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Entara Recognized for Excellence in Managed IT Services

Entara, a leading IT Managed Services Company in Chicago, announced that CRN®, a brand of The Channel Company, has named Entara to its 2019 Managed Service Provider (MSP) 500 list in the Security 100 category. This annual list recognizes North American providers with innovative approaches to managed services that help companies improve operational efficiencies, maximize return on IT investments, and navigate complex IT challenges.

In a rapidly changing tech environment, managed service providers are integral to the success of businesses everywhere. They empower companies to implement and operate complex technologies while staying within their budgets and keeping focus on their core business. CRN’s MSP 500 list identifies the most groundbreaking managed service organizations, with advanced solutions that have endless potential for growth.

This annual list is divided into three categories: the MSP Pioneer 250, recognizing companies with business models weighted toward managed services and largely focused on the SMB market; the MSP Elite 150, recognizing large, data center-focused MSPs with a strong mix of on-premises and off-premises services; and the Managed Security 100, recognizing MSPs focused primarily on off-premises, cloud-based security services.

Cybersecurity threats are evolving and growing continuously for businesses across industries. Technologicial developments that drive efficiency and connectivity, such as remote access, cloud usage, and backup data storage, also create security vulnerabilities. Entara works collaboratively with clients to build a robust organizational culture of cybersecurity awareness and preparedness. Entara’s comprehensive cybersecurity solutions include 24-hour managed detection and response services, security awareness training, and cost-effective backup and data recovery solutions – safeguarding clients’ current and future business interests.

“Capable MSPs enable companies to take their cloud computing to the next level, streamline spending, effectively allocate limited resources and navigate the vast field of available technologies,” said Bob Skelley, CEO of The Channel Company. “The companies on CRN’s 2019 MSP 500 list stand out for their innovative services, excellence in adapting to customers’ changing needs and demonstrated ability to help businesses get the most out of their IT investments.”

“We are thrilled to earn a place on the MSP 500 list as an exceptional managed services provider,” said Linda Maclachlan, CEO of Entara. “We are constantly developing new solutions and making improvements to our current systems to better serve our clients, and it’s an honor to be recognized along with other outstanding industry leaders.”

The MSP 500 list is featured in the February 2019 issue of CRN and online at www.CRN.com/msp500.

What Cybersecurity Strategies Can We Take from Our Armed Forces?

As the military has long known, and as breached enterprises figured out, it is not smart to have the same people who manage systems also audit them for cybersecurity holes. That’s why businesses are turning to the tried and true “red team, blue team” security approach to provide a fully transparent breakdown of the areas they need to address to remain secure.

Originally, the “red team, blue team” approach was employed by the military to test force-readiness. The red team would attack something, and the blue team would defend it. In the 1990s, this tactic began to be used by security companies to test IT security systems. The aim of this exercise is to understand a business’ ability to detect and respond to a cyberattack. It is also a way to determine the level of security maturity the business has reached.

When this strategy is used for cybersecurity purposes, the red team is typically focused on assessing the security of either an application, an IT infrastructure, or in some cases even a physical environment. This often occurs in the form of penetration testing, assuming the role of a hacker that detects and exposes vulnerabilities that pose a threat to a company’s cybersecurity. Other techniques include phishing attempts aimed at employees, as well as social engineering that involves impersonating an employee to try to obtain access to protected information.

On the other hand, the blue team deploys and manages a company’s infrastructure and defenses. The blue team is typically tasked with finding ways to prevent the red team from accessing protected information and thwarting their attack. They often employ software like an intrusion detection system (IDS) that provides them with an ongoing analysis of unusual and suspicious activity.

This strategy addresses best practices when it comes to preventing a cyberattack. Simply “checking compliance boxes” for security and risk management is not enough to protect businesses from the day to day realities that are ever-evolving. As cybersecurity threats continue to grow and show no signs of stopping, businesses are rightfully looking to experienced security experts for help. No one person or organization should be expected to holistically protect the firm from ever-increasing complex threats.

In an era of ubiquitous managed services firms, where many advertise a “complete” cybersecurity offering, others choose to stand by the tried and true principle of “red team, blue team.” The danger of having one company handle all of your cybersecurity needs – from infrastructure to penetration testing – is that they may not be able to be truly transparent about their findings. A complete and effective security infrastructure is only possible when two teams, without bias, are working together to prepare for a cyber-attack.

Discover your ace “blue team” partner in Entara, as we collaborate with your “red team” to conduct detailed assessments, address findings, and provide input to policy discussions. Click here to start putting the military’s best insights into action to protect your business.

Celebrating Female Entrepreneurs at the Learning from Ladies Who Launch Event

“I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.” – Estée Lauder

Hard working women are at the core of some of Chicago’s most successful startups. On January 31, 2019, a panel of female entrepreneurs gathered to share their experiences and challenges starting businesses as part of the Learning from Ladies Who Launch Event organized by the Kellogg Executive Women’s Network (KEWN). The event took place at EvolveHer, Chicago’s first coworking space for women.

Panelists included Linda Maclachlan, Founder and CEO of Entara, Katy Lynch, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Codeverse, and Sonali Lamba, Founder of Brideside. The discussion was moderated by Linda Darragh, The Larry Levy Executive Director of the Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative.

“All three of us come from diverse backgrounds,” commented Lynch. “Our entrepreneurial stories and our journeys could not be more different. Some of us have bootstrapped, some of us have raised capital, some of us run small teams, some of us have scaled large businesses. I think that dynamic on stage was really incredible. I learned a lot about the other women.”

“I thought this group of panelists was especially fascinating because these women came from such diverse backgrounds and started really different businesses,” said Dee Slaughter, Co-President of the Kellogg Executive Women’s Network. “That made it especially interesting to hear what challenges they faced when they were starting out. We were able to learn how they got off of the ground and grew three very different companies to success.”

“I feel so fortunate to be able to collaborate with other strong and resilient female leaders,” said Maclachlan, who got her start at Accenture before launching Entara. “We all came to the event with diverse perspectives that provided every attendee with a message they could connect to and bring with them when they left.”

Having launched her company and guided it through 17 years of growth (and counting!), Maclachlan knows what it takes to succeed in business. “We started as a technology managed services firm for the electronic trading industry, but we’ve evolved so far beyond our original roots. Today, we are a full-service IT Managed Services firm. Guiding our growth, together with my executive team, has been the work of my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

A graduate of Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, Maclachlan welcomes the opportunity to connect with women leaders. “It is great to share our experiences running our own businesses – including balancing the juggle and struggle of home life, accessing capital, recruiting stellar teams, and nurturing the right culture. I always walk away from events like this energized and with a renewed appreciation for my peers.”

And according to Slaughter, others shared Maclachlan’s sentiment, too.

“The group got along famously. They laughed with each other,” said Slaughter. “Often times I find that people in the C-suite are not always relatable to the everyday person, where I felt the panelists at this event were so relatable to a lot of different women of all age ranges. As the event came to a close, I got the sense that no one wanted to leave.”

Learn more about the incredible Entara leadership team by clicking here.

The Value of Real Change

The New Path Forward for YJT Solutions

by Linda Maclachlan

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

This famous quote has been linked to Charles Darwin for years, but the truth is that its first known publication was by a Louisiana State University business professor named Leon C. Megginson.  Regardless of whether we are talking about the evolution of a species or the probability of a business flourishing in a changing industry, it is true:  those who survive know how to change.

The tough part is that change never comes easily, whether it’s starting an exercise plan or preparing your business for the coming wave of artificial intelligence.  The world around us never stays in the same place…markets, people, competition, trends, politics, technologies, and behavior are always evolving, and those who don’t ride the wave of change run the probable risk of being left behind by small or mighty disruption that often happens fast.

We started 17 years ago as YJT Solutions, ensuring IT uptime to the electronic trading sector.  Our one motto was, “Serve the client.”  That was it.

And serve we did.  Through many wonderful client partnerships, we added capabilities over the years to include the full spectrum of services in an IT managed services company, and as a result, our client base and our influence grew many times over from where we started.

Reflection in 2018

However, at the beginning of 2018, inside a robust firm that had just doubled in the prior year, we asked this question:

“What will the best future IT managed services firm look like?”

We allowed ourselves to start with a blank canvas and dream up what would be in that firm.  Here’s what we realized:

  • The days of “break/fix” are over. There will always be systems that break, and we’ll be there to quickly remedy them at warp speed, but our value as a partner firm must go farther.  Much farther.
  • The IT world has changed, and change is only accelerating.  Companies need a partner to help them see around the corner to what’s coming, and then to lay out the progression of logical steps to get to their best future.  They need a future-facing, executable roadmap now more than ever.
  • Change remains difficult, given so many competing and accelerating priorities, and companies need an easier way to adopt new technology faster. To keep pace, they cannot do everything themselves in-house; they need to leverage the best of all toolsets and platforms without having to do the work to implement, maintain, resource, and then replace them a few years later.
  • Companies need a partner who will aggressively commit to solving root issues instead of getting into a “Groundhog Day” syndrome.  Just like the movie where Bill Murray finds himself repeating each day over and over and needs to figure out how to stop the endless cycle, companies today cannot afford to stay in the repetitive loops of fixing the same problems over and over.  They need to keep moving forward faster.
  • Companies need a partner who goes beyond an IT function; they need a partner to fill a business function. Our best value is to be the business partner that helps them leverage pre-built technology to do what they need done – well and fast.
  • And finally, companies are going to need a partner who helps them simplify repeatable business processes, because automation won’t pay off until and unless processes are simplified, sound, and efficient; otherwise, the result is… well, automated inefficiency!

Then, in the early days of 2018, we committed as a team to be this managed services firm that partners with each and every client to create – and help execute — the roadmap to their best IT future.

Enter Entara.

Our new name, Entara, sprang from a combination of “The Hill of Tara” in Ireland, a historically significant high perch offering a 360-degree view of the surrounding lands, and the star Antares, one of the brightest stars in the night sky. In both ways, we created Entara to provide our customers with that high-perch view of IT needs that must get addressed today, what we know are the IT realities of tomorrow, and finally, a clearly-illuminated view of the future we’re all heading toward.  The bright dots above our new name represent the concept of a horizon line taking us from today, through tomorrow, and all the way beyond, illuminating a clear path and our shared destination.

But a new concept, a new name and a new logo is just the beginning of our evolution. We’re providing a future view of where the corporate IT world is heading with a significant reimplementation of our Gartner-leading managed service platform, ServiceNow. We’re now able to offer our clients a fully-managed, pre-built, yet completely customizable ServiceNow platform that can be leveraged as a single system of engagement – bringing the power of simplicity to the fore. And it’s all built to help you on your journey into the future by bringing added process, efficiency, simplification and automation to your company. There’s nothing else like it in the managed services world today, and we’ve created it here at Entara for you.

We are lucky to have some award-winning and highly-accomplished CIOs in our client base. They know the importance of a well-planned, executable journey, and they frequently say this: “We have to be working from our roadmap to the future.”

Here’s to that roadmap, and our journey toward the future, together!

 

Simplicity – The Vision for the Future

Leonardo da Vinci’s reflection, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” is timeless wisdom gained from his remarkable breadth of studies ranging from history to art to science to innovation. 

 

By Linda Maclachlan

 

Simplicity. It’s absolutely essential to the quick adoption of new technologies, new products and even new ideas. Simplification in design, rollouts and use is also where the future of IT is headed, not only because it creates economic, organizational and resource efficiencies, but because it creates faster, easier adoption. Yet, for many IT leaders, simplicity becomes an evermore-difficult practical goal as our world evolves.

Take a look at Amazon’s AWS, which transformed, and is continuing to transform, the way companies deploy and consume computing power. However, there are still countless legacy systems chugging out day-to-day operations on internal data centers with some rather odd integrations to these new cloud applications.  Likely not optimal.

Here’s another example. The rate of mergers and acquisitions has been on the rise since 2009.  Yet, the timeline for completing the business side of the acquisition generally runs far faster than the time and resources needed to integrate the IT components most efficiently.

 

Simplicity and the C-Suite

Simplicity is no simple task, but a necessary one. How do I make it all happen – on schedule and in budget? How do I forge a path to deliver what the business needs? The promise of, “Someday soon we will go back and clean this all up,” runs counter to the unrelenting fact that life in the technology world only speeds up. And there’s no looking back.

As any CIO knows, simplicity is a nearly impossible challenge… some might even say Sisyphean. When you inherit an environment fraught with disparate systems that lack standardization and process, combined with the pressure to add more and do more, it’s easy to feel like you’re single-handedly pushing a boulder uphill. But savvy business leaders, regardless of whether they hold the title of CEO, CIO, COO, CSO, or Head of Sales, know deep down that the uphill climb of simplification is the right direction to point your boardroom feet. The journey to efficiency, profitability, and real competitive advantage may be a difficult one, but the resulting opportunity to launch innovative products and services is well worth the effort.

The Herculean task is to find order in disorder, and there are two initial steps to take that will help kickstart your IT transformation journey:  consolidation and standardization.

 

Step 1: Consolidate

Future-focused CIOs know that the first step is to cut out all unnecessary and redundant assets, including systems, applications, hardware, processes, and services. It’s a process known to many gardeners as “deadheading” – cutting all non-essential assets back to the lowest possible place on the vine and consolidating to a single system of engagement.

In an industry with hundreds of thousands of partners and vendors, the idea of a singular IT platform was once a pipedream, but CIOs are quickly learning the power of ONE:  One Configuration Management Data Base (CMDB) that is accurate and contains all IT assets, one database of resources, one alerting system that correlates and escalates all monitoring alerts throughout the organization, one change management process to control all system-wide updates, and the list goes on.

A single system of engagement allows CIOs to see the unnecessary complexities, to discover rogue applications, to see wasted cloud storage and expense, and to begin to put 2 and 3 and 2 and 5 together and make 4, ultimately delighting the CFO and paving the way for a smarter way to deploy new ideas.

This process, while often tedious, arduous and even painful, is necessary for CIOs to spearhead in order to accomplish a single, high-level goal: simplify IT operations by creating a baseline for process consistency.

 

Step 2: Standardize

Once IT systems have been consolidated, the next step on the efficiency journey is process standardization.  While never anyone’s favorite job, the results in increased business profitability and scalability are worth the diligence required to do it properly.

Standardizing everything – from naming conventions to change processes to incident management processes – allows the IT function to operate quickly in response to ever-changing business requirements. System standardization inevitably leads to the golden nuggets of simplifying and standardizing processes.  After all, every organization, in essence, is really just an expansive set of workflow processes.

And it is here – in process simplification done on top of consolidated, standardized, and simplified IT assets – where the magic of the automation journey begins.

As CIOs think about how to move their organizations forward and help make their enterprises “future-ready,” the concept and the power of simplification may seem counter-intuitive when “more” is being asked of CIOs every day.  With apologies to my grade school English teachers, “do less better” is possibly the single-most important IT task to achieve in this era.

Simplicity.  The ultimate sophistication.

More Than Just A Tagline…

The Smarter Way Forward, Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond

By Linda Maclachlan

Today Tomorrow and Beyond

We decided to share some inside “secret sauce” with our audience. At Entara, our tagline is not just a marketing phrase; it’s the way we classify, organize, and execute work in front of us. It’s also the practical way we engage with our clients in developing and executing a roadmap to the future.

It’s a principle rooted in the Entrepreneurs Operating System (EOS) model. For those not familiar with EOS, it’s a business methodology that brings simplicity, organization, accountability, and ultimately traction to a company on their journey into the future.

One of the key operating principles of EOS is categorizing all ideas, projects, goals, requirements, and problems to be solved into one of three buckets:

  • Starting with a 5-year horizon, what will the world look like?  What does our organization look like?  What technology will we need to have in practice then?  Etc.
  • As we paint the picture of where we are headed in the next five years, what are the goals we need to achieve in the coming year to stay on course? What new systems need to be delivered?  What changes need to occur in the organization? What problems need to be solved once and for all?
  • Then finally, to achieve our yearly goals, what needs to happen this quarter to stay on track?

We call these three buckets Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond, and it’s part of our everyday language at Entara.

It’s so simple, yet so powerful. And it works.

At Entara, we have plenty of those “beyond” projects, and they are listed on our own roadmap to the future so we never lose sight of the journey we are on ourselves.  In our disciplined quarterly meetings, they are reviewed one by one, and we can decide to take any of these actions to each project based on insights and work done since the last quarterly meeting:

  • Move it to “tomorrow,” meaning it is now on the docket for the coming year.
  • Keep it in “beyond,” either as is or with some tweaks.
  • Remove it altogether.

We also have clear, measurable goals and projects for this year, our “tomorrow.”  And finally, we have those goals and projects that are right in front of us for this quarter, our “today.”

As life happens, and new issues arise and new ideas are generated between quarters, the temptation is always there to chase every squirrel, resulting in many projects in process with few completed, otherwise known as chaos.  Most of us have experienced environments like this, and it’s a losing battle. Morale goes down, there are not enough resources, and too often the projects have not been thoroughly analyzed before beginning the work. Of course, the real problem with squirrel-chasing is that the journey stops, and the promised business benefits of all the “work” being done aren’t there. Our disciplined process stops that vicious cycle.  Now, the response to that great idea is, “Fantastic! Let’s add it to the Beyond,” knowing it will be discussed by the leadership team in less than 90 days from today, and 90 days goes by quickly.

I went to Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Business, and I am grateful for what I learned there, the people I met, and the experiences I’ve had as a direct result. Entara would not exist today without that experience. However, the older I get, the more convinced I am that da Vinci was right: Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

We’ve been using this simple EOS model internally for over three years with great success, and we are now embedding some of its crucial elements into the way we engage with clients as part of our standard, ongoing roadmapping process:

  • Where do we need to be in 5 years?  (Beyond.)
  • Where do we need to be by the end of this year? (Tomorrow.)
  • Where do we need to be the end of this quarter? (Today.)

One last point on the specifics of what goes on the roadmap:  Keeping simplification projects on the docket for every “today” and “tomorrow” provides the space needed to journey with a steady foot into the “beyond,” where just as da Vinci realized, the power of the future lies in the art of taking our progressively complex world and finding the simplest solutions. No organization, no department, and no person can keep adding without subtracting and condensing at some point.

By following this super simple process, it’s magical how the “beyond” continuously evolves into “tomorrow,” and the “tomorrow” evolves into “today,” pointing the best way forward for all, along with measurable success.

To the journey!

 

The Smarter Way Forward

Today, Tomorrow and Beyond