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'Tis The Season For Technology Upgrades

IT'S HARD TO believe but Christmas holidays are fast approaching.

It's a relatively quiet time for many organisations - which means that it's a great time to attend to all of those low priority "house-keeping" tasks that have been clogging your to-do lists for months. The holiday season also provides a terrific opportunity to run some short, sharp - and potentially disruptive - business improvement projects. And it's usually an ideal time to upgrade some, or all, of your information technology. On the positive side, if your upgrade project runs a little overtime or there is an unexpected complication the impact will be minimised because business is normally slow anyway. However, like most things in life, if you're not properly prepared small project challenges have the potential to trigger catastrophic downstream impacts. Here's some tips that will help you to substantially reduce your business risks.

Plan, plan, plan.

Too often we think that planning for apparently simple jobs is a waste of time, money and effort. The reality is that most of us are born optimists who genuinely believe that all we need to do is plug it in and it will work! What we need to do is to break the job down into individual tasks. Complex tasks should be broken down further into sub-tasks. This process should help to uncover all the activities needed to successfully complete the job. Often a 10 minute brain storming session will help to uncover activities and tasks that you would otherwise take for granted. Next, for each task you need to identify what activities need to be completed before you can start. Most of us have examples of projects that have stalled because we find ourselves waiting on something. At this point you can decide who is responsible for each task and you should seek their advice about the time they will need to complete their allotted activities. Again, most people are optimistic, so make a generous allowance! Perhaps most importantly, spend a lot of time planning for things that might go wrong. Ask yourself a lot of questions such as:

  • "What if this breaks our entire system?"
  • "What if one of the team falls ill?"
  • "What if the widget doesn't work?"
  • "What if the project is running weeks behind schedule?"
  • "What if we need additional specialist knowledge or expertise?"
  • "What if a supplier doesn't meet their obligations?"

Pre-planning for these problems will help ensure that you reduce the risk of serious business impact if things run off the rails.

Backup!

Before you start anything make sure that you have a complete and tested set of backups. That way, even if the very worst happens you will be able to recover your priceless business data. Bear in mind the Backup Rule of Three. Basically, if you don't maintain:

  • Three copies of everything
  • In two different formats
  • With one copy kept off-site

Then you can't be assured of always having usable information. Obviously your systems will probably be live throughout your project - so continue to back up. Be as paranoid as you practically can!

Find a Life Saver or two

Good quality tech support during December and January can be hard to find - and all the more so if you don't have a strong pre-existing relationship with an IT Services provider. If you happen to find an organisation that is prepared to help you will likely have a low priority because their existing customers will always come first. If you don't have one already, now is the time to establish a relationship with one or two providers. Explain that you are running a project over the holiday period and you might need some support. Be prepared to purchase some block-hours or perhaps a limited service contract. This will ensure that you receive priority if and when you need it. Pre-paid block hours is generally a good option because if you can hold them for later use. A professional services contract could be used if there is a potential need for a time critical response - particularly out of normal business hours.

Get an External Perspective

Sometimes we can't see the woods for the trees. We're simply too close to the problem at hand. It's always wise to seek advice from someone who is has experience with similar projects. This could be a casual discussion with a peer over a coffee or it could be a short, sharp structured review by a season professional. What you need depends on the amount of project risk that you believe you are carrying.

Still Not Comfortable?

All Information Technology projects are risky by nature. If, after you've done all he planning, you're not extremely confident of success get someone in to help. The additional expense of a project manager, technical consultant or systems engineer will pay off because your chances of success will be vastly improved.

 
The 4 most used IT tools to increase your efficiency:

Anyone who has ever worked in an office environment knows just how important the effective use of IT tools can be. IT tools can not only help make your working life a lot easier, they can be essential if you want to keep up with the ever changing world of business. The problem is, there are so many IT tools out there these days it is hard to know what will work for you and what won’t. The following four are some of the most commonly used- if you aren’t already using them, you should definitely consider bringing them on board in your business.

1. Electronic calendar: If you are still using note pads, sticky notes or file-a-fax to make your lists or plan your week. It is definitely time to upgrade. An electronic calendar allows you to put all of your appointments, tasks, notes and meetings into the calendar which can then sync with your phone and tablet and allow you to be on top of tasks- wherever you are.

2. File Sharing Software: Cloud based solutions are becoming more and more popular when it comes to sharing work and files within an office environment. This way, when someone needs to access a file on someone else’s computer, all it takes is to enter the cloud and access the file. There are a lot of companies offering cloud solutions at the moment, so be sure to choose the right one before you dive into a decision just for fear of not being up to date with technology.

3. Scanner: Even though a scanner seems like it wouldn’t be that helpful, and maybe seems a bit out-dated, but they are still essential tools for those offices striving to minimise paper usage. Going paperless (as much as possible) is a really great idea in today’s world- not only for environmental reasons. Keeping scanned copies of documents neatly filed online is a great way to keep backups as well as being nice to the environment!

4. Go wireless: Get rid of those millions of tangled cords lying around the office that always seem to be in the way. Not only does it help make the office look neater, it is convenient for those with smart phones, tablets and for people who may come to visit the office or assist when giving presentations.

 
Outsourcing your IT successfully: 3 handy hints

It is no secret that outsourcing is the way of the future. Many businesses are employing third party IT providers to help them free up internal resources and assist them to reach their strategic long term goals. A lot of business know that it is in their best interests to outsource their IT but they may not know what the next step is to put their business on its way down the road to success.

3 Tips for assisting you in your IT outsourcing decisions

1. Vendor Relationships: There should be one internal person who manages all vendor relationships. This helps these important relationships to stay highly organised and managed. It is important that a strong relationship is established to ensure smooth communication between both parties so that you are all on the same page.

2. Performance management:  Although vendors are responsible for creating their own reports to keep the company current with its performance, it is still a good idea for your business to monitor the vendor periodically. Transparency is a critical part of any business relationship and accordingly, should not be an issue. There should be methods in place to ensure you understand the process of your requests from start to finish, including sufficient communication processes between businesses.

3. Seek advice: If you’re unsure about where to start when it comes to your outsourcing needs, it is probably in your best interests to contact a professional for a consultation on how to get your business where it wants to be and how IT can facilitate this shift in your processes and strategies.

It is in most businesses best interests to outsource IT. Necessary steps should be taken as soon as possible in order to start improving efficieny and your businesses bottom line through freeing up internal resources.

Call AchieveIT to have a chat about how we can help free up your staff and improve your bottom line.

 
How to bring out the best in your internal IT staff

What is the real point of spending money on IT?

Take a look at your company’s website, how important is it to you? Does it generate leads and revenue whilst looking attractive and providing information at the same time? Now how about your IT staff, wouldn’t you love to have them working on large projects that reduce costs and generate more revenue for your business? Isn’t that nicer than having them run from small issue to small issue each day just reacting rather than being able to use their skills to improve the processes of your business?

It is clear what the problem is, IT staff spend too much time putting out fires; imagine the work that could get done if their time wasn’t spent on unproductive daily repair tasks…Your IT staff could be put to better use doing some of the following activities:

- Automating routine administration tasks, to create processes and save thousands of hours of time and therefore money
- Focus on an IT problem that may have been on the back burner for months
- Work on improving an IT related function that your competitors may be getting right
- Building and/or improving e-commerce processes
- Facilitating more efficient ways to interact and communicate with clients and customers with more ease
- Spending more time selecting the most adequate software and hardware that will be the best choice for the business

Can you think of at least one project that your business could take part in if your IT staff had the time that would save money and begin increasing revenue for you right away?

Your IT staff love challenges and technology, they want you to give them the freedom to create and test their skills instead of just cleaning up messes and not seeing any positive changes as a result of their work. Unhappy IT employees will eventually leave the company while happy and more fulfilled employees will be more likely to stay and remain aligned with company goals.
When you outsource the mundane IT tasks and the emergency IT work that hold a business back, it frees up some extremely talented people to enjoy IT and work on important projects that will make a huge impact to your businesses revenue opportunities.

 
Is your business prepared for an IT disaster?

As your business continues to grow, so do your data needs. As a result, IT disasters have become more common. Most businesses are actively becoming more and more concerned about their capacity for storage and their vulnerability to avoid or recover from disasters.

Why don't all businesses have a disaster recovery plan?

The problem with disaster recovery is that until a business truly experiences the pain of an IT disaster, very little do much about it. Not many executives or budget makers see the benefits in investing in disaster recovery and backup solutions because there may not have ever been a major disaster before.What they may not realise is that most of a company’s lost data is not the result of one catastrophic event but the effect of multiple small incidents.

The costs of having no disaster recovery plan:

At minimum, almost 90% of businesses have experienced a single event of system downtime. This averages over the time of about 2 days. Let’s say a business has 20 employees, that’s two days with them being able to perform minimal work, that could eventuate in costs for the business in wages of around $8000- at least.. Not to mention indirect costs to customer relationships, service delivery abilities, falling behind in work etc.

Disaster Recovery Plans literally save you money:

Rather than waiting for technology to fail or an epic disaster to occur, taking the time to create a plan is a smarter play. An IT professional will map out your disaster plan and assist you with ways to ensure that your business will not be impacted with downtime in the event of a disaster.

Why is it a good idea to get professional help with a disaster recovery plan?

Developing a plan can be as complex as developing a major system for your entire company. This all starts with analysis.

Risk analysis: What are the threats and where are you vulnerable?
Business Impact analysis: What are the essential processes which must happen for business to continue?
Application impact analysis: What are the recovery priorities and requirement?

Once the analysing stage is complete, the prioritisation process begins. This is similar to what would’ve been undertaken when your systems were originally designed. Everything under goes review and then a detailed articulation is undertaken. The next stage is for the consultant to develop the budget in terms of both cost and time.

What are the benefits of using a disaster recovery consultant?

> They have specialised knowledge: you may have your own IT staff in house, but they will not be as familiar with this process as a specialised person who has created hundreds of plans in their career.
> An external consultant can see things with fresh eyes, allowing for different perspectives and an impartial unbiased opinion on internal issues.                                                                                      >It also shows a commitment to your staff: by bringing in an external professional, the company is serious about getting disaster recovery right. It also sends the message to everyone that IT disaster recovery is something the business should take very seriously.

IT disaster recovery is a vital aspect to the survival of your company. Make sure you hire the right professional who is committed to understanding and getting it right for you- the first time.
Call a consultant at AchieveIT on 1300 22 48 48, to come out and have a chat to you about the ways we can help you and your business develop a succinct disaster recovery plan that will stand the test of time.

 
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