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Sarbanes-Oxley: Protecting Stocks and Stopping Scandals

by John Kulas, Bridge360 Software Security Analyst

In my previous blog, we began a discussion on technology-related compliance standards, why we have them, how they work and the specific ways in which they protect us. I introduced the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) as one of the most well-known and widely applied standards in the U.S. economy.

Another major standard that many larger companies must comply with is the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002, more commonly known as “SOX” (pronounced “socks”). Let’s talk more about SOX, because it has made some pretty big news over the last decade.
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The U.S. Department of Commerce Honors Bridge360

Austin-based Software Company Acknowledged for Dedication to International Trade Operations

Bridge360, a custom software application development company, has been granted a Certificate of Appreciation from the U.S. Department of Commerce for its commitment to helping companies prepare for international markets by providing internationalization, localization and software testing for foreign markets.

Brenda Hall CEO accepts the award on behalf of Bridge360 from U.S. Department of Commerce – Commercial Service Director, Karen Parker

Bridge360 has enabled software and developed software applications for businesses of all sizes and industries including major automobile manufacturers, high fashion retail, mobile technology, education, and finance. “Bridge360 believes that doing business globally strengthens our clients’ businesses and our country through international trade and understanding,” said Brenda Hall, Bridge360 CEO. “Making sure software works anywhere in the world has always been a core competency for us and receiving recognition for our work is a testament to Bridge360’s contribution to our clients’ successes.”

Bridge360 CEO Brenda Hall has been member of the Camino Real District Export Council (DEC) for over ten years. She served as the DEC’s chair in 2007 and as the Secretary / Treasurer of the National DEC Steering Committee from 2010 – 2012. The U.S. Department of Commerce grants these Certificates of Appreciation in recognition of outstanding contributions to the Department’s promotion of U.S. international trade.

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Creating and Sustaining Culture as a Company Grows

by Bonnie Caver, President of Caver Public Relations

Growth for a company is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t come without a little pain. One of those annoying pain points is around creating and sustaining internal culture. As founders start a company, they have a vision for what the company will accomplish, the way it will operate, the customers they will serve and the problems they will solve.

Their passion for what they are doing is clear and contagious. Dynamic leaders are able to get people onboard with their vision and help a company grow rapidly. But then growth begins to happen. To support growth, the CEO needs VPs, then directors, then managers, and pretty quickly, there are several layers between the leadership team and the rest of the organization. And breakdowns or cracks in communication, vision and culture begin to happen.

Companies that are growing rapidly generally have cracks beginning at around 50 employees, then again between 150-200 and again between 400-500 people.  Just like a crack in the foundation of a home, these are often ignored until they cause a stumble or even until foundational separation is visible. In business, it is best not to bury your head in the sand but to address changes proactively before the cracks begin to show, because breakdowns in culture are often core to reputational risks.

Here are four strategic steps to help mitigate cracks in communication and culture, address them as they are forming and repair them when they are visible.

  1. Articulate your culture, values, purpose, vision – These are often difficult things to articulate companywide. The founders have this branded in their heads and talk-the-talk at the beginning, when they are hiring and are cultivating funders. But these core company philosophies can become diluted as a company grows, and they can change as more people, ideas, expertise come into the company. Revisit your core philosophies with your entire organization and make sure they are something you can all articulate and understand, whether there are 5 people in the company or 500.
  2. Create a culture of communication – Communication is a continuous management function, and culture is created through communication. Therefore it is important that your company’s communication delivery, behaviors and message match that of the culture you want to create in your company. If you want everyone to work toward common goals with a clear understanding of your values and vision, those things have to be communicated in ways they are heard and understood. Everyone needs to know the individual role they have in the company’s purpose and vision and take ownership in it. And they need an opportunity to be part of the discussion. You are creating a collaborative company, not building farm silos in the Midwest.
  3. Work your culture – A culture is not something that comes from reading words on a coffee mug or wall everyday. It is something that a company has to create, work on and hire to. Creating benchmarks and measuring to those benchmarks are important to follow progress. Best Places to Work nominations are great ways to gather benchmarks. Though you may not win an award, what you are really trying to do is create a best place to work, not necessarily win an award. Use this information to make appropriate changes and get everyone rowing in the same direction. And never forget that new people can change your culture instantly for good or bad. In a company where cultivating a certain culture is important to management, you must hire to that culture. How people fit within your company is crucial. You are building a team where each person has a role, and you can’t build a lasting championship team when you have bad apples, even if some are superstars.
  4. Reward – Show your appreciation for jobs well done. Not just completion of projects or getting new clients or meeting financial goals, but show appreciation for living the internal culture, for pushing the company’s brand forward and for delivering on the brand promise.

Creating and maintaining the culture you want in your company is possible no matter how large your company grows, but you are never really finished. Understanding that building and maintaining your culture is an intentional and ongoing strategic decision is crucial to your success. It’s hard and requires a lot of effort, but the payoff is the core of guiding your reputation.

Writer’s note: Recently, I worked with Bridge360 to develop the Bridge360 Way, a collaborative effort of the entire Bridge360 team, including all management and employees. The Bridge360 Way represents the core beliefs and business practices of the company, and it’s the way the company works as a team to bring excellence to software.  

Bridge360 management was intuitive to the way growth was changing the company and made a visionary decision to intentionally guide the culture—to make it something everyone was part of while proactively addressing challenges brought about by the pains of growth.

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Bridge360 CTO, Chris Durand comments on the Austin Chambers’ new Tech Connection

Austin, Texas, sometimes known as Silicon Hills, has a reputation for being a great place to live and work. It’s also home to a large talent pool of highly skilled and experienced technologists who remain in high demand. Yet even in a place like Austin where referral is a way of life, finding the right candidates for your company can be challenging—especially for a growing mid-size company in a tight job market.

So when the Austin Chamber of Commerce announced a new job portal designed to match candidates and companies while promoting our community and its assets, we at Bridge360 were excited to be a part of the pilot program.
AustinTechSource.com was officially launched on May 17, 2012.  Bridge360′s CTO, Chris Durand, participated in the roundtable discussion promoting the website.

In an interview with impactnews.com, Chris said that like many Austin-based companies that strive to attract talent from around the country, Bridge360 is always looking for new ways to recruit top talent.

According to the Austin Chamber, over 2,000 candidates have already registered on the site and over 30 Austin-based companies have a new talent pool of highly qualified professionals.

If you are looking to make a change in your career or looking an Austin company with positions to fill, we recommend checking out AustinTechSource.com!

Read the impactnews.com article by Amy Denny.

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The Rest of the Testing Foundation

by Joy Grieg

In the last blog we talked about timing as foundational—the secret—to sound testing.  We also mentioned organization, logic, thoroughness, attention to detail, and clear communication.  They all play their part in putting the quality in quality assurance.

Organization and Logic

Have you ever known someone who seems to flit from thought to thought or activity to activity with no real plan in mind…just going with the stream of consciousness or “shiny object, shiny object” approach?  Sometimes it’s fun to watch, and through that sporadic creativity there may be some successes here and there, but there’s no march toward solid accomplishment.

So it is with testing.  Successful testing requires orderliness—sound logic and organization of one’s thoughts toward the final goal of helping ensure a quality product is released.  From the macro view, you’re asking questions like:

  •  “What is this software we’re testing trying to accomplish overall?”
  •  “What skills in planning the testing, analyzing the software under test and developing test cases do we need?”
  •  “How do I go about developing my tests in the most efficient andeffective way to achieve maximum test coverage?”And to be able to answer these key questions, logical, organized thought is key.

Leadership is responsible for answering the first two questions and planning the overall approach, from unit testing through system and user acceptance testing.  Developers and test engineers then must clearly and successfully answer the first and third questions to achieve the quality testing workout of the software.

Once the big plan is in place, it becomes the responsibility of the individual testers to think clearly through the approach to the test cases and how best to write and group them for efficiency and effectiveness.  Testers must ask themselves questions like:

  • How does this software work overall?
  • What are key behaviors of the software?
  • What test tools can I apply?
  • Particularly in black box testing, how might a user think, use the software—or accidentally use the software?

The answers to these questions provide the basis for thorough test cases with logical and comprehensive test steps. Continue reading

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Guest Blog: Work Culture – Now remind me again… why did I hire that guy?

By Paula Soileau and Deborah Kerr| Affintus
At every business gathering, conversation inevitably turns to solving the biggest challenge companies face: hiring the right people.

Many share stories about finding the perfect candidate – someone who has an impressive resume with great experience, and an excellent interview, and seems to be an overall great fit for the job. You are convinced this will be the perfect employee.
Then, after a couple of months on the job, it becomes clear that “perfect” person isn’t working out. The new guy just doesn’t fit in. Continue reading

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Guest Blog: Are You A Bridge Or Are You A Troll?

By Aruni S. Gunasegaram | www.enterprisemusings.com

Some people serve as bridges during good times and bad and others are just trolls.  If you are a parent, especially of girls, you have most likely heard of Dora the Explorer and the grumpy old troll who doesn’t let anyone cross his bridge unless they do certain things, behave a certain way, or answer certain questions.  He is an unhappy soul.

Some people reach out to you only when they need something, but otherwise aren’t very helpful when you reach out to them.  They don’t seem to really care what’s going on with you, or even bother to notice if you are in a pickle even if you ask for help.  Some people burn bridges intentionally and others aren’t aware they are doing so. Continue reading

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Happy New Year – Again?

By Brenda Hall, 

Yes, again!  China is celebrating the Year Of The Dragon starting today, and we all wish them health, success and good fortune this year.  Some of you may be wondering what the big deal is all about, so here are a few reasons why this Year Of The Dragon is so special for us, as well.

 First, I expect 2012 to be a year where we Americans continue to climb higher up the economic slope and regain more of what has been lost since 2008.  Dragons can help do that.  They are a symbol of good fortune and a sign of power in the Zodiac, and like our friends in China – we need to see Dragons as ‘good guys’ who are fearless and rise to tough challenges.

Dragons make good leaders because they tend to be successful; they question ‘the rules’.    Most Dragons also trust their instincts and open their minds to creative ways of solving problems.  Dragons also have a ‘soft’ side as well – they like to attract others to build relationships.  If YOU have been fortunate enough to be born a Dragon…. congratulations!  Happy New Year!  And may your year be healthy, prosperous and fun!  I, for one, look forward to 2012 to be an even better year than 2011….and I know it will be with all of you Dragons out there.

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Bridge360 Celebrates its 10th birthday

From Left to Right – Chris Durand, CTO; Morgan McCollough; Brenda Hall, CEO; John Cavazos and James Cavazos. Morgan, John and James were Bridge360’s first employees.

Austin-based software application development company attributes success to its partnership with clients, employee dedication and innovative solutions.

AUSTIN – Bridge360, a custom software application development company, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this week with a giant “thank you” to clients, employees and the community.

Working with clients to reach their full potential with quality software products and systems has been the compelling focus of the company’s steady growth over the last 10 years. With its launch one month after 9/11, Bridge360 has weathered the storms of the last decade and has been committed to client success from the beginning. Continue reading

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When Your Company Is On The Move ( Like Ours ) — Top 5 Tips For Eliminating Move Stress

by Brenda Hall

So…I’m packing up my office because we’re ‘moving on up’.

Been in this building for 7 1/2 years and it feels a little strange to be leaving it; it feels better though to know our new office space is going to be so much nicer – and bigger!An office move has its challenges, but here are some helpful tips in case you find yourself in this situation:

Tip #1    Make sure you use a good mover who uses recyclable plastic bins with rollers.  This makes life a whole lot easier than trying to pack, tape and stack cardboard boxes.  (most of them will break with the loads of books so many of us have).

Tip #2    Always order more bins than you think you need.  A good formula is if you think you need 100 bins…order 150….so uptick by 50% and you should be ok. Besides, a good mover won’t charge you for bins you don’t use.

Tip #3    You’re going  to find things you forgot you had….and guess what!….you don’t need it!  So, make sure you call in the shred-it guys with their truck and have them show up to pick up these stacks of things.  Nostalgia is nice….but keep it limited!

Tip #4    No matter how much extra space you think you planned for in your new location….you’ll probably fill it up right away, especially if you bring all that stuff from Tip #3 above!

Tip #5    Get good people to help you….don’t be afraid to ask everyone to pitch in.  At the end of the day, it all comes down to great people banding together to get the job done.

BTW….I learned I didn’t really need 5 wine bottle openers in my desk, so I’m going to take 2 of them home now 🙂