Renodis was pleased to support the local IT community by sponsoring the 14th Annual Minnesota IT Symposium on September 17th at the Minneapolis Marriott Southwest. In addition, Renodis hosted a special breakout session presented by renowned author, CIO, and Renodis client, Joe Topinka.

Joe Topinka’s heavily attended session, entitled “Are you Doing Enough to Bridge the Leadership Chasm”, was a candid discussion regarding going from great ideas to great results. The session covered the following topics: CEO and Executive perceptions of IT, the current C-suite/IT leadership crisis, ideas to inform and educate the C-suite, concepts that bridge the C-suite/IT chasm, and pragmatic tools that build trust and confidence.

An excerpt of the presentation is available below:

The Minnesota IT Symposium provides IT Executives, Management and Staff the opportunity to network with counterparts, other local organizations, and partners which enables innovation, personal growth and business transformation in the IT community.

MN IT Symposium

Recently Joe Topinka (www.ciomentor.com), author, speaker and previous CIO of Red Wing Shoe Company, sat down to talk about how he delivers more business value through vendor partnerships and why he chose Renodis to manage Communications Infrastructure at Red Wing Shoe Company.

“Hi, I’m Joe Topinka, CIO and VP Multichannel Commerce for Red Wing Shoe Company. As a CIO I’ve spent a career trying to deliver value and bridge the chasm between business stakeholders and IT Leaders. One of the ways I’ve done that over the years is by getting IT leaders to focus less on the layer of IT that I call the dial tone, that’s the layer that has things like telephone and mobile devices. Instead focus on the middle layer or the top layer which is the business services layer or the external customer layer. When you do that you really deliver a lot more value. One of the best ways I’ve learned how to do that is through vendor partnerships. In Renodis we found just such a partner. They’ve delivered 27 percent more bottom line value in terms of managing our telecom, our mobile devices and those types of things. What I really liked about Renodis is that they were the only ones who innovated this turnkey solution and the results were off the charts. Not only has that value been delivered, but we’re getting phenomenal feedback from our internal employees. It’s great to have a rock solid technology layer, but you don’t need to do that yourself anymore. Renodis can deliver the kind of value and trust that you need so you can take your eye off those things and focus on things that really matter to your business. I couldn’t endorse Renodis more strongly. They’ve been one of the top partners I’ve enjoyed working with throughout my 20+ year career as a CIO and I look forward to a very long and prosperous relationship with them now and in the future.”

[button url=”http://www.renodis.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Red-Wing_final.pdf”]Download Red Wing Shoe Company Case Study – Printable PDF[/button]

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We all think of the same names when we think of the world’s greatest athletes. Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bo Jackson, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Willie Mays, Dale Earnhardt Sr, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, Carl Lewis – the list goes on and on. There could be a great debate as to who is the greatest athlete of all time, but one thing is for sure, these athletes changed the face of their game and dominated their profession at one time or another.

Some of these athletes like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods are not only great athletes, but they are great business men. For instance, Tiger has dealt with his fair share of controversy over the past several years, but he is one example of someone profoundly changing the game of golf while going through some growing pains.

Read on for 4 Things IT Leaders Can Learn from the World’s Greatest Athletes…


#1: Adapt and plan for change – Wayne Gretzky
 

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 “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

-Wayne Gretzky

Athletes have to be able to change and adapt as their respective game changes. This is definitely true of the IT world and IT leaders must adapt with ever evolving trends, technology, industry and business needs.


#2: You can always be better – Tiger Woods

“No matter how good you get you can always get better, and that’s the exciting part.”

-Tiger Woods

We can all take a lesson here, no matter how good things may seem, there is always room for improvement. Tiger strives to be the best golfer on the planet and has a relentless desire to be the best. IT executives should strive to do the same. And in this instance, be the best leader and provide the most value to your organization that you can.


#3: Build yourself as a brand – Michael Jordan

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“I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come”.

-Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan has done an incredible job of building his brand as an athlete and a business man. Through his endorsements with Nike, Gatorade, and other products, when you think of basketball you think of MJ. The same should be true for CIOs and IT executives. Build yourself as a strategic thinker and value driver for companies, as well as a mentor to other IT leaders, and your brand will be a positive one. Be a leader, a mentor, and deliver value in the IT community and to your company – your brand will grow.


#4: Utilize coaches, mentors, and partners to be successful – Bo Jackson

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“Set your goals high, and don’t stop until you get there.”

-Bo Jackson

Every athlete has a coach or partner to help them be the best at their game. The same is true for executives and business leaders. An IT leader’s ability to delegate, use partners, outsource where necessary, and share leadership ideas with others in their community will always benefit the entire organization and those around you. Those leaders who have the right partners, mentors, and coaches around them are the ones who rise to the top.

[button url=”http://www.renodis.com/ittime”]Why Telecom Management Isn’t Worth I.T.’s Time – white paper[/button]

Is your company looking for ways to cut costs in 2014? With increases in healthcare costs and decreases in budgets, many I.T. managers have been asked to reduce costs. The good news is that there are a few things that I.T. can outsource to save companies money and time, and probably end up looking like a hero in the process.

Read on for the Top 5 Things I.T. Should Outsource in 2014.

#1: Copier / Printer Outsourcing

printer

“Copying and printing can cost up to 3% of a company’s revenue – equivalent to the average IT budget – so don’t overlook services that could help to reduce that outlay” – Julie Giera with Computer Weekly

Printers and copiers can be high maintenance, expensive, and very time consuming. In the past five years, many IT departments have shrunk; you may have fewer people on staff to manage your printers as they grow older and fall out of warranty. Maybe you have one person on your staff that is trained to work on printers and copiers, but what happens when that person is sick or leaves the company? By outsourcing copying and printing (often to the same company), you free up your staff to perform more important I.T. functions. Staff members no longer have to stay up-to-date to work on the latest copiers and printers. Common problems like recurring paper jams are handled by a professional technician. You no longer have to have one of your I.T. staff spend hours breaking down the machine to try and find the part that is causing the problem.

#2: Software Development

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Few small to medium-sized businesses have the resources for software developers and quality control staff (aka software testers). Some companies make the mistake of hiring a lone developer to create software. This person will usually work on only one project at a time, which can delay development. Another problem comes when the person gets sick or decides to leave the company. Who is going to take their place, and is there proper documentation for what they created so another person can take over?

How do you know when you’ve found the right software development firm? Communication, skill, and price must combine for the right choice. The right software development firms will have flexible staffing numbers and the ability to get your product to market quicker and usually at lower cost.

It makes sense for most small to medium-sized businesses to outsource software development in 2014. It can be a major, time-consuming headache that is better handled by a company with development and quality control staff on-site.

#3: Disaster Recovery 

dilbert

Have you spent much time thinking about what will happen when a disaster occurs? While some minor issues like power outages occur occasionally, a true disaster is something that must be properly planned for. This can be a very time-consuming process and it is better to work with a vendor who has experience in this area. Where will your team go when a disaster occurs?

After a disaster, employees still need to get paid. Vendors still need to receive checks to keep products flowing. There are many critical company processes that will need to function even after a disaster. This is why it is crucial to have a disaster recovery plan in place.

Once a disaster occurs, you can expect to spend long hours, possibly even days, working in a disaster recovery facility. It is important to pick a place that will allow your people to work in safety until the disaster is over. A disaster recovery service will have systems available when you need them and can scale to meet your needs as your company grows.

According to an IDC survey, in 2013 data center managers expect to allocate almost 50% of their budgets to the cloud. This number is predicted to grow in 2014.  As more companies move to the cloud, it makes sense to move disaster recovery there as well.

While some companies may consider doing disaster recovery internally, maintaining extra hardware and a place to keep it can be an expensive proposition. As the hardware ages, new equipment will have to be purchased. By outsourcing to a disaster recovery service, hardware and location becomes their responsibility to maintain.

#4: Email Archiving 

emailarchiving

“Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) estimates that 70% of you haven’t deployed any form of e-mail archiving.” – Outsourcing Email Pros and Cons 

You don’t want to find out when it’s too late that you can’t restore an old email. Standard backups may suffice for short-term storage and are much more reliable than they used to be. However, if all you have is a standard backup, how are you going to handle it when HR comes to your door and needs an email from a year ago for a legal issue? (After the amended Federal Rules of Civil Procedures were passed in 2006, emails (and other forms of communication) may be requested for litigation and must be archived.)

You need to be proactive in how you handle email archiving. Having the right email archiving service provider can mitigate the risk that is a growing reality for many companies. By outsourcing email archiving, you can reduce the overall cost of storage and speed up email clients along the way.

Users can be trained so that when they need an email that was accidentally deleted three weeks ago, they can simply go to a search box and find the email themselves in the email archive. Since all of the emails are stored in the cloud, it reduces the cost of new hardware on-site.

#5: Telecom Management 

telecom

“[Telecom management] allowed us to do more value-added services versus managing boilerplate telecom functions,” says Joe Topinka, CIO and Vice President of Multichannel Commerce at Red Wing Shoe Company. “We’re able to do more project-based work now.  These strategic initiatives have to do with expanding market strategy. That’s a big deal for us,” he says.  “Telecom management is important – it’s the dial tone of the organization. But it’s not what differentiates us, so we looked for a partner.” 

Let’s face it, corporate telecommunications can be a mess: a tangle of providers, contracts and technologies that your I.T. staff would be better served not wasting its time on. Most companies rely on their I.T. departments to handle telecommunications because they aren’t aware of other options. But that’s not a good use of highly trained (and highly paid) I.T. employees who’ve spent years mastering computer science and systems development.  It takes time to become an expert at telecom management and for most I.T. staff, their time is better spent focusing on their core strengths. In addition, the world of telecom management is changing rapidly and growing even more complex, making it difficult for non-experts to keep pace – and when non-experts are managing telecom, cost savings are essentially left on the table.

Why Telecom Management Isn’t Worth I.T.’s Time

5 Things I.T. Should Outsource in 2014 – Conclusion

Outsourcing began to take off in the 1990s as companies began to shed functions they had to do that were not part of their core missions. Since then, outsourcing has grown substantially. According to a Deloitte study, 60 percent of respondents said that outsourcing was a “standard practice” at their companies.

In this article, we covered five things I.T. should outsource in 2014. With copier and printer outsourcing, you can keep your I.T. staff from being tied up with these machines. Software development can easily be outsourced so that they take care of the full development process. This leaves your staff to determine needs analysis and manage the project.

Disaster recovery will help you sleep every night knowing that you have a contract stating your service provider will be ready in case a disaster ever occurs. With email archiving, you never have to worry about employees accidentally losing emails again. With simple training, they can learn how to look up lost emails on their own.

Finally, outsourcing telecom management allows you to focus your I.T. department’s efforts on strategic initiatives, harness the value of telecom-specific expertise, and reduce your total cost of telecom.

As you gear up for the 2014 IT budget season, you know there are many areas competing for IT time and attention.  According to a recent article from CIO.com, you’re also trying to secure the best talent when it comes to areas like application development, project management, and technical support.  At the same time you’re probably facing the annual budget dilemma of how to design your 2014 IT budget for more strategic impact and reduce IT operating costs.  You’re dealing with ‘keeping the lights on’ expenses that are known to eat up nearly 70% of your budget year after year.  If you want to make a real impact to this recurring problem, you need to entertain a structural change to how you organize and prioritize your IT organization.

Read more

Are you in charge of recommending or deciding what technology your company provides for staff? How will you decide between smartphones, tablets or laptops? What criteria will you use? This decision carries a number of risks. Get it wrong and you may have unsatisfied and unproductive staff. But get it right… and there is nothing better than a happy and productive workforce.

It’s a big decision, but no need to panic. We’ll help guide you to the right solution for your environment. Just follow these 4 evaluation criteria to help you decide if you should get smartphones, tablets or laptops for your staff.

Smartphones, Tablets or Laptops: Evaluation Criteria #1 – Is the work conducted remotely?

This may determine whether the person or department should have a company mobile device at all. If this person’s duties are 95% based in the office – is there really a need for a smartphone or tablet? In this case a laptop is the best choice.

Identify who is working away from the office during business hours. Are they a road warrior working out of cabs and airports where information and responses are needed immediately? In this case a tablet might be a smart choice.

Smartphones, Tablets or Laptops: Evaluation Criteria #2 – What type of work is done remotely?

Once you have determined the staff working remotely, the next thing is to determine what they do and the environment they are working in. Are they simply answering the phone and responding to emails? Are they using an application which they need to enter and record information? Does the work they do require immediate feedback from any location?

I like to pay attention to the user on this one. Are they doing a lot of data entering (typing or selecting items from a drop down datawindow)? The reason this is important is because from our three device choices, typing is best done from a laptop. But if I’m selecting items from a drop down datawindow, this opens up certain smartphone and tablet options.

Smartphones, Tablets or Laptops: Evaluation Criteria #3 – Where is the work conducted?

Working remotely … it is the “remotely” that means many things to many employees. Is the work environment in a sewer underground doing inspection? Is it on a construction site? Is it in a hotel, car, or coffee shop? Is the employee setting up an electrical tower somewhere in the middle of Utah? Or perhaps the employee is working in a location without cellular connection. (Yes, there are still a few of these locations. I hit a big one driving from Denver CO to Flagstaff AZ.)

Smartphones, Tablets or Laptops: Evaluation Criteria #4 – Are there any physical limitations?

This one seems like a strange one, but it is very real and important. I worked with a company that provided really cool, new smartphones for their techs working on heating units, boilers and pipe lines. The biggest complaint was “MY FINGERS ARE TOO BIG FOR THIS &#&*!@# thing.” Did I mention some of the employees were ex sailors?

In addition, make sure the user can see the screen – is it visible in sunlight? Do they need to type on the device and cannot because of the size of the device? Also keep in mind that the device my need to be ruggedized or have an otter box provided.

Smartphones, Tablets or Laptops: The Summary

One you gather all your criteria, it’s a good idea to have details in a grid – this will give you a picture of employee’s real needs. As a rule of thumb, if a user has to collect and enter a lot of information, a smartphone is not the way to go. Users who mainly respond with short answers like “Yup”, “I approve”, or “No thanks” – a certain smartphone makes a lot of sense. Like the Galaxy S4 which has the larger screen.

Keep in mind sometimes there is a valid case for having any combination of laptop, tablet or smartphone. Of our choices the laptop will always be best for heavy information gathering where a lot of typing is involved and certain smartphones are good for short text and emails.

There are also some best of both worlds hybrid options like the MS Surface Pro or the Lenovo Thinkpad. If you’re still unsure, don’t force your decision. Allow your users to test a few devices and inform you which they like the best and why.

Wondering how to fully manage your devices in an enterprise-sized environment? Read more in Benefits of Implementing an MDM.

CIOs and IT leaders have a tough job. They need to deliver results, hire the right talent, make sure they have the right technology in place, and be relevant to the business. The worst thing in the world is when an IT organization has to use key resources and time to deal with a telecom issue that dramatically impacts their business.

Telecom is not perfect. In fact it can be chaotic. Most IT leaders don’t even like dealing with telecom. Unfortunately telecom problems will happen, issues will arise, and your business will be impacted. There are many things in the back of the IT leader’s mind, but some things are more dramatic than others. Let’s take a look at 5 Telecom Nightmares that Keep IT Leaders Up at Night:

5 Telecom Nightmares that Keep IT Leaders Up at Night – #1: Carrier Service Outages

Outages cause major disruption. It impacts customers, results in lost business and may lead to poor reputation. Service outages also result in critical IT resources spending valuable time trying to resolve these issues. Whether they are handling help desk calls or working with the carriers to get the issue resolved quickly, they are not spending time on more important IT initiatives.

As a preventative measure, it is important to have a disaster recovery plan in place or a backup connection. Make sure to do your due diligence to find the right provider who has a proven track record for uptime and getting issues resolved quickly.

5 Telecom Nightmares that Keep IT Leaders Up at Night – #2: Lost or Stolen Mobile Devices

The growth of mobility has spurred great opportunity for businesses, but it has also created potential nightmares for IT leaders.  Critical customer data or company data can easily be lost if a mobile device is misplaced or stolen. BYOD has created many risks for companies who allow employees to bring their own mobile device (iPads, iPhones, tablets, etc).

Not having the right security policy or mobile device management platform in place creates risks to your organization, and a nightmare for IT leaders.

5 Telecom Nightmares that Keep IT Leaders Up at Night – #3: Fiber or Line Cut

Some things you can control, some things you can’t. When a backhoe goes through your fiber line, the only thing you can do is hope the problem is solved quickly and efficiently with little impact to the business (if that is even possible). Just as a carrier service outage causes a major disruption, so does a fiber line cut. Most companies have a plan in place to deal with this type of situation. Some companies do not, and they pay the price.

5 Telecom Nightmares that Keep IT Leaders Up at Night – #4: Data Security Breach

Imagine this scenario. An employee was let go or leaves your company and in the process takes critical company data with them. Whether an employee steals data, your network is attacked by a virus or malware, or someone hacks into your system – the nightmare is made real for the IT leader. Having a secure network and the right platforms/processes in place to protect your company data will mitigate (not eliminate) the risk of your data being breached.

5 Telecom Nightmares that Keep IT Leaders Up at Night – #5: Carrier Implementation

So you feel good about that three year contract you just signed with your carrier. You have confidence in their ability to deliver and they tell you time and time again everything will be “fine”. Think again.

Now it’s implementation time. You may feel like you did your due diligence in selecting the right carrier and technology, but if you 1) don’t have the right resources and plan in place to manage the implementation process and; 2) have not identified the risks involved in the implementation, you are setting yourself and your company up for failure.

Let’s face it, dealing with carriers is not fun and implementations do go bad. Having the right plan in place, resources who know how to work with carriers, escalate issues, and have the resources needed to solve problems when they arise will help mitigate implementation nightmares.

Preventative Measures and Expert Partners Help IT Leaders Sleep Soundly

The fallout from these types of real-life nightmares result in lost customers, poor reputations, lost revenues, lost confidence, and sometimes… lost jobs.

But having the right disaster recovery plan in place, the right technology to protect and secure data and mobile devices, and a plan to implement carrier services will help mitigate these risks in the future and more importantly – you will get more sleep at night! Not sure where to start with preventative action? No need to procrastinate. Enlist the help of a trusted partner to get you started in the right direction.

Are there any other telecom nightmares that keep you up at night? Comment below.

As an IT leader, do you remember the first time you had that ‘aha’ moment when you realized that you can’t be all things to all stakeholders because of the pesky, immutable Economic Law of limited resources/unlimited opportunity? If you are like other IT leaders, that moment of enlightenment was probably both liberating and frustrating.  The former because it took the pressure off of trying to do too much with limited money, time and talent; the latter because you still knew there were many un-done or un-initiated projects or solutions that could drive your business forward by leveraging technology correctly.

Well the difference between great IT leaders and those locked into spending approximately two thirds of their budgets on operational needs vs. innovation, are those that do something about this Law of Economics vs. simply accepting it.

Another way to approach the challenge is to ask “What is NOT worth the limited resources you have (Time, Money, Talent), but you always assumed it had to be done by your department”?

Telecom.  Even the word implies out-dated and non-strategic, limited ROI, and frustrating. Important, yes. Strategic, no. A wise use of your time, people, and money to manage wireline and mobility? No.

Here are three key reasons Telecom Management should not compete for your valuable time, people, and resources.

Reason #1 Telecom Management is Not Worth Your IT Time: IT is Strategic. Telecom is Tactical

What would you rather have your star IT talent focus on 1) Transformative IT Technology that will grow your business and keep you at the CEO planning table OR 2) Answer help desk calls on why someone’s mobile phone is not pulling email.

Sound familiar? How about this long list of tactical, talent-wasting activities that have a huge opportunity cost for your IT achievements:

  • Meeting with numerous Carriers that waste valuable time selling their brand of Kool Aid
  • Reviewing Wireline and Mobile Telecom bills and contracts
  • Evaluating Mobile Device Management  platforms and how to manage them
  • Staying current on the best DR strategies and solutions
  • Escalating trouble tickets with non-responsive Carriers

The list can go on and on….it’s all tactical Telecom Management, and it’s all preventing you from being efficient and innovative.

Reason #2 Telecom Management is Not Worth Your IT Time:  Expertise is Unlikely; Mediocrity is Best Case

It is no secret that Carriers have reduced investment in customer service to the Mid Market Enterprise.  This trend has required companies to either accept the frustration and inefficiency that it produces, or expect their IT staff to pick up the slack. Do you want your best IT talent (or any valuable FTE role) investing their training and educational time on learning the latest mobility rate plans, or how to mitigate risks in a SIP environment, or even what is the lowest cost/most reliable DR solution deployed by peers in your industry?

Will these tasks transform your business or create innovation relative to your competitors? Of course not. Your staff knows this as well, and that is precisely why they don’t gain this expertise; namely, there is not a strong ROI to them or you, hence Mid-market firms are destined to experience mediocre Telecom Management outcomes at best, and very wasteful and potentially damaging outcomes at worst.

Reason #3 Telecom Management is Not Worth Your IT Time: Money

Let’s face it, at the end of the day all business decisions are about a return on investment.  However pouring money into developing the people, processes and tools to manage world-class Telecom outcomes is not a good use of finite resources nor will it produce innovation or business growth from technology that your Executive peers demand.

Conversely, ignoring one of your largest operating expenses within your IT budget will surely mean substantial money will be left on the table. In fact, most industry experts put the financial costs overruns that occur when mid-market firms try to take on Telecom Management internally at 20 to 30% or more in terms of Total Cost of Telecom. Therefore, accepting the status quo will guarantee one thing: waste.  And that means less money for IT, and less focus from your IT staff.

Telecom Management: Conclusion

Firms have always sought to fill this inevitable gap between what your internal talent can effectively do, and what is desired to run wireline and mobility outcomes well. Usually this results in viewing Telecom Management as catalyst driven and thus contracting with third party experts on an as needed basis such as contract renewals, expense management, consulting etc.  However that still leaves most firms with managing multiple parties to produce the outcomes desired.

The solution is to view Telecom as a process and not an event.  This thinking then frees up firms to gain all the benefits of solving the three areas highlighted here. Seeking fully outsourced Telecom Management by partnering with a firm that invests in the people, process, and tools to run world-class Telecom Departments is the only sure path to an efficient IT staff focused on strategic initiatives, world-class service to your end users, and substantial savings that can be better invested in technology vs. Telecom.

Like what you hear? Contact Renodis today to learn how Turnkey Telecom Management helps businesses manage all Telecom outcomes in a holistic and integrated fashion while allowing valuable IT staff to focus on strategic transformation not operational chaos.