What You Need To Know About Cybersecurity In 2018 – Forbes Now

You might think of cybersecurity as a specialized, niche career—not a skill that the average person should learn about.

But that’s not the case. In an age where we manage more and more of our lives digitally, it means that anyonein any careershould know simple things about keeping security up to par. At work, this will help companies maintain robust protocols. At home, it will help you protect your own information.

Why anyone and everyone should learn about cybersecuritypexels.com

Technology Affects All Aspects Of Modern Life

To help explain why security knowledge is so important, let’s first establish the baseline of how daily life operates for most of us. “There aren’t many careers left that aren’t based on technology,” says Matt McCormack, Chief Security Officer at Virtustream.

“Teachers in classrooms are using SMART boards. Someone who comes to your home to do contract work will whip out a smartphone or tablet and add information to an app on the spot. The mistakes that cause the most damage at companies are security-related—something as small as clicking attachments in emails without knowing if they are safe.”

Of course, security concerns don’t stay at work. “Nowadays, you’re not just worried about the security of your company, but also your own security and what you put out on your social networks,” McCormack continues. “When I worked for the government, we constantly advised people on what they could and couldn’t do—even outside of work—when it came to social media.”

How Basic Security Knowledge Can Help Any Career

Aside from simply not clicking suspicious email attachments, there are things nearly all employees can do to enhance company security and make themselves more valuable workers.

“Within any role in the organization, learning about security can help an individual understand the risks and make informed decisions for their key stakeholders,” says Pavi Ramamurthy, senior manager of information security at LinkedIn.

Like what, you ask? Here are a few of Ramamurthy’s examples:

  • In sales, reassure customers of an organization’s security posture.
  • In corporate communications, you should assess in the context of business reputation and brand trust.
  • The legal team should ensure that the right security clauses are built into supplier and customer contracts.
  • Regarding HR and/or security, know what’s needed for better security awareness and training.
  • Product managers should advise on good security features.
  • In engineering development, make sure you develop secure code.
  • Security professionals should perform reviews and quality assurance tests for functional and security verification.
  • Corporate management should ensure that a good security incident response plan is in place to address any vulnerabilities.

As you can see, it certainly doesn’t require being a security professional to contribute to security-related projects and awareness. In fact, the more equipped a workforce is with this knowledge, the less money and time will be lost to security breaches.

Cyber Attackers Rely On Human Error

Hackers rely only partly on their security-penetration skills. The other thing they need? Regular people making mistakes. “An analysis of threats faced by organizations in the first quarter of 2017 reveals that cyber attackers still rely heavily on user interaction,” says Bo Yuan, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department of computing security at Rochester Institute of Technology.

One high-profile example: the CEO of Equifax attributed the company’s 2017 breach—which comprised the data of over 147 million consumers and could cost over $600 million—to, you guessed it, human error.

“For those who do not work in IT but use computing devices for work, it is necessary to have cybersecurity training so that they understand how minor mistakes or simple oversights might lead to a disastrous scenario regarding the security or bottom line of their organization,” Yuan continues. “With attacks becoming more advanced and sophisticated, training is mission-critical to minimize human error from the cyberattack equation.”

It’s a wise step to take on a personal level as well, since even if your mistake was completely unintentional, you won’t avoid consequences. “No one wants to get fired, especially when you didn’t do anything malicious to harm your company,” says Andrew Jones, senior sales engineer at Shape Security. “But this is exactly what can happen if you fall victim to an email phishing campaign or other social engineering attack and become the vector by which your company exposes sensitive information. Educate yourself to be suspicious and cautious when it comes to operational security.”

Security Know-How Can Advance You In Your Existing Job

Gaining new skills is a tried-and-true way of getting ahead at your job, and security is one that looks particularly good. “Educating yourself about security (cyber, physical, or otherwise) will positively impact the average person’s career,” says Jones.

The first step to getting promotions or pay raises is showing that you can be trusted with additional responsibilities. “Even if your job is not directly related to a security role, consider the ways that your work could be abused by a malicious third party,” Jones continues.

For example, consider sending an email to your customers that contains a link. “You could use a shortened URL service, like Google’s https://goo.gl, to make the document read better, but that could also provide a template for a bad actor to phish your customers with an identical email using a similar goo.gl link that points to a malicious website,” explains Jones. “The average consumer would have no way of telling the difference. How could you compensate for that risk? Are you even thinking about the potential vulnerability?”

Your company may be willing to cover educational expenses on your behalf, but even if they don’t, there are plenty of ways to pursue security knowledge independently. It doesn’t even have to mean formal training, either. “Educating yourself about security doesn’t just mean getting a certification or diploma,” says Jones. “It’s adjusting your way of thinking about the world so that you can put yourself in the bad guy’s shoes and really consider how they could exploit a weakness.”

Gaining Knowledge Now Can Lead To A Lucrative Career Later

If you begin dabbling in security and discover that you enjoy it or have a knack for related skills, why not pursue it full-time? Doing so is more lucrative than ever. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, it’s predicted that by 2021 there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions. That kind of demand should be attractive to anyone seeking career advancement.

Sarah Squire, senior technical architect at Ping Identity, started her own security career after transitioning from another job. “I began my career in web development, but I was recruited onto a niche information security team,” she said. “After one year of exhaustive training, I was hooked. From there, I got the qualifications to open my own consulting business, contribute to NIST guidelines, speak at high-profile security conferences, author white papers, and contribute to standard protocols that everyone on the internet uses on a daily basis. My security education super-charged my entire career trajectory.”

Plus, it’s work that will help you solve real problems. “The consequences of the cybersecurity skills gap spread far outside of the security space—leaving workplaces across all countries and industry verticals vulnerable to attack,” says Dr. Yuan. “The average data breach is projected to reach a $150 million price tag, plus the corresponding customer and employee trust/loyalty-related outcomes of a breach.”

Ready to start looking into cybersecurity skills or potentially pursue it as a career? Here’s where to start.

Scope Infotech, Inc. – Government Accountability Office

Decision

Matter of: Scope Infotech, Inc.

File: B-414782.4; B-414782.5

Date: March 22, 2018

Daniel J. Strouse, Esq., Laurel A. Hockey, Esq., David S. Cohen, Esq., and John J. O’Brien, Esq., Cohen Mohr LLP, for the protester.

David B. Dixon, Esq., Meghan D. Doherty, Esq., and Robert Starling, Esq., Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, for Sparksoft Corporation, the intervenor.

Christian P. Maimone, Esq., and Erin V. Podolny, Esq., Department of Health and Human Services, for the agency.

Nora K. Adkins, Esq., and Amy B. Pereira, Esq., Office of the General Counsel, GAO, participated in the preparation of the decision.

DIGEST

1. Issuance of a task order that included non-Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) items under a competition among FSS vendors was improper.

2. Protest challenging agency’s evaluation of the awardee’s quotation is denied where, despite the protester’s assertions to the contrary, the solicitation did not mandate the pricing of all software provided as government furnished equipment, vendors were assessed on a common basis, and the awardee’s professional compensation was reasonably evaluated in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulation provision 52.222-46.

DECISION

Scope Infotech, Inc., a small business located in Columbia, Maryland, protests the issuance of a General Services Administration (GSA) Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) task order to Sparksoft Corporation, a small business located in Catonsville, Maryland, by the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) under request for quotations (RFQ) No. 170454 for operations and maintenance of the data services hub system utilized to support healthcare exchanges. The protester challenges multiple aspects of the agency’s evaluation.

We sustain the protest in part, and deny the protest in part.

BACKGROUND

CMS issued the RFQ on January 20, 2017, pursuant to the procedures of Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) § 8.405-2, to small business vendors holding contracts under GSA schedule 70–commercial information technology equipment, software, and services.[1] RFQ at 1; Contracting Officer Statement (COS) at 1. The solicitation sought a vendor to provide information technology operations, maintenance, and support services to maintain CMS’ data services hub, which permits computer systems and networks across multiple government agencies to communicate with each other, and permits the public to shop for health insurance in the private health insurance markets (known as exchanges). COS at 1. The agency intended to issue a fixed-price and time-and-materials task order consisting of a 1-year base period and four 1-year option periods.[2] RFQ at 1, 4. The RFQ provided for selection of the best-value vendor based on the following factors, which were listed in descending order of importance: technical understanding and approach; personnel qualifications and management plan; past performance; section 508 compliance; and price.[3]Id. at 8-9.

The RFQ required vendors to submit quotations in three separate volumes: business/price; technical; and business ethics, conflicts of interest, and compliance. Id. at 4-7. With respect to the business/price volume, vendors were instructed to provide a total price for each year for the fixed-price portion of the statement of work and complete a basis of estimate for the time-and-materials tasks outlined in the statement of work. Id. at 4. Vendors were also required to include any materials, travel, and/or other direct costs (ODC). Id. This volume also required the submission of information pursuant to FAR provision 52.222-46–Evaluation of Compensation for Professional Employees.

With respect to the technical volume, vendors were instructed under the technical understanding and approach factor to demonstrate their technical approach for completing the statement of work requirements, including anticipated risks and their approach for mitigating each risk. Id. Under the personnel qualifications and management plan factor, the RFQ instructed vendors to provide the labor categories and hours, and a plan to manage the staff based on their technical approach. Id. at 5. The RFQ also required vendors to provide a letter of commitment for each person not currently employed by the vendor, to include the date of availability, how long the commitment is binding and a signature both of the individual submitting the letter of commitment and the vendor’s authorized official. Id.

As relevant here, the RFQ provided that the agency would evaluate technical understanding and approach by assessing the vendor’s understanding of the statement of work and its techniques and procedures to ensure efficient, low risk performance. Id. at 8. The agency would evaluate price in accordance with FAR § 8.405-2(d) and assess the information submitted as required by FAR provision 52.222-46 to determine whether a vendor’s compensation plan reflects a sound management approach and understanding of the contract requirements, including an assessment of the vendor’s ability to provide uninterrupted high-quality work. Id. at 9. The professional compensation proposed would also be considered in terms of its impact upon recruiting and retention, its realism, and its consistency with the vendor’s total plan for compensation. Id.

CMS received six quotations in response to the solicitation. Agency Report (AR), Tab 6, Source Selection Decision (SSD), at 4-5. The agency evaluated quotations and issued questions to all vendors. COS at 2. As relevant to this protest, on April 14, the contracting officer sent an email to Sparksoft asking if it was possible to provide any of the non-FSS (open market) software licenses on Sparksoft’s GSA schedule or on one of its teaming partner’s schedules. Id. On April 17, the contracting officer also sent an email to Scope asking if it was possible to provide any of the open market software licenses on Scope’s GSA schedule or on one of its teaming partner’s schedules. Id.; AR, Tab 4M1, CO Email, Apr. 17, 2017 (12:34 p.m.). On April 20, the contracting officer sent an additional email to Scope to point out that the RedHat JBoss software licenses it quoted were open market items. COS, at 2; AR, Tab 4M3, CO Email, Apr. 20, 2017 (11:02 a.m.). The contracting officer asked Scope if it could look at providing these items through one of their partners’/subcontractors’ GSA schedules. Id. On April 21, Scope responded that two companies, Carasoft and EC America, offered the JBoss software licenses on their GSA schedules; however, Scope noted that when purchased on the GSA schedule, the price discount from Carasoft would be removed, which would make the total cost of the JBoss software licenses higher.[4] AR, Tab 4M3, Scope Email, Apr. 21, 2017 (2:53 p.m.).

On April 26, based on the results of the initial evaluation and the vendors’ answers to the contracting officer’s questions, the contracting officer removed all vendors, aside from Scope and Sparksoft, from the competition. COS at 3. On April 28, the agency opened discussions with Scope and Sparksoft. Id.

The agency sent discussion letters to both Scope and Sparksoft to address questions regarding the vendors’ assumptions and quoted software licenses. AR, Tab 4B, Sparksoft Discussion Letter, at 1-2; Tab 4D, Scope Discussion Letter, at 1-2. Each letter also noted that, “a significant portion [of the ODC software licenses] were quoted as open market items as defined in FAR part 8.” Id. at 2. The agency asked, “[i]f at all possible, please provide a quote with no open market ODC’s.” Id. at 2. On May 1, the contracting officer held individual conference calls with each vendor. COS at 3. During these calls, the contracting officer discussed, among other things, whether the software licenses quoted by the vendors as ODCs were open market items. Id. The contracting officer also agreed to provide both vendors with a list of government furnished equipment (GFE) software licenses, which the agency would receive at the end of the incumbent contract and provide to the new contractor. Id. The contracting officer requested final quotation revisions by May 4. Id. at 4.

On May 2, the contracting officer emailed the vendors a spreadsheet listing the GFE software licenses CMS would provide to the awardee. AR, Tab 4F3, CO Email to Scope, May 2, 2017 (3:16 p.m.); Tab 4F4, CO Email to Sparksoft, May 2, 2017 (3:15 p.m.). In response to this email, Scope responded as follows, “this GFE list covers most of the ODC items we had listed. We will go ahead and revise our ODC list to exclude the items covered under GFE.” AR, Tab 4F3, Scope Email, May 2, 2017 (3:43 p.m.). On May 3, the agency sent an updated GFE spreadsheet to the vendors, which included an expiration date for each software license. AR, Tab 4F3, CO Email to Scope, May 3, 2017 (9:28 a.m.); Tab 4F4, CO Email to Sparksoft, May 3, 2017 (9:28 a.m.); See AR, Tab 4E, GFE Software List.

The agency received final quotation revisions from both Scope and Sparksoft. AR, Tab 6, SSD, at 4. The contracting officer began reviewing the vendors’ quotations and noticed a possible misunderstanding in Scope’s business/price volume. COS at 4. The contracting officer emailed Scope on May 5to request clarification that it intended to remove all GFE software from its ODC pricing. Id. The contracting officer’s email provided as follows:

I notice there are no ODC costs in your updated quote besides travel costs. As you saw in the GFE list I provided, the [software] licenses CMS is providing as GFE do expire and will need to be renewed. I want to confirm that the updated quote you sent includes support of the licenses throughout the life of the contract as needed to complete the DSH [data services hub] work – perhaps as not separately priced.

AR, Tab 4G, CO Email to Scope, May 5, 2017 (2:27 p.m.). In response, Scope replied:

It is a misunderstanding on my part, I apologize. I assumed the items from the GFE list you provided will continue to be provided as GFE items under [the] DSH [data services hub] recompete contract. I can redo the price sheet and submit it as if we are picking up all the GFE items as ODC, as they expire.

Id., Scope Email, May 5, 2017 (2:45 p.m.). On May 8, Scope submitted a revised quotation. Id., Tab 6, SSD, at 4.

The agency evaluated the quotations of Scope and Sparksoft and concluded that Sparksoft provided the best-value quotation. COS at 5. On May 31, CMS awarded the task order to Sparksoft and notified Scope of the award. Id.

On June 9, Scope filed a protest with our Office. In response, the agency notified our Office of its intent to take corrective action by re-evaluating the price quotations of both Scope and Sparksoft and issuing a new source selection decision. Based on the agency’s notice, we dismissed the protest as academic on June 29. Scope Infotech, Inc., B-414782, June 29, 2017 (unpublished decision). The agency conducted a re-evaluation of the quotations, and on July 28, again awarded the task order to Sparksoft. COS at 6.

On August 4, Scope filed a second protest with our Office. After the GAO attorney assigned to the protest conducted an alternative dispute resolution conference, in which she informed CMS that she would likely sustain the protest based upon the agency’s evaluation of the vendors’ professional compensation, the agency notified our office of its intent to take corrective action by re-evaluating the quotations of Scope and Sparksoft and issuing a new source selection decision. Based on the agency’s notice, we dismissed the protest as academic on October 27. Scope Infotech, Inc., B-414782.2, Oct. 27, 2017 (unpublished decision). The agency conducted a re-evaluation of the quotations, and on December 8, again awarded the task order to Sparksoft.[5] COS at 6.

On December 13, Scope filed this protest with our Office. Thereafter, on December 22, the agency published a justification and approval for other than full and open competition pursuant to FAR § 8.402(f) to add the bundled JBoss software licenses as open market items to Sparksoft’s FSS task order award.[6] AR, Tab 1Q, JBoss Justification, at 1-5; Seehttps://www.fbo.gov/?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=ab47fb10689ebc40ee787cd3367a4cd7&tab=core&_cview=0 (last visited, Mar. 16, 2018). The justification cited the authority at 41 U.S.C. § 253(c)(1), authorizing the use of other than full and open competition when there is only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements. Id. at 2. The justification provided that Sparksoft was forced to quote the open market bundled JBoss software licenses because these items were not available on a GSA schedule. Id.

DISCUSSION

Scope challenges the agency’s evaluation of Sparksoft’s quotation. The protester alleges that the agency’s award is improper because Sparksoft’s quotation contained open market items, which Scope quoted on Carasoft’s GSA schedule. The protester also alleges that CMS’ evaluation was unreasonable because Sparksoft’s quotation is unacceptable. Scope also challenges the agency’s evaluation of Sparksoft’s professional compensation. We have reviewed all of the protester’s allegations and as explained below, we sustain the protest because the agency unreasonably included the JBoss software licenses as open market items on Sparksoft’s task order. While we do not address each of the remaining allegations, we have reviewed them all and find that none provide a basis to sustain the protest.[7]

Open Market Items

Scope contends that the task order award was improper because Sparksoft quoted the JBoss software licenses as open market items. In response, CMS alleges that it properly issued the award pursuant to FAR § 8.402(f) because no vendor could provide the JBoss software licenses on a GSA schedule contract. We sustain the protest because Scope’s quotation provided the JBoss software licenses on a GSA schedule contract and thus, the agency could not include the same JBoss software licenses on Sparksoft’s order as open market items.

The FSS program, directed and managed by GSA, provides federal agencies with a simplified process for obtaining commonly used commercial supplies and services. FAR § 8.402(a). Orders placed using the procedures established for the FSS program satisfy the requirement for full and open competition. 41 U.S.C. § 152(3); FAR § 6.102(d)(3). Non-FSS products and services may not be purchased using FSS procedures; instead, their purchase requires compliance with the applicable procurement laws and regulations, including those requiring the use of competitive procedures. See FAR § 8.402(f); Symplicity Corp., B-291902, Apr. 29, 2003, 2003 CPD ¶ 89 at 4.

Here, the JBoss software licenses at issue are offered by Carasoft. As explained above, Carasoft’s GSA schedule contract includes the JBoss software licenses as four separate items. Under the prior CMS contract, Carasoft offered a price discount to the incumbent contractor if the four software licenses were purchased as a bundle (i.e. JBoss Fuse + BRMS 16 core and JBoss Fuse + BRMS 64 core). While Carasoft assigns these two bundled products separate product numbers from the four software licenses on its GSA schedule, there is no dispute among the parties that, aside from a price discount, the four JBoss software licenses on Carasoft’s schedule are the same software licenses as those bundled for the price discount. In this regard, whether ordering the bundled or unbundled products, Carasoft provides four separate JBoss software licenses.

The agency first asserts that its award was proper because Scope’s quotation did not include the JBoss software licenses on Carasoft’s GSA schedule contract as the protester alleges. The agency explains that Scope’s final quotation provides, after listing the four software licenses individually: “[The incumbent] had bundled discount for Fuse + BRMS. GSA schedule does not offer bundle discount.” See AR, Tab 2q, Scope Revised Price Quotation, ODC Tab, at 1. CMS contends that this reference to the bundled price discount indicates that Scope did not obtain the JBoss software licenses on Carasoft’s GSA schedule. We disagree.

Scope’s quotation provided a spreadsheet with line entries for each of its ODCs. Four of these line entries quoted Carasoft’s JBoss software licenses and listed Carasoft’s schedule number, Carasoft’s GSA schedule price, and a discounted price Scope received from Carasoft for this procurement. Id. As stated above, the entries also included a note referencing the price discount received by the incumbent. Id. On this record, we find no basis to support the agency’s conclusion that Scope quoted the bundled open market software. Scope’s quotation provided all the necessary information for the agency to confirm that Scope was offering the four separate JBoss software licenses on a GSA schedule (i.e. Carasoft’s GSA schedule number, GSA schedule price, and a price discount). Had the agency reviewed this information, the agency could not have reasonably concluded that Scope failed to quote these items on a GSA schedule. Scope’s reference to the incumbent price discount simply acknowledged that the discount was not available on a GSA schedule. Accordingly, we find the agency’s conclusion that Scope failed to provide the JBoss software licenses on a GSA schedule was unreasonable.

We also find that the agency’s next argument–that CMS could properly rely on Carasoft’s bundle-item price discount to support its claim that no vendor could provide these items on a GSA schedule–is unreasonable. The agency asserts that Sparksoft was forced to quote the bundled JBoss software licenses as open market items because they are not sold on a GSA schedule. However, as explained above, the software licenses were, in fact, available on GSA schedule contracts as four separate items. Indeed, the exact software licenses quoted in Sparksoft’s proposal as open market items were quoted by Scope on Carasoft’s GSA schedule. While the agency makes much of the fact that Carasoft provides different product numbers for these software licenses, whether bundled or unbundled, and provides a price discount for the bundled items, the agency’s claim that the price discount prevents Sparksoft from quoting these items on a GSA schedule is unreasonable and circumvents the very purpose of the FSS. That is, to award contracts to vendors quoting scheduled items. Rapiscan Sys., Inc., B-401773.2, B-401773.3, Mar. 15, 2010, 2010 CPD ¶ 60 at 3 (citing general rule that all items under an FSS solicitation must be included on the successful vendor’s FSS contract). Accordingly, we find that the agency could not reasonably rely on a bundle-item price discount as a basis to find that the JBoss software licenses were not available on a GSA schedule.

In sum, we find that the agency unreasonably concluded that Scope did not provide the JBoss software licenses on a GSA schedule and that no vendor could provide these items on a GSA schedule. Thus, we cannot find the agency’s inclusion of the open market items on Sparksoft’s order pursuant to FAR § 8.402(f) to be reasonable. In this regard, FAR § 8.402(f) permits a contracting officer to “add items not on the Federal Supply Schedule (also referred to as open market items)” to a FSS task order only if all applicable acquisition regulations pertaining to the purchase of the items not on the FSS have been followed. FAR § 8.402(f). Here, the JBoss software licenses could not reasonably be considered to be “items not on the Federal Supple Schedule” because they were quoted by Scope on Carasoft’s GSA schedule contract. For these reasons we sustain the protest.[8] We further conclude that Scope, the only other vendor in the competition who was favorably evaluated at a fair and reasonable price, was prejudiced by the agency’s inclusion of the open market items because, but for these errors, the protester could have had a substantial chance for award. SeeDRS ICAS, LLC, B-401852.4, B-401852.5, Sept. 8, 2010, 2010 CPD ¶ 261 at 21-22.

Sparksoft’s Evaluation

Scope argues that Sparksoft’s proposal is unacceptable because it failed to price all GFE software licenses as ODCs. Relatedly, Scope argues that Sparksoft’s quotation is unacceptable because its technical approach, which provided that it would not make significant changes to the current software licensing, is inconsistent with its price, which did not include pricing for five software licenses provided as GFE. Scope further argues that the agency failed to treat the vendors equally because it permitted Sparksoft to quote only a portion of the required GFE software licenses, while it required Scope to price all GFE software licenses. Scope also challenges the agency’s evaluation of Sparksoft’s professional compensation.

Where, as here, an agency issues a solicitation to FSS contractors under FAR subpart 8.4 and conducts a competition, we will review the record to ensure that the agency’s evaluation is reasonable and consistent with the terms of the solicitation. SRM Group, Inc., B-410571, B-410571.2, Jan. 5, 2015, 2015 CPD ¶ 25 at 4. In reviewing a protest challenging an agency’s technical evaluation, our Office will not reevaluate the quotations; rather, we will examine the record to determine whether the agency’s evaluation conclusions were reasonable and consistent with the terms of the solicitation and applicable procurement laws and regulations. OPTIMUS Corp., B-400777, Jan. 26, 2009, 2009 CPD ¶ 33 at 4. A protester’s disagreement with the agency’s judgment does not establish that an evaluation was unreasonable. DEI Consulting, B-401258, July 13, 2009, 2009 CPD ¶ 151 at 2.

Scope raises multiple related arguments all based upon the same underlying premise–that vendors were required to price all GFE software licenses as ODCs. We find no basis to support this conclusion. The protester has not pointed to anything in the solicitation that would require such pricing, and based on our review, we have found none. Instead, Scope argues that the agency’s communications with the vendors included the requirement to price all GFE software licenses. We do not agree.

As stated above, during separate conference calls with each vendor, the contracting officer agreed to provide a list of GFE to the vendors. The GFE list contained the software licenses used by the incumbent contractor and included an expiration date for each license. AR, Tab 4E, GFE Software List, at 1. After Scope received the list of GFE software licenses, it revised its quotation to remove pricing for each of the GFE software licenses. AR, Tab 2P, Scope Price Quotation, May 4, 2017, ODC Tab, at 1. The contracting officer reviewed Scope’s final revised quotation and recognized Scope’s misunderstanding with respect to the GFE software licenses. COS at 4. In this regard, the contracting officer realized that Scope mistakenly believed that CMS would be providing the software licenses as GFE for the entire contract. Id. To correct this misunderstanding the contracting officer emailed Scope to explain that “[a]s you saw in the GFE list I provided, the licenses CMS is providing as GFE do expire and will need to be renewed. I want to confirm that the updated quote you sent includes support of the licenses throughout the life of the contract as needed to complete DSH [data services hub] work – perhaps as not separately priced.”[9]Id.; AR, Tab 4G, CO Email to Scope, May 5, 2017 (2:27 p.m.). Scope confirmed its misunderstanding and submitted a revised quotation. AR, Tab 4G, Scope Email, May 5, 2017 (2:45 p.m.), at 1; Tab 2Q, Scope Revised Price Quotation.

Based on our review of record, we find that the contracting officer’s communications did not provide a requirement to price all GFE. Rather, the communication was to correct Scope’s misunderstanding with respect to the agency’s provision of these items throughout the life of the contract. Indeed, the contracting officer made clear that the licenses should be renewed only as needed to perform the work. The protester’s allegations in this regard are not reasonable.

Relatedly, Scope also challenges the agency’s evaluation of Sparksoft’s price quotation asserting that the agency failed to recognize that Sparksoft’s price is inconsistent with its technical approach. Sparksoft’s technical quotation provided, “Sparksoft does not anticipate major changes to the current DSH [data services hub] architecture, so, we do not expect significant changes to software licensing.” AR, Tab 3c, Sparksoft Technical Quotation, at 46. Scope argues that, since Sparksoft did not expect significant changes to software licensing, it was required to price all GFE software licenses, and that since Sparksoft did not price five software licenses listed as GFE, the agency should have found its quotation unacceptable. We disagree.

As above, we find no requirement for vendors to provide pricing for all software licenses provided on the GFE list. We also find no basis to conclude that Sparksoft’s statement–that it did not expect significant changes to software license–is inconsistent with its price quotation or required it to price all GFE software licenses. In this regard, Sparksoft did not propose the same solution as the incumbent contractor. Thus, it is not unreasonable to expect differences in its pricing of the GFE software licenses. Moreover, as part of its previous corrective action, the agency conducted an evaluation of Sparksoft’s ODCs to determine if the lack of pricing for the five specific software licenses called into question Sparksoft’s ability to perform the contract. AR, Tab 5F, Sparksoft ODC Analysis, at 1-3. Based upon this review, the agency found no issues with the software licenses Sparksoft included in their quotation and concluded that the price quotation: “1) matched their technical approach and 2) the excluded items . . . would not cause any changes to the DSH [data services hub], which could or would introduce unacceptable risk or problems for the Government.” Id. at 2. On this record, we find the agency’s evaluation unobjectionable.

Scope also alleges that the agency’s evaluation was unequal because the agency required Scope to price all GFE software licenses while Sparksoft was permitted to provide pricing for only a portion of the licenses. Again, neither the RFQ nor the contracting officer’s communications with the vendors mandated the pricing of all GFE software licenses. Furthermore, we find no unequal treatment as a result of the contracting officer’s communications with the vendors because the contracting officer asked both vendors the same question. Compare AR, Tab 4C, CO Email to Scope, May 5, 2017 (2:27 p.m.), at 1, with Tab 4H, CO Email to Sparksoft, May 5, 2017 (3:05 p.m.). As the record demonstrates, Scope priced all software licenses listed as GFE because, as it explained in its communications with the contracting officer, “a central part of our proposed approach for DSH [the data services hub] is to continue the current hardware/software configuration and infrastructure.” AR, Tab 4M2, Scope Email, Apr. 19, 2017 (11:16 a.m.). In this regard, Scope chose to implement the solution of the incumbent. However, Scope was free to maintain only the licenses that were required for performance of the contract. That Scope chose to implement the solution of the incumbent does not require the agency to evaluate Sparksoft, or any other vendor, as if they offered the same solution as Scope. Accordingly, we find that the agency’s evaluation in this regard was equal and in accordance with the solicitation criteria.

Finally, Scope argues that the agency’s evaluation of Sparksoft’s professional compensation was unreasonable. We find no basis to object to the agency’s evaluation.

The purpose of FAR provision 52.222-46–Evaluation of Compensation for Professional Employees is to evaluate whether offerors will obtain and keep the quality of professional services needed for adequate contract performance, and to evaluate whether offerors understand the nature of the work to be performed. MicroTechnologies, LLC, B-413091.4, Feb. 3, 2017, 2017 CPD ¶ 48 at 8. In the context of fixed-price contracts, our Office has noted that this FAR provision anticipates an evaluation of whether an awardee understands the contract requirements, and has offered a compensation plan appropriate for those requirements–in effect, a price realism evaluation regarding a vendor’s proposed compensation. Id. at 6-7. The depth of an agency’s price realism analysis is a matter within the sound exercise of the agency’s discretion. Apptis Inc., B-403249, B-403249.3, Sept. 30, 2010, 2010 CPD ¶ 237 at 9. In reviewing protests challenging price realism evaluations, our focus is on whether the agency acted reasonably and in a manner consistent with the solicitation’s requirements. MicroTechnologies, LLC, supra, at 11.

Here, the agency conducted a thorough evaluation of the vendors’ professional compensation plans to ensure that the plans reflected a sound management approach and understanding of the contract requirements, including an assessment of each vendor’s ability to provide uninterrupted high-quality work. AR, Tab 5E, Professional Compensation Analysis. The agency compared the salary and benefits submitted by the vendors to the incumbent contractor’s salary and benefits to determine if compensation levels were lower than those of the predecessor contractor. Id. To conduct this portion of the analysis the agency chose to use the mid-point of each vendor’s professional compensation plan salary range. Id. The agency compared this number to the incumbent salary as well as reference salaries such as salary.com, glassdoor.com, and indeed.com. Id. For Sparksoft, the mid-point was the 75th percentile salary range. Id. Based on this analysis, the agency concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that Sparksoft’s professional compensation plan salaries were out of line or otherwise not competitive. AR, Tab 6, SSD, at 27.

Scope argues that the agency’s evaluation was unreasonable because the agency should have compared Sparksoft’s 50th percentile range to the incumbent’s rates. We find the agency’s evaluation unobjectionable. As stated above, price realism analysis is a matter within the sound exercise of the agency’s discretion. While Scope would have preferred that the agency conduct its analysis at the 50th percentile range, there is nothing in the solicitation that would require the agency to do so. Scope’s disagreement with the agency choice of percentile range is unavailing. Sparksoft’s professional compensation plan provided that “although the salary [ranges] reference local and national surveys, Sparksoft may offer salaries beyond those listed for resources exceeding standards set for requirements such as education and experience.” AR, Tab 3L, Sparksoft Business/Price Quotation, Section 2.4, at 6. Moreover, the record demonstrates that Sparksoft’s quotation included signed letters of commitment, many of which are from incumbent employees. AR, Tab 3C, Sparksoft Technical Quotation, Appendix A, Resumes. Thus, we have no basis to question the agency’s conclusion that Sparksoft’s proposed compensation plan reflects a clear understanding of the work to be performed; demonstrates the ability to retain qualified personnel and employ a stable workforce; and includes realistic rates for professional compensation. AR, Tab 6, Award Decision, at 27.

RECOMMENDATION

We recommend that the agency cancel the order to Sparksoft and assess its actual requirements. To the extent the agency chooses to move forward with this procurement, it should reevaluate proposals consistent with the RFQ and the rules applicable to FSS procurements, and make a new source selection. We also recommend that the agency reimburse Scope the reasonable costs of filing and pursuing the protest, including attorneys’ fees. Bid Protest Regulations, 4 C.F.R. § 21.8(d)(1). Scope should submit its certified claim for costs, detailing the time expended and costs incurred, directly to the contracting agency within 60 days of this decision.

The protest is sustained in part, and denied in part.

Thomas H. Armstrong

General Counsel

Three Myths About Cyber Insurance – Healthcare Informatics

The average cost of a data breach in the U.S. in 2016 increased to $7 million, according to the Ponemon Institute
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The drumbeat of cyberattacks grew louder in 2017. The number of U.S. data breach incidents in 2017 hit a new record high of 1,579, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) and CyberScout, a 44.7-percent increase over 2016. And the capper to that record-breaking year was undoubtedly the September announcement by Equifax, a credit reporting agency, that more than 145 million records had been compromised.

Of the five industry sectors that ITRC tracks, the business category topped the list for the third year in a row with 55 percent of the total number of breaches, while the medical/healthcare industry followed in second place with 23.7 percent. Yet most businesses don’t carry cyber insurance. According to The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers (CIAB), about 31 percent of respondents’ clients purchased some form of cyber liability and/or data breach coverage in the last six months of 2017, compared to 32 percent in its May 2017 survey, and 29 percent in October 2016.

Given the escalating number of attacks and increasing financial costs (the average cost of a data breach in the U.S. in 2016 increased to $7 million, according to the Ponemon Institute), the rate of cyber insurance adoption is somewhat surprising. We believe there are three myths about cyber insurance that are keeping more businesses from adding these policies.

Myth #1: We don’t need cyber insurance

Business leaders at large companies may have a false sense of security because they employ smart people and devote significant resources to security measures such as firewalls and encryption, or they incorrectly believe that they are not liable for data handled by a third-party company or stored in the cloud. But what they often fail to take into account is that cyber criminals also have significant resources and are focused day-in and day-out on finding any crack in a company’s armor.

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Meanwhile, small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are often under the very wrong assumption that they are too small to be targets. A survey by Nationwide found that a majority of SMBs (57 percent) do not have a dedicated employee or vendor monitoring cyberattacks, and another 34 percent do not believe they will be the target of an attack.

But, in reality, half of all SMBs in the U.S. experienced a data breach in 2016, and 55 percent experienced a cyberattack, according to the Ponemon Institute. In the aftermath of an incident, SMBs spent an average of $879,582 due to damage or theft of IT assets, based on extrapolated calcula­tions. In addition, disruption to normal operations cost an average of $955,429.

Despite the severe financial consequences, many SMBs do not have the budget and in-house expertise to protect their systems and networks against potential threats. Only 14 percent of small companies rated their ability to mitigate cyber risks, vulnerabilities and attacks as highly effective, according to Ponemon.

Myth #2: We already have coverage

Another major reason that companies choose not to investigate cyber insurance is that they believe they are already covered under the general liability policy, and they are often unclear about stand-alone cyber insurance options.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, most traditional commercial general liability policies do not cover cyber risks, such as property damage, personal and advertising injury claims arising from access or disclosure of confidential information. Since traditional insurance policies do not cover these risks, insurers have developed policies to bridge the gaps. Typical cyber-related coverages can include:

Data breach response and liability: Covers the expenses and legal liability that arise from a data breach.

Computer attack: Covers damage to data and systems caused by a computer attack, such as a virus or other malware attack or denial-of-service attack.

Network security liability: Provides defense and liability coverage for third-party lawsuits alleging damage due to the insured inadequately securing its computer system.

Media liability: Covers defense costs and damages for claims asserting copyright infringement and negligent publication of media while publishing content online and via social media channels.

Funds transfer fraud: Covers losses from the transfer of funds as a result of fraudulent instructions from a person purporting to be a vendor, client or authorized employee.

Cyber extortion: Covers the “settlement” of an extortion threat against a company’s network, as well as the cost of hiring a security firm to track down and negotiate with blackmailers.

Myth #3: Coverage is not affordable

Another myth surrounding cyber insurance is that it’s not affordable. According to The Insurance Information Institute, premiums can range from a few thousand dollars for base coverage for small businesses (less than $10 million in revenue) to several hundred thousand dollars for major corpora­tions looking for comprehensive coverage.

As part of the application process, some insurers offer an online and/or on-site security assessment free of charge regardless of whether the applicant purchases the coverage. This assessment is critical since cyber insurance is hardly a one-size-fits all type coverage. Different industry sectors represent different levels of exposure. For example, a small convenience store is a relatively low hazard compared to a medical doctor’s office. In addition to a simplified limit and deductible structure, different credits may apply if certain security procedures are in place, such as employee training.

Ironically, given the concern about price, it should be noted that cyber insurance prices have actually been declining. According to the CIAB, 62 percent of respondents said premium prices generally decreased over the last six months of 2017. And, according to Marsh, U.S. cyber insurance rates decreased 1.1 percent, on average, in the third quarter of 2017, the third straight quarter of decline.

Cybersecurity risks can seem very intangible, especially compared to risks such as fire, flood and bodily injury, but thousands of companies have already found that these risks can suddenly become all too real. Given the pace of cyberattacks and their financial repercussions, businesses of all sizes should ignore the myths around cybersecurity and seriously consider adding this coverage to protect operations.

Daniel Casey is president and CEO of Peoples United Insurance Agency, one of the largest regional brokers in the Northeast with over 160 professionals and $400 million in premiums.

VC Fisher: Better policing, sustainability, shared services – UC Berkeley

Campus efforts to address everything from policing to the delivery of goods and services to academic units to recycling to inclusivity were part of the latest Campus Conversations, held Thursday at Alumni House with Marc Fisher, vice chancellor for administration. The noon talk was the third in a series connecting the campus community with UC Berkeley leaders.

New to campus last September, Fisher leads a division of more than 1,800 staff members who span human resources, information technology, facilities management, Campus Shared Services, the UC Police Department and other critical functions that support Berkeley’s academic and research mission. He also is partnering with the chancellor and executive vice chancellor and provost to improve the campus’s organizational culture, particularly its commitment to diversity.

Fisher, who has worked for 22 years in the UC system and most recently was vice chancellor for administrative services at UC Santa Barbara, said he remains struck by the “brilliant” staff, faculty and students on the Berkeley campus and that he is honored to be engaged with their “thoughtful, challenging questions. This level of thought is refreshing and interesting to me.”

“The resources (at Berkeley) are challenging,” he added, “but what we have here is adequate to do a great job.”

Answering a series of wide-ranging questions, Fisher first addressed campus policing. It’s a hot topic in his portfolio, especially after the protests last September – right after Fisher had arrived on campus — that erupted around a planned appearance by right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos.

Marc Fisher

Fisher says a new body, the UCPD Community Advisory Board, has been proposed by UC Police Chief Margo Bennet to advise her on how campus police can reflect shared community values as they keeps UC Berkeley safe. The board would grow to include faculty, staff and students.

“Police officers should be proud of what they do to keep us safe, but also be mindful they’re in a community, and that we need policing efforts appropriate and tailored well to that community,” said Fisher. Not everyone arrives on campus having had the same experiences with police, he added, so it’s important for UCPD officers to recognize they’re working in a diverse environment where perceptions of their presence will be varied.

Fisher says he also encouraged the UCPD upon his arrival last fall to increase the number of student-employees in its CSO (community service officer) program. Today, CSO has grown from 19 students last fall to 57. CSO student-officers operate the BearWALK night safety escort service for students, faculty and staff and also are a presence in residence halls and libraries.

“It’s a great way to police the campus. They carry no weapons, tend to be well-received by the student population and can do a lot of good,” Fisher said, adding that in a recent incident, “having a CSO in the building helped resolve the case much quicker than it would have otherwise.”

The increased number of CSO officers also will also mean reduced wait times for their services and the reinstatement of the Hill Patrol fire mitigation program, which began in 1991 as a response to the Oakland Hills firestorm.

Fisher also said campus efforts led by the Office of Sustainability are continuing to progress toward the UC system goal of zero waste by 2020 and carbon neutrality by 2025. He described one effort underway — placing Big Belly bins outside campus buildings so that people can sort their waste into recycling, composting and landfill. About 20 bins have been distributed around campus, and 40 more will be added in 2018. Inside buildings, bins for composting and deskside recycling will be gradually added by 2020.

Fisher added that “huge progress” is being made to upgrade the physical condition of the campus, and that UC Berkeley’s “front door is the most important thing. We need to change that first impression people have here. We need to look at deferred maintenance and do little things to make an older building better.”

Fisher also talked about the campus’s commitment to how it delivers administrative support services to academic clients and how a new regional service delivery model will bring improvements. Schools and colleges will be grouped into six regions, not geographically, but by similar academic disciplines. Each of the eventual five academic and one administrative region will have a regional associate dean, a regional director and its own governance structure.

This regional model evolved from the Campus Shared Services model, which moved the services out of departments, and hopes to establish closer connections between service and the academic units.

“This will be a more integrative model,” said Fisher. “My aspiration is that this will happen quickly, but it will take longer. It’s critical to make it right. We’ll begin to see progress by June.”

Fisher emphasized several times during this talk that he is committed to staff, and to opportunities for them to seek pathways of opportunity to advance their careers in the University of California system. “It’s a big, rich organization filled with opportunities for everyone in this room,” he said, adding that he would be happy to speak with people individually about their career goals.

“Staff are very important to me. I feel hugely responsible for you to have a good experience here,” he said. “You should have fun coming to work. I enjoy coming to work.”

Fisher also encouraged any member of the campus community with ideas about how to improve the campus to email him at marcfisher@berkeley.edu.

“Start by emailing me,” he said. “I like to know what’s going on.”

Cognizant, largest H-1B visa sponsor, battles anti-white bias lawsuit – ETCIO.com

Cognizant Technology Solutions, the biggest U.S. sponsor of H-1B visas for foreign information technology specialists, says a civil rights lawsuit accusing the firm of bias against workers who aren’t from India is all wrong.

Three former employees claim they were forced out of their jobs and replaced with “less qualified” South Asians after being poorly treated by their Indian supervisors and colleagues, given unjustifiably low-performance ratings and denied promotions.

The company contends that what it’s accused of isn’t covered by federal civil rights law.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, but plaintiffs’ factual allegations, on their face, plainly pertain to a claim of discrimination based on national origin — not race,” Cognizant said in a court filing. It also said the complaint is clearly targeted at “visa holders, but visa-status allegations have nothing to do with race.”

User data leaks at Facebook pull tech further into political debate – TechCrunch

A few weeks ago I met with, and interviewed, Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica. His company has been credited with helping Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency. It’s also been associated with many other controversial political campaigns globally and accused by some of aiding the U.K.’s exit from the EU. He addresses all of these subjects in detail (a shorter summary is here).

The interview, which was recorded, was conducted in private at the IT Arena conference in Lviv, Ukraine.

This is the transcript of the interview, which was 50 minutes long:

Mike Butcher (MB):

You think that digital advertising agencies have ‘got it coming’, such as the WPPs of this world. What do you mean by that?

Alexander Nix (Nix):

Actually, probably not digital advertising agencies because they’re more progressive. I’m really looking at the old school traditional creative-led agencies. [For example] within WPP, obviously Martin (Sorrell) has made a huge effort to pivot his business. He’s making a huge effort every day, acquiring 40+ companies a year, something like that. But when you look at the traditional approach to advertising, which is fundamentally driven by guesswork, albeit very intuitive and experienced guesswork… The advert I was thinking about… do you remember the Cadbury’s advert of a gorilla playing the drums? I mean who could have known that that was going to be a national success? I mean, you’re telling me they went and opinion-surveyed 5,000 people and then decided to make a gorilla advert? Of course they didn’t! They just ‘wing’d it’ and it happened to push people’s buttons and it was a great success. Well, that sort of advertising is going to be replaced by highly targeted, very personalized advertising, and that has to be data-driven. That’s not replacing of creativity, that’s using data to augment creativity. Data first then creativity. It’s linear.

MB:

Looking at the figures on your website you said you drove 1.5% increase in favourability among people who saw your [US election campaign] ads. Not everyone who becomes more favorable after seeing that ad is going to change their vote for instance. Most of them had been planning to vote for Trump already or [the ad] wouldn’t make enough difference to stop them voting for Hillary. But it might for influence a very small percentage of the electorate. That might have been enough to swing Michigan but not the whole election.

Nix:

How many states was the election won over? Four? I mean, winning Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida… That was pretty much it.

MB:

Because it came down the electoral college that you were targeting?

Nix:

It always comes down to that. It’s always the roadmap to 270. That changes every day. You go into the election: “We’re thinking okay these are 12-14 battleground states.” After six weeks you’re like: “Christ. That one’s dead. Got to move. How do how do we get there how do we do the sums to get back to where we want to be?” You know, you don’t need to and you can’t afford to focus on 50 states. You’re looking at… you know you’re going to win these ones you’re never going to win those, so how do you get to where you want to go?

MB:

You said the people who saw Cambridge Analytica adverts… the likelihood of voting for Trump increased by 1 percent. Isn’t it that one of the company’s claims?

Nix:

Google’s study was based on the impact of our digital campaign. It said [there was an ] 11.3 percent increase in favourability for Trump. An 8.3 percent increase in intent to vote for Trump. These are significant numbers.

MB:

So in 2017 you can claim you have psychological profiles of 220m U.S. citizens based on five thousand separate data sets?

Nix:

It actually works slightly different to that. We went out and we started to roll out a long form quantitive survey to probe psychographics.

So we had hundreds of thousands of Americans fill out this survey. Completely independent from that we went and collected hundreds and then thousands of data points on every adult 230 million Americans.

MB:

This was publicly available data?

Nix:

This is publicly available data, this is client data, this is an aggregated third-party data. All sorts of data. In fact, we’re always acquiring more. Every day we have teams looking for new data sets.

Let’s say based on the personality survey that we’ve identified five personality types, only, for the whole of America. And let’s say for each personality type we’ve got a hundred thousand people of type A and Type B and Type C. Well, we’ll look at the hundred thousand type A personalities, and then we’ll have a look at the corresponding data points that we have on those hundred thousand people. We’ll have a look at what attributes they have in common and then we’ll build a model based on that. So if we identify that all type A personalities drive a lemon yellow car and wear Wellington boots and have a dog and three children and whatever, we can then make a prediction about everyone else in the universe who has a yellow car, a dog, Wellington boots and say well they’re very likely to also have a type A personality based on their data.

The best example I can give you [of] building a model [is that] in England we have a stereotype for conservatives, rural conservatives. They wear a barber [jacket], that Nigel Farage type. They wear a Barber and Wellington boots and have a Labrador, and they all went to private school, and they are therefore going to vote Tory. A stereotype but stereotypes are based on something. Well, that was four data points. Actually, it’s quite accurate in England. Imagine if you had 40 data points, or 400 and you extrapolated that they drive Land Rover, they like shooting, they both work in merchant banking and so on. You start to build up those data points and you can very accurately say “Well, I don’t know this person’s party political affiliation, but I do know they have a Barber and a Land Rover and a dog and they like shooting and work in merchant banking, therefore, they’re likely to be a Tory.

MB:

So you call this psychographics?

Nix:

Yes.

MB:

But did you use psychographics in the Trump campaign or didn’t you?

Nix:

No, we didn’t. We’ve been absolutely, incredibly clear about this. We used psychographics all through the 2014 midterms. We used psychographics all through the Cruz and Carson primaries. But when we got to Trump’s campaign in June 2016, whenever it was, there it was there was five and a half months till the elections. We just didn’t have the time to roll out that survey. I mean, Christ, we had to build all the IT, all the infrastructure. There was nothing. There was 30 people on his campaign. Thirty. Even Walker it had 160 (it’s probably why he went bust). And he was the first to crash out. So as I’ve said to other of your [journalist] colleagues, clearly there’s psychographic data that’s baked-in to legacy models that we built before, because we’re not reinventing the wheel. [We’ve been] using models that are based on models, that are based on models, and we’ve been building these models for nearly four years. And all of those models had psychographics in them. But did we go out and roll out a long form quantitive psychographics survey specifically for Trump supporters? No. We just didn’t have time. We just couldn’t do that.

MB:

You say you’ve been building this data since the late 90s. We know Facebook’s terms of service in 2006 were quite different to what they are now. And actually there was quite a lot of data — scrape is probably too blunt a word — but data which you could pull out of Facebook then that you can’t pull out now. Was it the case that you had huge data sets on these people before the door started to close on the [Facebook] terms of service?

Nix:

Well, actually let me correct you. The company started in the early 90s or late 80s. We were a behavioural science company. We didn’t pivot into data analytics till 2012. So, all the data that we collected pre-2012, which was done by the British company SBL group, was collected through quantitive and qualitative research on the ground. Our modus operandi was to go and speak to, say, 100,000 people and start to use that to build on models.

MB:

Speak to them how? Via call centre surveys?

Nix:

Depending on the country… I mean, in America, yes, call centres, the Internet where possible, face to face… But in a country like Nigeria you know you just have teams and teams of students going out there knocking on doors.

MB:

So you’re doing that in Nigeria?

Nix:

Well, we’ve been doing that since our first election was 1994 for Mandela/ANC and since then we’ve done multiple elections every year.

MB:

Another claim CA makes is that you raised nearly $27m for Trump from 950,000 email addresses?

Nix:

No those are two separate things. We ran a ‘small-dollar’ fundraising program. So what we did was we used our data to identify core Trump supporters. These are the diehard Trump supporters of which we estimate there are about 37-38 million people in America. And we then targeted them with a with a donor solicitation or small dollars solicitation campaign to ask them to send donations in. And we built all the data and all the mechanisms to do that. We raised that $27m within the first month of starting work. In total, obviously, that program went on to raise hundreds and millions of dollars.

MB:

Would you consider that to be being pivotal for their campaign?

Nix:

Well, I think I think it was extremely pivotal because when Trump won the nomination he had very, very little money. And although he talked about putting a bit of money in himself, and he did put some money and some in as cash, most of it as loans, that’s my understanding, you know, you were competing against the machine and she had dollars coming out of everywhere.

Also, there was a huge “Never Trump” faction in America. Most of the Republicans didn’t support him, and even those who ended up working for him didn’t support him. So the RNC, the Republican National Committee, didn’t support him. Ultimately they pivoted. A lot of the key RNC members were part of the “Never Trump” faction. They were behind his back. They were trying to destroy him. And eventually they all they did a complete U-turn. Part of the reason why we were thrust into such a prominent role in this campaign is because none of the vendors would support him.

[Being among] Republican vender’s is an incredibly hostile environment. They were looking at this candidate and they said “Well, first and foremost we don’t like him.” A typical presidential campaign will probably have five or eight different companies support it. You’ll have a pollster, you’ll have a digital agency, you’ll have a TV agency, you’ll have a research firm. And then the campaign manager and the campaign committee will choose the best pollsters and the best thing or their best friend or however they figure these things out.

Well, Trump won the nomination and all the Republicans said “Well, he’s going to get murdered by Hillary. If we work for him, the establishment of the RNC is going to hate us. We’ll never get another dollar in U.S. politics again. So we’ll make a quick buck today, but it’s going to kill our career tomorrow.” So a lot of them are like “we’d never want to touch this.” So rather than having multiple vendors servicing his campaign, as is traditional, as Hillary had, we walked in there and said “We’ll do your data analytics.” And they were like: “There’s no one doing research.” [We said] we will do your research. “There’s no doing digital” We will do digital. “There’s no one doing TV.” “We’ll do your TV.” We’ll do your donations. And so overnight it went from being originally just data, to end to end.

MB:

Did you believe you were betting the farm, as it were, on the campaign?

Nix:

Look, from my perspective it was an easy bet to make. It was a win-win. I couldn’t see the downside. I thought even if Trump didn’t prevail if he didn’t win the election.

Look, we’re a British firm that was trying to break into the most competitive political market in the world. And you know, we had some mixed press. But what really irritates me is when journalists go to get a quote about our work. And someone says “We worked with Cambridge Analytica and their work didn’t really provide anything. It was rubbish.” And then you have a look at who the quote was from and it’s from a direct competitor!

And this is what the journalists haven’t quite figured out. A lot of the people that they speak to are people whose lunch we’re eating. We walked into [the US] market. We’re competing with all the data teams. We’re competing with all the digital teams, all the TV teams, all the research teams. You’ve seen House of Cards. It’s like that. It’s the most vicious aggressive political culture both at the candidate level, that Trump is now finding out. At the campaign manager, GC level and at the vendor level. It’s a bloodbath. The knives… [are out]. In DC, everyone’s fucking everyone else.

You see three quotes they’re all from people whose business you’ve stolen. They’re saying things like we came across “Cambridge Analytica. It’s All snake oil” [and it’s from] our biggest rival.

MB:

Do you think there’s a mischaracterization of the tools used by targeted advertising campaigns, or so-called ‘custom audience’ campaigns, as being described as “dark advertising” campaigns?

Nix:

There’s no question that the marketing and advertising world is ahead of the political marketing the political communications world. And there are some things that I would definitely [say] I’m very proud of that we’re doing which are innovative. And there are some things which is best practice digital advertising, best practice communications which we’re taking from the commercial world and are bringing into politics.

Advertising agencies are using some of these techniques on a national scale. For us it’s been very refreshing, really breaking into the commercial and brand space… walking into a campaign where you’re basically trying to educate the market on stuff they simply don’t understand. You walk into a sophisticated brand or into an advertising agency, and the conversation [is sophisticated] You go straight down to: “Ah, so you’re doing a programmatic campaign, you can augment that with some linear optimized data… they understand it.” They know it’s their world, and now it comes down to the nuances. “So what exactly are you doing that’s going to be a bit more effective and give us an extra 3 percent or 4 percent there.” It’s a delight. You know these are professionals who really get this world and that’s where we want to be operating.

MB:

Do you regret the way your own business is being presented in the media?

Nix:

If there’s any testament to what’s driving the media just have a glance at Hillary Clinton’s recent book. The liberal press are supporting their candidate. They got fairly beaten and they’re lashing out and trying to destroy every single person and every company that contributed to that defeat. Hillary simply cannot come to terms with it. She’s a woman in denial. The liberal press [characterized Cambridge Analytica] as “witchcraft, they treat it is “voodoo” and now it’s Russia’s fault! They just cannot accept the fact that Hillary was such an unpopular, such a divisive candidate. She failed to mobilize her base and people didn’t fundamentally trust her. Rather than looking in the mirror, they much prefer to beat up Cambridge [Analytica] beat up Trump, beat up anyone else. Anything but accept the fact that their candidate wasn’t what the people wanted to vote for.

MB:

Would you use your own methods to improve your own public image?A marketing campaign for yourself to create a better image for your own company?

Nix:

Would we rollout a national behavioral micro-targeting program to promote Cambridge Analytica? It probably wouldn’t really achieve what we’re trying to do. I mean actually, I’m just ‘dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s’ on a book which talks about our methodology and our approach to communications and I was speaking to the publisher about whether we should target that. It’s a book hasn’t been published yet, it’ll come out next month, just talking really in quite technical terms about how communication is changing, what how technology is impacting that, what data is doing to advertising and political campaigns and then using a lot of case studies with a lot of real examples of artwork and targeting and psychographics and so forth to illustrate them. We were toying with the idea of [a campaign]. But I think it’s too complex to try and use our techniques to promote a book. It was more of a thought exercise right. It would mean having multiple versions multiple titles multiple dust sheets.

MB:

A/B testing for a book? Is the book coming out in the New Year?

Nix:

It’s coming out in Germany first because it was a German publisher that approached us. It will be coming out in about the next month or so and then later in the U.K.

MB:

It is going to be about the company or methodology. Or your worldview?

Nix:

The English title is not confirmed yet but I think it will be something like “Mad men to maths men”. It’s going to be [about] the evolution of the advertising industry, how data, how psychology, how digital is changing an industry that really hasn’t changed very much. And what that disruption means in terms of an industry of you know multi-billion dollar industry and illustrating different campaigns that we’ve done to show the effectiveness of that.

MB:

On Brexit there were headlines such as ‘The great Brexit robbery, our democracy was hijacked’. How do you react to those?

Nix:

Well, look, I mean you’re implying therefore that we were involved in Brexit and part of that “robbery”. We’ve been, again, crystal clear to all media including The Guardian, who really propagated this story from day one, based on nothing. Carole Cadwalladr has made it her personal mission to come after us again, living in denial about the outcome of the election. She cannot accept that the British people wanted to leave Europe and she’s made it her mission to vilify us. We did not work on Brexit. We didn’t do a little bit of work. We didn’t do a lot of work. We did no work on Brexit. We were not involved in the campaign for either Leave.eu or Vote Leave, at all. And we have been crystal clear on this which is why we’re going to be taking them to court and we’re going to settle.

MB:

Why do you think you became associated with it then?

Nix:

Well because before the campaigns were launched we were approached by a number of different campaigns, pro and against, to discuss whether there might be a role for us on Brexit. And we had a number of discussions. Obviously, these discussions made their way into the public forum but we meet with hundreds of companies every year and talk about business opportunities. That doesn’t mean you engage with them doesn’t mean you contract with them and it certainly doesn’t mean that you work for them. But The Guardian came out with one or two data points and then created an entire narrative around that that was pure fiction. That went viral and then every other newspaper [piled into it]. If you tell a lie often enough it becomes truth. But even after we came out and denied that again and again and again they just kept propagating the same message.

MB:

But you are working in other campaigns. There’s been some controversy about Kenya and South Africa for instance. How do you react to those?

Nix:

Well, you are talking about Bell Pottinger, [which has] paid the consequences for some bad decisions.

MB:

Did you work on those campaigns?

Nix:

No, we weren’t involved with the actors. We weren’t involved with Bell Pottinger, we weren’t involved with the Guptas. In fact, I know very little about that. And I really can’t make a commentary on what happened. I know only what I’ve read in the paper.

MB:

You worked on the Kenya campaign?

Nix:

We’ve worked all across Africa.

MB:

Kenya?

Nix:

Well, let’s wait till the election’s over because we never talk about elections that live, generally, as a rule of thumb. But I can tell you that we worked in Kenya in 2013 on the last election for Kenyatta. That’s well documented. I can speak to that. Look, Kenyatta won by 12 points and there were some few irregularities, from what I’ve read, in the way that the election oversight committee… [granted] some of the tenders [for] election equipment. The opposition used these irregularities to challenge the outcome of the election. I think had this been a “Florida” years ago when it came down to half a percent, ok. But when you’re talking about a 12 percent victory I think that the court’s decision to hold this [new] election was a dreadful decision. I think that it is going to result in dreadful bloodshed, horrific violence. If Kenyatta for any reason doesn’t win this election then his supporters are going to feel robbed. And if Odinga’s people don’t, they’re going to feel that he’s cheated again because that’s the perception that Odinga is put out into the public domain.

I can’t see this ending well. I think just for the sake of Kenya, for peace in the region, I think it’s a dreadful decision. I actually can’t even see this election being resolved in the next month. I think it’s going to drag on. So, I think the court’s decision was shortsighted.

MB:

What’s your answer to critics who claimed that you’ve worked on behalf of the Russian government or third party actors connect to them? Either for specifically in relation to Trump’s campaign or to other campaigns.

Nix:

We’ve never been asked directly. No one of authority has leveled any direct criticisms to us and, certainly, no one has suggested that we’d been or alleged that we’d been involved as far as I’m aware. We’re not under investigation by anyone. We are helping wherever we can with the understandings of the campaign, like everyone else in the campaign, but there’s no investigation into Cambridge [Analytica].

MB:

Isn’t the U.S. Congress investigating you in connection with Russian attempts to interfere with the election?

Nix:

No, it’s not. The US Congress is undertaking…

MB:

The Atlantic magazine reported it.

Nix:

[Scoffs] Oh then it must be true! I don’t know… I mean that’s exactly what I’m talking about. My understanding is that the U.S. Congress is undertaking an investigation into Russian interference into the election and they’ve asked all sorts of people for help into that. That’s not suggesting in any way, any way at all, that Cambridge is under investigation. And you know we’re more than happy to help. We never worked in Russia. We never worked for Russia. I want to be careful, but I don’t think we have any Russian employees in our company whatsoever. We just don’t have business in Russia. We have no involvement with Russia, never have done.

MB:

What about for third parties associated with Putin’s government?

Nix:

I wouldn’t even know who they were and where to begin. I mean, we worked directly for the campaign, as indirectly, and we worked for a Super Pac in support of the campaign [called] “defeat crooked Hillary” was it’s unofficial title or “keep the promise” or something.

MB:

You have an investor, Robert Mercer. What sort of independence does that give you? He has known political views. Do you feel independent of an investor like that?

Nix:

Well, actually, I’m not going to speak about any of our investors or board members at all because we don’t. But I can answer your question which is ‘is our political ideology influenced by other people in the company’ at whatever level? And the answer to that [is this]… We undertake 7 to 9 elections a year, somewhere in the world, for Prime Minister or President. And for as many of those are on the Left of Centre or the Right of Centre. In fact, if you were to total them up, I would probably say – and this is based on a guesstimate – that we’d done more Left-leaning than Right-leaning. Now, clearly in America…

MB:

Can you give me any examples of those Left-leaning campaigns?

Nix:

You’d have to go on our website. I’m sure you could find 25, and you can just see which parties. It’ll all be there. But in America you have to pick a side. You can’t flip-flop. You are not encouraged work for the Democrats in one cycle and then move to the Republicans [on the next]. And the reason the Republicans were attractive to us was because the Democrats were significantly leading the tech arms race. Under Obama through Civas and Blue Labs they had pioneered the use of big data. They were using very sophisticated digital technologies. And the Republicans had been left behind. By the time Romney lost in 2012 there was a vacuum. There just wasn’t the tech talent on the Right to be able to compete. It was like taking a knife to a gunfight. And so that was the commercial opportunity. Now, the reason for that is because most of the tech community, and I’m going to generalize here, but a lot of the tech community that were politically oriented tended to lean Left. People in Berkeley and MIT, and so forth, would, if they were politically motivated, support Hillary or Obama. Whereas, people who might be more Right of centre, obviously, would look typically to go and work in banking or investment management with those skills. And so because of the dearth of talent the Republicans were getting murdered in the tech arms race. That was the commercial opportunity, that was the one we sought to address. Right? Had it been the other way around it might have been a different story.

MB:

What are your own personal political views? Do you talk about those?

Nix:

We leave our personal ideologies at the door. We think that being “foreign” and objective is an asset in elections. I think that a lot of political campaigns, and in the U.S., a lot of campaign staff and vendors get blinded by their own ideology. They blindly believe in their candidate to an extent that they actually can’t see objectively what’s happening in the campaign. They can only see what they and all their friends believe and therefore they assume that’s representative of 200 million voters take

MB:

[You’re saying] They project themselves onto campaigns?

Nix:

Yeah naturally. And there’s something wonderful about coming into a foreign country as an outsider and looking with completely fresh eyes at a political landscape and be able to not have a clouded judgment. And that’s what we bring. And equally, it’s like a good lawyer representing his or her client. You can’t go in there with a preconception of guilty or not. You have to go in there and look at the facts. And that’s what we try to do.

MB:

Do you have a blacklist of anyone you wouldn’t work for?

Nix:

Oh yes for sure. We only work for mainstream political parties. Tories, Labour, Republicans, Democrats. We steer clear of fringe political parties or minority groups. We’re not trying to orchestrate a revolution. We’re trying to provide the best tech… communication technology to political parties. As I said before, elections are about 20 percent of our revenue as a company. We’ve got about 20/25 percent in defence and homeland security. The rest is in the brand and commercial space. We are not a political company. We’re a tech company, and we see ourselves as tech company. We have a tech culture, where we attract academics. You know a third of our staff are PhDs. We’re geeks! Fundamentally, we’re a bunch of geeky people who are trying to solve problems and I would say that politics is probably the least desirable division in the company, because it can be divisive and people don’t necessarily like to get involved. But, if you give a data scientist a really challenging problem like identifying the ideology of a nation or an issue, a model or something, it’s about solving the problem. It is not about trying to promote their own personal ideology or agenda or anything like that.

MB:

You’re working with Palantir?

Nix:

No. Palantir was established about nine or 10 years ago now. They’re very active of course in the defence, homeland security. They were a pioneer and a leader in this field. Peter Thiel, in applying both his platforms, Gotham and Metropolis, and other work which is slightly more off the radar, it is truly revolutionary. I mean these guys were genuine first movers. And I think that companies like us have caught up. But kudos to them. They were really very early on to the scene.

MB:

I think you count the Pentagon as a client don’t you?

Nix:

We formed a defence/government defence division in 2005. Over that period we’ve worked for global militaries all over the world. We train a lot of armies in something called PSYOP, which is psychological operations or information operations, which is, sort of communication warfare. It’s trying to understand how to persuade troops not to fight or to persuade your troops to fight. It’s trying to combat hostile behavior or how do you counter radicalization or counter-terrorism, and so forth. We do a lot of information operation programs ourselves [where] we go into countries and conduct the research and the campaigns to change behavior to reduce conflict. And our clients do include, in the U.K, the MOD and the FCO, and in the United States, all the ‘coms’, so NorthCom, Safcom, State Department, Pentagon and various ‘three letter agencies’ and so forth.

MB:

What’s your what’s your vision for the future? You’ve talked about psychographic profiling, analytics about the amount of data sets there are, and the data you can pull out social media. And of course, we all know that Alexa’s in their houses recording what they are saying. Where do you see things heading? Firstly, which direction do you feel your own company is going in, given the amount of data out there? Secondly, do you think you might end up butting up against the Google and Amazons in data collection?

Nix:

There are several questions there. Let’s start with the bigger picture. There are two technologies that I’m really excited by and that everyone is talking about. Clearly, IOT is going to totally radicalize the data market. I think the data business is doomed, myself. It’s a very, very high volume and very low margin [business]. As the internet of things grows, as we have sensors on everything: cars, fridges, TVs then data is going to become ubiquitous. Therefore the volume of data will increase, the price of data is going to go down. You won’t be able to sell data in the way you can today. I think people are going to start taking control of their data much more. There is going to be more reciprocity in the way that people share their data with companies like my own and other marketing agencies. But generally, the increase in data is one factor that is going to make analytics companies like ours more valuable. More data is going to need more analytics, period. And then at the other end — if you see it as a sandwich and we’re in the middle — you’ve got blockchain. And by having distributed ledger technology you’re going to an ability to have transparency, and to have accountability as to how data is and data sets are being used and implemented, forevermore, in perpetuity. And so, yes the data landscape is getting more frightening with IOT. But on the other hand, it’s going to be to be more self-regulated through the Blockchain and it’s going to be more transparent. And both of those things are the bread rolls with the analytics being the chess in the middle of the sandwich. Analytics are going to play more and more of a function in deciphering huge quantities of data, making sense of it, applying it into many different areas and then using blockchain technologies to securitize that.

In terms of the advertising industry: Look, I’ve been very vocal about this but I don’t think that, again, I’m sort of some sort of ‘soothsayer’. I think a lot of people in the industry recognize this… And even if they are only whispering to each other… I think the advertising industry is like lemmings on the edge of a cliff. They can’t go backwards and forwards looks terrifying. Omnicom, Dentsu, WPP… they’re trying to pivot. They’re acquiring companies left right and centre. But you can’t just buy a data company and squash it together with an ad agency and hope it’s just going to work. It doesn’t work like that, that it’s a different culture. It takes integration. You need to grow these things together. You’ve got all the consultancies which saw a commercial opportunity in the last two or three years and started acquiring data companies. They’re trying to acquire advertising agencies in order to get into this space. Then nipping at the heels of the big conglomerates and taking considerable market share from them. You’ve got the big brands themselves understanding their data is so valuable they no longer want to give that away to advertising agencies. They can bring some of these capabilities in-house and have their own data analytics and marketing agencies in-house. That’s damaging them.

Then you’ve got the small disruptors like us who are only going to become more numerous. We’re eating a piece of the pie. So, I think there is going to be a reckoning, and it’s happening now. WPP’s market share has taken a nosedive in the last month or three. But they’re not going to be the only ones. It’s going to continue. I’m not suggesting that they’re all going to go bust, but I am saying it’s “adapt or die”. This market is fundamentally shifting and about time too! This is overdue. Gone are the days where an advertiser does an advert. And as long as the client’s wife likes it there are no metrics other than audience recall to quantify its success. Or very few. And they don’t care anymore. They can just squeeze a lemon and get some money out of advertisers. I think that advertisers want more accountability, they want more measurement of effectiveness, they want empirical data to be able to justify these enormous multi-billion dollar spends.

MB:

Let’s fast forward say,10-20 years. There will be people who can afford to buy privacy and then there will be plenty of people who will give away their data in return for services, as they do now. Do we do we think that that’s a good situation to be in? What’s your view?

Nix:

I think gone are the days where people just click a box without really thinking it through, and all their data has just been siphoned away and gone. Grabbed. I think people are recognizing that data is valuable AND that they’re [also] saying, “Well actually it’s not that sensitive. I don’t really care much if people understand my shopping habits or what car I drive. This isn’t health or financial data. But it is valuable and why should I just give it away so that other firms and advertisers can make money out of it?” So I see more of a reciprocity. I see people having something like a virtual data wallet. They’re going to have control of their data. You’ll be able to say to them “Hey can I licence your data or use your data for a certain campaign or purpose?” And there’s going to be an exchange there. They’re going to say “Yes you can but it’s going to cost you 10 percent off that” or “I want this in return.” And I see that market emerging as people take control. I think that’s really sensible. I think it gives people more control and therefore it gives them more protection. I think advertisers will need to be a little more targeted in the way that they use data and they gather data, which is probably good. But actually, it’s not going to dent the industry or the direction that it’s growing in. So I really hope that people like the ICO [Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK which rules on data privacy for individuals], who are suddenly trying to catch up on the last five years of data. I hope that they understand that the regulation needs to be there to protect consumers, but not to stump the growth of an industry that could really do a lot of good. Not just in communications, [but] across all corporate sectors.

MB:

If consumers had more control over their data wouldn’t that start to slightly stump the work that you do?

Nix:

No, I don’t think it will because I think things are changing. I think that the older generation, our parents or even older… you know, this is a terrifying brave new world for them. “What do you mean someone knows what car I drive?!” “Yes, mother they do know what car you drive” “But that’s awful!” “Why is it awful?” “Well because I didn’t want them to know that!” “Do you care?” “That’s not the point.” “Well, it is the point!” Actually, the new generation, the next generation, younger than us, they don’t care. They actually just don’t care.

MB:

They are used to this world?

Nix:

They are used to this world and they realize it. “Do I care if people know what car I drive, what cereal I eat for breakfast?” And why should they, really? They don’t care if they put a picture of themselves blind drunk on Facebook doing something. They don’t care. Let alone [someone knowing] what car they drive.

MB:

Do they care if they feel that it might influence an election?

Nix:

Well, that’s a good question. Ultimately, I don’t think people are naive, now, especially not the Internet generation, the Millennials. I think they do understand what’s going on. There’s been so much press. It’s not about hoodwinking people. Remember, it’s the same for all sides. It’s not like Trump had some secret sauce that he was employing with Cambridge that the Democrats didn’t. Hillary’s data and digital teams were up to 200 people or something! Huge! Huge! This was tried and tested. It was a machine! They were doing everything! But the reason they’re not in the spotlight is twofold. A: Hillary lost. And B: Trump’s, you know, is somewhat perceived by many as more of a polarizing character. That’s why. It’s not what we did. I mean, I think if we’d done exactly the same work, no different, but done it for Hillary…

MB:

You think the result would have been the same?

Nix:

No, I think no one would care. The Guardian wouldn’t be writing these stupid headlines and nor would The New York Times. They wouldn’t care. This is not about Cambridge. It’s not about our tech. It’s about Trump.

Technology central to future of mine asset management – Mining Journal

Conducted in December 2017 and January/February 2018, the Future of Mining survey of 41 companies drew responses from companies with combined annual mining/metals revenues of just under US$149 billion. They included miners and contractors based in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, UK, and USA.

The survey asked company representatives to identify the main technologies currently impacting mobile fleet, and fixed plant maintenance; and the technologies expected to have a greater impact over the next five years.

Companies also provided feedback on core asset management and maintenance jobs being redefined by the technological shift in the industry, and their views on the industry’s readiness to attract and retain people with the skills to enable it to maximise asset management performance.

Miners have seen themselves – and still do, based on results of this survey – as laggards when it comes to maximising returns from capital assets, compared to the aviation, auto-manufacturing, power utility, and oil and gas industries.

Process and cultural change, including transitioning from reactive to more predictive maintenance methods, has been occurring in mining for the past 10-15 years.

But the explosion of technological change in recent years, and the acceptance by major miners with billions of dollars invested in mobile and fixed plant and equipment that past utilisation rates, and returns on capital deployed, have been behind acceptable benchmarks, has sparked a quiet revolution in the industry.

It is being led by companies seeking to establish themselves as superior users of the capital sitting above, or next to, the valuable resources defined in the ground. While profits from the latter have always been seen to define success in mining, it remains something of a mystery that the capital tied up in trucks, diggers, processing plants, conveyors, and other expensive plant has somehow occupied a secondary ledger when it comes to measuring worth, and leadership.

“In recent years, mining companies have come to realise that value, like beauty, may be in the eyes of the beholder,” said Deloitte’s global mining leader, Phil Hopwood.

“Once measured by how well a company extracted resources, the industry’s value proposition may be shifting to how well a company acts on information to optimise production, reduce costs, increase efficiency, and improve safety.

“In short, data – and the ability to organise, manage, and process it – is rapidly becoming a competitive differentiator and may even spur new business models.”

More companies are now using technology to integrate resource, labour and capital management in ways that must fundamentally change the industry over the next decade.

In its latest report on “the near future of mining”, BDO said “most” mining companies would spend 10% of revenue on IT in 2020 compared to just 1% in 2015. That, the group’s natural resources assurance director Jon Heideman told Mining Journal, translated into some truly staggering numbers. US GDP from mining has averaged US$302 billion since 2005, for example, “so we would expect the spending [there] to be about $30 billion by 2020”.

“Discretionary spending on items such as exploration and IT are heavily dependent on commodity prices,” Heideman said.

“Historically, investing in technology has taken a backseat to developing mineral resources and expanding mine life. Most industries spend 5-7% on IT annually while the natural resources sector overall only spends around 1%.

“Mining companies are starting to realise that exploration and digitisation go hand in hand—allocating dollars to new tech now will pay dividends in maximizing production and achieving operational leanness in the future.

“We expect mining companies to increase discretionary spending on technology to protect assets, increase efficiency, and increase mines’ safety to align themselves with industry standards. Mining companies will need to catch up from previous years of lack of capital spent on IT.”

While alternatives to traditional mining systems – such as truckless mining, and insitu mining – and new machine designs were cited by some Future of Mining survey respondents as current factors in their lower mobile-fleet maintenance costs, most identified data and automation as the main drivers of mobile asset management gains.

Automation (65% of responses) got a big tick.

Machine condition monitoring sensors and devices (38%) and fleet monitoring/production management systems (81%) are generating plenty of valuable data; big data/predictive analytics (65%) are helping companies leverage the data, along with cloud computing and generally greater computing power (11.5%).

Companies also see advanced immersive simulator training (15%) playing a role in better fleet maintenance outcomes.

In the next 2-5 years, respondents see modern fleet management systems (95%) and mining’s in-pit version of the internet of things (100%) becoming ubiquitous.

Interestingly, there was agreement (95%) among survey respondents with the recent BDO view that robots will overrun the industry very soon. Automation will be a dominant factor in perceived mobile asset management progress. The International Institute for Sustainable Development has said driverless technology increases mining output by an estimated 15-20%, “while decreasing fuel and maintenance costs by 10-15%, and 8%, respectively”.

“By 2020, robots will replace more than 50% of miners, and mining accidents will be cut by 75%,” BDO said. “Half of the miners will themselves be retrained to run the technology controlling the robots.”

Survey respondents also expect AI and machine learning (47%), and 3D/4D printing (37%) to become much more significant factors in mobile plant maintenance gains in the next 2-5 years.

On the fixed plant maintenance side, automation (79%), cloud computing/computing power (71%), big data/predictive analytics (46%), and IoT (29%) are seen to be driving asset management improvements now. AI/machine learning (29%) is already influential.

In future, the impact of digital twin modelling, simulation and optimisation is expected to expand exponentially (76.5% of respondents), while automation, cloud computing and predictive analytics (100%), IoT (94%), 3D/4D printing (82%), and AI/machine learning (82%) will have a more pronounced effect on fixed asset management in the mining industry.

Centralised data management was flagged by survey respondents as becoming a profound driver of asset management value in the years ahead.

Deloitte’s Hopwood said many mining companies had already realised the value of tracking data on specific pieces of equipment.

“The real payoff, however, will come as they begin to uncover insights capable of informing their operational decisions in areas from maintenance, safety, and compliance to mine planning, fleet movement, and resource allocation,” he said.

“Achieving this level of insight will require miners to go beyond automating core processes and setting up a digital nerve centre.

“They will also need to re-imagine their support processes for functions ranging from supply and human resources to finance. In many cases, this is already resulting in companies replacing their enterprise resource planning systems with cloud-based solutions, adopting robotic process automation to automate repetitive tasks, and using artificial intelligence to support knowledge workers.

“Convergence of information technology and operational technology can further enable automation and digitisation – allowing work to be moved to locations which can support a more diverse and inclusive workforce.”

Future of Mining survey respondents indicated the jobs that would redefine their asset management workforce over the next 2-5 years included robotics experts and engineers, remote asset management technicians, data scientists and analysts, software engineers, mechatronic engineers, and maintenance business improvement analysts.

In a red-light warning for the industry, 82% of respondents to a question about the availability of skilled personnel to perform these roles, and maintain new high-tech equipment, said availability was currently “low” or “poor”.

Hopwood said research showed gaps in employee digital knowledge were undermining technology transformation efforts in industry generally.

“In a 2016 global survey of managers and executives conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte, only 11% of respondents said their company’s current talent base can compete effectively in the digital economy,” he said.

“The main barriers include lack of agility, complacency, and inflexible cultures.

“This speaks to the imperative for mining companies to compare their current talent pipeline against skillsets they anticipate needing in the future and hiring or retraining to close identified gaps.”

BDO says mining is “in the early stages of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, and further digitisation is just around the corner”.

“The rise of the robot is not a death knell for the mining workforce but will inevitably lead to a demand for reskilling,” it says.

“Traditional operational positions – drilling, blasting, and driving – will be downsized, but replaced by demand for remote operators and maintenance personnel to create the new version of the miner.

“Emerging digital mining jobs – engineers, software developers, and data processing and data analytics specialists – are more likely to attract the technologically savvy millennial workforce.

“By 2020, mining automation and data analytics will be key components of the curriculum for mining engineers.”

UC Clermont Agreement Offers New Path to Bachelor’s Degree – University of Cincinnati

UC Clermont Agreement Offers New Path to Bachelor’s Degree

New option is available for information technology students.

Date: 3/12/2018 12:00:00 AM

By: Amanda Chalifoux

Phone: (513) 558-8199

Photos By: Danny Kidd

BSIT announcement
From left: Mona Sedrak, UC Clermont associate dean of academic affairs; Professor Hazem Said, director of the UC School of Information Technology; Brandon Cruey, UC Clermont information technology student; Suguna Chundur, UC Clermont associate professor;

Students now have the option of completing their bachelor’s degree in information technology without setting foot on UC’s Uptown Campus, thanks to a new agreement between UC Clermont College and UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services.

The agreement, announced March 1 at the Clermont County Chamber Board of Advisors meeting held at UC East in Batavia, creates a direct pathway for students enrolled at UC Clermont who are interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree. UC Clermont students first earn their associate degree in information technology, then remain on the UC Clermont campus to complete their bachelor’s degree entirely online. The colleges will work together to ensure that students have all the tools they need to succeed, including course delivery, academic advising and space at UC Clermont for out-of-class meetings and activities.

“We are always looking for ways to partner and deliver our programs with flexible class offerings,” said Professor Karen Lankisch, chair of UC Clermont’s Business, Law and Technology Department. “This agreement is one way we are partnering to offer pathways for our students to complete a bachelor’s degree offered online through a spirit of collaboration, equality and mutual respect.”

One such student who will benefit from the new partnership is Brandon Cruey, who will graduate from UC Clermont with his associate degree in information technology this spring. Cruey has found the personal attention and support he received at the college critical to his success so far.

“For me, a bachelor’s degree would open up more options in my field and a better understanding of software and development,” Cruey said. “I was not even considering continuing my education until I found out I would be able to do it through UC Clermont.”

In addition to earning their bachelor’s degree, students will have the option to complete a master’s degree and three semesters of co-op. “The partnership with UC Clermont is an outstanding opportunity for the students,” remarked Professor Hazem Said, director of the UC School of Information Technology. “Students can earn their degree in software development, cybersecurity, game development or networking without disrupting their routine. We removed the logistical barriers so they can focus on gaining a high level of mastery in their area of interest.”

The accelerated program option, offered by the School of Information Technology, enables students to select from four master’s degree programs: Master of Business Administration, Master of Information Technology, Master of Health Informatics and Master of Instructional Design and Technology.

To learn more about the BSIT program, contact UC Clermont Assistant Professor Bill Nicholson at 513-558-5342 or nicholdw@uc.edu.

NQF Issues Guidance on Using Tech Tools to Improve Shared Decision Making – Healthcare Informatics

The National Quality Forum (NQF) issued a call to action to make shared decision making a standard of care for all patients, across settings and conditions, including guidance on how to apply technology to help integrate shared decision making into the care delivery process.

In its new guide for healthcare providers, the National Quality Partners Playbook: Shared Decision Making in Healthcare, NQF offers vital guidance for this process of communication in which clinicians and patients work together to make healthcare decisions that align with what matters most to patients.

“Even though patients have access to more healthcare information than ever before, in reality, they often may not fully understand important (basic) information about the risks and benefits of treatments and alternatives, and even if they do, they often are not given the opportunity by their clinicians to provide meaningful input into their healthcare decisions,” Maureen Corry, senior advisor for Childbirth Connection programs at the National Partnership for Women & Families, and co-chair of the National Quality Partners (NQP) Shared Decision Making Action Team.

“The NQP Playbook provides practical strategies for organizations to strengthen shared decision making, including the use of high-quality, unbiased, and evidence-based tools called patient decision aids,” Norm Kahn, M.D., immediate past executive vice president and chief executive officer for the Council of Medical Specialty Societies and co-chair of the action team, said. “Shared decision making is critical to person-centered care, and should be standard practice for helping patients learn and make decisions about any healthcare treatment, procedure, or intervention they are considering.”

Patient decision aids are a key component of shared decision making. When available, these tools provide patients with information on the risks, benefits, challenges, and alternatives to care options and help them clarify and communicate their personal values to their providers.

The NQP Playbook highlights examples of how healthcare organizations across the nation are integrating and improving shared decision making in clinical practice. At UCLA Health, healthcare leaders are redesigning processes to better integrate patient preferences in treatment decisions. Men diagnosed with an enlarged prostate used online decision aids to learn more about which treatment options are most suited to their care preferences before meeting with a urologist. After analyzing data from patients, the urology department changed its process to offer patients who expressed a preference for non-surgical care the choice either to see a urologist for specialized care or return to their primary care physician for follow-up care.

To help healthcare organizations effectively implement or strengthen shared decision making, the NQP Playbook identifies practical, real-world actions they can take with varying levels of effort and resources.

The actions include educating patients and families about what to expect from providers in the process; advancing healthcare team knowledge and training to foster high-quality shared decision making.

What’s more, NQF also recommends that healthcare organizations apply technology and other investments to help integrate shared decision making into the care delivery process and implement mechanisms to monitor patient, clinician, and healthcare team engagement in shared decision making. NQF also recommends that organizations establish accountability and incentives for this engagement.

The NQP Playbook includes examples for implementation, potential barriers and suggested solutions, and sample tools and resources that are applicable across care settings.

“Advancing the standard of care in this nation demands patient engagement, and that starts with the one-on-one conversations between patients and their providers,” Shantanu Agrawal, M.D., MPhil, president and CEO of the National Quality Forum, said. “The NQP Playbook offers a strategic approach that healthcare organizations can use to help ensure this communication is effective.”

NQF developed the NQP Playbook: Shared Decision Making in Healthcare with input from the NQP Shared Decision Making Action Team. The playbook is built on prior NQF work to evaluate and recommend national standards for decision aids.

The NQP Playbook: Shared Decision Making in Healthcare is available for paid download on NQF’s website.

Revealed: How JA Chowdary will make Andhra Pradesh one of the top 3 developed states in India by 2022 – ETCIO.com

J A Chowdary is a study in contrasts. He is a now-or-never man, permanently in a hurry. As the Special Chief Secretary & IT Advisor to the Chief Minister – Govt. of Andhra Pradesh, he is all for chasing new growth horizons, pursuing radically different development approaches and outguessing technology trends that will shape the future. Chowdary is fired by the zeal of a serial innovator, as he creates the IT-driven blue-print for the state of Andhra Pradesh.

But on that unusually busy Friday afternoon, seated in his high- back chair on the seventh floor of Peninsula Business Park, Chowdhury is a picture of composure and equanimity, quite in contrast with his image of a man in a hurry to achieve his mission. His voice is gentle, as is his demeanour.

“Let me tell you a little story first,” he begins. “Once upon a time, a shoe manufacturing company sent two salesmen to Africa to determine the market potential for their products. One salesman was sent to the east coast of Africa, while the other salesman was sent to the west coast of Africa. Both the salesmen completed a basic survey of the target market and called back to the headquarters. The salesman sent to the east coast of Africa reported “No one here wears any shoes, there is no market for us here!” The other salesman sent a message “No one here wears any shoes, there is a huge market for us, send inventory fast!”

The second salesman’s perspective resonates well with Chowdary’s approach towards the development and technology vision of Andhra Pradesh. “Ours is a newly created state. We don’t have capital or infrastructure. So in that sense, we are a startup state, and to develop this startup state our mission is: Dare to dream and strive to achieve,” he proclaims.