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IT Companies: Why We Stopped Trying to Be Like Everyone Else

April 19, 2017

Now you might well think that this is going to be one of those come-speak-to-Select-Technology-because-we-are-the-best-in-the-world kind of blogs…

I really want to be open and honest here, and say that there are probably plenty of good IT companies out there. I say “probably” because, in all fairness, we stopped researching the competition.

We stopped trying to be like everyone else.

We no longer look at pricing. We know we’re at the higher end of the IT support market, but that’s a good thing because it gives us the headroom to properly support our customers and provide outstanding customer service.

This definitely bares repeating: We can properly support our customers and provide outstanding customer service.

And, when we stopped worrying about being like every other support company we began to really understand what it takes to be different.

IT companies

There’s no reason to compare our services to any other IT support company out there because the bottom line is that no-one else can be like us, we have a team of people who are dedicated to our core values.

Our services are simply designed with one thing in mind:

Will this solve your problem?

This does often present us with some problems, because when we are up against a so-called competitor in a new business situation our potential new clients get very confused because they are looking for a like-for-like comparison.

But this also plays in our favour time and time again because it allows us to explain, and for you to see how we really do things differently from others.

This is why it really pays for us as an IT support company to be innovative and constantly develop new and better services.

Talk to us today and find out how Select Technology can solve the challenges you face as technology in business evolves.

Slack Vs Microsoft Teams: Office 365 Takes On the Collaboration King

March 17, 2017

Microsoft’s latest productivity tool Teams has been in beta since November, and this week it went live for Office 365 users around the world.

office 365

Some have been touting Teams as Microsoft’s Slack-killer app, with others slightly less enthused about the enterprise offering.

Today we’ll do our best to demystify the subject so that you can stop slacking and figure out which is the best option for your team!

Pricing

Pricing is probably the best place for us to start because Microsoft Teams does not exist as a standalone service in the way that Slack does.

Microsoft Teams has been integrated into Office 365 as a default feature for certain subscription levels.

This means that if you already have an Office 365 Business Essentials, Business Premium, Enterprise E1, E3, or E5 subscription, you now have access to Teams at no additional cost.

You can log into Teams using your existing 365 credentials. There is no additional registration or onboarding necessary.

On the other hand, Slack adopts a freemium business model that incorporates a free tier for users to trial the app or roll it out in a smaller team.

Depending on what kind of online storage, email, and productivity apps you want to integrate with Slack, the annual cost sits at around $140-270 (£115-220) per user.

Microsoft Office 365 pricing starts at $60 (£49) per user per year for its Business Premium tier.

This includes Microsoft Teams on top of Skype for Business, Exchange email, and 1TB of OneDrive for Business storage.

…and the winner is:

Looking at pricing alone, Microsoft Teams is the clear winner.

Even if you upgrade your Office 365 subscription to E3 with full access to the Office applications, you’ll still only be paying $240 (£196) per user per year.

office 365

Third-Party Integration

The Slack App Directory is currently a whole lot more expensive than the Microsoft Teams integrations, of which there are approximately 150 at launch.

Despite Teams boasting many partners, there are currently only a handful of default integrations built into the application.

One of the standout features of Teams is its tab-based interface.

Tabbed navigation enables users to add their own custom tabs based on the specific integrations they need access to.

An example of this would be your Support or Helpdesk teams using a tabbed instance of Zendesk, while your Marketing guys open a Hootsuite tab or two to monitor social media streams and publish content.

A downside to Microsoft Teams is the lack of integration with other third-party tools like Google Drive and Dropbox.

The biggest drawback is the fact that you can only interact with people who are already within your Office 365 network.

office 365

Slack, on the other hand, allows you to invite users via email, with the option to limit their access to particular channels if necessary.

Microsoft has promised us that cross-platform integration is coming, but for now we’ll have to sit tight.

…and the winner is:

This is a tough one; let’s break it down:

  • App Directory Pricing: Teams Slack
  • Cross-Platform Integration: Teams Slack
  • Built-In Integrations: Teams Slack
  • Tabbed Integrations: Teams Slack

There isn’t much to set the two apart in this area.

The main distinction is whether you need a platform that will enable collaboration with groups and individuals outside of your organisation.

If so, Slack is the way to go. Otherwise, let’s keep reading.

office 365

Bots

Slackbot

If you’ve used Slack for any amount of time, you’ll no doubt have dabbled with Slackbot.

Slackbot is a separate private conversation that can answer simple questions, as well as acting as a test environment for integrations.

Microsoft Teams introduces not one, but two bots: T-Bot and the yet-to-be-released WhoBot.

office 365

T-Bot

T-Bot works similarly to Slackbot, enabling you to ask questions about members of your group and other topics. You’ll likely notice some parallels with Cortana in Windows 10.

Moreover, T-Bot offers a choice of user-interfaces, with a tabbed browser-like instance accompanying the more standard chat-style interface which acts more like a conversation with the AI.

WhoBot

Far more impressive is WhoBot, which unfortunately doesn’t have a confirmed release date yet.

WhoBot uses the Microsoft Graph AI as its framework, accessing data from Active Directory and sucking it into Teams to answer your questions about individuals within your organisation.

If you’re looking for someone with a specific skill set or area of expertise, Teams will comb through your organisation’s directory for personal records, communications, or other details that may be relevant.

After finding the personnel you need, you’ll see information such as their department and which manager they report to so that you know exactly where they stand in the pecking order.

…and the winner is:

It wouldn’t be fair to compare our contenders based on a feature like WhoBot which hasn’t been released yet.

Nevertheless, T-Bot already holds its own against Slackbot, and with WhoBot incoming it looks like Slack will have to up its game in the bot department.

WhoBot’s integration with Active Directory is one of many examples where Microsoft Teams benefits greatly from calling Office 365 its home.

This one goes to Microsoft Teams.

office 365

Security

Microsoft has long been dominant on the security front, and Teams is no exception.

Both apps are compliant with ISO 27001, and incorporate two-factor authentication for granular teams and entire organisations.

Teams boasts additional Microsoft SharePoint encryption, as well as a host of other certifications:

  • Cloud Security Alliance (CSA)
  • EU Model Clauses (EUMC)
  • HIPAA
  • ISO 27018
  • SSAE16 SOC 1
  • SSAE16 SOC 2

Teams also integrates with Microsoft Intune, providing a decent level of mobile device management.

One of the defining aspects of Microsoft Teams is the level of functionality in the Office 365 Admin Centre.

Within the Admin Centre, you can adjust features like screen sharing, content access, and profile configuration. You can determine who can use integrations, video, bots, and even Microsoft Teams as a whole.

…and the winner is:

Microsoft Teams.

office 365

Funzies

Microsoft Teams has a meme generator, need we say more?

office 365

But seriously, you can really tell that Microsoft has gone that extra mile with the multitude of memes, stickers, and Emoji goodness in Teams.

Facebook Messenger will come to mind when you use the stickers in Teams. There is a library of sticker sets, designed specifically with business in mind and including categories such as Dev, Legal, and Office Drama.

Slack is well known for its many / commands, with /gif and /giphy commands making it easy to insert your favourite Emojis and animations into chats.

office 365

This is an undeniably solid feature of Slack, but Teams goes a step further by implementing a preview feature along with a scrollable list of search results.

…and the winner is:

Microsoft Teams does more than Slack in this area.

Slack’s /gif and /giphy features are great, but being able to preview content before inserting it into a message is a must-have feature.

Above all, there is now a meme generator built into Office 365!

Microsoft Teams takes this one.

office 365

User-Interface

The screenshot below shows what the Microsoft Teams interface looks like:

office 365

So, on the left-hand side you have tabs for Activity, Chat, Teams, Messages, and Files.

Activity essentially acts like a social media feed for your organisation’s Intranet. The threading and overall appearance is somewhat akin to Yammer.

Teams is like Slack here, so if you are mentioned by name in a post you will see a notification icon appear beside the relevant message.

Chat and Teams, as the names would suggest, are where your conversations are found. There is a text box at the bottom along with icons you can click to access GIFs, stickers, and files.

…and the winner is:

Slack offers far more UI customisation than Microsoft Teams. There are loads of skins and themes to choose from, while Teams only currently offers light, dark, and high-contrast themes.

The Teams interface isn’t terrible but it certainly has some way to come.

Slack wins this one.

office 365

Conclusion

As a Microsoft house, we’re admittedly a little biased.

Having said that, I have plenty of personal experience with Slack, and I’ve always been a fan. It looks great, and offers an awesome array of dependable features.

Slack paved the way for business chat and collaboration, but I’m very impressed by what Microsoft has achieved with Teams. 

Teams is the obvious choice if you’re already working in a Microsoft environment with Office 365.

The only exception to this would be if you need a collaboration tool for chats and meetings with people from outside of your organisation.

Slack is a great choice for smaller teams that aren’t already using Office 365. It is worth taking a moment to consider scaling, however. Office 365 may become a necessity as your organisation grows, making Teams a more viable option.

Either way, these are both fantastic tools with loads more great features on the horizon.

The collaboration competition is certainly heating up, so it will be interesting to see what Microsoft and Slack can come up with.

Talk to us today about your favourite collaboration tool, or let us know if you’re unsure which one to choose and we’ll provide some expert guidance.

How to Ensure Cybersecurity With IT Service Providers

March 15, 2017

With cybersecurity at the forefront of most IT leaders’ attention, it has never been more important to consider GDPR compliance when speaking to IT service providers.

cybersecurity

I recently read a great piece over at CIO from last year featuring an interview with Mayer Brown legal partner, Rebecca Eisner.

Eisner talks about some of the challenges faced by customers of IT managed service providers, particularly larger organisations with a more complex staff and network structure.

She discusses that although data protection measures need to be included in IT service contracts, “Suppliers are understandably concerned about not paying damages that are disproportionate to the revenue received, and therefore seek to limit or disclaim their liability.”

Eisner goes on to say that, “Customers are equally concerned, particularly where suppliers do not have the same incentives to protect customer data as the customer, and because the negative impacts of a security incident are generally far more significant to the customer than to the supplier.”

This highlights the importance of establishing a clear set of guidelines with your providers so that everyone understands their responsibilities.

The Growing Complexity of Cybersecurity

The global infrastructure of data centres continues to grow and become more dispersed across the globe.

From your smartphone to the cloud and back again, there is a far greater margin for error and far more opportunities for your data to become compromised than ever before.

Eisner remarks, “The points of access and potential points of security failure multiply with this ever-expanding ecosystem. In addition, many of these systems are provided or managed by third party suppliers.”

cybersecurity

Consider also the new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its far-reaching implications.

Every access point that your data touches must fall in line with the regulation that will come into effect next year.

Everything from your contracts, to your day-to-day operations and the handling of customer data must be considered and kept up-to-date.

How to Mitigate Risk When Outsourcing IT

I recommend checking out the full article linked above; however, here is a summary of Rebecca Eisner’s recommendations for improving cybersecurity in your relationships with IT service providers:

  • Make sure every member of staff from your secretary to the directors is trained and educated on the importance and practicalities of data security and customer privacy, as well as methods of minimising risk.
  • Gain a clear understanding from your provider exactly who will be handling sensitive data; this includes client information and any data that is integral to the business’ finance, operations, and so on.
  • Query your provider’s own cybersecurity measures, including the policies they have in place for identifying potentially high-risk third-party relationships.
  • Review your existing service contracts to ensure they meet both your updated internal cybersecurity policies, and GDPR when it lands in 2018.

cybersecurity

Periodic reviews should also be conducted by both your organisation and your providers to ensure policies are kept up-to-date.

A Little Due Diligence Goes a Long Way

This post is by no means comprehensive, and is intended mostly to get you thinking about your own approach to cybersecurity.

This is particularly important in the changing landscape of data protection regulation.

Make your IT managed service provider work for you by having them ensure the necessary measures are in place to secure your data in situ and in transit.

If you’re not sure how to approach a discussion about GDPR with your service providers, then call us today and we’ll be happy to help.

Take These 5 Steps for Cloud Migration Success

March 8, 2017

With the recent hullabaloo surrounding last week’s AWS S3 outage, some of you may be wondering if cloud migration is an appropriate next step for your business.

man-person-clouds-apple

We are major cloud evangelists at Select Technology, but we absolutely acknowledge that things can go wrong when moving your business to the cloud in the absence of understanding and correct planning.

Despite its perceived imperfections, some level of cloud migration will benefit your business in almost all cases.

We’re going to look at steps you can take to avoid the pitfalls of cloud migration and ensure your business gets the most out of this amazing technology.

1. Know What You Need

Take a moment to think about what kind of demands will be placed on your connection.

Is your business seasonal or marketing-driven, with surges of traffic based on public holidays or marketing campaigns?

One of the amazing features of public cloud services – especially with a platform like Microsoft Azure – is automation or auto-scaling.

If you can anticipate when your periods of highest demand will be, your cloud service will automatically activate appropriate computing resources during those times.

On the other hand, do you need consistently high bandwidth for live streaming video or hosting VoIP calls with clients and partners?

If so, you might be better off using a private cloud setup that requires less automation.

Cloud computing is a very, very general term, covering literally hundreds of different services.

Taking the time to think about exactly what your business needs will help you reap the fullest benefits of cloud migration, while ensuring you’re not paying for anything you don’t need.

2. Test Before Going Live

Test, test, test before deployment!

Storing data and setting up automation in Azure and other cloud services is a relatively simple affair.

One of the biggest pitfalls of cloud migration lies not in moving your data, but in making sure your applications perform as expected once shifted up into the cloud.

The way your apps operate on-site gives little indication as to how they will act off-premise.

This point overlaps with our next one because it is so important to remember that cloud migration for businesses is often a step-by-step process.

Moving your business into the cloud one workload at a time will give you the feedback you need to anticipate all eventualities before they have the chance to affect your business.

cloud migration

Pre-deployment testing of this sort is best performed by someone with the relevant experience and foresight, so we highly recommend seeking advice externally if your business lacks the skillset in-house.

If you have the IT resource onsite for pre-deployment testing then you’ll be pleased to know that Microsoft offers online instructions on topics like how to Create an Office 365 Dev/Test Environment in Azure.

3. Take Your Cloud Migration Step by Step

The point about testing is a crucial one that illustrates the importance of taking one step at a time.

Running before you can walk, so to speak, will give you far less agility. If you rush to shift your apps up to the cloud, then you will have no idea how they will operate when push comes to shove.

Cloud services are quickly becoming a business necessity but don’t worry if your competitors beat you there.

Performing your cloud migration in a step-by-step fashion will also provide a betting understanding of which services you require.

You may find that some workloads are better off remaining on-site or even automated to reduce costs.

You won’t know unless you take the time to find out!

4. Pay Attention to Security and Regulation

Every workload you move to the cloud should be thoroughly scrutinized to ensure your business’ security requirements are met.

Are you storing sensitive client data or other confidential information such as health or financial records?

GDPR is changing the way data is handled, so keeping your business compliant should be a vitally important part of your cloud migration strategy.

cloud migration

The security of your data, applications, and identities is well protected with Microsoft Azure Security.

“Security and privacy are built right into the Azure platform, beginning with the Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) that addresses security at every development phase from initial planning to launch, and Azure is continually updated to make it even more secure. Operational Security Assurance (OSA) builds on SDL knowledge and processes to provide a framework that helps ensure secure operations throughout the lifecycle of cloud-based services. Azure Security Center makes Azure the only public cloud platform to offer continuous security-health monitoring.”Azure Security

5. Choose the Right Cloud Partner

It is highly recommended that you seek to a managed IT services provider to identify what kind of cloud infrastructure is the best fit for your business.

Those of you who have already figured out what you need will likely also know which environment you want to run; Azure, HPE Helion, AWS, etc.

Be sure to plan ahead with your prospective provider so you can be sure they will be capable of supporting the full functionality your cloud infrastructure as it scales up.

At Select Technology we can look at and simplify your cloud requirements from a business perspective.

Call us today to talk to better understand cloud migration and your place on the modern technological landscape.

Company Directors: Signs Your Business Isn’t Ready for Managed IT Services (and What You Can Do About it)

February 20, 2017

Managed IT services providers can fill a number of roles for businesses, by augmenting existing in-house IT departments or replacing them with fully outsourced IT support.

managed IT services

As outsourcing becomes more effective and more cost-effective, the traditional on-premise IT team is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

One, two, or even a handful of IT staff simply cannot keep up with the knowledge and skills of an MSP (managed service provider) that employs a few dozen advanced technicians.

Strengthening the case of MSP even further is their ability to snap up the best talent by offering ongoing training and development.

But that doesn’t mean you are ready to move to outsourced IT support.

Here are a few signs that your business isn’t quite ready to work with an managed IT services partner:

1. You Don’t Know What to Look for in a Managed IT Services Provider

There are a number of questions you should be asking when speaking to IT service providers.

Get companies talking about their successes with existing clients, approach to security, and how they service customers who experience growth throughout their contract duration.

Tip: Read our guide on 5 Important Questions to Ask IT Support Providers

2. You’re Not Looking to Grow Your Business

This probably isn’t you.

Moving swiftly on…

3. Your IT Infrastructure is Outdated or Poorly Implemented

Even the best IT Support provider will find it impossible to keep your business’ systems ticking along if your infrastructure is a mess.

managed IT services

An experienced pair of eyes will be able to identify any potential security issues and inefficiencies in your IT architecture.

Tip: Grab some free consultation (without the tacky sales pitch) from one of our Senior Project Managers

Bonus Tip: Bag yourself a discounted Security Audit throughout the month of March.

4. Your House Isn’t in Order

Have a clear plan for budgeting before making any kind of investment in your business.

Our guide (see the link above) suggests that managed IT services providers should be able to provide clear a SLA and pricing model so you know exactly what to expect from onboarding and beyond.

workbook-1205044_1920

It goes without saying that value trumps price, so be prepared to really look at your MSP as a partner who can help you improve your business beyond just fixing stuff.

Tip: Part of our service involves creating an IT Roadmap that will help you scale workload and investment level based on your own business goals – Call us today to find out more.

Conclusion

The take-home point from this post is that you should avoid investing in a partnership with a MSP if you aren’t equipped with the facts.

Speak to us today and one of our Senior Project Managers can help you figure out what level of outsourcing, if any, is right for your business.

Alternatively, here are Signs that it’s Time for Your Business to Look at Outsourcing IT.

5 Important Questions to Ask IT Support Providers

February 15, 2017

With 2017 well under way, it’s the perfect time to review your IT Support contract to ensure you’re receiving the best value through the coming year.

IT Support

According to recent research, 72% of UK businesses suffered 43 hours of downtime over the last year.

The cost of this downtime is estimated to be £521 per employee, for a total nationwide loss of 149 million hours and £12.3 billion (with a b)!

Even if you have only experienced half as much downtime, it is easy to see how important it is that you have a solid IT helpdesk backing up your business.

In today’s post we’re going to lay out some simple questions to ask IT Support providers when reviewing your infrastructure this year

1. What is Your IT Support Experience?

We’re all for giving young businesses a chance, but you have to ask yourself if you’re willing to stake your business and reputation on a company who has only been around for five minutes.

Before digging into the details, be sure to ask:

  • How many years have you been around?
  • Do you have any clients in my industry?
  • Can I speak to any of your customers?

As many as 50% of small businesses fail within their first five years.

Consider also that the managed services industry is an overcrowded market. Stick to providers who have been around for five years or longer if you want greater peace of mind.

Team structure is another important factor because very large organisations experience a gulf between junior and senior staff.

The sweet spot will be a company that is big enough to provide a quality proactive service, but small enough that senior talent works ‘in the trenches’ with the rest of the helpdesk.

2. What Security Measures are in Place?

Check out this video and then tell us that security isn’t important!

Naturally, you will want to ask IT helpdesk providers what encryption and authentication protocols they have in place.

The following are also worth asking:

  • What are your physical security measures?
  • How will you back up my data?
  • Tell me about your risk management strategy

A risk management strategy is something that any provider worth their salt will implement as this plays into the increasingly proactive nature of the IT services industry.

Your provider must help you not just help you when things go wrong – they must proactively ensure that attacks and faults don’t even occur in the first place!

3. What SLAs are Available?

Any business owner will be hyperaware of hidden costs and sneaky fine print.

A clearly written service-level agreement will ensure you don’t get caught out.

It goes without saying that you will want to ask helpdesk providers things like:

  • Is the given price really the entire cost?
  • Will you proactively monitor my systems?
  • Are contracts rolling or will I be tied in?

It can typically take 4 – 6 months to really gauge the effectiveness of an IT support provider, depending on the size of your organisation.

Nevertheless, alarm bells should be ringing if a company immediately insists that you sign into a three-year contract with no flexibility.

Confirm beforehand what will happen the level of service you will receive, as well as what kind of exit path is in place if you decide to change providers in the future.

4. How Do You Service Your Customers?

This is similar to the topic of SLAs.

Customer service is more important than ever for business-to-business relationships, so it’s well worth taking a minute to ask what each provider holds as its core values.

IT support

Small and mid-sized IT support providers can often provide a more personal or bespoke service, but be sure to ask:

  • Will I have an account manager?
  • Is your support team on-site or do you outsource?
  • Do you regularly train your staff?

Continual improvement and development of staff is vital in an industry where technology is advancing such a dizzying pace.

A great IT helpdesk company will stay up to date with advancements in technology and practices so you don’t have to.

5. How Will You Manage My Business as it Grows?

Forcing a square block through a round hole is not going to work for very long in business.

Your IT Support provider must provide enough flexibility for your business as it grows and evolves throughout the duration of your contract.

Make sure your provider can answer the following questions:

  • Will you provide an IT Roadmap for my business?
  • How do your contracts allow for scalability?
  • Can I change my plan mid-term if needed?

An IT Roadmap is a great way of ensuring a bespoke service that is specific to your business.

A senior technician should take the time to sit with you and discuss what your plans are for the coming months and years so that there are no surprises down the line.

Another benefit of planning ahead is that an outsider’s perspective might actually provide some insights and ideas that you hadn’t considered outside of the IT arena.

Call us today to discuss your IT plans for 2017 and you’ll quickly see that we tick all the boxes!

Source: https://www.beaming.biz/press-releases/12-billon-cost-internet-downtime-uk-businesses/

Part Two: It’s Time to Start Viewing IT as an Investment, NOT an Expense

February 13, 2017

Following on from Part One of our interview with Sales Manager Guy Webb, this final part looks at the hidden costs of deferring investment in your IT infrastructure and refusing to look at IT as an investment.

IT as an alternative

Mark: So there are clearly some pretty significant hidden costs involved in putting off IT investment

Guy: Yep. And the problem is that it’s impossible to quantify missed opportunities from an operational point of view.

Successful businesses operate in a similar manner to successful entrepreneurs.

They are willing to take educated, calculated risks, including making investments that may not provide an immediately tangible return. Education and training are prime examples of this.

It might feel like taking a leap of faith, but it doesn’t have to be scary if you’ve put in the necessary groundwork and removed as many question marks as possible.

Taking Ownership

Mark: So what do you think IT support providers like Select Technology can do to help matters?

Guy: Good question.

I think a big part of our responsibility is in properly demonstrating the value of IT… Investment technology, that is.

Mark: How do you do that?

Guy: It might sound counter-intuitive but learning is an emotional process.

<Pointing at the green sections of his drawing from Part One>

Maybe we should invest more in our graphics...

This is a bit like the comfort zone for each business.

The business that is willing to expand that comfort zone will learn and grow in the process. You can obviously see that the opposite is true for the other company.

So our job becomes demonstrating the importance of stepping out of that comfort zone; you’ll quickly find that what was uncomfortable or scary quickly becomes routine through repetition and, more importantly, curiosity.

As humans, we’ve evolved with a brain that screams “STOP!” when we experience pain or discomfort, but this is an outdated trait. We’re not having to outrun sabretooth tigers anymore.

IT as an investment

Fear can be useful, but it’s redundant in business.

We open our doors to all customers.

Anyone who reads this is welcome to pop in for a cup of tea and a chat. We invite every prospective client to come in and see how we operate, asking any questions along the way.

Understanding how our services work on a human level removes the unknown, which should reduce the fear massively.

Mark: But not all IT companies work like this.

Guy: Well, no, and that’s fine.

We would encourage any business to speak to other providers besides ourselves.

Remember that you’re not comparing a like-for-like commodity. Each provider you speak to will likely raise a couple of questions in your mind that you can use to better compare them.

Conclusion

Mark: Thanks for talking me through all of this.

So here are the main points I’ve gleaned:

  • Keep your business IT Infrastructure up to date
  • Small Business Mindset can cause stagnation and lead to missed opportunities
  • Take educated risks based on reasonable assumptions
  • Fear stems from a lack of information or understanding on a subject
  • IT managed services and solutions are not commodities

I also really like what you said, linking price shopping with scarcity mindset.

Guy: Exactly – how can you grow a profitable business if you’re busy counting the pennies?

Mark: Did I miss anything?

Guy: No, I think you covered the most important points.

Mark: Is there anything you’d like to add before we wrap up?

Guy: Henry Ford said, ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.’

A lot of people know this quote, but not many people really internalise it and put it into practice.

MarkHe also said that we get old when we stop learning, regardless of age.

Guy: Yeah. So what I’m getting at is that the growth, development, profit, and all that good stuff exists squarely outside of your comfort zone.

Look at Tesco. When they introduced the Tesco Clubcard it was a huge risk – something like 20% of their revenues were on the line. But the data they collected on customers, and the loyalty it created in consumers… well, you get the point.

<Check out Tesco: How one supermarket came to dominate>

If you’re not learning, experimenting, trying new things, taking calculated risks; you’re not going anywhere.

So there you have it.

Step out of your comfort zone, shake off the Small Business Mindset, invest in your IT infrastructure, and improve your operational efficiency.

Call us today to learn more about how we can help!

Part One: It’s Time to Start Viewing IT as an Investment, NOT an Expense

February 10, 2017

So many business owners view IT as some kind of necessary evil akin to tax that must be tolerated, rather than embracing IT as an investment.

IT as an alternative

Our recent post The Cloud: Five Misconceptions About Office 365 Holding Your Business Back touched on the idea that IT should be viewed as a legitimate investment rather than just another expense.

So why are so many businesses still refusing to accept IT for what it really is, Investment Technology?

The Pitfalls of Maintaining a Small Business Mindset

For this post I decided to borrow from someone far more experienced than myself.

Sales Manager at Select Technology, Guy Webb, has spent over a decade in the world of technology.

Guy has developed his technical prowess while always maintaining a keen emphasis on the people who ultimately rely on said technology.

Mark: To kick things off, what would you say is the biggest obstacle faced by small business owners today?

Guy: Rapid change presents a huge challenge for small businesses, especially when we look at how quickly technology is changing.

The real challenge is overcoming resistance towards making small incremental changes. But this needs to be done if a business is to keep up with the pace as technology develops.

Mark: And would you say there is a fear of obsolescence?

Guy: Obso-what now? Haha!

IT as an investment

Of course. A lot of businesses think it’s pointless to invest in a technology they think will be obsolete six months down the line, understandably.

This line of thinking means that IT falls down to the bottom of their list of priorities.

The small business mindset stems from viewing things like IT as an expense rather than something that can be invested in to help the business perform more efficiently.

Mark: Do you see this mindset permeating into other areas of a business?

Guy: Absolutely.

I was just going to say that Marketing is another area that usually ends up as a low priority, when really it should be a top priority for most businesses.

If you’re not marketing your product, sales will suffer.

So I suppose the small business mindset leads to paying the bare minimum just to cover basic requirements. Or rather, what the holder of the purse strings thinks are basic requirements.

Price Shopping for a Rolls Royce

Mark: So without naming names, can you think of any of your own clients who may fall prey to small business mindset?

Guy: Well I can think of a great example of two clients who are roughly the same size and operate in similar industries, yet who are polar opposites in their attitude towards technology.

The first pays around £X per year for us to support XY employees; the other pays £3X for more or less the same number of users.

It’s no secret that we sometimes struggle to service the first client because their ‘bare essentials’ mentality doesn’t always account for the curve balls we’re thrown from day to day.

Mark: The second client pays almost three times as much for the same staff numbers – does the service really scale like that?

Guy: Well look, the £3X client understands and moves with the advancements that technology brings.

They’re not afraid to make that investment-

Mark: And I guess even if they are afraid, they’ll do it anyway if they can see the value.

Guy: Exactly, and the £X client will probably end up spending any “savings” on some form of upgrade down the line anyway.

Look at it like this…

<Guy proceeds to scribble frantically on his notepad>

IT as an investment

Maybe we should invest more in our graphics…

On the left is a business who moves with the times and keeps their IT infrastructure up to date.

That big green area is the increased efficiency the business enjoys as a result of a consistent investment level [labelled IL] over time.

On the right is a business who puts off IT investments until they become a necessity for one reason or another.

Notice how much smaller the green area is for the guys who view IT as just another expense?

Mark: What’s the grey area on the right?

Guy: That’s the efficiency and potential growth they’ve missed out on by not stepping out of their comfort zone. It’s a cliché but you get what you pay for!

If you go shopping for a Rolls Royce, you’re not going to be concerned with cost because Rollers aren’t a commodity. You’re shopping for the best quality, not the lowest price.

The same is true with IT; it’s not a commodity.

No two IT helpdesks are the same.

Skillsets, team structures, escalation procedures; even company culture. These things can all vary massively from one provider to the next so to compare them like for like is missing the point.

Price shopping can cripple the competitiveness of a business because it keeps you in a mindset of scarcity; worrying about the pennies instead of proactively searching for opportunities to bring in more pounds.

Click Here for Part Two

The Cloud: Five Misconceptions About Office 365 Holding Your Business Back

February 8, 2017

With a growing number of businesses moving their computer systems into the cloud, you might have been considering migrating to Office 365.

This post was inspired by a recent eBook released by Microsoft called Myths About Moving to the Cloud – What Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Really Need to Know About Moving to Microsoft Office 365.

We didn’t cover everything in the eBook, so be sure to check it out!

There are a fair few differing opinions on the subject, but as your business grows you will ultimately want to look at O365 as a worthwhile investment.

Providing our clients with IT support and services gives us insights into the overall perceptions that individuals and organisations have about modern technologies.

Let’s look at five of the most persistent misconceptions that you may have about Microsoft 365 and elevating your business into the cloud:

1. Office 365 is Just an Online-Only Version of Office

Far from it!

Microsoft has developed Office 365 as a unique cloud-based productivity suite that covers all of your usual office tasks.

However, the applications you know and (hopefully) love like Outlook, Word, Excel, and Skype are still installed on your device. This means that you can access them offline with the option to automatically sync your data when you reconnect to the Internet.

O365 gives you the consistency of offline applications with the added benefit of being able backup and collaborate in the cloud.

2. Email is Unchanged in the Cloud

Wrong!

At Select Technology we’re mad advocates (#madvocates?) of being proactive in our IT support and services, so this next point definitely resonates with me.

One of the best things about Outlook 365 is that moving your business email to the cloud places maintenance into the hands of Microsoft. This means that you can be more proactive by working on your core business, rather than re-actively fighting fires as the arise.

at-99377_1920

Office 365 email login is seamless, and Microsoft’s Exchange Online can be set to update automatically, with enough customisation options included to keep you in the driver’s seat.

If you’re still not convinced, bear in mind that you don’t actually need to migrate your email to O365 right away.

Microsoft offers a few different Office 365 plans based on your needs and preferences.

3. Office 365 Will Negatively Impact My Business’ Agility and Security

Never!

As we just touched on, less time spent on upgrades and maintenance equates to more time available for growing the value of your business.

Microsoft 365 makes your business more adaptable and agile, and will often save you considerable sums of money that would have been spent on expensive servers.

As for security, this comes straight from the horse’s mouth:

“To keep Office 365 security at the pinnacle of industry standards, our dedicated security team uses processes such as the Security Development Lifecycle; traffic throttling; and preventing, detecting, and mitigating breaches that many companies don’t have the resources to ensure. And, Microsoft Office 365 has a 99.9 percent financially backed uptime guarantee.”

Microsoft also lists a myriad of acronyms like FISMA, FERPA, and PIPEDA to highlight the endless rules and regulations they adhere to.

4. Monthly Updates Will Cause Issues with My Business Applications

False!

This one’s easy.

Microsoft have enough experience working with enterprise-level clients to know that their cloud offering must ensure operational continuity on all levels – no one would buy it otherwise!

Your business no doubt relies on some kind of critical bespoke solutions. If they can operate alongside Office 2010 or Office 2013, they will probably work with Office 365.

In fact, Microsoft has more than enough industry clout to work with the biggest software houses and ensure optimal integration with O365.

If you’re still worried, then rest assured that you can still keep your older version of Office installed just in case – Gates forbid – something goes awry!

5. Office 365 Migration is a P.I.T.A.

Nope!

Simply put, Office 365 migration is a cinch, but I’d like to use this opportunity to talk about something related.

This actually touches on a common overarching perception of IT being some kind of necessary evil, or expense that is to be tolerated and kept to a minimum.

That may have been true in years past, with clunky hardware sometimes being more of a liability than an asset.

Times have changed.

Another expertly coordinated migration

Another expertly coordinated migration

For us, IT should stand for Investment Technology.

With the incredible advances we’re seeing in the field… that’s exactly what it is – an investment!

Compare it to training your staff.

You might not see the results instantaneously, but as the weeks and months pan out – providing the training was decent – you’ll begin to reap the returns from your investment.

The exact same thing is true of cloud migration and IT support.

Investing in something that will help your business become more efficient and ultimately more profitable can’t be a bad thing!

If you’re ready to look at Office 365 migration or you’re not sure if it’s right for your business, call us today for some free advice.

How Much is Your Loyalty Costing You?

February 7, 2017

One of the most common objections I hear when talking to businesses is that they are happy with their current IT support provider.

The reason behind this steadfast loyalty usually falls into one of three categories:

  • Family / Friend: “My third cousin does it all for us.”
  • Satisfaction: “We haven’t had any problems.”
  • Longevity: “We’ve been with them for X years.”

These are all legitimate reasons; however, your unwillingness to consider alternatives could be costing you more than you realise.

IT Support Provider

The Three Hidden Costs of Loyalty

As far as I can tell, there are three main costs to never challenging your incumbent providers:

Financial

 

When was the last time you made sure you’re getting the best value for money?

Just imagine that every month you spend £75 more than you need to on, say, widget insurance.

Every year, this equates to £900, so over five years we’re talking about £4500 which could have been spent on R&D, system upgrades, or staff incentives – *cough*pizza!*cough*

These figures are pretty arbitrary of course, but should illustrate how cutting costs on just a single service can result in some significant savings.

Logistical

 

When did you last check that your provider is still a ‘best fit’ for your business?

Before sending a prospective client a proposal I take the time to visit the premises to discuss requirements and pain points, and to get a feel for the way the business operates in a broader context.

No two people or organisations are the same, so a provider who offers a genuinely bespoke service as standard is going to be more adaptable as your business changes and grows.

Opportunity

 

What else could you be spending your time and resources on?

Squeezing more value out of your providers and improving efficiencies in your business will free up your resources to pursue other opportunities for growth.

As a quick thought exercise, consider some areas of your business that could be automated or outsourced.

How many hours you could save each week?

What could you do with that extra time?

 “But they earned our loyalty!”

Loyalty in business isn’t just earned once. It must be maintained.

The same is true of everything from vehicles to marriage, and even your bank balance.

If these things aren’t proactively given plenty of TLC, it will soon become noticeable.

Don’t believe me?

Skip your car’s next service, forget your wedding anniversary, and ignore your bills – see where that gets you!

In my opinion you owe it to yourself, your business, and your family to run as tight a ship as possible, so make your providers work for your continued loyalty.

If you’re not sure how to approach this, call me and I’ll happily provide some questions you can ask companies like your IT support provider to prompt some innovation.

 “But I want loyal customers!”

Customer loyalty creates great testimonials and enables more accurate revenue projections, but let me ask you a question.

Do loyal customers challenge you to change?

To grow personally?

To improve as a business?

Kaizen is the Japanese business philosophy of continual improvement.

Literally meaning “change for good,” kaizen holds as one of its central tenets the idea that big results come from many small changes accumulated over time.

kaizen

Are your providers acting in accordance with kaizen?

Are you?

We’re either growing or dying; there is no middle ground or static position.

“Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.” – 10 points to anyone who can name the movie!

When you deal with an “awkward customer,” do you resent having to step outside of your comfort zone or do you welcome the challenge?

To prosper as a modern business, you need to be creating, innovating, and refining.

It is your most demanding clients who will force this kind of positive change, or kaizen.

The Comfort Zone is a Grave

PR firm Berkeley put out a great little blog post a while back entitled “Metathesiophobia – The fear of change, and something we are all guilty of!”  here’s an excerpt:

“Look at the likes of Kodak, Blackberry and Blockbuster. All are dead, or dying because of a fear of change and lack of innovation. Now compare this to Google, the most successful internet company of today; Netflix, which has turned the TV network into an app and Apple, a company that doesn’t need an introduction. The difference, not just in marketplace but in survival, is huge, and all because some are willing to innovate products and services in line with their customers’ needs and the ever changing world we live in.

Our very own Guy Webb also likes to talk about metathesiophobiaif you want a laugh, give us a call and ask him to say it three times fast!

Look, I know it isn’t always practical to put out tenders and have meetings with umpteen providers every year, but you need to go above and beyond if you’re going to differentiate from your competition.

This is achieved by allowing the kaizen philosophy to permeate through your entire business – many small changes accumulated over time.

The Full Disclosure Challenge

Here’s your chance to step out of your comfort zone in a controlled environment.

Where are you falling prey to metathesiophobia in your own life?

You can gloss it up by calling it complacency or laziness, but those are just examples of you moving away from the pain of having to make a change it’s all the same!

Leave a comment below with an area of your business or even your personal life that may have stagnated due to fear of change.

Make what you will of the scary spider…