Collecting Big Data Footprints

May 23rd, 2016 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs | Member Blog Posts - (Comments Off)

This week on NVTC’s blog, the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Engineering shares research on Big Data footprints that the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department is working on with the Huazhong University of Science and Technology.


vcublogXubin He, Ph.D., professor and graduate program director of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Engineering Electrical and Computer Engineering department, is working with Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) to establish an international research institute focused on creating design techniques to improve data reliability and performance. Coordination efforts are currently underway to create rotation periods for students from VCU and HUST to conduct research within each university’s state-of-the art laboratories.

“This next step in our partnership with VCU helps both universities attract more high-quality research students, while enhancing the breadth and depth of our research,” said Dan Feng, Ph.D. and dean of the School of Computer Science and Technology at HUST. Feng also serves as director of the Data Storage and Application lab at HUST.

Managing big data

Data storage is a booming industry, with lots of opportunities. Just a decade ago, computational speed dominated research efforts and water cooler conversations. According to He, data is more important now. “Data empowers decision-making and drives business progress. No one can tolerate data loss, whether that data represents favorite photos or industry trends and analytics,” added He. And yet, trying to increase data capacity or replace obsolete data systems can shut down vital data centers for days.

Research teams from both universities find creative solutions to global data pain points. For example, these collaborative research teams reduced overhead costs associated with data failures by up to 30 percent. Their algorithms allow businesses to encode data that can be easily retrieved, instead of having to rely on costly data copies or redundant data centers.

Currently, in addition to HUST, He’s team also works with top data storage companies such as EMC, which ranks 128 in the Fortune 500 and had reported revenues of $24.4 billion in 2014.

The network effect

He has a simple philosophy to gauge the success of university research efforts — he looks at who else is there. “At top data storage and systems events such as USENIX’s File and Storage Technologies conference and USENIX’s Annual Technical conference, we’re presenting with peers from Harvard, MIT, Princeton and other premier universities we admire,” said He. These conferences typically accept about 30 presentation papers — that’s less than 20 percent of the global submissions they receive.

“Professor He’s leadership represents one of many efforts to build our international reputation in industry and academia,” said Erdem Topsakal, Ph.D. and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “HUST is ranked 19 on the U.S. News World & Report’s Best Global Universities for Engineering list. When leading universities like HUST want to work closely with you, you know you’re doing something right.”

For more news from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Engineering, click here.

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Protecting Data at Its Core

May 20th, 2016 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs | Member Blog Posts - (Comments Off)

This week on NVTC’s blog, Richard Detore of GreenTec-USA discusses the deep concerned over recent cyber-attacks and offers a solution to prevent data damage.


picforblogEveryone in the cybersecurity field – both inside and outside of government – is deeply concerned over the kind of cyber-attacks that hit federal agencies such as the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and private companies such as Sony. Rightly so, government agencies and private companies continue to make large investments in cybersecurity.

This sense of urgency extends to America’s key infrastructure, as underscored last October when President Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation on Critical Infrastructure and Resilience. In that proclamation, the president noted that

“Our Nation’s critical infrastructure is central to our security and essential to our economy. Technology, energy and information systems play a pivotal role in our lives today, and people continue to rely on the physical structures that surround us. From roadways and tunnels, to power grids and energy systems, to cybersecurity networks and other digital landscapes, it is crucial that we stay prepared to confront any threats to America’s infrastructure.”

Last year, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, noted how cyber-attacks threaten public and private sector interests:

“Most of the public discussion regarding cyber threats has focused on the confidentiality and availability of information; cyber espionage undermines confidentiality, whereas denial-of-service operations and data-deletion attacks undermine availability. In the future, however, we might also see more cyber operations that will change or manipulate electronic information in order to compromise its integrity…instead of deleting it or disrupting access to it. Decision making by senior government officials (civilian and military), corporate executives, investors, or others will be impaired if they cannot trust the information they are receiving.”

And in his most recent appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Clapper stated that “Cyber threats to U.S. national and economic security are increasing in frequency, scale, sophistication and severity of impact.”

According to a recent study published by the cybersecurity firm Tripwire, 82 percent of the oil and gas companies surveyed said they saw an increase in successful cyberattacks over the past year. More than half of the same respondents said the number of cyberattacks increased between 50 to 100 percent over the past month.

Last year, federal investigators uncovered the fact that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. State Department in a major cybersecurity breach that gave Russian hackers access to the White House – including the President’s schedule.

Other threats, such as ransomware, are now on the radar screen of key policy makers in Congress, as well as the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. Ransomware encrypts a computer user’s information, and hackers then demand payment – usually in the form of crypto-currency such as Bitcoin (which is extremely difficult to trace) – to unlock the information.

In fact, in recent years several police departments have fallen victim to ransomware and have had to make payments to the hackers. One typical example happened in Maine when two police departments were hacked into. To date, the perpetrators in these cases have not been apprehended.

Obviously, protecting and securing data at its core is a key component of cybersecurity efforts for both the public and private sectors. While it is important for cybersecurity efforts to focus on improving detection and enhancing firewalls, one approach that may often be overlooked is better protecting data at its core.

picforblog2Until recently, it was not possible to fully protect data at its core –the hard drive. In 2013, Write-Once-Read-Many (WORM) disk technology was developed and successfully installed that now, for the first time, allows government agencies and private companies to safely secure and protect data at the physical level of the disk. Any and all data stored on a WORM disk cannot be altered, overwritten, reformatted, deleted or compromised in any way within a computer or data center. The WORM disk functions as a normal Hard Disk Drive with zero performance degradation from its additional built-in capabilities. These capabilities prevent data damage from any form of cyberattack.

This new breakthrough combined with encryption makes it impossible for hackers to steal data or render it useless by attacking the stored data, or disks.

In addition to advances in malware and firewall enhancements, comprehensive cybersecurity efforts should take a close look at technologies that protect data at its core. Such efforts will impact the public and private sectors in profound ways.

Richard Detore is a NVTC member and CEO of GreenTec-USA, a technology company based in Reston, VA.

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LeaseWeb’s  introduces six tips to help you find the perfect cloud partner for your business.


By now, the concept of the cloud is ubiquitous, but for many business leaders the idea still presents more challenges than opportunities. Understanding the complicated technology, not to mention the vast array of delivery models, degrees of services and levels of security available, can be a daunting task for companies under pressure to adapt or adopt.

In a new white paper, “Developing a Cloud Sourcing Strategy: Six Steps to Select the Right Cloud Partner,” LeaseWeb gives decision makers the tools they need to formulate an effective cloud strategy or to identify the right cloud partner to executive it. In summary form, these six tips will help you find the cloud partner for your business.

  1. Support and services — For most businesses, concerns about cost, security, vendor management and technology take the lead in the search for a reliable cloud partner. Surprisingly, the ability of  a provider to smoothly and effectively deliver customer support, SLAs and managed services is often minimized or overlooked, at the expense of the customer. When deciding which cloud partner best fits your needs, don’t underestimate the crucial importance of the support and services they make available. It’s the difference between a cloud partnership that takes your business to new levels and one that just adds to your daily hassles.
  2. Architectural alignment — One of the biggest considerations is whether to use a hyper-scale or traditional hosting model. Practically speaking, a hyper-scale provider requires users to be responsible for operational, day-to-day tasks, while hosting providers oversee the day-to-day management of the infrastructure elements. It’s up to you to decide which is a better fit for your technical team and business needs.
  3. Security and compliance — Data centers are a frequent target of malicious attacks, so it’s important to make sure that your cloud provider is prepared for every eventuality. This means everything from physical security and network threat recognition, to regular security audits to updated compliance certifications like HIPAA. Your data is your most valuable asset, so make sure it’s going to be treated that way.
  4. Support for data sovereignty and residency requirements — In tandem with security and compliance issues, data residency is another issue that frequently stalls cloud and hosting projects. The growth of “bring your own device” (BYOD), big data and cloud projects is dragging sensitive data to third-party clouds and data centers. This makes many business owners uneasy, which is why it’s so important to address the location of your data, the laws governing the export of data wherever it’s stored and the security and encryption of that data.
  5. Financial management — Traditional hosting companies typically offer a more basic cost scheme, based upon initial configurations with monthly utilization. This traditional model works well for companies with steady and predictable usage patterns. Hyper-scale cloud services, on the other hand, were built around granular per minute or hourly costs from their inception. Provisioning is primarily self-service and allows users to turn up server, storage and network services. This feature appeals to users who need to spin up environments in near real time and then turn them down when not needed. Consider your requirements to determine which model fits you – or if you want a mix of both.
  6. Cultural and strategic alignment — Cultural fit with your service provider is a key point that never receives enough attention in the RFP process. For nearly all enterprises, using a cloud or hosting provider is truly a new venture, one that requires extensive internal buy-in. For first-time cloud buyers, the ongoing degree of partnership is an unknown factor. Each provider engages and on-boards clients differently.

If you’re in the process of picking a cloud partner for your business, remember that no one becomes a cloud infrastructure expert overnight. But with a smart approach, you can make an informed decision that will lead to great results for your company.

Ultimately, remember that you will only achieve the higher-performance and lower-cost environments you are aiming for by choosing the provider that fits your needs and requirements best.

To learn more, visit us at here to receive our full white paper on selecting the right cloud partner today.

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Innovation Health Chief Medical Officer Sunil Budhrani urges Virginians to start a conversation about mental health. Budhrani moderated the Digital Health panel at NVTC’s Health Care Informatics & Analytics Conference on May 5.


Even for a medical expert, mental health can be a difficult topic to talk about.

I know the terminology, proper treatment plans and resources. But as a society (even among health providers), we often don’t know how to talk to those in need of mental health support – sometimes including ourselves. It’s uncomfortable. It’s emotional. It’s personal. So we don’t share. Don’t ask. Don’t act. And suicide rates across our nation skyrocket.

We need to talk about mental health.

When I joined Innovation Health as Chief Medical Officer last month, I sat down with my team and we made a collective decision. We decided to speak from our own personal experiences with mental health, however imperfectly. Because talking about mental health is the best way to truly help remove the stigma associated with mental health conditions.

Working as an ER doctor, I frequently saw patients whose anxiety and depression had gone unmanaged and ultimately led them to attempt suicide. Some I was able to help. For others there was nothing I could do. I realized that many times these patients weren’t getting the help they needed because they feared being labeled or misunderstood. Time and again, I saw that the cost of not treating these symptoms could be fatal.

Now, after so many years, so many news reports, and seeing so many of my colleagues and friends struggle, it is clear to me that we must confront the topic of mental health head-on if we are truly going to make a difference.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and I hope it will be a catalyst for this critical conversation, which impacts so many Americans.

The proof is in the numbers: according to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in four adults and one in five children in the U.S.  has a diagnosable mental health condition. In Virginia, more than 230,000 adults – roughly 3.8 percent of the population – have experienced a serious mental illness. These facts tell me one thing; we are not alone. We all know someone, work with someone, or love someone who struggles with mental illness. We may struggle with it ourselves. The fact is that anxiety, depression and substance abuse touch every community. The time to accept this is now. The time to speak up and reach out is now.

Many people don’t get the services they need because they don’t know where to start. If you or someone you know is struggling, you can start the healing process by following these three steps:

  1. Talk to a primary care physician about your mental health. They can help connect you with the right mental health support. If you do not have a PCP, I highly recommend you select one for your general health care needs.
  2. Educate yourself. Visit the Innovation Health website to take a depression or anxiety assessment or call 703-289-7560 to schedule an in-person assessment with a trained counselor.
  3. Be proactive about mental well-being. If you know someone who may be experiencing symptoms related to a mental health condition, encourage them to get the help they need.

It is never easy or comfortable to approach situations like this, but as a community we can’t let our fear or doubts stop us from helping others or ourselves dealing with mental illness. Talk about metal health with your family, friends and colleagues not just this month, but all year.

Together we can work to build a healthier world. But first, we have to start the conversation.

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John Wood of Telos Corporation provides an inside look into the Virginia Cyber Security Commission, established by Gov. Terry McAuliffe in 2014.


Shortly after taking office in 2014, Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an Executive Order establishing the Virginia Cyber Security Commission “to bring public and private sector experts together to make recommendations on how to make Virginia the national leader in cyber security.”  It was my privilege to serve as a member of the Virginia Cyber Security Commission for the past two years, and I want to commend my fellow commissioners for their contributions, particularly Co-Chairs Richard Clarke and Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson, as well as our executive director, Rear Adm. Bob Day (Ret.).  With the Commission’s two-year authority ending this spring, it’s a good time to look back on what was accomplished and to see what’s next.

Being on the Commission was an eye-opener in many ways. The Commonwealth faces numerous and evolving challenges in the battle to secure state and local government networks, and to help protect the private sector and citizens of Virginia.  I was incredibly impressed with how open and honest our discussions were as we explored many complex issues.  This includes not only commissioners but the Governor’s appointees and other state employees who were party to our discussions – they were remarkably candid with us about the serious threats Virginia faces in cyber space and what actions are needed. We heard from and worked with representatives from state and federal law enforcement, the Virginia chief information officer, and other state government information security professionals. It was refreshing to hear such blunt assessments of our vulnerabilities – there was no “bureaucratic” caution, probably because the threat is so real and so immediate.

The Commission served to shine a bright light on the challenges facing Virginia. We made a number of recommendations that led to subsequent actions by the Governor and General Assembly, improving Virginia’s cyber security posture.  Moreover, our activities have better positioned Virginia’s cyber security sector to be a vibrant national leader. These results are consistent with the Governor’s desire to “grow this key industry, keep Virginia’s cyber assets safe and create new, good jobs here in the Commonwealth.” 

I urge everyone to read the report issued last summer by the Commission.  It notes some of the recommendations that were already accepted by the Governor and adopted by the General Assembly, such as new laws to help prosecute cyber crime and put in place other policies to better protect Virginians.  More importantly, the report raises a number of issues that require further work.  The effort must continue – there is much to be done, and Virginia’s public and private sectors must continuously work together to illuminate the changing threats we face and to swiftly take appropriate actions to address them.

It was gratifying to see how easy it is to get things done when people work together to find consensus.  The Commission explored problems and made recommendations, and the Governor and General Assembly took action.  That’s the way government is supposed to work.

At the same time, I saw how difficult it is to get things accomplished when competing agendas battle for the same limited pool of resources. That was my biggest disappointment.  In our report, we identified a real need for dedicated funding to promote collaborative cyber security research and development between the higher education community and private sector. That course was endorsed by the members of the General Assembly’s own Joint Commission on Technology & Science (JCOTS), which recommended $5 million to fund this effort. But this bi-partisan recommendation was set aside in Richmond, at least for now, because there were simply too many R&D agendas fighting for the same pool of money and attention.  I am hopeful the Governor and General Assembly will return to this because I firmly believe, as do many of my fellow Commissioners and the members of JCOTS, that collaborative R&D will be a key element in our drive to grow the industry and make Virginia THE leader in cyber security.

One final note: cyber security does not recognize man-made, political boundaries.  In that light, we in the technology sector should be looking at where other companies and other states are making investments (like in R&D), and see where we might do the same. Similarly, I hope the Commission’s work will set an example for other states, and help to chart a path for Gov. McAuliffe to pursue greater cooperation among the states.  I know he is interested in making intrastate and interstate cyber security a major focus during his upcoming term as chairman of the National Governors Association, and Virginia’s cyber security leaders in the private sector should support his efforts in any way we can.

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Kristin D’Amore of Dovel Technologies provides a look into how Virginia is supporting student innovation, an essential asset to the Commonwealth’s economy.


New businesses account for nearly all net new job creation and almost 20 percent of gross job creation as well as being responsible for a disproportionate share of innovative activity in the United States.* There is an enormous amount of entrepreneurial activity occurring at institutions of higher learning throughout the country, and Virginia is taking strides to strengthen student innovation on its campuses. On April 14, 2016, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed into law legislation that directs the Boards of Visitors of public colleges and universities to adopt intellectual property (IP) policies that are supportive of student entrepreneurship. The legislation, which was sponsored by Del. Charniele Herring, was supported by NVTC and a broad coalition of higher education and business community organizations across Virginia.

The legislation reduces some barriers to entry for student entrepreneurs by clarifying existing university IP policies to specify the conditions under which institutions of higher education own intellectual property as opposed to student ownership. Current policies at some institutions of higher education create uncertainty about IP ownership, which discourages students from launching new ventures, starting businesses, or commercializing research based on their own ideas. The bill encourages a campus culture that supports entrepreneurship and motivates Virginia’s universities to be hubs of creativity and innovation with the potential to drive regional economic growth through research commercialization and new business formation.

The issue of student entrepreneurship and IP rights was raised by the Governor’s Council on Youth Entrepreneurship, which was formed in August 2015 to study and recommend ways to support young business owners and innovators in the Commonwealth. The group is comprised of leaders in higher education, business, innovators and entrepreneurs. As a member of the Council, I was pleased to see an early win for young entrepreneurs and students across Virginia.

Increased student innovation and promoting IP commercialization and new patents by students is critical to growing Virginia’s economy.  Statistics from the Council on Virginia’s Future show that although Virginia’s rate of patent formation has improved in recent years, it is still well below the U.S. average. Furthermore, Virginia universities generated 1.94 startups per one million residents in 2013, measurably below the national rate of 2.38 startups and ranking the Commonwealth 27th in the country.

The Council on Youth Entrepreneurship is continuing its efforts assessing resources and opportunities in Virginia for young entrepreneurs and will be presenting additional recommendations to the Governor later this year.  The Council will make additional recommendations on areas including financial incentives for business formation, improving regulatory processes for entrepreneurs, strengthening academic programs for student innovators in K – 12 and higher education, and marketing the assets of Virginia’s education system to students, faculty, and business leaders across the country.  The Council’s efforts are focused on providing the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators a solid foundation from which to launch their ideas, ultimately leading to further growth in the economy.

* According to the Kauffman Foundation, the largest foundation in the world devoted to entrepreneurship.

Kristin D’Amore is Director, Market Development and Strategy at Dovel Technologies and a member of Governor McAuliffe’s Council on Youth Entrepreneurship. 

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 This week on NVTC’s blog, George Lavallee of NeoSosytems offers five challenges and solutions to help customers receive the most out of CER.


Deltek Costpoint Enterprise Reporting (CER) provides customized, data-driven business intelligence (BI). Fueled by the IBM Cognos 10 analytics engine, CER enables organizations to mine their Costpoint data to provide consistent snapshots of performance, view historical trends and predict results.

CER is the king of BI. With state of the art capabilities, there are also potential roadblocks (employee turnover, user experience levels and changing data/accounting needs, other systems within the enterprise) that can keep companies from fully reaping these benefits. Unresolved, these challenges can cause inaccuracies, consume months of time and erode leader confidence.

1.   Powerful Customization Capabilities

While running CER reports is simple, developing them can be challenging  for users unfamiliar with Costpoint’s underlying data structure. To solve this problem, Deltek created standard reports (CER Reports) covering everything from project management to payroll to procurement. These prebuilt templates enable users to quickly generate reports that capture the most commonly used  fields across a wide swath of businesses. However, they may not include user-defined fields or specific metrics that you have implemented for your specific needs.

To capture these data, enterprises will want to build custom reports or modify existing standard reports. Creating or modifying Cognos reports requires a strong working knowledge of both the Cognos tool as well as the structure of the Costpoint database. For example, you can’t simply click a button to tailor a report to your accounts payable process or labor management structure. You will need to understand where the pertinent data elements reside and how to access them using the Cognos toolset. Many intermediate users lack the skills to effectively craft custom reports.

2. Complexity of Government Contracting Accounting Data

Costpoint uses more than 1,800 inter-related data tables that capture a wealth of information about your company. Access to this complex store of data can be of great benefit to your organization, but creating a report that captures the data relevant to your needs challenges many organizations. Many users are unsure about which data to query and how to convey it on a well-designed report. Common questions include:

  • What data tables do I access?
  • How do I arrange the data?
  • Which charts do I use?
  • What rendering options are best?

Additionally, most organizations have budgets and forecasts and want to integrate this data with actual results within their reports. You may have used another system to create your budgets, such as TM1, Adaptive or even Excel. Accordingly, integrating this data into reports generally means pulling data from systems outside Costpoint, further compounding complexity.

3. Robust Security

Increasingly in today’s world, data breaches are affecting companies in all sectors. Breaches tarnish a company reputation, expose data and sabotage audit requirements. Fortunately, Cognos and CER deliver robust and highly configurable security controls. The hundreds of available settings, however, can stymie many organizations.

Novice and even intermediate users may not realize that out-of-the box Cognos installations may not incorporate security settings that are optimal for their company’s situation. Organizations could inadvertently expose proprietary data and confidential employee information. For instance, you might assume that granting access to the projects package would only enable users to see project-related data but close examination of that data reveals that confidential employee information may be included if it is not properly secured by appropriate user-specific security profiles. The default security settings may not be sufficient to provide the degree of security required in rapidly changing environments.

4. Analytics Development and Optimization

Unless you have a dedicated analytics staff with the required expertise, individuals developing your reports may not be effective. Why? Developing reports and maximizing efficiency requires experience with both Costpoint and Cognos.

Often, employees tasked with reporting business intelligence have other duties. CER management is a part-time responsibility. They may have deep functional knowledge, but minimal understanding of Costpoint data structures and Cognos query and reporting requirements.

If you are caught in this situation the results can be challenging. Inexperienced users take 10 to 20 times longer to develop a report than an expert. Reports can be late compressing the time available for meaningful analysis as well as diverting time away from other business-critical duties, which may better align with their hired skillset.

5. Meaningful Results

Inexperience can also cause inaccuracy in reported results. Novice users may query the wrong data or omit data that would dramatically improve the reports usefulness. Such mistakes could put contracts at risk or result in poor or ill-informed business decisions. You want your reports to carry the most meaningful data possible.

Imagine you’ve tasked your logistics manager with developing an incurred cost submission report. That individual skillfully maintains your supply chain. But he or she doesn’t use Costpoint every day and may not understand which direct and indirect cost tables to query. Your report might miss critical costs or include unallowable items.

Errors like these erode leader confidence. Just one inaccurate report, and senior managers may mistrust all your data outputs. You’ve damaged your reputation and possibly jeopardized your contracts simply because you didn’t fully understand the data structures and how to best capture the data that conveys the most meaning.

Signs You Need Help

How do you know if these challenges are hindering your data analytics? Talk to your users and business managers. If you hear the following, you are probably underutilizing the power of CER or you might need a CER tune-up.

  1. Reports are consistently late.
  2. More time is spent collecting data than analyzing it.
  3. Executives don’t trust data accuracy.
  4. Significant manipulation is required to analyze data.
  5. Reports have unusually long run times.
  6. Project managers lack administrative visibility (i.e., they can’t see unpaid invoices, approaching funding ceilings, missing bill rates, etc.)

Consequences of Inaction

Inexperienced users waste time collecting the wrong data and not enough time analyzing results. Inaccuracies cause executives to doubt the validity of all your reports. Poor security can expose proprietary data and compromise audit results. Depending upon the number of users, solving these challenges could save your company months of labor and lead to better, more timely business decisions.

If you owned a Telsa, you would make sure you were trained and educated in how to fully utilize it. At a minimum you would take it to experts to make sure it was operating efficiently and effectively.

What You Need to Know:

To fully benefit from Deltek CER, companies should routinely assess their CER configurations, processes and output. A CER tune-up is easy and should be a standard operating procedure within all Deltek organizations. Maximizing the power of CER will allow companies to reap substantial benefits, overcome any “obstacles” and enable their organizations to succeed.

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