Author: IronOrbit

5 Critical Things to Expect in 2023

 

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” -Evolutionary Theory, Charles Darwin

When Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took the stage in Seattle at the last Ignite Conference, the theme was “Do More with Less.” He talked about the importance of companies remaining agile and resilient. These skills are essential for success moving forward.

There are five challenges that will follow us into 2023. They are the following:

1. Staff Shortages
2. Supply Chain Issues
3. Economic Downturns
4. Energy Crisis
5. Cyber Attacks

 

1. Staff Shortages

About seven months ago, Microsoft published a study showing that 43% of the workforce is contemplating leaving their jobs in 2023 because they’re simply burned out. The following statistics represent 31,000 people across 31 different countries over two years between February 2020 to February 2022.

  • Increase of Weekly Teams Meetings by 252%
  • 6 Billion more Emails Sent
  • 32% Increase in online Chatting
  • Increase in After-Hours Work by 28%

The pandemic lockdown took its toll on all of us in one way or another. Half of every adult reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. For many, the days were full of staying alive and healthy and keeping our family safe. A study by Ernst & Young showed that 54% of workers left previous employment because their supervisors weren’t empathetic to their struggles. These same managers didn’t care about anything that happened in their personal lives. Experts are now attributing much of the Great Resignation as a by-product of this “business-as-usual” mentality.

Many business leaders are listening more closely to what employees want and need from a job with their company. A recent Gallup poll found that 61% of employees wish for a more outstanding work-life balance and a better sense of personal well-being. A recent Harvard Business Journal article found that 40% of US employees would look for another job if ordered to return to the office full-time. Many have quit without having a replacement job waiting.

The Great Compromise

The question of hybrid work has yet to be decided, far from it. As companies determine how they can be most attractive to the best candidates, many are flexible with their work environments. The most popular long-term strategy seems to be a compromise, a variation of the hybrid work model. Either two days at home, three days in the office, or three days at home and two days in the office.

Hewlett-Packard is a good indicator of what the future enterprise office might be. HP is a huge multinational enterprise company with approximately 60,400 employees. The company wants to hire the best candidates and keep them as long as possible. HP did an internal investigation and found that almost two-thirds of all the employees wanted to spend only 20% or less working at the office. Alan May, HP’s Chief People Officer, said, “We know that when team members feel they have a balance, they are more productive and more likely to build a career at HPE.”

People who work at HPE choose when and if they want to come into the office. The setting at the office now reflects smaller spaces designed for close collaboration and socializing. Gone are the large conference-style rooms. People in the office will still sit on a Zoom call or a Microsoft Teams meeting.

2. Supply Chain Issues

Supply chain issues started during the global shutdown that followed in the wake of Covid-19. Putin’s war in Ukraine has made supply chain problems worse. A recent article in HBR asks,“How Exposed Is Your Supply Chain to Climate Risks?”

The article points out how major climate threats confront supply chains everywhere. Companies must take a proactive stance on anticipating weather-related problems and how to respond to them. The article also pointed out that most companies are not prepared to handle the crisis if it should occur. There are no business continuity plans and no alternative sites identified as replacements. Becoming more resilient goes beyond ensuring short-term operational continuity during crises. Supply chain resilience comes down to your ability to work around supply chain disruptions with whatever existing capabilities you have in-house. Work to build protective measures into existing supply chains to better deal with shortages and rising logistical costs. You can also improve your company’s resilience by not counting on commodities with wildly escalating market prices.

Leverage digital technology to solve issues and problems before they happen. You already know supply chain problems will continue into 2023. Machine learning and big data tools can help identify the main problem areas and help source alternatives. Custom cloud services and solutions can accelerate innovation and value across supply chain networks.

Our blog from earlier this year explored how digital manufacturing can be a game changer. Digital manufacturing is the application of cloud computing systems to manufacture services, supply chains, data collection, warehousing, and processes. Digital manufacturing technologies link systems and processes across the production environment to create an integrated approach to manufacturing. This strategy encompasses everything from design and development to producing and servicing the final products. Traditional factories were analog environments where everything was built by hand and have become Smart Factories.

The window of opportunity is open but will only remain for a while. Remember, things move fast, and the stakes couldn’t be higher for manufacturing to get innovation right. Writing about transforming businesses through technology and innovation, Ethan Karp is the President and CEO of a non-profit manufacturing consulting group called Magnet. In his Forbes article, 4 Reasons 2022 Can Be A Game Changer for American Manufacturing, Karp recognizes the opportunity for American manufacturing.

Supply chain disruptions, like a cancerous cell, have significantly contributed to the following two challenges, the economic downturn and the energy crisis.

3. Economic Downturns

Supply chain constraints have done their share of stunting economic growth. Supply chain disruptions lead to things that weaken a country’s economy. Things like shortages of critical goods, price inflation, factory closures, and unloaded shipping containers. Economic experts cast gloomy predictions for 2023. The forecast calls for ongoing inflation, higher interest rates, and depressed economic growth. As counterintuitive as it might sound to invest money while the global economy becomes increasingly unpredictable, companies should bolster their position by adopting digital technologies. Embracing digital technology to optimize processes and improve efficiencies on multiple levels enables organizations to be lean, more resilient, and adaptable.

Digital technology solutions can optimize your workflow by significantly improving productivity, streamlining, and advancing processes to benefit your entire team and your customers. Relevant data can be accessed in real-time by those who need it when they need it. The boost in efficiency will save precious while creating a more fluid workflow between departments. Employees perform better and accomplish more in less time.

Take a Clue from Recent History

During the Recession of 2007-2009, the companies that prioritized early cost restrictions, starting with implementing emerging digital technologies, were able to increase profitability and, in some cases, continue growing. Having business-critical data in a cloud computing environment provides a reliable and secure infrastructure. Cloud applications ensure business continuity and increase the ability to pivot.

4. Energy Crisis

Cyclic demands for energy combined with slow supply recovery after the pandemic contributes to an unpredictable global energy situation. As uncertainty and volatility in the energy market continue to mount, Europe faces complete depletion of natural gases by the Spring of 2023. The European energy crisis will restrain industrial production and push Germany deeper into a recession as we move into 2023. Using digital technologies, utility companies can use the enormous amount of data from distributed energy resources in situational intelligence.

Doing More with Less

Digital twins are available to allow utilities to detect current problems and wasteful energy drains, prevent escalations, predict future situations and optimize the flow of electricity. Digital twin models can be used to solve the demand for more electricity with less carbon output and a more affordable cost. Leveraging data, analytics, and software solutions, digital technology can help global energy companies meet the challenge of providing reliable power and strengthening the future of energy.

5. Cyber Attacks

If you travel to Northern California, there’s a roadhouse biker bar called the Alpine Inn, a few miles from Stanford University. Just inside, there is a plaque that reads:

BEGINNING OF THE INTERNET AGE

On August 27, 1976, scientists from SRI International celebrated the successful completion of tests by sending an electronic message from a computer set up at a picnic table behind the Alpine Inn. The message was sent via a radio network to SRI and through a second network, the ARPANET, to Boston. This event marked the beginning of the Internet Age.

None of the scientist present that day had any security concerns about what they were building. They were trying to get the thing to work. What they made would soon become the digital backbone for our modern banking, commerce, infrastructure, health care, energy, and weapons systems. There was no consideration given to the idea that this would become an interconnected system one day.

In her foreboding book, THIS IS HOW THEY TELL ME THE WORLD ENDS, Nicole Perlroth tracked down one of the men at the picnic table on August 27, 1976. His name is Dave Retz, and he shares an ominous foreshadowing of things to come.

Two years before they pulled up to Zott’s (now the Alpine Inn), air-traffic controllers at San Francisco airport started complaining that beams of “unknown origin” were interfering with their radars. As it turned out, SRI’s radio frequencies had infiltrated the airport’s traffic control. But even then, the idea this invention might one day threaten to bring down airplanes, disrupt water supplies, or rig an election hardly fazed the men and women building its basic blocks. Some four decades later, in 2020, San Francisco International Airport officials had just discovered that the same stealth Russian hackers probing our nuclear plants, grid, and states had hijacked an internet portal used by airport travelers and employees.

I asked Retz what, if anything, he would take back. His reply was immediate and unequivocal. “Everything can be intercepted,” he told me. “Everything can be captured. People have no way of verifying the integrity of these systems. We weren’t thinking about this back then. But the fact is,” he added ruefully, “everything is vulnerable.”

Cyber-attacks threaten more than business-critical data. When you consider Frost & Sullivan’s reporting on accelerated growth over the next eight years, you realize the enormity of the challenges ahead. The research firm projects that the earth will have a complex network of 200 billion devices, averaging 20 connected devices for every human being on the planet. As IoT-connected devices become more sophisticated in their capabilities, vulnerabilities to attack will rise too.

Cybercriminals continually poke and prod for vulnerabilities and broader attack surfaces.

In an article for CSO Online, Apurva Venkat writes, “There is a significant shift underway from on-premises to cloud-based services. Crucial elements of many business processes are on the cloud now, easing file sharing and workforce collaboration. We continue to see increasing efforts by adversaries to target cloud-based assets.”

She quotes Nick Lowe, director for Falcon OverWatch [CrowdStrike’s managed threat hunting service that provides deep and continuous human analysis, 24/7, to identify novel attacker tradecraft designed to evade standard security technologies] at CrowdStrike, “So now, more than ever, it’s critical for organizations to deploy that mix of technology-based controls and human-led hunting to be best positioned to combat these evolving cloud threats.”

By next year, Gartner predicts, 60% of enterprises will phase out most of their VPNs for Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) which provides secure remote access to business-critical data based on clearly defined access control policies. As we pointed out in an earlier blog, robust and holistic cybersecurity protocols must be considered a cost of doing business. Security is vital at all times, particularly during the economic upheaval.

Conclusion

Just as the critical challenges are interconnected with each other, so are the tools we’ll use to ease some of these challenges. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other digital technologies continue to impact our business and personal lives, and they will continue to do so. In many cases, we need to be fully aware of how much AI influences what we do at work or what we purchase online. We’ve grown accustomed to having things suggested to us. Ready-to-use technologies are increasingly becoming available to us via the cloud.

Boundaries separating transformational digital technology tools are blurring together. As we move into 2023, AI, the Internet of Things, virtual and augmented reality, and cloud computing will move in tangent. The availability of one will mean the availability of another. All forms of hybrid working environments, business decisions, and automation of routine tasks will continue to converge in ways that will enhance each other. Consider how modern smartphones make many applications available to us from one device.

Investment in technology will position your company for stronger resilience and out-term growth, especially during periods of volatility and uncertainty.

 

Modernizing Your Company’s IT: Finding the Sweet Spot

No industry is off the hook.

Modernizing your company’s IT environment has never been more critical for future survival. No industry is off the hook regarding the need to transform digitally. Modernization is necessary to keep pace with your competitors. Legacy systems could suddenly break down or no longer be serviceable. There are several urgent reasons for you to modernize your IT infrastructure.

Modernization delivers fantastic benefits to a company, including:

·      Better User Experience

·      Improved Efficiencies

·      Enhanced Operational Visibility

·      Great Accountability

Modernizing your IT infrastructure also increases your company’s resiliency and scalability and provides a solid foundation for digital transformation.

Customers today expect a fast, seamless digital experience from banking to retail, transportation to hospitality. A seamless cross-channel experience is expected by today’s customers, regardless of their demographic. One example: Over 50% of U.S. Adults, 18+ now do banking on their mobile devices, according to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey. That includes a surprisingly high 42% of the Boomer segment.

For financial institutions, it’s become table stakes. But other industries have some catching up to do. Finding the sweet spot for integrating new technology can be a challenge. Implementing new technology can be an adjustment for employees to learn and use productively. IronOrbit has the tools and strategy to help get your company on the golden path to modernization.

 

IT is no longer a Back-End Role.

Modernization is about technology, and it’s also about cultivating a new mindset regarding how the business operates and how it can deliver unique value propositions to its customers. An example of an outdated attitude is to think of the CIO as being restricted to all things IT. A modern approach would include the CIO to drive recovery and future growth.

Most business leaders believe IT plays a significant role in supporting business outcomes. Seventy percent of C-level executives still view IT as confined to saving money, keeping the lights on, and ensuring an internet connection.

Modernizing means unifying business and technology to future-proof organizations, including scalability and agility, and developing growth strategies.

A recent IDG survey of 200 IT leaders revealed positive modernization results, even before the completion of the process. The report found that although one in four organizations completed less than one-quarter of their initial IT modernization goals, all achieved improved quality of service, better customer satisfaction, cost savings, increases in uptime, and the creation of new streams of revenue.

 

The Digital Mindset

A mindset is a way of thinking and orienting to the world that shapes how we perceive, feel, and act. Having a digital mindset means conditioning ourselves to see how connectivity, data, algorithms, and AI create new possibilities for delivering value. Business leaders who cultivate a digital attitude can position their organization for optimal success and resiliency.

 

Finding the Sweet Spot

Developing new ways of thinking and new ways of working takes time.

Here are three good places to start:

1.  Assess the readiness of your IT for future business and growth priorities.
2. Review the business strategy based on tech-driven outcomes.
3. Align a technology strategy to achieve business impact and enablement.

The last thing you want to do is skip steps. Take the time needed to assess where your IT infrastructure is now and how it impacts your business to where you want it to be a few years from now.

IronOrbit can help you decide which workloads should migrate to a cloud environment. Additionally, we offer

·      Minimize disruption as your organization transitions to new technology

·      Availability 24/7 365 Days a Year

·      Automated Operations and Self-Service options

·      Full Back up and Disaster Recovery Availability

·      Over 30 years of Business Technology Experience

IT modernization is challenging because it involves change management. Modernizing is also an ongoing process because technology constantly evolves at an ever-accelerating rate. The engineers and IT innovators at IronOrbit pride themselves on staying ahead of the curve and continuously developing improvements and better ways to contribute to the success of our clients.

 

Please call us today for a free no-obligation consultation.
Remote Work – It’s Here to Stay

Reasons Why Remote Work Benefits Employees & Companies

Remote work benefits employees and companies is the resiliency of having the technology in place to mobilize workforces overnight. The remote work environment is here to stay. It is true; we were all sent home to work remotely under duress. Employees and companies discovered unexpected benefits from a work-from-home (WFH) environment. Remote work has its pros and cons, but mostly, people like being able to work remotely.

16% of Companies Worldwide are 100% Remote in 2022
41% of US Workers are Fully Remote.

2022 is almost over, and companies are still trying to decide whether to continue having a remote workforce, head back to the office, or devise a solution combining the two. Employees and many job seekers want the flexibility to work from home.

85% of IT Leaders Who Have Deployed Remote Desktops in Their Firms Would Recommend It  

(Source: The State of Remote Work in 2021)

80% of US Workers Would Reject a Job Offer That Didn’t Include a Flexible Work Environment

(PR Newswire Study 2021)

As the CEO of the research firm Ladders says,

“This change in a working arrangement is impossible to overhype. As big as it is, it’s even bigger than people think.”

 

Gartner reports that remote work is a cornerstone of the post-pandemic future of work. A Gallup poll from the beginning of the year showed that half of the remote-capable employees prefer a hybrid work environment. The popularity of the flexible work phenomenon is as beneficial for the company as it is for employees. There’s a more extensive selection of qualified candidates for the growing digital economy opportunities. Having the technological capacity for a productive virtual environment could help define who gets to work in a digital economy and which companies will thrive.

Benefits to Companies Offering Flexible Work Environments

  • Reduction of Operating Costs
  • No Need for Physical Expansion
  • Increase of Productivity
  • Multi-region infrastructure Drives Better Collaboration
  • Access to Global Talent Pool
  • Higher Employee Retention

 

No Overhead

Employee mobility is part of the digital economy. In the digital era, a modern IT infrastructure means having to untether workforces from having to work in a specific location. Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) is a cloud-based technology that enables work to happen from anywhere on any device. Working from anywhere on any device eliminates the costs of leasing office space, buying furniture, paying for utilities, and other overhead expenses. The elimination of overhead costs is significant. By allowing remote work, IBM eliminated 58 million square feet of office space and saved $50 million in real estate expenses. The cost savings are significant for small businesses as well. The JCA insurance agency no longer pays for a 4,000-square-foot office and the overhead that goes with that. Watch Video. Being a remote employer helps JCA’s bottom line.

Increases in Focus and Engagement Produces Higher Productivity

The experiment on mass WFH orders showed that people got more work done. They no longer had to commute and didn’t have the distractions of working in an office environment. Many studies show that remote work leads to increased productivity and better performance. Hiring new employees is an expensive process for companies. The average expense is around $4,000 and usually takes weeks, sometimes months, to fill. A recent Stanford University study showed a 13% increase in productivity; workers took fewer breaks, were more satisfied with their jobs, and reduced attrition rates by half.

The disadvantages of not setting up the capabilities to work remotely cut deeper than being less attractive to job seekers or losing existing employees who want more flexibility. Establishing a remote-ready IT infrastructure means leadership is being proactive; they’re at once forward-leaning and remembering the lessons of the pandemic.

The Virtual Workspace

A recent Gartner study predicts that 70% of Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) leaders deploying DaaS will exceed their budgets due to a lack of proactive cost management. The configuration of each virtual machine impacts the amount of money spent on DaaS. IronOrbit prevents clients from spending on services they don’t need by having multiple options for its INFINITY Workspaces. There is an INFINITY Workspaces solution to fit each use case. For example, power workers need more run more GPU-enabled applications like Autodesk’s Revit. Process workers need basic applications such as Microsoft Office.

Aside from the obvious benefits to an organization workforce mobility can bring, having the IT infrastructure to shift from office to home at a moment’s notice fortifies a company from future volatility and unexpected disruptions. Having a cloud-based IT environment makes a company more resilient. Cloud computing has become a proactive measure that safeguards business continuity. Companies can scale up or down quickly, and the process is effortless. Sharing information becomes more efficient when you combine cloud technology and managed services. Things like product development and decision-making happen faster. Connectivity boost productivity because your workforce, including your IT department, can focus on more value-to-the-customer tasks.

Technology There When You Need It

When the pandemic lockdown occurred, businesses on the cloud could adapt to the new remote working norms quicker and more efficiently than those that weren’t.

Be Prepared for the Unexpected

Leveraging IronOrbit’s technology allows companies to provision desktops quickly. A workspace can become accessible to users from anywhere while maintaining the required security protections to meet the highest compliance standards.

It was the day the lockdown began in Washington.

One of our clients, Mark Gallant of the Truss Company View Case Study, sat in an emergency meeting. Everybody was under a great deal of stress, except for him. Company leaders asked, “How are our employees going to work? How can we continue to serve our customers?” Mark smiled because he knew they already had a ready-made solution to the problem. Months prior, they had moved to IronOrbit’s cloud environment. Now, they had to have everyone grab their computers, go home, and log on.

Your company might be one of those organizations still making decisions on the question of your work environment. Whether it’s back to the office, completely remote, or a combination of the two, one thing is clear. Business continuity in the digital economy demands a flexible and elastic IT environment. One that moves when you move. The longer you wait to migrate to the cloud, the more you risk losing your competitive advantage.

IronOrbit can ensure your company has the resiliency it needs to future-proof against almost any scenario.

Please contact for a free no-obligation consultation.
What’s the Difference Between Digitization & Digitalization?

Don’t Confuse Digitization with Digitalization.

The terms digitization and digitalization are often mistaken for one another. They mean different things, and it’s important not to confuse them.

Digitization is not digital transformation.

Why is it Important to Know the Difference?

Understanding what the two words mean is not just about semantics. To confuse the two sets up unreasonable expectations and shortchanges the importance of digital transformation. Bewilderment could put your company in jeopardy. You think you’re accomplishing one thing when you’re doing something else. These two things have to go in sequence. To skip steps or jump ahead for expediency creates problems down the road.

Digital Technologies Are Raising the Bar Every Day

Let’s begin with the fundamental building block known as digitization. Digitizing is a primary building block. You must digitize operations if you’re going to remain competitive. But keep in mind that digitizing is only half the story.

What is Digitization?

Digitization, or digitizing, is the conversion of analog to digital technology. Digitization improves what we’ve always done in companies. Digitization minimizes using paper because you’re no longer using paper and pen. You’re inputting data into a desktop or mobile device using keyboard strokes. Sometimes, you’re simply scanning a bar code or QR Code (QR codes store far more information and responsiveness is ten times faster than bar codes). 

Digitizing existing processes has the following benefits:

  • Better Customer Experience
  • Increased Mobility
  • Lower Operational Costs
  • Faster Processes
  • Improved Decision Making
  • Secure & Accessible-Anywhere Information
  • Increased Productivity

Once you replace analog with digital processes, you’ll notice significant reductions in print volume and costs. Digital files transfer quickly, update instantly, and are much easier to track. A standard KPI of digitizing would be a cost-cutting metric. Using digital technologies and digitizing data improves productivity and can create new revenue streams.

Enhanced Productivity & Outcomes

A digitized company has the distinct advantage of having faster, more agile, and more scalable workflows. Adopting new tools happens more quickly and efficiently than with legacy systems. The entire information infrastructure becomes connected to quarterly goals and business outcome targets. Digitizing offers significant operational improvements such as boosting efficiencies and enhancements with customer experience. Plus, digitizing opens the door to innovations impossible in an analog environment.

What is Digitalization?

Digitalization indicates a company is in the process of moving to the second half of the story. You know you’re a digital company when you begin delivering new customer value propositions that are digitally delivered. That is becoming digital.

Gartner defines digitalization as going beyond digitization. Its use of digital tech changes a business model and provides new revenue and other value-producing opportunities.

Brand New Value Propositions

What problem can you solve for your customers that you never considered part of your mandate? Move beyond traditional products and services to solve your customer’s problems.

Digitalization involves a paradigm shift in the culture and changes the business model. That is why digitalization could lead to a complete digital transformation of your business. The journey involves creating strategies that leverage digital capabilities to innovate new value propositions.

Digitization vs. Digitalization

Digitization involves a one-time implementation. On the other hand, digitalization demands developing new processes and strategies over time. The best-case scenarios would be accumulative, with a tiny success building upon another.

Digitization is about operational excellence. As an improvement of existing processes, you do the same things you’ve always done, only better.
Digitalization is about rapid business innovation to deliver new customer value propositions.

The Importance of Using the Right Technology

Because not everyone in your company is tech-friendly, investing in technology that is easy to use and accessible is crucial. Everyone from C-level executives to managers and frontline employees must work together to drive digital innovation and business outcomes. Companies that make digital tools accessible throughout their organization achieve higher proficiency levels. With these gains in place, it’s easier to reimagine every aspect of business operations.

More About People Than About Technology

While digitalization is still mainly about using digital technology, the processes and strategies that arise require new skills and the adoption of new ways of doing business. Realizing the full benefits of digitalization means investing in new skills training and developing process agility. Transformational benefits arise from creating a company culture that inspires widespread frequent experimentation.

Most business leaders still rely on outdated organizational structures to implement strategies. They are unaware of how structure inhibits agility. Business strategy must, at all times, be fluid. People, processes, data, and technology synchronize continuously to identify and deliver innovative customer solutions. Another handicap of traditionally structured corporations is that it is too slow.

The journey requires organizational changes that are customer-centric. The journey leverages technology and needs leadership support. Digitalization empowers and enables employees and customers by leveraging technology and opening all company levels to experimentation and exploration. That’s why the IT Director needs to be a part of the business planning discussions.

Digital Business Design

People refer to the business design as business architecture. Most people think of architecture as the purview of the IT department. If you have a business architecture function, it’s usually part of your IT division. By contrast, digital business design is the responsibility of senior executives and IT leaders.

Ultimately, all businesses must become digital to thrive in a digital economy. The ones that will be most successful at this will be those that design themselves for it. Digital design, not strategy, will separate the winners from the losers.

Just to Recap

Digitization converts information from a physical format to digital. Digitizing is a prerequisite building block of digitalization. Digitalization is the more advanced stage that can lead to digital transformation. Digital transformation is about futureproofing and resiliency.

CONCLUSION

Modernizing operations means digitizing as a fundamental first step. Digitizing can lead to digitalization. A company can implement a series of digitalization projects like automating processes, developing employee skills, and innovating new ways to leverage digital technology, but digital transformation is more than implementing various projects.

Digital transformation is a long slow journey that requires company-wide involvement and participation. Few companies are designed for digital. Becoming a digital company is a challenge. The path to successful transformation is not straight nor easy to navigate. Much effort goes into deliberately synchronizing people, processes, and technology.

For a deeper dive into digital transformation, please look at part one of our blog, Why Digital Transformation is Important to Sustained Success. 

Digitization can lead to digitalization which can lead to digital transformation. Only companies going through the process of digitalization can choose to become digital. While digitizing and digitalization are about leveraging technology, digital transformation is a revolution that changes the design of the business. While none of these are sufficient to guarantee the next level, any step forward is an investment in your company’s future well-being.

The transformational aspect empowers entire organizations and delivers new service levels to your clients.

IronOrbit enables organizations to modernize their information infrastructure, link workflows, and scale productivity. More than a technology service provider, IronOrbit can help you understand where your infrastructure is today and where you want it to be tomorrow.

Focus on targeted objectives and tap into the power of cloud-based transformations.

Wherever you are on your digital transformation journey, IronOrbit can help. The most important thing you can do for your company is to take the initiative to advance the infrastructure of your business. What change could you make today to help streamline operations and become more resilient?

Sometimes it helps to have a knowledgeable sounding board on your side. Whether your business still has an on-premises server or has already moved to the cloud, we can help you identify valuable opportunities for future innovation and growth.

Please contact for a free no-obligation consultation.

 

 

How Digital Technology Helps Deal with Climate Change

Digitization and climate change are both hot topics. The two subjects are also getting used together in the same sentence more frequently. For example, did you know digitization is good for reducing carbon emissions? According to the World Economic Forum, Digital technologies have the potential to reduce global emissions by 15%.

Since the pandemic lockdown, people have been working from home. The workforce has been slow in returning to the corporate office setting. An IFS survey conducted last year reports that almost three-quarters of respondents plan to increase spending on digital transformation. The climate control benefits include a reduction of CO2 emissions due to less commuting and travel to in-person meetings. Technologies like Microsoft Teams have made multi-site team meetings easy and readily available.

Cloud migration is the price of admission to competing in the digital world. 

Moving your IT environment to the cloud reduces the need for additional hardware, but more importantly, to your bottom line and the environment, cloud migration modernizes your operations. While being on the cloud, and using robust cloud-enabled services like IronOrbit’s INFINITY Workspaces, won’t make your business carbon neutral, it is a significant first step on that journey.

DEMATERIALIZATION
How You Can Reduce the Environmental Impact on Doing Business

Hardware casings, cords, adaptors, and other electrical products are called E-waste. E-waste is a growing problem. Significant environmental damage happens because nature cannot absorb these products. E-Waste is a significant contributor to the haphazard disposal of old electronics: they’re inert. All E-Waste products contain hazardous materials of one kind or another. The toxic materials are predominantly lead and mercury.

By switching to IronOrbit’s cloud, you can reduce the amount of hardware because you no longer need to invest in so many on-site computer stations. There’s no need to pay for its maintenance or replace machinery when it becomes obsolete. Instead, you only pay for the exact services you need. Over time, this saves you money. Cloud computing can help your company become sustainable while making it more profitable and productive.

Reducing Needless Travel Reduces Carbon Emissions

INFINITY Workspaces is our brand of DaaS, robust technology that enables employees to work remotely with ease. There are different INFINITY packages to fit specific use cases. Even designers and engineers can access the most demanding modern applications on their mobile devices. INFINITY Workspaces empowers Geographically dispersed teams to do their best work. The technology inspires productivity while eliminating the need for lengthy commutes. It also eliminates the carbon emissions associated with daily commutes.

Adopting a work-from-home environment or even a hybrid workplace is an excellent way to reduce your business’s carbon footprint. You could also save some money in the process.

Shared Data Centers Reduce Greenhouse Gases (GHGs)

On-premises servers and data centers use substantial amounts of energy both for running and cooling. The manufacturing, packaging, and shipping of the hardware and peripheral products also add to GHG emissions. Companies can reduce emissions considerably by moving to a cloud computing environment. Once a company moves to the cloud, they use shared data centers. Like the ones operated by IronOrbit, shared data centers run far more efficiently than individual facilities or on-premises servers. There is no longer a need for personal equipment.

A recent forecast by the International Data Corporation (IDC) reports that cloud computing will prevent the emission of more than one billion metric tons of CO2 between 2021 and 2024. Moving away from legacy software and hardware and towards cloud adoption is a logical next step for companies. Insofar as business continuity and investment in the future, cloud migration is a necessity.

Cloud computing and all the digital benefits of having your IT infrastructure on the cloud are valuable for IT departments. IT departments can work more closely with business leaders to develop new sustainability goals. It is favorable for companies, and of course, it contributes to a healthier environment.

Contact us for a no-obligation proof of concept. We’re here to help.
How to Adopt New Technologies
Understand How Technology Can Grow & Protect Your Company Then Take Incremental Steps to Meet Prioritized Objectives.

New technology can benefit companies in all industries. Reading about the possibilities is exciting. Business leaders are eager to get on the bandwagon. Leaders can become impatient when they learn the competition has implemented something like cognitive technologies to solve a problem and gain a significant advantage.

Ultimately, companies recognize that digitizing operations and developing a digital strategy is necessary. The fear is that the longer they wait, the more at risk they put the future of their company. Jumping all in for transformation becomes an irresistible temptation. Too many business leaders want to make fast decisions for fear of missing out. They start the process before they’re ready. Transforming processes before you are ready leads to frustrations and unrealized benefits.

 

Use Managed Services as an Intermediary Step

Part of the challenge for many companies has legacy systems, and they’re not in a position to retire them overnight. Leaders will realize when the next natural progression is to switch to modern applications. Partnering with a forward-leaning technology company like IronOrbit can enable baby steps towards modernizing your operations. This approach affords the time to determine which tools are critical for sustainable growth and which are not.

You build incremental confidence in the technology, while IronOrbit can make recommendations based on your immediate, mid-range, and long-term strategy. And it’s okay if there is no long-term strategy other than fortifying and growing your business. IronOrbit, as your managed service provider, can help supply the missing pieces of the puzzle. You will begin to approach digital more like the business decision it is. An incremental approach enables digitization and adoption of new technologies when it makes sense. Digital and business strategies must align and integrate throughout the organization.

Corporations have silos of group activity. They’ve been that way for over a century. Anything to do with IT would be the purview of a secluded department or an enclave of tech-focused professionals. When you talk about digital transformation or adopting new technologies, you’re talking about a change of one kind or another. Certain company cultures can adapt more quickly than others. Still, change can be complicated. As your Smart Managed Service Provider, IronOrbit helps to simplify the process and make it substantially more manageable.

Begin with the End in Mind

A digital transformation can mean different things to different people. It might mean software to increase operational efficiencies for one, or develop an omnichannel retail strategy for new product offerings for another. Start by clarifying why undertake the transformation and what business opportunities will arise from the changes. The more you know about what challenges you want technology to solve, the easier it will be to build the proper foundation.

In Conclusion

Adopting new technologies should be seen as a marathon and not a sprint. Take the time to understand which technologies perform what kinds of tasks. Identify a prioritized portfolio of projects based on business needs. The close collaboration of in-house technology leaders and C-level executives will become increasingly crucial as acceleration (technology and change) continues. CIOs and CTOs have the expertise to help navigate a straightforward integration of digital and business strategies.

IronOrbit ensures you’ll have a map to successfully evaluate and integrate new technology while balancing the upgrade and management of existing systems.

 

Learn more about how to adopt new technologies for your company here. 
or Call us at (888) 753-5060.
Why CrowdStrike is Essential for Security
Why CrowdStrike is Essential for Security

Cyberthreats to your business are at an all-time high. They are, as President Biden states, “the defining threats of our time.” Is your company prepared to withstand such attacks? According to a recent Gartner article, business leaders need to do more to strengthen their cybersecurity.

 

“There are only two types of companies: Those that have been hacked and those that will be hacked.”

Robert S. Mueller, former Director of the FBI – 2012

 

“There are only two types of companies: Those that have been hacked and those who don’t know they have been hacked.”

accredited to John Chambers, CEO Cisco – 2019

 

Days before Russian tanks began rolling into Ukraine; a significant connectivity outage hit Viasat Inc. (VSAT). The Carlsbad, Calif.-based company is a leading provider of high-speed satellite broadband and secure networking for military and commercial customers worldwide. Viasat modems control thousands of wind European wind turbines. Suddenly, they went offline. The outage hobbled the Ukrainian military as generals began preparing for the Russian invasion. Reuters later reported the blackout to be sabotage.

Although most well-organized ransomware gangs are in Eastern European countries, state-sponsored hacking groups are from China and North Korea. They use sophisticated tools to embed malware deep inside the most extensive networks. In many cases, malicious code can go undetected for months, infecting millions of computers.

On January 15, 2022, members of one of the main ransomware gangs, Our Evil Group, were arrested in Russia. The Putin regime has recruited them to become a state-controlled group of hackers. About a month later, we began to see a resurgence of attacks. And that’s only the attacks we read about in the headlines. For every ransomware attack you hear about, there are three others that go unreported.

 

Hackers used a software supply chain attack to insert malicious code into the company’s Orion system. A supply chain attack works by targeting a third party with access to an organization’s systems rather than hacking the networks directly.
The Software Supply Chain Attack

SolarWinds is a company that supplies its software to over 14,000 companies. Russian military intelligence inserted a form of malware that served as a sophisticated backdoor to these companies. It’s a certainty that some of these backdoors have been successfully embedded without US companies knowing about it. Corporations probably can’t determine conclusively whether-or-not a backdoor has been installed.

In the case of the SolarWinds Corporation, one of their customers, a cybersecurity company called Fire Eye, discovered the malware by chance. They had received the software and, months later, somebody noticed a questionable anomaly. SolarWinds is not a unique situation. There are sure to be other corporations that have been infiltrated.

Escalation of Ransomware Attacks

Recently, the President sent warnings to the citizens and businesses across the country and urged everyone to take steps immediately. Key targets include private companies and any organizations that could apply pressure to the national economy and the government, including critical infrastructures.

When it comes to ransomware attacks, no sectors are off-limits. Hackers are going to go after everything that they can. Last year, we saw how no company, large or small, was immune to attack. For example, there were ransomware attacks on the following:

  • Small Family-Run Fishing Business 
  • Ferry company on Martha’s Vineyard
  • Casino Hacked through a Fish-Tank Thermometer
  • Large meatpacking company 
  • The Colonial Pipeline

 

Raleigh, NC United States- 05-12-2021: A red plastic bag covers an empty pump at a gas station in Raleigh, NC, after a devastating cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline disrupts fuel supplies on the East Coast.

 

Nicole Perlroth assembles her decade of experience as the world’s leading journalist on cybersecurity and digital espionage in an in-depth history of cyberwarfare entitled THIS IS HOW THEY TELL ME THE WORLD ENDS. In it, she warns of the rising stakes for all of us.

The Colonial pipeline was devastated in May 2021 by cyber terrorists. Attackers distributed malware through email then demanded a ransom to restore services. The 5,500-mile pipeline transports 100 million barrels of gasoline and other fuel products per day to the eastern United States. According to a report from Reuters, gasoline futures spiked 3% and have remained above trend since that time.

Two months later, Jennifer Granholm, the Energy Secretary, said that bad actors gained the ability to shut down the U.S. power grid. Hackers embedding themselves in the nation’s electrical grid displayed tremendous sophistication that analysts hadn’t seen before. Whoever was behind the cyber-attacks on our country’s infrastructure was succeeding at an alarming rate. Who did the government call in to investigate? CrowdStrike. Why? Because CrowdStrike has been investigating high-profile cyberattacks since 2011. Investigators at CrowdStrike have even unspooled more recent attacks where the code dates back to 2010. So, CrowdStrike has been on the frontlines of cybersecurity since their beginnings.

What Can Be Done?

There are basic preventative steps that everyone must apply regularly. For example, don’t respond to SMS text messages from unknown origins. Don’t open links from emails of anonymous sources. Make that a personal policy and individuals will effectively eliminate most threats. Companies, on the other hand, are different. They need comprehensive and robust security protocols that are more sophisticated than the attacks.

Companies must realize that antiquated technologies like antivirus and firewalls are weak defenses against modern, sophisticated cyberattacks. Businesses must modernize their cybersecurity by using the new technologies mentioned by President Biden in his message to the nation. Businesses must use security measures like EDR and XDR to protect against modern ransomware groups.

EDR stands for Endpoint Detection and Response. It’s an integrated endpoint security measure that combines real-time continuous monitoring and collection of endpoint data with rules-based automated response and analysis capabilities. In the case of CrowdStrike’s EDR, the security technology combines a high degree of automation with machine learning to enable security teams to identify and respond to threats immediately. The next-generation endpoint protection leverages CrowdStrike’s state-of-the-art file and behavioral-based proprietary machine learning and Indicator-of-attack methodology. This is particularly effective at stopping new, polymorphic or obfuscated malware, which is often missed by legacy antivirus solutions.

An essential ingredient of “next-generation” is reducing overhead, friction, and cost in protecting your environment.

You don’t need a large staff to maintain the CrowdStrike environment. Everything is cloud-based, so there’s no equipment to maintain, manage or update. The Falcon sensor is unobtrusive, and updates are seamless, requiring no re-boots. The web-based management console provides an intuitive and informative view of your company’s complete environment.

XDR is Extended Detection and Response and is the evolution of having EDR as a pre-requisite technology. CrowdStrike’s Falcon XDR uses artificial intelligence to improve threat visibility by making sense of structured and unstructured data at lightning speeds. Falcon XDR rapidly and efficiently hunts and eliminates threats across multiple security domains. What separates Falcon XDR from all others is its ability to isolate and identify relevant telemetry from systems and applications across an organization’s entire IT security ecosystem. Falcon XDR delivers proactive, automated responses to threats across the security stack.

 

CrowdStrike® Falcon® Complete™ is a hands-off and worry-free managed detection and response (MDR) solution. The comprehensive security platform is unique. In addition to endpoint security, cloud workload, and identity protection, it provides the process and technology required to handle all aspects of onboarding and configuration to maintenance, monitoring, incident handling, and remediation.

CrowdStrike’s Falcon Complete protects an organization against someone clicking on a link they shouldn’t have. The technology sees the behavior, and as executable files begin unzipping, Falcon Complete begins monitoring for questionable activity. As soon as malicious activity, Falcon Complete isolates it.

Why CrowdStrike?

CrowdStrike has been leading the charge against cyberthreats since 2011 when it was founded. The security firm uses cloud-based software that collects threat data across all connected devices. Artificial intelligence analyzes the information and seamlessly updates all endpoints.

The fast-growing Austin, Texas-based company provides cybersecurity to 15 of the 20 largest banks and 77 Fortune 100 companies. Private sector clients are apprehensive about the escalation of cyberthreats against Americans amid Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Severe ransomware attacks are likely to increase as sanctions on Russia become more effective.

CrowdStrike has a long history of working with the federal government state, and national oil and energy firms to investigate cyberattacks and shore up defenses. Much of their innovations in security came from listening and working with clients to help solve the most challenging cybersecurity problems. Years of forensic analysis, fine-tuning, and adjusting to meet threats as they emerge have made CrowdStrike the pioneer of cloud-delivered endpoint protection.

CrowdStrike Falcon has revolutionized endpoint security by being the first and only solution to unify next-generation antivirus, endpoint detection and response (EDR), and a 24/7 threat hunting service. Millions of sensors across 176 countries collect and analyze more than 30 billion endpoint events per day. All of them use some form of machine learning and automation. These powerful capabilities are possible through a unique combination of prevention technologies. They include indicators of Attack (IOA), exploit blocking, real-time visibility, and around-the-clock managed hunting to discover and track the stealthiest attackers before they do damage.

The country cannot defend against cyberattacks alone, nor can your organization. Companies need the vigilance of every employee and every contractor. Business leaders must “accelerate efforts to lock their digital doors.” Using CrowdStrike is an effective way to secure all entries to your company’s infrastructure.

IronOrbit knows the importance of having resilient cybersecurity. That is why we protect our virtual desktops, INFINITY Workspaces, with CrowdStrike’s highest level of AI-enabled security technology augmented by live monitoring by a team of CrowdStrike’s team of security experts. Imagine having multiple full-time expert incident responders conducting day-to-day monitoring of alerts.

CrowdStrike® Falcon® Complete™ is a 100 percent hands-off and worry-free managed detection and response (MDR) solution uniquely provides the people, process, and technology required to handle all aspects of endpoint, cloud workload, and identity security, from onboarding and configuration to maintenance.

 

Learn more about how to protect your company here. 

or Call us at (888) 753-5060.

Digital Manufacturing Can Be a Game Changer for the Industry
Digital Manufacturing Can Be a Game Changer for the Industry

Manufacturing is the lifeblood of American industry and was once the envy of the world. No other industry can mobilize the nation like manufacturing. America’s response to World War II was the most extraordinary mobilization of an idle economy in the history of civilization. During the war, 17 million civilian jobs were created, there was a nationwide productivity increase of nearly one hundred percent. Corporate earnings more than doubled.

Today, the manufacturing industry is a pale remnant of what it was before inflation and companies moving manufacturing offshore to places like China. But American manufacturing is at a crossroads. US Manufacturing could continue its downward spiral or turn things around in a big way. For American manufacturing to reclaim its international glory of years past, it must embrace the willingness to learn, innovate, and adopt new technologies. Collectively, these technologies are a part of digital manufacturing.

 

Defining Digital Manufacturing

Digital manufacturing is the application of cloud computing systems to manufacturing services, supply chains, products, data collection, warehousing, and processes. Digital manufacturing technologies link systems and processes across the production environment to create an integrated approach to manufacturing. This strategy encompasses everything from design and development to production and servicing the final products. Traditional factories were analog environments where everything was built by hand, have become Smart Factories.

Think of how the basic 1970’s cellphones evolved into the 90’s smartphones—taking a phone that only made phone calls to a mobile computer that can browse the Internet and run software applications. Then in 2007, the hyper-connected iPhone burst onto the scene. From the beginning, the iPhone was like a Swiss Army knife. It included everything you could want to do with a computer-driven gadget. The iPhone is now a professional quality camera and many other things.

Similarly, a Smart Factory is hyper-connected, predictive, and does many things old analog factories can’t do. These next-generation facilities are the core of digital manufacturing. A fully functioning next-generation manufacturing facility is built on cloud computing to optimize operations, store, and process tremendous amounts of data. The rest of the intelligent factory digital platform utilizes AI, big data analytics, automation, and an array of sensors.

 

Industry 4.0

In 2017, an article in The Economist stated that “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.” Today, data’s expanding amount and role are the driving force in Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum first identified as “the Fourth Industrial Revolution” or Industry 4.0. Manufacturers can break down siloed workflows and blend employees’ digital and physical worlds by utilizing technologies ranging from IoT (Internet of Things) to M2M (Machine to Machine) communications. Digital technology can dramatically improve productivity in planning and streamline production processes. It could also help solve another growing problem.

According to a study by Deloitte last year, as many as 2.1 million manufacturing jobs will be vacant through 2030. The report warns that the worker shortage will hurt revenue and production. Positions left unfulfilled could ultimately cost the US economy one trillion dollars by the end of the decade. Skilled labor hasn’t been the only hurdle. Supply chain disruptions and difficulties sourcing raw materials hobble the industry. Digital manufacturing can help fill industry jobs by attracting talent who want to use new technology. These people want real-world experience on digital tech designed to increase efficiencies because they know how valuable that experience will be long-term.

On August 12, 2021, Forbes article, Willem Sundblad writes that even if manufacturers can find what they need, prices are so high that they threaten margins. High inflation is sure to exacerbate the supply chain problem.

The battle cry from leaders in manufacturing is to seek out

  • suppliers geographically closer to production centers
  • more resilient supply chains 
  • technology that can help modernize processes 
  • skilled talent to operate effectively in a next-generation factory setting

Sundblad reminds us that the US is good at innovating but not so good at scaling those innovations compared to other countries. While the manufacturing industry might averse to risk, the American spirit is all about taking a calculated risk, especially when our backs are up against the wall. The window of opportunity is open, but it won’t remain open indefinitely. Remember, things move fast, and the stakes couldn’t be higher for manufacturing to get innovation right. Writing about transforming businesses through technology and innovation, Ethan Karp is the President and CEO of a non-profit manufacturing consulting group called Magnet. In his Forbes article, 4 Reasons 2022 Can Be A Game Changer for American Manufacturing, Karp recognizes the opportunity for American manufacturing.

If American manufacturers can invest in talent, technology, and innovation, they’ll be in a good position to take advantage of available opportunities. Karp identifies five of them. They are:

Take Back the Supply Chain

Use a combination of technology and innovation. Think about the incredible pivots thousands of manufacturers made during the pandemic to meet the demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Take Calculated Risk

Karp urges manufacturers to override being conservative and take calculated risks. He suggests ways to mitigate the risk of innovation by asking four questions:

  1.  Are you solving a real problem?

2.  Does your product solve the problem?

3.  Can you deliver this solution?

4.  Can you sell it?

Invest in the Smart Factory of the Future

Take whatever capital is available and invest in the technologies used in a Smart Factory. These technologies are the most direct way for manufacturers to excel in a competitive and dynamic marketplace. Over time, Smart Factories lower costs by speeding up processes, reducing downtime, and minimizing waste. These digital innovations will improve supply chain efficiencies.

Automate to Offset Talent Shortages

Karp emphasizes the importance of automation by sharing the story of Gojo, the company that invented the hand sanitizer Purell. The family ran operation successfully tripled its production almost overnight to meet pandemic demand. The company was ready because of its investments in Industry 4.0 technology over the years. Gojo has automation to do repetitive tasks and frees employees to do more value-added technology work, like programming and running the machines. The company hired 500 new people in 2020.

Capture the Infrastructure Boost

Manufacturers like steel and transportation suppliers will be kept busy with the government-sponsored trillion-dollar investments in transportation and public safety. Karp offers two recommendations:

  1.  Evaluate margins to provide a buffer against the unknown
  2.  Have the technology and talent already in place to manage production surges.

As accurate as the threat of digital disruption is, future success is more about making informed decisions with a view of the long-term consequences. Leadership is about establishing a direction and vision for the future, aligning people around that vision, and motivating and inspiring them to take action. Making better choices is a necessary ingredient.

In the February 2022 Harvard Business Review article, How Incumbents Survive and Thrive, Julian Birkinshaw looks at how Fortune 500 companies remain stable despite disrupters. “When companies face a disrupter, their natural response is to fight fire with fire: to set up a competing digital unit, build an incubator or accelerator, or pursue a transformation.”  He cites a McKinsey study that found “companies that adopt bold, offensive strategies in the face of industry digitization improve their odds of coming out winners.”

Companies must embrace digital technology to improve operational effectiveness. The global utility Enel has a division that experiments with new business models (demand management and electric vehicle charging). The unit is called Enel X and has enormous growth potential. However, it currently represents less than two percent of the parent company’s revenues. Everyone else at Enel focuses on optimizing the existing business and providing its nearly seventy-two million customers with high-quality service. But the new technology in its factories and distribution networks, including reengineering its infrastructure and processes, that went into Enel X has bolstered operations throughout the organization. For technology to help manufacturers succeed, leadership should take the time and energy to develop an adaptation strategy that best fits their organization’s unique needs and capabilities.

Considering how Digital Manufacturing and the Smart Factory of Industry 4.0 can help you streamline workflow, be better positioned to seize opportunities, and maintain margins. Don’t start out by going for the big objective. Start with low-hanging fruit. Even still, before beginning any digital manufacturing initiative, understand the technology. Learn what technologies perform what types of tasks and the strengths and weaknesses of each. If you have a chief technical officer or IT director, get them involved in discussions as soon as possible. Suppose people in the IT department have a good understanding of the different Smart Factory technologies. In that case, they’ll save the company wasted time and money pursuing the wrong technology. They’ll also help prevent making technology choices that don’t fit the company objectives. Again, the real tipping point is the willingness to learn.

If you don’t have information technology or data science capabilities on staff, build a team of external service providers. Having the right pool of resources is essential.

 

The Key Areas of Digital Manufacturing

Cost Reduction 

Utilizing cutting-edge technologies to optimize processes can result in financial efficiencies within a manufacturing operation.

Enhanced Customer Experience

Customer-facing technologies help give the customer transparency into the manufacture of their product and ease of communication and collaboration with the manufacturer.

Provisioning of Resources for Employees

A modern workplace nurtures better employee satisfaction and retention rates. The next generation of employees has grown up with high-impact technologies. They expect the deployment of quality effective technologies within their working environments.

Innovation

Traditional manufacturing and production methods are undergoing digital transformation. Going beyond production automation, the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) found in Industry 4.0 blurs the boundaries between the physical world and the virtual in cyber-physical production systems (CPPSs). A report from Deloitte describes CPPSs as online networks of social machines organized like social networks. They link IT with mechanical and electronic components that communicate through a network. Smart machines continually share current stock levels, problems, and changes in orders or demand levels.

Improved Operational Efficiency

Although last on our list, operational efficiency is the biggest “selling feature” of the move toward Digital Manufacturing strategies. By digitizing operations, data can be collected, categorized, and analyzed at every stage – from raw materials to finished and delivered products. The utilization of this data then allows your manufacturing firm to use agile cycles to grow and scale.

 

Digital Manufacturing Isn’t Just for Global Giants

Most manufacturers across the country have engaged in a digitization effort. That digitization allows their CIOs to develop digital transformation strategies to help their manufacturing operations inch closer and closer to Industry 4.0 ideals.

 

In Conclusion:

Digital Manufacturing is a genuine game-changer for the industry. To say there are many benefits to digital manufacturing is an understatement. The hyperconnected Smart Factory merges complex manufacturing processes across different departments. Smart Factories eliminate the paper-based process and automate data exchange in fractions of a second. Communication and collaboration going in all directions simultaneously far extend the reach of any manufacturer. What is more, digital manufacturing inspires people to learn and innovate on a much higher level.

Every manufacturer is at a different stage of their Digital Manufacturing journey. The decision to convert traditional factories to smart facilities requires deep engagement with the entire company. Set priorities and create a portfolio of projects. But keep this in mind; the benefits are well within the grasp of even small to mid-size operations. Remember the story of Gojo and how they routinely invested in modernizing their operations. Not all at once but over time. When the time came, regular investments in technology made all the difference. Using smart and autonomous technologies, CIOs are blending the physical and digital worlds while making the most of human resources along the way.

 

How Technology Will Keep U.S. in Business (part 2)

The first part of this blog set the stage for what follows.The coronavirus pandemic slowed us down. At that same it has pushed us into our homes to work. The pandemic has, and continues, to accelerate technological advancements. The novel virus has physically slowed each and everyone of us. And it has slowed the economy. The Brookings Institute reported that our economy has entered a contraction.

 

There is much we still don’t know about the coronavirus, We also don’t know how the lock downs across the country will affect our business and our economy long term. This is all uncharted territory. While all of this true, technology has been a life-saver for many businesses.

So, how is technology going to keep the USA in business and help the economy to recover?

1. Technology Ensures Businesses Continuity & Keeps Supply Chains Moving.

The supply chain for US companies is long and complex.
Goods manufactured here in the USA have multiple supply vendors. The supply chain cycles in weeks – not days or hours.

We pick up an item at a big-box store or the local hardware store. We don’t consider all the suppliers and technology it takes to get that product on the shelf.

The supply chain has slowed for some industries. Our supply chain technology is still in place and working. It’s ready to fire on all cylinders again when called upon to do so. We must monitor our supply chain.

In a Forbes articleJaume Ribera of the IESE Business School contributor, warns of the “bullwhip effect.” This is when fluctuating consumer behavior impacts the supply chain at all levels.

2. Technology Enables Employees to Collaborate & Communicate with Clients.

Most businesses have been hard hit by COVID-19. There are others that have been flooded with new clients. They are struggling to keep up with demand.
The VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) video/audio communications companies are perfect examples of business sectors that have seen a spike in demand. Companies use applications like Microsoft Teams, to give telecommuters the same experience they had at the office.

Because of video and voice conferencing technology employees of companies across the USA are able to work from home, keep their jobs, and contribute to the ongoing health of their business.

 

3. Technology Supports Geo-Diverse Workflow.

Before the USA was impacted by the pandemic, many companies were already heavily investing in industry-optimized cloud workspaces, Microsoft 365, hosted servers, and cloud-based data backup/disaster recovery platforms.

Those who invested early in these technologies are now able to see their investment pay off exponentially. Competitors slow to adopt cloud-based technologies are having to scramble to retool their IT environment. Some have had to shut their doors. Companies already in the cloud are in a good position to push through this crisis. They can maintain workflow and business continuity.

When the post-mortem is done on the business impact of the COVID-19 crisis, cloud-based technology may very well be the hero of the day. It may be the driver that kept our economy from slipping into complete disarray.

 

4. Technology Undergirds the Public Health Message.

There has never been a time in history like this. Government and health officials can disseminate information. Our national telecommunications, internet, and wireless infrastructure may be at capacity. Our backbone of critical technologies is holding. It is playing a key role in the health of the workforce.

Technology giants like Amazon, FaceBook, and Google have stepped up to the plate to squelch the spread of misinformation. They’re replacing it with up-to date factual information.

Blair Levin of the Brookings Institute writes, “all of this internet use is putting more pressure on our broadband infrastructure. Just in the past few weeks, data demands have risen in nearly all categories. The previous peak has become the new average, and the surge is starting to threaten the quality and speed of content downloads. As shelter-in-place directives spread and demand increases, the question lingers of whether our broadband infrastructure can support the new normal.”

Well, the Internet system is working and handling the load. This crisis has reminded the nation it needs to keep up to ever increasing demands.

We need to continue upgrading our broadband infrastructure.

Health authorities are able to deliver critical information. This information is accurate. Distribution is by way of their websites and other trusted sources.

Employees are able to stay safe from the virus. They’re able to continue working remotely. One day this will be over. The returning workforce will be healthier than they would be without access to the disseminated health guidance.

5. Technology Enables Testing and Contact Tracing.

MIT has developed technology that enables your Smartphone to track where you’ve been. At the same time it preserves your privacy. You want to know that everyone around you is safe. At the same time, you don’t want the government tracking where everybody is going. MIT already has an AI-powered device that lets doctors monitor coronavirus patients remotely. The system is called Emerald. It is being used in some assisted living facilities. TheNextWeb reports that, Emerald aims to reduce the risks faced by healthcare professionals treating COVID-19, who are often exposed to the highly infectious disease without adequate protective gear.

Emerald could play a particularly important role in assisted living centers and retirement homes. The residents of these facilities are particularly vulnerable to the disease.

Experts are in agreement that major part of getting everyone back to work, and helping companies get back on their feet, is a healthy workforce. Providing healthcare professionals with the necessary technology to test, report, and contact trace are crucial to this effort.

On April 10th, The Economist reported that Apple and Google announced plans to work together to develop a way to track the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The unification of these two tech giants will make it easier for others to build contact-tracing apps that work without modifying either platform. Of course it raises a question. “If tracing apps are widely adopted, they must make people want to use them,” says Ciro Cattuto, an epidemiologist at the University of Turin, in Italy. “People need to feel like they’re contributing to a common good.”

 

6. Our New Appreciation for the Use of Digital Transformation Technologies.

Marketers for innovative technologies have traditionally had a challenging time convincing some leaders to invest in the future.convincing some business leaders that now was the time to make investments in newer, more efficient, cloud-based technologies.

Investing in technology that drove digital workflow transformation was seen as “nice to have” if “we can afford it.”

But when COVID-19 shifted the ground under the feet of U.S. business, those who had put money into cutting-edge business process technology were better positioned to ride out the storm. Some leaders, like the COO of the Clipper Corporation, Nancy Hejran, know that, one day, a disaster is going to happen. When that day comes, they want their data to be safe and secure.

These technologies will help the USA maintain a competitive edge in the global marketplace when COVID-19 has become a memory.

7. Technology Supports the Retooling of Companies for the Post-COVID-19 Economy.

There are yet many uncertainties, there is one thing with which everyone seems to be in agreement. Things aren’t going to snap back to “business as usual” once this wave of Coronavirus has passed.

Company leaders are looking at what their business will be post-COVID-19. For some, the course alteration will be minimal – hardly noticed. For other businesses, the idea of “business as usual” will need a new definition. It is sure to be shaped by the demands of our ramshackle economy and available technologies.

How will the coronavirus change the way we do business? How will it change the global business climate? After all, we are in this together.

We will explore the answers to this question in next week’s blog,

Cybersecurity Recommendations for Companies During Pandemics

“This changes everything.” We’ve heard this many times before. Also, “This time, it’s different.”

Usually, it’s not different. Things feel different for a little while, and then things return to normal.

This time, I think, truly is different. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced most businesses to close their doors. Conferences, concerts, and sporting events have been cancelled. And companies have their employees working from home. More employees now work from home than ever before.

“When a crisis like the new coronavirus temporarily forces companies into remote work, it tends to show them that it can be done successfully,” says Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics and cited in the Chicago Tribune.

Remote work probably is here to stay. For that reason, honing your remote work policy is my number one recommendation during the pandemic. I also recommend working on and practicing your disaster and contingency planning policies, storing sensitive data centrally, and encrypting sensitive information.

 

A little background on me: I’m a former CIA officer, so I know a thing or two about traveling and working remotely. Almost 15 years ago, I started working “remotely” under minimal supervision. My work was representing the US Government in meetings with other governments. These were countries most people have never heard of.

When I left the Agency, I found myself consulting and working remotely for companies throughout the US and throughout the world. My clients extended as far away as Poland and Ukraine. I never met my clients Poland face to face. The business was entirely remote.

I co-founded a company. My partners and investors were based in Boston. I worked, you guessed it, from home. My responsibilities necessitated travel. I had to spend some personal time with my team in Boston. I spent about one week each month onsite.

The amount of time needed on-site could vary. While my startup required a good deal of me being onsite, many consulting projects were done remotely. I’d say most any job can be accomplished remotely.

There has been significant discomfort in the past about remote work. I have experienced this first hand. As I rose through the ranks at the CIA, people wanted me for increasingly senior positions. My working from home became more of a problem for my supervisors. Companies might be comfortable with a developer or designer telecommuting. They are definitely not comfortable when it comes to a job that involves managing a team. Last January, I had discussions with companies who loved my skills and experience. They wanted what I had to offer. But the distance and telecommuting was a deal-breaker. So they backed out because they were uncomfortable.

Technology has made Location Irrelevant

Before the coronavirus, management and HR policies were stuck with the old ways of doing things.

The need for physical distancing has forced us to work from home. Many business leaders, managers, and even employees were uncomfortable with the concept. Most will find remote work isn’t bad or scary. Many will even become comfortable with remote work as standard policy. An April 6, 2020 ZDNet article reported that 74% of CFOs say they expect to move previously on-site employees remote post-COVID-19. Gartner found that a quarter of respondents will move at least 20% of their on-site employees to remote work permanently.

Pandemic Recommendation #1: Hone the Remote Work Policy

Remote work is here to stay. Remote work maximizes worker time by cutting out commutes. It decreases the need for parking and office facilities. It saves energy too. Not as much gasoline is used. There are fewer traffic accidents. There is less pollution because people are not driving to work en mass.

But remote work also raises a whole new set of security issues. How do we keep customer or other sensitive data secure when that data is in an employee’s home?

Simple mistakes can lead to large consequences. Failing to patch a computer program or server invites hackers to exploit the flaw.

Do you remember the Equifax incident? Equifax couldn’t be counted on to patch its centralized systems.
Their systems contained huge amounts of personal information. How can we handle personal information printed on little Johnny’s color printer? No company wants to be responsible for the next Equifax-type incident because its employees are working from home.

Having employees work from home presents more vulnerable endpoints. “More personnel telecommuting adds to cybersecurity risks. These people carry devices packed with data. “Opening remote access creates more challenges,” according to Parry Aftab, Executive Director of The Cybersafety Group. Be sure you have considered endpoint security as part of expanded remote access.

And what happens if a worker is injured while working from home? Will they be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits?

For these reasons, my number one recommendation is to hone in on your Remote Work Policy. If you don’t already have a remote work policy, then you need one right away. What is the policy now, and what will it be after the crisis is over. If you do have one, now is a great time to review the policy. Make sure it still fits today’s needs and contexts. Update the policy as needed.

The policy should include the expectations of employees. What security measures are employees expected to use at home. Clarify legal liabilities. How will you protect privacy and remain GDPR and/or CCPA compliant? What are the company’s policies on equipment use and repairs? A complete Remote Work Policy will address these issues.

Ensure that employees maintain a safe remote work environment. Secure their devices with anti-malware software. These devices should have personal firewalls, and regular patching for software vulnerabilities.

Pandemic Recommendation #2: Disaster Preparedness & Contingency Plans

A few years ago, I was walking the halls of RSA with one of my clients, helping them make sense of the complex and confusing world of cybersecurity. RSA is *the* conference for cybersecurity. 45,000 people attend each year including more than 600 vendors. We were walking the expo halls. We saw an endless supply of hi-tech security offerings. There were vendors offering proactive protection. Some had advanced threat detection, while others had automated or AI-augmented remediation tools.

 

There were vendors offering proactive protection of one kind or another. Out of the 669 vendors at RSA, not one were there to help companies prepare for disaster recovery and contingency plans.

Out of the 669 vendors at RSA, how many were there to help companies prepare for disaster recovery and contingency plans? I didn’t see one. When it comes to pandemic, we’re mostly on our own. There is no Coronavirus as a Service (CaaS). When we face potential times of crisis, it’s a good reminder to test our continuity plans. If there are no continuity plans to test, then it is vital to create them.

It all starts with your business continuity & disaster recovery plan. Such a plan is a standard part of a NIST 800-53’s CP-1.
It includes strategies like having alternate data storage sites. Alternate data storage sites are important if the main storage site becomes inoperable or compromised. Backups should be in multiple locations far from each other. If one is on the west coast of the United States, the other should be on the east coast. The midwest is also a very good location for remote workers. That region is good for fail over data centers or other cloud resources.

You will want to review your plan. Identify and account for all assets, both technology and human.

Review alternate operations center options. Current areas of operations may become inaccessible. A pandemic may make it unsafe for people to congregate in one place. This is a good time to review or create work-from-home programs. Consider remote fractional vCISO services. Ensure you can maintain your security operations even if employees can’t physically come to the office.

Pandemic Recommendation #3: Store Everything Securely

With so many employees working from home, it’s easy for sensitive information to leak. Remote work often involves creating and editing work-related information. These can be emails, Word documents, and Excel spreadsheets. A customer’s personal identifying information could be left on a personal printer. Sensitive business information can end up on a CD that gets misplaced. There are number of possible security mishaps.

Imagine you recently became GDPR compliant. At a cost of more than $100,000 for 74% of organizations, according to a CPO Magazine article. If you don’t protect personal information at your worker’s homes, you might still be facing a GDPR fine. According to the UK Information Commissioner’s Office, a company in England was fined $340,000 for leaving documents with personal information unlocked,

To reduce this risk, it’s important to store files in a centralized location. A secure cloud is the best location. If the information stays in your cloud, it’s much less likely to end up somewhere it shouldn’t be.

Bio-based authentication and encrypting mobile devices prevents others from reading and using the information on a stolen or lost device.
Pandemic Recommendation #4: Encrypt Data

When more employees work from home, it’s more likely that their devices will be lost or stolen. Encrypting these devices prevents others from reading and using the information on a stolen or lost device. Full disk encryption on personal computers, phones, and tablets is a good method. It will encrypt all storage on the employee’s device. Or at least create an encrypted partition to store sensitive data.

Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is a good encryption standard to use. The US Government uses AES to keep classified data secure, according to an article in TechRadar.

Even if an employee’s computer is encrypted, there are security risks. The data may not be encrypted when it’s in transport. If an employee has full-disk encryption, the data will not be encrypted in transit. Ensure that data is encrypted before transit. This way anyone who intercepts the data cannot do anything with it. Another good strategy is to set up a secure protocol like Transport Security Layer (TLS).

Technology can go a long way to keep your data secure, but security is essentially a people business. Most breaches occur when people make mistakes. There is no substitute for educating your team. Train and retrain them on the fundamentals. Establishing standards for shutting down each day is a good idea.