Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 1: Empower Customer Control

October 26th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 1: Empower Customer Control)

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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Brand Reputation in the Era of Data: 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships

October 22nd, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off on Brand Reputation in the Era of Data: 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships)

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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Quick Tips for Selecting the Right ERP System for Your Company

October 13th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off on Quick Tips for Selecting the Right ERP System for Your Company)

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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Virtual Collaboration — How to Make Sure You’re Doing It Right

September 29th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs | Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Virtual Collaboration — How to Make Sure You’re Doing It Right)

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 on Six Steps to Rationalizing Your IT Portfolio)

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 on Is It Time for Your Technology Firm to Rebrand?)

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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Four Reasons Why Protecting Information Is Every Manager’s Problem

July 27th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off on Four Reasons Why Protecting Information Is Every Manager’s Problem)

This week on NVTC’s blog, Dr. Didier Perdu of LMI discusses the challenge of information assurance and how managers should address it.


enterprisepicMore and more organizations are discovering the challenge of information assurance (IA). But, if you are like many other managers, you do not know how to address, let alone mitigate, the risks associated with common threats such as power failures or wireless intrusions. A solution is to leverage your enterprise architecture (EA) to make IA an integral part of the information technology (IT) planning and management activities of your organization. Here are four reasons why you need to get serious about protecting your information assets by integrating IA directly into your EA.

1. Improve Communication

An integrated EA/IA framework gets information flowing among the various layers of your organization. Sharing information improves communications. It is important to improve communication between senior leaders and the technical staff when making decisions about security controls and their implementation. By communicating early in the development process, security remains a primary consideration from initiation to disposition, which is especially important for mission-critical systems.

2. Reduce Complexity

Traditionally, security was practiced on a system-by-system basis. Having a standard approach to addressing security requirements reduces complexity. Clearly expressing the relationship between EA processes and IA controls helps security and non-security personnel understand the other group’s planning processes and procedures. And, when people understand one another’s perspectives, they are better able to work together to ensure that security requirements are addressed.

3. Achieve Compliance

Senior leaders often find themselves unable to navigate the myriad laws, regulations, and policies expanding the scope of IA. Improving communications and reducing complexity enables business and IT managers to work together, thereby enhancing your organization’s response to evolving, complex compliance requirements.

4. Lower Costs

Making security implementation decisions early in the system development lifecycle can reduce your IT costs significantly. Moreover, because IA also addresses vulnerabilities and risks, it saves future resources by providing for the restoration of information systems through built-in protection, detection, and reaction capabilities.

Senior leaders often feel unprepared to identify gaps in IT security and take appropriate action. Obtaining guidance to meet security and compliance requirements is critical to any organization. IT security no longer means simply making sure the door is locked or keeping passwords secure. Today, it means securing the information and information systems upon which your organization relies in order to be successful.


Dr. Perdu works in the Information Management Group with the Enterprise Architecture team, refining the LEAP methodology, and contributing to enterprise architecture related tasks. He holds a Ph.D. in Information Technology from George Mason University and a Master of Science in Technology and Policy from MIT. During his career he has sought to use Enterprise Architecture beyond just compliance and apply it to solve a variety of business issues faced by an enterprise. Cybersecurity is one of these challenges.

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The Health IT Revolution: Driving Down Costs While Improving Care

July 7th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off on The Health IT Revolution: Driving Down Costs While Improving Care)

This week on NVTC’s blog, Innovation Health CEO Dave Notari shares how health IT has made serious progress, closing communication and care gaps.


The healthcare industry hasn’t traditionally been known as an early adopter when it comes to implementing the latest technology – as folks in the heart of the Northern Virginia technology community know all too well. But over the past few years we’ve made some serious progress.

Dave Notari

Dave Notari

Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law there’s been a dramatic national up-tick in the use of personal health technology (think Fitbit!), as well as technology designed to help consumers navigate the healthcare system and make better choices on behalf of their families.

When technology is implemented within a progressive and proactive health care management model, we start to close communication and care gaps, reduce medical errors and encourage healthy habits. Northern Virginia is a hub of tech innovation, and technology is poised to improve the health care experience for residents in three very important ways over the next few years.

Improving Health Literacy

In early 2015 a Kaiser Family Foundation survey [1] found that there were 11 million newly insured adults as of December 2014. For some, it may have been their first experience with enrolling for health coverage and having to learn a wide array of health and health benefits terms. Health care language can be difficult to understand, and with high deductible health plans (HDHP)s  on the rise, understanding coverage needs and what is available in-network is more vital than ever before. With the right consumer tools and simpler language, health providers and businesses can make health information clearer to consumers, aid decision-making, and ensure that they are informed and able to choose the plan that works best for them and their family.

Many of us expect that buying and selecting our health plan should be as easy as buying a pair of shoes—as insurers begin to implement this type of technology we can expect that to become more of a reality.

Improving the Quality of Care

When it comes to improving the overall quality of Northern Virginia healthcare, technology provides opportunities for better coordination and collaboration among key stakeholders.  Our health care system today is characterized by fragmentation, inefficiency and waste. In addition, it’s not as convenient or connected as it could be. Deploying technology to connect hospitals, physicians and providers would transform the way healthcare is currently delivered and provide numerous benefits to NOVA consumers.

Take, for example, someone who needs to see a specialist. Before electronic health records (EHRs) and technology that allows doctors to electronically share patient health information were available a Primary Care Physician (PCP) would have to fax the patient’s chart to a specialist, the patient or doctor would have to call to ensure the information arrived, and if it did not the patient would have to rely on her memory to recount for the doctor her entire medical history. Today, doctors using EHRs and health information exchange technology have the ability to seamlessly coordinate their patients’ care and share critical patient data, which lessens the hassle factor for patients. Additionally, certain technologies can even allow patients to review their own secure personal health records, pinpoint in-network doctors and facilities, get cost-saving pop-up alerts and use digital ID cards for all of their check-ups and appointments.

Beyond making patient health records more accessible, technology can also help identify patients who may be at risk of certain conditions or those with potential gaps in care so doctors can act to prevent complications.

Lowering Costs

Technology has the ability to help consumers understand the cost of services before they are actually accessed—something I personally found useful a few months ago when my son was in need of a CT scan. My wife was referred to a doctor, and like most moms was going off of the doctor’s recommendation without any insight into places she could have the CT performed or what the cost would be at different facilities. This is pretty common. Using a health care payment estimator tool I was able to find all of the different care sites and costs in a five-mile radius of our home.  The result? My son received a CT scan for $250 rather than the doctor’s recommended site which was $600. Since I have a HDHP, I saved an additional outlay of $350—all thanks to technology!

It is safe to assume that technology is going to transform the healthcare space. By continuing to look for and implement new technologies and solutions we have the ability to improve patient and employer education, improve health outcomes, and save money on health costs.

[1] Rachel Garfield, Katherine Young, Adults who Remained Uninsured at the End of 2014, (The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2015), Issue Brief

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Crowdfunding: Technology Takes the Lion’s Share of Capital Commitments

June 30th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs | Small Business and Entrepreneur - (Comments Off on Crowdfunding: Technology Takes the Lion’s Share of Capital Commitments)

This week on NVTC’s blog, Alex Castelli, CPA, is partner and Technology and Life Sciences Industry Practice Leader at NVTC member company CohnReznick, explains how crowdfunding has become such an attractive financing vehicle for technology companies.


7K0A0597[1]The technology industry stands out as a major beneficiary of this promising method of capital raising. In 2014, technology was a leading sector in terms of capital commitments – at around $98.5 million – and led the number of raises that have been offered since inception, according to Crowdnetic’s Quarterly Private Companies Publicly Raising Data Analysis.2 Capital commitments in the technology industry trailed only behind the services industry.

So why has crowdfunding become such an attractive financing vehicle for technology companies? And what is required to launch a successful crowdfunding campaign?

Proving legitimacy and demand

Obtaining financing from traditional lenders such as banks, angel investors, and venture capital firms can be difficult for some early-stage technology companies. Crowdfunding offers an additional source for raising capital. Many investors are eager to support innovative ideas or services, and the growing legitimacy among accredited investors to provide financial backing through the internet has contributed to the popularity of crowdfunding. For tech startups, crowdfunding is an effective way to demonstrate to lenders the demand for a product or service and also to justify the company’s financial projections. Technology companies that have successfully secured accredited investors via the web are especially attractive to traditional lenders as their ideas have reached a level of legitimacy and approval.

Testing the markets and building brand awareness

In addition to raising capital, crowdfunding provides a platform for technology entrepreneurs to test the success of their product or service once it is officially on the market. Through this process, an entrepreneur can determine whether to continue investing time and money in a particular product or service based on feedback from potential customers. Doing so avoids involvement in a venture that may ultimately prove to be futile. The exposure of a product or service through crowdfunding offers the ability to build brand awareness and develop a loyal community of customers right from the start. Developing a loyal following can generate word-of-mouth advertising that can boost a startup business to success.

Finding success

There is a commonality among crowdfunding success stories. Deals receiving funding typically have outside sponsors who advocate on behalf of the deal. These are usually prominent investors who are willing to put their names on the deal and endorse them personally. This signals to other investors that it is a quality opportunity. “This is not so different from the way investments have always been done,” said Steven Dresner, CEO of Dealflow. “In the past, one prominent venture capitalist would put a million dollars in a deal, and then the startup could use that as leverage to attract more VC money. Now it is just taking place in a whole new forum.”

What does the future of crowdfunding hold?

Notwithstanding its popularity within the technology industry, to date, equity crowdfunding may be best characterized as a “growing” source of capital formation available to private companies. Entrepreneurs continue to test the market in determining how best to utilize crowdfunding as an alternative strategy for obtaining financing, gaining exposure, validating their products or services, and ultimately, expanding their businesses. The influence of crowdfunding on the middle market sector has yet to be fully realized. However, crowdfunding is on track to not only transform how privately held companies raise capital and interact with investors, but to also influence how businesses formulate and implement their go-to-market strategies.

1 https://www.fundable.com/infographics/economic-value-crowdfunding
2 http://www.crowdnetic.com/reports/jan-2015-report


Alex Castelli, CPA, is a partner and CohnReznick’s Technology and Life Sciences Industry Practice Leader. He can be contacted at 703-744-6708 or alex.castelli@cohnreznick.com. To learn more about CohnReznick’s Technology Industry Practice, visit the company’s webpage and follow CohnReznick on Twitter @CR_TechInd.

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Tech Talent: Top Markets, Characteristics and Cost Implications

June 23rd, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off on Tech Talent: Top Markets, Characteristics and Cost Implications)

This week on NVTC’s blog, Ryan Miller of NVTC member company CBRE highlights CBRE’s in-depth analysis of the Country’s Top 50 Markets for tech talent, “Scoring Tech Talent,” and what it means for companies regionally and nationally as strategic decisions are made on how and where to grow. 


Technological advancements continue to overwrite the previous file for how to operate in our personal and professional lives.  To keep up with the rapid pace of change today, companies spanning the spectrum of all industries are making investments to insure that their people, processes and products align with these advancements in an effort to establish and maintain a competitive advantage.

These investments start with “people,” as all innovation emanates from human  creativity, knowledge and expertise.  Accordingly, companies will make a concerted effort to expand in markets where there is the highest concentration of tech talent, and do so in a fashion that caters to the needs and aspirations of the workforce.  Understanding those demographics and the underlying fundamentals of where the tech talent clusters are located – such as market rents, labor costs, infrastructure and cost of living – allows for the development of much more informed hiring, acquisition and overall capital investment and deployment strategies.

In order to more fully understand the fundamentals of the top tech talent markets, CBRE performed a detailed study of metropolitan areas throughout  the United States and has answered some key  questions about tech talent, such as:  What is tech talent?  What do tech talent markets look like?  Why does tech talent cluster?  How does tech talent impact commercial real estate?  The end result is a comprehensive report that lists the top 50 markets throughout the U.S. based upon a multi-dimensional index and provides companies with information to make informed real estate decisions.

The following provides a glimpse into the characteristics that define the components of a top tech talent market:

  • A high degree of education attainment:  nearly 75% of the top 50 markets have an education attainment rate greater than the U.S. average
  • The abundance of Millennials:  those markets with the greatest concentration of millennials and millennial growth.
  • Tech Talent Clustering:  firms located in tech talent clusters have a greater labor pool and benefit from the inherent knowledge transfer within those markets.  This leads to more collaboration, sharing of resources and – in turn – innovation.

TechTalentLaborBreakdown-Large&SmallMarkets2

The connection between tech market characteristics and a company’s real estate strategy is significant.  Specific submarkets, or even specific areas of submarkets, might be significantly more desirable and drive rental rates considerably higher than comparable buildings in the same general area.  This dynamic, combined with labor costs, provides a meaningful perspective into a company’s potential expenses in a top tech talent market.

For example, in the Northern Virginia market, the tech talent has clustered in the Dulles Corridor, and specifically in the Reston Town Center, due to the abundance of amenities, proximity to densely developed housing, a well-designed transportation infrastructure and the existence of other large companies with a significant focus on technology.  Accordingly, rental rates in this subset of the market are markedly higher than comparable buildings that sit just outside of the Reston Town Center boundary.

Building a real estate strategy around tech talent hot spots could prove very successful for companies desiring to attract and retain the best talent that the country has to offer.  With the proper analysis, guidance and diligence, the opportunity to create a distinct competitive advantage could be just around the corner.

To read the comprehensive report, please click here.


Ryan Miller is a member of the CBRE’s Occupier Advisory and Transaction Services Group in the McLean, VA office, where he and his team introduce best-in-class resources and processes to support their clients’ corporate objectives through customized real estate strategies, both regionally and nationally.  Ryan can be contacted at ryan.miller@cbre.com, and you can learn more about the company at:  www.cbre.com .

 

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