Tag Archives: their

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.

Go to Original Article
Author:

Top 5 ERP software for small businesses

As ERP software providers have created cloud-based versions of their products, they’ve opened up these capabilities to small businesses.

The per-user, per-month pricing model makes ERP software more accessible to small businesses, and running it in the cloud means that they don’t need to invest in servers or IT staff to deploy, manage and troubleshoot it.

ERP software is ideal for small businesses that have outgrown their spreadsheets, paper-based systems or general small business accounting software. These software systems are now more widely available to businesses that had outgrown spreadsheets or small business accounting software and are looking for something that could better handle accounting, customer relationship management and other business functions.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule as to when small businesses should switch to ERP software. But if they’re struggling with a lot of manual tasks, want to get a better picture of the financial health of their business and take advantage of analytics, it might be time to start evaluating different vendors. Some other indicators that it’s time to look at ERP software include spending too much time trying to integrate other software packages to get a full picture of inventory, supply chain and customers, as well as difficulty meeting customer demands.

Here are the top five ERP software choices for small businesses:

OnCloudERP

Aimed squarely at small businesses in the distribution, wholesale, retail and services sector, OnCloud ERP is a fully cloud-based ERP software product. The OnCloud ERP suite of applications includes the expected accounting modules for real-time information on cash flow, as well as sales, inventory, purchase order and receipt tracking, inventory management and production planning. Add-on modules provide the ability to manage payroll, track and maintain assets, leverage CRM functions like lead tracking and manage projects.

One of the most attractive features for small businesses is that companies can implement OnCloud ERP without an IT department and uses a single platform for all the ERP functions. The software also offers mobile device and remote access capabilities.

OnCloud ERP offers a free trial for 14 days. Pricing starts at $10 per user per month for the “StartUp” plan, with a minimum of five users.

Microsoft Dynamics Business Central

While Microsoft Dynamics 365 is geared toward larger businesses, Microsoft offers a Business Central application for small businesses. This product includes financials, supply chain management, customer service and project management in one product.

The analytics capabilities in Business Central include the ability to connect data across accounting, sales, purchasing, inventory and customer transactions, then run reports in real-time using business intelligence dashboards. The product also enables users to access data modeling and analysis to create financial forecasts.

Because it’s a Microsoft product, users can integrate the product with Excel, Word, Outlook and Azure. Microsoft also offers pre-built add-on products like Continia Document Capture 365 for recognizing documents and approving invoices and Jet Reports to create financial reports inside Excel.

The pricing model is a per-user, per-month fee, based on whether the company chooses a basic or premium version. Microsoft delivers Business Central entirely in the cloud, and the vendor also offers a mobile application for remote access.

Oracle NetSuite

While Oracle markets NetSuite as ideal for businesses of any size, where NetSuite really shines is with smaller businesses. It’s an all-in-one software suite that includes financials, customer service and e-commerce capabilities, so small business owners don’t have to figure out how to use APIs to connect different software packages. NetSuite also packages analytics in with its ERP software to provide insight into how the business is performing, using key performance indicators.

NetSuite is delivered entirely in the cloud, on the NetSuite Cloud Platform. This enables organizations to add other applications and modules — such as SuitePeople, its human capital management system — to the software. The product is billed as good for manufacturing, media and publishing, nonprofit, retail, services, advertising, distribution and wholesale and software industries.

Potential users must contact NetSuite for pricing information.

Sage Intacct

The focus of Sage Intacct is finance and accounting, and Sage bills it as being “built for finance by finance.” Some of the features it offers includes the ability to automate complex processes, analyze data, create structured transactions and approvals, and manage multiple currencies and locations. It also provides the ability to track multiple accounts in real-time.

For companies that want to extend Sage Intacct beyond core financial functions, the software offers modules for fixed assets, inventory management, and time and expense management, among others. It also offers web services in the form of APIs to integrate with other software systems, as well as a built-in Salesforce integration.

Sage Intacct is priced on a quote basis and is cloud-based.

SAP Business One

As SAP’s ERP product for small businesses, SAP Business One is a single suite that includes financial management, sales and customer management, purchasing and inventory control, and analytics and reporting capabilities. It also includes a mobile access module so that users can check inventory, manage sales and service, and complete approvals from iOS or Android devices.

Companies can customize SAP Business One for their industries, including consumer products, manufacturing, retail, wholesale distribution and professional services. The can also customize the software using application extensions from SAP partners, create web applications that run on desktops or mobile devices, and use self-service options within SAP Business One to create additional fields, tables and forms.

Unlike a lot of other small business ERP products, companies can implement SAP Business One on premises. It’s also delivered in a cloud-based model, priced on a per-user, per-month basis. It’s sold exclusively through SAP partners.

ERP selection advice

Before beginning the ERP software evaluation process, small business leaders need to first identify the business problems they’re trying to solve. They will also want to audit their existing processes to see if the ERP system they’re considering has these processes built in or will let them create workflows.

As small businesses begin the evaluation process, it’s important to keep in mind what the company actually needs and what it can support. Most of these systems will let companies add users as needed, as well as extend capabilities using APIs. These top five ERP software for small business have features that go beyond basic accounting and let small businesses compete with larger companies, using tools that previously were not affordable.

Go to Original Article
Author:

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.”

Go to Original Article
Author:

What are Windows virtualization-based security features?

Windows administrators must maintain constant vigilance over their systems to prevent a vulnerability from crippling their systems or exposing data to threat actors. For shops that use Hyper-V, Microsoft offers another layer of protection through its virtualization-based security.

Virtualization-based security uses Hyper-V and the machine’s hardware virtualization features to isolate and protect an area of system memory that runs the most sensitive and critical parts of the OS kernel and user modes. Once deployed, these protected areas can guard other kernel and user-mode instances.

Virtualization-based security effectively reduces the Windows attack surface, so even if a malicious actor gains access to the OS kernel, the protected content can prevent code execution and the access of secrets, such as system credentials. In theory, these added protections would prevent malware attacks that use kernel exploits from gaining access to sensitive information.

Code examining, malware prevention among key capabilities

Virtualization-based security is a foundation technology and must be in place before adopting a range of advanced security features in Windows Server. One example is Hypervisor-Enforced Code Integrity (HVCI), which examines code — such as drivers — and ensures the kernel mode drivers and binaries are signed before they load into memory. Unsigned content gets denied, reducing the possibility of running malicious code.

Other advanced security capabilities that rely on virtualization-based security include Windows Defender Credential Guard, which prevents malware from accessing credentials, and the ability to create virtual trusted platform modules (TPMs) for shielded VMs.

In Windows Server 2019, Microsoft expanded its shielded VMs feature beyond the Windows platform to cover Linux workloads running on Hyper-V to prevent data leakage when the VM is both static and when it moves to another Hyper-V host.

New in Windows Server 2019 is a feature called host key attestation, which uses asymmetric key pairs to authenticate hosts covered by the Host Guardian Service in what is described as an easier deployment method by not requiring an Active Directory trust arrangement.

What are the virtualization-based security requirements?

Virtualization-based security has numerous requirements. It’s important to investigate the complete set of hardware, firmware and software requirements before adopting virtualization-based security. Any missing requirements may make it impossible to enable virtualization-based security and compromise system security features that depend on virtualization-based security support.

At the hardware level, virtualization-based security needs a 64-bit processor with virtualization extensions (Intel VT-x and AMD-V) and second-level address translation as Extended Page Tables or Rapid Virtualization Indexing. I/O virtualization must be supported through Intel VT-d or AMD-Vi. The server hardware must include TPM 2.0 or better.

System firmware must support the Windows System Management Mode Security Mitigations Table specification. Unified Extensible Firmware Interface must support memory reporting features such as the UEFI v2.6 Memory Attributes Table. Support for Secure Memory Overwrite Request v2 will inhibit in-memory attacks. All drivers must be compatible with HVCI standards.

Go to Original Article
Author:

GumGum uses machine learning annotation service Figure Eight

GumGum developed computer vision and NLP technology to help clients better advertise to their users.

The Santa Monica, Calif.-based vendor, founded in 2008, automatically scans video, audio, images and text on webpages, identifying and extracting key elements. It then uses that data to help advertisers place relevant ads on the webpages.

To power its machine learning and computer vision technology, GumGum needs a lot of training data. To meet its data needs, about two years ago the company turned to Figure Eight, a crowdsourcing machine learning annotation vendor.

Acquired by Appen, another crowdsourcing machine learning annotation company, in April 2019, Figure Eight provides training data to a variety of similar vendors. Figure Eight relies on a network of contributors to annotate huge amounts of data.

The contributors are trained, although they are mostly not data scientists, and are screened for security purposes. Their large contributor network enables Figure Eight to train data at scale, as well as continue to review annotated data while a job is running.

Getting training data

Before using Figure Eight, GumGum employed full-time staff for machine learning annotation, said Erica Nishimura, data curator  at GumGum. That worked, but it was costly and, at times, slow. With large amounts of data, it could take months to get useable training data. Besides, the staff could only work in English, but GumGum has clients internationally.

Figure Eight, machine learning annotation
Figure Eight uses a contributor network to provide training data for companies like GumGum

Figure Eight, meanwhile, works in a number of languages. At the time, Nishimura said, it was one of the only companies that worked in Japanese. As GumGum has a thriving Japanese division, the language support was one of the main reasons it chose Figure Eight.

Scalability, said Lane Schechter, product manager at GumGum, was the other reason GumGum chose Figure Eight.

Working with Figure Eight has increased GumGum’s data capacity tenfold, Schechter said. Also, instead of taking months to get completed machine learning annotation, it now happens in about a week.

Problems

Still, that’s not to say that working with Figure Eight has been without its share of problems.

One of the biggest challenges has been communicating directly with Figure Eight’s crowdsource contributors, Nishimura said.

At times, the contributors have had trouble understanding exactly what GumGum wants, but, because there is no way to directly interact with the contributors, Nishimura said it is hard to know if the contributors are having problems, or what they might be.

The best GumGum can do is put in a message, Nishimura said, but there is no way to alert each contributor to the message. Besides, a single message isn’t the same as having a conversation, she added.

While she was unsure if other similar crowdsourcing machine learning annotation companies have a better way to communicate with contributors, Nishimura said some other companies have their own checkers, who do spot-checks on completed annotations.

“It’s one more step to ensure quality,” Nishimura said. But, she added, the prices of those services are generally higher than those of Figure Eight’s.

Go to Original Article
Author:

Cloud consultants set for massive workload shift to cloud

Cloud consultants take heed: Customers are pushing the bulk of their workloads to cloud infrastructure and a significant number are adopting related technologies such as containers.

AllCloud, a cloud and managed service provider based in Tel Aviv, Israel, said 85% of the 150 respondents to its cloud infrastructure survey expect to operate the majority of their workloads in the cloud by the end of 2020. Twenty-four percent of the IT decision-makers polled said they plan to be cloud-only organizations. The respondents work for companies with at least 300 employees and represent a range of industries.

AllCloud’s survey, published Jan. 15, also points to growing acceptance of containers, a trend other cloud consultants view as accelerating. More than 56% of respondents reported at least half of their cloud workloads use containers or microservices.

AllCloud CEO Eran Gil said cloud adoption, as reflected in the survey sample, is further along than he anticipated. He also said the amount of containers adoption surprised him.  

“It is interesting to see how many organizations are leveraging them,” he said of containers. “It’s far more than I expected to see.”

Eran Gil, CEO at AllCloudEran Gil

For cloud consultants, the transition from small-scale, individual workload migrations to more decisive shifts to the cloud may open opportunities for IT modernization.

“We are talking to [customers] about modernizing their infrastructure — not just simply taking what they have on premises and hosting it on AWS or other vendors,” Gil said.

Amid broader cloud adoption, AllCloud plans to expand in North America. The company in 2018 launched operations in North America, acquiring Figur8, a Salesforce partner with offices in San Francisco, Toronto, New York City and Vancouver, B.C. AllCloud is a Salesforce Platinum partner and an AWS Premier Consulting Partner.

“We are focusing on growing North America in particular,” Gil said, noting the company has received a new round of funding to support its expansion. “You will hear us announce acquisitions this year in either one of our ecosystems.”

The funding will also help AllCloud grow organically. Gil said the company plans to hire an AWS practice leader, who will report to Doug Shepard, AllCloud’s general manager for North America. Shepard previously was president of the Google business unit at Cloud Sherpas, a cloud consultancy Gil co-founded in 2008. Accenture acquired Cloud Sherpas in 2015.

Gil said the fundamental drivers of cloud adoption have changed dramatically since the launch of Cloud Sherpas. Back then, he said, cost was the main consideration, and security and reliability concerns were obstacles to acceptance. Security, however, emerged in AllCloud’s survey as the top consideration in cloud selection, followed by reliability. Cost ranked fourth in the list of adoption drivers.

“All the factors 10, 12 years ago that were the determents are now the drivers,” Gil said. 

New channel hires

  • DevOps lifecycle tool provider GitLab has appointed Michelle Hodges as vice president of global channels. GitLab, which plans to go public this year, said Hodges’ hiring is part of an initiative to ramp up the company’s channel strategy. Hodges joins GitLab from Gigamon, where she served as vice president of worldwide channels.
  • Avaya named William Madison as its vice president of North America cloud sales. Madison’s prior roles included vice president of global channel development and channel chief at Masergy Communications.
  • Managed services automation company BitTitan hired Kirk Swanson as its corporate development associate. Swanson will help BitTitan pursue acquisitions in the enterprise cloud market, targeting companies with SaaS products and relationships with IT service providers and MSPs, the company said. Prior to BitTitan, Swanson served as an associate at investment firm D.A. Davidson & Co.
  • Exclusive Networks, a cloud and cybersecurity distributor, named Christine Banker as vice president of North American sales. Banker will lead vendor recruitment, inside and field sales, and Exclusive’s PC and server business, among other departments and teams, the company said.
  • Anexinet Corp., a digital business solutions provider based in Philadelphia, has appointed Suzanne Lentz as chief marketing officer. She was previously chief marketing officer of Capgemini Invent NA.
  • Workspace-as-a-service vendor CloudJumper named Amie Ray as its enterprise channel sales manager. Ray comes to CloudJumper from PrinterLogic, where she was national channel account manager.

Other news

  • WESCO International Inc. has agreed to acquire distributor Anixter International Inc. for $4.5 billion. WESCO outbid Clayton, Dubilier & Rice LLC. The deal is expected to close in the second or third quarter of 2020. According to Pittsburgh-based WESCO, the combined entity would have revenue of about $17 billion. The pending deal follows Apollo Global Management’s agreement to acquire Tech Data Corp., a distributor based in Tampa, Fla.
  • Lemongrass Consulting, a professional services and managed service provider based in Atlanta, has completed a $10 million Series C round of financing, a move the company said will help it build out its senior leadership team, boost product development, and expands sales and marketing. Rodney Rogers, co-founder and general partner of Blue Lagoon Capital, joins Lemongrass as chairman. Blue Lagoon led the new funding round. Mike Rosenbloom is taking on the group CEO role at Lemongrass. He was formerly managing director of Accenture’s Intelligent Cloud & Infrastructure business. Walter Beek, who has been group CEO at Lemongrass, will stay on with company as co-founder and chief innovation officer. Lemongrass focuses on SAP applications running on AWS infrastructure.
  • Strategy and revenue are getting a heightened focus among CIOs, according to a Logicalis survey. The London-based IT solutions provider’s poll of 888 global CIOs found 61% of the respondents “spent more time on strategic planning in the last 12 months, while 43% are now being measured on their contribution to revenue growth.” The emphasis on strategy and revenue comes at the expense of innovation. About a third of the CIOs surveyed said the time available to spend on innovation has decreased over the last 12 months.
  • IT infrastructure management vendor Kaseya said it ended 2019 with a valuation exceeding $2 billion. Kaseya added more than 5,000 new customers and had more than $300 million in annual bookings, according to the company. Kaseya noted that the company had an organic growth rate of about 30%.
  • Cybersecurity vendor WatchGuard Technologies updated its FlexPay program with automated, monthly billing for its network security hardware and services. Partners can acquire subscriptions from WatchGuard’s distributor partners in various purchasing models, including one- and three-year contracts and pay-as-you-go terms, WatchGuard said. In the U.S., WatchGuard Subscriptions are available exclusively through the Synnex Stellr online marketplace.
  • Copper, which provides CRM for G Suite, rolled out its 2020 Partner Ambassador Program. The referral program has four partner tiers with incremental incentives, marketing resources, and training and certifications.
  • GTT Communications Inc., a cloud networking provider based in McLean, Va., has added Fortinet Secure SD-WAN to its SD-WAN service offering.
  • EditShare, a storage vendor that specializes in media creation and management, signed Key Code Media to its channel program. Key Code Media is an A/V, broadcast and post-production reseller and systems integrator.
  • Accenture opened an intelligent operation center in St. Catharines, Ont., as a hub for its intelligent sales and customer operations business. Accenture said the location is the company’s third intelligent operations center in Canada and its second in the Niagara region.

Market Share is a news roundup published every Friday.

Go to Original Article
Author:

Microsoft Teams to add smartphone walkie-talkie feature

Workers will soon be able to turn their smartphones into a walkie-talkie using Microsoft Teams. The feature is one of several Microsoft unveiled this week targeting so-called frontline workers, such as retail associates, nurses, housekeepers and plumbers.

The walkie-talkie feature will let groups of employees speak to each other by pressing a button in the Teams mobile app. The audio will travel over Wi-Fi and cellular networks, meaning users will be able to communicate with colleagues anywhere in the world. The feature will be available in private preview in the first half of 2020.

Many retailers, hospitals, airlines and hotels still rely on physical walkie-talkie devices. In recent years, startups like Orion Labs and legacy vendors like Motorola Solutions have begun selling smartphone walkie-talkie apps. Those mobile apps come with benefits like location tracking and integration with other business technologies.

Microsoft’s smartphone walkie-talkie feature is not innovative. But if it works well, the capability could help Microsoft boost adoption of Teams among workers who otherwise wouldn’t use the app. Microsoft has made targeting frontline workers a priority since late 2018.

In addition to the walkie-talkie app, Microsoft said Thursday it would add to Teams a task feature for creating and assigning small projects to employees. The system will give businesses a dashboard to track tasks in real time across multiple departments or store locations. It will launch in the first half of 2020.

Microsoft will also expand the scheduling capabilities of Teams by integrating the app with popular workforce management platforms by Kronos and JDA Software. Those integrations will let businesses keep existing scheduling software in place while giving workers the ability to swap shifts and request time off through Teams.

Microsoft is not the only collaboration vendor targeting frontline workers, said Rob Arnold, analyst at Frost & Sullivan. But Microsoft has a leg up on competitors because it can offer businesses so many complementary cloud services. Those include the customer relationship manager Dynamics 365 as well as e-commerce and Internet of Things (IoT) platforms within Microsoft Azure.

New identity and access features for Microsoft Teams

Additional features targeting frontline workers include SMS sign-in, off-shift access controls and shared-device sign-out. These features will roll out between now and the middle of the year. 

Workers will soon be able to sign into their Azure Active Directory account (which controls access to Teams) using only a mobile phone number. IT admins will decide which groups of employees use the method.

IT admins will also be able to prevent frontline workers from accessing Teams when they are not on the clock. Temporarily blocking access will help businesses comply with labor laws.

Finally, for Android, Microsoft will add an “end shift” button to shared mobile devices and tablets that will clear app logins and browser sessions. Purging that data will prevent employees from accessing information they shouldn’t.  

Collectively, the latest features show that Microsoft wants to take Teams beyond the 30% of corporate employees who work in offices, Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, said. “I think Microsoft is aggressively trying to expand the reach of Teams.”

Go to Original Article
Author:

8 new ways to empower Firstline Workers and transform the way they work with Microsoft 365

Companies at the forefront of digital transformation recognize how critical it is to enable all of their people with the right technology and tools. That’s why, in industries like retail, hospitality, and manufacturing, there’s a movement underway to digitally empower the Firstline Workforce—the more than 2 billion people worldwide who work in service- or task-oriented roles.

With Microsoft 365, the world’s productivity cloud, we’re in a unique position to help companies of all sizes and across all industries provide their employees the tools and expertise they need to do their best work, without sacrificing the security of their organization or customers’ data. Giving Firstline Workers the tools they need requires companies to address unique user experience, security and compliance, and IT management.

Microsoft 365 for Firstline Workers

Microsoft 365 combines intuitive best-in-class productivity apps with intelligent cloud services to empower your Firstline Workforce.

Learn more

It’s inspiring to see how industry leaders, like IKEA and Mattress Firm, are driving higher levels of employee engagement and enhancing the customer experience by putting tools like Microsoft Teams into the hands of their Firstline Workforce. IKEA is connecting everyone in the organization with familiar features like chat and video calls and digitizing firstline processes such as shift management to save time and cost.

This video was created by Microsoft, with the agreement of Ingka Group.

Mattress Firm is empowering Firstline Workers with real-time access to the information, resources, and expertise they need to delight customers and provide a better shopping experience.

Ahead of next week’s National Retail Federation (NRF) tradeshow, we are excited to introduce new capabilities for Firstline Workers coming to Microsoft 365. Here’s a look at what’s coming soon:

New tools that make it easier for Firstline Workers to communicate and manage tasks

  1. Walkie Talkie in Teams—This new push-to-talk experience enables clear, instant, and secure voice communication over the cloud, turning employee- or company-owned smartphones and tablets into a walkie-talkie. This functionality, built natively into Teams, reduces the number of devices employees must carry, and lowers costs for IT. Unlike analog devices with unsecure networks, customers no longer have to worry about crosstalk or eavesdropping from outsiders. And since Walkie Talkie functions over Wi-Fi or cellular data, this capability can be used across geographic locations. Walkie Talkie will be available in private preview in Teams in the first half of this year.

Image displaying the intuitive push-to-talk experience to connect team members in Microsoft Teams. Three phones are displayed at various stages in connecting a manager to her team of cashiers.

Intuitive push-to-talk experience to connect team members across departments and locations.

  1. Tasks targeting, publishing, and reportingWith Tasks in Teams, now customers can drive consistent execution of store operations at scale across all of an organization’s locations. Corporate and regional leadership can send task lists targeted to the relevant locations, such as specific retail stores, and track their progress through automatic real-time reports. Managers have tools to easily direct activities within their stores, and Firstline Workers have a simple prioritized list available via their personal or company-issued device showing them exactly what to do next. Tasks targeting, publishing, and reporting is coming to Teams in the first half of this year.

Image of tasks being assigned to teams in Microsoft Teams.

Corporate headquarters can target, assign, and track tasks across locations. Firstline Workers can view tasks assigned to them and across the store.

  1. Workforce management integrations—Customers using leading third-party workforce management systems—such as Kronos and JDA—for scheduling and time and attendance can now start integrating directly with Shifts via Shifts Graph APIs and SDK. Supported scenarios include management of shifts, schedules, schedule groups, swap requests, time off requests, and open shift requests. The JDA connector for Shifts is open sourced and available on GitHub. The Kronos connector for Shifts will also be available on GitHub later this quarter.

Enhanced identity and access management features that make it easier for IT pros to keep Firstline Workers productive and secure

  1. SMS sign-in—With SMS sign-in, Firstline Workers are able to sign in to their Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) account using one-time SMS codes—reducing the need to remember usernames and passwords for all their Microsoft 365 and custom applications. Once enrolled, the user is prompted to enter their phone number, which generates an SMS text with a one-time password. SMS sign-in is a single sign-on (SSO) experience, enabling Firstline Workers to seamlessly access all the apps they are authorized to use. This new sign-in method can be enabled for select groups and configured at the user level in the My Staff portal—helping to reduce the burden on IT.

Image of one-time SMS codes being used to sign in to a device. Three phones display a code received and used by a Firstline Worker.

One-time SMS codes on mobile devices to streamline the sign-in experience for Firstline Workers.

  1. Shared device sign-out—Many Firstline Workers use a single tablet or mobile device that is shared between shifts. This can pose unique security challenges to the organization when different employees who have access to different types of data use the same device over the course of a day. With shared device sign-out, Firstline Workers will be able to log out of all their Microsoft 365 and custom applications and browser sessions with one click at the end of their shift—preventing their data as well as any access to customer data from being accessible to the next user of that device.

Image of shared device sign-out used on a shared Android device used as a scanning tool.

With one click, Firstline Workers can sign out of a shared Android device and log out of all applications and browser sessions to prevent sensitive data being shared with another device user.

  1. Off-shift access controls for Teams app—IT administrators can now configure Teams to limit employee access to the app on their personal device outside of working hours. This feature helps ensure employees are not involuntarily working while not on shift and helps employers to comply with labor regulations. This feature will begin rolling out to customers this quarter.

Image of off shift being used in Microsoft Teams. Three phones display various messages from the new feature.

Display a message and/or disable access to Teams app when Firstline Workers are off shift.

  1. Delegated user management—Firstline Managers can approve password resets and enable employees to use their phone numbers for SMS sign-in, all via a single customizable portal enabled by IT for Firstline Managers. Delegated user management can give Firstline Managers access to the My Staff portal, so they can unblock staff issues—reducing the burden of identity management on IT, and keeping employees connected to the apps they need on the job.

Image of the My Stage portal accessed from a tablet.

Through the My Staff portal, delegated user management enables a Firstline Manager to manage their team’s credentials and assist with password resets.

  1. Inbound provisioning from SAP SuccessFactors to Azure AD—Azure AD’s user provisioning service now integrates with SAP SuccessFactors, making it easier than ever to onboard and manage Firstline Workers’ identities at scale, across any application using Azure AD. This feature—in public preview—builds upon the ability to provision users to Azure AD from Workday, another popular human capital management (HCM) system, already generally available. Integrating with these systems of record helps IT to scale Firstline Workers’ onboarding and productivity from day one.

Image of Azure AD's user provisioning service integrated with SAP SuccessFactors and Workday used to check status on a laptop.

With Azure AD’s user provisioning service now integrated with SAP SuccessFactors, as well as Workday, it’s easier than ever to onboard Firstline Workers user identities at scale. Shown here, you can start the provisioning cycle and use the progress bar and provisioning logs to track the provisioning process.

All of these capabilities are expected to roll out in the first half of this year except where noted.

Empowering Firstline Workers to gain a competitive advantage

New research in partnership with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services highlights the untapped potential of Firstline Workers in retail.

Learn more

Looking ahead

This is just the next step in our journey to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. We aim to build tools and experiences for the modern workplace and for workers at all levels of the organization. We’ll continue to develop and bring to market purpose-built Firstline Worker capabilities and experiences in partnership with our customers and industry leaders. And we’ll continue to innovate and build features that simplify work, bring people together, and help organizations big and small achieve more. Come see us next week at NRF 2020 in booth #4501.

Go to Original Article
Author: Microsoft News Center

Meet the 2020 Imagine Cup Asia Regional Finalists

For 18 years, student developers have brought their unique technology solutions to life with Imagine Cup to make a difference in the world around them. Starting with just an idea, students form teams of one to three people and leverage Microsoft technology to develop purpose-driven applications from what they’re most passionate about.

This competition year is no different, and the journey to the 2020 Imagine Cup World Championship is kicking off with the selection of the Asia Regional Finalists! From hundreds of teams who submitted projects to the Asia Online Semifinals, 10 teams have been chosen to advance to the Asia Regional Final in Singapore this February. Encompassing solutions tackling a drug scanning app to monitor authenticity and allergens, to a real-time computer vision physiotherapy tool, to an immersive virtual reality experience so young students can learn about different cultures, these student innovations are truly incredible and have the chance to create global impact.

At the Regional Final, all teams will participate in an Entrepreneur Day and receive in-person pitch training from the U.S. Department of Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST), and compete for prizing totaling over USD20,000 in cash plus Azure credits. The top two teams will win spots in the 2020 Imagine Cup World Championship in Seattle, Washington to present their projects live for the chance to take home USD100,000 and a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella.

We’re excited to introduce this year’s Asia Regional Finalist teams!

Altruistic

Indonesia

Tanah Airku: Tanah Airku is immersive learning media using books, AR, and VR to deliver a complete cultural learning experience for children from 1st to 3rd grade.

Blume-India

India

Seguro Droga: The team developed an Android application which lets patients scan a drug’s RFID card to determine authenticity using Hyperledger Fabric on Azure VM, manage their drug purchases, and set filters for allergens.

EDVR

Nepal

EDVR: EDVR is a voice-controlled immersive Virtual Reality experience for dyslexic students enrolled in STEM education. EDVR aims to solve the problem of imparting STEM education for students with learning disabilities by enabling them to visualize, comprehend, and conceptualize.

Hollo

Hong Kong

Hollo: Hollo is a Social Technology Enterprise based in Hong Kong. The team is developing a comprehensive tool for NGOs, therapists, and youth living with mental illness to advance therapy practices using technology such as Big Data and Artificial Intelligence.

Muses

China

AI Composition System: Using AI, The Muse Artificial Intelligence Composer is a low-cost solution to create music for commercial use, providing a new solution for some commercial music creations that have lower creative requirements and are more cost effective. 

Nutone 

Japan

NUTONE: The team’s device restores the ability to speak for patients who have lost their voice (through reasons such as laryngectomes).

TAZS

India

FaceTag: The team created a solution for bottlenecked gateways in a daily commute: specifically the entry and exit points at metro stations. FastTag tollways enable commuters to simply walk in, have their face scanned, and have the toll deducted automatically from their wallet.

Team Zest

Singapore

Dr. Rehab: Dr. Rehab is a mobile application for real-time physiotherapy supervision through computer vision. Users can access the rehabilitation exercises assigned to them, follow guided instructions, and receive feedback while completing their exercises.

Tulibot Team

Indonesia

Tulibot: Tulibot is an integrated assistive device to bridge the communication gap for the deaf by providing a smart glove (gesture to text) and smart glasses (speech to text).

Vibra

Singapore

Vibra-Intellisense: Vibra-IntelliSense aims to help companies transition from traditional preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance through the use of sensors. The sensors capture machine vibrations to detect anomalies and recommend maintenance efforts.

Congratulations to our finalists! Follow their competition journey on Twitter and Instagram as they head to Singapore in February to compete in the Regional Final, co-located with Microsoft Ignite | The Tour. Students will have the opportunity to connect with the tech community and get hands-on with the latest in developer tools and cloud technologies.

Are you passionate about using tech for social good to solve some of today’s most pressing challenges? Imagine Cup Asia and EMEA submissions are now closed but Americas regional submissions are open until January 15! Register now for a chance to join students across the globe making an impact with technology.

Go to Original Article
Author: Microsoft News Center

Connected medical devices experts highlight IoT remote monitoring

BOSTON — Healthcare facilities can advance their patient care with IoT remote monitoring if manufacturers understand how to develop and use connected medical devices.

Medical IoT remote monitoring “will change the way you do service, the way your customers perceive you, not just you, but your products. They become reliant on the network of things that you provide them, not just the transaction,” said Anthony Moffa, senior director of ThingWorx IIoT Platform at PTC.

IoT remote monitoring gives manufacturers access to real-time information from the field that is unfiltered and unbiased, which they can use to secure and maintain connected medical devices. Devices can transmit data back to manufacturers on key performance indicators — such as power settings or the number of times a device was turned on and off — that they can use to improve connected medical devices. Engineers don’t have an easy time observing their devices in the field consistently, but anyone can sit in front of their laptop and see how devices perform, said Paul O’Connor, director of medical development at Boston Engineering.

Moffa and O’Connor were among the experts discussing considerations for connected medical device manufacturers during the panel “How to leverage IIoT to improve medical device innovation and user insights,” which was held on Dec. 10. It was hosted by Boston Engineering, the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council and PTC.

[Medical IoT remote monitoring] will change the way you do service, the way your customers perceive you, not just you, but your products.
Anthony Moffaenior director, ThingWorx IIoT Platform at PTC

Here is a rundown of the event’s expert advice on how to address problems before IoT development begins, how to secure medical devices and the importance of identifying the needs that remote monitoring connected medical devices can address.

How to get started with remote monitoring for medical IIoT devices

Organizations often introduce IoT remote monitoring for connected medical devices with the intent to improve their products and differentiate themselves from the competition. Remote monitoring with IoT might have to overcome resistance.

“Somebody has to own [the project] and you have to have coordination between all your team members, so service, marketing operations, the R&D side; they all have to work together. If they don’t, it’s going to be an uphill battle,” Moffa said.

During IoT remote monitoring, developers should try to answer several questions:

  • Do you really know how your customers are using the product?
  • What settings do they actually use?
  • What is the optimal proactive maintenance schedule?
  • Do the components perform in a way that meets their needs?
  • How has device use changed since introduction?
  • Is the product over-engineered?

Developers can now track the data to answer these questions from around the world and apply the real-time insights and feedback to the next generation of the product.

“Think of your own product line and what you want to know about how your products are being used. Think about what you need first versus how [IoT remote monitoring technology] can help me,” O’Connor said. “You can test for years and not actually get real-time data on a global basis.”

Organizations might also see resistance from their customers. IT pros could see connected medical devices and remote monitoring as a threat to network security. The manufacturers must show how the device will bring value to the hospital, show how it’s secure and why it won’t put the network at risk, Moffa said.

Connected products typically have some built-in security processes. For example, all IT pros must make sure to encrypt communications and safely pair devices. When devices have basic security measures, adding remote monitoring security for post-market surveillance is a low security risk, said Elizabeth Couture, security software engineer at Geisel Software. Hackers won’t be particularly interested in data about what the current pressure on a sensor is or what firmware the device is running, which is the data that a device manufacturer would want from IoT remote monitoring. When manufacturers have continued access to deployed devices, they can increase the security of the product through processing device data with behavioral analytics to pick out deviations from the normal device use.

Create a culture of security

For something to be secure, the whole team must secure the product, including different engineering and support groups when it’s developed, designed and implemented outside of the facility.

“[Medical IIoT device manufacturers] need to have a culture of security. Security is not a thing you do once and then you are done with it. And it’s not a thing that you can slap on the end of the finished product,” said Elizabeth Couture.

Most hacks today are caused when attackers find bugs in widely used software from trusted organizations that are implemented on devices, said Couture. The organization that made the software announces that they have a fix for the bug, which makes applying updates critical. Organizations must plan how to update devices in the field, otherwise they will have a security hole that the entire internet knows about.

Steps to tackle security challenges
Follow these steps to prepare for security challenges.

Organizations must apply layered security and not treat medical devices as if they exist in a lockbox that no hacker will ever break into. A malicious actor should not be able to command the medical IIoT device to do dangerous things or access any patient data. By the time a medical device passes all Food and Drug Administration procedures, it’s usually 15 years old, Couture said.

“I wouldn’t trust a 15-year-old computer to buy it off the shelf. You have to be so sure that everything is safe, and that means that we need to assume that something will go wrong in the future,” she said.

When dealing with a larger number of connected medical devices, it’s important to make sure that devices have an incredibly narrow application to secure the multitude of endpoints that consumable items represent, Couture said. IT pros might be tempted to be lax on security for consumer devices, but they must tighten restrictions to prevent malicious actors from accessing the whole network through a device.

The best way to restrict application use on a medical device is to have very strict controls on the API, Moffa said. Limit the ability to use the device connection to go onto other networks, because as soon as a device connects to multiple different networks, malicious actors have a larger surface area to initiate a potential attack, he said.

Another way that organizations can improve their device security is to have other IT pros attempt to hack it. Smaller organizations might have to hire an outside expert if they don’t have people internally who focus on cybersecurity. Even having someone from a different group in an internal team attempt to hack a device will uncover security holes, Couture said.

“People used to approach cybersecurity as if ‘I am the best at building walls. I will build this wall around the product and everything is safe because I’m really good at that.’ But nowadays it’s not just about building good walls, it’s about learning the skills that a hacker would actually use to attack a product and attacking your product,” she said.

Keep the customer in mind, no matter the use of remote monitoring

Remote monitoring with IoT starts with user needs and adds value for them, said Raj Sivakumar, global product director at Hologic. Remote monitoring can improve the reliability of technology. When organizations use IoT remote monitoring for predictive maintenance, field engineers can identify when a component is going to fail and replace it without any downtime. With analytical tools, medical device users can take advantage of the device utilization rates to understand if their team uses the devices optimally or if they need more training.

“By adding IoT to this environment you’re able to increase the throughput of your technicians, because you can do some things remotely. You might walk a customer through a workflow on a screen, rather than physically,” Moffa said.

The data provided through remote monitoring gives engineers information for maintaining devices. IoT sensors can record the temperature and other variables that would inhibit or show the decline of medical devices. For example, without remote monitoring, an anesthesia machine in an operating room could fail when a patient is under. The patient must be moved to another room and hooked up to another machine. The time under anesthesia is increased, which means there is more risk for the patient. IoT predictive maintenance is critical from a risk management perspective in healthcare, Sivakumar said. If technicians know a machine will fail well ahead of time, they can apply this change. Eliminating downtime means patients spend less time in the hospital, which decreases their chances of getting sick from something they didn’t come in with.

“You could talk to people about the issues they have [with your device]. There’s no aversion to doing that; Everyone thinks it’s a good idea,” O’Connor said. “But it’s being able to define a starting point. Start small with something that you can control and have access to.”

Go to Original Article
Author: