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7 supply chain management best practices in a COVID-19 world

The current COVID-19 crisis brings new meaning to the term disruption. Organizations and their supply chain managers need new supply chain management best practices — and fast.

Coronavirus panic buying, national lockdowns, sudden changes in buying priorities and shipping challenges are each having a different impact on supply chains.

Companies are going to have to face the new reality, which is that we cannot make supply chain decisions based purely on economics, said Tom Derry, CEO of the Institute for Supply Management. Enterprises need to factor in a variety of disruptions, including geopolitical events, weather and health problems.

“For times like this, building innovative ways around supply chain production is not only urgent, but necessary,” said Deepak Lalwani, principal of Deepak Lalwani & Associates LLC, a management consultancy.

Experts see a variety of ways that enterprises can help improve their supply chains to keep customers happy in the short run and build resiliency in the long run. To that end, here are seven supply chain management best practices to explore during the ongoing coronavirus disruptions.

1.      Set up supply command centers

Communication and agility have always been critical to successful supply chain management. In a COVID-19 world, they are even more critical and supply chain management best practices must put actionable communication front and center. Setting up a supply command center is one way to do that.

Several organizations have set up command centers to improve communication and manage material needs in real time, said Steve Abbott, subject matter expert at Patina Solutions, a professional services firm. Military, large OEMs and transportation and logistics firms have employed operational command centers — or OCCs — for years.

“The basic premise is to have a central management function with access to all information, and authority to direct resources and allocate materials in response to a dynamic environment,” Abbott said.

Business and supply chain leaders should understand this isn’t a traditional decision-making approach that requires repeated operational reviews and approvals, he said. Instead, the command center can act as a nerve center for helping executives to quickly identify and mitigate operational threats.

Operating in this way requires a balance of better technology for assessing the current situation and executive skills for acting on them.

The first consideration includes giving command center managers access to business key performance indicators and license to act, Abbott said. Other considerations include developing the analytics used to generate various functional KPIs related to the speed to deliver goods and upgrading ERP systems to improve visibility.

2.      Run tabletop simulations

The COVID-19 pandemic and the response to it will continue to disrupt business processes in a variety of ways, including the loss of key people, suppliers and distribution channels. In the near term, every company should find ways to address business continuity needs.

“Run a tabletop business impact assessment for your organization to determine the impact on your company and your plan of action, should someone become affected in your company,” said Sam Dawes, a senior manager at West Monroe Partners, a business and technology consultancy.

Other tabletop exercises might look at how different policies and events occurring in other countries could affect the business if they occur at home.

Now is the time to reevaluate and soften your current demand plan, Dawes said. Although some exceptions exist, there is a general manufacturing and macroeconomic activity slowdown, so less supply will be required to meet demand.

These kinds of changes may also open opportunities to optimize the labor configuration. For example, it could be helpful to run two skeleton shifts in place of one.

“This mitigates the risk of your entire workforce being out of commission should someone become infected,” Dawes said.

3.      Manage supply chain risk proactively

In a COVID-19 world, supply chain leaders need to adjust best practices away from being reactive or bureaucratic.

This means shifting away from a pure cost-and-control mindset to instead consider proactive risk management, said Alberto Oca, a partner in the strategic operations practice of Kearney, a global strategy and management consulting firm. Supply chains need to be redesigned to treat disruptions as the norm, detect early warnings and be able to sense and pivot seamlessly to offset situations like this.

As part of this, the use of digital twins will increase, Oca said. Organizations can use them to create business process simulations that can be updated in real time as circumstances change. For example, this could include finding the best way to shift production to alternate locations, move inventory to different warehouses, increase or decrease safety stocks and be better prepared overall.

4.      Explore supply chain regionalization

Regionalization is the process of moving more aspects of a supply chain closer to where a product is consumed. This can help reduce transit time, cut tariffs and bolster the appeal of products.

There has been a movement toward regionalization for a lot of reasons and COVID-19 will only accelerate this trend, Derry said.

Regionalization can also help boost the visibility and appeal of manufacturers such as Foxconn’s commitment to building its presence in Wisconsin, GM’s joint venture for a battery plant in Ohio, and Haier’s white goods in Kentucky, Abbott said. These moves are being bolstered by investments in AI, robots and IT systems to increase supply chain efficiency.

Regionalization will play out through nearshoring as a key part of U.S. companies’ shifting strategies, Dawes said. Mexico may be a major winner, as it is able to produce high-quality products with labor costs on par with China. Some industries, such as life sciences and health products, will reshore manufacturing as a defensive response, he said.

5.      Create resilient supply webs

Relying on a single supply line puts a company at greater risk of disruption.

Businesses should consider ways to diversify their supply chains in ways the mimic the food webs of nature, said Kathleen Allen, author of Leading from the Roots: Nature-Inspired Leadership Lessons for Today’s World. This starts with reviewing the current supply lines with an eye on diversification.

Now is the time to create a resilient web of supply lines to feed your business.
Kathleen AllenAuthor, Leading from the Roots: Nature-Inspired Leadership Lessons for Today’s World

It’s also important to evaluate the risk of each supply line according to multiple factors such as risk of disruptions, ability to scale each way and the adaptability of suppliers, she said. Organizations can consider new supply lines as they emerge owing to new business models or improvements to technology.

Businesses shouldn’t just take a “get through this crisis” mindset since the virus may just be one example of unexpected disruption that will happen in the future, Allen said.

“Now is the time to create a resilient web of supply lines to feed your business,” she said.

6.      Understand suppliers

Most companies have a pretty good handle on their key suppliers, but things get murkier with suppliers further up the supply chain. The need for greater visibility and stronger supplier relationships has only become more important with the disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic.

“You need to know who your suppliers are,” Derry said.

Now is a good time to do a deeper dive into the businesses that you are counting on. For example, many companies have invested in developing multiple tier 1 suppliers, but a deeper analysis reveals that these all depend on a single nexus supplier further up the supply chain.

“If there is an issue with the nexus supplier, it does not just affect one supply chain, but the whole industry,” Derry said.

Nestle is a classic example of this kind of analysis. A few years ago, the company analyzed the entire supply chain involved in pet food products and found that most of the protein came from fish sources that used slave labor. Nestle reportedly is working to redo its entire supply chain to eliminate these suppliers.

Many companies of all sizes, including large OEMs, are finally getting serious about really executing supplier assessments and performance audits rather than simply going through the motions, Abbott said. In his experience most supplier assessments and supply chain audits have been ineffective. This has been because business leaders sourced tier 2 and tier 3 suppliers without adequate due diligence, and consequently risk management and response plans were lacking as well.

7.      Create innovation labs

As new developments unfold, organizational and supply chain leaders should explore how they can get agile and use technology to strengthen a company’s supply chain.

To this end, organizations should invest in creating innovation labs, Lalwani said. Innovation labs teams can work to come up with new ideas, execute them and iterate until the idea is fully executed or integrated into a business. This gives enterprises the opportunity to identify supply chain trends and apply innovative solutions to complex logistics issues.

For example, DHL has a 28,000-square-foot innovation center in Chicago where companies can learn about the latest supply chain technology and help them on their path toward digitization. The center provides customers and partners technical expertise with a variety of supporting technologies, including robotics, warehouse automation, AI, IoT and analytics.

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Learning from our customers in the Greater China Region

As so many organizations have shifted to remote work during COVID-19, we are hearing inspiring stories from customers discovering new ways to connect, collaborate, and keep business moving. From Sydney, Australia, to Seattle, Washington, schools, hospitals, small businesses, and large companies alike have found inventive ways to enable remote work across their organizations. We want to share what they are learning. Each week we will be spotlighting customers in one impacted region around the globe. First up: the Greater China Region. My colleague Lily Zheng in Shanghai is sharing stories for customers who, faced with extraordinary and difficult circumstances, have found innovative new ways to work.

Since we last heard from Lily and team, the region has begun to move into recovery mode. “Many businesses reopened, and more and more people have started going back to work,” Lily reports. “In the past two months, Teams has certainly played an important role in helping our customers pass through the most difficult time.” Looking ahead, she says: “Teams can play an even bigger role in helping our customers boost their productivity and increase their business resilience.” Here are some examples of how organizations in the Greater China Region kept things moving over the past few months.


With travel bans and health concerns keeping students, faculty, and staff at home over the past months, schools and universities have experienced a crash course in moving to remote learning. In February, the Peking University Guanghua School of Management used Teams to hold a digital school-opening ceremony with thousands of students. Meanwhile, Tamkang University, a private university headquartered in New Taipei City, Taiwan, quickly enabled distance learning for students in China, Macau, and Hong Kong by leveraging Microsoft Teams and cloud resources on their iClass Mobile Learning Platform. A total of 637 students and 1,041 teachers were set up to use the platform in 2,366 classes. Hong Kong Polytechnic University is conducting 120 to 160 concurrent teaching sessions daily through Microsoft Teams, with 10,000 to 11,000 students connecting simultaneously during peak times. And Wellington College International Tianjin, quickly established a solid e-learning program where students have been able to continue their learning journey with lessons conducted over Microsoft Teams.


The healthcare industry has faced extraordinary pressure during COVID-19. We’ve all seen news stories about medical supply challenges, but these organizations have experienced challenges in the IT space, too, including a lack of video conferencing solutions and heavy dependency on manual patient data inputting. Staff at the largest hospital in WenZhou, China, 2nd Affiliated Hospital of WMU, for instance, were unable to communicate with personnel inside the quarantined area. They had never used Teams before, but quickly deployed it and were able to communicate with quarantined-area colleagues. The team at Zhongshan Hospital in Shanghai hadn’t used Teams before the outbreak either, but they put it to use to hold their first remote leadership meeting. “It only took a few days to get reports,” said Mr. Li, Chief of Information Management Center at Zhongshan Hospital, “and we were able to successfully hold our first leader’s meeting, which was well-received by the whole leadership team.”


SF-Express is one of the best-known logistics companies in China. CIO Sheng Wang said, “Fortunately, we deployed Teams after we revamped our network branches [in] December of 2019. “It solves our needs for remote working, meeting, and training, and allows our staff to collaborate with high productivity.” DHL Supply Chain China also deployed Teams to handle its increasing remote collaboration needs.

The manufacturing industry has been hit hard by the impact of the outbreak, but also used it to discover new ways to digitally transform. Headquartered in Ningbo, China, Joyson Electronic has more than 100 bases in 30 countries and over 50,000 employees globally. “Microsoft Teams really helps Joyson improve our cross-regional and boundary collaboration productivity during the COVID-19 outbreak,” reported CIO Zong Jia. “We hold daily internal meetings, co-edit documents, and interview candidates on Teams.”

Over 50 percent of China International Marine Containers (CIMC) Group Ltd.’s business comes from export, which brings an urgent need for project-based management and real-time communications. CIMC has been using Teams to easily enable multiple collaborative team channels and remove restrictions imposed by different work locations. They’re finding it facilitates employee collaboration and has helped them complete their first successful step towards a modern workplace transformation.

We hope you’ve found it helpful to read about some of the innovative ways our customers have transformed their organizations during this difficult time. We have seen how schools have moved quickly to remote learning in virtual classrooms, and are continuing to hold important meetings, with Teams. We’ve seen how healthcare workers, faced with communication barriers brought on by COVID-19, have used Teams to connect. And we’ve seen how commercial enterprises are bringing distributed teams together and are bringing formerly in-person-only meetings—including job interviews—online. As the Greater China Region enters a new phase of its COVID-19 experience, we look forward to learning about how they apply what they’ve discovered in the days to come. We’ll be sharing more inspiring customer stories here soon, so check back often.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

CIOs should plan for a spike in healthcare cyberattacks

Healthcare organizations face a growing risk of healthcare cyberattacks during the coronavirus pandemic.

The federal government is relaxing regulations so that providers can treat patients from home and use consumer-grade technologies like Skype and FaceTime. The measures are aimed at keeping providers and patients at home as much as possible to slow the spread of COVID-19. But there is also a downside to making healthcare more accessible: The measures are creating more points of entry into healthcare systems for cyberattackers.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, the healthcare industry was already one of the most likely industries to be attacked. The industry pays the highest cost to detect, respond to and deal with the fallout of a data breach, averaging just under $6.5 million per breach, said Caleb Barlow, president and CEO of healthcare cybersecurity firm CynergisTek.

Caleb BarlowCaleb Barlow

Now in the midst of a pandemic, the healthcare industry is more vulnerable than ever, and cyber criminals are likely laying the groundwork for major healthcare cyberattacks.

“If you put yourself in the mindset of an attacker right now, now is actually not the time to detonate your attack,” Barlow said. “Now is the time to get on a system, to move laterally and to elevate your credentials, and that’s likely exactly what they’re doing. There are a lot of indicators of that. We’ve seen a significant rise in COVID-19-focused phishing, both that is targeting individuals as well as institutions.”

There is not going to be a plea to bad guys of, ‘Please not right now.’ It just doesn’t work that way. It is coming. Get prepared, you have a few weeks. It is that simple.
Caleb BarlowPresident and CEO, CynergisTek

Healthcare systems and even the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are seeing phishing and other similar attacks right now, but Barlow warns that healthcare CIOs and CISOs need to prepare for the more insidious healthcare cyberattacks that are coming, including ransomware.

“We have to realize that these attackers are highly motivated,” Barlow said. “Many of them, particularly with things like ransomware, are nation-state actors. These are how nation-states fund their activities. There is not going to be a plea to bad guys of, ‘Please not right now.’ It just doesn’t work that way. It is coming. Get prepared, you have a few weeks. It is that simple.”

Cyberthreats seen on the front lines

Anahi Santiago, CISO at the Delaware-based ChristianaCare health system, said there has been a rapid increase in social engineering attacks — including phishing, where bad actors appear as a trusted source and trick healthcare employees into revealing their credentials — that are testing healthcare systems during the coronavirus crisis.

Anahi SantiagoAnahi Santiago

Although the ChristianaCare health system has security tools to prevent phishing attacks on the organization, Santiago said home computers may not have the same protections. Additionally, Santiago said threat actors are setting up websites using legitimate coronavirus outbreak global maps to trick people into visiting those sites and, unbeknownst to them, downloading malware. While the healthcare system’s security tools block malicious websites, clinicians may not have the same types of protection at home.

CynergisTek’s Barlow said the “threat landscape has increased dramatically,” as regulations have been relaxed to enable physicians to work and treat patients remotely. That increased threat landscape includes a physician’s home network, which gives bad actors more opportunity to gain access to a healthcare institution.

As cyberattackers capitalize on this opportunity, Barlow said it’s important for health systems’ security teams to mobilize and for healthcare CIOs and CISOs to have a plan in place in case their healthcare system is breached.

Santiago echoed Barlow’s call on security teams, saying awareness and ensuring the cybersecurity posture remains intact are key to preventing these kinds of attacks.

“We have been working very closely with our external affairs folks to communicate to the organization so that our caregivers have awareness, not only around potential phishing and social engineering attacks that might come through the organization, but also to be aware at home,” she said. “We’re doing a lot of enablement for the organization, but also making sure that we’re thinking about our caregivers and their families and making sure we’re giving them the tools to be able to go home and continue to protect themselves.”

Aaron MiriAaron Miri

Aaron Miri, CIO at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School and UT Health Austin, said he has heard of academic medical institutions and healthcare systems being under constant attack and is remaining vigilant.

“During any situation, even if it’s a Friday afternoon at 5 o’clock, you can expect to see bad actors try to capitalize,” he said. “It is an unfortunate way of the world and it’s reality, so we are always keeping watch.”

Preparing for cyberattacks

Barlow said there are a few steps healthcare security teams can take to make sure providers working at home are doing so securely.

First, he said it’s key to make sure clinicians have proper virtual private networks (VPNs) in place and that they’re set up properly. A VPN creates a safe connection between a device that could be on a less secure network and the healthcare system network.

Second, he said security teams should make sure those computers have proper protection, often referred to as endpoint security. Endpoint security ensures devices meet certain security criteria before being allowed to connect to a hospital’s network.

The next step is getting a plan in place so that when a healthcare system is breached or hit with ransomware, it will know how to respond, he said. The plan should include how to manage a breach in light of the pandemic, when leaders of the organization are likely working from home.

“If you are hit with ransomware, how are you going to process through that, how are you going to do that when you can’t get everybody in the room … how are you going to make decisions, who are you going to work with,” he said. “Get those plans up to date.”

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ThoughtSpot CEO: COVID-19 creates unprecedented challenges

With the spread of COVID-19 forcing organizations to drastically alter operations, these are unprecedented times for company leaders like ThoughtSpot CEO Sudheesh Nair.

They need to figure out how to remain operational even though almost no one is coming into the office. They need to figure out how to communicate quickly and efficiently to employees dispersed across hundreds and even thousands of locations, depending on the size of the organization.

And that’s no different for Nair. The ThoughtSpot CEO is making decisions he’s never had to make before.

The business intelligence software vendor, founded in 2012 and based in Sunnyvale, Calif., recently raised $248 million in financing and is positioning itself to go public. It needs to continue to innovate to keep its status as a young but respected company, and it needs to keep growing its customer base to remain attractive when it eventually conducts an IPO.

In a recent interview, Nair discussed these extremely challenging times as well as ThoughtSpot’s recent technological offerings.

In part one of a two-part Q&A, the ThoughtSpot CEO talks in depth about how ThoughtSpot is dealing with COVID-19. In part two, he delves into the company’s product plans, as well as the steps it’s taking on its path toward an IPO.

How has ThoughtSpot been affected by COVID-19?

ThoughtSpot CEO Sudheesh NairSudheesh Nair

Sudheesh Nair: ThoughtSpot is absolutely affected like any other company in the world. I look at this as very unique and unprecedented in modern history for one specific reason. People say this is like SARS or MERS or the 2008 financial crisis, but this is the first time that personal health is trumping everything else. If you asked people what they were worried about in 2008 they would say losing their job, or if you asked in 2001 it would be going to war. Here, it’s an unknowable and uncertain enemy — there is complete uncertainty with what is going on. Personal health trumps everything, and that has never been the case before.

The second thing is the stock market and people’s 401(k) plans, so personal finance is a concern. Number three is their job.

And as ThoughtSpot CEO, how are you helping the company respond to the coronavirus?

Nair: We’re doing a few things. Internally, we have made the company work distributed. Last year when I joined ThoughtSpot, one of the initiatives we had was called ‘No HQ’ — we don’t want to be a headquarters company because it assumes that other locations aren’t as important, so we went with a ‘No HQ’ plan of building the culture, the tools, the infrastructure.

There is complete uncertainty with what is going on. Personal health trumps everything, and that has never been the case before.
Sudheesh NairCEO, ThoughtSpot

Now, [because of the coronavirus] almost all of the company is working remote. And inside the company we have decided to over-communicate, because one thing I wished that other CEOs did when I was on the front end and we went through a couple of downturns was that they would tell me what was going on. Most of the time companies just go into shutdown mode and the execs have meetings in dark rooms and they don’t tell people what’s going on because they think people will panic. But in general, what happens is that if you don’t share, people assume the worst. So, we are trying to communicate with as much transparency as possible about the good and the bad.

We are also keeping mental health a very high priority. We have a subscription to a meditation app, we use mindfulness internally pretty prominently, and we’ve hired a yoga/meditation instructor to do remote classes for our employees. We are open about the fact that we are all affected, and we are all concerned, and we all have struggles.

When just about everyone is working remotely as they are now, does that have an effect on collaboration and the ability to innovate?

Nair: There are ways it will affect us and ways it won’t. With our ‘No HQ’ policy, it allows us to pick up without missing a beat when it comes to collaboration in general. However, there are two specific things that are still impacted.

One is where engineers can’t hang out in a hallway, have a cup of coffee, and debate and brainstorm on a specific problem. The second thing that is impacted is sales. In sales, as a young company, a lot of our customers are looking at not just the technology but the people — is this a group of people we can believe and trust in? Forming that kind of trust is so much easier when we are sitting across from each other and looking each other in the eye.

There is an impact, and anyone who says that sales won’t be impacted because of logistics is lying. Just imagine having this conversation in the same room instead of a remote call — there is a difference.

As a CEO I assume this is the first time you’ve ever been through anything like this. Are the decisions you’re having to make because of COVID-19 more difficult than those you have to make on a regular basis about other issues that might arise?

Nair: Yes, no question about it. In general, being a CEO during a pandemic is not highly recommended — it’s not the best job to have. But you know how people always talk about the importance of hiring. A long time ago, someone told me that the board has only one job, which is hiring a CEO. And a CEO only had two jobs, making sure the company is funded and making sure you are surrounded by good executives. I feel like, whether it’s because of luck or whatever, we check both in the sense that last year we raised $248 million, plus we had another $100 million in the bank, so we are a well-capitalized company. But more importantly, the people around me are amazingly capable. When I look at the executive team, there are three or four people who could go and be CEOs today. Having that caliber of people around me is making it easier for me in the sense that we don’t panic, we can have hard conversations, and there is no need to assume that people are not going to perform.

Yes, it is a hard time to be a CEO, but you find that the quality of the people that surround you and the culture you have built is going to hound you or it will reward you. At ThoughtSpot we are lucky that we have an amazing culture and great people.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

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What’s the biggest cybersecurity threat in 2020? Experts weigh in

Every day, CISOs must decide which cyberthreats to prioritize in their organizations. When it comes to choosing which threats are the most concerning, the list from which to choose from is nearly boundless.

At RSA Conference 2020, speakers discussed several of the most concerning threats this year, from ransomware and election hacking to supply chain attacks and beyond. To pursue the topic of concerning threats, SearchSecurity asked several experts at the conference what they considered to be the biggest cybersecurity threat today.

“It has to be ransomware,” CrowdStrike CTO Mike Sentonas said. “It may not be the most complex attack, but what organizations are facing around the world is a huge increase in e-crime activity, specifically around the use of ransomware. The rise over the last twelve months has been incredible, simply because of the amount of money there is to be made.”

Trend Micro vice president of cybersecurity Greg Young agreed.

“It has to be ransomware, definitely. Quick money. We’ve certainly seen a change of focus where the people who are least able to defend themselves, state and local governments, particularly in some of the poorer areas, budgets are low and the bad guys focus on that,” he said. “The other thing is I think there’s much more technological capability than there used to be. There’s fewer toolkits and fewer flavors of attacks but they’re hitting more people and they’re much more effective, so I think there’s much more efficiency and effectiveness with what the bad guys are doing now.”

Sentonas added that he expects the trend of ransomware to continue.

“We’ve seen different ransomware groups or e-crime groups that are delivering ransomware have campaigns that have generated over $5 million, we’ve seen campaigns that have generated over $10 million. So with so much money to be made, in many ways, I don’t like saying it, but in many ways it’s easy for them to do it. So that’s driving the huge increase and focus on ransomware. I think, certainly for the next 12 to 24 months, this trend will continue. The rise of ransomware is showing no signs it’s going to slow down,” Sentonas explained.

“Easy” might just be the key word here. The biggest threat to cybersecurity, according to BitSight vice president of communications and government affairs Jake Olcott, is that companies “are still struggling with doing the basics” when it comes to cybersecurity hygiene.

“Look at all the major examples — Equifax, Baltimore, the list could go on — where it was not the case of a sophisticated adversary targeting an organization with a zero-day malware that no one had seen before. It might have been an adversary targeting an organization with malware that was just exploiting known vulnerabilities. I think the big challenge a lot of companies have is just doing the basics,” Olcott said.

Lastly, Akamai CTO Patrick Sullivan said that the biggest threat in cybersecurity is that to the supply chain, as highlighted at Huawei’s panel discussion at RSAC.

“The big trend is people are looking at their supply chain,” he said. “Like, what is the risk to the third parties you’re partnering with, to the code you’re developing with partners, so I think it’s about looking beyond that first circle to the second circle of your supply chain and your business partners.”

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Microsoft for Healthcare: Empowering our customers and partners to provide better experiences, insights and care – The Official Microsoft Blog

At Microsoft, our goal within healthcare is to empower people and organizations to address the complex challenges facing the healthcare industry today. We help do this by co-innovating and collaborating with our customers and partners as a trusted technology provider. Today, we’re excited to share progress on the latest innovations from Microsoft aimed at helping address the most prevalent and persistent health and business challenges:

  • Empower care teams with Microsoft 365: Available in the coming weeks, the new Bookings app in Microsoft Teams will empower care teams to schedule, manage and conduct virtual visits with remote patients via video conference. Also coming soon, clinicians will be able to target Teams messages to recipients based on the shift they are working. Finally, healthcare customers can support their security and compliance requirements with the HIPAA/HITECH assessment in Microsoft Compliance Score.
  • Protect health information with Azure Sphere: Microsoft’s integrated security solution for IoT (Internet of Things) devices and equipment – is now widely available for the development and deployment of secure, connected devices. Azure Sphere helps securely personalize patient experiences with connected devices and solutions. And, to make it easier for healthcare leaders to develop their own IoT strategies, today we’re launching a new IoT Signals report focused on the healthcare industry that provides an industry pulse on the state of IoT adoption and helpful insights for IoT strategies. Learn more about Microsoft’s IoT offerings for healthcare here.
  • Enable personalized virtual care with Microsoft Healthcare Bot: Today, we’re pleased to announce that Microsoft Healthcare Bot, our HITRUST-certified platform for creating virtual health assistants, is enriching its healthcare intelligence with new built-in templates for healthcare-specific use cases, and expanding its integrated medical content options. With the addition of Infermedica, a cutting-edge triage engine based on advanced artificial intelligence (AI) that enables symptom checking in 17 languages Healthcare Bot is empowering providers to offer global access to care.
  • Reimagine healthcare using new data platform innovations: With the 2019 release of Azure API for FHIR, Microsoft became the first cloud provider with a fully managed, enterprise-grade service for health data in the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) format. We’re excited to expand those offerings with several new innovations around connecting, converting and transforming data. The first is Power BI FHIR Connector, which makes it simple and easy to bring FHIR data into Power BI for analytics and insights. The second, IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) FHIR Connector, is now available as open source software (OSS) and allows for seamless ingestion, normalization and transformation of Protected Health Information data from health devices into FHIR. Another new open source project, FHIR Converter, provides an easy way to convert healthcare data from legacy formats (i.e., HL7v2) into FHIR. And lastly, FHIR Tools for Anonymization, is now offered via OSS and enables anonymization and pseudonymization of data in the FHIR format. Including capabilities for redaction and date shifting in accordance with the HIPAA privacy rule.

Frictionless exchange of health information in FHIR makes it easier for researchers and clinicians to collaborate, innovate and improve patient care. As we move forward working with our customers and partners and others across the health ecosystem, Microsoft is committed to enabling and improving interoperability and required standards to make it easier for patients to manage their healthcare and control their information. At the same time, trust, privacy and compliance are a top priority – making sure Protected Health Information (PHI) remains under control and custodianship of healthcare providers and their patients.

We’ve seen a growing number of healthcare organizations not only deploy new technologies, but also begin to develop their own digital capabilities and solutions that use data and AI to transform and innovate healthcare and life sciences in profoundly positive ways. Over the past year, together with our customers and partners, we’ve announced new strategic partnerships aimed at empowering this transformation.

For example, to enable caregivers to focus more on patients by dramatically reducing the burden of documenting doctor-patient visits, Nuance has released Nuance Dragon Ambient eXperience (DAX). This ambient clinical intelligence technologies (ACI) is enriched by AI and cloud capabilities from Microsoft, including the ambient intelligence technology, EmpowerMD, which is coming to market as part of Nuance’s DAX solution. The solution aims to transform the exam room by deploying ACI to capture, with patient consent, interactions between clinicians and patients so that clinical documentation writes itself.

Among health systems, Providence St. Joseph Health is using Microsoft’s cloud, AI, productivity and collaboration technologies to deploy next-generation healthcare solutions while empowering their employees. NHS Calderdale is enabling patients and their providers to hold appointments virtually via Microsoft Teams for routine and follow-up visits, which helps lower costs while maintaining the quality of care. The U.S. Veterans Affairs Department is embracing mixed reality by working with technology providers Medivis, Microsoft and Verizon to roll out its first 5G-enabled hospital. And specifically for health consumers, Walgreens Boots Alliance will harness the power of our cloud, AI and productivity technologies to empower care teams and deliver new retail solutions to make healthcare delivery more personal, affordable and accessible.

Major payor, pharmaceutical and health technology platform companies are also transforming healthcare in collaboration with us. Humana will develop predictive solutions for personalized and secure patient support, and by using Azure, Azure AI and Microsoft 365, they’ll also equip home healthcare workers with real-time access to information and voice technology to better understand key factors that influence patient health. In pharmaceuticals, Novartis will bring Microsoft AI capabilities together with its deep expertise in life sciences to address specific challenges that make the process of discovering, developing and delivering new medicines so costly and time-consuming.

We’re pleased to showcase how together with our customers and partners, we’re working to bring healthcare solutions to life and positively impact the health ecosystem.

To keep up to date with the latest announcements visit the Microsoft Health News Room.

About the authors:
As Corporate Vice President of Health Technology and Alliances, Dr. Greg Moore leads the dedicated research and development collaborations with our strategic partners, to deliver next-generation technologies and experiences for healthcare.

Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Rhew recently joined Microsoft’s Worldwide Commercial Business Healthcare leadership team and provides executive-level support, engaging in business opportunities with our customers and partners.

As Corporate Vice President of Healthcare, Peter Lee leads the Microsoft organization that works on technologies for better and more efficient healthcare, with a special focus on AI and cloud computing.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Coronavirus could spur desktop-as-a-service adoption

As the coronavirus spreads, the possibility for a major disruption of an organization’s day-to-day activities grows. IT professionals at a municipality in California and an academic institution in Australia said virtual desktops are a key part of their business continuity plans, while experts said the epidemic might spur adoption of the technology — especially desktop-as-a-service DaaS products.

The coronavirus outbreak is forcing companies to review their disaster continuity plans. Some, like Twitter this week, have encouraged employees to work from home if they can, while others have restricted travel, as well as withdrawn from or canceled conferences.

According to industry observers, coronavirus concerns may drive businesses to virtual desktops — and, in particular, cloud-based desktop-as-a-service models. But it’s unclear whether U.S. businesses and the country’s internet infrastructure can support a large-scale work-from-home strategy.

Plans in place

Some organizations have already been taking action. Jordan Catling, associate director of client technology at the University of Sydney, said the educational institution began collaborating with Citrix Systems on coronavirus planning in January.

The university, he said, needed an option in case classes could not be held in person, but also needed to ensure both the physical and digital security of all involved. As the school already had a relationship with Citrix, using a wide variety of its desktop and application virtualization software, it was natural to partner with the firm in developing plans.

“The safety and security of our students, staff and community are paramount to us,” he said. “We’re thinking about, ‘OK, how could things evolve?'”

Jordan Catling, associate director of client technology, University of SydneyJordan Catling

Given the uncertain nature of the threat, Catling said, the university needed to guarantee the virtualization capacity to accommodate many students was available while, at the same time, not locking itself into too much.

“It could be that we need to rapidly scale up the size of the environment, but, at the same time, perhaps things will change dramatically, and we’ll have the full cohort on campus once again,” he said.

The need for preparedness in the face of disruption, Catling said, has been underscored by recent events.

“Australia, and in particular New South Wales, has been through quite a lot in the last six months, from bush fires … to lots of localized flooding,” he said. “We’ve had quite a testing period of time, and this is the kind of solution where we can provide access to our academic institute no matter where [the students] are.”

Chris McMasters, CIO for the city of Corona, Calif., said his municipality began to virtualize its operations two years ago. His city, too, turned to Citrix after previously relying upon on-premises backups in case of emergency, and it has deployed the company’s Workspace platform.

“[With on-premises backups] at any given time, we could have a major earthquake, and then we’re down,” he said. “That was our first, major push with it — how do we maintain continuity in the case of a natural disaster?”

Many of the municipal services upon which people depend — like utilities and emergency dispatch — need functioning technology and networks, McMasters said.

“Before I got into government … I took for granted that, when you turn the [faucet], the water comes out [or] when you call 911, the police are going to come,” he said. “It’s all dependent on technology.”

Like natural disasters, McMasters said, coronavirus poses a potential problem to keeping local government functioning. He said, for his city, having the ability to “flip the switch” and use virtual desktop technology provided peace of mind.

Enterprise reaction

Andrew Hewitt, analyst, Forrester ResearchAndrew Hewitt

Experts said companies seeking a way to maintain operations in the face of a disruption like a potential pandemic may find virtual desktops to be the ideal solution. Andrew Hewitt, an analyst at Forrester Research, said the coronavirus puts pressure on businesses to provide remote-work options.

“[Virtual desktop infrastructure] certainly is one flavor [among other remote-work technologies] that can help in a disaster scenario, particularly if the workforce still uses traditional desktops or if it’s a very homogenous computing environment, such as a call center,” he said.

Dion Hinchcliffe, vice president and principal analyst, Constellation ResearchDion Hinchcliffe

Dion Hinchcliffe, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, said there is “no question” that coronavirus had organizations seeking alternatives to large-scale gatherings.

“The CIOs and IT leaders I’ve spoken with this week are busy scrambling rapidly to beef up their policies, technologies and available capacity for remote working,” he said. “[Virtual desktops] and remote desktops are front and center when it comes to enabling remote work, and I expect vendors in this category are very busy right now.”

According to Gartner vice president and analyst Mark Lockwood, the situation may drive desktop as a service, in particular, given its ability to provide capacity quickly.

What is likely going to happen … is the CEO walks in and says, ‘Send everyone home and make it work.’
Mark LockwoodVice president and analyst, Gartner

The struggle here is, in the case of a pandemic, what is likely going to happen … is the CEO walks in and says, ‘Send everyone home and make it work,'” he said, noting that IT professionals in such situations won’t have time to expand on-premises capacity or distribute more laptops to workers.

Lockwood noted that the floodgates had not yet opened for DaaS, but, with a relatively easy startup and flexible capacity, it could end up the preferred option for handling large-scale work-from-home situations.

Mark Lockwood, vice president and analyst, GartnerMark Lockwood

While DaaS can provide a quick workaround, it may not necessarily erase the problem. The nature of a pandemic, Lockwood said, means widespread telecommuting might place an exceptional strain on infrastructure.

“The strain that this is going to put on companies, because they’re not prepared for this … is exacerbated by the fact that this is not a regional natural disaster,” he said. “If this was a flood, people would go home and work, but it’s isolated. In a pandemic, everybody’s going to have to go home to work.”

The impact of huge swaths of people working from home on mobile and internet service providers might be big, Lockwood said. Such firms often oversell their capacities because not everyone on a street is online at the same time; it’s unclear what will happen when they are.

Effects beyond major disruptions

Although organizations may adopt virtual desktops and other remote-work solutions to safeguard against significant disruption, such measures may provide employees with more options to complete their day-to-day work.

McMasters said his city implemented Citrix technologies like Workspace to ensure continuity, but it has found benefits in the employee-empowerment sphere as well. The city of Corona, he said, is now able to employ workers who cannot be at city hall from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“For us, [the technology] opens up a workforce that we hadn’t been able to utilize,” he said. “They’re incredibly smart people, but they’ve been tied down by physically being somewhere [else].”

Lockwood said the extent to which coronavirus affects a company’s work-from-home philosophy will likely be determined by the length of the crisis.

“If this lasts four months, maybe yes,” he said. “If it lasts four weeks [or] a week, maybe not.”

In a recent report on how to prepare for a pandemic, Forrester’s Hewitt and co-author Stephanie Balaouras noted the possibility of day-to-day change driven by technologies adopted to avoid disaster disruption.

“The byproduct of developing remote access and other virtual workplace technologies is that it enables employee productivity for other less serious, but perhaps more frequent, events like the common cold and severe storms,” the report reads.

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My next chapter: Shaping a sustainable future with AI – US Partner Community Blog – Microsoft

Organizations around the world are going through rapid digital transformation. This is especially true in the US Market, where we see this phenomena being accelerated by the scale and agility of the Cloud and fueled by the latest innovation in machine learning and artificial intelligence. As they progress through their transformations and examine impacts on employees, partners, customers, and society, new strategies are emerging with socio-environmental factors with sustainability at the center.

We’re just at the beginning of what is possible with AI, endless possibilities not only for companies and partners but for everyone to benefit from improved societal impact, social good and sustainability. All requiring the need for a strong ecosystem and strategic private & public partnerships to build a trusted and secure future with new AI innovations and solutions. I’m delighted to share I’ve taken a new role at Microsoft to address both of these challenges: Vice President, AI Country Strategy & Sustainability Partnership for the US Microsoft Subsidiary. Focused on driving cross-boundary collaboration and transformation at scale, my new team and I will build strategies and partnerships that strengthen Microsoft’s position in the US as the leader in Cloud & AI, and leverage that knowledge into delivering in the US on Microsoft’s sustainability promise to be carbon negative by 2030.

Microsoft is making big, strategic bets on Cloud & AI and I look forward to driving digital transformation the US with a holistic view of the partner ecosystem—from customers and partners to developers and other strategic partnerships. Through the development of private and public partnerships we will drive technology innovation and ecosystem activation and begin to utilize Microsoft’s $1B investment in support of sustainability agendas across the US.

I have always been passionate about building teams that help shape the future of new technologies; and this new role creates the connections and opportunities for expansion of Microsoft’s mission to empower people, and drive growth and economic prosperity at a global level. The chance to leverage AI and sustainability to help us solve the world’s most vexing challenges is an opportunity for us all—and I’m grateful to be at a company that supports this mission.

While this will be a transition from my current charter in leading Go-To-Markets as a strategic advantage for Microsoft’s commercial partners, I’m excited to see the role the Microsoft community and its tens of thousands of partners will play in driving the future of AI and sustainability.

If you’re interested in learning more about how we are partnering with customers, commercial partners, developers, students and startups, follow along!

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Ended support for Windows Server 2008 leaves clients circumspect

It’s understandable that organizations haven’t immediately parted with Microsoft Windows Server 2008.

Microsoft ended support for Windows Server 2008 in January, forcing organizations to consider making wholesale changes to how they manage and control their technology stacks. But as with any trusted technology, the server operating system has been a reliable backbone since its release more than a decade ago, a timeframe that coincided with enterprises increasingly depending on applications and networks to drive business.

Change is always hard, and a change of this magnitude won’t happen overnight, especially when the alternative could mean shifting a large chunk of operations to the cloud, which is what Microsoft hopes for as it promotes its Azure cloud platform as an option. A big embrace of the cloud is a big step for companies that still depend on on-premises mainframes.

“Even though it’s the end of life for 2008, many still think it’s not necessary to move yet,” said Craig McQueen, vice president of innovation for the Toronto-based MSP Softchoice. “Some customers don’t want to move too quickly because it’s difficult to see the business benefits.” And even if a company recognizes they’re more susceptible to security risks with Microsoft no longer providing patches and updates to Windows Server 2008, “the life of an IT person is so busy that migration drags on,” he said.

Customers weigh Window Server 2008 transitions

Craig McQueenCraig McQueen

McQueen and representatives of three other Microsoft partners didn’t offer a number on how many customers have shifted or will soon shift away from Windows Server 2008. But they all said the majority of their customers will, for a little while longer, operate on the side of familiarity.

Many of those customers indicated they will eventually start migrating to Azure or another cloud computing platform, perhaps later this year or next year, but many others still need to make a decision. Microsoft ended support for Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 on Jan. 14, coming off the heels of a July 2019 end-of-life date for SQL Server 2008.

Rob LeachRob Leach

Companies that haven’t yet committed to halting use of Windows Server 2008 aren’t ignorant of security risks, according to Microsoft partners. For every day that passes, they know threat actors increase their efforts to exploit vulnerabilities in the old operating system. “[Windows Server 2008 users] know all about security breaches, and they should do everything necessary to protect themselves. They don’t want to be on the front page of The Wall Street Journal,” said Rob Leach, the North American Azure lead for the Seattle IT consulting company Avanade.

But the desire to break free of Windows Server 2008 and other mainframe servers is often tempered by contractual and budgetary considerations, Leach said. Many Avanade customers haven’t yet entirely shifted to cloud because they are contractually obligated to on-premises servers until those leases expired. But Leach said he expects to see an increase in cloud migrations over the next few years and Azure to be an attractive option because it would be a lift and shift within the Microsoft family.

Even when companies can immediately take advantage of cloud, they nonetheless proceed cautiously, Leach said. Customers want to see specific proof points for how cloud can boost the bottom line over the long haul. “It’s not just about technology,” he said. “It also has to make good business sense.”

David RodriguezDavid Rodriguez

David Rodriguez, the national director of cloud platforms for the consulting firm Core BTS Inc. in Garden City, N.Y., said the effective end of Windows Server 2008 support won’t be the sole driving force behind his customers’ shift to cloud, but having the end-of-service date “hanging over their heads” will be a factor.

How Microsoft partners can support Azure migrations

Core BTS helps customers overcome any hesitations about cloud, Rodriguez said. “We provide detailed reports with not only a line-by-line breakdown of what each [cloud] service will cost, but also what it will take to reinvest in a new VM host,” he said. “We compare side by side the estimated spend if you just upgrade hardware on-premises to what cloud costs.” Some are already making the move to a Microsoft cloud, migrating to either Azure VM or Hyper-V, he added.

With an opportunity to sell the benefits of cloud technology, Microsoft partners say they also have a legitimate opening to upsell other services that are related to cloud, including microservices, containers and AI-supported applications.

“The journey to the cloud is crawl, walk and run,” Rodriguez said. “With the ‘walk’ phase … you start to take applications they have in a VM, in the cloud, and look for more platform offerings.” For instance, some proprietary applications might work well with containerization. The “run” phase could mean making better use of the data in the cloud by integrating it through a suite of AI applications. “The journey to the cloud can be a complete transformation,” he said.

Rory McCawRory McCaw

Rory McCaw, president of enterprise advisory services at Green House Data, a Cheyenne, Wyo., enterprise advisory service, likes to point to client success stories to assuage doubts about cloud migration. One such story centers on an agricultural company in Omaha, Neb., that had relied on mainframe servers, including some usage of Windows Server 2008. The company recently shifted to Azure, on which it built a mobile application that lets its trucking fleet better manage its transport of soybeans, he said.

Still, even though the end of support for Windows Server 2008 is a bridge to cloud, companies will always keep some applications running on premises, McCaw noted. Some applications are so critical and embedded in processes that it sometimes makes sense to leave them alone, at least for now.

McCaw knows some companies that still run Windows 2000 to accommodate those unique apps. “It is firewalled but still going due to the type of application running on it or an inability for it to be modernized,” he said. In some instances, he added, the critical application was built internally, but its creators have since left the company and took their knowledge of the program with them.

Determining what migrates and what stays is part of Microsoft partners’ migration plans for their customers. Executives don’t anticipate problems migrating from Windows Server 2008 as long as the planning process is thorough and the client’s goals are considered. “It’s really just about trying to understand what they want to accomplish,” McCaw said. “It’s collecting as much information as possible, and not [really] selling anyone … anything, but instead presenting them with ideas they haven’t considered … [so] they can then decide with their knowledge of their own business.”

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How to install the Windows Server 2019 VPN

Many organizations rely on a virtual private network, particularly those with a large number of remote workers who need access to resources.

While there are numerous vendors selling their VPN products in the IT market, Windows administrators also have the option to use the built-in VPN that comes with Windows Server. One of the benefits of using Windows Server 2019 VPN technology is there is no additional cost to your organizations once you purchase the license.

Another perk with using a Windows Server 2019 VPN is the integration of the VPN with the server operating system reduces the number of infrastructure components that can break. An organization that uses a third-party VPN product will have an additional hoop the IT staff must jump through if remote users can’t connect to the VPN and lose access to network resources they need to do their jobs.

One relatively new feature in Windows Server 2019 VPN functionality is the Always On VPN, which some users in various message boards and blogs have speculated will eventually replace DirectAccess, which remains supported in Windows Server 2019. Microsoft cites several advantages of Always On VPN, including granular app- and traffic-based rules to restrict network access, support for both RSA and elliptic curve cryptography algorithms, and native Extensible Authentication Protocol support to enable the use of a wider variety of advanced authentication methods.

Microsoft documentation recommends organizations that currently use DirectAccess to check Always On VPN functionality before migrating their remote access processes.

The following transcript for the video tutorial by contributor Brien Posey explains how to install the Windows Server 2019 VPN role. 

In this video, I want to show you how to configure Windows Server 2019 to act as a VPN server.

Right now, I’m logged into a domain joined Windows Server 2019 machine and I’ll get the Server Manager open so let’s go ahead and get started.

The first thing that I’m going to do is click on Manage and then I’ll click on Add Roles and Features.

This is going to launch the Add Roles and Features wizard.

I’ll go ahead and click Next on the Before you begin screen.

For the installation type, I’m going to choose Role-based or feature-based installation and click Next. From there I’m going to make sure that my local server is selected. I’ll click Next.

Now I’m prompted to choose the server role that I want to deploy. You’ll notice that right here we have Remote Access. I’ll go ahead and select that now. Incidentally, in the past, this was listed as Routing and Remote Access, but now it’s just listed as a Remote Access. I’ll go ahead and click Next.

I don’t need to install any additional feature, so I’ll click Next again, and I’ll click Next [again].

Now I’m prompted to choose the Role Services that I want to install. In this case, my goal is to turn the server into a VPN, so I’m going to choose DirectAccess and VPN (RAS).

There are some additional features that are going to need to be installed to meet the various dependencies, so I’ll click Add Features and then I’ll click Next. I’ll click Next again, and I’ll click Next [again].

I’m taken to a confirmation screen where I can make sure that all of the necessary components are listed. Everything seems to be fine here, so I’ll click Install and the installation process begins.

So, after a few minutes the installation process completes. I’ll go ahead and close this out and then I’ll click on the Notifications icon. We can see that some post-deployment configuration is required. I’m going to click on the Open the Getting Started Wizard link.

I’m taken into the Configure Remote Access wizard and you’ll notice that we have three choices here: Deploy both DirectAccess and VPN, Deploy DirectAccess Only and Deploy VPN Only. I’m going to opt to Deploy VPN Only, so I’ll click on that option.

I’m taken into the Routing and Remote Access console. Here you can see our VPN server. The red icon indicates that it hasn’t yet been configured. I’m going to right-click on the VPN server and choose the Configure and Enable Routing and Remote Access option. This is going to open up the Routing and Remote Access Server Setup Wizard. I’ll go ahead and click Next.

I’m asked how I want to configure the server. You’ll notice that the very first option on the list is Remote access dial-up or VPN. That’s the option that I want to use, so I’m just going to click Next since it’s already selected.

I’m prompted to choose my connections that I want to use. Rather than using dial-up, I’m just going to use VPN, so I’ll select the VPN checkbox and click Next.

The next thing that I have to do is tell Windows which interface connects to the internet. In my case it’s this first interface, so I’m going to select that and click Next.

I have to choose how I want IP addresses to be assigned to remote clients. I want those addresses to be assigned automatically, so I’m going to make sure Automatically is selected and click Next.

The next prompt asks me if I want to use a RADIUS server for authentication. I don’t have a RADIUS server in my own organization, so I’m going to choose the option No, use Routing and Remote Access to authenticate connection requests instead. That’s selected by default, so I can simply click Next.

I’m taken to a summary screen where I have the chance to review all of the settings that I’ve enabled. If I scroll through this, everything appears to be correct. I’ll go ahead and click Finish.

You can see that the Routing and Remote Access service is starting and so now my VPN server has been enabled.

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