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.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

Evaluate your technology to add more efficiency in 2018

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

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

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

How can businesses identify great opportunities to add efficiencies?

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

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

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

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

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

How can companies identify the right technologies in their strategy?

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

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

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

Once the strategy is set, how do companies execute?

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

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

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

How can businesses maximize their budget when making technology investments?

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

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

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

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

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

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

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

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

How can an MFP increase productivity with a mobile workforce?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What problems might crop up? Is security an issue?

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

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

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

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.