Preparing for Genomics and Health Data Analytics

February 1st, 2016 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off)

This week on NVTC’s Blog, LMI Senior Consultant Daniel DuBravec notes that we need to prepare for personalized medicine and the evaluation of genomic data.


Today’s electronic health record (EHR) systems cannot properly handle genomic data. Interpreting these huge and complex data, particularly in a visual manner, is challenging. Even when EHR systems can access these data, few standards exist for how to structure them to ensure seamless system integration, interoperability, and interpretation. Most medical schools do not teach doctors how to interpret genetic data, and local-level care centers require training on proper data storage and network security.

Precision medicine predicts, prevents, and treats diseases at the patient level. Its growth has created the need for internationally recognized genomic EHR standards and policies, which would protect individuals by ultimately improving patient outcomes. We need to prepare for a future in which medicine is more personalized and better able to evaluate genomic data. 

Real, Inspiring Stories

Recently, I met a colleague whose daughter is suffering from a genetic condition known as Stargardt disease. Sadly, her daughter is rapidly losing her vision. This disease, a form of juvenile macular degeneration, can only appear in children when both parents carry the mutated gene. If the gene had been identified at an early stage, medical practitioners would have had more time to investigate new drug therapies and gene-editing technologies to treat my colleague’s daughter. As part of her interoperable medical genetic record, physicians at research institutions who were also working on her case could have then viewed and collaborated by using this critical information. Hitting close to home, this is one of many stories that inspire us to prepare for the widespread application of precision medicine and genomic data analysis.

Making Genomic Data Useful for Medical Practitioners

The future of patient care requires connecting large external data sets with electronic healthcare records. Precision medicine will customize treatments down to a patient’s genes and behavior. By analyzing genetic data across thousands of people, scientists will discover preventative treatments and cures for challenging health issues.

Given the complexity of health and genomic data, one can analyze the same data in different ways and achieve different outcomes. “Well-designed data visualization could help doctors interpret the data more rapidly, arriving at more challenging diagnoses in less time,” says Erin Gordon, data visualization trainer and graphic facilitator at LMI.

Before developing a framework for integrating and analyzing disparate health data sets, we test our models for validity. “The quality of our medical data models has a direct impact on patient outcomes and daily operations in medical facilities,” says Brent Auble, a consultant with the Intelligence Programs group at LMI. To support LMI’s research into healthcare data management, our team set up a Hadoop cluster, which is a group of servers designed to quickly analyze massive quantities of structured and unstructured data.

Building the Future of Healthcare Analytics

Ultimately, to meet the growth in precision medicine and the use of health data analytics, future EHR systems need to:

  • automatically generate comparisons of multiple genomes,
  • identify and match genetic variants based on known diseases,
  • ensure patient data privacy, and
  • integrate and search medical publications and scientific research for relevant patient data.

Preparation is key in order to predict, prevent, and treat disease as medicine evolves.


Dan DuBravec is a senior consultant at LMI, leading IT implementation projects. Mr. DuBravec holds multiple EHR certifications, as well as a BS in product design from Illinois State University and an MS in educational technology leadership from George Washington University.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

This week on NVTC’s Blog, Business Development, Marketing & Sales Vice Chair Jenny Couch of member company Providge Consulting shares critical changes to the IT landscape that your healthcare organization needs to have on its radar.


These days, technology seems to advance too rapidly for most of us to keep up. It’s certainly moving too rapidly for organizations to keep up with every single one of the “hot” trends.

healthITIn the noisy field of today’s latest tech, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the buzzwords and lists of “This Year’s Hottest IT Trends”, and miss the truly critical changes to the IT landscape that your organization needs to have on its radar.

The healthcare industry is uniquely positioned to be impacted by a convergence of critical IT trends within the coming years. But with budgets decreasing, and resource pools shrinking, it’s more challenging than ever to prioritize IT needs within the healthcare space.

We’ve highlighted the top five technology trends healthcare organizations must have on their radar in 2016.

  1. Cloud computing. Whether it’s a pharmaceutical company needing to store large amounts of data from clinical trials, or a hospital with a newly implemented EHR system, healthcare organizations of all kinds are increasingly turning to cloud computing for a variety of uses. According to Healthcare Informatics, the global healthcare cloud computing market is expected to reach $9.5 billion by 2020. And 83 percent of healthcare organizations are already leveraging the cloud. Only 6 percent of organizations have no plans to take advantage of the cloud in the coming years. If you’re in that 6 percent, it’s time to reconsider your plans. Cloud computing can be used to decrease costs, improve access, and create a better user experience for any healthcare organization. But, it’s critical that your organization take a strategic approach to moving to the cloud. Learn more about how you can leverage the cloud to best support your organization here. 
  2. The Internet of Things. Take a look at that FitBit on your wrist. Think about the incredible amount of data that one tiny device is generating constantly. The number of steps you take, the calories you burn, your sleep pattern, the stairs you climbed. These devices get more accurate and more intricate with every passing day. We are not far off from a future when we’ll be able to monitor nearly every aspect of our health, and the health of our loved ones without setting foot in a doctor’s office. Healthcare organizations will have to find a way to address what will be tectonic shift in how care is delivered. Communication methods will need to be established to collect the data generated by wearable and mobile devices. Methods for collecting and analyzing the influx of data will need to be developed so patterns can be identified. The manner in which treatment is delivered will have to change as we move away from the traditional doctor’s office visits, and into a world where a diagnosis can be made through analyzing the information generated through a patient’s mobile device, car, appliances, wearables, etc. And while this future may not quite be a reality, it’s coming soon, and healthcare organizations need to start preparing today.
  3. Data Explosion. Big data. Data analytics. Whatever term you use, the unparalleled rise in the amount and accessibility of data over the past few years is certain to have a massive impact on the healthcare industry. The explosion in big data occurred so quickly that 41 percent of healthcare executives say their data volume has increased by 50 percent or more from just one year ago. 50 percent in just one year. This incredible increase in data will allow medical professionals to more quickly and more accurately diagnose patients, but as with the Internet of Things, it will require fundamental shifts in how data is managed and how care is administrated. Healthcare organizations will need to train, or hire a workforce with the right data analysis  and medical skill sets. Regulations, processes, and platforms will need to be developed or implemented. Healthcare organizations who ignore this trend do so at their own peril. For as Accenture notes in a report released earlier this year for those who take advantage of the wealth of opportunity within big data, “Greater operational excellence and improved clinical outcomes await those who grasp the upside potential.”
  4. Efficiency in IT. If you haven’t heard the phrase “Doing more with less”  in the past few months, it’s probably time to climb out from under that rock you’ve been living under. With healthcare spending wildly out of control in the United States, every healthcare organization from physician’s offices to the largest hospital chains are being asked to do more with less. IT is a particularly ripe area for cutting costs, and resources. In 2016, the emphasis on doing more with less in IT will continue. Expect to see IT departments pursue options such as moving to the cloud, outsourced managed services, and bring your own device to help decrease IT operating costs.
  5. Cybersecurity. In 2014, 42 percent of all serious data breaches occurred at healthcare organizations. Sadly, this trend is certain to continue its upward trajectory in the coming years. Healthcare organizations who have not adequately upgraded their systems, and developed a thorough cybersecurity strategy are especially vulnerable to attack. Now is time to evaluate your systems, processes, and resourcing. Make sure your organization is positioned to proactively protect against attacks where possible, and identify and respond rapidly to breaches when they do occur.

Planning your 2016 health IT projects and priorities? Looking for a partner that will truly understand the challenges you are facing and the need to ensure success? Get in touch with us today. Our experienced health IT experts know the obstacles you face, and are ready to partner with you to deliver your projects on time, and on budget in 2016 and beyond.


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.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

This week on NVTC’s blog, Kathy Stershic of member company Dialog Communications continues her Brand Reputation in the Era of Data series by sharing principle eight: actively demonstrating respect for your customers.


The final of these 8 Principles clarifies a concept implied across the other seven. To become and remain a successful brand, businesses must actively demonstrate customer respect. Just saying ‘We respect our customers!’ is not enough. Prove it.

This can take many forms, from being transparent and honest about data collection and sharing practices to moderating your outreach below the annoyance level to integrating this attitude into your culture and policies – and many other opportunities mentioned through these posts.

Disrespectful practices were often brought up in the comments I’ve gotten. One respondent noted that “I want to feel like a vendor respects my data as much as I do.” People do not like bait-and-switch, confusing changes to privacy policies or anything that feels sneaky. They don’t like the burden of responsibility to stop something, like too much email or too many pop-ups. When everyone is tired or busy from their own lives, wearing people down or hoping they won’t notice might produce a short term win, but not long-term loyalty.

Having a straightforward dialog with your customers – even the ones who are unhappy with you – is another way to show respect. Everyone messes up – own it! Apologize, make it right and move on. If it wasn’t your fault, but there’s a small cost to making someone feel respected anyway – do it! Nordstrom figured this out a long time ago.

Nothing about customers wanting to feel respected and treated fairly is new. What is new is the exponential increase in vendor relationships enabled through technology. With the tremendous choice the modern customer enjoys, utility, benefit, quality and value are now table stakes. A differentiated and trusted experience, that includes feeling respected, is what will stand out. Someone’s choice of your product or service is a privilege. One of the best quotes from the respondent feedback sums it up: “Respect the customer and the customer will respect you.”

Brand Reputation in the Era of Data: 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 1: Empower Customer Control
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 2: Be Clear and Accountable
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 3: Do Everything You Can to Protect Customer Data
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 4: Mind Your Partners!
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 5: Practice Customer Empathy
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 6: Comply with All Applicable Laws and Regulations. Then Exceed Them.
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 7: Apply Technology Thoughtfully

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

This week on NVTC’s blog, NVTC member company Kathy Stershic of Dialog Communications continues her Brand Reputation in the Era of Data series by sharing principle seven: applying technology thoughtfully while preserving customer data. 


Recently, Chapman University published the results of its survey America’s Top Fears 2015. Respondents were asked their fear level about different factors ranging from crime to disasters to their personal futures. FIVE OF THE TOP TEN THINGS PEOPLE FEAR ARE RELATED TO MIS-USE OF THEIR DATA! That includes cyber-terrorism, corporate tracking of personal information, government tracking of personal information, identity theft and credit card fraud. That’s out of 88 possible things to be afraid of!

There is a tidal wave of automation being applied to data collection and usage practices. I suggest that just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should. We are approaching a tipping point around the creep factor of having everything that one does be tracked. People are tired of constant advertisements, witnessed by the increased adoption of ad blocking technology, and especially Apple’s recent iOS 9’s robust blocking capability for Safari – which has been heralded as the potential death of online advertising. As ads are blocked, marketers need to find other ways to get their message through, such as direct contact with mobile devices. That will require permission from each user. And that means you have to be delivering a lot of value while also showing some restraint in the level and frequency of contact.

Another interesting wrinkle is the October 6 ruling by the EU Court of Justice that struck down what is called Safe Harbor, a policy that allowed self-certification by U.S. companies to say their data protection standards were sufficient for EU citizens, who are protected by strict privacy law. Israel followed suit on Oct. 20. What happens next is yet to be determined, but everyone is scrambling to figure out how to protect their international business by the end of January grace period.

When practices get abused, people fight back or tune out. It’s human nature. In e-chatting during a webinar this week with its moderator Chris Surdak, a big data expert, (who I thought discussed unbridled capitalism more extremely than anyone I have ever heard), he noted regarding privacy that “The backlash will be epic, if we ever get there.” Hmmm. A thoughtful approach to what you collect, how you collect and use it, how long you keep what you collect, with whom you share it and what they do with it will better serve and protect your business and your brand through changes in customer sentiment and the regulatory environment.

Brand Reputation in the Era of Data: 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 1: Empower Customer Control
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 2: Be Clear and Accountable
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 3: Do Everything You Can to Protect Customer Data
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 4: Mind Your Partners!
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 5: Practice Customer Empathy
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 6: Comply with All Applicable Laws and Regulations. Then Exceed Them.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

This week on NVTC’s blog, NVTC member LMI shares how emerging technology is making it easier for agencies and their partners to share essential data, even when the organizations have different security policies and protocols.


Last week’s Virtualization in a Collaborative Information Sharing Environment Forum, sponsored by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA), shed light on how emerging technology is making it easier for agencies and their partners to share essential data, even when the organizations have different security policies and protocols.

Network virtualization, also known as software-defined networking, uses cloud-based principles and technology to provide a more efficient IT infrastructure while opening the door for different types of users to seamlessly access information for which they are authorized by law and policy.

Kshemendra Paul, who oversees the Information Sharing Environment (ISE), noted that the original vision of a single, universal cloud providing services to all federal agencies has changed. Today, ISE’s emphasis is to establish common policy to “federate trust.”

Groups with different security and access controls share many common elements around trust (i.e., business rules for issuing credentials, individual attributes, data retention), so there is a framework for a diverse range of professionals to come together and share data. Paul noted Alabama already has developed a trust framework to enable the medical and law enforcement communities to share casework data.

To move agencies to a state where users share information without being hampered by technology, the panel discussed the following.

Network virtualization

  • Is gaining momentum—already, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is fast-tracking implementation of network virtualization and wants other agencies to join.
  • Could automate security policy—by using the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) framework for trusted identities in cyberspace, XML could be used to translate thousands of access control policies into machine-executable code.
  • Offers flexibility and immediacy—agencies will be able to expand and contract networks, as needed, as well as create them and move them around rapidly.
  • Creates efficiencies—alongside enhancing mission capabilities, virtualization lowers costs and improves end-user service through faster configuration and instant upgrades.
  • Tightens security—patches are quickly applied, since IT departments know all the users and applications for a given network.

Key challenges for implementing virtualization include change management and security. Seamlessly sharing sensitive information between organizations often goes against the grain of agency culture. Making virtualization scalable requires a culture change.

Security remains a constant challenge. As the data grow, IT departments will need to analyze bigger and bigger data sets to find insiders behaving badly. The right security investments need to be set aside for virtualization projects.

Keith Nelson is a member of LMI’s Organizational and Human Capital Solutions group, supporting human resources IT, workforce management, succession planning, and performance management for the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the General Services Administration. Mr. Nelson holds an MBA from UCLA and a Master of Journalism from UC Berkeley.

 

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

This week on NVTC’s blog, NVTC member company Kathy Stershic of Dialog Communications continues her Brand Reputation in the Era of Data series by sharing principle six: comply with all applicable laws and regulations - then exceed them. 


There are a LOT of laws and regulations out there that govern data handling and privacy. They vary according to where you conduct business. The European Union has the strictest set of laws that are built on the principle of human rights. The United States has what’s called a sectoral approach, that is different laws are set for different sectors – like HIPAA for healthcare, Gramm Leach Bliley for Finance, the Cable TV Privacy Act, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and on. In the US, 47 of 50 states also currently have data breach notification laws, all of them slightly different. Asian countries adopt data protection laws and sectoral laws. Many Latin American countries have constitutional guarantees, data protection laws, and sectoral laws. Yikes! It’s a lot to comply with – and just to keep things fun, laws and regulations are changing and updating all the time.

Realistically, marketers are not going to know every legal requirement that impacts their organization. But you should at least be aware of the basic principles of what’s allowed in the places you do business, then coordinate with Legal (I know, I know!) on how to stay out of trouble. This discovery can also happen through a process called a Privacy Impact Assessment, mentioned in my previous post.

Observing laws and regulations must be standard operating procedure. But just being compliant really isn’t enough to enhance your position in a fickle and frenetic market. Think about it this way – do you want your child to just stay out of trouble at school, or be a leader in the classroom? Where’s the attention going to go? You sure don’t want to stand out in a bad way – like being one of the 256 app providers who violated the privacy terms they contracted with Apple.

Going beyond the legal minimum and making extra effort will help your business differentiate as a trusted source. Simplified privacy policy language will help. Minimizing data collection and retention (yes, you CAN get rid of stuff!) will help. So will being transparent at all times about your practices and behaviors. Use creative ways to tell the story to your customers and stakeholders – through vignettes, through messaging, through customer service scripts – put it out there. Earning trust marks like TRUSTe really sends the message that you take data stewardship seriously.

Your customers expect you to comply with the law. They want to feel like you care and are proactive about protecting their data. I firmly believe that the great majority of people want to do the right thing; it comes back to mindfulness and balance between enthusiastic pursuit of business objectives and a bit of thoughtful restraint.

Brand Reputation in the Era of Data: 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 1: Empower Customer Control
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 2: Be Clear and Accountable
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 3: Do Everything You Can to Protect Customer Data
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 4: Mind Your Partners!
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 5: Practice Customer Empathy

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

This week on NVTC’s blog, NVTC member company Kathy Stershic of Dialog Communications continues her Brand Reputation in the Era of Data series by sharing principle five: developing an empathic organizational culture that understands, internalizes and practices customer-sensitive behaviors.


Hand in hand with getting your own house in order to secure customer data is developing an empathic organizational culture that understands, internalizes and practices customer-sensitive behaviors. This can be reflected in the marketing practices you adopt, the way customer data is collected and handled, and the attitude and values that are expressed and embodied from leadership through the ranks.

Several respondents in our qualitative feedback study emphasized that organizations’ observing privacy policies internally was very important to them. While most every organization has an external privacy notice (understandable or not), many companies lack a robust internal privacy policy, data management policies, or even clarity of their privacy mission and position. It is important to thoughtfully define these, then train your people, in a resonant and memorable way about these corporate values and an employee’s role in them. Reinforce the training with an ongoing internal awareness campaign. Help your team remember that behind every purchase, tweet, post, click and share is a human being and all that entails. Anyone who has something or someone to protect can understand that.

This is a foundational aspect of your organization’s personality and reputation – how do you want to be seen and regarded? Are you the respectful company? The service-oriented company? One who customers see as sneaky or arrogant? One who is so consumed with innovation and speed that they forget there are real people who will be served or potentially harmed by your invention?

Consider incenting or requiring those who work with other’s personally identifiable information, whether it belongs to customers, employees, partners, students or anyone else, to get certifications. This can help them more deeply understand the implications of what they’re working with. A colleague of mine likened this to how massage therapists are trained to respect the bodies of their customers, with their reputation and careers dependent upon following those protocols.

A best practice is to conduct what’s called a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) to evaluate risk in both existing and intended practices and services. There are online resources to offer you guidance (shameless commerce warning: Dialog can help with these); you will need some understanding of the legal and regulatory environment in which you operate. Then, when you objectively understand the level of risk, you can consider adjustments to your practices or plans if necessary. Those who may decline to participate should be made fully accountable for any consequences – financial or otherwise.

Acculturating a sense of responsibility and empathy, with policies to back that up, will go a long way toward solidifying your organization’s reputation as a trusted vendor. And that translates to the bottom line.
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data: 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 1: Empower Customer Control
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 2: Be Clear and Accountable
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 3: Do Everything You Can to Protect Customer Data
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 4: Mind Your Partners!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

How to Select the Right Consulting Firm for Your Project

November 17th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

This week on NVTC’s Blog, Business Development, Marketing & Sales Vice Chair Jenny Couch of member company Providge Consulting shares how you can select the consulting firm that will actually help you complete your project successfully.


Picture it: you’re leading a critical project for your company. Success is crucial. And you need to partner with the right consulting firm to make sure the project is a success. So, here you are listening to the fifth consulting company pitch to you today. Each company has promised to literally deliver you the moon if you just place your faith in them. They all have “the best team.” Each company is “innovative” and “world-class” and “client-focused.” Each company gave a visually-engaging presentation while delivering rapid-fire oratory about their “outstanding” experience.

decision_making_process

You’re tired. You’re bored of listening to the same presentation. And you’re not sure how to determine which consulting firm is the best out of the group that pitched. But you have to make a decision. You’ve got a project to move forward!

So how do you separate the wheat from the chaff (please don’t ask, I don’t even know what chaff is), the weak from the strong, the… you get the point. How do you select the consulting firm that will actually help you complete your project successfully?

Sadly, no silver bullet currently exists, but there are a few cues to look for during a company’s pitch to help you select the right firm:

 

  • Confirmation they understand your project’s scope. During a sales pitch, make sure the  firm clearly summarizes your project’s scope. Repeating it isn’t good enough (come on, we can all memorize a few lines). A firm should clearly demonstrate their understanding of your need and the scope. If they aren’t even clear on what the ask is, how can they deliver a viable solution? Bonus points if the pitching firm carefully articulates potential issues with your current scope. After all, you’re hiring them for their expertise – they should demonstrate their experience straight out of the gate.
  • Hard evidence of their greatness. Every firm inserts the following words into their pitch at some point “We’re innovative, world-class, award-winning, best-in-class, outstanding service, client-focused, leader in the marketplace. We have the best team, the greatest tools, the best methodologies, the most cutting-edge solutions.” You get the point. It’s all fine and good to talk about how fabulous you are, but simply stating that you’re the world’s greatest whatever means exactly nothing if you can’t back it up. Look for firms that include evidence of their greatness. How many of their employees are PMP-certified? How many years of experience does the average consultant have? How many consultants have advanced training? What benefits do they offer to recruit the top talent? How long do their engagements last on average with their clients? What actual awards have they won? What tools or methodologies do they use that separate them from the competition?
  • Leadership involvement. Go visit any consulting firm’s website right now. I guarantee you’ll find at least a paragraph, if not entire pages, dedicated to displaying just how focused they are on their clients. Frankly, this should really go without saying. A consulting firm’s business is the success of its clients. If you aren’t winning, we aren’t winning. And a firm that consistently falls down on the job is one that shouldn’t be in business long. But, regardless, a firm being client focused has become an ubiquitous statement in the industry. As with talking about how “great” or “innovative” a firm is, it’s not good enough to simply claim they are client-focused. Instead look for proof of their commitment to their clients through leadership involvement. At Providge, a Managing Director is assigned to every single account, and their cell number is turned over to you so you can reach out to them at anytime throughout the project’s lifecycle. That’s how we work to demonstrate our commitment to our clients, and you should look for similar involvement from your consulting partners.
  • Mitigating strategies and fall back plans – not just empty promises. Sure, we’d all love to have our projects delivered on-time, and on-budget, with no issues whatsoever, no changes in scope, no significant conflict. But this isn’t going to happen. On any project. Ever. If a consulting firm guarantees they can deliver a project perfectly, without issue, conflict, or scope change, oh, and they’ll do it for just 3/4 of the budget, run in the opposite direction. Quickly. Issues, conflicts, and scope changes are bound to come up on any project. Budgets will change and timelines will shift. It’s completely normal. Don’t look for a company that promises to give you absolutely everything you’ve asked for. Look for a company that thoughtfully demonstrates how they proactively address issues and conflicts, how they limit scope creep, how they broach budget or timeline changes. Ask them for examples of how they’ve managed such changes on previous projects. Were the strategies they employed successful? Press them to demonstrate their expertise. If they don’t come to the table with plans for managing commonly-occurring project roadblocks, then cut ’em loose.
  • Real responses to your questions. We’ve all watched politicians respond to questions by giving an entirely unrelated answer. “Thanks for the question, Bob, and let me just talk for a moment about how great this country is, how great the American public is. This country is great, Americans are great, and you’re great. I think that answers your question completely.”  Consulting firms have a similar capacity to spin their responses to questions into another demonstration of how amazing they are, and how they’ll deliver everything you’ve asked for at half the price. So, if you ask a question on say, information assurance, make sure they respond to your actual question – perhaps they provide examples of their approach to information assurance on past projects. Perhaps, they discuss some of the best practices in information assurance and what might make sense for your organization to consider. Maybe the refer to the 75 percent of their team members who have advanced information assurance training. But if you ask about their approach to information assurance, and their response is, “Thanks for the question, Bob. Let me just talk for a minute about how great our company is and how innovative we are when it comes to information assurance. We truly are a world-class firm when it comes to issues of information assurance, and we’ll bring all that greatness, and innovativeness, and world-classiness to your project,” it’s time to give this firm the boot.

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.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

This week on NVTC’s blog, NVTC member company Kathy Stershic of Dialog Communications continues her Brand Reputation in the Era of Data series by sharing principle four: protecting data when it is passed on to others in your value chain.


Here is the Fourth of 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships, based on Dialog’s recent research.

While the last post discussed getting your own house in order around protecting customer data, equally important is protection of that data when it is passed on to others in your value chain.

Consumers regularly agree to share data with a particular organization for immediately known purposes – a purchase transaction, registering for a site or service, downloading an app. There is an abstract understanding that their data is shared. But the specifics of with whom, how and for what are vague to all but the most attentive, usually those who work in a marketing capacity. I recently heard a statistic that a data broker will have about 1500 pieces of information on an average individual! I didn’t know there could be 1500 things about me to be tracked. Who knew I was so interesting?

This vague concept of ‘they have all of my data’ is unsettling, leaving people feeling powerless and hoping that nothing harmful will befall as a result. It is perhaps the greatest area of concern for our study respondents. Legal requirements are normally that the data owner has bottom line responsibility (read that the one who could be sued in a breach), so it behooves you as a data collector to integrate strict data management terms into your third party contracts.

But beyond that, it’s how the data is used and monetized – and we all know this is the holy grail of marketing – that respondents find troubling. One respondent noted that “3rd party access to my search history is completely inappropriate.” Another noted that “if you got my data from somewhere else, tell me where you got it from.” Some of the other concerns expressed included not allowing an individual’s identity or data given for one perceived purpose to be used by entities that have control over other parts of their lives – insurance, credit, employers, housing, civil litigation, healthcare providers, surveillance or profiling, divorce court, political parties, or the news media, except as allowed by law. Data collectors should therefore carefully consider legal requests vs. legal requirements.

One suggestion was to have and observe universal standards on collection and distribution of sensitive and potentially harmful medical and financial information. There are already laws about these domains, but data analytics can get pretty accurate at some of these situations using other non-regulated data.

But some respondents also took a Buyer Beware stance, saying that data voluntarily given and captured through public means is there for the taker, and consumers can always choose not to participate in a transaction. Better to educate people about what is being harvested about them and how it is used. Perhaps improving privacy policies would be a good start. But it can be challenging to get that message across when data is handed off to anonymous 3rd parties whose very existence or purposes are unknown to average people.

With the Internet of Things, this situation will grow exponentially, creating further issues of securing data at the points of collection, transfer and curation x 1000 – and the implications for Big Data crunching that will come from it. Bottom line – mind your partners. Privacy protections need to be contractually obligated with third parties, but prudence dictates you avoid sharing with those who perpetrate the creep factor, especially when contributions can be traced back to you.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

This week on NVTC’s blog, NVTC member company Kathy Stershic of Dialog Communications continues her Brand Reputation in the Era of Data series by sharing principle three: protect your customer data.


Here is the third of 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships, based on Dialog’s recent research.

There are few hotter topics these days than cybersecurity. Sadly, the state of affairs will probably not significantly improve in the foreseeable future. Estimates are that two new malwares proliferate every second. Even the best intrusion protection software cannot keep up with that. The reality is that no organizations are infallible, and despite your best efforts, you can and probably will get hacked.

Still, organizations must proactively do everything they possibly can to protect customer data. With new breaches in the news (and notifications in our mailboxes) so frequently, people are rightly very concerned about the security of their data. Organizations who are thought to not have taken adequate security measures become the target of lawsuits. For example, Anthem is facing multiple suits after admitting a massive breach last February.

While setting up digital protections is the realm of IT, there are many other sources of risk to customer data – such as employee negligence, being careless with physical documents, not securing file cabinets, not destroying data that is no longer needed, leaving unsecured computers accessible, malicious insiders and just plain old mistakes. An organizational culture of mindfulness about practices that may seem innocuous can go a long way toward keeping data secure. It’s everyone’s responsibility.

Our study respondents had many other data protection concerns as well: Hide my identity; don’t track (or reveal) my location – this is a particular concern for women who may face stalking threats; don’t use facial recognition to identify me in crowd scenes; don’t harm me or enable harm to me by sharing my data with others who discriminate or apply bias; don’t track health-related data and search queries; don’t share sensitive medical and financial information. Unfortunately technologies are rapidly proliferating to do all of these things, and faster.

Just one example – at a conference last week, I heard the Chief Privacy Officer for Acxiom say that their data analytics capabilities are advanced to where they can identify by name a large percentage of the U.S. male population who were likely to have a certain health condition that, let’s say, most would not want revealed. She had to call foul and was able to stop the general availability of these lists for purchase.

Clearly there are many facets to data concerns and data protection. Get your own house in order. Ingrain this into the culture. And be as transparent and reassuring as you can with your customers about how seriously your organization takes this. But then there’s beyond your organization, which will be addressed in my next post.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS