Skip to main content


Showing posts from October, 2008

Creative Applications for Managed Network Services

Perhaps the restaurant sector doesn't immediately come to mind when you think of creative applications of current business technology. But, that's exactly why it can provide a distinctive competitive advantage for a savvy forward-looking company. Popeyes quick-service restaurant was founded in 1972 and has expanded to over 1000 franchised locations globally. A Popeyes franchise owner of multiple U.S. east coast locations became interested in using the latest communications technology to reduce his operational costs and streamline back-office functions at each site. This upgrade included installing a new voice and data network that could manage secure credit card transactions. The decision was made to research a solution to update communication capabilities with a private Internet Protocol (IP) network. A network using Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) technology was procured, replacing the cumbersome and outdated analog communication lines. Once the private voice, data, and

Opportunities for Advancement in an Economic Downturn

Can the current economic environment actually create an opportunity? Even though the present financial crisis will adversely affect capital investment, the uncertainties are also creating new demand for the application of certain business technology offerings. "In particular, ICT solutions that shift costs from a capital to variable component, focus on productivity increases and cost reduction, and support organizational restructuring and acquisitions are likely to see growing demand," says Andrew Milroy, ICT director at Frost & Sullivan . Four Areas of New Demand This belief that there will be a strategic increase in IT demand is the result of the consulting company's latest global market study. While their assessment acknowledges some ICT setbacks, it identifies four key areas that are likely to experience heightened demand -- sustainable IT; outsourcing, managed and hosted services; information management tools; and those services that support mergers and acquisiti

Managed Service Providers: Serving Small Businesses Worldwide

Thousands of small businesses in the United States have already embraced managed services. Now, thousands of additional businesses across the globe are climbing aboard the managed services bandwagon. Consider the following data points: Asia Pacific organizations will spend more than $10.25 billion on hosted and managed services by 2010, up from $6.47 billion in 2007, according to Frost & Sullivan. Australia's managed security market will grow roughly 20 percent annually through 2013, the same research firm predicts. Small and mid-size enterprises will drive nearly half of Europe's managed services revenues -- jointly spending nearly 11 billion euros in 2008, estimates Forrester Research. Small business managed services spending will reach $5.4 billion in 2008, according to Techaisle. The data covers the US, United Kingdom, Australia, China, Brazil and India. In the US alone, small business managed services spending will hit $1.5 billion this year, Techaisle predicts. Ques

IT Financial Management - Now is the Time

I've heard many excuses, during my years as an ITIL consultant, as to why a client did not want to start IT Financial Management -- the business is not ready, we don't have the tools, we don't know where to start, etc. However, in these troubling economic times, it is imperative that IT adopts IT Financial Management in order to respond to the increasing pressure to reduce costs. IT can reduce costs through service-based cost transparency and charge-backs. This method does not mean IT is a profit-center; it just means that IT is educating the business on the cost to provide the services. With this knowledge, the business can adjust their consumption to better manage their budget and ensure spending is aligned with the value of the service they are receiving. Contrast this with a nebulous IT overhead charge which does not incent the business to use scarce IT resources wisely. A Roadmap to IT Financial Management The secret to successfully starting IT Financial Management is

Small Businesses: The Greatest IT Innovators of All?

When you're a start-up company or a small business, you enjoy a key freedom: You don't have any legacy equipment and you can make sure your IT dollars drive innovation. But over time -- as your staff, network and application infrastructure grows -- you'll wind up spending more and more IT budget on maintenance rather than innovation. According to various estimates, mature businesses spend anywhere from 80 percent to 90 percent of their IT dollars maintaining systems they already have in place. That's pathetic. And it's also impractical. Small businesses must either innovate or die. So, how can a small business remain focused on innovative IT solutions ? I've found the answer in my own company. Generally speaking, we outsource just about every piece of IT possible. Here's how we do it: 1. Get Predictable: We seek managed service providers, web hosting companies, developers and other partners who can handle day-to-day maintenance issues at a reasonable, predi

Top Ten Business Technology Trends

Gartner analysts recently identified the top ten key technologies -- and related trends -- that they believe will be strategic for mainstream organizations. The analysts presented their findings during Gartner's Symposium and ITxpo . Gartner defines a strategic technology as having the potential for significant impact on the enterprise -- within the next three years. Factors for significant impact include a high potential for disruption to IT or the business , the need for a major financial investment, or the risk of being late to adopt. The technologies were chosen because they could affect an organization's long-term plans, programs and initiatives. They are deemed strategic because they’ve matured to broad market use, or because they enable strategic advantage from early adoption . Gartner's top 10 strategic technologies for 2009 include: Virtualization; Cloud Computing; Servers (beyond blades); Web-Oriented Architectures; Enterprise Mash-ups; Specialized Systems; Social

Getting Down to Basics About SaaS

I was interviewed today by a journalist from one of the CIO-oriented pubs who surprised me by asking a series of questions which came back to many of the same fundamental misconceptions about Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) which I thought I had dispelled in a BusinessWeek commentary I published in 2006. The first misconception the journalist had was that SaaS solutions are not robust enough to satisfy large-scale enterprises, as well as small- and mid-size businesses (SMBs). I pointed out to him that large-scale enterprises have been leveraging SaaS solutions for a long time, but have only recently begun to talk about their successful experiences. One of the most recent announcements of a major deployment of SaaS by a large-scale enterprises was by Flextronics who is adopting Workday's on-demand human resource management (HRM) solution to support its 200,000 employees. Real Total Cost of Ownership The second misconception the journalist revealed was the old "buy vs. lease&quo

Managed Services: The Ultimate Small Business Contingency Plan

Today could have been a really bad day for my one-year-old company, Nine Lives Media Inc. My New York office suffered a broadband outage. If our Web sites, network, email, phone and application systems were all centralized in that office we would have been dark all day. But our small business didn't skip a beat. Why's that? The three-word answer: Redundant managed services. Our New York office has a redundant managed broadband connection. Plus, we depend on a range of decentralized managed services and SaaS (software as a service) solutions to keep our business growing. Here's a look at the services we're leveraging today -- and a few that we hope to leverage in the next six months. Managed and SaaS services we're currently leveraging: Hosted Email : I don't know why any small business would consider an on-premise system these days. Hosted email is cheap (it's a commodity, in fact), reliable, fast and accessible from anywhere in the world. It's so cheap

Online Security in a Global Networked Economy

Because of the expanding growth and complexity of communication networking, and the risks presented by a new breed of skillful hackers, serious security threats are an unfortunate certainty within the highly interconnected office environment of today. These threats are very real and the results are costly to those businesses that have been affected. Apparently, the victims aren't entirely at random, which is often assumed to be the case. According to the 2007 CSI Computer Crime and Security Survey , almost one-fifth (18 percent) of those respondents who suffered one or more kinds of security incident further said they had suffered a "targeted attack" -- defined as a malware attack aimed exclusively at their organization or at organizations within a small subset of the general population. Beyond the Virus Threat Moreover, financial fraud overtook virus attacks as the source of the greatest financial losses. Virus losses, which had been the leading cause of loss for seven s

Can You Rely On Your Current Resellers For Today's Services?

Managed services, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and 'cloud computing' are gaining increasing attention in the press and among IT and business decision-makers because they promise to alleviate many of the day-to-day hassles of deploying and administering technology and applications. While these new forms of remote and web-based services have demonstrated many tangible business benefits, they have also disrupted the traditional value-chain of the technology industry. Traditionally, technology vendors relied on channel partners to extend their reach into market segments they couldn't address either by offering lower costs of sales or by delivering more customized solutions. Often the channel partner also took on the role of pre-sales consultant and on-site support provider. This model worked well when customers needed help with the initial planning and design, as well as the installation, integration and ongoing maintenance of the hardware and software. And, customers needed p

Unified Communications: An Entrepreneur's Best Friend

I'm in Orlando, Fla., this week "on vacation." As a small business owner, I can't afford to fully unplug from my business. Sure, managed service providers keep my company running even when I'm focused on family time. However, I still need a mix of unified communications and mobile technologies to really keep the business optimized. Here are three key technologies that can give me -- and my customers -- peace of mind while I'm (mostly) unplugged from my business. 1. iPhone 3G : I wasn't a big fan of my iPhone 3G when I initially purchased it. Dropped connections seemed quite common during the first few weeks with the device. But the iPhone 3G has proven to be a great device for my business travel. I can monitor our company Web sites, Internet traffic patterns, reader loyalty, reader comments and more from the iPhone's browser. My family cringes when I open a laptop during vacations. But smart phones can let you quickly check in with your online busines

Survival Strategies in Tough Times

Growing concerns about the business implications of the turbulent economic climate and intensifying credit crunch are driving companies and non-profit institutions of all sizes to thoroughly reevaluate their corporate priorities, capital expenditures, operating budgets and sourcing strategies. In addition to the " Four High-Tech Steps SMBs Should Consider Now ," here are two more technology trends companies and non-profit institutions of all sizes should seriously consider and capitalize on: Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): Web-based, subscription-priced, 'on-demand' services are experiencing significant growth because they can be deployed easily and quickly without the risks and added costs associated with traditional, on-premise, 'legacy' software products. End-users and business executives alike are recognizing the business benefits of SaaS solutions which range from Google Apps and WebEx for collaboration to customer relationship management (C

The Business Case for BT Convergence

The structured approach of Business Technology Management (BTM) is a proven methodology that seeks to unify business and technology decision-making at every level within a company. Originally conceived to address the needs of large enterprises, there are now very apparent benefits for both small and medium sized businesses. Let's consider the growing body of evidence that supports that business case. Put simply, BTM is applied to ensure that a company's business strategy can be realized by the technology it deploys. This approach is used by business leaders to align, synchronize and even converge technology and business management for the purpose of ensuring better execution, risk control and profitability. The Path of Total Convergence Clearly, these are the type of guiding principles that should transcend all businesses, regardless of their size. Let's explore the meaning of those three states of progression. Alignment is defined as a state where technology supports, ena

Four High-Tech Steps SMBs Should Consider Now

The fiscal fourth quarter has just started. But now is the time for small businesses owners and mid-size business managers to start looking ahead to 2009. "Cost cutting" is a popular topic during today's uncertain economic times. You can hide in fear and close your wallet. Or you can take these four steps to gain more predictable operating costs -- while driving your business forward. 1. Move to a managed services contract : If you're using an IT consulting firm or solutions provider to maintain your network and PC infrastructure, ask them about so-called "managed services." Many consulting firms now offer flat monthly fees to maintain, protect and optimize business desktops, servers, network infrastructure and applications. This flat-rate approach will eliminate those "surprise" emergency IT repairs that can throw off your company's monthly budget or hinder cash flow. If you're not familiar with the managed services, here are some key ques

Globalization and the Small Business Teleworker

The trend of globalization, and the need to connect remote employees, now touches nearly every segment of American business -- regardless of organization size or industry. Here’s a case in point. Founded in January 2001, Illinois-based Kirix began as a data analysis specialist for the recovery audit industry. They've done a lot of data analysis and software development work in that time and have had a particular specialty in identifying duplicate payments and other overpayment errors in large corporate accounting systems. More recently, by generalizing their tool set and incorporating Web connectivity into their software, they apply that analytical firepower to all kinds of data -- regardless of where it is located -- even data that's on the Web. The Borderless Communication Challenge Benjamin Williams, one of the company founders, had been planning to relocate to Germany. As a valuable asset to their corporation, Kirix wanted to retain his services, but wasn't sure how th