A Second Look at your Hybrid Workforce
In the last two years, companies worldwide have transitioned from a traditional office setup towards a hybrid workforce model as a part of a solution to the pandemic situation. While many employees are going back to the office, physical capacity in the workplace is still limited, and many companies need to make adjustments to accommodate everyone. Many businesses are finding that using a hybrid workforce is a solid long-term solution.
Connecting Everyone through Teams
In a hybrid workforce environment, employees get divided into teams where some complete work at the office while others do their job from remote locations, usually from their homes. It lets work get completed while allowing social distancing.
The challenge for management is unifying their team and getting them to work as a unit, despite having employees working in separate physical locations. This setup is where a hybrid solution comes in. A working system comes with tools like stable network infrastructure and reliable and organized features that boost productivity. And, at the same time, the tools allow employees to coordinate seamlessly with other team members in the company for a consistent and coherent workflow.
Benefits of the Hybrid Workforce System
The main objective of a hybrid system is to create balanced work productivity and to maintain consistent team effort regardless of the location of the workers. Besides the obvious benefit of allowing companies to continue operating in the face of the pandemic, a hybrid workforce also provides multiple benefits to both the employer and the employees. In fact, because of these benefits, many employers have decided to utilize the hybrid system as part of their permanent work setup.
Reduced Physical and Emotional Anxiety
While it has been going on for almost two years, the pandemic is still far from over. Many people are still hesitant to take public transport. Many also avoid taking their work to public, nonsecure Wi-Fi settings. With a hybrid system, anxiety from these issues is eliminated for everyone.
For the employer, a hybrid setup will dramatically reduce expenses with rental space or office maintenance. This will help free up funds for other aspects of the business. For the employee, there will no longer be a need for a daily commute. The cost will also reduce, helping you control the budget.
More Access to Resources
In a hybrid setup, employers can also hire international talents and not just local ones. Employers can easily employ services from workers from any part of the world. With the wide availability of online IT management services, it is easy to keep your technology ahead of the competition.
Taking a Cue from Microsoft’s Approach in Hybrid Workforce
Migrating any business into a hybrid workforce environment is a lot of work. The process is not overnight. Microsoft came up with an approach that we could follow and developed powerful tools that we could all use to navigate the challenges of the transition.
If you have not yet taken any steps to shift to a hybrid system, now is the perfect time to go through Microsoft’s Hybrid Work: A Guide for Business Leaders. You’ll learn more about the need to make the transition. How it can benefit your company and your employees, and how to make the shift successfully.
Microsoft Teams Rooms is one of the many innovative tools Microsoft has developed to support hybrid workforce environments. It will connect remote workers in the office using tools that are powerful, flexible, secure, and easy to use. If you do not use the Microsoft Suite, you can always use ZOOM or similar programs.
Up Your Hybrid Workforce Game with our Help
Working with an MSP is the most efficient way to achieve the highest productivity out of your new hybrid workforce. We can provide you with all technical advice and security as you shift your business to online usage. We use state-of-the-art tools to keep you ahead of the competition. Also do all kinds of assistance in terms of hardware, software, data storage, and online support. Contact us today to learn how to flawlessly integrate your existing work setup into an efficient hybrid workforce system.
Tax deduction MSPs and how businesses can benefit from them.
Save money with HaaS from an MSPEstimates suggest that businesses that successfully deploy managed services reduce their IT outgoings by up to 45%. One of the ways in which businesses can save is by choosing HaaS (Hardware as a Service).
Reducing upfront capital expensesThe benefit of HaaS is that you reduce your upfront capital expenses. This means businesses can shift their budget allocations around and free up their cash flow. Essentially, it means that expenses come out of the operating expense budget (OpEx) instead of the capital expense budget (CapEx). As a result, managing monthly payments instead of large, upfront amounts is much more suitable for budgeting purposes. Businesses that use HaaS have an advantage when it comes to paying taxes. With HaaS listed as a service rather than a capital expense, it reduces the liability that tax causes. This means that businesses can get the equipment needed without running the risk of getting into debt.
Access to newer technologyWith limited finances, it’s hard for businesses to stay up-to-date with the latest technology. When using HaaS, Tax deduction MSPs have the responsibility to be sure the hardware will handle all your tasks efficiently. In the case that the hardware is no longer capable of delivering what companies need, the MSP will replace or upgrade the equipment.
Access to maintenanceOne of the benefits of HaaS is that businesses have their IT systems maintained and looked after by experts. Often, smaller businesses don’t have the knowledge or expertise to deal with complex IT problems. Therefore, when they encounter a big issue, it tends to come with a large price tag to fix. With HaaS, the MSP maintains and manages all hardware for a fixed monthly sum.
Tax deduction MSPs – reducing costs with Section 179Working with an MSP not only benefits your business’ IT, but it also comes with great financial perks. When tax season rolls in, Section 179 allows businesses to gain tax benefits for purchasing tangible goods, including IT hardware and services.
Final thoughts about tax deduction MSPsUsing an MSP has so many benefits, it’s no wonder so many small and medium-sized businesses are now choosing this way of working. With HaaS, businesses can save money, have up-to-date and well-maintained equipment, and increase their tax deductions. Contact us to see how we can help your business do the same today!
5 Tips for Successfully Working from Home
COVID-19 has forced event cancellations, school closures, and a consideration for remote work where possible. As more companies are sending their employees to work from home, we compiled this list of tips to be successful away from the office.
Nothing is more frustrating than having spotty Internet, especially when you’re trying to work on a big project through a remote access connection to your work computer. Most Internet packages available today will be fine. However, you might need to curb ancillary access of the Internet, like streaming and gaming, if you’re trying to do something more than upload and download documents. If your Internet seems slow, shut down and restart your router/modem. This can sometimes speed things up for a while.
Good Computer Hygiene
You know that “It’s time to update” pop-up that you’ve been avoiding for weeks? Take the time to update. This is most likely handled automatically by your IT team at the office, but your home system may be woefully behind, curbing your speed, as well as opening up unnecessary security holes. We recommend applying security patches as they are released, and keeping your computer up to date. Not sure if there are updates available? You can check in your computer’s control panel. You can also try simply restarting your system. Often, the updates will kick into gear.
To maximize effectiveness, watch the number of programs you’re attempting to run and browser windows you have open at any given time. Computers are not great multi-taskers, instead regularly switching between a multitude of processes (the instructions behind your applications) to complete commands. In fact, the number of processors in your system is the maximum number of things your computer can be “working” on at once, so if you’re seeing a drop-off in performance, take a moment to close a few programs not actively in use.
In order to protect your business, don’t just install Microsoft Outlook on your personal computer and proceed to work as usual. Instead, connect through remote access software or VPN. This will allow you in to your traditional work desktop without risking business data in an open atmosphere. Consult with your IT team to review their plan for remote access as well as enterprise-grade antivirus before beginning remote work.
When you go into the office, you have a clear routine. You come in, grab a cup of coffee, banter with your co-workers for a few minutes, sit down at your desk, and get to business. While it may be appealing to work in your pajamas, try to maintain as much normalcy as possible. Stick with a clear starting time and work schedule. Create an office space so that you’re not just piled up on the couch. Plan to get dressed and ready for the day, just like you’re going into the office.
You may find yourself feeling isolated pretty quickly when working from home. This is likely because you’re missing out on the short interactions and general banter with your colleagues. We highly recommend setting up a daily touch-base with your team in order to discuss priorities, work through sticking points, and to simply connect with other human beings. Don’t be afraid to send more progress emails than normal. Utilize messaging apps liberally, and don’t underestimate the power of a video chat or meeting. If an email exchange is getting too longer (more than three replies back and forth without solving the problem) pick up the phone.
Working from home can be an extremely powerful tool. When done right you can be as productive, if not more so than at the office. Enjoy the opportunity presented by COVID-19 concerns to establish a new work normal, at least for a short period of time.
7 Necessities Before Sending Your Workforce Remote
Improving Collaboration with Microsoft Teams
3 Ways Technology Will Help Pull Us Through the COVID-19 Pandemic
5 Benefits of Better Collaboration for Businesses
Who doesn’t want better collaboration? It’s the corporate version of Mom and Apple Pie. Yet, for all of its attractiveness, collaboration has turned out to be harder to achieve than people expect. There are many reasons for this, including cultural obstacles that prevent people from wanting to work together, e.g. in a hyper competitive work environment, people tend to help themselves, not others. Learn more in 5 Risks of Poor Collaboration in the Workplace.
Assuming the will to collaborate is present, the technology has to be available to make it happen. This, too, has proven difficult, though today the corporate world can choose from a rich array of sophisticated collaboration tools. Microsoft Teams, for instance, is powerful because it accommodates different personal work styles while integrating with the universal “productivity infrastructure” of the Microsoft Office system.
If you’re contemplating a program to stimulate better productivity, here are five benefit you’ll realize in the process:
1) Higher profits
Companies that don’t foster strong collaboration experience a host of hidden costs as a result. These may arise from invisible but expensive problems like people sending multiple emails and making phone calls to get a single task accomplished. Every person/minute in your business costs you something. The more time people waste in non-collaborative processes, the higher your costs will be. Collaboration drives productivity, which drives profits.
2) Stronger growth potential
Collaborative organizations move faster than those without. This enables them to take on more work and facilitate revenue growth. A good collaboration culture, backed by the right technologies, can also adapt to new modes of business—enabling agility and strategic advantage.
3) Improved morale and organizational cohesion
People who don’t like their jobs make their feelings known in ways that can be hard to see, but are nonetheless toxic to an effective organization, e.g. passive aggressive slowdowns, counter-productive perfectionism and so forth. This phenomenon can range from simple frustrations about getting work done to outright battles between people who can’t find ways to work together. Collaboration technology will not solve all of these problems, of course, but it can create a digital workspace where people can find ways to cooperate without cramping their individual styles. The results include better moral and organizational cohesion.
4) Better recruitment results
Prospective employees, particularly those from the newer generation entering the workforce, want to work in positive, collaborative environments. This is a digital native generation that is accustomed to mobile chat apps, social networks and the like. The office should be an extension of that experience.
5) Better talent retention
Once hired, people tend to stay in places where they like the work experience. This may seem obvious, but so many companies fail to connect the dots—proclaiming the value of collaboration but failing to deliver it, in tech terms. For some employees, this may be the factor that drives them out the door. A costly, productivity-sapping recruitment process arises as a result.
Learn more in Improving Collaboration With Microsoft Teams.
Interested in Microsoft Teams? Achieve Ultimate Collaboration in Just 2-3 Weeks
Get a head start with the Teams Quick Start Program from CCS Technology. We can get you up and running on the Microsoft Teams platform in 2-3 weeks so you can transform productivity and translate into more effective meetings, greater revenues, and profits. Click here to learn more.
5 Risks of Poor Collaboration in the Workplace
Collaboration sometimes comes across as a soft subject. It’s in the “nice to have” category, but somehow removed from serious business matters. If this was ever the case, it no longer is. Collaboration is at the heart of many critical business processes, especially as business grow more virtual and geographically spread out. Strategy execution relies, in large part, on effective collaboration. It’s how earnings grow. Poor collaboration comes with business risks. Solutions like Microsoft Teams help you avoid the consequences of poor collaboration.
Briefly, What is Collaboration in the Modern Business?
In simple terms, collaboration refers to two or more people working cooperatively on the execution of a project or task. It’s a familiar process, something most of us have been doing since nursery school. In the modern business context, however, collaboration is a much richer and involved activity.
Collaboration today means people working closely with one another, regardless of whether they are in the same physical space. It encompasses file sharing, collaborative document editing, task management, project tracking, phone/video/chat and web meetings. It the process that leads to the realization of team- and business-wide objectives.
5 Risks of Poor Collaboration
Poor collaboration can have a number of negative effects on a business. Some are (expensive) nuisances. Others could actually threaten a company with legal problems or security risks. Here are five major risks of poor collaboration, based on our experience working with many clients on collaboration technology projects:
1. Wasting time
This may not seem like such a big deal, but it is. Employees are expensive. Every minute wasted with sub-optimal collaboration tools nips earnings from the bottom line. For example, a few minutes wasted searching for the most recent draft of a document, across every team in the company, hundreds of times a year, can really add up. Microsoft Teams solves this problem by embedding enterprise search right into the collaboration interface.
2. Poor project management
Teams frequently use collaboration tools to manage projects. The better the tool, the more smoothly the project management process will go. The reverse is also true. If task assignments, follow ups, document sharing, scheduling and so forth are difficult, team members may abandon the tool and work through email and chat. This is sub-optimal and may impair project execution. Microsoft Teams provides extensive project management and tracking functionality.
3. Poor execution of strategy
In the aggregate, projects and collaborative work roll up to overall business strategy. Without the right tools, your teams cannot execute on strategies. The negative effects of this collaboration risk will appear in results at the end of the period.
4. Negative impact on morale and team cohesion
Employees may spend a great deal of their time inside the collaboration interface. If the experience is challenging or counter-productive, this can affect morale and team cohesion. People get stressed out when their tools can’t help them get their jobs done or meet their personal career goals.
5. Security risks
Collaboration often involves sharing confidential information and access to internal systems. Hackers may try to exploit vulnerabilities in the collaborative ecosystem to access data and digital assets. Microsoft Teams mitigates this risk with countermeasures like encryption for data in transit and chat.
The right collaboration software can make a difference when it comes to avoiding these risks and related problems in getting teams to work together productively. Get a head start with the Teams Quick Start Program from CCS Technology. In just 2 to 3 weeks we will get you up and running on the Microsoft Teams Platform, which can enhance productivity–translating into more effective meetings, greater revenues, and profits. Click here to learn more.
Learn more in Improving Collaboration With Microsoft Teams.
5 ways to use technology to improve productivity
Productivity is a big buzzword in office culture, and for good reason. The more productive your staff is, the greater your overall efficiency and the lower your total expenses. Who doesn’t want to see their employees get the maximum work done in the least amount of time?
There are plenty of technological tools to help increase productivity. The following are a few we’ve seen work in business settings.
1. Cloud-based project management
If your project management software is housed based on a single machine (or even on your local network), there’s a good chance it isn’t accessible remotely. However, if you use cloud-based project management software, your employees can stay on task no matter where they are.
Many cloud-based options even include a smartphone app for optimum access. It doesn’t matter if you’re across town for a quick meeting or across the country at a conference. You’re still engaged.
Options like Basecamp, Asana and Zoho are great for agile teams and those with workers who prefer to work from home at least part of the time.
2. Instant communication
As we alluded to above, it’s not uncommon to find more folks working from home. In fact, some teams are spread across the globe, working together as part of multinational corporations.
And, of course, sometimes you just don’t want to get up and walk across the office to have a conversation. It will disrupt your flow.
With technology, you can easily communicate with anyone, anywhere. We recommend instant messaging apps for the easiest, most seamless communication. You can IM from your PC or your phone, and it’s so much like texting that it will feel immediately familiar to everyone.
3. Automate everything
With all the business automation tools available today, you never need to be in the position where a critical (but fairly minor) task is forgotten.
You can use automation for everything from pre-scheduled email marketing campaigns, to CRM-based reminders to follow-up with prospective customers, to in-depth analytical reports that get delivered straight to your inbox each week.
Automation is an immediate productivity booster. There’s no reason to pay someone to do something by hand that can easily be automated. Instead, free your employees to focus on the things that really require their attention.
4. Easy Outsourcing
Consider this scenario. You don’t have the right person for the job, but you also don’t want to hire a whole new employee.
There are technology tools that make it easier than ever to hire outsourced help. It even possible to hire specialists in situations where a high level of expertise is required.
Online services like Upwork or Fiverr allow you to easily view and hire freelancers for simple, straightforward jobs. When partnering with whole outsourced firms and high-level specialists, we recommend using the previously mentioned communication & project management tools.
5. Online Learning
Employee training is actually an important component of productivity. Not only does it improve the skills of your employees, which naturally makes them better at their jobs. It’s also a perk. Most employees appreciate an environment that fosters their own development.
Companies are increasingly turning to online learning as a way to offer more affordable value for their employees. One major benefit is the flexibility that comes with online learning. Whether we’re talking about online classes through a university or a specialized training course, online learning is extremely convenient.
If any of these productivity-enhancing options sound like they’d be a good fit for your business, we encourage you to reach out to your managed IT services provider. They should be able to help point you in the right direction. Plus, they can ensure you have all the network capabilities you need to support the tech tools you want.
Unlocking the power of OneNote
With Office 365 now in use in more than 120 million businesses around the world, interest in OneNote is higher than it’s ever been before. But this surprisingly versatile bit of software is still rarely used to full effect.
For the most part, this is because users are unaware of the wealth of built-in features that could be making their lives a whole lot easier, or streamlining the working processes of their whole office.
However, you don’t need to be an IT pro to make smarter, more efficient use of OneNote. Here are seven tips, tricks and shortcuts that will help you unlock the power of OneNote and put it to work effectively in your company.
Robust cybersecurity is essential for any sensitive files or data. Sometimes, however, you may also want to password protect an internal document or notebook simply in order to give different users different levels of access.
OneNote has a feature specifically for this. What’s more, it’s extremely quick and easy to use, with password protection available in just a couple of clicks from the “Review” tab.
Simple, efficient email
OneNote allows any user to quickly and simply email their notes. By using the “Email Page” button, any user can send an email-friendly copy of the contents of a given page—including attachments and embedded files—to any number of addresses.
This is ideal for sharing minutes after a meeting, but this feature is also frequently used as a quick and simple way to transfer notes between devices even in the absence of a cloud.
Embed, embed, embed
One of the most useful things about OneNote is that it allows for the embedding of lots of different kinds of data. You can, for example, embed an Excel spreadsheet into a OneNote page. This makes the information from the spreadsheet instantly available, without the need to attach or refer to another file.
Videos, audio clips, and content from a variety of websites including YouTube and Slideshare can also be seamlessly embedded.
Transcribe from images
Pulling text from images may not be an everyday job, but when it’s necessary it can be a slow and labor-intensive process. OneNote contains a tool designed to streamline this process by copying text from an image with a single click.
The “Copy Text From Picture” option (shown when an image in OneNote is right-clicked) copies text directly to the clipboard, from which it can be pasted wherever the user requires.
Although it may seem trivial, the ability to dock OneNote to the side of a screen can be a massive productivity enhancer. It allows users to take notes from videos, websites or another program without constantly flicking back and forth between the two.
It’s super convenient to have those notes immediately at hand when, for example, making a video call or completing another task.
Employ page templates
Page templates are exactly what they sound like. They allow users to set up and save a document with a range of features such as text boxes and checklists. A clean version of this template can be opened any time it is required, making this a feature which can be applied to great effect across an office.
If you want to unify the way in which your employees take notes or approach another common task, OneNote page templates are a vital resource.
Check your history
Relatively few users are aware that OneNote preserves a version history for each and every notebook it handles. This means if a section is deleted in error or some vital notes are edited out of existence, the key information can be easily retrieved by referring to a past version of the notebook.
This is no replacement for a full backup solution, but it can be extremely useful on a day-to-day basis!
5 amazing things you can do with cloud ERP
Cloud ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) is changing the business game. According to Forbes, “Cloud ERP is the fastest growing sector of the global ERP market with services-based businesses driving the majority of new revenue growth.”
They cited the increased flexibility and speed of cloud ERP as chief factors in the fast-emerging system’s success.
What does this mean for growing SMBs? In addition to the myriad advantages cloud systems provide over their on-premises counterparts, making use of cloud ERP opens the door to some interesting capabilities you might not have considered. The following are just a few examples.
1. You can go mobile
If you’re accustomed to using on-premise ERP, you already know you have to stay connected into the local server to gain access to it. This isn’t the case with cloud ERP.
As a cloud-based system, you can pull up information from your cloud ERP anywhere you have an internet connection, on almost any device. This increased availability translates to an improved ability to collaborate with your team and freedom to engage in critical business while on the go.
2. You can streamline your operations
As a function of cloud ERP’s accessibility and mobility, you can streamline your business operations and productivity. You needn’t wait for an onsite connection to perform critical tasks. You can perform those tasks wherever and whenever you choose.
Let’s use accounting as an example.
Working in tandem and on the go, you and your team can ensure that accounts are always accurate and current. This also grants a real-time look at your accounts/finances—an invaluable benefit in situations where every moment counts.
3. You can scale more easily
With cloud ERP, you aren’t “locked in” as restrictively as you might be with on-premise ERP. This means you can scale-up—adding new features and functions as they become necessary—more easily. You can grow at your own pace and improve your business more strategically than before.
4. You can stay up-to-date automatically
When using on-premise ERP, the downtime and scheduling woes of software updates are often a major hassle. You might have to shut down your system entirely to perform said updates, and may even lose some of the customizations you had in place.
With cloud ERP, you can perform updates automatically without affecting your business or losing integrations and customization. The process is quicker, simpler, and more conducive to allowing your business to continue moving ahead at full steam.
5. You can maintain tighter security
With cloud ERP, you can manage security concerns more easily than with on-premise ERP. The cloud-based solution mitigates the need for team members to save sensitive files to their devices. They can access what they need through portals and dashboards.
And in the event a device goes missing, you’ve reduced the likelihood of important information falling into the wrong hands.
A dual advantage here is that with most of your information stored in the cloud, you’re already ahead of the curve if disaster strikes at your place of business and you need to implement your business continuity plan to stay in action.
Keep the cloud in mind when selecting your ERP
The amount you can do with cloud ERP will often outclass what’s capable with an on-premise ERP system. Be sure to work with a provider who understands the finer points of cloud ERP implementation to maximize your potential benefits.
3 different approaches to CRM systems
It’s essential that you have a CRM system (Customer Relationship Management) for managing customer data. Deciding which type will best fit the needs of your business will depend on various aspects of your company, including your budget and who’ll be using it.
There are three general types of CRM systems to choose from.
Implementing a basic CRM system
A basic CRM system is your general cloud-based implementation. The configuration would be limited to UI layout, with built-in configuration that would edit necessary fields. This type of CRM typically does not include any type of customized coding or involve any extensive processes.
This is a basic cloud solution that can provide standard functions, yet is still powerful enough to make a difference for your company.
Using this type of CRM system, you would likely focus on one single component of the modules such as sales, which would further limit the scope. Pre-built additions can be added to the basic CRM.
A basic CRM also involves transferring data of your accounts, contacts and leads into a CRM application. It won’t be necessary for the user to have all the data entered manually before using the application. With a basic CRM, a company can implement and use the CRM solution with a minimum amount of costs and in the shortest time. Some of the benefits include saving time in tracking and consolidating customer information.
Choosing a standalone CRM system
Standalone CRM is considered the superset of a basic CRM system.
This will involve the implementation of more complex processes including custom reporting, custom views, customized workflows and add-ons. Some of the benefits include the following:
- Send automated emails or notifications
- Gather and accurately maintain customer information
- Analyze data and uncover various trends
- Improve your customer service
It’s important to note that the data migration sometimes involves multiple sources which can require the need for data cleansing.
For a company that decides to use a standalone CRM, employee training will be required. CRM training for administrators will also be required if the business plans to self-maintain this kind of CRM application. This training will help those using the system gain greater efficiency and enable your company to better understand and meet the needs of your customers.
The benefits of an integrated CRM system
Integrated CRM includes the range of a standalone solution while integrating the CRM application with an external system. An external system could include an ERP application, different websites or some type of home-grown application.
This enables the systems to share data.
The integration of systems can be accomplished by either using some type of commercial off-the-shelf middleware application or by custom programming. By creating your own website to function seamlessly with the CRM system you’ll find there are several benefits for your business.
- Maximize the company’s overall operational efficiency
- Increase and improve the automation process
- Spend less time on administrative duties
- Increase employees’ time spent marketing and servicing customers
- Eliminate the duplication of data entry
- Provide synchronization for all your data
- Provide better leads for your sales team
Companies using an integrated CRM solution will need to provide training for their employees. And, like a standalone CRM system, administrator training for an integrated CRM will also be needed if the company plans to self-maintain the CRM application.
We recommend finding an experienced technology company to assist with both implementation and maintenance of your CRM system, no matter which type you choose. Many managed IT services providers can help with your CRM, in addition to other critical areas like cloud solutions, enterprise resource planning, security services and basic IT support.