Managed Services vs Staff Augmentation: A Comprehensive Comparison

In the dynamic landscape of information technology (IT), organizations are constantly seeking ways to bolster their technical capabilities. One of these strategies includes staff augmentation – a model that allows companies to ‘borrow’ IT professionals from service providers or independent contractors. This approach helps fill immediate skill gaps and address short-term project needs.

Understanding Staff Augmentation: Short-Term Benefits and Long-Term Drawbacks

To clarify, staff augmentation is akin to an on-demand service. If you need extra hands for a specific project or to replace a key member temporarily, you can hire external resources. These professionals are paid by the hour and can be let go with a reasonable notice period. This method provides a simple cost model and quick scalability, all with minimal disruption to your existing IT team’s structure.

Take the case of ‘TechyCo,’ a fictional tech company. They once needed a team of data scientists for a six-month project. Rather than hiring full-time employees for a short-term requirement, they used staff augmentation, which proved cost-effective and efficient.

However, problems may arise if staff augmentation transforms into a long-term strategy. This model could lead to what we call ‘staff creep’ – a gradual increase in augmented staff over time. It could also create an ‘unrecognized head count’ that falls under the organization’s radar. To put it simply, you might end up with more augmented staff than you initially planned, which can inflate costs.

Also, contractors added as high-cost permanent staff may lead to challenges such as loss of knowledge control and business continuity. Without any obligation to deliver specific outcomes or transfer knowledge, significant organizational risk may build up over time.

Managed Services: A Strategy for Long-Term Growth

An alternative approach to long-term external sourcing is the managed services model, which can be compared to outsourcing. Here, you’re not hiring individuals, but contracting a company to deliver a specified outcome for a predetermined price.

The managed services model promotes value-based planning. It’s not just about hiring a skillset; it’s about ensuring an outcome, thus shifting the delivery risk to the provider. This model is usually more cost-effective overall and helps maintain operational continuity.

To illustrate, ‘TechyCo’ started a new project with a two-year timeline. Rather than using staff augmentation, they transitioned to a managed services model, engaging a service provider to deliver the entire project. This shift allowed them to focus on their core competencies while the managed service provider took care of the project’s technical aspects.

Overcoming Boundaries to Adapt Managed Services: 

Even with its benefits, some organizations hesitate to adopt the managed services model due to concerns about losing operational control. However, it’s important to remember that outsourcing doesn’t equate to relinquishing control. You can maintain control through well-defined contracts and strong relationship management.

Despite the initial complexity, shifting from staff augmentation to managed services can result in significant economic and service value. It’s about focusing on outcomes instead of individual skill sets. This shift ensures cost predictability and puts the delivery risk on the service provider.

Unlocking Additional Benefits of Managed Services:

The managed services model offers additional advantages. It provides a clear link between service, business needs, and cost, shifting the focus from resource utilization to optimizing the cost/service balance. It also offers scalability based on business demand and operational performance metrics tied to process excellence and outcomes.

Whether you choose staff augmentation or managed services depends on your specific needs, resources, and long-term goals. As a rule of thumb, staff augmentation works well for short-term, specific projects, while managed services offer a better approach for long-term and outcome-oriented projects. Understanding these models can help you make informed decisions strategically.

David McLaughlin

CEO

About Columbia Advisory Group

Founded in Dallas in 2012, Columbia Advisory Group LLC (CAG) is an established IT consulting firm renowned for delivering cost-effective, meaningful, and practical IT solutions that solve complex business problems. Our seasoned teams offer comprehensive insight across diverse regulatory and economic environments, providing unbiased, straightforward analysis and recommendations. We pride ourselves on our deep understanding of IT while remaining software and hardware-agnostic. Regardless of your organization’s growth trajectory or economic landscape, we at CAG are adept at adapting to your unique needs and complexity, offering tailored solutions to drive your success.

Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.

Data Governance: Get Your Data in Line With Columbia Advisory Group

In our modern digital world, data is like gold. It helps organizations make smarter business decisions, improve how they work, and better understand their customers. But as we gather more and more data, it’s vital to have a good plan in place to manage it. That’s where data governance comes in. It’s all about making sure your data is available, useful, accurate, and safe. This involves making clear who does what, setting up rules and processes, and making sure your data is high quality and secure. Let’s look at why data governance is so important. 

Why Bother With Data Governance?

Better Data Quality 

One big win from data governance is that it helps you get better data. When you manage your data well, it’s easier to make sure your data is accurate, consistent, and up to date. This means you can make decisions based on data you can trust.

Improved Data Security

Data security is getting more important every day, especially with the rise of cyber-attacks and data breaches. Data governance helps you protect your data by setting up rules about who can do what, putting in processes for using data, and setting up measures to keep data safe from unauthorized access or theft. By having a good data governance plan, you can lower the risk of data breaches and keep sensitive information safe.

Data is Available When Needed

Data governance also makes sure that data is easy to get to for those who need it. When you manage your data well, it’s easier to look after, which means it’s there when you need it. This helps improve decision-making and efficiency, as staff can get the information they need faster.

Stay on the Right Side of the Law

Lastly, data governance helps you comply with data protection laws, like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). These laws require strong data protection measures, and by using data governance, you can make sure you’re following these laws and avoid any expensive fines.

How Columbia Advisory Group gets it Right 

Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) knows how important data governance is and has put a great strategy in place to make sure its data is high quality, secure, and available when needed. We’ve made a plan that lays out who does what and provides guidelines for using data. This makes sure the data they use is accurate, consistent, and safe.  CAG has also used technology to help manage and look after their data. We use data management and analytics platforms, as well as security solutions that protect their data from unauthorized access or theft. By using these tools, CAG makes sure their data is managed in a way that’s effective and efficient. So, why not check us out and get your data in line?

Tim Taylor

Practice Lead

About Columbia Advisory Group

Founded in Dallas in 2012, Columbia Advisory Group LLC (CAG) is an established IT consulting firm renowned for delivering cost-effective, meaningful, and practical IT solutions that solve complex business problems. Our seasoned teams offer comprehensive insight across diverse regulatory and economic environments, providing unbiased, straightforward analysis and recommendations. We pride ourselves on our deep understanding of IT while remaining software and hardware-agnostic. Regardless of your organization’s growth trajectory or economic landscape, we at CAG are adept at adapting to your unique needs and complexity, offering tailored solutions to drive your success.

Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.

Maximizing Business Success Through Core Competencies

In today’s competitive business landscape, organizations strive to achieve success by leveraging their unique strengths. One essential aspect of this strategy is identifying and harnessing core competencies—the distinctive skills and capabilities that set them apart. In this blog post, we will explore the significance of robust core competencies and their impact on performance. 

Unveiling Core Competencies:

Unearthing core competencies begins with a comprehensive assessment of internal resources and capabilities. This process involves analyzing various areas where the organization excels, such as research and development, technological innovation, or effective supply chain management. By identifying these core competencies, businesses gain a clear understanding of their unique strengths and competitive advantages.

Strategic Planning for Competitive Advantage:

Once core competencies are identified, they become the cornerstone of strategic planning. CIO magazine emphasizes the importance of allocating resources strategically to enhance and expand these competencies. By capitalizing on their strengths, organizations can innovate, develop superior products or services, and gain a competitive edge. Aligning competitive strategies with core competencies allows businesses to establish a strong market position, driving their success.

Differentiation Through Marketing Initiatives: 

Core competencies play a pivotal role in shaping effective marketing campaigns. Understanding target audiences and tailoring messaging to address their pain points is key to success. By leveraging core competencies, businesses can demonstrate how their offerings provide unique solutions that meet customers’ needs. This differentiation enables brands to position themselves uniquely, resonate with their target market, and command higher prices.

Streamlining Operations for Efficiency: 

Operational efficiency is a significant benefit of core competencies. Investopedia emphasizes the importance of aligning processes with these competencies [^2]. By focusing resources on areas of strength, businesses can streamline operations, eliminate redundancies, and optimize efficiency. This approach allows for effective resource allocation, cost reduction, and improved profitability without compromising quality.

Adapting and Overcoming Challenges: 

While core competencies provide a competitive advantage, it is crucial to remain agile and adaptable. Information Week highlights the importance of continuous evaluation and adaptation to address market dynamics and changing customer expectations. Organizations must consistently refine and expand their core competencies to sustain long-term growth and stay ahead of the competition.

Leveraging core competencies is a vital strategy for organizations seeking to maximize their success. By identifying and capitalizing on internal strengths, businesses can strategically allocate resources, differentiate themselves in the market, streamline operations, and achieve operational efficiency. The continuous evaluation and refinement of core competencies enable organizations to navigate challenges and stay competitive in a rapidly evolving business landscape.

David McLaughlin

CEO

About Columbia Advisory Group

Founded in Dallas in 2012, Columbia Advisory Group LLC (CAG) is an established IT consulting firm renowned for delivering cost-effective, meaningful, and practical IT solutions that solve complex business problems. Our seasoned teams offer comprehensive insight across diverse regulatory and economic environments, providing unbiased, straightforward analysis and recommendations. We pride ourselves on our deep understanding of IT while remaining software and hardware-agnostic. Regardless of your organization’s growth trajectory or economic landscape, we at CAG are adept at adapting to your unique needs and complexity, offering tailored solutions to drive your success.

Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.

How Technology Can Kill A Deal

We’ve seen many times over the years where the expected back-office and administrative synergies —even the conservative estimates — just don’t materialize. Information technology can be especially troublesome in some of these cases and is more often than not an important reason behind the missed investment thesis expectations if not the prime suspect. You can see evidence of these issues in many companies. Everyone is probably aware of a company or two several years post-transaction that has multiple email systems or accounting systems that never were fully integrated. It happens often.

A recent deal we were providing IT diligence services on is a particularly good example of one of the most common ways IT can cause a negative impact on expected cost savings and productivity improvements both short and long-term. In this particular case, the private equity deal team was able to identify the issue early on in the deal and we were able to assist them with detailed analysis so they could effectively adjust their models to compensate for the associated cost.

In this particular instance, the private equity group was interested in carving out several similar divisions of multiple parent companies and putting them together under one operating entity with multiple product lines. Each division ran a different core ERP system, and the initial deal assumption was that back office and systems could be consolidated onto the most effectively managed division-level systems platform resulting in significant synergies post-consolidation as well as some related operating efficiencies.

One of the most important things to remember about IT is that typically the more systems you involve, the more complex (and expensive) IT gets. In order to consolidate all of the system platforms onto one of the division’s systems, the combined company would need to select which one best fits their needs. With competing divisions, this would likely not be an easy task—the systems not selected would require significant change to the users, and businesses in those divisions would feel the productivity impact of switching systems. A software selection project with quite a bit of concern from all parties would be the first step.

Once a ‘favored’ system was selected each of the divisions would need to plan as a combined entity how to migrate from their current system to the ‘favored’ system. Even in like businesses, slight differences in process flows, approval levels, inventory, general ledgers, and reporting dictate careful analysis in the planning and migration process— not far from the level needed to implement a completely new system. Depending on the system being migrated to, the number of users and per-user cost may be higher than the previous system if the system is more robust and capable than the system it is replacing.

While the combined company IT group and users may get rather good at implementation by the time the fourth or fifth division is migrated, the time and cost add up quickly as well as the lost productivity typical in learning a new system. Throughout this process, the combined company would need an IT group capable of managing the centralized platform that would support the larger user base going forward as well as managing an ongoing migration project with each of the separate divisions. This added substantial cost to an already expensive proposition.

On this deal, the private equity deal team noticed the issue early and we did a detailed evaluation and cost study on the consolidation project. The project cost ended up being a multiple of seven to nine times more expensive than the initial ballpark estimate and was an important factor in the private equity deal team not proceeding with the acquisition.

About Columbia Advisory Group:
Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) is a leading Information Technology (IT) consulting firm. CAG’s team has assessed and helped improve the performance of more than 300 technology organizations and IT departments, including many higher education institutions, state agencies, and Fortune 50 customers. Practice specialty areas include Infrastructure, IT Service Management, Cybersecurity, and A/V Services. CAG improves business outcomes with IT insights and expert technical support. Based in Dallas, Texas, CAG works extensively with clients throughout the U.S. Contact us at .

David McLaughlin

David McLaughlin

CEO

Strengthening Cybersecurity in the Oil and Gas Industry: Safeguarding Critical Operations

The oil and gas industry is confronting an alarming reality: its vulnerability to cyber threats. The wake-up call came in May 2021 with the Colonial Pipeline attack, exposing the urgent need for robust cybersecurity measures. Factors like digitalization and the ever-evolving landscape of cybercrime have heightened the industry’s susceptibility. To protect critical national infrastructure, oil and gas companies must prioritize cybersecurity as an essential pillar of their digital strategy. In this article, we will explore the impact of cybersecurity on the oil and gas market and delve into the key cybersecurity value chains that can fortify the industry against emerging threats.

The Impact of Cybersecurity on the Oil & Gas Market:

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the operating environment for oil and gas companies, leading to an increase in cyberattacks. Opportunistic attackers targeted remote-working employees who were navigating unfamiliar digital territories. Now, more than ever, oil and gas companies recognize the importance of safeguarding their operations from cyber threats. By investing in cybersecurity, companies can protect their assets, ensure operational continuity, and maintain the trust of their stakeholders.

Navigating the Digitalization Wave: 

Technological advancements, ranging from artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain to cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), have transformed the oil and gas industry. These innovations offer remarkable benefits, streamlining operations and enhancing competitiveness. However, embracing digitalization also opens up new avenues for cybercriminals to exploit. As technology becomes more intricate, organizations must adapt by adopting a proactive and vigilant cyber-aware stance to thwart attacks and protect critical assets.

Key Cybersecurity Value Chains: 

To fortify their defenses, oil and gas companies must focus on key cybersecurity value chains:

  1. Hardware: Safeguarding mission-critical servers and safety-critical applications requires protecting chips from cyberattacks. Companies are increasingly designing their chips to ensure greater control and resilience against threats.
  2. Software: A robust software infrastructure is essential for mitigating cyber risks. Areas such as identity management, network security, threat detection and response, cloud security, data security, email security, application security, unified threat management, and vulnerability management must be prioritized to establish comprehensive protection against cyber threats.
  3. Services: Addressing cybersecurity challenges can be complex, requiring specialized expertise. Outsourcing services such as managed security services, post-breach response services, and risk and compliance services can provide the necessary knowledge and resources to stay ahead of vulnerabilities, detect and respond to threats effectively, and ensure compliance with industry regulations.

The Future of Cybersecurity in Oil and Gas: 

The Colonial Pipeline attack sent a clear message that cybersecurity concerns continue to pose a significant threat to the oil and gas industry. Industry leaders anticipate that cybersecurity will remain a disruptive force in the coming years. As the world grows increasingly unpredictable, the critical nature of oil and gas infrastructure amplifies the risk of cyberattacks. The convergence of operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT), coupled with inadequately protected infrastructure, makes oil and gas companies prime targets during future conflicts. Consequently, investing in robust cybersecurity measures is not only crucial for survival but also for maintaining a competitive edge in the industry.

In an era where cyber threats abound, the oil and gas industry must take decisive action to fortify its cybersecurity posture and protect critical operations. By investing in hardware, software, and services that address emerging cyber threats, companies can ensure operational continuity, protect valuable assets, and preserve the trust of stakeholders. The ever-increasing engagement with cybersecurity reflects its paramount importance in the industry, making it a chief concern that demands immediate attention.

Brad Hudson

Cybersecurity Practice Leader

About Columbia Advisory Group

Founded in Dallas in 2012, Columbia Advisory Group LLC (CAG) is an established IT consulting firm renowned for delivering cost-effective, meaningful, and practical IT solutions that solve complex business problems. Our seasoned teams offer comprehensive insight across diverse regulatory and economic environments, providing unbiased, straightforward analysis and recommendations. We pride ourselves on our deep understanding of IT while remaining software and hardware-agnostic. Regardless of your organization’s growth trajectory or economic landscape, we at CAG are adept at adapting to your unique needs and complexity, offering tailored solutions to drive your success.

Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.

The Importance of Prioritizing Cybersecurity: Safeguarding Your Company’s Future

Recognizing the High Stakes

In today’s interconnected world, the significance of cybersecurity cannot be overstated. Yet, despite the abundance of warnings and information available, many organizations neglect this critical aspect of their operations. Legacy tactics and outdated tools, combined with inadequate planning of cybersecurity programs, only serve to invite trouble and compromise the integrity of your company. As an experienced professional in the field of cybersecurity, I implore you to consider the consequences of disregarding this vital issue.

Alarming Realities: The Ever-Present Threat

The landscape of cyber threats is ever-evolving, as evidenced by the multitude of industry news and data depicting the insidious nature of cyberattacks. A recent report by the esteemed cybersecurity firm Sophos revealed that a staggering 97% of organizations experienced a breach within the last year alone. The spectrum of risks is wide-ranging from ransomware attacks to phishing scams and data theft. It is entirely plausible that your company, or those you closely collaborate with, may have already fallen victim to these cyber perils—or may do so in the near future.

The Costly Consequences: Beyond Reputational Damage

The economic ramifications of such breaches are truly eye-opening. In addition to reputational damage and legal fees, businesses face the costly repercussions of downtime and data loss. On average, the price tag associated with a breach exceeds $4 million, with ransomware attacks alone averaging nearly $2 million. While some may argue that these figures could vary, the underlying truth remains unchanged: the consequences are undeniably severe.

Data Valuation: Dispelling Dangerous Assumptions

Gone are the days when an excuse like “we don’t possess valuable data” suffices for ignoring cybersecurity. Virtually all businesses, regardless of their size or industry, collect and store sensitive information. This can include customer data, financial details, or even intellectual property. Furthermore, the fallout from inadequate cybersecurity measures extends beyond your own organization. When one company suffers a breach, it can propagate throughout the supply chain, causing a domino effect of financial loss and reputational harm.

The Ethical Imperative: Protecting Those You Serve

Choosing to disregard cybersecurity is not only financially irresponsible but also ethically wrong. Businesses, as well as the professionals driving them, carry an inherent duty to safeguard personal customer information and employee data. Negligence in this regard can have far-reaching implications, affecting the lives and livelihoods of countless individuals.

Universal Vulnerability: No Company is Immune

It is important to realize that hackers do not discriminate based on company size or industry. They will exploit any business that possesses valuable data. Cybersecurity is no longer a luxury or an afterthought; it has become a fundamental necessity. Ignoring it is akin to neglecting physical security measures such as locks and alarms. As cybercriminals continually evolve their tactics, it is imperative that your cybersecurity measures keep pace. Too often, headlines reveal that at some point in the chain of events, a crucial misstep occurred, leaving organizations vulnerable for days, weeks, or even months before the ultimate breach occurred.

Emphasizing Comprehensive Measures: Principles Over Products

To effectively protect your organization, it is crucial to prioritize cybersecurity principles over individual products and tools. Emphasize comprehensive and proactive security principles, such as active visibility, monitoring, detection, and resolution of anomalous conditions across applications, identities, behaviors, infrastructure, cloud, endpoints, and data. Furthermore, cybersecurity awareness should encompass critical areas such as patching, monitoring, DevOps, and disaster recovery.

Ignorance is a Costly Mistake

Statistics unequivocally demonstrate that cyberattacks pose a prevalent threat to  businesses of all sizes. The cost of ignoring these risks is far too high to ignore. Failing to acknowledge the value of your company’s data leaves you vulnerable to attacks and further victimization. As a responsible professional, it is your duty to safeguard your organization’s future by prioritizing cybersecurity and ensuring that comprehensive measures are in place to protect against potential threats. Remember, ignorance is not bliss—it is a costly mistake that no business can afford to make.

Brad Hudson

Cybersecurity Practice Leader

About Columbia Advisory Group

Founded in Dallas in 2012, Columbia Advisory Group LLC (CAG) is an established IT consulting firm renowned for delivering cost-effective, meaningful, and practical IT solutions that solve complex business problems. Our seasoned teams offer comprehensive insight across diverse regulatory and economic environments, providing unbiased, straightforward analysis and recommendations. We pride ourselves on our deep understanding of IT while remaining software and hardware-agnostic. Regardless of your organization’s growth trajectory or economic landscape, we at CAG are adept at adapting to your unique needs and complexity, offering tailored solutions to drive your success.

Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.

Leveraging Wi-Fi Analytics for Effective Space Utilization Planning in Universities

Universities are intricate organisms that continue to expand and evolve. Among the myriad of challenges they face, efficient space utilization stands out. An underappreciated yet invaluable tool for addressing this challenge is Wi-Fi analytics.

What are Wi-Fi Analytics?

Wi-Fi analytics involves the collection and examination of data associated with Wi-Fi usage within a designated area. This can include the number of unique users, their usage frequency and duration, as well as the specific zones within a facility where Wi-Fi usage peaks. When universities harness this data, they can gain insights into how their spaces are being used, which aids in making data-driven decisions about resource allocation and prioritization.

Benefits of Wi-Fi Analytics

Identifying Overused and Underused Spaces

One of the primary advantages of Wi-Fi analytics is its capacity to pinpoint overused and underused areas within a campus. For instance, let’s consider University A where Wi-Fi analytics revealed that a particular lecture hall was constantly filled to the brim. To accommodate the demand, they decided to add extra seats and enhance the sound system. Conversely, when they noticed a rarely used classroom, it was repurposed into a student lounge, increasing its usage significantly.

Optimizing Existing Spaces

Another crucial application of Wi-Fi analytics lies in the optimization of existing spaces. At University B, they found out that students prefer to gather in a specific part of the library. To cater to this preference, they added extra seating and resources in that area, resulting in increased student satisfaction and better space utilization.

Boosting Student Engagement

Understanding the way students use campus spaces and resources, universities can tailor their services to meet their needs and preferences. For example, University C observed through Wi-Fi analytics data that students tend to prefer group studying. In response, they created more collaborative spaces on campus, enhancing both student engagement and satisfaction.

Potential Challenges

While Wi-Fi analytics can bring invaluable insights, it’s essential to be aware of potential challenges, such as data privacy issues, technical difficulties, costs associated with implementation, and the need for staff training. Universities must take steps to ensure that any Wi-Fi analytics solution they implement complies with all relevant privacy regulations and that staff are adequately trained to use it effectively.

An Essential Tool for Space Planning

Wi-Fi analytics is undoubtedly a critical tool in space planning for higher education. It allows universities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their campus resources, providing essential insights into how their spaces are being used.

If you’re interested in exploring the potential of Wi-Fi analytics for your university, consider launching a pilot program. Reach out to professionals or organizations with experience in this field to understand what steps you need to take. The insights gained could be a game-changer in optimizing your university’s space and resources.

Ernest Bricker

Infrastructure Practice Lead

About Columbia Advisory Group

Founded in Dallas in 2012, Columbia Advisory Group LLC (CAG) is an established IT consulting firm renowned for delivering cost-effective, meaningful, and practical IT solutions that solve complex business problems. Our seasoned teams offer comprehensive insight across diverse regulatory and economic environments, providing unbiased, straightforward analysis and recommendations. We pride ourselves on our deep understanding of IT while remaining software and hardware-agnostic. Regardless of your organization’s growth trajectory or economic landscape, we at CAG are adept at adapting to your unique needs and complexity, offering tailored solutions to drive your success.

Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.

The Benefits of Outsourcing Project Management: A Strategic Approach for Business Success

If you’re reading this, chances are that your organization is already juggling a multitude of tasks, projects, and deliverables. With the increasing complexity of the business landscape, the question becomes: How can companies manage their growing portfolio of projects more effectively? The answer may surprise you, – Outsourcing Project Management. While it might seem counterintuitive to place such a critical part of your operations in the hands of an external entity, there are compelling reasons why this could be a strategic decision for your business.  Let’s take a quick look at some of the reasons why Outsourcing Project Management might make sense for your business.

Focus on Core Business Functions

I don’t think I would get much pushback when it comes to the need to allow our internal resources to focus on core business functions. That is to say, if my business is in Marketing, I would want to focus my resources and attention on Marketing activities. Outsourcing Project Management allows companies to devote more time and energy to areas that directly contribute to revenue generation, customer acquisition, and business expansion.  While advances in technology certainly aide in business growth, the implementation of technological capabilities would be delivered more effectively by Outsourcing to a company whose business is Project Management.

Specialized Skills and Expertise

In addition to being able to focus on your Core Business, companies also benefit from specialized Skills and Expertise that may not already be on their payroll. Outsourcing project management provides access to a pool of experts who specialize in project planning, execution, and evaluation. These professionals have a deep understanding of project methodologies, risk management, and quality assurance. They bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience that your internal team may not have. This results in more efficient project delivery, cost savings, and ultimately, a better return on your investment.

Cost-Efficiency

Outsourcing can help manage and reduce costs in several ways. It eliminates the need for extensive training or upskilling of in-house staff, thereby saving on training costs and reducing the downtime associated with such training. Also, since the outsourced project managers are not your employees, your company can save on costs associated with benefits, taxes, and overhead expenses.

Risk Management

Outsourced project management teams come with deep experience and tools to anticipate, evaluate, and manage potential project risks. These could range from timeline delays, budget overruns, or scope creep. By actively managing these risks, the outsourced project management team can increase the chances of project success.

Increased Flexibility and Scalability

Flexibility is a significant advantage of outsourcing. It enables your organization to adapt more efficiently to changes in the business environment or project requirements. You can upscale or downscale the project management resources as needed, without the long-term commitments of hiring full-time employees. This flexibility allows companies to remain agile, responding more effectively to market changes and customer demands.

Access to Latest Technology and Best Practices

Outsourcing partners invest in the latest project management tools and stay updated on best industry practices to stay competitive. This means your projects will benefit from the latest advancements and practices in project management without your company having to invest directly in acquiring these tools or training for them. Another cost-saving benefit.

In a rapidly evolving business landscape, the strategic use of resources can be the key differentiator between success and mediocrity. Outsourcing project management may seem like a bold step, but the benefits it brings in terms of cost savings, risk management, scalability, and access to specialized expertise make it a worthy consideration.

Remember, the aim isn’t to lose control over your projects but to gain more efficient management of them. Outsourcing project management is a strategic decision that, when done right, can bolster your operational efficiency and strategic goals. It’s about letting the experts do what they do best, so you can focus on what you do best – running your business.

Claude Bird

Project Management Office Lead

About Columbia Advisory Group

Founded in Dallas in 2012, Columbia Advisory Group LLC (CAG) is an established IT consulting firm renowned for delivering cost-effective, meaningful, and practical IT solutions that solve complex business problems. Our seasoned teams offer comprehensive insight across diverse regulatory and economic environments, providing unbiased, straightforward analysis and recommendations. We pride ourselves on our deep understanding of IT while remaining software and hardware-agnostic. Regardless of your organization’s growth trajectory or economic landscape, we at CAG are adept at adapting to your unique needs and complexity, offering tailored solutions to drive your success.

Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.

Enhancing Higher Education: Why Microsoft Azure Active Directory is the Optimal Identity and Access Management Solution

In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, safeguarding sensitive systems and user data is paramount for organizations of all sizes. Among the myriad options available, Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) stands out as a web-based identity and access management solution. This powerful tool enables universities to efficiently manage user authentication, access control, and security across multiple cloud-based services. In this blog, we explore the compelling reasons why higher education institutions should consider implementing Azure AD for a comprehensive identity and access management system.

Strengthening Security with Advanced Features

Azure AD empowers organizations to extend their authentication processes beyond local accounts and into the cloud. By leveraging advanced features such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), two-step verification (2SV), and conditional access policies (CAP), universities can effectively shield users from unauthorized access attempts, both online and in physical locations. These additional layers of security ensure that only authorized individuals have access to sensitive data. Let’s delve into the actions of a potential hacker and how Azure AD can thwart their efforts:

  • Preventing Brute-Force Attacks:
    Hackers often exploit compromised password files from data breaches on the dark web to carry out brute-force attacks on email accounts. Azure AD mitigates this risk by emphasizing the importance of using unique passwords for each account, thus thwarting these malicious attempts.

  •  Safeguarding Email Accounts:
    By enabling MFA for email accounts, universities can prevent hackers from changing email passwords and locking legitimate users out. This adds an extra layer of protection to safeguard valuable information.

  •  Fortifying Phone Carrier Security:
    Hackers often exploit information found within emails to discover the user’s phone carrier and attempt unauthorized access. To counter this, implementing phone carrier services that require a phone call approval request for any account modifications can significantly bolster security.

  • Employing MFA Across Accounts:
    With Azure AD, universities can implement MFA for each account, ensuring that a stolen phone number or compromised email cannot be exploited to gain unauthorized access to intellectual and financial resources across various platforms.

  • Eliminating Account Takeover:
    By diligently applying MFA protocols, universities can prevent hackers from using texted or emailed codes to bypass passwords, change account credentials, and gain control over vital resources such as banking, social media, e-commerce platforms, and other essential services.

Seamless Integration with Third-Party Applications

Microsoft Azure AD seamlessly integrates with popular third-party applications widely utilized by higher education institutions, such as Google Apps, Office 365, and Salesforce CRM. This integration enables users to log in effortlessly using their existing credentials, eliminating the need to remember separate usernames and passwords for each application. By embracing the single sign-on capabilities offered by Azure AD, universities can streamline their authentication processes and enhance the user experience.

Enhanced Accessibility and Minimal Deployment Effort

As a web-based system hosted offsite within Microsoft’s own data centers, Azure AD ensures superior availability when compared to traditional on-premise solutions. Staff members can securely connect from any location and device, facilitating productivity and enabling remote collaboration. Additionally, most universities already have access to Microsoft tools like Office 365 and SharePoint Online through educational discounts, making the deployment of Azure AD a seamless process with minimal effort and cost for university IT teams.

Microsoft Azure Active Directory offers higher education institutions an ideal combination of scalability, security, and cost savings for effective identity and access management. By implementing Azure AD, universities can bolster their security posture, seamlessly integrate with existing applications, and enhance accessibility for staff members. With its robust features, Azure AD empowers universities to manage user permissions efficiently within and beyond the classroom environment.

 

Ernest Bricker

Infrastructure Practice Lead

About Columbia Advisory Group

Founded in Dallas in 2012, Columbia Advisory Group LLC (CAG) is an established IT consulting firm renowned for delivering cost-effective, meaningful, and practical IT solutions that solve complex business problems. Our seasoned teams offer comprehensive insight across diverse regulatory and economic environments, providing unbiased, straightforward analysis and recommendations. We pride ourselves on our deep understanding of IT while remaining software and hardware-agnostic. Regardless of your organization’s growth trajectory or economic landscape, we at CAG are adept at adapting to your unique needs and complexity, offering tailored solutions to drive your success.

Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.

Securing Texas: Columbia Advisory Group’s Impact on Statewide Cybersecurity

Over the past few years, Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) has been instrumental in helping improve the State of Texas’ cybersecurity posture. CAG has completed over 200+ Texas Cybersecurity Framework (TCF) assessments of State of Texas Agencies and Higher Education Institutions.   The TCF is a NIST 800-53/171-based framework assessment for the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR). The TCF offers a uniform language for addressing and managing cybersecurity risk cost-effectively, aiming to bolster cybersecurity without imposing additional regulatory burdens on agencies. The TCF is aligned with the NIST framework, offering five continuous functions that concurrently manage cybersecurity risks: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover. These functional areas are encapsulated within 42 total security control objectives, guiding organizations in identifying, assessing, and managing their unique cybersecurity risks.

CAG’s proficiency in handling these functions has been a cornerstone in successfully implementing the TCF. By comprehensively navigating through these security control objectives, CAG has enabled valuable insights into each agency’s cybersecurity posture, leading to the identification and resolution of potential vulnerabilities.

The TCF also incorporates a maturity model that helps organizations better understand, manage, and reduce cybersecurity risks. The concept of “maturity” in this context refers to the degree of implementation and optimization of processes, ranging from ad hoc practices to actively optimized processes. CAG’s adeptness in determining the maturity level of each security control objective has significantly aided the agencies in progressing towards higher maturity levels, thereby enhancing their cybersecurity readiness.

CAG’s extensive involvement in the execution of TCF assessments illustrates a deep understanding of the framework and a capacity to apply it effectively across a diverse range of agencies, including the TxDOT, Texas Tech University, Health and Human Services, PUC, Texas Parks, and Wildlife and the Secretary of State among others. CAG delivers up to 40 TCFs annually via an MSA with a Texas-based multinational service provider on the DIR contract.

CAG’s expertise and commitment to bolstering Texas’s cybersecurity landscape provide a compelling case study of a successful public-private partnership. CAG’s approach to the TCF has dramatically improved the digital resilience of the Texas public sector, demonstrating the potential for such collaborations to manage large-scale cybersecurity challenges successfully.

The story of CAG’s work with the Texas DIR illustrates how a public-private partnership, when underpinned by a deep understanding of an effective cybersecurity framework, can significantly enhance the security posture of public sector entities. The benefits of this approach extend far beyond cybersecurity readiness, fostering a more informed workforce that remains the first line of defense against cyber threats.

Brad Hudson

Cybersecurity Practice Leader

About Columbia Advisory Group

Founded in Dallas in 2012, Columbia Advisory Group LLC (CAG) is an established IT consulting firm renowned for delivering cost-effective, meaningful, and practical IT solutions that solve complex business problems. Our seasoned teams offer comprehensive insight across diverse regulatory and economic environments, providing unbiased, straightforward analysis and recommendations. We pride ourselves on our deep understanding of IT while remaining software and hardware-agnostic. Regardless of your organization’s growth trajectory or economic landscape, we at CAG are adept at adapting to your unique needs and complexity, offering tailored solutions to drive your success.

Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.