Tag Archives: IT consulting Ottawa

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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Checklist: What’s Your IT-Business IQ?

As this Deloitte Consulting survey indicates, business today is being strongly influenced by these key technology forces:

  • Mobility
  • Cloud computing
  • Social media
  • Touch computing
  • Security threats

If even one of these forces is having a significant impact on your current or future business, then a solid information technology (IT) strategy that is aligned with the business will be critical for continued success.

The following checklist will help you to evaluate the importance IT to your business’s success and future growth, and to assess your business’ “IT IQ”. For each statement, choose either Yes or No, and add up the values of all your answers.

 Download this checklist as a PDF >> YES NO

M

    O

B

I

L

E

My workforce is increasingly mobile and/or needs to be mobile in order to be productive, close deals, and/or support customers.

1

0

My customers need to be able to access my business from mobile devices.

2

0

We understand mobile technology, its risks, rewards and options for deployment.

0

5

 C

L

O

U

D

Our competitors are offering products/services in the cloud.

5

0

Our customers are asking for products/services in the cloud.

4

0

We are offering products/services from the cloud.

3

0

We are leveraging the cloud to reduce capital and operating expenses, and/or to become more mobile or more productive.

2

0

We understand “the cloud”, its risks, rewards and options for deployment.

0

5

S

O

C

I

A

L

We have or plan to have a social media strategy as a key part of our marketing/sales strategy.

3

0

Our competitors are using social media to build awareness, reach target audiences, interact with customers/prospects/media.

5

0

Our employees are using social media to build their professional knowledge and networks.

4

0

Our employees are using social media while at work.

3

0

We understand social media, its risks, rewards and how to leverage it in a way that is beneficial and safe for the business.

0

5

T

O

U

C

H

Our products would benefit from touch-screen features.

4

0

Our competitors’ products incorporate touch-screen features.

5

0

Our customers are asking for touch-screen features.

5

0

We see opportunities to increase our employees’ productivity through the use of touch-screen technology.

3

0

We see opportunities to improve our customers’ experience through touch-screen technology.

5

0

We understand touch-screen technology and how we could integrate it into our business.

0

5

S

E

C

U

R

I

T

Y

Our network and/or systems are often sluggish.

3

0
We have experienced a major network failure/outage within the past year.

3

0
We have experienced a network security attack within the past year (e.g. DOS attack, major virus, hacked data, etc.).

5

0
We issue mobile devices to our employees (laptops, tablets, smart phones, etc.)

4

0
Our employees are bringing their own mobile devices to work.

4

0
We store our customer’s data in our systems.

5

0
We have a back-up and restoration strategy and redundant back-up systems. 0

5

We have a business continuity and disaster recovery plan that includes our IT systems. 0

5

The higher your score, the more critical your need for a robust IT strategy that is aligned with your business goals and strategy. Within each section, a score of 6 or higher indicates an opportunity or need for IT strategy that should not be ignored.

Please contact Tango Technology Group to discuss your score and ask us about a complimentary IT assessment.

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 >>

How to Avoid Top 10 IT Mistakes Committed by Small- and Mid-Sized Businesses

– Dean Tremblay, Partner

In this article on BrightHub, GFISecurityLabs’ David Kelleher talks about common IT mistakes that small and mid-sized business (SMB) customers make. Avoiding these pitfalls is possibly the best reason for an SMB to outsource its IT to a dedicated managed IT service provider.

Below, we take Kelleher’s Top-10 list as a jumping-off point and describe how we help our SME clients protect themselves from a variety of business risks with proactive, outsourced IT management.

Connecting systems [such as new computers and mobile devices] to the Internet before hardening them.

Part of our managed IT service is to provision gateway access controls (a.k.a. firewalls) to protect internal IT systems. We also provide anti-virus and spyware controls to all of a customer’s connected systems.

Connecting test systems to the Internet with default accounts/passwords.

When we provision new computers, mobile devices and other connected systems on behalf of our clients, changing default passwords to strong, secure passwords is part of our process.

Failing to update systems. Security holes exist in your operating system and no software is perfect.

We provide both native Microsoft patch management as well as patch management from third parties for targeted applications, such as Adobe products, Java, QuickTime and others. This is part of our standard managed services offering because we believe strongly that it needs to be done.

Failing to properly authenticate callers.

Most of our clients provide us with a list of authorized individuals who are allowed to initiate changes on their networks. Where required, we can also use a challenge/response protocol to authenticate individuals who contact us for helpdesk support on behalf of a client organization.

Failure to maintain and test backups.

At Tango, we believe that any IT service is rendered irrelevant if excellent backups are not maintained. To protect client data from disaster, we regularly back up business data and we validate that the backups are successful on a daily basis. We also perform a test “restore” process once per month for any client engaged with us under a managed services contract.

Failure to confirm that your disaster recovery plan actually works.

We provide backup and disaster recovery services for SMB clients. In our experience, most SMBs do not have disaster recovery or business continuity (DR/BC) plans in place and find it too expensive to justify the cost of, for example, maintaining two completely redundant IT infrastructures with fail-over. Our cloud services offerings substantially reduce these costs and make DR/BC accessible to small and mid-sized customers.

Failing to implement or update virus detection software.

Tango implements a “defense and depth” strategy of protection against viruses, malware, spyware at the email server, the network gateway and the desktop to ensure that your systems are fully protected. This is another core service in our managed IT service offering, no exceptions!

Failing to educate users. Users need to know exactly what kinds of threats are out there.

In our managed IT service industry, end-user knowledge (and lack thereof) is perhaps the most common area of risk that affects our customers. A lack of awareness or sophistication can lead to users opening their systems to viruses, spyware, phishing and other threats. The solution is to mitigate risk through ongoing end-user training. In addition, Tango builds client IT architectures such that end users are removed from critical decision-making processes. For example, next-generation firewalls and email security applications remove most of the risk from vulnerability attacks. But, education is still the first line of defense!

Trying to do it all yourself.

Even if you have an IT resource on staff, it’s simply not realistic for an SMB to effective manage all aspects of IT effectively. In a previous article about knowing when it’s time to hire an IT resource <link once that blog is approved & posted>, I outlined that four skill sets that a corporate IT department of any size must possess, and provided an ROI/budgeting model to help you determine how best to fill those needs. Chances are good that a partially or fully outsourced managed IT service model will make the best sense for your business.

Failing to recognize “insider threats”.

Any malicious, untrustworthy or disgruntled employee presents a risk if they are not properly monitored. If you operate in a strict regulatory environment or have other reasons to be concerned about insiders hacking, stealing or selling your sensitive business and customer data, there are a number of checks that we can build into your IT architecture and roadmap. This may include implementing monitoring measures on specific systems, devices or network resources. It may also require high-security physical restrictions on employees who enter and leave your premises. Our IT strategy and virtual CIOservices can be leveraged to provide expertise, insight and solutions to these and other big-picture IT concerns.

What You Can Do Now

To evaluate your organization’s IT security against these and other potential risks, contact us for an IT security 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 >>

Business-Centric IT: What Does that Really Mean?

– by Dean Tremblay

At Tango Technology Group we like to say that we take a business-centric approach to technology. It’s definitely what makes us unique among other providers of IT services to small- and mid-size business customers. But what does it really mean to be “business-centric”, and why should a small- or mid-sized business (SMB) care?

In practical terms, being business-centric means that when I recommend an investment in technology to a client, I have first determined how that technology will enable the client to be more efficient and/or to drive more revenue. If I can’t make that business case clear then I can’t recommend the investment.

In philosophical terms, it means that at Tango, we focus as much on understanding WHY we deploy technology as we do on HOW it is deployed. Unfortunately, this is an atypical approach in our industry – but we’ve been business owners and managers in a variety of forms for long enough that we know it’s the only approach that makes sense today.

There really is no business today that isn’t influenced by technology. Most absolutely depend on IT to serve customers and to conform to standards and regulations. Savvy SMBs are now leveraging technology to gain competitive advantages – and helping them do it is what we do best.

Again in practical terms, here are some examples of what we do to help SMBs leverage technology to gain competitive advantage:

  • Eliminate capital expenses & costly specialized headcount – by eliminating on-premise hardware (servers) in favor of virtual servers
  • Improve cash flow and budgeting by replacing client-based software with pay-per-use technology “in the cloud”
  • Ease the resource burden associated with regulatory compliance with flexible, easy-to-use information management/ records management/ document management solutions
  • Support competitive and market intelligence with effective business intelligence solutions designed for SMBs
  • Free up resources (financial, administrative and real estate) by providing outsourced IT and helpdesk service
  • Improve internal communication processes and operational efficiencies with easy-to-use intranet sites
  • Protect customer and business data with offsite data backup and recovery

I’d be happy to speak with you to discuss how we can work with you to ensure that technology is part of your strategic business plan. I also invite you to read about some of our customer projects and success stories.

I can be reached at dean.tremblay(at)tangotechnologygroup.com

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: