Abby Clobridge, FounderDale Carnegie, an American writer and lecturer, was famously quoted as saying, “Knowledge isn’t power until it is applied.” This statement couldn’t be anymore a fit in today’s digital era, where managing organizational knowledge, information, and data is the cornerstone of business success. Unfortunately, amidst the ever-evolving technology platforms and increasing data security complexity, balancing knowledge management and information security is a task easier said than done.
Founded in 2010, FireOak Strategies, LLC has been at the forefront of bringing calm to the chaos by helping organizations in managing, securing, and sharing their data, information, and knowledge. The boutique consulting firm specializes in knowledge management, information management, and information security. FireOak is certified as a Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) as well as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) by the Woman’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). “Our technical expertise is what differentiates us from the rest. We’re a small but nimble group of experts who are always trying to balance security and knowledge sharing for our clients. We’re a geeky bunch who thrive on solving information-related problems, curating content, connecting people to the information and knowledge they need, and applying our expertise to make data, information, and knowledge easily findable, discoverable, reusable, and secure,” asserts Abby Clobridge, founder of FireOak Strategies.
Balancing Security and Sharing
Most organizations today are budget conscious and are trying to make the most out of their existing platforms, information, and knowledge within their IT infrastructure. However, shadow IT—the term used for knowledge sharing and collaboration that happens in cloud platforms that are not sanctioned by the organization—is a growing concern. Given the fact that employees find creative workarounds to accomplish their tasks, they often go outside the IT stack to come up with solutions and end up sharing files, communicating, and collaborating in externally-managed cloud systems. As a result, digital assets begin to accumulate in unauthorized platforms, which creates security and compliance risks. This takes a toll on an organization’s security posture as it then becomes more challenging to protect information, data, and knowledge stored in these third-party cloud services. Plus, shadow IT creates new knowledge management challenges by introducing new silos which inhibit findability, discoverability, and reusability of information.
What then becomes crucial for information security is the adoption of appropriate measures to protect digital assets. Considering that knowledge management needs to be aligned effectively with the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of an organization’s data and systems, an information security program that encompasses all aspects in one becomes a necessity. This is where FireOak has emerged as a “durable differentiator” in the market! In order to balance security and sharing, the company’s experts approach information security from a knowledge management perspective.
The proliferation of innovative technologies such as Blockchain, machine learning, and AI has also disrupted the market, where organizations are positive that leveraging these technologies will ultimately solve their key organizational challenges. However, FireOak’s experts recommend using the technology that is already in place first, while making information and knowledge management a part of everyday processes, workflows, and tasks. Abby believes that consistent and systematic knowledge management practices can help organizations achieve their goals. As there is no one-size-fits-all solution, it’s critical to align knowledge management with other organizational priorities and practices. “Organizations often know that there’s a problem with the flow of information and knowledge, but they seldom know where the problem lies. So, we take time to truly assess and understand what’s happening in a holistic way, so that we can be sure we’re solving the right problems,” she explains.
FireOak aims to make it as easy as possible for an organization’s staff to find, discover, protect, share, and reuse organizational knowledge, information, and data. The company helps clients make the most out of their internal knowledge— from sharing internally, publishing externally, to strengthening protections around high-value data assets.
FireOak develops organization-specific, resource-appropriate strategies that are realistic, as well as sustainable. FireOak focuses on the employees first and then aligns knowledge management and security needs with the organizational realities by considering what’s most practical, cost-effective, and scalable. “Not only are we knowledge and information experts, but our expertise extends to understanding the “behind-the-scenes” journey taken by information and knowledge—everything from cabling to cloud storage, firewalls, workstations, and wireless networks,” states Abby.
Our technical expertise is what differentiates us from the rest. We’re a small but nimble group of experts who are always trying to balance security and knowledge sharing for our clients
Unique Customer Experience Approaches
The company’s consultants advise various types of organizations to ensure that the organization’s information is accessible, secure, and discoverable—by the people who need it, when they need it, and how they need to access it. FireOak’s work is entirely focused on addressing the unique needs and challenges of each of its clients. The company’s recommendations are always designed to meet a particular client’s unique organizational culture, mission, vision, size, structure, technical capabilities, technology stack, and tools that are already in place. Over the past few years, FireOak’s Chief Technology Officer, Eric Smith has been expanding the company’s Tech Lab to reproduce the same environments and systems that their clients deal with and often find challenging. FireOak often replicates those issues and then tests out various solutions before making recommendations to the clients.
For instance, FireOak recently worked with a company that was struggling to sync and transfer information and data across slow, 2G cellular networks in remote parts of the world. The client’s IT staff at its HQ were trying to come up with solutions for the file-syncing issue. In this case, the primary challenge was that they didn’t have a way to test syncing options in environments that were similar to what their staff in the field were experiencing.
FireOak’s expert team discovered that one of the most important features of a file transfer/sync solution is to have human-readable, meaningful error messages when transfers fail. The team developed a tool based on measurements that they took in the field to emulate the low bandwidth, high latency networks that the client was experiencing. FireOak then measured the performance and reliability of various file transfer platforms within the demonstration environment to see how they performed under similar conditions. Through this process, they were able to diagnose the root cause of the problem effectively, and the FireOak team was able to recommend a solution that worked best in the field.
Besides this, in many of its information security and knowledge management engagements, the company uses a device they refer to as the FireOak Acorn. Manufactured in the FireOak Tech Lab itself, the tool is a combination of open source technologies, custom software, and 3D-printed components. The Acorn has been iterated and refined over the years and can currently be installed in the client’s on-site location to collect and analyze data effectively and efficiently. It can be used to remotely conduct vulnerability assessments for information security diagnostic tests, conduct cloud architecture evaluations, and perform Extract-Transform-Load operations for knowledge bases.
As of today, the company has successfully established itself as leaders in the knowledge management space and is on its way to celebrate its 10th anniversary. “Moving forward, we’re expanding our security-related services given the importance of information security in information and knowledge management. We’re looking forward to working with our clients to enhance both areas simultaneously,” concludes Abby.