The role technology plays as work environments evolve

The post-pandemic office work arrangement is still largely unsettled. Some employees are back full-time in the office, while others aren’t going back at all. There are also in-between models, called hybrids, that have employees in the office some days and at home others. While employers continue experimenting with the situation that best suits their culture and business needs, all are looking to ensure their employees remain as productive as possible. To do that, many are leaning heavily on technology — hardware, software, cloud services, etc. — to ensure access, connectivity and security.

Smart Business spoke with Lauren Hanna, Vice President of Sales at Blue Technologies, about evaluating technology in an evolving work environment.

What are some areas of emphasis as employers evaluate their work arrangement?

Whatever that work environment looks like, enabling collaboration is a key consideration when evaluating technology. Employers want to make sure everyone in the organization can still work together, and get input and contributions from people regardless of whether they’re physically near each other.

From a technology standpoint, there are many ways to collaborate. Videoconferencing has enabled face-to-face conversations and meetings, while cloud-based software has enabled file sharing.

Another aspect of keeping people productive is the ability to access the tools, files and data they need both in the office and outside of it. Companies should understand what people are using, how this affects their access, and whether or not improvements are in order to streamline this access so that, regardless of their location, they have the same ability to access critical tools and information.

What technology issues have employers faced?

One challenge is ensuring that employees have what they need to get their job done. When the pandemic led to office closures, many employees didn’t have a laptop that was suitable to continue working. So something as basic as making sure employees have the right hardware, such as a laptop and/or scanner, in place can ensure people are still being productive.

Another challenge is getting feedback from each other. Remote work situations can lead to a loss of knowledge transfer among colleagues, especially from seasoned employees to new hires. Without the proper accommodations, people can miss out on the input they would otherwise get from the person sitting next to them. That loss of knowledge transfer can become an issue. Fortunately, there are ways to help reduce that loss of knowledge by increasing collaboration via the right technology.

A third challenge is the different technical aptitudes of employees. There are many generations in today’s workforce, all with different technical abilities who are trying to use new technology. However, they’re not together to learn it and figure out the best way to use it. Here, again, technology can be leveraged to reach these individuals with training that can help employees of any level of proficiency improve those skills.

Who can help employers with these challenges?

Every plan has its snags. Unfortunately, when problems arise, many companies are searching the web for a quick fix instead of looking for a more holistic solution. That’s where IT managed services has been able to help.

Managed service providers have specialists at employers’ disposal whose sole job is to evaluate all of the elements within a business and identify obstacles, bottlenecks and vulnerabilities from a technology standpoint. Then they’re able to offer potential remedies to overcome those challenges and ensure vulnerabilities are patched so they’re not exploited.

Identifying and closing security risks today is full-time job. There are more points of failure and vulnerability within the hybrid environment, and the external threats have not only increased but have become more sophisticated. Putting IT in the hands of a capable service provider means more time spent on key organizational initiatives and less time spent plugging holes in technology infrastructure.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies, Inc.

Maximize the efficiency of your technology with vendor management

As organizations grow, different departments will invest in technology and business applications to support that growth. Human resources might buy HR software to manage an influx of hiring, while sales could see a need for a new customer relationship management system.

However, these departments often are siloed. They have their own budgets and may be independently sourcing technology without communicating with other departments, seeing the overall technology picture or reviewing the current vendor relationships.

This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that many organizations today have fewer internal IT resources.

“Data from various departments tends to get dumped into systems that don’t talk to one another,” says Lauren Hanna, Vice President of Sales at Blue Technologies. “And with multiple vendors managing the overall IT infrastructure, it’s difficult to perform quality vendor management. It’s inefficient and, ultimately, costly.”

Smart Business spoke with Hanna about choosing the right technology partnership(s) to maximize the efficiency of your technology portfolio.

Why is vendor management important?

Many organizations fall into a reactive state, where they go out and try to find somebody to fix a technology problem, rather than leveraging their current vendors. In fact, within the technology space, many vendors often overlap, and it can be confusing, such as not knowing who is managing what licenses. This causes inefficiencies.

At the same time, the C-level executives — who rely on directors or vice presidents to source new technology — often only see the needs of business from an operational standpoint. They don’t consider the need for proactive vendor management. They don’t know if their software vendors are hitting the key performance indicators, or if their managed service partner is maintaining all of the service-level agreements it committed to in the contract three years ago.

There’s a soft cost associated with procurement and vendor management. That’s why very large organizations have a strategic sourcing division or procurement department. If you’re not looking at your full technology portfolio and associated vendors, you could be missing out on potential savings and efficiencies.

How do business leaders know for sure this is a problem and what can they do to fix it?

You’ll want to look for key indicators that you may have a vendor issue. Perhaps you’ve had the same vendor(s) in the same space doing the same thing for years, and you haven’t re-evaluated or conducted periodic business reviews. Or you may find you have many disparate and overlapping systems across your organization. Another concern is if your business is still doing things the way they’ve always been done, since your technology partner(s) should be proactively updating you on new technologies and industry trends.

If any of these red flags resonate with your organization, ask your technology partner(s) for a business review. It will help you begin to gather analytical data and create a roadmap for the future. Evaluate this review by asking:

  • Does the review accurately detail where you’re at and where you want to go? Or is it stagnant and outdated?
  • Are they customizing solutions to your unique business needs, or taking a turnkey, one-size-fits-all approach?
  • Are they incorporating the latest technology updates and industry trends?

Also consider hiring someone for a vendor-agnostic comprehensive check. It’s like a health checkup, where that partner helps determine whether the business is getting the most out of its current vendors, what can be improved and where vendor consolidation may make sense.

How do the most successful organizations stay lean in the technology vendor space?

A lot of organizations try to ‘cut the tail’ off the soft costs associated with procurement. You can do that with thorough due diligence to select the right technology partner, one that can offer a range of solutions.

With the right partner, you’ll have periodic account reviews, etc., to ensure your infrastructure is proactively and effectively managed at the vendor level.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies, Inc.

Strategies to overcome remote work’s common tech issues

The goal for many companies today is to make it as easy as possible for their employees to continue to work remotely. To do that, companies need to continuously adapt. It means having a plan to get equipment to remote workers — both existing and new employees — and make sure everyone can access files and protect their networks.

Smart Business spoke with AJ Jeffers, a Tier III Engineer at Blue Technologies, Inc., about strategies that can help ensure connectivity, continuity and security for a remote workforce.

How can remote employees access internal files securely?

Some companies hold essentially all their files on an internal server. When suddenly a couple hundred people are working remote and trying to connect back to this on-premises server, that creates issues with capacity and bandwidth. Additionally, many of the users may not have ever used a VPN before, so they could have trouble connecting.

Solving this typically means migrating a company’s file server to a cloud service. Many companies, before the pandemic, were using the cloud in some capacity, so it should be fairly easy to expand that usage and migrate more data from on-premises servers to the cloud.

Once a company has files in the cloud, the major benefit is that it’s accessible from anywhere. There’s also a process through which the security permissions that were granted prior to the migration can be maintained. Files stored in the cloud can be accessed through a browser, so there’s no longer a need to rely on a VPN, which could create bottlenecks if improperly configured.

What challenges exist getting hardware to remote employees?

Hardware deployment for new hires can be difficult. There’s typically a structured onboarding process on location to get new employees their hardware and walk them through setup. However, the pandemic has encouraged companies to move away from on-site onboarding. That led to hardware deployment being scheduled for individuals who would come in and pick up what they were assigned at specific times. But this created issues, particularly when it came to instructing new hires on how to use the hardware and software, logins, connecting to the cloud or VPN, etc. Since they were no longer on-site for the onboarding and training, any problems they had needed to be figured out at pick-up.

Some companies have since moved to touchless deployment through which hardware is shipped to the end user. That, however, brings on a list of issues and potential problems. Troubleshooting is one, but also shipping. Costs to ship have risen in the past two years and it can be unreliable, meaning equipment might not make it to the end user on their start date.

How are security issues being addressed?

Security is a major concern for companies as incidents of phishing attacks and other types of malicious email fraud have skyrocketed. One of the main reasons is a lot of attackers know that information has been made more accessible to accommodate remote staff, which potentially makes it more accessible to an attacker. To protect against such vulnerabilities, employees are encouraged to use multi-factor authentication, or use a service that leverages a network’s active directory credentials and ties them to a multi-factor authentication process. Staff will be able to access everything with one login so they’re not juggling different devices, accounts and passwords to access all of the resources they need while they still get the security that’s necessary.

Security awareness training on how to identify phishing campaigns adds another layer of protection. These training programs run a phishing simulation so employees can experience one. That’s then followed up with security awareness training. Implementing this can reduce the risk of falling victim to attack by more than 70 percent.

Challenges associated with the transition to a remote workforce are ongoing. There are, however, solutions. A managed services provider can help companies overcome these issues through dedicated support. They’ve worked with companies of many sizes and in many industries to develop strategies which ensure employees have the tools they need to stay productive, and keep information secure, when working outside the office.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies, Inc.

Narrowing the options when making technology decisions

Business leaders face an overwhelming number of decisions to make and options to choose from when selecting technology. Many can experience analysis paralysis, given all the options and considerations.

Smart Business spoke with Rivers Agile Founder and CEO Ben Wilson and his team to get tips on how to break down this complex process to achieve your organizational goals.

What should companies consider when building new software?

Having custom software can give companies strategic advantage, new capabilities and improved efficiencies. Early in the process a company should consider the options on who should build it.

  • In-house — use and/or hire full-time employees to design, build, test and manage the development effort.
  • Outsource — select a trusted vendor to manage and execute the effort with oversight from your organization.
  • Co-source — select a vendor to develop a defined portion of the software, or have a vendor provide staff augmentation resources that your organization manages.

Making this decision should take these three factors into account:

  • Capacity — does the organization have enough resources and can those resources be allocated where and when they’re needed?
  • Capability — does the organization have resources with all the relevant skills and experience in the technology expected to be used?
  • Confidence — does the organization have the experience or has it executed and managed something like this before?

Should a company Build a responsive mobile site, native or hybrid mobile app?

The first option to consider is developing web software that runs in the browser and will responsively render on desktop browser or mobile browser. This approach is more costly than supporting desktop-only but is less costly than maintaining a separate mobile app. Many end users prefer to engage this way as it avoids the hassle of needing to install an app.

After deciding to create a mobile app, the next decision is whether to develop native apps that are platform-specific or a hybrid app. Native apps are written with a specific platform or device in mind. If a company wants native apps for iOS and Android, it essentially requires developing the same piece of software twice, and then maintaining two separate code bases. The tradeoff is that native apps offer fast performance and a high level of reliability. Hybrid apps are available for download on a variety of devices — build once and deploy to both app stores. Hybrid development generally has a quicker turnaround time since it’s deployed across multi-platforms. Because of the large difference in cost between native and hybrid, choose hybrid unless there are specific technological reasons that would cause hybrid to perform poorly or compromise the user experience.

What is the reality of low-code or no-code options?

Low-code platforms are closed ecosystems. By choosing a no-/low-code development option, you become locked into a platform that’s entirely dependent on a vendor’s services. The reality is that no-/low-code applications are inflexible and brittle. In the beginning, most features are ‘out-of-the-box’ functional and easily manipulated, like drag and drop. Yet, more complex ideas and features generally cannot be created using these simplified coding tools. This tends to stifle teams and necessitates a move toward more custom code. Low-code platforms are extremely basic and not compatible with professional software engineering standards, making their output unsustainable.

Further, these enterprise low-code platforms aren’t being taught in computer science programs, so you run the risk of leaving your developer(s) without a network of resources they’ll need in order to learn, add custom features, or rectify issues. It also makes it difficult to hire from a pool of developers familiar with the platform. And if your low-code vendor vanishes tomorrow, you could be left out in the cold.

Low-code solutions are recommended only for software that performs simple back office functions that are expected to remain simple and non-mission critical, with a small user base under direct control of the organization.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Rivers Agile

How the cloud helps legal firms improve competitiveness

The pandemic had quite a few law firms scrambling to get all their employees effectively working from home. Some firms stopped other projects in order to focus on getting staff members — paralegals and other administration staff — set up. That required getting physical hardware and software deployed. But it was also a time when many firms adopted the use of cloud-based software products for the first time.

“In the legal sector, a vertical that’s been technologically conservative, working from home is advancing the adoption of technology,” says David Cramer, Manager of Business Development – Legal & Professional Services at Blue Technologies, Inc. “Firms are discovering that technology provides greater value, better efficiency and better performance to get the job done effectively. That then enhances their business and provides a better return on investment.”

Smart Business spoke with Cramer about technology solutions for legal firms that are looking for secure and efficient ways to adapt to the remote work environment.

What obstacles have law firms faced shifting to remote work?

One obstacle was the loss of the ability to walk down a hall and ask colleagues questions. Fortunately, software with chat functions and different collaboration tools were brought in to address the issue.

Another challenge for firms as they worked remotely was security. Security, though, is not just one product or one solution. Security requires multiple solutions. One of those solutions is the ability to encrypt data and documents, both at rest and in transit. Some are doing that with their traditional on-premise document management system. Others are utilizing a cloud solution that provides that level of security.

However, there are some cases in both corporate legal departments and law firms that two or more firms must work together. When exchanging physical documents isn’t an option, everything gets done electronically, which requires layers of security — even when working from home. That increased the need for secure file collaboration.

What security solutions do these products offer?

Legal firms rely on products that offer different levels of security. In addition to encryption, there are also solutions that use artificial intelligence to identify bad actors by detecting behavior changes. The software learns the users’ behavior so that it can recognize any anomaly. For example, if a user tends to download a few documents each week, then suddenly downloads 10,000 documents in a day, that would get recognized as anomalous behavior. Or if an attorney works in one particular practice group, but begins accessing documents in a completely different practice group, that will also alert an administrator or security officer so they could take action. While the above use cases may apply to internal resources, it also applies if credentials became compromised by an external source, thereby providing protection against both internal and external attacks.

In what ways have cloud-based solutions affected other aspects of firms’ practices?

The pandemic has driven an acceleration from traditional on-premise applications to cloud-based applications. Now, legal firms are finding cloud-based solutions offer better reliability, easier maintenance, better up time and less in-house support than traditional on-premise solutions. These solutions are meant to be accessed remotely, so they perform better in a work-from-home environment.

Cloud-based applications also offer increased security compared with the on-premise solutions deployed in most small and medium-sized law firms — most of which don’t have the budget to build up a robust security foundation for all their applications. In that way, cloud solutions can level the playing field for small and medium-sized firms.

There are professional service providers that offer solutions and advice to guide law firms on these issues. They can help them find the right solutions to deploy securely in work-from-home environments while facilitating collaboration, keeping sensitive data protected and helping to level the competitive playing field.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies, Inc.

Protecting against cyberattacks starts with the right help

Last year, organizations collectively faced over 3 billion cyberattacks. The bad actors executing these attacks are getting increasingly sophisticated. As a result, the standard cybersecurity stack is no defense against these threats.

Making matters worse, small and mid-ized businesses are frequent targets for cyberattacks.

“That’s typically because the leaders in these companies don’t feel what they have is worth stealing, so they don’t have the necessary cybersecurity platforms with good processes and protocols in place, and the hackers know it,” says Joe Hesske, Manager – Managed IT & Cybersecurity Solutions, Blue Technologies, Inc.

He says all businesses, large and small, should have a full cybersecurity strategy in place. Those companies that aren’t able to execute such a strategy effectively on their own should consider working with a Managed Local Services Security Provider (MSSP).

Smart Business spoke with Hesske about MSSPs — what they are and how they help companies mitigate their cyber threat exposure.

What’s the difference between a Managed Services Provider and a Managed Service Security Provider?

A Managed Services Provider (MSP) is focused on usability and performance. A Managed Local Services Security Provider (MSSP) is focused on security. The MSP monitors the health of an organization’s network. An MSSP is responsible for preventing, detecting, and responding to threats before they cause serious issues with an organization’s data and network environment.

Most MSPs will utilize a baseline security technology stack with anti-virus, anti-malware, and patch management. However, an MSSP will go much deeper with advanced endpoint protection, including Security Operations Center (SOC) monitoring and remediation, and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) platforms.

In most cases, what would be considered a higher layer of cybersecurity is above and beyond the standard cyber technology stack. Both layers of security are needed to be effective. However, the advanced security services can be implemented as a separate, over-the-top solution by an MSSP, even if they are not the actual MSP.

Packaging and bundling cybersecurity solutions are typical and should include other services, such as Employee Security Awareness Training, forced multi-factor authentication, and dark web monitoring.

How can MSSPs insulate companies from cybersecurity issues?

A deep-dive cybersecurity risk assessment scan of a company’s network environment is always the best starting point. When these scans are performed, they will uncover security gaps. These gaps can include unsupported operating systems such as XP or Win7, passwords set to never expire, and former employees in active directory who still have network access, just to name a few. Once this information is obtained, the MSSP will design a solution to address all the potential security gaps.

What should companies look for in a Managed Service Security Provider?

When searching for a MSSP, companies should look for one with:

  • The ability to provide advanced protection using best-in-class applications, such as SIEM platforms, Security Awareness Training (SAT), and dark web monitoring.
  • SOC monitoring and remediation as a service.
  • A high-level of communication through an account manager, and quarterly business reviews.

An MSSP should be a company’s trusted technology adviser — one that can navigate through the complex cybersecurity ecosystem, which includes legal, insurance, regulatory and compliance, breach forensics, and reputation management in the event of a cyber breach.

Today, it’s not a matter of if, but when an attack will happen. Good cybersecurity practices, internal protocols, and platforms are the best way to mitigate a company’s risk. Further, having the right cybersecurity program in place can lead to substantial discounts for cyber liability insurance.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies, Inc.

Enterprise-wide software projects require help from everyone

Launching enterprise-wide software is challenging for organizations of any type or size. These projects are complex and time-consuming, requiring a great deal of planning, resources and communication to execute. Fortunately, there are tried-and-true steps that can set the foundation for a successful outcome.

Smart Business spoke with Keith Monahan, Director of Quality Assurance Services at Rivers Agile, about giving enterprise-wide software rollouts the best chance of success.

How should software rollouts begin?

Whether the project involves building software or deploying commercial off-the-shelf software, the first step is to decide from a high level what needs to be accomplished — the goal or the vision. That springs from a high-level vision statement from the Executive Sponsor, which could be as simple as, ‘We need a solution that does X.’ That statement then filters down to the CTO, who interprets that vision statement into the business value the organization is trying to deliver, whether internal, external or both. They use their technology and business knowledge to invoke the right internal department heads to execute this vision.

As this message moves downstream, it’s picked up by a business analyst, who transforms the vision into a set of requirements that typically take two forms: functional requirements, which describe what the software is supposed to do, and nonfunctional requirements, which describe how the system is supposed to be.

How does that vision get translated into function?

To ensure the final product matches the initial vision, organizations should work closely with their Software Development and Quality Assurance (QA) teams. QA, when involved early, can analyze the given project requirements to determine that they are finite, testable and measurable. Bringing QA in early to develop a testing strategy and perform requirements analysis is essential to ensure that what’s being requested can be delivered, and that goes a long way toward the project’s success.

This, in short, is the process of verification and validation, both of which are functions of QA. Verification confirms that testing is being done on the many pieces and parts of a project according to the specifications. Validation ensures that functions are being built that support the business and provide value. Value stream mapping, a part of validation, helps ensure if a feature is added that it leads to a valuable outcome — say, revenue generation or time savings.

By having QA involved early and doing both verification and validation, organizations should expect to get a product that does what was described at a high level, and also functions well for those who use it every day. The key is that the development or implementation teams generate a service that shows real business value.

How can organizations ensure buy-in and adoption?

Once the software is finished and ready for rollout, organizations need to deploy an implementation plan, which will help ensure the transition from the old to new system is as smooth as possible. Among the key steps in implementation are aligning the team, change management and training. Training can be done internally by technical users, or by external teams familiar with the software. The goal is to ensure end users can understand and quickly get comfortable with the new software. Equally as important is to get teams aligned behind a software rollout early. This can be done by designating a representative in every functional area — accounting or procurement, for instance, depending on the nature of the project — to answer usage questions. This should be someone who understands the software as well as the day-to-day demands placed on it — the practical processes and functions of the department.

Change management is another key to implementation. This organization-wide strategy to facilitate the transition is driven by frequent communication. Determine who will lead it and how communication will work so that each step in the transition — for instance, when existing system will be down as they’re upgraded, when training will be delivered — is clear.

Enterprise-wide software rollouts are complicated, and not everything will go smoothly. But, with a well-considered plan and the involvement of QA throughout the process, the chances of success are greater.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Rivers Agile

Four reasons to bring production printing in-house

With the Great Recession, marketing departments shrunk drastically. Many tasks like production printing — sales collateral or marketing materials that go in front of customers and prospects — were outsourced, if they were not already created by outside printers.

But as the economy recovered and businesses, once again, had healthy and growing balance sheets, that production printing hasn’t always returned to the company.

Lauren Hanna, director of sales at Blue Technologies, wants organizations to consider how bringing your marketing and sales printing in-house can provide control, reduce waste, allow on-demand printing and enable more targeted or customized marketing campaigns.

Smart Business spoke with Hanna about in-house production printing.

Why do some organizations keep outsourcing their production printing?

First of all, a lot of organizations don’t know what their printing spend is for marketing and/or sales. They don’t realize how much they are outsourcing. In other cases, they are outsourcing it because that’s what they’ve always done. Or, they don’t feel like they have the available staff to make the switch.

What are the biggest benefits of bringing production printing under your roof?

In-house production printing gives your company more control of both the brand and messaging. You’re proofing in real-time, instead of having to send it out and trust that your files are going to come out the way that you want them to.

Print is still very much alive and well for organizations today, but marketing or sales materials might go out across different platforms. Therefore, you need to make sure that your physical prints match your digital campaign. There needs to be continuity between those two, along with the ability to make changes in both places quickly, and there’s no better way to do that than to control that printing yourself.

Having a production printer also helps businesses reduce waste with on-demand printing. Companies that outsource their production printing might have to order 10,000 copies of a catalog, for example, but if a part or product changes, that catalog is no longer up to date. When they outsource, they have use to all of that collateral — until it’s gone — and they can change the messaging. Or they throw it away.

That ability to print on-demand is also useful for customizing your collateral for a specific customer, product line or division. With marketing and advertisements everywhere, businesses want to differentiate themselves amongst the noise and acknowledge their customers’ interests and preferences. Rather than send out a brochure or postcard to all of your prospects, for instance, customized printing allows you to make conditional changes for targeted marketing. This, in turn, can impact your revenue, brand loyalty, and customer acquisition and retention.

After an organization decides to bring its production printing in-house, what else should executives keep in mind?

Many companies think that it’s going to be a very large task or that they will have to find a full-time person to run the printer. But that most likely won’t be the case, if they work with a strategic technology partner to help identify what bringing the marketing and sales printing in-house entails. With the proper communication, they can set up training, workflows, etc., so it’s not a burden on the marketing department or staff.

In addition, it’s normal to be hesitant. A lot of the organizations were hesitant in the beginning, but then increased their in-house printing because it’s easy once you have a process in place.

Again, work with a strategic partner to come up with a plan together. You’ll want to create an outline that processes what’s going to work best for your organization because every company’s marketing initiatives are different. You can start smaller and expand once you get more comfortable. It’s very common to take a phased approach. You don’t need to bring 100 percent of everything in-house, but even with a portion of that total, you’ll gain control and reduce waste, while having the ability to print on-demand and create targeted marketing campaigns.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

Cyberthreats, compliance expected to challenge businesses

The cyberthreat environment heated up this past year. That should encourage companies to be more aware of their exposures and more prepared to mitigate their risks.

“It’s affecting a lot of businesses and every incident can have major impact,” says Majdi Ayoub, director of technical services at Blue Technologies, Inc.

Unfortunately, even though the threat is growing, many companies are not taking all the necessary precautions to avoid these growing cyberattacks.

“If an attack were to land successfully, it’s going to cost an organization a lot of time and resources to try to recover their very valuable data,” Ayoub says.

Smart Business spoke with Ayoub about cyberattacks, compliance updates that will affect many businesses, and how managed services professionals can prepare organizations to handle both.

How can managed services help mitigate cyberthreats?

Some companies build their own dedicated IT team to insulate them from security threats. That can be an ideal solution, but it’s very costly to bring experts on staff to keep systems protected. Companies that don’t have enough work to justify a full-time IT staff instead outsource the service and minimize their costs.

With managed IT services, companies get access to specialized personnel who have broad experience dealing with cyberthreats in many organizational environments. Managed services professionals can assess a company’s vulnerabilities, explain the potential threats and pinpoint where they’re most likely to be compromised. They’re able to bring this experience to bear to protect an organization in a cost-effective way.

What compliance standard changes are coming and how can managed services companies help?

The Department of Defense has pushed to finalize the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement rule this summer. This rule will require contractors to have third-party inspections prior to being allowed to work with the DoD. The push has come in the wake of increasing data breaches that have happened because contractors incorrectly handled Confidential Unclassified Information.

Additional changes are also in consideration to address concerns that arose from the 60-day comment period. These changes are intended to address interaction and align with other federal information technology compliance programs.

Managed services professionals often specialize in specific areas, which means they’re familiar with any compliance requirements for companies operating in certain industries. These experts stay up to date on the latest compliance requirements, which can help companies identify areas in need of security upgrades in order to meet those regulatory standards. These service providers also stay up to date on both the cyberthreat environment, as well as ways to best to protect companies against those threats. That knowledge can help ensure companies remain protected and in compliance with any new regulatory requirements.

How can managed services providers save companies money?

Managed services companies can fill the role that full-time IT professionals typically serve in an organization, offering the same support without an investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Additionally, working with an experienced managed services company enables business leaders to focus on their core business rather than worry about IT issues. Managed services companies can also work with a company’s current IT staff, enhancing the overall skillset and specialties of the IT team.

Cyberthreats will continue to be an issue for every company, regardless of how much or how little exposure they believe they have to the digital world. And with compliance requirements taking shape for companies outside of the more heavily regulated industries such as banking and health care, every organization should work to ensure they’re protected and that their systems can meet these new standards. Managed services providers offer a cost-effective way to do just that. There are a lot of companies that offer these services, so it’s incumbent upon companies to do their diligence and ensure they’re working with a provider that has the certifications and experience to be effective.

INSIGHTS Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies, Inc.

Document solutions for an increasingly remote workforce

Over the past 12 to 14 months, organizations have had to address challenges associated with having most or all of their people spending most or all of their time out of the office. That has, in some cases, made it difficult to do some of the day-to-day processing of information.

“Take office mail, for instance,” says Curtis Verhoff, advanced solutions manager at Blue Technologies, Inc. “In some cases, information is coming in on a daily basis through the mail, and those documents have to be distributed to employees who are not in the office to receive it. Fortunately, technology exists that can help small to medium-sized businesses deal with these challenges so that they can continue to operate in much the same timely and efficient manner that they had when everybody was regularly at the office.”

Verhoff says these solutions have enabled employees to stay connected as well as productive — in some cases even more productive — than if everyone were at the office.

Smart Business spoke with Verhoff about technology solutions that facilitate information sharing, as well as how to work with a technology partner to identify and fill gaps created in the abrupt shift to remote work.

What issue have you seen give companies trouble in the shift to remote work?

Mail, faxes and other documents that are distributed from a company’s front desk physically to office staff are, in many cases, unable to be delivered as they typically would. Sometimes, if that information doesn’t reach the appropriate people, they’re unable to act on it. In other cases, that physical information needs the attention of multiple people, none of whom are in the office to receive and review the document.

One solution to prevent that information from stalling at the front desk is to capture those documents electronically and deliver them to those who need it, wherever they might be. That way, the right people can take action on that information, and they can do it remotely just as quickly as if they were there at the office.

What technology solutions can facilitate this?

Cloud-based workflow solutions make it easy to share, comment on and edit information. These technologies can also enable employees to share physical documents that arrive at the office by scanning them and then delivering them via the cloud to the appropriate people.

Additionally, document storage solutions — and there are many brand-name offerings — also facilitate the collection and distribution of documents, making them available to people at home, in the office, as they travel — wherever they’re at. They can also remotely work on documents, make edits and pass them on to another individual, even collaborate on a document with a colleague.

How can companies find the right solution?

Before choosing a technology, identify the workflow gaps or bottlenecks and determine what’s causing them. Where are the delays or challenges when moving documents and information back and forth among people who are in the office, working remotely or traveling? Dig in to understand the day-to-day challenges because, especially with so much of the workforce working remote, there needs to be an efficient way to deal with work that must be done while employees are outside of the office.

There are many cloud-based and workflow-based solutions that allow employees to view, manipulate and share documents in much the same way as they would if they were working in an office together. The right technology partner knows the best questions to ask in order to identify the source of any workflow gaps and delays. Then, with their knowledge of the options in the market, the partner can find the products that best address those challenges.

There are technology partners that can help companies big and small overcome their technology challenges through cost-effective solutions. But it’s up to companies to take advantage of that relationship to find the technologies that enable them to perform normally in an abnormal environment.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies, Inc.