One of the things I have noticed while working at SynerComm over the years is that while most companies have employees on staff who possess the necessary technical knowledge to complete their projects, many organizations lack the logistics knowledge that large‐scale deployments require. As such, many companies typically rely on their project managers to handle these deployments. While project managers possess a wide variety of skills, few have extensive experience handling the logistics of large, complex deployments and could benefit from some expert advice and assistance.

To fill this knowledge gap and help our partners succeed, SynerComm created ImplementIT, a production‐readiness approach that offers smooth deployments for IT organizations looking to scale their operations.

Handling the Logistics of Large-Scale Deployments: Tips for IT Personnel & Project Managers

Many project managers and IT personnel often find themselves in charge of coordinating the logistics of large‐scale deployments. To help your next deployment go as smoothly as possible, we suggest reaching out for help from the experts as early in the process as possible.

Experts like the team at SynerComm can help you define, model, and analyze your options when it comes to procurement, staging, testing, coordination, shipping, installation, and support. Even if you ultimately decide not to partner with an external logistics team, your organization can still benefit from their advice and learn how to avoid many of the common pitfalls associated with large, complex deployments that unprepared teams are more likely to encounter.

The SynerComm team is always happy to help and appreciates the opportunity to help organizations consider all their options and plan their approach to any large, complicated deployment. Though each project has unique factors that need to be considered, many deployment projects share at least some similarities. An impact and approach analysis conducted with help from the experts is a small investment that can save your organization time and money while minimizing frustrating delays and other challenges.

The Benefits of ImplementIT

ImplementIT has been specifically designed to help set project managers, and their projects, up for success by offering advice as well as practical assistance.

Though most project managers have at least some prior logistics experience, few have extensive experience handling large, complex IT deployments. To help ensure each deployment goes smoothly, all ImplementIT customers are assigned their own SynerComm project manager. All of our project managers are trained to blend well with your PMO requirements while bringing recent and relevant logistics experience to the table. They also have extensive experience managing and mitigating the common risks and issues frequently associated with shipping (particularly international shipping), as well as the skills required for country‐specific installation and support.

ImplementIT project managers are able to integrate seamlessly with your organization, expanding your team’s capabilities when it comes to large‐scale, geographically diverse, and complex deployments. Your ImplementIT project manager is there to help you make decisions and avoid potentially costly and time‐consuming issues. Our culture of collaboration and transparency means we gladly share our knowledge freely, setting PMOs up for success and teaching them the skills they need to handle future deployments on their own while also offering ongoing support and advice as requested.

The ImplementIT Process

The first thing we do before we begin any logistically challenging IT project is sit down with your project managers to ensure we understand your schedule and your outcome requirements. Once we are certain we are all striving towards the same goal, we identify atomic units for the project, including sites, systems, and milestones, and define the high‐level breakdown structure required to manage the deployment of those units. During this phase, we also take into account all related activities, communications, and deliverable to help ensure the deployment goes as smoothly as possible.

Once all parties are on the same page regarding those higher‐level concepts, our team begins codifying these concepts into a working model. This includes layering in details and assumptions based on our extensive experience and capturing the supporting variables for common decision sets. This model allows our team to work closely with your team so we can effectively communicate and explain cost, quality, and schedule expectations based on our expert assumptions.

Working together, we begin changing the variable decision points in order to gain an immediate understanding of what the impact of various decisions might be. This unique approach has served us very well in the past, which is why we chose to leverage it when designing our ImplementIT approach.
By working together through the options using real‐time impact information, the two teams can co‐author an approach that is mindful of your project's unique considerations. We also work to create a solid rapport and establish open lines of communication between both teams early on in the project. This helps minimize the chance of unwelcome surprises, ensuring we consider all possible options and setting the project up for success. In an effort to avoid unpleasant surprises and ensure the deployment goes as smoothly and seamlessly as possible, we try to ensure all assumptions, risk, deliverables, schedules, measures, and metrics are clearly understood on both sides upfront.

Why Risk & Issue Management is Vital to Project Success

As an IT and logistics professional, I can never emphasize enough the value of a solid approach to risk and issue management. Most large‐scale deployments need to be deployed to hundreds or even thousands of sites and require the coordinated cooperation of dozens of teams and individuals. As such, no deployment is ever completely issue‐free.

Common issues I have encountered over the course of my career include:

Though at least a few minor issues are likely to occur during even the best‐planned deployment, there are steps that you can take to minimize the number of issues that do occur and mitigate the delays and other problems these issues are likely to cause.

The key to keeping any project on track and progressing smoothly is complete visibility. We have achieved this by creating a single secure portal that handles all tracking, reporting, documentation, testing, and communication. By ensuring all critical information and communication occurs through a single, centralized portal such as the one ImplementIT leverages, we can help ensure that all key stakeholders are on the same page at all times and have total visibility into all aspects of the project.

COVID-19’s Effect on IT & Logistics

COVID‐19 has had a profound impact on all aspects of business, including IT and logistics. Even before the pandemic, many companies already struggled to find and retain Qualified IT Professionals. Even organizations with fully staffed IT teams often find more work to be done than people to do it. In my experience, even a single disruption, such as an IT team member taking a sick day, can significantly impact business operations and hamper productivity.

To help ensure each project progresses smoothly, all ImplementIT projects include access to a full team of qualified and experienced IT and logistics professionals that you can count on to handle your next large, complex deployment and ensure the job is done right. This means that your organization doesn’t need to pull critical internal IT staff away from other tasks and deploy them out in the field, allowing you to minimize their COVID‐19 exposure risks and cut down on unnecessary travel.

By leveraging SynerComm’s full team of highly qualified IT and logistics staff, you don’t need to redeploy valuable, internal IT staff to handle “rinse and repeat” style deployments. This means that your internal IT professionals can continue to focus on higher‐impact projects and activities designed to grow and safeguard your business.

ImplementIT combines the indispensable technical knowledge of qualified IT professionals with the critical skills required to smoothly and seamlessly handle large‐scale, complex deployments, allowing you and your team to focus on what matters most: your business.

For more information about ImplementIT, or to get started on your next large‐scale deployment, please contact us today.

*Offers updated on March 26, 2020

Most enterprises are getting slammed with employees working from home. Most of us designed our remote user VPN’s for the occasional "snow day" ...right. Now we have an entire workforce, working from home full time for weeks…maybe months …oh yeah, and using a full suite of applications including voice… crazy. No really!

Many of you have contacted SynerComm to get additional VPN licenses/concentrators, endpoint security controls, and help designing and spinning up "new ways" to get employees connected securely. During these crazy times some of our vendors are stepping up and trying to make a difference.

To help you we would like to share a few solutions/offers from our vendors:

VendorOfferDetails
Palo Alto NetworksFree 90-day GlobalProtect VPN subscription license for mobile devices like iPads, etc. (Other GP is already free)Customer logins into their own support portal and select trial licenses
Pulse SecureFlexible Pulse Connect Secure licensingValid through May 31st
CrowdStrikeSurge relief for 60 days (existing customers)
CrowdStrike Falcon Prevent home use licenses
Expiration TBD
SentinelOneFree trials:

SentinelOne Core: AI-powered prevention, detection, and automated response in a single, autonomous lightweight agent; legacy antivirus replacement across Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems with no connectivity or network dependency.

Deployment services: remote deployment assistance to ensure rapid installation and customized configuration
Offer expires May 16th
ArmorbloxNo charge offer to help businesses with 100+ employees during these challenging times.Expiration TBD
Extreme NetworksWork from Home bundle discount Extreme Networks and Tech Data have created a Portable Branch Office Kit to enable your customers to connect, secure, and manage remote sites and remote workers quickly and easily. Combining SD-WAN, Wi-Fi, and cloud management into an easy to deploy, plug and play solution, this kit offer delivers the ability to provide an enterprise-class experience for all connected users, regardless of where they reside.Discounted
LastlineLastline Analyst at no cost for 90 days to organizations with 500+ employees.Offer expires June 30, 2020
ProofpointFree trial - Scalable secure access for increasing your mobile workforce.Offer expires September 30, 2020
UBIQFree trial to Trusted File ManagerOffer expires June 20, 2020

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Have questions or want some guidance with taking advantage of these vendor offers?

Medical community challenge:

In a business environment where resources are limited, compliance requirements abound, and budgets are constantly challenged to meet cost containment targets, the complexity of the regulations your business is obligated to comply with can present a challenge. This challenge becomes even more difficult within the dynamic environment of hospitals, doctors’ offices, and all supporting elements of the medical profession. One of the key elements of facing this challenge is understanding what defines Protected Health Information (PHI) and what qualifies an organization as a HIPAA Covered Entity.

In broad terms, PHI is information that deals, or is associated in any way, with medical details or medical records of an individual. For the term “Electronic Protected Health Information” (ePHI), the definition doesn’t change much, as it simply encompasses the information or data being maintained in an electronic format, as on a computer or any other digital device. To clarify PHI more precisely, the privacy rule states it is “any information held by a covered entity which concerns health status, the provision of healthcare, or payment for healthcare that can be linked to an individual”. Most people respond with “wow, that sounds like it covers a lot” – which is does. Not only is the health-centric data covered by HIPAA, but so is data that directly identifies a person, or a “personal identifier”.  To help get our arms around this topic, we can gain understanding of what HIPAA considers as a personal identifier by reviewing a section of the regulation (Sections 164.514(b) and(c)) for the Privacy Rule. What we can see is that HIPAA considers the following 18 data points as personal identifiers:

Keep in mind the above is not an exhaustive list, as it is the definition by HIPAA that drives what can be considered a personal identifier.  What should be understood is that this is a starting point for the listing of what needs to be considered when looking to secure and keep private the PHI and ePHI within your organization. These are the data sets that need to be located and tagged so that they can be properly secured.  A good methodology is to review the official definition and decide if a particular data element qualifies as protected under HIPAA. It is advisable to err on the side of caution and include data that “could be” viewed as sensitive, because making the wrong determination can easily lead a company to having to pay HIPAA fines and penalties. Despite the small possibility that some data could have an extra layer of protection with this broader approach, it likely is a small price to pay when considering the potential fines and penalties – as was seen with Anthem Inc, reported to have paid $115 million to settle lawsuits over its HIPAA information breach.

This brings us to the next key element for HIPAA – which organizations are obligated to adhere to HIPAA, and am I one?

Here again, we see that HIPAA protections apply to a wide array of organizations and businesses – obviously, these entities are linked to, or perform some activity, with health information. It is the connection with data that brings in the HIPAA regulation and its requirements, as described below. The organizations that deal with medical data are officially termed as “covered entities”. Any contractors, vendors, or 3rd party relationships with a covered entity that involves PHI or ePHI fall under the official term of “business associates”. The requirements of HIPAA extend to business associates, through the covered entity, and are required to be clearly defined within the Business Associate Agreement (BAA). The BAA is to be a component of the contractual agreement between the two organizations.

For clarity on what qualifies as a covered entity: ­

Covered entities are the individuals, institutions, or organizations that maintain patient healthcare or payment information or would reasonably be expected to come into contact with PHI in the course of their daily duties – mostly, healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses. Examples of covered entities include:

What about 3rd party vendors? If a 3rd party is engaged by a covered entity, then a Business Associates Agreement (BAA) is required, per HIPAA. A BAA is a focused document that addresses the requirements of HIPAA and acknowledges that the business relationship between the two parties will involve PHI or ePHI.  To help define where these components apply, here is a more detailed explanation of a Business Associate:

A Business Associate is a person or entity, other than a workforce member, who performs certain contractual functions or activities for a covered entity, or provides certain services to a covered entity, when those functions involve the access to, or the use or disclosure of, PHI. Per HIPAA, Business Associate functions or activities include (but not limited to) creating, receiving, maintaining, or transmitting protected health information for a functions including claims processing or administration, data analysis, processing or administration, utilization review, quality assurance, patient safety activities, billing, benefit management, practice management, and repricing.

It should be clear that the protections for HIPAA-defined medical information and data follow that data, no matter where it resides or who handles it. If your organization has any dealings or contact with medical companies or entities, and you do not have HIPAA protections in place, it would be worthwhile to perform a thorough review to be certain. That review should be fully documented and put forth to proper legal counsel to consider and make a definitive conclusion as to the obligations your company has under the HIPAA regulation.

Too often organizations seem to not have a good understanding of what data they have within their systems, and this leads to a lack of knowledge as to what legal obligations a company has committed itself to. Don’t let this happen to you – leverage the knowledge presented here, along with the information that is publicly available to make a clear determination as to what information security protections your company needs.

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