February 11 2016

A Fast Way to Cut Costs – Process Automation 02:08 pm

Organizations looking to cut costs right now should take consistent steps to look at process automation.  After starting to review our customer’s environments the past six months we have found numerous examples where people are working really hard but are not leveraging all the tools at their disposal.  This is a bit of an understatement.  Really what we have seen is people doing work on their computer and wasting a lot of time because they didn’t know there was a better way.  Our definition of wasting time is anything that takes over 2 hours per month and is repetitive type work.

Some specific examples were legal assistants and their lawyers spending 5-10 hours per week sorting emails.  We automated the process and freed up a lot of billable time.  Another example was where customer usage data was being input from one software program to another.  We took one look at that workflow and decided manual time entry was wasn’t worth the 4 days it took.  The two software vendors agreed upon a standard format and an automatic import process was put in place.  Not only did the process reduce from 4 days to less than 2 hours accuracy improved.  The person responsible can now focus on creating more value versus data entry.  Other examples include how data is transferred from field work to back office administration.  Making this data available in an electronic fashion is often very cost effective.

Our biggest win has actually turned into the creation of a brand new product.  We expect to be able to save most organizations $20 – $140,000 in operating expenses while improving both accuracy and customer service.   This product will be announced Feb 2016 and we look forward to how it will help so many of our customers cut costs.

To get started we suggest simply guessing where the areas of biggest waste are or where people may be spending more than 2 hours per month doing simply routine work.  Having someone who is well rounded in technology and work observe what is happening and documenting the workflow is an excellent starting place.  If the observation yields a process improvement idea great.  If not, at least the process is documented which can be used to enhance the operations manuals already in place.   Once that workflow is documented the technology person can move onto the next suspected area of automation as time permits.

One of our biggest lessons learned in this process is to baseline measurie the current manual time intensive process and cost.  Without that in place it can be easy to overlook how much improvement takes place over time and think that all this automation work is just nice to have.  For most organizations saving time in workflows amounts to saving time related to one of their largest expense categories and that is the payroll expense.

If no qualified resources are available pcit can supply experienced professionals to assist.  We also have many many ideas how our customers can streamline their processes and cut costs using the tools they already have.

January 4 2016

When to Upgrade to Windows 10 – For the Office 04:40 pm

Using Windows 10 for several months now has been generally a pleasant experience at the office.  We thought providing readers with feedback regarding when and how to upgrade in an organization may help many of our customers effectively plan and use Windows.

Before tackling when and how to upgrade let’s think of the last 10 years.  Since it is the first day back after closing 2015 reflection seems appropriate.  In that time period most offices have gone from Windows XP, to Windows 7.  This is a significant change but it in no way matches the changes that have taken place with smartphones and cloud services.  I would believe that most of our customers who for some reason or another use a computer at work have also gotten accustomed to iOS products from Apple like the iPhone or iPad over the last 10 years.  Many may also remember using a Blackberry (joking).  Several more have probably used an Android device.  Across this whole cross section of end users we also know many have tried some form of cloud service that involves using a program via an Internet Browser.  This could be anything like Salesforce, ADP, Bellamy, Gmail and more.

My point to this reflection is that changes to the Operating System are not nearly as significant to the user’s productivity anymore.  A great new feature in the Operating System will typically not make the average user significantly more productive.  Neither will a poorly designed feature cost someone significant time and frustration.  In short, most of us have ‘gotten over’ so much change or at least reluctantly live with it.  (I haven’t mentioned Windows 8 – which we actively tried to prevent being deployed in our Customer base. As the CEO I never could really figure out how to use it and that seemed to speak for itself.)

So when we say it is better than any other Operating System for our customer’s to do business with let me put that in context.  It is probably not $500 worth of improvement.  Given the cost of a new Operating System is $99-$200 and a typical deployment takes 3-6 hours per computer the total cost per user is likely around $500 for many organizations with under 200 users.   We like Windows 10 but if it was our money this upgrade isn’t THAT much worth it.  We believe our customers could typically take that same $500 spend and do something far more value generating.

So this leaves us with the economics of upgrading coming down to when.  If it’s not valuable now when would the upgrade be valuable?  In this regard we believe staying with a 20-25% PC refresh rate every year is a fantastic time to upgrade the Operating System.  Sure we don’t get the efficiencies of deployment down to 1-2 hours per user by automating everything all at once.  But as already mentioned neither can we understand how our typical customer gets a significant payback by putting everyone on a new Operating System at $500 a user.  If the customer ends up with a few mismatches in the PC fleet both they and their provider can manage this variance with a little bit of automation or some old fashioned documentation.  Even IT over the last 10 years has learned better how to get over all this change ….

In regards to exciting new feature the Operating System comes with two internet browsers.  We so far have found a lot of applications and sites don’t work with the new browser called Edge.  A lot of customers also use Chrome as a browser and many also use Firefox.  Having to manage security loop holes for 4 browsers is an interesting challenge.  Let’s hope that doesn’t come back and cause security issues for our clients.

The improvement in BitLocker encryption technology is a welcome change for Professional grade Operating Systems.  Our clients may not get hostile with us if we try this security technology though we haven’t field tested it.  Other encryption products we have tried have almost had pcit ‘walk the plank’ so to speak.  Not having to worry about all the laptop users who may have data that should not be splattered across the internet should be a stress reducer with our clients.

Several of our customer’s bypass the encryption concern by simply access virtual applications when working remote.  None of the date in this regard resides on the laptop so corporate data is not at risk should the laptop be lost or stolen.

The other really nice features with Windows 10 comes with the ENTERPRISE version.  If your organization has over 50 branch office users and wants sharing data between offices to be much faster than we should talk about the value Enterprise may deliver.  In this case a rollout beyond the typical 20-25% refresh cycle each year could be value generating.

In summary, we believe Windows 10 should be a part of every organizations future. At the cheapest price possible for organizations with under 200 users likely means a phased deployment over 1-4 years. If someone really wants to see productivity jump or costs be cut our immediate recommendations are to look elsewhere in areas like application development or automation technologies.

November 27 2015

Municipal Information Systems Association – New Member 09:47 am

PCIT has joined the Municipal Information Systems Association in the fall of 2015.  We are fortunate to support several customers in the Peace River region who are members of this organization.  Much of the work to support the organization is volunteer so we expect to roll up our sleeves and get to work!

One of MISA’s objectives is to ‘provide leadership and promote excellence in the use of information and communications technology.’ We accept the challenge and hope to also be able to add value in this regard.

November 4 2015

Two Moose – Nature is Amazing! 09:59 am

Two Cow Moose Oct 15, 2015

Two Cow Moose Oct 15, 2015

Has anyone every seen something like this?  These are two cow moose who at first stood straight up on two legs and faced each other.  They then took a couple steps towards each other and then began swinging their front hooves at each other.

In this photo the two are a little bent over as they have just been landing body blows? on each other so hard we could hear it with the window down.

After this lasted for about 1 minute they both dropped and then slowly walked away with each one leading one of the moose calves you can see in the photo.

This took place on the east side of the airport fence near Grande Prairie.  At the same time a friend was driving up the west side of the airport on Range Road 70 and saw a nice bull.  Perhaps this is two girls fighting over one guy?

I showed a friend who retired from the Forestry department and has been active in the woods all his life.  All he could say is “You sure have weird moose in this country.”

October 13 2015

Strategy, Revenue and Security Insights From Amazing Conference 09:39 am

Tech Data put together a gathering of some of the most progressive organizations in the technology industry for their annual North American TechSelect conference this past week Oct 6-9, 2015. It was a great time to be in Boca Raton Florida where the sky was sunny and not a touch of fall could be found anywhere. In Grande Prairie our first frost had already arrived before leaving for the event. In Boca we had to move breakfast from out of the open sunlight as it was too hot by 9am in the morning. Quite a difference.

Listening to some of the biggest organizations in the industry present their best practices, industry trends and product focus was very informative indeed. One theme that kept recurring from Cisco, HP, VM Ware, Intel and more was how valuable good security solutions are at this point in time. CEO’s and management simply don’t want to be known as the next place where data was breached and their vulnerabilities made public. This is just a further convergence of an observation made at the beginning of the conference. ‘Companies are now realizing that their technology strategy and business strategy are really the same thing.’ This observation was attributed to Accenture in 2015 and it is just as applicable for the security needs of an organization as it was for any new revenue and business opportunities that are available.

A good security practice takes the operational disruptions and impact of security breaches and creates restore processes, remediation processes and root cause analysis steps to help reduce and eliminate these instances from recurring.  A good security practice also benchmarks the results achieved and compares them to a baseline of what is possible.

I had the opportunity to speak with Scott Schweitzer from Cisco, Vice President of Security at length one evening on the typical security spend per user and typical results one could expect from that spend. This type of data is not yet mainstream. At pcit we are updating our tools and processes to keep our customer’s from being the next data breach headline. The threats are very real and pcit as well as the media and the entire technology industry have seen the increase and severity of malware in 2015.

Special thanks to A&G Advisory and Mark Thompson, author of Admired, for presenting at the conference. Both of these sessions were extremely valuable. I read the book Admired on the way home and found it to be very helpful.