The Evolving Role of Database Administrators

November 2nd, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs | Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

This week on NVTC’s blog, NVTC member company Robert Half discusses huge changes the past two decades have brought to database administrators and the IT industry. 


Database Administrator Jobs

To make the best decisions, organizations big and small depend on the data their systems collect on customers and internal operations. And they need someone to keep them in touch with all that information. Enter the database administrator. But today’s database admin is not the admin of the 1990s. The last two decades have brought huge changes to the IT industry. Let’s take a look at how these changes have evolved the database administrator role.

Before the data-driven Web

In the early days of computing, data and the systems it was stored and processed on were synonymous. There were no “database administrators” because the database was the system and applications themselves. The specialized role of database admin developed as operating systems became more generic and database technology grew into a separate application running on top of an operating system. Organizations needed someone to manage increasing amounts of data stored in mainframes and client/server applications. The database admin role developed into a gatekeeper and caretaker, ensuring that the data was properly maintained and helping programmers to work with it.

The Web fuels big demand

Databases did not play much of a role in the early days of the Web. However, once web development technologies improved enough to easily connect web sites to databases, the need for more database administrators became obvious. Web projects took weeks or months to build in stark contrast to the years it would take for a mainframe or client/server application to be built. With such rapid development, database administrators often found themselves trying to corral dozens of developers and applications to comply with data integrity and security standards. Since many of these web developers got their start inweb design or as “web masters,” lacking substantial experience or knowledge in database design or security principles, database administrators had to work even harder to keep things running smoothly.

Over time, the programming languages, frameworks and techniques used for web development became much more supportive of sound database design. Object/relational mapping (ORM) systems such asHibernate and Entity Framework automatically enforced best practices and greatly reduced the need for programmers to directly write database queries. The reduced exposure to direct database access made it easier for database administrators to see what code was accessing the database and to ensure that it met organizational needs and standards.

NoSQL databases, big data and the cloud

In the last few years, NoSQL databases, the big data movement and the cloud have all morphed the database admin’s role. NoSQL databases relieve many of the traditional issues of the database administrator by focusing less on structure and data relations, and shifting significant amounts of control over data into the hands of application developers.

Big data technologies have moved into the space traditionally occupied by data warehouses and made analysis faster and more capable. Like NoSQL databases, big data technologies have empowered technology professionals to perform significant amounts of work themselves and allow database administrators to focus on improving performance and finding better solutions.

Cloud applications have changed the database administrator’s job as well. As organizations put more data in applications outside the firewall, database admins have had to find ways to enable integrations to work with these applications and still maintain security and data integrity. Use of cloud applications has decentralized some data and pushed it into specialized silos outside the database administrator’s reach, making it more difficult to see what data is stored where. At the same time, organizations often still have their most critical data stored in traditional relational databases. The database administrator of today is adaptive and knowledgeable about multiple types of data storage and maintenance.

According to our Salary Guidethe average starting salary for database administrators is projected to increase 5.6% in 2016 to a range of $95,750 – $142,750 in the United States. Data experts will be in demand, along specialists in mobile and security, in the coming year. The major qualifications to become a database administrator are:

  • A strong technical foundation in database structure, configuration, installation and practice
  • Knowledge and experience in major relational database languages and applications, such as Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and IBM DB2
  • At least two years of postsecondary education is typically required
  • Professional certifications from Microsoft, Oracle and others
  • Attention to detail, a strong customer service orientation and the ability to work as part of a team

Data storage has dramatically changed over time from mainframes to databases to the cloud. But as long as there’s data, that data will need to be managed. The database administrator role is not going to lose steam any time soon.

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Find the Top Programmers for the Job

October 27th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

This week on NVTC’s blog, member company Robert Half shares three technical questions you should ask in an interview in order to find the top programmers for the job. 


The technical interview for a software developer position should give you a clear picture of the candidate’s ability to perform the most important aspects of the job: writing quality code and fixing broken code.

The interview should include specific questions related to the technologies your organization uses; ASP.NET or JavaScript might be some examples. Beyond these general knowledge questions, you’ll need to ask technical interview questions that determine the candidate’s understanding of software development itself.

Here are three questions that will help you uncover top technical talent.

1. Please describe the architecture of your most recent project.

Ask candidates to describe a recent project in depth. Invite them to use a whiteboard or a large pad of paper to draw diagrams, if needed.

You’re looking to accomplish two specific things with this type of question. First, you want to look beyond what is listed in the candidate’s resume and confirm that the developer truly understands the work. This process will also help you determine just how active the software developer was in the example project and give you a good idea of that person’s level of decision-making.

The other goal is to see how well a programmer can present a technical concept. Evaluate the developer’s answer as if that person were presenting to both technical and nontechnical business leaders and project stakeholders. Would every person in the audience walk away with a solid understanding of how the application works and why things were done in a certain way?

The ability to communicate well with nontechnical colleagues is a critical skill if you want someone who can be a lead developer or software architect.

2. What lessons have you learned from your current project?

Every project presents an opportunity for a software developer to expand skills and knowledge. A candidate who has the curiosity and open-minded nature required of a top programmer can take away something valuable from every project they work on.

One of your technical interview questions therefore should be designed to give candidates an opportunity to share what they have learned on previous projects. Another version of this question is “What do you like about your current assignments and what would you improve?” The candidate you want to hire will be able to answer this in a way that shows the ability to learn from their experiences, whether they were positive or negative.

3. Let’s see some code.

Many interviewers fail to ask technical interview questions that require candidates to prove that they can do exactly what the software developer job entails: write code.

So, be sure to have the candidate write a few simple pieces of code. Two or three small code samples (about the size of a function, roughly 5-10 lines of code) should tell you very quickly if the candidate actually knows what he or she is doing.

One popular version of a short programming test is FizzBuzz. You might want to give  a time limit on this test or the results could be misleading. HireVue shows how long it takes candidate to complete challenges set up by the hiring manager. Another example of a test is to ask the candidate to write a function that finds the maximum value in an array of integers.

These tests do not merely help you identify unqualified applicants, they also can provide insight into how a particular candidate thinks. Does this person launch into a problem without proper planning only to realize he or she made an easily foreseeable mistake? Is the developer’s code clean and demonstrating sound coding practices? Does the candidate listen to instructions and follow them properly to solve the problem?

Try asking these technical interview questions in your next interview with a software developer candidate. You might just be surprised how many professionals with impressive resumes you’ll end up weeding out.

If you’re hiring software developers or any other IT pros, check out our Salary Guide for current starting salaries and hiring trends: 2016 Salary Guide

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This week on NVTC’s blog, Kathy Stershic of member company Dialog Research and Communications introduces the first in her 8 part series of principles for responsible data stewardship to help guide behavioral change that will preserve customer good will and trust.


Following up to the introduction of 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships, here’s the first principle.

I know right off the bat that espousing customer control of coveted data collected at great effort and expense is marketing heresy. But it’s what they want. Sensed loss of control (psychological or otherwise) was the predominant finding in Dialog’s recent research.

Control extends to multiple domains. Perhaps most contentious is who ‘owns’ someone’s data. People believe they own their own data; the businesses who collect it feel they do, and in reality, they do legally own what’s collected in the course of transacting business. Customer data is a critical asset. But what happens with that data beyond the original intent (a la “I know I bought a thing from you but not them”) is unclear and uncomfortable. Some respondents want access to their data to see what’s been collected. Some feel that they should be paid for the use of it. Most want the option to decide whether or not their data gets shared, with whom, for what purpose and in what circumstance. This is far from today’s practices.

The letter of the law may permit sharing or selling of data to 3rd parties. Long, complex privacy policies in 3 point font may direct customers to some limited opt-out actions. Those policies are seldom read and even less seldom understood. But perception is what really matters. When customers feel loss of control over how their data is used and abused, offending brands will pay the price. One respondent told me she could tell exactly which nonprofit entity had been repeatedly selling her data by the volumes of spam received; she stopped supporting that nonprofit all together.

Control over the digital experience is another concern. If the internet is about freedom, then people should be free to direct their online experience, and not have a search engine or a business decide what they see. People passionately hate pop-ups, and don’t form favorable opinions of the unwanted brands that pop up. Turning them off imposes a burden on the user, and blocking all pop-ups may interfere with desired experiences on other sites. Much preferable would be inviting users to allow some dynamic messaging when they are open to receiving it.

In that same vein, customers want to choose the frequency of interaction. A positive purchase experience can easily sour by excessive promotional emailing. One respondent told me she regularly unsubscribes from chosen brands who spam her, and those brands fall off her consideration list. I myself have done this. Another respondent expressed anger over being “tricked” by a brand who slipped in a subtle clause on an e-commerce site that then obligated her to buy something she didn’t realize and didn’t want. In her words, this should have been opt-in, not opt-out. But she also told me she really appreciated that when receiving promotional material from a company she had not previously bought from, it clearly stated that she was receiving it because she had purchased from XYZ. That transparency was enough to make her feel positive about the old and the new brands.

The marketing practices mentioned here are common. Industries are built on them. But as more data is collected from more connected ‘stuff’, these issues stand to exponentially multiply. It’s not about what’s legally allowed; it’s about customer perception and experience. The more an organization empowers a customer to truly have choice and control in the data relationship, stronger loyalty and brand reputation will be the reward.

Please share your thoughts and perspectives!

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This week on NVTC’s blog, Kathy Stershic of member company Dialog Research and Communications introduces her 8 part series of principles for responsible data stewardship to help guide behavioral change that will preserve customer good will and trust.


An Introduction.

At what may be the dawn of a radical new era of technologically-driven marketing capability, I have been wondering – is enough ever going to be enough for the people being marketed to? People love their apps. They love online shopping. They love free stuff. They love connecting digitally to their friends and family 24-7. Even the growing stream of data breaches doesn’t seem to have much of a behavior-changing effect.

But the game is accelerating. Predictive intent, always the brass ring of marketing, is becoming ever-more precise, thanks to unprecedented analytics capabilities, Big Data, and soon-to-be connected everything. We may be heading toward something like on-demand lizard-brain manipulation — with marketing suggesting what people are going to want to buy before they are consciously aware of it themselves — with greater and greater accuracy on the timing of when a desire will manifest. That’s a future vision I don’t think many people understand.

So I thought I’d pose a simple question. Dialog recently conducted a study in which respondents were asked how they’d like marketers to behave in a predictive analytics world, mining data from the places the respondents digitally engage – willingly or not, knowingly or not. Respondents ranged in age from 30 to late 60s. They were male and female. They were all Americans, except for one subject of Her Majesty. Most have a college degree, a few have a Master’s, and a few work (or worked) in marketing-related jobs. They all willingly and regularly participate in the digital economy. And they all sense a lack of control over data about themselves.

One of the things that most struck me was that people have a general, vague awareness that ‘they’ are tracking everything about us. But less clear is who ‘they’ are or what’s being done with the data. Although I asked for gut reactions, what I got instead from the great majority were thoughtful, detailed and impassioned responses. Clearly this topic pushes a button. There is a growing undercurrent of discomfort. A general discomfort will get quickly channeled to any particular brand that pushes too far. Several respondents expressed (unprompted) anger at particular brands they felt disrespect their relationship. Given the huge investment required to build positive brand reputation, active customer anger should be every marketer’s (and CEO’s) nightmare.

The patterns that emerged from all of the respondents’ feedback were clear. It’s time to change behaviors. A lot of them. In the interest of something actionable, Dialog will offer NVTC members over the next few weeks a series of 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship to help guide behavioral change that will preserve customer good will and trust. I request and welcome thoughts and feedback to further this important discussion.

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This week on NVTC’s Blog, Business Development, Marketing & Sales Vice Chair Jenny Couch of member company Providge Consulting gives advice on investing in an ERP platform, one of the most critical decisions your business will make.


Investing in an ERP platform is one of the most critical decisions your business will make. Implementations can take years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete. Critical business functions will likely be supported by this platform for many years to come. You’ll need to train, or hire resources who can support the platform. So it’s critical that you select a system that best fits your business’s needs. But, with so many options available on the market today, it can be challenging to narrow down the field and select the right ERP solution for your business.

By considering some of the factors below during your evaluation, you will increase the likelihood that you and your team will select the right ERP platform for your company.

  • Cloud or internal architecture ERP. The cloud is hot right now, but it may not be the right solution for you. Consider factors such as control, down-time, access, and customization needs when determining whether to select a cloud or internal architecture ERP system.
  • Company size. Some ERP applications are better suited to large companies, and some are a better fit for small to mid-sized companies. If available, review the companies currently using the platforms you are considering. Are those companies a similar size, or drastically larger or smaller? Look for platforms with companies that are a similar size to increase the likelihood that you’ll select a platform designed for your business.
  • In-house ERP skill sets. Review the ERP skill sets you already have on your team. Is the majority of your staff familiar with PeopleSoft, but never heard of Workday? Then you may want to consider the time and cost that can be saved in training by selecting a platform with which your team is already familiar.
  • Criticality of the back-office function. For some companies, any hiccup, no matter how small, within the back-office system is disastrous. If the ERP system will be a critical component of your business that cannot have downtime, then you may not want to rely on vendors to provide support when you experience issues or downtime. Look for platforms where your team has full control and maintains responsibility for resolving issues.
  • Number of system users. The higher the number of users requiring access to your ERP platform, the more important it is to have a user-friendly interface. Such a requirement can often increase costs, either by limiting the pool of available COTS products, or by increasing the need for ongoing changes to the platform to meet your users’ needs.
  • Customization and interface needs. Certain industries, such as higher education, or government/military users, often have unique requirements that “standard” companies lack. COTS systems are designed to meet the greatest number of companies’ needs, so if you have highly complex, or unique back-office processes, you will need to select an ERP platform that can support a large number of customizations. For companies, or agencies needing a large number of customizations, cloud-based ERP solutions may not suit those needs. Similarly, if you have a large number of external systems that will need to interface with the ERP platform, make sure to account for this need in your evaluation criteria as not all ERP platforms are structured to support a significant number of interfaces.
  • Exit Plans. While you may feel certain that you’ll stay on your chosen ERP platform for years, it’s important to have an exit strategy. Surprises happen all the time, and they aren’t always of the confetti-throwing, present-giving variety. A software vendor could go out of business. An implementation could turn disastrous. Unforeseen issues can be uncovered with the platform. It’s important to prepare for the unexpected by developing an exit strategy. If you chose a cloud-based ERP, how easily and quickly can move off of that product. What will happen to all of your data, including any archived data? Is there an option to have your data stored for a certain time frame after you’ve moved off the platform? What data extraction and migration tools are available?  Can your data easily be moved to another platform?
  • Data privacy rules and regulations. While not a concern for many companies, for companies operating globally, this could be a critical consideration. Certain countries require that all employee data be hosted locally within that particular country. While some vendors, including cloud-based ones, have developed a solution to address this issue, some vendors are still playing catch-up.

Not sure how to select an ERP system that will meet your organization’s needs? Contact us and we’ll help narrow the overwhelming field of options, and select a system that best fits your business’s needs.

 


Jenny Couch

This post was written by Jenny Couch. Couch is a project management consultant, and Providge’s Business Development Manager. She loves efficiency, to-do lists, and delivering projects on-time and on-budget.

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5 Effective Platforms for Managing Your Project

October 6th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs | Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

This week on NVTC’s Blog, member company Providge Consulting’s Jenny Couch introduces five project management platforms that make managing your team and tasks easier for any project.


You’ve just been assigned as the lead for a new project. It’s a great opportunity for your career. You finally have a chance to demonstrate your ability to manage a team. But first, you have to figure out how you’re going to, well, manage a team and their tasks.

But fear not, there are a wide range of project management platforms that make managing your team and tasks easier for any project.

The list below is just a handful of the platforms available. I selected the five below for a few reasons: I have personally used them to manage a project; they represent the wide range of options available on the market; and all 5 – AsanaBasecampMicrosoft ProjectEvernoteInsightly – improve project transparency and collaboration. Make sure to research your options as one of these other platforms might be a better fit for you.

 

ASANA

Best For: Teams that want a straight forward way to track project tasks, and monitor progress. You’re the type of person that doesn’t want all the fancy ‘bells and whistles.’ You want to know what’s due when, and who is involved. You also likely love making to-do lists as the interface feels akin to an old-school, paper-based to-do list.

Snip20150810_8

 

Key Features: I personally enjoy Asana’s interface, and focus on a few core features. It prevents you from feeling overwhelmed. Or, like your platform isn’t helping you to do the one thing you want it to do – manage a project – because it’s too complicated to use. It does take a little time to get used to some of the options – like commenting on tasks, etc. but once you have the hang of it, it’s easy to use. The activity feed bears a similarity to Facebook (unsurprising as it was created by a Facebook co-founder), which makes it easy to start using. Project permissions are also a great feature, allowing you to limit who has access to each project.

Pricing: Free for the basic package. If you want to upgrade to premium, prices start at $21 per month for 5 users, up $750 per month for 100 users.

Integrations: Dropbox, HipChat, Slack, Harvest, WordPress, GitHub, GoogleDrive

 

BASECAMP

Best For: Are you looking for a simple, aesthetically pleasing tool, that still offers a solid range of features without overwhelming you? Then Basecamp is a great choice. It’s important to note though that Basecamp, while providing some excellent features, doesn’t provide everything you might need to effectively manage your project. A wide-range of separate services exist that integrate with Basecamp, but it will get expensive quickly.

Key Features: Although we didn’t have to use, the support from Basecamp is supposed to be excellent. You can easily customize your project view (list, snapshot, snapshot w/summary); and you have the ability to display projects in all sorts of formats: calendar view, open tasks, project progress. It’s also easy to view everything currently assigned to you in one place – just click the “Me” button in the header. The view “Everything” option is helpful too, as you can view things like “Browse Every Discussion” or “Read All Text Documents” with one click.

BaseCamp Everything

Pricing: 60 days of unlimited use for free. Prices range from $20 per month for 10 active projects, with 3GB, and unlimited users, to their Unlimited package which costs $3,000 per year.

Integrations: Harvest, Cyfe, cloudHQ, LucidMeetings, and many others.

 

MICROSOFT PROJECT

Best For: Projects with strict timelines, loads of dependencies and buckets of cross functional interaction. You should also have experience using Microsoft Project previously. It’s a wonderfully robust tool, that can do amazing things, but it’s very easy to start abusing the tool’s features if you don’t have experience using the platform.

Snip20150811_22

Key Features: Where to even start? The Gantt charts, which visualizes your project timeline, can help you determine at what points your team members are over-extended. The ability to create dashboards on project progress is extraordinarily helpful if you will frequently be presenting to project status updates to leadership or executive teams. The templates Microsoft Project offers may decrease the time you might otherwise spend building out the structure of your project.

Pricing: The pricing for Microsoft Project varies wildly depending on how you want to access it and how robust you want the features to be. It ranges from $7 per user per month, to a one-time $1,159 bill.

Integrations: Skype and Sharepoint depending on the package you select.

 

EVERNOTE:

Best For: Projects without hard deadlines, and lots of dependencies. It’s a great platform for creative-driven projects where you might be constantly snapping photos of concepts or potential ideas to review later. It’s also a great platform if you frequently need to brain-dump as it’s search capabilities are marvelously powerful (search by tags, notes, notebooks, keywords, etc.). But if you need to stick to hard deadlines, and have a rigid task process, Evernote is not going to cut it.

Key Features: Evernote doesn’t immediately come to mind when considering potential project management platforms, but that’s only because we’ve underestimated just how powerful Evernote can be for the right type of project. You can share notebooks with your teammates, use Evernote’s chat feature, set reminders, and tag your notes to make searching easy. If you’re constantly on the go make sure to take advantage of Evernote’s new auto-capture feature for all sorts of documents (whiteboards, post-it notes, pages, etc.), and its voice capabilities. And they recently launched their new web clipper tool, allowing you to easily save anything you find interesting on the web.

Snip20150810_15

(source Mac Update)

Pricing: Free for the basic package. The Premium package is $49.99 a year, but features a number of worthwhile features such as offline access, the ability to annotate PDF attachments, and unlimited uploads.

Integrations: So. Many. Options. RedBooth and SmartSheet (two other project management platforms not covered in this post). Expensify (save and manage your expense reports – amazing!), CollabSpot, EasilyDo, Pocket and so many others.

 

INSIGHTLY

Best For: Smaller teams and projects with a limited number of dependencies. Also, fans of Google Apps. Insightly plays well with the entire Google Suite. You will likely need to invest some time up front in customizing Insightly to suit your project needs – I wouldn’t recommend using this platform, unless you plan to also use the CRM platform (see the note on pricing), so this platform may be best suited to marketing or sales teams.

Key Features: The ability to customize the project form with your own fields to meet your needs. Similarly, you can create project pipelines and stages which is useful for projects that have similar steps. The linking feature is another helpful component, allowing you to link any project to a contact, company, or opportunity.

Insightly New Project

Pricing: You can’t access the Project function as a stand-alone, as it’s part of Insightly’s larger CRM platform. That said, the pricing for the entire platform is very reasonable. Insightly offers multiple packages, from the Basic package which is free, to an Enterprise level offering running $99 per user, per month.

Integrations: MailChimp, Quickbooks, Google Apps, Dropbox, Box, EverNote and many others.


Jenny Couch

This post was written by Jenny Couch. Couch is a project management consultant, and Providge’s Business Development Manager. She loves efficiency, to-do lists, and delivering projects on-time and on-budget

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This week on NVTC’s blog, Marlise Streitmatter, an LMI Human Capital senior consultant, suggests looking beyond cost cutting to make sure that virtual collaboration is being utilized correctly.


lmiOrganizations are increasingly deploying virtual collaboration tools, but are they doing it effectively? To gain the most from these investments, it’s essential to look beyond cost cutting and develop strategies that maximize virtual collaboration’s many benefits.

Efficiency

As people across the organization gain instant access to each other, regardless of geography or job title, collaborating virtually reduces the amount of time and effort needed to perform tasks and answer questions. Research shows that when Alcoa made compliance oversight virtual, it reduced time spent on that function by 61 percent.

In another example, a Ford executive developing a new social media tool used an internal collaborative platform to seek input. His request reached the entire company, and an ambitious employee at a remote site developed a solution over the weekend. No time or money was wasted with procurement, contracting, or longer-paced development.

Accelerated Learning

Virtual collaboration reduces barriers to learning, allowing organizations to become self-teaching. Often, organizational learning is top down. Virtual collaboration facilitates a democratization of learning as employees share knowledge and information across silos. At Ford, employees on the production line use virtual collaboration to share processes and best practices, allowing employees at other plants to learn new skills on the spot without having to travel.

Productivity

Research reveals connected employees are engaged employees. Collaborating virtually facilitates relationship building by overcoming geographic and organizational boundaries, ultimately driving engagement and productivity. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) engages more than 500 senior executives across the country on agency-wide initiatives through virtual executive summits. Leaders connect, pose questions, share ideas, and interact with senior leadership, saving the agency $750,000 in travel costs.

Reduced Costs

Probably the best understood benefit of working virtually is cost reduction. Well-executed virtual collaboration correlates with reduced travel and facilities costs, as noted in the NASA example above. Research shows organizations lower costs by an average of 15 to 20 percent as collaboration matures.

But it’s not only organizations that benefit, employees save money too. Commuting costs, lunch expenses, clothing, and cleaning expenditures all lower for employees working in virtual environments. There’s also a reduction in social costs—the chance of accident and illness are lower. Employee health improves, stress levels drop, and the workforce is happier.

Many organizations use virtual collaboration simply to cut costs. Before choosing specific virtual solutions, it is wise to explore not only how virtual collaboration will help you slim down your budget, but also how working virtually increases your organization’s efficiency, learning, and productivity.


Marlise Streitmatter works in the Organizational and Human Capital Solutions Group at LMI. Previously, Streitmatter was the deputy chief of staff at the U.S Department of Transportation. She has a bachelors in international policy and administration from the University of Illinois Springfield.

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Six Steps to Rationalizing Your IT Portfolio

September 22nd, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off)

This week on NVTC’s blog, Kathryn Palmer, an LMI information management consultant, provides six steps to guide your team in order to manage and modernize your IT portfolio.


CIOs use application rationalization to manage and modernize IT portfolios. This process aligns IT with business needs and mission. It also eliminates redundancies and centralizes data. On a wider scale, application rationalization improves

  • IT infrastructure (leveraging cloud and shared services),
  • user experience, and
  • enterprise-wide resource allocation.

When successful, you may use this process to reinvest savings towards mission critical goals. Use these six steps to guide your team.

1. Baseline Your Applications

Before you invest in or consolidate your IT, take time to understand your full portfolio of applications. Your actual number of applications might not be so apparent. Sometimes an application has different names, depending on who uses it. As you take a full inventory (which serves as your application baseline), also note the key stakeholders who interact with your systems: project managers, IT personnel, and end users.

2. Survey Business and IT Stakeholders

How do your stakeholders value the business and functional aspects of your IT? Create a standard survey that includes questions on whether or not applications align with business needs. If you collect data on an annual basis, year-over-year comparisons will help you measure the value of applications in a coherent way. Ask questions, such as:

  • Rate, on a scale of 1–5, the business and IT value of the application.
  • Does it help you perform your job? Is it critical to your mission?
  • Do you need to enter data twice?

3. Rate Your Applications

Use the Tolerate, Invest, Migrate, and Eliminate (TIME) methodology to systematically assess and measure applications.

  • Tolerate—adequate for current business needs (legacy accounting system that keeps the “lights on”).
  • Invest—functionality needed for new business requirements or modernization.
  • Migrate—applications with capabilities that can be moved to a new application or platform.
  • Eliminate—no longer needed, or no longer used.

The initial TIME quadrant placement may not be perfect, but enables the next step.

4. Gather More Information

To be certain each application is assessed correctly, seek out more input and organizational knowledge. Conduct follow-up meetings to capture business and IT insights, and to validate the reasoning behind IT-related decisions. To make this process as efficient as possible, you can organize meetings to evaluate one quadrant at a time, or one business line’s applications at a time.

When conducting meetings, use questionnaires customized to TIME. Questions for “Eliminate” may ask, why does this application need to be eliminated, what are the savings and avoidances, what data needs to be retained?

Use the information you gather to map applications for the current year and four outlying years. For instance, an application might be in the “Tolerate” quadrant in the initial years before moving towards “Eliminate” in year 5. Projecting the value of your applications over time drives strategic thinking and budget discussions.

5. Generate Recommendations

Validate results with stakeholders, and then generate recommendations with IT leaders and business owners. Be sure to share those recommendations with key decision-makers in your organization (e.g., business line governance boards, investment review boards). In this way, business and IT decision-makers understand why more funding is needed for a particular application, how the funding will drive the strategic direction of the application, and why other applications need to be eliminated.

6. Share Results

Once the analysis is complete, make the results easily accessible to stakeholders who will be impacted by application rationalization. A web portal offers an excellent means for sharing TIME quadrants and the rationale behind each selected application. Sharing results builds credibility, fosters communication, and enables change. Remember to manage change in a way that helps people understand the value of application rationalization and why they must stop using some systems and start using others.


Kathryn Palmer is a member of LMI’s Information Management group, which provides strategic advice and program management support to government agencies implementing enterprise-wide systems. Specializing in enterprise architecture (EA), Ms. Palmer enhances business performance to various federal civil agencies, including organizational restructuring, business process reengineering, operational effectiveness, and governance.

 

 

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Is It Time for Your Technology Firm to Rebrand?

August 26th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off)

This week on NVTC’s blog, Elizabeth Harr of Hinge Marketing discusses 12 signs that it’s time for your technology company to rebrand.


Your technology firm’s brand is your most valuable asset. But many firms don’t make effective use of their brand or — worse — don’t have a well-developed brand in the first place.

To begin, let’s discuss just what your technology firm’s brand is all about. Branding is a large concept, but can be broken down into a fairly simple and digestible equation:

Your brand = Your reputation x Your visibility

Your brand is the totality of how your audience sees, talks about, and experiences your firm. This combines everything from your firm’s visual branding—like your logo and web design—to each idea, strategy and interaction you use to connect with prospects and clients.

Yet having a strong brand isn’t just about making your firm more recognizable to potential clients. In addition, a well-developed brand can help your technology firm accomplish the following:

  • Attract clients more easily by generating more qualified leads and closing more sales
  • Attract potential future business partners
  • Command higher fees than competitors with weaker branding
  • Attract top talent to work at your firm
  • Set a higher standard for the daily operational performance of your firm

But despite all these advantages, if you’re like many technology firms, you’ve probably been able to grow without having a well thought out brand development strategy. Your growth has come fairly naturally, thanks to your referral network and the acquisition of a few major contracts.

However, this passive strategy is rarely sustainable over time. To continue growing or to accelerate your growth, it’s time to start making your firm’s brand work for you.

12 Signs It’s Time for Your Technology Firm to Rebrand

If you think your technology firm may be ready for a rebrand, but you aren’t quite sure, here are 12 questions you can ask yourself to help make your decision:

Are you getting fewer leads than in the past?

When your leads begin decreasing, it may be a good sign that your brand is no longer resonating with prospects. Rebranding can help your firm appeal to your audiences.

Are you entering a new market?

Entering into a new market is the perfect time to start fresh with a new brand. You can reestablish the strength of your brand alongside your new competitors.

Are you introducing new services?

When your firm goes through a significant change, you want to make sure your brand still reflects your firm’s new focus. If it doesn’t, it may be the perfect time for a rebrand.

Has your firm’s growth slowed or stopped?

This could be an indicator that it’s time to switch things up with a stronger and more carefully developed brand that clearly communicates your expertise and capabilities.

Have new competitors entered the marketplace?

A changing marketplace and new competition may mean your current branding will no longer do the trick. Undergoing a rebrand can help you stand up to changing demands.

Does your visual brand look tired compared to the competition?

If all of your competitors have moved forward with a strengthened brand, you don’t want to be left behind. Your firm’s visual branding elements (like your name, logo, tagline, and colors) communicate your brand and should be reviewed periodically for updates and consistency.

Do you struggle to describe how your firm is different?

Having a specialty or something to differentiate your firm from the competition is an important part of connecting with your target audience. A well thought out brand is the first step is portraying what makes your firm special.

Are you losing a higher percentage of competitive bid situations than in the past?

This is a strong indicator that it’s time to make a change. Measuring your current success against past victories can provide valuable insight into how your firm is continuing to grow.

Has your firm changed significantly since you last adjusted your brand?

Growth and change are inevitable—just make sure your brand continues to grow and evolve along with your firm.

Are you struggling to attract top talent?

In order to be a top technology firm, you need to have top talent working for you. If a weak brand is keeping your firm from attracting top employees, it might be time to rebrand.

Have your clients changed considerably?

You originally developed your brand with a specific client base in mind. And now those clients have changed. Their challenges and needs might have changed — and they may be searching for service providers differently. Your firm’s brand should change with them.

Are you trying to figure out how to take your firm to the next level?

If you’ve been asking yourself how you can accelerate your firm’s growth or reach the next level of your potential, a fresh rebranding could be the right place to get started.

If you nodded along to questions on this list, then you have your answer: it’s time for a rebrand. While it may initially be a challenge to get your firm executives and decision makers on board for your rebrand, an honest assessment and clear-cut plan can help overcome any initial internal reluctance. It may seem like a lot of work at first, but the benefits of rebranding will be well worth it.


Elizabeth Harr is a partner at Hinge, a marketing and branding firm for professional services. Elizabeth is an accomplished entrepreneur and experienced executive with a background in strategic planning, brand building, and communications. She is the coauthor of The Visible Expert, Inside the Buyer’s Brain, How Buyers Buy: Technology Services Edition and Online Marketing for Professional Services: Technology Services Edition.

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Does Big Data Matter?

August 12th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs | Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

This week on NVTC’s blog, Caryn Alagno of Synthos Technologies explains that every company is a data company, and every company’s data has hidden insights.


Suspend reality for a moment, and imagine a modern workplace in which the Internet was familiar to and available to just a few highly specialized individuals.

These trained, sought-after professionals were tasked with informing everything from product development to strategic positioning. No one else in the organization understood the possibilities that this mysterious “internet” could provide. Some companies developed entire strategies around it. Others ignored it. It intimidated some. Some thought it “just wasn’t for them.” Debates about its importance persisted.

Sounds crazy, right?

But this is exactly the current state of affairs with regard to large-scale, enterprise data management. Most of us know it as “big data.”

Organizations in nearly every industry are sitting on massive repositories of data that they either don’t know what to do with or haven’t considered activating. Some know precisely what they want to do, but are confused about where to start. In other cases, concerns around everything from security to privacy are paralyzing companies that instead should be mobilizing for a massive shift in the way they do business.

For many, “big data” is either scary or exclusionary. At worst, it’s both; and at best, it’s ignored. But the reality is, big data is neither. It’s more than a buzzword, or a trend or an initiative. It genuinely matters.

Companies in industries like finance and health care were early entrants into the big data space. Billions of securities transactions; where are the patterns that indicate fraud? Thousands of complex compounds; which one is a break-through therapy?

But every company is a data company. And every company’s data has hidden insights.

The same is true of government organizations and nonprofits. Setting aside security for a moment, consider the massive amount of information that organizations like the IRS handle. Each year, the agency processes more than 140 million tax returns. It estimates that it sent out nearly three million fraudulent refunds to con artists last year. The Government Accountability Office says that this form of identity theft has cost tax payers as much as $5.2 billion dollars. In a single year. Others think the number’s much higher. Everyone agrees it’s going to grow – and that it needs to stop.  Criminal activity is the symptom, but poor data management is the disease.

In 2013, the 25 largest non-profits in America raised more than $30 billion. Their missions range from promoting quality education and financial stability to caring for the sick and feeding the hungry. The same year, a study by the Non-Profit Technology network found that one out of ten of these organizations have no way of tracking how certain “engagement” behaviors (like opening or forwarding an email, or posting messages to social media) correlate with a person’s likelihood to donate time, donate money, or donate more of either. Understanding this connection, and making strategic programming decisions based on what the data shows, is critical to these organizations’ efficacy and longevity.

Making meaningful sense of massive amounts of information matters. Sure, the data is important, but the correlations within it are even more so. The tools that allow people to find connections in the data – and to then make more informed, more impactful decisions – will enable radical shifts in everything from productivity and profitability to innovation and to our very quality of life.

It sounds flowery and poetic, but it is an absolute fact.

Big data matters because of what it has the potential to change. But it also matters because it’s forcing an entirely new conversation about the ways in which we interact with information. Is database technology enough? Where does it fall short? Are search engines enough? Where do they fall short? Are there things about either of these technologies that could form the basis of something entirely different?

Related, who needs to interact with data? What could they do with it, and what would that mean?

Data is an equalizer – when we all have access to it, we all have the potential to use it for good in our respective arenas. Data is also a differentiator – and in the big data game, the winners are those who put data to its most effective use.  If that gets you excited, then there’s never been a better time to be a fan.


 

Caryn Alagno is the EVP of Communications and Marketing at Synthos Technologies, a division of Qbase, LLC. Synthos Technologies is a big data and analytics solution provider whose mission is to build entirely new ways of interacting with information. 

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