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Investing in tech startups an act of trust for VC firms

When investing in tech startups, including BI vendors trying to get started, venture capital firms want to see more than just a good idea.

They want to see a real need for a particular product when they consider investing in tech startups, and they want to see founders who have enough management experience that they won’t ruin a company with poor decisions even if what they’re bringing to market could stand out.

There is also a litany of things they don’t want to see when they’re investing in tech startups, warnings that tell investors a particular company is a bad bet.

Vanessa Larco is a partner at New Enterprise Associates, a venture capital firm with over $20 billion in assets under management. From Salesforce and Tableau years ago to Sisu just recently, NEA has a history of investing in tech startups, and betting on BI vendors in particular. Larco, meanwhile, has a background in computer science that includes time as director of product management at Box and leading the speech recognition experience team at Xbox Kinect v1, and she leads some of NEA’s investments in tech startups and participates on deal teams led by colleagues.

Vanessa LarcoVanessa Larco

Larco recently answered a series of questions about investing in tech startups. In Part I of a two-part Q&A, she discussed what she looks for in BI startups and what stood out about Sisu. In Part II, she went into detail about what might prevent an investor from working with a company, and her process for investing in tech startups.

In a given year, how many tech startups — not only BI vendors — might NEA invest in?

Vanessa Larco: It’s anywhere from 15 to 30 new investments per year where we take a board seat — this excludes seed deals.

Meanwhile, when looking at investing in tech startups — those 15 to 30 in a given year — how many pitches do you go through before choosing who to work with?

Larco: For me individually, I invest in one or two companies a year — period. I spend 12 months just finding those one or two companies a year. But I talk to at least one or two companies a day, so I’m seeing between 600 and 1,000 companies a year and I invest in one.

So of those other 599 to 999 companies, what is it about them that eliminates them? What are some obvious warning signs and some more subtle things that stop you from investing in a tech startup?

I can think of hundreds of reasons why you shouldn’t invest, but what you’re actually thinking about is what’s that thing, what’s the spark that makes you suspend disbelief and take that leap of faith.
Vanessa LarcoPartner, NEA

Larco: By default, it’s more about what is that special thing that makes me say, ‘Yes.’ When you’re investing in a company in their early startup phase, there are a billion reasons why you shouldn’t invest. I can give you a thousand red flags — the capital-to-revenue ratio doesn’t make sense, the team isn’t experienced in the space, it’s too early for us because they’re pre-product, or it’s too late for us because they’re pre-IPO, the work that they’re going after isn’t big enough, the economics don’t really make sense, and I don’t understand how they’re going to make sense in the future. I can think of hundreds of reasons why you shouldn’t invest, but what you’re actually thinking about is what’s that thing, what’s the spark that makes you suspend disbelief and take that leap of faith, because they’re all leaps of faith.

So what gives you that faith when investing in tech startups?

Larco: On every deal, at least a dozen people are like, ‘That’s the dumbest stuff that I’ve ever seen; how did that person ever think that was a good idea?’ You have way more naysayers than you have people who think something is brilliant. That’s just the nature of investing in startups.

You’re looking for that spark when something just clicks for you about the founding team, whether it’s that they’re incredibly accomplished, or have some unique insights, or there’s something incredibly special that even if something doesn’t make sense you feel like the team will figure it out and you just really want to work with them. There’s enough stuff there that’s interesting that you believe they’ll make something work and their initial hypothesis is something I can get behind. Or it’s, ‘Holy cow, I’ve never seen such an innovative product. It meets a need that no one is paying attention to, and it leads to their vision of how they’ll become an independent company… that expand its vision.’ Or it can be that you don’t really get it, but holy smokes, look at the customers they have attracted in a short amount of time — these are hard customers and we know they don’t just buy anything, so we know something is there, and if these people see it a bunch of other people will see it and they’ll be successful.

And what’s the process – how does the relationship start and progress to the point where NEA commits capital?

Larco: It’s different for everybody. Some people are super data driven, some people are very relationship driven. I’m personally a hybrid of being space driven and relationship driven. There are some spaces I really like, data being one of them, HR tech being another. And then I want to get to know the people and find out if they’re people I’ll click with, so then we’ll just spend time together over months, and then when they’re ready I’m just like, ‘I’m here.’ We’ve done all the work, I know I want to invest. And from there you talk to your partnership and do a financial analysis and a returns analysis, and do the actual quantitative work. That’s the easier part. The harder part is to get the conviction to take a leap of faith. For me that’s about the relationship, and I really believe in the founders — I see the need.

How long might it take from the point when you first meet with someone to the point when you close the deal?

Larco: For me it’s longer than most. I like to get to know someone because ideally we’re going to spend the next 10 years of our lives working together, through the ups and the downs, so I want to get to know the founders a year before they actually want to take funding from us. And once they say they’re ready to go, it can take us two to four weeks to make the investment as a partnership.

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Salesforce mobile app, Trailhead Go rebuilt for iOS

SAN FRANCISCO — Salesforce debuted new iOS apps today, including a long-overdue Salesforce mobile app makeover and the first mobile Trailhead learning app, Trailhead Go. Salesforce also updated its iOS mobile SDK for third-party app developers to take advantage of Swift, an Apple coding language.

The Apple focus continues from Dreamforce 2018. Apple CEO Tim Cook is scheduled to join Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff on stage for a fireside chat Tuesday at Dreamforce. The fresh iOS apps push is Salesforce’s response to more and more customers doing work on iPhones and iPads, said Constellation Research analyst Nicole France. Making better iOS apps is no longer a nice-to-have, but a got-to-have.

Previously, the Salesforce Mobile app could be described essentially as a click-intensive, sometimes slower desktop version of Salesforce shoehorned into a phone-app interface, analysts and users said. The new version will offer iOS-specific features and changes to the user interface.

Front-line salespeople can add more CRM data

Salesforce’s new focus is on making its interface friendlier to the front-line salespeople who use it all day, France said. Previous versions looked more manager-centric, with more focus on dashboarding sales-team data at a glance.

If Salesforce Mobile isn’t as easy and simple to use as other iPhone apps, people are disinclined to use it effectively — or at all.
Nicole FranceAnalyst, Constellation Research

She added that, like many SaaS vendors currently re-evaluating the look and feel of their platforms, Salesforce’s new interface philosophy shows that it had focused too much on making the app attractive to buyers, not users. Reducing clicks for front-line salespeople will make them more inclined to enter the data that their managers need into the app.

“It’s what we’ve all come to expect in our lives as consumers, and frankly if Salesforce Mobile isn’t as easy and simple to use as other iPhone apps, people are disinclined to use it effectively — or at all,” France said. “Even in a business context.”

Trailhead Go embraces a new generation

Making the first Salesforce Trailhead mobile app, Trailhead Go, usable on phones and tablets can only enhance its function as a recruiting tool for Salesforce admins and developers, France said. While Generation Xers and older Salesforce users might not see the value of consuming sometimes-technical Salesforce learning content ported to phone and tablet interfaces, younger audiences will.

Salesforce Mobile app screenshot
The Salesforce Mobile app now connects Apple Siri and Einstein AI.

The free Trailhead app works well to develop needed experts for Salesforce customers like Workfront, a SaaS project management and employee collaboration platform. Heidi Melin, chief marketing officer at Workfront, said she sees the mobile version as a way to keep that pipeline of new experts flowing.

“They’re training a future generation how to leverage Salesforce,” Melin said. “That’s how you know when an application platform has scale, when you start to see the need for [the Salesforce] skill set in the marketplace. That’s huge.”

Melin said she is also looking forward to seeing more Salesforce mobile app integrations with partners like Totango, which retrieves CRM data for a particular Workfront customer and summarizes it in Slack. Melin uses those tools to get a quick snapshot of an account’s health and renewal date, and to do it without logging into Salesforce’s desktop or mobile apps, she said.

Also announced with the made-over Salesforce Mobile and new Trailhead Go are updates to the iOS mobile app-development SDK introduced earlier this year. Optimized for Swift, an Apple coding language growing in popularity with iOS app builders, the SDK will help developers create apps that better take advantage of iOS features and its interface.

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For Sale – Epson A3 duplex inkjet/scanner/fax – WF-7710DWF – brand new, never opened

I’d like to table an offer of £80 including delivery (slowest and/or cheapest is fine)
Thanks
Glen

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Salesforce email marketing gets Einstein AI infusion

Salesforce unveiled on Thursday Marketing Cloud email features to come, including Einstein AI tools to automate, personalize and analyze outcomes of email campaigns and interactive emails. Salesforce also introduced testing tools to detect potential errors before hitting the send button.

The Salesforce email marketing AI features scheduled for release later this month include Einstein Content Selection, which makes personalized recommendations for images based on customer preferences. Einstein Copy Insights, also slated for later this month, predicts verbiage most likely to drive customer response in email subject lines and body text, as well as for social media and text messages.

Also, part of the upcoming release is a testing and validation tool that examines email addresses for missing elements, text errors and off-topic offers before sending emails to a list. 

Einstein Messaging Insights, scheduled for January release, analyzes email campaigns to figure out why some campaigns underperform against expected results. More importantly, it can help determine why overperforming ones succeed.

“If you’re doing something that’s performing pretty well, it’s going to try to tell you why,” said Bobby Jania, Salesforce product marketing VP. “So, you’re learning from that and can use it in other campaigns.”

Salesforce also plans to pilot an interactive email builder, based on technology from its Rebel acquisition earlier this year. It can embed surveys, polls and image carousels inside emails. That avails content that otherwise might require an email recipient to click on a web link, which reduces customer engagement.

Consumers and B2B buyers prefer email as the channel to receive marketing messages, according to a Salesforce-commissioned survey of 8,000 consumers and B2B buyers conducted last April. Respondents indicated email remains the favorite channel despite the rise of competing social media and text messaging channels, Jania said.

Salesforce email marketing tools screenshot.
Salesforce email marketing tools now can tap AI to match hero images in individual emails to preferences found in customer data.

Email is not going anywhere as the most-used digital marketing channel, said Constellation Research analyst Nicole France. The upcoming Salesforce email marketing tools aren’t particularly groundbreaking, she said, as other vendors offer similar capabilities.

However, France said that Salesforce is doing what it does well: Getting Einstein AI into the hands of its customers by embedding it in tools they can use right away without help from a data scientist. That will make the tools useful.

“No one’s using AI for the sake of using AI,” France said. “This is a practical use of AI in the marketer’s daily work.”

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Batista Coming to Gears 5! “It’s About Time,” the Superstar Declares – Xbox Wire

Today, WWE Superstar Batista confirmed the long-standing hopes of many, including his own.

As revealed on his personal Twitter account, Batista will officially enter the Gears of War Universe later this month, donning the armor of Marcus Fenix as a Gears 5 multiplayer character.

Fans around the world have long expressed hope that Batista will be cast for the role of Marcus Fenix in the film version of Gears of War, an opportunity he’s described as a “dream role.”

While the movie remains in development, The Coalition didn’t want any more time to go by without giving Batista a chance to don the armor, which he wore for as part of an upcoming WWE Network promotion for Gears 5. According to those who were there, the armor which was created to match the specifications of the game, “fit him perfectly.”

Rod Fergusson, who has cast and directed every Gears title, directed Batista’s performance for Gears 5, including over seven hundred lines recorded for the game.

“Adding Batista to Gears 5, we started with the fantasy of ‘Batista as Marcus,’ putting Batista into Marcus’ armor, and starting with Marcus’ script. Then we added elements of “The Animal” Batista into his voice performance and onto his look by adding his signature Hollywood shades to his character.  Batista was great in the booth and I can’t wait for Gears and Batista fans alike to stomp some Swarm as The Animal.”

Gears 5 Batista

Xbox has partnered together with WWE to create a special countdown to Batista’s availability in the game, including behind-the-scenes with Gears 5 and Batista on WWE’s UpUpDownDown gaming channel. This all leads up to WWE Network’s “Clash of Champions” event on Sunday, September 15, available through a 30-day free subscription on the Xbox app (new subscribers only).

To unlock Batista, simply play any version of Gears 5 (including with your Xbox Game Pass membership) beginning September 15. The promotion ends October 28.

Gears 5 launches on Xbox One and Windows 10 PC on September 6 for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members; September 10 for Xbox Game Pass members. Gears 5 is also available for pre-order today from the Microsoft Store. Click here for purchase details.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Construct a solid Active Directory password policy

The information technology landscape offers many different methods to authenticate users, including digital certificates, one-time password tokens and biometrics.

However, there is no escaping the ubiquity of the password. The best Active Directory password policy for your organization should meet the threshold for high security and end-user satisfaction while minimizing the amount of maintenance effort.

Password needs adjust over time

Before the release of Windows Server 2008, Active Directory (AD) password policies were scoped exclusively at the domain level. The AD domain represented the fundamental security and administrative boundary within an AD forest.

The guidance at the time was to give all users within a domain the same security requirements. If a business needed more than one password policy, then your only choice was to break the forest into one or more child domains or separate domain trees.

Windows Server 2008 introduced fine-grained password policies, which allow administrators to assign different password settings objects to different AD groups. Your domain users would have one password policy while you would have different policies for domain administrators and your service accounts.

More security policies mean more administrative work

Deploying multiple password policies within a single AD domain allows you to check your compliance boxes and have additional flexibility, but there are trade-offs. First, increasing the complexity of your Active Directory password policy infrastructure results in greater administrative burden and increased troubleshooting effort.

Second, the more intricate the password policy, the unhappier your users will be. This speaks to the information security counterbalance between security strength on one side and user convenience on the other.

What makes a quality password? For the longest time, we had the following recommendations:

  • minimum length of 8 characters;
  • a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters;
  • inclusion of at least one number;
  • inclusion of at least one non-alphanumeric character; and
  • no fragments of a username.

Ideally, the password should not correspond to any word in any dictionary to thwart dictionary-based brute force attacks. One way to develop a strong password is to create a passphrase and “salt” the passphrase with numbers and/or non-alphanumeric characters.

Ideally, the password should not correspond to any word in any dictionary to thwart dictionary-based, brute force attacks.

The key to remembering a passphrase is to make it as personal as possible. For example, take the following phrase: The hot dog vendor sold me 18 cold dogs.

That phrase may have some private meaning, which makes it nearly impossible to forget. Next, we take the first letter of each word and the numbers to obtain the following string: Thdvsm18cd.

If we switch the letter s with a dollar sign, then we’ve built a solid passphrase of Thdv$m18cd.

Striking the right balance

One piece of advice I nearly always offer to my consulting clients is to keep your infrastructure as simple as possible, but not too simple. What that means related to your Active Directory password policy is:

  • keep your domains to a minimum in your AD forest;
  • minimize your password policies while staying in compliance with your organizational/security requirements;
  • relax the password policy restrictions; and
  • encourage users to create a single passphrase that is both easy to remember but hard to guess.

Password guidelines adjust over time

Relax the password policy? Yes, that’s correct. In June 2017, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released Special Publication 800-63B, which presented a more balanced approach between usability and security.

When you force your domain users to change their passwords regularly, they are likely to reuse some portion of their previous passwords, such as password, password1, password2, and so forth.

The new NIST guidance suggests that user passwords:

  • range between 8 and 64 characters in length;
  • have the ability to use non-alphanumerics, but do not make it a requirement;
  • prevent sequential or repeating characters;
  • prevent context-specific passwords such as user name and company name;
  • prevent commonly used passwords; and
  • prevent passwords from known public data breaches.

Boost password quality with help from tools

These are great suggestions, but they are difficult to implement with native Active Directory password policy tools. For this reason, many businesses purchase a third-party password management tool, such as Anixis Password Policy Enforcer, ManageEngine ADSelfService Plus, nFront Password Filter, Specops Password Policy, Thycotic Secret Server and Tools4ever Password Complexity Manager, to name a few.

Third-party password policy tools tap into the cloud to take advantage of public identity breach databases, lists of the most common passwords and other sources to make your domain password policy much more contemporary and organic. It’s worth considering the cost of these products when you consider the potential loss from a data breach that happened because of a weak password.

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Microsoft announces investments to broaden opportunities for partners – Stories

Ahead of Microsoft Inspire, company shares how it is tuning partner investments for the cloud era, including updates to Teams, Dynamics 365, Azure

REDMOND, Wash. — July 11, 2019 — On Thursday, Microsoft Corp. announced new investments in technologies and programs designed to support its partner ecosystem. The investments are aimed at helping optimize Microsoft’s partner engagement for the cloud era.

“Customers and partners alike continue to move to the cloud and accelerate their digital transformation, leading us to new and different levels of partnership,” said Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s One Commercial Partner group. “Our portfolio of programs, offers and resources for companies partnering with Microsoft is transforming to help them capitalize on this opportunity.”

The following are some highlights of the news announced today, with more details available here.

Investments in products and programs

  • Microsoft Teams extensions and adoption. Just two years after its launch, Teams now has 13 million daily active users and 19 million weekly active users. The company also announced new features in Microsoft Teams for every worker —including new ways to support healthcare organizations and firstline workers. Additional new partner integrations include support for contact centers, compliance recording and cloud solution providers.
  • Dynamics 365 updates. The company announced significant updates to the Dynamics 365 Nonprofit Accelerator and two new integrations for Dynamics 365 that address the automotive and financial services industries. In addition, the Business Applications ISV Connect program is generally available, with new development tools and guidance, marketplace resources, joint field engagement processes and go-to-market support.
  • Introducing Azure Lighthouse. Azure Lighthouse gives partners a single control plane to view and manage Azure at scale across all their customers. This provides a better managed Azure experience with higher automation and efficiency, resulting in greater visibility and security for customers. This marks the first time Microsoft has architected a solution at this scale, with partners and for partners.
  • Azure Migration Program. The new Azure Migration Program (AMP) helps customers accelerate their migration to Azure. AMP offers proactive advice and tools to help mitigate risks and address common issues associated with moving workloads to the cloud.

Broadening partner opportunity

Since the inception of Microsoft’s co-sell program 24 months ago, the program has seen $9.5 billion in annual contracted partner revenue. The investments announced this week are designed to build on that opportunity:

  • General availability of the Microsoft Security competency. This new competency allows partners to market their expertise and provides access to a range of benefits designed to enable business growth and profitability.
  • Five advanced specializations. These include Windows Server and SQL Server Migration to Microsoft Azure, Linux and Open Source Databases Migration to Microsoft Azure, Data Warehouse Migration to Microsoft Azure, Modernization of Web Applications in Microsoft Azure, and Kubernetes on Microsoft Azure.
  • New advancements in marketplace. Additional pricing models, a rewards program and a new route to market are rolling out in July for companies that publish transactable offers in Microsoft’s expanded commercial marketplace. The pricing models include monthly and annual SaaS billing, flexible, custom-metered billing options, standard contracts, and free SaaS trials that convert to paid engagements.

About Microsoft Inspire

Microsoft Inspire provides Microsoft’s partner community with access to key marketing and business strategies, leadership, and information regarding specific customer solutions designed to help partners succeed in the marketplace. Along with informative learning opportunities covering sales, marketing, services, and technology, Microsoft Inspire is an ideal setting for partners to garner valuable knowledge from their peers and from Microsoft. More information can be found at https://partner.microsoft.com/en-us/inspire.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications, (425) 638-7777, [email protected]

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

IBM Spectrum storage refresh targets object, AI metadata

IBM Spectrum storage software expanded its scope to cover AI and large-scale analytics, including updates for compliance and deeper integration in Amazon Web Services.

IBM Spectrum is the vendor’s brand for storage software. The products released this week extend the reach of IBM Spectrum Discover metadata management to include other vendors’ storage. A refreshed IBM Cloud Object Storage supports denser capacity per rack and individual nodes.

In addition, IBM upgraded its Spectrum Protect Plus data protection to enable direct backup of local databases to Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3). IBM also previewed a new VersaStack converged infrastructure that uses its FlashSystem 9100 NVMe rack-scale storage with Cisco servers.

Spectrum Discover metadata management is a recent addition to the IBM Spectrum storage software portfolio. Spectrum Discover layers on top of storage to ingest and index billions of files and objects stored locally and in the cloud. IBM said Discover can help to classify exabytes of unstructured data.

Originally designed only for IBM storage, Spectrum Discover now supports Dell EMC Isilon NAS and NetApp filers, as well as Ceph and any Amazon S3-compatible storage. 

IBM Spectrum storage added Discover to enable more efficient mining of metadata, said Eric Herzog, chief marketing officer and vice president of worldwide storage channels at IBM Storage. He said the significant feature enhancement is analytics across different storage systems.

With the new release, IBM beefed up Discover’s capabilities for hooking metadata directly into AI and big data projects. Science teams can use Discover to search large metadata catalogs and connect third-party data analytics tools via built-in APIs.

Henry Baltazar, an analyst for storage at 451 Research, called IBM’s updates “evolutionary, but not revolutionary.” He said IBM Spectrum Discover adds important features for regulatory compliance and optimizing storage efficiency.

“What makes Spectrum Discover valuable is being able to see as much data as possible. The big addition with this launch is support for third-party search on other storage arrays. They didn’t have that before. The more data people can get their hands on, the more powerful the infrastructure is going to be,” Baltazar said.

Customers can use Discover to tag data with keywords and automate detection of personally identifiable information and other sensitive data.

“You can search the content, not just the metadata. We automated detection of certain sensitive data for GDPR and [privacy] regulations coming out of California and Brazil. You can still create custom metadata, but we included some defaults for apps that need to stay in compliance,” Herzog said.

IBM Spectrum storage for database backup and object capacity

Amazon customers can protect Db2, Oracle, MongoDB and Microsoft SQL Server databases hosted on AWS, using S3 Intelligent Tiering to move data to IBM Spectrum Protect Plus. IBM also added more data retention options to tape and virtual tape libraries, Amazon S3 Glacier and Microsoft Azure Archive Storage.

IBM Cloud Object Storage arrays are based on technology IBM acquired from Cleversafe in 2015. Customers can purchase IBM object storage software as a cloud service, an on-premises deployment or embedded on IBM hardware. 

The latest Cloud Object Storage arrays use second-generation IBM hardware and bigger drives. The hardware scales to 10 PB in a single 42U rack and 1.3 PB per node, which IBM said equates to 26% more overall capacity. Use cases include AI, big data and secondary workloads.

IBM enables customers to mix and match old and new Cloud Object Storage systems, Baltazar said. “IBM is saying you don’t need to drop all your stuff on the new hardware. I think people will take advantage of this right away, since they can mix and match without a forklift upgrade,” he said.

IBM VersaStack uses Cisco Unified Computing System servers with IBM storage. The new version attaches to IBM FlashSystem 9100 arrays outfitted with NVMe SSDs and is due out in late 2019. IBM said it will continue to sell VersaStack models that use IBM A900, V9000 and Storwize storage.

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Watch Communications and Microsoft announce partnership to bring broadband internet to Indiana, Ohio and Illinois – Stories

Deployment of technologies, including TV white spaces, is expected to cover more than four million people in the region, including 815,000 people in rural areas currently without access to broadband

REDMOND, Wash. — July 9, 2019 — On Tuesday, Watch Communications and Microsoft Corp. announced an agreement aimed at closing the broadband gap, and the rural digital divide in particular, in the states of Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. The partnership is part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, which is focused on extending broadband access to three million people in rural America by July 2022.

The FCC reports that more than 21 million Americans lack broadband access. According to Microsoft data, 162 million people across the United States are not using the internet at broadband speeds, including approximately 17 million people in Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. Watch Communications will deploy a variety of broadband connectivity technologies to bring these areas under coverage, with an emphasis on wireless technologies leveraging TV white spaces (e.g., unused TV frequencies) in lower population density or terrain-challenged areas to achieve improved coverage. The areas expected to benefit include 50 counties in Indiana, 22 counties in Illinois, and most counties in Ohio.

“Every person deserves the same opportunity. But too often and in too many places, these opportunities are limited by where people live and their access to reliable and affordable broadband access,” said Shelley McKinley, general manager, Technology and Corporate Responsibility, Microsoft. “Microsoft is working across the country to close this gap. We’re partnering with Watch Communications to improve broadband access in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio and build on the incredible work being done by state and local leaders on this issue on behalf of their citizens.”

“Public-private partnerships, collaboration and understanding local initiatives are key to enabling connectivity success. Providing rural broadband can be difficult, so working as a team to solve the digital divide requires partners. We are excited to partner with Microsoft on this initiative,” said Greg Jarman, chief operating officer, Watch Communications.

Improved connectivity will bolster economic, educational and telehealth opportunities for everyone in the region, and could be particularly impactful for this region’s farmers. Together, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio account for more than $38.5 billion in agricultural value, with all three ranking in the top 16 states by agricultural output, according to the USDA. With broadband access, farmers can take advantage of advanced technologies such as precision agriculture which can help better monitor crops and increase yields.

In addition, Watch Communications and Microsoft will work together to ensure that once connectivity is available, people know how to use it and can get the training needed to fully participate in the digital economy, access educational opportunities and access telemedicine.

***

State by State View

Indiana

This is Microsoft’s first Airband Initiative deployment in Indiana. The need for improved connectivity is acute — the FCC broadband mapping report shows that more than 673,000 people in Indiana do not have access to broadband, and Microsoft data suggests that more than 4.3 million people are not using the internet at broadband speeds in the state. The partnership between Watch Communications and Microsoft is expected to cover more than 1 million Hoosiers, more than 440,000 of whom are people in rural areas that are currently unserved.

Watch Communications was a recent award winner of funds from the FCC to extend broadband services in Indiana. As a result, Watch Communications has been working with Indiana counties to develop the deployment approach that best meets the needs of the local communities. In addition to broadband, Watch Communications has been working to use its network to design an IoT network to serve Indiana businesses.

This also builds on Microsoft’s presence in Indiana. Last October, Microsoft and the Markle Foundation announced the launch of Skillful Indiana, focused on bringing investment, training, tools, and innovative methods to support workforce development in the state. In addition, the Hope FFA chapter in Indiana was recently awarded Microsoft FarmBeats Student Kits, which will help FFA students develop essential digital skills for precision agriculture and IoT technologies.

Ohio

Watch Communications was a recent award winner of funds from the FCC to extend broadband services in Ohio. As a result, Watch Communications has been working with Ohio counties to develop the deployment approach that best meets the needs of the local communities.

“You can’t be a part of the modern economy or education system without access to high-speed internet, and we are taking steps in Ohio to extend broadband to those who are underserved across the state,” said Lt. Governor Jon Husted. “Thank you to Microsoft for being among the leaders on this and for being willing to consider innovative solutions to help extend opportunity to people in Ohio who need it.”

This is Microsoft’s second Airband Initiative deployment in Ohio, following an August 2018 agreement between Microsoft and Agile Networks. The need for improved connectivity is acute — the FCC broadband mapping report shows that more than 621,000 people in Ohio do not have access to broadband, while Microsoft data suggests that more than 6.9 million people are not using the internet at broadband speeds in the state. The partnership between Watch Communications and Microsoft is expected to cover approximately 2.5 million people, more than 288,000 of whom are people in rural areas that are currently unserved.

This also builds on Microsoft’s presence in Ohio. Microsoft’s TEALS program is helping to deliver computer science education to Ohio students. In addition, the Arcadia FFA chapter and Triad-OHP FFA chapter in Ohio were recently awarded Microsoft FarmBeats Student Kits, which will help FFA students develop essential digital skills for precision agriculture and IoT technologies.

Illinois

This is Microsoft’s second Airband Initiative deployment in Illinois, the first being a September 2018 agreement between Microsoft and Network Business Systems to bring broadband internet to people in Illinois, Iowa and South Dakota. The need for improved connectivity is acute — the FCC broadband mapping report shows that more than 680,000 people in Illinois do not have access to broadband, while Microsoft data suggests that more than 6.6 million people are not using the internet at broadband speeds in the state. The partnership between Watch Communications and Microsoft is expected to cover more than 275,000 people, more than 80,000 of whom are people in rural areas that are currently unserved.

About Watch Communications

Founded in 1992, Watch Communications is an Internet Service Provider (ISP) using a combination of fixed wireless and fiber technologies to serve residential and business customers throughout Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Watch Communications began as a wireless cable TV provider and expanded service offerings in 1998 to include Internet. Since its creation, Watch Communications has focused on unserved and underserved small and rural markets.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777, [email protected]

Lindsey Gardner, Watch Communications Media Requests, (419) 999-2824, [email protected]

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Amazon, Intel, NBCUniversal spill buying secrets at HR Tech 2018

LAS VEGAS — Amazon’s talent acquisition organization has more than 3,500 people, including 2,000 recruiters, and is very interested in testing out new technology. That is probably welcome news to vendors here at HR Tech 2018. But Amazon and other big HR technology users warned against being dazzled by vendors’ products and recommended following a disciplined and tough evaluation process.

“I think it’s important to stay abreast with what’s happening in the market,” said Kelly Cartwright, the head of recruiting transformation at Amazon. “I’m really, really passionate about doing experiments and pilots and seeing whether or not something can work,” she said, speaking on a talent acquisition technology panel at HR Tech 2018.

It’s important to “block out time and take those [vendor] calls and listen to what those vendors have to say because one of them actually might have a solution for you that can be a game changer,” Cartwright said.

A warning about new HR tech

But Cartwright also had a clear warning for attendees at the HR Tech 2018. It won’t help to make the investment in a new technology until “you really clarify” what it is you want to use it for, she said.

What has to happen first in investigating HR trends and new technologies is to “start with a clear problem that you’re trying to solve for,” Cartwright said. She illustrated her point with example questions: Is the problem improving diversity in the pipeline? Or is it ensuring that there are enough potential candidates visiting your recruiting website?

Endorsing this approach was Gail Blum, manager of talent acquisition operations at NBCUniversal, who appeared with Cartwright on the panel.

Blum said NBCUniversal may not always have the budget for a particular new HR technology, but vendors increasingly are offering free pilots. Companies can choose to take a particular problem “and see if that new tool or vendor has the ability to solve that,” she said.

Attendees walk through the expo area at the 2018 HR Technology Conference
New HR tech is in abundance at the 2018 HR Technology Conference & Expo

New tech that doesn’t integrate is next to useless

Critical to any new HR technology is its ability to integrate with existing talent systems, such as an applicant tracking system, Blum said. She wants to know: Will the system have a separate log-in? “That’s always something that we ask upfront with all of these vendors.”

“If you are requiring everyone to have to go to two different systems the usage probably isn’t going to be great,” Blum said, who said that was their experience from some previous rollouts. If the systems don’t integrate, a new technology addition “isn’t really going to solve your problem in the end,” she said.      

There was no disagreement on this panel at HR Tech 2018 about the need to be rigorous with vendors to avoid being taken in by a shiny new technology.

We ask really invasive questions of the vendors.
Allyn Baileytalent acquisition capability adoption transformation leader, Intel

If Intel is going to partner with a talent vendor “it’s a long-term play,” said Allyn Bailey, talent acquisition capability adoption transformation leader at the chipmaker.

“We ask really invasive questions of the vendors,” Bailey said. “The vendors really hate it when we do it,” she said.

But Bailey said they will probe a vendor’s stability, their financing and whether they are positioning themselves to gather some big-name customers and then sell the business. “That freaks me out because my investment with that vendor is around that partnership to build a very customized solution to meet my needs,” she said. 

TechTarget, the publisher of SearchHRSoftware, is a media partner for HR Tech 2018.