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Part 2 of 3: A SharePoint Roadmap: Implementing SharePoint

-Dany Charland, Partner

This is the second post in a three-part series that outlines best practices for planning, implementing and using Microsoft SharePoint in an SMB environment.

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Business Leaders: Get an IT Governance Audit Before Tackling Your Next Corporate Project

–          By Andréa Nadeau, Business Analyst, Tango Technology Group

The Project Management Institute (PMI) runs an annual global survey of project management leaders and practitioners called the Pulse of the Profession.  Last year, participants reported that 36% of projects failed to meet their original goals and business intent. These participants went on to report that when a project gets labeled as a failure, its budget is cut by one third.

This is especially problematic given that project support and maintenance costs kick-in post deployment. Suddenly, a project manager can find herself left with a third of her original budget to fix what went wrong, while responding to client requests for enhancements.

Turning to IT for Leadership & Structure

The IT Department can provide leadership and structure to systems and processes that help organizations attain strategic goals and objectives.

When your next corporate project kicks-off, it’s likely that IT will be involved, given that most business activities require at least one of their services – from hosting and development to workflow process automation.

Assessing Whether IT Can Deliver

Odds are good that IT’s deliverables will require a sizable portion of your budget, and their tasks will represent a significant amount of burn time within your project’s schedule. Depending the IT Department’s workload and available resources, you may be concerned about its capacity to deliver on time, on budget and in scope.  If that’s the case, it’s time to perform an IT governance audit.

An IT governance audit will provide you with an assessment of your organization’s IT leadership and high-level IT activities. You’ll acquire a better understanding of:

  • IT’s corporate structure and leadership
  • Current capacity levels, ongoing and upcoming projects
  • The project management framework that will be applied to your tasks and deliverables
  • The effectiveness and efficiency of how existing systems and processes are being managed
  • Performance measurement, compliance and quality management practices

While you may have a sense of the corporate risk appetite, an IT governance audit will point out the project delivery, operations and service delivery risks. You can’t afford not to understand the risks associated with owning, operating and adapting technology to fit your operations.

Embrace IT governance, mitigate your risks, and your project will be a success!

Contact us at Tango Technology Group to schedule an IT Governance Audit.

Can a Small/Mid-Size Enterprise Afford IT Strategy?

Among other insights, a Deloitte Consulting survey of the perception of CIOs found that less than half of IT executives view their CIO as a strategist. And, only 10% of IT executives view their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) as a “revolutionary” who does things like uncovers new markets and revenue streams, translates IT for business, and interacts with C-level executives.

These are the kinds of expectations placed on CIOs today. They are being asked to contribute at the boardroom table and to the business’ bottom line. This is happening in companies of all sizes – and it’s just as relevant to expect IT to contribute to business strategy in a small- or mid-sized enterprise (SME).

IT Strategy for the SME

An SME is not likely in the position of being able to support a CIO function and organization. (Refer to this cost model for an IT department). In reality, a full-time CIO is probably not necessary for such companies, either – but IT strategy likely is. Very few businesses today are able to operate effectively without significant support of information technology. And we’re not just talking about PCs, laptops and a website!

An IT strategy is critical if your organization has any of these goals:

  • Compete in mobile markets
  • Pursue a robust social media strategy
  • Offer products and services via the cloud
  • Become more competitive by reducing costs and increasing operational efficiencies
  • Incorporate deep analytical features into products and services
  • Drive performance through business intelligence and analytics

The Virtual CIO

A virtual CIO is an ideal solution to ensure that an SME can meet goals like those listed above. A vCIO is a business and technology expert who provides CIO-level strategy, guidance and support to an executive team as an outsourced consultant.

Having a vCIO ensures that an organization’s IT strategy is aligned and positioned to help drive the business forward. Just as a Chief Financial Officer bears the responsibility of the finance department’s performance, the vCIO is responsible for ensuring that information technology investments and services also contribute to an organization’s performance.

The profile of an effective CIO is an individual who understands both the technology and the business. The role must create alignment between and company’s technology investments and the business’ strategic goals.

Technology in the Driver’s Seat

More and more, technology is driving new markets and is critical for businesses to succeed today. If your small- or mid-sized enterprise has doubts about whether its IT investments are doing any heavy lifting for the business, talk to us. We offer a vCIO service as well as a complete end-to-end managed IT service offering that makes strategic IT attainable for SMEs.

You can get started today with a Free IT Audit >>

When It’s Time to Hire an IT Resource for Your SME

“When should I hire a full-time Information Technology (IT) person?”

Every small- and mid-size enterprise (SME) owner asks this question at some point. It is partly a marker of the importance that information technology has assumed in business of all kinds. From – desktop computers to wireless devices, business systems and servers, IT is both a critical function for most businesses as well as a competitive differentiator.

Given the increasing importance of IT to business, the question, “Should I hire a full-time IT person?” is typically raised as the business approaches the 40 to 50 staff-member size. Before that time, a variety of approaches to IT management are often used:

  • The IT role is filled part-time by another technically inclined staff member, one of the owners or partners.
  • IT functions are overseen on an ad hoc basis by service providers like Geeks-For-Hire.
  • End users are largely responsible for selecting and managing their own computer systems and software.
  • Commonly, some of the IT systems are outsourced to a variety of disparate vendors, which internal IT staff do not typically have the skills to manage these various vendors.

To answer the question correctly, it’s important to identify your SME’s IT needs and requirements, as well as to evaluate the complete, or loaded, cost of hiring.

Identify Your Needs

Your IT needs will be based in part on your type of business and the industry that you operate in. For example, accounting firms, law firms and health care providers must be able to demonstrate that their IT infrastructure and maintenance meets industry-specific standards in terms of data security, backup and disaster recovery.

Other industries do not have such regulatory requirements, but businesses may determine that IT systems and the business/customer data that these hold is mission critical to the business. Or, a business may recognize technology as a competitive differentiator – indeed, technology can provide competitive advantage by enabling new, more efficient or very innovative business models, or by dramatically reducing operating costs.

Whatever your industry, the IT needs of the majority of businesses today can generally be divided into four unique categories of skill set. These are:

  1. Help Desk Staff. Typically comprise 80% of the IT requirement. Provide front-line support to end users. Are professional, polite, competent and empathetic to end users.
  2. Network/System Administrator. Typically 10% of the IT requirement. Work in the background to keep servers and the network running.
  3. Network/System Engineers. Typically 10% of the IT requirement. Plan and deploy complex new systems and technologies as required.
  4. Chief Information Officer (CIO). Typically 5% of the IT requirement. Understands both the technology and the business. Ensures alignment between a company’s technology investments and the business’ strategic goals.

A single individual is unable to adequately fulfill all four of these roles. Each requires a different skill set, personality type, emphasis and relevant accreditation. When determining your business’s IT needs, consider each of these four areas and weight or prioritize their value to your business.

Evaluate the Loaded Cost

When hiring their first full-time IT resources, businesses generally underestimate the actual cost of having that function in house. Following is a calculation that you can use to evaluate the loaded cost of establishing an IT department at your business:

Annual Cost Item Notes
$80,000 Annual fully loaded cost of internal IT resource salaried at $50,000(To obtain loaded cost, calculate annual salary multiplied by 1.25*)  The internal effective utilization rate of that employee is typically 75%**
$10,000 – $15,000 Additional outsourcing services,
excluding IT projects
Examples of additional services include: server administration, server and application trouble shooting, network security, and others that fall outside the scope of an IT help desk resource.Examples of IT projects include: Business Intelligence projects, Intranet, Collaboration, new application deployment, etc. 
$95,000 Total annual IT support cost @75% effective utilization rate
 
*Depending on the accounting method, the following may (or may not) be included in the loaded cost: vacation, insurance, office space, etc. Various industry statistics estimate the loaded labour cost at between 20 and 30%, so we have used 25% in this calculation.
**Utilization depends upon the individual’s productivity; we feel that this is a conservative estimate and actual productivity may fall below 50%.

Business people will recognize a distinct business disadvantage in this math – the decision to establish an internal IT department is a costly venture with poor effective utilization of resources. SMEs that realize that they cannot realistically afford an internal IT department – but are unwilling or unable to continue in ad hoc fashion – are increasingly outsourcing or partially outsourcing their IT functions.

A Managed IT Service Model for SMBs

A “managed IT service” model provides businesses with outsourced IT functions in one or more of the four IT skill sets outlined above. In some cases it is possible to outsource all four functions to a single managed IT service partner. The benefits of outsourcing include:

  • Achieve 100% utilization of dollars spent on IT resources and match IT costs to needs.
  • Leverage qualified, expert resources in all IT functional areas without loaded costs.
  • Establish a stable IT budget through managed IT service retainers.
  • Remain educated about and confident in your IT service, systems and network through monitoring and reporting.
  • Benefit from industry best practices learned and leveraged by a dedicated IT provider.
  • Benefit from industry and cross-industry experience.
  • Ensure that vendors are being managed by experienced experts who have both technical knowledge and the big picture in mind.

At Tango Technology Group, we offer IT outsourcing especially for small- and mid-sized enterprises. Our practice areas include outsourced Help Desk, System Administration, Network Administration, Engineering, and a virtual CIO (vCIO) function. Our structure enables us to provide SMEs with fully or partially managed IT services in addition to guidance to ensure alignment between your business and IT strategies.

To learn more:

How to Make or Break a SharePoint Collaboration Implementation

At Tango, we’re sometimes (too often) reminded of the costs of getting a SharePoint implementation wrong. It goes beyond the cost of the technology investment. When an intranet or collaboration project goes awry, there are a more damaging costs to corporate culture and productivity. And yet, it is not difficult to avoid. But it does require planning, and an effective bridge between IT and the business.

In the end, it’s about the users. Because if you build it, they might not use it. If you try to force a new technology or tool onto users, they may use it incompletely (deliberately), or badly (inadvertently), or not at all.

We recently revived a SharePoint collaboration environment that was all but dead due to disuse. Our method wasn’t rocket science – it was best practice. We provided a missing link: a bridge across the gulf that had formed between the business and the technology. To build that bridge, we engaged in a thorough consultation with users and established a change management process.

We are strong believers in the potential value and power that SharePoint holds to bring diverse organizations together into a shared virtual space; to effect significant improvements in productivity through effective document sharing and information management. But it doesn’t happen by magic. It doesn’t happen through great technical prowess. It happens by talking to users and configuring the technology to fit, then talking some more and adjusting where needed.

It happens through people. Read about how we made that very connection at a mid-sized organization in this case study >>

A New Paradigm for Critical Document Management & Records Management

– by Dany Charland

Document and records management (DM/RM) has traditionally followed a strict file plan, with profile forms used to create and maintain records. These are important best practices; and, for regulated industries such as accounting firms, healthcare, IT, food safety etc., they are necessary to provide evidence of document controls.

However, a common complaint about document management is that its file structure is too rigid and its forms too cumbersome to effectively support users. These systems rely on the carefulness and attention of users to retain, dispose and secure records. The combination of inconvenience and user dependency make many traditional DM/RM systems error prone on the best of days.

“It’s too hard to find what I need” is a common user complaint about traditional rigid records management systems. Part of the challenge is that no single file storage structure can account for the myriad organizational structures represented by human brains. From a business perspective, frustrated users are a risk because they are prone to take shortcuts, make errors or simply avoid using critical systems.

Microsoft SharePoint gives businesses the opportunity to manage records and documents with appropriate protocols in place while also delivering a more flexible user experience. They key to unlocking these capabilities is to establish a properly structured, standards-based and controlled vocabulary for meta-data management. This enables document management and records management developers to build virtual entity structures – also called virtual file plans – that provide users with multi-faceted browsing experiences.

In short, SharePoint offers a user-driven records search and browsing experience while maintaining the necessary file structures by making the storage structure invisible to the user.

At Tango Technology Group, we use SharePoint and Silverlight, combined with DM/RM best practices and principles, to deliver records management solutions that meet both business and usability needs.

For more information:
• Visit our SharePoint Practice web page
• Learn more about SharePoint from Microsoft
Contact me, Dany Charland – I’m Tango Technology Group’s SharePoint business expert
• Attend my SharePoint DM/RM presentation at SharePoint Summit 2012 in Quebec City

SharePoint Collaboration vs. Governance: Not Necessarily Mortal Enemies

– by Dany Charland

Virtual/online collaboration is an absolute necessity for many small- and mid-sized organizations today. It may be required to support ad hoc project teams; to facilitate geographically dispersed teams to work together; or, to increase the efficiency of internal communication in any organization.

Virtual collaboration environments – such as SharePoint intranets or SharePoint collaboration environments – can certainly add significant value to a business. But they can also become liabilities. Common causes of collaboration environment break-down include:

  • Rapid growth of the organization and/or the collaboration environment – unfettered growth can make collaboration environments unruly and difficult to use
  • Increasing proliferation of information shared in the environment – rapid increases in information can make the environment overwhelming and discourage use
  • Duplication of information in the environment – this can lead to version control problems (also regulatory/compliance breaches) as users unwittingly interact with multiple versions of the same document
  • Loss of relevance or timeliness of the information shared – this discourages use and can lower morale as the environment seems neglected

This is where a Collaboration Governance Strategy is invaluable. It is the tool that brings structure to the free-spirited collaboration environment, by governing growth, content management, information management and versioning/aging. When combined with a Change Management process, the governance strategy comes to drive ongoing decisions about the management and use of the system.

Rather than discouraging users with complex rules and controls, an effective collaboration Governance and Change strategy increases user satisfaction by creating alignment between the business/business goals and the various content producers; content managers; collaboration collections and properties (sites and sub-sites).

Tango Technology Group’s information management experts are seasoned in delivering governance strategies and related processes for intranets, SharePoint intranets, and SharePoint collaboration environments. We are experienced in the development and implementation of strong governance structures that encourage creative, free-spirited collaboration.

If you have an existing or planned collaboration or intranet project in the works, I hope you’ll contact me to ensure that your investment in the new environment will be a success: dcharland(at)tangotechnologygroup.com

For more information:

Don’t Let Your Business Become a Statistic in the Year of the Data Breach

– Dean Tremblay, Partner

Online security threats to organizations reached an all-time high in 2011, according to software security firm, Internet Identity (IID). In fact, IID has named 2011 “the year of the data breach” and cites these market shifts as drivers behind the increased threat:

  • A new black market makes it easy to obtain software whose sole purpose is to steal data
  • Increased sophistication of cybercrime
  • Malware proliferating due to increased smartphone use

When companies as well capitalized as Sony suffer major data breaches, it’s common for small- and mid-sized organizations to contemplate their own potential security risks. While most organizations in the 50-250 employee range have implemented security measures through enterprise firewalls and secure data backup, many have no idea if the protection they are relying on (and paying for) is airtight.

When you implement organizational security, backup and disaster recovery systems, you should also implement a system of accountability for those mission-critical operations. Too often, organizations seek out our help only after a major failure – such as a security breach or data loss – has occurred. To be fully protected, an organization must have a reporting procedure in place, as well as a proactive alert mechanism, to remain ahead of any potential risks to data security.

Another frequently overlooked aspect of IT security is alignment between the technology in place and the business. You may wonder what one thing has to do with the other, but it’s really quite simple:

  • If your business strategy is outgrowing your security infrastructure, you’ll be at risk
  • If your business model is shifting but your security infrastructure remains static, you may be at risk
  • If the way your employees, partners, suppliers and customers communicate with one another is shifting but your security infrastructure was architected in 2008, you’ll be at risk

At Tango Technology Group, our Managed IT services offering – which can include network and data security measures – includes proactive alerts and informative reports. Most importantly, we also work with our clients to review their business strategies and changes, ensuring alignment between the business and its enabling infrastructure – including online and data security.

I’d welcome the opportunity to talk to you about ensuring the integrity, security and alignment of your business data. Contact me at: dtrembla(at)tangotechnologygroup.com.

More information:

2012: How Your Small/Medium Size Business Will Benefit in the Year of the Cloud

– Dean Tremblay, Partner

Information technology think tank, IDC, has made its annual technology predictions for 2012. I’m not surprised that they’re predicting that cloud services will begin to take leadership in the enterprise technology mix.

IDC anticipates that “the strategic focus [will shift] from building infrastructure to the creation of application platforms and ecosystems,” and notes that “the battle for enterprise platform dominance is just getting underway with established players like IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle facing serious challenges from Amazon, Google, Salesforce.com, and VMware.”

Cloud services – whereby IT infrastructure and business applications are delivered from a centralized location rather than from a server farm at your premise (much the way we receive electricity service) – represent a major opportunity for small- and mid-size organizations:

  • They make enterprise-level applications and products more accessible to organizations >500 users
  • They reduce capital expenditure and minimize physical infrastructure (and the specialized human resources needed to maintain it)
  • They support on-demand provisioning of new applications as you need them

As you plan out your business for 2012 and beyond, cloud-based services should absolutely be considered as part of your business (not just your technology) mix. Consider how you can leverage cloud-based applications to improve sales and marketing productivity; to reduce operating costs; to support the rapid roll-out of new products, services and promotions on demand.

Here are just a few examples of how some Tango Technology Group SMB clients are benefitting from cloud-based services:

  • Implementing professional contact relationship management (CRM) without deploying new servers
  • Collaborating enterprise-wide and effectively managing documents without additional capex
  • Communicating more productively through company-wide contact and schedule management without an Exchange server

You can read IDC’s complete technology predictions here – then talk to me about what it all means to your company. I’m always excited to talk to small- and mid-size businesses about how technology should be deployed to deliver serious BUSINESS value. dtremblay(at)tangotechnologygroup.com

Tips for supporting clients with BlackBerry phones

Have you ever been called by a client who tells you, “I can’t get emails on my phone. Help me!” You would love to help, but struggle with guiding them through the menus on their BlackBerry because you don’t have the same model available. There is a very easy solution to this…download the simulator!

Research In Motion provides phone emulators for nearly all possible configurations of their phones. You can find these simulators at:
RIM Developer Zone
If you find that your client has configuration options missing on their phone, it is probably because the carrier has locked down the phone. With a quick call to the carrier, you can usually get these configuration options unlocked. (Sometimes there is an additional fee to unlock these settings.)