Managed services are increasing in popularity, as more companies outsource their computer network management.

“A structured managed services program provides the benefit of reducing your IT costs and risks of hardware failure while standardizing IT management through streamlined efficiency, often all at lower costs than the company could manage by doing it in-house,” says Eric Risheill, subject matter expert for the Managed Services Division at Blue Technologies Smart Solutions.

Managed services programs are imperative for those who don’t have in-house IT talent or the capacity to manage their networks. Risheill adds many small and midsize businesses have not replaced downsized IT staff, so managed service providers (MSP) can fill that gap easily and cost effectively.

Smart Business spoke with Risheill about how to utilize a MSP in your company.

How can business owners decide which service(s) to outsource?

Some companies instinctively know what they need to keep, but many don’t; they simply may have a hunch things could be running better.

The MSP will ask pointed, direct questions designed to ascertain what services are of value. Expert MSPs take the core services and modularize them to put them into packages in an effort to match a client’s needs. Then, customize it further to get the perfect fit.

Some only seek monitoring, with the MSP only calling if there’s a problem. However, most employers who are going down this path will say, ‘It would be nice to know if there’s a problem, but we don’t have the skills to deal with it.’ Therefore, the MSP should not only identify the problem but also fix it, even though that company may have the capacity to do so. This should include a backup mechanism.

How should companies deal with pushback from their internal IT staff?

An IT person’s first thought might be, ‘Hey, that’s my job, and if someone comes in to help me I’m not doing my job right.’ There is a degree of that, but MSPs are not out to create a reduction in head count. They come to help and are hopefully viewed as a resource to count on.

From an IT perspective, networking computer management is not that exciting. It’s one of those necessary evils, and very frequently the smaller, internal team doesn’t have the capacity to deal with computer management — doing the patching, the anti-virus and updates. In fact, for a lot of smaller companies, there may not be a dedicated IT resource at all. Sometimes the president, CFO or controller manages all the technology in addition to his or her full-time job.

What are some best practices when moving into managed services?

Roll up your sleeves and ask direct questions to those providing IT support, related to the costs to maintain workstations, software revisions, server status or network status.

Generally, business owners will know if there are frequent outages or problems with the network or viruses, but they really need to get answers from their IT staff and get it with proof. For example, reports that show the system is fully patched or one that shows the anti-virus is up to date.

Secondly, determine the cost of maintaining your equipment. Don’t forget to factor in labor costs, including salary and benefits, technology costs, contract costs, etc. Then, compare these costs against what a MSP will charge you.

Finally, execute a document with your MSP called a service level agreement. This agreement spells out, in full detail, exactly how things are going to go. It’s the responsibility of both parties to negotiate and fully understand the terms before they get started. Then you know the full extent of the services and how they will be delivered, because the last thing you want is a surprise when you need somebody.

Eric Risheill is a subject matter expert for the Managed Services Division at Blue Technologies Smart Solutions. Reach him at (216) 271-4800 or erisheill@btohio.com.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Smart Solutions

Published in Cleveland

It can be more than a full-time job to keep up with technology as it evolves, and smaller and midsize entities that tend not to have dedicated technology staff can face even more acute challenges.

So many changes occur, it’s hard to know what’s available, says Paul Karlin, M. Ed., director of Education Technology & Services at Blue Technologies Smart Solutions. Also, you must train staff and invest in maintenance to keep technology from sitting around unused or broken.

At the same time, organizations need to continually budget for change.

“They’ll say, ‘OK, we’re done. We’ve got a great network and computers,’” Karlin says. “They don’t realize that it’s going to be three, four or five years, and then they have to do it all over again. It’s an ongoing need that has to be budgeted for every year.”

Smart Business spoke with Karlin, who helps schools integrate technology into classrooms and buildings, about how all entities can stay on top of technology needs.

How are schools and classrooms using technology today?

Schools like any organization use technology to conduct business — from keeping track of attendance and grades to payroll, accounts receivable, marketing and communication. And like the corporate world, the right technology maximizes efficiency and employee productivity, while reducing costs.

In addition, whether your classroom is in the educational world or corporate America, technology can improve learning. It’s a vehicle for direct instruction, such as Internet research, educational software or apps. Another use is assessment. In schools, based upon Common Core Standards, groups of states are adopting national tests given on computers, driving schools to update bandwidth.

Technology also is used as a tool to solve problems, create things and be more productive. This higher-level learning, when educating students or employees, isn’t just reading material and taking a test. For example, when learning about global warming, a science teacher challenges students to come up with energy-saving devices, using computer modeling and 3-D printers to develop prototypes. It goes beyond comprehension to becoming part of the dialog of how to make the world better.

What do you recommend as the way to best keep up with technology changes?

There are two overarching strategies. Entities can invest in their own technology staff. If they are large enough and have the resources, it’s a good way to go. But the technology field is very competitive, with IT people moving from job to job. If your key tech person puts in his or her two-week notice, it can leave you scrambling.

The other strategy is to build technology partnerships. Your technology partner can use proven business practices, which in IT includes monitoring, providing a help desk, having disaster recovery, ticketing systems to track problems, etc. You don’t have to worry about retention, and there’s no knowledge gap. You’ll get regular updates on what’s working, what’s not and what’s coming to help inform your decision-making.

Technology partners usually don’t just consult; they deliver products, and provide equipment, services and training. Their middle name has to be accountability, because if they don’t get it done, they aren’t going to be around anymore.

How can organizations prioritize updates or new technology?

The latest technology fad shouldn’t drive updates. For example, organizations are implementing one-to-one computing, where there’s a computer for every person. But if that takes too much attention away from instructors in an educational setting, it may not be a good fit. First, understand organizational goals and needs, and then match those to updates or new technologies.

Consider how to improve efficiency and reduce costs. You may save money by introducing a new technology like server virtualization — five servers function as 20, via software, to reduce support and energy costs. Also, determine if introducing a software package or process will save time or allow staff to focus on their core roles.

Whether it’s technology change or any other change, don’t jump on the bandwagon. Start with the need, problem and/or goal before you come up with solutions. Technology is not going to fix everything; it’s just a piece of the answer.

Paul Karlin, M. Ed., is a director of Education Technology & Services at Blue Technologies Smart Solutions. Reach him at (216) 271-4800, ext. 2281 or pkarlin@btohio.com.

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Published in Columbus

Technology is impacting business owners at jet speed with accelerating volatility and rate of change — and it’s caught some off guard.
Historically, if you were making a product or providing a service, your only job was taking care of your customers, says Bill Julka, vice president of Blue Technologies Smart Solutions.

“Now, technology has become so pervasive, it has become the business. If business owners neglect technology, they do it at their own peril,” he says. “They have to pay attention — hiring the right people and interfacing with the right vendors who can help them navigate through technology and all its myriad uses in their own business.”

Smart Business spoke with Julka about business technology and IT budgets today.

What has changed with technology?

Technology has gotten complex. The days of needing computers and an IT department for just basic accounting functions are gone. With social media and mobile devices, the world is connected any time, anywhere. Employees want to print from their mobile devices and access office computers, information and databases when on vacation.

This makes it difficult for business owners to do everything in-house. Companies depend on reliable technology vendors, which act almost like business partners. By partnering with somebody attuned to technology, business owners aren’t spending time in areas they aren’t comfortable with.

When creating an IT budget, what’s important to understand?

Many business owners feel their largest discretionary expense is IT. But you need a consistent IT budget, good times or bad. In good times, it helps you run your business and create satisfied customers. In bad times, you need to spend the IT dollars wisely to improve efficiency to gain a competitive advantage and provide better service at a lower cost.

When setting IT budgets, management needs to understand and be able to measure the direct relationship between IT and productivity. A trusted, proven vendor can help provide analytics that show the results of technology adoption.

What are common IT budget concerns?

Many business owners feel IT budgets keep increasing, while the level of service deteriorates. They also complain about the unpredictability. For example, software upgrades aren’t easy to manage.

In addition, companies are finding they need electronic content management software to take full advantage of their technology, research and data. Without software to rapidly search the enterprise’s servers, efforts are duplicated or wasted, further stressing IT budgets.

Why is outsourcing a good answer, and when doesn’t it work?

Technology has indirect costs often left off IT budgets. The budget needs to account for the energy it takes to house infrastructure or the cost of rolling out technology. With labor, outsourced support can provide services more efficiently. The outside provider monitors a network cost effectively with better-trained people assigned over a large number of clients. Also, what if you need one-eighth of a network engineer and half of a firewall expert? Outsourcing helps a company only pay for what it actually needs.

One company switched to an outsourced vendor and its IT budget went from increasing 10 or 20 percent annually to 3 percent. Customer service went up in a measurable manner. With an outsourced vendor, costs are predictable, no matter the technology and how often it’s upgraded.

However, there are exceptions, based on the product or service. If your unique product or service doesn’t have skilled vendors for your particular area, you won’t achieve economies of scale. Also, you may not want to share proprietary knowledge with anyone, even an outsourced vendor.

What’s key to measuring ROI?

First, calculate where you are now. Then, implement the technology and gauge key performance efficiency measures, with help from your vendor. Certain efficiencies are instantly noticeable, such as customer service or costs. Other complex technologies may take a few months or a year to generate results. It’s a matter of developing a strategic plan, following it and then measuring the results.

Bill Julka is vice president at Blue Technologies Smart Solutions. Reach him at (216) 765-1122, ext. 8211 or ajulka@btohio.com.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies

Published in Columbus

Business owners today may understand that technology can be customized to streamline their internal processes. But exactly how that customization is realized may be unclear.

Software, platforms and applications evolve quickly, which can make finding the right technology intimidating. However, by partnering with the right solution provider, you can improve your current processes with technology that’s inherently scalable.

“Business owners are experts in their industry; they shouldn’t have to be experts on the technology solutions they bring into their company,” says Heather Stump, a business analyst and AIIM ECM Practitioner at Blue Technologies.

Smart Business spoke with Stump about available software, platforms and apps, and how to integrate them in your company.

In your experience, which software and platforms are the most useful?

The most prevalent office applications are the Microsoft Office programs, Word, Excel and Outlook. Other platforms integrate directly with these familiar interfaces to enhance them without replacing what employees currently use, or changing their day-to-day activities.

Imaging applications can be installed on your desktop or embedded in your multifunction printer, which can then:

  • Convert documents, such as PDFs and images, to a Word or Excel file on the fly.

  • Route documents throughout the enterprise to a shared folder, document management system or email account.

  • Name documents at the time of the scan to save time on the back end.


Many document management systems can integrate directly with Outlook or hardware devices. Employees can store and retrieve documents without leaving the familiar email interface, and multifunction devices can allow employees to search, retrieve and print documents directly from a device.

Organizations typically have an accounting and/or a customer relationship management system, such as Salesforce or SharePoint. These systems are vital to any business, but they do require supporting materials to be useful. Technology solutions integrate with these programs to provide a comprehensive view of all necessary data and documentation, such as emails and customer correspondence, eliminating the need to search through multiple systems and file cabinets, reducing the burden on employees.

What are some must-have apps?

Many employees already have a smartphone or tablet, so more businesses are implementing a bring-your-own-device strategy. Most mobile integrations are not device specific and fall into the document or print management categories.

The most well-known document management mobile apps such as Google Docs, Dropbox or SkyDrive allow users to store and retrieve documents. Other apps allow you to take photos or scan from your mobile device, and then upload to the cloud or existing document management repositories. Advanced solutions allow employees to interact with workflow off-site, which facilitates continuity and productivity.

Hardware manufacturers now offer print management apps, so you can print from anywhere, whether on- or off-site. The files are held in a print cloud. The user can then authenticate themselves at any networked device, see their print queue and release the jobs when they’re ready. This helps reduce costs and improve information security — people aren’t as likely to leave confidential documents sitting around.

How can businesses find a provider to maintain, assess and upgrade technology?

Do your research and trust your instincts. Meet with providers and look at a variety of software packages to get an idea of the distinctions. One tip, on the manufacturer’s side, is to see who is spending money on research and development; only innovators survive in the tech industry.

Your solution provider should be assessing the technology quarterly or semi-annually to help you learn new features and functionalities. In addition, manufacturers usually release at least one upgrade and a few minor software fixes every year. Make sure you understand what your provider includes in the yearly maintenance of software or platforms. With due diligence and the right provider to support your software and provide training, you’ll better understand the value of your purchase.

Heather Stump is a business analyst and AIIM ECM Practitioner at Blue Technologies. Reach her at (216) 271-4800 or hstump@btohio.com.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies

Published in Columbus

Technologies such as smartphone apps offer quick access to information, which leads to better decision-making. But technological improvements are only part of a solution to any given problem.

“You don’t start by simply adopting technology. You start by seeking a solution to a problem,” says Keith Stump, vice president of sales at Blue Technologies.

For example, the cost of labor is a business’s most significant expense. The more a company can influence what its employees do, how they do it and the time it takes, the more productive and cost-effective the business becomes, he says. And often technology can help achieve that goal.

Smart Business spoke with Stump about coupling technology and processes to create efficiency.

How do process improvements and technological upgrades intertwine?

Consider the problem you’re trying to fix, and then examine all aspects of the surrounding process to understand it. You should start to see how everything fits together, and if there’s a better solution. For instance, you may have excellent hardware for copying, printing and faxing, but the software managing the information and devices is in need of an upgrade.

Attack the problem piece by piece. Determine your outcome and develop a strategy to work toward that goal. There must be milestones along the way, as well as consistent, structured reviews.

How might technology boost productivity?

It’s common for some technology to be well structured within the business. For example, a company has specific IT help desk procedures, remote monitoring and data backup. However, the print management could be unstructured. Employees may be buying printer supplies from several stores. There’s no typical process for toner delivery. Support comes in a variety of fashions.

Nationally, on average, 19 percent of service calls to internal help desks are related to printers. If your IT department is supporting printers, it means high-paid people are doing a low-paid activity, which isn’t cost-effective. With the right service provider, software can automate your print management with supply alerts and service triggers. Now, toner is automatically shipped. If there’s a problem, the machine notifies the provider to send a repairperson.

How can companies better integrate mobile devices?

Today, there’s a greater proliferation of tablets and other mobile devices in the workplace, especially for employees operating in the field or at multiple locations. However, it’s still necessary to print and scan documents. There are free, downloadable apps that enable mobile devices to automatically sync with the multi-functional scanner/printer as soon as the device is brought into the facility.

What can be done to improve document management?

There are software applications that allow users to search for business documents, similar to how information from the Web can be pulled up through a search engine.

The information is housed within an infrastructure, and a software application allows you to easily access business documents, such as contracts, packing lists, invoices, copies of checks, etc. It’s a huge advantage in terms of speed and efficiency.

Also, when scanning, it’s important that everything ends up in the right place, accessible to the right people. With auto-capture software on multi-functional devices, an employee hits a speed dial button and the machine routes the scan to the appropriate storage place. Documents are more accessible and secure with fewer errors.

What is key to successful change?

Business technology — and the processes it improves — touches many areas. All employees must embrace changes that are implemented to enhance productivity, whether in the IT infrastructure and support, hardware or software applications. Designate champions within your staff to help employees understand why change is necessary. Having C-level support and a well-designed rollout is critical.

Buying hardware, software or managed services is a part of doing business. But the best companies ensure each purchase decision starts with an effort to improve processes and create cost efficiencies.

Keith Stump is vice president of sales at Blue Technologies. Reach him at (216) 271-4800 or kstump@btohio.com.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies

Published in Columbus

Even in this recovering economy, businesses are trying to do more with less. While managing existing processes can enable flexibility for the ups and downs of business, incorporating software could alleviate pain points, improve productivity and save money.

“The big question is, ‘How do I improve what I do with my customers, my vendors or my employees?’” says Curtis Verhoff, systems integrations and applications manager at Blue Technologies. “Those are the big three, and every organization is like that — whether it’s somebody who sells widgets, provides professional services or is trying to find donors and support.”

Smart Business spoke with Verhoff about utilizing software to improve a range of business functions.

What are some examples of optimizing your software resources?

These software solutions often deal with enterprise content or customer relationship management, but they also can be transactional, such as helping handle invoices, statements, packing slips or the documents you use daily to communicate with customers. One business recently optimized its existing systems to reduce raw postage costs, saving anywhere from $4,000 to $5,000, or 20 percent, each month.

Two other organizations increased productivity by improving payment management. By adding to its software and adjusting existing systems, one company took better advantage of pricing discounts by paying vendors earlier. The other business tweaked the integration of its current system, getting its elite group of customers to pay on average five to seven days faster, which improved cash flow.

What can maximizing your software integration mean for your business?

In this economy, it’s critical to look at the level of success you’re having integrating your current software products. All businesses have to work harder to maintain their current customer loyalty, while trying to attract new customers. You must be more productive with the same or fewer employees.

Your competitors are already working to be productive and more customer friendly — you don’t want to be left behind. You need to provide advantages to your customers to separate yourself. Highlighting your software solutions through marketing can give your customers an indication of how it will make doing business with you more pleasant and reliable.

How can you discover if you have problems with existing software?

What complaints do you hear from your current staff about being more productive, servicing customers better or doing day-to-day activities more efficiently? Is each department running at peak efficiency? Where is your business not functioning at optimal capacity? If you’ve integrated certain solutions, then what’s the ROI and are you happy with that?

If you’re not hearing about problems, check with your managers. Some managers don’t take problems to the top until they reach critical mass.

Once you’ve spotted the pain, what’s next?

First, identify and pull together people to discuss the fine details of the problem. You don’t need to connect all the dots, just get a solid understanding. Develop a game plan that focuses on the most painful areas that, if resolved, can produce the biggest gain.

Many companies put together a laundry list, and then don’t move forward, fearing the cost and scope. However, if you prioritize the most critical items, you might be able to resolve the few problems that are causing most of the pain.

Then, reach out to a provider with the skills and abilities, as well as the offerings, to help you overcome your top challenges. It’s important for all parties to keep the larger list in mind because it could affect the software solution decision. Each resolution is a piece of the puzzle, and you want to avoid having to revisit it later once you’ve moved on.

Curtis Verhoff is a systems integrations and applications manager at Blue Technologies. Reach him at (216) 271-4800, ext. 2251 or cverhoff@BTOhio.com.

Save the date: Discover how your office technology can connect your business at our Aug. 20 Synergy Showcase. Meet us at the Q to see for yourself. Visit http://bit.ly/12PbQOd for details.

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Published in Akron/Canton

Cloud computing is the use of applications that are housed on servers outside of a business’s location and accessed using the Internet. Instead of deploying servers internally and building a network infrastructure within their walls, companies contract with a cloud-computing provider that hosts the applications.

“Cloud computing is a key component of any company’s infrastructure these days, whether you’re Fortune 500 or a sole proprietorship,” says Eric Folkman, manager of managed services at Blue Technologies. “There’s a piece of it now that can fit pretty much any company. It wasn’t that way a few years ago, but the technology has progressed and the costs have come down so far that there’s something there for everybody.”

Smart Business spoke with Folkman about getting started with cloud computing.

Why should you look into utilizing the cloud to help your company?

Three simple reasons are:

  • Financial benefits.
  • Increased availability of data, whether for your employees or the public.
  • Reducing your disaster risk with some form of backup.

What specifically can be taken to the cloud?

The ability to move applications to the cloud has exploded. It may sound cliché, but the better question might be: What can’t you take to the cloud?

Some applications are better than others in the cloud environment, such as email, financial systems, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, data backup and Microsoft Office-type products like Word and Excel. In addition, voice is gaining popularity, which works by routing your phones through the Internet. This can reduce your business phone bills and provide flexibility to telecom costs.

When is the right time to go to the cloud?

It depends on the situation, but anytime a company is considering a major change to its technology — whether a server upgrade or application change — that’s an appropriate time to consider the cloud.

Here’s a scenario I run across three or four times a week: A company is running an older, internal email server and decides to upgrade. It could spend tens of thousands of dollars on hardware, software licensing and implementation. The business gets an upgraded server but still has maintenance costs, security risks and the potential for downtime if something happens to the physical servers.

The alternative is to host email through the cloud. There’s no need to secure and maintain an internal server, and email is more accessible via the Internet. There’s also no disaster recovery component — you know the provider has mechanisms to keep your data safe. However, sometimes you have so many users going to the cloud that it doesn’t make sense, as opposed to doing it in-house, from a cost perspective.

What’s an easy way to get started?

Cloud-based data backup is a low-cost, low-risk way for a company to dip its toe in the water. Companies see savings quickly and don’t have to mess with tapes and the risk of someone (usually the receptionist) manually rotating tapes off-site. Although there are some configuration changes, it’s not a mission-critical application.

Email and a CRM, like salesforce.com, are two others to consider doing sooner rather than later with a quick payback.

How is the value of cloud usage measured?

Like any business process, do your homework and build a business case. Not every company is perfect for it, but it’s an option executives should at least look at. It can be difficult and cumbersome to figure out if you’re not familiar with IT and don’t understand all the pros and cons of the cloud environment. A little advice in the beginning could really help get you beyond the learning curve.

Once you’re using the cloud, many providers offer advanced reporting and monitoring tools, so if something goes wrong you can take corrective action. For instance, most backup providers offer a dashboard. You can see how many computers are backing up, how much from each, how long it takes, how many failed to back up, etc. You also want your cloud contracts to include flexibility to add services or make changes as needed.

Eric Folkman is manager of managed services at Blue Technologies. Reach him at (216) 271-4800 or efolkman@btohio.com.

Blue Technologies offers further insight on this and other topics affecting businesses on its blog. Learn more by visiting www.btohio.com/news-resources.

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Published in Akron/Canton

When office equipment goes down or doesn’t work properly, it can disrupt the entire business. And as the industry consolidates functions into one device, it’s critical to have the correct equipment that meets your business’s needs.

“It truly is a lifeline in an office,” says Edward Kromar, director of service at Blue Technologies. “If it’s a small office, it can almost stop the processes internally, as opposed to 20 years go when it was just one facet of many. Understanding your vendor’s service protocol is absolutely vital.”

Smart Business spoke with Kromar about how to maximize your office equipment.

What should business owners know before investing in office equipment?

Take time to understand your business and processes. Knowing the volume you use ensures the equipment is big enough. But if printing is most important, you may need a multifunction device that allows you to categorize your priorities in the workflow, so all printing comes before copying or faxing.

If the function is mission critical, you may want a second unit. This is mechanical equipment — failures are going to happen — so you may need backup equipment and data storage. If scanning is imperative but you have an all-in-one device, then you need to consider having another unit to provide back-up scanning. Look for an alternative that doesn’t break the bank but gives the necessary insurance, which could be a desktop device. In trying to understand your needs and priorities, develop and use your relationship with your office technology salesperson, which also helps you get the right product(s).

How does the technology life cycle work?

Technology is changing monthly, so a best practice is having the flexibility to move into different products with your vendor. Look for a product line with options and versatility as well as a history of improvements. Not only are your business needs changing, but a feature that wasn’t out six months ago could add efficiency.

While there’s no rule about how often equipment needs to be upgraded, make sure the technology still meets your needs. The faster your business is growing, the faster you’ll need to update. And, if you come across a broken process, don’t forget to consider that your office hardware could be part of the solution.

What’s problematic about switching to digital phones?

Digital phone lines are very practical for businesses that want to save money. Unfortunately, fax technology has not kept up with digital phone technology, so they don’t fit reliability together, and the industry is not spending research and development funds on merging these two. So, if you are changing phone systems and your organization has a high demand for faxing, you need to keep an analog phone line for your immediate needs and begin converting your clients to email communication.

What’s important to know about color?

Color has helped businesses present, at a more affordable cost, their marketing message to customers. But some business owners have misconceptions about their device’s color and the difference between business and production color. Production color, which is often outsourced to print production facilities, handles high-end color, where a red will always print the exact same shade. Business color is an acceptable quality that can be used internally and sometimes for outside marketing pieces. You can buy devices of either type, but there’s a cost difference. With help from your salesperson, you can discover what color needs to be used and when, including whether the volume justifies the cost of bringing it in-house.

How can your company maximize use?

First, your equipment salesperson should understand your IT support. Additional services and training may be needed to help make the transition seamless. An established equipment dealer can even provide support for more than just your hardware needs, the dealer might also provide various network support before and after installation.

You also need to fully understand the capabilities of the equipment you’ve purchased and how it fits with your business. If you don’t know what your equipment can do, find out. Also, as your business changes, you could take advantage of a feature you never thought you would.

Edward Kromar is the director of service at Blue Technologies. Reach him at (216) 271-4800 or ekromar@BTOhio.com.

 

Blog: For useful tips on improving office efficiencies, visit our blog at www.btohio.com/news-resources.

 

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Published in Akron/Canton

In order to eliminate or mitigate inefficiencies, businesses must take a close look at current processes. This enables employers to uncover pains, such as the amount of paper being routed throughout the enterprise or the time it takes to process an invoice. Being able to recognize these inefficiencies is great, but many times, quantifying the end result is much simpler than isolating the source of the inefficiencies.

“The problem can be anything — accounting, human resources, policies, leasing documents,” says Nano Zegarra, director, Imaging Solutions Division at Blue Technologies. “It also could be a simple fix, but perhaps the company doesn’t recognize an issue because it’s accustomed to doing things the way they’ve always been done.”

Smart Business spoke with Zegarra about the role of a business analyst and how an outsider’s assessment could uncover problems you weren’t aware you had.

How can inefficiencies be uncovered?

It’s tough. These may be hidden from the CEO or COO, who doesn’t realize parts of the process can be more efficient, especially if monetary values aren’t apparent.

The people who catch most inefficiencies are those who hear the griping, such as a manager who handles the time of individuals working in a particular area. CEOs have the vision, but those in the organization who get their hands dirty, or their direct managers, often discover inefficiencies. Pay attention to the negative feedback from employees, then dig deeper to understand the true pain.

It might take a specific problem to start to unmask these inefficiencies. Perhaps an employee has plenty of downtime, and you feel that he or she might be used more effectively elsewhere but are not sure where. Or you missed a large number of early pay discounts in comparison to the previous year, but where was the ball dropped? If a manager can understand the entire process and quantify the roles of each individual, it is much easier to identify the bottlenecks.

What is a good way to begin the process? 

Internal communication is key. Pay attention to the feedback from the process owners. If you identify an area that has more work than another, hold a meeting for open feedback. This is when you should bring in an analyst.

An external analyst can objectively look at the whole business process from beginning to end, using expertise in multiple industries to ask pointed questions about particular processes. A good business analyst will look for inefficiencies anywhere when mapping out work flows and showing where there’s room for improvement. Then, employers can do what they like with the assessment.

How can you accomplish more with less? 

Utilize technological resources. The greatest business expenditure is an individual, so ensure your people are as efficient as possible. Even the smallest solution can help existing employees do more in less time.

Saving time can be as simple as having a centralized multifunction printer with the ability to digitally send documents throughout an enterprise. Or take a look at what is being outsourced and understand what investment would need to be made to eliminate that expenditure. Many times, the ROI can outweigh the initial investment to save time and ultimately money.

Is it always about efficiency?

Not always. There are industries where it is critical for multiple individuals to look at a particular document. An experienced business analyst has industry expertise and knows best practices. This understanding may lead to an additional step in a process that may not make it more efficient, but will improve revenue or customer service ratings. This could ultimately give your company added value and a competitive advantage.

How can an analyst improve processes? 

Business analysts must understand current processes before making recommendations. This entails in-depth digging and information gathering in order to map out on paper what a company is currently doing. Throughout this process, he or she should be identifying and documenting the greatest pains and largest bottlenecks for every process. With a complete understanding, the discussion on potential changes can take place from an objective point of view.

The analysis’s most important part is the written assessment, which maps a more streamlined process and the steps a company must take to reach its ideal efficiency level.

 WHITE PAPERS: For more ideas on how to increase business efficiency.

Nano Zegarra is a director, Imaging Solutions Division, at Blue Technologies. Reach him at (216) 271-4800, ext. 2260 or nzegarra@BTOhio.com.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies

Published in Akron/Canton

The average company spends a lot of money on printing, and often it doesn’t realize where those resources are going. By some estimates, approximately 17 percent of all documents printed out are left sitting on printers. The average employee spends about $1,000 per year on document output. And many organizations spend 1 to 3 percent of their annual revenue on imaging technology but don’t even know how many printers they actually own.

By failing to manage print output, companies are unable to identify what they are spending and where they could be saving on costs. Additionally, if IT departments are spending too much time on tasks such as replacing cartridges or fixing printers, it is not an efficient use of their time.

A managed print service (MPS) program can help businesses save money they don’t even know they are spending, while increasing flexibility and reducing stress, says Bill Nelson, vice president of Cleveland Sales at Blue Technologies.

“Everyone talks about the cost of an MPS program,” Nelson says. “However, the biggest concern for a company that manages its own printers internally should be the time it takes and the resources required to have all printers running at 100 percent efficiency. That’s time that could be used to run the daily business and focus on company initiatives.”

Smart Business spoke with Nelson about managed print service programs and how they could benefit your company.

What is a managed print service program?

A managed print service program is an end-to-end solution that provides everything a company needs to control output costs. That includes an initial volume and usage assessment, hardware redeployment and/or acquisition, paper use output that includes supplies and service through an ongoing assessment of the contract, and, as needed, optimization. Basically, it manages all of the printing done by your company. With numerous printers, employers may have no idea how many printouts they are printing each month and who has which printer.

What advantages does such a program bring?

If purchasing or the IT department is responsible for monitoring printers, that is time spent away from focusing on core competencies. A managed print service program can reduce IT support requirements by taking over the management of supplying toner and servicing printers.

A managed print service program identifies all costs so expense management is possible and allows for ongoing proactive management to ensure proper utilization of printing devices. For example, if one employee has a top-notch printer but only makes 100 prints per month, it may be worth swapping printers with someone who prints 100 pages per day. A managed print service program also alerts the program provider when supplies are low. When the toner cartridge gets to 10 percent, the print management company is automatically notified and can ship a new one.

What can companies do to prevent employees from printing so much?

With certain software, you can control how employees print. When employees press ‘print,’ the computer will let them know that a document sent to that printer will cost the company X amount, or it could automatically send the document to a lower-cost printer. Just thinking twice might keep an employee from wasteful printing, which helps your company be greener. Some companies automatically default to two-sided copies when possible.

How can businesses evaluate whether a managed print service program is right for them?

A managed print provider will conduct an initial meeting to determine if such a program would be beneficial. It will look at, for example, quantity of the printer fleet, whether your IT staff is getting calls to service printers all the time and if your inventory has toner cartridges for printers the company no longer owns.

A managed print provider will conduct an assessment where data is collected for a trial period. This assessment provides vital information about how your business is currently managing printer output and what is not being managed efficiently, similar to a managed service program for computers. The program provider manages how the ink gets on the paper in terms of cost, service and flexibility.

It’s important to remember that although the program reduces costs over time, for many business owners, it’s more about the convenience of someone else managing the printers. Companies pay their IT staff to improve their ability to meet their core business objectives. A managed print service program frees them up to do just that.

Once you’ve decided to go with a managed print service program, how does the relationship work? 

After the contract is implemented, the provider conducts a walkthrough. All devices are labeled, inventory of current supplies is completed, main users are identified and the account is closely monitored. Then quarterly business reviews are conducted to continually monitor and adjust the contract as needed. Companies must be flexible to change, just as their clients’ business needs change.

By considering a managed print service program, you might find a better way to allocate resources that will help increase efficiency and decrease cost.

Bill Nelson is vice president of Cleveland Sales at Blue Technologies. Reach him at (216) 271-4800, ext. 2242 or bnelson@btohio.com.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies

Published in Akron/Canton
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