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.

How to control your printing to save paper, your budget and more

A shift has started with managing print. Organizations, no matter the industry — legal, education, manufacturing or business services — may wonder if their printing costs are excessive. While they’ve talked about taking control to manage their print better to reduce waste, impact the environment, cut costs and make the workplace more productive, many of these organizations are only now beginning to take action, says Curtis Verhoff, advanced solutions manager at Blue Technologies Inc.

“Print has been one of the last things organizations take a look at because their employees were comfortable with paper,” he says. “But now, we’re seeing a pattern in small and midsize businesses where people are taking a serious interest.”

Print management solutions can help companies move from thinking about managing print to doing it because managed print provides data, which can be used to make smarter decisions and help change behaviors.

Smart Business spoke with Verhoff about print management and cost recovery strategies.

Does management typically know how much they’re spending on printing or if the organization is wasteful?

Many people have a good handle on large items like a lease on their multifunction printers (MFPs), but when it goes beyond that to local or network printers and supplies, they don’t have a clear picture of the related spend or what people are doing. They have a list of questions about the environment.

They don’t realize too many color pages are printed, when black and white would have been sufficient. They may arbitrarily see unclaimed print jobs sitting around or a considerable amount of paper in the recycling bin by the printer, but they don’t know if it’s enough to be considered wasteful. They haven’t taken an inventory to see if they’re paying for supplies and equipment they don’t need. They don’t know whether people are printing documents that would be just as effective if they were shared electronically.

How do organizations start to change this?

It begins with the ability to gather additional information to make better decisions through silent monitoring. The company needs to know its culture and end-user tendencies before it can make changes to who, what, why and where. Print management solutions and an assessment from an office technology provider can help give organizations a place to start. After some tracking, they’ll see habits that can be changed to reduce costs, waste and inefficiencies.

What are some steps that can make a difference?

Companies can eliminate expensive desktop printers, which cuts the cost of maintaining those additional devices. Depending on the volumes and printing practices, the ratio is usually eight to 12 people for each print device. If the employees are concerned about the security of sensitive documents, secure print can be added to a shared device. This is where a document doesn’t print out unless someone manually releases it from the machine using a PIN (personal identification number) or swiping a card.

Organizations also can create rules or defaults at whatever level they’d like — on a transaction or print job level, or by user or department. For example, all pages from a web browser might automatically print in black and white, double-sized.

They can upgrade hardware to something that’s more efficient to operate. New equipment may cost more upfront, but the lower cost of operation outweighs that. (Again, these kinds of decisions cannot be made without having the right data first.)

Other tools include introducing tracking and controlling MFPs and then optimizing those with reports.

Beyond setting print policies and user quotas, education is critical. The bigger the organization is, the harder it is to keep everyone on the same page, and different organizations have different drivers. Employees may not get excited about cutting costs, but they can get behind a definitive environmental impact or the idea that savings will be used for something that directly benefits them. Your technology provider can help you craft a strategy that is more apt to create buy-in.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

How to work remotely in a cyber-safe environment

When it comes to cybersecurity, you’re as strong as your weakest link — and that often comes when your employees work offsite. This is true for many industries, and it’s undoubtedly important for law firms or corporate legal departments where reputation is critical.

In the Panama Papers leak, more than 11.5 million documents from Mossack Fonseca described over 200,000 shell corporations used for tax evasion. In 2016, three foreign nationals hacked into a New York City law firm to use information for insider trading, gaining more than $4 million.

“The risk associated with law firms is higher as they become a bigger target. You can easily find examples of firms that have been compromised and all of their client data has been made public. The threat is real,” says Paul Sems, chief technology officer, Blue Technologies Inc.

Lawyers Mutual reported 22 percent of law firms experienced a cyberattack or data breach in 2017, which was up 14 percent.

Smart Business spoke with Sems about how to ensure cybersecurity is part of the equation when legal professionals work remotely.

Why is working remotely a security concern?

Most organizations, including law firms, have systems to ensure the on-site network is secure. The real challenge comes when employees want to bring their devices into your network or work remotely. They may use a home computer with viruses on it, or their computer-provided laptop doesn’t have the same firewalls and intrusion detection when it’s using public Wi-Fi. You’re going into an unknown or uncontrolled environment where 1) you could be susceptible to additional threats, and 2) your information could be intercepted.

What can ensure remote access is secure?

You need to implement the following:

Education — Train anyone who uses technology systems. They need to be aware of social engineering attacks and educated on what they should and shouldn’t click. They need to understand which wireless networks are safe. For example, don’t connect to free Wi-Fi. Instead, bring a hot spot or sync to your phone. The Webroot Threat Report’s 2018 midyear update found companies that ran one to five security awareness training campaigns saw a 33 percent phishing click-through rate. That drops to 28 percent with six to ten campaigns and 13 percent with 11 or more campaigns.

A properly configured environment — Have your IT professional ensure your system is compliant with best practices, such as correct and secure settings for phones, laptops and the accompanying software, and that devices are up-to-date.

Data needs to be stored securely. In most cases, attorneys can access all client data. That data, however, needs to be encrypted by default, which is also called encrypted at rest, so it’s not easy for just anyone to read those files. This needs to occur both within the office and with remote access — in case someone loses a laptop or a device is compromised. The encryption needs to be set up for transport so that no one can listen to the communication. All law firms should encrypt email, which is now available on all the modern platforms, including Microsoft.

Continuous monitoring and remediation — Keep an eye on your systems to ensure they still are compliant. Then, not only are you detecting the problem, but you’re also getting help to get it fixed.

How can technology providers help?

An outside provider can do initial security assessments and ensure the management system is tracking everything in a secure environment, both on-premises and through remote access. It also can help provide a response plan so you know how to respond to an incident. Moreover, it can monitor and maintain that environment, in the event the internal IT staff is busy on other matters.

Legal and professional services have unique challenges and therefore may need specialized solutions. For example, if attorneys have international clients, they fall under the new General Data Protection Regulation in the European Union. It is data protection by design and by default, which means you have to run a secure infrastructure and if someone compromises data you have significantly increased liabilities. Make sure your technology provider has experience in your industry to truly understand its nuances.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

Declutter and organize your information with a content management solution

In most businesses today, file cabinets and paper documents are dwindling as employees scan documents and create digital records or forms. The problem is the information isn’t organized. It might sit on a shared network drive, where security is poor, and data can be easily removed or overridden. There’s no way to use analytics to search and information is moved and lost.

“In the past year, many companies we’ve gone into store information electronically, but realize they can no longer manage it. It becomes a hodgepodge. They need our help cleaning up the clutter and organizing it,” says Nano Zegarra, chief technology officer at Blue Technologies.

Smart Business spoke with Zegarra about how to use content management.

What’s the difference between document management and content management?

Document management was tied to papers or files. Technology providers are moving toward content management solutions, which manages information, such as a client record in your customer relationship management system. It’s no longer applied to a document or item.

What’s the easiest way to get started with content management?

Every organization is different, but you should focus on the most sensitive and important files. For a manufacturer, that might be data sheets, which are updated regularly. In a school district, it’s student records. For a hospital, it’s likely the patient records. In other organizations, employees are the most important asset, so their documents need to be secure. Perhaps, it’s documents with a strict retention, where a file needs to be removed after seven years. Otherwise, if a legal or regulatory matter comes up, that file may be discoverable.

Document storage and life cycle can be difficult to manage. When documents are transactional — move from person to person or must be reviewed — that’s where content management, which adds structure and forces everyone to act in a certain manner, can be beneficial.

How does it typically evolve from there?

Once it starts with a vital area or process, such as finance or HR, one thing often leads to another. A company might start using content management for accounts payable. It inputs invoices, purchase orders and packing slips. Then, it makes sense to add contracts and vendor information.

Enterprise content management is the goal, where everyone follows the same rules and there’s business continuity. That way, employees aren’t asking for help or hunting around. It’s in a singular solution with access to everything related to that account — invoices, contracts, issues, emails, etc.

Is it difficult to integrate content management into existing technology?

Usually it’s not a problem to move into a solution that manages content. If you have something you’re comfortable with, you may be able to add features and link it together. It’s rare where the only option is to take it all out and put it into something else.

What are some features to consider?

Most content management solutions today are not pre-configured. They are user friendly, and the solution molds itself around you. You don’t have to use a wrongly named tool or fill out an unnecessary field.

The idea is to avoid time wasted creating, looking for or deleting documents. At one company, each office filled out and sent Excel sheets to corporate, but with no connection to the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, someone had to retype all those values. Content management can mimic the Excel form, and once it’s submitted, it’s reviewed before being pushed into the ERP. As companies grow, you don’t want to throw more bodies at menial tasks. It’s more efficient to spend time looking for errors that can be corrected, rather than keying something in twice.

How can a technology provider help?

The best providers work with you to eliminate pain points. If you had a magic wand, what would you like this to do and look like? For instance, it would be great to type in a value and have everything come up, broken down by year, rather than have all contracts over here and the invoices over there. Your technology provider can help you figure out what will work best for your organization — and give you a few options to choose from.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

Target your customers where it counts with variable data printing

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

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

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

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

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

How does variable data printing work?

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

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

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

What software can automate this kind of customization?

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

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

What are some practical considerations for setting up these solutions?

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

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

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

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

Maximize the efficiency of your technology with vendor management

As organizations grow, different departments will invest in technology and business applications to support that growth. Human resources might buy HR software to manage an influx of hiring, while sales could see a need for a new customer relationship management system.

However, these departments often are siloed. They have their own budgets and may be independently sourcing technology without communicating with other departments, seeing the overall technology picture or reviewing the current vendor relationships.

This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that many organizations today have fewer internal IT resources.

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

Smart Business spoke with Coleman about choosing the right technology partnership(s) to maximize the efficiency of your technology portfolio.

Why is vendor management important?

Many organizations fall into a reactive state, where they go out and try to find somebody to fix a technology problem, rather than leveraging their current vendors. In fact, within the technology space, many vendors often overlap, and it can be confusing, such as not knowing who is managing what licenses. This causes inefficiencies.

At the same time, the C-level executives — who rely on directors or vice presidents to source new technology — often only see the needs of business from an operational standpoint. They don’t consider the need for proactive vendor management. They don’t know if their software vendors are hitting the key performance indicators, or if their managed service partner is maintaining all of the service-level agreements it committed to in the contract three years ago.

There’s a soft cost associated with procurement and vendor management. That’s why very large organizations have a strategic sourcing division or procurement department. If you’re not looking at your full technology portfolio and associated vendors, you could be missing out on potential savings and efficiencies.

How do business leaders know for sure this is a problem and what can they do to fix it?

You’ll want to look for key indicators that you may have a vendor issue. Perhaps you’ve had the same vendor(s) in the same space doing the same thing for years, and you haven’t re-evaluated or conducted periodic business reviews. Or you may find you have many disparate and overlapping systems across your organization. Another concern is if your business is still doing things the way they’ve always been done, since your technology partner(s) should be proactively updating you on new technologies and industry trends.

If any of these red flags resonate with your organization, ask your technology partner(s) for a business review. It will help you begin to gather analytical data and create a roadmap for the future. Evaluate this review by asking:

  • Does the review accurately detail where you’re at and where you want to go? Or is it stagnant and outdated?
  • Are they customizing solutions to your unique business needs, or taking a turnkey, one-size-fits-all approach?
  • Are they incorporating the latest technology updates and industry trends?

You also might consider hiring someone for a comprehensive check from a vendor-agnostic standpoint. It’s like a health checkup, where that partner helps determine whether the business is getting the most out of its current vendors, what can be improved and where vendor consolidation may make sense.

How do the most successful organizations stay lean in the technology vendor space?

A lot of organizations try to ‘cut the tail’ off the soft costs associated with procurement. You can do that with thorough due diligence to select the right technology partner — a preferred vendor that can offer a range of solutions.

With the right partner, you’ll have periodic account reviews, etc., to ensure your infrastructure is proactively and effectively managed at the vendor level.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

How to use document management to streamline onboarding for HR

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

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

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

Are onboarding challenges bigger for heavily-regulated industries?

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

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

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

How do document management solutions help?

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

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

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

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

Is this new technology?

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

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

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

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

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are the cyber vulnerabilities you described complicated further?

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

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

What can employers do to mitigate these security concerns?

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

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

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

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

Why is a third party critical to the process?

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

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

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

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