Welcome to the Sentinel Blog!
We are proud to feature a carefully curated collection of articles and other content related to the most important technology topics of today and beyond. Our posts are composed and edited by Sentinel’s ALWAYS ENGAGED team of solutions architects, engineers, project managers and other subject matter experts.
Breaking Down Silos - An ITIL Imperative
Seven years ago, former technology journalist and current Gartner Research Director George Spafford wrote an informative article on silos that accurately reflected a trend in enterprise IT at that time. Unfortunately, silos still exist today and continue to harm businesses. Transferring information can lead to solid business growth, but only if done properly. ITIL remains the best solution to the silo situation. Sentinel’s Advisory Services Group works with our clients to assist in breaking down silos by focusing on the ITIL Framework. This is a very important piece with critical information that can benefit both IT and business professionals, which is why we’re sharing it in full here:
Note: This article originally appeared in ITSMWatch in June 2010.
Breaking Down Silos – An ITIL Imperative
By George Spafford
IT organizations typically follow a hierarchical division of labor with classic command and control structures that often results in silo'd groups. These overly verticalized groups tend to be isolated, self-invested and not working towards common goals.
On one hand, this bureaucratic structure promotes/enables specialization of technical skills but, on the other, there are imperfect transfers of data, information, knowledge and work between various groups leading to inefficiency, ineffectiveness and higher risks. IT organizations that are seeking to improve must carefully plan and take action to break down these silos for the betterment of the organization as a whole.
If improperly pursued, ITIL processes tend to exacerbate silos by formally reinforcing the roles and responsibilities of a given functional area in isolation. In actuality, the ITIL documentation does provide base sets of interactions between processes. Teams responsible for the design and implementation of processes must pay close attention towards both formally defining the integration of areas as well as promoting, formally and informally, the fact that everyone must work together in concert to support the goals of the business through IT services and their continual improvement.
As management and process improvement teams develop strategies, design and implement processes, they must take into account the integrated and tightly coupled "system" of IT processes and the nature of work. To help reduce silos and foster teamwork, this article sets forth the following base recommendations:
Tone from the top - First and foremost, from senior management downwards, it must be made clear that groups are to work together to create and value; that is to say to work together to enable the business to pursue the goal with adequate safeguards. They must make it clear that isolationism will not be tolerated and that the various groups must work together. If process documentation and such provides the letter of the law then management's "tone" must help identify and reinforce the spirit of the law. In other words, the need for various teams to work together must be an intrinsic part of how work is conducted and be clearly reinforced by senior management.
In this age of tight budgets, accelerated time to market and high expectations, management cannot afford impediments to high performance. Silo'd groups that are allowed to blame one another or develop other compensating mechanisms to overcome the perceived shortcomings of other teams will not be effective and efficient in the long-run (not to mention increase the level of risk inherent in IT services).
Formalize and promote process and data architectures - There must be an over-arching systemic perspective that guides the design of processes to maximize their value. As such, there must be a formal architecture that identifies the various processes and their relationships to one another. This includes the documentation of inputs, outputs, dependencies and so on.
The process architecture will also serve as an input to the creation of a supporting data architecture that can be coupled with a tools strategy to improve integration and overall effectiveness and efficiency. Process and data architectures are increasingly important due to complexity in the business and IT environments. If anything, a lack of formal architectures will allow organic complexity and costs to dramatically increase over time.
Design and implement processes with clear integration - In accordance with the formal process architecture, each individual process must be designed and implemented. To help avoid or break down silos, process design and implementation methodologies should take into account the following:
+Processes need to be formally documented for consistency, training and continuous improvement. This documentation must be clear and truly add value lest useless shelfware be created.
+Process integrations need to be identified in the documentation. For example, when does Incident Management need to engage Change Management and how? Process flows and sub process flows need to identify this information and have supporting detail.
+Roles and responsibilities need to be identified. The use of swim lane diagrams for visual depictions and RACI charts to methodically identify involvement can reduce ambiguity.
+There must be training when the processes are launched or revised as well as annual refresher training. It is imperative that staff understand what is expected of them.
+Documentation and training must effectively communicate why the process matters. What are its objectives and why should people bother following it?
+Processes should be reviewed at least annually or after organizational events such as mergers, divestitures, and so on.
+Management should design processes to include the necessary data collection and reporting to provide oversight both on a specific process and on the system overall. For example, the performance of one isolated server is less relevant than the performance of an overall service in the eyes of customers and users.
Recognize and address human factors - To further break down silos, job descriptions, performance reviews and compensation plans need to both reflect the output of IT overall as well as customer satisfaction and the needs of the business overall. If they are created and managed with a local focus then the silo mindset will be reinforced and attempts to create a system focus will likely fail.
Consider the following: a server engineer may be primarily judged by the number of servers built and availability of the servers specifically. Those measures focus on a fraction of what it takes to provision and sustain an IT service. As a result, the engineer may focus only his servers at the expense of the business. The perspective can change by measuring performance and such at the service level as well as customer satisfaction. Thus, it wouldn't be the engineer's server performance solely that is looked at but also the service that they are a part of such as SAP in support of accounts payable.
To break down IT silos, senior management must have the appropriate tone from the top. Process and data architectures must be developed to guide efforts from a cohesive systemic perspective. With the architectures taken into account, processes need to be designed and purposefully implemented with integration factored in. Last but certainly not least, "soft" human factor issues need to be designed and implemented to reinforce the desired organizational changes.
If you are interested in learning more about silos and how Sentinel’s Advisory Services Group can help you break them down using the ITIL Framework, please contact us.
Building A Better Disaster Recovery Plan
By Dr. Mike Strnad, Sentinel Strategic Business Advisor
More organizations than ever are starting to realize the importance of having a comprehensive Disaster Recovery Plan in place. Should a catastrophic incident such as a flood or fire destroy all or part of your office(s), it’s essential to have a clear set of instructions detailing what to do and how to proceed to get things up and running again. Failing to regularly update your DR plan or simply not having one at all places your business at exceptional risk, potentially resulting in prohibitively high costs, loss of revenue, and/or permanent damage to your reputation.
One area that is most commonly overlooked is documentation. Having decaying or outdated documentation can severely sabotage or even destroy your DR plan. Sentinel understands this, which is why our Advisory Services Group has put together a Business Continuity Executive-Level Overview that helps executives identify:
• Flaws in Business Impact Management
• Unidentified Risks
• Flaws in Incident Management
• Limitations of your current Disaster Recovery Plan
The overview concentrates on areas of vital importance that link back to a successful and dependable Disaster Recovery Plan. Some potential issues our certified experts help to uncover include:
• Old documents that have not been reviewed within a year
• New security incidents that have been occurring where risks have not been identified
• New or retired assets (servers, applications, personnel) that influenced the development of the current Disaster Recovery Plan
To learn more about the ways Sentinel’s Advisory Services Group can help your business to develop an effective and up-to-date Disaster Recovery plan, please contact us or your local Sentinel sales representative.
The Importance of a Business Continuity Plan
By Dr. Mike Strnad, Sentinel Strategic Business Advisor
Plan. Do. Check. Act. These words should be engraved in the minds technology professionals. As the focus on security continues to grow, it’s never been more imperative for organizations to have a solid Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in place should a breach, ransomware, or other catastrophe occur. BCPs get created and become stale very quickly. Susan Snedaker and Chris Rima wrote an interesting book titled “Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning for IT Professionals”. In it, they described the birth of business continuity and disaster recovery, stating that this topic was originally not on the mind of many organizations.
Modern technology services allow you work faster than ever, with greater flexibility and more efficiency. As a result, recovering from a disaster big or small should be easier. But a recovery is only effective with good preparation and a well-understood disaster recovery plan. BCPs become outdated, as do knowledge base articles. These should be considered “living documents” and adjusted regularly. An efficient, reviewed, and updated BCP will not only improve your speed to recover from a catastrophe, but it will also save you money and ultimately protect and enhance your business reputation.
The key first step in creating a BCP is to understand exactly how your business operates. The better you understand the core elements of your business, the more effective the BCP will be. Looking closely at Business Impact Management, Risk Management, and Incident Response Management can help lead to an effective Disaster Recovery plan. All 4 of these elements are vital to any well-written, reviewed, and executed BCP.
Many technology and business executives have not gone through an actual DR scenario where dollars were on the line until recovery was established. Sentinel’s Advisory Services Group has this experience, and found that a plan is only as good as the accuracy of the information. Time is money, and a stale BCP could result in a lot of lost revenue.
Ultimately, it is important to review your BCP after significant changes, testing, or incidents and provide feedback. Talk to your employees and analyze what went well and what did not. The more staff members are involved in the planning and development of the BCP, the better and more efficient it will become. An Executive High-Level Business Readiness Overview could provide visibility into your process and identify gaps. Our Advisory Services team is well versed in this process and look to bring the value of our collective experience to benefit our customers. Please contact us or your local Sentinel sales representative to learn more about how we can help your organization establish a plan to bounce back quickly in the event of a disaster.
Common Misconceptions About ITIL
By Dr. Mike Strnad, Sentinel Strategic Business Advisor
Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) can be highly beneficial to organizations that follow the approaches, techniques, and methodologies it recommends. When implemented properly, businesses generally experience increases in the overall quality and return on investment made in their IT products, solutions, and services. Unfortunately, since its conception ITIL has been plagued with false rumors, myths, and general disinformation that have frequently resulted in confusion and opacity about what it is and the advantages it can provide. In an attempt to add some clarity to the conversation, here are five popular misconceptions about ITIL, paired with the correct information.
1. ITIL is a set of standards that must strictly be adhered to.
- ITIL is a set of detailed practices for IT service management (ITSM) that focuses on aligning IT services with the specific needs of a business.
2. ITIL is only for big companies.
- ITIL is a process approach that can be tailored to fit any business no matter the size.
3. ITIL is incompatible with other practices.
- ITIL is a framework, methodology, or philosophy that provides answers to all questions, doesn’t require a significant change in working practices, and doesn’t require additional guidance from outside its own closed space.
4. ITIL is for internal use only.
- ITIL represents a way for service providers to figure out what the customer values without having to bother the customer with trivial questions. The inability to do so is an indication of missing skills and ignoring a standard.
5. ITIL is primarily about processes.
- ITIL describes the capabilities required for delivering services as a set of 26 processes and four functions, divided between five lifecycle stages.
If you are interested in learning more about ITIL and the many ways it can benefit your organization, please contact us or your local Sentinel sales representative.
Sentinel's Culture and Core Values
By Holly Gomez, Sentinel Support Services Manager
A key characteristic that many individuals look for when seeking employment or to contract services is a company that has core values and a culture that matches their own personal values and goals. Having worked here for six years, I can certainly say that Sentinel Technologies has more than lived up to my expectations. I also believe that our core values are the number one contributor to our success.
Sentinel’s primary core value is uncompromised integrity. We strive to implement quality solutions that meet the unique business needs of our customers. By establishing a foundation of honesty and having a commitment to doing the right thing, Sentinel has created a positive culture where employees feel their contributions work toward a goal worth achieving. The integrity with which Sentinel approaches every customer interaction also sets us apart from our competitors. We are committed to ensuring that our solutions are carried out according to best practices, and the end result ensures customer satisfaction. If any issues arise, we stand behind our products and solutions.
Another key focus at Sentinel is quality of service. Our strategy in providing the highest quality implementations is to employ the most talented, creative, and technically experienced people in the IT industry. This has resulted in excellence in our core offerings, as well as a variety of cutting edge and value-driven products and services. Our Strategic Advisory and Security as a Service offerings are great examples of how Sentinel has utilized its top performers and talent to develop solutions that meet emerging market needs for our customers. One of our clients recently commented:
“I wanted to take a moment again to acknowledge all the people at Sentinel who have done so much to make my job a little easier. We just finished several projects with Sentinel, a survey implementation on our Call Center implementation, the completion of our UC upgrade with the Jabber implementation, and we are drawing to the close of a Premium upgrade on our UCCX with a chat implementation. [Sentinel employee] has been an outstanding engineer to work with. He stays on task, takes the time to ask if we have questions, and makes sure features are functioning as designed. Sentinel engineers always prompt me to see if there is anything I need, rather than having to chase them down to get something done. I am still amazed by the overall quality of the engineers Sentinel has.”
Our third hallmark value is that we are relationship-oriented. At Sentinel, our business is not just about the bottom line. Sentinel has a myriad of programs to help their employees know that they are valued and appreciated, including chair massages, health and wellness programs, holiday gatherings, employee appreciation outings and lunches, take your child to work day, and celebrations when staff members have special life events. Sentinel also invests in its staff by providing training opportunities and equipping each of our team members to reach their full potential. We strive to not only be co-workers, but to truly care about one another.
I certainly consider the Sentinel Michigan Team to be my second family. I have developed some life-long relationships as a part of my career with this company. This same focus translates out to our customers. We strive to build relationships built on mutual respect with our clients. We host regular customer events to introduce customers to our new products and develop long-lasting partnerships. One recent example is our movie event that we hosted last May in Novi, MI with our friends at Meraki. Over 150 customers attended and had a great time. But customers aren’t just a number at Sentinel. We take the time to get to know our clients, understand their environments and business needs, and strive to be an involved technology partner. Our goal is to always provide service with a personal touch and make sure our clients know that they can rely on us when it counts.
These three core values, uncompromised integrity, quality of service, and relationship orientation, make Sentinel a premier place to develop a life-long career and set us apart as one of the best companies in the technology industry. I am proud to be a team member at Sentinel and look forward to all that is to come as we continue to grow, open new offices, and expand into new and emerging markets. All of that is thanks to a culture that attracts and keeps top talent, motivates our staff to be the best version of themselves, and ensures our customers receive the excellent service they deserve.
Five Reasons to Give Cisco Umbrella a Shot
By Odell Waters, Sentinel Senior Solutions Architect
While they remain an important part of any security architecture, next-generation firewalls alone no longer provide enough protection to businesses, because the perimeter continues to evolve and change on a regular basis. Perimeter security used to be about protecting the corporate network where it meets with the outside world (internet, private lines, etc.). The perimeter now extends beyond the network to any host or device that roams off and on the network, which includes end users with corporate laptops and mobile devices.
So the challenge is now about how to protect your corporate assets and network in an increasingly mobile world, where security tends to only cover users while they are on premise. If corporate assets aren’t protected when off premise, that’s when you are most vulnerable. If that host winds up infected with malware unbeknownst to the end user, it will most likely spread once that asset connects back to the corporate network.
This is why a solution like Cisco Umbrella can deliver the advanced protection required to handle the security challenges and intricacies organizations are facing today. Here are five really good reasons to give Umbrella a try, if you haven’t already:
1. Umbrella uses DNS to stop threats over all ports and protocols — even direct-to-IP connections.
2. Stops malware before it reaches your endpoints or network.
3. Proactively enforce policies to prevent users from visiting malicious places on the web, with no hardware to install and no software to maintain.
4. Gain a complete picture of real-time internet activity for on-network and roaming devices, with reports on security, usage, compliance, and cloud services.
5. Deploys in minutes. Umbrella is easy to manage, with centralized policy templates.
Sentinel offers a 21-Day SECaaS Proof of Value (POV) demonstration that can easily be deployed in your business. Contact us to learn more and see for yourself how Umbrella can help ensure your users and data are safer and more protected than ever.
A Sentinel Recap of Cisco Live! (Part Two)
Alex Tracy, Sentinel Sales Executive
Viva Las Vegas! Or should I say Viva Las Cisco? The week of Cisco Live 2017 was a complete whirlwind for me, and not just because of the conference. Two days before the trip I got married on the other side of the country. That, in combination with four long days of Cisco Live, left me completely exhausted. But it was a good kind of exhaustion, where in spite of everything you feel like you wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything else in the world.
As a Sales Executive and Account Manager at Sentinel for almost five years now, this was my second annual Cisco Live convention. I spent most of my time this year at the Sentinel booth, talking and networking with a wide variety of professionals from throughout the technology industry. It was also great to catch up with some current customers and local Cisco reps in attendance.
If you’ve never been to Cisco Live, it’s something everyone who works in IT should go to at least once in their career. Cisco spares no expense, and it is an epic four days of education and entertainment! The experience is also incredibly humbling, because there are so many different types of people and companies represented from the technology industry that it helps you realize most of us are just small fish in a big pond.
The convention floor teemed with energy from end to end. A majority of the people I had conversations with at the booth were at Cisco Live for two reasons: To establish new contacts and/or learn new things. Many used Cisco Learning Credits to attend, so if you went this year but didn’t know or didn’t have any to spend, be sure to ask your local Cisco rep to include some in a future deal. No matter what the reasons were or how everybody got there, in the end it was all about thousands of people gathering in one place to celebrate technology and find inspiration for the future. Thank you Sentinel and Cisco for an incredible week and memories that will last a lifetime!
Stephanie Hackbarth, Sentinel Sales Executive
Cisco Live 2017 was another great event. It was wonderful to see familiar faces in a different setting and feel their support despite being far away from home. Each year Sentinel strives to outdo the last, and we always leave with fresh ideas about what we can bring to the table the next year. Cisco Live also presented a great opportunity to meet people face-to-face that wouldn’t run into anywhere else. Many of them were eager to talk about security, which we found was a huge topic of interest for most attendees this year. Sentinel held a customer appreciation event one night, and it was such a great opportunity for everyone to relax and be themselves – no classes or training to worry about, just time to really get to know everyone and share good conversation with people that share the same passion for the IT industry.
A Sentinel Recap of Cisco Live! (Part One)
By Dan Ristovski, Sentinel Solution Design Team Lead
Cisco Live 2017 was awesome! The highlight for me this year was being able to meet with my Cisco Champions group and share some great information. The group is made up of dedicated Cisco community experts that help spread the word about Cisco and assist others that need guidance with product choices and capabilities. We also provide key feedback directly to Cisco BU resources to help improve their products.
Beyond a fun and rewarding get-together with all of the great Cisco Champions, I was able to attend a number of roadmap sessions that showcased Cisco’s future business plans and new technology in development for release over the next 6-12 months. I wish I could share some of those exciting details here, but can’t due to a non-disclosure agreement. I can assure you, there’s some pretty sweet stuff in the works!
The technical sessions were also very informative and impressive. Every session this year was integrated with Cisco Spark, which allowed attendees to submit questions in real time and get updated information that might not have made the slide decks. Even though the conference is over, most of the sessions remain active since new questions are still being submitted and answered.
One thing to understand about Cisco Live is that it’s not always about the technical side of things. The World of Solutions showcase was amazing! There were many vendors and manufacturers represented this year, but the biggest standout in my opinion was data analytics. Companies are becoming increasingly invested in solutions that enable them to see everything that is happening on their networks, including how applications are performing and ways they can improve user experiences.
There were also a ton of different social events that took place after the sessions. This was a great way to decompress and talk with peers. I am looking forward to digesting everything I have learned during this Cisco Live conference and sharing the information with my customers!
I’m already excited for Cisco Live 2018 in Orlando. If you’ve never attended a Cisco Live conference, I strongly encourage you to do so. There is so much incredible information to absorb, as well as important new contacts to be made that can help your organization navigate any tough technology decisions you might encounter. Just make sure to pack light, because your suitcase somehow doubles in size when you leave!
Rethinking the IT Strategic Roadmap
By Ted Joffs, Sentinel IT Solutions Team Lead
An IT Strategic Roadmap is a plan to achieve long- and short-term goals using a technology product. While that is an accurate way to describe it, I believe it’s a rather shallow way of looking at things. When taken from a more holistic perspective, a proper IT Strategic Roadmap – or any roadmap for that matter – can be a key driver in the success of the overall business unit. To utilize these roadmaps in such a way, it becomes necessary to shift your focus from the product itself and onto the process. When done right, it can create unparalleled insight into your business and improve technology decisions.
In order to properly do this, you must first identify the product that will be the focus of the roadmap in question. In some cases you can be specific, but at the start it’s more beneficial to avoid doing so whenever possible. Using vendor and/or technology-specific language can limit your options, and the product you select may need to provide more than one feature or function. Here’s an example of some qualities you might be looking for in a particular product, ordered from highest priority to lowest:
1. Provides user authentication for systems access across a broad spectrum of environments.
2. Provides a framework for storing user access control information.
3. Provides a foundational infrastructure for development of a security boundary to ensure information security.
4. Allows for easy integration into other systems and environments using industry standard protocols.
There are a number of products that would fit these sample criteria, including NetIQ eDirectory, Active Directory, IBM Tivoli Directory Server, OpenLDAP, or Samba4. Keeping it broad like that allows for greater flexibility.
Using that list, you can create a matrix to match each of the products with the key requirements from the business and IT departments. This will help you to start eliminating options and select the best solution for your organization. From there, you should build out your roadmap to include:
+Key Business & Technology Sponsors
+A Review Schedule
+Scope and Boundaries – You have essentially already done this, but roadmaps are living and breathing documents that should be cyclic in nature, so this data needs to be included for future cycle reviews.
The entire development process can be quite complex and includes more fine details than what are covered here, but the time and effort you put into creating the right plan will ensure you get the absolute most out of each technology purchase your organization makes. The most important keys to remember during this or really any IT planning engagement can be summed up as follows:
+Don’t plan, roadmap, purchase, budget, or develop in a box. IT needs to engage the business, and the business needs to engage IT. Use a consultant to help bridge the gap if needed.
+Keep an open mind. Be technology agnostic. Your way may not always be the right way. Be flexible.
+Don’t neglect your plan. Keep it up to date and review it with all stakeholders on a periodic basis.
Remember: if you fail to plan then you are planning to fail. Please contact Sentinel if you would like to learn more about IT Strategic Roadmaps. Our advisory services and certified experts can help your business navigate this challenging process and establish unique plans to stimulate improvement and growth!
Sentinel at Cisco Live 2017
Cisco Live is an annual five day conference put together by Cisco focused on providing education and inspiration for businesses as they navigate the complex digital landscape of our world today. This year’s event takes place at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas from June 25-29, and includes talks/presentations from many high profile IT thought leaders, educational sessions, and a chance to connect and network with many of Cisco’s top partners and vendors.
As a Cisco Gold Partner, Sentinel is excited to attend this year’s Cisco Live. We will have a booth (#1413) in the World of Solutions area where members of our highly trained and certified staff will be available to discuss the many technology solutions, products, and services we offer, as well as answer any questions you might have. We would love it if you stop by, even if it’s just to say hello!
Those interested in learning more about Sentinel’s SecuritySelect and Security as a Service (SECaaS) are encouraged to join us at the Data Center & Cloud Education Zone on Tuesday, June 27th between 10am and Noon for a series of short presentations from Sentinel Sales Executives Brett Merriman, Alex Tracy and others. Our Vice President of Enterprise Technology Ryan Santry will also provide a longer, more in-depth look at security in a special presentation on Wednesday, June 28th from 3:40-3:50pm. The Data Center & Cloud Education Zone will be located in the Cisco Powered area of the convention center.
Lastly, if you’re looking for a fun break from the conference, Sentinel is hosting a Customer Appreciation Event at Tom’s Urban in the New York New York casino on Wednesday, June 28th from 4-7pm. There will be drinks and a great opportunity to spend quality time with your friends at Sentinel! RSVP here.