Author Archives: admin

Recognize Sales as a process

 

My professor used to say “If the process is in place, results will fall in place for sure“. Quite often we the sales community overlook the importance of process and focus too much on what’s the end result.  If you are one of those who really want to exceed in sales and improve the pipeline then you must step back for a moment and think what is it that can  be improved at every stage of the process.

Every sales is different, every company is different and so will be the corresponding pain points.  If you belong to a start up or let’s say you have a niche’ product/ service then for a sales process the typical use case would look like this :

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Engagement
  4. Purchase

A sales person should plan everyday so that all his activities fall in one of the below categories. You can’t just surpass one and step on to next. For this you also need to hone your skills to progress your prospects from one stage to another.

Awareness

Building awareness has two components :

  • Awareness of who you are : You want people to recognize you and remember you. This is something which you will live with forever. Who you are as a person ? What qualities you have? The best way to express that is to tap in to Social Media. Don’t think that you will spend sometime on LinkedIn and you will get some leads or closures. Not that’s not going to happen. Use it as a tool to know people and let people know you.   Show your expertise, share your views, start a discussion, contribute to a community by creating some valuable content.  That’s when people will know you and it will be easy for you to break the ice.
  • Being aware about what you sell : A lot is done by the marketing team of the company you are working for. But never assume that what you company is doing is enough for you. People are busy and they are always on to something else until they face some challenges.  You job must be keep people educated about the challenges which may or may not happen. And in case it happen you are the one to whom they should come for solutions.

But can you control this. YES, you can. Make a plan of how you will be spreading the awareness.  Make a plan to enhance your skills.

Consideration

I get thrilled when someone reach out to me out of the blue moon with a requirement without me putting any effort at that point of time. It happened recently to me that one of partner from Mumbai replied to the email I sent to him in 2016 about SAP HANA. We had a casual conversation and after that we never spoke.  Once people are aware of you and what you sell and if you are talking to the right person, he will come back to you. That’s your consideration.

But can you control this. NO. You can’t.

Engagement and Purchase

All that we need to succeed in  Sales is a good pipeline  of qualified leads.  Once you have it you don’t win or lose alone. There is a whole team which helps you out.  Just focus on the dialog to happen and getting in front of someone who is qualified to buy what you are selling.

You don’t have control on every aspects of Sales, but you can certainly your sales process to a large extent. Don’t let anything deter your focus from building a solid pipeline which starts with you reaching out to as many people as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

The 4 objectives of Prospecting

Prospecting is daunting and yes it’s the most boring part of sales. But you can’t think of doing all the fancy stuffs without this. What will you negotiate if you don’t have a deal, to whom will you talk if you don’t have a qualified lead. I have seen sales people craving for validated leads. That’s the only thing they want but they don’t want to get their hands dirty, pick up the phone and start calling.

One of the reason is we don’t know the objectives of prospecting. We don’t know the right way to engage with a customer. I have always found it hard to talk to someone on phone. Not because I didn’t want to, but only because I didn’t know what outcome do I want and hence what will I talk.

But after reading Jeb Blont’s Fanatical prospecting, I have realized that my prospecting has improved a lot and I can’t think of spending a single day without getting in to this activity.

According to Jeb, there are 4 core objective of prospecting :
1. Set an appointment
2. Gather information and qualify
3. Close a Sale
4. Build Familiarity

Objectives will differ based on product, service, sales, industry and your prospect base.

Prospecting is not for building relationships, selling or chatting up your buyer. It’s for setting appointment, qualifying, building familiarity and if possible closing the deal. You don’t need brilliant scripts. You don’t need complex strategies. You don’t need to over complicate it.

Setting an appointment :  An appointment is when a prospect is expecting you. He has accepted your calendar invite and have clearly given a confirmation that he has blocked your time.  Appointment is primary objective when the sales is complex, product and services need a deeper understanding and stakes are higher. I have selling IBM Cloud, which is certainly a complex deal. I have fumbled across many prospecting calls, because I have tend to identify the need from a prospect in the first step itself. It has never paid me off.  I have sent hundreds of emails and so many calls I have fumbled. But ever since I have changed my strategy, I have become more confident in sending LinkedIn emails and calling up the customers.

Gather Information and build familiarity: Jeb highlights a right point that sales people tend to waste too much of time in ugly deals. They fill the pipelines with deals where there is no decision maker involved, no buying window is defined, budget is not clear.  A prospect can fall in one of below phases :

  1. Qualified and in the buying window
  2. Qualified but not in the buying window
  3. Semi-qualified: You know there is potential but you don’t have enough information
  4. Potential buyers but have no information about them
  5. Record in the database is bogus.

This classification has made a huge difference in the way I need support from marketing and my prospecting strategy.

Build Familiarity : 

Familiarity plays an important role in getting the prospect to engage.

Building familiarity is a long term activity and is required a strategic planning. That’s the reason savvy sales professionals creates a strategic prospecting campaign (SPC) that leverages all the possible touches to build familiarity.

Spectre and Meltdown

Google security blog recently revealed a  security flaw in all the modern day processors. The vulnerability is based on the speculative execution which is used by the CPUs to optimize system performance. As a consequence, nearly all the Cloud Services Providers which includes AWS, Azure, IBM, Google had to update their systems to protect them from the possible vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities are Spectre and Meltdown. You can find out the detailed information on both of these vulnerabilities here.

So what are Meltdown and Spectre ?

Understanding CPU architecture  will  help us to set the back ground. There are two architectures of CPUs, 32 bit  and 64 bit, which essentially means that processor can process this much data and memory addresses.

32 bit architecture : The CPU has a limitation that it can address 4 GB of data. There are two types of data which the CPU handles 1. Kernel data 2. User data. In 32 bit architecture Kernel data takes 1 GB of data and is always at the beginning of the memory space.  Whereas User data takes remaining data and it occupies the remaining 3 GB.  Theoretically visibility from User memory to kernel memory is restricted.

64 bit architecture :  The addresses which CPUs can read got increased and the 4 GB restriction was also removed. There is one more important change.  Kernel now has something called KASLR, Kernel Address Space Layout Randomisation. KASLR reserves an address space for Kernel data which is random and thus becomes difficult to identify where the Kernel data is stored. This was done to resolve the vulnerabilities that could happen when an attacker could find out Kernel data.

The processor has a Translation Lookaside buffer (TLB) which is used to switch between user space and kernel space. Kernel space entries of TLB are not flushed because it’s a time consuming process to repopulate TLB. So long as memory leaks from kernel space do not find their way into user space, an attacker would not be able to infer the kernel’s location. Unfortunately, such leaks do occur, either from software errors or the hardware itself.

Another important concept that has to be understood is speculative execution which means some tasks are performed even before it’s determined whether they are needed to be done or not. If the speculation is correct that the tasks will have to be performed then it’s fine otherwise the results are ignored or discarded. It’s like you carry the umbrella or rain coat speculating that it may rain today.

It’s discovered that user space instructions can be used to retrieve kernel memory due to processors’ use of “speculative execution” that will attempt to guess what code will be executed in the next few cycles and “pre-execute” it in an attempt to increase performance. At times, this may mean that multiple code segments are pre-executed at the same time until the correct one is needed. The other segments are then discarded. Attackers may take the advantage of this speculative execution, insert their malicious code and retrieve sensitive information.

Meltdown :
Meltdown breaks the most fundamental isolation between user applications and the operating system. This attack allows a program to access the memory, and thus also the secrets, of other programs and the operating system.

Spectre ; Spectre breaks the isolation between different applications. It allows an attacker to trick error-free programs, which follow best practices, into leaking their secrets. In fact, the safety checks of said best practices actually increase the attack surface and may make applications more susceptible to Spectre

Below devices are affected because of Spectre and Meltdown :

  1. Servers
  2. Desktops
  3. Mobile
  4. IoT Devices
  5. Browsers

The attacker can do the following And here is all that are vulnerable :

  1. Steal passwords from password manager and browser
  2. Personal Photos
  3. Emails
  4. Instant Messages
  5. Business Critical documents

Which systems are affected by Meltdown?

Desktop, Laptop, and Cloud computers may be affected by Meltdown. More technically, every Intel processor which implements out-of-order execution is potentially affected, which is effectively every processor since 1995 (except Intel Itanium and Intel Atom before 2013). We successfully tested Meltdown on Intel processor generations released as early as 2011. Currently, we have only verified Meltdown on Intel processors. At the moment, it is unclear whether ARM and AMD processors are also affected by Meltdown.

Which systems are affected by Spectre?

Almost every system is affected by Spectre: Desktops, Laptops, Cloud Servers, as well as Smartphones. More specifically, all modern processors capable of keeping many instructions in flight are potentially vulnerable. In particular, we have verified Spectre on Intel, AMD, and ARM processors.

Which cloud providers are affected by Meltdown?

Cloud providers which use Intel CPUs and Xen PV as virtualization without having patches applied. Furthermore, cloud providers without real hardware virtualization, relying on containers that share one kernel, such as Docker, LXC, or OpenVZ are affected.

What is the difference between Meltdown and Spectre?

Meltdown breaks the mechanism that keeps applications from accessing arbitrary system memory. Consequently, applications can access system memory. Spectre tricks other applications into accessing arbitrary locations in their memory. Both attacks use side channels to obtain the information from the accessed memory location. For a more technical discussion we refer to the papers

References

5 reasons Sales is an attractive career

After my MBA, I wasn’t sure of what I want to do, but I was sure that I would never take up a sales role. It was the time when almost all my friends had the same thoughts. We desperately were looking for something in Marketing, Operations, HR but Sales was never on the cards. I started my career with a non-sales role, but after only 6 months I realized I am in a wrong place.  Luckily, I got a business development role soon. I was still scared of a sales role and I was just surviving in my previous organization. Then I moved to a marketing role when I joined IBM.  I thought now my life is set. I worked in the marketing role happily for 2.5 years,  but after that, I was completely convinced that, if there is a career which is lucrative, glamorous and rewarding then it’s sales.  I was fortunate enough that I got a Sales job in IBM. It was when I was not doing Sales I realized that MBA is first about business development. Every thing else is a business support function. Not that they are not important, but if I were to list down the roles, I will put Sales at the top because:

  • Money matters :  Among all the professions I have found Sales is the most rewarding one.  Yes you have an issue of variable and fixed pay, but if you really look at it, fixed component covers almost 60% – 70% of any other professions. So if you are in Marketing or let’s say a developer with similar no. of years of experience and skill sets and if you are earning is 1000, atleast 700 would be the fixed component in Sales. But it’s the variable which makes the difference. You are stuck with 1000 for ever, but in sales you can make it 2X or 3X depending on how you perform and unlike other professions you will be rewarded next month or next quarter.
  • Apply what you learn:  You really get a chance to apply what you have been trained in the company or what you have learned in your academics.  To be a high performing sales professional you definitely need to be good in the following skills
    1. Technology
    2. Domain
    3. Industry
    4. Softskills

There are many sources of learning and if you are like me who want to be questioned and apply what you have learned  in real life scenarios, then sales is definitely for you

  • Building relationships : Every other professions are most limited to office premises and your interaction is limited. There is no limit of whom you can meet in Sales. And you get chance to build to a relationship with a person sitting at reception to CEO of the company. Relationship matters in all the aspects of life. You simply can’t ignore them. And you will not get any other profession which will challenge you to establish a relationship for your success. To an extent you can exist on your own but sales doesn’t work like that.
  • Everyone need you badly  : What is THE most important thing to any human being ? The feeling that someone need you badly and someone values you to an extent that they just don’t want to let you go. In sales you grow business. You know how to make money for the organization. And if you succeed in doing that, then you will certainly succeed in becoming one of the most essential person for your company, customers, business partners and of course boss.
  • Challenges every single day : Every deal is different, market changes with time, geo, demographics, products or services  and you have to learn to handle change to exist.  You are challenged every single day and with every single deal.  There is no formula set to win.

Sales is all about numbers and discipline. It’s a pure game of consistency. It’s a game of perseverance and a lot of smart work.  You are at your best when you do all the small things and put your acts together.

 

Getting the attention of CXOs !!!

Whether it's sales or marketing, or even if you are on a job hunt there is no one who might have to be convinced to get to know to as many CXOs possible. Even if you are setting up your own venture you know how critical is the buy in of a CXO. So I don't have to spend time to convince you to know or have a relationship with a CXO.

The question then is when we know how critical it is to have CXO, what mistake we do usually because of which we don't often fail to have to them. I have come across many situations where people CXOs have many LinkedIn connections but still there is no conversation happening. According to me there are certain fundamental mistakes which we do :

  • We tend to focus more on position than people
  • Our efforts are transient and we often "Begin with the end in mind" only to realize that the intend "End" has never been achieved
  • We become oblivious of the pressure and CXO's paucity of time

I recently read a book by  Andrew Sobel, who suggests 10 ways to get access to CXO. They fall in two categories long term and the short term strategies:

Most of the sales people start their endeavors with LinkedIn or visiting cards and confine them to there only.  Very few of them understand the fact that it's not just matter of few days or months. You are talking about a career of 15-20 years. So you need to start today and be persistent in your efforts.

The above strategies boils down to 3 very important aspects  which you need to address through out your career.

1, Passion:  What is it that you are really passionate about ?  It can be photography, novels, politics, gardening etc. The point is there is something in your life  which you really like and you want to excel in that. Yes it's true that out of 24 hours you spend majority of your time in activities which will help you to just sustain, but there is thing something which you do because you want to do it. Keep learning and keep improving in such activities. They too are a part of your career which may not be helping you to earn money but will help you to get noticed.

2. Content: Once you have figured out your passion you then need to focus on creating content. Don't remain in disguise and think of a day when you will become master in your passion. This is something which we all do and which I have done for very long. Don't be afraid of critics and most importantly don't think you will know everything one day. That's not going to happen ever. They important thing is to stop thinking and start doing.


3. Being Digital : If there is something which has really revolutionized the era we are living, then it's communication.  There is no dearth of social media channels which we can leverage today to get connected with people. At this stage you need to understand

  • What type of content you can create ?
  • Where you can share them ?

 

We get in to the formal education to get the job. And then we don't do much about the career we want to build.

Shaping the win probablity in Sales

Ever wondered why you don’t have a direct Sales rep for IRCTC ? Because it’s a transactional Sales. No rocket science, You know where you want to go, when you want to go, you select a train, make the payment and you are done. Imagine life would have been so simple if all the sales processes were like this. Customers going to your website, selecting the product, making the payment and boom !! Sales happened. Trust me CEOs couldn’t have been happier. But unfortunately that’s not the reality. You and I have got a Sales job because the sales is not going to be transactional,  it’s going to be complex and it’s going to be highly unpredictable.

Every sales which is not transactional are determined by two factors emotions and probability. No matter how much informed the customers are, how much research they have done, they remain forever in denial that their purchase was more emotional than logic. In today’s market scenario value differentiation is diminishing as competitors soon replicate your products and services, so as a sales person, your ability to manage and leverage emotions is critical. It is THE factor which will make you a Ultra high performer sales rep instead of a mediocre sales person.

The other critical factor a sales person’s success is his ability to shape the win probability. Win probability is not determined how much you have progressed in a sales process. As a Cloud seller in IBM, I have come across many instances where the customer did a successful POC, satisfied by the prices still he became untraceable after a point of time. There are 5 levers which shape the win probability according to the Jeb Blount of Sales EQ.

  1. Prospecting
  2. Qualifying
  3. Stakeholder mapping
  4. Alignment of 3 Sales process
  5. Sales specific Emotional Intelligence and human influence frameworks
Prospecting

I have realized prospecting is toughest phase in a sales cycle. Trust me it’s difficult to do segmentation, to build a database, to get a response of your email, to cold call and of course handle the rejection. This is the phase because of which people think Sales roles are tough and there is a lot of pressure. If you are not good in prospecting, you will not have a strong pipeline and as a consequence desperation will increase. And consequently your sales pipleline will become even weaker.

Good prospecting is the first step to increase the win probability.  Ultra High performers know how to do prospecting and they spend most of their time in this process.

Qualifying

Everyone follows BANT criteria to qualify prospects. The success lies in  how well you define BANT i.e. Budget, Authority, Need and Time line.  Win probability a lot depends on just Need, rest of the other things may fall in place  on their own.

Stakeholder mapping

Contrary to BANT criteria where you talk to the person who have the authority of taking decision, stakeholder mapping spans to a broader set of people are directly and indirectly  impacted by your product and service.  These boarder category of people include Buyers, Amplifiers, Seekers, Influencers and Coaches ( BASIC). A high performing sales person knows that it’s not just decision maker he has to know and to increase the win probability the more people he knows the better it is for him.

Alignment of 3 Processes

Unconsciously, we all have 3 sales process to be aligned to win any deal :

  1. Sales Process : This starts with Prospecting, Qualifying, Demo, POC and finally Sales. It’s quite linear.
  2. Buying Process : Buying process is quite linear too and varies with different clients
  3. Decision Process :  It’s non-linear and it is this process which has to be worked really hard.

The decision process is non-linear, individual, emotional and often irrational.  It is the intuitive process through which each stakeholder makes commitments of time, emotion, and action. Ultra-high performers understand that the decision process is where strategy, logic, and human emotions collide.

Sales specific Emotional Intelligence

High performing sales professionals are virtuosos with people. They shift win probabilities in their favor through perceiving, controlling, managing, and influencing nonconforming, irrational, human emotions. They possess a toolbox full of influence frameworks along with the agility to apply them in any situation to improve the probability of getting the outcome they desire.

Attaining proficiency in all the above levers is a continuous process for any Sales person. No management schools will teach you these. You need mentors to point you in the right direction and to give you continuous feedback. Merely good understanding of products are services are not going to take you anywhere. You need a continuous passion, interest, persistence and curiosity to develop these qualities. Remember these are the factors  which makes Sales exciting.

 

 

The 4 intelligence for a successful career in Sales

Sales is all about building your career each day and with every deal. It’s like you becoming an actor. Suppose you want to pursue a career in acting and you go to Mumbai to try your luck. You need to have all type of characterstics, you learn dance, you learn fighting, you make 6 packs, you get your hair transplant done if you are shedding your hairs, you apply all kind of techniques to get a fair skin and whatever was left related to astrology to fight with your stars you get them fixed too. Then you scout for that one movie which will make you successful and establish you as an actor. Then there are two possibilities.

Suppose you are fortunate enough to get a break and one producer signs you. And assume your movie become a hit. Do you think your career is settled ? No. You need to prove yourself with next movie, and then next and then next. And after sometime there will be pressure on you to do different roles other wise you will get typecast and in no time people will forget you.

In case you were not fortunate enough to get that big break. To survive you will try different kind of roles, small insignificant ones etc. Something which happened to Nawazuddin Siddiqui. It’s up to your choice and your destiny the way it will unfold. You need to keep trying keep learning but for all that you need to learn how to survive first.

Sales is pretty much like that. You need to prepare, you need to be consistent and persistent everyday irrespective of what your boss is saying and what type of emotions you are having. I have seen people in the name of selling all they do is just follow up, making random calls, spamming inboxes and meetings which goes no where. They don’t understand the need of training and learning. Just you like need training to develop your skills and competency in any given field, you need to always learn in Sales. The other issue is they look for the company, colleagues, boss to train them. Well that’s a myth. At the most people can facilitate the training but end of the day, your learning is in your hand.

If you really look at it, all kinds of training help you acquire/enhance 4 types of intelligence:

  1. Innate Intelligence
  2. Acquired Intelligence
  3. Technological Intelligence
  4. Emotional Intelligence

Innate Intelligence is something you are born with. It’s all about how smart you are. It’s there in your DNA. Just that some people are aware of it and some aren’t. Mainly because they compare themselves, the try to imitate somebody or it could just be their inability to handle situations the way should handle. It’s also about the curiosity you show in everything.

Acquired intelligence is all about how much you know. How much you know about your client, how much you know about client’s industry, how much you know about their business, about politics, about nation etc etc. You accumulate the information from various sources to foster your intelligence. It’s a continuous process which is driven by your attention to everything that matters to close a deal.

Technological Intelligence, according to me has two dimensions, first, it’s know-how of the technology and the impact it can have on businesses. I sell Cloud, so through training I try to understand all the aspects which can help my clients to run their businesses, create new business models and add values to their clients.

The other dimension is how you use technology to keep yourself organized and give more time to human relationship. How you work in such a way that you don’t miss out any deliverables. How you organize yourself that you develop the ability to run all the projects in parallel and complete them on the stipulated time.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to perceive, correctly interpret, respond and effectively manage your own emotions and influence the emotions of others. Every individual is different and need to be handled differently. Certain clients will talk a lot, may annoy you at times and there will be many who will not open so easily. They will conceal their emotions and it will become difficult for you to understand them. Emotional intelligence is also the ability to handle stress, pressure, disappointment and working with your colleagues with whom you differ in opinion.

Buying is human, Selling is human. People buy for their reason, not yours. After a certain point of time, quality, features, references don’t matter, what matters most is the type of person you are. And learning is definitely the way to build a successful career in sales.

The Friday it was – Conclusion

Last Friday,  a friend of mine was quite upset about everything he was doing in his office. He is a person who is quite passionate about his work. And honestly he has been brilliant in his work.  He is in sales. And because of his position he has a lot of responsibilities which directly or indirectly impact many people under him or he deal with. His job requires interaction with a lot of people who are within or outside the organisation.

Because this person is so much into his work, that he never gets tired, continuously learning and updating himself and willing to take risks, he always has a lot of ideas of doing new things. He has opinions about almost everything and he wants people to work in a particular way. According to him he knows what is right and what is wrong for the organisation. He was quite confident that sales in the organisation was not happening the way it should happen and with lot of efforts he had created a strategy to revive the entire sales organisation, which was heard by everyone. He got a lot of appreciation for his work but his ideas were never implemented.

He has no control to change people, he has no authority, at least not on all of them.  He can’t get away from them. He need them and at the same time he want all of them to change.

So my friend was helpless and decides to do everything himself. Trust no one but himself.  He concluded that people are good for nothing, his organization is good for nothing and it will never change. He concluded “If you can’t change the company, “change” the company”  and he started looking for a new job.

With all these beliefs my friend came back home. It was his wife’s birthday and it was Friday. We were also there as we were invited of the dinner.  His shoulders were down, the smile was manipulated and it was quite evident from his face that he didn’t want to talk to anyone. He wanted to be left alone but he was stuck in a party where he was trying his best to look normal. He was a childhood friend of mine and it was not very difficult for me to figure out there was something wrong. So I asked him the reason he was upset. He explained me everything in detail. He then told me he want to quit the company. I asked him “ What if the other company has  same type of people ? “ He had no answer to that.

The atmosphere was quite tensed. Even my jokes on which we usually used to laugh hard weren’t working. So we decided to move out.

On my way back home, I realised that this is something which happen to me as well. In fact all of us.  Whether we are student, employee, a business man or even in our family, there comes a time, when we fall prey to our beliefs. There is some or the other thing we are not happy about. We have our own set of beliefs and we fall prey to those beliefs.

Belief come from conclusion. And we conclude something when we are confident of our knowledge.  We conclude something because it brings a certain kind of  certainty in our life. This friend of mine in office had concluded that what people were doing was wrong. He had concluded that his strategy is right and it will work. On the other hand, people who didn’t follow him or disagree with him had concluded that my friend’s strategy was wrong and it will not work. So each party had a certain belief, they had concluded that it’s not going to work and they all were confident about themselves. So conclusion then creates deadlock too.

I have always been envious of this friend of mine because he was quite confident in everything. Very confidently he used to tell his marks after the exams and he was always bang on.  He was very confident  of  his selection in all competitive exams, interviews ,  of his choices etc. But today I feel he had become prey to his confidence too. How can he be so confident that his strategy will work and not of others ? And similarly how can his subordinates and colleagues be so sure that my friend’s strategy will not work ? Confidence then has made them blind of the possibilities. Confidence then made all of them not to apply their mind .

Just recently I heard that confidence is not required in life. You can be unconfident of something and still survive. What’s required is vision, clarity.  What’s required is to give up a belief  or disbelief which is creating a deadlock and making us conclude something. What’s required is a mind which doesn’t take any position. A mind which doesn’t take any position is open to possibilities.  It takes a lot to say “I don’t know”. It’s only when we say this , we are open to learn and explore new things. An ignorance which is aware and acknowledged by yourself that “I am ignorant” is a far more powerful state than a knowledge you have concluded.

I don’t know whether my friend was right or wrong. I don’t whether his colleagues were right. But all of them should apply their mind and see that things are not moving. And all of them are not happy about the way things are right now. They all wanted change, just that everyone had concluded they are right and other person is wrong.

Let’s apply our mind not to believe something, to make some belief stronger or to justify the belief itself. Let’s understand that believing in something means conclusion and “conclusion” means death.

Cloud Security Essentials – An introduction

rms_sicherheit_header_bild_cloudcomputingI was recently speaking to a group of CIOs and IT Managers about cloud. I spoke about all the good things they can do once they migrate their workload on Cloud. But one IT manager got up and said ” All that is fine, but what about security. How can I rely on your security and why should I pay you for the security. When I am migrating my workload in your cloud, then ideally you should take care of it as it’s your own. It doesn’t make sense for me to pay you to host my workload and then pay you for security too

There were two misconceptions to this gentleman.  First, if he is migrating his workload then it’s only vendor’s responsibility to secure and hence he doesn’t have to pay. That’s absolutely not the case in any cloud deployment. Unlike on-premise deployment where only you are responsible for the security, security on Cloud is a joint responsibility between customers and vendors. Vendors provide you the tools to secure your workload and customers have to make significant changes in their IT strategy and approach to secure their workload.

The second misconception was the type of security itself. He might be predominantly referring to all the network security. He might be concerned about unethical hacking, DDoS virus attacks etc. Let me tell you that security on cloud is not just  limited to these few things only. It’s very important to understand the potential vulnerabilities to protect yourself from some unprecedented exigencies.

Everyone is concerned about security but not many people understand what it means. I have heard the following in all my interactions about cloud security with clients :

  1. I want my data to be safe.
  2. I don’t want my data to be shared
  3. I don’t want people hack my system
  4. I don’t want to protect my system from external threats like malware, virus, DDoS etc.

Let’s try to address cloud security in a reverse way. Let’s try to understand what type of cloud security solutions are available in the market. That will give us a good idea about what these solutions protect and hence will help us understand what are the possible vulnerabilities.  Forrester in its 2015 research report identified 4 types of cloud security solutions :

    1. Cloud data protection : CDPs are used to primarily encrypt the sensitive data like employee details, customer details to be stored on cloud. They are either on-premise or SaaS gateways between customer’s premise and the applications like CypherCloud etc.  There are 5 capabilities a cloud data protection solutions have:
      1. Encryption:
      2. Data Loss prevention
      3. Malware Scanning:
      4. Tokenization
      5. Contextual policy control
  1. Cloud data governance : These solutions work with cloud data storage solutions like Dropbox, Google Apps, Office 365 etc.  This solution allows you to have full control on how the organization shares data, what data should be accessible or visible to whom and how exposed data has changed over the past.
  2. Cloud Access Security intelligence : These solutions intercepts and analyze traffic, who is accessing which application, when and how much and provides alerts on anomalies. It helps you to track any unprecedented activities which can be suspicious or abnormal. For example, a technical support person who is accessing 100 customer records a day suddenly accessed 10,000 customer records a day. Similarly a system admin who downloads 1 GB a day has been downloading 10 GB of data since last 2 days.
  3. Centralized cloud workload security management : These solutions work when you run your workload on an IaaS platforms like IBM BlueMix, AWS, Azure etc.  IaaS vendors typically provides the capabilities like:
    1. Malware protection
    2. host based firewalls
    3. log inspection
    4. Intrusion detection and prevention
    5. Configuration management and file integrity monitoring
    6. Virtualization support

It’s quite important to understand that security is not just a tool centric element, it’s an implementation strategy which is created, reviewed and changed at regular intervals of time.

 

 

What it takes to be a leader ?

One of the fundamental thing which I always notice around me is the presence of a leader. I get inspired by them, I get motivated by them and I get a positive energy from them. Not that I myself a leader, but I can surely say I don’t get many of them. I usually get many managers, followers and sub-ordinates, but not leaders.

Leadership has been defined by a lot of people and in a lot of ways. To an extent that leadership has become cliche’, so much noise about it has been created that it has become confusing. But when I heard SadhGuru talking about leaders few things have got imbibed in my mind :

  1. A leader is someone who makes a positive impact around the people they meet
  2. A leader is a person who is willing to confront a problem
  3. A true leader is one who create tiers of leadership.

We usually tend to imagine certain fictitious scenarios of becoming a leader. We think it needs a lot of efforts and some extraordinary work to become a leader. We think life will bless us with an opportunity to become a leader. But after I heard Sadhguru, I feel life throw many opportunities to become a leader almost every single day. It’s just that we close our eyes and pursue something which is unreal. Life actually throw many opportunities, it’s just that we remain blind to them or live in a state of oblivion. We ignore them.

Not that there is a lack of issues in our workplace, it’s just that we look on to something else to happen or someone else to give us an opportunity to act as a leader. We shy away from problems, we are scared to take initiative and confront issues. Most of the times we are not able to leave a positive impact on people only because we avoid them.

I have seen many sycophants worshiping their leaders especially in politics, but I don’t think they are true leaders. They need someone to massage their ego, they need someone to get their work done and most importantly they need someone who can still keep the tag “leaders” with them. Because when these people die or fall from their eminence, they leave a void which is hard to fill and at times impossible. They might have done some wonderful things but failed to create a leader who is better or may be equal to them.

SadhGuru is right when he says that because we are a nation who had been occupied for a long time and we actually wait for some disaster for a true leader to emerge. Let’s try to change that from now on. It’s not difficult to find few lives we can impact, it’s not difficult to learn to confront situation and it’s also not very difficult to create a tier of leadership. If there is something which is difficult, it is to change something within.