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Copeland Data News - April, 2017

Welcome...

Do MoreWe welcome you to the Spring Edition of Copeland Data News.  Businesses today, in their quest to compete, must do more with less. The steady rising costs of human resources remains the driving force for continued emphasis on office environment productivity. Leveraging technology to increase productivity is the focus of our newsletter today, as it is a topic that most businesses cannot afford to overlook.

Regardless of your specific industry or size, the information that follows applies and can be utilized to get more from your largest cost of doing business. That being said, if you think of anything today or in the future that you would like to discuss as it applies to your situation, never hesitate to drop us a note.  We are here to help and serve you in any way we can.

Thank you,

Tom

In this issue of Copeland Data News

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Where do we start?

The first step in identifying productivity challenges in your organization is to determine the key components of your business.  These are the critical pieces of your business that would halt operations or negatively affect profitability if removed or malfunctioning.  These may also be elements that connect your group to your global market.

These are some examples of these components:

  1. Risk LevelHardware:  This consists of servers, PCs, multi-functional printers, smart phones/mobile devices, routers/switches, phones, WiFi and firewalls.

  2. Systems/Applications:  These are your ERP systems, accounting packages, CRM, web portals, email, Document Management, Microsoft Office / Google Apps, chat and other platforms that provide your users with the necessary information to make decisions.

The next step is to determine if each of these components is adding value to your operations or if it is a bottleneck.  It is also important to determine if any of these are points of failure that would impede operations if they fail.

Here are some example questions that should be asked when reviewing your existing technology:

  1. Hardware:
    • Are all our servers and PCs being monitored to ensure they are not being taxed?

    • Are all of our critical devices (servers, specialty PCs and routers) under warranty?

    • Are your networked devices communicating at 1GB speed?

    • Are all critical devices being monitored for hardware failure and being proactively replaced to prevent downtime?

  2. Systems/Applications:
    • Are all applications running at a supported revision and meeting system requirements?

    • Are your applications able to exchange data with other systems to eliminate redundant data entry and the errors that come along with it?

    • Do your systems quickly provide information to your team or do they lack searchability and functionality?

    • Can your application data be accessed or updated by a mobile workforce?

    • Are your mission critical applications backed up and replicated for rapid disaster recovery?

While these questions are not extremely "techy," you may need to have a third party help answer these questions for you.  We would also recommend doing some testing of your backups and disaster recovery plans on a yearly basis.  If help with this testing is needed, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Workstation / Server Productivity

The focus of this section is to provide information to ensure you are getting the most out of your workstations and servers.  Servers are used all day, every day and workstations are not far behind.  Here are some key items to ensure you have the right server and workstation setups in place:

  1. Hardware:
    • Time To UpgradeWorkstation: Still trying to save $30 on a device by getting the bare minimum?  All business-class workstations should be using at minimum an i5 Processor with 8GB of RAM.  Many times, this is only a $50 upgrade!  This allows more apps to be open at one time and extends the life of your workstation.

    • Server Hardware:  Plan for the future!  Many times organizations purchase what fits now and do not take future requirements into consideration.  It always costs more to add resources after the fact so build 15-20% more resources into your new server out of the gate.  Another option would be to investigate cloud hosting to ensure your servers are a perfect match for your requirements.

    • New Technology: Solid State Drives (SSDs) can greatly improve performance, add life to your hardware and are more reliable.  Prices are higher but they are coming down and are worth the extra cost.

  2. Keep a Pulse:
    • For nominal fees, monitoring systems can watch your servers and workstations for high utilization, failed hard drives and low disk space.  Without sitting at the computer 24 x 7 you may not know these events are happening.  Have a system that watches this for you.

    • Ensure your servers and network devices have the most up-to-date drivers, firmware and BIOS versions.  These updates are released once or twice a year and improve hardware performance and stability.

Make sure your key devices are under warranty and a 1/5 workstation refresh is done every year (replace 20% of your desktops every five years).

ERP / Business Application Productivity

There are many variations on the theme of what an ERP System means to a business – what it is, how it works, and how effective is it working for the business.  Regardless of what system you use, here are some key functionalities it should have to ensure it maximizes your organization's productivity.

  1. Data / Functionality:
    • System API BackupData for your main applications should be accessible via an API (Application Programming Interface), which allows other apps to access the information.  This cuts down on redundant data entry, tightens the flow of information to all departments, and provides more data to support better analytics.

    • The systems should be accessible from anywhere (securely) to allow a workforce to be mobile.  This also allows for the possibility to capture information at the point of sale or point of contact (delivery, signatures, etc).

    • Searchability is a key piece to any system.  If your users cannot find the data they need it is a large waste of time.

  2. Keep a Pulse:
    • Use system monitoring to ensure your business application is up and operational.

    • Make sure you have a 3-2-1 data protection plan – (3) copies of your data on (2) types of media with (1) offsite.  Ensure the logs are checked and you have a plan to be back online quickly if systems fail.

    • Have quarterly meetings with your staff to collect feedback on systems and processes improvements.  By simply finishing this statement "It would be great if the system could do _________" can lead to more productivity.

Communication and Desktop Application Productivity

Ensuring your associates are using effective tools for communication and document management is vital for the company's success.  Here are some examples of applications and how they can help your organization communicate and work at maximum output.

  1. Chat – utilizing applications like Skype (which comes with most Office 365 subscriptions) can greatly enhance productivity.  Users can set their availability status to allow other users to quickly ask questions or obtain feedback.  This can reduce meeting times and the amount of back and forth email.

  2. OneNote or EverNote – these tools replace paper versions of notebooks and are extremely valuable.  All information entered can be searched, updates are tracked with versioning and you can set permission to share notebooks.  These also have mobile apps that allow note taking during meetings from one source that is backed up and available across all devices.

  3. Document Management – DM applications provide a centrally controlled location for all electronic documentation.  These systems allow for fast searching and retrieval, a complete record of all document activity for compliance and many forms of automation (workflow, auto document naming, etc).  They also provide secure access outside the office to staff and third parties.

  4. Team Communication – Applications like Slack and Microsoft Teams are increasing in popularity due to their instant communication, organization of information and searchability.  These tools resemble many of the social media apps and provide quick and immediate sending and retrieval of information.  These also enhance the mobility of your teams.

Productively Communicating with Customers / Vendors / Prospects

Time is a resource that we all seem to have less of these days. Interruptions and inquires can slow down even the best of your staff resulting in lower quality work and delayed timelines.  Investments in technology can assist with providing your Customers, Vendors and Prospects the information they need while limiting your involvement with the process.  Here are some examples:

  1. Reps PortalPortals – Portals are a fantastic way to provide critical information to people outside your organization.  As long as your applications have an API (see previous section on productivity), you can build a small portal that can provide analytics, invoice information, documentation, tracking information and more.  If a customer needs a document, they can go and get it on their own.  Find your top interruptions and utilize a portal to provide information to a target audience.

  2. Apps – We're not saying to build an app just for the sake of it, but this is a great way to communicate with an audience.  Apps can provide instant information on special deals, pricing, VIP communications and order statuses.  It is also a way for your audience to communicate back with your team in a controlled environment.  Apps can be publicly facing (available in Google Play/Apple App Store) or it can be a private app for internal use only.  Just make sure your audience uses smartphones!

  3. Chat – adding chat functionality to your website for support and sales inquiries is a great way to instantly communicate with customers and prospects.  These applications are affordable and can be rolled out with minimum effort.

  4. Text and SMS – Do you have critical systems that need immediate response?  Utilize text and SMS messaging for the exceptions to stress importance.

  5. Social Media – make sure to communicate with your audience using social media.  With more and more of the workforce using these tools, reviews, feedback and other information is more readily available.

Your comments are always appreciated...

Have a comment on anything in this issue of Copeland Data News, or maybe an idea for a future topic you would like us to cover?  Please connect with us on Facebook and let us know your thoughts!