Business as Unusual in the MOST Unusual of Times

Disruption” is not always about a new competitor entering the market, or a different business model eroding the legacy revenue base of established business. It can mean world stopping events.

COVID19 has created the most unusual and difficult business environment we have seen in our lifetimes. With government directives to minimise contact through social distancing and work from home, the day-to-day of managing your dispersed workforce and continuing to interact with customers has become the new challenge.

How do you achieve the primary goals of Serving Your Customers and Being Profitable?

The businesses that will survive or potentially succeed in these times are those that can pivot their systems and process to the new norm; whilst keeping remote staff productive, connected and engaged with their organisation and customers; whilst also ensuring business information security and data loss prevention.

At Pivotal Business Systems we understand the requirements of business continuity and change management. When it comes to a changing environment our understanding of products and process design capabilities ensures your business remains productive and secure through this changing landscape. We can help you empower your workforce and provide the tools specifically designed for collaboration to meet every employees’ unique and specific needs (workstyles).

Have you considered these important business issues for work-from-home staff:

  • Are the resources they are using as good as they had at the office for:
    • PC processing speed and reliability?
    • Does it link them back into the corporate environment securely and with no productivity loss?
    • Corporate security against data loss prevention and cyber-attack?
    • Is printing, scanning copying and/or faxing as productive as they had in the office?
    • Supported through help desk and if required on-site?
    • Are those costs able to be controlled and managed to provide a strong ROI?
  • Does your current information systems provide:
    • Access to files anywhere?
    • Share and collaborate on information locally and remotely?
    • Enable the allocation of tasks and visibility to progress?
    • Digital forms for clients?
  • If the new norm for communication is not face-to-face but personal phone and/or web conferencing:
    • Does the current office phone system auto route to their personal phones at home for a seamless customer experience?
    • Is the audio and video of a standard that presents your company well?
    • Is it secure, especially for video conferencing?
    • Do your staff see video conferencing as a big thing only for big meetings or as a way to collaborate and stay connected to fellow workers and customers as easily as walking to a colleague’s desk or visiting a client for a quick interaction?
    • Is it compatible with your clients preferred conferencing system i.e Skype, Skype for Business, Zoom, Cisco, Polycom, Microsoft Teams, WebRTC, etc, etc, etc, etc
    • Can it be accessed through a simple web browser for an easy to join meeting?
    • Does you video conferencing system have local PoP (Point of Presence) and support and is it compliant with Australian Data Loss Prevention legislation?

Features and benefits for the customer

  • Full support package for remote customer
  • No touch delivery and setup?
  • Pay as you go plan

 

So where to from here. With COVID19 there are a lot of questions still to be answered or to get an answer for. For all the answers for the issues we have raised above call Pivotal Business Systems.

 

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Digital Transformation – It’s An Education in Change Management

Education has moved a long way from desks in rows and chalk on the blackboard. Digital technology and its ability to provide access to information has transformed the way students encounter the learning experience. Couple this with a digitally connected society being their norm then their expectations for their education is to not be constrained by limits.  This has required educators to expand their key tasks to include:

  • developing activity based and immersive learning strategies that are technology centric
  • providing student technology resources or managing BYOD
  • providing enabled environments in connected classrooms or via distance education
  • maintaining an open yet secure digital communication network between student, teachers and parents
  • protecting student information by managing the governance and compliance requirements around data security
  • simplifying the integration of paper and digital documentation into a central digital library
  • develop technology driven workflows to improve employee productivity and mobility

Underlining this is the ever present requirement to deliver within budget on finite capital expenditure.

At Pivotal Group, we work with principals and school IT managers to identify their technology needs both from a teacher, student, administration and management perspective. This includes asset deployment, workflow and document management solutions and providing ongoing support all under one simple monthly managed services cost. This frees up capital, allowing for investment in higher return on equity resources.

A recent example is a Port region school that had seen immense change in their requirements:

  • document printing requirements had changed to where there were declining volumes resulting in an excess of equipment incurring unnecessary ongoing costs
  • for the printing still being done there was no cost recovery, especially from mobile and iOS devices
  • there was a desire to commence providing students with IT resources encompassing:
    • developing an iOS (Apple) device strategy through consultation with Apple certified consultants
    • a ratio of 2:1 students per devise in phase one (over 500 devices)
    • move to a ratio of 1:1 in phase 2 as rapidly as funding became available
    • due to the speed of technology changes alleviate the concern of owning potentially redundant technology via a hand back solution within a specified time period
  • due to the expansion of IT technology within the school how could they minimise additional IT head count whilst also freeing up key IT staff to work on future IT planning
  • capital was restricted due to the schools rapid expansion which limited the opportunity to execute the IT strategy within appropriate time frames

Through a consultative process the Pivotal Group were able to assist the school in achieving all of these objectives:

  • The print fleet was refreshed with a 20% reduction in devices
  • After consultation with our Apple Certified Consultant
    • the school deployed over 500 iPads to students at the commencement of the 2018 school year
    • the iPads provided access to the schools learning systems, integrated print with full functionality for teachers and students and full cost recovery
    • the iPads are managed under with a 3 year hand back agreement to keep student up to date with the latest technology, whatever that may look like in the future
  • Pivotal Group has been engaged as the school’s IT Solutions consultant to assist in the design and implementation of key projects. This involves evaluation of a requested project’s scope of works, determining the best available solution to achieve defined objectives and, if required, deploy the solutions with or without managed support. Future projects include:
    • an integrated wireless system including policy compliance controls to cover devices whether they are on or off campus as well as system implementation
    • proactive server upgrades as they approach their optimal performance capacity
  • the total solution covering print devices, iPad acquisition and deployment as well as the consulting services were provided as a singular Managed Services Agreement. This has prevented capital expenditure from being withdrawn from other more critical projects that provided a better ROI but also prevented delaying the essential IT Plan. It has also reduced multiple suppliers down a singular manageable contract and invoice

So whether you need to simply refresh obsolete Print or IT hardware, require some technology guidance or remove significant IT related costs (or need anything in between) Pivotal Group can help you leverage the Digital Disruption wave and allow you to focus on more important things such as improving student outcomes.

The Pivotal Group

The Pivotal Group has over 40 years experience in servicing the technology needs of businesses in the Newcastle, Central Coast, Hunter, New England and Port Macquarie regions of NSW.  Our expertise covers Managed Print Services, Business Process Design, IT Technology supply and support, Collaborative Conferencing and Digital POS Systems.

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Digital Transformation – Engineered for Success

Engineering and manufacturing are industries that have been on one of the longest journeys with digital transformation and it shows no sign of reaching an end point. The journey commenced in the 1960’s with the advent of CAD software and the IBM Drafting System. Initially it was the privilege of large corporations in the automotive, aerospace and electronics industries due to the cost of the computers capable of performing the calculations. The rapid increase in computing capabilities along with the decrease in its costs (Moore’s Law) has enabled CAD and other systems to become the norm for the masses and transform the speed and expectation for design and manufacturing:

  • CAD has moved from simple 2D to 3D, 3D Solid Modelling and to 4D BIM
  • The technical requirements have moved from being exclusive to specific platforms and suppliers to being available on multiple non-exclusive platforms like Windows, Linux, UNIX and Mac OS X
  • Whilst computing platforms and hardware are no longer exclusive there is a substantial requirement for computing power to perform graphically and computationally intensive tasks. High speed CPUs, graphics cards and large RAM are minimum requirements
  • It is also moving from a substantial singular purchase to being Software as a Service (SaaS) as well as moving from residing on local technology to Cloud based
  • Due to the transferability of information an increased requirement to protect information and specifically intellectual property

Whilst these developments provide substantial opportunity they have also increased in their complexity as they are now required to feed data into new systems and processes such as:

  • 3D print devices to provide rapid prototyping and manufacturing
  • Moving from just a bill of materials to process integrating into just in time automated manufacturing systems
  • Collabotative design as projects increase in size and customers look to source not only locally but for the latest innovations in the individual elements of their projects requirements, wherever they may be in the world
  • Multifaceted project management requiring the linking of all engineering, manufacturing and project management systems to ensure optimal documentation/version controlling in real time to minimize production wastage

Add to all this the inevitable cash flow issues around progressive project payment based on key timelines and milestones and your technology planning and implementation can’t be left to chance with only a break/fix outcome, it needs to be engineered for success.

At Pivotal Group, we work with engineering and manufacturing companies to ensure their technology infrastructure matches not only their day-to-day requirements but is also supported by a future technology roadmap for proactive change.

A recent example is a Hunter region engineering firm that were already a customer of Pivotal for managed print services but not yet IT Services. They raised a number of issues that were concerning for them about their IT Services supplier:

  • Services were being provided only with a break/fix mentality. A resulting problem is that there was knee jerk quoting to resolve technology problems which was not achieving optimal cost control
  • All IT issues had to be routed through a single internal staff member to the supplier. With 25 staff this created inappropriate delays and work load
  • Key technology had no plan for proactive upgrading
  • Due to the nature of some projects there were requirements to move key technologies to the Cloud
  • A lack of account management with only reactive contact resulting in a belief they were not getting what they were paying for

 

As a result of this Pivotal Group undertook discussions with key stakeholders. Our aim was:

  • to understand the direction their industry is heading and the key objectives within their business plan
  • to understand the key processes within the business and what best practice would look like. This may bear little relationship to how things are currently being done. The objective was to identify the gap between current and the required future state
  • to understand the implication of capital expenditure within the core business objectives

We then gained approval to conduct our Network Discovery Audit to determine the current state of the IT infrastructure and its ability to support both the current and future state. The audit determined that:

  • key IT infrastructure items were at their performance limit increasing the potential for system failure
  • there were scheduled back-ups that were not successfully completed to an appropriate standard increasing the risk and cost of having to reconstruct lost work resulting from a system failure
  • a number of redundant servers were identified that had not been decommissioned to save on support and licensing costs
  • due to poor password policies the business was vulnerable to data breaches
  • core computers and infrastructure were dated and thus providing a lower performance level than required to meet core business objectives around on time project delivery
  • the business had limited mobility caused by aging technology that would not cope with providing current services and workflows via the Cloud
  • there was no future plan in place to update aging technology
  • it was confirmed that the current provider’s costs was not in balance to the services being provided

After discussions of the findings of the Network Discovery Audit Pivotal Group was appointed as their Technology Partner. A collaborative IT Strategy Plan was completed covering short and long term requirements:

  • Short Term
    • Redundant servers were decommissioned
    • New servers were deployed to replace any aging servers to ensure system performance to agree standards
    • Internet capability was upgraded to meet the agreed service delivery levels
    • Help Desk support was revised to allow direct contact by users to alleviate bottlenecks and reduce resolution time
    • The Managed Print Services contract was reconfigured to include the Managed IT Services agreement resulting into a single plan and invoice
    • These initiative resulted in a 50% reduction vs total previous monthly costs with no capital outlay for all hardware provided
  • Long Term
    • Phase 1 – upgrade of staff resources and key infrastructure
    • Phase 2 – development of key business process improvements utilizing technology to improve the business’s mobility, efficiency and security
    • Implementing a regular technology meeting to review current system performance and proactive identification of issues, action plans and review strategic plan implementation

 

So whether you need to simply refresh obsolete Print or IT hardware, require some technology guidance or remove significant IT related costs (or need anything in between) Pivotal Group can help you leverage the Digital Disruption wave and allow you to focus on more important things such as growing your business.

The Pivotal Group

The Pivotal Group has over 40 years experience in servicing the technology needs of businesses in the Newcastle, Central Coast, Hunter, New England and Port Macquarie regions of NSW.  Our expertise covers Managed Print Services, Business Process Design, IT Technology supply and support, Collaborative Conferencing and Digital POS Systems.

 

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Simplifying Accounting’s Digital Transformation

Digital disruption is occurring and no more than in Accounting. Firstly, there is the competitive expansion of self-accounting software such as MYOB, Intuit QuickBooks, Xero, Reckon One and Saasu. Secondly, many of these products are moving into the Cloud and providing Software as a Service. Thirdly, clients requiring your services expect that you can integrate with these software systems that now live in the Cloud. All this at a time when the government has legislated the requirement to provide even greater protection of security for the client data you hold. With this advancing IT technology it can become far too easy for key staff to be tied to infrastructure, managing and resolving IT issues instead of working billable hours with clients.

So where does this leave your accounting firm; with the need to offer customers a level of knowledge, service and visibility that goes beyond “as a Service”. Accounting firms can no longer be weighed down by aging technology and processes. They need to provide their services in a more mobile way, when and wherever the customer requires, whilst coupled with the highest levels of security.

 

A Defined Process for Progress

At the Pivotal Group, we help our customers to improve workflow, document management and the IT infrastructure to support it.

Our first aim is to understand the key objective within your business and the direction your industry is heading.

Secondly we work to understand the key processes within your business and what best practice would look like. This may bear little relationship to how you are currently doing things. The objective is to identify the gap between current and the required future state to achieve your business objectives.

Thirdly our Technology Audit determines the current state of the IT infrastructure and its ability to support both the current and future state.

We recently worked with a Hunter region accounting firm who was needing to change their approach in order to stay competitive but to also become a leader in their field. Whilst they had a clear vision of what technology could do to develop the business they needed an IT provider who would share that vision and meet a series of key requirements which were:

  • to have 100% mobility with all job tasks being achievable both on and off site
  • to have the highest level of security and reporting from end to end and tools to assist in detecting if a notifiable data breach occurs
  • to provide all this through MYOB AccountRight software and any applicable MYOB apps
  • to have 100% backup of data to ensure no lost hours in reconstructing lost data (non-billable hours) if an issue did occurred
  • to maximise staff billable hours by reducing IT issues and providing easily accessible IT Help desk support
  • to find a proactive supplier that not only operates the IT system efficiently and reliably but who is also providing input on future IT technology trends and the opportunities they may provide
  • to control costs as they were currently weighed down by aging technology that could require a large capital outlay to achieve the objectives

 

A Pivotal Group Network Discovery Audit resulted in a Technology Report and Plan that set a course of action, through Partnership. The audit developed a report of the firm’s current state and recommendations to move towards the desired future state. The key findings were that:

  • key system servers were at capacity and of an age that resulted in poor network performance and a probability of system failure
  • the current operating systems would not cope with the 100% Cloud based requirement

As a result of these key issues a new IT Technology Plan was developed with key actions to:

  • move to Microsoft 365 to provide better interaction between staff when on-site with clients
  • migrate all current accounting systems to Cloud versions
  • implement Sophos as a Service for End Point security protection of data
  • upgrade current dated IT infrastructure to cope with increased performance requirements and eliminate system failure points
  • implement through ‘Technology as a Service’ using Pivotal Group’s Managed Service Plan. This would protect capital for the firm’s planned expansion and provide a more managed monthly cash flow with the flexibility to expand the system in the future

 

The Pivotal Group

The Pivotal Group has over 40 years experience in servicing the technology needs of businesses in the Newcastle, Central Coast, Hunter, New England and Port Macquarie regions of NSW.  Our expertise covers Managed Print Services, Business Process Design, IT Technology supply and support, Collaborative Conferencing and Digital POS Systems.

 

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Digital Transformation – Changing the Real Estate Go-To-Market

Whilst Real Estate has always had its market ups and downs the change through digital transformation has created new ways to connect vendors and purchasers to drive sales opportunities.  The marketing has changed from newspapers to online with realestate.com and domain.com and from only face to face to include social media. With this has come a much greater reliance on IT technology which has moved from being a back office function to front and center of an agencies priorities and focus as an inadequate system can negatively impact sales. Combine with this the added government requirements for the protection of confidential customer data and a strong and secure IT infrastructure becomes a necessity.

In parallel with this is the changing requirements in print marketing. The total marketing concept is a large part of gaining listings and it is critical to deliver quality material whilst complying with the corporate brand guidelines you have developed or are set by your franchise. A few quick copies as open house handouts won’t necessarily cut it with potential purchasers.

Underlining this is the ever present requirement to control capital expenditure to assist in better managing the cash flow roller coaster.

At Pivotal Group, we work with agency principals to ensure their IT infrastructure and digital document management systems are able to cope with these new requirements whilst ensuring security compliance and providing ongoing support all under one simple monthly managed services cost. This frees up capital, allowing for investment in higher return on equity resources.

A recent example is a Hunter region agency that we a current customer for our print devices but not for It Services. They raised a number of concerns regarding their current provider which included:

  • A lack of clarity around what they were receiving for their current monthly fee
  • Lack of account management with no proactive plan, only reactive break/fix
  • Items that were part of the fee for service not being delivered
  • A lot of “Work” on site which did not seem to be improving system reliability

Through a consultative process the Pivotal Group were able to conduct an It Technology Audit to determine the current state of the system. This uncovered:

  • High levels of security risk including
    • Passwords set to never expire
    • Weak password strength
    • Missing security patches on devices
    • 17 old user accounts still active after previous staff had left the business
    • Account lockout disabled
  • Poor resource management
    • 8 inactive computer still on the network
    • 17 devices out of support
    • 2 devices running at maximum capacity and likely to fail as a result
    • Average device age was 29 months but oldest was 62 month old and provide poor performance
  • Poor account management
    • No regular scheduled review or reporting on system performance
    • No long term documented plan or budget to keep up with or take advantage of technology changes or control expenditure
    • A large amount of staff time was involved in level 1 support

From this audit Pivotal Group was appointed to manage not only print but also their IT infrastructure. This enabled a single service agreement covering all technology. From the audit a plan was developed and implemented to:

  • Decommission the redundant computers
  • Implement a documented security policy to set minimum standards for network passwords
  • All server and computer security patches were updated to latest versions to minimize the potential for virus and cyber attacks
  • Key technology items were updated to improve network performance and a device life cycle plan put in place to proactively manage device performance/age and required expenditure
  • Completed a Future Infrastructure Plan to provide a proactive approach to technology and ensure the business was able to maximise system performance which controlling costs and capital expenditure

So whether you need to simply refresh obsolete Print or IT hardware, require some technology guidance or remove significant IT related costs (or need anything in between) Pivotal Group can help you leverage the Digital Disruption wave and allow you to focus on more important things such as improving student outcomes.

The Pivotal Group

The Pivotal Group has over 40 years experience in servicing the technology needs of businesses in the Newcastle, Central Coast, Hunter, New England and Port Macquarie regions of NSW.  Our expertise covers Managed Print Services, Business Process Design, IT Technology supply and support, Collaborative Conferencing and Digital POS Systems.

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Simplifying Aged and Healthcare Digital Transformation

Aged and Healthcare are two of the fastest growing industries in Australia but also the most complex in regards to documentation and compliance to legislation. There is a myriad of document requirements, all of which can dominate valuable staff time but also become costly consumers of your business’s capital. While the aged and healthcare industries have moved strongly towards electronic storage, printing remains a requirement. Those documents can include:

  • Aged Care facility contracts
  • Patient admission documents including government records and support applications
  • Medication records and medical instructions
  • Medication dispensing approval forms and records
  • Incident/accident reporting
  • Pension documentation and authorisations

All of these have a front and back end process that can also create unnecessary and expensive paper duplication and/or time consuming staff delays in retrieval. Whilst governments are working towards digital health records systems and better methods for interacting with authorities, they ALSO still require original paper archiving of key documentation and have introduced the Mandatory Data Breach Notification Laws which apply to all health care providers.

This complexity of documentation and internal/external interconnection has also required stronger IT networks to enable rapid interfacing between government authorities, medical specialists and facilities as well as staff, patients, and relatives with many of these interfaces becoming Cloud based.

At Pivotal Group we have worked with Aged Care and Healthcare providers to minimize this complexity whilst reducing capital outlay.

A MULTI FOCUS

Process

Here at the Pivotal Group, we help our customers design and deploy processes to improve workflow and document management. Our first aim is to understand the key processes within your business by understanding the key tasks and what best practice would look like. This may bear little relationship to how you are currently doing things as the objective is to determine the gap between current and future state. The discovery process also encompasses business, group and individual document management requirements.

We have worked with a number of service provider organisations to improve the way in which essential documentation such as accident reporting is managed. We regularly hear the “hard copy nightmare” stories where an incident required paperwork that was not easily accessible from an incident location, was out of date, once completed required multiple duplication and urgent distribution and finally adequately filed for future access and archived to comply with the prescribed regulation timeframe.

Our process redesign allowed for staff to access version controlled documentation, both in hardcopy or digitally on smart devices, complete and store in hard and/or digital copy and then distribute digitally for instantaneous availability in the workflow. This is a valuable capability where there is a large department or multiple sites. This also creates an instant archive that is automated for compliance with legislative timeframes whilst still providing instant digital retrieval if required.

These systems allow flexibility and can be developed to cover other processes such as:

  • Medication management. Imagine a system that allows you to not only store the medication instructions for a patient but can also alert you when the script is due to expire so another can be proactively requested
  • Automate processes that require authorisation such as accounts payable

Through a staff authorisation system on the digital multifunction devices, using either a pin code or access cards, data is protected to minimize the possibility of the right document getting into the wrong hands.

Technology

Our second aim is to understand the current state of your IT infrastructure and its ability to meet the demands of both your current and future requirements. Pivotal’s Strategic & Operational Technology Audit will identify the current state and the areas where you are vulnerable. In recent technology audits for prospective customers we were able to identify a large variety of issues such as:

  • Missing security patches leaving vulnerability to virus attack and data loss
  • Multiple devices with expired support licenses even though this was still a part of their current supplier IT support agreement to maintain
  • Poor password strength and also set to never expire
  • Multiple active users with no log in for last 30 days (staff who have left the business who still have access into the network)
  • Multiple inactive devices that could have been redeployed
  • Multiple resources running at maximum capacity and likely to have critical failure
  • Failed or inadequate backup for disaster recover (refer previous disaster waiting to happen)
  • Account lockouts disabled

Many of the items listed are the key entry points for data loss which, with the new government legislation, can result in fines into the $100s of thousands.

The most consistent item we see is not having a documented Long Term IT Plan sitting parallel to the core business objectives. In many instances this is the result of limited IT resources having only enough time for a Break – Fix strategy. This keeps things operational but ultimately becomes capital intense as system failures limit time for cost effective purchasing.

A Pivotal Group Network Discovery Audit results in a Technology Report and Plan that sets a course of action, through Partnership.

Through the audit we develop a report of your current state and develop a recommendation of actions to:

  • Provide immediate cost affective resolution to security and technology failure vulnerabilities
  • Define a plan of action to cost effectively narrow the gap between current and desired technology efficiency. These can include
    1. Decommissioning of redundant devices and license fees
    2. Upgrading of key hardware to prevent fail/fix and optimize network performance and maximise staff productivity
    3. Upgrade key infrastructure items such as NBN connectivity to maximise network performance and maximise staff productivity
    4. Deploy key business process improvements utilizing technology to bring efficiency, security and mobility with alignment to the Business Plan
  • Outline key emerging trends that will impact the business in the future
  • Present the Technology plan based on 6 Key Pillars:
    1. Proactive Management
    2. Current Technology
    3. Standards
    4. System Documents
    5. Monitoring and Remediation
    6. Security

 

The Protection of Capital

A key issue we determine as part of our audit is the amount of capital expenditure that is invested into IT and associated technology. Within aged and healthcare a new building that increases capacity to generate income for decades provides a far better return on equity than back end administrative technology that. Even though it is essential to keeping the business running, IT technology generates no income and is quickly out of date due to the speed of technological change.

At the Pivotal Group we aim to free up capital through the providing of technology as a service rather than consuming capital.

 

The Pivotal Group

The Pivotal Group has over 40 years experience in servicing the technology needs of businesses in the Newcastle, Central Coast, Hunter, New England and Port Macquarie regions of NSW.  Our expertise covers Managed Print Services, Business Process Design, IT Technology supply and support, Collaborative Conferencing and Digital POS Systems.

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