How to Improve Corporate Efficiency through IT

When revenues are low, what do you do to improve your profit? Obviously, those same revenues should at least remain the same. So, the objective would be to deliver the same products and services for less cost. More for less. Such is the essence of corporate efficiency.

There are many things that can make a company inefficient. There are outdated procedures, poor coordination between departments, managers? lack of business visibility, and prolonged down times, to mention a few. As a company grows, these issues get more severe.

You can overcome all these by deploying the right IT solutions. But don’t IT solutions increase spending instead? Au contraire. The last couple of decades have seen the rise of IT solutions that help companies’realise obvious cost savings in no time.

Streamline processes and keep departments in-sync

Company inefficiencies are largely due to outdated systems and procedures. These systems and procedures were not built for the dynamic and complex business environments of today that are being shaped by increasingly onerous regulations, fierce and growing competition, significant economic upswings and downturns, new battlefronts (like the Web) and logistical strategies (like outsourcing), and IT-savvy crooks.

So when your employees force outdated systems to meet today?s business demands, they’re just not able to deliver. At least not efficiently.

Another major cause of inefficiency is the discordance among departments, business units, and even individual staff members themselves. There are those who still use highly personalised spreadsheets and other disparate applications, which make data consolidation take forever and the financial close a perennial headache.

Costly devices like mobile phones, netbooks, and tablet PCs, which are supposedly designed to provide better communication, are not fully maximised. If these are subsidised by the company, then they also contribute to company inefficiency.

One way to deal with these issues is to deploy server based solutions. By centralising your IT system, you can easily implement various improvements that can pave the way for better communication and collaboration, stronger security, faster processes and transactions, and shorter down times for troubleshooting and maintenance. All these clearly translate to cost savings.

Gain better visibility

Corporate efficiency can be improved if your decision makers can make wise and well-informed decisions, faster. But they can only do this if reports they receive from people down the line are timely, accurate, and reliable. Basically, data should be presented in a way for managers to gain quick insights from.

If your people take too much time scrutinising, interpreting, and reconciling data, you can’t hope to gain a significant competitive advantage. Equally important to managing an ongoing project is the speed at which you make a go/no go decision to start or stop a project. A wise, quick decision will help you avoid wastage.

The same holds true when making purchases and investment decisions. It’s all about quickly eliminating waste and investing only on those that will give you fast, positive returns.

Clear business visibility will allow managers to allocate resources where they are most effective, to pinpoint what products and services being offered are more profitable, and to identify which customers are giving better business from an overall perspective.

These are all possible with business intelligence. We know, we know. You’ll say BI solutions will force you to break the bank. Not anymore. At least, not all. There are already two main types of BI solutions: on-premise and SaaS. The latter will generally cost you less.

Of course, each type has its own advantages, and you’ll really have to look into the size of your organisation, the number of source systems your decision-making platform is connected to, integration requirements, budget, etc. to make sure you get the most out of your investment.

But IT solutions cost an arm and a leg

Again, not anymore. These days, you can find IT products that are faster, more functional, and more powerful than their predecessors at a fraction of the cost. When it comes to getting more affordable IT products and services, you now have many options.

For example, you can turn to open source solutions to save on license costs. These solutions are typically backed by vibrant and helpful communities where you can find an extensive source of technical support – many of which are for free. With popular open source products, you can easily tap from a large pool of developers with affordable rates any time you want to make system enhancements or customisation.

On another front, virtualization solutions allow you to save on CAPEX and OPEX by eliminating certain expenses normally used for setting up infrastructure or buying hardware and maintaining them. Server virtualisation, for instance, will allow you to consolidate servers and put them together into just one machine, while desktop virtualisation will enable you to eliminate unproductive hours associated with desktop down times by allowing you to redeploy a malfunctioning desktop very quickly.

Closely related to those are cloud-based solutions like SaaS (Software as a Service), IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), and DCoD (Data Center on Demand). SaaS and IaaS will help you realize savings in acquisition and maintenance costs for software and hardware, while DCoD?s scalable services allow you to request for additional capacity, power and storage only as you need them, thus making you spend only according to your current infrastructure requirements.

Like we said, there are many, many options out there just waiting to be tapped.

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Web Analytics

There’s a vast ocean of raw customer data on the Web. Ever thought of the implications if somehow you could harness all that data and transform it into useful information? Information that perhaps you can use in your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and conversion optimisation?

There are web analytics tools you can employ for these purposes. But using web analytics tools will only win you half the battle. You’ll have to be proficient in configuring these tools to generate insightful and actionable results out of them. A poorly configured tool can produce confusing or even misleading information.

Our web analysts possess the expertise to configure and use web analytics tools, as well as analyse results and leverage information obtained from them.

These are the things we can do to help you take advantage of web analytics.

  • Discuss with your managers to establish your specific goals, to determine what specific data we have to collect/analyse and to plan out how to go about with the entire process.
  • Help you select an appropriate tool, install it and set optimal configurations including page tags, filters, funnels, reports and others.
  • Wield the full force of your analytics tool(s) to make sound business decisions.
  • Monitor the entire web analytics system and implement adjustments when needed.
A Definitive List of the Business Benefits of Cloud Computing ? Part 3

Strengthens business continuity/disaster recovery capabilities

Today’s business landscape calls for companies to have reliable business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities. After all, when the system goes down, customers and even employees would rarely ask ‘why‘ or ‘what happened‘ but instead go directly to the ‘how soon can we get back up‘ part.

So unless they’ve been struck by the same unforeseen disaster your business is also experiencing, a couple of hours downtime is plenty enough for most of these people. What’s worse is when they simply don’t wait until they get access again and just go to other providers that can offer the same services. In short, your inability to provide continuous IT and business services could translate to lost opportunities which your competition would only be too willing to gain. And that’s not even counting the possibility of losing essential data and other potential negative impact that critical IT failure can bring about.

The answer to avoiding such a scenario is of course, having a sound business continuity and disaster recovery plan in place. But this is actually easier said than done.

Traditionally, setting up a business continuity plan entailed some tedious procedures in addition to very costly infrastructure. We’re talking here about acquiring and maintaining practically a replication of the hardware infrastructure and environments currently existing for business-critical systems and data. Note that these mirror systems should be set-up, housed, and maintained in a remote facility or location.

Making the deployment even more complex is the constant need to update the data in storage as well as keep software applications in sync between the system in use and the one on standby mode. This process would involve the physical transfer of data and syncing of applications, which is cumbersome and again, expensive.

While large enterprises would not even think twice about having to spend so much to ensure that operations would never come to a grinding halt, most small and mid-sized organisations would not have the required financial means for them to even start considering this option. Often, the bulk of their disaster recovery plan would simply consist of some tape backups, and a lot of hoping that they would never have to suffer from any outage or IT failure.

But all that can be changed with the arrival of cloud computing.

A cloud strategy offers an affordable solution for business continuity and disaster recovery for SMBs with limited resources and even big companies trying to minimise expenses by looking for alternative options.

A reliable service provider would already have the required infrastructure and software vital to a viable BC/DR plan and complete with the appropriate security measures. Organisations need not spend upfront for these facilities, but get to benefit from having updated data backup and a virtualised mirror system that would allow them to quickly get back up in the event of an outage or catastrophic disaster.

When looking to the cloud for a cost-effective BC/DR plan however, it’s worth keeping in mind that not all cloud providers are created equal. That’s why businesses also have many important factors to take into account before signing cloud contracts.

Yes, provision for continuity and and taking necessary precautions against outages are inherent in the cloud service itself, but you’d be surprised how many of these providers don’t actually take responsibility for service interruption. To give organisations some assurance of the cloud company’s capacity for continued service, contracts should stipulate availability guarantees and liability for downtime that the provider is willing to answer for.

Once these relevant issues are ironed out however, it’s easy for business to see how cloud-based data storage and computing can significantly lower the costs involved for SMB BC/DR while greatly improving efficiency, mobility, and collaboration capabilities.

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How Energy Conservation saved Fambeau River Paper

Rising energy costs caught this Wisconsin paper mill napping, and it soon shut down because it was unable to innovate. Someone else bought it and turned it around by measuring, modifying, monitoring and listening to people.

The Fambeau River Paper Mill in Prince County, Wisconsin USA employed 13% of the city?s residents until rising energy costs shut it down in 2006. Critics wrote it off as an energy dinosaur unable to adapt. But that was before another company bought it out and resuscitated it as a fleet-footed winner.

Its collapse was a long time coming and almost inevitable. Wisconsin electricity prices had grown a third since 1997, the machinery was antiquated and the dependence on fossil power absolute. So what did the new owners change, and is there anything we can learn from this?

The key to understanding what suddenly went right was the new owners? ability to listen. They requested a government Energy Assessment that suggested a number of small step changes that took them where they needed to go in terms of energy saving. These included enhancements in steam systems and fuel switch modifications. However they needed more than that.

The second game changer was tracking down key members of the old workforce and listening to them too. This combination enabled them to finally hire back 92% of the original labour force under the same terms and conditions – and still make a profit (the other 8% had moved on elsewhere or retired). The combined energy savings produced a payback plan of 5.25 years. Three years into the project their capital investment of $15 million had already clawed back the following electricity savings.

  • Evaporator Temperature Control $2,245,000
  • Hot Water Heat Recovery $2,105,000
  • Paper Machine Devronisers $1,400,000
  • Increased Boiler Output $1,134,000
  • Paper Machine Modifications; $761,000
  • Motive Air Dryer $610,000
  • Accumulator Savings $448,000
  • Densified Fuels Plant $356,000

In terms of carbon dioxide produced, the Fambeau River Paper Mill?s contribution dropped from 1 ton to 600 pounds.

How well do you know where your company?s energy spend is concentrated, and how this compares with your industry average; could you be doing better if you innovated, and by how much? Get these questions answered by asking ecoVaro how easy it could be to get on top of your carbon metrics. This could cost you a phone call and a payback on it so rapid it’s not worth stopping to calculate.

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