Gartner predicts there will be an estimated 8.4 billion IoT devices by 2020. Tenable President, Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder Jack Huffard discusses how the proliferation of digital assets and connected devices are creating an exposure gap in cyber defenseand shares how organizations can fight back against cyber-attacks. Huffard participated on the Successful Cybersecurity Growth Companies In the Region panel at the Capital Cybersecurity Summit on Nov. 15, 2017.


jack-huffard-2015-2-webIt’s been more than two years since the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) disclosed one of the largest data breaches in history, but just last week, the agency’s inspector general gave them a failing grade when it comes to critical areas like risk management and contingency planning.

In addition, the data breaches and attacks we’ve recently seen across a variety of industries, including entertainment, critical infrastructure, retail and finance, make it clear that all organizations are still failing when it comes to basic cyber hygiene.

Today, a company’s assets range not just from laptops to servers, but include mobile devices, internet-connected appliances and the cloud. The latest research shows the number of these assets are only going to increase. For example, Gartner predicts there will be an estimated 8.4 billion IoT devices by 2020. And according to a 2016 IDG Enterprise Cloud Computing Survey, 70 percent of organizations already have apps in the cloud and 16 percent more will in 12 months. This modern, elastic attack surface, where the assets themselves and their associated vulnerabilities are constantly expanding, contracting and evolving, has created a massive gap in organizations’ ability to truly understand their cyber exposure at any given time.

Another major component of today’s elastic attack surface is operational technology (OT), particularly given the growth in the risk of cyber-attacks against critical infrastructure sectors. A recent Ponemon Institute study on the state of cybersecurity in the U.S. oil and gas industry found, for example, that OT targets now comprise 30 percent of all cyberattacks. Like cloud and IoT assets, the cyber exposure gap is exacerbated by the mismatch of cyber measures deployed by critical infrastructure companies and the rapid pace of digitization in operations. Operational technologies present an additional challenge – they often can’t be assessed with the same approaches as IT assets, creating blind spots for security operations and compliance teams.

We recently announced a partnership with global engineering and technology leader Siemens that aims to address those unique risks. The product, Industrial Security from Tenable, was designed specifically for industrial control systems and will be delivered through Siemens to give energy and utilities companies full visibility into production networks to reduce compliance risk and their cyber exposure.

Both public and private organizations in every sector need to change their approach to cyber risk to effectively manage their cyber exposure. That starts with understanding and protecting what matters most across their entire attack surface. And it means looking at server and endpoint hardening, IoT discovery and hardening, container and web app vulnerability identification and OT asset and vulnerability detection.

Understanding risk and cyber exposure is also an awareness issue that should start at the top. If the C-suite and board of directors know which areas of their business are secure or exposed, that knowledge can drive strategic business decisions, including where and how much to invest to reduce risk. Attackers will always find the weak link, and right now there are too many weak links – even more than companies are aware of.

This year alone, there were several high-profile, large-scale cyber-attacks, including the NotPetya destructionware, CrashOverride/Industroyer threats to critical infrastructure, and the Reaper IoT botnet. No organization wants to experience one of these security headlines firsthand, which claimed millions of dollars in company damage and compromised sensitive customer data. Only with a holistic approach that starts with basic cyber hygiene – visibility to identify all assets and their vulnerabilities – can companies secure today’s complex attack surface.

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The world’s total digital data volume is doubling in size every two years, prompting organizations to find new ways to secure their complex data. In their new NVTC member blog, LMI provides tactics for determining cybersecurity threats in your organization’s digital supply chain and securing critical data.


LMILogoThe world’s total digital data volume is doubling in size every two years, and by 2020 will contain nearly as many digital bits as there are stars in the universe. Most of this data is created and communicated over the Internet, whose “population grew by more than 750 percent in the past 15 years to over 3 billion. This population shares more than 2.5 million pieces of content on Facebook, tweets more than 300,000 times, and sends more than 204 million text messages—every minute.”

With the advent of the Internet of Things and other innovative technology platforms, organizations must continuously analyze and secure their complex data. For supply chain operations, digitalization has enabled leaders to access data faster and build stronger connections within a given supply chain. While there are clear benefits of the digital supply chain, there are challenges that need to be overcome in order to realize its full potential.

According to Ernst & Young, complex data presents numerous challenges to supply chains:

  • The volume of data is skyrocketing as diverse data sources, processes and systems show unprecedented growth. Companies are trying to capture and store everything, without first establishing the data’s business utility.
  • The fact is, technology is enabling this proliferating data complexity—continuing to ignore the need for an enterprise data strategy and information management approach will not only increase “time to insight,” but it may actually lead to incorrect insights.

LMI IMagePerhaps, none of these challenges is as critical as an organization’s ability to successfully secure its supply chain data given the IT security risks posed by the Internet. In fact, 30 percent of supply chain professionals are “very concerned” about a data breach.” The concerns of these professionals are well-founded. The number of cybersecurity breaches is growing by 64 percent every year with 60 percent of cyber breaches linked to insiders—current and former employees, contractors, service providers, suppliers and business partners.

Unfortunately, many organizations are unaware of the security vulnerabilities within their supply chain or how to determine those vulnerabilities. To help organizations determine their vulnerabilities, start by answering the following three questions:
1. How will the product be used and managed in the system? While any system breach is bad, the compromise of a system managing classified data is a much worse than a system that is managing publically available data. Understanding the use of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) equipment will help determine the resources appropriate to secure the system. In reviewing the product use, consider what other systems are connected to the focus system. A less secure system can serve as a pathway to attack a more highly secured connected system. This was the method used to steal credit card numbers from Target in 2013.

2. How is the system connected to the rest of the world? A system that is connected to the public Internet will need more reliable security, since it would be easy to find and attack. On the other hand, a system that is isolated from any other network would have a much lower risk of attack or data breach, since the attacker would need to be in physical proximity of the system.

3. Who are the system users? Are the users internal employees who are trained on security procedures or is the system accessed by a public user base which may not consider risky security behaviors? Simple security procedures, such as keeping passwords secret and maintaining current anti-virus software, cannot be counted on if you do not directly control users’ environments.

By answering these questions, organizations could quickly and effectively determine the security vulnerabilities within their digital supply chain. Organizations can also contact our cybersecurity experts who can help you monitor, prioritize, and effectively manage your risks to create an optimal level of security based on mission priorities and resource constraints.

 

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What do cloud and AI mean for human resources? Will automation replace human resource functions and associates? Read on to find out in Insperity’s newest NVTC guest blog.


insperity v2Cloud-based tech solutions for human resources offer the promise of easy installation and implementation, but does such software really eliminate the need for HR staff?

The short answer is no.

While new technical offerings can improve the efficiency and speed of many HR processes, the human touch is still needed to get the most out of the software.

For example, you’ll still need someone to “operate the machinery,” so to speak, or administer the software. In a smaller company, that may be one combination payroll and HR person. In a larger company, you may need one employee to do nothing but maintain, update and run the software so that your company gets the most from its capabilities.

When HR software works best

Technology is your friend when it comes to the tactical aspects of human resources. For instance, an online time tracking system that ties to your payroll and government reporting systems can save significant time and improve accuracy over manual tracking and handwritten reports.

Cloud-based HR software can automate formerly complex, time-consuming activities including:

  • New hire paperwork, such as the I-9 authentication and reporting of right to work in the United States
  • Storing of data for compliance
  • Tracking of critical HR data related to hours worked by project or department, turnover and more
  • Garnishments, reporting and mandatory requirements that vary by state

For example, a company operating in a big state like Texas may not be accustomed to the HR complexities of hiring across state lines. But open an office in New York, and you could have employees who work in that state but live in Connecticut or New Jersey.

HR software can help ensure your compliance with multiple states’ payroll tax requirements, and prevent you from having to learn and implement such widely disparate laws on the fly. The best-case scenario is when you have the right software in place to facilitate efficiency and compliance, with access to experienced HR professionals to guide you.

What to look for in HR software

Once you’ve decided whether an HR software package delivers the basic functions your business needs and will help drive company goals, it’s time to take a deeper dive into its functionality.

Some questions to consider:

  • What purpose will this software serve? Will it eliminate, add to or integrate with your existing systems?
  • Who will administer the software? Will they require extra training? If yes, how much? How much training is included in the price?
  • Is this software backed by HR on demand? For example, even with the best software, you’ll still have the occasional compliance question. Look for a software solution with human support.
  • Will this software integrate with other existing software for payroll, time and attendance, or enterprise resource planning (ERP)?

As you talk to software vendors, it’s vital you involve frontline workers who operate existing systems to help you evaluate any new HR software and its integration requirements. Depending on your current set-up, this may mean you bring in the payroll administrator, ERP data manager, compliance officer or the HR specialist managing the current performance system.

These are the people who can help you avoid the costly mistake of buying software that ultimately will not “play nice” with your other systems, since they know the intricate details of how your existing systems really work.

Why leadership is still needed

While cloud-based software may streamline many HR processes, there’s no substitute for sound leadership. Think “strategic” versus “tactical.”

Yes, software can help a company align its objectives and drive engagement through performance management, employee feedback mechanisms, people analytics, training, and compensation and rewards systems. But no software will ever replace a leader who communicates, inspires and motivates employees to achieve the organization’s goals.

As a business grows, it becomes harder to keep employees aligned with the company’s goals and strategies. Software can help keep your ship on the right course, but at the end of the day, any technology solution is only as good as the people behind it.

Learn more about Insperity here.

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Did you know ninety-nine percent of Internet traffic travels through fiber cables on the ocean floor? Or that Virginia has one of the world’s most abundant fiber optic cable networks? In NVTC’s latest blog, DFT Data Centers Vice President of Product Management and NVTC Data Center and Cloud Infrastructure Committee Leadership Board Member Vinay Nagpal discusses the fascinating world of fiber connectivity and the exciting new subsea fiber cables coming to Virginia Beach.  


Subsea Cable Ocean
Subsea fiber cables on the ocean bed

Ever since the advent of the Internet, there has been a common myth that Internet traffic travels through satellites. That is not true. Ninety-nine percent of the world’s Internet traffic travels through subsea cables that are laid on the ocean bed, like the cable shown in the picture (image, left). The oceans cover over seventy-one percent of the Earth’s surface and the explosive growth of the Internet that we are experiencing is constantly challenging us to ensure that there is adequate infrastructure in the oceans to handle the growth.

Northern Virginia, also known as the “Data Center Alley” is not only the mecca of data centers in the world, but also has the most abundant fiber optic cable network installed underneath its roads, pavements, medians and sidewalks. This has resulted in an astounding statistic: upwards of seventy percent of the world’s Internet traffic passes through Northern Virginia. It is striking to note that up until now, all of that traffic when it leaves the eastern seaboard of the U.S., travels either north making its way to New York or New Jersey, or south, making its way to the Miami area, where landing stations exist connecting the land to ocean to get to the outside world. This land-ocean-land connection happens by virtue of subsea cables that are connecting two sea ports between countries, and often, between different continents altogether.

Connected World
The world at your fingertips

Why are subsea cables important? They are important because of the unimaginable growth of the Internet, and the way the Internet has been intertwined into our lives. The use of the Internet from wearable tech, to autonomous cars, to Internet-enabled toasters and refrigerators, is just the beginning and we have barely scratched the surface in the potential adoption of the Internet. The Internet has drastically changed the taxi, hotel and so many more industries. It has given us the freedom and power. Corporate America is moving their IT infrastructure out of their facilities, and placing it in the hands of the shared technology czars, who are managing enterprise data and making sure it is accessible by users in a cost-effective model.

Extremely connected is the world that we live in – from WiFi at the airports, railway stations, inside airlines, on cruise ships – to fast fiber connection in our homes, we often take this WiFi enablement for granted. Without fiber cables, there would be no streaming a 4K movie from the comfort of our reclining sofas. We wouldn’t have the ability to get the content and data when we want it, where we want it and how we want it.

Fiber cable
Subsea fiber cable

Fascinatingly, these fiber cables (image, right) are thinner than human hair and about 1,000 times stronger. The light transmitted through these cables carries all of our data from one point to the other, from one city to the other, from one state to the other, from one country to the other, and from one continent to the other.

The transoceanic cables connecting continents together is not a new concept – the very first trans-oceanic was laid on the ocean bed over 150 years ago in the 1850s. There are currently over 350 subsea cables carrying Internet traffic daily on the ocean beds, and over 40 active subsea cable projects underway across the world. We are doing a great job feeding the sharks. Yes, the sharks still look forward to biting on these cables, and it remains to be a persistent problem on the ocean bed.

These cables are extremely expensive to build and operate – typically few hundred million dollars. A cable can easily cost in the vicinity of $300-$400 million dollars and take about two to three years from the concept to operational. In that time period, there is the feasibility study that is done and you need to acquire permits and licensing; as you can imagine crossing international waters involves multiple countries and their laws.

VA Beach Subcables
Virginia Beach connected to the world

For the very first time in the Commonwealth of Virginia, we are going to have a direct fiber cable crossing the Atlantic. This cable (click on image, above, to enlarge) will connect Virginia Beach to Bilbao, Spain. Co-owned by Microsoft, Facebook and Telxius (the subsea cable company, owned by Telefonica, the Spanish carrier), the cable, called MAREA (Spanish for “Tide”), when installed and operational will be the fastest cable crossing the Atlantic ocean ever. The second cable under development is BRUSA, connecting Virginia Beach to Puerto Rico to Brazil. A third project under final stages of consideration is Midgardsormen, which will connect Virginia Beach to Blaabjerg, Denmark. In addition, there are nine additional cable projects under consideration. Understandably, not all of these projects will see the day of the light (literally speaking); but by the time some of these projects become a reality, I am sure there will be additional new projects under consideration.

July 13 meeting
NVTC Data Center & Cloud Infrastructure Committee meeting on July 13, 2017

On July 13, Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) held its Data Center and Cloud Infrastructure Committee meeting on the topic Subsea Cables Coming to Virginia Beach; What It Means for Virginia and the World. The distinguished panel included speakers from Telxius, AcquaComms, NxtVn, the City of Virginia Beach, with special cable samples and maps provided by TE SubCom.

Part 2 of the meeting will be held later this year and will focus on bringing the subsea capacity from Virginia Beach to Northern Virginia and other parts of the country. If you are interested in participating in Part 2 of the meeting, please contact Vinay Nagpal at vnagpal@dft.com.

You can view the presentation slides from the July 13 meeting by clicking here or viewing below.

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NVTC’s newest blog is by Dovel Technologies Vice President Mike Atassi. Atassi recently moderated the healthcare data analytics panel at the inaugural Capital Health Tech Summit on June 15, 2017. Scroll below for full video of the panel.


Final Logo Capital Health Tech Summit NVTC (2) Data is being generated at unprecedented levels – with more than 2.5 quintillion bytes being created every day.  Unlocking the potential value of this data will help accelerate research, develop targeted therapeutics and improve the delivery of healthcare. Today’s information and computational sciences and technologies are playing a critical role in delivering better healthcare to everyone.

Accelerating the path to discovery and finding targeted therapeutics to address some of the most chronic diseases is a promise that can be largely fulfilled with exploiting available data. Whereas primary investigation has been the most important source for generating data and discoveries, today we see how data scientists are curating existing data to make it searchable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.

A panel of experts discussed the role of data analytics in the continuum of health at the recent NVTC Capital Health Tech Summit and provided valuable lessons on how to protect, govern, and transform data into valuable information and health insights. The panelists discussed different ways to enable health data to be searchable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. Key themes from the discussion included:

Building a data-rich infrastructure: Incorporating genomic and proteomic data into clinical delivery is a challenge that is being met with innovation in technology and information architecture, transforming large, disparate data sets into consumable, actionable packages.

Utilizing advancing technologies: Deploying machine learning and predictive analytics alongside data, processes, and the workflows that already exist within hospitals can help to predict and prescribe new protocols.  For example, the use of predictive analytics and machine learning resulted in a 39 percent reduction in patient falls in just six months at a local hospital.

Improving wellness: Enabling the delivery of integrated wellness, disease management, and healthcare services to the community based on insights from data. For example, data analytics is playing a key role in improving the effectiveness and global efficiency of transfusion medicine and cellular therapeutics.

Reducing risks: Helping to prevent the spread of major diseases, such as the Zika virus, by integrating datasets from multiple sources to identify geographic risk patterns. Data also allows for the benchmarking of activities to guide decisions that will make sure that the right person gets the right treatment at the right time.

Preparing a new generation of data scientists: Bringing together interdisciplinary individuals with domain and technology expertise to develop leading public health and precision medicine professionals. Today, many institutions of higher education are offering advanced degrees in data sciences – combining the knowledge of biological sciences with computational and mathematical sciences to provide a generation of data scientist capable of unlocking values hidden in large and complex data systems. Data scientists today are already showing tremendous progress in biomedical computing in terms of developing meaningful solutions for analytics, visualization, as well as data management and governance.

With these advances, real challenges remain with limitations raised by ethical, legal, procedural and even technological constraints. In order to successfully meet these challenges, the industry must use a sound foundation of proven techniques and processes to ensure predicable results. However, the continued convergence and collaboration of biomedical sciences and technologies – along with increased demand for precision healthcare – will provide the impetus to meet these challenges and deliver real breakthroughs for better health.

View full video from the panel:

 

The panel discussion was moderated by Mike Atassi, Vice President, Dovel Technologies and was comprised of Aaron Black, Chief Data Officer, Inova Translational Medicine Institute; Dr. Abigail Flower, Lecturer, Department of Systems and Information Engineering, University of Virginia; Chris Ghion, Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Adventist HealthCare; and Dr. Barbee I. Whitaker, Senior Director, Department of Research, AABB. 

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Common Pitfalls of Cloud Migration Planning

July 11th, 2017 | Posted by Alexa Magdalenski in Cloud | Member Blog Posts - (Comments Off)

Is your organization considering a transition to the cloud? Or is your company already making the switch? You’ll want to read this new guest blog post by Tom Tapley, senior consultant in the Systems Development group at LMI


LMILogoEvery technology wave requires people to develop new skill sets. Tomorrow’s job titles have not been invented yet. So when a government agency decides to move computing to the cloud, it sets off a chain reaction of changes for everyone in that agency who works with technology. “Moving to the cloud” may sound like a technology project, but it is just as much about training people.

In many agencies, teams of people procure and maintain servers, routers, switches and related hardware. These employees are experts in making machines run smoothly, quickly and reliably. Days are spent physically configuring servers in data centers.

With cloud computing, hands-on skill sets are no longer needed; they become the responsibility of cloud service providers. The servers, racks, and air-conditioned space, which may have been in government properties, will be empty and the space repurposed.

Now agency employees need training to monitor and manage the cloud, using scripts rather than screwdrivers. In the past, there may have been a division between those who coded and those who ran server operations. Those roles are becoming more and more integrated.

Planning for Migration with a Cloud Adoption Framework

A government agency may better prepare for cloud migration by spending more time planning. LMI has developed a Cloud Adoption Framework with four steps: Decide, Prepare, Implement, and Improve. The phase that most often is overlooked is Prepare, and it’s not difficult to see the difficulties that arise when this happens.

Signs an Agency Has Skipped Planning

Here are signs an agency needs to spend more time preparing before engaging in cloud projects:

  1. An agency only hires vendors who migrate data. Many cloud vendors have refined the process of migrating data and applications efficiently. However, if they don’t bring any expertise in enterprise architecture, they may just be moving data and applications in a piecemeal fashion, which creates system lag times as connections become more tenuous (some hosted onsite, while others are hosted in the cloud).
  2. No clear path for cloud migration. In 2010, a Cloud First policy was announced for the federal government. Many agencies tackled easier migration projects, such as switching to Google Mail. After that, they were stuck. They didn’t have a clear idea of what to migrate next and had no model for evaluating what to move or how to gauge the impact of moving different IT assets.
  3. Employee resistance. If employees fear their jobs will change or be eliminated, it is possible they will not provide the most accurate information about the necessity or benefits of the cloud. However, if it is clear employees will be supported as they shift to a new model, it is far more likely they will become allies in efforts to eliminate inefficiencies.

LMi graphic

Cloud Migration Improves IT Roles

Managing how employee skill sets will change often is not part of cloud migration planning at the enterprise level. But if employees are engaged in a change management process and it is clearly communicated how cloud will make their work more satisfying, the agency accrues major benefits.

  • Increased agility: In the past, a sudden need for increased processing power kicked off a complicated procurement process, which involved getting buy-in for budgets, as well as provisioning and cloning servers. With cloud computing, the employee runs a script to create one or a thousand new servers. If the need for increased power lasts for a short time, the employee just reduces requests for cloud services. No more physical servers take up space.
  • Less time spent on overextended systems: Most government agencies have systems running on old technology (they may even have code from the time of mainframes). Old code is wrapped in newer code, like a ball of yarn, and new systems are interacting with it. A team might want to migrate one piece to the cloud, but first must disentangle all the pieces. A project manager might estimate a cloud migration costs $25 million only to find that it is so interconnected with other systems that the true cost of the project is more like $100 million. It is critical agencies pull in employee expertise to gain a comprehensive view of systems to ensure cost effective cloud migrations. Employees often know what not to migrate, what should be shut down, and what needs to be built afresh. Most importantly, with cloud services they may focus on building new and strong applications, instead of maintaining outdated ones.
  • More in-demand skills: Learning how to manage the cloud has huge benefit for employees, since cloud-related skills are in high demand. But if agencies skip the workforce analysis piece and do not cultivate their workforce to take over cloud management, sooner or later they will find they cannot afford to hire new people with necessary IT skills.

 

Tom Tapley is a senior consultant in LMI’s Systems Development group. Since joining LMI in 1998, he has performed work for several clients including the U.S. Postal Service, GSA Public Buildings Service, GSA Federal Technology Service, U.S. Army and Defense Logistics Agency. Tapley came to LMI after nine years with the Maryland Department of the Environment, where he managed the department’s Geographic Information System and Computer Modeling Division. Tapley has an M.S .in computer systems management from the University of Maryland University College and a B.S. and M.S. from the University of Florida in physical geography. 

To learn more about cloud strategy, planning, and workforce readiness, please email ttapley@lmi.org.

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In Asurion’s new member blog post, Senior Vice President of Retail Application Delivery and Voice Services Sean Nass discusses embracing new product development models rooted in collaboration and focused on outcomes. A global leader of connected life services, Asurion partners with leading wireless carriers, retailers and pay-tv providers to provide consumers with protection and premium tech help  supporting mobile phones, consumer electronics and home appliances. 


644-012 D15b FINAL Asurion LogoThere is a big shift in how technology companies are going about business.

Many are pivoting from a process-and project-based strategy to one that is more forward-thinking. Team members are crossing boundaries, blurring the lines of previous structures and coming together in the spirit of collaboration to deliver outcomes that exceed customer expectations.

In the old model of business, the technology focus was on delivering large projects using project managers and a pool of resources, defining and limiting capacity. Instead of focusing on an outcome, teams would get together and create big requirement documents with minute details that would bog down capacity, forcing a project through months of work and still frequently achieving a result that was somehow different from how it was initially envisioned. Opportunity costs were often lost under this old model of product development.

Now businesses are pivoting, with a more forward-thinking attitude in mind. At Asurion, we recently built what we call journey teams, individuals across key sectors of our business who come together to optimize the speed with which a project achieves its desired outcome and experience for consumers. As part of this shift, we merged product, design, technology and customer experience teams to optimize the process with the project’s outcome in mind rather than focus on the process itself. The days of separate “product” and “IT” silos are behind us. We’ve combined product, design and technology teams and have empowered them to ask the question “How do we focus on what’s best for the consumer experience?”

Take the claim process as an example. Under previous models, a customer’s claim would pass through various workflows, often with redundant or unnecessary steps that may not have been a great experience for the customer. Under our journey team model, we dedicated product, technology and design leads to focus on an outcome that equates to a positive customer experience. This mentality leads to faster time to market and less waste in resource capacity, and allows our team members the ability to innovate in a rapid fashion. More importantly, the customer has a really positive experience.

We don’t tell our journey teams what to do or how to do it – instead, they innovate and test ideas and are empowered to make decisions on their own, all with this singular goal of improving consumer experience. The journey teams put together a vision based on a desired outcome, a vision that nails down what is going to work and what isn’t to drive improvements in speed, reliability and efficiency of a product’s delivery.

The shift has opened up new channels of communication and new ways of interacting across teams, even to the point of how we collocate in our workspace. We have seen a radical change in the quality of our intercommunications because people are developing prototypes, conducting tests and not working off huge requirement documents.

Our goal is to create a seamless integration of product, technology and design that optimizes the experience for our customers.

It hasn’t all been easy, but progress doesn’t occur without change. We certainly can’t transform all teams into this model at once. However, with patience and modeling teams’ successes, we are seeing increases in quality and speed, and the enthusiasm of the teams is amazing. They are so engaged because they see a direct correlation in their work and how it dramatically improves a customer interaction. There’s more alignment among product, technology and client services than we’ve ever seen before. If you are thinking of trying something similar in your offices, I recommend forming a shared goal, a shared alignment across all teams and placing the focus on future growth. Your efficiency and product development and delivery will improve, and that’s what everyone is looking for, after all.

 

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NVTC’s latest guest blog post is by Stefano Migliorisi, CEO and founder of swyMed, a provider of patented technology that expands telemedicine care to places where it was previously unavailable, powering truly mobile exceptional-quality live video encounters, even at the lowest bandwidths. Migliorisi participated on the Telemedicine and Remote Patient Monitoring Panel at the Capital Health Tech Summit on June 15. View full video from the panel below.


swymedlogoTelemedicine allows patients and doctors to connect over a distance. The industry has been growing tremendously, with the U.S. market valued at $4.9 billion in 2015 and projected to reach $6.7 billion in 2020. Others estimate the sector is significantly larger, depending on which technologies are included and how much of the infrastructure and staffing/services are included in the definition of telehealth, but the one constant is the trend of explosive growth.

In many rural and underserved areas, specialists are in short supply; just getting to the doctor’s office, which is far away in a larger city, and back home again can take an entire day. Instead, telemedicine allows a patient to remain at a local clinic for a virtual visit with the same physician, which is considerably less time consuming and more economical both for patients and healthcare providers.

Telemedicine enables specialists to “beam” themselves into underserved communities via a broadband internet connection, and can have a transformative impact on reducing cost, improving patient compliance and improving outcomes. However, many regions across the country still lack broadband Internet connections sufficient to deliver quality care virtually.

Regardless of whether patients are logging in on their home computers, data-enabled smartphones, or wireless tablet devices, one thing is generally needed: a reliable high-speed Internet connection. We typically think of this as a challenge in rural areas, but a similar dynamic plays out in urban environments, where networks can become congested.

Telemedicine Uses

Telemedicine has been effective in helping patients to better manage chronic conditions. Advances in home health care have made it possible for patients to connect with their healthcare providers from the comfort of their living rooms, improving rates for follow-up visits and treatment regimen compliance. Digital devices such as pulse oximeters, blood pressure monitors and scales can automatically send data from a patient’s home to a care manager’s desktop, where he or she can monitor the patient’s status, prioritize interventions and initiate an audio-video call where follow-up is warranted. This technology has proven particularly successful for treating chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Similar data has emerged from skilled nursing facilities (SNF) where it has been demonstrated that patient well-being and outcomes are improved, transports to the emergency room (ER) reduced and total system costs lowered  dramatically by establishing a telemedicine link between the SNF and the ER. This is particularly valuable during nights and weekends, when the SNF is less likely to have a staff doctor available. Having click to call access to a local ER, allows the patient to receive a consultation, the SNF staff to have confidence that the patient is getting the appropriate level of care, and more often than not avoids a transfer to the ER which has significant cost and staffing implications for the SNF, the ER and the health care system as a whole.

Connectivity Remains a Challenge to Telemedicine

It has been estimated that 70% of face-to-face medical encounters COULD be delivered as telemedicine encounters. As more and more potential applications of the technology are piloted and evaluated, connectivity and reliability are emerging as critical factors to overcome before virtual video care can be relied upon as a primary channel to deliver care.

* Connectivity – Telemedicine relies on Internet connectivity to function, but the same rural regions tend to have the largest physician shortages and the most barriers to Internet access. The lack of broadband infrastructure impedes both real-time services such as video visits and store-and-forward technologies, leaving a gap in coverage for patients in these areas.

* Reliability – Telemedicine requires uninterrupted connections to prevent missed instructions or possible patient mismanagement. If systems are not reliable, or need to be restarted several times in the course of a patient encounter, trust in the system on the part of providers, patients and healthcare workers will be diminished.  When telemedicine is used for acute diagnoses such as telestroke diagnosis and treatment, every minute of delay can negatively impact patient outcomes with significant long term consequences.

Numerous approaches, both from established video communication companies as well as newer market entrants have arisen to address the emerging connectivity and reliability challenges. These approaches include everything from reducing the size and quality of image transmission, to new compression algorithms, and enhancing broadband signal availability with mobile communications hotspots, to development of data transport mechanisms that can operate over low bandwidth while still delivering high quality imagery.

View full video of the panel below:

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In their new NVTC member blog post, Alvarez & Marsal Taxand discusses how companies in the tech industry can prepare for proposed tax reforms that may be implemented in the near future. Alvarez & Marsal Taxand, an affiliate of Alvarez & Marsal (A&M), a leading global professional services firm, is an independent tax group made up of experienced tax professionals dedicated to providing customized tax advice to clients and investors across a broad range of industries. Alvarez & Marsal Taxand is a founder of Taxand, the world’s largest independent tax organization, which provides high quality, integrated tax advice worldwide. 


AM_Taxand_Logo_Wordmark_color (2)Under the House Republican “Blueprint for Tax Reform” (the Blueprint), companies would be able to deduct interest expense against interest income, but no current deduction would be allowed for net interest expense. Any net interest expense would be carried forward indefinitely and allowed as a deduction against net interest income in future years. In addition, the proposed reduction of U.S. tax rates may also reduce the value of U.S. interest deductions. These proposals should impact decisions right now around multinational intercompany financing structures for tech companies, as well as other aspects of their intragroup contractual arrangements.

Until now, the high U.S. corporate income tax rate of 35 percent has created an environment that favors foreign related-party lending to U.S. affiliates, particularly when the loan is advanced from a low-tax jurisdiction. U.S. taxable income may be reduced via an interest deduction and the corresponding interest income may be captured in the lower tax jurisdiction. Alternatively, tax considerations may have made it desirable to incur third-party debt in a U.S. group company, rather than in lower-taxed group companies. The feasibility and/or desirability of these sorts of “earnings stripping” benefits would be greatly diminished by the Blueprint.

So, how are forward-looking companies, particularly in the tech industry, preparing for these potentially dramatic changes? We are seeing a number of them explore the following questions:

1. Should the debt level of U.S. group companies be reduced and, if so, how?
2. Should the interest rate be reduced on intragroup debt financing of U.S. group companies?
3. Can we replace debt financing with other forms of financing arrangements that may yield deductions other than interest expense for the U.S. company (e.g., rent expense on sale / leaseback transactions, royalty expense on intellectual property (IP) licensing transactions)?
4. Should U.S. group companies make interest-bearing loans to other group companies that can benefit from interest deductions in their countries, thereby creating interest income in the U.S., against which the U.S. company could then deduct its own interest expense (e.g., should a U.S. company be a group finance company)?
5. Can lost interest deductions be replaced by more aggressive transfer pricing for other intragroup transactions (e.g., the intragroup purchase and/or sale of goods or services)?

All of these questions regarding intragroup transactions have important transfer pricing implications. For most intragroup transactions (other than those rare instances when the comparable uncontrolled price method is the best method), the prevailing transfer pricing theory permits a range of choices for the intercompany transfer price. So, whether the decision relates to the level of U.S. indebtedness, the substitution of interest expense with other types of deductions, or the creation of interest income in the U.S., the after-tax impact of those decisions can be significantly enhanced by proactive transfer pricing planning. This is true regardless of whether the objective is the more traditional one of minimizing taxable income in the U.S., or a new one to increase taxable income in the U.S. (with the offsetting decrease in other countries with higher tax rates) in light of dramatically changed U.S. tax rules. Our international tax and transfer pricing specialists can help your company to determine the most desirable course of action and to substantiate an appropriate / defensible range of choices for intercompany prices that will yield the optimal results.

Visit A&M Taxand’s Tax Advisor Minute for more helpful insights for executives in the technology sector.

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This week’s member blog post is from Tangible Security Executive Chairman and CEO Dr. Mark Mykityshyn. Tangible Security employs the most sophisticated cybersecurity tools and techniques available to protect clients’ sensitive data, infrastructure and competitive advantage. Dr. Mykityshyn discusses the current regulatory climate around drones and unmanned aircraft systems and the need for new policies to fuel market growth in the industry.


Undoubtedly, drones and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are a very hot topic these days and their technology, business, policy and cybersecurity implications continue to rapidly expand and evolve.

Tangible Security recently participated in a roundtable meeting in Washington, D.C. that engaged thought leaders and stakeholders from aerospace and aviation, academia, Congress, government and related industry organizations. The group shared ideas, explored and challenged assumptions, and discussed policy positions and current practices in drone/UAS.

The roundtable was organized by ADS Infrastructure Partners (ADS) as part of a national campaign to help fund and establish the Drone/Unmanned Aircraft Systems Regulatory Association (DURA), the first step in unlocking the full economic value of the sector.

Roundtable conferees widely acknowledged that development of the drone/UAS commercial market is constrained, in great part, due to the existing FAA regulatory environment and the slow pace of rulemaking and certification. The group recognized that drone/UAS sector regulation requires urgent streamlining to realize full market potential, economic growth and jobs.

According to FAA’s recent market forecast, sales of UAS for commercial purposes are expected to grow from 600,000 in 2016 to 2.7 million by 2020. Industry experts have recognized that this growth, and the billions of dollars at stake, may not materialize without overhauling the current regulatory model.

Conferees also agreed that the immediate next step is to explore the pros and cons of drone industry regulation through delegation of FAA authority mandated by Congressional legislation, and to develop a blueprint for the new organization. The creation of DURA, an archetype of an industry-led public-private partnership, is an idea whose “time has come,” according to many roundtable attendees.

According to Jim Williams, head of JHW Unmanned Solutions, and most recently the Manager responsible for the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office, “The future of unmanned aircraft operations depends on finding new ways to manage the airspace and regulate the operators. Forming a delegated organization to manage the airspace, approve the vehicles, and oversee the operators is the key to opening up this extremely valuable new segment of aviation.”

To expand this dialog nationwide, ADS will hold a National Summit in Washington, D.C. in September 2017 where leaders who represent more than five hundred businesses, agencies, associations, customers and stakeholders will assemble.

If you or your organization is interested in participating in DURA or attending the National Summit in September, please don’t hesitate to email me. All members of the technology, aviation and business community are invited to attend.

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