Tag Archives | technology

More Questions Your Banker Wants Answered…

monopoly bankerIn a recent post, I talked about a conversation I had with our banker and the three questions she’d most like answers to.  In case you missed it, her questions were…

  1. How are you feeling about your business and the local economy?
  2. What is the outlook for the rest of the year?
  3. What are you doing about it?

More Questions Your Banker Wants Answered…

In response to the article, several of you reached out with questions of your own to add to the list.  Not surprisingly, the questions largely focused on what is going on in the Houston economy right now as a result of the decline in oil prices. Here were your thoughts:

1.  How is the current economic situation impacting your specific industry?

If you’re doing business in Houston you’ve likely felt (or will soon feel) the effects of the drop in oil prices.  Even if you’re not in the energy sector, your banker wants to know that you’ve taken a look at how the economic situation may affect you.

2.  What are the recent trends in your industry that impact your operations?

What other trends are affecting your industry?  Government regulation, increased competition, technology, substitution, etc.?  Your banker wants to know what your plan is to deal with these trends whether it entails mitigating risks or exploiting a competitive advantage.

3.  What are your 5- and 10-year goals and what are you doing today to achieve those goals?

It’s important to your banker to know where you’re headed in the long-term.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day operation of a business, but your banker wants to know that everyday decisions are made with the bigger picture in mind and not just reactions to the situation on the ground.

In the original article, I talked about the 5Cs of credit and how Character was the most important “C”.  Based upon your comments, I’d have to say that Conditions may be of greater importance (or at least more immediate) to you in the current economic climate.

Thanks so much for your feedback!  I’d love to hear what other questions you have.

Questions your banker wants answered

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CFOs – The Architect of Business Value

business valueA while back, I read a study published by Accenture about how the role of the CFO is moving towards driving business growth and managing complexity.  Encouragingly, of the 600+ senior finance executives and 30 CFOs and other senior finance professionals surveyed, 75% say that the CFO’s role in supporting strategic decision making is on the rise. 70% think that the CFO’s influence over executing business transformation initiatives has grown.

CFOs – The Architect of Business Value

Here is a summary of the key findings of the study:

Finance functions have made significant progress over the past three years in managing some of the external factors impacting performance, including the challenge of permanent volatility. Overall, senior finance executives are more satisfied with the performance of their finance function than they were in 2011 across every dimension surveyed.

Complexity, in its various forms, is the biggest challenge finance organizations face today. But it is also an opportunity. Companies can help manage business complexities by standardizing and optimizing processes to streamline and simplify the organization.

Cost control is no longer the primary emphasis in most organizations today. Instead, CFOs increasingly focus on investment in growth. In doing so, many are also finding an opportunity to drive broader organizational business transformation, building value for the enterprise.

Digital technology is having a deep impact on the finance function’s performance. It provides a clear opportunity for CFOs to accept and exploit the digital revolution. Especially, given their unique position at the intersection of finance, technology and strategy.

Finance leaders at high-performance businesses are more likely to have seen their influence grow in key strategic activities. They report high levels of satisfaction with the performance of their finance function. They also closely involve themselves in assessing technology investments.

Cost Control Is Not A Primary Emphasis

I found a couple of the study findings particularly interesting. Firstly, the study found that cost control is no longer the primary emphasis of today’s CFO.  Rather, investment in growth and building organizational value have become the focus.

The finance function is now increasingly being assessed in terms of its effectiveness (its ability to deliver what the business needs) rather than a narrower focus on its efficiency (its cost in serving the business).

Digital Technology

The second noteworthy finding is that digital technology is having a deep impact on the finance function’s performance.  One comment in particular got my attention:

The evolution of such digital assets, software and services provides a clear opportunity for CFOs to accept and exploit the digital revolution. This is especially true, given their unique position at the intersection of finance, technology and strategy.

CFOs often forget that they are truly one of the few people in the organization that see how all the functional areas of the company intersect.  This presents an opportunity for the CFO to build relationships with other departments to facilitate their role in driving growth.

You can find a link to the survey on Accenture’s website or by clicking here.

To learn more financial leadership skills, download the free 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs.

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Backup and Recovery Technologies

See Also:
How to Evaluate IT Systems
How to Choose a Software Dealer
Technology Strategy for Small to Medium Sized Companies
How to Ensure Redundant Data Communications Links
How do You Know When it is Time to Buy New Software

Backup and Recovery Technologies

Backup and Recovery Technologies are complete solutions designed to reduce any server down time with the use of a specialized back up and virtual server appliance. They allow near real-time backups-as frequent as every 15 minutes. In addition, they offer offsite storage at an affordable cost. They also provide a low cost, speedy disaster recovery process. Data is encrypted. So it is not accessible to anyone, either on the backup device or at the remote storage facility without a required passkey. Finally, it eliminates the need to assign a data custodian to change tapes as well as the cost and hassle of managing an on-site tape backup solution. Your IT department or resource monitors and manages the entire process.

Executive Summary

A recent study discovered that, of companies experiencing a major loss of data, 43 percent never reopened, 51 percent closed within two years of the loss, and a mere 6 percent survived over the long-term.1 For small and medium-sized businesses, these statistics suggest the necessity of implementing a robust data backup and recovery technologies solution. Loss of data could mean lost emails, accounting data loss, patient or client data loss, loss of legal records, lost orders, and so on. This document will discuss how a data backup and disaster recovery solution overcomes challenges that are commonly faced by small and medium businesses.

Traditional Solutions vs. Emerging Technology

dMagnetic tape and disks are the two leading media for data backup storage. While magnetic tape is currently dominant, analyst Dave Russell of Gartner believes that “Recovery will move to online disk-based storage in the future. This will cause a major shift in the backup market during the next four to five years.”2

Disk

Smaller companies in particular will benefit from the shift, as recent advances in design and manufacturing lower the total cost of disk-based storage in terms of storage per bit. Falling prices, combined with the various performance advantages that storage industry analysts cite, render disk increasingly attractive. Gartner Group highlights the suitability of disk for these organizations by explaining that, “The need for high-performance online recovery of data, combined with the availability of low-cost disk arrays, has influenced enterprises and small and midsize businesses to adopt a disk-based approach for backup and recovery.”3

Tape

Tape, in contrast to disk, is physically delicate. It is also easily compromised by environmental factors such as heat, humidity, and magnetic interference. Moreover, tape cartridges must be replaced frequently (every 6-12 months). Tape’s innate sensitivity contributes to high failure rates; analysts estimate that anywhere from 42 to 71 percent of tape restores fail. Even when magnetic tape backups are successful, tapes themselves are subject to loss or theft. They may be in the possession of an employee or vendor unable to reach a recovery site. Thus, even when physical backup and restoration processes succeed, tape may not prove to be as timely and appropriate a medium for data storage as disk. Time is a crucial consideration… Because each hour of server, application, and network downtime endured until data restoration comes at a high cost, especially to smaller businesses.

Disk vs. Tape

Analyst Jon Oltsik of Enterprise Strategy Group also points out that tape is seldom encrypted, compounding the destructive impact of tape theft. He says that, “Very few people encrypt backup tapes, which means that they rely on the security of the backup and off-site rotation process.”4 Magnetic tape encryption, unlike disk encryption, has historically been too costly for all but large enterprises: “Encryption of any data that is leaving the security of the data center, in transit, has always been an option, unfortunately, a very expensive option,” explains Clipper Group.5

Disk offers not only lower cost encryption but also other advantages. In contrast to tape, “disks are more durable, last longer, withstand more overwriting and you don’t need to clean any heads,” according to Rinku Tyagi of PCQuest. Additionally, “When it comes to backing up using disks, they are easier to manage. Disk backup systems include management tools, often browser-based, for you to easily configure settings and check status from anywhere.”6

HP enumerates other advantages of disk storage, noting that “Data is backed up to disk much faster than tape, which translates to less impact on production server availability. Disk is also a more reliable media than tape and less prone to error, which translates to less failed recoveries.”7 Clipper Group believes that the superior speed of disk storage is an enduring advantage: “High performance disk will always be the choice for online applications that require fast access.”8

Conclusion

While disk offers advantages over tape, it is not a panacea. After installing disk technology, companies will still be responsible for monitoring and managing backup processes, encrypting and safeguarding backed up onsite and offsite data, restoring data to new hardware, and other functions. Without implementing a layer of governance over disk-based data backup, these companies court the danger of failed backups and delayed restoration of data, thereby jeopardizing their chances of successful recovery from major data loss.

Smaller companies unable or unwilling to invest in the human expertise and infrastructure support systems necessary for management of their backup system can leverage a data backup and recovery solution to remove staffing burdens.

Total Backups Solutions Now Available to the SMB

Near Real Time Backups

“Incremental Forever” methodology captures all changes to the initial image in increments of as often as 15 minutes. The Incremental Forever technology not only backs up recent datasets but also allows end users to reconstruct the state of their data as it stood at the end of various restoration points over the last two days, various days over the last two weeks, various weeks over the last month, or various months since the implementation of the latest in backup technology. This level of forensic and auditable data recovery may satisfy various regulatory requirements (such as HIPAA and GLBA) for data retention and data record reconstruction, and also serves stakeholders such as supply chain planners, warehouse analysts, auditors, and legal counsel.

A Complete Image

This technology generates an image of all hard drive partitions via an agent, which is warehoused on the backup device physically located at your location. The data is stored AES-256 bit encrypted and compressed, reaching efficiencies as high as 2:1. A block-level, not file-level, backup is recommended, which means that data is captured at the level of 1s and 0s. Block level data is raw data which does not have a file structure imposed on it. Database applications such as Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Exchange Server transfer data in blocks. Block transfer is the most efficient way to write to disk and is much less prone to errors such as those that result from file-level backups. Additionally, block level backups are not affected by open files or open databases. The block-level image is an exact digital duplicate of the on-site server.

Intuitive and Flexible Restoration

A good backup system should allow for quick and flexible restores. Today’s solutions allow for recovery of files, folders, partitions, mailboxes/messages, databases/tables using a quick and intuitive process. In case of a complete server failure, this new technology allows for a bare metal restore to new hardware which has a different configuration, hardware and drivers as compared to the failed server. Doing incremental based backup allows restores from several points in time. Thus, you can restore multiple versions of files, folders, messages/mailboxes, database/tables.

Secure Remote Storage

After imaging the servers to which it is attached, the backup device then creates an independent 256-bit encrypted tunnel. It then transmits the imaged data to two secure offsite locations where it resides in an encrypted, compressed format creating a total of three copies of the data in three geographically distinct regions. Since you have encrypted the data, no one has access at any of the remote storage facilities.

Transmitting data to remote sites guarantees that, in case of physical damage to the client’s network or backup device, or even regional disaster, the data is safe in uncompromised locations. Encryption is an important step in the process of transmitting data between the backup device and the remote sites. It greatly reduces the risk of data loss incidents that plague magnetic tape. In addition, it prevents man-in-the-middle attacks during transmission. Nothing or no one has ever broken the 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) algorithm. It is also currently considered the gold standard of encryption techniques. And they render transmitted data immune to theft.

On-Site Virtual Server

If any of your servers fail, then the server virtualization technology embedded in the backup device restores and reboots servers and applications within a couple of hours. You may sometimes endure a wait of several days in order to receive replacement servers from vendors. But your backup device can have your business up and running while waiting on a replacement server. The backup device multitasks. Even while functioning as a virtual server, it can continue to back up data from other devices plugged into the device. The technology thus allows you to remain in business without any significant loss of data backup, server functionality, or application downtime.

Bandwidth Throttling Transfer

Transmission itself occurs over your Internet connection. You can easily configure it to minimize bandwidth consumption. Today’s device leverages Adaptive Bandwidth Throttling, which only utilizes unused bandwidth or allows us to set an outbound limit. The UDP based smart transfer technology utilizes a host of innovative algorithms to speed up data transport and resume from failure. The device can therefore exercise file control over the data imaging and transmission processes.

24/7 Managed Solution

Monitor the device by the Network Operations Center 24x7x365. Failed processes generate immediate alerts to engineers, who often remotely correct errors after receiving notification. In case of more serious backup issues, conduct repairs at your site. If any backup units are irreparably damaged or destroyed, then they will ship you replacements pre-loaded with all stored data.

Affordable

These devices today are extremely affordable, and are available with offsite storage for as little as $1.50 per GB.

Don’t let your computers be an area of weakness in your company. Check out our free Internal Analysis whitepaper to assist your leadership decisions as your enhance your strengths and resolve your weaknesses.

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Resources

1 Cummings, Maeve; Haag, Stephen; and McCubbrey, Donald. 2003. Management information systems for the information age

2 Russell, Dave. 2007. Gartner Group. Recovery will move to disk-based, manager of managers approach by 2011

3 Russell, Dave. 2007. Gartner Group. Recovery will move to disk-based, manager of managers approach by 2011

4 Jon Oltsik, quoted in Shread, Paul. 2005. Internetnews.com. Bank’s tape loss puts spotlight on backup practices

5 Reine, David. 2007. Clipper Group. Security for small data centers—right-sizing tape encryption

6 Tyagi, Rinku. 2006. PCQuest. What’s for your backup: Disk or tape?

7 HP 2007. HP proLiant dl100 g2 data protection storage server—questions & answers

8 Reine, David. 2007. Clipper Group. Security for small data centers—right-sizing tape encryption

 

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Technology Strategy

See Also:
Technology Assessment Criteria
How to Evaluate IT Systems
Backup and Recovery Solutions
How do You Know When it is Time to Buy New Software
How to Respond to an Imminent Disaster Threat

Technology Strategy for Small to Medium Sized Companies

There are several components to developing a technology strategy for small to medium sized companies. Whether you already own a small business or are looking to start one, you need to have a technology strategy. If you are a service business or like many other small businesses today, then one of the most important tools you will need is a solid technology strategy. IT strategy and planning will be at the core of what you do and will help drive efficiencies in your business. Many questions will start to come to mind, including some of the following:

  • Do I buy a server?
  • What about a website?
  • Do I outsource or insource our technology?
  • How much is it going to cost?
  • What about a wireless network?
  • How do I get email to my phone?
  • What about backups?

These are all great questions, and there are good answers available to all of these. And like with most questions, the answers depend on your unique situation.


The CEO needs a trusted advisor to help them navigate the day-to-day operations as well as the big picture strategy.

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The Basics of Technology Strategy

Let’s start with the basics and assume that technology development strategy is something you want to embrace, and you have outgrown the #2 pencil and Big Chief tablet. The answers will vary depending on size and requirements, but let’s walk through several different scenarios and recommendations.

Common questions that need to be answered include the following:

  • How many employees do you have today?
  • How many do you expect to have three years from now?
  • Is collaboration important? If so, is it limited to email, calendars and contacts? File sharing?
  • What about mobility? And most importantly, what about backups?

Technology Strategy Examples

Let’s take a look at some example companies as real live examples. The names have been changed, but the examples should help to understand what options are available. It might also help you figure out what might be the best fit for your small business.

Company A – Meridian Energy Services

Company Type – Startup
Number of employees – 3
Expected number of employees at headquarters in 3 years: 20
Employees stationary or mobile: Very mobile / International
Office Type: Executive Suite Today / Office Space in near future
Many visitors to the business? Yes, investment bankers and attorneys
Applications: MS Office, Outlook, QuickBooks

Meridian Energy Services (MES) is a new startup made up of 3 executives with private funding that are looking at mergers and acquisitions of energy related companies. What types of computing services do we recommend? Let’s go through the basic questions a small business owner has one by one and answer the questions.

The Need for a Server

Do I need a server? Possibly, but until you have your own office space and start to have more than 3-5 employees I would say no. We can easily add a server at a later date and build upon the basics that we will outline here. First you should register a domain name. Your company name and domain name will be one of your most important early decisions. Prior to deciding on a company name, make sure you can get a domain name you like and it is easy for your new clients to remember. It also looks a lot better when you have an email address that goes to your domain name versus going to Gmail or AOL, etc. First impressions are important.

The Need for a Website

What about a website? Websites today are both economical and quick to get setup and running. Since you were smart and already have your domain name, quickly have a new website in place. Look for a company that can build you an economical site and has a built in Content Management Solution (CMS). This CMS allows you to easily make updates and changes to your own website without having to be a web guru. If you know Microsoft Word, you will be able to update your own website. Also, make sure your website provider is up to speed on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This will become important in the future as you grow and want to be easily found on the search engines. Learn more about SEO here. OK, so now you have a good company name, a domain name and have your website underway.

Collaboration

How do I get email to my phone? So you have a few people, you are yet to have an office, but you need to be able to communicate. If you are like most small business, what is next is email and a cell phone. Until you are at a point that you need a server, we recommend that you go to a hosted Exchange solution and a data plan with your cell phone.

So, what’s next? Microsoft Exchange will give you the ability to share calendars, contacts, tasks, etc., and will allow you to wirelessly sync up these items with your cell phone and notebook computers. Today, you no longer need to have a server to have the features of MS Exchange. You can easily setup your email through a third party with hosted Exchange with as few as one user. The cost is around $12-25/month depending on whether or not you want to be able to synchronize with a Windows Mobile or Blackberry devise. You will also need a data plan with your wireless carrier for this feature. The wireless providers usually charge from $10-20/month for unlimited data plans in addition to your wireless plan.

Outsource or Insource Technology

Do I outsource or insource our technology? You will find that outsourcing your technology, or at least your IT support will be very beneficial for many reasons. First and foremost, it is extremely economical versus hiring a full time person. A full time hire will cost anywhere from $40-80K annually based on the skill set required. Most small businesses can outsource their support for less that $100/user per month. This is far less than a full time hire.

Also, with outsourcing you only pay for the expertise that you need, when you need it. And it can definitely be challenging to hire and keep good technical talent, especially in a tight economy. Technical people tend to get bored in a small environment and try to get one to spend a lot of money staying on the bleeding edge to keep from being bored. If you are like most business owners, you want peace-of-mind for your business, not bleeding edge technologies.

Cost for Technology Strategy

How much is it going to cost? Well this depends on several factors, but let’s try to give you some basic parameters to go by. In the beginning, if you are purely going with a PC/Laptop and a cell phone the cost will end up in the parameters outline below. This is based on 2008 numbers and Microsoft as the standard platform.

  • Business Class PC/Laptop Computer with MS Office and Vista – $1200-2000 per device.
  • PDA/Smart phone – $100-200 with a 1-2 year contract. Monthly wireless service will be from $60-120/mn plus $10-20 for data service.
  • Internet/Phone connectivity via a DSL or Cable connection – $60-120/mn. Higher speed connections are available in bundled packages with phone service for $500-1000 per month.
  • Business Class Firewall with Content Filtering and Gateway Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware is about $900-1600 installed.
  • For a server running Microsoft SBS 2003, you will add about $5-6K for the server, about $1200 for the software license and about $120 per user for user licenses. Altogether, a server will typically add $10,000 to the cost.
  • If you need to have the office cabled, this will run $75-150 per drop.
  • Therefore, for a 10 person office, you are looking about $25,000-30,000 for a server and PC/Laptops. Monthly support plans would run approximately $900/mn. Much less than a full time hire.

Wireless Network

What about a wireless network? Typically, with the firewall, one can add wireless capabilities very easily. There is no such thing as a totally secure wireless network, but if configured properly, a wireless network is hard to hack into and with hundreds of unsecured networks, it is highly unlikely one would spend the time and effort to crack into a typical businesses wireless network. The wireless network is also nice to have if you are going to have visitors to your offices. With the proper firewall like a SonicWall TZ-180 with enhanced capabilities, it is easy to segment the wireless network into a DMZ whereby visitors cannot connect to your company network. They have access to the internet, but not your business network.

Backups

What about backups? Backups are the most critical item any business must be concerned about. Lost data is the only thing that one cannot recover from. If you are a small startup, backups can be done online or to an external USB drive. There are many cost effective options, but it is important to perform backups on a regular basis and to make sure you have them in separate locations. A backup is no good if it is at the same site and there is a fire, theft or natural disaster.

Several companies offer some very exciting devices called NAS/BDR appliances that help to insure backups are handled easily and cost effectively in a server environment. NAS/BDR stands for Network Attached Storage / Business Disaster Recovery. These appliances are both cost effective and provide for peace-of-mind and business continuity. They also eliminate the need for tapes. The NAS/BDR appliance takes a full image of each server for which it is backing up and then replicates this data to two different data centers, one on each coast.

The importance here is that in case of a server issue, the server can be restored ‘virtually’ on the NAS/BDR appliance until such time as the server can be repaired. In the case of a true disaster, a full image of the server can be sent from one of the two data centers and restored virtually on dissimilar hardware, called a bare metal restore, greatly reducing the time and cost of recovery.

Small Business Server

Typical Small Business: Company size of 5 to 75 employees.

For companies with from 5 to 75 employees, they should definitely start to consider an investment in a server. This will allow easy collaboration, centralized storage of files, file backup and ease of maintenance. Many of the basics as discuss for a smaller size company still hold true. Obtain your company name, your domain and develop your website.

Now you want to setup a network and invest in a server. Microsoft’s Small Business Server 2003 is a great choice for up to 75 users. It incorporates Microsoft Exchange for email and collaboration, file and print sharing for a single place to store files, SQL Server as a database, Sharepoint Services for portal capabilities, ActiveSync to wirelessly synchronize mobile phones and Remote Web Workplace for remote access to your desktop.

For true remote access, a Terminal Server can be added for mobile workforces. This allows remote users to connect to the server remotely without requiring a workstation to be in place to connect to. IT system management is fairly simple for this environment especially for outsourcing companies. These IT systems can easily be managed through a combination of remote support and onsite IT support. Typically, a company can manage these IT systems for around $50-100 per user per month. This includes pro-active management and will insure all backups are in place and all patches and updates are current on all systems.

Learn how you can be the best wingman with our free How to be a Wingman guide!

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Technology Assessment Criteria

See Also:
How to Evaluate IT Systems
How to Ensure Redundant Data Communications Links
Choosing New Software
How to Respond to an Imminent Disaster Threat
How to Choose a Software Dealer

Technology Assessment Criteria

Does your business need a technology health check?

How is your company’s technology health? Is your company using technology to its fullest extent? Or is your business exposed to risk that could be avoided by assessing the risks and proper planning? A Technology Health Check is much like an annual physical from a doctor. Your good sense would embrace the information you get from the check-up. When you have a bill of good health, you can take a sigh of relief. On the other hand, if the doctor finds something wrong with your health, then you can take corrective action immediately to reduce any future risks. So, what is a technology health check?

What is a Technology Health Check?

A technology health check is like your yearly physical; it examines your businesses’ technological health. In addition, it’s a comprehensive assessment of your information technology, policies, procedures, practices, and business processes. As with your yearly physical, a result of the technology health check includes recommendations on how to improve your business and mitigate risks it may be exposed to.

What Does a Technology Health Check Cover?

Like the annual physical, a technology health check needs a check list and someone with the expertise to use the checklist to assess your business’ health. A thorough technology health check will cover all areas impacting your business’s technology. It should cover the following typical areas:

1.Assets
1.1.Servers
1.2.Desktops
1.3.Networks, internal and Internet
1.4.Telephones, cell phones, long distance
1.5.Peripherals (printers, scanners, copiers, faxes)
1.6.Asset Management and tracking
2.Applications
2.1.Desktop applications
2.2.Email 
2.3.Accounting and other applications critical to your business
2.4.Document Management
2.5.Your web site
3.       Policies, procedures and processes
3.1.Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plans
3.2.Change Management
3.3.Security Administration
3.4.On-boarding & off boarding employees
4.Technology and your people
4.1.Managing the technology folks
4.2.Training your people to use technology
4.3.Help Desk
5.Vendor Management
5.1.Purchasing
5.2.Software licensing
5.3.Third party service providers
5.4.Voice and data circuit providers

Your list should be tailored to fit your company’s specific business needs.

A technology health check should be business-driven.

You may have the expertise in-house with your IT staff. If not, then there are many third parties IT consultants that perform this service. Whether you use in-house expertise or third party, experience is important in both IT and business processes to get the most value and comprehensive assessment. Avoid the mistake of a pure IT-driven assessment. Furthermore, IT experts that don’t understand your business may result in recommendations that aren’t the best investment for your business. Recommendations should be based on your business practices and processes as the top priority, with an analysis of how technology enables your business processes to achieve top business performance. In other words, your business strategy should determine technology, not the other way around. Avoid the mistake of having the tail wagging the dog.

How is a Technology Health Check Done?

The technology health check is like performing an audit. Your expert interviews key business and IT people to answer questions regarding the technology that supports your business. During these interviews, your expert gathers information about your technology, such as configuration settings of your key IT assets, existing policies, and procedures and other facts about your existing technology. This information becomes a part of the final results of the technology health check. The expert also verifies that all systems and processes are working properly. For example, your expert will check to be sure that you server backups are working correctly.

The Results

The information gathered from the interview and collected from the configuration settings, and verification of your working systems are put into a final report. Your final report also includes recommendations based your expert’s assessment. Your management team should discuss the outcome of the assessment and any recommendations with your expert so that you can take any appropriate next steps. The final report also includes documentation on your information technology and becomes an asset to reference in your business. It becomes a very useful document for disaster recovery and business continuity planning. Refresh the technology health check annually just like you would do your annual physical with your doctor.

As you conduct your technology health check, you should also examine other areas of your company. If you want to learn more about this, then click here to access our free Internal Analysis whitepaper.

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technology assessment criteria

 

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Supply Chain and Logistics

Supply Chain and Logistics Definition

A supply chain is a network of businesses and activities that takes a product from raw material suppliers to end consumers. By definition, logistics refers to the processes of acquiring, transporting, and storing resources along the supply chain and logistics. A supply chain, which relies heavily on information technology, logistics and transportation, may involve numerous different businesses that comprise the various links along the supply chain, or a single company may oversee the majority of the supply chain and logistics for its products.

For example, a supply chain for coffee may begin with Central American farmers. The product (coffee) would then move along the supply chain from the farmers to the facilities that process. Then, they package the coffee beans. Then, they would move to distributors that transport the product to wholesalers. These wholesalers might then deliver the product to retailers and neighborhood coffee shops for sale to end customers.

In this example, the supply chain and logistics would be the entire network of businesses that carry the product from its source – the coffee farmers in Central America – to where the finished product is consumed by customers at the neighborhood coffee shop.

Supply Chain and Logistics Activities

Consider supply chain business processes vertical systems. A typical supply chain consists of manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers. A supply chain can be seen as a system connecting the value chains of the companies within that system. Consider the activities closest to the source of raw materials upstream activities. Then consider the activities closest to the finished product and the end consumer downstream activities. A company is considered upstream or downstream in relation to other companies in the supply chain depending on its relative position in the supply chain network.

Supply Chain Links

A company will typically participate in a supply chain business process at the point where it can employ its particular functional area of expertise. For example, a trucking company will focus on the transport link of a supply chain, while a mining company will focus on finding and extracting raw natural resources, and retailers will focus on selling the end product to consumers.

Because you can specialize each supply chain link in its own functional area, they may not know about the links directly upstream and downstream from them. That’s why supply chain communication and supply chain coordination, both of which require reliable information technology systems across different businesses, are vitally important to the functioning of a supply chain.

If, however, one link in the supply chain process feels it can expand its responsibilities in the network, either because it can complete a process more efficiently or at a lower cost, then that company can become vertically integrated, by forward integrating or backward integrating. A company that takes over a downstream activity from a customer is forward integrating. In comparison, a company that takes over an upstream activity from a supplier is backward integrating. A company that oversees several consecutive links in the supply chain of its product is vertically integrated.

Supply Chain Management

Supply chain management refers to the process of overseeing and optimizing the overall supply chain network from raw material suppliers to finished product retailers. The goal of supply chain management is to make the supply chain process as efficient as possible by enhancing product and information flows among participating businesses.

Improving your supply chain can involve supply chain communication, or enhance the flow of information among businesses along the supply chain. Furthermore, the logistics and transportation systems will run optimally. But this only happens if all members of the chain have access to all relevant market data and operations information. All other members of the chain provide this information.

Supply chain improvement can also involve supply chain coordination, or optimizing the logistics and transportation activities for maximum efficiency. This may include the following:

  • Improving information flows and inter-business communication
  • Optimizing manufacturing processes
  • Implementing just in time (JIT) production systems
  • Optimizing vehicle distribution routes
  • Eliminating bottlenecks in the process
  • Allocating resources to maximize efficiency

An efficient and optimized supply chain can benefit all the businesses in the supply chain. Therefore, it adds value to the end consumer.

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supply chain and logistics, Supply Chain Management

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supply chain and logistics, Supply Chain Management

See Also:
Supply and Demand Elasticity
How to Manage Inventory
Perpetual Inventory System
Days Inventory Outstanding Analysis
Inventory Turnover Ratio Analysis

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Research and Development

Research and Development Definition

Research and development (R&D) in business refers to activities geared towards new product development or current product improvement. It typically involves conceptualizing and designing new products and then tailoring them to meet the needs of the target market. R&D is often a line item on a company’s income statement. Technology and pharmaceutical companies often have comparatively high research and development spending because these industries are very research-intensive. Substantive spending on R&D can also be a sign that a company is growing or expanding.

Accounting Research and Development

In accounting, there is some controversy over whether research and development spending should be considered an asset with future benefits for the company or whether it should be expensed in the period when it is incurred. Some claim that because R&D is part of the process of creating new products, it should be considered an asset with future benefits to the firm and expensed when the new products are eventually sold. Others claim that research and development is a regular operating expense, and it should be expensed in the period in which it is incurred.

In the U.S., the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) solved the dilemma by requiring all companies to expense R&D in the period incurred. This is the rule according to GAAP.

When investing in research and development, be the trusted advisor your CEO needs and guide them through this process. Learn how you can be the best wingman with our free How to be a Wingman guide!

Research and Development

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Research and Development

See Also:

How to Estimate Expenses for an Annual Budget
Capital Budgeting Methods

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