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Woman in IT Spotlight: A Conversation with Natasha Florence

December 18, 2015

Name: Natasha Florence

Current Role: Director of Sales Operations

Company: Long View

City: Calgary, AB

Years in the IT industry: 15

 

 

How did you get into the technology industry?

As most of us, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do upon graduation from university. A marketing professor gave me very good advice. She told me to get into B2B sales, it was an “untapped” career with potential. Little did I know she was onto something. I knew enough about myself then that whatever I would chose, it would have to be something I was passionate about. Technology was always interesting to me. I may be dating myself (chuckle), but Microsoft’s bold mission to have a PC in every home resonated with me, especially when I was lining up at the university labs for hours to write my papers. The internet wasn’t around then and Microsoft Windows was released in my first year of school. I actually had to get books from the library for my papers. And if the local library didn’t have the book, well that was that. So, I was always intrigued by the possibilities of technology. I applied for an IT sales job out of university to sell Microsoft software and 6 years later I had the privilege of working direct for Microsoft. And today I still get to be part of that story by being here at Long View.  

What is a day in a life in your current role?

Every day I am looking at how our team can enable our sales organization to get them “ready” for the marketplace. I'm responsible for the overall management, operations, and strategic direction of Sales Operations within the organization. This includes everything from internal systems CRM projects, sales strategies, opportunity management, to working with marketing, training, artifacts, proposals, etc. Our team also provides data, analyses, modeling, and reporting to support sales force quarterly business reviews.  

Tell us about the most transformative project you were a part of?

I think that project is happening right now at Long View. The technology market has changed substantially in the past few years with the uptake of various consumption models like cloud; and that speed of change isn’t going away. In addition, technology has enabled “digital business” in diverse forms. Our customers are becoming more sophisticated in when and how they buy resulting in a perfect storm that makes it more difficult to sell. As our organization is transforming to adjust to the market, our sales team needs to shift and have the right tools at the right time in order to execute effectively. It’s exciting! We have built an engine that does this! The collaborative effort is phenomenal.  

What’s one piece of advice you would lend to a fellow woman in IT?

Don’t shy from using your voice - it matters. Have your convictions - they matter. Be a team player.  

When you are not in the office what do you do for fun?

I hang out with my family every chance I get.  My husband and I try to keep our children active with skiing, hiking, and swimming. Or I “nerd out” and take courses. I am a lifelong learner, likely because my mother was an educator.
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What You Missed at Cisco Collaboration Summit 2015

December 15, 2015

As always I thoroughly enjoy the annual Cisco Collaboration Summit! Summit 2015 included more technology announcements than in many of the previous years. Major announcements include:

  • Cisco Spark Messaging

  • Cisco Spark Calling

  • Cisco Spark Meetings

  • Cisco Spark Hybrid

  • Collaboration upgrade promos

  • Much more

 

Learn more! Watch Lane Irvine, our Collaboration expert live from San Francisco vlog with updates on all the major announcements this year.

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SharePoint Prevents Shadow IT

December 9, 2015

Many managers outside of the IT department find themselves empowered to make technology buying decisions without first understanding security, compliance, and governance considerations. The resulting Shadow IT can lead to the following big problems for the CIO:

  • The company’s data is insecure as it is distributed over too many sites
  • Application Portfolio Management (APM) is impossible
  • Identity and credentials cannot be systematically managed
  • Integration or even alignment of processes is needlessly complex
Some companies deploy SharePoint to prevent this Shadow IT by addressing many of the legitimate business needs that drive users to adopt these unsanctioned systems. SharePoint solves business problems for users while maintaining the security and IT management standards their business requires.  

SharePoint Can Be a solution

Microsoft SharePoint meets both the end user need for “App” style problem solving and IT governance best practices. Its security and permission features, eDiscovery, ability to integrate, and extensibility make it an enterprise ready IT system.  SharePoint also has an answer to many of the needs and products that end users may seek out. Nearly everyone uses some of the consumer grade tools listed below. They work well for personal content, but in a business setting, they are Shadow IT.  SharePoint has analogous functionality for all of these tools and can be used to head off the need to employ them.  

Dropbox and Box.com

File storage and sharing sites like Dropbox and Box.com make a user's files available on any device with a browser or app. These systems are ideal for personal files that need to be shared or accessed on several computers. For business, they pose some problems. The consumer versions of these products do not have solutions for controlling who can access what information, constraining access from former employees, and eDiscovery and legal hold requirements SharePoint goes toe to toe with these file storage and sharing products through its OneDrive for Business offering, having all of the features end users love and the control IT needs.  

Google Docs / Forms / Calendars

Most everyone uses the Google productivity tools in their personal lives. Google is mobile friendly, supports simultaneous editing, offers version controls, and makes sharing simple. Unfortunately, it also creates some headaches for IT. Personal Google accounts cannot be centrally managed or controlled. Accidentally sharing confidential information with the wrong person is as easy as a mistyped email address. Former employees could end up having access to confidential information for years before anyone notices. Critical information could even be made public and searchable online. SharePoint document libraries, calendars, and other basic intranet tools offer more robust collaboration, simultaneous editing, a variety of sharing options, and mobile access. The content is also manageable and controllable in keeping with IT best practices. Data loss prevention and right management are game changers in controlling corporate information.  

Project Management Tools

There are literally hundreds of SaaS project management tools easily available to anyone with p-card. These tools are often free to start using and simple to adopt. The trouble is, they also are an information silo. Besides the identity and security problems mentioned above, getting information into or out of these systems may be entirely impossible. SharePoint works very well as a light project management tool. Especially for projects that require a lot of collaboration. For projects that lack the complexity that justifies full Microsoft Project, SharePoint is a great fit.  

SharePoint Solves Shadow IT

Once users are made aware of the variety of problems they can solve with SharePoint, they often decide that buying, deploying, training, and adopting a system outside of the sanctioned IT ecosystem poses too many risks, is too costly, and simply doesn’t make sense. Of course, poor Microsoft SharePoint deployments can actually increase security risks, as it is another avenue through which information can pass outside of the company. Governance, Data Loss Prevention, Rights Management, and training are critical to enabling end users without exposing the company to phishing or other malicious behavior.

 

At Long View, we start our engagement process with security and governance in mind. We guide clients through the process of:

1)      Envisioning how technology can help their businesses; 2)      Minimizing risks; 3)      Deployment; and 4)      Management and ongoing maintenance.

Please contact us to talk about minimizing shadow IT in a compliant and secure way.

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Secret Santa: Supporting the Community during the Holidays

December 7, 2015

Ho, Ho, Ho! We’ve become a Secret Santa!

To get in the Christmas spirit this year, our Vancouver branch signed up to sponsor two families through the YWCA Presents of Peace program. The Vancouver YWCA is an amazing organization focused on helping women escape abusive relationships and drug addictions by providing emergency shelters, transition housing and support groups as these women rebuild their lives. We have been paired with two single mothers who have finally found the right support and are trying to start a better life for their kids. These are some of the most vulnerable families in Vancouver, and they are quite literally starting over with nothing.​ Our Goal is to raise $2,000 by December 16th to offer a little support and a lot of love, and to ensure these two moms have a special Christmas with their kids, despite their current situation. Every dollar we raise will go towards purchasing the items on their wish lists, and we will use any leftover donations to buy gift cards for their preferred grocery store to help pay for holiday meals and stock up their cupboards. Thanks to our amazing team we have nearly reached our fundraising target. We’ve currently raised $1,590! Our volunteers will help with fundraising, shopping, wrapping, and delivering gifts.  The team will deliver the wrapped gifts on the weekend of December 19th.

Want to be a Secret Santa?

     
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Our “Follow the Sun” Journey into Europe

December 1, 2015

In May of 2015 Long View announced a major milestone for the company with the official opening of its first European office located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. This milestone marks the successful realization of  the first stage of our ‘follow the sun’ support strategy, which will not only expand the physical presence of the company into new geographies to improve support capabilities, but will also enhance the delivery of services and the well-being of our people.

We are a branch-based company and a growth-oriented company. We’ll continue to do what we do best – bringing value to our clients through sustainability, innovation, and customer-service dedication — and we’re very excited to be establishing a presence in the European market.

 

Why Amsterdam?

It’s probably the question we get most often, while the Netherlands boasts a competitive fiscal climate, the primary drivers for choosing a suitable location were focused not on cost but on improving service delivery, increasing productivity, and providing a better work life balance for Long View staff.  With a time difference of 8 hours ahead of Mountain Standard Time, Long View can now offset its after-hours support requirements to its Amsterdam location, allowing access to a larger daytime resource pool and the provision of improved working hour conditions for our staff.  This ability to migrate after-hours support to a normal daytime shift in Amsterdam also provides us with the capability to apply more effective leadership to the after-hours team which has already resulted in significant productivity and service quality improvements. In addition to the already mentioned benefits of the Amsterdam location, which are no doubt significant enough, there are many other advantages to be mentioned. The Netherlands is one of the most ‘wired’ countries globally and has one of the world’s best and most connected technology infrastructures which helps to ensure the optimal performance and continuity of Long View’s IT services. It is also harbor to a conducive and innovative environment, and is culturally similar to both North American and Long View’s culture. In its role as the gateway to Europe, Amsterdam is one of the world’s most prominent international business environments in the world and offers a mature and dynamic workforce. While Dutch may be the national language spoken in the Netherlands, nearly everyone speaks and writes in English and often several other languages at, or very close to, a first language level. With its beautiful canals that span 100+ kms, historic sites and culturally rich setting. Amsterdam was the clear and obvious choice for Long View’s first European office and first leg of our “follow the sun” 24/7 support strategy. Long View Amsterdam 2015 Holiday Party

Aan de slag! / Let’s get to work!

We have a few consulting openings on our Amsterdam team, see if we have a role that’s right for you - http://www.longviewsystems.com/jobs/

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How IoE is Transforming Business

November 17, 2015

The terms “Digital Transformation” and “Internet of Everything” are sufficiently vague enough to make most roll their eyes at the very mention.  The reality however, is that these “catch phrases” are dramatically changing the world around us.  As we move towards connecting the previously un-connected devices, the information available to us from a personal and professional level dramatically changes how we function and make decisions.

I recently went to the store to purchase a simple smoke detector and as I stood at the aisle in my local Home Depot I found myself in an all too common debate: do I purchase the good old traditional version or the new “connected” one for 20% more? Being a notorious gadget guy there wasn’t much of a question in my mind; but at that moment my phone rang and I noticed (on my smart connected watch) that it was my wife calling.  As we spoke I thought I’d introduce her to my dilemma and much to my surprise I didn’t get the usual eye rolling feeling that I was used to, she actually saw the value of it. As our professional world makes this shift, the million dollar question is “What is the value of digital transformation and how can I use it in my industry?” There are a lot of obvious uses, but millions more are yet to be discovered.  In the e-book Digital Transformation with the Internet of Everything there are 100 real world stories of how organizations have already started to make this transformation.  

Be sure to check out a few of my favorites including:

Government:

  • City of Dubai – Reduced traffic fatalities
  • City of San Antonio – Remote court room

Education:

  • Hong Kong Academy – Collaborative learning with technology Manufacturing:
  • Sub-Zero – Accelerate product design, streamline field service, and improve production uptime

Healthcare:

  • Children’s Hospital of Orange County – Access to virtual pediatric network to provide world-class cancer treatment
  • Houston Methodist – Wireless technology improves process, patient experience and safety

Financial Services:

  • American Bank – Proactively protect customer data from malicious hackers
The challenge for us as an industry is how do we take these examples and apply them to our individual business? Let’s work together to start and evolve this innovation. This eBook can give you some ideas on how Cisco IoE might transform your business, whether you’re in Government, Education, Energy, Financial Services, Manufacturing, Mining, Retail or Transportation.
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Game On! Mark Your Calendar for Sottile Cup 2015

November 13, 2015

We’ve locked down November 25th for the Sottile Cup.

On Wednesday, November 25th at 3:30PM, Scotiabank Saddledome everyone is invited to cheer on Long View as we battle ATB Financial in the first annual Sottile Cup. Mario Lemieux once said that every day is a good day for hockey, and on November 25th, it will be an especially good day.  The Sottile Cup is a memorial hockey game that pays tribute to the life of our friend and former CMO Dan Sottile. We are honoured to continue Dan’s legacy of supporting youth hockey across North America. The Sottile Cup will help raise funds and awareness for Hockey Alberta and its Every Kid Every Community Program to honour Dan and continue his passion for ensuring all children have the opportunity to play the game, regardless of financial situation.  

The Match-up:  Team Long View vs. Team ATB (plus special guests from the Calgary Flames alumni)

Game:  Wednesday, November 25th at 3:30PM, Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary

Post-Game Reception:  5:00-7:00PM, Duttons Lounge (Scotiabank Saddledome)

Donate Here:  We are accepting online donations at hockeyalbertafoundation.ca/make-an-impact/sottile-cup/. All proceeds go to Hockey Alberta’s Every Kid Every Community program.

For The Fans:  We encourage everyone to come out and enjoy the game, families are welcome and seating will be on a first come first served basis. Tickets are not required, please RSVP at longviewsystems.com/sottilecup/.

 
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The Business Intelligence Revolution

November 11, 2015

Business Intelligence (BI) has fundamentally changed over the last 3 years. Microsoft’s recent investments and development have created a tool set with some big improvements over the systems of the past.

These tools are enterprise ready and SMB flexible. In opposition to traditional business intelligence, revolutionized BI is:
  • Live - BI tools now connect directly to databases to provide up-to-the-minute accuracy.
  • Self-service - Non-technical users can now create or edit BI reports without SQL knowledge or IT assistance.
  • Graphical - BI tools now use graphical interfaces to make complex data easier to digest.
  • Collaborative - Discover BI reports created by other users in the organization.

Power BI

Power BI is Microsoft’s newest tool. Power BI is delivered as a software as a service subscription, though the design happens offline with a desktop tool. Power BI reports can draw data from a wide variety of sources, including other SaaS services like Google Analytics, Salesforce, and QuickBooks Online. Users can easily merge data from multiple sources into a single dashboard with charts, graphs, and gauges. These graphic representations make complex data more transparent.

Excel 2013

Microsoft has also developed PowerPivot, Power Query, Power View, and Power Map in a familiar tool, Excel 2013. With these improvements, data from a variety of sources can be integrated into dashboards, and these dashboards can be published to a SharePoint site. Depending on the version of Excel and whether it was purchased through an O365 subscription, separate add-ins may need to be installed to access these tools.

Getting started with Business Intelligence

Many clients complain of a data rich, information poor environment. They know they have customer transaction data, marketing data, and data on key performance indicators, but the size and complexity of this data hides the trends, anomalies, and red flags the business needs to see. Address this problem with a business intelligence discovery initiative. This project identifies what opportunities for BI exist, how BI would impact the company, and what tool should be considered.
  • What data is available?
  • Is there inaccurate or duplicate data?
  • What are the key performance indicators?
  • What questions does the business have about the data?
  • What level of access and timeliness is required?
  • And finally, which tool meets these requirements?

Business Intelligence helps businesses make better decisions, find opportunities, and provide better service. What is your data trying to tell you? Learn More.

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An Evolution of the IT Help Desk

October 30, 2015
Many companies deliver their IT help desk in the same way they always have year in and year out without innovation or change. They see the help desk as less strategic than their other IT investments and treat it accordingly. Companies embracing the ITIL service desk see things differently. These companies focus on this touch point as a way to impact user productivity, and they see the strategic value in improving these interactions.

What is the ITIL Service Desk?

At the heart of ITIL is the belief that IT is a service for internal clients- that the purpose of IT is to make those clients more productive. IT isn’t about technology but rather the business and the people who provide value to that business. The ITIL Service Desk is a central component of this approach. It differs from a traditional IT help desk in several big ways. In the ITIL Service Desk model:
  • Every need is met- The service desk has a much wider scope than the traditional IT Help Desk. An ITIL service desk is the central location users can go for any type of support. Users needing help with Technology, AV, Facilities, HR, or Administration go to the service desk for that support. It is the central point of contact for everything.
  • Issues are seen through to conclusion- Users in companies with more traditional IT help desks may have to contact several departments to get support on a single issue. The ITIL service desk takes control of the entire request to keep the user focused on their work.
  • More accessible support- Whenever, however, and where ever a user has an issue, they need to be able to contact support. ITIL delivers this support through phone, texting, email, portals, or in person.
  • The service desk communicates issues and incidents to end users- The ITIL service desk is the client facing part of the IT department. They are responsible for communicating outages and other news to their internal clients and coworkers.
The ITIL service desk and the ITIL methodology positions the IT department at the center of the effort to make end users more productive and effective. This reorients the company’s technology investments and refocuses the department on their clients.  

Outsourcing the Service Desk

While many companies are able to deliver help desks with internal resources, the Service Desk is much more challenging. Staffing a full service desk internally presents several challenges:
  • Career planning for service desk employees- Internal service desk employees often feel that they have to leave the company to progress their careers. This turnover is an unwelcome disruption to companies trying to focus on more strategic work. Outsourcing the service desk offloads the problem to a company that can create a career path for these employees.
  • 24 hour support- Companies with 24 hour day needs often struggle to support users during the night. Putting high level internal employees "On Call" creates burnout in key positions, and isn't a real solution. ITIL Service Desk companies can more easily overcome this challenge.
  • Expertise- Staffing or training ITIL certified employees increases the investment in what is likely a high turnover position.
While limitations define the traditional IT help desk, the ITIL service desk is defined by access - access to answers and support in whatever form the user prefers.

Need advice on outsourcing your Service Desk? Employees demand the fast, effective end user experience, are you really delivering?

Is the service currently provided to your users the “right model”?  Long View would like to offer you a 2 hour free working session to learn your strategies and to show you what over 100 clients and the market is providing as the “right model”…from staffing, to location, to hours of operations, type of staff and support.
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Essential Considerations of a Digital Strategy

October 22, 2015

Not too long ago, a global pharmaceutical corporation suffered a significant impact to their business as a result of an unrecoverable data loss. The resident corporate IT teams found themselves in an urgent scramble to remedy the situation. Unfortunately this reactive scenario continues to play itself out (perhaps) thousands of times per year affecting a great number of organizations. All too often IT teams find themselves inadequately prepared and or equipped to remedy the situation resulting in a higher impact to their internal and external customers.

The problem with a reactive approach is that it doesn’t address the deeper problem: the need for proactive risk management and enterprise architecture. If companies fail to plan appropriately, issues which could have been avoided through better design, planning and purchases can arise later. And if organizations don’t take into account core business objectives when designing an enterprise digital strategy, then they can find themselves scrambling to realign their design after it has been implemented. Companies that handle this most effectively map out and understand pain points before they start spending money on technology solutions. When companies don’t, they often have to go back to the drawing board to invest even more capital and organizational resources to fix it. Investing the time, money and resources to plan and implement a long-term, strategic digital management approach can enable companies to stop being so reactive. The benefits of reduced reactivity can be significant. Here’s some food for thought from a fellow Enterprise Architect:

Align IT with Business Objectives

The top challenges many organizations face with regard to their digital strategies are how to align them to their short or long term business objectives. IT organizations need to understand the business objectives in order to determine which technology solutions are right for the job. Otherwise, they can end up treating the wrong symptoms and not the true cause. Problems will inevitably keep re-emerging, which can perpetuate a reactive culture instead of a proactive solution. The overall digital strategy should be designed to complement and service the current and future of both capital and operational expenditures. Corporate leadership should indeed consider the digital strategy from the lens of positive or negative impacts to the business. Instead, many organizations make the mistake of looking at their digital strategy just from an infrastructure perspective. Or, that the unplanned and or reactively purchased technology infrastructures should somehow dictate digital strategy. Organizations have to examine the intersection and requirements of digital strategy and business objectives. On the business side, consider the following:
  • What are the business challenges?
  • What is the business trying to accomplish?
  • Where are the areas of risk and exposure?
  • Does the technology spend align to satisfy the tactical or strategic vision?
Then, and only then, should organizations look at the strategy from the infrastructure perspective of what tools are best suited to meet those challenges and how many professionals are required to help staff the resident IT team.

Data Classification for the Long Term

To be proactive with data classification, it’s important to develop a strategy that allows for validation and enhancement. How much can it help? Proper use of the correct data classifications can significantly assist in the existing information lifecycle management process, save data center storage resources, increase performance and utilization, reduce expenses and administration overhead. To put data classification on the right track, start by including all parties. Introduce an inclusive investigator and broker of facts (aka Enterprise Architect) that has executive mandate. Is there an open dialogue about data classification between IT staff, architects, application owners and management (or other stakeholders)? This should build from the initial efforts towards aligning with and understanding the core business objectives. This can be a fairly involved process, but the time spent upfront can lead to a uniform strategic direction and ultimately reduce problems down the road. In contrast, a more basic data classification approach may speed up the process at the start, but it could cost you down the road when small errors become exponentially magnified as volumes of corporate data aggressively grows.

Avoiding the Quick Fix Quandary

It can be very frustrating if you get sidetracked from long-term strategic goals by having to continuously fix problems every day as the result of a reactive culture. The persistent issues that IT deals with on a daily basis can be mitigated with a proactive approach. Addressing possible issues by mapping out a digital management strategy helps reduces the likelihood of individual problems while, at the same time, establishing a proactive method for dealing with future issues. Failure to plan can result in the continuous use of time and resources to combat simple, yet repetitive problems. There is a secondary issue that can stem from a reactive approach. It can put an organization in the position of having to act quickly and allowing technologies that haven’t been sufficiently tested to enter into their production. The risk with applying new and cutting edge quick fixes to problems is that they often take on a life of their own over the long term. While they may solve the immediate problem, they can also create unforeseen complications down the line. The answer is to take the time to address the issues fully before they manifest themselves. It’s well advised to stop and do a comprehensive evaluation of the possible solutions before introducing new technologies into the picture.

It’s All About Managing Risk

In uncertain economic times, managing risk is more important than ever. Today, it can be much harder to bounce back from a significant business interruption or unexpected losses. In addition, the typical cost of avoiding such threats is dramatically less than the cost of recovering from them. A critical part of such planning lies in recognizing that your organization’s risk-preparedness must live up to recovery objectives – or risk a significant gap in business continuity that could lead to lost revenue, lost resources and lost reputation. Or much worse. It’s important to create an information security and business continuity/disaster recovery agenda with an eye towards compliance, auditability, recovery objectives and partner assurance. Apply industry standards and frameworks to help assess how your company’s risk profile looks today, where it should progress to tomorrow, and what steps should be taken to get there. Effective risk management means being proactive. It begins at the policy and strategy level to better assess, design, implement and manage your business response to unplanned events - in other words, the application of the Enterprise Architecture doctrine.

The Future is Digital

Your organization’s operations are fueled by information. The demands of information storage and data management are skyrocketing. The challenges include optimizing your IT investments while getting the best performance and business value out of your production or public cloud infrastructure today – all while preparing for growth tomorrow. Intelligent data management is increasingly focused on information policies and the value of data as established by business, compliance and security requirements. As such, a world-class production technology infrastructure must anticipate a vast array of needs – well-managed growth, tiered storage, reduction of redundant data, networked systems, consolidation and virtualization, data classification, data privacy, off premises mobility and agility, rapid accessibility and thorough reporting capabilities, just to name a few. In order to face these challenges head on, it’s important to be proactive. By doing so, production technology infrastructures and the people who care for them will more closely align with the business value of data, business capacity requirements, and capital & operating expenditure considerations.  Enterprise Architects are as such uniquely equipped to introduce and establish a healthy and proactive design doctrine to help fully align the digital strategy to the business strategy.  And that will help keep your enterprise boat sailing through the toughest seas.  

The future is indeed digital — mobile, cloud, social, and big data are disrupting the business landscape. Have us in for an envisioning workshop, we can help build out your 2016 digital roadmap.

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