Simon Everett, Ltd.

Simon Everett is an analytic design firm. We structure and implement analytic engagements to help government agencies, businesses, and non-profits solve problems, large and small. Whether our clients seek to create capabilities, improve processes, or inform decisions, we offer the proven ability to address their needs. Our consultative approach blends analytic agility with interdisciplinary expertise to produce functionally and aesthetically impactful results. We are successful when our clients tell us they can achieve better outcomes.

Net effect

Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion at the University of Maryland’s first annual Executive Cybersecurity Summit. There, I was able to share some insights our team has gained through supporting several statewide and regional efforts focused on advancing cybersecurity industry ecosystems. Notably, many of these insights run contrary to what we’re used to seeing in the DMV (for our non-Washingtonian friends, that refers to the DC, Maryland, and Virginia nexus). For example:

  • Cyber industry growth across the US isn’t always sparked by cybersecurity concerns. In our beltway backyard, cyber industry growth is mostly responsive to technical needs, particularly to fulfill network security requirements for federal agencies. But outside of the DC area, many cyber ecosystems have flourished in response to concentrated economic and workforce development initiatives. Cybersecurity professionals earn more than double the average salary in many parts of the country, indicating the industry’s effectiveness as a targeted lever for advancing a community’s workforce and economy. Accordingly, the Commonwealth of Kentucky commissioned us to conduct a statewide cybersecurity industry analysis as a means of assessing the career field’s viability for targeted workforce diversification. Similarly, California’s cyber initiative is as focused on education, innovation, and workforce development as it is on technical implementation.   

  • Cybersecurity initiatives aren’t always driven from the top. Just as federal government requirements play an outsized role in shaping the direction of the DC-area cyber industry, governors’ offices often drive successful statewide initiatives such as those seen in Virginia and Indiana. But in other areas, more localized efforts — often with the leadership and support of academic institutions — are making a splash. The Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation, in partnership with Pikes Peak Community College, engaged us to map out the area’s cyber ecosystem and develop a strategic plan aimed at attracting cyber executives, investors, and workers to the region. And South Carolina’s statewide cyber initiative was born out of organic efforts within the University of South Carolina.

  • Just “doing cyber” won’t put you on the map — but specialization will. We’ve all heard about executives who decide they need to “get some of that social media” without having a plan for why — and the same goes for locales that plan to “get into the cyber game.” But areas that carve out a niche cyber application, a targeted industry angle, or a differentiating value proposition can more effectively coordinate resources and stakeholders according to a coherent strategic plan. Once again, DC’s federal (and security clearance-heavy) market serves as its own differentiator. But absent such an inbuilt distinction, Michigan has become known for its Cyber Civilian Corps and Cyber Range; San Antonio has built a strong cyber education system to complement its defense assets; and Augusta (Georgia) and Colorado Springs both advertise quality-of-life as a differentiating factor for cybersecurity professionals seeking a new home.

It’s worth pointing out that there is no single correct pathway for building a cybersecurity ecosystem. At one end of the spectrum are jurisdictions that test the waters by commissioning exploratory studies to assess the industry’s economic impact before determining whether a next step is even prudent. Moving along that spectrum, we find highly sequenced initiatives such as California’s CASCADE program, which began with supply chain mapping; then moved to strengthen the provider network through diversification efforts; and now leverages that improved network to offer more robust cybersecurity services, workshops, and assessments to wider industry across California. And at the other end of the spectrum, New York’s cyber thrust comprises an interconnected series of initiatives that marshal the unparalleled wealth and diversity of its economic resources. 

If there has been a consistent factor for success, it might be the assistance of the Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA). Through one of several types of grant programs it offers communities, OEA has funded efforts in many states aimed at enhancing the resilience of the defense supply chain — in which cybersecurity companies play an important role. Whether seeking to help separating military personnel find a second career in the cybersecurity industry, or to help the cybersecurity industry itself decrease its reliance upon defense spending, OEA has enabled many cyber economy initiatives across the country to initiate and grow towards self-sustainability. And no matter your personal thoughts on the right amount of US defense spending, decreasing our national workforce’s reliance upon it — while also improving cybersecurity capacity and capability in dozens of states — is a good thing.   

Attack of the (business challenge) clones

Over the last three years, we’ve provided strategic planning services to over 45 businesses in the defense supply chain, helping them decrease their reliance on federal monies and improving their medium- and long-term resilience. Despite working with an extremely diverse range of companies (including manufacturers, IT firms, and process consultancies), we’ve noticed a number of shared challenges. Leadership in small to medium-sized businesses, regardless of location or industry, may well relate to these: 

Common differentiators

Saying that you care about your customers is not unique, it’s a given. In order to truly differentiate your company, you have to identify the elements of your value proposition that are actually different. For teams seeking to make “customer care” a corporate strength, explore ways to do this through your service or product delivery — not through communications that have minimal impact at best, and ring hollow at worst. 

On the inside looking in

Regardless of what industry you operate in, you (and your team) don’t lack for expertise in your sector. You know your market, your supply chain, and your customer’s pain points. So how can an external team help you? By helping you tackle knotty strategic problems in an objective manner, properly informed by your domain expertise. The outside perspective can help to validate or challenge prevailing views, make the case for hard decisions, explore alternative approaches, or uncover assumptions that you didn’t even know you had.

No why = no what

Most professionals can say “what” they do, even if the explanation is too complicated for the layperson. But when asked “why” they do what they do, many struggle. Being unable to answer that question has knock-on effects; when you can’t articulate your “why,” how can the same be expected of your staff and employees? Leaving this question blank also often makes branding and marketing difficult or uninspired. 

These are problems that some business owners may see as inconsequential; “we may have the same marketing as our competitors, and as a company we haven’t internalized our ‘why,’ but we deliver on our work.” While ignoring these types of issues isn’t harmful in the short-term, businesses will find it difficult to grow at scale without addressing them. Our clients are proof positive that honest, straightforward strategic planning can set a company on a better path towards predictable and sustainable growth. 

We're on a mission

For more than three years, Simon Everett has proudly supported the work of the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA). USTDA finances planning activities for infrastructure projects in developing economies. These planning activities — which might involve technical assistance, an innovative technology pilot, or a feasibility study — are performed by experts from US companies. By contributing this technical expertise to the project’s preparations, USTDA positions the project for success and helps unlock investment to enable the project to move forward. As a result, it creates opportunities for US companies to export goods and services to the emerging market by bidding on tenders related to the infrastructure project.

Over the last ten years, every dollar USTDA has programmed has led to $104 in potential exports for US companies — an astounding return on the agency’s investment. Those programmed dollars have funded high-impact activities like a smart city feasibility study for the City of Cape Town; a pilot project to demonstrate how smart metering technology can increase revenue collection for a Nigerian electric utility; and technical assistance to a Brazilian state government making investments in data centers, broadband network expansion. Activities like these lead to successful infrastructure projects in these emerging markets, while concurrently creating opportunities for US companies to provide goods and services to support their implementation.

Under a new two-year contract, Simon Everett will be performing a Definitional Mission (DM) to originate and develop planning activities for USTDA to consider funding. The scope of our DM is the information and communications technology (ICT) sector in three emerging markets in sub-Saharan Africa: South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya. All across Africa, the digital economy is expanding rapidly — and some of the most exciting initiatives are taking place in these three markets. We’ll be exploring opportunities for US companies to support priority development projects in a wide array of market segments, potentially including broadband and wireless infrastructure; smart cities; data centers and disaster recovery; cybersecurity; fintech; agtech; and medtech.

We look forward to working with USTDA, US ICT companies, and business and government leaders in these markets to design and develop high-impact infrastructure projects that help realize Africa’s digital future and promote US exports abroad.

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