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How To Close The Skills Gap And Accelerate Your Data & Analytics Roadmap

As seen on Forbes.

Co-Founder and CEO, InfoCepts, a Gartner recognized world’s top-40 Data and Analytics solutions provider.

According to McKinsey’s 2020 global survey of 1,216 executives and managers across financial, retail, health, automotive and telecom industries, 87% of respondents said their organizations are either already facing skill shortages or they anticipate skill shortages within the next five years. The impact of such talent gaps will vary by industry, with healthcare, pharmaceutical and medical products industries least likely to be disrupted, and financial services, tech and telecom industries most likely to undergo a serious step change.

Forty-three percent of the survey’s respondents said they expect data and analytics (D&A) to be the area with the greatest skills gap, making D&A the most prominent area of concern, followed by IT management and executive management. Clearly, D&A leaders are under substantial pressure to deliver transformative results in today’s economy. The demand created by skill shortages is only exacerbated by rapidly expanding data, technology and digital economies.

In order for D&A leaders to deliver the transformation their organizations depend on, it’s crucial to connect the organization’s D&A roadmap to its corporate strategy in a way that’s both affordable and sustainable. If you are a leader responsible for D&A strategy and execution in your organization, this may mean you’re also responsible for getting buy-in from your CEO.

As the co-founder and CEO of a global top 40 D&A solutions provider, I’ve found success with three concrete strategies for accelerating the execution of an enterprise D&A roadmap by securing the right leadership, lowering TCO (total cost of ownership) and pursuing speed of execution to achieve intended outcomes.

Build sustainable teams for D&A outcomes.

Imagine you are responsible for enterprise D&A platforms at an organization. Chances are, you’re dealing with multiple complementary stacks of cloud and analytics technology, which you may have inherited as a result of inorganic growth. As your organization adapts to these changes and/or moves from on-premise to cloud infrastructure, hiring specialists may not be sustainable – not only is it hard to find and recruit these unicorns, but they’re extremely expensive at scale.

So how do you go about building a sustainable team? One approach is to build a team of generalist leaders supported by competent advisory teams with access to a pool of specialists who can offer best-in-class advice as needed. This arrangement affords you the best of both worlds.

Embrace simplicity, self-service and automation.

Organizations commonly spend north of 20% in annual maintenance fees covering support, upgrades and peace of mind, without asking if their fixed investments are actually worth the cost. On the flip side, simplicity, automation and self-service are three pillars of a simple framework to find cost-savings opportunities and make room for growth investments.

If your stack is stable and innovations aren’t solving your organization’s problems, consider self-service and intelligent automation in order to save a lot of time, effort and cost. Strategies such as automating your continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline for D&A combined with intelligent automation using robotic process automation (RPA) and data-driven intelligence can easily save organizations up to 75%.

Shift your teams away from a DIY mindset.

When modernizing D&A platforms, there may be a tendency for teams to operate with a DIY mindset. However, moving from one analytics platform to another requires an assessment of the current and target systems, as well as rationalization, extraction of the metadata, conversion of reports and validation. This process can be complicated by gaps in technical skills and a lack of built-in automation tools – thereby requiring manual effort, as well as more time and money.

But if you leverage reusable assets from partners that can mitigate migration risk, you may be able to save time and money while driving transformation. Specialized tools can significantly accelerate this process up to 80% by automating manual activities and enabling businesses to focus on what matters most for their bottom line.

As leaders seek to accelerate D&A roadmaps with affordable investments, these three strategies – building sustainable teams; embracing simplicity, self-service and automation; shifting away from a DIY mindset – can help organizations become data-driven, modern and competitive while substantially cutting costs and accelerating speed of execution. In a world where up to 30% of hours worked globally could be automated by 2030, it’s vital for organizations to stay ahead of the curve on a sustainable trajectory.

12 Expert Strategies For Keeping Your Data Secure In A Multi-Cloud Environment

As seen on Forbes.

Businesses of all sizes are at risk for theft, leakage or ransom of data stored online. It’s crucial to ensure your information is protected through cloud security methods such as firewalls, encryption and VPNs.

As cloud usage in businesses becomes increasingly complex, security becomes an even hotter issue, and businesses must be especially careful about where and how their data is accessed. Below, 12 members of Forbes Technology Council share tips for maintaining security in a multi-cloud environment.

1. Know your data lifecycles.

One tip for maintaining security in a multi-cloud environment is to know the lifecycle of the data you care about. How is the data collected? Where is it stored? How is it used? How is it shared? And when and how is it destroyed? Organizations should start by conducting a data risk assessment, which will inform their data governance across the entire enterprise, including the cloud. – Bob Fabien Zinga, Directly, Inc./U.S. Navy Reserve

2. Automate as many processes as possible.

If your organization is using a multi-cloud environment, automate as much as possible. A multi-cloud system that automates several tasks greatly decreases the human risk factor. It also allows you to stay agile. Make sure you prioritize security while implementing your automation capabilities—this ensures that protection is a main focal point every time automation is leveraged. – Marc Fischer, Dogtown Media LLC

3. Educate yourself on encryption key management.

Ensure your business understands encryption key management. Major cloud providers offer key management systems, meaning they have control of both the encryption (or the lock) and the encryption keys. Each cloud provider’s KMS can’t be used in other clouds. For true multi-cloud key management, adopt a KMS that centralizes KM functions across all of your cloud and on-premises environments. – Jeff MacMillan, StorMagic

4. Take a policy-based approach to security.

Cloud security requires a policy-based approach to ensure only the right people are deploying only the resources they’re supposed to. Also, continuous automation is critical to enhance security and enforce compliance against standards like CIS, NIST and HIPPA. By continuously monitoring applications with automation, you can detect threats and improve shift-left DevSecOps practices to drive business outcomes. – Jeff Kukowski, CloudBolt

5. Use cloud-architected privileged access management.

One security challenge with multi-cloud is controlling privileged access to cloud workloads using the tools offered by each provider, since they don’t work with each other and create identity silos that increase risk. Using a cloud-architected privileged access management solution to centralize access controls and leave zero standing privileges can close vulnerabilities and reduce that risk. – Flint Brenton, Centrify Corporation

6. Regularly check and validate your controls.

Like everything else, we don’t have an issue with technology itself. The reality is that we don’t take the time to “complete” and “validate” all the controls with continuous monitoring. Bad implementation or “install and go” isn’t going to work and never has. Conduct periodic checks and validation. – Gene Yoo, Resecurity, Inc.

7. Centralize security governance.

Large organizations with disparate cloud platforms across siloed business units are extremely vulnerable due to the inability to govern their entire assets under a single pane of control. Centralized security governance with tuned DevSecOps pipelines, strong configuration and policy monitoring combined with SOAR and SIEM technologies will get rid of security blind spots and minimize the attack surface. – Shashank Garg, InfoCepts

8. Establish standard methodologies for your team.

The key to securing multi-cloud environments is establishing standard methodologies and toolsets so your teams can identify and address potential risks and active concerns holistically and uniformly across environments. For example, use the same penetration testing, authentication and authorization services, and edge security threat monitoring systems across all of your environments. – Denis King, Solace

9. Automate security testing.

As businesses adopt multiple cloud services and their multi-cloud environments become increasingly complex, so too does their security stack. Companies should employ automated solutions that allow security teams to continuously test the effectiveness of their company’s security controls and ensure they are working to protect their multi-cloud environments as expected. – Stephan Chenette, AttackIQ

10. Explore SASE platforms.

As threat actors strike more frequently, outdated or disjointed security solutions are simply not enough in a multi-cloud environment. For successful multi-cloud adoption and consistent security across every app, device and more, businesses must look to a secure access service edge platform to provide comprehensive visibility and control wherever data goes—all from a single dashboard. – Anurag Kahol, Bitglass

11. Routinely back up your cloud data.

Companies focus and guard against outside bad actors, so that is where they focus their attention. Going online is great for ease of use and offloading hardware and support costs. The third-party provider performs backups in case of hardware failures. However, this does nothing to guard against an internal threat. Therefore, be sure to routinely perform backups of all cloud data. – Jay Marshall, EyeLock LLC

12. Create vendor-neutral security control policies.

Each cloud service provider has its own tools and even terminology for securing its platform, so it’s difficult to build consistent security controls in a multi-cloud environment. Try to create vendor-neutral policies and definitions for security controls you need and then map them to each platform. With greater consistency, you reduce the risk that some controls or activities fall through the cracks. – Ilia Sotnikov, Netwrix

ThoughtSpot and InfoCepts Announce Partnership to Bring Search & AI-driven Analytics to ASEAN Enterprises

As seen on Insider Tracking

InfoCepts will be the exclusive distributor of ThoughtSpot in Southeast Asia, leveraging data and analytics expertise to equip organizations with augmented analytics

MCLEAN, Va., Jan. 15, 2021 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ — InfoCepts, a global leader in business analytics solutions & services, and ThoughtSpot, the leader in search & AI-driven analytics, today announced a new strategic partnership. As part of this new partnership, InfoCepts will become the exclusive distributor of ThoughtSpot’s search and AI-driven analytics platform in Southeast Asia.Organizations in every industry are grappling with increased competition, a changing business environment, and evolving customer expectations. Effectively leveraging data has become a critical component to navigating these changes and delivering products and services that delight customers. The data visualization and analytics capabilities historically available to enterprises in Southeast Asia don’t provide the intuitive interface, scale, or cloud experience required to capitalize on this data.By partnering with InfoCepts, ThoughtSpot will be able to expand its presence throughout the ASEAN region and bring search and AI-driven analytics to Southeast Asian businesses at a greater scale than ever before. Customers can take advantage of cutting-edge analytics technology from ThoughtSpot while relying on InfoCepts industry-leading data and analytics expertise and unique understanding of the challenges ASEAN enterprises face to truly unlock the value of their cloud data, unearth insights, and drive action.

“At InfoCepts, we’re dedicated to staying on the cutting edge of data and analytics to ensure our customers are capitalizing on the latest technologies and innovations. By partnering with ThoughtSpot, our customers will be able to tap into the power of their data through search and AI at an unprecedented scale,” said Pat Finan, CRO, InfoCepts. “The potential opportunity for organizations when it comes to their data is massive. This partnership will further enable us to help our customers turn this opportunity into value.”

“In our work with global enterprises, it’s clear the need to equip employees at all levels with data-driven insights that guide decisions has never been greater. Our new relationship with InfoCepts is a major step forward in bringing search and AI-driven analytics to businesses in Southeast Asia so they can empower their teams with analytics like never before,” said Toni Adams, SVP APJ and Global Partner & Alliances, ThoughtSpot. “Challenging the status quo in technology is never simple, and especially in data, but with a trusted expert like InfoCepts by our side, I’m confident we’ll be able to help companies throughout ASEAN transform their use of data.”

For more information on the partnership: http://www.infocepts.com/thoughtspot

About InfoCepts

InfoCepts, a global leader in end-to-end data and analytics, which enables customers to become data-driven and stay modern. We bring people, processes, and technologies together the InfoCepts way to deliver predictable outcomes with guaranteed ROI. Working in partnership with you, we help businesses modernize data platforms, advance data-driven capabilities, support systems, and build augmented business applications and data products.

Founded in 2004, InfoCepts is headquartered in Tysons Corner, VA, with offices throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Every day more than 150,000 users use solutions powered by InfoCepts to make smarter decisions and businesses achieve better outcomes. For more information, please visit http://www.infocepts.com or follow @InfoCepts on Twitter.

About ThoughtSpot

ThoughtSpot is reinventing how companies make decisions by putting the power of their cloud data in the hands of every employee through search and AI-driven analytics. ThoughtSpot was built for the cloud era to seamlessly deliver insights instantly at a massive scale. With ThoughtSpot, anyone can use simple natural language to create new data-driven insights or surface those generated by others from across their entire enterprise. By leveraging AI, ThoughtSpot goes beyond answering known questions, detecting trends, anomalies, and patterns to suggest new questions users care about, but wouldn’t have thought to ask themselves. Customers can take advantage of ThoughtSpot as a SaaS offering through ThoughtSpot Cloud, connect and query cloud data warehouses directly with Embrace, and stay up to date on their business with the ThoughtSpot Mobile app. Customers like Walmart, BT, Daimler, Medtronic, Hulu, Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of the West, Siemens, and Nationwide Building Society rely on ThoughtSpot to empower employees at every level and transform their organizations. By bringing data to decisions everywhere, ThoughtSpot is building a more fact-driven world. Learn more at http://www.thoughtspot.com

Media Contact

Katherine Gabriel, InfoCepts, 571-348-3462, katherine.gabriel@infocepts.com

12 Key Employee Protocols To Help Businesses Safeguard Digital Assets

Most security professionals will tell you that the most vulnerable spot in a company’s digital security net isn’t any particular technology—it’s the users themselves. While digital protection policies start at the top of a company, every team member needs to be an active participant.

It’s wise for tech leaders to develop a set of digital protocols that apply across the company. Below, 12 experts from Forbes Technology Council share their tips for vital steps all employees need to take to ensure robust digital security.

1. Starting Security Education Early And Refreshing Often

Education is key. To help protect Elastic from attacks targeting our workforce, we provide a program based on communication and training to all personnel with access to Elastic systems, regardless of role. We establish policies in new-hire onboarding and insist on continued education via annual refresher courses throughout an employee’s tenure. – Kim Huffman, Elastic

2. Regularly Testing Security Awareness

Take constant tests and quizzes. My team has found this practice to be most effective when it comes to protection and security, as well as for staying up to date in the matter of new additions. After all, it is the most effective way to ensure that your company’s security rules and regulations are learned and well-remembered through time. – Daria Leshchenko, SupportYourApp Inc.

3. Using A Password Manager

It starts with password security. We require employees to use a company-provided password manager to generate and store strong, unique passwords for each account. While it’s required for use internally, it’s also an employee benefit we encourage people to leverage for personal accounts. A compromised personal password reused in a work context could enable criminals’ easy entry into your network. – David Endler, SpyCloud

4. Practicing Good Credential Hygiene And Enabling Auto-Updates

We strongly recommend all employees practice good credential hygiene. That means not using weak or default admin/system passwords; instead, consider using a strong phrase. Also, ensure your employees have proper security training to avoid phishing attacks and downloading malware. Lastly, enable automatic updates for the operating system you are using and update as recommended. These should be table stakes but are often forgotten practices. – Gaurav Banga, Balbix

5. Implementing Two-Factor Authentication

Digital protection starts with active security protocols. All employees should utilize two-factor authentication on all logins, as 2FA acts as a kind of “double lock,’’ securing private information while validating user identity. While a basic security protocol, it’s one way to ward off potential hackers with the added benefit of reminding everyone within your organization that security is there. – Robert Weissgraeber, AX Semantics

6. Using A VPN

Most executives feel the shift to remote work has increased the need for data loss prevention strategies and for good reason: Not all employees share the same security priorities. Tapping into unsecured Wi-Fi networks is just one example. Yet, the solution that can and will cover a lot of ground is to encourage employees to use a virtual private network before signing on. Encryption is key. – Meghann Chilcott, EHR Data

7. Purging Outdated, Unused Data

What all employees should be doing but usually don’t is purging outdated, unused data. Any data no longer needed for daily operations is a nuclear asset that increases the “blast radius” of harm if a business is breached. To manage and protect digital properties properly, companies should create annual mandates on cleaning out outdated, unused data to create good hygiene habits. – Caleb Barlow, CynergisTek

8. Replace Or Supplement Web-Based File Sharing

Utilize a unified file sharing application internally either alongside or instead of something Web-based such as Google Docs, which may be more prone to data breaches. This will not only keep internal data and documents safely stored, but it can also help protect any sensitive client information. – Andrew Jornod, VertexOne

9. Not Sending Sensitive Info To Personal Email

Never send sensitive company or client information to personal email accounts, even if it’s just to print a document out at home. Although the action is often well-intentioned, valuable data now sits in an environment that is not secured by the company, leaving it vulnerable to cybercriminals, and your company could be at risk of breaching data protection regulations such as GDPR. – Edward Bishop, Tessian

10. Limiting Access To Consumer Data

At InfoCepts, we take customer data privacy very seriously. Our need-to-know policy is enforced, and only associates who need access to customer data are provided access to the systems and data stores. Data flow across project teams is restricted by physical and digital controls. Systems-based controls are coupled with training so associates are fully aware of why data privacy is crucial and how to ensure it. – Shashank Garg, InfoCepts

11. Not Clicking Unknown Email Links

Since digital assets are very valuable to an organization, one key protocol is not to click on any links in emails that come from untrusted members or unknown sources. Conducting separate employee training with email protection software will go a long way to help. – Buyan Thyagarajan, Eigen X

12. Reporting Anything Out Of The Ordinary

If you see something, say something. If someone notices something out of the ordinary, such as an unusual piece of code or a newly created file, they should immediately report it. By definition, hackers and their activities don’t belong in the environments they target, so it is up to everyone to identify when things are out of place and up-level it to those who can prevent further intrusion. – Fabrizio Blanco, Viant Technology

How InfoCepts planned its Cloud journey

As seen on Economic Times

Cloud implementation is one of the biggest changes businesses go through. Migrating to the cloud provides an opportunity to businesses to become more agile, improve their flexibility, reduce costs in the long run and focus on their core competencies. As important it is for organisations to embark on their cloud journeys, it is equally important to plan and strategize it properly.

Infocepts, data and analytics solutions and services providers while thinking to adopt cloud took a backward approach to decide whether it needed Cloud or not. It thought of an alternative to cloud.

“The alternative to the cloud is that you maintain your own servers, you have a team, you invest in that, you do CAPEX, and then you have your own backups etc. But if you are on cloud, you skip all this. Now when we are working on the cloud which is all hosted somewhere south of London where I don’t have to worry about it. I know, I have a very trusted partner who is taking care of all this for me. So, I don’t have to have my own IT team to maintain all of that. Being on cloud reduces my anxiety on the maintenance part” said Rajendra V. Jodhpurkar, Global Vice President, Head of Global IT, Head of Business Planning & Strategic Initiatives at Infocepts.

“The second reason was that any software has a new patch release every month or quarter. If it is hosted on-prem and I have the software on my server, it means that I have to undergo and upgrade it myself. On the cloud, however, this all will happen every quarter without our teams being involved as much,” he added.

The company started thinking about the cloud at the beginning of 2019 March. It did its Competency Maturity Analysis (CMA) to see what gaps exist and how they can make sure that we are up to industry’s standards. Infocepts hired a consultant to analyze the practices and processes the company had back then and compared with what industry followed.

Infocepts is on a journey to become a 100 million company by 2023 and it needs robust processes and systems to go ahead. This triggered the need for cloud, as the company thought it would be a major part of this growth process.

“From then on we floated the RFP, we got multiple vendors. We did a lot of pros and cons between each of the ERPs in terms of strength and weaknesses. The next step was of demos and workshops. We evaluated products from a lot of vendors but since people felt comfortable with Oracle, we decided our technology partner to be Oracle and went ahead with Oracle ERP and HCM Cloud,” he said.

Then came the time to decide on an implementation partner. Once again RFP was made and after careful evaluation, Infocepts chose KPMG as its implementation partner.

Jodhpurkar believes it is very important to make sure that one has the right implementation partner who understands the journey properly.

“And then there was a big kickoff where we invited all people to embark on the journey. We iterated multiple times why this journey is important to us and how it is going to help us and our people in our career path. We did the pilots and wrote all the requirements. We had a meeting every month to see what is going and how it is going and how to correct something if the need be,” he said.

Explaining the benefits and the business value added through these solutions, he said, “For the Board of Directors and for the leaders, one of the important things is MIS reports (Management Information Systems) where we have all the numbers. Earlier it used to come out on the 15th of every month and now we have it on the 9th of every month. So we are saving almost 6-7 days. The other thing is that earlier the confidence on the accuracy of data was low. People used to say that the data could be 50-70% correct but now we know it is 100% accurate.”

Infocepts works with a lot of vendors who demand quick payments. Earlier it used to take 7 days to process and complete the payment which now just takes a day or two.

Jodhpurkar believes that these solutions have drastically reduced processing time, thereby improving the overall experience.

InfoCepts removes communication silos, drives culture of collaboration with Microsoft 365

As seen on Microsoft

A global leader of end-to-end data analytics solutions and platform modernization—with operations in more than 20 countries—InfoCepts has placed its employees at the core of its digital transformation strategies. With Office 365 as its all-in-one collaboration and communication platform, for 1,000-plus associates across 20 countries, the company is not only ensuring seamless business continuity, but it’s also building in new levels of agility, efficiency, and productivity within the workplace.

Data is at the crux of every business decision, and it is the force behind every organizational strategy. Its ubiquitous nature and invaluable presence in the modern-day business environment requires that companies understand and ascribe appropriate value to the role of data in the overall operational framework.

How can businesses unlock actionable insights from the vast volumes of data that are generated on a routine basis? How can companies turn data-driven transformations into a competitive advantage? These are questions that InfoCepts, a leading provider of data and analytics solutions, places at the heart of its value proposition and the solutions it provides.

Founded in 2004, InfoCepts has built a formidable presence across the globe, helping companies resolve seemingly intractable challenges and find cutting-edge solutions through the intelligent use of data and analytics. With a robust team of 1,000-plus data experts working across 20 countries, the company offers modern analytics, cloud and platform modernization, managed services, and data management solutions, among others. Given its broad portfolio and geographic spread, cross-functional collaboration—with co-workers, customers, and business partners—is a critical business requirement.

Modern platforms for a modern workforce

A digital disruptor with a widespread global presence, InfoCepts is always seeking new ways to connect and collaborate. In the past, the company had adopted a mix of platforms, with Skype for Business being the primary mode of communication. In 2017, the company began re-evaluating its tools to bolster security, cohesion, and to build a seamless chat-based information exchange through a unified communication platform.

“As a leading provider of data and analytics services across the globe, collaboration is a key facet of our business. We chose Office 365 as our internal collaboration tool to empower our 1,000-plus associates spread across eight different time zones,” explains Shashank Garg, Chief Executive Officer at InfoCepts. “As more and more of our customers adopt Office 365, we are becoming much more agile and efficient.”

Furthermore, the company sought an opportunity for its young developer community. “We wanted a very simple way to navigate different hierarchies,” explains Rajendra Jodhpurkar, EVP Strategic Initiatives at InfoCepts. “When we started looking at it from our IT roadmap perspective, Microsoft 365 was the natural choice. Its advanced features, familiarity, and enterprise-grade security best met our needs,” he adds.

This decision marked InfoCept’s transformation journey with Microsoft technologies.

A collaborative culture

Post-migration to Microsoft 365, all departments and functions within InfoCepts have embraced Microsoft Teams as their collaboration platform. As the all-in-one, chat-based tool, Teams has helped break silos, bring in alignment, and drive transparency in the way people work. With Teams, InfoCepts has switched from a culture swamped by emails to a culture of informational communication to get things done.

“The biggest value comes in when you have cross-functional teams,” Jodhpurkar adds. “We wanted to reduce the number of synchronous meetings. Now, on a Teams channel, we can easily create group chats and keep talking and exchanging action items any time. Whenever people find time, they can take a look. No need to find a time slot that fits everyone’s schedule. No need for everyone to make time for something. Also, it’s been providing a lot of transparency. If the CEO is talking to the HR head about something, and the heads of sales, delivery, and finance teams are also on the same channel, they’ll all be on the same page.”

InfoCepts’ digital-first culture, enabled by Microsoft 365, was a critical enabler of business continuity when the COVID-19 crisis struck. The leaders could quickly ideate on Teams and support associates spread across countries. The company’s leadership came together on the platform to assess the needs and offer solutions. They went on to acquire approximately 400 laptops to meet IT requirements. The Teams framework also enabled the company’s business leaders to keep all channels of communication open at all times and ensure the well-being of employees and associates.

“When COVID-19 hit, InfoCepts switched to a 100 percent remote working model in less than a week. This would not have happened without Microsoft 365. Our adoption of Microsoft technologies helped us stay connected with all our internal and external stakeholders,” Garg remarks.

Sharp focus on productivity, innovation

Over the last three years, InfoCepts has accelerated its collaborative culture by weaving in these Microsoft products into its organizational fabric.

  • OneNote: To prepare for meetings and translate project goals into reality is now easier than ever. Everyone can share the call agenda, add feedback, and brainstorm new ideas on OneNote. Employees can co-author documents and access all relevant files in one place.
  • Forms: To understand how employees are coping with the pandemic, InfoCepts is conducting surveys on Forms and collating feedback across the United States, India, Singapore, and other countries. “Through these surveys, we’re checking in with people about how they are doing, how their work-life balance is. Within a week, we share the results of the survey. Such insights are helping us address the pain points of our people and support them in any way we can,” notes Jodhpurkar.
  • Yammer: To engage with employees across the spectrum effectively and meaningfully, the company has been using Yammer as its professional networking platform. With Yammer, InfoCepts has been able to spread positivity, keep its knowledge workforce engaged, and spark conversation within the community. Senior leaders are conducting monthly talk shows, to disseminate corporate communication and interact with employees on a casual note. The videos are stored on Stream to be accessed later by those who missed the sessions.
  • Sway: To share internal communication and update everyone about exciting things happening across the board, InfoCepts is rolling out monthly newsletters. Known as InfoGram, these newsletters are curated and developed entirely from a remote working team on Sway. “Sway is one of those unsung apps in Microsoft 365. When we were looking for options, we found that it was very easy to create our newsletters on Sway, without any external involvement,” remarks Katherine Gabriel, Director of Marketing at InfoCepts.
  • Power Apps: Given that the company operates in the data science space and uses various software to serve clients, it is also striving to simplify internal processes through apps strung together with Power Apps.

“We don’t want our people to depend only on the IT team to develop line-of-business (LOB) apps. We just want to give them the right platform and an easy learning curve so that they can build their own apps for their teams. In fact, our QA head built an app on Power Apps and is using it to track delivery risks. He has built another app where associates can record their achievements easily. At the end of the year, you will have a compiled list of everyone’s accomplishments at your fingertips. We’ve had such impressive use cases in other teams too,” says Jodhpurkar.

Moving ahead as a single organism

Building on its culture of chat-based collaboration and file sharing in the cloud, InfoCepts has recorded remarkable benefits:

  • Seamless transition to a remote work ecosystem within one week.
  • Smooth collaboration with internal and external stakeholders, enabling remote go-live of its ERP platform.
  • A 58 percent increase in the adoption of Yammer during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Reduction of generic emails by 20 to 30 percent. The company plans to reduce emails further by 50 percent, using Yammer to share birthday greetings, salary statements, and operations updates, such as server availability.
  • A 50 percent reduction in travel bills.

Encouraged by the success of its digital transformation, InfoCepts intends to amplify its technology focus. The organization plans to use Microsoft Power BI as the visualization and insights generation tool of its data council.

“Microsoft technologies will have a significant place in our IT roadmap. How do we improve the employee experience? How do we make them more and more productive using various apps? That’s what we are trying to get at. With complete backing of the leadership to invest in the right technologies for these purposes, we’re planning to go all out!” concludes Jodhpurkar.

16 Ways Tech Leaders Can Keep Up With Data Privacy Laws

As seen on Forbes.

As consumers and businesses alike become increasingly concerned with how their information is being used, data privacy regulations are coming online both overseas and in the U.S. However, there is currently no single, universal law that dictates data protection, so tech leaders have to take extra care to stay “in the know.”

The members of Forbes Technology Council understand the importance of keeping up with ever-changing data privacy regulations. Below, they share 16 tips for tech leaders looking to maintain compliance with growing and changing data privacy laws.

1. View privacy regulations as an opportunity.

Don’t see privacy regulation as a limitation. It’s an opportunity. Think seat belts or the Clean Air Act: Companies that adapted early were well ahead of the game. Tech leaders who look for creative solutions now—such as providerless tech in the fraud prevention industry—can make regulations many companies fear into a real boost for their tech infrastructure and their customer experience. – Itay Levy, Identiq

2. Make data privacy a core value.

In the wake of the EU’s strict General Data Protection Regulation, more and more data privacy regulations are being introduced around the world. The best way to stay compliant is by taking a holistic approach and institutionalizing data privacy as a core value in your organization. Be transparent, practice privacy by design and privacy by default, use data minimization, and avoid transferring data outside the EU. – Robert E.G. Beens, Startpage.com

3. Consult compliance and legal experts.

Consult compliance experts and legal departments regularly to keep abreast of changes and ensure that your policies, procedures and controls are updated. The acceleration of data privacy laws is forcing a mindset shift for organizations toward considering data privacy in terms of current and future processes. Pay attention to reporting requirements; permitted notification windows can be exceedingly short! – Cody Cornell, Swimlane

4. Integrate customer data.

Double down on customer data integration efforts. You’ve been trying to master siloed data to build a complete 360-degree view so that you can add new customers and build relationships with them. Now you need to know where all that customer data resides when they decide to change these relationships with you. It’s the same data problem but with a very different level of rigor necessary to avoid issues. – Mark Marinelli, Tamr

5. Only collect the data you really need.

The primary aspect is to understand the real need for the data. There are so many companies capturing all kinds of data without knowing if they really need it or will use it. I would recommend not going after big data. Rather, go after smart data—data that is really needed for the organization. After data collection, secure it and be careful in sharing it with others. – Asokan Ashok, UnfoldLabs Inc.

6. Set up automated systems to monitor new policy releases.

Tie your inner policies to all the regulations. The quantity of the new policies rises so fast that it might be really hard to keep track of them. But you can easily keep track of your own policies. Keep some AI or ML tools that will update you on the need to change your policies and you will automatically learn when a new security standard arises. – Daria Leshchenko, SupportYourApp Inc.

7. Take the initiative and adapt quickly.

Pay attention to regulation changes and adapt accordingly. Speed is crucial in the tech sector. Dealing with new regulations can be tough, but those who don’t keep up are only sabotaging themselves. If you take the initiative and adapt quickly, customers will see that you care. At a time when reputations can crumble overnight due to a data breach, establishing trust is priceless. – Marc Fischer, Dogtown Media LLC

8. Hire a privacy officer.

Organizations should create a strong privacy foundation, hire a privacy officer and have a well-thought-out policy to stay ahead of the game. You should make data privacy a core value so that it is easier to react to changing regulations because infrastructure, personnel and awareness are already in place. A key message to imbibe is “Data privacy is everyone’s responsibility.” – Shashank Garg, InfoCepts

9. Consider adopting a privacy framework.

Many organizations are already using security frameworks as the foundation for their IT security program. For example, the NIST Privacy Framework is agnostic to specific regulations and can provide the basis and controls to make it easier to adapt to future changes in the regulatory landscape. – Ilia Sotnikov, Netwrix

10. Subscribe to relevant publications.

It’s essential to have a dedicated person or team who can follow the legal changes. And since most tech companies are unique either because of their products, industry or location, you’d be wise to subscribe to relevant blogs, publications and legal trade journals for your business category or industry. They’ll have the latest information that you can use to develop future product strategies. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

11. Audit and update your data processes.

Businesses have become natural hoarders of data. But we all know data protection and privacy is not going away any time soon, so business leaders should use this as an opportunity to thoroughly audit, cleanse and update their data stores, policies and procedures. Throw out data that isn’t benefiting you and tighten up the rest. Getting on top of data management ahead of regulation is key. – Sam Amrani, Olvin

12. Map out your data supply chain.

Technology leaders need to focus on mapping their data supply chains—including gaining and maintaining an understanding of data sources, use restrictions and other constraints—to appropriately manage privacy and security regulations and best practices. Basic efforts to inventory data sets and to understand how data is transformed and combined are paramount to success. – Jason Crabtree, QOMPLX, Inc.

13. Know where your data resides.

Think about where your data resides and which jurisdictions it could be subject to. If you’re operating a mission-critical application in a specific country, it may be beneficial to run your workloads on regional cloud infrastructure to simplify the number of jurisdictions where privacy regulations apply to your data. – Maddison Long, CloudOps

14. Develop documented, accessible audit trails.

Data privacy policies change by region or country relatively rapidly. At a minimum, have a governance policy in place and make sure all of your systems have well-documented and understandable audit trails available to all stakeholders. This rule documentation will help with faster adherence to new policies. – Ryan Peeler, Voxx Analytics

15. Increase your visibility and understanding.

Data privacy and data protection regulations continue to evolve. Increasing visibility and understanding across complex digital landscapes allows organizations to support countless value-added use cases while also meeting compliance requirements. Both compliance and insight improve significantly by simply being able to intelligently search for and pinpoint the right information. – Alexandre Bilger, Sinequa

16. Strive for clarity in your user experience.

Consumer privacy acts, both in the U.S. (California Consumer Privacy Act) and overseas (GDPR), now mandate how data is collected, stored and used. Though they vary in the specifics, the penalties for lack of transparency are universally punitive, whether the purpose was intentional or not. Strive for clarity on the front end of your UX and you’ll have fewer concerns about falling out of compliance on the back end. – Meghann Chilcott, XIL Consulting

Building New Client Tech? Ask These 14 Questions First

As seen on Forbes

Building a new tech product—or updating something you didn’t build initially—for a new client always comes with challenges. Addressing the client’s actual needs can be difficult, especially when you’re working with someone outside of your industry. They may not know how to fully communicate or describe what they want, which can make their asks vague and unclear.

To help you ensure you’re giving the best service to your non-tech clients, we asked members of Forbes Technology Council what questions they ask to clarify a new client’s project. They recommend asking these questions to get both of you on the same page.

1. ‘What are you trying to do?’

Understanding the business value and using that as a driver for technology evaluation and selection is crucial. The business value, or return on investment, must drive technology decisions, not the other way around. A mentor of mine once told me, “In IT, there are five right ways to do things.” That’s the flexibility and adaptability of technology, but the end result is what the project must be measured on from the start. – Tom Fisher, SAS

2. ‘Can you tell us a user story?’

I have found it helpful to ask such a client to write their expectations of the product/experience in the form of a user story. This accomplishes a couple of things that are of general utility in such a situation: It introduces the client to the formalism of defining a user story and forces them to be specific about their expectations. Further, it has the advantage of being directly incorporated into the development team’s agile process. – Bryan Smith, Myia Health

3. ‘What does success look like for you?’

Many of the stakeholders in a customer business are non-industry clients, such as economic buyers, procurement and infosec. The key question to each is, “What does success look like for you?” This teases out both desired benefits and potential risks, which are different for each stakeholder and should be addressed in their language and incorporated into the new or updated product. – Ivan Harris, Kraytix

4. ‘How can we make your job easier?’

In today’s employment landscape, most people are multitasking while tackling multiple job functions. Ask about their pain points, and then ask, “How can I make your job easier?” Then apply technologies that will work for them, not against them. By automating tasks and simplifying work through the right technology, the customer may find themselves with free time, and that’s priceless. – Ryan Decker, Marion Eye Centers & Optical

5. Are you willing to learn new tools?

All non-tech clients want to see their projects and developments run smoothly, but for that to happen, some of them might need to learn some additional tools. You have to know whether they are ready to make this effort right off the bat to manage your expectations and your knowledge of the future flow. – Daria Leshchenko, SupportYourApp Inc.

6. ‘How will you measure success?’

No “one” question gives the complete perspective of what the client needs. However, a good place to start is, “How will you measure your success?” A client who is looking to save cost versus someone who is looking to expand their customer base will have different technological needs. This question also helps to get the client focused on results and outcomes rather than the myriad technological choices that exist today. – Shashank Garg, InfoCepts

7. ‘What user experiences do you want to offer?’

In the wireless industry, it is difficult for non-industry clients to understand the latest technologies available. When clients need in-building wireless solutions, we focus on solving problems instead of asking technology questions. For example, we ask, “What specific user experiences and digital services do you want to offer, and for how many individuals?” This helps us see the client’s vision for their tenants and venue so we can suggest the right solutions. – Julie Song, Advanced RF Technologies, Inc.

8. ‘Where do you want to be in six months?’

There are a few questions to ask based on the actual product, but ultimately, regardless of the product, you need to know the following: “Where do we want to be in six months, a year, or even five years from now? How do we want people to describe the product? How do we know we’ve won?” If we have a clear understanding of what constitutes success from the above questions, we ask, “What behaviors do we need to change with our customers/users?” – Edwin Huertas, Shockoe | Mobile by Design

9. ‘What do your business processes look like?’

When it comes to non-industry customers, the emphasis should be on the clients’ business processes. If experts in the industry do their due diligence to understand customers’ core processes and the scale of the project, regardless of the technology used, products can be successfully created. – Lana Vernovsky, Synoptek LLC

10. ‘How do you use automation?’

As an AIOps company, asking and understanding where our customers stand in their IT automation journey is critical to delivering the right tech for their needs. Whether it’s handling mundane IT monitoring so they can think more strategically or providing observability into their digital systems, their answer helps us to continue advancing their automation transformation. – Phil Tee, Moogsoft

11. ‘How do you envision your customer interacting with your product?’

The No. 1 question to ask to help understand a non-industry client’s tech needs is to have them describe (in their own view) their customer’s journey. A good way to phrase that is, “Please describe the product and how you envision the customer interacting with it.” From that, a technologist can gain an understanding of all of the components, touch points and data that need to be architected to deliver it. – Kim LaFleur, Title3Funds

12. ‘Who, what, when, where, why and how?”

The five W’s, as in the news, are always key. “Who, what, when, where and why” are all important, but also add, “How?” If you ask any client those questions about their new technology—as well as what they want from it—you’ll find yourself with a clear direction and understanding of their goals, setting yourself up to successfully create solutions and client loyalty. – Frank Speiser, Talla

13. ‘How can you accomplish what you want in the most pared-down version possible?’

It’s important to know that a client might think of a larger picture than necessary. There’s analysis paralysis, but there’s also scope and execution paralysis. There’s always the beginning of a success story, and the client needs to think of that so that the chances of failure are dramatically reduced. – WaiJe Coler, InfoTracer

14. ‘What’s your end goal?’

Ask your clients about their “big picture.” What’s their end goal? It’s easy to get bogged down in myriad project details. For technology to truly facilitate progression towards a client’s main objective, you have to take a step back, cut through the noise and hone in on the target results. See the forest through the trees, and it will guide you in the right direction. – Marc Fischer, Dogtown Media LLC

How Successful CEOs Should Use Data Assets To Respond To A Crisis

As seen on Forbes

The role of data and analytics is rapidly changing from simply acting as a business-supporting function to being a catalyst for digital transformation.

Whether you like it or not, we are all generating and consuming data at an unprecedented pace. For example, Google now aggregates anonymized datasets from willing mobile users based on their device’s location history. It has built community mobility reports based on geolocation data and shared it for public use. In the current Covid-19 climate, this data has proved to be immensely useful for any organization that is looking to reopen and reimagine its operations.

As a leader of a corporation, government agency, university or nonprofit, it is likely that you use data every day to make choices that affect your business. If you were not already using data to drive decisions, the Covid-19 pandemic must have been a wake-up call for your organization. The ensuing economic disruption has forced businesses to adopt or accelerate their digital transformation journey as they adapt to changing market demands, reinventing offerings, optimizing resources and, in some cases, even fighting for survival. Data and analytics have become strategic and central to digital transformation, but Covid-19 has complicated this journey, making it more challenging to collaborate.

Based on our firm’s 16-year history of supporting customers across all industries and recent conversations with customers and our global centers of excellence, I’ve highlighted five success factors that CEOs should consider critical in their quest to derive maximum value from available data assets:

1. Put data and analytics at the heart of business strategy.

To create a sustainable competitive advantage for your business, you should invest in analytics as a core capability within your organization. This means a top-down commitment from executive leadership, investment in people, trustworthy data and insights made accessible to business users. This also means that you focus on ensuring that executives act on what the data tells them.

Do not assume that you must build analytics systems yourself to create a competitive advantage. If IT is not core to your business, find the right partner to help you build the analytics systems, and you focus on consumption and decision-making.

2. Plan for perpetual modernization.

Given the state of evolution of technology and data, IT leadership should reimagine how it designs data and analytics systems. The architecture itself should be evolutionary — including data systems, insight development and delivery systems. Without taking advantage of cloud, modern architectures and automation, you will not be able to fulfill the expectations of different users and their analytic intentions in the organization. Keep in mind that moving to the cloud should not take years of planning and execution. If needed, you can always keep your current systems working on-premise while you build the new systems in the cloud.

One of our customers moved a 2PB complex analytics system from an on-premise data center to the AWS cloud within nine months. You should adopt modular and technology-agnostic architectures with room to evolve and avoid lock-in to specific tools.

3. Revisit the business/IT engagement model.

To ensure that the value of analytics reaches the strategy and operational units, organizations should focus on how the business and IT work together. Various models are available — centralized, decentralized, supportive, consultative — so you can pick the one that works best for your organization. Not being consistent with how your business is organized is likely to create longer-term challenges. The good thing is, you can start with one model and evolve into the next based on your organizational maturity.

When one of our customers implemented self-service analytics capability across their business units, they established clear roles; IT was made responsible for the enterprise platform, and business units were made responsible for building and maintaining the applications.

4. Make insights accessible to users.

Data-informed decision-making is no longer an executive privilege. Data should be accessible to all staff so they can use or create their own insights for their jobs. IT teams do not need to create every single report and insight. They should also move away from trying to standardize the consumption tools. They should consider making insights available in the tools that the users are already comfortable with.

Insights should be understandable and actionable. Consider the use of techniques such as data storytelling to enable users to comprehend information easily and move toward actions. One of our customers uses automated commentary on top of visuals to convey specific actions to front-line staff.

5. Reimagine return on investment.

We all know that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a significant shift in consumer demand and that most organizations have had to reevaluate what is important today and what will be relevant tomorrow. Traditional portfolio rationalization models use metrics that show a connection to the revenue or profit for justification and prioritization. However, return on investment encompasses more than just the financial impact; one must consider other factors, such as the potential of results from empowered employees, better customer experiences and newer capabilities.

Leaders must also find ways to explain the intangibles that come with informed decisions. Not everything can be black and white. For example, how do you quantify the impact of saving lives due to better insights? If Google’s community mobility report helps you keep your employees safe, get health care to those in need or bring a sense of normalcy into our lives, what is the investment that we are willing to make to use it?

Navigating organizations safely and effectively in the coming months will be a big challenge for all leaders. However, in times of uncertainty, making informed actions based on data is better than making decisions simply based on instincts. You do not have to drive into an unknown city without maps; you can invest in a navigation aid that you can afford and that makes sense for your business — it could be a paper-based map, a GPS or maybe even a Tesla. You have to make a choice.

Anthony Troy – David’s Bridal

As seen on Toggle

It’s been a standing joke in so many sitcoms in which a wedding is being planned. “I should have eloped,” exclaims the bride-to-be, her already frazzled mind nearly taxed to the limit by the many complexities of what should be the happiest day of her life.

Which needn’t be the case, says the man who, in August 2018, became CIO of the nation’s largest bridal store chain. Technology having the means to ease the planning of so many events, just harness it for weddings, Anthony Troy tells Toggle.

Anthony Troy – David’s Bridal

Anthony Troy | Chief Information Officer | David’s Bridal | Photo credit: Juan Chami

“Just like brides make commitments to their special person, we must be good on our commitments to our customers,” Troy says from corporate headquarters in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. “To serve our customers well, we must remain relevant, speak to them where they are in a voice they can relate to, and continuously prove that we are their trusted adviser through this exciting yet nerve-wracking event.”

A vow shared

Today’s weddings as likely to be outside a church as in it, there’s no one-style-fits-all approach to attire. As a new generation of brides emerge, the variants of wedding styles, tastes and options change.

The key, Troy says, is to enable the customer to visualize, plan and ultimately execute that special day. For David’s Bridal to best partner with the bride, it means offering her new services to help her calmly navigate the journey.

These include new inspiration apps that can be accessed through sites such as Pinterest, an interactive planning checklist mobile app that helps her plan all activities, and an appointment prep quiz, “myCustomers,” allowing her to explore preferences on dresses while information seamlessly flows so the stylist can review options on an iPad prior to a meeting.

To get a little technical, behind all of these apps is a new architectural cloud-based data layer emerging, “Omni data hubs,” that routes information between customer and employee apps and back-end systems—e.g., Order Management—so everything’s in sync.

David’s Bridal wasn’t necessarily lacking in high-tech when Troy came aboard. He did find, however, much opportunity to modernize, especially with online retailers vying to reduce the company’s one-quarter market share.

Anthony Troy – David’s Bridal

Photo credit: Juan Chami

Among his early initiatives was to accelerate the development, beta and chainwide launch of the proprietary myCustomers app to store employees and brides.

“Technology projects fail when there is not strong partnership with business stakeholders,” he says. “In this case, we partnered with our store operations team to really understand how the technology would be used, and how it could help our stylists serve our customers better. We are using this project as the right template for future initiatives.”

Heather Braddock, director of store innovation and operations, has partnered with the technology team to ensure that customer and business needs were incorporated.

“With the information at their fingertips, stylists are able to know our bride’s vision before she walks in the door and offer her a more personalized visit to help bring her vision to life,” Braddock says. “The app enables stylists to easily refine our gown assortment based on our bride’s product preferences to help her find the one.

Another recent innovation was based on the bet that mobile-first customers would rather text than call. LivePerson, said to be the world’s top artificial-intelligence-powered messaging platform, brought in chatbot technology, enabling the most personalized conversation via auditory or texting methods.

David’s launched “Zoey” as its digital concierge. It started as just a way to resolve common support issues, moved on to making appointments and now allows customers to buy products over chat. Omni data hubs and associated APIs play an integral role in allowing for easy communication among the most disparate systems the bot needs to interact with.

“The customer satisfaction ratings are so much better with chat than the phone,” he says. “People really like being able to text at a time and at a pace that is convenient to them. It has been one of our success stories this year.”

Photo credit: Juan Chami

Troy credits the emerging transformational business community within David’s Bridal for acknowledging the need to double down in these areas. For example, beyond just having “cool apps,” the marketing team has stepped up its social media activity.

It’s not enough anymore to just connect customers to products and stores, Troy reminds. It’s critical to tell customers stories and, even more importantly, connect them with each other so they can share their stories on Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.

Customers wanting a “bride hub” for better organization, the Wedding Planning Toolkit—powered by Blueprint—now provides an interactive checklist and the ability to build a personalized wedding website and Vision Board.

“It’s the bride’s hub for wedding planning, where she can stay organized with our interactive checklist, build a personalized wedding website, and create her dream wedding vision board,” says Lizzy Ellingson, chief product and design officer for David’s Bridal and Blueprint. “The vision board is a fan fave because it lets the bride, right after she’s engaged, to design the look, feel, theme, plus more for her extraordinary day.”

Doesn’t go it alone

The IT department’s hands full on any given day, strategic partners are necessary to accelerate the digital transformation. They include PricewaterhouseCoopers—better known as PwC—which played a key role in partnering with the architecture team to perform the data architecture for the most recent additions to the data hubs and build-out of a new 24/7 offshore support team. Another company, InfoCepts, has automated much of the day-to-day analytics for David’s Bridal in a way that accelerates business decisions.

All partners have figured in the strengthening of what Troy regards as the four main legs of the David’s Bridal game plan.

That first leg being the wedding itself. The business is committed to leaning into the entire event instead of solely assisting the bride. It further harmonizes the process by integrating data collected from everyone—from the bride to the guests to the vendors.

Anthony Troy – David’s Bridal

Photo credit: Juan Chami

The so-called omni experience is the second leg. “It is critical in this climate that customers see the same processes, policies, data and products through digital and physical outlets,” Troy says. “It has become table stakes.”

The third leg is the supply chain modernization which ensures quicker deliveries of products to wherever needed. Last but not least is the best-in-class technology that David’s Bridal has committed to investing in and allowing Troy to leverage.

“Any time you try to change the direction of a company, it takes the full commitment of the business and technology teams to fundamentally change whatever is necessary to serve customers better,” he says. “At the same time, it can also be fun. If you can’t find a way to have fun while modernizing a beloved 70-year-old American institution, you are doing something wrong.”

For Troy, that means not being siloed. Instead he’s free and encouraged to interact with other departments.

“I really believe in servant leadership,” says the 1987 Villanova University computer science grad with an executive masters in technology management from The Wharton & Moore Schools in 2006. He’s also on the PhillyCIO Advisory Board.

And how times change, with online operations cutting into so many brick-and-mortar retailers. But David’s Bridal, better able to compete on the virtual shopping front and remaining the only nationwide competitor to the independent stores, should continue claiming as many as one in four American brides being dressed in one of its gowns. The planning for that bride’s big day having been eased, she’s not the one wishing she had eloped.