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New format adds zest to CED Venture event this month

Monday, September 9th, 2013
Mike Elliot of Noro-Moseley Partners

Mike Elliot of Noro-Moseley Partners

RESEARCH TRIANGLE, NC – The CED’s annual Tech Venture Conference has acquired new energy with a format that speeds about 50 young startup companies through lightening demo rounds, says Noro-Moseley’s Mike Elliott, a managing partner in the Atlanta venture firm.

“You spin through a number of presentations and never have a chance to get bored,” he says of the three-minute rounds. “They leave you wanting just a bit more.” For a startup, that’s a good way to initiate contact with an investor: leave them wanting more.

Set for September 17-18 at the Raleigh Convention Center, the annual event draws some of its new energy from the vibrant and growing early startup hubs in the Triangle’s three cities.

Bustling startup hubs in the RTP

“Today, especially in downtown Durham, but also all over Raleigh and Chapel Hill we’re seeing tremendous activity from early-stage startups,” says Elliott. That fact has shaped this year’s focus, as well, he adds.

“What both the startups and investors need is to take companies to the next level and we tried to theme the conference in that direction this year,” says Elliott. “You’re up and running, how do you kick it into growth,” he adds.

To bolster that theme, the event features “A number of CEOs who began life at very early stage companies and were able to find the right switches to hit and push them into high growth mode.”

Those include Mike Cote, chairman and CEO of Atlanta-based SecureWorks, which was acquired by Dell in 2011; David Morken, co-founder and CEO of Triangle-based Bandwidth; and Mark Norman, president of Zipcar.

Elliot, however, points out that the entrepreneurs and investors will also hear from top corporate development people from Red Hat, Google and other firms, to “Get a clear picture of the characteristics they’re looking for in partners or acquisitions and how you can set your company up to grow inside a company like theirs.”

 

 

Five key risks faced by tech companies

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

lockA majority of technology companies are underinsured and exposed to hidden risks that could ruin their business.

The Stratton Agency cites five key risks they can address to protect their business.

“Not all insurance policies are alike,” according to James Marek of the Stratton Agency. “Insurance that’s not tailored to the needs of a technology company may not provide the protection that’s needed. Understanding the hidden risks that tech companies face can help ensure that your business is adequately protected.”

The two business insurance policies needed most by tech companies to protect their business are a business owner’s or general liability (GL) policy, and an errors & omissions (E&O) policy. GL covers property damage and personal injury, while E&O protects the company against claims that its technology does not work as advertised or does not meet required specifications.

Tech businesses are often required by their customers to have GL coverage, but they frequently lack E&O coverage, even though tech companies are typically at great risk of being sued.

Even with both policies in place, tech businesses still face many hidden risks. Owners and managers can better protect their tech business by understanding the following five risks and working with their agent to close any gaps in coverage:

1.     Lack of disaster planning. A lawsuit or a natural disaster can put you out of business, unless you have the right insurance coverage. Most businesses don’t. According to recent studies, 60% of U.S. companies are underinsured. That’s a big reason why 60% of companies that experience a catastrophic event never reopen for business.

Every business needs to be protected against potential disasters, but especially tech companies, which typically have a higher exposure, because of investments in computer equipment, and the associated high cost to recreate or restore lost data.

To reduce your risk, meet with your insurance agent to review your coverage, identify any gaps and ensure that you are covered in case of a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado.

Your agent can also help you develop a business continuity plan. Disasters strike without warning, so it’s important to be prepared before a disaster takes place. Include remote locations, key vendors and suppliers in your plan.

2.     Tech insurance exclusions. GL policies often exclude claims arising from software and programming. Likewise, E&O policies often exclude information security breaches and copyright infringement on computer code.

Check to make certain your Insurance includes this coverage. Your GL policy should also include coverage for professional services, bodily injury, property damage, and personal and advertising injury arising from software or programming. Your E&O policy should include coverage for information security, breach of warranties and representation, virus transmission, and copyright infringement of software code.

Be certain you have an insurance agent who understands the risks, including emerging risks, facing tech companies, and has expertise in building programs for tech companies.

Choose an insurer with products specific to tech companies like yours. Special coverage may be available for sectors such as information technology, electronics manufacturing and telecommunications.

3.     Cyber liability confusion. Cyber incidents are increasingly common, with nearly half of all companies having experienced a data breach. Cyber incidents may also include contamination from viruses or malware, theft of laptops or mobile devices, denial of service attacks, insider abuse and negligence.

The probability of a tech company experiencing a cyber incident is high, yet only one business in 10 has cyber liability coverage.

For comprehensive coverage, you will need to add cyber liability coverage to both your GL and your E&O policies.

4.     Security measures based only on cyber crime. Tech companies and security consultants often focus on increasing network security to reduce risk. While network security is important, training employees about data security costs less, may be just as important and is often overlooked.

Cyber crime attracts most of the attention, but an even greater number of data breaches are caused unintentionally by employees and contractors.

5.     Vague claim reporting policies. For a professional liability claim to be covered, it typically must be reported within either 60 or 90 days, depending on how the policy is written.

However, some insurers start the reporting period before a lawsuit is even filed. A heated discussion or the threat of a lawsuit may be enough to trigger the reporting period, even if management is unaware that it took place.

Vague policies can put your claim at risk, so make certain your insurer has clear reporting procedures. Some policies don’t begin the reporting period until the company is notified that a lawsuit has been filed. The policy should also define who must report the claim and what duties that person has when informing the insurer.

You may also consider adding an extended reporting period to your policy.

Finally, as an integral member of your risk management team, your attorney should review all contracts to ensure they do not run counter to your liability policy. If you enter into a contract that is at odds with your liability policy, your claim may not be covered and your policy may not be renewed.

For more information about hidden risks faced by tech companies, please contact the Stratton Agency or visitwww.strattonagency.com.

IBM nudges Microsoft from top spot, SAP advances, Amazon debuts on top 50 IT firm ranking

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

MicrosoftThings are changing in the digital world as tech companies jostle each other for top position. IBM has bumped Microsoft out of the top spot in the Booz & Co. second annual ranking of the world’s top 50 Information and Communications Technology (ICT) companies that provide the building blocks to increasingly digital businesses.

Oracle held fast at #2, while IBM leapfrogged from #3 to claim the top spot, fuelled by its strong product and service portfolio and global presence.

“This volatility is not surprising given the vast changes sweeping this sector.

These companies are being forced to rapidly transform their business models, product portfolios, service offerings and global footprints in order to stay one step ahead of their clients’ needs in the evolving digital world.. Add to this financial pressures in an uncertain economy, and the fact that boundaries are gone and more players are competing for overlapping, converged markets, and it’s no wonder new winners are emerging,” says Richard Bhanap, partner at Booz & Company.

Key Findings:

  • Software and Internet companies and hardware and infrastructure providers are dominating the ICT industry, claiming the majority of spots in the top 20
  • Integrated solution models are continuing to gain ground over IT services, especially those IT service providers with more traditional outsourcing and managed services businesses
  • AmazonSeveral software and Internet businesses are making big advances, including SAP, which jumped three spots, to #4, Google, which moved up to #8, and Amazon, which debuted in the top 50 for the first time at #13, driven by its rapidly growing cloud services business
  • Dell and HCL took the biggest falls, each dropping five spots, to #20 and #18, respectively

Market going through dynamic change

“This market is going through dynamic changes; primarily because so many companies are expanding and reshaping their portfolios and pushing for global scale and reach at the same time. As a result, many smaller IT service providers are under pressure, being acquired or disappearing completely. On the other hand, ‘digital first’ players like Amazon are coming in with integrated solutions or compelling cloud offerings. We will see even more convergence in the future, and the winners will be those who can build integrated solution ecosystems around an innovative software or hardware core,” says Richard  Bhanap.

  • This year’s Global ICT 50 companies took in total revenues of US$2.07 trillion, a 3 percent increase over the prior year’sUS$2.01 trillion, and a slight slowdown in growth compared to the previous year. Average margins remained steady at 15 percent. Software and Internet companies (e.g., Adobe, Google, Microsoft, SAP) and offshore IT service companies (e.g., TCS, Infosys, HCL, Cognizant) were the only two groups to achieve double-digit revenue growth for the fifth straight year
  • The same two groups saw stagnating to declining EBIT margins, albeit on a very healthy >20% level, which suggests early signs of business model maturity and increasing competition
  • Hardware and infrastructure companies claimed the middle ground in financial performance, achieving continuous margin improvement and stable growth over the past five years
  • Global IT service providers and telecom companies were the weakest performers and the only groups whose growth and profitability remained almost flat in 2013, although they did manage to stabilise their margins
Google

Google ranks number one among MBA students asked to name ideal employers.

In addition to assessing financial performance, portfolio strength, go-to-market footprint, and innovation and branding for company rankings, the study also identifies six business models to create value in the ICT industry. This analysis reveals that players that base their value creation approach on innovation (like Apple and Google), global sourcing (such as Infosys), and digitisation models (including SAP) are the most successful financially, followed by large market consolidators such as Oracle.

Read the full study here.

New angel fund closes on $5.1M for Southeast healthcare tech investments

Monday, July 15th, 2013

By Allan Maurer

Excelerate Health Ventures says it will put together the pieces of healthcare tech investments in an innovative new way.

Excelerate Health Ventures says it will put together the pieces of healthcare tech investments in an innovative new way.

Angel investors are often successful entrepreneurs looking for ways to put the capital they earned from building their own business into other startups with high growth potential. A new angel fund in the Research Triangle Park, NC, Excelerate Health Ventures, not only includes experienced entrepreneurs, but also a network of doctors, dentists, and healthcare executives.

In a press release, the fund, which has secured commitments of $5.1 million for its first closting of the Physician Fund, says it plans to invest in “capital efficient start-ups that can scale rapidly in the healthcare industry,” particularly in software and medical technology.

EHV says it will leverage the domain experience and contacts of their network of providers, payers, and strategic partners to select, validate, mentor and grow their portfolio companies.

A unique opportunity

“EHV has created a unique opportunity for physicians like myself, who are committed to this marketplace, enabling us to collectively bring new technologies to market and to improve the care of our patients,” said Dr. Cam Patterson, M.D. MBA, Associate Dean of UNC Healthcare Entrepreneurship and Chief of Cardiology at UNC Chapel Hill and advisor to the fund.

“The goal is to use the interdisciplinary knowledge and experience of the extended team to identify and create highly valued relevant healthcare companies in a shortened timeframe, while maximizing return for everyone involved.”

Excelerate Health Ventures’ founders, Gary Abrahams and Bobby Bahram, bring unique experience – both have been operational entrepreneurs and angel investors that have led and exited companies in the healthcare industry.

EHV says it will typically invest in early stage companies raising a seed or second round financing. It will focus on the Southeast and NC.

 

Look to the cloud for the future of IT (infographic)

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Ninety percent of mid-market IT managers surveyed by Evolve IP say cloud computing is the future model for IT.

“The survey data reflects what we see in our business every day,” said Guy Fardone, general manager and chief operating officer of Evolve IP. “Most businesses already have at least one hosted service running but in some organizations not everyone is in complete alignment regarding putting multiple services in the cloud. Executives want the cost and disaster avoidance benefits while security, privacy and compliance are typical initial concerns brought up by the managers responsible for implementation.”

The survey of more than 1,100 individuals involved with IT at mid-Market companies in North America revealed insight into cloud adoption trends as well as current cloud deployment. For a full synopsis and analysis of results, a complimentary white paper, “Cloud of Dreams – Adoption of the Cloud by North American Mid-Market Businesses,” can be downloaded at www.evolveip.net/Cloud-Survey.

Evolve IP created this infographic illustrating the survey results:

Companies plan hiring for new tech jobs, cloud, social, security

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

CareerBuilderAlthough companies are hiring more employees to keep up with demand for their products and services, they’re not looking at full scale expansion of their headcounts, according to a new CareerBuilder survey. Mobile, cloud, social media, data analytics and cyber security positions are all cited as among the hottest job prospects.

Robert Half Technology also reports that IT hiring is in session for more than one in three firms.Thirty-five percent of chief information officers (CIOs) interviewed said they plan to hire new IT graduates in 2013, according to a recent poll by Robert Half Technology 

But not all CIOs polled give new graduates high marks when it comes to being ready for their first job. More than one in four respondents (26 percent) said entry-level professionals aren’t prepared to contribute right away. Among these executives, more than half (55 percent) said the reason is a lack of skills in areas such as communication and leadership.

Temporary hiring, which has been a mainstay for many companies during the economic downturn, will increase by 10 percent in the back half of 2013, the CareerBuilder survey suggests.

The survey, which was conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder from May 14 to June 5, 2013, included more than 2,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes.

“Companies are adding more employees to keep pace with demand for their products and services, but they’re not rushing into a full-scale expansion of headcount in light of economic headwinds that still linger today,” said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder.

Pace of permanent hiring stronger

“The projected surge in temporary hiring from July to December is evidence of both a growing confidence in the market and a recession-induced hesitation to immediately place more permanent hires on the books. However, the overall pace of permanent hiring is stronger today in various industries and geographies, and will continue on a path of gradual improvement for the remainder of the year.”

Economic Modeling Specialists (EMSI)1, a CareerBuilder company, found that temporary work accounted for 15 percent of all job growth nationally over the last four years, even though the industry makes up roughly two percent of the nation’s workforce.

The study conducted by Harris Interactive shows there will be a continued boost in temporary hiring activity as well as hiring for full-time and part-time positions, with 44 percent of employers planning on hiring fulltime employees, 25 percent part-time employees, and 31 percent temp or contract workers.

Many formerly fulltime employees moved to freelance, temporary and contract work when fulltime jobs were scarce but companies hired to fill specific short term needs.

This trend continues even as the economy improves.

Careerbuilder cites several hot ares for job-seekers, including: 

e following areas:

  • Jobs tied to mobile technology – 16 percent
  • Jobs tied to cloud technology – 15 percent
  • Jobs tied to social media – 13 percent
  • Jobs tied to managing and interpreting big data – 12 percent
  • Jobs tied to financial regulation – 10 percent
  • Jobs tied to health informatics – 10 percent
  • Jobs tied to cyber security – 9 percent

Small business hiring

The number of small businesses planning to hire over the next six months is trending up while the number for larger organizations declined slightly compared to last year. More than half (56 percent) of companies with more than 500 employees expect to add more employees by year end, down from 58 percent in 2012.

  • 50 or fewer employees – 24 percent hiring full-time, permanent employees, up from 21 percent in 2012
  • 250 or fewer employees – 34 percent hiring full-time, permanent employees, up from 31 percent in 2012
  • 500 or fewer employees – 37 percent hiring full-time, permanent employees, up from 34 percent in 2012

Angel investment groups eye larger deals, national scope

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

By Allan Maurer

Jamie Lewis

Jamie Lewis

Atlanta Technology Angels (ATA) decision to join other angel groups in financing Austin-based Wisegate, was significant in more ways than one, says ATA and Wisegate board member Jamie Lewis.

Lewis, formerly CEO of  The Burton Group, like Wisegate, an IT research and advisory firm that sold to Gartner for $56 million in 2009, tells the TechJournal the ATA/Wisegate deal “Is largely a reflection of how significantly the capital markets have changed in the last five years or so.”

National, not just regional deals sought

A member of ATA for about a year, Lewis notes there is a move afoot in the Angel investor space to create a national syndication network so deals can happen nationally rather than just regionally.

The ATA itself says the decision to invest in a company outside of Georgia represents its own desire to expand its footprint throughout the Southeast and possibly beyond.

Reasons for the change

“There is a lot of interest in deals occurring as widely as possible, even though it’s natural for most to occur regionally,” Lewis says.

A primary reason for this change in angel investing strategy, says Lewis, is that many venture capital firms have altered their own strategies.

“Back ten or 15 years ago,” says Lewis, “the typical VC was doing lots of early stage deals, including companies with a little seed funding, not a lot, and maybe some revenue, but not profits.”

VCs more like private equity firms

Not so much any more, he says. “Most VCs now act more like private equity firms,” he says. “They like later stage deals, investing in companies that have proven themselves in the markeplace and are well beyond the seed stage.”

That creates a much talked about early stage funding gap.

Why? “It’s by choice,” says Lewis. “They don’t want the risk.” He adds that it also has to do with the risk profile of their limited partners (those who invest in the venture funds). They’re taking money from institutional investors and pension funds. Those have a much different risk profile than the typical angel investors.:

Many angel investors are themselves former or current entrepreneurs who are more accustomed to risk, he notes.

The change opens the field for angel groups to step up. The syndicate that invested $3 million in Wisegate included Texas, New York, and Georgia angel groups. By investing together, the groups can structure larger deals the size of many Series A rounds.

Not your typical IT service firm

“That’s how Wisegate sees this,” says Lewis, “as a Series A raise. It’s interesting that a syndicate of angel networks can pull together that kind of money and fund a company at that level. ”

Wisegate, he says, “Is not your typical IT service company.” Right now it is focused on what Lewis calls “One of the biggest issues worldwide – the whole concept of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).” That is causing security problems for many companies.

Wisegate brings -by invitation only – IT experts together to discuss best practices, what works, what doesn’t, which tools are effective, which not, and so on, to provide clients with IT advice from people in the know.

For more about Jamie Lewis, see “Be What You Aspire to Be.” In it, an interview about commitment, determination, and passion in business and life, he quotes Randolph Bourne who said, “He who mounts a wild elephant, goes where the elephant goes.”

Atlanta Technology Angels expanding reach beyond Georgia

Monday, June 24th, 2013

The Atlanta Technology Angels has invested in a company outside of Georgia for the first time. The move signals that the Angel investor group is opening up to investing with other angel groups and venture capitalists in firms across the Southeast.Atlanta Technology Angels

“We’d like to get the word out that the ATA is looking at investment opportunties outside of Atlanta,” Jenn Pratt, who handles PR for the group with Carabiner Communications, said.

The ATA joined Cowtown Angel Network and Central Texas Angel Network and Golden Seeds in a $3 million investment in Austin-based Wisegate,an innovative IT research service founded in 2011.

Here at the TechJournal, we’ve noticed that a number of Angel groups are forming syndicates with other angel groups and early-stage venture capital firms to do somewhat larger than usual deals.

Using a crowdsourcing model

Through its service qualified senior technology professionals share information without the bias of analysts, vendors, media or advertisers.

Using a crowdsourcing model and advanced algorithms, Wisegate gives technology professionals trusted, timely, relevant and affordable access to the   collective knowledge and experience of their peers.

Wisegate membership is available to senior IT professionals working for companies that do not sell IT products or services, and all applicants are screened to ensure they meet strict membership guidelines.

 

Surging app user base affects IT, business strategy, M&A

Friday, June 14th, 2013

mobile devicesThe growth rate of app users has been 251 percent (CAGR) over the last 5 years. It has outpaced the growth of the stationary internet users worldwide by an astonishing factor of 15.

Stationary internet user base is still more than two times bigger than mobile app user base, but its growth rate (CAGR =16 percent) looks rather deplorable compared to mobile. There are 4 major implications every company has to deal with.

There are many reasons for the massive growth of the app user base.

Where does it all lead?

The wide range of Apps is one of the main drivers. Apps and smart mobile devices create a win-win alliance that goes beyond the software-PC alliance. Apps provide the intelligence for smart devices to be used as a tool for almost every daily activity.

The mobile device provides the technological basis but more important provides the context in which the app creates value for its user. There are no other mass market devices that users carry around 24/7, that are as personal and that provide location information at all times.

Where does it all lead to? We continue our discussion on the impact the app-eco system has on the industry by highlighting 4 consequences this rapid market growth will have.

1. The number of mobile app users will overtake stationary web users: This seems evident as there is no end in sight for the growth of mobile app users. Eventually a great part of today’s 7 bn (international Telecom Union) mobile subscribers will possess a capable device and will make use of apps.

The biggest challenge will be to tap into the developing countries with their 5.2 bn mobile subscribers. It will be only a matter of time until the industry will pour out cheap capable mobile devices for far less than 100 USD to allow monthly subscription plans with ARPUs of around 5 USD.

2. IT development will become mobile: If private and business users are mobile, IT solutions will have to follow. Mobile app development business has already become a multi-billion dollar business (see report: The Market for Mobile Application Development Services), but this is just the beginning.

Enterprises will mobilize their IT solutions to provide e.g. mobile access to company databases as well as to reach out to their customers for marketing, sales and service purposes.

Hundreds of thousands of IT developers will have to be trained in mobile programming languages as well as in GUI design and user flow. The IT service industry is about to realize these changes and the business opportunities this development will have in the next 10 years.

3. The mobile channel will become a key strategy element for every company: There is no industry that is not affected by the new mobile channel. It will be a challenging task to create, develop, maintain and manage hundreds of mobile services on an increasing number of platforms and for a diversity of internal and external user groups. This task is not being addressed properly in the majority of the company strategy and operation units at the moment.

4.M&A M&A will become hot: Because of the speed the market developments and the time it takes to implement changes within an organization, companies will open their pockets and start to buy apps and mobile service companies to keep up with the pace of the market.

The first specialized service providers like Apptopia have jumped on the train and offer matching services for buyers and sellers of apps. Apple’s new App Transfer service also facilitates the ownership changes of an app business.

These market developments emphasize the importance of formulating a mobile strategy that is covering all app strategy dimensions from mobile use case definition, platform selection, target group prioritization, decision on the proximity to core services, selection of open or walled garden sourcing strategy to organizational implementation of mobile into the existing company structures.

Regardless of the time scale, this inevitability makes your mobile/app and web strategy in the long run more important than your PC/web strategy.

To get the stats behind these market changes, read research2guidance’s “The Smartphone App Monitor Vol. 10”, the comprehensive source of app market analysis.

Atlanta becoming a digital media “super hub”

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Atlanta skylineA workforce trends report, issued today by the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC), shows that the city is becoming a “digital media super hub,” with nearly twice the digital media job openings per capita as the rest of the nation. It is also strong in mobile technology, healthcare IT, and logistics.

The Chamber says overall online job postings in metro Atlanta have grown 4.5 times faster than postings nationally in the areas of supply chain and logistics, technology and bioscience.

“The report gives us confirmation of where the jobs are, and the growth of metro Atlanta’s key industries,” said Phil Martens, CEO of Novelis, Inc., and chair of MAC’s Workforce Council. “MAC has its finger on the pulse of job activity in metro Atlanta.”

MAC’s Workforce Council commissioned Burning Glass International, a labor data firm, to review all advertised job openings in key strategic industries from May 2012-May 2013 in the 28-county metro Atlanta statistical area.

Digital media super hub

Metro Atlanta is establishing itself as a digital media super hub with almost twice as many digital media job postings per capita as the rest of the nation. There were more than 28,000 digital media job postings in the last 12 months, which represents 48 percent growth in advertised positions over the last two years.

Supply chain/logistics/distribution job postings grew nationally at a rate of 36 percent from 2010 – 2012. However, in metro Atlanta that growth rate was 115 percent over the same period.

mobile devicesThere were also large spikes in recruitment in other MAC targeted industries. There was a 202% increase in the number of advertised positions in the mobility sector from 2010 – 2012. And as the nation’s health IT capital, Atlanta continues to surge with 167% growth in health IT-related job postings over the same period.

Martens added, “The goal of this report was to assess the demand for talent, and then determine the skills needed to fill the positions.”

“One of the most significant findings of the report showed that in 2010, there were 247,283 total jobs posted in metro Atlanta in all sectors.  In 2012, there were 410,571, a 60 percent increase,” said Sam A. Williams, MAC president. “The increase demonstrates that metro Atlanta continues to be a thriving hub for business, especially in key industry sectors.”

Workforce database available

In tandem with the Workforce Trends Report, MAC also launched a workforce database. The site is geared toward the CEO, CIO, HR professional or other senior staffer involved in hiring and staffing, but casual browsers are also welcomed.

This inventory is the largest and most comprehensive listing of those resources for several of the fastest-growing industry sectors in the region. These include: digital media and gaming, financial transactions processing, healthcare IT, internet security, logistics/distribution, software development, supply chain software and wireless/mobility.

“Between the report and the database, we now know where the growing jobs are and the skills needed to fill those positions,” saidScott Burton, managing director at Whitaker-Taylor, and MAC’s Workforce Council co-chair. “Our goal with the database is to link employers to tools that can help fill job openings with talented, capable employees. The exact talent we need to grow our company.”

The database was developed by MAC’s Workforce Council, in partnership with the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Workforce Solutions team, and can be accessed at: http://www.metroatlantachamber.com/economic-development/workforce-development

Managing app connectivity the top firewall challenge

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

firewallManaging application connectivity has become the number one firewall management challenge, according to a Tufin Technologies  recent survey.

This survey, conducted in April at InfoSecurity, was designed to get a better understanding of the problem. 105 IT professionals, ranging from network administrators to CIOs, reported that network security teams deploy applications based on incomplete or inaccurate connectivity data, resulting in delays, downtime, and unnecessary risk and compliance exposure.

Application Connectivity Challenges:  A Quick Overview

  • 1/3 of the sample report their organization has more than 500 applications, 74% report they will be deploying up to 100 new applications this year.
  • There is little standardization as to how organizations structure Application Connectivity processes.  Network Operations teams work mainly with Application Owners (30%), but other Application Connectivity stakeholders include App Developers (26%), other network engineers (16%), or any variety of other parties such as a consultant,  a VAR, the application vendor or an MSP (29%).
  • When it comes to determining connectivity requirements, 72% report they are given a list of ports to open. 19% look it up on the Internet, 13% look at logs, and 9% rely on trial and error.

Impact on Business Agility

  • 55% report that applications are not deployed correctly the first time, mainly (67%) due to incorrect or missing connectivity data.
  • 1/3 report the Service level Agreement (SLA) for application-related firewall changes is a week or more; 81% believe it should be between 1-3 days.
  • When asked what would enable a faster SLA, 1/3 cited more accurate information from application owners, 26% said knowing what ports to open, and 24% said faster risk/compliance approvals.

 

Impact on Security and Compliance

  • Administrators often have no insight into why a rule was created.  41% either use the (limited) firewall comments field or rule base sections to document the business justification for a rule.  13% don’t document at all.
  • 40% are not notified when an application is decommissioned.
  • 30% take a “best effort” approach to remove unneeded connections when an application is decommissioned.  1/6 of respondents do nothing to decommission applications.

“This survey highlights the fact that security engineers are having to adopt new processes on the fly – processes that require them to interact with a new set of stakeholders,” said Reuven Harrison, CTO, Tufin.

“As a result they are not just changing who they work with but how they work. Anyone who has experienced this kind of change knows it is not easy.”

Big data is paying off for big companies, report says

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013
Big Data

Credit: http://www.linuxforu.com

Big data is paying off – at least for big companies, says a new research report, Big Data in Big Companies.

The report describes how 20 large firms benefit frombig data projects. Report co-authors Tom Davenport of the International Institute for Analytics (IIA) and Jill Dyché of SAS, the leader in business analytics, explore how these companies have deployed analytics to generate value from their big data assets.

“We’re making a big bet on big data,” says Bill Ruh, Vice President of GE’s Software and Analytics Center. “With that said, the pilot projects we’ve put out there have solved some big problems already. Our early proof-points were important. Now we’re moving forward with even more complex problem sets. We’re making this a part of everything we do.”

The report highlights the most cross-industry, big data success stories ever published. Research participants included AIG, Bank of America, Caesars Entertainment, Carolinas Health Care, CIGNA, Dell, Discover, Fidelity, GE, Macys.com, Schneider National, Sears, T-Mobile, UnitedHealthcare, UPS, Verizon and Wells Fargo.

Big data pays off in multiple ways

“As we engaged big company executives in conversations about big data for this report, they all agreed that big data is an evolutionary set of capabilities that would have new and sometimes unanticipated uses over time,” said Davenport, Research Director of the IIA and Visiting Professor at Harvard Business School. “But every one of these executives conceded that they couldn’t afford to make big data a mere academic exercise. It needed to drive value, and better sooner than later.”

Big data initiatives enable companies to analyze diverse data – structured and unstructured, from internal and external sources – and uncover new insights. Executives at the big data early adopters in the report stressed that analyzing big data delivers big payoffs by creating new business capabilities and helping their organizations conduct current processes cheaper, faster and more effectively.

“Big data wasn’t really a commonly known term when I first started,” said Kerem Tomak, Vice President of Marketing Analytics at Macys.com. “With all that data – and a 50 percent year-over-year growth rate – it’s more than likely that the business demand for big data at Macys.com will only increase.”

Value of a single big data platform

Big DataExecutives interviewed for the report described the value of combining reporting, analytics, exploration, protection, and recovery on a single big data platform. Big data environments usually coexist with, rather than replace, data warehouse and business intelligence infrastructures already in place. Organizations that were most effective and likely to succeed fostered strong relationships between business and IT.

“Big data was a wake-up call for these executives,” said Dyché, Vice President of Best Practices at SAS. “As high-performance analytics became a reality and performance accelerated, they began realizing what could be done. Sure, companies can use big data solutions to fast-track complex business processes. But the promise of fresh innovation is the real allure of big data for executives. They’re turning their attention – and their budgets – to emerging technologies and skills.”

The report found that transforming organizations through analytics requires new skills, leadership, organizational structures, technologies and architectures. Most organizations surveyed are augmenting existing analytical staff, adding data scientists with IT capabilities who can manipulate big data technologies. Solid knowledge of data architectures, data quality, and master data management hubs are just the beginning for firms pursuing big data as a long-term differentiator, the report concluded.

For a free download of Big Data in Big Companies, visit http://www.sas.com/apps/sim/redirect.jsp?detail=SIM109816_4961.

IT pros say they need to improve on this

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

evolvenMore than 84% of IT professionals surveyed said that they want to significantly improve their IT operations management, according to a new survey.

The IT Operations Quotient (OQ) used for the surveys is a metric for evaluating operational ability to support existing business services and incoming business requirements. The survey results revealed that IT Operations performance in the context of changes that occur show a clear lack of visibility into the IT environment:

7% – When an incident occurs, can you quickly know what changed?
8% – Can you automatically validate that your release deployed accurately?
5% – Can you quickly identify what is an incident’s root-cause?
5% – Can you automatically analyze the consistency of your environments?

More than half of the IT executives surveyed said that one of their greatest challenges comes from managing changes in their IT environments. Nearly 80% said they can’t automatically validate the accuracy of their deployments.

“The IT OQ Report on IT Operations offers a good indication to IT executives as to whether IT ops investments have yielded desired results,” said Sasha Gilenson, CEO, Evolven. “Today, IT Ops is more likely to be at the table in executive meetings with spreadsheets of metrics showing the success of their efforts. This IT OQ Report offers a measure in the context of the changes that occur, and how operations responds to change.”

To download a copy of the 2013 IT OQ Report visit: http://www.evolven.com/docs/downloads/oq_survey_report.pdf

Starting salaries for IT pros rising, hot positions named

Friday, June 7th, 2013

mondoStarting salaries for technology professionals in the U.S. are on the rise from 2012 to 2013, according to new research conducted by Mondo, a leading technology resources provider.

IT Security Managers (with 10 plus years’ experience) and Systems Analysts had the largest increase in base compensation from 2012-2013, rising from $90,000 to $145,000 and from $65,000 to $83,000, respectively.

According to Mondo’s research, the following technology positions have experienced significant salary growth from 2012-2013.

  • Data Analysts’ base salaries increased 18.3% from $60,000 to $71,000
  • EC2 engineers base salaries went up 18% from $100,000 to $118,000
  • Help Desk Senior (7-10 years) staffers’ salaries increased 15.4% from $65,000 to $75,000
  • Technical Writer base salaries went up 14.3% from $70,000 to $80,000
  • CIOs base salaries increased 8.3% from $180,000 to $195,000
  • Android Developers’ base salaries increased 8.3% from $120,000 to $130,000

“The intense demand for highly-skilled technology professionals is resulting in significant increases in the salaries for those professionals with expertise in the areas of mobile, big data, cloud computing and user engagement skills,” said Michael Kirven, founder and CEO of Mondo.

“And, companies across the U.S. are reversing the trend of outsourcing skilled technology labor overseas, and now understand that skilled IT workers that are located within their innovation centers can give them a competitive edge  which is driving demand here in the U.S for technology professionals.”

Kirven added, “Looking to 2014, we see a spike in demand for HTML5 developers with salaries predicted to range from $97,000 to $135,000.”

Exploding use of mobile devices challenge office networks

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Exponential growth in the use of smart devices has led to significant and increased demand for bandwidth across 84 percent of organizations surveyed globally, according to new research commissioned by BT and Cisco.

More than half (56 percent) of IT managers have also noticed a resulting performance decline in some applications, which impacts negatively the productivity gains promised by smart devices.

Almost half (46 percent) of workers with Wi-Fi access in their office have experienced delays logging on or accessing an application, while 39 percent have noticed they are running more slowly now than before.

The research, which surveyed attitudes towards workers’ use of their own smart devices (laptops, tablets and smartphones) in 13 regions, reveals 76 percent believe their organizations need to take further steps to fulfill the potential productivity gains that smart devices offer.

What’s needed to seize the opportunity

Increased use of cloud solutions (33 percent), greater use of specialist software (32 percent) and greater support for smart device users (32 percent) are what is needed to seize the opportunity.

WiFi iconUbiquitous Wi-Fi access over a better network is key to the development of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), but 45 percent of employees still don’t have wireless access to their corporate networks. Of those workers currently without Wi-Fi access in their organization, over two thirds (68 percent) believe it would have a positive impact on their work, for example, it would make them more efficient and productive (31 percent), help them work more flexibly (30 percent) and stay in-touch (26 percent).

The findings also indicate that network capacity is not the only challenge holding back benefits of BYOD. Despite overwhelming positivity among IT managers — 84 percent think adopting a BYOD policy confers a competitive advantage — the research also highlights a lack of progress in adopting or articulating a consistent policy across wired, wireless and Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Trust in employees plays large role

Trust in employees continues to play a large role in whether companies permit BYOD. Just over a quarter (26 percent) of IT managers think that all workers understand their access requirements or permissions for their mobile devices.

digital devicesThis figure has increased from 19 percent in 2012, pointing to an increase in confidence. Yet only 26 percent of employees that use a personal device for work recognize that this presents a risk to company security, suggesting IT managers are nervous with some justification.

Neil Sutton, VP Global Portfolio, BT Global Services, said: “With networks creaking under the demands of smart devices and more than three quarters, (76 percent) of users convinced that their organization needs to step up to the opportunity, it’s clear that enabling BYOD in its many forms is about much more than simply cool devices and a mobile contract.

Organizations need to consider elements of device compatibility, security, Wi-Fi, network, application performance, with a focus on driving costs down.

Great devices need a great network

“Behind every great device you need a great performing network. With the right control and connectivity you can deliver a great user experience on any device.

At BT we are working with more and more customers to understand and implement this coming of age of consumerization and turn it to business advantage, reliably, securely and cost effectively.”

smartphonesGordon Thomson, Director, Enterprise Networks, EMEAR, Cisco, said: “We implemented a BYOD model internally, starting with mobile phones in 2009, and have managed to lower our costs per employee by 25 percent.

Over the last few years, we have added 82 percent more devices to our base with 28 percent more users. Organizations looking to deploy a BYOD program should look at a comprehensive BYOD plan and think beyond just the device and operating system, but about the services delivered to that device, user experience and productivity gains.”

Adrian Drury, practice leader, Consumer Impact IT, Ovum said: “The growth in employee smartphone and tablet ownership is changing the ways we work. Implementing a BYOD policy is about enabling employees to work more flexibly, and be more productive.

“Draconian Wi-Fi access limitations or failure to invest in sufficient Wi-Fi coverage is a fast way to ensure a poor employee experience. However, this is not a mandate for open networks. Businesses still need to ensure that network security policies are maintained, and ideally they should take an integrated approach to network access control, device management and application management.”

Need for mobile developers outstrips availability

Friday, June 7th, 2013

mobile devicesThere is a gap between demand and availability of skilled mobile developers across various global locations including Silicon Valley, according to  the findings of its latest study on “Global Mobile Talent.”

 To address the gaps, companies are following a three-pronged approach – acquisitions, leveraging global talent hotspots by expanding their R&D footprint and vendor partnerships – to take advantage of available talent, the study found.

The Talent Neuron study revealed that the supply of talent is definitely not being able to keep pace with demand and while job postings for mobile developers have doubled over the past two years, the number of registered developers is increasing only by 13%, thereby creating a huge gap. This rate of growth is expected till 2015.

Among the measures that companies are taking to bridge the gap; several large organizations are leveraging global talent ‘hotspots’ such as India, China, Israel and Europe. The majority of mobile application talent is located in Europe, The Middle East, and Africa (EMEA, where 42% of the global top 25 cities for mobile development are located), with Finland, Tel Aviv and Moscow emerging as key locations.

Hotspot for talent

Android logoInterestingly, Asia Pacific (APAC) is a hotspot for talent that works on the Android platform, while iOS and Blackberry developers are less prevalent in the region. The study found tremendous demand for HTML 5 development skills, which witnessed a 149% increase in job postings in 2013. This was followed closely followed by job posts for Android app developers (increased by 146%) and iOS developers (132%).

Vijay Swami, Co-Founder and CEO, Talent Neuron, said, “There is an intense war for mobile development talent, fueled by low availability and the dynamic nature of the industry which requires constantly updated skill sets. Recruiters need to understand the underlying technology and requirements before writing job descriptions, and also understand location-specific trends.

Rather than waiting for the perfect candidate, companies should aggressively leverage global locations to expand their catchment area, analyze skills of niche mobile first organizations before M&A and opportunistically leverage partners for talent (Not cost)”.

Emerging cities

Kings College London

Kings College London

However, while the US and EMEA have a matured mobile development ecosystem, with regions like the Bay Area, San Francisco,New York, London and Tel Aviv being hubs for developers who can take on high-end work, cities like Sydney, Tokyo, Munich, Sao Paolo are ‘challengers’ where talent predominantly works on testing and development. Emerging cities include Beijing, Bangalore,Shanghai, Dublin and Madrid, where the ecosystem is nascent.

The top 25 cities have close to 55% of mobile application talent, led by the Bay Area in the Americas, London in EMEA and Beijing in APAC. While the Americas have 45% of mobile development talent, this is followed by APAC with 30% and EMEA with 25%.

The study said that acquisitions are another method that companies are using to bridge the talent gap. Mobile M&A activity has increased significantly last year and is expected to maintain momentum in 2013. In fact, in 2011, the total value of the deals grew by 100% from 2010 and stood at USD $18.8 billion.

And last but not the least, it read that the increasing demand for mobile application development skills is now driving universities to offer courses on the subject.

These universities are located across the US and Canada (12), EMEA (nine in the United Kingdom, one each in Sweden and Finland), Australia (five) and India (one), the study revealed. An example of company-university partnership is the investment by Microsoft of $24 million in the three-year AppCampus app development program in Aalto University at Finland.

Automated Insights now offers plain English web analytics

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

By Allan Maurer

Automated InsightsIf you’ve ever spent hours digging through Google Analytics trying to find the stats that are meaningful to you, you’ll appreciate the new offering from Durham, NC-based Automated Insights called SiteAi.

The first-of-its-kind service helps website owners find the hidden insights buried in web analytics by providing daily and plain English actionable reports in email.

It’s the latest use of the Automated Insights sophisticated AI engine, which sifts through large data sets looking for patterns and trends. Previously the company sold Yahoo a product that automatically produces recaps of Fantasy Football games, cranking out 500-1,000 word articles for millions of players at the rate of more than 1,000 per second.

Automated Insights started life as the StatSheet network in 2007, a very popular college basketball stats site, and soon expanded coverage to MLB, NFL, NBA, and college football. It was founded by CEO Robbie Allen.

Expanding off its first base

Using no human writers whatsoever, it published tens of thousands of articles for over 400 team-based web sites, over 450 team-based mobile apps, and thousands of Facebook and twitter feeds. The websites and apps are data and visual rich, with articles, charts, lists, and feeds.

AI’s Joe Procopio tells us, “When we became Automated Insights, our goal was to expand off our sports base.” The company’s mantra is to automate everything. “We’re still working on automating our ping pong games,” Procopio quipped in an earlier interview.

The goal of the new product, he says, “Is to help website owners maximize whatever their goals may be, not just report the statistics. But it does save you from needing to click through all those charts on Google Analytics.”

Viral pricing

Joe Procopio at a TechMedia event. If you're in the Research Triangle and involved in startups, you've probably run into him. He gets around.

Joe Procopio at a TechMedia event. If you’re in the Research Triangle and involved in startups, you’ve probably run into him. He gets around.

The company is “Eating its own dogfood,” says Procopio. “We have hundreds of websites and its a huge time-saver for us, helping us maximize impact from how and where we run our ads.”

The company is also using something Procopio calls “viral pricing.” He explains, “The product is free for 60 days, then we start charging a fee based on the number of people we’ve signed up.” The fee will range from $4 to $10 a month, he says.

Just a start

“The more people who sign up, the less the price will be, so it encourages users to tell others about it.”

Analytics is a sweet spot for the company, Procopio adds. “There is so much data and much of it is difficult to access. We automate reports and do it quickly.”

The new product, though is just “a first shot,” at product development outside the sports arena. “We’ve only scratched the surface of what we can do with AI,” Procopio says.

IT pros need communication skills as much as tech chops

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

cloud computingThe future of IT will be shaped around BYOD, the cloud and virtualisation, which will lead to a transformation of the role of IT manager from technical specialist to central business communicator, according to a new study from Aruba Networks (NASDAQ:ARUN).

An overwhelming 89% of IT professionals state that effective communication of policy and change to the business will be one of the biggest on-going challenges they will face. These are key findings from 20/20 Vision, a report launched today at Aruba’s EMEA Airheads Conference 2013 in Alicante, Spain.

The study, which sampled a network of IT professionals to get their views on the future of their respective careers, highlights the rapid increase of consumerisation.

Nearly half (47%) of IT professionals see BYOD as the trend that will most shape the evolution of enterprise IT, followed by data security in the cloud and virtualisation (36% each). Consequently over two-thirds (68%) believe that the IT function in 2020 will be more about policy enforcement than technology deployment.

Communication skills more important than technical

In response to this, four in ten (41%) stated that communication skills would be more important than technical skills and almost nine in ten IT professionals (88%) believe they will need to be strong business communicators in the future in order to be successful.

20/20 Vision was developed by Aruba Networks in partnership with Phillip Brown, professor of work, employability and labour markets at Cardiff University. The report used qualitative focus groups and quantitative omnibus research of over 150 IT professionals at all levels in order to help better understand what skills they will need in the future.

Brown said, “Future roles in IT will depend on blending technical knowhow with the ‘soft’ currencies of employability, such as communications and business awareness. These roles will also require good networking skills, both virtual and face-to-face.”

To achieve success in their future roles, the majority of professionals in the study (42%) said they would need to rely on technical certifications offered by vendors rather than develop the skills in-house.

More relying on third parties

This is part of a wider trend that will see companies rely more heavily on third parties.

Another 76% of IT pros expect the number of projects to be given to external specialists will increase in an ‘on demand’ fashion. The report also finds that the needs of the business are increasingly shaping the role of the IT professional.

On a day-to-day basis the IT professional will see an increasing demand for consumer-friendly technology such as smartphones or tablets, while 78% expect users will demand technology that ‘just works’.

Ben Gibson, CMO of Aruba Networks, said: “In the future, IT and business will be fully integrated. To manage this, IT professionals will need to be equipped to communicate better, more frequently and more effectively than today. Communication is already a bigger part of the role of the IT department than it was 10 years ago, but in the future it is going to become even more important as technology becomes even more business critical.”

To download the full report, visit http://www.arubanetworks.com/pdf/2020VisionReport.pdf.

New trade group to promote the “Internet of things”

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

 OracleIt’s now easier to connect a myriad of devices to the Internet or other networks, providing new revenue, cutting costs, and easing regulatory compliance for those that make and deploy machines. Analysts routinely predict 30% annual growth resulting in tens of billions of dollars in the field of machine-to-machine communications (M2M), also referred to as the “Internet of Things.” Getting this word out in sectors as diverse as automotive manufacturing, energy, and healthcare is proving difficult, however.

Here at the TechJournal, we’ve heard several venture capitalists say their firms are particularly interested in the “Internet of Things” space, which suggests we’ll be seeing more startups enter it.

Personally, we think the Internet of Things, which will lead to your refrigerator notifying you that you need milk or butter, your stove telling you its time to turn the roast, and other digital connections has a scifi, Jetsons sort of futuristic feel. Yet, much of it is just around the corner.

Global trade association formed

Now, a group of technology providers, including software giant Oracle, has come together to form a global trade association that aims to send the message that M2M delivers business benefits.

The International M2M Council launched last month and will begin its work by creating an index of best practices and benchmarks for crucial metrics like Total Cost of Ownership and ROI. Cost figures in M2M can be particularly difficult to estimate, given that cellular or satellite connectivity must be provided throughout the life of a product, and often involves communicating with devices around the world.

“The IMC intends to show vertical markets how M2M works and what’s in it for them. M2M is creating new business models, but many of these companies have not been involved in deploying connectivity,” says Chris Baker , Oracle’s SVP for Worldwide ISV, OEM and Java Sales. “M2M cuts across broad and diverse markets, and the key to evangelism success will be tapping the resources of IMC member companies,” he says.

Will track norms

The IMC will track financial and management norms for M2M projects at regular intervals, giving companies that deploy M2M crucial data points to reduce risk and ease planning. To begin its work, the IMC will leverage the influence of its founding board, including providers of connectivity, hardware, software, and integration services, and comprised of Deutsche Telekom, Digi, Kore Telematics, ORBCOMM, and Telit, as well as Oracle.

The IMC will begin work on its research in Q3 of 2013, and intends to begin publishing results in Q1 2014.

Almost 90 percent of organizations worried about file sharing

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

DropboxResearch shows widespread concern about how to maintain control of files as information security and privacy regulations tighten, fueling a rush to block access to consumer file sharing applications like Dropbox and YouSendIt, says  Intralinks Holdings Inc. (NYSE: IL), a global SaaS provider of content management and collaboration solutions.

The research was reviewed by Hurwitz & Associates and leveraged for the firm’s whitepaper titled, “Enterprise Collaboration: Avoiding the Productivity and Control Trade-Off.”

Marcia Kaufman , COO and Principal Analyst at Hurwitz and Associates, says, “There is widespread recognition that being able to collaborate effectively with partners and customers provides a competitive edge, but organizations are increasingly concerned about ensuring they also retain control over their data wherever it travels. Today, only 30% of organizations think they have adequate visibility and control over information shared outside their firewall.”

Key findings from the research include:

  • Employees are using consumer-grade file sharing without IT or business oversight. Many IT departments are not aware of the extent to which employees are sharing content using cloud tools designed for consumers. Across all the organizations included in one study, approximately 60% of employees are using consumer-grade tools for business, while 49% of organizations report attempting to block these services, clearly with limited success. This reality leaves organizations open to data leakage, inappropriate disclosures and regulatory risks.
  • The accidental mishandling of information and data happens every day. Most organizations focus on preventing malicious data theft and hacking. While this is critical, the reality is that the vast majority of data loss is the result of accidental mishandling and inappropriate sharing. For example, 80% of study participants reported receiving an email not intended for them, while 53% confess to making the same mistake. An astonishing 43% say these errors occur on a monthly basis.
  • Securing the perimeter and infrastructure does not ensure content security. Companies are moving to a more collaborative way of doing business, which results in an increased flow of data between parties both internal and external to an organization. Existing enterprise security strategies that provide security for data at rest are insufficient for sharing data that moves across corporate boundaries. Therefore, protection at the file level is needed in order to protect information wherever it travels.
  • Regulatory issues around content security are real and evolving. New, more onerous regulatory requirements are being introduced at increasing rates. With the proliferation of consumer-grade technologies entering enterprise environments, IT and compliance departments are having difficulty meeting these new requirements. Almost 90% of the organizations participating in the study expressed concerns about meeting future regulatory demands around information security in their industry, with 43% expecting they will need to change their existing policies.

How about you? Are you using consumer file-sharing tools such as Dropbox at work? What about other consumer tools such as Evernote? Both of those experienced serious data breaches once already, exposing personal passwords and potentially, the information in their files.

John Landy , CTO Intralinks, said, “We have invested a lot of time talking to global businesses about their enterprise collaboration needs and how they can safely share information. The reality is most organizations have limited insight into what content is being shared, where it is being shared and who is sharing it. Companies need to strike that fine balance between usability and diligent control when evaluating their collaboration strategies.

“Based on the intelligence collected through these studies, this research paper advises businesses on best practice guidelines for implementing collaboration tools to ensure regulators are appeased, corporate IP is protected and employees remain productive.”

You can download a full copy of the whitepaper here.