Monday, October 25, 2010

Non-Profit IT Assistance Source - TechSoup Global

This blog is definitely targeted at FOR-profit businesses. However, some of these for-profit small and medium businesses have non-profit customers. Or the owners or executive management sit on the board(s) of local and regional non-profits. Hence, I thought the information below was suitable and timely.

TechSoup Global has served the non-profit, library & non-governmental sectors as one of the most comprehensive technology resources since 1987.

Working with corporate donors, including Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco, & Symantec, TechSoup provides non-profit organizations with the latest professional hardware, software, & services they need & could not otherwise afford.

As of June 2009, TechSoup Global has served more than 101,000 organizations, distributed more than 4.9 million technology donations & enabled nonprofit recipients to save more than $1.4 billion in IT expenses.

TechSoup is the online resource for technology donations, educational content, & community tailored to the needs of non-profits.

Their software & hardware donation programs give non-profit organizations access to more than 400 products provided by generous partners, including Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco, Intuit, & Symantec.

TechSoup also carries donated & discounted products from more than 40 different companies, including popular products such as Norton Antivirus 2010, QuickBooks Premier 2010, Windows 7 & most recently, Office 2010 & Symantec Back Up 2010.

If a non-profit you sit on the board of or are in other ways affiliated with is not already a member of TechSoup, I urge you have them join. Joining TechSoup allows a non-profit to post questions & answers in their Community discussion forums. It is also the 1st step towards requesting product donations. First go to http://home.techsoup.org/pages/EligibilityQuiz.aspx to check for eligibility. If eligible, then the non-profit can follow the online steps to register the organization. Note: Sometimes registration requires a good deal of paperwork.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How Technology Can Improve Profitability and Productivity

More on technology from a CFO or CEO's perspective:

The tail wags the dog when small business (or medium-sized business) owners, CFOs, or managers make decisions about technology that abandon business principles. This article will share ways to avoid common business sense to navigate "techno babble."

Several months ago, I was approached to purchase a voice mail system for my company. The technical reasons were somewhat incomprehensible to me . . . "It would load-share incoming lines . . . we could track long distance call patterns . . . the computer could be programmed to provide messages in four languages . . . & every other firm had one!"

I declined.

That weekend, I was jogging with a company CEO and the subject came up. He said, "We were able to save the $20,000 - $25,000 salary of a receptionist, phone messages could be retrieved 24 hours a day, and we could hear a detailed client message, complete with inflection & emotion." He amortized the system in 12 months.

I bought an upgraded voice mail product the next week.

People need different types of computers to do their jobs. Some need powerful PCs. Some need powerful laptops & some need simple devices running off of a network to word process. The key to a business decision does not lie with hardware or even mega servers but with meeting company needs.

As a business decision maker, you have to replace "I need" with "This is how my purchase will improve productivity & profitability."

Companies must understand that technology is a major tool in staying competitive & squeezing more productivity to increase profits.

Most companies today have a network or are contemplating one. The mistakes I see result in wasting money, under-sizing the network, or being dependent upon a network engineer as the only person to touch the network.

Here are 3 keys to network upgrading or installation:

  1. Go through a design/planning stage. Decide what you want the network to achieve before you get into specifications.
  2. Ask for options if you expect to allow employees to work remotely (i.e., from home or from various destinations when traveling for business) or expand your operation. Also ask for support & training after the installation.
  3. Always, always use an external entity to provide an assessment. Get two or more, if necessary. Why? Sometimes a company's IT arm/department makes decisions based on their own job security and what would be really cool technology to have, instead of what makes the best sense from a company perspective. This is how so many companies end up with shelfware. (Shelfware is technology or hardware purchased but never installed because the business units don't understand the benefits.)
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Sunday, October 10, 2010

To CFOs: More IT Budget Considerations

More on technology and your small business' IT budget.

  • Where is the money allocated to your IT budget going? What kind of technology is available that will allow you to eliminate or significantly reduce your biggest technology cost?
  • Go through a design/planning stage for your information technology (IT) network. Decide what you want the network to achieve. Get with your executive and middle management teams and determine your list of needs and wants. You just may be surprised what's out there. You then want to make sure your technology is aligned with your business objectives.
  • Therefore, do NOT put your IT person in charge of this. Put your CFO in charge. IT directors are focused on what the IT needs of the business are, NOT what the business needs of the IT are. The CFO focuses on the business needs of the IT. When small businesses - actually all businesses - push the decision-making down to the execution level, the strategic component gets removed and a large portion of the software and hardware purchased becomes "shelfware". This means it sits on the shelf and is N
  • Moving operations? If you are moving soon, that is an optimal time to review your IT operations and your IT budget. Why carry around obsolete equipment you don't need? Why move a network that you've had to continually patch to make work. Consider remote hosting or other similar options.
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Monday, October 4, 2010

A Time Out from Finance

I do consistently find myself in awe of technology. Through technology, we have turned the oven into the microwave, the telephone into the fax & cell phone, & the radio into an I-Pod.

But there just isn't a good substitute for plain old communication. People like to feel needed. They like to know their opinions are valued. It makes them feel like their contributions are worthy. And there is no better place for communicating a person's worthiness than the work place.

In one company I was with I took the employees to lunch in small groups. I sat in front of a spreadsheet & checkbook (I was the CFO) most of the day so it was important for me to make real contact with our staff. I wanted to pick their brains, hear their opinions, and get their thoughts first hand. I didn't want them to know me only by the signature on their pay-checks. And since I was also in charge of strategy, my belief is you sometimes get the best input from going straight to the source. (Something I learned early on in my initial career as engineer.)

They made excellent suggestions I wouldn't have thought interested them like MORE meetings! What?! Who would have thought employees would want more meetings?! But they did & their reasoning was not unfounded: they thought meeting as a team a couple of times a month would facilitate communication. This was that company's year to streamline communication so I was on board with communication facilitation and was thrilled the staff was too!

So, yes, we could all log into a video conference call & chat remotely from our homes, but it wouldn't come close to the face to face interaction. Human contact & interaction builds relationships & strengthens the team.

I'm a numbers person. But I'm also responsible for strategy. If I create great strategy & don't get the team's buy-in, I'm proving I'm smart but highly ineffective. I need to consider other's ideas and incorporate them into that strategy. Sometimes as a member of the executive management team, it's hard for people to come to see me so I go to them. As a business owner, the same applies to you.

It's important that I keep my pulse on what's happening with the staff members, get crucial feedback & input from them, & use it to make the technology induced workplace a successful people place too.

Until next time . . .
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