Keely Wilkins has been in the technology industry for nearly thirty years. She has worked in corporate, higher education, medical, MSSP, and VAR organizations. Keely earned her MS of Cybersecurity from Florida Institute of Technology. The certification she is most proud to hold is the GIAC GLEG (Law of Data Security and Investigations).
Keely joined Check Point Software Technologies in 2019 as a PreSales Security Engineer in Virginia and was recently inducted into the Office of the CTO Evangelist Guild.
In this article, Keely discusses how a conversation with a customer shed light on an unintended consequence of the long-awaited return of in-person events. The “Invitation Landslide” (or deluge of in-person event invitations) was inevitable. Below, Keely guides you through turning that invitation overwhelm into an opportunity for meaningful, specific, and actionable conversations with vendors.
Also of note: Within the narrative below, Keely refers to the customer as “Jack”, although that is not his true name.
What is the Invitation Landslide?
“Invitation Landslide” describes what is currently happening to the communication channels of CxOs and Directors across all industries. Vendors are back to hosting in-person events and the invitations are piling up.
At a recent in-person event, a customer (Jack) referred to it as “vendor speed dating”. His phone and inbox have been inundated with vendor invitations to sporting events, happy hours, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and conferences. He can’t keep up with it all and said it feels like he’s a vendor speed dating contestant.
Vendor Speed Dating, I’ve since learned, is an actual method for introducing prospects and vendors very quickly in a controlled environment. For the purpose of this article, it’s the unintended result of the invitation landslide.
Why is this topic important to CyberTalk readers?
Jack is a peer. His experience is representative of what is happening within the industry. Guiding Jack through the maze of tempting invitations helps us all to prioritize our event attendance such that we may reap the greatest ROI for our time.
Is this a one-off situation or is the feeling widespread?
Some customers are certainly feeling over-subscribed and their dance card is full. Others are still ramping up and trying to participate in as many events as possible.
The over-subscribed event guest may be attending events that aren’t meaningful to them and, perhaps, missing events that would have a greater impact on their objectives. This will result in event-fatigue, causing the customer to disengage or make decisions that are not truly aligned with their objectives.
Why is the happening all of a sudden?
It’s Spring. More specifically, it’s Spring and the vendors are allowed to book in-person events again after being virtual for a very long time.
Prior to the pandemic, most vendors maintained a regular cadence with their customers. Depending upon the project requirements of the customer, they may have had significant social events once or twice each year. Then the pandemic happened and we learned to socialize virtually.
Recently, all of the vendors were given the green light to return to in-person events. There is no more cadence, the flood gates are open.
Another aspect of this is that the personalities have changed. The Great Resignation and normal attrition has brought new people to the industry. Many of the new hires have only met their peers, customers, partners, or vendors in a virtual setting.
Is it fair to say that this is a temporary situation?
It is. However, even temporary situations take a toll and can lead to poor planning.
People respond to fatigue differently. They either stop listening and make a rash decision, or they stop listening and make no decision. Neither path leads to sound decision-making. It’s not a good situation for security professionals.
Who is most likely to find themselves in the speed dating seat?
CxO’s and IT/Security Directors are prime candidates. They have business requirements and technical objectives that have to be met. They are the decision makers for their organizations, they set the path forward. Everyone wants them at their event.
What advice do you have to help leadership better manage the Invitation Landslide?
- Set your business and technical priorities before considering the event invitation.
– Does this event align with what you need to accomplish?
– Can the vendor help you close the gaps in your Zero Trust Strategy?
– Can the vendor help you consolidate solutions across all platforms (cloud, on-prem, endpoint, mobile, remote access, etc.)?
- Be proactive. Reach out to your established partners/vendors and schedule calls with them to discuss your specific needs. A productive one-on-one conversation with you is the vendor’s objective. You can expedite the process by making the first move.
- Prioritize the demands on your time. If the vendor cannot improve your security posture in a meaningful way, this may not be the event you need to attend.
- Does it look like a fun event? Being pragmatic doesn’t mean you have to be anti-social. Play a game of golf, drive the racecar. By all means, blow off some steam. Just be clear with yourself about why you’re there. Is it to network with other CxOs, learn something about the vendor or solution, reconnect with partners you’ve only seen virtually for two years?
- Attending the event implies a certain level of interest. Be clear with the vendor on what you need to gain from the event.
As for Jack, his dance card is still full, but he’s getting closer to enacting the tactical plan for his Zero Trust Strategy.
For further insights from Security Engineer and member of the Office of the CTO, Keely Wilkins, see this CyberTalk.org article. Lastly, to receive more cutting-edge cyber security news, best practices and analyses, please sign up for the CyberTalk.org newsletter.