Quick Facts – Costs of Downtime

Filed Under (IT infrastructure, Private Cloud, Technology Trends) by Nick Chandi on 01-05-2015

The 2014/2015 tax season is over! Having fun yet? During the tax season rush it is very important to work with an efficient manner. But what happens when your systems go down? CA Technologies conducted a survey with about 2000 organizations across North America and Europe to get their insight on how downtime affects their business.

Several key findings:
1. North American businesses are collectively losing $26.5 billion in revenue each year through IT downtime and data recovery. On average, each company loses $159,331 per year.
2. When business critical systems are interrupted, companies estimate that their ability to generate revenue is reduced by 29%
3. In this post-outage period when data recovery is taking place, company revenue generation is still severely hampered, down by an average of 17%.
4. Each business suffers an average of 14 hours of downtime per year, during which time employees are only able to work at 63% of their usual productivity.
5. 44% of respondents believe IT downtime can damage staff morale and 35% report it can harm customer loyalty

Understanding the risks of system crashes can help prevent loss revenue and customer dissatisfaction. The following infographic summarizes some of the findings that the report covers.

Costs of Downtime Infographic

 

Reference Links:
The Avoidable Costs of Downtime
The Avoidable Costs of Downtime – Phase 2

Technology is Reshaping Canadian Business: How to ensure your company keeps pace with IT growth and change

Filed Under (Technology Trends) by Nick Chandi on 26-05-2014

Technology shaping businesses is part of evolution of civil society. Morse code and telephones did it in the previous centuries.  Computer and Information technology continues to drive changes not to just how businesses are conducted but how we lead our lives.

However, the most disruptive technology of this millennium has been the refined technology mobile or smartphone technology. Across sectors, mobile technology continues to drive innovation in pretty much everything and has definitely turned the way business conduct themselves by nearly 360 degrees. Canada is no exception to disruption and constant change that technology introduction and adoption have been driving.

Historic trade winds make way to Technology upgrades

Historically, traders’ global footprints changed the businesses of royal economies and were enigmatically called trade-winds. In the past two millennia, technology-winds drive businesses, with the ripple-effect felt globally and not just local economies. However, for the average business owner or employee, the challenge is in keeping pace with the turnaround of technology adoption. No sooner had the mid-sized business adopted computer IT infrastructure, came the down-sizing in less than a decade as IT infrastructure moves to wireless and cloud-based computing.

Timing the Technology Change

Therefore, the timing of the technology change a business has to adopt to remain invested profitably becomes the inflexion point.

  1. Traditional businesses can no longer survive without adopting digital-profiling curve or business processes.
  2. Today, owning a website will not suffice for a small business or an enterprise.
  3. Driving viewer engagement to the website/web store is the key.
  4. Social media networks too are fast becoming the clinch-points for businesses to go the new way of delivery services: personalized services.

Technology drives businesses towards personalized services

A pamphlet or a flyer, showcasing a sale or a promotion at the local store, is now replaced by QR-code campaign, mobile marketing, social media campaigns and other digitized formats. As the mobile becomes the more common method of delivery of content, promotion and information about product or services a company or a small business provides, there is higher volatility in some of the range of services.

  1. Customer services are no longer limited to being a good, well-manufactured or well-delivered service.
  2. Services and products will now have to cater to the ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ on Facebook and SnapChat. Where the ‘social element’ of service or company becomes slow or archaic, the limited is the customer growth.
  3. Internet and online communications has also driven global reach. Therefore, for every local competitor, there is also a global competitor which small scale and large-sized business have to develop strategies to accommodate.

Soliciting customers has changed the face of several businesses

Mobile email open rates on the mobile is currently at 37% in Canada, second only to US 38%, with UK making up the third highest email access scenarios. Therefore, small companies have those much higher chances of engaging the end consumer by offering Personalized Services. So, how do business understand, evaluate, rate and adopt a technology which is right for them?

Research reports indicate role of technology

Traditionally, researchers pursue various parameters which influence economic changes. Where capital, labor forces , resource availability are just a few of the parameters evaluated to arrive at economic influences, in recent times technology adoption too has become a critical factor in the growth of business practices. Transformative technologies have, according to reports by UN studies never been Canadian businesses strengths, in comparison to neighbors.

The apparent reason for the failure in Canada is the slow approach to technology innovation and sustained adoption. Studies indicate that where innovation has succeeded it has not been sustained as a pan-country or regional technology transformation, for, as a country, there is a decided lack of technology research and development. Innovation is the ‘genius child’ of research and development. As long as research and development fails to make headway for local realities, the move to innovation is a far cry.

Imported technologies begin to dominate, leading to long-term dependency of the original product or service and minimal technology innovation locally.

Digital marketers recognize 4 parameters

  1. Demand is found to have increased for products and services which are intuitive and free.
  2. Digital commerce is here to stay and therefore adopting technology which delivers such services will become increasingly important.
  3. These can include moving to mobile payment technologies, or Point of Sales which is mobile, by the use of tablets or smartphones in such customer-facing levels.
  4. The digital interactivity between business and clients and consumers becomes the inflexion point.
  5. All things again point to personalized, customized services and user engagement.

EXPERT SPEAK: Technologies are transforming more than businesses

Businesses in Canada or globally the need is to adopt business models which lend themselves to agile platforms. Business models too become should become innovative as there is more data available, in real-time!

Secondly, customers or clients expect and demand services which are more instantaneous and transparent. Responsiveness and the rapid pace at which it is delivered is the key. It actually becomes a measure of the core competency of an organization.

Third, connectivity is one of the greatest levelers in businesses. Connectivity and real-time data availability and access, mean higher traction in business processes.

Fourth, remote work processes using cloud services mean lesser overheads of IT infrastructure and support. This will also allow businesses to engage directly in their core business competency, rather than spend time and resources in non-competency departments.

The above points are just the tip of the technology-iceberg which businesses will have to explore and adopt so as not to become archaic and lose out to the competition. Technology harnessing is key to driving business success. It can be achieved only if the focus of the company remains on adopting technology for end-user benefit along with in-house competency, profit and efficiency improvement, which could also bring in profits!

Sources

  1. http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/Tracking_global_trends/$FILE/Tracking%20global%20trends.pdf
  2. http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/high_tech_telecoms_internet/ten_it-enabled_business_trends_for_the_decade_ahead
  3. http://impacttechbusiness.wordpress.com/category/uncategorized/
  4. http://www.businessinsider.in/These-Beautiful-Charts-Show-The-Coming-Technologies-That-Will-Change-The-World/articleshow/33458805.cms
  5. http://business.financialpost.com/2014/02/13/its-only-a-matter-of-time-before-disruptive-technologies-er-disrupt-canadas-banking-sector/

 

 

 

How SMBs with Mobile/Cloud strategies see better results?

Filed Under (Technology Trends) by Nick Chandi on 07-05-2014

Technology adoption is a primary asset for accelerated growth especially for Small and Medium sized Businesses (SMBs).  In recent times the most omnipotent technology penetration has been the mobile form factor and businesses located in countries such as US and Canada with high density network and communication carriers have benefitted largely from the ‘always-on’ connectivity which is unique to mobile computing technology and devices.

Rapid adoption of mobile strategies the requirement

The choice now for SMBs is no longer on whether or not to move to mobile-based business processes but the question of rapidity of deployment of mobile business strategies, based on following developments:

  1. Devices with higher performance, backed by more effective 3G/4G networks bring in higher productivity.
  2. Increased availability of mobile apps drives higher mobile adoption.
  3. Interaction between employees as well as external audience is optimized by mobile access as well as interaction.

According to statistics by leading research organization for SMBs, the number of current business users already implementing mobile devices is 81%, while 19% expect to adopt mobile business functions within the year.

More information by the organization includes the following:

  • 1.4 times higher revenue increase for business apps
  • 1.25 times higher revenue growth for external apps

But there are concerns which business face with mobile access based process:

  • security issues
  • costs of transition
  • complexity of management multi-device access
  • thin knowledge base of in-house IT expertise

According to ComScore, a leading internet technology company with seminal studies on consumer behaviour on digital devices in its latest findings shares thus:  “About 33 per cent of total time spent online came from the devices other than computers. It means, one minute out of every three minutes spent online is on the devices like smart phones and tablets other than PCs.

As SMBs are now inundated with information on mobile business process and the advantages of virtual or cloud-based strategies which will drive growth, the decision-making process to engage with the best-fit partner has become more challenging than the cloud and mobile platform technology itself.

Challenges mobile/cloud strategy partner will have to deliver

The challenges which a mobile/cloud strategy partner will have to resolve for any SMB looking at the above are as follows:

  • directly interact with business processes at employee and customer level
  • address and integrate resources as well as financial management
  • establish mobile solution ROI

Top reasons why mobile and cloud solutions will empower your business

SMBs which have moved to the new digitalized platform of business processes on the cloud and mobile are as follows:

  • Enhance employee productivity by nearly 59%
  • Provide access points for employees and quality information by 59%
  • Remote work operations enhanced by 57%
  • Customer services optimized by 28%
  • Business processing possible even when out of the office enhanced by 25%
  • Direct impact on sales increase by 23%

The current phase of mobile and cloud adoption by SMBs has been through the use of Apps, as the platform for mainstream business productivity. Typical business processes which SMBs now engage on via cloud and mobile devices and find highest growth traction are:

  • Accessing company email
  • Synchronizing calendar
  • Contact Information
  • GPS or navigation and mapping
  • Localized services
  • Web-based conferencing
  • Documentation processes
  • Management of documents
  • Sharing services

Current mobile industry adoption studies indicate that there are two distinct standards evolving for mobile device management with external management and intra-organization mobile platform.

Nearly 41% of SMBs who were part of the studies have already adopted mobile device management. Another 27% are planning to move to device management within the year.

Additionally, 27% of them are proposing that they will use mobile platform for development, with another 25% planning to implement it within the year.

Most business are using off-the shelf mobile apps, while a sizeable section of them are already engaged in using current business applications by certain vendors.

Social media sharing, CRM use reservations, queuing, marketing, building and managing shipment are some of the other status where this is in use.

Additionally, it is critical for mobile and cloud based business processes in SMBs to find and deploy the decision maker in the entire set-up. As mobile strategies and cloud based strategies become the norm than the exception newer roles for decision making in the new scenario are indeed a requirement.

Experts Speak

Considering the multiple options available in terms of cloud and mobile service providers, SMBs need to choose partners which deliver customized solutions.

The concerns for every SMB should be that the partner who will support its business services on the cloud or the mobile is beyond being a qualified service player has the expertise in its niche, to pre-guess on business requirements and address them effectively,  by way of adaptive  business apps which integrate or work seamlessly with existing business structures of the SMB.

Moving to a diametrically different platform with most of the current processes non-cohesive would not only prove to be technical glitz for the SMB but a rich recipe for disaster!

The current breed of partners in this industry range from the customized and individual consultancy based providers to the enterprise and large organization catering service providers as well.

Services these partners provide range from online App stores, such as the kind offered by SAP store directed for industry specific processes, customer or client-facing business apps, besides analytic apps which are free-form and are easy to scale.

For those SMBs with a larger picture of mobile or cloud platform adoption, there are service partners who can deliver full service platform itself. There is special focus by most providers on building backend agnostic features which ensure optimized productivity..

Mobile and Cloud partners’ delivery goals need to be as follows:

  1. Focus and develop a business strategy for your mobile or cloud use
  2. Based on above strategy provide end-to-end services in identifying and using mobile apps which achieve SMBs business goals
  3. Optimize productivity by agnostic backend solutions
  4. Design and implement management solutions for the mobile or cloud

Deliver on behind-the-scenes monitoring and management of mobile solutions as well as infrastructure. 

Reference Links
1. http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/press/2012/mar12/03-28smbcloudpr.aspx
2. http://www.fiercetelecom.com/story/windstream-serves-enhanced-cloud-partner-strategy-enhances-smb-reach/2014-02-27
3. http://searchcloudcomputing.techtarget.com/feature/Small-businesses-drop-data-centers-for-advantages-of-cloud-computing
4. http://searchcloudcomputing.techtarget.com/essentialguide/Expect-the-unexpected-with-a-solid-cloud-DR-strategy
5. http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk/news/small-businesses-mobile-122495

Cloud and Managed Services – Cost savings opportunities for Canadian Accounting firms

Filed Under (Technology Trends) by Jag Barpagga on 03-03-2014

From Prince George, BC to Charlottetown, PEI small and mid-sized accounting firms have reaped many benefits from adopting managed and Cloud based technology services. The Canadian Professional Accountants of Canada says Small and Medium Practices (SMPs) have many opportunities to cut costs with the Cloud. Direct and indirect cost savings have included:

  • Flexible information availability regarding user/infrastructure location, elasticity to support peaks and valleys in demand
  • Minimal IT management resources required to install, upgrade and maintain applications
  • Information management personnel can be a strategic division of the firm, not just a contact center
  • Ease of use, increased adoption of solution, device and platform agnostic, browser or mobile app interfaces to information
  • Reduced energy utilization

These benefits are all significant and compelling enough on their own to warrant adoption of Platform as a Service (PaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or Software as a Service (SaaS) models or other utility-like computing models. These five key cost savings advantages  contracting with a Canadian Managed Services Provider or Cloud solutions provider; particularly one that specializes in applications, business practices, workflows and information management strategies specific to accounting firms. Since cloud computing is a service, the fees paid are tax deductible and do not need to be capitalized and depreciated for tax purposes

1.       Reduced technology overhead savings – The most obvious cost savings for Canadian accounting firms by adopting managed or Cloud services is the reduced hardware, software and possibly connectivity savings. Fewer servers, storage devices, and possibly lower cost network hardware and cabling. Reduced services costs for implementing database, web server, and middleware software. Reduced training costs and shorter learning curves tend to result from Cloud solutions especially. Upgrades are handled by the Managed Services or Cloud provider, as are responsibilities for test, development, fail-over, and disaster recovery environments. Virtualization solutions can enable server and data center consolidation, and firms can establish hybrid on premise/managed/Cloud technology information management strategies for mission critical, sensitive, operational and non-essential applications in the organization. Existing systems can be maintained where required, and day-forward outsourcing processes may work in some circumstances where companies feel there may be compliance issues if legacy systems are decommissioned. With the right governance, executives or other employees can be empowered to work from home or customer locations, use their own hardware, or access selected applications with lower cost PCs, tablets, and smartphones. Hardware refresh cycles can be extended, and other capital cost technology expenditures can be reduced. The benefits of Cloud and Managed Services will be discussed at the 2014 Canadian Conference on IT Audit, Governance and Security in March.

 2.       Energy, HVAC and network utilization savings – Managing servers and data centers incurs high costs to power, cool, and connect the servers to an accounting firm’s network. Firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, routers, switches and storage devices all demand a vast amount of power and cooling to run continuously to support a law firm’s technology demands. By adopting managed or Cloud solutions, you will have a lower demand for electricity, temperature regulation for machines is not as critical, and users that can work from home or remotely will not tax your network resources with requests, they can leverage the public internet and secure application log in to the services/Cloud provider. Energy and cooling costs are recognized as key Cloud savings opportunities.

3.       Administration savings – Have you considered the time and energy your staff takes to track and renew maintenance and support contracts? The effort that your IT staff spends to configure, select, and procure hardware and software? Or take care of administrative IT duties like password resets, remote user support, and license/subscription provisioning? Also add hardware and software asset management. These administrative and support tasks can be very resource intensive, add little value to your business, and can greatly impact employee productivity. By partnering with a Canadian services provider, you can free up your staff across departments such as Finance, IT and other firm executives from having to spend time away from their core duties to address these items. The services provider can provide remote user support, monitor networks to alert for problems after hours, and they can interface with hardware and software vendors on your behalf. Knowledge of savings opportunities such as multi-year contracts, usage based or alternative licensing models can help an accounting firm find cost savings that they wouldn’t otherwise discover without the close relationship that a Value Added Reseller/Services provider can have with application vendors that you already may be working with such as Microsoft, Sage, Intuit and Citrix. Don’t miss tax deadlines, filing requirements or client expectations due to hardware or software outages that could have been remedied with managed services. CPA Practice Advisor offers a great review of available CFO cloud platforms that offer these savings.

 4.       Strategy definition and error avoidance savings – Jumping into Cloud or managed services with both feet without guidance can lead to high risk and delays in realizing the advantages of the Cloud. Contracting directly with Cloud vendors, engaging with multiple “niche” clouds without developing a game plan can lead to vendor lock-in, incompatible systems, and missing opportunities of solutions that are not suited to accounting firms. Engaging with a services provider that has worked with firms like yours before, and established repeatable strategies is a wise choice. You might be able to preserve some of your existing infrastructure, eliminate redundant investments, and/or avoid getting sold a solution that isn’t suited for a firm of your size and requirements. Partnering with a services provider that develops a relationship with your firm can identify areas of opportunity, risk, overlapping priorities and efficiencies that might otherwise be unknown by a technology vendor that doesn’t know your firm or the subtleties of Canadian accounting firms. Last year, the first purely online chartered accounting firm, LiveCA launched targeting entrepreneurs and small business.

 5.       Productivity gains and document related efficiencies– You might have experienced interruptions on your network, with upgrades to your systems or gaps in productivity due to power or telecommunications outages. Cloud solutions streamline communications, reduce printing, and reduce paper consumption as written in this article by TechVibes. Managed network services providers can ensure your systems are up to date, protected and available for users. In case of a power outage in a building, users that can move to their home office, a customer location or a coffee shop and get back to productivity can help your firm maintain satisfaction with your clients, and avoid missing deadlines or milestones.

Industry media such as the CPA Advisor has been addressing the opportunities and possible pitfalls of accounting firms jumping into Cloud computing for years. Brian Austin, CPA Advisor of Public Relations writes

“Even better, imagine not losing even a day after a laptop crashes, but picking up right where you left off from any replacement device. When you think about it that way, it’s evident that Cloud, SaaS, and mobile technologies help you earn back time – now that’s money!” – We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

 

 

 

 

Leading technology trends your accounting firm needs to stay on top this year

Filed Under (Technology Trends) by Jag Barpagga on 13-02-2014

Canadian accounting firms have the unenviable responsibility of advising their clients about not just their financial practices, but also about subject matter such as compliance to legal, information management, human capital management and technology matters as well. Often firms can be so focused on helping their clients to address their information management needs that they do not have the time or attention to address their internal requirements. Working with a strategic IT adviser with both managed and professional services offerings can help address your technology needs so you can serve your clients’ needs all year round.

Here are five technology trends that you will want to address to make sure you are able to operate at peak efficiency internally, as well as advise your clients on externally.

1) Cloud and/or Software as a Service Solutions and Virtualization

Just like accounting firms, Software as a Service applications usually have financial applications at their core, and extend to other functions such as customer relationship management, file/data storage, human capital management, marketing and other operational applications. Since this information is critical to the operation of business, you want to ensure this information is available, secure and a trusted repository of information.

On premise versions of software such as Sage, QuickBooks and other accounting software are still common in mid-size accounting firms; however hosted or online versions of these applications can save your firm on technology overhead, power, and make the information available to your staff without having to invest in Virtual Private Networks. If you have distributed staff that work from home or client sites, remote technology monitoring/management solutions such as Intune from Microsoft or Cloud based e-mail and storage apps like Office 365 can help you keep your office and remote employees productive and connected where ever they are working.

In cases where you want to consolidate your data centre as opposed to transitioning completely to the public cloud, virtualization solutions such as VMWare, Hyper-V and Citrix can help you streamline the amount of hardware that you need to maintain, while keeping a high level of security and availability for your systems. Private cloud infrastructure also provides the perfect balance of internet availability of information and control over data that public, multi-tenancy solutions can’t always provide. Working with a strategic IT adviser to help you select the best strategy and deployment model can save your firm a great deal of time, wasted investment and mitigate risk. Having your sensitive client and internal data hosted by a Canadian provider is advisable in light of recent events around the world.

2) Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

The flexibility that the Cloud offers in terms of availability on browsers and mobile applications has influenced executives and professionals in many industries to want to be able to use the mobile, desktop or laptop of their choice. Canadian accounting firms are not immune to this trend. You want to ensure that any PC/Mac/iOS or Android device that accesses corporate or employee data is trusted and free of malware and viruses. Consideration also has to be made for whether your IT department will have to support the various systems.

The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants offers a great paper on the risks and benefits of BYOD strategies. Users may be happy to be able to use a laptop or tablet of their choosing.

3) Big Data

Big Data today is what the Cloud was a few years ago. Accounting firms have a vast amount of data to manage, analyze, and produce valuable insight from. Ensuring that this data is secure, available and backed up is a big responsibility. In 2013, a survey of North American accounting professionals, it was determined that retaining and protecting data is the top concern, and the third priority is the ability to get insight from that data through analytics. Just over half of respondents said they were confident that they were doing well in these areas, so evidently there are opportunities to improve in these areas.

Implementing strategies to recover from disaster and securing systems from attack from external or even internal leaks or fraud is top of mind within Canadian accounting firms this year and has been for several years. Big data is everywhere, from social media sites to ERP systems and the ability to predict trends from these resources is critical.

 4) Privacy

Over the past few years, privacy has become top priority across all industries, in part   due to events in the United States with the NSA, WikiLeaks and the disclosures of Edward Snowden. Compliance mandates have increased in importance, and accounting firms that select Canadian cloud providers and contract with managed service providers can safeguard client and corporate data to reduce risk. Canadian providers comply with Canadian standards such as the Personal Information Protection Electronic Documents Act, and provide the peace of mind to your firm that your data will not be exposed to potential seizure by foreign security organizations.

5) Vendor management

Managing service level agreements with multiple technology vendors can be daunting, even for accounting firms that are used to complex contracts. Having multiple points of contact, maintenance renewals and support channels with different vendors can cause frustration. Working with a single service provider that has partner certifications from vendors that you already are likely using such as Microsoft, CCH, Intuit, VMWare and Citrix can help you keep your focus on your client business and off of day to day administration of technology. Vendor lock in was another concern that was expressed in the Top Technology Initiatives survey.

If these technology trends are top of mind for your accounting firm, you are not alone. These trends are priorities for many of your peers across Canada. Working with an experienced, skilled Canadian IT service provider can reduce risk, increase client confidence and create efficiencies across your firm.

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