Five work from home tips from people who are acing it.

Working fulltime from home is a whole new ball game. We’ve got advice from our people and clients who have been working remotely. These five tips will help you get ready with the right technology, processes and office culture.

This year, most office workers will have to work from home. If you haven’t worked remotely before, it will be an adjustment (and test of your motivation). But, the learning curve doesn’t have to be steep. There are plenty of steps that you can take to ease into working from home. After speaking with our remote people and clients, we compiled advice about the right technology, processes and office culture ideas to ace every day.

1- Look beyond technology

While setting yourself and your co-workers up with access to the right technology is important, we discovered that individual mindset is equally as important. Bonner, from Bremmar, says, “When I first started working from home, I was really struggling until I read that normal routine is important. You need to treat it like a normal day. Which means getting out of your PJs and just doing your normal schedule. It really helps”.

Pro tip: If you have a uniform you might like to wear that (ok you might just put the top on!).  Clients and colleagues can video call you at any time and looking at yourself looking nice in the webcam, also makes you feel good,

If you want to be productive, treat each day as a typical office day. Your usual routine will help you trigger the mental association you usually make with the office. Once you’re in work mode, you’ll be a more effective communicator with your team and more able to use the tools provided to deliver quality work.

2- Choose the right communication tool

At Bremmar, we’ve been using Microsoft Teams in the office and for our remote staff. We couldn’t work without it. While each business will need a different tool to solve unique challenges, communication tools should ensure your team can chat, call, meet or collaborate from anywhere.

Jess, our client from Acacia Living Group, said “the thing I miss most about the office is being able to quickly communicate with colleagues. I sit half a meter from my colleague in the office. I can ask for her opinion and solve problems quickly. Not having her right there has been hard and I feel like I’m less available, too”. In an office environment, it’s easy to rely on a face-to-face communication system but you don’t have that luxury when you go remote.

Over many years of helping businesses, we’ve learnt that when systems work, the team works. A communication tool such as Teams, Slack, Facetime, Google Hangout or Zoom will help your people communicate on most devices, anytime and anywhere they like. With a more connected system, working relationships can be more effective and people will be more productive. It’s a win-win.

Pro tip: If you would like to take the next step, a cloud document management solution is also key. At Bremmar, we use SharePoint and our entire team has access to all files from any device and have access to cool features, such as working on the same document at the same time, being able to access versioning control, etc.

3- Get the right hardware and software

Making sure you can access all information securely and easily will help you work effectively. “I love my second screen. When I first started working from home, I worked four days without it and it was tough. Plus, Bremmar has just set up a new Hosted Citrix System which has been great. I had to work in our old system for six days and I was tearing my hair out. It’s been really helpful” said Jess.

You’re likely to experience some delays as you get used to working from home. It’s essential to spend time setting up properly because it will pay productivity dividends in the long run. For employers, a cloud system is a great option. It gives all staff remote access to their desktop anywhere in the world while offering the highest levels of protection for your business. Remember, if your team can’t access the right information, they can’t work.

Pro-tip: We have put together a list of basic remote working and collaboration packages we recommend – check it out here!

Hardware is just as important. The main items are comfy chair (a must!), an extra monitor to your laptop, headsets, a proper mouse and a keyboard if working from a small laptop.

5- Be patient and proactive

When asked about remote collaboration, Sam from Bremmar said “we are collaborating well but the work doesn’t flow as quickly because you have to make a call, send a message or email – and then wait for a response. But we are adapting”. Working from afar on the same projects can be hard. People can be left out of the loop, miss important information or not know when team members are taking lunch or on another call. This can quickly cause frustration and dissatisfaction about work and each other.

The Bremmar team is starting to implement simple solutions that work. “We’re trying to have more online video meetings, which helps. We’re also training ourselves to connect. Everyone needs to remember to check in with each other, especially when people are working in a team or there’s overlap on a task” said Sam. Bonner reinforces that visibility to colleagues’ schedule is key, “what’s been really good is that we have the policy to let line managers know when we’re having lunch by logging on or off Microsoft Teams. It means the person who is taking a break can enjoy it and other team members know why they’re unavailable”.

Each team has its own challenges. However, a quick morning W.I.P. (work in progress) meeting, a daily sign-off meeting or a virtual lunch hour together can help your teamwork cohesively and share the workload. Try to use video calls instead of phone calls. It helps everyone to connect properly, openly share tensions, and solve problems quickly.

6- Don’t forget culture

Sam is an advocate of remote team-building initiatives. “I love the idea of remote video happy hour! Quarantini, anyone?

I don’t want to lose touch with the people who are in our business. When you’re working remotely it’s so easy to just see people as the role they perform, instead of who they are” said Sam. A strong team culture will ensure your team can work together cohesively from all corners of the world. Plus, culture helps people understand where their job fits in larger company picture, which supports individual purpose and accountability. It fosters open communication and social chatter, both are important for employee and business well-being.

Pro-tip: Bremmar keeps having its Friday after-work drinks. We send a Teams invite to all staff, at 5pm everyone connects, and we have a beer and a laugh together! Partners and kids are also invited, and we plan some activities. Last week we celebrated Harmony Week by wearing something from the country staff are from, like a t-shirt or a hat. It was a complete success!

Want to build culture? Here’s some advice from our remote staff and clients.

“Just keep in touch. For employees and employers, it’s all about open communication” – Sam

“Trust that your employees are going to be working. If the work is getting done even if it’s from the couch, provided it’s safe, it shouldn’t really matter” – Bonner

“Do a test day if you can. See how the systems and communication channels will cope. Getting everyone set-up properly will really help them to connect” – Jess.

We’re here to help!

We’re here to help your business thrive in 2020. We’re experts in remote working initiatives and digital collaboration processes. We can help you and your team enable critical applications in the cloud which is critical to get you ready for remote working.

If you need any assistance with IT to enhance your business continuity planning, do not hesitate to contact us on 1300 991 351 or email help@bremmar.com.au

Remote working productivity technology

What are digital workplaces and what does it mean for your business

What is a digital workplace? 

 

A digital workplace is a digital company infrastructure designed to “Increase employee engagement, skills, and satisfaction by helping your employees connect swiftly with customers, co-workers, and partners,” as Microsoft puts it

You can think of it as a key component of the modern workplace

This is a series of interconnected components that are specifically designed to reduce the time spent taking performing typical business and communication tasks, like learning whether someone is in the office today, waiting to see if a client has read an email, pulling together disparate onboarding resources, and trying to remember information from a meeting for later use. 

It’s about using digital components to streamline internal and externally-facing business operations, and using the insights gathered to hone these systems further and enhance operations. 

A digital workplace is people-centric, designed to accommodate users’ digital expectations they’ve grown accustomed to in their personal lives. 

As Gartner’s The Recipe for a Digital Workplace explains, “A digital workplace enables new, more effective ways of working; raises employee engagement and agility; and exploits consumer-oriented styles and technologies. It is based on the assumption that engaged employees are more willing to change roles and responsibilities and embrace new technology, enabling organizations to capitalize on the creativity of their workforce and deliver better business outcomes.” 

Components of a digital workplace 

Cloud-based services 

While typically, technology infrastructure has been hosted on-site, the shift towards cloud-based infrastructure is now in high gear. Traditional software and systems infrastructure providers are now spending more of their efforts in developing their cloud service offerings, with on-premise solutions now taking a back seat. 

What this means for businesses is that access to everything needed for employees to work effectively is available anywhere, anytime, often from any device. For example, instead of running around a building trying to find a meeting room, employees can pull up the building schematics on their phone. Or even better, if they’re stuck in wild traffic, they can just pull over and connect to video-conferencing with an apology for not being there in person, but still able to be involved in the meeting. Files can be accessed by people within your organisation or outside your organisation whether they are at their desks or not.  Software can be accessed by the web versions, meaning data is available to you in and out of the office.  

Optimising mobility for your workforce to increase productivity 

According to a Polycom survey, 67% of millennial’s found working remotely increased their productivity. To capture the new workforce, a digital workplace that allows for remote working will help increase workers’ productivity. 

Cloud services are the enabling technology behind the “work anywhere, work anytime” mantra, however you’ll need to work out the details of these arrangements, such as 3-5 core working hours a day, the need to be able to schedule meetings (even if they’re halfway across the world and will need to wake up for it.)  

You’ll need to make sure your digital workplace platform is available across devices, with secure access and compliance baked in. We recommend implementing a cloud document management system, such as SharePoint, as well as adding two-factor authentication to your devices, which means adding an extra layer of security to your accounts.  

“Digitally dexterous” employees to help drive adoption 

Hunting out your “digitally dexterous” employees and empowering them to help drive digital workplace systems adoption should be your first stop before HR training on your new systems. 

These are the people who are always chatting about the latest apps on their phone, life-hacks and setting up their own automation both in the workplace and at home to streamline their work and personal lives. 

Enlist their help for beta-testing systems, then on rollout, you can choose the most influential and extroverted to be your trainers – because your HR team may not be your best bet for training in this domain. Ensure ongoing training of non-tech-first employees to ingrain the best digital practices in the cultural fabric of your workforce. 

Metrics and analytics-based for continuous improvement 

The digital workplace has in-built data collection, analytics, and reporting to help refine your systems as you go along. The metrics that you gather will relate back to key business metrics, such as employee engagement (e.g. number of IMs per week, team board posts), marketing effect (e.g. inbound leads from a campaign, conversions), and resource metrics (e.g. revenue per labour-hour, time spent on similar projects). An interesting tool is the Microsoft MyAnalytics, which is included for all Office 365 Enterprise users or can be purchased as an add-on to your current licence. The tool gives you all the analytics needed to make data-driven decisions about your team’s work (or your own) as it tracks important metrics to help you be more productive, such as time spent on meetings, focus time, hours spent on emails, etc. 

Benchmarking before you implement a digital workplace is a particularly useful activity, too – if you are able to gather that sort of information with your current systems.   

How to build a digital workplace / digital workspace capabilities 

Gartner outlines the ideal building blocks for a successful digital workplace implementation

  1. Vision 
  1. Strategy 
  1. Employee Engagement 
  1. Organisational Change 
  1. Processes 
  1. Information 
  1. Metrics 
  1. Technology 

We highly recommend reading the report above for an overview of these key activities. As you can see, the technology that your digital workplace is built on is the final piece of the puzzle, not something added along the way without careful vision, assessment, and planning in place first

The benefits of implementing a digital workplace 

Planning and implementing a digital workplace now ensures that you’re ready for the future of work. It ensures you’re keeping up with the digital leaders in the engineering industry in terms of being an attractive workplace for talent. It increases productivity, accurate business objectives measurement, and relieves current communication and collaboration bottlenecks. 

If you’re ready to start your journey towards the holistic digital workplace, then get in touch with us at Bremmar. We can help collaboratively develop your digital workplace strategy and work out the best system implementation for your company, providing training and assistance along the way. Partner with us for the competitive edge. 

Get an initial consultation with Bremmar!

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How to Think Like a Digital Leader

“The ability to successfully engage with disruption can be the difference between thriving and sliding down the performance curve.” David Mitchell Smith, Vice President and Gartner Fellow (source)

Want to be a leader in your industry? It’s no longer only about innovative product concepts, new service models, or outsourcing departments to concentrate on core business, you need to think like a digital leader, too.

What is a digital leader?

A digital leader is a person who surveys the current digital landscape and thinks about how new digital concepts, technologies, and disruptors could affect and/or enhance (or even pivot) their current business operations and model.

The digital leader is a champion of digital strategies and has the influence and capacity to bring about change within the workplace.

They’re a trend-reader, an innovator, and someone who has the ability to think about the long-range implications of digital initiatives. They evoke confidence and excitement about technology in those around them.

Practical ways to think and act like a digital leader

Evaluate impact

Is this digital trend something shiny and new and fun, or will it actually be practical in helping meet business objectives? If you’re using a technology just because it’s there (for example, AR and VR applications can often be a waste of resources) then you’re looking at the tech wrong. The key here is to evaluate the digital trend according to the impact it will have especially when looking through productivity and efficiency lenses. Don’t forget that negative impact and repercussions should also be carefully considered.

Think like a CEO and don’t get distracted just because something sounds cool and you can see the application in action in your business. Think strategically about whether it will actually be utilised in the long-run and the effects discernible in increasing revenues, productivity, client-onboarding, etc.

Look across the entire scope of technology and its applications

It’s not enough to think within your business lane when it comes to technology. It’s about viewing potential digital disruptors across the following 4 axis:

Business (Market, Development, Pricing, Delivery, etc)

Technology (Invention, Design, Usage, etc.)

Industry (Processes, Standards, Methods, Customers, etc.)

Society (Culture, Habits, Movements, etc.)

(via Gartner source above)

Remember that it’s about a cultural shift within your organisation

Digital strategies and implementations amount to nothing if your staff don’t use them, dislike them, or are confused by them. We’ve written before about employees’ resistance to new technology in the construction industry, and you can expect to be up against resistance among your non-tech-first employees.

Here, you need to think strategically about the messages you send to employees, their training and education, and empowering them with digital solutions, rather than confounding them.

Ideally, you will first use and test the technologies yourself before rolling them out to the rest of the company. Even better, share them with a group of people and get their feedback so you understand the difficulties and pain points encountered during adoption. This way, it will be easier to communicate new technology to the rest of the company and create strategies to properly support your non-tech staff.

Think like a startup

If you were building a similar business from scratch, then what sort of enabling technologies would you use to build it? What would be your Minimum Viable Product? What would be the “nice to have” features?

By thinking about your current company from a ground-up perspective, you’ll get a better insight into where you can take the business now – or do systems overhauls.

Remember to help champion users think beyond the existing business processes and to start from scratch, considering: a) the business needs b) leveraging technology such as automation c) business processes & manual tasks required.

Form working groups of digital leaders within your company

A digital leader leverages company assets to drive digital innovation. And the best assets are your people.

Forming working groups with team digital leaders and developing actionable plans is a way to uncover new strategies and technologies that one person alone cannot dream up.

And more…

For more tips on how to think like a digital leader, we recommend having a read of Think Like Amazon, 50 ½ Ways to Become a Digital Leader by John Rossman.

Characteristics of Digital Leadership

Use this checklist to see whether you’re embodying the spirit of a digital leader:

  • You understand that digital initiatives are about transforming people and ways of working, not tech
  • You realise that digital skills need to be embedded organisation-wide
  • You believe that digital processes and technologies are there to serve and shape business and artistic strategies
  • You provide the mandate and budget for departments to implement their own digital strategies (with guidance provided)
  • You ensure digital projects are benchmarked before they begin, and metrics and analytics used throughout to guide further innovation, engagement, productivity, etc.
  • You’re an expert in convincing stakeholders of the value of digital initiatives, including via proof of concepts.

(via DigiLeaders)

Explore the digital landscape for your organisation

Ready to explore digital innovations that could be a match for your organisation? Bremmar is here to help businesses become digital leaders in their industry. With the right mindset, processes, and practices, you’ll be able to realise the benefits of a digital-first attitude. Contact us on 1300 991 351 or fill in the form below to set up a meeting today!

Get an initial consultation with Bremmar!

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Why Australian Not-For-Profits should partner with an experienced IT provider

Australian not-for-profits operate in an increasingly competitive marketplace with constantly evolving government regulations. In this complex and continuously evolving environment, many NFPs struggle to have the time or resources to focus on some areas that can help achieve long-term success and financial strength.

That’s where technology falls. As IT is not a core for NFPs and there’s the misconception that is too expensive, IT is left on the side as long as it’s doing an OK job. However, NFPs fail to see the opportunities that IT can bring to help effectively deliver on their mission and support their cause.

In the current environment, it’s not an option anymore. The strategic adoption of technology within NFPs is crucial as otherwise, organisations can risk becoming obsolete.

A strong partnership with an experienced IT provider can allow NFPs to focus on their core business, while the IT provider takes care of their technology systems and infrastructure. IT providers can, therefore, play a critical role in improving IT within the NFP sector.

This article introduces the key challenges for NFPs today, along with the ways in which an IT provider can add value to your not-for-profit business.

Key challenges for NFPs

From our experience, there are many similarities with the issues faced by NFPs and how they use technology within their organisation. Most NFPs that have engaged us in the past are trying to solve one or many of the challenges below:

  • NFPs can have limited exposure to IT trends, so don’t know what’s available to them or how to implement them.
  • User adoption and lack of training on new technology results on technology not being explored to their full potential (waste of time and cost investment).
  • Lack of resources – One internal IT person with no extra support. No one to develop IT projects, to cover sick days or to work on IT plans and strategy.
  • Lack of strategy or IT consulting. The NFP doesn’t have IT guidance or direction.
  • Ignoring IT issues and using a Band-Aid ad-hoc approach to infrastructure and systems, which leads to downtime and ends up being highly costly.
  • Difficult or inefficient communication between offices or between remote workers and volunteers.
  • IT security – lack of control and procedures.
  • Systems that don’t integrate – lack of workplace collaboration.
  • The need to have IT assisting with Governance.

How an IT provider can add value to your NFP

1. Ensure compliance with sector regulations

IT compliance is a critical consideration for NFPs. Australian and international laws and standards are constantly changing, and it can be difficult to keep up.  Many organisations are so focused on their core business that compliance is often given a lower priority. But if you experience a data breach or critical information loss, then your organisation is at risk of fines, penalties and reputational damage. If you are an NFP in the aged care, health vertical or any services that handle sensitive personal data, you should ensure that employees are always on the lookout for phishing and social engineering attacks. An experienced IT provider can help you to navigate this maze, building a comprehensive compliance and privacy strategy to protect your organisation.

2. Optimise spending and deliver innovative technology at discounted rates

It’s important to adopt the right technologies to allow your business to grow and your IT provider can help you to develop a comprehensive digital transformation strategy that also leverages your NFP status. This includes securing special rates on hardware, software and services with many vendors offering discounts of up to 90% to NFPs. We often find that NFPs have not yet signed up for access to donated or discounted IT assets due to the difficulty of the signup process or they are simply not aware they exist. Your IT provider can assist you in this process, which is a one-time investment that will benefit your organisation for many years to come.

3. Keep technology up to date

An end-of-life product is one that no longer receives support from the vendor and is at the end of its useful lifespan. EOL products experience more frequent outages and problems that are difficult to resolve, leading to an inefficient and unstable working environment. They can also introduce unnecessary security risks and are more expensive in the long run as they require constant support and fixing. Your IT provider can identify EOL hardware and software and recommend upgrades or alternative solutions to ensure your business can continue to run effectively and productively, with a minimum of downtime.

4. Support for multiple offices, remote workers and volunteers

With employees often spread across disparate locations, it’s essential for modern NFPs to have an efficient network environment and a suite of applications that enable staff to collaborate effectively and access critical files while on the move. Your IT provider can recommend and install the optimum solutions to support multiple offices, remote workers and volunteer staff.

5. Provide training and facilitate awareness and user adoption

It’s important to plan carefully for the sustainable future of any new technology that you deploy and this includes training and ongoing support. A comprehensive employee education strategy is now more relevant than ever, as new technology products evolve rapidly and new systems are adopted. If your employees don’t know how to use your technology then their productivity will suffer, and your business will have wasted valuable time and money.

6. 360-degree IT visibility and strategic planning

Your various IT components should always interconnect seamlessly. If your technology is not integrated and strategically planned, then departments will buy and use different solutions that don’t communicate properly with each other. This impedes collaboration and creates ongoing issues that damage your competitive edge. For example, you wouldn’t want to deploy a new Wi-Fi network and subsequently discover that it doesn’t support your video conferencing system.

7. Deliver a responsive IT support model

NFPs often depend on applications such as CRM or clocking systems that are supported by in-house staff. Typically, these support teams are over-worked and must juggle high-level tasks with basic admin services such as password resets and adding/removing users. Outsourcing these functions to an IT provider allows your employees to focus on more valuable tasks. End users usually experience a marked improvement in customer service once these functions have been outsourced to a responsive IT support provider. NFPs tend to operate in a dynamic environment, with a casual workforce and frequent mergers and acquisitions. Your IT support model must be capable of responding to these changes, without being locked into a static position.

By engaging the right IT provider, you can develop an effective technology strategy that complements your business and meets your budget. To learn more, call Bremmar today on 1300-991-351 or email help@bremmar.com.au

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The importance of strategic IT planning for Not-For-Profit organisations

Strategic IT planning is critical for NFPs. Modern non-profits must increasingly deal with new regulations, government policy changes and rising costs. Competition from nimble start-up charities using disruptive technology and smart social marketing is also growing. The digital era makes it easy for agile new organisations to appear from nowhere, immediately competing for funding and support.

In today’s competitive marketplace, NFPs must rise to the challenge and develop strong strategic IT roadmaps to stay ahead of the field. A good strategic plan establishes priorities, organises stakeholders and builds evaluation systems. This is essential to ensure resources are allocated efficiently and productively. Planning may take weeks or months, depending on the complexity of your organisation.

Be prepared to grow in a planned and integrated way

Technology keeps evolving rapidly and it seems that every day there’s a new techy solution for any sort of problem so before selecting hardware, systems and applications, it’s important to align your use of technology with your mission and goals. You need to decide on the appropriate tools to meet those goals and then help employees and stakeholders adapt to changes brought about by the new technology.

In IT, everything needs to interconnect seamlessly and some people don’t understand the importance of this. If your technology is not integrated and strategically planned, departments will buy and use different solutions that don’t communicate with each other. This impedes collaboration and creates ongoing issues that damage your competitive advantage. For example, you don’t want to install a new Wi-Fi network and then discover it doesn’t support your video conferencing system – It would be a waste of money, time and would most likely lead to staff frustration.

Why strategy? Aren’t plans and goals enough?

  • A strategy is key to remain competitive. Know where you are going, what you are pursuing and how you are getting there with short, long-term and ongoing actions. Through a proper strategy, these actions will be planned carefully and will take into consideration internal and external factors that could impact your organisation.
  • Optimise overall spending as well as not buy or maintain obsolete technology.
  • Give your IT room to grow in a planned and integrated way.
  • Simply said, avoid future chaos and a mess. Departments, offices and people will use and buy different technologies that don’t converse with each other. It’s a ripple effect that will impact your organisation’s collaboration, productivity and the most important, IT and data security.
  • Products are evolving rapidly and new systems being adopted. A strategy is crucial to leverage new or existing systems as user adoption is the main barrier to change.
  • Be prepared for funding or government and/or internal changes.
  • Understand what you have, how it serves the organisation and put all the parts of the puzzle together to know what’s involved in getting your IT where it needs to be.

These are the key steps to developing a strategic IT plan:

  1. Build a team that includes technology and non-technology experts from various parts of your business, making the best use of volunteers and consultants where available.
  2. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your existing technology – does it fulfil your NFP’s goals? To properly prepare for the future, you need to spend time analysing the world outside your business to understand how to remain relevant and ensure you’re prepared to overcome future challenges.
  3. Set clear, specific and prioritised technology goals, aligned with your mission, culture, and budget. The objective is to optimise your IT spending and ensure you don’t purchase or maintain obsolete technology.  Ideally, you should select a core platform (such as an ERP solution) and then ensure everything else interconnects successfully with that platform.
  4. Consider funding plans, grant proposals and budgets, and ensure your plan prepares you for future funding changes. Evaluate different scenarios. When setting your budget, remember that digitising your non-profit and using the right technology will better position you to take advantage of new opportunities.
  5. Discuss the proposed new technology with the team built in step 1 and the effect it will have on employees, directors and funders. You may need to overcome entrenched resistance to change, but this resistance can be eased by showing that your plan allows your technology infrastructure to grow in a controlled and integrated manner.
  6. Plan for the sustainable future of the new technology, including training and ongoing support. Training strategy is more relevant than ever, as products evolve rapidly and new systems are adopted. If your employees don’t know how to use the technology then the project will fail – wasting valuable time and money, as well as the opportunity cost.

Does your NFP need an IT partner that understands the intricacies of the sector and can maximise the technology available to you? Our team of consultants are experts at helping NFP’S and can guide you in developing a strategic IT plan for your organisation.

To learn more visit whttps://bremmar.com.au/non-profit-it-services or contact Bremmar today on 1300 991 351. Alternatively, you can email us at help@bremmar.com.au.

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Top 6 Challenges NFPs face when planning for IT changes and how to overcome them.

For your NFP to prosper in today’s competitive market, it’s essential to continually evolve and improve. Investment in the latest technology is a key component of this process. Technology changes rapidly, and systems that were cutting-edge several years ago may already be obsolete. If your organisation fails to innovate, then you risk being left behind and giving other NFPs an advantage, especially when applying for funds.

Slow systems and out-dated equipment make it difficult to remain competitive, but introducing new technology is also fraught with danger. If things go wrong, the new technology can quickly become an even greater risk to the success of your organisation. Below are the most common challenges that modern businesses face when planning for technological change.

1. Resistance to change

Getting employees and stakeholders to support change is often the biggest challenge. People may be used to working in a certain way and may voice concerns about how the new technology will disrupt them or upset the status quo. This resistance is often due to a limited understanding of the benefits of the new solution.

How to overcome?

We have seen many clients struggle with this issue when introducing a new technology, so as part of our projects we now recommend that our clients choose a few technology ambassadors to take on and promote the new solution. That eases the resistance to change and allows us to have a few points of contact to express their feelings towards the new product, including frustration and difficulties so we can address them at early stages of the project.

2. Integration with legacy infrastructure

New technology will not always integrate seamlessly with existing systems and processes. It’s also not unusual to discover that employees are reliant on unofficial or unsupported tools to perform their roles. Productivity may take a major hit if the new solution results in process failures, loss of data, system outages or duplicated workloads.

How to overcome?

Ideally, before suggesting or implementing any new solution you should conduct a review of your IT environment. If properly done, you will have an understanding of where you’re at with your IT and will be provided with a report stating which new technology you can consider. Sometimes, your review will even show that your systems are inefficient and extremely costly to the business, so it’s worth considering a full technology upgrade. That’s not always the case, but we strongly recommend that you have a full review done and work following an IT roadmap rather than take the Band-Aid approach, which you add some technology here and there and then when you less realise, it’s all mess!

3. Lack of funding and resources

New technology is expensive and securing the necessary budget can be a significant challenge. Funding bodies, such as Lottery West, are clamping down on ICT infrastructure capital funding. It can be hard to convince senior executives that the technology is necessary. Management is constantly trying to determine the most effective way to allocate funds, so if you don’t have a strong business case then the project may never get off the ground.

How to overcome?

Cloud has made things a bit easier in that respect. Platforms, such as Office 365, allows businesses to pay per user and as a subscription model, which you can upgrade or cancel at any time. The days of expensive servers and overcomplicated infrastructure are almost gone, so we recommend that you constantly talk to your Managed Service Provider about new technology as some of them can be trialled before committing or don’t require extensive amounts of capital expenditure.

4. Employee education

Employees may have been using existing tools for many years and be very familiar with how they operate. A lack of training on the new solution will result in loss of productivity and increased demand on support teams.

How to overcome?

Besides the extensive amounts of online videos that can help your staff to learn and use new technology, what we suggest is pretty straight-forward: Invest in training! What’s the point of investing in the best technology, overcoming all the challenges mentioned in this article and have staff that don’t use the new solution properly, or even worse, your business never takes it to its full potential?

You don’t have to go crazy with training and invest heaps of money and time, however, you will benefit more from a structured approach. Training through the year will give your staff time to understand, digest information and be able to apply their new knowledge to the solution. We also recommend occasional Lunch & Learn sessions, which is a more informal approach to training and gives the users an open space to ask questions and discuss their difficulties with the solution.

5. Security risks

SMBs are a major target for cyber-criminals and sophisticated hackers are continually probing your defences, searching for vulnerabilities. If new technology is introduced without proper consideration of the security implications, you may be exposing your organisation to attack.

How to overcome?

Conduct a thorough security review of the product you are introducing to your business and also perform a review of your IT to have a good understanding of how this new solution will fit within your current environment so are aware of any implications or complexities. Questions such as password policies, different levels of user access and protection processes and efforts should be on top of the list!

6. Data storage

Many businesses store data in separate silos, with various departments having their own databases and applications. This is an inefficient approach, which restricts collaboration, so it’s important to ensure that any new technology solution brings these distinct silos together under one platform. However, important to keep in mind that by storing all information in the same place, you risk a catastrophic loss if this data is not properly backed up and quickly recoverable.

How to overcome?

We might be biased as we use SharePoint in our business and fully recommend it. All information is centralised in one hub that every staff has access to, either in the office or while on the go (and on any device), and is an easy but powerful tool to use, especially if you already have Office 365 as it might be already included in your plan.

When choosing the software or app for your business, it’s important to know the product’s security policies and also where your data will be handled and located. Office 365 adheres to strict security and compliance requirements. This includes ISO 27018, which is a code of practice that focuses on protection of personal data in the cloud. For compliance reasons, it’s also important to know that all your data will be stored locally in Australia.

The platform also keeps data secured as Microsoft has redundancy in place and offers protection from any incidents that may happen at its data centres, providing protection against system based failures on their platform.  The service also comes with a 99.9% uptime guarantee to keep running for longer. We do recommend a cloud backup product though, such as Skykick.

Summary

Evolving your IT and adopting new technology is exciting whilst a scary and a big move for any organisation. Change is needed and, if implemented properly, your organisation will more than likely benefit from developing your systems rather than suffer.

Technology is a critical part of your organisation, and by recognising these common pitfalls you can take measures to protect your business.  The right IT partner will help you pick the right IT solutions for you, provide strategic guidance, consultancy, and tailor the training towards your industry.

For our clients, Bremmar manages everything from initial consultation, to grant application assistance, data migration, training and ongoing management. We are experienced in helping organisations maximise the discounted technology available. Since we regularly help Not-For-Profits identify and leverage technology that is suited to their needs, we’d like to share our best tips with you.

If you want to learn more about technology challenges and how to overcome them, contact Bremmar today on 1300-991-351 or email help@bremmar.com.au.

Download ultimate guide to NFP collaboration and productivity solutions

Five ways to make your NFP more cost effective and productive with discounted IT solutions

In the not-for-profit sector, every dollar counts. Competition is high and resources are stretched to meet funding goals, which is why you need to work in the most efficient and productive way possible.

Of course, technology plays a role in achieving this. Rather than cutting the amount of IT resources you utilise, why not try the range of discounted IT systems available as the most cost-effective?

This approach has a range of benefits and helps your not for profit in five key ways:

Productivity

Productivity is a key concern in any organisation, but in the NFP sector, every minute is accountable. Individuals working for a NFP need to be able to get as much out of their time as possible and this is where technology is the greatest tool.

There are a few discounted IT solutions that Australian NFPs can choose from to help with productivity, however, Microsoft Office 365 is one of the most complete productivity ecosystems which includes:

  • A cloud document management system, called SharePoint, to save you time organising, sharing and securing your digital resources;
  • Cloud storage with OneDrive, allowing to move away from onsite infrastructure and store, share, sync and update your work files from any device and from anywhere; and
  • A whole range of cloud business apps, such as Teams and Planner, for real business mobility and collaboration. Drive productivity gains and speed up decision-making processes by having access to information on any device, no matter the location or type of application.

Communication and collaboration

Integrated communication and collaboration solutions include everything from data management, intranets, cloud storage solutions, unified communications, instant messaging and team sites. Real business collaboration cannot be achieved with only one product, but rather with a set of solutions that provide a homogeneous user-interface and experience over multiple device types.

A few cloud collaboration solutions are discounted for Australian NFPs and allow for your teams to organise internal tasks, documents and communication whilst accessing them from anywhere and on any device. For example, by changing you phone systems to Unified Communications or Skype for Business, you also give your staff access to instant messaging, audio/video communication, and online meetings when they are in or out of the office.

Discounted, or even free cloud project management tools, such as MS Teams, Planner or Trello allow teams to work together within one app or hub where you can create and manage project plans, assign tasks and track project progress. Task delegation and collaboration is made simple, so you can be assured that each team member is working efficiently.

Protection and data security

There two key layers to consider when investing in the protection of your NFP that can be addressed through discounted technology.

The most basic and must have solutions are anti-virus software. ConnectingUp, an IT directory for NFPs, offers several anti-virus and security software by donation, such as Norton, Veritas and Symantec, which are available to eligible NFPs at discounted rates. This allows you to keep your donor information and other confidential data concerning finances, grants and funding secure.

The second layer involves information and data security, such as email filtering and encryption. Some software and apps invest heavily in privacy and encryption features to cater for people accessing company information on different devices. The Office 365 Security & Compliance Center is part of some discounted Office 365 packages and is designed to help meet your organisation’s needs for content security and data usage compliance with legal, regulatory, and technical standards.

Consistency and up to date technology

It’s no secret that securing donations, grants and alternate funding needs to be done at minimal cost in order to maximise the return it can have on your organisation. Discounted IT solutions will not only save your organisation money by accessing cheaper prices but also save you time by optimising your productivity and efficiency using the best IT products at a fraction of the cost.

This two-way benefit means you can upgrade technologies, offer your staff the same version of software and apps, and keep up to date with the best IT solutions without blowing your budget.

Support

A lot of not for profits are unsure of where they stand in regard to their IT needs, where they could be saving money and how they can improve performance. It always pays to engage the experts. Thankfully, making the jump to improving your IT can be supported by a good IT partner. The right IT partner will have a relationship with vendors that offer discounted IT to NFPs and will help you pick the right IT solutions for you. Not only that, they will provide strategic guidance, consultancy and tailor the training towards your industry.

Since Bremmar regularly helps NFPs identify and leverage technology that is suited to their needs, we’d like to share our best tips with you. We have transferred the main lessons learnt on business productivity and collaboration from working with leading NFPs and turned them into a single ebook:

Download ultimate guide to NFP collaboration and productivity solutions

How Not-For-Profit organisations can develop a winning IT strategy on a limited budget

 Every organisation, be it in the ‘profit’ or ‘non-profit’ sector, needs an IT strategy. A strong technology strategy gives an organisation a roadmap to follow, helps it to identify competing priorities and decide on resources, and allows the business to track and monitor performance against planning.

All strategies should be outcome-driven and aligned with the goals of your stakeholders. Through our experience with developing strategies for NFPs, we have learnt that most organisations use their annual budgeting activity to drive strategy when in reality the opposite approach is smarter – your business goals, mission and IT strategy should help drive your budget.

Tips to starting your NFP IT strategy

Strategy is not just planning or setting goals. It’s about understanding your business model and assessing your NPF’s unique strengths within the non-profit environment. A winning IT strategy should evaluate your organisation’s current position and reflect your business and technology objectives for the coming years. It should provide the direction needed to achieve an IT environment that supports the broader organisational plan, including the flexibility to make adjustments as required.

Your financial and IT history should play an important role in your strategy. By analysing more than a year’s worth of trends in revenue, expenses and growth you can see which income streams are reliable, what areas are more costly and where you can find savings options. The same goes for your IT, which you can evaluate reoccurring IT issues and poor performance to discover areas of volatility as well as most adopted technology within the organisation and innovation that previously helped achieve strategic goals.

Consider the organisation’s current budget decisions with long-term goals. The decisions your NFP makes today will impact on your long-term goals and objectives. Your budget should be carefully planned each year to drive you closer to achieving strategic goals, i.e. what financial changes do you need to make now so you can manage the possible risks of your strategy?

Creating an NFP IT strategy on a limited budget

We have worked with many NFPs and we know, the non-profit sector often struggles with funding. But that shouldn’t prevent you from developing a strong strategy and working consistently towards IT! That’s why we put together some key areas you can focus on when trying to create an IT strategy with a limited budget:

1. Assess and prioritise your organisation’s objectives, and then identify the technology features that will best fulfil these needs.

2. Conduct a review of your IT infrastructure and business systems to gain an understanding of what you have in place, allowing you to identify and eliminate risks, inefficiencies, hidden costs and unnecessary licenses or subscriptions.

3. Perform a SWOT analysis by application, including investigating enhancements and integration of existing products/applications. This will allow you to identify applications bottlenecks and the need to implement new products.

4. Develop a 3- to 5-year strategic plan that maximises the investment return on your operating costs and capital expenditure.

5. Select only reputable equipment from trustworthy suppliers. Many vendors offer substantial discounts for NFPs and you can usually have access to top and reliable technology at a fraction of the cost!

6. Partner with an experienced IT service provider – one that has demonstrated success in an environment similar to your own and that has other clients in your sector. They’ll understand the intricacies of your industry and they’ll be familiar with the vendors that offer discounted or free products to NFPs, thereby enabling your organisation with the most cost-effective solution to your needs.

Developing an IT strategy is a continual process as your NFP’s environment should be constantly evolving. The emergence of new technologies, sudden adjustments to available funding, or shifts in demand for your services can easily disrupt your plans.

To remain competitive, it may be useful to engage an experienced service provider like Bremmar to help you develop a flexible and effective technology strategy. We have built long-lasting relationships with many NFPs and we know and understand the intricacies of your sector! We can help, contact us today on 1300-991-351 or email help@bremmar.com.au for a free initial consultation.

Download ultimate guide to NFP collaboration and productivity solutions

SharePoint Online vs. SharePoint Server vs. Office 365. How do you know which is best for your business?

We’re asked these questions every day! The Microsoft products overlap, so it’s understandable why there is confusion. Here is a quick explanation of the products and their key differences so you can see which is best for your business.

The Products

Office 365 – The product which includes SharePoint Online

Office 365 is the Microsoft Office suite hosted in the cloud and more. It’s the complete product that includes SharePoint Online, Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Exchange, OneDrive and many other Microsoft tools you’re likely to be familiar with. Everything is accessed via an online portal.

SharePoint Server

On the other hand, SharePoint Server (also known as SharePoint On-Premises, or simply SharePoint) is pretty much the same as the platform online, however, it’s installed locally on your own servers. This simply means it runs locally rather than through the cloud.

What is SharePoint?

SharePoint is a portal that enables you to centralise your business files, whether you’re utilising SharePoint server or SharePoint online. It’s an advanced document management and collaboration tool that helps you to control and manage all your electronic information. It essentially functions as a corporate intranet, allowing your team to store, share and work with documents from any location, at any time, on any device.

SharePoint is the ultimate collaboration tool – it even makes it possible for two users to simultaneously edit the same file. This is known as co-authoring. SharePoint also lets you create extranets, discussion boards, newsfeeds, KPI’s and metrics, task lists, reports, charts and much more.

How do I know if SharePoint Online or SharePoint Server is best for my business?

For modern businesses, Office 365 with SharePoint Online is the obvious choice. Not only does SharePoint Online deliver greater functionality and flexibility, but it also comes at a lower cost.

From a functionality perspective, SharePoint Online is the ideal choice for organisations. Your business will be able to operate more effectively as Microsoft commits SharePoint Online to a 99.9% uptime SLA.

If your business has remote and mobile workers, SharePoint Online is an ideal solution. Not only does it support remote access, but it also allows a higher level of integration with external parties, such as consultants, who aren’t directly employed by your business. SharePoint Online includes a file-sharing feature which works better in O365 than in SharePoint Server. SharePoint Online makes it easy for teams to work together effectively, regardless of physical location.

SharePoint Online is part of the Office 365 plan, so the service is billed monthly on a per user basis. With no need to purchase and maintain expensive hardware on which to install the system, you only pay for what you need, and you can quickly scale the service up or down as your needs evolve and business changes.

As a cloud-hosted platform, Microsoft takes care of SharePoint Online disaster recovery, upgrades and patches. This means you don’t need to train and manage a dedicated IT team to maintain the infrastructure, reducing your operating costs. You’ll have immediate access to new features and updates as they’re released.

is SP right for your business?

If you’d like to find out more about SharePoint and Microsoft Office 365, simply contact us today on 1300 991 351 or email help@bremmar.com.au.

Do you know your IT and Data Compliance responsibilities?

everything that encompasses complianceThe Internet, the cloud, smartphones… They have all contributed to fast-paced content contribution and distribution around the world. Easily accessible information has been a great gift from technology, however, it has also raised security and compliance issues for corporations.

A key component of any IT audit is reviewing IT and Data Compliance. Our teams have recently received many enquiries about IT and data compliance, so thought we would give a brief overview to answer the most commonly asked questions.

What is IT compliance?

IT compliance encompasses two distinct areas – internal compliance and external compliance. Internal compliance refers to the processes and procedures within your businesses – for example, guidelines stating how employees should conduct themselves online. External compliance relates to the regulations established by entities outside your organisation – for example, Government rules mandating retention of emails for a stipulated period.

Why should my business be IT compliant?

Achieving compliance improves the resilience of your organisation, minimises security risks, and enhances productivity. In an age of rampant hacking and cyber-terrorism, ensuring security and compliance has never been more important. Regulations vary between industries, but in general, they focus on ensuring that businesses maintain appropriate records and can prevent unauthorised access to digital information.

What are my compliance and staff privacy responsibilities?

You need to be especially careful when storing sensitive personal data relating to race, political persuasion, health, religious views, sexuality, or criminal history. And, you must always obtain consent from the individuals concerned before capturing such information or passing the data to third parties. Employees play a major role in protecting sensitive information because techniques like social engineering and phishing usually target employees in the hope of gaining access to corporate data. It is important to equip your team to understand their compliance responsibilities.

Why should I adhere to compliance and customer information regulations?

If customer information is stolen because you didn’t implement appropriate security measures, you’re placing your business at risk of fines, penalties, legal costs, reputational damage, and the loss of your client’s trust and loyalty. So, while the initial cost of compliance may appear high, the cost of non-compliance can be many times greater.

What are my business’ key compliance and security measures?

An effective data compliance and privacy strategy should incorporate a range of controls including archiving, retention, risk management, network security, intrusion detection, data loss prevention, encryption, endpoint control and malware protection. These controls should work together to protect your critical enterprise data and to retain a record for future litigation or electronic discovery purposes.

Electronic discovery (also called e-Discovery) refers to the process by which electronic data is located, secured and researched for evidence to be used in civil or criminal cases. Data plays a key role in most serious criminal investigations, so it’s important for your business to ensure that law enforcement agencies can access information that may be connection with their investigations.

ISO Management System Standards (MSS) and IT

The International Standards Organization (ISO) is the world’s largest developer of standards, with membership spanning Europe, Asia and the Americas. They developed the ISO Management System Standards (MSS), which defines the methods by which an enterprise controls the interconnected parts of its organisation in order to drive productivity, improve workplace health and safety, and achieve many other objectives. For small businesses, this may simply mean having a clear direction and strong leadership, but larger and more complex organisations may require extensive processes and documentation to meet their legal obligations and achieve their business goals.

ISO 19000

Some of ISO’s most famous standards are included in the ISO 9000 family. This set deals with quality management and processes while providing guidance for businesses that wish to continually improve their products and ensure they meet customer requirements. For IT, this means a strong focus on processes such as account creations and network security scan and reviews.

ISO/IEC 27000

The ISO/IEC 27000 family of standards helps businesses secure and protect data such as employee details, financial records, intellectual property and customer information. There are over a dozen standards in the 27000 family, with the most well-known being 27001.

ISO/ IEC 27001 defines the requirements for an Information Security Management System (ISMS), which is a strategy for controlling sensitive business data. The main IT focus in this ISO is recording and retaining information.

An effective compliance strategy that encompasses people, processes, and technology is vital for every modern organisation. But all too often, many companies are so focused on growing their business that compliance is forgotten until disaster strikes. If you’re unsure whether your systems are compliant, engaging an experienced consultant like Bremmar to conduct an IT Audit can be an excellent way to protect your business.

If you’d like to check whether your organisation is in full compliance with relevant Australian and international laws and standards, contact us today on 1300 991 351 or email help@bremmar.com.au.