Technology and process improvement

Tightening organisational flow to improve productivity and minimise costs is a growing concern for many businesses post the Global Financial Crisis. Businesses can no longer afford to waste time and personnel on inefficient processes. Organisations using either Six Sigma or Lean techniques better manage their existing resources to maximise product out-put. Both of these techniques involve considerable evaluation of current processes.

What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is an organisational management strategy that evaluates processes for variation. In the Six Sigma model, variation equates waste. Eliminating variation for customer fulfilment allows a business to better serve the end-user. In this thought model, the only way to streamline processes is to use statistical data. Each part of a process must be carefully recorded and analysed for variation and potential improvements. The heart of the strategy embodied by Six Sigma is mathematical. Every process is subject to mathematical analysis and this allows for the most effective problem solving.

What is a Lean Model?

Lean businesses do not rely on mathematical models for improvement. Instead, the focus is on reducing steps in the customer delivery cycle, which do not add value to the final deliverable. For example, maintaining excess inventory or dealing with shortages would both be examples of waste behaviour. Businesses that operate using Lean strategies have strong cash flow cycles. One of the best and most famous examples of Lean in action is the Toyota Production System (TPS). In this system, not only is inventory minimised, but physical movement for employees also remains sharply controlled. Employees are able to reach everything needed to accomplish their tasks, without leaving the immediate area. By reducing the amount of movement needed to work, companies also remove wasted employee time.

Industry Applications for Lean and Six Sigma

Lean businesses reduce the number of steps between order and delivery. The less inventory on hand, the less it costs a business to operate. In industries where it is possible to create to order, Lean thinking offers significant advantages. Lean is best utilised in mature businesses. New companies, operating on a youthful model, may not be able to identify wasteful processes. Six Sigma has shown its value across industries through several evolution’s. Its focus on quality of process makes it a good choice for even brand new businesses. The best use is the combination of the two strategies. With the Lean focus on speed and the Six Sigma focus on quality combined, the two organisational processes create synergy. By itself, Lean does not help create stable, repeating success. Six Sigma does not help increase speed and reduce non value-added behaviours. Combined, these two strategies offer incredible value to every business in cost savings.

Using Technology to Implement Lean Six Sigma

Automation processes represent an opportunity for businesses to implement a combination of both Lean and Six Sigma strategies. Any technology that replaces the need for direct human oversight reduces costs and increases productivity. A few examples of potentially cost saving IT solutions include document scanning, the Internet, and automated workflow systems.

  • Document Scanning – Reducing dependency on paper copies follows both Lean and Six Sigma strategies. It is a Lean addition in that it allows employees to access documents instantly from any physical location. It is Six Sigma compliant in that it allows a reduction on process variation, since there is no bottleneck on the flow of information.
  • The Internet – The automation potential offered by the Internet is limitless. Now, businesses can enter orders, manage logistics and perform customer service activities from anywhere, through a hosted portal. With instant access to corporate processes from anywhere, businesses can manage workflow globally, allowing them to realise cost savings from decentralisation.
  • Automated Work Systems – One of the identified areas of waste in any business is processing time. The faster orders are processed and delivered, the greater the profits for the company and the less the expense per order. When orders sit waiting for attention, they represent lost productivity and waste. Automated work systems monitor workflow and alert users when an item sits longer than normal. These systems can also reroute work to an available employee when the original worker is tied up.

Each of these IT solutions provides a method for businesses to either reduce the number of steps in a process or improve the quality of the process for improved customer service.

Identifying Areas for Lean Six Sigma Implementation

Knowing that improved processes result in improved profits, identifying areas for improvement is the next step. There are several techniques for creating tighter processes with less waste and higher quality. Value Stream Mapping helps business owners and managers identify areas of waste by providing a visual representation of the total process stream. Instead of improving single areas for minimal increases in productivity, VSM shows the entire business structure and flow, allowing management to target each area of slow down for maximum improvement in all areas.

Seeing the areas of waste helps management better determine how processes should work to best obtain the desired outcomes. Adding in automated processes helps with improved process management, when put in place with a complete understanding of current systems and their weaknesses. Start with mapping and gain a bird’s-eye view of the situation, in order to make the changes needed for improvement.

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Mobile Security

Today’s advanced enterprises make extensive use of mobile devices in order for team members to exchange information, collaborate, and carry out business whenever and wherever they need to. BlackBerries, iPhones, Google Phones, and other smartphones as well as PocketPCs and PDAs are now allowed wireless remote access to the enterprise network.

As a result, they introduce additional vulnerabilities into the system.

  • Bluetooth exploits and unencrypted passwords can allow malicious individuals to gain access to private information.
  • Various wireless technologies that have substantially simplified the task of transferring data have provided openings for malicious code. In addition, the diversity of these wireless technologies combined with the constrained environments of these devices have made it difficult to come up with an all-in-one solution.
  • All PocketPCs, PDAs and smartphones can be synchronised with PCs and laptops, giving malware an entry point into computers and networks. Memory cards are guilty of this too.
  • VoIP, which are usually unencrypted, allow other people to perform unauthorised capture and recording of private conversations.

Mobile security is still an emerging discipline. Because of this, many organisations that allow members’ mobile phone access into the network don’t actually have a specific security policy for such devices.

That’s why we’re here to help. We’ll conduct a thorough evaluation of your security policies and systems in relation to mobile devices and seal gaps we spot along the way. If you don’t have the needed policies or if what you have needs an overhaul, we’ll set everything up (including the needed applications and infrastructure) for you.

Once we’ve got everything in place, you won’t have to worry about the vulnerabilities mentioned earlier. In addition to that, your organisation will already be capable of preventing the following:

  • Access to company information when the phone ends up in the hands of anyone other than the authorised user.
  • Being billed for phone usage due to virus activity
  • Unauthorised phone activity monitoring through spyware
  • Other disruptions caused by mobile-based malware

Other defences we’re capable of putting up include:

Finding the Best Structure for Your Enterprise Development Team

An enterprise development team is a small group of dedicated specialists. They may focus on a new business project such as an IoT solution. Members of microteams cooperate with ideas while functioning semi-independently. These self-managing specialists are scarce in the job market. Thus, they are a relatively expensive resource and we must optimise their role.

Organisation?Size and Enterprise Development Team Structure

Organisation structure depends on the size of the business and the industry in which it functions. An enterprise development team for a micro business may be a few freelancers burning candles at both ends. While a large corporate may have a herd of full-timers with their own building. Most IoT solutions are born out of the efforts of microteams.

In this regard, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg blazed the trail with Microsoft and Facebook. They were both college students at the time, and both abandoned their business studies to follow their dreams. There is a strong case for liberating developers from top-down structures, and keeping management and initiative at arm?s length.

The Case for Separating Microteams from the?Organisation

Microsoft Corporation went on to become a massive corporate, with 114,000 employees, and its founder Bill Gates arguably one of the richest people in the world. Yet even it admits there are limitations to size. In Chapter 2 of its Visual Studio 6.0 program it says,

‘today’s component-based enterprise applications are different from traditional business applications in many ways. To build them successfully, you need not only new programming tools and architectures, but also new development and project management strategies.?

Microsoft goes on to confirm that traditional, top-down structures are inappropriate for component-based systems such as IoT solutions. We have moved on from ?monolithic, self-contained, standalone systems,? it says, ?where these worked relatively well.?

Microsoft’s model for enterprise development teams envisages individual members dedicated to one or more specific roles as follows:

  • Product Manager ? owns the vision statement and communicates progress
  • Program Manager ? owns the application specification and coordinates
  • Developer ? delivers a functional, fully-complying solution to specification
  • Quality Assurer ? verifies that the design complies with the specification
  • User Educator ? develops and publishes online and printed documentation
  • Logistics Planner ? ensures smooth rollout and deployment of the solution

Three Broad Structures for Microteams working on IoT Solutions

The organisation structure of an enterprise development team should also mirror the size of the business, and the industry in which it functions. While a large one may manage small microteams of employee specialists successfully, it will have to ring-fence them to preserve them from bureaucratic influence. A medium-size organisation may call in a ?big six? consultancy on a project basis. However, an independently sourced micro-team is the solution for a small business with say up to 100 employees.

The Case for Freelancing Individuals versus Functional Microteams

While it may be doable to source a virtual enterprise development team on a contracting portal, a fair amount of management input may be necessary before they weld into a well-oiled team. Remember, members of a micro-team must cooperate with ideas while functioning semi-independently. The spirit of cooperation takes time to incubate, and then grow.

This is the argument, briefly, for outsourcing your IoT project, and bringing in a professional, fully integrated micro-team to do the job quickly, and effectively. We can lay on whatever combination you require of project managers, program managers, developers, quality assurers, user educators, and logistic planners. We will manage the micro-team, the process, and the success of the project on your behalf while you get on running your business, which is what you do best.

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IT Security and the Threats from Within

When the economy makes a downturn, companies, then eventually, employees suffer. Now, I’m sure you’re wary of frustrated laid-off employees stealing valuable data. Who knows? That information might end up in the hands of your competitors. Then as if that threat weren’t enough, there may be jobless IT specialists who turn to rogue activities either to earn a quick buck or simply out of lack of anything productive to do.

That’s not all, as we’ve got more news for you. When we think of IT Security, what instantly comes to mind are hackers and acts laced with mal-intent. However, a recent worldwide survey on IT security showed organisations were more inclined to expect data leakage as a result of accidental exposure by employees (45%) than of anything maliciously performed by an external entity (15%).

If you’re not aware of this, you’ll be focusing your spending on protection against incoming attacks while exposing your innards through accidental leakages. Our solution? While we’ll naturally provide your data with protection from outside threats, we’ll also put special attention in protecting it from the inside.

The defences we’ll put up include:

  • Data Loss Prevention
  • Network Security
  • Firewalls
  • Malware
  • Authentication and Access Control
  • Mobile Security
  • Forensics

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