Do you have a business continuity plan in place to survive the next disruption?

Congratulations. Your company has found a way to mitigate the disruption created by the COVID-19 pandemic and you are still in business. But are you prepared to survive the next disruption?

“It’s critical to have a business continuity plan in place that will detail the processes and procedures to keep a company operating — or restore operations — whatever the disruption may be, from a physical disaster like something weather-related, a cyberattack, or another pandemic,” says Eric Thal, managed services manager at Blue Technologies.

Smart Business spoke with Thal about how a business continuity plan can help ensure your company is able to tackle the next disruption, no matter what occurs.

Why is it important for every company to have a business continuity plan?

Companies that don’t have a plan run the risk of being unable to continue servicing or selling to their clients. Having a plan in place to quickly recover directly impacts both an organization’s revenue and its reputation.

Businesses need to plan for every possible scenario because one plan isn’t going to address every disaster. The steps you take for surviving in a pandemic are not the same as you would take following a natural disaster. For example, during the pandemic, workers are working remotely. But what if there is no internet access? Consider as many factors as possible that could disrupt your business.

What are the steps for creating a business continuity plan?

The first step is to classify the data within your organization. Involve people from every department and identify which users should have access to which data and why. Understand where that data is so that when an incident occurs, you know which employees are trying to access what data and that there is more than one path to get to that information.

Identify what the objectives and goals of the plan are and what the major areas of concern are. Then establish a preparedness team — stakeholders in the business who will be called on to act in a disaster. Also have back-ups in place in case those stakeholders are not available to ensure continuity of operations.

It’s difficult to plan for everything, but it’s worth trying. Do a risk assessment that includes everything you think could happen, and if it did, what the resulting action would be. Identify the essential functions of the business. What is the minimum you have to be able to do in order to continue operating? Once you have identified those functions, prepare a plan to deal with each of them.

Finally, review and test the plan. Just having a plan doesn’t mean anything if you haven’t run through the scenarios to make sure it actually works. Don’t just check the box that you have a plan in place.

How can an outside consultant help a business ensure it’s covering all of the bases?

Consultants have worked with hundreds, if not thousands of businesses, and know what works and what doesn’t. That person can help a business leverage best practices in its industry by sharing information about what other businesses are doing. It’s not a question of if a business faces a disruption, but when. And when that next disruption occurs, it’s critical that you not only have a plan in place but have one that has been tested and that you know will be effective.

No matter how big or small, every company needs to have a tested business continuity plan in place. Get people involved from every department, it’s not just an IT problem or an executive problem. Each business unit is uniquely affected by a disruption and it’s important to understand the full picture.

Having a plan wasn’t a priority for many businesses going into 2020, but it is going into 2021. You may think it’s not going to happen to you, but it’s only a matter of when.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies

Bringing print jobs in house provides flexibility, consistency

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, more companies are bringing their large-format printing in house, both to minimize outside contact and to print pandemic-related signage.

“Large-format flatbed printing allows companies greater flexibility and control, and the ability to print on any substrate up to 2 inches thick as organizations are repositioning their signage and changing their messaging,” says Lauren Hanna, director of sales at Blue Technologies Inc. “That allows for printing on glass, wood, coverings, textiles, packaging and labels, all with superior image quality.”

Smart Business spoke with Hanna about how bringing large-format printing in house can create more flexibility and consistency, and help with your organization’s branding.

How can companies benefit from bringing large-format printing in house?

It gives them flexibility to print signage and other communications on materials that you can’t print with on traditional devices because they are too thick. And it gives you flexibility; you can print two signs or 200, and next week you can change it, and customize by location, sign, packaging or label. This allows for greater brand control and more ways to get your messaging out.

It also provides consistency by allowing them to take control over the printing process. With COVID-19, companies require instructional signage regarding masks and other requirements, and large-format printing allows them to create those signs in house and change them as necessary. Large-format printing allows for the printing of car wraps, yard signs, indoor and outdoor signage, repositionable signage and specialty media, among others, providing greater flexibility in quantity and quality.

How can large-format printing improve branding?

More than ever, companies need to stand out, and having control over printing on packaging and labels can help them do that. For example, if a manufacturer is producing paint brushes but is outsourcing the printing of its labels, that can stall the process and increase the cost of the production. Bringing the printing in house not only increases control, it can drive more profit.

In addition, if there is an error, you’re not waiting until the labels — or other products — arrive to realize it. And it gives you more control on order size and the flexibility to change quickly. Organizations want to print smarter and are looking at where they can get the biggest bang for their buck.

How are changes in consumer behavior changing the printing industry?

Companies are selling more online, so they don’t necessarily need the same sales collateral as they did in the past The sales collateral they need is evolving. But they do need packaging to match their online branding and tie it to their digital advertising, and if they are shipping, they have the opportunity to brand their packaging and labels.

With people spending less time in stores, companies need to create labels that make their product stand out on the shelves. Large-format printing allows them to tweak and control the brand, while outsourcing packaging, labels, signage, etc., can cause limitations or create inconsistencies. Businesses need to think wider; there are a lot of opportunities to get your messaging out.

How can an organization get started?

Work with a professional partner that can help you explore the benefits to your business. Strategically work with a partner that can evaluate your signage, label and packaging print needs to create a customized solution that goes beyond the basics to encompass marketing, car wraps and other specialty media needs. Taking a deep dive with a trusted partner can show you where you can gain the biggest return on investment.

A lot of people are nervous when starting, but you don’t have to be an expert in printing solutions. The machines are very user friendly, and you’ll receive training.
Businesses need to be thinking not just about today, but about what the business is going to look like in six months, how they’re going to get their message out and how they’re going to get their product out. How are you preparing for whatever the new normal will look like?

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

How an ECM system can save time and money, and limit errors

With significant disruptions to business during the pandemic and employees suddenly forced to work remotely, companies are scrambling to manage their data — some of which is still on paper at the office along with vital information in separate sources such as emails, ERPs, file shares and faxes.

“Previously, employees spent hours a week tracking down paper documents,” says Lora Holman, advanced solutions sales executive for ECM at Blue Technologies. “With remote work and no physical access to documents, companies are implementing Enterprise Content Management systems to access every document in one location digitally.”

Smart Business spoke with Holman about how integrating an ECM system into your business can save time and money, limit data entry errors and free employees to focus on more critical tasks.

What is Enterprise Content Management?

ECM is the key to digital transformation, moving an organization’s vital information into a central repository, establishing one source of truth. When information is on paper and in cabinets, it wastes time when people get up, search for documents and pass them along. Then those documents can get misfiled, costing time and money. With the pandemic, and people working remotely, it isn’t practical to access paper documents.

ECM automatically scans documents into electronic filing cabinets, indexing the information with key words to create a flexible and powerful searching tool whenever information needs to be located fast. It stores the information in its native format while providing tools for annotating, versions and e-signatures, all while keeping a detailed history and audit trail for compliance and data security.

What is the first step toward implementing ECM?

Think about employees and where they spend the most administrative time. An adviser can help you consider how to minimize labor efforts to run more productively and profitably and help determine how digital transformation can help your business. What you don’t want to do is eat the elephant all in one bite. Figure out where you are going to see the first return on your investment. Make it practical and break it down, so it’s doable.

How can ECM improve a business’s accounting processes?

When a business receives goods delivered from a vendor, accounting must verify from several documents that the item, quantity and purchase order match up to pay the vendor invoice. This takes up employee time finding all relevant documents, printing to compare and verify the match, then re-entering data into the ERP business system.

ECM allows you to access documents in one central place in a virtual filing cabinet. This can save a tremendous amount of time and free up accounts payable and receivable employees for tasks such as determining if they can take advantage of early pay discounts with suppliers that can improve profitability. In addition, entering documents manually can create errors that are difficult to catch until they are further downstream. With disruptions in staffing due to the pandemic, there are fewer people that need to do more with less. Because there is still the same volume of documents, ECM is more critical than ever.

What are other advantages?

Because the system pulls data together, organized in one central repository, it empowers employees to search across a whole volume of documents.
It can also help you identify your most prominent areas of lost productivity, which provides greater owner control. If you can’t see across all your data points, it’s hard to manage them. Most owners will start in one area of the company. Because ECM is scalable, you don’t have to buy a new solution and can apply that budget to other areas of the business.

Is ECM secure?

It takes data protection to a whole new level. You can lock down permissions, and it’s more secure than emails and file sharing. Step back and think about your data and where people are spending their time. ECM can help you get some of that back, improve efficiencies, and gain better visibility to manage your business.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

With employees working remotely, cloud-based solutions provide security

As a business owner, your information is a gold mine. You take steps to protect your servers and keep your data safe from ransomware, malware and other attacks. But in reality, how safe is that data?

“Even with all the measures you put in place, what you think is secure internally is not,” says Curtis Verhoff, advanced solutions manager at Blue Technologies Inc. “The cloud provides a tighter layer of security. And with COVID-19 and more people working remotely, a cloud-based solution can keep your business running as close to normal as possible.”

Smart Business spoke with Verhoff about why it’s critical to embrace cloud-based document solutions and how doing so can both protect your data and quickly and securely enable the mobility of your workforce.

What are the biggest concerns businesses have about moving to the cloud?

They have a hard time letting go of what they think of as the security of keeping data in-house.

But the cloud provides tighter security than if they house data on their own servers. And with people suddenly being forced to work remotely, that is critical.

Even if companies previously embraced technology, they were still dealing with paper documents. The cloud allows you to share documents more securely than email.

A lot of businesses were afraid to dip their toes into a cloud-based solution, and nothing was forcing them to. With the pandemic, culture shock happened, and they were forced to change whether they wanted to or not. Then once they started seeing increased efficiencies and a reduction of lost time, they are wondering why they didn’t make a move sooner.

How can a cloud-based solution benefit companies whose workers are suddenly working remotely?

While employees are working remotely, businesses need to operate as they did previously, finding ways to continue to do the same type of document processing outside the office that they did inside.

This isn’t going away. Finding ways of enhancing, embracing and using technology from a cloud-based sense is going to be part of the everyday business process.

This pandemic has opened people’s eyes to the fact that they’ve got to have a way of doing business no matter what happens to disrupt the marketplace. From a planning perspective, you need to have a way of being productive no matter where people are.

How can a business move to the cloud?

Team up with a reliable partner that can help you understand your challenges, pain points and inefficiencies, and what you’re missing by not using this technology. Your partner will learn what you’re trying to accomplish and come up with robust solutions that allow people to be productive, give them powerful solutions and prepare your business to deal with future mass disruptions.

Having a trusted partner can help you adjust and modify your solutions strategically as your business moves into the future.

Once the pandemic passes, will businesses return to the old way of doing things?

This could happen again. Whether it’s a virus or another long-term disruption, you want these solutions in place, so the discomfort and pain you’ve felt through this don’t happen again.

Businesses need to be prepared, and once they start to see the cost savings, the reduction they realize from not having all of this infrastructure, they’ll realize that, from a cost standpoint, it makes sense.

Once you’ve embraced these technologies to help your workforce overcome this situation and keep your company afloat, you need to continue to embrace those, whether you are in a physical office or working remotely.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

Shore up potential IT risks created by the shift to remote work

Managed IT service providers are busier than ever. The massive shift to remote work has exposed significant areas for improvement within companies’ infrastructure and IT policies. These providers are helping companies address those issues and concerns so that businesses can continue to operate securely and productively.

“There were a lot of risks exposed as many people worked from home these last few months,” says Eric Thal, managed services manager at Blue Technologies. “Businesses need to work quickly, leveraging IT specialists, to update their IT policies and procedures or develop new ones entirely.”

Smart Business spoke with Thal about how managed service providers can help companies patch IT vulnerabilities as companies adjust to a new normal.

What are companies’ main IT concerns right now?

Companies are looking for consistent and qualified IT support. They want to be sure that if an issue arises, critical or otherwise, someone can respond quickly. That’s been the case as concern grows over securing networks and devices as more employees work remotely. There are new questions about firewall configurations, whether VPNs are set up appropriately and if corporate data are being transmitted and stored securely.

Before the pandemic, less than 5 percent of the workforce had the option to work from home. There are now estimates that anywhere between 15 to 30 percent of the workforce could have a work-from-home option going forward. As remote work becomes more commonplace, there will be an increased need to address the IT processes and risks posed by that shift.

What liability issues should companies look into?

With the work-from-home shift, many organizations had to scramble to purchase new laptops, tablets, or additional equipment and collaboration tools for their workers. That’s because, in many cases, most or all employees were working on desktops and used to being in the office with their colleagues. These organizations had to deal with delays in getting this new equipment out to their workforce fully provisioned and secure. The delay created liability for these organizations because many of the employees, in the interim, used their personal devices for work.

This liability issue can be mitigated by deploying mobile device management. Whether the device is company-issued or personal, an MDM tool can secure and contain corporate data at each end point. In the event that a device is lost or stolen, it can be remotely locked and wiped so that no one can access the corporate data. If it’s a personal device, mobile device management can keep all corporate data separate from the user’s personal data, which means if the device has to be remotely locked and wiped, none of the personal information is affected.

Also, it is important to note that managed service providers can help eliminate delays in procuring new equipment because they maintain an inventory of IT assets that can be loaned to businesses until they are able to receive their new equipment.

What should companies talk about with their IT providers?

The most important conversation to have is about ensuring the remote workforce can access the network and critical data of the organization securely. There should also be updates to work-from-home and acceptable usage policies.
Managed service providers can help with security training for employees. Security awareness training covers the basics through the most advanced, such as how to identify a phishing email and proper data handling procedures. Employees are often a gateway into an organization’s network, so this training, or at least a refresher given because of the significant changes to typical routines, can go a long way toward bolstering security.

It is always a good time to do an IT infrastructure assessment to see what gaps might exist in the environment. Pre-pandemic assessments are no longer valid because work-from-home has created additional exposure, so it’s important to reassess what’s going on in the environment, check for new vulnerabilities and remediate. This will help give companies peace of mind as more employees return to work and adjust to the new normal.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

How managed print services can help avoid disruption, save money

Many companies, in a very short time, have had to facilitate work-from- home arrangements as they adjust to government restrictions put in place to protect people from the coronavirus. And many of them still have printing needs to be met. Fortunately, some companies, through a managed print services program, have been able to help employees meet that need.

“Through a managed print services program, companies are able to send multifunction devices capable of scanning and copying to employees’ homes,” says Matt White, Managed Print Solution manager at Blue Technologies. “It means companies can outfit at-home offices with the same capabilities available at the main office.”

Smart Business spoke with White about the ways managed print services are saving companies money, creating efficiencies and helping businesses continue uninterrupted during the pandemic.

What are the misconceptions about managed print services?
Companies might believe that they don’t print a lot, and their small fleet of printers doesn’t cost them much, so a managed print services program is unnecessary. They think that this type of program is expensive and that there might be significant upfront costs.

In truth, a managed print services provider works to save companies money. They quantify what it currently costs a company to maintain its devices, then compare that to a managed print services program. And almost every time it’s going to save the company money to implement such a program.

At the most basic level, these programs service and supply printers. More complete solutions enable companies to not only keep their devices up and running but also start controlling costs by looking at efficiency and standardization, using analytics to determine what’s happening in the printing environment.

How do analytics help companies save money?
Analytics offer visibility down to the device. The data can show which device is costing the company the most, where workflow has the highest cost, and what can be done to improve on that. That can help companies gain predictability in terms of printing costs because often, the total cost of ownership and maintaining a fleet of devices goes into a general office budget. That makes it hard to separate the real costs for day-to-day printing. Analytics can separate out where exactly print costs are being accrued.

Working with a technology partner brings a wealth of experience and information
to the task. It can help establish best practices that offer cost savings and greater efficiencies while ensuring employees have what they need, wherever they are.

How can organizations determine whether a managed print service is right for them?
Technology providers typically offer a free assessment to examine the environment and determine what each device costs to operate. Operators should then talk with the providers about organizational pain points. For instance, a company may need to get printers out to all employees’ home offices, reduce costs or upgrade devices. Find a provider that’s not only capable of achieving those goals but can do it in a way that is cost-efficient.

What makes a good managed print services provider? 
The provider should have a proven track record and references from companies that have used its services to back that up. Different providers have different offerings, so it’s a good idea to compare and contrast each to find the one that’s the best fit. Many providers can supply companies with toner and cartridges, and service devices, but look closer to see if they have multiple device offerings to suit any task or work environment the company might have.

Working with a managed print services provider can also be a vendor consolidation opportunity that brings document management, workflow solutions and more in one relationship. Also, consider how the provider handles analytics. What can the provider show the company that’s going to help it measure ROI over time and how is that data presented?

With office environments changing, it’s a good time for companies to start the conversation about their print environment. Unmet needs or uncontained costs could be creating unrecognized problems.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

How to keep your documents secure and under wraps

Security is a growing concern for all employers, but law firms and professional services organizations are at the forefront of this, as these businesses adopt security tools and practices that change how sensitive and/ or confidential documents are stored, created and shared.

“New security models in document management systems and security features that are applied directly to the document have grown in popularity in legal organizations,” says David Cramer, manager of Business Development in Legal and Professional Services at Blue Technologies. “And it’s certainly something that may trickle down into other verticals and be utilized by other businesses.”

Smart Business spoke with Cramer about corporate document security trends.

What’s new with how documents are stored, including who has access?

In the past, document management systems have been set up under an open security model. Everyone with access can see any content that resides the system — even if it doesn’t deal with their particular client or workload. Sometimes this is called an optimistic security model.

Now, some law firm clients are saying, ‘We don’t want this particular matter to be visible to anyone outside of the team of attorneys, paralegals and legal assistants that are working on it. Nobody else in the firm should have access.’ Therefore, businesses may need to implement a pessimistic or need-to-know security model by adding security functions through their current document management vendor or layering a third-party security solution over the document management system.

Corporate customers, such as those in financial services and health care, may require professional services to go through an IT audit to be sure security measures have been applied, including restricting content. While these audits aren’t new, some corporations are asking for verification of specific practices.

Large organizations also have started moving away from an open security model in their document management system. They’re restricting content within different departments, such as the corporate legal department and/or compliance.

How is security being added to the documents themselves?

Document cleaning tools — created after a savvy Microsoft Word user used metadata to discover Microsoft’s annual report was created on a Mac computer — are growing in popularity. If an older document is repurposed, these tools clean the metadata, so people cannot see prior edits. Any document that goes outside of an organization can be cleaned via a desktop computer, laptop or mobile device before it’s sent over email or through a secure file sharing tool. This cleaning can be done automatically or by giving the sender an option to clean or not clean the document.

Another useful tool is safe sending, which is used to prevent the Outlook oops — sending a message to the wrong person because a different email address popped in when the sender started typing the recipient’s name. If an employee is sending an attachment to an external party, the email would be flagged, and a dialog box would pop up and ask, ‘Here is the email address it’s going to, is that correct? Yes or no.’

What else would you like to share?

It’s important to remember the human factor. Last fall, a large law firm drew criticism because an employee didn’t utilize the proper technology — in this case, redaction software. Someone transferred a Word document to a PDF, blackened the language in the PDF and filed it with a court. When a reporter requested the document, copied the language and pasted it into Word, the redacted language became visible. In the world of business, it’s not only having the right technology tools; it’s training to ensure true user adoption is adhered to throughout the organization.

In addition, some vendors are using artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor cybersecurity attacks and determine if it’s an external or internal threat. The AI examines technology users to understand their patterns and workflows and flag abnormalities — behavior changes like downloading a massive number of documents — so administrators, security, compliance, or risk officers can further investigate.

 

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

The benefits of moving your IT needs offsite

As business technology grows more important and complex, many organizations have found it makes sense to outsource their information technology.

“By using a managed service provider, they’re able to outsource that function to someone who’s an expert at it and allow their staff to focus on their main business objectives,” says Eric Thal, managed services manager at Blue Technologies. “It also enables their internal IT directors and staff to work on strategic initiatives, rather helpdesk-type questions.”

Smart Business spoke with Thal about the advantages of outsourcing your IT and what to keep in mind as you make the switch.

Why do companies outsource their IT?

The biggest reason is focus. Companies can focus on the product or service they’re in business for, freeing up employees to work on high-value strategic initiatives. The managed service provider can even take on the role of dealing with outside vendors, so there’s no more waiting on hold to find out what’s going on with the internet connectivity.

Many businesses find it difficult to staff an IT role or department. Often, the office manager or controller has to wear a second hat and be the IT point person. Plus, if there’s turnover or someone goes on vacation, it’s challenging to ensure the level of service remains high.

Working with a managed service provider, who acts as a virtual CIO, enables a company to predictably budget its technology costs for a given quarter or year. With managed services, it becomes an operating expense. So, it’s a consistent, predictable spend to manage the IT infrastructure, as opposed to large capital expenses every couple of years. Or working on a break-fix model — something breaks, the provider comes and fixes it, and then because they did that in June, June’s bill is significantly more than the rest of the year.

Finally, it reduces the risk. An outsourced expert will better understand cybersecurity, which mitigates the risk of security breaches that can cause damage to the technology, the organization, and its reputation. The managed service provider can proactively monitor the network to identify and solve potential issues before they cause downtime. It also can help vet new technology and ensure the business has an accurate inventory of all assets. The outside firm helps ease day-to-day management while equipping the company for future growth.

What types of businesses are more likely to outsource their IT?

While all types and sizes of organizations can benefit from outside IT help, a lot of it is compliance-driven around credit cards and health care information, or the compliance requirements for anyone that supplies technology or products to the government or deals with customers in the European Union. For example, a small doctor’s office won’t want a full-time IT staff on-site, but it’s important to make sure the hard drives are encrypted, and no one has access to personally identifiable information or health care records.

It’s also difficult to staff up every domain that’s needed. A midsize organization might have one or two on staff, but those one or two people aren’t experts in everything related to IT. An outside provider can help fill any gaps.

In addition, if a company has a large geographic footprint or many employees who work from home, it can be difficult to have in-house IT that can handle the different users and their locations.

How should companies pick an outsource provider?

When looking for a potential partner, make sure they use a well-established framework, like ITIL, to manage the IT infrastructure. Not every engineer or managed service provider knows these frameworks as well as they should.

You want an outsourced partner with a strong onboarding process because the first 90 days are critical. That’s when they do an initial assessment of the network and use that as a blueprint for the roadmap and plan going forward. Then, the relationship will become a virtual CIO position where the outside firm meets regularly with the owners or a team to review what’s working, what’s not working, what adjustments need to be made, and help them plan for the future.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

Four reasons to bring production printing in-house

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

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

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

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

Why do some organizations keep outsourcing their production printing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

How automation can aid cost recovery in your business

Organizations are showing more and more interest in automating day-to-day tasks and activities, whether it’s in sales, customer service, human resources, accounting or administration, says Curtis Verhoff, advanced solutions manager at Blue Technologies.

“While automation isn’t a new concept, customers — both current and new — are bringing up the idea first,” he says. “Rather than technology providers pushing companies toward automating tasks and processes, businesses are providing the momentum.”

Content today often comes in via email through electronic forms, rather than paper, from customers, prospects, vendors, clients, etc. Organizations are exploring technology solutions that can not only capture the data easily, but also integrate it with the existing systems to expedite their processing. A nonprofit, for example, with low staff numbers but a high need to stay connected to donors, may find these technologies very beneficial.

Smart Business spoke with Verhoff about implementing automation in your organization.

What kinds of technology can add automation to daily operations?

There are several dozen workflow automation data capturing solutions that can be added to an employer’s existing business technology. This middleware is software that lies between two systems, such as Microsoft Office 365 and a business management software like SAP, to make it easier to communicate and manage data. With help from a technology provider, organizational leaders can determine which technology fits best to streamline and/or automate processes.

For instance, a health care facility had 40 different fax lines where the information came in; so many channels to so many different people created bottlenecks and inefficiencies. Under the right technology plan, the organization was able to consolidate down to 15 fax numbers and add software that looked at the information on those incoming faxes and automatically redirected it to the appropriate team under consistent logic and rules. The solution saved both hard and soft costs.

In another scenario, rather than have CPAs in an accounting department doing low-level jobs, one company added a technology solution to monitor incoming emails and documents through a centralized accounts payable group email box. Then, the employees just have to validate the information that’s automatically loaded and send it in the right direction.

Does this software require a big budget to implement?

Up to this point, many automation tools were expensive and mostly utilized at the large enterprise level. However, middleware solutions that can help organizations automate day-to-day tasks are now very cost affordable for all sized companies. It is a good idea, though, to spend the resources upfront to ensure the right solution is chosen and the relevant employees are thoroughly trained.

How can employers get started with automation?

The first step is understanding all processes that are being utilized by the organization. Talk to the employees who undertake these tasks every day to learn the standard operating procedures in detail and identify bottlenecks or inefficiencies.

Once this is mapped out in as much detail as possible, it’s easier to determine at what points manual steps can be replaced with technology. Each scenario differs and requires a custom approach to maximize the ROI when technology is implemented at the team or department level.

The right technology will save time and reduce potential mistakes that can be costly. It will minimize manual labor and free up your employees to do more important things for the organization.

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