Target your customers where it counts with variable data printing

Marketing and advertisements are all around us — in our mailboxes, our email accounts, on billboards, city buses, the radio, our TVs and more. So, it’s important to differentiate your organization amongst the noise and create one-on-one conversations. Personalized marketing can impact your revenue, brand loyalty, and customer acquisition and retention.

Production Print Manager Lauren Hanna of Blue Technologies experienced firsthand the effectiveness of customized marketing in her own life.

“I bought my car five years ago, and I paid it off in March. In January, I received a postcard in the mail from my dealership. It was a photo of me from the day I bought my car, thanking me for doing business with them and letting me know I could go to them for my future needs,” Hanna says.

This kind of marketing is done through variable data printing, which allows you to target your customer or end users in a custom way.

Smart Business spoke with Hanna about variable data printing and the software solutions that can help you reach your customers on a personal level.

How does variable data printing work?

Customers today expect you to acknowledge their interests and preferences. So, rather than send out a brochure or postcard to all of your prospects, variable data printing allows you to make conditional changes for targeted marketing.

This customization helps you gain a higher response rate, and the ability to change variables lets you reach a specific target in a custom way. You might target vertical markets, so you can advertise your business differently when talking to those in the construction industry versus those in IT. Or, you can add individual names and titles, place specific graphics that are customized to certain market segments or make statements that are tailored to each customer.

Some organizations find it beneficial to keep variable data printing in-house, so they control their branding and can print on-demand. However, it’s inefficient and time consuming to edit the collateral for each target. You don’t want to avoid customized content simply because of a lack of time.

What software can automate this kind of customization?

A variable data printing solution can tailor your marketing collateral without the burden of manual entry. It starts with a database of consumer data and content, which is then used to dictate the output of individualized newsletters, coupons, nametags, etc. You can set requirements within the software for direct mailings, or even cross-media marketing that might also involve an email follow-up, QR codes or personalized URLs that give that customer a targeted landing page, and a text messaging campaign.

These solutions have the ability to go across multiple platforms and reach your customers at a variety of touchpoints to create stronger connections. Whether you’re printing 10 items or 10,000, you can make each piece different with variable data.

What are some practical considerations for setting up these solutions?

While some people are intimidated and nervous about using databases, it’s a lot easier than you’d first think. There are resources for training and the programs are user friendly. The infrastructure often relates to programs you already know like Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign.

Organizations can be as creative as they’d like. But if you’re overwhelmed by the different options, you can start simple with something like a direct mailing piece.

It’s also a good idea to sit down with a specialist. You’ll want to start with your goals. Is it retention, re-activation or lead generation? Then, how have you conducted marketing programs in the past? How do your customers prefer to be contacted? What kind of customer data do you have available, and are there existing databases that you can purchase to supplement this? Together, you can create a game plan that’s manageable and slowly ramps up to more specific targeted marketing campaigns.

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.

“What happens is a lot of data gets dumped into systems and there’s not a lot of communication between the systems. At the same time, the more vendors you have managing your IT infrastructure, the harder it is to perform quality vendor management,” says Ryan Coleman, director of sales at Blue Technologies.

Smart Business spoke with Coleman 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?

You also might consider hiring someone for a comprehensive check from a vendor-agnostic standpoint. 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 — a preferred vendor 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.

How to use document management to streamline onboarding for HR

When companies hire new employees, it usually involves a lot of paperwork and checklists — from filling out and filing stacks of forms to completing logistics, such as ID badge, laptop and phone assignments. What’s more, many companies are still hand keying much of this information into different systems, which introduces the potential for errors.

“By digitizing this process, human resources can put more of the onus on the employee and electronically track all pieces to make sure everything is completed,” says Nano Zegarra, chief technology officer at Blue Technologies.

Smart Business spoke with Zegarra about how document management can help HR be more efficient and reduce errors, even while handling higher volumes.

Are onboarding challenges bigger for heavily-regulated industries?

Onboarding can be a pain point in almost any organization. If an industry is regulated, like a trucking company, school or health provider, a lot of paperwork is required. But even in less-regulated organizations, like car dealerships, certain paperwork needs to be in place before new hires hit the floor to sell.

Employers might say, ‘Let’s just get new employees going and we’ll bother them later for that,’ but then six months later, it’s been forgotten. Or, someone can forget to mark a checkbox, verify a critical licensure or they may enter a piece of information incorrectly.

When people are your most important asset, document management solutions are beneficial in eliminating errors or oversights. And if you have high turnover or are growing and cannot get people hired fast enough, any technology to digitize and streamline your company’s onboarding process is a huge help.

How do document management solutions help?

Companies should rely on electronic forms for ease and accuracy within their onboarding process. Fortunately, an HR department typically has the overall process down pat, which makes technology integration easy to implement. Your technology adviser can work with them to customize a digital solution unique to your organization’s process needs.

HR understands which documents are the biggest pains for your organization, where they have the most errors and where they typically have to do the most follow-up to determine ‘did you mean this or that?’ By digitally creating packets of information with document management, HR isn’t hand keying data on multiple forms. A self-serve solution can even enable new hires to fill out forms from home, then track everything — making it easy for HR to see what’s missing and send reminders as needed.

Your document management solution can also be linked into other systems like payroll, easily passing information from one area to another. For example, when an electronic HR form is filled out, it can generate a PDF that’s uploaded into one of these portals.

Once employee information is electronically created and stored, it’s then far easier to retrieve it and follow your normal retention plan, ensuring you can easily find it as needed, such as in the case of an audit, or get rid of it once it’s past the retention date.

Is this new technology?

Document management solutions for HR used to be canned, with little control. You’d select the electronic form type and use it for onboarding, applications or post-hire management. But now, everything is customizable — enabling companies to create their own document and self-serve portal very affordably.

You can do training videos and even push policies and procedures out to people who work from home, with the self-serve portal allowing employees and/or managers to access certain information and make changes remotely. The technology can comprehensively handle everything in a single solution.

And these newer solutions aren’t just for HR. They can store and manage documents from cradle to grave — from when the employee first applies for a job, through when their documents can be destroyed post-employment, tracking any performance reviews or disciplinary items in between.

While your company might not need all these features from the start, the technology is scalable. So, you can start with onboarding, and slowly move into doing full employee file management without having to link into another program.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

Understand your cyber vulnerabilities, and what you can do about them

Whether you run a roofing business or a business services company, technology has become more sophisticated and important to day-to-day operations. But with greater reliance comes concerns about security and hacking — especially for those that can’t monitor their systems to know if they’re being attacked.

Paul Sems, general manager at Blue Technologies Smart Solutions, says Verizon’s 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report highlights persistent issues, such as:

  • 75 percent of breaches have financial motives.
  • Ransomware — malicious software that limits users from accessing their system until a ransom is paid — is a pervasive threat costing organizations an average of $156,900 per incident.
  • Despite filtering and education, phishing emails were opened 30 percent more often than the previous year — and of those opened, 91 percent of the time people shared information or credentials.

“Every organization needs a security program to protect its systems and assets, whether that’s company files, the financial system, personal and/or health information, or its reputation,” Sems says.

Even companies that do not process credit cards in volume still have cybersecurity risk. For example, a country club’s list of members could be targeted for robbery during an event. Or, a ransomware attack could shut down your business, forcing you to pay money to access to your own data.

Smart Business spoke with Sems about cyber vulnerabilities in today’s businesses.

How are the cyber vulnerabilities you described complicated further?

Threats are on the rise. Verizon’s report found that 91 percent of companies surveyed had at least one IT security incident in 2016. That’s why at many companies, senior management wants a plan in place to do something about these risks that keeps the organization secure today and tomorrow.

But it’s difficult to have the time and resources to run an assessment of your technology risks. It takes more than installing a firewall and antivirus software, particularly as companies are challenged to secure many types of operating systems with more personal device use at work. That’s why organizations may need a third party specialist to gather the right data, and then turn that knowledge into actionable items to ensure they’re as secure as possible.

What can employers do to mitigate these security concerns?

The first step is to define the ideal security posture that the company needs to take. What is it trying to protect against? What are its goals? A company that holds health care information, for example, might consider protecting that its No. 1 priority.

Then, it needs to understand where it is today. The company should do an assessment of what its infrastructure currently looks like, while also bringing in a third party for further analysis.

Next, once an employer understands where it is currently and where it wants to go, the third party can help it build a road map to bridge the gap between the two. What is the company going to do to start solving these problems, and how should that plan be rationalized and ranked in order to maximize the benefits?

The final step is to execute the changes, while adding governance and monitoring so the company moves closer to its goals.

Why is a third party critical to the process?

Many organizations don’t have a chief security officer and/or expert support staff, but security shouldn’t be taken lightly. You wouldn’t show up in court without a lawyer, and you shouldn’t assess, monitor and mitigate your security without the right advisers at your side.

The expertise to purchase and run the right software tools require skill, and one piece of software or a better firewall won’t end the risk. It also takes education and processes to continually monitor and adjust your security policies. How do the people, processes and technology work together to limit your cyber vulnerabilities?

It sounds silly to say, ‘I won’t hire a contractor to build my house. I can go to Home Depot and get what I need,’ but that’s what people say about their security: ‘I don’t need an expert to secure our information. I can go to Amazon and buy a firewall.’ It may be true, but it’s not the best way. It’s not as efficient and effective.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

Evaluate your technology to add more efficiency in 2018

All companies look for ways to make their teams and processes more efficient, while increasing revenue and profitability. What’s your plan to do so in 2018?

“As you prepare next year’s budget, consider working with a technology company. You can revisit what you spent on technology and find ways to improve upon that for the future,” says Bill Nelson, vice president of Cleveland sales at Blue Technologies.

Smart Business spoke with Nelson about implementing technology to reach goals in the upcoming year.

How can businesses identify great opportunities to add efficiencies?

First, define your goals and objectives. Start by evaluating current business processes, looking for signs of inefficiency or waste where you have room to streamline. Then develop a strategy to do so.

For example, if it takes too long to find information through decentralized or paper-based processes, consider implementing document management software that allows you to quickly store and search through electronic documents — like a Google search.

Physically look around your office, too. If you see paper all over, particularly left at your multi-function printer (MFP), document management could help you cut back on that waste.

Having a lot of desktop printers, or a closet full of toner and ink, is also a sign of an inefficient print environment. A MFP could cut down on the number of printers, while a managed print services strategy could stabilize your supply spend.

Ultimately, in any internal review, the key is to identify pain points or bottlenecks. Ask yourself: What are you worried about? Be sure to get your employees’ input, too.

How can companies identify the right technologies in their strategy?

A technology company can help, creating a strategy that focuses on the most important things you want to fix now. Understanding the typical problems of your industry, they can determine if you have those same challenges — then work with you to implement custom solutions.

Technology moves so fast that you cannot be expected to know everything available. You may have an idea for a fix, but your technology partner might have another expert recommendation, or even find other issues to be the real root cause.

Additionally, IT and finance departments aren’t always on the same page, so an outside partner can help bridge that gap.

Once the strategy is set, how do companies execute?

Typically, you roll out changes in stages. That starts with your top executives, who have to embrace the technology and sell it internally to get buy-in. Your employees then need adequate training to feel comfortable using it; otherwise, they’ll continue as before.

Even after rolling out your strategy, you’re not done. You have to continuously revisit it — evaluating the results and making adjustments.

The process is like halftime during a football game. Ask what have you been doing right and how can you do something better. Sometimes, that means adding to what you’re already doing, figuring out a better way to accomplish your goal or moving on to the next one.

How can businesses maximize their budget when making technology investments?

Companies want to cut costs and stay within budget, but sometimes it takes a short-term investment to achieve savings long term. For example, if technology helps you do more with less, you don’t have to add more people as your company grows. Or, you can cut costs by consolidating existing technologies, which makes your business run more efficiently, and the initial investment pays for itself.

There are strategies that can help offset costs, too, such as section 179 of the tax code. Say you purchase qualifying office equipment with lease payments spread out over 60 months. If you sign the deal before the end of 2017, you can get a tax deduction for the full amount this year, even though you won’t have paid in full yet.

Your technology partner should be able to not only help you find the best solution, but help you afford it as well.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

How multi-function printers can enhance your company’s mobility

Multi-function printers (MFPs) that incorporate printing, scanning, faxing, copying and document storage have yet another role they can take on — promoting your company’s mobility. Even though these machines stay in the office, they can create a more productive, mobile environment for your employees through printing, scanning or collaboration that can be linked to popular web-based or hosted solutions, says Curtis Verhoff, advanced solutions manager at Blue Technologies.

“We talk to a lot of small and midsize organizations that have had MFPs on their premises for a long time, but they don’t know these capabilities exist,” Verhoff says. “With limited IT resources and staff, they often think these technologies are too expensive or they don’t know where to start. But it’s simple to install these solutions on an MFP and get your workforce, especially millennials, to use this technology.”

Smart Business spoke with Verhoff about how the MFP can help organizations take advantage of a more mobile workspace.

How can an MFP increase productivity with a mobile workforce?

Employees often work independently in separate silos, not as a unit. But by utilizing your MFP’s feature set or adding a small solution, your employees can scan a document directly to common hosted services, such as GoogleDrive, Box, Microsoft OneDrive or Dropbox for easy sharing and collaboration.

In addition, if employees work while on the road or at home, they can send their print jobs in advance. Then when they walk up to the MFP on Monday morning, it’s just a matter of typing a code or tapping a security card to release those jobs. They also can release print jobs from their tablet or smartphone while in the office.

This is helpful to people who travel between offices, as well. They don’t want to print everything and carry it with them, especially if they walk in and find out three more are coming to their meeting. If you need to share with a team, you can print it to a shared location or scan it and share that document with the group’s account.

How do employers get these technologies? How much does it cost?

Depending on the manufacturer, it’s often as easy as downloading an app from a marketplace of apps, which is then installed onto an MFP with little or no IT involvement. That ease of integration is enticing to small and midsize businesses that want to save IT consultants for bigger issues. Some of these capabilities are built into the MFP; some can be downloaded for free. Others with advanced feature sets cost a one-time fee, but it can be worth it if your employees use it on a daily basis.

Most people find these capabilities easy to use because they mimic the hosted solution that employees are already familiar with.

However, if you use older technology like an iPhone 4 or a Droid that’s a few versions back, you’ll still have the basic functionality, but you might need newer technology to take advantage of the extended features.

What problems might crop up? Is security an issue?

One complication can be if your infrastructure — internet connection — can’t handle this type of traffic to send a scan or receive a print. If you’re scanning a colored document, even if it’s a compressed PDF, you still need the internet backbone to pass it to the hosted Microsoft solution or another third party. However, as bandwidth becomes more affordable, it’s easier for companies to overcome this barrier.

As for security, employers may be concerned about pushing sensitive information, whether it’s scanned or printed. But most of these mobile technologies — OneDrive, GoogleDrive, Dropbox — use an encryption method of sending data to and from your device. If it somehow fails to make it to its destination, not only is it encrypted, typically the MFP deletes it in a secure manner.

If your workforce could use these capabilities to become more productive, it’s time to talk to your technology adviser. You might be surprised at how affordable it can be to go mobile — even if you’re not gearing up your staff with tablets and smartphones. If you’re using laptops and desktops, you can still give people the freedom to be productive and work outside of the office by integrating the features and technology that’s available through your MFP.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

Spreadsheets, departmental databases make way for a new technology trend

Case management might not sound like a technology buzzword, but the all-inclusive system brings together bundles of information relating to a single case — a client, project, etc. — rather than working with individual documents or files in silos.

“When I first got involved with case management, it was hard to wrap my head around it. I always thought of a case as something like a legal case,” says Heather Stump, applications delivery manager at Blue Technologies.

But a case could be a sale from the start through to the delivery of that good or service, or a contract that goes back and forth, being revised, with all the associated information in a centralized system.

While case management solutions aren’t new, previously they focused on specific industries. Now, Stump says providers of document management or enterprise content management solutions all offer case management as an add-on module.

“It’s easily configured to your needs. There’s not a lot of custom coding. It’s easy to add or take away functionality,” she says. “A case management system standardizes your approach to business, creating a flexible structure to manage different workloads.”

Smart Business spoke with Stump about ensuring business scalability through case management solutions.

How can organizations benefit from this approach?

In any company, whether it’s manufacturing, insurance, government, health care or financial services, it’s not unusual for each employee to manage cases differently. One might use a spreadsheet, another just has a Word document and a third uses a departmental database. If the workload increases or an employee goes on medical leave, there is no standard way of doing something.

A case management solution improves communication and makes sure everyone has the information they need. It also can be accessed remotely through mobile devices.

It’s similar to document management, but the difference is it’s data driven; more like an enterprise resource planning, or ERP, solution, but much easier to customize. You can associate documents and files to the data, with checklists to see what is left to complete and the ability to run reports on any data point within the solution.

Case management solutions are particularly helpful in times of growth. With growth, comes volume, and volume without automation is very people driven. People manually drive that process, that volume, which turns into cost. It also takes them longer to process, without standardization or structure. The processes aren’t repeatable.

What do employers need to know about setting up a case management solution?

The discovery and design stage is critical. You want to understand where you want to start and have an idea of how it will need to be grown. These case management systems are relational database applications that are built from the ground up. You need to engage the right expert who can lead that phase in order to gather the appropriate information, such as understanding what type of case you’re managing, who touches those cases, who needs access to that information and what other areas of the business are related.

Before you call in that third-party expert, though, it’s a good idea to lay the groundwork. As the C-level executive or owner who wants to add this efficiency, spend time internally with your team planning it out and educating them on the need.

The design and training phase take the longest, but the testing/pilot phase is what makes the technology adoption successful, to ultimately boost efficiency and productivity. For example, a children and family services agency is implementing a case management system that will start with the central office. Then the agency plans to add on the contractors who help with the cases, and later, the other government agencies that submit documents and data related to its cases.

A gradual rollout is best, where you give employees time to run cases, claims or data through the system. They can ask questions and submit suggestions for changes. Then, once you go live, everyone knows what they are doing. If you don’t gain buy-in, the users will go right back to their Excel spreadsheet rather than use the system.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

Your data is worth a king’s ransom. Back it up on the cloud.

The chances of disasters like a fire are relatively low — but still catastrophic.

In Northeast Ohio, Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools’ Board of Education burnt down in March. Blue Technologies General Manager Paul Sems says they provided the software that protected student records in a secure, off-site server.

On top of physical and technical risks, however, ransomware makes cloud backup more important than ever.

Smart Business spoke with Sems about ransomware and disaster recovery.

What is ransomware? How common is it?

The FBI defines ransomware as ‘a form of malware that targets both the human and technical weaknesses in organization and individual networks in an effort to deny the availability of critical data and systems.’ The criminal demands a ransom from the victim to get the data back. The type of malware (malicious software) that is used includes CryptoLocker, Locky, TeslaCrypt, CBT Locker and CryptoWall.

More than 40 percent of U.S. firms have been victims of ransomware over the past year, according to Malwarebytes research reported in The Guardian. The number of attacks is likely even higher. The FBI believes only 25 percent of companies report this crime. It’s embarrassing. No one wants customers asking, ‘Why am I doing business with you if you can’t secure your own data?’

Who is vulnerable to these attacks?

Every business is vulnerable. How much is it worth to access customer records, orders, inventory, balance sheets and P&L statements? Even consumers are at risk. A ransomware attack could extend to a business executive’s digital photo library.

Some high-profile attacks in 2016, according to Carbonite, were:

  • Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center attacked with Locky. It didn’t have reliable backups and paid a ransom of $17,000.
  • The Ottawa Hospital attacked with a variant of CryptoLocker, WinPlock. It had reliable backups and was able to recover.
  • Gigabit Geek attacked by CryptoWall. It lost a large portion of data. It didn’t pay.

The only known way to recover is to restore data from reliable backups. If backup files are on the same network as the systems they are protecting, the backups are at high risk of also being encrypted during an attack.

What can companies do about this risk?

The FBI and security experts recommend employers implement awareness programs to prevent social engineering attacks.
Businesses should ensure all systems and applications are patched and updated. Many attacks could be prevented with updated versions of Adobe Flash. The Verizon 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report found more than half of systems’ Flash hadn’t been updated in over a year.

Also, remove administrative privileges from all ‘user’ accounts (even IT staff) and set up dedicated administrative accounts that are only used when needed.

Most importantly, have a reliable backup solution where backups aren’t connected to the computers and networks they’re backing up. A cloud file sharing solution is not a data backup solution. It is just as susceptible because the encrypted files are just synchronized to the cloud.

Doesn’t anti-virus and anti-malware software help protect you?

Of businesses that were ransomware victims, 93 percent had current and active anti-virus and anti-malware software at the time, according to Datto’s State of the Channel Ransomware Report 2016. Prevention software programs block known bad software, but the Verizon report says that 99 percent of the signatures (hashes) of the malware used in a ransomware attack existed for less than 58 seconds before it was used.

If your company isn’t using secure, reliable off-site professional cloud back up, you shouldn’t feel comfortable. It’s time to better protect your systems — so you’re ready for ransomware or another disaster.

If you’re a victim, what should you do?

Contact your local FBI field office. The FBI also set up the Internet Crime Complaint Center (http://ic3.gov) for these crimes. Again, the only known cure is clean, reliable backups. The FBI doesn’t support paying a ransom that could range from a few hundred dollars to over $50,000. Paying doesn’t guarantee you’ll regain access to your data.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

Work is not where you are. Work is what you get done.

Ready or not, the future is here. Technology is freeing us from our desks to work anywhere, at anytime.

In a Future Workplace study, 76 percent of respondents believe work is no longer just where you are; it’s what you get done. Driving this belief are generational changes in the workplace experience, both physically and in the tools and technologies used.

Smart Business spoke with Stephan J. Cico, managing director of All Covered Pittsburgh, IT services from Konica Minolta, about the tools and technologies that will affect the future of productivity.

Office management technologies

New office management technologies make the office smarter. Virtual visitor management systems offer a range of options, even helping forgo full-time staff to manage the front desk. Meeting scheduling tools connect people, keep meetings on track, increase collaboration and streamline how meetings are conducted.

Internet of things

In the office, an interconnected system saves time and increases productivity. Desktop and mobile devices can connect to appliances and sensors, in and out of the workplace.

Consider this: You schedule a presentation from your tablet at home. Your tech, alerted via smartphone, fixes the printer’s low toner so your materials can print. In the meeting room, printed copies await, the audiovisual equipment is set up and the smart coffee machine has brewed coffee. The gadgets communicate, the appropriate parties are notified and all your needs are met.

Advanced collaborative tools

Advanced collaborative tools manage workflow and provide real-time access to important documents — no matter where you are, or what time of day. Cloud-based document management applications like SharePoint provide a secure place to store, organize and share information.

Mobility

Mobility is more than a remote workforce; it’s about giving employees the tools to succeed. Employees want to use their own devices to access company information and applications. A Bring Your Own Device policy can increase productivity and realize savings, but controlling and scaling mobile usage is critical. Mobile device management can manage devices from a single console, update devices remotely and ensure the safety of your network.

Also, distributed computing or virtual desktop infrastructure allows companies to run applications in the cloud, fully replicating a work desktop experience from any device.

Customer relationship management (CRM) and business intelligence (BI)

These sales analytic tools help you leverage data to grow your business. BI takes large volumes of data and analyzes it into insightful information that can predict future conditions. CRM tracks marketing and sales data, reporting on what’s working and what’s not. It helps build better customer relationships through targeted campaigning.

Robotics

The opportunities are limitless. Robots can aid remote medical procedures or underwater ship maintenance. They can carry warehouse items so workers avoid strain or injury. And drone delivery is just a form of robotics automation.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is still being shaped. An AI system simulates human thought as it mines massive amounts of data. Today, AI applications can adjust marketing campaigns based on a target group’s signals, but someday AI may help doctors predict a heart attack before a patient feels it.

3-D printing

3-D printing is being fully integrated into the smart workplace to increase efficiency, boost productivity and impact profits. Car parts, smartphone cases, fashion accessories and even jet engines are being printed today. Plus, research and technology companies are developing quick prototypes affordably.

Advanced security

At the center of this is security. Security in this environment is incredibly challenging, yet paramount. Companies must have a comprehensive strategy, because for all the great opportunity these technologies afford, there is also great risk.

Insights Technology is brought to you by All Covered Pittsburgh

How to choose the right document management solution

Document management systems (DMS) can seem complex and daunting. Most companies, however, depend on DMS to become more efficient, and secure and drive better business outcomes — even if they don’t realize the full potential.

“We’ve found many companies stuck on old versions or not even using document management,” says Stephan J. Cico, managing director of All Covered Pittsburgh, IT services from Konica Minolta.

Even the name document management leaves people with questions like: What’s the difference between document management and content management? Doesn’t Microsoft Office already track revisions? Can’t you use Windows to search inside your documents? Is it time to upgrade, or change to a new solution? And if so, after seeing dozens of tools, how do you choose?

Smart Business spoke with Cico about the ins and outs of DMS.

Why use a DMS?

Most current DMS have complex, robust searching. Some DMS use structured query language to run complicated queries quickly and easily, or in layman’s terms, it makes searching through millions of pieces of content as easy and simple as a Google search. About 80 percent of companies use DMS, so if you’re in the remaining 20 percent, it’s past time to consider it.

How can businesses narrow their choices?

First, consider if your company generates a lot of content daily. Some DMS can process a large number of documents more efficiently than others and require a separate server for indexing. If you receive content from your clients, some of it needs to be imported into your DMS, which can affect your choice. The type of company you run also matters. If you’re producing large size and/or large volumes of content, some DMS options will work better.

If you need to process large quantities of paper documents, you may want DMS that integrate with a multi-function printer. If your company works with a records management system, depending on which system and the number of records you store, some DMS will handle your workload better. Also, consider whether you need to share files with clients or outside counsel.

How are DMS and mobile integrating?

As more employees adopt mobile technology for tasks, more DMS have become mobile friendly. Three major DMS, iManage, NetDocuments and Worldox, manage employees’ content while allowing them to access content through their mobile devices. The availability and performance between the solutions, however, differs. To make an informed decision, you have to know how important mobile use is to your company.

What other features are important?

There are a number of specific features that only some DMS can offer:

  • Auto profiling simplifies storage and allows for detailed searches.
  • Matter centricity allows for a consistent workflow between people, processes and numerous applications within a company.
  • Application integrations. Companies may need to custom integrate their solution to other applications, and some DMS will integrate more smoothly than others.
  • Auto naming. File naming conventions can vastly vary. Instead of trying to force an implanted file naming policy, some DMS do this automatically.
  • Customizable interfaces and workflows. Some DMS allow for more customization and/or integration with other software, such as practice management or time and billing solutions. Also, if you’re upgrading from older DMS or file storage solution, you need a solution that will handle this properly.

How does budget factor in?

While some companies have little to no issue with large capital expenditures, others need to minimize expenses as much as possible. Some DMS require a much larger initial investment; others, such as cloud-based DMS, are designed or intended for use in companies of various sizes.

Even with all the different factors that can contribute to determining which solution is ideal, the decision still isn’t an easy one. That’s why it’s critical to have the right technology expert at your side.

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