A good Project Management

Four Problems that Can Undermine an IT Project

It might be an understatement to suggest that things don’t always go smoothly in business. The truth is that when one problem is solved, another is often created. This is why we lean on our technology. These “solutions” are intended to fix many of the speedbumps, but that doesn’t mean that choosing, deploying, and supporting these systems don’t come with some problems as well. Today, we look at three reasons an IT project could fail.

Failure to Align to Business Needs

Incorporating technology to make things more efficient is typically the goal, but in many instances, management and technology deployment aren’t working in concert. This can lead to IT projects that fail because of friction that is caused when there isn’t any unity in the direction things are going. In order for IT projects to work as designed, there needs to be some cohesion between planning and practice.

A good strategy to avoid situations like this is to set ground rules about when a major IT project can start. Not only should any project have full clearance from decision-makers, but it should also include regular status updates to keep everyone abreast of any changes or delays that may happen. Typically, new IT deployment will result in some downtime, so having the blessing of everyone that could be affected is a good plan.

Runaway Costs

Not every project is going to run smoothly. One could say that most projects deal with some inefficiencies and even redundancies that increase costs. Most major IT projects require substantial investment and if there is a lack of commitment it can cause projects to fall flat. Of course, many IT investments are earmarked when a budget is set and therefore can be subject to alteration due to other financial factors affecting the business.

To avoid having the IT project tablecloth ripped out from under your china, you should be pragmatic about your IT investments. This means once you’ve decided to invest in something, complete it since most IT investments will end up providing quicker returns. Go full steam ahead or don’t go at all.

Communication Issues

When we cite “communication problems,” we aren’t talking about problems with your data plans or email server, we are talking about keeping lines of communication open between all the people that have a stake in the project being a success. That means everyone: production workers, administrators, and everyone in between. Obviously, most projects are handled by the project manager and it is his/her responsibility to disseminate information as required.

Today, there are some pretty impressive and easy-to-implement tools that will allow project managers the ability to quickly send correspondence to various people, create chats with teams of people involved in the project, quickly start video meetings, and more. The better equipped your project manager is to be an effective communicator, the more smooth a project will likely go.

Poor Project Management

That brings us to the last point, but it may be the most crucial. A solid project manager will do things that will make for successful IT projects. A good PM will manage the expectations of stakeholders, demands of the staff, and make it look easy. It’s not, but for some people being in the middle of a major project is exactly what they were built for. The good PM will not only understand the needs of the project team, the underlying problems that the project is trying to address, but also do it in a way where people who need information won’t have to go and search for it. A good project manager is a great delegator, a great prioritizer, and a great communicator.

At Point North Networks, Inc., we have plenty of experience running point on the Twin Cities Metro Area businesses’ IT projects and would love the opportunity to talk to you about your next IT project. For more information about anything IT support-related, give us a call today at 651-234-0895.

 

 

 

IT Budget

Three Ways to Help Your IT Budget Go Further

Running a business can be stressful, and if you can’t find time to juggle the countless variables that are at play every day of the week, you’ll quickly find yourself falling behind what needs to be done. Technology is one such area where falling behind is easy, especially when it comes to purchasing and implementing new tools. Unfortunately, your IT budget is not limitless, so how can you make the most of it? Let’s take a look.

Identify Inefficiencies

When you need to make your investments count, it can often be difficult to make large purchases without a little bit of reticence. You should first determine where your business could benefit from technology spending, then make implementing these solutions a priority. If you can address inefficiencies in your operations, you’ll be more likely to gain more from your technology and, thus, make the investment worthwhile.

For example, if you have ten employees and two of them have two displays, then these two employees are likely getting more work done than the rest of your employees. If you can invest in eight more monitors, then you can exponentially increase productivity for the entire crew, making the investment an excellent way to reduce inefficiencies. There are tons of other ways your business can use this principle to make the most of its technology budget—you just have to think a little outside the box and examine the baseline operations of your infrastructure.

Invest in Training

You can invest in technology, but you can also invest in something which is less likely to break down and require replacing eventually: training. If you purchase new technology or equipment, your employees will need to know how to use it. By ensuring that your employees are properly trained, they’ll be more likely to yield a return on investment for your new technology solutions.

 

What it really boils down to is that the better your employees are at doing their jobs, the more money they will save you in the long run. By training your employees, you are giving them access to knowledge and tools that will aid them while going about their duties. In fact, according to a study conducted by the Association of Talent Development, companies that invest in comprehensive training programs see 218 percent higher income than those that don’t.

 

Furthermore, today’s threat landscape is so advanced that your employees will need all the help they can get to avoid falling prey to a hacker or other advanced cyber threat. If you invest in security training now, you can save money by preventing security breaches in the future. Plus, it will help you maintain customer relations; nobody wants to work with a business that doesn’t take security seriously, after all.

Outsource

Outsourcing can be an effective way to take advantage of goods or services you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. It effectively gives you access to more for less, and it helps to control costs in the budgeting process. In particular, outsourcing technology services can be an effective way to keep your IT in proper working order. Through managed services like those provided by Point North Networks, Inc., you can utilize all kinds of technology solutions that you might otherwise have difficulty implementing with limited resources at your disposal.

One common way that businesses outsource is with their cloud platform, but the cat isn’t out of the bag yet in regards to how much ROI you actually get from implementing it. Still, the fact that outsourcing gives you access to solutions you wouldn’t otherwise be able to manage is more than enough reason to consider it. Outsourcing your cloud, for example, gives you the ability to scale your services per user or per GB used, so you can still leverage the services according to your operational needs.

 

If you partner with a company like us, you can take advantage of several services designed to help your business thrive and gain value from technology. Here are some examples:

  • Comprehensive backup and disaster recovery
  • Remote monitoring and proactive management of all IT
  • Best in the Twin Cities technology procurement
  • Dynamic cybersecurity tools
  • Patch and licensing management
  • Vendor management
  • And more.

Even without a huge IT budget, your business can be successful and innovative. To learn more about how you can accomplish this, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.

 

Automation Any Business Can Fit In Their Business Plan

In modern businesses, automation can be implemented in a lot of ways, but for small businesses, it may be more difficult to find ways to incorporate time-saving automation. In this week’s blog we’ve decided to point out a few ways even the smallest business can use automation to their advantage and give their employees the freedom to focus on revenue creating processes.

 

Use a CRM

The efficiency of creating and sustaining leads can be troublesome for any business, but by utilizing the automated tools presented by a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system your business can improve your sales and marketing efforts quickly by automating some of the minutiae that comes with those efforts. By using a CRM you can improve customer satisfaction and completely manage your sales process. Most CRMs have the capability to handle the process of getting your business the right customers for the right products/services and then building that relationship without having to spend a lot of time and effort to do so.

Social Media Management

Social media is likely a big part of your business’ ability to attract new customers and interact with your current clientele. By using automated tools to schedule out your social media efforts, you can not only engage more people over more platforms, you can stay organized. Getting your message out over social media can be a fairly easy and repeatable process, a perfect environment for automation to help your business’ efforts in that arena.

Customer Support

The biggest problem for small businesses is typically that the amount of resources they can spend on support is lacking due to budgetary constraints. If the people that are responsible for the production of a business’ products/services are also given the responsibility of being the support system of those products/services, it can significantly reduce the advancement of those products/services. Today, there are many automated tools outfitted with artificial intelligence that can effectively handle a lion’s share of the customer support. Specifically, chatbots are a tool that can allow you to handle a series of customer problems without the need for workers constantly being available to provide support.

Meeting Scheduling

Having to constantly schedule meetings can be a time-intensive task as people have variable schedules that don’t always line up. This typically means meetings are held without people or serially rescheduled, reducing productivity and grinding workflows to a halt. Automating the scheduling of meetings and appointments normalizes scheduling and avoids conflicts while bringing enhanced efficiency to your business.

Procurement

With supply chains a mess, it can often be hard to get the components or products you need quickly. Today, businesses can use inventory management applications to automate the ordering of certain goods to ensure that goods are there when your business needs them. This can be something as simple as paper goods, but can also work on mission critical components as well.

 

Automation is giving small businesses the ability to compete with larger businesses in their markets through end-to-end advanced efficiency. If you would like to talk to one of our IT specialists about the integration of tools that allow you to save time and money, give us a call at 651-234-0895 today.

consistency

Building Trust in Business with a Consistent Approach

For a worker, one of the most maddening things that can happen at work is when there is a lack of consistency with the leadership. It can throw a figurative wrench into everything that you are trying to accomplish. Some examples of people not being consistent include:

 

  • Not doing something when they say they will.
  • Not showing up to meetings on time or at all.
  • Creating business processes without announcing changes and then expecting people to know what to do without being briefed.
  • Promising new services without checking if the company can deliver.
  • Guaranteeing success without a plan to do so.

 

Inconsistency can cause turnover, inefficiency, poor customer service and support, and many other poor results. It affects workers, customers, and even potential customers. Today, we thought we’d take a look at how consistency is important.

Consistency Shows Respect

We might as well start at the most troubling part of being inconsistent when you run a business: it shows a complete lack of responsibility. As a business owner, your staff has to take your lead and your customers make commitments based on your word. If you are just flying by the seat of your pants in every situation, the lack of consistency will be apparent.

 

Many people take an inconsistent approach, especially one that shows a lack of interest in the issue at hand, to be a giant slap in the face. The best leaders are the ones that lead by example. Doing the right things for your staff and for your customers will be reciprocated at a very high percentage. Building trust has to be on the short list of any organizational leader’s to-do list, so setting the tone and being consistent can really help establish trust.

Consistency Creates a Culture of Accountability

When you work with other people, there has to be some accountability taken by each member of the team, especially in a management capacity. If you are managing people and they have inconsistent results, you wouldn’t say they were doing a good job, would you? The same goes for when you are managing people. If you bring inconsistent leadership, you will get mixed results, inflated costs, and a general lack of productivity.

Consistency Allows for Useful Analysis

One often overlooked reason to prioritize a consistent approach is that if things are done consistently then you can get reliable metrics for any analysis you are going to do. It may take some time to build consistency with new platforms, but after some time (at least three months), if the issue you are trying to measure has been carried out consistently, after a pretty short period of time it will give you the notion if it is working or if it isn’t.

Consistency Defines Your Business

Nowadays businesses do more to manage their reputation than at any other period in business history. They have to, they are exposed in ways older businesses weren’t. If customers and workers get a fair shake and find that your business’ processes are carried out consistently, the negativity will be muted. Consider a Major League Baseball Umpire. His job is to call balls and strikes, and he may have a wider or taller strike zone, but if he constantly calls the same pitches a strike, hitters won’t complain too much.  Your business can still be innovative and do things outside the box, but if you change things repeatedly with no warning, people are going to get frustrated.

 

How consistent is your business? What do you think the most important part about being consistent is? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below and return to our blog for more great business and technology advice.

3 ways to improve communication

3 Ways to Improve Communication In Your Small Business

When we say “improve communications” you probably are expecting an article about telephone systems or which video conferencing platform works the best. Normally, you’d be right, but today we decided to briefly go over four ways that you can foster better communications between management and their employees inside of your business.

 

We know that good, effective communication can be tricky, but if you can set up constructive give-and-take, your business is sure to benefit from it. Let’s take a look at four ways your business can create an environment where communication actually helps your business.

Create a Collaborative Company Culture

A collaborative company culture is one where people trust others to pick them up when they need help to produce the best products and services possible. It’s true that every business relies on the efforts of their employees. Why then are there often such efforts taken to keep them out of the loop? Sure, the staff doesn’t need to know everything in order to do their jobs, but in order to build the relationships necessary to create trust, being transparent about how things are going and the goals you have for the business is a solid practice.

 

If everyone that works toward a singular goal understands where the organization stands, they will not only be open to being helpful toward others inside the business, they are more likely to provide feedback that is a key resource to better business processes.

Listen to Learn

Business is often fast-paced and doesn’t offer a lot of time for reflection. This is why when employees talk, managers have to listen. The truth is that people aren’t adept at listening. Everyone has their own responsibilities and sometimes the thought of taking more on is impossible. For decision makers, it can be difficult to listen to superfluous information that doesn’t have anything to do with getting the job done.

 

Well, it’s your job to listen.

 

If you want to have the kind of business where communication is a major part of what you do, you better listen. Most of those superfluous gripes are not actionable, sure, but if you just don’t listen to what your staff is saying and go about dictating what needs to be done without taking any of their suggestions or comments or complaints seriously, you are going to be in for a tough time. You can’t make everyone happy, but what you can do is listen to the people you depend on if only to ascertain their perspective.

Don’t Rely on Meetings

If you are going to make an announcement to the staff, a staff meeting is the best way to do so. You can gather everyone there either in the conference room or via video conference and make announcements. If you are looking to enhance communications, however, meetings are some of the worst settings for communication between people. Firstly, people never say what they are thinking as to not rock the boat or cause arguments, so they are much more conservative in a meeting setting.

 

If you want more effective communications, choose settings that will keep people from putting their defenses up. That means smaller meetings or one-on-ones. You’ll get more out of many smaller chats than you ever will out of a large-scale meeting. Managers should always encourage feedback and accept it with grace, and check in on those they manage from time to time. Your managers should also expect to be checked in on by those above them too.

 

Solid communications can boost productivity and the morale of your entire organization. What do you think? Do you have any other tips that can help knock down barriers and create a better flow of information within your business? Leave your comments below and reach out to us at 651-234-0895 to talk with us about finding the technology to improve your business’ communications.