Finding the Right Teaming Partner

December 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs | 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, Stu Funk of LMI and Amy Deora of Summit share teaming insights from a recent project.


Many factors drive teaming partner success. Whether you are looking for the right set of skills to meet client requirements, or the ability to quickly turn quality proposals, it is important to be strategic about teaming. Stu Funk of LMI and Amy Deora of Summit recently partnered on a cost savings analysis of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) energy investments. They share their insights on teaming strategy.

Q: What do you look for in teaming partners?

Stu Funk: We view small business partnerships as essential to LMI’s health. We look for small businesses with strong management that help us better understand client problems and meet niche needs. When an opportunity arose in support of HUD, we felt that Summit was a great fit, given its strong track record with the client. We also felt the project showed promise in advancing how agencies measure energy efficiency. Summit brought key analytical capabilities and organizational knowledge.

Amy Deora: We often look for the opportunity to be on a team where we can use our core competencies in partnership with a firm that has a different set of competencies, which ultimately allows us both to reach a greater breadth of projects than either firm could complete alone. For example, for our current partnership, LMI brings subject matter expertise in best practices in energy efficiency programs, whereas Summit provides methodologically rigorous utility consumption modeling, while other teaming partners bring expertise in affordable housing policy. In this way, we’re more than the sum of our parts and can provide comprehensive approaches to client problems.

Q: How does “culture” affect your choice in partners?

Stu Funk: As a not-for-profit consultancy, a client-focused culture means everything. We are fortunate that profit is not the driving force behind how we vet and deliver projects. We place our clients first and we like our partners to do so as well. We find this mindset makes a difference in the quality we deliver. Summit showed care for solving our client’s problem before worrying about the bottom line.

Amy Deora: Summit’s most fruitful teaming partnerships also come from mutual client focus. LMI has been a good fit for us because of this shared priority. In cases where teaming hasn’t worked well or we decide against embarking on the project together, it usually is because the firm lacks the same focus on client satisfaction.

Q: What do you bring to your teaming relationships?

Stu Funk: We strive to be an excellent teaming partner. While we need to consider the financial success and sustainability of our small business partners, we are committed to supporting them where we can — from offering access to project management systems to providing training and market intelligence. With Summit, we have discussed “capture” on other opportunities and our current work led to some new work for Summit within the same office.

Amy Deora: Even though Summit is a small business, we know it’s a two-way street when teaming with a larger business. We don’t just expect a large business to bring us opportunities; we need to provide them as well. We have strong client relationships and subject matter experts that can bring our partners, even those that are much larger firms, into new lines of business, or engage them to provide additional support on our ongoing projects. Small businesses can be the leader in this way, opening up networks for larger businesses, while benefiting from larger firms’ bench strength.

Q: What advice do you give someone who is testing the waters of a new teaming relationship?

Stu Funk: The ultimate goal with teaming partners is to craft a plan that solves a client problem. Make sure client needs are being addressed up front, so that you not only bid and price effectively, but you deliver on your promises. From the outset, you and your teaming partners should be in agreement on what needs to be delivered.

Amy Deora: Setting clear expectations from the beginning is key, especially in large, complex, and fixed-price projects. Even in the business development stage, clear roles and responsibilities should be determined. Be honest with your potential teaming partner about any potential staffing “holes” or any areas in which you do not have strong qualifications so that you can all better prepare to serve each other and your client.


Stu Funk leads the energy and climate change practice at LMI, a not-for-profit consulting firm dedicated to advancing the management of government. He has 38 years of experience in energy and logistics planning and execution, climate change planning and management, strategic planning, facility planning and recapitalization, weapon-system acquisition, and resource analysis

Amy Deora is senior manager in the applied statistics and economics practice group at Summit, a data analytics advisory firm that guides federal agencies, financial institutions, and litigators as they decode analytical challenges. More about her background and experience can be found at the Summit website.

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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, Jeanine T. Dillon, a consultant at member company LMI, discusses the importance of a business-focused information technology (IT) strategy and how to develop a clear line of sight between business problems, strategies, and IT projects.


Developing a business-focused information technology (IT) strategy is critical to the success of any IT leadership group. Whether you’re working with the whole organization or a specific department, your IT strategic plan needs to link all proposed projects to the pain points of business users and their customers.This clear line of sight between business problems, strategies, and IT projects facilitates buy-in, identifies barriers and strengths, and aligns potential projects with business goals. To develop a clear line of sight, first identify your organization’s pain points, or deficiencies. How? Schedule interviews with key stakeholders. Talking to people from across the enterprise reveals how they and their customers perceive the need for change and provides them the opportunity to shape solutions.ID-100175616This human touch is critical in securing widespread buy-in where stakeholders feel like they are a part of the solution. It also provides the opportunity to document activities, applications, information classes, and roles, as well as desired end states.Armed with this information, you can employ the following three steps to develop an IT strategic plan that ensures investments address business problems.

Step 1. Compare current and target states to identify gaps

First, evaluate how well your current practices address business problems and identify gaps that, when corrected, will produce a more effective target state. Using stakeholder input, you can then identify high-level strategies that enable your organization to transition effectively to the desired state.

Step 2. Identify potential projects

For each strategy developed in the first step, identify projects to close the gap and achieve the desired state. Be sure every potential project maps with strategies that address business problems. If they don’t align, consider dropping them.

Step 3. Translate projects into a strategic plan

Now it’s time to prioritize your projects by identifying the time-phased order—short, near, and long term—in which they should be considered. Again, stakeholder input is critical. To rank your projects, you’ll need to identify resources needed, dollar costs, and critical success factors.

Sample problem

An organization feels its requisitions take too long to process. Following are steps to develop a clear line of sight between IT investment and the issue.

Step 1. Through interviews, it is discovered current processes require requisitions to be printed, manually signed, and faxed to order fulfillment. Management wants to see an automated, end-to-end order processing system to minimize processing time. With this desired future state in mind a potential strategy is to update current systems to enhance e-commerce.

Step 2. Employing digital certificates is one potential project to close the gap. Or, a permission-level login might be added to the current system to serve as authorization.

Step 3. After reviewing the projects, it is discovered digital certificate technology is used elsewhere in the organization, making it a good short-term opportunity. After some consideration, adding the permission-level login might be a near-term initiative. Assessing the resources and costs for each project, as well as critical success factors, the projects are ranked.

When executed across-the-board, developing a clear line of sight helps you and your organization invest in IT projects that address critical business problems. Involving stakeholders in decision-making at every step helps you ensure IT projects are wholly related to solving business problems.


Jeanine Dillon is a member of LMI’s Information Management group, which provides strategic advice and program management support to government agencies implementing enterprise-wide systems. Jeanine has 15 years of professional enterprise architecture (EA) consulting experience. She uses her skills in EA design, development, modeling, and analysis to assist federal agencies, both civil and defense, with reviewing and improving processes, planning migration of information and implementation strategies, and analyzing requirements, often using structured methods and tools.

 

 

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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, Kathy Stershic of member company Dialogic Research and Communications shares how public sector CIOS can and should prepare to take advantage of the Internet of Things while creating a secure, trusted foundation for the long term.


Gartner defines IoT as “the network of objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or external environment.” At present, that generally means a machine-to-machine connection, although an expanded ‘Internet of Everything’ may well evolve to include people-to-machine and process-to-machine connections in an ever-growing ecosystem.While select commercial applications are beginning to appear, at this very early stage IoT is one area in which Public Sector IT has a unique opportunity to lead—creating large scale deployments driven by constituent demand, growing security threats, and the economic imperative to “do new with less.” For example, smart street lighting solutions can reduce crime while saving money; combined water management, smart grid and waste management can yield greater ROI on energy investment; connected warfighters can bring dominance to the battlefield, faster.

While the opportunities are many, so are the risks. IoT presents exponentially increased threats in a dynamic landscape. There is no more network perimeter. Embedded, non-standardized sensor hardware creates an increased number of connected threat points, many of which will result from the ‘smartification’ of traditionally dumb devices never intended for software or IP and built by manufacturers not accustomed to thinking about digital security.

There is a pending vast amount of data to be generated by new sources—how must it be secured as it moves and permutates? The public internet is highly vulnerable, but even isolated networks are not impermeable— think back just a short time to Stuxnet.

Human error is a leading security concern, whether due to inadequate data security policies, non-adherence to existing policies, intentional malicious acts, or even the increasing shift to BYOD.

IoT success hinges on trust, making privacy another major issue. What data is captured and stored? How? Who owns it? How may it be used? How should and will it be protected through its use cycle, and by whom?

While these challenges apply generally to IoT deployments, the Public Sector faces some truly unique and consequential situations. Consider the implications of generating data that precisely reveals the location of dismounted soldiers in combat, the specific timing and location of municipal buses en route, safe campus video monitoring, or public health threat information, to name just a few.

Given the enormous changes that IoT will eventually bring, Federal regulation and policy are inevitable but will remain unclear for some time, politics being what they are. State and municipal-level policies vary greatly. Policy needs to be appropriately aligned to possibility for each environment, but some formidable issues must be addressed first:

-          Data Collection. Many public sector mission and business leaders want to collect data from untrusted sources that can facilitate better, faster decision-making, such as improving threat, health or environmental analysis. But many current cybersecurity policies conflict with data collection, limiting what can be captured. The pressure is on IT to open up, yet security can’t be compromised.

-          Cybersecurity. To date, the market has been served with a complexity of disparate point solutions, mostly focused on prevention. Defense will always be the priority goal, but with malwares proliferating at two per second (and accelerating), a 100% prevention strategy is simply not possible. Malicious actors need to be right only 1% of the time or less to permeate the firewall. Therefore, it’s not only prudent but necessary to prepare for the full aBack conCnuum―before, during and aEer. An appropriate solution requires layers of security that span prevention, halting an attack in progress, and accelerating remediation after it occurs.

-          Bandwidth will always be limited, but data volume is only growing, with much of it useless—driving the need for edge-based data analytics to ensure the flow of just the most relevant data to those who will make use of it. Policy must guide what is considered most important and relevant, and who needs to receive what level of information.

-          Cloud. Not surprisingly, as adoption of cloud-based services increases, incidents of cyber-attacks on cloud environments are now nearly on par with attacks of on-premise equipment. IoT connectivity will force a growing intersection of domains in the cloud environment: sensors and networks, IaaS and SaaS, Big Data analytics—yielding an increasingly expanded and vulnerable enterprise environment. Persistent security enforcement and information management policies are needed, where responsibility is shared between the service provider and the customer, to protect the data and the devices and people connected to it.

What then must CIOs consider when preparing for Trusted IoT deployment?

Given these challenging issues, Public Sector CIOs should lay some important groundwork when embarking on their IoT journey:

-          Carefully plan the number and scope of initial IoT deployments that an organization can afford to undertake, including the investment in the needed people and skills, applications, analytics technologies and risk mitigation required to capitalize on the opportunity value: IaaS/SaaS, cybersecurity and Big Data. In an era of ridiculously tight budgets, existing infrastructure must obviously be leveraged as much as possible.

-          Establish and maintain trust throughout the data lifecycle. Consider solutions like Suite B encryption (devised by the NSA), which secures data out to the tactical edge. Reliable firewalls between cloud and fog network nodes are also needed. Beyond the technology, only capture data that is truly needed for the business or mission purpose, then be transparent with citizens and stakeholders. Let them know what is collected, why, how it’s used, and how it’s managed and protected. Provide easy opt-outs when possible.

-          Prepare for the full attack continuum. Design a robust security platform rather than approaching security from a point-topoint perspective. A combined hardware and software platform managing the connection, the applications, the devices and the data will enable CIOs to more readily enforce security policies and provide for security persistency. Correctly applied analytics can identify an attack in progress and help to remediate damage more quickly, but this approach will require intelligent information stewardship along with tight security.

-          Educate the workforce. Push security messages frequently. Set reasonable access and geo-fencing policies that balance the desire for expanded data collection with the need for security, then enforce them as much as possible. Revisit them annually to assess and accommodate changing stakeholder requirements.

-          Explore innovation partnerships with the private sector to create technical and policy solutions to IoT challenges. Feasible solutions can later be adopted cross-domain to maximize the potential benefits.

The Internet of Things has the potential for sweeping disruption, perhaps on par with only a few milestones in recent history such as World War One and the Industrial Revolution. While IoT may forever change the way public sector leaders protect and serve, trust is paramount to IoT success. Constituent participation will be weighed as a trade-off for utility received, such as a better citizen experience or increased public safety. Thoughtful, holistic planning should include not just the technological, but the fiduciary, legal and ethical aspects that will engender trust and drive to the greatest public good.


Kathy Stershic is Principal Consultant of Dialog Research & Communications, a consulting firm serving IT Executives through thought leadership messaging and informed, strategic communications planning. kstershic@dialogrc.com; blogging@dialogrc.com; @kstershic

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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, John Beveridge of Rapidan Inbound shares insights both on closing deals as well as developing a business that you want to close from the Nov. 20 Small Business and Entrepreneur and Business Development, Marketing & Sales joint committee event.


One of the most difficult things for tech companies, or any company, for that matter, is creating revenue from your technology. Unfortunately, it’s not a matter of build it and they will come.On Thursday, November 20, the Small Business and Entrepreneur and the Business Development, Marketing & Sales Committees hosted a joint event titled, “The Art of the Deal – How Successful High-Growth Companies Close Deals.”

Hosted by Samantha Smith of Etail Eye, the event featured 3 executives from high-growth companies who shared their experiences on how to best generate revenue. Panelists included:

Marty Kaufman, VP of Operations, WeddingWire

Chris Marentis, CEO, Surefire Social

Carolyn Parent, Chief Experience Officer, Gravy

The panelists shared insights both on closing deals as well as doing the things you need to develop business that you want to close. Here are some of the tips the panelists shared.

  • A good way to start developing business is to develop your personal brand as well as your company brand. Creating good content is a great way to develop your personal brand and anyone can do it. Chris Marentis started Surefire Social with an eBook.
  • Economic down times create opportunities for new businesses. Carolyn Parent recommended that new businesses take what they can get and show results quickly. You may want to land that Fortune 500 account, but if a good SMB opportunity arises, take advantage of it. To close business, find some way to show them value quickly, even if it’s just a needs analysis.
  • New businesses can take advantage of sales technology to qualify new business opportunities. Marty Kaufman shared how WeddingWire’s data scientists use predictive analytics to help them target their business development resources to maximize revenue. Don’t overlook the affordable SaaS sales technology resources available to you.
  • Depending on which market you serve, your sales strategies will vary. B2C companies should look to create viral buzz around their products and services while B2B companies should position themselves as valued business partners to their customers. The B2G market moves at a glacial pace and sellers need to be early to the party.

These were just a few of the insights the panelists shared at the event. Want to learn more about business development, sales and marketing? Come to the next committee meeting on December 16.

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