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Why Businesses are Turning to Managed IT Services

For most companies, technology isn't a core part of their services. Even for companies that create tech products, running a data center and supporting general-purpose business applications isn't a core competency. Now that cloud computing has made the idea of running business applications off-site acceptable, more businesses are turning to managed service providers (MSPs) to provide basic services like email, backups, and monitoring.

The benefits of using MSPs are several:

• Staff is freed up for more important functions.

Most businesses would prefer IT staff to work on strategic projects rather than housekeeping functions. Offloading that work to an MSP lets internal resources be allocated more efficiently.

• There are cost savings.

Running a data center is expensive. Even just the energy costs for email servers are significant. Using an MSP reduces or eliminates many of these costs. Monthly charges are fixed and not subject to fluctuation that impacts cashflows.

• Information security is enhanced.

MSPs often have more expertise in data security than the company that originates the data. Because they handle these services for numerous customers, they have access to skills and knowledge other companies lack. Because many threats to data security come from internal users, having the physical servers and storage devices off-site and managed by non-employees surprisingly increases physical security.

• Adhering to compliance standards is easier.

Firms have to meet many standards regarding handling sensitive information, especially in financial and health-related businesses. Many MSPs specialize in these areas and have appropriate certifications and processes in place. It's easier for businesses to leverage the MSP’s certified data center than to build their own.

• Super support.

MSPs provide support around the clock. Their staff will be ready to recover systems as soon as an incident is noted. MSPs have advanced monitoring tools in place to detect and alert on any infrastructure problems. Solid backup practices ensure that data can be recovered and business continuity guaranteed even after a systems failure.

• They're ready for the future.

MSPs keep systems up to date with all mandatory patches. They're also aware of upcoming upgrades and technical changes, and can work with a business as a partner to develop a technology strategy. Leveraging expert knowledge may be the best reason companies turn to MSPs.

Published in Hiring Managers

Behavioral Questions to Use in Your Next Interview

No matter what type of work you’re interviewing for, there are a key set of traits that would be best suited for the position. As the hiring manager, it’s your job to pinpoint what those traits are and establish an objective way of evaluating the character of each of your candidates. Whether you give them a personality test or ask targeted questions during the course of your interview, you can establish a unique behavioral profile for each interviewee.

The first step is to create your list of ideal behavioral attributes. When making your checklist of ideal character traits, it’s important that you consider these three categories of professional personalities.

Teamwork

Teamwork skills will make it easier for you and your staff to work with the new hire. Candidates who lack many of these skills can be difficult to manage, overbearing, or ineffective as employees. Depending on the type of position, teamwork skills may be less important than their ability to self-direct, for example. Remote workers or those who will be largely isolated during the course of their workday may not need exceptional teamwork skills. Examples of these traits may include:

• Communicator
• Conflict Manager
• Active Listener
• Perceptive
• Assertive
• Empathetic
• Persuasive
• Cooperative

Work Ethic

No matter what the position entails, many hiring managers will rank work ethic very highly on their list. A good work ethic, however, is often a learned behavior that results from a very particular set of personality traits. Even if you’re interviewing someone with very little experience, if they possess traits that are conducive to hard work, they can develop a very strong work ethic during the course of their employment. A candidate with a good work ethic may have some of these personality traits:

• Focus
• Organization
• Reliability
• Flexibility
• Initiative

Professional

Professionalism is a highly sought-after behavior, particularly since many workplaces are moving away from traditionalism and into a more laid-back environment. This behavior is learned and not inherent, so if you’re hiring a candidate who comes from a more casual background, they may not have the experience to demonstrate the professionalism you’re looking for. However, if they possess the right personality traits, they can often pick up business cues and learn as they go.

Again, this may vary in importance depending on your unique company. These personality traits may often manifest themselves in other ways than traditional professionalism, so they may be valuable in other context as well. A highly professional person will be:

• Principled
• Objective
• Loyal
• Professional
• Ethical

Create Your Checklist

Once you’ve chosen your ideal character traits, rank them on a scale of importance and use this scale to weight the final score of each candidate. Bring your list of traits with you to the interview, and rank each character based on how they stack up against your expectations. This will not only help you get a good picture of their personality, but you will also remain consistent and objective during the course of each interview.

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Published in Hiring Managers

personality over skills

In the IT job market, your technical abilities can often be the be-all and end-all. The idea often seems to be that if you don’t meet the long list of necessary skills, you simply aren’t the right person for the position. However, this isn’t always the case. For many hiring managers, certain aspects of your personality may actually be more important than skills you’ve picked up along the way.

Below are a few examples of soft skills that may land you that IT dream job, and why hiring managers may choose them over more technical capabilities.

Willingness (and Ability) to Learn

A thirst for knowledge is a highly sought-after character trait in any industry, but it can go a long way in tech. You may not have mastered PHP or networking just yet, but if you have a voracious appetite for new information, you may find that hiring managers are willing to teach you the necessary skills. Quick learners are often a worthwhile investment, as they tend to stay on top of their skills and constantly refresh and update their knowledge base.

Enthusiasm

Passion and motivation can be invaluable for IT companies, particularly startups and those who specialize in innovative technology. Hiring someone who’s emotionally invested in their finished product will improve both the quality of their work and their drive to complete it. An infectiously enthusiastic personality can also impact the morale of co-workers, creating a more effective (and happy) workforce overall.

Self-Direction

In tech, it’s often expected that you be capable of a certain degree of autonomy. No matter how advanced your skills are, it simply isn’t worth the investment if your manager has to hold your hand through every project. A candidate who possesses self-drive, on the other hand, will not only be able to complete tasks on their own, but will be able to occupy themselves with meaningful work when they aren’t given explicit direction.

Ambition

A desire to succeed in your industry can be very appealing to hiring managers. This soft skill often translates into intuitive insight into what’s best for the company, granting you the opportunity to impress your managers with the added benefit of improving your place of work. Ambitious candidates are also fiercely competitive, and this competitiveness can inspire your team to work harder, particularly when you’re incentivized by upper management.

These are just a few examples of personality traits that hiring managers may prioritize over technical capabilities. Don’t let the fact that your skill sets don’t perfectly align with the position’s requirements discourage you from applying. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised by how valuable your soft skills really are.

Published in Hiring Managers
Thursday, May 07 2015

Top Tech Priorities for CIOs

tech priorities cios

Chief Information Officers are evolving with their industry. As they develop a deeper understanding of new technologies, they adapt their strategies and restructure their priorities to reflect emerging trends. Regardless of their industry, many CIOs have similar tech goals. These are just a few of their core priorities in 2015.

Real-Time Data

As we develop more and more tools to collect customer data, we come face-to-face with how truly massive that data actually is. Big data is quickly closing in on zettabyte territory, and we have to address how we’re processing it, rather than how we’re collecting it. Many CIOs are turning to real-time data through updated analytics. This intuitive model will allow you to change what the customer or client sees and experiences as you learn about them.

Data Security

 A high degree of sensitivity is required when handling the amount of user data that many CIOs encounter on a daily basis. The risks involved with this level of information are tremendous, so you not only have to contend with outside threats, but also the fine line of acceptable use of customer information. Abuse of personal data can not only damage a company’s reputation, it can actually result in costly lawsuits. As a result, CIOs often prioritize data sensitivity and security on their list of tech concerns.

Cloud Services

In past years, cloud services were considered an emerging technology that required a certain level of boldness to adopt. However, perspectives have shifted and the cloud is now a leading priority for CIOs. It’s been a slow process, but every year more major companies invest in this technology. With benefits like improved scalability, reduced costs, and a more efficient infrastructure, it’s no surprise that cloud services are spearheading advancements in the tech industry.

Mobile

An ever-growing number of customers are interacting with companies from mobile devices. As a result, it’s never been more important to engage with them on a playing field they understand. By prioritizing mobile technologies, CIOs open new connections between their business and the people they’re trying to reach. No matter the industry, or whether the company is B2B or B2C, the benefit of mobile connection is extremely powerful.

The momentum of these new technologies is growing with every year, and a tech-savvy CIO will choose to prioritize these emerging trends. This will not only grant access to the myriad of benefits that come with advanced technology, but it will also allow your business to compete in the global marketplace.


Published in Recruiting

evolution virtual technologies

In 2014, VMware was ranked ninth on Forbes’ “Most Innovative Companies” list, but this hasn’t stopped new developments in virtualization from rapidly closing the gap between VMware’s software suite and heavy hitters like OpenStack or CloudStack. These evolving technologies may actually come to replace VMware’s niche software as more and more customers opt for these newer stacks. But before we look at where this technology is going, let’s look at where it’s been.

Virtual Stacks: Origins

VMware was designed to meet specific needs of CIOs during the rise of virtualization. The businesses these CIOs and managers represented had applications or software packages that were never designed for virtualization, and at its most basic level, VMware’s purpose was to address this cultural shift in the tech industry. Once corporations were on board, more features were added to advance the technology.

Its origins, however, made VMware a very niche product. It was designed for enterprise-level customers, and others found themselves left out in the cold. OpenStack and CloudStack, on the other hand, were created to address a different need: the increased dependency of VMware on traditional uses. There are strengths to all three, but many innovative companies are drawn to these newer, more flexible technologies. So why exactly is VMware being replaced?

VMware vs. OpenStack vs. CloudStack

VMware comes with a rich legacy of established features and a strong support community, as well as a full suite of virtualization software. That being said, it’s a closed system, so there’s very little flexibility or room for creativity. In every aspect of the tech industry, experts are finding themselves drawn to open source technology like its two competitors. The ability to customize solutions, innovate your system, and collaborate with big-name companies to improve the software is more exciting than tradition.

Then there’s the matter of price. VMware can be relatively expensive, but it’s easier to install and get off the ground. OpenStack and CloudStack are free, but require a team of engineers to get it up and running (which can translate into higher initial costs). However, VMware comes with hefty licensing fees, so once you’ve covered the initial cost of OpenStack or CloudStack deployment, your price tag will begin to taper down over time. As a long-term solution, open source virtualization software may actually be the more cost effective means of achieving your goals.

Between the two VMware competitors, OpenStack has a better track record with large, well-known companies and a healthier reputation. As a result, it tends to take the lead as the most mature choice among open source virtualization technologies. With these attractive alternatives to VMware’s traditional infrastructure, it may come as no surprise that these new software packages are quickly taking the lead in virtualization technology.

raised bar silicon valley

With the influx of tech jobs and the shortage of qualified software engineers, many recent graduates have discovered that finding a position in Silicon Valley is remarkably easy. But while the talent gap isn’t going anywhere, tech companies are beginning to demand more and more of their engineers, resulting in remarkably high expectations for those new to the tech industry. These are a few of the ways standards are changing for Silicon Valley engineers.

More Skills, More Experience

Experience doesn’t always mean years on the job, but hiring managers in the tech industry are now expecting engineers to have a stronger grasp on a wider variety of tools. Whether that means you’ve used a suite of different coding languages to create fully-functional sites, or you’ve designed a feature-rich app, you have to have something concrete in your portfolio to get your foot in the door. With so many technologies at their disposal, tech companies like to see candidates with strong skills in a variety of areas. Create a well-rounded portfolio during your early years as an engineer to give yourself a jump start during your job search.

Creative Thinking & Other Soft Skills

Your technical capabilities, however, are no longer the be-all and end-all. You also have to work well in a team and have the ability to effectively communicate your ideas. Many of the more discerning companies are also looking for engineers who possess the ability to think creatively and find elegant, non-traditional solutions to common problems. If you possess these skills, you’ll be a more competitive candidate in the Silicon Valley tech industry. These skills, however, are often innate rather than learned, and can be difficult to replicate if they don’t come to you naturally.

User-Focused

In recent years, software engineers have gravitated towards social, consumer-based platforms like Facebook and Google. These industries often search for candidates with the ability to problem solve from an end user’s perspective. They need developers who can implement features and programs that would benefit and appeal to the consumer. This ingenuity can be hard to find in those who are more technical by nature, so the well-balanced engineer will find that their chances are actually better than those who are purely tech-savvy.

Meeting the new standards of Silicon Valley’s tech industry is a tall order for even the most qualified engineers. As the culture trends towards more social interfaces, they demand more socially minded engineers who can place themselves in the positions of their target audience. If you can partner creativity, collaborative effort, and the necessary know-how, you have the potential to meet and exceed these new expectations.

Published in Staffing News

paranoia CISO

While it has never been seen as a desirable trait in any industry, many information security experts suggest that a healthy dose of paranoia may actually be good for business. After all, a paranoid leader is a vigilant one. This state of alertness can actually improve the defenses of your organization, through regular improvements, scheduled maintenance, and increased awareness in your company. So should you look for a CISO with a paranoid streak? Consider the benefits before making your final decision.

1. Paranoid CISOs search out advancements.

Paranoid CISOs are ever-improving. Because they constantly suspect that their organization is under attack, they’ll always be looking for new, advanced ways to fortify their defenses and stay informed on new developments in the industry. There’s always room for improvement, so your company will have the most up-to-date information security system available with new, multi-layered controls. This valuable instrumentation and increased depth can help prepare for a threat or attack before you’re even aware it’s there.

2. Paranoid CISOs never neglect necessary system maintenance.

Complacency is just as dangerous as an inherently weak security system. If your CISO isn’t taking the time to update and patch their managed program, they’re opening up channels for potential breaches. A paranoid CISO, on the other hand, constantly patches their program to ensure that no known weaknesses exist in the system. This regular maintenance might be neglected by complacent leaders, creating dangerous vulnerabilities in your organization.

3. Paranoid CISOs improve company awareness.

In their constant state of hyper-vigilance, a paranoid CISO will want to ensure that every member of your organization is doing their part to follow security protocols. This will help create a culture of data security to protect your company at every level. From data analyst to CEO, you organization will be more secure and less vulnerable to attack.

4. Paranoid CISOs develop a deep understanding of the company.

Not only will they understand the nature of each and every potential attack, but a paranoid CISO will also understand the potential consequences they may have on the company. Their deep-rooted knowledge of the business will motivate them to improve and monitor the system, specifically targeting the threats that may cause the most harm to the company.

So while paranoia is often the butt of office jokes, it may actually help the performance of a company’s security system. A paranoid CISO can do more for a business than a complacent leader. Embrace a healthy level of paranoia in your CISO for an improved system and better overall defenses against attacks.

interview objectivity

Remaining objective in an interview can be difficult. We’re often inclined to base our impressions of others on emotions and first impressions rather than fact. This can not only harm the interviewee, but it can also result in the loss of talented candidates. By maintaining objectivity and consistency in each of your interviews, you can ensure that the process is as thorough and accurate as possible.

These five key elements of an objective interview will keep you on the right track during your candidate search.

Create a Checklist

Before you begin reviewing resumes, create a checklist that you will follow for each interview. Steps can include “review the job description” or “review interview questions.” Closely following this protocol for each interview will help you maintain consistency throughout the hiring process.

Outline Your Expectations

It’s important to have a solid understanding of what you’re looking for in a candidate. Create a list of desired attributes, and rank them on a scale of importance from one to five. If computer skills are more important for this position than professionalism, for instance, then you will give that trait a higher rating. By outlining your expectations for the ideal candidate, you’ll be more able to objectively compare each individual interviewee to your set of desired characteristics.

Categorize Your Questions

As you’re writing your list of interview questions, try to categorize them by the list of traits determined above. If you need a candidate with project management skills, ask about occasions when they’ve influenced the outcome of a project by taking a leadership position. Other categories may be detail orientation, communication, and the ability to be a team player.

Use a Scoring System

Create a score sheet that will help you evaluate each candidate during the interview. Using your outlined traits, rate them on a scale of one to five. You should complete the score sheet as soon as possible after the end of the interview, while your impression is still objective. The same score sheet should be used for each interview.

Rank Each Candidate

Once you’ve rated your candidates, it’s time to compare their rating to the importance of each trait. Multiply the interviewee’s score in each category by its importance. This is their weighted score. Once you’ve weighted each category, add their total score and compare with other interviewees to choose the candidate best suited for the position.

These five elements of an objective interview process will aid you in choosing qualified candidates without clouding your judgment with emotions or “gut feelings.” This process is fair and consistent for the interviewees and delivers the best results for your company. By remaining consistent and impartial, you increase the effectiveness of your interview process and choose the best candidate each time.

Published in Hiring Managers

it elements of success

In the past decade, we have seen dramatic changes in the technology available to businesses. From communication tools to advanced security features, these new elements are exceptionally valuable to modern businesses. But sifting through the wealth of available IT tools often seems like an impossible task. With so many options available, how can you choose the right tools for your company? To help you flesh out your IT arsenal, we’ve narrowed it down to five key elements that will keep your organization on track to success.

1. Incident Ticket Systems

Automated issue tracking can be a vital part of your business’s success. Its automatic bug log will help your IT staff quickly diagnose and address problems that may occur. Without a good ticketing system, important problems may get lost or overlooked in the flood of minor issues, or there may be some confusion on who each individual problem is assigned to. A good incident ticket system will help streamline this process and avoid major issues.

2. Project Management

A strong project management system should be integrated with your ticketing system, allowing managers and IT specialists to assign and complete tickets quickly and efficiently. Project management will help track assignments, establish standard responses to common problems, and allow for managers to oversee each project handled by your IT department.

3. Analytics

No matter what industry you work in, analytics tools are a vital part of making informed business decisions. You might track how customers behave on your website, your turnaround time on IT problems, or which kinds of clients bring in the most revenue. This can help you redirect your marketing efforts or restructure the way you resolve problems. By effectively analyzing data, you can make successful decisions for your company.

4. Remote Monitoring

With remote monitoring, your IT specialists have the power to access endpoint devices and address errors or bugs. This powerful cloud-based tool can save you both time and money, as well as allowing your IT staff to solve problems more efficiently. A remote monitoring system can be integrated with your system analytics, so your staff can monitor trends and catch hard-to-find errors.

5. Security

In many ways, security can often be the most important element of a successful IT system. With the frequency of cyberattacks on the rise, it’s important that you invest in a good security system to protect the confidentiality of your business, your employees, and your customers. These tools are extremely flexible, so you can choose a security setup that suits your unique business.

These five IT elements can not only streamline your operations, but protect you from catastrophic system errors and data breaches. By implementing each of these tools, your company will have everything it needs to succeed in our increasingly technological world.

 

talent aquisition pipelining

Technology is a core need for every organization today, and explosive growth in the tech arena has led to a shortage of IT talent. More companies are diversifying their talent acquisition strategies in order to fill IT staffing gaps, and one of the most effective methods for ensuring a smoother flow of talent is proactive pipelining.

What is talent pipelining?

Proactive pipelining is the process of building professional relationships with passive candidates — those who are already employed or may not be looking for a position at this time, yet would make a good fit with your organization.

Typical recruitment strategies are initiated when there are open positions that must be filled. With talent pipelining, the main goal is to be proactive and anticipate your hiring needs for the future — and then pre-qualify candidates who could fill those future roles, even if they’re not looking for an immediate career change.

The benefits of proactive pipelining

Talent pipelining is a long-term strategy that benefits your organization in many ways, including:

  • Stronger industry knowledge: The pipelining process requires a deeper understanding of your company’s long-term goals, the current talent landscape, and potential talent gaps within your organization. Engaging in talent pipelining helps you increase awareness and make smarter hiring decisions.
  • Shorter time-to-fill: With proactive pipelining, you can pull ahead of the game for recruiting and hiring, giving your organization the ability to fill open positions quickly and confidently from a pre-qualified pool of talent.
  • Reduce or eliminate cold candidates: When implemented effectively, proactive pipelining not only supplies you with candidates who already have a relationship with your organization, but also gives you access to a broader network of industry professionals who are familiar with your company — leading to more referrals and warm talent leads.
  • Ensure cultural fit: Finding candidates who fit your organizational culture is one of the most challenging aspects of hiring. Proactive pipelining allows you to gauge the cultural fit of candidates long before you reach the interview stage.

Talent pipelining best practices

The typical IT candidate search takes 45 days from initiation to the candidate’s start date. If you wait until your organization has a critical need for talent, you risk losing significant time on project starts, missing deadlines, and suffering from poor organizational performance when there’s a staff shortage.

Proactive talent pipelining can reduce or eliminate these costly delays. You can ensure that your talent needs are met by reviewing upcoming projects, and anticipating your hiring plans ahead of time with detailed information on the number of people and specific skills you’ll need for successful project completion.

For each position you’ll need to fill, develop a profile for the type of candidate you’re looking for that includes:

  • Project description and background
  • Projected start and end dates, and anticipated project duration
  • Talent budget for the project
  • Estimated work hours (full time, part time, or flexible)
  • Skill areas and domains required
  • Software tools and packages required
  • Desired candidate soft skills, behavioral, and personality traits

Once you’ve anticipated your IT talent needs, you can begin building a proactive pipeline that will save your organization time, money, and stress for future projects.

The Armada Group can help you develop plans for your future talent acquisition needs, and proactively recruit highly qualified candidates to fill your talent pipeline in anticipation of your hiring requirements. Contact us to learn more about proactive pipelining strategies that help you secure top talent quickly and effectively. 

Published in Recruiting
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