How to Build a Continuous Cyber Improvement Culture

November 18th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. This week, Sean ApplegateDirector, Technology Strategy & Advanced Solutions at Riverbed explains how companies can foster collaboration between the Network Operations Center (NOC) and Security Operations Center (SOC). 


Sean Applegate of Riverbed.

Sean Applegate of Riverbed.

One of the largest untapped resources for gaining understanding and insight into an organization’s cyber operations is the network infrastructure and network operations team. They have the broadest span of control across an organization’s IT infrastructure. However, this strategic asset isn’t leveraged efficiently when network teams and security teams fail to share critical resources, collaborate with one another and streamline joint operational processes.

Bridging the chasm between the Network Operations Center (NOC) and Security Operations Center (SOC) isn’t a technology challenge – it’s an organizational challenge. Below are three tips to help foster this collaboration.

Maximize Insight

The first step in overcoming this organizational hurdle is to acknowledge the value of the network team in cyber operations. They have visibility and access to forensic data that simply doesn’t exist in other parts of an organization. Once leadership acknowledges this, it’s about putting the tools and processes in place to integrate the network resources into security processes. It sounds simple, but having a thorough understanding of normal is a critical factor in preventing potentially harmful activity on your agencies network.

Security teams should work to leverage the network team’s investments in packet capture agents, packet analyzers, netflow sources and deep packet inspection performance monitoring. Often these can be tightly integrated into a Security Incident Event Management (SIEM) system for high fidelity visibility, and quick pivots into useful forensic data.

Change the Culture

In terms of fostering collaboration, there should be clear roles and responsibilities across NOC and SOC teams, supported by well-defined “hand-offs.” Documenting them isn’t enough. You have to use them, analyze key weaknesses and continuously improve them. Joint emergency response teams enable broader insight, increased tribal knowledge, faster artifact gathering, well-rounded analysis and ultimately a stronger cyber posture.

Transferring people across teams can also serve as a great way to foster teamwork among these two groups. A crucial aspect to all of this is also obtaining a strong leader who can rally the troops, and mold them into a cohesive team passionate about continuous improvement – not just compliance.

Continuously Improve

With a strong base to build upon, an organization should turn their focus to accelerating their velocity and improving capabilities. To optimize your overall operations, leverage techniques from traditional continuous improvement strategies, such as Theory of Constraints, Lean, or lessons learned from the Devops movement.  For instance:

  • Invest in training and skill development so your people are effective and empowered
  • Break work down into smaller chunks so it flows smoother
  • Automate as much as possible so you gain operational efficiencies
  • Measure not just risk, but performance and quality of operations
  • Never be satisfied with the status quo, continuously experiment and learn

The reality is that threats are getting increasingly harder to discover, and attackers are more brazen than ever. By maximizing your insight and investments, improving your processes and culture, and accelerating your capabilities once you have a strong foundation, you can prioritize your resources and work toward minimizing overall risk.

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The CIT GAP Funds, operated by the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), provide seed-stage equity investments in Virginia-based technology, clean tech and life science companies with a high potential for achieving rapid growth and generating significant economic return for entrepreneurs, co-investors and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Through a public-private partnership, CIT validates the science behind next-generation technology, biotechnology and energy startups across the state and leverages a modest public sector investment with private sector investments at a rate of 16 times the public outlay. The GAP Funds’ search areas include software, telecommunications, semiconductors, media and entertainment, e-commerce, networking and equipment, electronics/instrumentation, industrial/energy, computers and peripherals, biomedical and life science applications.

And it is working!

Leveraging private investment in research and innovation through new company formation has proven a successful and cost-effective funding model for achieving a self-sustaining innovation ecosystem.   The Washington Post’s Capital Business recently observed that the Center for Innovative Technology’s GAP Funds “cemented its mantle as one of the region’s most active early-stage investment groups”.

Recently, CIT President Pete Jobse provided an annual update to the General Assembly’s Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) on CIT’s efforts to drive innovation and entrepreneurship. Among the key points:

  • 3,000+ entrepreneurs have applied for seed investments over 10 years.
  • Since 2005, CIT GAP Funds have invested in 114 companies.
  • Through the CIT GAP Funds, $15 million in public funds have leveraged $233 million of private funding or 16.2X.
  • The CIT GAP Funds portfolio of companies has grown in value from $1 million to $310 million in 8 years.

NVTC is a strong proponent for enhancing state funding for the CIT GAP Funds as a critical tool to grow and diversify Virginia’s technology economy. While NVTC successfully advocated for more than $4 million in annual funding for the CIT GAP Funds in FY13 and FY14, Virginia’s current budget shortfall has reduced funding for the CIT GAP Funds to $2.8 million annually in FY15 and FY16. NVTC will be advocating to prevent further budget cuts during the 2015 legislative session in Richmond. Read more about NVTC’s advocacy efforts in Richmond.

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A Profitable Exit? Think Sustainable, Long-Term Growth

November 4th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. This week, Alex Castelli of CohnReznick LLP explains how a successful, sustainable tech company draws investors. In addition, check out previous blogs from CohnReznick on equity vs. debt financingincentivizing employees with equity, determining the value of your company and identifying the right sources for early-stage tech companies.


Attracting millions or even billions of investment dollars is the dream of every business owner. But it is not going to occur overnight – and it may never occur if the primary goal is to sell the business, rather than build the business.The surest path to achieving a successful, sustainable technology business is to focus on long-term growth – and the investment interest will follow in due time. Investors do not want companies that are built to flip. They want companies that are built to last and that can sustain revenue growth. Investors are willing to pay top dollar for such companies.There are measures technology companies must take to position themselves for sustainable success, foremost of which is to instill a focus on long-term growth and profitability rather than short-term liquidity.  Such a strategy will inevitably make a company more attractive to investors.Following are four issues that technology companies can focus on to maximize the long-term value of their business.

1. Know Your Market Niche and Competitors

Technology companies should know how their product or service fills a need in the marketplace. They should know the size of their potential market, the size of their current market share, who their customers and competitors are, and how they are changing. By staying informed, companies can remain relevant in the midst of fierce competition.

Market knowledge is also an important avenue to growth. Organic growth is ideal, but at some point acquisition may become necessary to maintain or accelerate growth. Technology companies should be familiar with their competitors large and small, and should consider building causal relationships with them. These relationships can eventually lead to synergistic business opportunities. The best acquisitions do not come from business brokers. The best acquisitions come about because the business owner or management team knows the market and has personally identified targets they are interested in acquiring.

2. Drive Sustainable Revenue

Sustaining customer and revenue growth are vital for technology companies. Horizontal revenue means one thing to investors – it means they will not get the return they want from their investment.

To sustain revenue and minimize customer churn, technology companies must innovate and add services and products. They must continually introduce new and appealing features for their customers. Granted, a subscription model is a good way to sustain revenue, but subscribing customers also expect regular updates. These updates do not have to be new, blockbuster releases, but they should at least be useful and worthwhile.

3. Build a Scalable Business

Scaling requires action on a number of business fronts. In summary, it means adding products, services, and customers. It means keeping in mind that past results are no guarantee of future performance. In other words, the accomplishments that got companies to where they are will not get them to where they need to go. Technology companies must ensure that their business model guarantees long-term growth and they must be up to the challenge.

4. Focus on Profitability

It is usually those companies that are not in dire need to sell that receive the highest valuation—those companies that are well managed, have products in demand, and profits. Arriving at this desirable position means continuing to innovate to stay relevant and maintain competitive advantage. This is especially important in the tech space, where the landscape changes quickly and there are few barriers to entry.

Conclusion

Growth is an alluring word in the technology industry—in almost any industry—but creating profitable growth is the key to turning a small company into a large company. To fuel long-term profitable growth, companies must invest in a competitive advantage that entitles them to it. Technology companies can grow in a competitive market by cutting prices or increasing promotions, but those maneuvers do not increase competitive advantage and, therefore, do not fuel long-term profitable growth. They require a company to trade margin for revenue growth—and driving revenue growth for its own sake rarely creates the success that entrepreneurs want.


Alex Castelli is a CohnReznick LLP Partner and the Leader of the Firm’s Technology Industry Practice. Alex has nearly 25 years of experience managing the audit, accounting, and reporting issues of entrepreneurial companies. Contact Alex at alex.castelli@cohnreznick.com. Follow CohnReznick’s Technology Practice on Twitter @CR_TechInd.

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