this is the archive page

A Q&A on Taking the Vertical Dive

CBTS recently put together a three-part webcast series.  Part one of the webcast series, featuring CBTS Sr. Director of Solution Engineering Matt Douglass and CBTS Sr. Sales Engineer Alex Broome, discusses how to maximize the value of your client’s applications, systems, voice, and network to compile data in a single pane of glass to drive business outcomes.

The second part of the CBTS webcast series, featuring CBTS Public Sector Vice President Tim Lonsway, discusses the primary solutions that government and education verticals are looking for and how government engagements differ from commercial engagements.

The final part of the webcast series featured CBTS Channel Chief Rob Messmer moderating a lively discussion with Cincinnati Bell’s SVP & CIO Kevin Murray and CBTS CIO of Healthcare Practice Dustin Leek. The panel discussed what is important for CIOs in the current state of the market, and what solutions technology leaders are implementing that are enabling virtual employees to stay productive and secure.

Kevin and Dustin, tell us a little about your background and experience as a CIO.

“I’ve been with Cincinnati Bell for almost 20 years. For the last 10, I’ve been in the CIO role, and before that, I was supporting our ERP systems. When we were in the wireless business, I oversaw the IT stack, and prior to Cincinnati Bell, I was with Accenture, which was known at the time as Anderson Consulting.” – Kevin Murray, CIO Cincinnati Bell

“I have 15 plus years in healthcare IT, and started at the entry level as an engineer, then finished my career with Health First at the executive strategic level. I experienced nearly every role along the way going from engineer, to data center manager, to a network manager, to infrastructure director, into my final role as CTO at Health First.” – Dustin Leek, CIO of Healthcare Practice at CBTS

Kevin, how has COVID affected IT decision making from your perspective and other CIOs from your peer group?

“Going back to the middle of March, when the shutdown began, my team scrambled to ensure we had everything we were going to need to support thousands of people working from home and all of the vendor partners across the globe. The way we operated went from implementing projects and looking down the road at what our next set of projects would be to the present. Our primary focus was a smooth transition. It was all about stabilizing and getting people into a productive remote environment. That was really the big impact I experienced, and I think my selling partners would have experienced about a three-month jolt to normal business.” – Kevin Murray

Dustin, tell us a little bit about the politics a typical CIO/CTO has to maneuver in the executive leadership ranks?

“You get political pressure from the bottom, as well as the top, if you haven’t developed a partner type relationship with the C-suite. For example, if you don’t keep the doctors happy, they have a hotline to the CEO. It’s much better when you’re viewed as a partner and the business understands how IT helps the business in its objectives.” – Dustin Leek

Dustin, how much does the C-suite gather help from vendors or partners to sell the value proposition to their peers for certain technology solutions?

“To me, that’s the difference between a partnership and somebody who is just selling me stuff, right? The best thing to do is prove that you know the business before you start asking questions. And secondly, that knowledge of the business should help present a business case value during the sales cycle. Ultimately, you’re going to have to sit in front of the board of directors, the board of trustees, and sell the business value.” – Dustin Leek

When a C-suite asks for references around customer experience, how do those evaluations work?

“We have reference calls on large investments that could cost us our jobs. That’s usually one of the boxes I check when you’re going to have those kinds of things. I like to evaluate vendors and partners on: How do they deal with adversity? Are they a partner to their clients? Meaning, they get in there and they figure some things are much more complicated than we thought they were, or we underestimated X, but we should have talked about this, so we’re not going to issue a change order. We’re going to own it, but we want to point out that we’re putting some extra resources on this just to make sure it gets back on track. Or are they saying, hey, we just found this and we’re going to need to make a change order that’s going to significantly raise the cost of the project.” – Kevin Murray

As a C-level, what kind of information do you want to prove that the company will deliver what the sales representative promises?

“Great question. In those cases, I’ve dealt with plenty of what we call pursuit teams, which are people that are very good presenters. They’re very eloquent on how they describe what they’re going to do for us. But I know the moment that I signed the deal—that man or woman—they’ve moved on to the next pursuit and there’s some implementation team that’s coming behind them to actually back the words that they said. That’s where the references come back. We’re saying, give us the reference customers where you’ve previously done this and let’s make sure that the delivery teams match what the sales team says and is backed up by the delivery teams. And I think with CBTS, we have a very strong track record that I’m sure we do those kinds of things all the time. That is my answer to that.” – Kevin Murray

Dustin, how do you know if you are aligned at the correct level as a seller? How does a CIO/CTO balance their team’s recommendations versus their preferences? For example, what if your preference is different from your team’s recommendation?

“First off, trying to access the CIO and CTO level and sell rarely ever works. They delegate down through different leadership levels. We communicate business requirements and expect them to find offerings that can match them. With that said, don’t delegate your authority for decisions to your teams. You just want them to bring you the top two or three solutions that solve the problem. Then as a group you can decide which one best meets budgetary goals, business objectives, and whatever other considerations remain.”  – Dustin Leek

Kevin, how do CIOs see the interplay of OEM technology companies (for example, Cisco and VMware) and the trusted advisor that is selling you multiple services? Do you feel pressure from multiple areas of the business or what is your single source of truth?

“When I’m considering a solution and I’m dealing with a vendor who’s selling that solution, I realize they may be representing another third party. If they begin to contact others within the company without our permission, that I would constitute as annoying, don’t do that. If you are back channeling, it looks—I don’t want to say dishonest—it just looks underhanded. Deal with your direct team as best you can. I’m sure there are certain circumstances where you feel so compelled that you need to go over their head, but be very careful about that.” – Kevin Murray

Post-sale, what are some examples that have set sellers apart that have made you feel confident in the partnership and happy with your decision?

“For me, it’s that they stay connected. They don’t cut and run, right? Don’t sell me something and then just leave me to be the deployment and design team. Stay connected. Sales folks have to cover a lot of territory in a little bit of time, I get it. But reach back to me, make time to go to lunch or have a meeting in my office and just say, hey, look, I know you just bought this big behemoth thing, just checking in with you, how is the team doing? Are there any gaps?” – Dustin Leek

When should salespeople say no to a request from a C-level if the seller knows they cannot deliver said request?

“You either say no now, or you say, I should have told you no later. It’s a lot easier to take care of it now. Because if you lead people down the path of, we can do that, we can do anything, we can save you all this money, we’ll do it in half the time as the other vendor—if you begin to really over promise, you’re setting yourself up. And then at the same time you’re making the buyer look poor for having selected you. So, you’re actually doing damage to yourself and your relationship. I like the vendor who is—I’ll call it extremely honest—that likes to talk about the hard parts of the project, not the easy parts, but they say, okay, today we’re going to talk about, conversion. Conversion of systems is always hairy, but we’re going to talk about the typical problems you have with conversion, and we’re going to bring this type of expertise to that.” – Kevin Murray

Visit Expert Breakdown: Taking the Vertical Dive 4.1-4.3 Webcast Replay for a full recap and to view all webcasts in the series.



CBTS is a leading technology provider to enterprises in all industries, including dozens of Fortune 500 and Global 2000 companies. What sets us apart is the agility, flexible delivery models, and client focus of a smaller company coupled with the ability to deliver the resources, scale, and capabilities required by large organizations. Ask how CBTS can help you capitalize on the cloud today.

Contact us for more information on how CBTS can implement the right meeting solutions for your organization.

A Q&A on VMware SD-WAN

CBTS recently put together a three-part webcast series centered on VMware SD-WAN. The panel, moderated by Channel Chief Rob Messmer, features VP & CTO-SD-WAN at VMware Craig Connors, CBTS Director of Cloud Networking Jon Lloyd, and CBTS Senior Director of Solution Engineering Matt Douglass. The three-part webcast series breaks down the top questions about VMware SD-WAN.

What is the story behind VMware SD-WAN?

“I’ve been in the WAN space since 2007. When I joined the founding engineering team at Talari Networks, it was the first time we looked at what MPLS was doing and asked if we can do it across the public internet. I joined VMware in 2013, and in 2018 the cloud began to become part of our daily lives, and the idea of keeping the cloud a cohesive part of network infrastructure was really innovative and forward-looking.” – Craig Connors, VP & CTO-SD-WAN at VMware

What are the core differentiators for VMware SD-WAN?

“There are two major differentiators: 1) Gateways that serve as a direct on-ramp to SaaS. We can build an overlay using one or more links from your end location to gateways and not just steer around problems that happen, like a lot of SD-WANs do, but we can mitigate problems such as jitter and packet loss. Even with a single link, with  packet loss, you can still get high-quality business connectivity, even for applications living in the cloud.

“And, 2) Dynamic Multipath Optimization with (a) Continuous Link Monitoring, (b) Dynamic Per Packet Steering, and (c) On-Demand Remediation. Everything we do—measurement-wise, error correction-wise, traffic steering-wise—is unidirectional. We’re measuring upstream and downstream independently. Per-packet steering allows us to move traffic at any time to link in a sub-second fashion.” – Craig Connors, VP & CTO-SD-WAN at VMware

How does CBTS communicate all of the value and technology behind VMware SD-WAN to its channel partner agent resellers?

“When a customer says, ‘Help me understand that this is not marketecture and that it’s architecture,’ we can show you the traffic, show you moving it…we can show you the results of tests we did back in 2016. For us, the proof is in what we do today, especially now with remote work.” – Jon Lloyd, CBTS Director of Cloud Networking

How does VMware SD-WAN view next-generation security features like UTM, malware protection, etc.?

“There are two sides to the question, and the first one is SASE (secure access service edge). When you look at SASE, you get a consolidation of cloud firewalling, secure web gateways, ZTNA, and SD-WAN. On the other side, SASE is all about market consolidation and a single vendor—a single pane of glass network simplification. We’re able to facilitate security in a flexible way, working with any vendor a customer may prefer.” – Craig Connors, VP & CTO-SD-WAN at VMware

How does CBTS bring Check Point Harmony Connect into the SD-WAN story?

“What we wanted to do with Check Point Harmony Connect and with the Check Point suite was complement what we’ve already been doing for customers for five years with the VMware SD-WAN platform. Some customers are going to want this, and some are going to want that, and our job is to be able to make sure we’re delivering with an easy-to-consume wrapper.” – Jon Lloyd, CBTS Director of Cloud Networking

What are some important aspects for customers to know about the SASE market?

“I think the important thing for customers to remember is SASE is big in the hype cycle right now. There’s a lot of companies rushing to try to ride that wave of hype. And one thing you’ll never hear me say is “good enough security.” That’s a term that people throw around. And I think something that we take seriously at VMware is we’re the leader in SD-WAN Workspace ONE, tens of millions of devices under management. We believe that’s a best-in-breed solution for UEM for ZTNA, bringing those together.” – Craig Connors, VP & CTO-SD-WAN at VMware  

How does VMware SD-WAN and Check Point fit into the customer’s journey to the cloud?

“This is a unique time for us in the channel to talk about business outcomes and building outcome-based networks for customers. One of the things that my sales engineering team has been most excited about is that these tools—VMware SD-WAN, Check Point, all the things we’re talking about—allow us really to be meeting with customers and start talking about business outcomes.

“We actually will write on a whiteboard that we build what we believe is outcome-based networking. And so, a lot of our work is sitting with the customer and saying, okay, what are your applications that are going site to site? That are going site to data center, site to SaaS application, site to AWS or Azure? There is now this work-from-home component. How do we layer in the right security solutions? Because VMware SD-WAN, Check Point, and CBTS are positioned as a managed service provider, it really allows us to build very customer-specific solutions.” – Matt Douglas, Senior Director of Solution Engineering

What are the industries that you are surprised about adopting cloud technologies like VMware SD-WAN?

“Retail, banking, sports stadiums, and healthcare are all taking advantage.” – Craig Connors, VP & CTO-SD-WAN at VMware

How does CBTS, as a service provider, keep pace with what key partners like VMware are doing in the market?

“It starts with a great partnership and understanding of where VMware is going. There’s an open flow of communication and knowing ahead of time what will be rolling out so we can be prepared.” – Jon Lloyd, CBTS Director of Cloud Networking

Visit Expert Breakdown: VMware SD-WAN Series 2.1-2.3 Webcast Replay for a full recap and to view all webcasts in the series.

Download our SD-WAN CIO Tools to learn how integrating SD-WAN into your infrastructure can deliver better performance and outcomes for your organization.

VMware SD-WAN powered

VMware SD-WAN provides limitless and optimized access across the entire enterprise organization for cloud applications and services while simplifying implementations and centrally managing all network activity. Using a flexible, agile, and scalable delivery model, VMware is the only SD-WAN solution fully able to leverage all the benefits of the cloud.


CBTS is a leading technology provider to enterprises in all industries, including dozens of Fortune 500 and Global 2000 companies. What sets us apart is the agility, flexible delivery models, and client focus of a smaller company coupled with the ability to deliver the resources, scale, and capabilities required by large organizations. Ask how CBTS can help you capitalize on the cloud today.

Contact us for more information on how CBTS can implement state-of-the-art SD-WAN solutions for your organization.

CBTS showcases HPE partnership at Discover 2019

The blizzard of innovation at this year’s Hewlett Packard Enterprise Discover 2019 conference is a testament to HPE’s bold technology and business model innovation bets.

CBTS, which is an HPE Platinum partner, was among the conference participants, and Ron Nemecek, Business Alliance Manager for CBTS, participated in a panel discussion. Ron discussed a recent CBTS-HPE collaboration on behalf of a global financial services firm that needed to refresh its data center infrastructure for multiple United Kingdom locations.

CBTS and HPE partnered on a solution that features the latest technology, is sized effectively, and is structured to align the costs of the refresh and new IT infrastructure to the business usage. The solution is delivered via HPE GreenLake Flex Capacity to eliminate the extensive cost of over-provisioning.

It’s a great example of how HPE’s innovation has extended beyond tech products and services into business outcomes for customers, Ron said.

“The new innovation that HPE brings to the marketplace is business solutions and business outcomes that are really desired by our customers, because they only want to pay for what they use moving forward,” Ron said.

“Customers are telling us that CBTS and HPE have listened to what they have been asking for years — getting them out of paying for technology they are not going to use.”

Nemecek said customers are impressed with the GreenLake consumption experience.

“They can’t believe that it is true, and that a company came to them with a partnership to solve the business problem they have had for decades,” Ron said. “That is the innovation that HPE has brought to the marketplace, and they have empowered it through partners with GreenLake 3.0.”

Ron said he sees exponential growth ahead with GreenLake.

“This is what our customers are looking for, and we are going to address their needs,” he said.

Click here to learn how partnering with CBTS drives cutting-edge capabilities.

CBTS, HPE partner to support global financial firm

A global financial services firm recently turned to CBTS to help refresh its data center infrastructure for multiple United Kingdom locations. CBTS and HPE partnered on a solution that features the latest technology, is sized effectively, and is structured to align the costs of the refresh and new IT infrastructure to the business usage.

A thorough review of the client’s IT requirements and technology needs determined that the new infrastructure would be optimized by a combination of HPE Synergy, HPE 3PAR, and HPE StoreOnce.  The solution is delivered via HPE GreenLake Flex Capacity to eliminate the extensive cost of over-provisioning.

This collaboration on behalf of our client exemplifies the powerful CBTS-HPE relationship. Ron Nemecek, Business Alliance Manager at CBTS, recently shared his thoughts about working with HPE while attending HPE Discover, where he participated in the partner panel discussion.

Please discuss the CBTS-HPE partnership.

At CBTS we trust in our strategic relationship with HPE.  This trust, nurtured over 30-plus years, is the foundation of our success with HPE.  Our relationship with HPE at all levels is predictable and enables CBTS to address clients’ needs quickly and effectively, driving business results.

How does the HPE portfolio and partner programs, trainings and executive support help CBTS win business and grow?

The extensive HPE portfolio of products and services is critical to our ability to assemble comprehensive, valuable, and innovative IT solutions for our clients.  By taking advantage of HPE certifications, local training events, HPE Aspire, and webinars, our CBTS team is always at the forefront in understanding the latest products and innovations available from HPE.

Our clients benefit from the CBTS HPE subject matter expertise and our extensive experience in delivering HPE solutions across multiple industries in the global marketplace. CBTS greatly values our relationships and access to HPE executives, our executive sponsors, partner business managers, and other strategic resources.  These relationships with HPE enable CBTS to support our valued clients, earn their business in the most complex situations, and maintain this business relationship over the long term.

How do you go above and beyond for your customers?

CBTS invests in our associates’ pursuit of HPE certifications.  Currently, CBTS associates hold over 260 HPE technical and sales certifications.  Our clients benefit greatly by engaging with our extensive staff of HPE-certified professionals who are subject matter experts in all HPE products and services.

Clients can effectively evaluate all options and collaborate with CBTS on the solution that will result in the right business outcome. We enhance the investment in our client relationships by hosting them at local HPE events, HPE Discover, Aruba Atmosphere, and our exclusive CBTS/HPE andAruba quarterly briefing events at the HPE EBC.


Learn more about the agile and responsive IT solutions offered by our IT experts.

Read about how CBTS partnered with a major global specialty retailer to optimize its eCommerce performance to maximize uptime and ensure security.

Guide to our March enterprise network madness

When March rolls around, and a hint of Spring is in the air, a little basketball tournament weighs heavily on the minds of even the best employees (and your organization’s enterprise network). Brackets are carefully contemplated, completed, dwelled upon, and then filled out again. And then the games start streaming, on desktops and laptops, mobile phones, and personal tablets.

It’s at that time when the support team at CBTS begins to get calls from clients. That little event is draining their enterprise network, bringing it to its knees. And we heard that again, loud and clear, from business and technology leaders recently at our CIO Summit in New York City.

Luckily, today’s enterprise network technology can help CIOs and their teams live up to the tournament challenge.

I’ll get back to that in a moment, but let’s first talk about what’s on the minds of the CIOs who were in the room with us in NYC.

Technology, CBTS leaders discuss enterprise network

Here are some of the questions asked of NYC technology leaders, and CBTS engineers Justin Rice, Director of Solution Design, NaaS and SD-WAN, and Jon Lloyd, Sr. Solution Design Engineer:

Current primary architectural challenge

Q: Moderator, Lane Cooper: From an architectural perspective, we’ve wrestled through the big eras from the mainframe to the client/server environment to cloud. We’ve tackled client/server sprawl and have worked on managing applications and key resources spread across different platforms and cloud environments. So, from your perspective, what are the biggest challenges you’re facing versus a few years back?

A: CIO Participant: Everyone has a higher level of expectation, and at the same time, everyone is working from everywhere. The expectation is, “Hey, if I can get Netflix on a plane at 35,000 feet in the air, why can’t I get my email address to work at a specific offsite location?”

Cloud and internet connectivity challenges

Q: CIO Participant: The expectation for everything IT related is just more. We’re in the middle of a cloud migration. We’re going from on-prem systems to Azure. Azure is 13 milliseconds away. It’s pretty close, but still, it’s 13x what it used to be. The data center is in Middletown, N.J., and the office is in Midtown. And we’re pulling an application from the middle of Aurora, IL, about 1,000 miles away. We’ve increased our bandwidth and pulled elements out of the network to streamline the path, but it’s a bit slower, and our employees expect more. How do you address problems like these in today’s evolving networks?

A: Jon Lloyd, CBTS: Many companies today have a 40 or 80 Gbps backbone in their data center or even 100 Gigabit. The data link layer and the physical layer used to be just a millisecond away. With the cloud, you might have a 100 Gigabit backbone but only get 20 or 50 Megabit internet connectivity. That’s the challenge we’re trying to solve.

Justin Rice, CBTS: Every use case is different, but we recently worked with a company that has 25 branch locations. They increased the bandwidth at every branch to 100 Mbps. And because they wanted to backhaul all of their internet traffic to their data center, they added bandwidth there, too, to 1 Gbps, but there was still a bottleneck. We were able to go in and look at the performance of applications at each branch and define which were critical and not critical. Trusted applications like Office 365 could be accessed directly from the cloud and did not need to touch the centralized environment. By focusing at a workload level instead of managing traffic on the network and data link levels, we were able to help them create new policies around workloads to improve performance.

Related: How CBTS can provide your business with a custom-tailored cloud computing technology stack

Unique solutions to achieve consistency

Q: CIO Participant: What we’re seeing is more than just being about reliability; it’s about consistency. If a client is getting a response in 2 milliseconds, they expect the next time should not be 10 milliseconds. So every time, whether it’s morning or afternoon, high traffic or low traffic, they want the same experience. How can you help us with consistency?

A: Jon Lloyd, CBTS: The short answer is that there is a difference between the traditional iWAN days with failover of Layer 3 routing and application-aware routing or an IP application SLA. So, we can have multiple links set up as a failover, not saying up or down, but based on performance and what the best path is. The struggle we all deal with is when those hosts leave the network, and they go to an offsite location like Starbucks. I can’t have an edge on that network, and that might cause an issue for an organization since today’s workforce wants that flexibility. Inside the network, some apps are just not made to go to the cloud, and for best performance, they need to live in your data center. Some sites are better off staying on MPLS. Every business case is unique and requires a unique solution. And that’s where we like to get involved at a deeper level with our clients.

More from Jon Lloyd: How retailers keep up with the competition

Future of enterprise IT organization structure

Q: CIO Participant: Cybersecurity is essential, and there was a time when my team wasn’t doing anything else. There were clear responsibilities, and we had minimal crossover with what the network administrators were doing. Can you talk about how that is changing and what enterprise IT organizations might look like in the future?

A: Justin Rice, CBTS: It’s definitely worth having a deeper conversation about that. We’re going to get to a world where the application team and the network team are the same team. Now they may have different roles, but they are going to be the same team because networkers are going to be developers, as well. We’re going to get there. The cool part about what we do, with SD-WAN in particular, is now we can start to understand the performance of applications. If you tell me you’re having a challenge with whatever ERP you’re using, I can help troubleshoot. By looking at the application layer, we can determine if there’s an issue with the network, where does that challenge lie, and what we can do to help you fix that challenge. Because now we have that intelligence at the application layer that we really didn’t have before. We had it at some level but over the WAN. Now the network team can start identifying application issues and help remove the barriers between those two organizations.

Related: SD-WAN helps staffing firm manage explosive growth

Convergence or specialization

Q: CIO Participant: We have some specialized voice and specialized data requirements, and still others focused on applications. Are you saying we’re going to see convergence there?

A: Jon Lloyd, CBTS: You’re still going to see specialization. But you’re going to have a business leader within the organization who understands the synergy between the different areas and has a line of sight into how they work together. So, you’re going to have someone who’s in charge of application and also responsible for the network. Voice may not apply to a lot of you in the room who are in the financial industry, with turret systems and complex voice requirements that most organizations don’t have.

Sideloading technologies solution

Q: CIO Participant: Can you discuss the ways to address technologies that are sideloading? And they cannot talk to one another?

A: Jon Lloyd, CBTS: This is the number one issue our voice team has to deal with. The good news is that for the first time in my career, all of these technologies are coming together. If we look at our story and approach to unified computing and communications, we started with the Cisco UCS, then to BroadCloud and BroadWorks, built WebEx CCA into that, and then the Customer Journey Platform into our voice core. And now we have greater flexibility for implementing WebEx video endpoints, for example, meaning they can be registered to your cluster in the CBTS cloud or the Cisco Cloud. Given the right partner can bring together all of these technologies under a full or hybrid Unified Communications as a Service deployment, IT can drive value for the organization. With a more integrated network strategy, organizations can support collaboration among today’s mobile and remote workers, their partners, and their clients.

Related: Learn more about the CBTS Communications Practice.

Orchestration with SDN

Q: CIO Participant: In the case of SDN, have you run into a situation where you’re responsible for putting in the parameters of orchestration to stop things like sporting events? When, for example, you have 200 traders in the UK, all watching the World Cup on TV sets while streaming on their devices, and wondering why the Internet is slow?

A: Jon Lloyd, CBTS: In Cincinnati, we are the ILEC, so we actually have run nearly 12,000 route miles of fiber and are an Internet provider in the Midwest. And we get those same calls every March. Now, lucky for us – I was a University of Cincinnati grad and Justin, here, went to Xavier – that’s only typically the first weekend, so it’s no big deal – but for other cities, it’s a bit longer. I’m glad you find that funny! The big thing with software-defined – Justin talked about our ability to recognize and define applications. In the past, we would have a choice – do I want to restrict the network or restrict the person? We could say, on Wi-Fi, we want to limit it to 2 megs per host. Or, in general, the host can consume as much as they want, but no more than 5 megs on this network. In our world, you can now talk about how we can do it from an applications level – whether source, application, signature, etc., and orchestrate it.

Related: CBTS is helping many single-site retailers overcome connectivity issues with standard ISP (Internet Service Provider) service

Summary: Let CBTS help you manage the enterprise network

It was great meeting with all of the CIOs and business leaders in NYC. I hope that we were able to answer your questions to help bring your networks to the next level.

The investments enterprise organizations make today in SD-WAN, NaaS, and UCaaS ensure enterprise network resources are available consistently, securely, and cost-effectively to give employees the flexibility they need to perform at their best.

Speaking of performance, good luck to all of you with a tournament bracket in your hands! And be sure to give CBTS a call when you want to get your enterprise network ready for FIFA Women’s World Cup, Wimbledon, Champions League playoffs, or the MLB World Series.

CincyTech CEO on innovation in healthcare

CBTS periodically asks IT thought leaders to share their insights and perspectives on important technology issues and challenges. We recently chatted with Mike Venerable, CEO of CincyTech. CincyTech is a seed-stage investor that was established to help transform innovation into high-performing life science and digital companies in Southwest Ohio, which in turn create jobs and economic vitality.

CincyTech focuses its investments on four core areas: enterprise software, business software applications, life sciences, and digital health, with healthcare featured significantly in its portfolio of companies. Mike and his team work with entrepreneurs, investors, economic development partners, research institutions, and community stakeholders to accelerate the growth of promising technology and life science startups in the region.

How would you describe the focus of CincyTech today?

While we look broadly at technology-based innovation, our focus has narrowed to healthcare, broadly speaking, and software – primarily B2B software. We do make a few investments in consumer digital services, but that’s a smaller part of our portfolio. We will also look at advanced materials, advanced technology opportunities occasionally. The bread and butter of what we do, 80 to 90 percent of the portfolio, is healthcare-related or business-to-business software.

What does your healthcare focus include and why is it an attractive industry?

We have a broad portfolio interest in healthcare, everything from therapeutics to medical devices and diagnostics. We have a growing interest in and investment focus around digital health, which is a little different in our view than the healthcare IT category.

I think of healthcare IT as more the automation of distinct healthcare processes, whether they’re clinical or business processes, and we view those investments just like we would view any other B2B software investment. Digital health is the application of digital scale and ubiquitous computing to healthcare problems, usually with a relationship to traditional clinical or scientific innovations.

Today it’s rare that a medical device does not have a digital element. Digital innovation is now pushing hard against traditional resistance to change in healthcare. We’ve seen digital innovation transform other industries, and we expect that to happen across healthcare, and not just in very traditional healthcare delivery means, but in other domains as well.

How can startups influence transformation in the healthcare sector?

All large companies in the past have been, and are being, disrupted by technology. There’s almost always early resistance. That resistance in healthcare is driven by good intentions, which is that change can be dangerous in a healthcare environment. There’s a good and natural role for a high bar to disruption. But if it starts to become clear patients are not getting access to disruptive technologies that can be curative or palliative, then we’ve got a problem.

The problem is the system first may not fully reward innovative companies for those benefits. We take a long view and assume that if you meet the disruptive bar – dramatically changing patient outcomes – then you’ll eventually get paid. People won’t wait and will pay for curative and enduring remitive therapies. There is a growing wave of these treatments that will reduce intensive engagement with the healthcare system, which not only makes lives better but will drop those costs. The bricks and mortar and balance sheet economics of healthcare will be disrupted by this change wave.

How is technology transforming healthcare delivery?

There’s this whole notion of ubiquity, continuous access to computational scale through continually connected devices. All these connected devices are allowing patients to be engaged continuously outside of a traditional encounter.  And when you change that brick and mortar orientation, then you start to push preventative care out to the patient, out to the individual human, and you can keep them out of the most expensive care delivery models.

I am watching all of these new facilities come online and I fear that we are investing precious dollars in models that are not helpful. And many consumers view hospitals as dangerous places to go. Infections, medical errors, and poor service experiences make people wary of hospitals already. Maybe in 20 years, they don’t matter at all. It’s important to try to see the future, to look beyond just what this technology allows us to do, to implement current healthcare in a distributed model. It’s really what will technology do to change care, to enable us to deliver care in different ways.

One of the most active seed funds in the Midwest, CincyTech is supported by Ohio Third Frontier, more than two dozen foundations, corporations, municipalities and individuals as well as its founding partners, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the University of Cincinnati, and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, of which CincyTech is a subsidiary. For more information, go to

To learn how CBTS is helping healthcare organization drive internal innovation and collaboration, read case studies on a healthcare system’s telemedicine solution and another system’s UCaaS solution.

How governments are developing IT workforce

Government confronts many of the same challenges as the private sector, but also faces budget constraints that limit its ability to adopt new technologies and develop a workforce necessary for digital transformation.

While governments at all levels are working to attract and retain top talent, including Millennials, they are also looking to technology partners to collaborate and fill human resource gaps.

Tim Lonsway, Regional Director at CBTS, engages with governments across the country at the regional, state, and federal level and has seen a definite shift in how governments are deploying technology and changing workflows and structures in order to attract talent and maximize internal resources.

What are some of the limitations governments face when filling roles that support their IT initiatives?

Younger people don’t always seek the public sector out. I’m on a few committees where that’s an active topic. How do we attract younger people?  How do we get these younger people engaged in government, to care about government, to feel like they’ve got a valuable career in government? Government is spending energy on that issue and is taking action.

Government workers

How do governments look at technology partners to address workforce challenges?

They are really focused on getting out of the technology business – the infrastructure technology:  compute, storage, network, security, firewall, things of that nature – and focusing more on the applications that serve constituents. You allow other people to do those things, so you can focus on initiatives that make more sense and that will attract the younger workforce.

Governments want to make the infrastructure newer, lighter, more modern, and leverage mobile technologies – the ability to work off a laptop, tablet, or smartphone – those types of things. You couldn’t do that 10 years ago. But today, people need the ability to work from different places and not have to work from a centralized location every day. The infrastructure needs to support that.

Are you seeing some rationalization of technology across departments and more unity?

Yes. For example, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is proud of its ability to service constituents. Seventy-five percent of its interactions with constituents are done either through a web portal, or through a chat interface. Constituents don’t necessarily have to pick up the phone to talk to somebody. They’re being serviced through the technology. With that technology, that infrastructure then becomes kind of that binding space, and that common interface. That “common user experience” is a term you hear a lot.

So, whether you’re on your mobile phone, laptop, or desktop, or whether you’re talking to Rehabilitation and Corrections, or Child and Family Services, or Taxation … whoever you’re talking to, they’re really driving you toward that common interface.

If you look just at the trends, the current RFPs in many states, it’s all about, “Let’s get this common front end. We’ll leverage these APIs on the back end, and make all of this stuff tick, and tie together.”

What are governments looking for from their IT partners like CBTS?

If I’m a government and my partner comes to me and says, “Oh, I hear what you’re saying. Let’s create a statement of work, and I’m going to need a PO before we get started,” that’s not the kind of partner I need. I need somebody that’s in it with me, that bleeds with me, that succeeds with me, that drives toward success with me.

That’s what differentiates CBTS in general from a lot of other service providers or partners. We become an extension of their organization, of their IT staff. We’re in there with them. We’re supporting them. We’re jumping right in.

Read how CBTS helped the State of Ohio leverage a Hosted Enterprise Unified Communications solution.

How education CIOs manage BYOD demand

It wasn’t long ago that your C-suite of higher education CIOs didn’t have to worry about trends like Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD). But the advent of BYOD is one of the many challenges education IT leaders face as the mounting demands of mobile computing make transitioning to new IT operating models critical.

We recently asked Brent Flaugher, Senior Account Manager with CBTS, to describe these challenges and how CBTS products and services are helping make that transition easier.

Higher education CIOs are increasingly focused on delivering value-added initiatives and strategies.  What is driving this transition?

The constant 24/7 need for connectivity is a critical underlying factor driving this transition. This need increasingly makes the legacy methods of information delivery – platforms, network structure, and means of content delivery – unable to provide the quality that users expect and demand for a first-class 21st century education.

Using Technology Collaboratively with BYOD

What are the main challenges that higher education CIOs face as they transition from their legacy role of “keeping the lights on?”

Higher education CIOs are expected to do more with less. This can represent a monumental challenge as they contend with the increasing bandwidth demands of ever-more sophisticated multimedia-based educational content, which in turn requires better network optimization.  Coupled with these demands is the proliferation of mobile student-owned BYOD that replace the past model of school-provided devices.

BYOD introduces another level of security challenges. And as the number of these devices expands, so do bandwidth requirements – adding more pressure to the capacity of their existing networks.

The traditional model of educational IT ownership is changing. Tell us how forward-thinking CIOs are leading this change?

These CIOs are opting to transition to cloud-based services where they can rely on the deep expertise of IT professionals who can manage and grow their networks to support agile mobile offerings that are in such demand in the educational sector.

How do CBTS products and solutions meet the BYOD demand?

We constantly hear from our clients in the education sector that they are hungry for products that can increase their bandwidth and offer them a more robust and dependable wireless technology. But it is an inconvenient truth that implementing their value-added and data-loaded initiatives comes with a hefty trade-off.  With more data access comes more data center requirements. Additionally, CIOs are faced with the prospect of providing vast amounts of storage to accommodate all of this access and hiring expert staff to support these initiatives.

The CBTS focus is to meet these wishes by offering shared cloud-based offerings that can make wish-lists a reality. We do this by optimizing their storage, backup, voice, and security requirements. It’s not just a smart strategy for delivering a top-of-the-line education to their students. Our services also help the bottom line by avoiding large capital expenditures and the need to recruit, retain, and continually retrain a large IT staff that can handle the critical demands of their connected educational organization.

For more information on how CBTS is helping higher education IT leaders read this case study and this interview with Paul Czarapata, VP and CIO of the multi-campus Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS).

Explore how the Communications solutions at CBTS can help support your BYOD demand here. 

Q&A with Fifth Third’s Melissa Stevens

Melissa Stevens is Chief Digital Officer and Head of Design & Innovation and Omnichannel Experiences for Fifth Third Bancorp, where she is responsible for driving a deep understanding of customers.

Melissa uncovers new opportunities for the Bank, guiding her team through innovation and Agile development, and pushing a mobile-first approach to improve the customer experience while driving growth.

Melissa came to Fifth Third almost two years ago from Citigroup, where she was co-founder and chief operating officer of Citi Fintech.

Cincinnati-based Fifth Third, the 13th largest bank in the country, has invested heavily in technology to bring new solutions to its customers in Commercial Banking, Branch Banking, Consumer Lending and Wealth & Asset Management. The bank recently introduced MomentumTM, a mobile app that allows Fifth Third customers to round up their debit card purchases and apply the round-ups to their student loan balances.

We asked Melissa why Fifth Third created Momentum and how it is leveraging technology on behalf of its customers.

How you are doing things differently at Fifth Third?

We all know how technology is changing customer expectations and their behavior. We live our lives in micromoments. You accomplish with a few taps or swipes on your phone in a matter of seconds in the elevator ride what used to take hours and hours of calls or running errands, getting yourself to different places. Customers’ expectations now are for companies to come to them where they’re living their day-to-day lives, not for them to need to come to us. While that’s incredibly important, and technology is changing our expectations about that, it is not by itself delivering the experience that people need.

At Fifth Third, we know we have to take that technology and harness it and deliver differentiated solutions to our customers so they can accomplish what they need in their banking and get on with the rest of their lives. We also believe that customers aren’t comparing us with others just in the financial services industry; they are comparing us to their last best experience.

How is technology built into the bank’s history?

What’s great is that fintech has been part of our DNA for a long time at Fifth Third – after all, financial technology is the backbone of all financial-services firms. In the ’70s, we invented the first network ATM system called Jeanie®. That evolved to Midwest Payments that we took public in 2012. You know that company today as Vantiv, which recently was acquired by Worldpay – making them the second-largest card processor in the world. So we’ve been very active in the fintech space for a while.

Now we prioritize mobile-first solutions because we know our consumers are on the go, and we’ve seen fantastic growth in the way people are using the mobile channel. On the mobile front, we’ve had more than a 40 percent increase in log-ins over the last year. That is driven primarily by our execution of more biometric log-in possibilities – using touch ID and now face ID.

Why did Fifth Third decide to create something that helps college grads pay off their college debt faster?

We try to be disciplined at the Bank to make our strategy always start with the customer. A little over a year ago, we began an extensive effort to build a body of research on millennials. Fifth Third surveyed more than 3,000 millennials and interviewed more than 100 young adults in six markets across the globe to understand better what they need in general in life – their hopes and dreams, their challenges and opportunities. We wanted to learn more, not with a solution in mind or a banking product, but to understand this generation better.

We also wanted to bust some myths about this generation. You’ll often hear that they don’t have money and that’s why they are still living with their parents. But what we’re finding is there is a lot of affluence and even first-time home buyers in their ranks. We also hear a lot about how this generation has much more debt than previous generations. But we’re finding this isn’t true. Baby boomers and Generation Xers had debt for their homes – tangible goods – at this age. We’re finding millennials with that same amount of debt, but for their college education, so intangible goods. It’s a different investment.

And we found that it is this type of debt which makes moving forward feel difficult. Student loan debt is now more than $1.3 trillion, with the average college graduate’s debt at $37,000.

Tell us about the Momentum app.

With student-loan debt as one of the biggest burdens that the millennial generation faces, we found that if we could bake a chance to do better in paying that loan debt off into their daily lives, we could get engagement and involvement from them.

So we created Momentum as a stand-alone app. It allows our checking customers to swipe a debit card, round up, and we will directly pay down their student loan. They register their student loan with us, and we directly pay it down. We’ve had more than 40,000 downloads, and we’re on track to help our customers who use Momentum to pay off more than $1 million in student loan debt over a 12-month period. And we’ve made this free.

What makes this an even more innovative solution is that you can sign up for Momentum even if you don’t have a student loan – you can round up to pay toward someone else’s loan such as your niece or nephew’s loan. It’s an easy and effective way you can support education or make a gift to a family member.

What have you heard from customers?

The feedback has been amazing. We’ve had customers who are ahead a month on loan payments and some who have told us they love the fun badges called #Wins that Fifth Third sends them as they sign up, use the app and make payments. We’ve also heard more of what customers want.

We built this as an MVP, or minimally viable product, to get it out there for our customers to start using and to give us feedback. We can use that to build a roadmap of what we want to improve on and add. We’ve heard from some customers who really love the app that they want the option to add more than just a $1, but to add a few bucks when they can. We’ve also heard from customers that it would be great to add this feature to home loans or car loans. We’re only a few months into Momentum, but we think it’s something we’ll explore.

We also heard about something special you did for some of your users.

This is one of my favorite things: Last fall on Giving Tuesday, we wanted to thank a few of our newest Momentum customers for using our app. So we surprised three lucky Momentum users and paid each of them $37,000 that they could use toward their student loans. It was so great to see their surprise and gratitude and how their lives changed the morning we delivered the checks. One woman, a mom of a 2-year-old, said that she and her husband will start a 529 plan for their daughter now with that money that would have had to go to her student loan. It’s really great to see how we can change lives.

From the CBTS blog archive: Read 5 ways that Network as a Service can help the financial sector.

CBTS helps governments use telehealth technology

Businesswoman showing laptop to doctor in hospital Telehealth and telemedicine aren’t new concepts, but emerging technologies and robust networks mean they can be implemented more easily and effectively.

However, there are still challenges to adoption and effective deployment, especially for government-supported initiatives. Key hurdles include budget constraints, siloed IT departments, and organizational structures that traditionally haven’t had to work together. To solve these problems, governments at all levels, in collaboration with community organizations, are turning to their technology partners.

Tim Lonsway, Regional Director at CBTS, works with many state and regional governments to adopt telehealth and telemedicine technologies. Adoption is growing, but there are still growing pains.

What is the state of telehealth today, and what’s driving it compared with a decade ago?

There’s private healthcare, but there are also hooks all over the place with education, higher education, and then, of course, government activity, because governments have hospitals. They do healthcare activities and health services. There are other opportunities such as addiction services and corrections facilities care for individuals, and even out into rural K-12 schools, where it’s hard to get nurses.

There are federal or state requirements that require a certain amount of capabilities to service the constituents of a given community. It’s exemplified by the fact that the federal government is funding certain programs to implement telehealth solutions into those rural areas to provide some additional help, or even in urban deserts where it’s difficult to attract and maintain a workforce.

What are some of the newer technologies that are helping deliver on these mandates?

It can be as simple as a laptop with a camera, a microphone, and an internet connection. But you still need the software and the software packages behind the scenes. You must document changes because ultimately there are compliance rules. Hospitals do a lot of collaboration and sharing of information, and they leverage a lot for training.

It’s really the ability to use, store, and share anything over a distance. You’re taking your entire hospital capabilities and putting them in the palm of your hand with mobile devices, laptops, and tablets.

Are there still technological challenges given the bandwidth available to remote communities, or do we have all the pieces?

The pieces are there. It’s the distribution of the capabilities that is always going to be a challenge, and the consistencies of the deployments. There are other technologies that may suck away bandwidth from those mission-critical life-saving activities. And then it’s the deployment of the individual technologies. Do the applications feed back properly into the various systems? Did you deploy the technology properly so it’s sustainable and supportable?

And you go into some of these smaller areas with these great ideas, like with K-12s, where you’re putting big kinds of multiple video box, all-in-one monitor, speaker, camera, keyboard, into a school, and the technology just sits there. And then, of course, there’s the quality of the individual implementations once you get out to remote and rural areas.

What are the key challenges for governments looking to support telehealth aside from budget constraints?

The biggest challenge is multiple governments or entities or agencies. Better end user services are different than mental health and addictive services, for example. It’s different than youth corrections facilities or adult corrections facilities. You not only have administrators and policy makers at the top, but your technologists within each of those silos. They all have different challenges and they create their own organizations. There’s lots of overlap. But those are starting to consolidate. It’s about the money, but it’s also about the inefficiencies of how the money gets allocated and distributed to deploy technology.

How are governments looking to technology partners like CBTS to solve these challenges?

The trend away from doing individual siloed work has really been going on for about 10 years, and has gotten a lot of traction over the last five or six years. The IT partner comes in and says, “We’ll take those basic infrastructure services off your plate. We’ll worry about compliance and adoption and availability, security vulnerabilities, bandwidth constraints, computing constraints, resource management, all that stuff. You can focus on the business of treating cases or educating students or whatever it is you might be doing.”

That’s really where the partnerships come together. They help governments focus further upstream and break down those silos.

How beneficial are emerging technologies and “as-a-Service” models for deploying them?

In these environments, they may or may not have an enterprise network. Plain internet connections aren’t secure or robust enough to handle the traffic. The ability to leverage software-defined networks to prioritize the traffic and create what looks like an enterprise network meshes it all together and creates the right environment.

Network-as-a-Service or compute-as-a-service, storage-as-a-service, SD-WAN, even wireless LAN-as-a-service enables organizations to basically create line items on their monthly invoice at a consumption level. You can predict it, you can plan for it, you can budget it. Those types of services are tremendous for government. The adoption of partnerships are there and they’re continuing to expand and grow.