Fair & (Insight) Balanced

– Jeff Gorman, Business Unit Director


The modern data center architecture in many organizations is radically different from the layout in the recent past. The proliferation of shared storage, virtual servers, and the provisioning of single applications across a variety of these resources is a significant departure from the historical model of individual physical servers supporting specific applications. The benefits of the new architecture are well documented with respect to efficient utilization of resources, potential power and space savings, improved business continuity, and many other facets that present compelling business cases.

One aspect of the new architecture that does not seem to draw much focus is the perspective that traditional tools are unable to effectively assist in the provisioning, management, and troubleshooting of this heterogeneous environment. With such a dramatically different means for allocating resources, and such a fundamental difference in what key metrics need to be gathered for management and troubleshooting, new tools are required to maximize the benefits of the intended efficiency improvements. Without a comprehensive, unified view across key platforms, it is not possible to ensure the appropriate balance of resource allocation is being achieved to ensure systems are adequately provisioned. Without that comprehensive view, it is not possible to get a unified analysis of performance across systems to assist with capacity planning, proactive allocation, and consistent service level performance.

InsightBalanced

NetApp’s Insight Balance is a performance and capacity management software solution providing analysis across IT virtualization layers and technology silos for both virtual and physical servers and storage. It is a tool designed to provide a unified view of the modern data center architecture, allowing organizations to maximize the benefits of their computing resources. The solution is not specific to NetApp storage; it works with Dell, EMC, HDS, HP, IBM, and NetApp storage as well as Windows, HP-UX, RHE, Solaris, VMware, and Hyper-V servers.

Unlike traditional management tools that look only at one silo (physical or virtual, servers or storage), Insight Balance agentless software dynamically models and analyzes the entire server and storage infrastructure to understand how application workloads, utilization levels, and resources interact, bringing much-needed infrastructure-wide intelligence to the data center. Its sophisticated analytics provide intelligent alerting, actionable recommendations, and proactive service management guidance to help with remediation, optimization, and planning. Leveraging Insight Balance as an independent advisor, IT managers invest in capital equipment only when they truly require it, not when a vendor says they do.

By helping system administrators effectively plan across the server and storage platforms that are shared among multiple systems, providing proactive management of those physical and virtual systems, and providing an integrated view for root cause analysis of issues within those heterogeneous systems, Insight Balance provides significant business benefits for organizations looking to maximize the positive impact of their data center resources.

Contact your Keller Schroeder Account Manager for more information or a demonstration of NetApp Insight Balance.


Spotlight On….

Employee Owner: Tim Deem

TimDeem

Tim has over 25 years of experience in the Networking arena, including experience in managing Bristol-Myers’ Global Network, and managing a regionally-based Internet Service Provider operations center. He has been directly involved in designing, planning, implementing and troubleshooting Wide Area Network (WAN) and Network Security projects for International companies, large enterprises and small businesses. In addition, his recent experience he been as the technical lead for deploying secure and robust Unified Communications (voice) solutions for enterprises with both US and International locations. He is a Senior Network Consultant.

Tim is a home grown, Evansville native and a graduate of the University of Southern Indiana. His wife, Diane, and two sons, Nathan and Joshua, live on the west side of town (Go Reitz!) and he can often be found tapping his foot to his substantial eclectic collection of music or focusing behind the lens of his Nikon D90 capturing people, landscapes, buildings and other area sights.

Contact your Keller Schroeder Sr. Account Manager to learn more about Tim and how you can leverage his experience and skills to the benefit of your organization.


Willingness Listening

There is no shortage on research and instruction regarding good listening skills. There are active listeners, passive listeners, empathetic listeners, and pathetic listeners. I would add one more category for consideration – “willingness listeners”.

Whether in leadership, marriage, parenting, or otherwise, critical knowledge and wisdom can be missed when we listen well, but do not listen with a willingness to be influenced.

How often have you been speaking to someone, and either by a shake of the head or other nonverbal cues, you know before you finish your sentence that the answer is “no”? A better question: How often do we have our own minds made up on a topic or a request before we have seriously considered its merits? Make no mistake, people who know us well are quite aware of whether we are listening just to be patient or listening with a genuine openness to change.

One of our Core Values at Keller Schroeder reads like this: “We are passionate about our clients – actively listening, understanding their needs, and making their best interests our priority.” The last phrase of this statement – pertaining to their best interests – is what inspires passion for our clients and the desire to be active listeners. If we are genuinely concerned about the best interests of someone other than ourselves, then we are naturally more prone to listen to them in a way that allows them to change our minds and our actions.

Often we listen well, and even learn well, but we do not allow this learning to change our mind, or to change us. We acknowledge its value for someone else, but we fail to see the need to apply it personally. We may think we already know all there is to know about the subject area. We may not respect the teacher or requestor as having ideas worthy of our consideration.

Regardless of the reason, we do ourselves and our businesses, families, and other relationships harm if we miss the opportunity to change for the better as a result of that which we hear and experience along our journey. The truth is that we can learn from the experiences, requests, and opinions of even the least respected or poorly informed sources.

Not all information is good or useful, but if we are not careful, we let our routines or our predispositions crowd out a powerful opportunity to change or grow. If my head begins to shake “no” (physically or just in my thoughts) before a concept has been fully communicated to me, then my chances of receiving similar ideas or input in the future from that same source with the same level of innovation and passion are virtually zero.

The key is not to be just a good listener – it’s about how we let what we hear impact us.

Larry May
President


Off the Beaten InfoPath

– Rob Wilson, Business Unit Director
It happens all the time! You get one of those pesky emails with a PDF attachment that you are supposed to fill out, scan, and email back to the recipient. You think to yourself “If only I were a programmer, I could show these people how to create this form better as a web page.” But while you’re extraordinary at what you do, and understand your business processes better than any other person in the whole world, you could never develop a digital solution to streamline a process, right? Wrong!

It turns out that you may have had the solution at your fingertips all along, but just did not realize it. If you have Microsoft Office Professional Plus, then you have at your disposal the premier electronic forms solution – InfoPath. If you open it up, you will find that InfoPath is as easy to use as Microsoft Word. In addition, you can put text boxes, date pickers, list boxes, and numerous other controls onto a form. You can even add an attachment field so people can attach images, documents, or other artifacts to the form. Yes, YOU can do this! When the form is completed by the recipient, it can be printed, emailed, saved as a PDF, or saved into a database. In addition, InfoPath has a big brother that separates it from the other electronic forms solutions you may have checked out – SharePoint.

When you add SharePoint to the mix, InfoPath goes from “awesome” to “awesomer!” Eh, we mean “more awesome.” SharePoint provides you with a place to centrally manage, serve, and secure your forms. Forms can be routed with SharePoint workflows. Form data can be extracted from the form to a SharePoint list where you can slice it, dice it, filter it, sort it, group it, even export to Excel. Suffice it to say you can do a lot of stuff. If you have SharePoint Enterprise, the form can be published as a web page so that the user does not have to have InfoPath installed on their desktop to fill the form out.

If you are a small business who does not have SharePoint 2010 Enterprise at your disposal, there is an InfoPath 2010 forms solution in some of the new Office365 cloud offerings. Your Keller Schroeder Sr. Account Manager can help you determine which solution would be best for you.

How to know if you could really use InfoPath and SharePoint:
– Do I have paper forms that my employees, customers, patients or partners do or could fill out electronically?
– Do I have cumbersome business processes that could be streamlined?
– Do I have good visibility to a form in an approval process or whose inbox the request is currently in?
– Do I have infrequently business processes that could be better structured to keep them from falling between the cracks?
– Do I need a way to easily slice and dice the data gathered from recipients filling out my form?

Just one “yes” to any of the above questions makes InfoPath worth a look. Common use cases we’ve witnessed include new or terminated employee forms, expense reimbursement forms, material requisition forms, time sheets, etc. Keep an eye on our SharePoint blog http://sharepointblog.kellerschroeder.com for an upcoming series on InfoPath, and contact us for more information.


LogRhythm & Blues

– Jeff Gorman, Business Unit Director

Many organizations simply do not have a reliable method for collecting log and event data from key systems within their infrastructure. Historically, systems that collect that comprehensive logging data have either produced a volume of data that made them unrealistic to use for extracting relevant data or have been so expensive to implement in terms of resources and staff that few organizations could justify the investment.

In today’s environment, several organizations face regulatory requirements for log management, event management, file integrity and privileged user monitoring. Whatever the driver – PCI-DSS, SOX, HIPAA, FISMA, NERC CIP, GLBA, GCSx, GPG13, or simply a desire to more proactively plan and track events within the infrastructure, organizations face challenges in meeting these requirements easily, efficiently, and affordably. The cost of acquisition, deployment and ongoing management of disparate solutions, even if they are offered by one vendor, can be substantial.

No matter what the reason for implementing a log management or information monitoring solution, the complexity of installation, operation and ongoing management will go a long way toward determining its success. A solution that can’t be deployed, learned and operated without requiring major resources can become more of a problem than a solution. IT executives need to be assured that what they invest in today will accommodate their immediate organizational needs and those in the future.

Because of these requirements, more businesses are looking for Security Information Event Management (SIEM) systems to improve their business proposition both in terms of value and efficiency.

Distinct from legacy SIEM solutions, LogRhythm fully integrates traditionally separate log management and security event management functions to collect, analyze and correlate log data – with a single console for operating and administering all components. Collecting data from any source, LogRhythm’s SIEM 2.0 platform builds on an advanced data management structure with extensive data enrichment to analyze all log data in real-time. Automated risk-based prioritization, powerful forensics, advanced visualization and alerting in a simple-to-use GUI empowers organizations to gain unprecedented visibility and control over their enterprise IT environment.

A wealth of valuable information can be derived from log data – whether it originates in applications, databases, servers, network devices or endpoint systems. By automating the collection, organization, analysis, archiving and reporting of all log data, LogRhythm enables organizations to easily meet specific requirements, whether driven by internal best practices or one of many compliance regulations. LogRhythm delivers valuable, timely and actionable insights into security, availability, performance and audit-related issues.

LogRhythm appliances come in a variety of models including High Availability solutions that support business continuity and information assurance for LogRhythm deployments. Because of LogRhythm’s distributed, incrementally scalable architecture, deployments can start with a single appliance and scale from there by simply adding appliances. Regardless of the performance, storage or geographic requirements, LogRhythm is architected for flexible and efficient expansion.

LogRhythm is an enterprise-class platform that seamlessly combines Log Management, SIEM, File Integrity Monitoring, and Network & User Monitoring into a single integrated solution. It is highly reliable and cost-effective, and can scale to fit the needs of any enterprise. With LogRhythm, you can invest in a single solution to address requirements and challenges throughout your organization, whether they are related to compliance, security or IT operations.

To learn more about how this product might benefit your environment, please contact your Keller Schroeder Senior Account Manager for more information or a demonstration.


Annual Client Appreciation Event Honors U.S. Veterans

Through its annual Client Appreciation Event held on October 7th, Keller Schroeder honored U.S. veterans with a “Fall Fusion:  American Style” theme.  Local members of the U.S. National Guard were in attendance at the Event, along with more than 200 clients of Keller Schroeder who were treated to lunch, music, free gifts and casual conversation.

Continuing its tradition of giving back to the community through the Client Appreciation Event, Keller Schroeder and its employee-owners donated over 1,000 personal items in support of the “Totes for Hope” initiative sponsored by the American Red Cross.  The totes will be delivered to local veterans who are in need over the coming months.  Client attendees at the Event were also encouraged to bring items for the totes and, in appreciation of their participation, Keller Schroeder entered their names into a $500 Visa gift card drawing.  Several other prizes and giveaways were provided by Keller Schroeder and a select group of vendor sponsors.

Key partners of Keller Schroeder who provided support and sponsorship for this year’s event included Cisco, NetApp, LifeSize, and LogRhythm.

Client Appreciation Event 2011
Client Appreciation Event 2011


Microsoft Partner: Customer Satisfaction Survey Results

As part of an annual qualification process, Microsoft Gold Competency partners participate in a customer satisfaction survey completed anonymously by active clients.  Over the years Keller Schroeder has consistently exceeded partner averages in every category, and that trend continues.  This year, Keller Schroeder also scored a perfect 100 on overall performance while the average of all Microsoft Partners dropped to 65.

Area Keller Schroeder Partner Averages
Overall 100% 65%
Ease of doing business 100 71
Quality of communication 92 68
Value received 100 62
Likely to recommend 100 91
Likely to repurchase 100 88
Ability to meet your needs 100 69

Some firms specialize in infrastructure (such as server and database software), and others specialize in applications (such as SharePoint and .Net development), but Keller Schroeder’s deep expertise includes both.  This adds strength to Keller Schroeder’s Microsoft practice, and is evidenced by the 100% score for “ability to meet your needs”.

“I want to thank our clients for their trust and confidence, as well as their continued business partnership!” says Keller Schroeder President Larry May.


Catching and Throwing

For a guy who leads a 75-person consulting firm in a challenging business climate, coaching a youth softball team ( ages 7 and 8 ) this Spring should be a piece of cake, right? I mean, how hard could it be? I have played and followed baseball all my life and coached older boys’ and girls’ teams for several years.

I was fairly well-prepared for most of the differences between 7 year-olds and 16 year-olds, but one thing surprised me: I started the season with 3 girls out of 11 who could catch and throw. Not a typo… 3 girls. Needless to say it has been an exciting and funny adventure. The girls are getting better and the coach is being humbled by the challenge.

The fundamental building blocks of success in softball and baseball are catching and throwing. Kids who do not learn to consistently, dependably catch and throw will eventually not be able to play the game. The “catching and throwing” of the game of business is making and keeping commitments. We often focus on other aspects of the sport at the expense of these fundamentals. At Keller Schroeder, our clients want to know one thing more than anything else: “If you tell me what you are going to do, and by when you will have it done, can I depend on you to do what you say?”

Making and keeping commitments builds trust and credibility. Those who are most trustworthy and credible are the ones to whom we give the most important assignments. Those who we trust most are the ones whose leadership we are most willing to follow. This is simple stuff. Why then do we experience such chronic underperformance in business when it comes to budget attainment, deadlines, and other unmet expectations?

There are several reasons, but some of the most important ones are:

(1) making commitments that cannot be kept,
(2) procrastinating about sharing the bad news when circumstances require that a commitment be revoked or changed, and
(3) simply not placing a high enough value on these fundamentals.

The foundational requirement of meeting commitments is that we do not accept ones that can’t be met. This seems simple. But it requires discipline and courage to say “no” when the marketplace is screaming “yes” to a combination of time, resources, and requirements that is impossible. Effective leaders will say “no” to the impossible and then do the hard work of negotiation to arrive at an agreeable and achievable goal.

Everyone makes a commitment at some point that turns out to be unattainable, due to changing circumstances or mistaken assumptions. It may seem more heroic to “amp up” the hours and effort in the face of an impossible commitment, but the wise choice is to communicate early and transparently when it looks as though a commitment is not going to be met. This affords all parties the best opportunity to construct a viable alternative to the original plan.

The “catching and throwing” equivalency in business of making and meeting commitments cannot be adequately developed if these fundamentals are only applied during high-stakes, big-game situations. Effective leaders are practicing the fundamentals every day. If the boss is always 10 minutes late to staff meetings, why should he be surprised if the team is 10 days late with their project deliverable? If cross-department communication standards are ignored internally, is it any surprise when one of these departments falls short of customers’ demands for timely order status updates?

Like most of the important building blocks of success in business, making and meeting commitments is not a skill-centered exercise. It is an attitude, a discipline, and a decision on how an individual or an organization will choose to do business. How well these fundamentals are stressed, developed, and modeled by leaders will determine in large part the final score for your team in the game of business.

Larry May
President


Are These the Droids You’re Looking for?

– Jill Epperson, Business Unit Director

“There’s an app for that!” Remember that fun little phrase? There was a time when mobile strategy gurus believed that the only way to win big with mobile devices was to find your way into the iPhone App Store. But times are changing. Androids sales are surging, and a recent Gartner press release predicts that Androids will have nearly half the worldwide smartphone market by the end of 2012. This same press release also predicts that Microsoft’s mobile platform will outpace Apple by 2015. Yes, the times, they are a changin’!

Building a mobile app can be a time-consuming and expensive process, and for best user experience, may require device-specific applications (which means you’re building separate applications for iPhone vs. Android vs. Blackberry vs. Windows Phone). Some app stores charge fees and/or have screening processes for determining whether or not you can publish your app to their store. Maintainability can be cumbersome, since new releases and bug fixes must be published to the app store and downloaded to each device again. With all the confusion over mobile apps (not to mention the new skills required by developers to build them), as well as advancements in mobile browser capabilities, many companies are now opting for mobile websites instead.

But is this the right choice for your company? A few minor tweaks to your existing site might make it possible to navigate on a smartphone, but if you want a truly mobile optimized site providing a good user experience, more is often required. Creating a mobile website means designing pages that load fast; fit nicely within the smartphone browser real estate; offer the most frequently needed information quickly (trim out all the fluff); and are easy to navigate, with navigation and interactive elements placed in such a way as to make them easy to use in a “touch” interface.

Realistically, there is some investment either way. So what is the best strategy for your company? To determine the answer, you need to set aside all the hype on both sides of this debate and consider the basics:

  • Who is your target audience?
    (Employees, business partners, customer base, general public)
  • When and how will the app/site be used?
    (To perform a job task, to buy your product, etc.)
  • How often will they come to your app/site?
    (Some research suggests that less than 5% of downloaded apps continue to be used 20 days after download. Is there a compelling reason for the target audience to download an app vs. bookmark a site?)
  • How many different devices, with what capabilities, will your target audience use?

Answering these questions is a good starting point. Keller Schroeder can help you define your mobile strategy and work with you to implement a plan that meets your needs, whether that strategy includes mobile apps, mobile web sites, or a combination of both.

Contact your Keller Schroeder Senior Account Manager to learn more or discuss the benefits of implementing this technology within your environment.


Mind the Gap

– Susie Mattingly, Business Unit Director

Technical-Skills-GapWith businesses increasingly turning to more sophisticated automation to drive efficiencies, many are worried they won’t be able to find enough technically-skilled workers over the next decade according to CFO magazine. Almost any company is a candidate to feel the pinch as demand for skilled IT workers, researchers and other positions outstrips the supply. Companies may need to look at a mix of strategies such as higher wages, paying or providing bonuses as an incentive for extra work hours, and supplementing their permanent workforce with consultants.

The shortage of technically skilled workers was first identified in the early 1990s but many observers expect it to worsen over the next several years due to two converging factors: (1) the big wave of baby-boomer retirements, and (2) fewer students pursuing technically-oriented career paths. “Our young people love technology,” says Edward Gordon, an author and former college professor who consults with companies on workforce issues, particularly concerning the skilled-labor shortage. “But they don’t want to design, manufacture, repair, or manage it. They consider these jobs inferior and socially uncool.”

Research by Gordon, who has written two books on the topic, estimates that by 2020 there will be 123 million high-skilled, high-pay jobs available in the U.S., but only 50 million Americans with the right education to fill them. U.S. companies are already turning to other countries to supplement the local talent, and they will surely do more of that in the next few years.

Your company can participate in bridging this gap by taking an active role in our community’s education initiatives. Partner with schools to introduce younger students to various occupations before they have to decide on a major for college. Show them how cool technology is by inviting them to your company to demonstrate technical equipment and link that to their need to learn math, science and technology. Take steps to partner with local trade or community colleges. Offer scholarships in vocations where the need is greatest.

A way to cope with the talent loss from retirees is to negotiate a gradual exit for them. Many would like to remain involved but no longer want to work 40 hours. Currently several retirees from our community have returned to work through Keller Schroeder’s Staffing Solutions Group and are working on projects for our clients. It has been the perfect solution with reduced hours, occasional time off and some winters off for an extended vacation in other areas. Our clients have had the benefit of their vast knowledge and experience. A great win-win for all involved.

Ultimately, the skills gap has to be dealt with so be a part of the solution to help your company survive and thrive in what is predicted to be a tight labor market in the years ahead.

To determine whether Keller Schroeder’s Staffing Services might be of assistance in locating technically skilled candidates for your organization, contact our Staffing Group to start the discussion.