The Biggest Error SME’s Make in IT Judgement

SME organisations that don’t operate in the technology sector, as a rule generally don’t employ technical staff that have the ability to question the IT status quo or make positive decisions in the best interests of the company they represent.

In fact, most SME’s tend to outsource their IT support to external providers and heavily rely on them to make critical IT decisions. And herein lies the problem…
Alongside outsourcing their IT support requirements, many SME’s also have the tendency to believe that these IT suppliers have the ability to make and offer strategic business level IT decisions as part of their operating deal.

This would be great if it was true but sadly isn’t the case. Instead, a lot of IT support companies prefer to offer reactive breaks/fix service models – which centre on the idea of “keeping the lights on” – rather than strategic tools that can help to make your business “better”.

Now, this isn’t to discredit this technique/approach as it is extremely important to keep your businesses “lights on” and operating. However, the scope of such a service is very narrow when you consider the vastly complicated digital world that we live in today.

Not only does this type of service traditionally not aim to digitally transform your business; it won’t enable you to experience the kind of growth and sales revenue that is possible from such endeavours. When placed on a larger scale, its sole goal is to enable you to get by.

That is why engaging with an independent and impartial senior IT professional – who can take responsibility for all things digital within your business – is so vital.

With their assistance you can: ensure that your costs remain controlled and minimised; reduce and even automate your manual processes (wherever possible), and most importantly, they can help you to achieve a tangible return on your IT expenditures which can ensure that your business is recognised as a digitally forward thinking organisation.

Getting Cyber Security Right

It goes without saying that cyber security is the tech theme of the moment. Yahoo! just had 1 billion accounts hacked the other day and there will no doubt be further high profile victims ready and waiting to be sprung in the media shortly. It’s inevitable. No individual or organisation is really completely safe. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

 

But for the vast majority of businesses, getting the simple and basic things right will provide more than adequate protection against increasingly clever and resourceful cyber criminals. It’s also easier for smaller organisations to provide adequate protection for themselves as they typically have fewer locations storing data and the size of that data is miniscule in comparison to the like of the Yahoo!’s of this world. But the fact of the matter is that the majority of businesses don’t provide adequate protection. Not even close in fact.

 

A few years ago, the good ol’ government brought out a little gem of a standard – Cyber Essentials. Simply put, the standard ensures that anyone carrying it’s favourable marker is a reputable digital-faring business. A business that has got the basics right, the not-so basics pretty good and the definitely not basic catered for in its tech roadmap.

 

Cyber Essentials is a standard that Economit (and many other like-minded high tech IT consultancies) believes in. We have held the standard for a number of years now as have our esteemed client base. When applied correctly and to the letter of the law, Cyber Essentials ensures worthwhile policies and procedures are put in place and adhered to, adequate digital protection is in place across all devices (including mobile ones) and the personnel responsible for managing IT environments have standardised, clear and above all correct procedures to follow.

 

Why is this so important? Well, if you store digital data either on your own, your customers or your suppliers behalves then it is your responsibility to protect that data and in turn the reputation of everyone concerned. In IT security terms, if you’re not part of the solution then by default, you’re part of the problem.

 

Contact us today to join our growing list of Cyber Essentials accredited companies such as Sygnature Discovery, Marlborough Group, Smith of Derby, Futures Advice and many others and prove you are serious about cyber security.

New Year, a New Approach to IT Budgets

 

Planning for an upcoming budget can be a daunting and unwelcome task at the best of times. Especially IT budgets.

 

For businesses that operate without executive level technology input, planning for an IT budget could be almost seen as an impossibility. I don’t mean to discredit the many Finance Directors out there who have overall responsibility for IT in their organisations but I’ve said before that it’s a bit like getting a plumber to do an electricians work – and vice versa. For a start there are only two digits in IT – 1 and 0 😉

Quips aside, prior to a potential client engaging with Economit, we have observed that IT budgets tend to be a little samey year after year. Statements like “well, we bought this amount of IT products & services last year so it’s fair to say we’ll spend the same amount this year with maybe a few extra points added on for inflation/growth plans” are all too common. And unfortunately all too wrong.

 

I think we can all safely agree that technology is changing the business landscape rapidly – it has been doing so for decades so nothing new there. I’d go as far as to say by the day in fact nowadays – new products & services are appearing to market at unbelievably accelerated rates. Granted these products & services may take a while to mature and become “mainstream” before they will be considered viable by the majority of “non-early adopters” but even so, these accelerated rates are causing pressure for businesses to adopt new tech much more quickly than ever before.

 

So I would like to pose a simple question: with technology developing so rapidly, why do IT budgets remain fairly static or even decrease year on year?

 

To which maybe, there’s a simple answer: businesses don’t know any better and therefore always do the same tech things (and consequently get the same tech results).

 

Without executive technological direction, there is no discernible way that a growth-aspirational business can budget accurately for technology expenditure. Yes, it’s true that there are more IT products & services to choose from than ever before which in turn, makes the choices that much harder to make so therefore it would make common sense to ensure this vital budget is put in the hands of an expert who is technical enough to understand it, experienced enough to be able to deal with it, impartial enough to guarantee complete trust in the decision making process and commercial enough to make sure your business actually grows from it.

Carl Ensor

Hello Economit!

Carl Ensor

I’m now entering my 5th week at Economit and so I begin my contribution to the new starter blog.

I joined Economit as an associate consultant which is where I begin my journey into the world of IT consultancy. Throughout my working career I have always felt that I have more to offer than just my technical expertise and consultancy is a place I have always pictured myself. The challenge was finding the correct company to begin that journey with. Hello Economit!

I have always had a huge interest in technology and how it shapes the world around us. I’ve spent most of my career working in IT either supporting and developing organisations IT infrastructures and now I get to broaden those skills and apply them to our clients to help bring them to the forefront of technology.

The nature of Economit is truly a refreshing one to be involved in, each day is different and has a range of interesting challenges, it’s certainly not every day you get to walk on the rooftop of Wollaton Hall planning WiFi coverage for an upcoming music festival!

Economit have many new projects underway that I’m going to be supporting and I am really looking forward to being a part of. I’ve learnt a lot in my first few weeks and I’m looking forward to learning more over the upcoming months. 

I have been asked to mention my future aspirations, so for me progressing from associate to principal consultant certainly on the list, having my own clients and projects is something I am looking forward to. I’m certainly excited be part of the future of Economit. 

If you want to say hi or have a question for me you can get in touch here

Nick Briers

Better Project Management

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As is customary for the timing of Economit ‘new starter’ blogs I am writing this as I am just coming up to the six-month point of my employment. I suppose the advantage with being this late in writing is that it has given me the opportunity to better take stock of everything… from my role, to the team internally, to our customers, to Economit and where we are heading.

I have performed a variety of Project Management roles in the past but this is the first time for a while that I am solely responsible for delivering projects, both internally to the business and externally to our clients. This is really beneficial as it is allowing me to focus on driving improvements to the business and also hopefully delivering projects on time to our clients, without any conflicts or distractions.

Due to the busy nature of the business time has definitely flown by and it is only on the rare moments when you get the chance to look back that you realise the changes that have taken place and the distance that we have come. In my time new CRM, quoting and finance systems have been purchased, implemented, tested and are now in full flight… the team has grown and two new starters have joined (one of which has already beaten me in writing a blog!)… a number of client projects have been successfully delivered… new clients have been brought on board and the list goes on!!

I’m definitely looking forward to the next 6 months and can only see good things happening so watch this space.

If you want to say hi or have a question for me or one of the team you can get in touch at nick.briars@economit.co.uk

Nick Gall

Why is Digital Transformation important to businesses?

Nick Gall

To predict the evolution of technology would be great wouldn’t it?! Let’s face it we’d all like to be a Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs but even some of the greats slipped up from time to time. Bill Gates once said “Two years from now, spam will be solved…” not quite Bill, some may say we’re receiving more than ever. Another classic was in 2005 when Alan Sugar was ridiculed for saying: “Next Christmas the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput.”. Clearly they were wrong but it’s not hard to see why, technology is moving faster than ever before and it’s not becoming easier to predict.

Since the introduction of powerful computers, smartphones, Internet and apps, everything we do has become more digitised. The accessibility of data and the ability to consume more than ever is having a direct effect on our patience towards day to day operations. We’re just not willing to wait for information these days.

It’s this shift in our behaviour, Millennials coming of age and the technologies we use that will make businesses vulnerable and more powerful all the same. Digital has changed business forever and those that have embraced digital are most likely leading their industry and influencing others whereas those that haven’t will begin to lag behind.

Digital strategy isn’t just about having a website, it’s considering IT as part of the business planning and decision making process. It’s about moving beyond developing and supplying services for internal users to developing solutions that meet the needs and expectations of external customers too. It’s this delicate shift that businesses are missing. Are you bringing IT closer to the decisions you make? Setting KPI’s for innovation dare I say? If not, start now.
Businesses delivering products or services to the public are predominantly in the firing line. Your customers will be expecting you to know who they are and their history with you within seconds of taking their call. There are developments in the market for fridges that scan your items to enable automatic reordering and home technologies that offer voice command to help plan your day or your next shopping list and this is only the start of how consumers will want to interact with their favourite brands. The rise in popularity of the Internet Of Things is a clear enabler for this innovation and simply for large corporates it’s a question of why have your customer on the phone shouting about an issue if you could have already fixed it?
Business to Business organisations won’t find this transition that much easier however they won’t need the constant overhaul of their digital strategy as businesses in the consumer space will. Businesses have already begun to expect more and gone are the days where you can keep your data tucked away on the server or (heaven forbid) in a filing cabinet ready to post clients the info they request. Storing data securely in an accessible environment for client self-serve access is becoming the norm. Integration projects are very popular too. Bringing current applications together is a key driver for businesses where they’re trying to get the most out of current assets but need to reduce change for staff – whilst at the same time meeting the new demands of their clients.
It’s hard to see any plausible excuse for not moving with the times, I’ve already mentioned the sheer volume of innovation so we’re spoilt for choice really. The dark and littered past of IT with large and costly server deployments are simply no more. So digital transformation is easy right?! Unfortunately, not. Of course Technology is easier to purchase and deploy and yes there’s more choice but our requirements are more widespread and we no longer just have our users to consider, it’s our clients too!
Businesses accepting that IT isn’t simply support for back office and internal customers is key. Draw a line in the sand and start over. IT shouldn’t just serve you email and a good CRM. That’s considered the standard and we’re beyond that now. Consider technology to be key to the business delivery, review your products and services and overhaul your processes by asking how involved IT are in your business objectives.
A couple of things are guaranteed; Innovation will at continue at (least) its current rate and we’ll see more and more options to choose from. That in turn will raise the expectations of our clients meaning the pressure will firmly be on to digitise your business.
Nick Gall

Good people are the nucleus of a successful business

Nick Gall

Good people are the nucleus of a successful business – That’s why we’re one of the lucky ones!

It’s been a whole year since we hired our first Principal Consultant Rob and (at the time) Office Manager Charlotte. It was an exciting period for the business and one year on I’ve pondered what it may have been like without all the outstanding people in our team.

Rob and Charlotte joined the business around the same time in spring 2015. We’d not long hired Josh our Business Development manager and as I’m sure you can imagine, our office space didn’t exactly expand with us – It was a tight squeeze for a while!

We’ve always had clear aspirations for Economit (we have a plan for the plan…) but we could never legislate for hiring the wrong people or even missing a trick and not hiring at all. For a long time people would tell me to outsource or sub contract our work to support our growth but that’s never been in the plan – we’re here to build a successful consultancy by sticking to our core principles and employing great people.

Sure their lives have been a little hectic. Charlotte has worn more hats than she’d probably care to remember and not only has Rob gone from working with small to medium size businesses to now holding the position of IT Director for a number of corporates, he spent around 3 months out on the road and I’m pretty sure at one point he forgot where the office was.

Charlotte is now Project Co-Ordinator supporting the delivery of many projects and helps to recruit further members of our team. She might be dubbed the ‘mother-hen’ but if you asked her, I think she’d like to lose that title and be known as more of a Karen Brady type (I’d like to think we’ve had an influence!). Rob has continued to impress and not only have the clients he’s worked with sang his praises but despite driving a bit of a girly car, the team love him.

It’s hard to imagine our team without Rob and Charlotte. In fact it’s hard to imagine the business without any of our team and that’s testament to each one of them. They add their own individualities but fit the Economit mould like you wouldn’t believe. The whole team have a relationship unlike anything I’ve never experienced. We’re truly like a family.

From two to seven people with two or three in the wings means that we’re firmly on the way to creating the dream team at Economit.

Justin Weir

ISO 9001… at last!

Justin Weir

 

One of the key deliverables of my role with Economit has been securing ISO 9001 certification. Having begun our ISO journey by reviewing the key stages of our core service activities: Outsourced IT Director, Project Management and Independent IT Assessments, we created a set of processes and actions that were standardised, customer focused and we all agreed represented what we did. We delivered these through our Quality Management System by working closely with our quality consultant to develop the standard documentation and our system was born.

I was naturally concerned as we approached our final audit as my first experience of Quality had been paper based, stressful and time consuming in a manufacturing environment almost 20 years ago.

In retrospect, we have practised what we preach to deliver ISO 9001. The right IT infrastructure allowed us to best manage and store our relevant documents. The workflow between our systems through accounting, sales, time management, project management and delivery of our services through our systems has ensured that we have the necessary glue to create great work flow and ultimately focus on client delivery as opposed to process management. Everything data wise for ISO 9001 is managed online, stored safely and easily auditable.

With no non-conformance at the final stage audit, just over 12 months since we implemented our Quality Management System I am proud to say we are accredited. We have developed, learnt, refined and evolved throughout that time our process and client experience, but now have the ideal platform to continue delivering a consistent and great customer experience.

Bring on ISO 27001.

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Josh Turner

The (real life) Social Network

Josh Turner

Being part of a company where we champion and encourage the use of technology to make business and work life better, I am obviously a fan of social media. Whether it be the snapshot of life you get from Instagram, the constant feed of insight from Twitter or the ease of staying in contact through Facebook – the world has never been more connected. While the endless ‘selfies’, posts and tweets may connect us, many are realising that they are no replacement for personal interaction.

A big part of my job here at Economit has been building relationships. I’ve realised that no matter how many emails, tweets or phone calls you share with someone, it just isn’t the same as saying ‘hi’ face to face. When you have had a coffee, dinner or spent any period of time with a contact, naturally the dynamic changes. That person goes from being a name to a face, from a LinkedIn picture to a person with interests and hobbies – in person, you don’t add contacts you build relationships.

We understand that everyone’s IT needs differ, we are not a one-size-fits all kind of company, this needs to be reflected in our approach to meeting people, each client and their business is different so getting to know them is key if we are to advise on best practice for THEIR company. Social networking can only do so much.

This is why for me, Networking is vital. Having that opportunity to converse with someone, to find out who they are is just as important as what they do. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend some great events. Whether it has been attending the football events organised by the guys at Else solicitors, having a round of golf at Fore Business, exploring some of Derby’s hidden gems and most prominent companies with the team at Marketing Derby or gathering with business leaders at the Nottingham city business club and Nottingham means business – I have built some great relationships with a diverse group of people. The relationships formed through these groups now make up my trusted network.

If it’s a choice between social media or real life interaction through networking, then networking wins hands down. Luckily it isn’t, technology helps cultivate great relationships as it helps us stay in touch, even at our busiest – just remember not to substitute personal interaction with your LinkedIn feed.