How to secure your organization and intellectual property

Smart devices and other technology tools are becoming more pervasive within all organizations. It’s the internet of things taking shape; everything from smart boards and devices, to cloud computing, artificial intelligence and data acquisition.

“We’re using technology to do more with less — to more effectively collaborate and communicate,” says Ben Simms, vice president at Blue Technologies. “But when you do that, you open yourself up and become a little bit more vulnerable.”

Smart Business spoke with Simms about how to address the growing concern of security.

Why should all business executives take security for their technology seriously?

It’s incumbent upon every business leader today to look hard at where they are.

The security of your network and servers — whether on-premise, in the cloud or both — are not the only areas of vulnerability. For example, hackers were able to breach a corporation through its HVAC smart system. So, are you looking at everything, and looking at it consistently enough? Copiers used to be analog devices. Now, they are digital on and off-ramps. They are Wi-Fi enabled, and in some cases, servers sit at the bottom of their drawers.

In addition, it’s not uncommon for an executive to go to a conference, jump on the public Wi-Fi, get malware and bring that back to the home office. Before you know it, that malware penetrates the email system, which then spreads organization-wide.

Everything is inter-connected and inter-related. We share so much data in so many different ways and it’s only going to be become more pervasive, as networks get faster and more robust.

What’s the biggest misstep you see people make when securing their organization?

Some think that if they just invest in technology like firewalls, that is enough. But most breaches happen because people and processes are out of sync. Are your employees going through awareness training? If your people aren’t aware of social engineering, phishing and other tactics, even the best defense can be penetrated.

It’s harder to control the behavior of people than to add hardware and software. What sites are they surfing? Where should they go? Where shouldn’t they go? That type of training is important because bad actors today can embed malware in a website pop-up ad. If someone inadvertently clicks the wrong thing, they can start to get in.

What’s your advice for how organizations can start beefing up their security?

There is a security breach in corporate America every 14 seconds; it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. What layers are you putting into place to make your organization, and your intellectual property and data, less attractive to bad actors?

Your business needs to cover the four main areas of security — network security, data encryption, access control and physical security. There are different ways that you can test those, in order to improve them. You want to take a gamut of different security tactics, techniques and strategies, such as firewalls, data encryption and multi-factor authentication, and apply those to create barriers for breaching.

In addition, ransomware has gotten sophisticated and patient. It may attack the backups first before going to the rest of the company. By the time you realize that it’s happening, it’s likely too late. That’s why your backups should be off-site and gapped appropriately from your existing networks.

You also need to ensure your organization follows any relevant regulations for personal information that you collect, as well as security requirements in your contracts, such as manufacturing companies that must be DFARS compliant.

By working with someone who can create a customized plan for your organization, you can do an assessment to understand the current state of your security. Where are you at today? Where are your areas of vulnerability? Then, what would be a more desired state? How would you ideally make your organization less of a target? Finally, create a gap analysis and milestone deliverable to get from your current security to that desired future state. Also, if your business isn’t compliant, how are you working toward compliance? Having a game plan is an important step and can go a long way to appeasing the regulatory agencies that oversee these things.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

How to deliver a great customer experience

We have entered the era of the customer. Competing in a crowded marketplace requires delivering customer experiences that differentiate your brand, so leading companies continue to invest in better ways to improve customer engagement.

“Companies are shifting their budgets, with more dollars allocated to marketing automation, AdTech, data and analytics tools, and web and app development. This is all aimed at supporting improved digital engagement,” says Ben Stormer, senior vice president of Technology at g2o.

Smart Business spoke with Stormer about the era of the customer.

Why is digital transformation no longer optional?

It can be argued that every business is a digital business. After emerging as a disruptive trend, digital transformation has become an ongoing requirement. Winning companies use digital technologies to reinvent themselves as agile and proactive organizations that anticipate their customers’ wants and needs, and not just react to them.

What does this mean for businesses today?

Customer experience has become a key differentiator and the new battleground of business. Standing out requires delivering great experiences to consumers, businesses and, increasingly, employees. Regardless of industry, to grow their organization and brand, companies must reinvent their business via customer-focused strategies.

New partnerships are also emerging. Companies are looking for help leveraging the latest advances in technologies, data and human-centered design to achieve their goals — to acquire and retain customers, deliver innovations and drive productivity.

How can companies provide differentiated experiences?

  • Create a multifaceted team. Building an engaging digital experience requires collaborating across functional areas and blurs the lines between traditional IT and business teams. Successful teams often include people from digital, data, analytics, marketing, product management and technology.
  • Be intentional. Bring the team together to have conversations upfront and regularly throughout the process. If you develop the roadmap together, collaborating and communicating along the way, you can avoid potential problems.
  • Avoid sameness. Be mindful of what others are doing to engage customers. For example, in retail, apps that allow shoppers to buy online or pick up at the store are now the norm. To offer something unique, invest in architecture that combines software, custom code and data to create new experiences. Also, consider joining relevant user groups and communities. Truly knowing your customers can help you create a differentiated value proposition.
  • Consider customer preferences and privacy. Privacy should be a top priority with the growing urgency to manage personal information appropriately. With the California Consumer Privacy Act going into effect in 2020, it’s only a matter of time before other states adopt similar protections. To stay ahead of the requirements, deploy systems and processes so that you a) know where customer information is stored, b) can quickly take action to turn it off or delete it altogether, and c) are in the position to demonstrate these capabilities to avoid any financial ramifications.
  • Enlist expert help. Depending on your company’s needs, budget, timeline and internal capacity, you may need a partner that specializes in the development and delivery of digital experiences. The right one will recognize that design, development and data are inseparable and must work together.

Why is delivering an engaging experience so hard?

The ability to design intuitive experiences that customers want, and value, is critical — but agile development and deep data expertise are equally important. Ultimately, it requires collaboration across the team to inform, design and build engaging experiences. Companies that succeed will focus on breaking down existing organization silos to deliver a customer experience that stands out.

Insights Technology is brought to you by g2o

How to make your digital transformation a success

When you ask someone, “What is digital transformation?” you’ll get different answers. For C-suite executives, it’s about understanding and knowing where the important data are, and using that information to impact business in a positive way.

This is critical because data are the future. Organizations must get a handle on their data, not only to understand their business better, but also to act on the information in a timely manner. Only then will executives and managers be able to analyze processes and workflows to allocate the right resources, pass insights on to executors and mitigate business risks.

Smart Business spoke with Sudhir Achar, CEO of EOX Vantage, about the digitization of business processes and how to ensure this transformation provides results.

What does it mean to digitize something? What are some examples?

When you digitize a process, you use technology to follow that process from cradle to grave, capturing data inputs along the way. This enables you to track how long something takes, what’s creating a backlog and where information is missing. Then with automation, alerts can be sent to the appropriate people at the right time.

Take, for example, an e-commerce company using independent contractors to deliver goods to its customers. The e-commerce company required independent contractors to have a clean driving record and the appropriate insurance coverage, but the company did not have a system to track compliance. So when drivers with expired insurance or expired licenses got into accidents, it put risk back on the e-commerce business.

By digitizing what was a paper-driven process with a digital application and automated workflows, the experience for the independent contractor was improved and the company turned the paper process and its unstructured data into a digital process with structured data that provided real operational intelligence. Compliance was automated; drivers are notified 90, 60, 30 and seven days out from the expiration of their insurance. If a driver becomes noncompliant, an automated message helps ensure that driver isn’t scheduled. 

In another instance, when customers brought their vehicles in to be serviced at a car dealer, they received a loaner car for a day or two. The car needed to go onto an insurance policy but the complicated process included a lot of emails and faxes, and was different at each dealership. Cars went out without coverage. People got into accidents and the manufacturer, who owned the car, was responsible. 

With a uniformed digitalized process deployed across hundreds of dealerships, the manufacturer was able to verify that each loaner car is insured, reduce its risk and gain valuable insights into the operations of dealerships across the country.

At the dealerships, the process was simplified. Employees click a button to put a car on their insurance. They print off an insurance card and hand it to the customer. When the car comes back, employees hit a button to end the policy, and the system generates a bill. After a month and a half, 90 percent of dealerships were using the new system.

Why do digital transformation efforts fail?

The implementation process has two pieces — technology and people. Both sides of the equation need to be managed for a better chance of success. The human element also needs to include buy-in from the C-suite. 

In addition, rolling out massive and encompassing changes across an entire enterprise is risky. You may get pushback. That’s why it’s better to focus on little wins to help build the case. Processes that are harder to implement than you initially thought, or ones that don’t have the expected business impact, will also stall digital transformation efforts.

How should companies get started with a document digitization strategy and digital transformation?

Start by looking at your current resources and capabilities in order to determine what needs to be added. If your IT department is putting out fires rather than executing strategy, you may want to consider a partner that specializes in building corporate digital transformation plans or digital transformation accelerator programs designed for companies moving into the digital age.

Insights Technology is brought to you by EOX Vantage

2020 vision: Are you secure? Do you have a workplace of the future?

As the New Year approaches, it’s a good reminder to think about how technology may impact your business operations. Beyond the end of Microsoft’s Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 support, security threats remain at the heart of most of the changes.

“Whether it’s your wireless printer, voice over IP phone system, multi-function device copier, desktop, laptop, mobile device, network or servers, an organization’s entire threat surface needs to be serviced, protected and monitored holistically,” says Eric Thal, sales manager at Blue Technologies.

Smart Business spoke with Thal about business technology trends and what they may mean for the future of your operations.

What’s going on with Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008?

After January 2020, Microsoft will no longer be updating, supporting, or providing bug fixes and patches to the operating systems Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008. Companies are upgrading slowly, but many organizations are still running more than half of their environment on one of those two platforms. Make this a priority now so you are ready for the changes in 2020.

You mentioned cyber threats to phones and copiers. How vulnerable are those?

All the technology used today represents a company’s threat surface. Bad actors typically take the path of least resistance, and it can be easier to hack into a network through a printer or a phone system than a password-protected, highly encrypted server. Anything that’s connected to the network, and certainly anything that’s wireless, needs to be properly managed, secured and segmented. Also, if the organization has poor, acceptable usage or password policies, such as using the same passwords for multiple devices, not changing them often enough or not putting much thought into the password itself, a hacker can gain access.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, it’s often not a question of if; it’s a question of when. That’s why all organizations should be following a well-established, trusted framework for maintaining and monitoring the integrity of their environment — not only for security’s sake but also to ensure a legally defensible position when a breach does occur.

What are other trends related to IT security?

More small and mid-sized businesses are opting for mobile device management, whether they’re issued by corporate or are personal devices. With these tools, an organization can containerize the corporate data securely, so that if something happens — a device is lost or an employee leaves — the information can be located, remotely locked and wiped. This technology, traditionally used by large enterprises, has moved down market and is being adopted across many organizations of different sizes.

Also, the basic email protection that comes with Microsoft Office 365 is not typically enough for organizations, especially if they have regulatory concerns or compliance needs. Enhanced email security may be the way to go. With that, more organizations need an added layer of security and require two-factor authentication for their workforce. For example, an authentication app on a cellphone is paired with a password.

With the rise of ransomware, backup needs to be taken seriously. Because once an organization pays, it’s more likely to be targeted again. A fully tested, disaster recovery plan helps with business continuity in the event of a power outage, weather event or some other emergency. Businesses should keep cloud backups of critical information off-site and gapped appropriately from their existing networks. Every business needs cloud backup and should only put it in an enterprise-grade data center, which has the appropriate certifications, replications and backups and is multisite for geographic redundancy.

How can managed IT help companies in many of these areas?

Between staying abreast of the latest software and ensuring the organization’s threat surface is effectively managed and protected, it’s a lot to keep up on. Managed IT can help organizations service and support all of their technology, securely, so the company and its employees can focus on its core business.

After all, technology is integral to the business world already and likely to grow even more so in 2020 and beyond.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

How to use an enterprise operating system to solve business challenges

All too often, business owners and executives find their companies bogged down by the essential, noncore operational needs — things like communication, developing dashboards, creating reports, document management, project management, and regulatory and compliance management. 

However, by implementing an enterprise operating system (EOS) to govern and streamline the data, a business can operate more effectively and efficiently.

“The platform provides you with many of the same tools you probably use today, but they can integrate and communicate seamlessly with one another. Your teams can collaborate better and provide you with fast and actionable insights, so you can manage your business better,” says Sudhir Achar, CEO at EOX Vantage.

Smart Business spoke with Achar about how the data integration technology of EOS can be used to create custom solutions for your organization.

How does EOS work differently from other technology products?

One key challenge many businesses have is lack of visibility and control due to disparate data sources. Like the operating system on your smartphone, which works seamlessly with different technologies, an EOS is industry-agnostic, easily configurable without customization, and provides reasonable return on investment. 

An EOS also can manage different departments that are physically or geographically separated. 

What’s an example where an EOS helped improve a company’s business decisions?

A rental car business was managing data from various sources, pulling information from a manufacturer and a separate insurance company in order to distribute it to dealerships. Because that data resided on different platforms and it could be 30 days before new information was added, the data were often obsolete at the time the decisions were made.

With EOS technology, the operational segments were bought together, so both the dealership and manufacturer could easily see the average life cycle of a vehicle, the insurance issues and whether specific regions or dealerships were having problems. It let managers use data to determine whether to reward or discipline certain people, departments, groups or projects without bias. 

In other words, the EOS helps with predictive analytics. It enables business leaders to more easily see patterns or trends, so they know where to put their focus.

This challenge of uniting databases so the CEO or COO can understand what’s going on within departments happens across many industries, from manufacturing to insurance or health care providers.

How does an EOS help companies stop their spreadsheet woes?

Spreadsheet data are uncontrolled, duplicated and prone to errors, which leads to individuals who are very knowledgeable about the company but do not share that information with the team. Because of this, business leaders do not have actionable insights from data. 

With its secure data environment, EOS unifies and controls data to provide a single source of truth. It also helps cut down on time, preventing data loss in communication, which in turn helps lower the margin for errors.

Can EOS assist business owners with regulatory compliance?

Regulatory compliance is a scary phrase for the C-suite. EOS helps ease the nightmare and manage the regulatory checks for the company with the use of the dynamic organizational chart and actionable operational intelligence.

Compliance happens at policy level. With the help of EOS, the business can have compliance at an execution level, which helps track execution against industry standards like ISO, CFR11, FDA, HIPAA or SSAE17.

Insights Technology is brought to you by EOX Vantage

Don’t let HR departments labor over employee paperwork

When HR onboards new hires, the department has to process 401(k)s, health care enrollments, policy acknowledgements, direct deposit authorization, W-4s, 1-9s and more.

“With this repetitive and burdensome task, it’s no surprise that many HR professionals complain that processing onboarding paperwork takes a huge chunk of their time. Employment applications may be upward of 10 pages, and most companies still hand-key this information, which introduces the potential for errors,” says Ben Simms, vice president at Blue Technologies.

While many companies have added technology in areas like accounts payable, HR isn’t usually the priority. However, content management software can help HR be more efficient and reduce errors by optimizing the hiring process.

“Instead of wasting their first day filling out paperwork, new hires hit the ground running,” Simms says.

You want new hires to gather a good first impression, not bog down with paperwork, especially in this tight labor market.

Smart Business spoke with Simms about how enterprise content management (ECM) systems can create pleasant, efficient onboarding and offboarding experiences.

Why is it so important to create a positive first impression with new employees?

Companies only have a short window to convince new hires to stay.

  • 33 percent of new hires know if they’ll stay at the company long term after one week.
  • 63 percent know within the first month.

Once you lose an employee, his or her seat stays empty for 63 days, on average. It can take eight months for the next person to reach full productivity. Many companies spend 16 to 20 percent of an employee’s annual salary trying to replace them.

Without a clear understanding of the HR tasks, documents and tools they need to move through onboarding swiftly, frustration builds, processes stall and information falls through the cracks. A bad onboarding experience doesn’t just affect an employee’s first impressions. It can leave your organization exposed to security and compliance issues, which can affect your profitability and reputation.

How can an ECM solution help?

Automating HR onboarding workflow processes increases visibility and centralizes information management. A well-designed ECM supports effective, paperless onboarding and ultimately improves the service HR provides to new employees.

The ECM solution allows HR staff to track the onboarding process and monitor tasks across departments easily. It provides a comprehensive view of all onboarding-related information, and it should integrate with Human Resource Management Systems (HRMS) systems to ensure actions taken within the HRMS initiate associated processes in the ECM.

How do ECM systems improve security and compliance?

Storing sensitive employee data on paper has inherent security risks. Having to explain to employees how and why their personal information ended up in the wrong hands could have serious consequences, including litigation. A paper filing system isn’t sufficient for today’s business landscape. When Department of Labor auditors show up, they’ll likely discover multiple compliance violations due to inadequate recordkeeping and privacy controls. Keeping employee data in an ECM system provides an extra layer of security, ensuring only authorized users gain access.

In addition, employee separation happens with all staff eventually. Whether through resignation or termination, HR staff must follow termination processes and complete the employee offboarding checklist.

An ECM solution reduces risk by ensuring the separated employee no longer has access to applications, information and facilities. It can automate the offboarding process in a central location, including generating checklists, notifying departments of tasks and providing HR with critical paperwork. It also improves the experience for the separated employee, including automated, real-time status updates.

A well-designed ECM system eliminates inefficient paper-based onboarding while saving time and money. When people are your most important asset, ECM solutions can help eliminate errors, oversights, wasted time and potentially bad first impressions.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

How to break down information silos with technology

Technology is supposed to make everything easier, but that’s not always the case. Across all industries, multiple systems are put in place to solve business challenges. While each department may have visibility and control, that information remains locked within the department.

C-suite executives must go to several places, whether it’s software applications or Excel spreadsheets, to access companywide data. And in even the smallest companies, departments can become siloed.

When departments run various technologies, they cannot always access each other’s systems, which generates different metrics, different data and different outputs. Your employees may be spending valuable time compiling reports, which are already outdated when they reach the executive level.

However, these obstacles can be overcome. You can navigate your enterprise more efficiently and easily share information with the right enterprise operating system.

Smart Business spoke with Sudhir Achar, CEO and co-founder at Vantage Agora, about utilizing technology for better visibility and control.

When executives are isolated from data, what problems does this create?

Companies often prescribe for symptoms and don’t get to the root of the problems. Department heads or managers know what’s going on, but top executives don’t have a quick, universal way to review data from one place; this slows decision-making and may keep them from taking the right action.

Also, when departments are on different platforms and the applications don’t talk to each other, a problem might arise between them that needs to be escalated. If a CEO can’t understand what’s going on, how is he or she supposed to help resolve the issue?

How can technology help?

Even before you look at technology, start with discipline. People have different personality traits and methods, but there should be some standardization that leads to procedure. Once a standard operating procedure (SOP) is in place, it’s easier to draw out the common connections from each application and put that information together into actionable dashboards through an enterprise operating system.

This overarching software should be updated in real time where problems are easy to see, whether that’s at the top of the page and/or using colors, like a traffic light’s red, yellow and green, to show the company’s health and give executives the ability to dive deeper into problem areas.

Eventually, you can automate some SOPs and add triggers, so if something happens — good or bad — an automated notification goes to the staff who need to know. Some examples include alerts before sales misses a goal or a department falls out of compliance, as well as notifications when someone hits an incentive-based threshold.

An enterprise operating system can also help track trends, like daily output. If employees are high or low, does the workload need to be rebalanced? 

What else is important to understand when adding this kind of technology?

Start by mapping and auditing what you have. How many systems are you using? Do you need them all? Can you consolidate systems to make the data clearer?

You and your team can talk through the pain points and inventory of processes to see what can be automated. What can be done to make it easier with the current resources, as well as additional resources? Can technology help eliminate processes so people are focused on more high-value tasks, such as sales or customer interaction, rather than repetitive processes, like creating reports? 

Next, research enterprise operating systems to find one that fits your organization. The company that develops the system should have an implementation team who can help tailor the software so that it works for your operations.

Keep in mind what’s financially viable and whether the enterprise operating system offers anything to subset a system you currently pay for. Also, look at whether the technology can scale up in a viable way. Are additional features based on the number of users or added straight to the software? 

Finally, the technology should be easy to use and streamlined, which will increase employee buy-in and help executives organize and manage the business.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Vantage Agora

Using technology to gain independence from the office

Many employees in law firms, corporations, professional services organizations or other workplaces don’t want to be tied down to the office or a desk. However, while they’d like to work anywhere — home, a hotel or even the beach — they don’t want to compromise on performance or security.

Fortunately, a growing number of applications have mobile capacity, says David Cramer, manager of Business Development in Legal and Professional Services at Blue Technologies. It’s part of the digital transformation that’s providing better work-life balance and quality of life.

“Technology has advanced so that people can use a laptop or mobile device to do their job like they were in the office,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Cramer about how legal and professional services are attacking this pain point with technology.

How are document management systems becoming more mobile device friendly?

Many solutions are designed to be a cloud-ready, secure mobile application for people to access and organize their business content anywhere, any time and through any device. People can use them directly from a web browser, and they interface with common applications like Microsoft Outlook and Office, as well as Adobe Acrobat.

Program developers also are taking cues from Amazon, LinkedIn or Facebook. Most people have used a shopping or social media site without extensive training. They want their interfaces to have the same intuitive feel.

In the legal space, what are some common tools people now use from mobile devices?

Legal professionals often want to compare documents. It’s not unusual to have 20 or 30 versions going back and forth when parties negotiate the terms of a contract. Players in the legal vertical sell document comparison applications that can be used over a mobile device. While Microsoft Office can compare documents, it’s not always accurate or robust.

Another tool, which can now be used via a mobile device, is software that deletes hidden metadata. If a document has been repurposed without cleaning the metadata, a savvy Microsoft Word user can see changes that the original party didn’t want them to see. Applications that clean metadata may also have a smart-send feature. When someone is about to send an external document, it checks the email address. That way, the sender isn’t sending something confidential to the wrong email account.

Where does security come into this?

Security measures like two-factor identification and mobile device management applications can ensure employees conduct their remote business transactions securely.

Secure file transfer also can be set up for mobile devices. These solutions tightly integrate with a document management system. If a document is too sensitive or large to send via email, the document can be uploaded to a secure cloud location. Then, a link can be sent to someone to either download or view that document.

A secure collaboration space is another tool. It’s similar to Dropbox, Box or Google Drive, but it’s a secure space to collaborate with clients. When documents are put into that space, they are password protected, audited and tracked.

What do executives need to know about implementing these solutions?

Depending upon what a firm would like to do, it can move into working remotely in phases. For example, a corporation could start with the ability to do document comparison and metadata cleaning from mobile devices. Firms also may need to update or convert their document management solution to enable mobile capabilities.

Document management solutions require design to make the look and feel mesh with the workflows of business professionals. Somebody cannot click on a link, download software and run with it. There is a professional services component to implementing this software, and it’s essential to have expert help designing the system. Depending on the existing technology, documents also may need to be moved from one repository to another in a document conversion. Although it’s designed to be user-friendly and intuitive, some training and support are required.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

Making high costs a memory with managed print services

Printer costs are typically hidden. They are a low priority in the overall budget, lumped in with all office supplies.

“Usually the expenses come in small enough dollar amounts that it doesn’t get flagged, and no one is looking at the overall spend all at once,” says Matt White, Managed Print Solution manager at Blue Technologies. “When executives do uncover it, they are surprised at how high it is.”

For example, a company might have 10 locations with three or four printers at each location. That adds up to more than 30 printers. The total cost can be shocking, especially if employees at remote sites are getting supplies with a corporate credit card if the toner cartridge from the home office doesn’t come quickly enough.

Smart Business spoke with White about printing costs and the benefits of shifting those over to a managed print program.

What mistakes do you see employers make with regards to print costs?

Companies must consider the total cost of ownership. There’s a direct correlation between the upfront costs and the operating costs of a printer. For example, if an employer spends $300 on a printer, that printer’s toner might be $200 and last a month. However, with a larger machine, which costs $900, the toner could still be $200 but last several months.

Employers also might be inclined to buy a cheap printer and replace it if it breaks, rather than get it fixed. Is that truly the best use of their resources?

Companies need to know what their printers cost to buy and to operate.

How else should companies evaluate their print spend?

They should think about what each printer means to the organization. Is it in a warehouse, printing the pack slips that are necessary for each package that’s sent out? Is it in an office and used by the marketing department for all test prints, or is it on an executive’s desk and used solely for convenience? The location or the use of the printer is important. That can help dictate the costs of that machine and how much the organization wants to invest.

Additionally, sometimes the software dictates what type of machine is necessary. For example, many car dealerships use Lexmark printers because they work well with their auto dealer software, while many shipping companies use HPs for a similar reason.

Another factor is the soft cost. How much time are employees spending fixing printers, ordering supplies or sourcing new devices if something breaks?

The first step to evaluating print spend is transparency. Print costs and printer choices should be well-reasoned and well-known. Until an organization sets a benchmark, it cannot see where to make improvements.

Where does managed print come into this?

When companies take what they’re spending on toner, service, etc., and reallocate those funds to a technology partner, they usually save 5 or 10 percent right away. That provider has better buying power — it gets lower prices for ink or toner — and is more efficient because printers are its core competency.

A managed print solution also can lower the company’s soft costs, where IT sends a request for service and then goes back to higher-value tasks, or the print software triggers an alert to ship new toner to a remote location when it’s needed.

However, this is just the beginning. Because the technology provider owns this particular cost, monitoring it and reviewing it, it can give companies the tools to save even more by conditioning the print habits of employees, putting prints on the right devices or reducing prints.

Standardization is one of the best ways to manage cost over time. With a standard printer fleet, the end user experience is better, as employees are more comfortable using the machines. It also reduces the type of ink or toner that needs to be kept on hand, and the technology partner is more likely to carry the parts to quickly get a printer running again if it goes down.

It’s one thing to take over the service or supplies, but it’s the ongoing analysis that allows a technology provider to help companies be more efficient and continue to drive their costs down.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

How technology is helping people scan smarter, not harder

Scanning documents is still a considerable part of the workflow for most companies, whether it’s a matter of scanning contracts, invoices, reports or other paperwork.

When human resources, accounting, legal or general administration — really anyone processing files — can optimize that workflow by streamlining the process, time saved is money saved.

“People are trying to work smarter, not harder,” says Lauren Hanna, director of sales at Blue Technologies. “The largest cost to any business is labor. It’s beneficial to optimize the workflow. You can get your document to the right place faster and more efficiently.”

Smart Business spoke with Hanna about some of the features on your multifunction printer (MFP) that can increase your organization’s scanning productivity.

Where do you see inefficiencies when it comes to scanning?

Many times, people scan-to-email themselves, or they scan to a desktop shared file where they must open that file, rename it and save it again. They also may have to run it through some additional software at the computer to make it a searchable PDF or convert the file to another format like Word or Excel.

Consider this scenario, used across many workplaces. You receive a newly signed contract. It must be scanned as part of your approval process, so you scan it to your email. Afterward, you head back to your desk and right click to save the file onto your desktop or network file. Then, you email that document to two other departments so that the contract gets processed. It may not sound like much, but multiply that process by hundreds of contracts, and it adds up.

How can businesses use their MFP to reduce the time it takes to process these files?

There are many ways to reduce the time it takes to complete your workflow.

Newer MFPs have a number of features that can automate the processing and routing tasks your employees may be undertaking manually. You can set up workflows that will condense the number of steps and allow you to take those actions right at the machine as files are scanned. This saves time and reduces the likelihood of human error because you’re taking a multitiered approach down to one or just a few steps.

Other features that MFPs have include the ability to:

  • Name files at the MFP.
  • Route files to multiple destinations.
  • Merge files or distribute documents to wherever needed.
  • Add a watermark.
  • Convert the file format.

You also can set up parameters to redact information. Therefore, confidential information, such as Social Security or driver’s license numbers, isn’t being scanned across the network.

In addition, you can add optical character recognition (OCR) at the machine, so it’s no longer a flat PDF or image file. Then, you’ll be able to highlight words, cut and paste, and search for keywords. If you’re scanning a 20-page contract, for example, you can now search for a specific name, clause or term.

Data capture is a useful tool used to optimize workflow and improve process efficiency. This ‘grabs’ or ‘captures’ data directly from scans and automatically imports it into different business applications. Using this feature reduces manual data entry from scanned files.

What else do employers need to know?

Technology applications are highly scalable. As your workflow needs grow, the technology can scale up with your business. It also helps keep your processes uniform and streamlined.

Many employers have benefited when they’ve taken time to improve their scanning process because nearly every business has an application for this technology that can be applied to their organization.

It’s all a matter of working smarter, not harder.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.