Tuesday, May 27, 2014

If a disaster were to strike your infrastructure right now – would your company survive?

Though many organisations believe that their disaster recovery and data back-up procedures are rock solid, investigations very often reveal the contrary. If some unforeseen disaster were to strike your business and IT infrastructure right now – are you absolutely sure your data would be safe and easily accessible? In this article we uncover the implications of data loss and discuss the ways in which companies can avoid irreversible damage.

[Adam Whittington] According to Gartner Group, only 6% of companies survive longer than two years after losing data. While 43% were immediately put out of business after a ‘major loss’ of data, 51% closed their doors within two years.

In an already competitive economy where survival is for many companies a daily struggle, few South African businesses can truly afford such risk.

The scary reality is that while many South African businesses have a solid IT infrastructure and a productive workforce as a result of that, many overlook the real risks that are associated with data loss. Regardless of the size of your organisation, data loss can be crippling, if your data is unable to be replaced.

Data protection and disaster recovery goes beyond a simple back-up now and again. Fail-proof data back-up, management and recovery, requires a systematic, highly organised approach that ensures every aspect of the infrastructure has been accounted for.

While many organisations believe that their back-up procedures are sufficient, when an unexpected failure occurs, many find that both their back-up and disaster recovery procedures fall far short of what they needed.

What constitutes a threat to data?

Data is found everywhere in every business. With the inclusion of PDA’s such as laptops, tablets and smartphones – individual workers carry sensitive and important data around with them beyond the borders of the office, making the threat of a loss of data even more pertinent.

There are four key areas of potential data loss that can impact your business:-

  • Human error: accidental data deletion, misplacement or modification
  • Software: software malfunction, inaccessible data due to new/updated software versions, virus infection, malware infection
  • Hardware: hard drive failure, CPU failure, misplacement or theft of devices
  • Unavoidable physical occurrences: power-surges and outages, theft, fire, flood, earthquake etc.
  • Intentional Internal Security breaches: employees with a grudge or something to gain, can pose a threat to data and overall security.
  • External Security Breaches: Small businesses are deemed an easy target for modern hackers

What are the implications of a loss of data?

We’ve already revealed a few common statistics regarding the survival rate of businesses after a major loss of data, however data that is lost – regardless of how seemingly minimal the quantity of data that may be – will have an impact on the business as it always carries a Rand value.

Compliance (POPI): The Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) has been signed in to law by the President. For any company that processes any form of personal information, it is imperative that this personal information is retained within a secure environment. Organisations within Marketing, Financial Services, Healthcare and Hospitality are in particular impacted by this act. Find out more about POPI HERE.

  • Productivity: As a company struggles to re-instate data, time is lost to this activity, while access to information is hampered, thereby negatively impacting employee productivity on all fronts.
  • Accuracy: When data is not replaceable, or is only partly replaceable, employees will need to locate and recreate data entries and information. Inaccuracies can often occur in this process which can impact sales and revenue.
  • Reputation: Customers will expect that a professional, efficient organisation is able to secure data and maintain operational efficiency even when disaster strikes. If a sizeable quantity of data is lost, this can undermine customer confidence in the organisation.
  • Security: In the case of data theft, not only could your own organisation be placed at risk, but your customers can also be placed at risk.
  • Legal Liability: Customers who are the victims of an organisations data theft event, may elect to sue the business for damages. In addition to the legal costs involved, if the court rules in favour of the prosecution, then the business will be liable for the damages incurred. This has the potential to put the company out of business.
  • Cost: The productive hours required to reproduce data will commonly amount to more in Rands that the cost to maintain efficient data back-up plans and procedures.

The Solution: Simulate to Reveal your Weaknesses & Fix Them

Many organisations do not realise that their daily back-ups are not running as intended and to make matters worse, they assume that because they have a published disaster recovery plan in place, that their data and operations are secure. Very often however these plans are outdated and have no dedicated individual assigned to the management and review of the plan.

Untested plans do not work

Though not the most popular move in organisations, as it has undoubtedly entailed long nights or unwelcome disruptions to business operations in the past, disaster recover testing remains one of the most thorough, accurate methods of understanding the weaknesses and vulnerabilities within your infrastructure and disaster recovery, or business continuity plan.

Start with a good foundation

A rigorous hardware and software review should be conducted, after which consideration is given to all the potential things that could go wrong. An impact assessment should also take place where the impact of a disaster to all stakeholders is considered – including all personnel, the supply chain, third party vendors and of course, customers. From this foundation, a more accurate approach to testing is then possible.

Uncover and fix all issues

System based simulations are critical to uncover and address loopholes and problems and very often, a single simulation is not enough. Once issues have been identified and rectified, a new simulation will need to take place to ensure that back-up and disaster recovery plans and processes are operating optimally. Nothing should ever be left to chance.

Simulate real life for best results

The closer a simulation is to the anticipated genuine scenario – the better. End-users must be involved in the process and repeated rehearsals should be performed so that people know precisely what to do should disaster strike!

Make pro-active planning and management a habit

A comprehensive back-up and disaster recovery simulation should be performed at least once every 6 months as a standard approach. This will help to ensure that you remain in full control of the real state of your back-up and disaster recovery plan.

Embrace change

A hybrid approach to data back-up is one of the key benefits that have arisen from the advent of cloud based applications. Many organisations still make the mistake of storing back-up tapes and disks on the same property as the location of the infrastructure itself. With cloud based back-up as an additional measure of security, companies can swiftly and easily ensure that data is 100% secure. The key is to embrace new possibilities and capitalise on the more progressive means of data management that are now available to companies of all sizes.

Benefit from impartial assistance

Independent reviewers and observers, such as our technical personnel at MMC, are a valuable means to ensure a comprehensive approach to disaster recovery and business continuity. With our many years of experience in not only the design and implementation of efficient disaster recovery and business continuity plans, but also our experience in managing actual disaster recovery events, we are able to assist in all aspects of testing and design improvements.

We invite you to contact Anthony Simons, our Senior Business Solutions Consultant for more information. Let us help you secure the future of your organisation through the comprehensive management of your data.

Established in 1991, MMC provides organisations within the small to medium business sector with a variety of flexible, outsourced IT services. With solid implementation experience across a wide range of leading IT products, we provide robust, reliable solutions that are tailored specifically to the individual needs of our clients.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Generation Mobile – Is your company attractive to the modern talent pool?

The world is facing a workplace revolution. Fuelled by the increased penetration of mobile devices into the market at all levels, both employees and job seekers are demanding an improvement in how they work. Individuals across the generations, but particularly from Generation Y, are demanding efficiency, mobility and advanced technologies. How does your organisation fare? Are you an employer of choice, or do you run the risk of losing scarce skills to your competition?

[Rita Whittington] They are young, tech savvy, highly outspoken and they deliberately challenge traditional structures and social norms. They’re expert multi-taskers who are able to send instant messages (IM’s) to their peers while simultaneously watching a movie or having a conversation and if you give them a new piece of technology – they’ll figure it out in mere minutes.

We’re talking about Generation Y, also known as the ‘Millennials’. They were born between the early 80’s and late 90’s and the eldest among them are either already active in the workplace, or are finishing university and are ready to start their careers.
Like it or not, this generation is your new talent pool. Finding skilled individuals within this talent pool in an already skills short market is a distinct challenge and so driving your competitive advantage is now critical for business success.

The Attraction and Retention of Talent – now a concern for IT

According to the global CEO survey conducted by PwC last year, 36% of the South African CEO’s interviewed, are extremely concerned about the availability of skills in the country.
IT’s contribution to developing an attractive company culture and workflow which serves to not only attract, but also retain scarce talent, has never been more integral than now.
We are heading swiftly toward a workplace revolution that is being fuelled by rapidly advancing mobile technologies, the new expectations of the younger generation, as well as the changing expectations of slightly older generations. IT can no longer simply concern itself with maintaining infrastructures.
The modern IT department needs to become far more strategic and take an increasingly collaborative, active role in streamlining individual and team workflows.
Instead of taking a tech-first approach, where individuals are required to adjust to technologies, IT now needs to take a people first approach, where technology is geared to addressing how people want and expect to work.
IT will only be able to achieve this by working hand-in-hand with the Human Resource department and Line Management. The modern IT department will be challenged to understand more about the psyche of the people that it serves and gear solutions around those people. Companies that fail to get the balance between technology and people right, will seriously undermine their long term success.
It therefore stands to reason that IT needs to be thinking ahead, working with HR and Line Management and guiding bosses so that the organisation is prepared to attract and retain Generation Y – the limited talent pool of the future.

Bringing the workplace into the future

If the IT department, in collaboration with Human Resources and Line Management is able to further investigate and address the following four key challenges of the modern workplace, your organisation will be far better positioned to not only attract, but also importantly, retain the brightest employees.

1.     Workplace Collaboration

Millenials, (or Generation Y) value teamwork. They seek input and affirmation from their peers and colleagues as they are part of a no-person-left-behind generation. Collaboration on projects in the workplace is something that they see as being critical to achieving a successful outcome and they generally speaking, would rather see a team succeed than an individual. Studies have shown that these individuals thrive in highly collaborative workplaces and that they will make this a key requirement in selecting which company to work for. A company that chooses to enable its workforce to collaborate better by capitalising on available technologies, will in the very near future have a distinct advantage over those companies who choose not to do so.
What this means for IT: In order for any efforts at workplace collaboration to be successful, it is imperative for the IT department to modernise systems and technologies and then keep these abreast with current trends. Because so many individuals use a range of mobile devices, it is expected that all if these can be used to perform tasks and more efficiently. Strategies for workplace collaboration therefore need to be founded on secure, efficient, extensive, up-to-date mobile integration. Tools that enhance real-time collaboration should be included such as the Microsoft Dynamics CRM software which has been designed to unify people and processes via a variety of technologies (click here to read our earlier post and discover how toachieve CRM success).

2.     Flexible Work Styles

The modern employee across all generations, typically views work as a ‘thing’ rather than a ‘place’. Employees now consider performance to be how they should be measured rather than the number of hours put in at the office. In addition, employees are seeking a more flexible working arrangement in which they can put in the required amount of work to achieve a specific outcome, at a time that is more suited to their personal work style. In fact a recent study by PwC which uncovers what Millenials really want out of an employer, confirms that 15% of male employees and 21% of female employees would give up some of their pay and slow the pace of promotion, in exchange for fewer hours at the office. A far greater degree of flexibility in work location is therefore highly attractive to the modern workforce.
What this means for IT: A secure, easily accessible network that supports a more mobile, flexible working arrangement is something that IT departments will need to investigate and consider implementing in the future in order to not only attract, but also retain talented employees.

3.     Modern Technology

According to the PwC NextGen report of 2013 that we referenced earlier, Millenials expect to have access to the best tools for collaboration and task execution. Very often the devices that individuals own are more advanced than those that their employers can offer while in addition, many individuals simply prefer to use a device with which they are already comfortable. This has given rise to the widely discussed BYOD (or Bring Your Own Device) shift which has taken place across the world.
What this means for IT: The IT department needs to remain on its toes and lead the corporate conversation around how better, more efficient technologies can improve the bottom line and competitive advantage. Modern employees will penalise companies who hamper their ability to work flexibly and efficiently and so IT needs to consistently remain ahead of the curve in order to ensure that the organisation remains technologically competitive. Collaborative tools need to remain device agnostic and should support a diversity of devices and technologies to avoid creating siloes of users.

4.     Opportunities for Employee Mobility

Though the exodus of the younger generation from South Africa to countries such as the UK and Australia has slowed to some extent, younger generations have a more global mind-set than their older colleagues. One competitive advantage among organisations has emerged in more recent years and this includes the willingness for organisations to offer opportunities for mobility that enable the employee to work, where feasible and suitable, at other branches of the organisation. These include nationwide as well as international branches of the organisation.
What this means for IT: The IT department will either through internal capabilities or the services of an outsourced provider, need to provide robust inter-branch networking and modern technologies which facilitate secure, and fully mobile work interactions between team members.
Where MMC Fits In
Our Business Development Team combines cutting edge technological knowledge and a modern, in-depth understanding of world-class business operations to qualify their proposed solutions to the current business challenges that our clients face.
An external perspective is often incredibly valuable to help steer your organisation in the right direction. We are able to provide consulting services to you, your team and your organisation. In addition, we understand that not every business has a fully-fledged IT department in place, so together with the strategic input from our Business Development Team and the technical ability of our IT professionals, we are able to provide you with precisely the support you need at all levels within IT.
We will work hand-in-hand with you to create the perfect IT solution that suits both your individual requirements as an organisation, as well as your budget.

The Last Word

The advantages of ensuring your organisation is attractive to the modern talent pool includes a multitude of benefits. These include your ability to position yourself as an employer of choice to both the younger, up and coming generation of employees, as well as the forward thinking, highly skilled older generation of employees. An organisation which embraces a technologically advanced infrastructure geared to collaboration and mobility is also able to achieve far greater levels of productivity. All in all – a new strategic approach to your business will result in your company standing out as an industry leader. Now what business does not wish to achieve that? 
Established in 1991, MMC provides organisations within the small to medium business sector with a variety of flexible, outsourced IT services. With solid implementation experience across a wide range of leading IT products, we provide robust, reliable solutions that are tailored specifically to the individual needs of our clients.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

5 Top Tactics to CRM Success

CRM, or Customer Relationship Management is a business strategy that is applicable to every company – from a one man show to a large enterprise. While it is true that the bigger the company and the more customers you have, the more complex your customer engagements will be - CRM strategies across the board, all too often fail. In this article we pinpoint the top 5 reasons for failure and also provide some insight into how you can turn an ailing CRM program into a prosperous one.

Rita Whittington] Recent research has found that while many companies have realised some benefit from CRM software applications, an alarming 80% of the potential benefits have yet to be achieved.

We must then question why so many organisations are not gaining full ROI (Return on Investment) from their CRM technologies, think about whether the technologies themselves are to blame and discover strategies that will transform this situation into a more positive outcome.

The Top 5 Reasons Why CRM Fails

1.    Siloes and Separation

Historically, companies have made Customer Relationship Management (CRM) investment decisions for each of the three associated siloes within the business. These siloes include sales force automation, marketing automation, and customer service and support. In addition, within many organisations that we meet, we see these three siloes, plus the front and back office, the management team and the C-Suite (where there is one present) - each working separately. Instead of working together as a united front, many companies seem to be inadvertently polarising teams within the organisation both on the human resource and technological front. Due to the resulting lack of communication and united focus, productivity is severely compromised and more importantly, the customer experience is almost always negatively impacted.

2.    Inaccessible Data and Systems

Much of our workforce today operates across multiple devices, from desktop computers, to tablets and mobile phones. While partial access to data and applications such as email and selected productivity tools is available – these are often offered as separate applications, and do not always enable the required level of interaction which would enable individuals to update or access real time data in a remote scenario. In a world where mobility is necessary in order to remain competitive, this reduces productivity and accuracy. While security concerns are often cited as the reason for not enabling mobile access to data, solid security strategies can be implemented which serve to fully protect your data and environment.

3.    Low Levels of User Adoption

Change, or even imminent change, unfamiliarity and a lack of knowledge are the three main reasons why individuals fail to embrace new technology and new software applications. Unusable and complicated systems are difficult to get used to or even learn and all too often, software applications don’t work as advertised. This serves to alienate individuals who may already have what is a fairly common, built-in ‘fear’ of technology and even the best CRM strategy will therefore be compromised. In addition, CRM software is very often rolled-out to hundreds of employees at a time, making it difficult to manage quality and efficiency and understand the ROI.

4.    Seeing CRM Purely as a Technology

One of the foremost reasons why CRM fails, or does not yield the outcomes it should, is as a direct consequence of companies approaching the CRM strategy as a software project. CRM is first and foremost a customer-centric business strategy within the organisation. It is not a software application. A ‘customer first’ approach must always be adopted where the entire CRM strategy focuses on employees from all relevant departments, serving the needs of the customer, into which the CRM software application is incorporated to facilitate getting the job done.

5.    Planning

Solid planning is absolutely critical to CRM success. CRM projects often focus on only selected aspects of the customer experience and as a result, employees then run into trouble when they find that they are unable to link all aspects of the customer service experience. This is linked directly to the siloed approach that we spoke of in point #1. In addition, we have found that solid roll-out plans and ongoing CRM improvement and monitoring is not integrated correctly or consistently, making pitfalls inevitable and failure imminent.

Top 5 Approaches to Ensure CRM Success

1.    Team Collaboration

The comprehensive integration of teams and collaboration between individuals is the way forward for companies seeking to institute successful, prosperous CRM strategies. To support this, certain CRM software applications negate the need for separate software applications for each department. Comprehensive applications, such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM, provide for a single repository of data and a standardised way of working, making it easier to more accurately manage, contribute to, disseminate and access data.

2.    Anywhere Accessibility

Companies that enable sales mobility, regularly outperform those who do not because the ability to access customer and product or service data on the move will reduce the time between the client interaction and sale. As a result, those companies in the know are gearing up to empower their sales force with mobile CRM. The key is to ensure that your mobile CRM enables user access to all relevant customer data in your CRM system, irrespective of the mobile device they use.

3.    Enthusiastic User Adoption

If software and processes are either too foreign or complicated to use, the chances are that your teams will avoid using them. To ensure that you are able to get your teams working enthusiastically toward achieving the objectives of an outstanding CRM strategy in the shortest possible time, the CRM software that you choose to integrate should ideally have a familiar interface and be straightforward for all departments to use across multiple devices.

A CRM software solution such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM, uses an interface which closely resembles that of Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office. The result is that users know intuitively where to find the tools and information they need and are less inclined to avoid tasks because they don’t know how to perform them. As your IT partner, MMC within our Deployment and Post Deployment phase, provides training to a select group of users to assist in the on-boarding process and our Business Intelligence Consultants are always ready to provide ongoing guidance and information.

4.    Intelligent, Relevant Integration

CRM software should support the CRM strategy and the requirements of each department, whether that be sales, marketing, customer services, accounts, management or even IT. Through automating selected processes and integrating additional modern, relevant content streams and customer touch points, such as social media for example, successful CRM software implementations should be robust enough to improve diverse business processes in order to make customer service more efficient, cost effective and timely. With Microsoft Dynamics CRM, we are able to tailor the broad suite of solutions offered, to suit your specific needs.

5.    Maximised Return on Investment

Companies that are nervous about working exclusively in the cloud are adopting a hybrid CRM model – which makes use of an on premise solution, as well as one within the cloud. The advantage of a hybrid CRM model is that it is highly flexible and can be perfectly tailored to your needs both now, and on an ongoing basis. In addition the SaaS model (Software as a Service), in which you are able to buy as many licenses as you need on a short term basis at a reduced cost, depending on the number of users you have, is emerging as a popular software procurement model as it assists to improve cash-flow and enables the use of the most up-to-date software at all times. Combined, these factors help to maximise ROI as they enhance flexibility and eradicate redundancy.

The Last Word

A successful CRM strategy is based on an organisations ability to strike the ideal balance between people, process and technology. Sometimes achieving this balance requires a fresh, external perspective. At MMC our foremost focus lies in helping our clients to achieve successful business outcomes and we use technology to assist us in doing that. Our Business Intelligence Consultants can offer a fresh perspective on your sales model and assist you to achieve even greater results.

Find out more

Download our CRM Information Brochure for more in-depth information and if you have any questions regarding our CRM services, or would like us to prepare an obligation free evaluation of your needs, please contact us on 021 530 1600 or email info@mmc.za.com.

Established in 1991, MMC provides organisations within the small to medium business sector with a variety of flexible, outsourced IT services. With solid implementation experience across a wide range of leading IT products, we provide robust, reliable solutions that are tailored specifically to the individual needs of our clients.