Thursday, November 19, 2009

How to Improve Business Performance with Software Plus Services

These days, new technologies are touted daily as being the ones that will revolutionize the industry. Too often, they fall short. But software plus services is a valuable option for companies that want to save money while improving business performance through the increased collaboration and business intelligence today's technology offers. By outlining four advantages of software plus services, we explain how customers can use software plus services to customize their IT environment to improve business performance.

Choice is paramount. Especially for you, our customers. Having two software options in today's unsteady economic environment is a huge advantage if you want to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Not only will it expose cost savings but greater operational efficiencies will be revealed. In the technology industry, it's called "software plus services."

Because of the low start-up costs, cloud computing stands out as a compelling choice for businesses; however, it's not for everyone. But a hybrid approach—such as software plus services that combines on-premise software with software as a service (SAAS)—might be a more realistic solution.

Let's take a look at some of the advantages of the software plus services approach:

Advantage No. 1: Flexibility
Online services and online software give your customers the option to explore new ways to handle their business needs. For instance, the Halloween store down the street has much higher sales in September and October than it does in February and March. Instead of purchasing additional servers to handle the load during the busy times (and sit idle during the slow times), the store can purchase additional server capacity for a fixed period of time, for a fraction of the cost of physical servers.

Advantage No. 2: More innovation
Access to the cloud allows companies the opportunity to create a richer and more diverse customer experience. For instance, there are Web applications available that allow organizations to share their data across several devices for a seamless, synchronized experience. Remote workers will also benefit from this arrangement because they will have easier access to information and realize faster results.

Advantage No. 3: Varied deployment
Do you choose your tactics based on your customers' demands? Or do you base your solution offerings on your business strategy? Regardless of which way you lean, there are options to handle both situations. An IT decision that is best for one company might not even be a remote possibility for another. Therefore, taking advantage of both sides of the equation—on-site and off-site deployment—is key. It just comes down to what's best for your organization.

Advantage No. 4: Greater connectivity
With this approach, the barriers between your PC, the Web and your mobile device will dissolve. Applications are no longer platform-specific; the agnostic nature of their usability means you will experience the same functionality on your computer that you do on your mobile phone. For instance, the foreman at the construction site will have immediate access to his company's inventory on his mobile device in real time to ensure that they have the correct materials. This saves time and money, and it’s one less trip to the warehouse.

In a world that has become increasingly more integrated, connecting people seamlessly to information and communications is a necessity.

Contact us today to learn more about Cloud Computing and Software as a Service. www.thinkitworks.com or email me at russell@thinkitworks.com.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Datacenter Services (Cloud Computing)

i.t.works announces

Datacenter Services


Whether you are concerned about the high risk of losing data by housing your internal server equipment or the cost of maintaining it, we are excited to introduce to you an alternative to the traditional i.t. infrastructure. i.t.works is proud to present our Datacenter Services which is located in the Hattiesburg Technology Center as well as Birmingham.

What is a datacenter?

A datacenter, also called a server farm, is a facility used to house computer systems and associated components, such as telecommunications, applications and storage systems. It generally includes redundant or backup power supplies, redundant data communications connections, environmental controls (e.g., air conditioning, fire suppression) and security devices.


What type of services does i.t.works offer?

rack space - move your existing equipment into the datacenter to give you peace of mind.

virtual desktops - stop buying pc's and utilize a lower cost lower maintenance solution to connect to your information.

offsite backup (online) - worried about those tapes, stop worrying and rely on our online offsite backup solution. Co-location between Hattiesburg and Birmingham is available.

servers (virtual or physical, in the cloud) - are your applications slowing down, are you tired of the cost related to purchasing new physical servers and the labor associated with maintaining them, then consider utilizing our servers "in the cloud". We can host most applications and serve them directly to your users wherever they are.

application hosting -
exchange (fully hosted and serviced)
dynamics sl, gp, and crm
quickbooks
other windows based applications, as needed

Why should my organization consider moving our server environment to a datacenter?

Infrastructure Cost Savings:
Take advantage of our secure facility, custom built for data center storage, without taking on the financial burden of maintaining your own facility.

Time Savings:
A tremendous investment of time and resources is required to maintain a suitable facility for e-mail, web site, network and applications servers. By outsourcing your data center to i.t.works your staff can focus on initiatives focused on increasing revenue.

Lower Maintenance Costs:
Computing environments need stable power, emergency back-up systems, controlled access, and carefully monitored climates. These requirements can quickly expend your time and financial resources. i.t.works provides an effective and secure environment that meets stringent business requirements, at a fraction of the cost of an in-house data center.

Alleviate Operational Expenses:
By locating your computing environment in our datacenter, your business can take advantage of a professional staff that is highly skilled in running and managing a data center. Additionally, your access to functional expertise is increased, without burdening internal resources. Your staff members can spend their time innovating and developing new ways to improve your IT systems, rather than simply keeping things running.

Improve Security without Increasing Costs:
The importance of protecting your information and equipment against disaster and outside influences is a critical priority, but is also expensive to manage and maintain. Our data center facility provides multiple redundant state-of-the-art security features that includes:

Biometric scanners
Secured card access
High-security, tamper-proof cabinets with specially keyed locks
Restricted access to server rooms
Our services adhere to the Uptime Institute's tiered classification system and utilizes a Tier III industry standard approach to site infrastructure and functionality. This provides 99.982% availability.

Multiple Internet Service Providers:
Accessing a variety of carriers and service providers results in reduced costs and increased network reliability.



How are other companies adopting datacenter services?


There are a wide variety of adopted uses of the datacenter. Many new companies are fully adopting the virtual capabilities by using virtual desktops connecting to virtual servers that exist in the datacenter. However, established companies may transition to this environment by moving older equipment into the datacenter by leasing rack space. Then as their equipment is outdated replace one server at a time with virtual servers. All organizations differ and we would recommend consulting with one of our technical consultants to see how these new services can help your organization lower risk and cost.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Top 10 Reasons to Upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0

Built to help you more efficiently manage accounts and process requests, Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0 empowers your employees, managers, customers, and vendors. Microsoft Dynamics SL helps them increase their effectiveness by providing the tools they need to view and process data based on the permissions that you have established for them. Microsoft Dynamics SL improves your ability to manage by exception, rather than wading through reams of paper to locate the information you need to make business decisions.

1. New menu interface

Microsoft Dynamics SL's new menu interface is built to work like and with other Microsoft products you and your people are familiar with, helping reduce the time required to become productive.
  • New, menu interface that is similar to the 2007 Microsoft Office System
  • Configurable, role-relevant menus and home pages
  • Custom step-by-step menu process for groups or users so they can include custom text to describe each step.
  • Improved text editing

2. The flexibility of reporting to meet your business needs

Powerful reporting tools help you integrate data from multiple sources and then sort, analyze, and present information to meet specific needs of your company and people, as well as export and distribute reports to many formats and other applications, including Microsoft Office Excel.Additional reporting solutions for Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0 include:

  • Business Information Optimization (BIO): A business intelligence solution built specifically for Microsoft Dynamics SL that provides insight into your company.
  • SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS): An interface to call SSRS reports from within Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0

3. Quick send: electronic document delivery

Save time, money, and improve customer service by sending purchase orders and invoices to customers and vendors via e-mail or fax.

  • Saves money: Reduces paper handling, and postage cost.
  • Create instant communications: Communications are emailed/faxed instantly.
  • Improve customer service: Customers receive or can request invoices in a timely manner.
  • Turn receivables faster: Remove the delay of mailing with email or fax invoice notification
  • Automatically sent: Emails and faxes are automatically sent with not need for user interaction.

4. Pay-subcontractor-when-paid

Link subcontractor and customer work so payment to the subcontractor is not made until the work has been accepted by the customer and paid for. Companies often employ subcontractors to complete tasks or provide materials for their customer. Often, for cash flow and quality control reasons, a company does not want to pay the subcontractor until the end customer has accepted the work and paid the company. This enhancement will only allow vouchers to be paid when the associated customer invoice is paid.

5. Additional project multi-currency support

Project expenses can now be entered in foreign currencies as well as the entry of value-added tax (VAT) information. Additional enhancements to the Scheduled Billings and Billing by Percent processes now allow for multi-currency processing.

6. Extending access to information - Business Portal project access

Create, edit, or view project information from the Web, using the new Project Maintenance screen. The Business Portal project maintenance screen is a combination of information pulled from five separate screens to provide project users the information they need at their fingertips. Access to project data is restricted by role and can also include which fields can be viewed, edited, or what default values should be set.

7. Business Portal based on Windows SharePoint Services 3.0

The new Business Portal builds on top of Windows SharePoint Services to provide access to your enterprise resource planning (ERP) data along with providing access to SharePoint features such as document repository, calendars, blogs, wikis, and really simple syndication (RSS) feeds.

8. Maintain security and efficiency

New optional security features supports Windows Authentication so users can log into their system and Microsoft Dynamics SL without the need to re-enter information. This also makes Microsoft Dynamics SL compliant with your corporate password policies.

9. Continued compatibility with the latest technology

Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0 provides support for the latest technology so you can continue to grow your business using the latest business tools. Included are support for the Windows Vista operating system, Microsoft SQL 2005, and Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, Microsoft Office 2007, and Microsoft Project 2007.

10. Screens and interface upgrade to Visual Basic 2005 - .NET product

Microsoft Dynamics SL 7.0 has been rewritten to run in Microsoft Visual Basic 2005, making it a .NET product. This allows companies to use the latest tools to customize the experience for their industry needs for custom development and provides the product a great base for developing future features and interfaces.

If you need more information, or are interested in upgrading to SL 7.0, please contact me at russell@thinkitworks.com.

Monday, July 27, 2009

How Advanced is Your Organization? (for GP Users)

Microsoft Dynamics GP offers many opportunities for organizations improve their efficiency. The more advanced an organization is, the more Dynamics GP tools it will use.

How advanced is your organization? Take this quiz and find out.

1) Which version of Microsoft Dynamics GP are you using? (The latest version offers the most functionality and the best support.)
a. +1 point for using Dynamics GP 10
b. +0 points for version 9 or 8
c. -2 points for earlier versions
_____ Score (Max 1)

2) Which modules are you using? (Modules beyond core financials provide improved integration and improve transaction flow and consistency.)
a. +0 points for core financials (GL, AP, AR)
b. +1 point EACH if using Business Portal, Distribution, Project Accounting, Field Service or Manufacturing
_____ Score (Max 5)

3) Which third-party moduels are you using? (Third-party modules enhance a firm's Dynamics GP solutions in very specific areas and fill in a Dynamics GP solution.).
a. +0 points for no third-party modules
b. +1 point if using less than three modules
c. +2 points if using three or more modules
_____ Score (Max 2)

4) Which features of Dynamics GP are you using to improve user productivity?
a. -1 point for not using Smartlists
b. +1 point for using Smartlist Builder
c. +1 point for using Smartlist Export Solutions
d. +1 point for knowing how to delete an AutoComplete Entry
_____ Score (Max 3)

5) How extensively are you using Microsoft FRx financial reporting and analysis software?
a. -1 point if not using FRx
b. +1 point for using FRx
c. +1 ADDITIONAL point if using FRx with XBRL
_____ Total Score (Max 2)

6) What kind of reporting tools are you using?
a. +1 if using Excel Reports
b. +1 if using Business Alerts
c. +1 if using Analysis Cubes
_____ Score (Max 3)

7) What is your staff's skill level?
a. +1 if your staff can close the year without your partner's help
b. +1 if your staff uses CustomerSource for support
c. +1 if your staff uses Newsgroups, Forums, Twitter or other community tools for support
d. +1 if you would bet your paycheck that your company could do a Dynamics GP restore in from backup in less than 8 hours.
_____ Score (Max 4)

_____ Score (Max 20)

Here's how to assess your score:

Greater than 12: Congratulations! You've got an advanced Dynamics GP setup and you're probably running it in a larger organization. Make sure you leverage other modules and third-party applications to get the most out of your solution.

From 6-12: You are getting there. Your firm probably does a lot right with Dynamics GP, but you may well have a nagging feeling that you could do so much more. Look for some quick wins and training to improve your solution.

Less than 6: The good news is that there is lots of room to add efficiency to your organization. You may be smaller or new to Dynamics G,P but that shouldn't stop you.

To learn more about how to get a higher score, please contact me at russell@thinkitworks.com.

___________________________________________________________

For all of our SL users, don't forget to take advantage of the new Add-Ons that we now have available. For more information, please see our brochure. http://www.thinkitworks.com/company_files/2009%20Catalog.pdf.


i.t.works
6641 Hwy 98 W., Suite 200
Hattiesburg, MS 39402
601-264-0969
http://www.thinkitworks.com/

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Microsoft to Sage Users: You Have a Friend, and Opportunity, with Dynamics

Microsoft has reacted quickly and publicly to the failure earlier this month of the largest Sage partner by encouraging Sage users to migrate to Dynamics products, and prospective customers to select Dynamics.

In a press release, Microsoft said it "invites customers and partners concerned with the stability of the Sage Software Inc. channel to consider available alternatives from Microsoft, including Microsoft Dynamics enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions. "On July 6, Sage's largest partner in 2007 and 2008, MIS Group, suddenly shut down.

According to Crispin Read, general manager for Microsoft Dynamics ERP, "Microsoft Dynamics offers innovative products and strong return on investment, which is exactly what customers and partners are looking for - especially when questions have arisen about Sage's ability to deliver ongoing innovation and investment in its ERP portfolio and remain competitive in this marketplace."

On the migration front, Microsoft pointed out that since May 2009, it has offered qualified partners the ability to extend to their customers an offer to move to a Microsoft Dynamics ERP solution with a 50 percent discount on licensing and receive a rebate equal to 25 percent of the suggested retail price of the Microsoft Dynamics solution (up to a maximum of $25,000) to help offset the costs of switching from Sage MAS 90 or MAS 200. This offer continues to be available for qualified Sage customers.

Microsoft in its announcement also offered an example of a mid-size company that recently selected Dynamics over Sage. It said CTS Cement Manufacturing Corp., a manufacturer with more than $55 million in annual revenue, chose Microsoft Dynamics ERP over Sage MAS 90 to improve its bottom line. According to Fred McKay, chief financial officer for CTS Cement, "Microsoft Dynamics ERP gives us the flexibility to do things that our MAS 90 package couldn't do. It has a lot of potential that we can tap into as we continue to grow."

Microsoft is using the failure of the Sage partner to encourage Sage partners to move to the Dynamics ERP channel. "In times of economic turbulence, customers have high expectations of their ERP providers, demanding innovation, investment and long-term financial stability," Doug Kennedy, vice president of the Microsoft Dynamics Partner team, said. "There has never been a better time to join the Microsoft Dynamics community."

For more information on the Microsofty Dynamics product line, contact us today at 601-264-0969 ext 112, or visit us on the web: www.thinkitworks.com.

Russell Yearwood
i.t.works

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Microsoft Surface at WPC09

This week is Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC09) in New Orleans and hundreds of Microsoft partners are down there attending and learning about all of the latest and greatest software versions, Office 2010, SharePoint 2010, Windows 7 and how we’ll soon be able to integrate Twitter directly to our Microsoft Dynamic CRM system. This is all some pretty cool news as it’s being fed to me from my partner contacts, a live Twitter feed and a live video feed from WPC09.

Last night some execs got to play around with a Microsoft Surface device to select the sessions they wanted to attend while at WPC09. Here is a short 2 minute video taken by Neall Alcott, VP of Technology of Springhouse Consulting.

You’ll see how easy Surface is to use and operate, even from the start of just placing there WPC ID cards down on Surface and BAM! (sorry, they ARE in NOLA) up pops their registration information and all of the sessions for each day of the event. Neall quickly demonstrates how simple it is to use Surface to select the session and drag it onto their ID, ultimately registering them for that session.

Now onto the video…and check back this week as we’ll be posting additional videos from WPC09!


video

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dynamics GP - The Beat Goes On

While the worldwide frenzy over the death of Michael Jackson reaches fever pitch this week, my own personal take on this tragedy reflects on the timelessness of his music. Since age 5 Michael Jackson has been providing a style of music that spans generations. His style has adapted and remained relevant to the trends of the time and throughout his incredible career his string of hits always managed to tap into the current vibe of what his fans wanted to hear. Many artists are lucky to stay in vogue for just 1 year, fewer still manage five years and only a handful can match Michael Jacksons musical longevity.

It used to be that when selecting a business ERP solution, it was rare that any product would remain relevant for too long and it was typically expected that after only five years or so the business would “outgrow” the solution and began searching for a replacement. It was unlikely that a particular business software solution would remain applicable beyond that timeframe.

However, with Dynamics GP (Great Plains) it is very likely that the investment you make today in the software will last far longer than five years. In fact, we have several current clients who purchased the Great Plains solution over fifteen years ago and it still remains an ideal fit for tracking and reporting on their business processes. There are four primary reasons for this durability:

Scalable. From 1 user to 1000, Dynamics GP adapts (scales) easily to however large your business becomes. Based on the Microsoft SQL database, performance degradation is minimal, even as file sizes expand and future users are added. We have many clients who initially purchased just a few users and now have many users, with no noticeable decrease in performance.

Expandable. Business ready licensing for Dynamics GP provides growing functionality. With several dozen applications (including financial, distribution, business intelligence, human resources, project costing) it becomes less likely that your business will outgrow the functionality provided. Many businesses initially implement only a fraction of the modules available and then over time, as the business grows and processes become more sophisticated, they then deploy additional modules already licensed.

Independent. Does it matter what the operating system (if any) of the future will be? Great Plains in its early days ran in both DOS and MAC environments. Then Windows came along and now online versus on premise operating systems are the up and coming trend. But regardless of how users ultimately access and interact with the software, the applicability and functionality of the Dynamics GP software has and will continue to remain relevant.

Evolving. The user experience is key when evaluating and utilizing accounting software. Whether it be by typing, touch or voice, efficiency of data entry and information accessibility are many times the two most important traits when evaluating ERP solutions. Microsoft is the industry leader when it comes to committing research and development funds towards enhancing and improving the “look and feel” experience of the Dynamics GP product. Every eighteen months or so new releases provide better ways for end users to communicate, navigate and extrapolate business intelligence from the accounting applications.

This idea that an ERP solution is at best a five year investment is, in my opinion, nonsense. Dynamics GP has a proven track record of changing with the times, all the while continuing to provide meaningful information and usable functionality to its users. And while its legacy, unlike that of Michael Jackson’s, might not endure forever, you can rest assured that your initial investment will continue to be relevant and valuable for many, many years to come.