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February 19, 2018
How To

Make IT investments that improve your business

John Sterling

IT strategy is becoming increasingly important, and the new year is a good time to revisit the key components of your strategy. Your technology should make your business better, whether you are a software company who makes a living with technology or someone running a law firm or other small business. Far too often, as we deal with the day-to day bustle of running our businesses, we lose sight of our IT strategy and continue to keep older systems running. As you consider where you want to spend your IT budget, explore these five strategic investments:

1. Move more business applications to the cloud

There are many benefits to moving to the cloud, or adopting "cloud courage," as we like to say. Now is the time to accelerate the use of SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) applications like Microsoft O365 to make your team more effective by providing them the ability to work from anywhere, at any time, and from any device. It is also a great time to move applications to IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) solutions like Microsoft Azure to ensure better reliability and more predictable long-term costs because upgrade expenses are built in. Another positive that IaaS solutions like Azure offer is that automatic patches are part of the package, keeping your network more secure and less vulnerable to outside risks and hackers.

2. Make 'work-from-anywhere' a priority

Adapting and deploying sophisticated IT solutions that make it easy to communicate with customers and collaborate and operate productively as a team from remote locations is critical for today's businesses. You want your team to be able to work from any location, at any time and from any device to meet customer expectations. At our company, it is core to our culture. We have a video system that allows for face-to-face collaboration when key employees are working remotely. To help us better understand how our communications are being received, we have video phones at our desks that provide us the opportunity to see the body language of our customers when we speak with them. We also have invested in top-of-the line audio and video technologies in all conference rooms.

3. Upgrade business tools for at least one function area

Pick one key departmental system to enhance this year from your core business. HR, accounting, CRM and ERP systems have all come a long way in the last five years, and now is definitely the time to improve one of these areas and make your client experience more seamless. There are great SaaS or cloud-based options for nearly every standard business need. Investing in these up-to-date business tools helps make you more effective, while also sending a clear message to your team that you are committed to making your business operate more efficiently.

4. Modernize your security position

People are accessing your data from locations outside of your network more than ever before, and with devices you have less control over. On top of that, you are moving more and more data to the cloud to meet the changing business and employee need landscape. As you migrate to the cloud, you have to ask, "How are you securing it?" You should be applying technologies that confirm the identity of people trying to access your company's data and applications, and prevent users from utilizing unapproved applications. Now's the time to apply security policies and restrictions to protect your data based on what it contains rather than where it is stored.

5. Bring your staff up to a level

I see a lot of businesses with IT staff working hard to keep older systems running, building spreadsheets and answering technical questions. This work is not adding value to your business. It is diverting your biggest asset — your people — from company goals like customer service, growth and profitability.

Technology is evolving and that means organizations have to progress to remain competitive. Don't wait to make the changes you've been thinking about. Make 2018 the year to get IT done.

John Sterling, director of engineering at Systems Engineering, can be reached at 207-772-3199 or at www.syseng.com

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