How outsourced data centers allow your employees to be more efficient

Employees working at or near capacity often show visible signs of stress.

Data storage systems can’t demonstrate the same traits of being overworked, but their inability to continue processing additional information can be just as big an impediment in your company’s efforts to be productive.

“You’re only capable of holding so much data in storage and when you go past that, you start having problems,” says Ken Vanden Haute, vice president of sales and marketing with Meritech Inc. “There is a reason why it’s not operating like you think it should. The system is being asked to do too much.”

Data centers have become popular in recent years as an alternative to storing all your valuable information onsite. It’s more than just files and documents that need protection. Equipment and systems that allow your company to perform are also housed in these locations.

“It’s not just a place to back up everything,” Vanden Haute says. “It includes systems that help you operate your business.”

Smart Business spoke with Vanden Haute about the value of outsourced data centers and how they help your company work more efficiently.

How do you assess your current data storage capacity?

You want to start looking at budgetary pieces. What are you spending for what you’re getting? How secure is the data and equipment that you need to protect? What capacity do you have to add more to it? What would it cost to expand your current system?

It’s not uncommon when a business starts to find a simple solution for data storage because other aspects of building your business seem more pressing. But then you start growing and you get hit with increases as those needs multiply. Before you know it, you have a 40- or 50-person organization that is spending $4,000 or $5,000 for a service when you could be spending less than half that to store it with a professional provider.

Also, if you’re spending more time adding hardware to your custom-built, in-house data center than you are servicing your clients, that’s also a clue that it’s time to look at a better way of managing your infrastructure.

What are the advantages of using an outsourced data center?

You’re building virtual servers that can handle different pieces of your company’s operations.

The advantage of being on the cloud is that it’s unlimited. You can get as much space as you need. It used to be that if you took up so many gigabytes of memory, it cost you so much. But now it’s all based on the number of users and pricing breaks out based on that. The more users you have, the better breaks you get.

Another advantage is that you can include virtually all the protections you need in one contract. When you do it in house, you have licensing concerns and costs for anti-viral software and user profiles. Everything has a little cost that is attached to it. It’s not that way with a third-party cloud data center.

And most data centers are good about constantly upgrading and updating their equipment to ensure that they are providing top-level protection of your information.

What’s the key to making a seamless transition from in house to outsourced partner?

The day-to-day work of your employees shouldn’t change much.

If anything, employees will see a significant boost in performance. Look at the times when you run out of storage space and have to replace outdated equipment.

When you move to a company that takes the headaches out of this process, they will appreciate the time they get back to focus on more important tasks. Before you move forward with any plan, be sure to outline your expectations so that your provider can help you find a solution that is right for you. ●

Insights Technology is brought to you by Meritech Inc.

How to increase the productivity of your operations in 2015

As companies continue to grow, particularly through mergers and acquisitions, many expect their existing employees to do more work with fewer resources.

“This is common in the business world today and throughout Cleveland. It’s happening in about 90 percent of the companies and industries we speak to today,” says Melanie Boyes, sales manager and director of managed service sales at Blue Technologies.

In order to achieve success with your current staff and resources as your company continues to grow and evolve, you need to evaluate new and changing technologies to improve the efficiency of your operations.

By keeping up with technology and being open to change, you’ll be able to work smart and handle the demands of continuous growth while staying ahead of your competitors. Your existing way of operating might not be the best solution available as you look toward 2015.

Smart Business spoke with Boyes about evaluating existing operational processes and inventory layout and then improving upon them to increase efficiency.

How should companies evaluate their existing processes and inventory layout?

Every company should have a dedicated technology plan and/or goal for 2015. The best way to create or improve upon that goal and/or plan is to listen to your staff about pain points that continually come up.

It’s important to note that an infrastructure goal won’t be solved overnight. It may take months to get to where you want to be, but you can get on the right track if you start by hearing what your staff is saying.

You also can work with a technology partner on this evaluation, in order to fully see what opportunities and options are possible in your industry when your software, hardware and infrastructure are optimized to work together. A technology partner should evaluate your hardware inventory — every piece of paper you print out, scan and/or send — in every location, as well as your company’s IT infrastructure, to supply an overall consolidation plan.

Once you’ve evaluated, what’s the next step to making improvements?

The overall consolidation plan should include recommended technology upgrades and placements to keep your hardware, software and IT infrastructure up to date and on par based on your operational needs.

The assessment should include line-by-line recommendations based on individual positions’ performance and needs, which can differ among individual roles, departments and locations. For example, your sales team may need remote access to the server and printer, while that might not be as important for C-level staff who stay in the office.

Can you give some examples of gaps or inefficiencies that can be solved with a technology solution?

Your hardware setup should be designed to maximize your print and scan flow, while boosting productivity and security compliance through integrated functionalities. For instance, companies within the banking industry must be able to track faxes, emails, prints and copies between users for security purposes. They can utilize a report system solution for this with the right software, infrastructure and hardware setup.

Another key gap is that any company running a 2003 server or Windows XP must  partner with a technology solutions provider, since Microsoft has stopped support of these platforms. If this is your company, reach out to a technology partner immediately to get a free assessment of your system and a recommendation for what changes you need to be making.

How granular can you get with these solutions?

A qualified technology partner can get extremely granular to customize a best-fit solution for your company’s unique needs based on industry protocols and compliance, as well as what value the technology brings.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Again, listening to your staff, fostering teamwork and getting the right education and training is essential. When you ask your people to do more work with fewer resources, they need to be involved in the operational improvements that will enable them to be more efficient to do so.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

How to lower costs, create efficiency, gain control with production printing

Are your sales materials or customer catalogs always changing? Does your business mass invoice, or print tax returns or product orders? Do you have forms that change frequently?

If so, it might be time to examine in-house production printing, which offers companies more control, consistency, cost savings and efficiency than can be realized by utilizing an outsourced partner.

“People get nervous about in-house printing and wonder if they’re capable of taking it on. But if you’re already designing the files, the learning curve is not that steep,” says Lauren Hanna, production print specialist at Blue Technologies. “Most people pick it up quickly.

“With the right technology partner, it’s very worry-free. Your technology partner should work with you to determine what the right solution is for your organization.

“They want to help you make the best decisions for your company and provide a product that will be good for your circumstances,” she says. “They’ll offer service programs and training to ease the transition of bringing that type of work in house.”

Smart Business spoke with Hanna about production printing and how to determine when it makes sense to bring it in house.

What is production printing?

Production printing can mean a lot of different things to different people.

In the digital world, monochrome production printing means high quality, high quantity runs. Color production printing refers to high quality, consistent short runs.

A benefit of production printing is the ability to produce on-demand materials.

What are some examples of the types of businesses that typically need production printing?

All businesses have a potential need for production printing — it depends on which aspect.

For monochrome production, anyone with a data center can benefit. Some examples include anyone printing forms, tests, manuals, sheet music or invoices.

This type of production printing is best for companies concerned with being able to efficiently print at high speeds and high volume, such as up to 250 pages per minute.

The other typical application of production printing is for creating high quality, color-critical materials. Examples of such materials include sales and marketing collateral, photos, posters, catalogs and signage.

With color production, you have the ability to digitally match the colors by pantone or spot color. Ultimately, you can create consistency and branding in your printed materials without having to commit to a large run.

What’s the first step to determining whether to continue outsourcing this type of printing or bring it in house?

The right technology partner can help you assess your current print operations, and then show you where you can create business savings or efficiencies by producing your materials in house.

This partner will also help you determine what is best to outsource, instead of handling in house.

What are the main benefits to in-house production printing?

One of the biggest benefits is ensuring quality consistency among your collateral.

It also puts flexible, on-demand printing in your control, enabling quick turnaround time and eliminating wasted materials.
In addition, reduced waste and inefficiencies can potentially lower your print costs.

With the help of technology experts, you can explore what’s new in the world of production printing and how it may be able to lower costs, create efficiency and increase control for your company.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Smart Solutions

How to analyze your print spend to cut costs and waste

Business print spend might not seem like something that needs to be managed. It’s just paper and toner cartridges, right?

Wrong. Most companies could reduce their print-related costs by 20 to 30 percent by eliminating inefficiencies, according to Gartner research.

“Organizations want to cut costs, increase their productivity and improve their customer-employee relationships,” says Bill Nelson, vice president of Cleveland Sales at Blue Technologies Smart Solutions. “But you cannot create efficiencies by being reactive.”

Most organizations don’t even know what they annually spend for their output fleet — whether it’s printers, copiers or multifunction printers (MFPs) that do both.

They may not know how many vendors they are involved with, how many cartridges are sitting in the closet for devices that they don’t even own any more or how many hours their $80,000-a-year IT staff spends changing toner and fixing print drives.

“The costs are very fragmented, meaning that there is no visibility into the sum of the expense,” Nelson says. “There isn’t a separate line item or a budget process that spans multiple departments.”

Smart Business spoke with Nelson about going from a reactive to proactive approach through managed print services that allow your company to be as efficient and cost effective as possible.

What’s the best way to start cutting down on print-related costs and waste?

First, you need to understand exactly where you stand. An audit will tell you how much you are printing and on what devices. Software installed on your server can track these metrics over a certain period of time to give insight into your print operations.

In addition, you need to assess what internal resources are currently involved with sourcing and supporting the output fleet. If your IT department is spending 10 hours a week working on MFPs, is that the most productive use of its time?

You may determine that it’s better to outsource this management, like you would with snow plowing in the winter. Yes, you can shovel every day; it’s just not the most productive way to run your company.

Why does managed print services make sense for many organizations?

Managed print services is a more proactive, cost-effective approach to managing your print fleet. It’s an end-to-end software solution that monitors your operations, and proactively communicates to your outsourced service partner when devices need repairs and supplies.

Not only does this solution take the headache of fleet management away so employees can focus on high-level tasks that will grow your business, it allows you to get the right devices in the right places based on your unique needs.

Often when a printer breaks, IT goes out and quickly buys a low-end product with a high-end supply cost. Or staff uses inkjet desk printers for jobs that would be more cost effective to send to a MFP. With an outsourced manager, your fleet will be more united with consistency in types of machines and an optimized layout for your space.

In addition, there are rules-based printing options to help identify what jobs you are printing and to where, and then associate costs with them. For example, this function might give people a reminder that if they send a print job to the MFP upfront, they can save the company X amount of dollars.

It’s important to remember that typically, you’re not locked into a set agreement. Choose a service provider that conducts quarterly business reviews, and allows for flexibility as your business needs change.

Does the organization need to be a certain size to make this service cost effective?

If you have 50 or more printers, you definitely want to look into managed print services. If you have fewer printers but high output — such as 10 printers that do 100,000 prints a month — you can also create efficiencies by outsourcing their management. You rely on those 10 printers; if one goes down, you want to be able to get it back up quickly or bring in a replacement.

It all comes back to using your resources in the most efficient manner. Outsourcing to an expert managed print services provider can ensure you are doing just that, minimizing fleet downtime and print waste as well as maintenance stress on your staff.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Smart Solutions

How to examine your print spend to reduce costs and waste

Business print spend might not seem like something that needs to be managed. It’s just paper and toner cartridges, right?

Wrong. Most companies could reduce their print-related costs by 20 to 30 percent by eliminating inefficiencies, according to Gartner research.

“Organizations want to cut costs, increase their productivity and improve their customer-employee relationships,” says Bill Nelson, vice president of Cleveland Sales at Blue Technologies Smart Solutions. “But you cannot create efficiencies by being reactive.”

Most organizations don’t even know what they annually spend for their output fleet — whether it’s printers, copiers or multifunction printers (MFPs) that do both.

They may not know how many vendors they are involved with, how many cartridges are sitting in the closet for devices that they don’t even own any more or how many hours their $80,000-a-year IT staff spends changing toner and fixing print drives.

“The costs are very fragmented, meaning that there is no visibility into the sum of the expense,” Nelson says. “There isn’t a separate line item or a budget process that spans multiple departments.”

Smart Business spoke with Nelson about going from a reactive to proactive approach through managed print services that allow your company to be as efficient and cost effective as possible.

What’s the best way to start cutting down on print-related costs and waste?

First, you need to understand exactly where you stand. An audit will tell you how much you are printing and on what devices. Software installed on your server can track these metrics over a certain period of time to give insight into your print operations.

In addition, you need to assess what internal resources are currently involved with sourcing and supporting the output fleet. If your IT department is spending 10 hours a week working on MFPs, is that the most productive use of its time?

You may determine that it’s better to outsource this management, like you would with snow plowing in the winter. Yes, you can shovel every day; it’s just not the most productive way to run your company.

Why does managed print services make sense for many organizations?

Managed print services is a more proactive, cost-effective approach to managing your print fleet. It’s an end-to-end software solution that monitors your operations, and proactively communicates to your outsourced service partner when devices need repairs and supplies.

Not only does this solution take the headache of fleet management away so employees can focus on high-level tasks that will grow your business, it allows you to get the right devices in the right places based on your unique needs.

Often when a printer breaks, IT goes out and quickly buys a low-end product with a high-end supply cost. Or staff uses inkjet desk printers for jobs that would be more cost effective to send to a MFP. With an outsourced manager, your fleet will be more united with consistency in types of machines and an optimized layout for your space.

In addition, there are rules-based printing options to help identify what jobs you are printing and to where, and then associate costs with them. For example, this function might give people a reminder that if they send a print job to the MFP upfront, they can save the company X amount of dollars.

It’s important to remember that typically, you’re not locked into a set agreement. Choose a service provider that conducts quarterly business reviews, and allows for flexibility as your business needs change.

Does the organization need to be a certain size to make this service cost effective?

If you have 50 or more printers, you definitely want to look into managed print services. If you have fewer printers but high output — such as 10 printers that do 100,000 prints a month — you can also create efficiencies by outsourcing their management. You rely on those 10 printers; if one goes down, you want to be able to get it back up quickly or bring in a replacement.

It all comes back to using your resources in the most efficient manner. Outsourcing to an expert managed print services provider can ensure you are doing just that, minimizing fleet downtime and print waste as well as maintenance stress on your staff.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Smart Solutions

How to analyze your print spend to cut costs and waste

Business print spend might not seem like something that needs to be managed. It’s just paper and toner cartridges, right?

Wrong. Most companies could reduce their print-related costs by 20 to 30 percent by eliminating inefficiencies, according to Gartner research.

“Organizations want to cut costs, increase their productivity and improve their customer-employee relationships,” says Bill Nelson, vice president of Cleveland Sales at Blue Technologies Smart Solutions. “But you cannot create efficiencies by being reactive.”

Most organizations don’t even know what they annually spend for their output fleet — whether it’s printers, copiers or multifunction printers (MFPs) that do both.

They may not know how many vendors they are involved with, how many cartridges are sitting in the closet for devices that they don’t even own any more or how many hours their $80,000-a-year IT staff spends changing toner and fixing print drives.

“The costs are very fragmented, meaning that there is no visibility into the sum of the expense,” Nelson says. “There isn’t a separate line item or a budget process that spans multiple departments.”

Smart Business spoke with Nelson about going from a reactive to proactive approach through managed print services that allow your company to be as efficient and cost effective as possible.

What’s the best way to start cutting down on print-related costs and waste?

First, you need to understand exactly where you stand. An audit will tell you how much you are printing and on what devices. Software installed on your server can track these metrics over a certain period of time to give insight into your print operations.

In addition, you need to assess what internal resources are currently involved with sourcing and supporting the output fleet. If your IT department is spending 10 hours a week working on MFPs, is that the most productive use of its time?

You may determine that it’s better to outsource this management, like you would with snow plowing in the winter. Yes, you can shovel every day; it’s just not the most productive way to run your company.

Why does managed print services make sense for many organizations?

Managed print services is a more proactive, cost-effective approach to managing your print fleet. It’s an end-to-end software solution that monitors your operations, and proactively communicates to your outsourced service partner when devices need repairs and supplies.

Not only does this solution take the headache of fleet management away so employees can focus on high-level tasks that will grow your business, it allows you to get the right devices in the right places based on your unique needs.

Often when a printer breaks, IT goes out and quickly buys a low-end product with a high-end supply cost. Or staff uses inkjet desk printers for jobs that would be more cost effective to send to a MFP. With an outsourced manager, your fleet will be more united with consistency in types of machines and an optimized layout for your space.

In addition, there are rules-based printing options to help identify what jobs you are printing and to where, and then associate costs with them. For example, this function might give people a reminder that if they send a print job to the MFP upfront, they can save the company X amount of dollars.

It’s important to remember that typically, you’re not locked into a set agreement. Choose a service provider that conducts quarterly business reviews, and allows for flexibility as your business needs change.

Does the organization need to be a certain size to make this service cost effective?

If you have 50 or more printers, you definitely want to look into managed print services. If you have fewer printers but high output — such as 10 printers that do 100,000 prints a month — you can also create efficiencies by outsourcing their management. You rely on those 10 printers; if one goes down, you want to be able to get it back up quickly or bring in a replacement.

It all comes back to using your resources in the most efficient manner. Outsourcing to an expert managed print services provider can ensure you are doing just that, minimizing fleet downtime and print waste as well as maintenance stress on your staff.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Smart Solutions

How secure file sharing improves records management and workflow

Let’s face it: every business has sensitive information that should be kept private and confidential. However, your employees may need to share large documents or files with clients, or even just want a way to share files with themselves so they can work away from the office.

In order to avoid email size restrictions, in recent years, many employees have turned to retail file sharing solutions like Dropbox.

The problem is consumer solutions take away your company’s ability to manage and control that sensitive information.

“The company has no idea what’s going on with that document. It’s outside of their document management system. It’s outside of their file system,” says David Cramer, manager of business development in the Legal & Professional Services division at Blue Technologies Smart Solutions. “Not knowing what’s going on, frankly, scares IT managers, law firms and corporate legal departments.”

Smart Business spoke with Cramer about secure file sharing solutions that offer higher levels of security, manageability and integration to your document management system.

How have you seen this shift towards secure file sharing manifest?

This is clearly a trend both nationally and locally because large document sizes and email restrictions force business users to look into alternative solutions.

In Ohio, just in the legal space, larger law firms are gravitating towards these solutions a little quicker. But all firms — small, medium or large, as well as corporate legal departments — have these needs.

Security and privacy is extremely important to legal and professional services because of compliance regulations. Attorneys must send large files to clients or opposing council. They also are extremely mobile, accessing documents from home, court, a hotel, a client’s site or even the beach. As another example, your corporation might be in the middle of a sensitive merger or acquisition. You need to mitigate the risk and ensure all employees are adhering to the corporate standard, rather then moving information in a manner that’s outside of company policy.

Commercial secure file sharing solutions offer more control. How else can they benefit your business?

First and foremost, these solutions keep the management control inside your firm or company so all shared content is secure. Everything is very intuitive and easy to use. There are no restrictions on the size of documents or amount of content that can be stored. An employee can quickly set up a secure file sharing space, and your company has explicit control over who has access. You can limit the number of days the file is available or whether someone has full edit or read only capabilities.

In addition, there are process improvements, such as moving documents along faster, easier file locating and sharing, and helping maintain a paperless environment.

Many companies have difficulty tracking a document that’s been revised multiple times. Secure file sharing solutions have audit control so everybody knows the latest version of the document. You can trace back all actions, such as when someone opened up a document or what day and time a document was edited.

Some of these solutions also have integration points to document management systems so you can leverage a system you’ve heavily invested in, such as SharePoint.

Finally, these solutions allow anywhere, any time access with a computer or tablet.

How do you recommend employers get started with determining whether secure file sharing is right for them?

Often, organizations don’t realize employees are using consumer products for business documents and files. The first step is figuring out if you have a need. With the help of technology experts, you can find out what’s going on already. Then, you can determine how to lower your risk.

There are a growing number of solutions coming into the marketplace, including those that store documents in the cloud or on premise. Your technology advisers can help you determine what solutions work best with your existing technology portfolio and strategy, because this is very much a here-and-now need.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Smart Solutions

How to manage your IT as an investment portfolio

Information technology (IT) often accounts for more than 10 percent of an organization’s spending; however, many companies are managing this as an expense rather than an investment.

“You don’t want to think of IT just as a single expense item on your profit and loss statement. Instead, look at it as an ongoing investment that needs to be managed,” says Paul Sems, general manager at Blue Technologies Smart Solutions.

And like any other investment, IT decisions are not easy, so business leaders need to ask:

  • What is the return going to be?
  • How is it going to perform?
  • Is this the right investment when considering other investments I’ve made?
  • What are the risks associated with it?

Only by actively tracking performance to make smart investment decisions, choosing the right portfolio pieces that work well together and managing all risks will you be able to get the most value out of IT.

Smart Business spoke with Sems about how to update your business practices now to maximize this part of your business.

Where do you see companies struggle with IT management?

When businesses see IT only as an expense, they probably don’t monitor performance after installing a new technology. They don’t  have a real-time dashboard that shows how much IT investments are saving or costing.

Another mistake is buying technology without considering the company’s entire IT platform. For instance, several department managers might acquire the technology tool he or she needs without talking to anyone else. The result may be different tools with a lot of overlap.

The last area is risk. When you make financial investments, you take time to understand the risk associated with each investment. From an IT perspective, you need tools to measure your risk as it relates to the impact on your security, data loss, data privacy, productivity or team morale.

Many times executives assume that IT investments are being managed properly, but how do they know? That’s why processes to document, monitor and certify can ensure everything is working as it should.

What can businesses do to improve the way they manage IT?

Companies need the right set of tools, so management can understand exactly how well systems are performing in order to use that information to make decisions. They need to know which systems need to be replaced and how much value improving those systems will add. And by monitoring an IT investment’s performance and improvement, business leaders can see real results and an investment’s worth.

These tools must provide decision-makers with relevant business information, not just how many open tickets were closed or how many CPUs are available. Dashboard reports should tell you: How much did we invest in IT and how does that align with our IT strategy? How much are we investing per customer, per order and per employee?

A company also should implement a portfolio approach to new and existing IT investments to ensure that all investments in your portfolio complement, improve value and reduce risk. It may take some added design and engineering services, but your investment needs a strategy behind it.

Finally, do an IT risk assessment so you know exactly what could go wrong, how to mitigate those risks and how to react if something negative occurs.

How can firms get help with implementing these new tools and processes?

Every organization needs to make sure it has a clear picture of its IT investments. Often, IT departments are very busy, so important-but-not-urgent tasks like managing IT investments can go on the back burner. That’s why you may need to reach out to technology partners who can help produce these types of results. Partners can help you get access to performance benchmarks, implement ongoing monitoring and present ideas for maximizing your IT investments.

Once these metrics are in place, you could get immediate results, such as being able to take corrective actions to mitigate IT risk. You also will have the right data available to aid in making the best decisions about how new hardware or software work with existing technology. And most importantly, you’ll know you’re doing everything you can to get the most of out of your IT investments.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Smart Solutions

Why the right IT partner can keep your network healthy and deliver a valuable ROI

Trust is a hurdle that leaders must often overcome before they are willing to hand off management of their company’s IT system. But the reality is that most companies are not experts on IT and thus are not in a position to develop and maintain the best platform for their employees.

 

“In a lot of cases, people just have a hard time handing someone else the keys,” says Ken Vanden Haute, vice president of sales and marketing at Meritech Inc.

 

Risks abound, however, when you choose to manage your own system. You become reactive rather than proactive and you put yourself at risk that your system will fail you at a critical moment because you didn’t have a clear sense of its capabilities and limitations.

 

“If you don’t change the fluids in your car and check your tires and brakes, after a period of time, you’re going to have a problem,” Vanden Haute says. “Computer networks are the same way. They need regular maintenance.”

 

Smart Business spoke with Vanden Haute about finding the right firm to handle this responsibility and how it can deliver a return on your investment.

 

Do some companies still fear technology?

Sometimes, people just get used to doing things the same way over and over again and they don’t always know there are other options out there that can help them do it better. There is still a little bit of fear. But the bigger problem is companies don’t understand that when you have someone monitoring and managing your system, they can make recommendations before you are faced with a critical situation.

 

If you knew you could fix a problem while it’s still minor and before it becomes a devastating blow to your business, think about the ROI on that.

 

What are some clues that you have found a good IT firm to work with?

You want to find somebody who is interested in your business. If you sit down at the first meeting and the firm is telling you that you have to spend money upfront, it’s probably not the best sign.

 

Find someone who wants to diagnose before prescribing a treatment. You want a partner who is willing to put in an investment on their own behalf before asking you to make an investment in their business.

 

When someone comes in and says, ‘OK, you need to do this and this and this and it’s going to cost you this much to get going. But once you do that, then we’ll be willing to work with you.’ That’s not a good sign.

 

What can you do before you meet with the firm to make it an easier process?

Map out to the best of your knowledge what your infrastructure looks like as far as your servers and phone system.

 

Provide an outline of your backbone system and how it has to integrate with your company. Who are your vendors and service providers and what challenges are you experiencing with connection, speed, maintenance and failures.

 

Have a good sense of your current environment and your daily workflow so the IT firm can see how your company communicates.

 

Where is the ROI of managed IT services achieved?

There are some leaders who question how it could be better to have a group of people from an outside firm managing your IT services instead of one internal person. The fact is, however, that it’s hard for one person to do everything.

 

When you hire the right firm, you have the advantage of a help desk and a team that is watching over your system from different vantage points. They can develop a scheduled maintenance program that will head off problems before they occur and keep you posted on what’s been done. The firm can help you develop a plan to take on different projects over time that will improve your system whether it’s a new firewall, stronger spam filters or a better backup system.

 

Project planning really keeps the firm efficient throughout the contract and eliminates down time, which keeps your system performing at a high level. And that means more time nurturing your customers and growing your business.

How to increase productivity and morale with your accounting team

Imagine an accounting team that is able to instantly provide your enterprise with the information and insights needed to make informed business decisions. Or better yet, your business processes are so well tuned that at any point you have instant access to the workload of each team member. Imagine doing all of this without having to replace your existing accounting systems.

Shouldn’t your accounting team be focused on high-value tasks like improving cash flow, managing costs or refining the quality of products and services? Instead, they often are bogged down pushing paperwork and tracking documents, which distracts them from strategic responsibilities.

“When you have well-designed and automated business processes, you supercharge the great people that make up your organization,” says Heather Stump ECMp, business process analyst at Blue Technologies Smart Solutions.

Smart Business spoke with Stump about how improved business processes alleviate pain points for accounting and help differentiate your organization.

How exactly do well-designed business processes help save time?

On average, business professionals spend 18 minutes locating one document — and that doesn’t include copying, scanning or distributing that document. Document management solutions bring structure. These custom solutions allow you to digitize and store documents in a way that is logical to you, making lost paper a thing of the past.

Once documents are digitized, processes can be automated and better tracked. Documents aren’t shuffled from desk-to-desk, but are forwarded digitally. The system monitors work flows to provide visibility and help identify bottlenecks. It can go as far as automatically notifying the responsible party of the delay.

How does mobility aid in making decisions?

Imagine you are out of the office with a client and unable to view business-critical information. Or you are making trips to the office just to review and approve a pile of paperwork. You are not alone. In this mobile world, employees need access to documents and the ability to make decisions on those documents while on the road.

Many document management leaders have developed mobile applications to integrate with tablets and smartphones. These apps provide access to custom search windows and work flow actions for you to view and act on a document awaiting review. The right solution can be customized to internal processes and with the click of a button, the document is instantly routed to the subsequent reviewer — allowing you to move on and your accounting team to complete tasks in a timely manner.

Do you need to replace your existing systems to make this possible?

Sometimes it will be necessary to replace your current business systems, however, many times designing and automating business processes can improve productivity regardless of your existing environment.

Accounting systems focus on managing your data. The value organizations have found from implementing the right document management solution is that it enhances your existing systems.

In many cases, the two systems can integrate in a way that allows staff to view relevant documents without leaving the familiar interface they are comfortable working with. Furthermore, data residing in existing systems can be utilized to streamline the deployment of a document management solution. Leveraging existing information eliminates the need to enter duplicate data and reduces the likelihood of human error.

The idea isn’t to start over. Your solution provider can identify your inefficiencies but also the efficiencies that have been implemented by your accounting team.

How can you get started?

To identify how employees can save time and then redistribute that time to focus on tasks that affect your bottom line, you need to pinpoint an ROI. Whether monetary or timesaving, identifying an ROI exposes true bottlenecks and provides a starting point.

Many solution providers offer business process assessments to analyze what is currently being done and identify areas that are candidates for improvement.A technology expert’s role is to help you identify your needs and begin the search for the right solution for your organization.

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