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How IT Outsourcing Has Changed the Role of the CFOs

March 28, 2016

Educating CFOs on the Future of IT Management & How It Impacts Their Position

Announced today that the company is launching an educational campaign for CFOs at rapid-growth organizations. The industry of IT management has shifted dramatically, due in large to the huge influx of sophisticated managed IT service providers. As a result, a very high percentage of SMBs (small to mid-sized businesses) have chosen to outsource the day-to-day management of their IT networks, which has brought a number of unique challenges along with it.

When a company makes this decision, the CFO is the most common person to be asked to manage the transition, and many CFOs become overwhelmed because they don’t understand every single facet of the underlying technology that supports the operations of the business. Moreover, they feel concerned because they think that they need to become technology experts.

“CFOs don’t need to understand all the intricacies of how each piece of technology works, but instead, they need to learn best practices on how to keep an outsourced managed IT services provider accountable for high-performing networks.”

Essentially, CFOs enter this situation and are pulled into multiple directions. They are told that they need to invest in this technology or that competitors are using that technology and they scramble in order to make the right decision. However, the most important factor to address is to step back from the minutia and to ascertain the corporate level growth strategy. In other words, strategic initiatives dictate which tools an organization needs, not the other way around.

CFOs do need to become educated on best practices to ensure that their servers are always running, the necessary upgrades are made on-time, what to expect when managing multiple outsourced vendors and how to keep them accountable. Furthermore, as more companies transition to cloud and hybrid-cloud environments, CFOs need to be able to pick the best providers that have experience facilitating this type of enterprise-level shift. Here are a couple key distinctions CFOs need to look for in order to confirm that they are working with well-equipped providers.

They Better Have Detailed Reporting. The more detailed the better. CFOs should expect monthly meetings where their managed IT services provider dives into the details of the reports in order to give decision-makers absolute clarity on which steps they need to take in order to keep the organization running at peak performance. For example, one key item to look for is a running timetable of technology that tells decision-makers, which pieces of technology need to be upgraded, which are fine “as is” and when these upgrades need to be made. This allows CFOs to properly budget so they get a full understanding of the true cost of their IT network.

They Better Manage All Aspects of the Network “Under One Roof.” One of the most common problems in malfunctioning technology is the “finger pointing” that happens when it takes multiple vendors to make something work properly. For example, if one company manages the cloud-phones and another company is responsible for the IT network, what happens when the cloud-phones aren’t working properly? Oftentimes, the telecommunications provider will blame the IT company, and the IT company will blame the telecom provider. Stalemates like these cause huge drop-offs in productivity and the solution is to only work with a single unified communications provider who is fully capable of servicing all aspects of the network. That way, when something goes down, there is one party responsible for making sure that it gets up as quickly as possible.

 They Better Not Require Long-Term Agreements. One of the quickest ways to ascertain as to whether or not the managed IT services provider is trustworthy or not, is by making sure that they don’t ask CFOs to sign rigid, long-term contracts. This is the most surefire way to experience a lack of network performance, because it misaligns financial incentives. Elite managed service providers are eager to back-up their bold claims with month-to-month agreements that let customers decide as to whether or not they’re getting the value they were promised. The most prestigious and experienced providers focus on the result they generate for the SMB. When an organization is bold enough to offer month-to-month agreements, a customer can rest assured that their network will be high-performing.

The mission is to increase its customers’ profitability and give them a competitive advantage. By combining valuable information with world class technology the company is accomplishing its mission each and every day.

Stop Buying Technology…The Wrong Way!

January 26, 2016

Discussing a New Method of Purchasing That Eliminates the

Two Greatest Risks Associated with Technology

There are a few things in life that will remain constant till the end of time. They include death, taxes, and the ever-changing world of technology. As soon as we make a technological purchase today it unfortunately becomes outdated tomorrow. Ignoring your company for a moment just think about the last time you bought a car. The moment it was driven off the lot the value dropped instantly by a few thousand dollars. This same scenario occurs in every technological purchase made by a company. As a result, more and more owners and chief financial officers are being slapped in the face with a basic business 101 concept – why buy a depreciating asset.

The method of buying technology on a lease agreement is not new or even earth shattering. Historically, both business communications providers and equipment manufacturers have offered leasing options. However, within the last year or so, subtle changes by a select group of providers across the country have made leasing versus buying the right decision for any business. These changes have eliminated technology’s two greatest risks – obsolescence and price (also known as outright ownership).

Voice and data communications is the heart and life-blood of every company and having the latest technology has a major impact on an organization’s efficiency, profitability, and competitiveness. The Current Technology Assurance Plan (C-TAP) ensures that the communications environments are refreshed with the latest advancements and value added solutions, thereby eliminating technology’s obsolescence. For instance, updates (also known as refresh) to a company’s voice and data system can occur any time after 24 months with no change in their monthly payment. Additionally, both labor charges and software upgrades are waived. If a product was purchased the old fashioned way from say Cisco or Avaya the business owner would get hit with thousands of dollars in software upgrade expenses. A program like C-TAP prevents this type of situation.

“It has successfully eliminated the traditional risks associated with technology – obsolescence and price.“

Here’s a simple example that illustrates how C-TAP works. Companies are losing significant amounts of money on a daily basis because they don’t have sufficient technology to effectively manage their organizations. For example, many businesses do not have data backup, message on hold, or unified messaging while others are utilizing antiquated desktop PCs. Under C-TAP, companies that could not afford this technology before can now simply add it with no change in their monthly commitment.

Furthermore, C-TAP focuses on the cost of technology rather than its price, thus eliminating the second risk. This is a mindset change for owners and many business communications providers not engaged in a program of this sort. Because of C-TAP, companies are able to transfer technology costs from a capital expense to a fixed monthly expense absorbed by an organization’s operating budget. This enhances the financial health from both tax and budgeting standpoints.

Programs like C-TAP have changed the way technology is purchased now and forever. By taking control of the purchase process in this manner, the owner is finally experiencing a true win for their business because they now have the means that will increase profitability, while giving them a competitive advantage in their marketplace.

 

Eight Reasons Why Small and Mid-Sized Businesses Need Managed IT Services

December 16, 2015

Why This Solution Is in High Demand

 

Managed IT services is rapidly becoming one of the hottest solutions in business today because it dramatically improves an organization’s profitability, frees up internal resources, and offers a unique competitive advantage.   Simply put, managed IT services are designed to assist companies in maintaining and supporting their network and IT infrastructure with the assistance of an outsourced managed services provider (MSP). Types of services may include remote network monitoring, programming and reporting (24/7), firewall monitoring, intrusion detection, preventative tasks, disaster recovery, data backup and help desk support. There are eight critical reasons why small to midsized businesses (SMBs) need managed IT services now and throughout the life cycle of their business.

Dependence On IT

Almost all businesses have become more dependent on computer technologies in the past few years. And, it’s a rapidly changing environment. Every business has become dependent on its IT infrastructure to perform at a high level, while effectively delivering its products or services. As a result, it has become more difficult to maintain the expertise to properly deploy, manage, and monitor this new technology, especially as a business evolves.

Complexity

The fact that this new technology is new makes it more difficult for the average employee to understand and use effectively. The level of demand and sophistication from today’s businesses are driving up complexity. Distinct disciplines or specialties are emerging in a variety of technology related areas such as telephony, desktop, network, application and database support. The breadth and depth of technology an organization requires immediately places the resources at a small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) at a distinct disadvantage.

Insufficient Solutions

Traditional support options such as a one man IT consultant, or a one or two person in-house IT department cannot effectively handle the occasional network breakdowns that are bound to occur. This is especially true when compared to a team of external resources that proactively monitor the SMB’s installed technology at all times.

Lack of Process

An IDC study reinforces the notion of lack of process, showing that 78% of all IT downtime is caused by change. If you could simply eliminate change from the computing environment, you would substantially decrease the risk. Unfortunately, most SMBs lack the procedures, documentation standards, and scope of work, which often results in major disruption and downtime.

Increased Use of Technology

Increasing use of computers, new software and procedures, often leads to increased complaints and loss of productivity. Typically, when network or desktop problems arise and escalate inside a company, the response time of the one man shop or internal staff is quite slow. This dramatically increases employee complaints and lowers productivity. In many situations employees have to wait in line to receive help. As a result the downtime and morale will impact the organization’s bottom line as well as their ability to meet their customers’ needs. By implementing a managed IT services program, the demand on internal IT resources are lessened, and they can now be utilized for other purposes such as directly supporting strategic business objectives rather than becoming bogged down in frequent break/fix issues.

Controlling Costs

During these challenging times, the IT budget is frequently reduced. In a recent survey of nearly 950 IT managers at companies in North America and Europe; nearly half of the U.S. respondents said they have already cut their IT spending budgets. Unfortunately, a cut in IT spending doesn’t mean there is a cut in demand for services. This adds tremendous stress and pressure on internal departments to support the same amount of work with fewer resources.

Technology Erosion

Computer systems must be maintained just like any other systems used within the business. Vehicle fleets, manufacturing equipment, and the physical plant, have all moved to a preventative approach. If a company does not implement this preventative maintenance strategy for its technology components, disaster might be the unpleasant and unprofitable result.

Compliance

Finally, the technology utilized within an organization in most cases must meet specific compliance standards. For example, a company’s business processes supported by technology may need to comply with Sarbanes-Oxely, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) and other requirements. Most companies don’t have the resources to fully understand and comply with all the detailed requirements of these regulations.

All of the above issues are driving the popularity of partnering with a managed IT services firm. Companies that have made the transition already answered this question. If deploying, managing and monitoring my IT infrastructure has absolutely nothing to do with the core competency of my business, why wouldn’t I outsource it to an expert? This is a fairly easy question to answer and these organizations have reaped the rewards of increased profitability and a competitive advantage.

 

Got Cloud Voice? Don’t Let Your Competitor Beat You to It

November 30, 2015

The Power of Productivity and Profitability from Cloud Voice

It’s no secret that the business world isn’t what it used to be. Simply put, the old age of operating within the normal hours of 8-5pm is an outdated paradigm. The traditional workforce is no longer the norm and remote workforces continue to grow in number because of the drastic reduction in overhead and increases in employee satisfaction. While this level of flexibility was unavailable in years prior, expanded capacities offered by the latest in technology have made this new working environment possible. This new environment is also enabling businesses to keep their customers happier than ever before. The business leaders who have shifted their mindsets in order to take advantage of these new opportunities are being rewarded handsomely.

“Companies leveraging the latest technologies, like cloud voice, are able to keep their customers happy 24/7, which is leaving their competition in the dust.”

One problem that virtually every company faces is the need for quick responses. This is especially true of inbound customer calls. In the past, when a customer would call-in and seek immediate support, companies would typically juggle the phone call between departments, until the customer was frustrated and then eventually transfer the call out to a manager’s cell phone, where they would usually have to leave a voice mail and wait for a call back. As you can expect, it didn’t take businesses long to realize that this way of conducting business was completely unacceptable and damaging relationships.

Companies have solved this problem with Cloud Voice phone systems. Since these systems operate “in the cloud” they are no longer tied to a single physical location and can accommodate the flexible workforce better than ever before. Best of all, the corporate experience is maintained all the way through and calls are handled with more elegance and professionalism than ever before. From the customer’s perspective, it’s as if these two were sitting right next to each other, collaborating on the issue at hand and resolving it as quickly as possible. The bottom line here is that when customers feel important and valued, they will continue to do business with any company. This is a rarity in today’s marketplace and technology is transcending these limitations better than ever before and this is making it much tougher for outdated companies to compete.

Also, today’s leading companies utilize cloud voice in order to assign “Find Me Anywhere” numbers to staff, which are essentially single numbers that will call the office phone, then cycle to their cell phone, then cycle to other staff members, so that customers can reach the exact department they need, without being stuck on-hold for long periods of time. These numbers can also be configured to all ring simultaneously, so anyone that can solve that exact customer problem can handle it immediately. Reduced wait times and instant connections with the right person are huge advantages for today’s organizations over their competitors. Imagine if your customers never had to wait on-hold again and that they got their problems resolved in only one-step. This is another way in which Cloud Voice is creating competitive advantages.

Since the barriers to entry for cloud voice are lower than they have ever been, it’s no surprise that this is gaining widespread adoption. Businesses need to be aware of these solutions and need to take advantage of these opportunities to get a leg up on their competitors as soon as possible, before they’re beat to the punch.

Fortune 1000 Organizations Zero in on Five Key Areas to Dramatically Improve the Health of their Customers’ Technology.

October 29, 2015

Proactive Approach to IT Enables Local Businesses to Combat Threats

Organizations that have plenty of budget available to spend on IT security infrastructure are fully equipped with in-house staff that is dedicated full-time to optimizing security across the board. While the necessity for IT security is in plain sight, many small to mid-sized companies may ignore this area of their business until it’s too late. The company zeroes in on five key areas to focus on, to dramatically improve the health of their customers’ technology.

“When an organization takes the time to assess these areas of their business, it’s very easy to dramatically improve the health of their technology.”

IT services anticipate IT issues before they crop up. It’s a proactive and cost effective approach that has changed the way businesses improve their productivity, streamline their efficiency and keep their critical information safe. This approach enables business owners to stay focused on their core competencies, instead of trying to understand the complexities of IT networks. There are five critical areas where Voice Smart Networks leverages their proactive approach to enhance security.

  • Anti-virus/Anti-malware. Most viruses spread so fast because they are delivered in the simplest ways. Viruses are usually deployed through email, software downloads or phishing sites. The Washington Network provides regularly updates virus protection so the latest threats can be combatted.
  • Data Backup. If you’ve ever lost your data, your presentation or a file went missing, you’ve felt the sting of a lacking data backup program. While most businesses have partial backups in place, Voice Smart Networks provides companies with cloud based business continuity and disaster recovery programs in order to eliminate this problem from their IT landscape.
  • Software Updates. If you’ve ever snoozed a security update, you’ve potentially put your company at risk for greater harm. Voice Smart Networks team of technicians work around the clock to instantaneously and continuously update software so customers are always on the latest version.
  • Unauthorized Users. Keeping unauthorized users out – of buildings, software programs and internal networks – is another vital component for a comprehensive data protection program. Leaving these areas unprotected is irresponsible as leaving your doors unlocked at night. Voice Smart Networks monitors activity constantly and works with customers to provide access to necessary employees.
  • Cloud & Mobile Security. Virtually every business in today’s marketplace relies on some form of cloud-based technology or mobile phones. Each one of these pose a potential threat to the network and create vulnerability for the network, especially if left ignored. Voice Smart Networks monitors personal devices to protect against threats entering the network taking mobile security and cyber security to another level.

Targeting CFO’s about the Changing Nature of Purchasing, Installing, and Deploying IT Solutions.

September 28, 2015

Why Outsourcing is at the Forefront of Technology Departments

Today’s CFOs have begun to spearhead the deployment of new IT solutions within the corporate environment in addition to their traditional responsibilities. CFOs now assess information technology purchases and ensure staff levels are “right-sized.” The network has evolved from a static environment that only requires a single, full-time IT manager to a dynamic environment which requires constant support of a full-suite, expert-led, outsourced IT advisory firm.

In today’s environment, the underlying technology has simply become too overwhelming for one person to manage. The role of IT managers has shifted from administrative tasks, such as, downloading and installing security programs, to overseeing monthly reports generated by outsourced solution providers to verify optimal network performance. Additionally, CFOs not only need to facilitate payment arrangements in order to ensure that budgetary requirements are met, but it is now their responsibility to verify the efficiency of the network by cross-checking device performance with the monthly reports provided by aforementioned outsources. Network performance must be validated and verified by external, trusted IT advisors instead of internal IT staff, who have no basis for supporting their analysis.

“In recent years, the very nature in which technology is being purchased has shifted. While most business have long relied upon a break-fix interaction, the new way of purchasing technology revolves around proactive management, predictive repairs, and reporting transparency.”

As a result, CFOs are able to cut down the cost of staffing IT personnel while simultaneously gaining access to a network that has more integrity, is better protected and enables all employees to do their jobs better and faster.

Educating Customers on How to Transition their Phones and Infrastructure Technology to the Cloud

August 24, 2015

Educating Companies on the Proper Path to Success

For most businesses, the internal IT organization delivers the infrastructure necessary to support business operations. When migrating your company’s technology to the cloud, the core message is that migration can be either the best thing you’ve ever done or the worst thing. Most companies are drawn to the immediate slash in expenses and expanded functionality, which is the main driver behind the widespread adoption of cloud voice. In this article, the main points that customers need to know, are summarized in order to make this transition as smooth as possible.  

The first decision that a business owner needs to be aware of is that there are two distinct ways of purchasing the technology. In the world of cloud-technology, especially that of cloud voice, this is particularly important to sort out. The first way is to purchase the technology from off the Internet. This method is very attractive to first-time buyers because the only things that a purchaser needs to know is how many phones their office will need and how many lines they will need to route calls. They plug these numbers in, get a price, purchase them, the phones are then boxed up, shipped out and the only instructions for installation are to plug them into the wall. However, while this method is faster at the outset, it usually causes big problems shortly thereafter.

When an organization purchases cloud phones from the Internet, there are plenty of challenges like the above example, that crop up. With hundreds of these types of companies sprouting up, they usually have a very-short term, transactional approach to business. This philosophy leads to them not taking the time to properly understand their customer’s business, find out what their customer would like to accomplish and to assess what would be the most ideal way to utilize technology to accomplish that objective. Furthermore, online cloud voice providers have a mindset of “dialing for dollars” and once the equipment is sold and shipped they essentially walk away from any form of customer service. In response to high cancellation rates, many of these companies have required customers to enter long-term contracts, trapping them into a forced relationship.

“The punch line for business owners is that whether they purchase from an online company or from a reputable company, the price they ending up paying is the same!”

A much more intelligent way to purchase this technology is through a reputable, local provider who is part of your business community. By taking this route, the company inherently has a higher capacity to understand your business objectives and strategic outcomes, which ultimately leads to perfectly fitting technology. Local providers understand the need to perform an initial analysis to gain a global perspective on your technology infrastructure, and can often make improvements that not only ensure the quality of your cloud phones, but of all technology that runs on the network. Other signs that you are dealing with a reputable provider is that they take the time to educate you on firewalls, they ensure proper bandwidth allocation and explain QoS (Quality of Service) as well. These all have giant implications on the performance of the technology on your LAN (Local Area Network). Another great sign is when the company has highly experienced, certified technicians who can install the technology themselves, instead of leaving it in the hands of their customers, who are not trained in these facets. However, the most important factor to watch for, which ensures aligned incentives from the beginning, is month-to-month contracts. When a provider puts their “money where their mouth is” and essentially says that “If the technology doesn’t perform as expected, you can cancel anytime,” you are predestined for a mutually beneficial relationship.