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.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

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.

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