January 30th, 2013
For small business owners, “It’s getting to a point where it’s very difficult to ignore technology,” said analyst Laurie McCabe, co-founder and partner of the SMB Group, a market research firm.
While that statement might seem obvious, it’s also true that what sometimes feels like an overwhelming barrage of technology-related marketing and sales calls can cause many small-business owners to tune out and ignore the real benefits provided by the right office solutions.
The article that quotes Ms. McCabe was published on the SmallBusinessComputing.com website. The piece, “Small Business IT Trends to Watch in 2013,” goes on to cover some of the small-business technology trends McCabe suggests will be embraced by the most successful small businesses.
The article lists, and expands upon, the following suggested areas of focus from McCabe’s “SMB technology market predictions for 2013” blog article:
- Social Media
- Big Data
- The Cloud
- Data Protection
Over the next few weeks I’ll be covering these and other technology trends I believe should be understood and/or deployed by small business as part of their strategy for success in 2013 and beyond.
In the meantime I’d love to hear your thoughts about social media marketing, Big Data, The Cloud, data protection or any other suggested points of focus related to day-to-day small-business operations.
October 10th, 2012
In this golden age of cloud-based services, small businesses and nonprofits are adopting new software platforms at an amazing rate. Although this is an outstanding trend, some — either out of pure excitement or lack of resources — are failing to create a game plan for the new software’s onboarding process. Below we offer some tips that can help organizations smoothly implement a new software service.
Impacts on Your Existing Systems
Before moving to the cloud, one of the first things your small business needs to consider is how the new product will fit in with your current systems. For instance, will the new cloud-based service integrate easily and seamlessly with your legacy systems? Or perhaps the new service is a replacement. If that’s the case, you’ll want to know if existing data can be imported easily into the new environment.
Also ask your potential provider about maintenance costs. In most scenarios, one big attraction of moving to the cloud is a decrease in IT costs. Make sure yours is one of those money-saving situations. Quiz the sales team about upgrades: will new enhancements come free with your subscription, or will you have to pay more? What about support? Although there should be less need for system maintenance with cloud-based applications, glitches are inevitable. Is support included in the pricing? How is that support provided — over the phone, via email, or some other method?
Impacts on Your People
Once you make a decision about the new system, you’ll need to prepare your staff for the switch. Like any change, you’ll need to generate some buy-in. If your employees aren’t willing to fully utilize the tools being offered, then money is being wasted. Explain the logic of why you are going with cloud services. Detail the savings on IT costs and staff time. Also explain how you can ultimately deliver a better product and spend less money. Once you get a few converts, it will make the process much easier.
After you receive buy-in from staff, get prepared to offer some training. Many small businesses forget to factor these time and money costs into the equation. However, it’s extremely important to provide actual training sessions instead of a learn-as-you-go method. Similar to the point about obtaining buy-in, if your staff can’t use the software to its full potential, then resources are being wasted. And, if staff members are frustrated with the new system, it can lead to further resistance to the software change.
If the new platform is simple, some in-house training will probably do. If you’ve purchased something quite complex and robust, see if your provider offers any sort of assistance with training. You may even want to tap some of your staff for a “train the trainers” seminar so your employees have several “experts” they can go to with questions during the transition.
Follow these tips, and you’ll have your feet firmly on the ground as your software heads to the cloud.
The content shared in this blog post is the author’s opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of Xerox. Shawn Kendrick is a researcher and blogger for VolunteerHub, a cloud-based volunteer management software application that offers online event registration, email and SMS (text) messaging, report generation, and much more. VolunteerHub is a member of Xerox’s Free Color Printers Program.
August 14th, 2012
Xerox Indirect Channels Business Group
Working in technology over the past 15 years has made me the automatic IT consultant for just about every family and friend I know. Usually it’s a friend starting a small business needs advice on what types of computers, printers, and network they should consider. Through this, I have come to realize that if you are ready to make the leap and start your own business you need to be prepared to literally take on every task required. Not only are you your own IT department, but you are the head of sales, HR, marketing, and of course, the janitor!
For many small businesses this reality is a consistent challenge and a frustration I often hear about. A friend once told me that he will know his business is a success when he can stop doing all of things he hates to do and can afford to hire someone full time to do them. This way he can focus on doing what he loves the most and the reason he started his business in the first place. Like most small businesses, my friend has a solid business and earns a good living, but still struggles with the growth required to enable him this freedom. It is a bit of a Catch 22. How can he hire someone to manage these tasks so he can work on growing and building his small business?
As you know, Xerox has a rich history and is known for providing print services to larger clients such as Allina Health enabling them to completely outsource all of the often thankless tasks of supporting, installing, and feeding their printers, copiers, and multifunction printers (MFPs) all while saving them significant operating costs and staffing resources. This type of service called managed print services (MPS), has been rapidly growing among today’s medium to large businesses where managing fleets of hundreds to thousands of printers and MFPs can save a company significant time and money.
Until recently, delivering this kind of capability to small businesses that need only one to three printers was not economically feasible. I’m excited to tell you that we now have a solution that will provide small businesses like my friend’s many of the same services and cost-savings that were once reserved for larger companies. We used cloud-based automation technologies pioneered with the new Xerox eConcierge, a supplies ordering program, and partnered with Staples to develop an exclusive offering called the Never Out Toner Savings Program. You select the Xerox printer or multifunction printer that best fits your business and combine it with a preset number of page credits. The new service manages the page credits electronically and delivers toner automatically when the printer or MFP runs low. You can manage, renew and modify your plan electronically as well. No more last minute trips to the local office supplies store to buy a new toner cartridge to finish printing an important client presentation. With this new program, my friend will have just a bit more time and money to make his business more successful rather than maintaining and buying toner.
Check out both of these new programs and let me know what you think in the comments below.
August 2nd, 2012
Xerox Indirect Channels Business Group
We have all seen the evolution of the mobile workforce, but not all mobile workers have the same business processes. Depending on the work flow of the mobile employee the solutions can be vastly different. For example, people in business development often provide presentations to potential partners while analysts want to log on to virtual networks to download company data. In a study conducted by Cisco, five distinct types of mobile workers were defined.
- On-site movers: individuals who work on one site, but move around within it such as IT technicians.
- Yo-Yos: work from a fixed location with traditional business travel.
- Pendulums: alternate between two fixed locations such as home office and employer’s office.
- Nomads: work in a number of places constantly moving amongst them such as an outside sales agent.
- Carriers: work while on the move, transporting goods such as truck drivers.
And most likely, all of these mobile workers will be using their personal smartphones or tablets to conduct business in and out of the office. According to a recent article in Forbes, the average mobile worker globally carries 3.5 mobile devices including tablets, laptops, smartphones and net books.
So how do small businesses provide these on-the-go employees with the printing and document management tools they need? To help, we developed Xerox PrintBack. This mobile app is free and enables your mobile workforce to print office documents, photos and web pages from anywhere to the default printer they already use.
Small businesses whose mobile employees are not in the office – often consisting of nomads, carriers, and pendulums – could also benefit from wireless printing. Many of our multifunction printers (MFPs), such as the WorkCentre 6015 color MFP, are Wi-Fi enabled and offer digital workflow capabilities that are ideal for a mobile workforce and maximize office space.
There are a host of additional problems for small business including how to keep the company’s data secure, monitor employees, and back-up data on mobile devices. Most of the solutions for these problems, such as Mobile Device Management (MDM), are designed for a minimum number of devices. One of the best solutions for a company of any size is good policy such as requiring strong device passwords, automatic shut off, and reporting missing devices as well as establishing clear expectations with employees on the use of mobile devices.
What additional pain points has the mobile workforce added to your small business processes?
May 29th, 2012
As time goes by, many nonprofits are finding that making the switch to digital is in their best interest. Simply put, digitizing documents is a great way to be more organized and save time in the long run. However, it should be a “look before you leap” situation, so we’re offering some things to consider when making the transition.
Know the Lay of the Land
If you’re thinking about going digital, it’s time to take a critical look at your situation and create a road map. In other words, where are you now — and where do you want to be? You may know where you want to go, but it’s crucial to make sure the way is paved for a smooth trip. To that end, an honest assessment of your hardware and networking system may be the place to start. The first step in your plan might require an upgrade of your technology infrastructure to handle the load of a digitized system.
Also, understand that there may be some prep work involved. Often there’s a need to do some manual uploading and/or scanning of paper records before the new system is in place. Make sure you account for these and other preliminary steps before roll-out.
Now it’s time to decide exactly what records you are going to digitize. Consider how often people in your organization need to view different types of records. Questions like, “How important is it” and “What would happen if it were lost or destroyed” will help you decide what to turn digital and what stays in hard-copy form. For records you access often, it’s probably a good idea to have them digitized so you can view them quickly from your computer. You’ll also save many hours by no longer trying to keep those physical files in order. If a record is extremely important, you’ll have another reason to store it digitally, because cloud storage is ultra-safe, secure, and reliable. Of course, in some cases you may want to keep a hard copy, too. If records are out of date and/or not important, consider storing a digital copy and then having the original shredded.
Getting Others Onboard
One of the most difficult parts of any new initiative is getting buy-in from those who are going to execute the plan. However, the effort is worth it. If you can get everyone on the same page, the chances of success increase dramatically. The general plan for roll-out should go something like this:
1) Get management buy-in
2) Announce plan to all staff
3) Implement training schedule
4) Official roll-out
Of course, there will be challenges along the way. In fact, most organizations will have numerous steps within each of the four points listed above. For instance, if you have a staff member who is resistant to change, you may want to start selling your idea to him or her before you let the rest of the staff in on the details. It will help pave the way for consensus- building later if you have the biggest potential opponent already on your side. Another strategy is to bring in a “devil’s advocate.” This should be someone who is not involved with the planning phase. His or her job is to be negative and find potential problems before roll-out. If you have a tough devil’s advocate, and you can satisfy the concerns he or she highlights, then you should be able to withstand any scrutiny from other staff members.
As we said earlier, as long as you “look before you leap,” the jump to digital should be an easy one.
The content shared in this blog post is the author’s opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of Xerox. Shawn Kendrick is a researcher and blogger for VolunteerHub, a cloud-based volunteer management software application that offers online event registration, email and SMS (text) messaging, report generation, and much more. VolunteerHub is a member of Xerox’s Free Color Printers Program: https://www.freecolorprinters.xerox.com/vhub/volunteerhub.jsp
May 18th, 2012
Leading industry analysts acknowledge two growing trends in Managed Print Services (MPS). The first is that customers want a partner that can do more than simply manage print – they want expertise in business process and IT outsourcing so that ultimately the workflows for print and documents integrate into the rest of their IT infrastructure. Xerox strengthened its expertise in this area through the acquisition of ACS in February 2010 helping our clients manage digitized information and business processes as well as printed documents.
The second emerging trend is the growing MPS opportunity with small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). Four years ago, Xerox envisioned the SMB market taking off, so we established the Xerox MPS continuum – different MPS offerings tailored to different size businesses. By adding Xerox Print Services and Xerox Partner Print Services offerings, Xerox focused on applying the same MPS tools and techniques we uses to save millions of dollars for large corporations so SMBs can also reap the benefits of MPS.
In addition, the acquisition by Xerox of Newfield IT in May 2011 has helped our large enterprise as well as small and medium-sized business clients capture the cost savings and efficiency benefits of MPS faster than ever before. For example, Newfield IT’s Asset DB™ software suite creates visual floor plan maps to show how assets – like printers and copiers – are used throughout an office. By combining this visual mapping with a database that tracks usage patterns of document devices, companies are better able to monitor and manage the use of their devices and their overall print-related costs. The simplicity and intuitive nature of the tools is of great value to both Xerox and our channel partners in bringing to life, real time, the solutions and benefits of MPS.
Don’t just take our word for it. See why Xerox was named a leader in four leading analyst reports and let us know how we can help your business.
May 9th, 2012
With the emergence of new technology the workforce is evolving into a mobile population. The new tools available today enable you to work in the most efficient location whether that’s your home, office, or a customer location. Better yet, there are no longer as many communication barriers thanks to laptops, smartphones, tablets and wireless internet. IDC predicts by the year 2013 that more than 75% of the U.S. workforce representing 119.7 million workers will be mobile.
How does this growing mobility affect small and medium businesses? It puts added pressure on them to keep information safe and secure and to do so at an affordable price. Most small businesses do not have the same resources large enterprises do to build a business-ready mobile infrastructure. Small businesses are more likely to have employees using their personal smartphone or tablet for work which makes maintaining security and synergies with the business network more difficult. Printing from these mobile devices can be a huge frustration since they are not connected to the business network.
A tool that can help… Xerox PrintBack. This mobile printing app is free and will work with both iOS- or Android-based smartphones and tablets. PrintBack enables your mobile workforce to print office documents, photos and web pages from anywhere to the default printer they already use. And the app works on any manufacturer’s network printer or multifunction printer.
Check out the app and let me know what you think. Do you also have ideas on how we can help mobile workers? You can share these too in the comments below.