing in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event at Atco Dragway, located outside of Philadelphia. The team had six drivers in action, including Anthony and Michelle Bongiovanni, Kenny Miele, Dave Ficacci, plus Nick Scardelli, and recent NMRA winner, Ray Scardelli.

Competing in Stock and Super Stock, the drivers qualified well and then prepared for a weekend of tough eliminations. Michelle and Anthony, along with Dave Ficacci and Ray Scardelli were defeated early, but Kenny Miele and Nick Scardelli carried the Micro Strategies colors into the late rounds.

Scardelli defeated a quartet of NHRA Division 1 regulars with his wheelstanding, 10-second Mercury Capri. However, Scardelli met his match in the fifth round. Despite a great .015-second reaction time, he was bested by eventual event winner and Division 1 Super Stock points leader, James Antonette Jr.

Meanwhile, in Stock Eliminator, three-time NHRA national event winner Ken Miele kept his momentum going at Atco Dragway, qualifying his Micro Strategies-backed Cobra Jet Mustang with an 8.66 pass. Miele has been going rounds all season thanks to great driving, and a fast, consistent Mustang.

This weekend, Miele produced a quarter-final finish, before slipping with a rare red light. “We recently fixed a few things with the engine and the car is now more consistent and easier to drive,” said Miele.

“I made a mistake at Atco and that cost me, but that happens in drag racing. We have some important races coming up like the NMCA Cobra Jet Showdown in Norwalk, Ohio, and just a few days later, the NHRA US in Indy. There’s no doubt we’ll be ready,” he added.

Miele is currently 35th in NHRA Stock Eliminator national points (out of 901 drivers) and 12th within the home division.

Bongiovanni Racing won’t have to wait long to get back on track, as the team heads to Cecil County Dragway August 16-18 for more NHRA Lucas Oil Divisional Series action before heading to Norwalk, Ohio for the Cobra Jet showdown August 22-25. Be sure to join us and follow at @bongiovanniracing on Instagram and Facebook.

MODERN RESUME DOS & DON’TS

Today we’re featuring a guest blog from Resource 1, a subsidiary of Micro Strategies.  Resource 1 provides national staffing, recruiting and executive search services in North America.

By Mark Vallario, Vice President of Staffing Operations, Resource 1

Your resume is often your first representation to potential employers. In today’s competitive environment, make sure your resume clearly shows your value and wastes no time on irrelevant information. Below are recommendations for how to modernize your resume and keep employers interested.

Objective

By now it has become clear that the objective of your resume is to land your next job. The top of your resume is prime real estate, especially when employers are sifting through stacks of candidates. It’s not important to explain why you are looking for a job; focus instead on why you should be hired by this company.

Alternative: Summary

In place of the Objective, provide employers a brief and concise summary of your professional experience. This should address the main points of why you are qualified for the job and what experience is relevant to the job at hand. Be sure to use keywords from the job description.

Contact Information

Street Address, Marital Status, Hobbies

The practice of including this personal information, such as a street address, marital status, hobbies, is outdated. Other than a phone number and e-mail address, contact information is not necessary, and hobbies that do not relate to the skills requested by the job poster are irrelevant.

Alternative: Social media, blog, portfolio

Employers recognize that a candidate’s value can surpass what is written on a resume. Including a link to an online portfolio or professional networking platform can give great insight into your skills and talents and show how you interact with others in your industry. Be sure your content is up-to-date and reflects who you are and how you contribute.

Education

If you’re a recent graduate with little job experience, you may be inclined to fill space on your resume with extensive information about your education. The truth is, many employers are not as focused on what you did in school, but rather how you’ve used your education to add value professionally. Listing out the courses you’ve taken, the projects you’ve done may seem like a great way to brag, but it may be another waste of space

Alternative: Course work that relates to the job

Focus on what is expected based on the job description. If you’ve completed courses that directly relate to the responsibilities, include two or three. The employer will most likely be looking for those keywords and will move your resume to the top of the stack. Keep education experience short. It will be expected that you have little work experience, so be sure to show how you added value through the jobs you’ve held.

FIVE THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A MANAGED SERVICES PROVIDER

By Alexander Meseguer / Managed Services Architect

Organizations increasingly choose to outsource IT support in part or whole. This decision has widespread implications for both users inside the company and third-parties who depend on them. The Managed Services Provider (MSP) market, in particular, continues to see more players enter the field every year. Analysts at Forrester Research report technology outsourcing and hardware services rose from $483 billion in 2018 to $512 billion in 2019.[1] With the abundant choices available to you, what should you look for and judge candidates by?

Beyond time-honored metrics such as competitive price, references, and longevity, the areas below cover what we believe sets a great MSP apart from the rest of the field. After all, whoever you pick will ostensibly be an extension of your own organizations for years to come and prevent potentially catastrophic damage to your bottom line.

ARE MANAGED SERVICES RIGHT FOR YOU?

The most valuable question to answer before starting any search (or considering someone who’s reached out to you) is whether managed services is right for your organization.

Dedicated IT operations personnel offer maximum control but at a potentially high cost if your organization is not of sufficient scale. Most MSPs operate on a shared resource model, where their technicians and engineers may be servicing several clients in a day. This approach allows them to offer broader and deeper support at efficiencies only enterprise organizations may be able to match.

MSPs have their own challenges under this model, and the best ones have policies and processes in place to address them. If your organization is comfortable giving up some control over how IT operations are done, a vastly more efficient and capable IT support experience becomes possible.

EVALUATING MANAGED SERVICES PROVIDERS

EXPERIENCE AND EXPERTISE

A Managed Services Provider should have at least 10 years of experience under their belt so they’ve been exposed to everything that can (and will) happen in support of IT operations. To have a proven track record of longevity is one of the strongest signs of continued performance and stability.

“One of the strengths of MSPs is their ability to bring both breadth and depth of expertise to the table which would take a very large organization to replicate.”

One of the strengths of MSPs is their ability to bring both breadth and depth of expertise to the table which would take a very large organization to replicate.

Questions to consider include:

  • Does your prospective MSP have extensive experience and resources they can bring to bear on your specific technology?
  • Are they hiring for emerging technologies so they’ll be ready when you are?
REPEATABILITY AND PROCESSES

Capable and experienced MSPs have established processes that remove ambiguity and create a consistent support experience. The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a globally accepted framework for IT service management which aligns business needs with IT operations. Subsequently, a provider that bases their processes on ITIL has put thought into the who, what, when, and why of this type of service and knows who is accountable for every part of your IT support experience.

AVAILABILITY

Time and geography are the most important factors when considering a provider?s availability. Your business doesn’t stop dead at the end of the standard business day and your provider shouldn?t either.

“Time and geography are the most important factors when considering a provider’s availability. Your business doesn’t stop dead at the end of the standard business day and your provider shouldn?t either.”

Also, consider your prospective provider’ s footprint. While the vast majority of support can be provided remotely, a physical presence is sometimes a must-have.

Questions to consider include:

  • Will they be able to provide services when and where you need them?
  • Do they have the manpower available for your critical office locations?
  • Would meeting face-to-face take an extended amount of time to arrange or incur additional costs?
FOCUS ON BUSINESS OUTCOMES

Above all, the best MSPs recognize they are a service organization first and a technology organization second. Although this may be unexpected as the industry revolves around technology, experience has taught us that a successful partnership begins with aligning the MSP?s priorities with yours – on a strategic and incident level.

You’re both looking to achieve a specific outcome as you work toward the same goals. This naturally produces shared incentives that create trust and a true partnership over time. Consider how your prospective provider plans to keep your goals aligned in a proactive way.

SHARED VALUES AND EXPECTATIONS

Building off the previous point, shared values and common goals are at the heart of the most successful relationships. Therefore, your outsourced IT provider should believe partnership is a two-way street, corresponding with obligations shared by both sides.

?Both sides??? you may ask, ?but I’m the customer.??

Undeniably, this provider will be acting as an extension of your organization and be in a position to impact large portions of it. Shared agreement on items like scheduled maintenance windows, escalation matrices, major incident declarations, and change management processes will ensure expectations on both sides remains steady and produce results.

TAKEAWAYS

Whether you?re a ?first-generation outsourcer?? or a veteran in the field, choosing a provider can become a lot simpler if you keep these points in mind. At Micro Strategies, we believe partnership and operational excellence go hand in hand.

?Whoever you pick will ostensibly be an extension of your own organizations for years to come and prevent potentially catastrophic damage to your bottom line.??

Keep the following in mind when selecting your outsourced IT vendor:

  • Providers need to have the skills on hand to support the technology you?re using both today and tomorrow.
  • Documented processes help ensure consistent and responsive support.
  • Your provider should have a strategy for providing physical presence when needed, or at a minimum, ways to mitigate the need.
  • Ensure that your provider has a plan to keep your strategic goals aligned and create opportunities for two-way communication.
  • Make sure your provider shares your values and expectations. If you expect a lot from them, they should ask you for some commitments in kind.

[1] Managed Services Market: The Three Key Trends Impacting MSPs. https://www.crn.com/news/managed-services/managed-services-market-the-three-key-trends-impacting-msps

BONGIOVANNI RACING/MICRO STRATEGIES ENJOYS SUCCESSFUL WEEKEND AT NMRA MOTORSPORT NATIONALS

Veteran Super Stock racer and Micro Strategies VP of Sales, Ray Scardelli, rowed the gears to victory at the recent NMRA Motorsport Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pennsylvania. Scardelli, along with team members, Anthony Bongiovanni, Ken Miele, Steve Ficacci and Nick Scardelli, put on a show of wheelies and round wins, while entertaining Micro Strategies employees at the special all-Ford drag racing event.

Maple Grove Raceway, also known as “The Grove, is a scenic racing facility conveniently located near the Micro Strategies offices in Malvern, Pennsylvania.

In addition to bringing out the team’s fast Fords, Anthony Bongiovanni, CEO, and the racing team hosted over 30 Micro Strategies employees.  Attendees got an up-close look at the race cars with all-access pit passes, saw an amazing car show, and enjoyed the racing from the Micro Strategies’ hospitality suite.

“This was a fun racing weekend and corporate event for Micro Strategies, said Ray Scardelli. “The NMRA does a fantastic job presenting family-oriented events with a wide range of racing classes from all-out race cars to street-legal Fords. We’ve attended NMRA races in Florida and are lucky enough have one in our back yard. This is a great track and the event was packed with lots of great cars.

“But more than racing, we hosted our employees and their families in our hospitality suite. Everyone got to check out our race cars and see the technology that goes into them. There was also a huge car show and manufacturers’ midway for those who like seeing all the parts and pieces that make our cars go, he added. “We had five cars racing so we entered different classes. This gave our employees a chance to see us on track all day.

The team ran strong, going rounds on Saturday and Sunday.

“After a long day, we made it to the final and won the Bracket 2 eliminator on Sunday, Scardelli added. “Racing requires a team, so it was nice to perform well in front of our employees and to let them experience the thrill of winning at the track.

In contrast to the Cobra Jet Mustangs driven by Bongiovanni, Ficacci, and Miele, Scardelli competed in his 1997 Ford Probe that’s been modified with a 289-cubic inch Ford V8. It also has a 4-speed manual transmission and has been converted to rear-wheel drive. His Probe regularly stands up on launch and covers the quarter-mile in less than 10 seconds at 130-plus mph.

Scardelli won a total of 7 rounds including the final, where he defeated Jay Fitts to hoist the NMRA “Victor a trophy honoring automotive industry icon Vic Edelbrock Jr.

“It was almost surreal, said Scardelli. “The race pace was quicker than we’re used to, so after each win we’d quickly get the car ready and head back to the lanes to the next round. I really didn’t think about winning until the semi-finals.

“After winning that round I knew I had a real shot to win the race. I was driving well and the car was very consistent. I rolled up there, did my burnout and staged. He [Jay Fitts] had a slower car so he got handicapped start. I was focused, nailed the throttle to get the engine to 8,500 rpm and I let the clutch go when the tree came down. My car hooked good and I started rowing the gears to catch him. At first I didn’t think I was going to cross the finish line first, but the 289 engine started eating up the track and I shot past him at the finish line, said Scardelli who won by just .009 second!

“When my win light came on it was a moment of pure elation. Winning is hard and it was so cool to do it in front of my work family, along with my wife and son Nick, who was also racing. Everyone in the NMRA was giving me the thumbs-up and congratulating me. The NMRA does a live Internet feed, too, and I didn’t realize how many of my friends were watching at home. My phone was blowing up before I even got back to the trailer.

“It was an exciting day, and I was so proud to win. We then headed to the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle, where NMRA president Steve Wolcott presented us our prize money and the Victor trophy. It was really awesome getting our photos and finishing out the weekend with a win, he added.

The Bongiovanni Racing season continues August 2-4 at Atco Raceway in Atco, New Jersey at the NHRA Lucas Oil Division 1 series event.

You can follow Bongiovanni Racing on Facebook or Instagram.

EMPLOYEE EDUCATION IS KEY TO YOUR CYBER SECURITY STRATEGY

By Keith S. Crumpton, vCISO / Senior Security Architect

Today’s threat landscape, more than ever, is beyond the technical control of a business.  The human element, employees, represents an organization’s greatest weakness in the information security arsenal. Yet they are also a company’s greatest defense and most important tool against the cybercriminal.

Employees need to be aware of what might be used against them, so they don’t unknowingly contribute to a security incident or breach.  Employee performance is dependent on how well they are educated regarding the threats they may encounter and how to respond to those threats. If the response does not fully protect the information, it’s imperative that they understand the best way to communicate the threat, without risk of reprisal, to those that can and will help.

Security awareness education activities and reinforcement are low-cost methods of empowering employees.  The investment is cheaper than the cost of a potential loss if an employee clicks on the wrong link, visits the wrong website, or believes a spoof email to be true and subsequently transfers funds to parts unknown.

The days of ignoring or minimizing threats are over. More and more organizations are being targeted and security vulnerabilities exploited as cybercriminals seek to obtain the information “payload  these companies possess.

Consider a typical law firm. A law firm client might engage them for the purchase of a home. As part of the transaction, the law firm may obtain the client’s last three years’ tax returns, a recent paystub, their credit report, social security number, listing of all their assets, bank accounts with account numbers and most recent balance, credit card numbers with most recent balances (in some cases the actual statements), current address, phone numbers and other personal information. The information represents a data payload.  To security professionals, a data “payload is where an individual’s data elements (personal information) are combined in a nice, easy-to-access package.

The law firm above is only one example; the concept of a data payload exists in all organizations. It just needs to be identified and defined. Educating your employees to know your business, the data flows, and who the responsible individuals are will help employees understand their roles and responsibilities towards security activities in order to protect the company data, and ultimately the company itself.

To ensure the most effective training for your employees, choose the most applicable educational content. Some security education topics may not be pertinent and could therefore be a waste of the employee’s time.  Knowing your employees, their roles and responsibilities, provides background for tailoring security awareness education for the individual.

Employee education is key to ensuring your organization’s information is protected. Provide them the tools they need to protect it–education, processes, procedures and software, to name a few. However, if you can only focus on one, make it EDUCATION. Without that, nothing else matters.