United States

Are your concerns over technology keeping you up at night

INSIGHT ARTICLE

An extensive client roster across diverse industries provides us the experience necessary to understand the vast array of technology issues facing organizations. Through informed and deliberate processes, we answer the questions that face business and IT executives to help improve performance, create process efficiencies and drive business growth.

Below are just a few of the hundreds of technology-related questions that keep our clients and others up at night. We would welcome the opportunity to talk to you today about your critical questions.

1. How can I be confident that the strategic direction I have for my organization is the right one? What should my technology blueprint really look like?

2. With so many options for application delivery - traditional PCs, mobile devices, server-based solutions - which choice is the right one?

3. How real is cloud computing as an option today? How can I get the benefits I hear so much about?

4. I'm interested in saving money and streamlining my operations through unified communications, but how do I know that connecting my VoIP, email, ERP, CRM, and Smartphone is worth the time and effort to implement?

5. Many organizations seem to be taking the server virtualization plunge. While I believe it can help save me money, how long will it be until I start to realize savings and how risky is that implementation (how many pitfalls do I need to look out for)?

6. I'm finally starting to see the growth that I want and need. At what point do I need to look at a new ERP system and how do I pick a system that I'm sure will keep pace with my growth?

7. I'm not sure I'm getting the visibility I need into sales and marketing activities. Should I consider a new CRM solution that integrates with my ERP system and other business applications?

8. My current reporting systems provide me great information, but it is too late to make changes by the time I get the reports? Isn't there a better way to get the information I need to make better business decisions?

9. How can my organization better manage the flow of communication and decrease the frustrations we have with document management?

10. Is it time to think about outsourcing my critical IT functions? I think my IT people are great, but I don't know whether they're implementing what they know, or what I actually need. Have my IT needs outgrown my IT department?

1. How can I be confident that the strategic direction I have for my organization is the right one? What should my technology blueprint really look like?

Your technology must be in sync with your organization's goals and objectives. As you examine your company's strategic business plan, technologies should be implemented that will help the organization achieve their plan. For example, if expansion into new product lines or geographies is part of your business plan, you need to evaluate whether your current software and infrastructure will support this type of expansion. If not, create an initiative to address this as part of your technology blueprint.

A technology blueprint should outline key IT projects (strategic technology initiatives) that your company needs to address to achieve these business goals. These initiatives should include defined estimates of cost, implementation timeframes and other pertinent information. By having this information in a blueprint, management will have visibility into key projects being implemented to support the strategic direction of the company and can also monitor how well IT is performing against the predefined budget and implementation goals.

Back To Top

2. With so many options for application delivery - traditional PCs, mobile devices, server-based solutions - which choice is the right one?

To be optimally productive, users want anytime, anywhere access to data and corporate systems. They want to work from home, in an airport, or at the local coffee shop and they want the laptop experience to mimic using a desktop at work. Users also have a diverse set of needs across operating systems, applications and devices – all of which differ from user to user. This creates an increasingly complex IT infrastructure that needs to be managed.

These needs are often in direct competition with IT imperatives. Traditional desktop management binds users' operating systems and applications to their hardware, creating a delicate IT stack that can easily be broken when just one component requires or encounters a change.

In an increasingly mobile world, finding the right balance is important for any organization. A technology assessment could help you gauge what strategy is right for your organization.

Back To Top

3. How real is cloud computing as an option today? How can I get the benefits I hear so much about?

Cloud computing is reshaping everything, from network architecture to application delivery. From CIO to CFO to managers, all the way down to the end users, the operational efficiencies, and enhanced reliability the cloud offers are remarkable. Utilizing SaaS (Software as a Service), IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) can eliminate expensive and often unforeseen hardware purchases as well as the acquisition of costly software licenses. Ease of sharing information, real-time/audit tracking, and reduction in data redundancy are just a few of the real benefits the cloud offers.

Previously, only deep-pocketed companies had muscular server and processing power, offering them a huge competitive advantage. Now, even a start-up can capture the same amenities that were once off-limits. The cloud levels the playing field remarkably. A rented cloud-based infrastructure gives any visionary with a few dollars a robust solution with software and infrastructure options; all of which are just a click away.

Today, cloud computing is far more real than most realize. The cloud shift is radically altering technology architecture and, in the process, everything from healthcare to education to retail. The time for cloud computing is now.

Back To Top

4. I'm interested in saving money and streamlining my operations through unified communications, but how do I know that connecting my VoIP, email, ERP, CRM, and Smartphone is worth the time and effort to implement?

Companies can leverage unified communications (UC) to realize real savings from a variety of areas: upfront and ongoing technology investments, operational and IT support expenses, employee efficiencies, and customer retention to name a few. UC enables companies to reduce total cost of ownership. Because technology is shared, companies see lower upfront hardware and software costs. Plus, with fewer devices to manage, decreased IT support time, software maintenance expenditures, phone carrier costs and data center space and power costs is more attainable.

With fewer communications devices to manage, UC also helps companies improve employee performance. Employees without UC use, on average, use six different non-integrated devices and applications for communication. Leveraging UC, employees save up to an hour per day managing email, voicemail and fax communications. Integration with your key business applications, such as a CRM system, supports improved customer satisfaction and interaction, resulting in increased customer retention. With web, video and audio conferencing, organizations are also able to perform more meetings remotely, saving in travel time and expenses. Creating a unified interface for multiple devices and media creates powerful opportunities for companies to communicate more effectively with customers, while creating significant savings.

There are many ways to incorporate UC technologies in your environment and return on investment (ROI) usually takes less than 24 months.

Back To Top

5. Many organizations seem to be taking the server virtualization plunge. While I believe it can help save me money, how long will it be until I start to realize savings and how risky is that implementation (how many pitfalls do I need to look out for)?

By virtualizing IT infrastructure, organizations save money on hardware, software licensing, maintenance, server power, and cooling. For example, a company needing to implement four new servers in a virtualized environment does not need to purchase four physical servers, set them up and take care of all routine maintenance. Instead, virtual servers can be provisioned on a virtualization platform at a fraction of the time and cost it would take in a traditional, non-virtualized environment. As companies reduce their IT footprint, they will minimize the number of servers they need to maintain and administer, and thus enhance their utilization of the additional tools virtualization software has to offer.

Recouping your virtualization investment is dependent on a number of factors including the amount of new hardware, number of servers to be converted, and staff experience. Many companies recoup their virtualization investment in a year, while others realize their return on investment in just a few months. A majority of companies are surprised that not only is cost savings a driving factor in most virtualization projects, but better business continuity/disaster recovery and faster time-to-market for new applications is another common benefit.

For most organizations on a virtualized platform, cost savings is the driving factor in deploying the technology. But, the cost savings associated with virtualization may not be all it is cracked up to be. Any technology not deployed correctly and efficiently is likely to incur additional operating costs, or yield lower benefit than a polished and well executed deployment. It is important to properly plan your virtualization project and work with an experienced technology partner who can help define your virtualization plan and ensure it is set up and configured properly for optimized cost-effectiveness.

Back To Top

6. I'm finally starting to see the growth that I want and need. At what point do I need to look at a new ERP system and how do I pick a system that I'm sure will keep pace with my growth?

Accounting solutions specifically targeted for start-up or 'mom-and-pop' operations provide a good value and reasonable range of features to meet their needs. While these products offered good entry level solutions, oftentimes certain limitations prevent the product from meeting the needs of growing companies. There are a number of scenarios that can be indicators for companies outgrowing their current system:

  • Multiple concurrent users are now using a system purchased at an office supply store
  • Staff are re-entering the same date into multiple systems
  • System performance has slowed or is unstable due to data volumes
  • Large amounts of data are entered into a system, but it is challenging getting reports in a useful format
  • Employees are beginning to create alternate systems in Excel or Access to store data because the primary system lacks sufficient functionality or is difficult to use
  • It is becoming more expensive every year to keep the system running
  • Acquisitions of an additional enterprise or adding new lines of business is forcing key process changes

Internal issues may not be the only catalyst for change. External factors could be:

  • New stakeholders are relying on your financial data i.e. stockholders, private equity, banks, or board of directors
  • Industries facing regulatory challenges require additional controls
  • The current version of the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is no longer supported by the software publisher

If you can relate to any of the internal or external scenarios listed above, it is time to evaluate a new ERP system. There are a number of ERP solutions designed to provide the scalability and performance you needs to support your organization's growth. Consider selecting a system built on a scalable database such as Microsoft SQL server or Oracle as it will enable you to manage growing volumes of data. Built-in security features will also help protect your data and network and provide a solid, highly dependable foundation for your business. You should also ensure the operating system is compatible with modern technologies such as web services, virtualization and 64-bit processors. Above all, make sure your new ERP system has a platform to extend and enhance functionality across all areas of your business. There are plenty of ERP suites available that integrate with other functional areas across the entire organization, from accounting,, to finance, human resources, payroll, order processing, sales, marketing, supply chain and more.

Navigating the vast number of ERP solutions and deployment options can be overwhelming. Finding a third party firm well versed in the multiple ERP solutions on the market today should provide an objective view to identify the best solution for your firm now and as you grow. A third party can guide you on the best ways to review a software publisher's financial stability and plan to continue enhancing the product and offers a host of implementers and developers able to add unique functionality to the product.

Back To Top

7. I'm not sure I'm getting the visibility I need into sales and marketing activities. Should I consider a new CRM solution that integrates with my ERP system and other business applications?

Acquiring new customers, keeping existing customers, and reducing the cost of marketing are critical in growing your business. Not knowing what is in the sales pipeline or even what your sales team is doing to fill it can be unsettling, to say the least. Not having sales information on prospects and customers in a central, managed repository can expose your organization when turnover occurs. Organizations are looking for flexible and extensible solutions. Finding the right customer relationship management (CRM) system may be the most important investment your company or organization can make. Here are some reasons to consider an integrated, robust CRM system:

  • Sales teams need a solution that allows them to increase sales success by providing one view for customer history and sales opportunities, as well as cultivate more profitable relationships
  • Marketers need to plan, implement and measure more effective marketing campaigns, track results, and optimize ROI
  • Customer service needs to maximize customer retention and satisfaction by accessing quick and seamless information prior to responding to customer requests
  • Management needs accurate pipeline information to make the best business decisions

Integrated business applications give executives and management one view to all areas of the business to better understand the bottom line. Sales, marketing, customer service, and accounting departments do not have to work in silos anymore. Now, important data that existed all over the place can be located in a centralized repository shared across departments. Dashboards, analysis tools, and built-in reports are important features that allow for insightful, actionable intelligence.

Duplicated efforts, disparate processes, and multiple solutions can be a thing of the past once you implement an integrated system your whole organization can adopt. If you do not have visibility into key initiatives across your organization, you do not have complete control of your future success. Investing in an easy-to-customize, integrated CRM solution will start your organization along the right track.

Back To Top

8. My current reporting systems provide me great information, but it is too late to make changes by the time I get the reports? Isn't there a better way to get the information I need to make better business decisions?

Access to important information has always been important for businesses. Finding an easy way to analyze critical business intelligence (BI) can be a struggle if the right tools are not in place. Traditional BI solutions depended on IT staff to develop a query using a cube based tool to extract a predefined set of data. These BI tools are relatively good at tracking raw transactional numbers, but do not provide answers as to trends associated with the results. The need for understanding root causes of business trends is driving the evolution of BI to a more associative experience for the user. The industry is coining this experience as 'data discovery'.

Executives are constantly looking for ways to increase revenue, reduce costs, and optimize resources. Having a tool to help sort through complex information and view a real-time report is essential for making decisions. Decision makers want to be able to interact with data holistically, enabling them to pinpoint specific areas of the business that need improvement. Data discovery platforms are providing supporting data to the initial extractions, allowing users to be more autonomous. More importantly, users are adopting these evolutions in the BI solution space because data is easy to find and easy to share throughout the organization. Here are some reasons why:

  • Data discovery platform vendors are implementing mobile devices such as iPads or smartphones to ensure data is accessible for employees in the field
  • Many different chart types, including visual analytics and table views of the data, can be chosen for those who want to see their business from different perspectives
  • Users that need answers to multiple questions don't have to rely on IT; they can utilize internal search models already built in to the solution.

Reporting and analysis are still integral to the BI software space, but there is definitely an evolution towards the need for interactive data visualization, predictive analytics and dashboards to enable better forecasting and optimization.

Back To Top

9. How can my organization better manage the flow of communication and decrease the frustrations we have with document management?

Many employees leverage email as a main point of communication with team members. From the beginning of a new project, documents emerge and are passed around multiple times leaving everybody guessing who has the most recent version. E-mail and voicemail boxes stack up, overwhelming everybody and leaving people, documents, and company data on islands that are difficult to manage. If you can relate to this constant struggle in finding documents, the newest version, or important company data it is time to consider creating an intranet site to improve your collaboration efforts.

By utilizing this type of solution, your colleagues will be able to depend on the intranet site as a home-base for all shared documents, project calendars, directories, discussion boards and meeting workspaces. It is best to find a solution where people can share and publish information from one familiar system. There are out-of-box solutions available with features that make it simple to modify pages, change content, add interaction or apply design theme. Meeting the business needs of everybody on your team will ensure user adoption, increased productivity and enhanced value of information.

Not all enterprise content management (ECM) solutions are created equally. Finding a solution that provides web content management capabilities will allow your people to respond quickly to changing business needs. But which one is the right one for you? Here are some good points to consider in your selection process:

  • Simplified user interface with no-code solutions to build out pages, sites, and document repositories from the browser without requiring custom applications
  • Integration with current systems and applications
  • Search capabilities with out-of-the-box index integrations including indexing multiple sites, file shares, servers, and external websites
  • Strong and flexible governance platform where end users can manage others' permissions without IT interference
  • Scalability for additional servers or space to improve performance as needed by the user base
  • Third party add-ons or extensions to help build out the system without the need for costly custom coding; ability to extend functionality

Merely implementing an ECM without a migration plan from the current environment can be disastrous for the user experience. If the current environment (email, file shares, another ECM product) is disorganized or confusing, the new ECM product most likely will end up the same without proper planning.

Back To Top

10. Is it time to think about outsourcing my critical IT functions? I think my IT people are great, but I don't know whether they're implementing what they know, or what I actually need. Have my IT needs outgrown my IT department?

Today most companies don't want to be in the "IT business" as they believe they are better suited to manage resources who are directly involved in producing or selling their key products and services. As a result, many companies are looking at options to outsource portions of their IT operations to companies who specialize in the management of technology. Given the increasingly complex technologies available, it becomes difficult to maintain a sufficient level of technical expertise internally. Leveraging a technology assessment or planning project, most organizations take the opportunity to evaluate their current IT staffing.

There are many more partnering options available today than there were even five years ago, from cloud based computing and IT managed services to IT outsourcing of part or all of your IT needs. A third party assessment of your technology would both assess your software and infrastructure needs and also provide an opportunity to review options available to support those technologies.

Back To Top

How Can We Help You?

Contact us by phone 800.274.3978 or
submit your questions, comments, or proposal requests.