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.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

i.t.works and Social Marketing

The increasing prominence of the social web provides many ways to identify, target, and reach consumers. Our company was already aware of the immense potential on the internet for our company and our brand, but we weren’t quite sure how to tap it. You hear buzzwords like niche marketing, social marketing, micro sites, but it's hard to climb the learning curve when the curve itself is always changing.

It didn’t matter that we are what some would consider a small company; the power of these new web-based marketing tools is explosive. You know you're in danger of losing ground to your competition as they begin to effectively leverage the power of social media.

But where do we start? With the help of Microsoft and Jeremy Epstein, Never Stop Marketing, i.t.works was able to participate in a pilot program for Microsoft Partners and Social Marketing.

I have to admit, after the first call with Jeremy, I was a little overwhelmed. Like I said earlier, I knew the power of the internet, but was not all too familiar with the words Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and the list goes on. How does one find the time to do all of this? How do you not spread yourself too thin? Is it really going to work? All of these answers, and more, were promptly answered by Jeremy. He made us produce a well defined social marketing plan, and if we stick to that plan, then we would see results. Oh, yes, we had to make changes to my plan, but in the end, it was realistic and do-able. In the beginning, we had calls each week with Jeremy, sometimes we got praised for our work (if we stuck to the plan), and sometimes there were the not-so-pleasant discussions. I quickly learned that if I can do what I said I was going to do, not only were our conversations pleasant, but I started to see results.

Our first success story comes in the form of Raving Fans. If you don’t have one, you need one. It is truly amazing the success you will get by having your own clients sell for you. We have one Raving Fan that is truly amazing. He goes out of his way to let others know how we have helped him with not only his accounting software, but all of his IT needs.

Now, what about blogging. I had never written a blog in my life, as a matter of fact, I don’t consider myself a writer at all. But with the help of Jeremy, I have started to develop not only the desire, but some (small) skills in writing blogs. The big hurdle with me – is finding the time. I read a lot of blogs each day, but because I was unsure as to what to say, I didn’t update mine as frequent as I should. That has and will change. (Just today I got a little slap in the face about not blogging enough, thanks Jeremy). But does it work? YES. On one recent blog, after I had posted it, I sent out a friendly reminder to customers and prospects about my blog. Minutes later the phone rang. It was a prospect that I had been working on for about a year. She read the blog, realized now was the time to do something, so here we are getting ready to close the deal. YES it works.

To wrap it up, this new marketing called “Social Marketing”, where everyone Tweets and updates status and blogs really, really works. But if you don’t know what you are doing, don’t go at it alone. It will make all the difference in the world.

I can’t leave without throwing this out. You can follow me on Twitter @russellyearwood and @thinkitworks.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Are you on the right version?

Well good Friday afternoon everyone. I just wanted to send out some updated information that I recieved from Microsoft this week. It is in regard to which version and Service Pack you should be on if you are a customer of Microsoft Dynamics. I have shortened the listed for clarity, but by all means if you have any questions as to whether or not you are on the right version, please contact me.

If you are on GP 9.0, then you need to be on Service Pack 4
If you are on GP 10.0, then you need to be on Service Pack 2
If you are on SL 6.5, then you need to be on Service Pack 3
If you are on SL 7.0, then you need to be on Service Pack 2

If you are on GP 8.0, then you really need to call me, you need to go to GP 10.0, support for GP 8.0 will soon be ending.
If you are on SL 6.5, then your day is coming soon as well, not as quick as GP 8.0, but you will need to upgrade to 7.0 realtively soon.

__________________________________________________________________________

ALSO

We are in the process of relocating into the Hattiesburg Technology Center .

This office is being transformed into a Tier 3 data center. Basically that means that i.t.works will be able to totally replace the needs of companies to have server environments in their facilities. The Data Center will replicate information to Birmingham thus allowing co-location of data as well. Those of us in the hurricane zone are way to familar with losing data due to power outage. Not to worry with the new Data Center. There is a 99.9% uptime, pretty much a guarantee that you data will always be safe. How much is that worth to you? So if you are interested in looking into a hosted environment for all of your IT needs, please give me a call.

Once the relocation has been finalized, I will notify you with our new address and contact information.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to give me a call.

And to all the Dad's, HAPPY FATHERS DAY.

Russell Yearwood

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Top 10 Financial Accounting Mandates

Today's guidelines for financial reporting call for the highest possible level of accuracy, speed, and competency. Here are the top ways to meet the demands of a new reporting era, and how Microsoft and i.t.works can help:

1. Guarantee corporate integrity by ensuring consistency with numbers and transparency across the organization. This includes finding ways to facilitate the gathering and reporting of accurate information.

2. Promote greater collaboration and communication among different departments, putting an end to the "silo" mentality that keeps data in separate places and prevents applications - and people - from sharing up-to-date information.

3. Increase business insight inside the company, so virtually any employee can identify a mistake or questionable activity before it becomes a major issue.

4. Provide better information management by enusuring that everyone involved in the company's governance processes is knowledgeable and informed. This includes enhancing the board's understanding of how the company reports financials (that is, what the numbers mean and what metrics are supported by the numbers).

5. Empower your employees with a heightenend responsibility for detecting and correcting financial reporting anomalies, inaccuracies, and omissions.

6. Improve relationships with investors by providing a better picture of non-financial performance in areas such as productivity levels, operational quality, overhead, customer satisfaction and loyalty, work-force loyalty, the level of innovation within the company, the value of its brand names, and more. Ideally, CFO's will gain greater business insight into what interested parties really want to know and then articulate that information to them, helping to build credibility while maintaining control over strategic information.

7. Install a tighter system of checks and balances to reduce the chance of errors. Maintain accuracy and integrity in an environment where shared responsibilty requires additional controls.

8. Empower budget-makers with technological tools that help increase their budgeting/forecasting accuracy.

9. Implement financial software to help strengthen controls within business units.

10. Improve collaboration with investors by communicating consistently and frequently.

visit us at http://www.thinkitworks.com

Friday, May 15, 2009

i.t.works would like to introduce you to Anthony Gingrich

We would like to welcome Anthony Gingrich to the staff of i.t.works. Anthony comes to us from Service Management Group where he served as a development team leader. While at SMG he was involved in a long-term business system solution catered towards restaurant equipment service industries, such as Midwest Food Equipment Service and CFESA (Commercial Food Equipment Service Association). Anthony specializes in C#, Visual Basic.Net, and MS SQL Server 05 and 08. He is also experienced in PHP (5.0+), ASP.Net, and web development using JavaScript and CSS.

Anthony majored in Computer Information Systems Technology at JCJC, and his emphasis was on software development in the .Net Framework. He is currently working towards earning his MSCPD (Microsoft Certified Professional Developer) certification.

Anthony is a very proud husband and father of one (soon to be two), and enjoys his weekends fishing with his son.

You may reach Anthony at anthony@thinkitworks.com. Please feel free to reach out and introduce yourself and welcome him to our staff.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

iPhone and BlackBerry Engage in App-to-App Combat


iPhone maker Apple and BlackBerry vendor Research in Motion are exchanging high-caliber bursts in the form of tantalizing new mobile applications in their desperate efforts to woo new users. Recent figures show that underdog BlackBerry is not just making it a close fight, but could emerge victorious.


When Apple launched the iPhone, most observers saw it as a purely consumer device that would never get traction in the enterprise because it lacked adequate security features, didn’t have native integration with business email servers and didn’t host applications needed by executives and so-called knowledge workers to perform their functions on the go.

It seemed likewise unlikely that business users would carry two devices, so it seemed a forgone conclusion that the iPhone would be the province of stay-at-home professionals, college students and tweens lucky enough to have parents willing to spend upwards of $500 for what amounted to little more than a toy.

Fast-forward two years, and the iPhone supports Microsoft Exchange and IBM Domino, the two most dominant enterprise email servers, and business applications galore. Moreover, IT professionals underestimated the pressure they would be under from gadget-addicted c-level executives to connect their iPhones to the corporate firewall. Think Obama was obstinate about keeping his BlackBerry? That was nothing compared to the passion of business executives for the iPhone, which turns out to have appeal far beyond expectations. You have to wonder whether the same observers — Gartner in particular — who in 2007 dismissed the iPhone as an enterprise tool changed their tune in 2008 because they were truly convinced, or if they saw themselves being overtaken by the tide of history.

BlackBerry was slow to respond, but respond it has, first with an app store much like iTunes, with music to boot, and then with an increasing variety of new handsets that mimicked the iPhone pretty closely, down to the touchscreen. In fact, BlackBerry was criticized for the Storm because it ditched the familiar trackball navigation in favor of a clumsy version of the touchscreen, but promises the next version will be better. In the meantime, it is continuing to roll out the red carpet for developers to create yet more applications, including one that supports the mother of all consumer applications, Twitter.

The iPhone also has become more hospitable territory for business, as illustrated by recent support for the iPhone from database vendor FileMaker and enterprise software vendor Citrix, which makes software that allows customers to use desktop applications remotely.

In the final analysis, though, BlackBerry has an advantage that iPhone will find difficult to overcome: it doesn’t have an albatross named AT&T. Yes, you can get a BlackBerry on the AT&T network, but you can also get one on just about any network you choose in the U.S., including Verizon, which is reputed to have the most reach. BlackBerry also has a head start over iPhone in terms of integrated business applications like expense approval technology from IBM and SAP, but that advantage may be short-lived.

This is why Apple is surely planning to roll out a larger, more robust version of the iPhone that can replace many laptops. Apple COO Tim Cook may have recently disparaged netbooks as inelegant and feature-poor, but he may have simply been doing that so he could introduce a new device in the near future while saying, “see, this is how it’s done.”

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Coming Regulation Revelation: Why Microsoft Dynamics GP and SL Users Should Be Well Prepared

Use the words "Madoff," "economic meltdown," and "new Administration" in one sentence, then try to convince somebody that increased accounting regulation isn't coming.

Of course there will be abundant new initiatives to keep tabs on, and control of, company finances. What we don't know is precisely how increased regulation will impact our corporate books-or how soon.

Such entities as the Securities and Exchange Commission and Public Company Accounting Oversight Board will be front and center in the effort to ramp up regulation. Expected outcomes tied to the incoming Obama Administration include increased scrutiny of financial institutions coupled with more strict accounting procedures.

Recently-heard political rhetoric offers more than hints at what's coming. Such comments as "outdated and weak regulatory system," and "failure of regulators to adequately police the markets" no doubt will set the tone of efforts that ultimately will ramp up reporting and tracking requirements of companies throughout the country.

This scenario makes an extremely strong case for preventive medicine-in the form of accounting software with the power and resources to stay on top of expected regulations. In turn, this will help prevent SMBs nationwide from being crushed beneath the weight of new measures as they are enacted.

Users of Microsoft Dynamics® products--in particular, Dynamics GP and SL--should be prepared to meet challenges posed by increasing accounting regulation. Among the ways this robust accounting software will help in the coming days are:

1. Putting into place stronger processes and procedures that will make compliance with new regulations more of a natural outgrowth of existing systems, versus having to rework and refine accounting systems to place them into compliance.

Think of this in terms of the taxpayer informed of a pending audit. A company that has kept its books up to date and accurate can, in essence, hand over complete records. Otherwise, work hours-and costs-pile up trying to put together the necessary after-the-fact information for the audit. Besides the direct cost of these hours, there's the consequent disruption of normal work routines, which also can prove very costly. By using such Microsoft Dynamics components as SmartView in Audit Trails, a company can keep compliance reviews efficient and cost-effective.

2. Instilling confidence by virtue of its reputation for accuracy and reliability. Who do you think an auditor or regulator will have the most confidence in: a company providing hand-scrawled financials, an enterprise using entry-level software, or a company that has made a serious, substantial commitment to accounting excellence? Obviously, this confidence translates into less confrontation when facing an audit or regulatory review.

3. Providing comprehensive documentation and security. Microsoft Dynamics enables companies to implement highly-complex security protection, develop complete audit trails, track changes and approvals, and safeguard against errors with sophisticated control processes.

4. Ensuring seamless connection with other Microsoft applications to create consistent, smooth communication of information and data. This heightens ability to share information with those possessing adequate security clearance, and lessens chances of data losses that sometimes occur in transit from one application to another.

5. Providing automated compliance processes and procedures. Such programs as Analytical Accounting for Microsoft Dynamics help keep companies in the know about compliance issues.

6. Offering a regular stream of information and alert updates. Role-tailored alerts, SmartList, and Key Performance Indicators all help propagate up-to-date information to everyone authorized to see it, and dependent upon it for compliance excellence.

Re-regulation is coming big time. Get your ducks in a row now, so you don't have to duck when regulators and auditors take aim down the road.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Free CustomerSource Webcast

Would you like to see what CustomerSource can do you for you? Microsoft Dynamics CustomerSource is a password-protected site for customers using Microsoft Dynamics products, provided as a benefit of a service plan. Use it to search the Knowledge Base, download updates, view online training, and find other information resources virtually 24 hours a day. To learn more about how CustomerSource can help you save your business money view the online webcast recording presented by Arlin Fisher, Senior Product Manager –Microsoft Corporation. (Duration: 60 min)

Webcast Agenda:

  • Self-help tools
  • Product updates and downloads
  • Training and support services
  • Business news
  • Community information


If you are a looking for a quick tour of CustomerSource, you can view our online demo.

CustomerSource is one of the many benefits of a service plan. Click here to send me a request for more information on CusomerSource.

Thanks

Russell Yearwood

i.t.works

www.thinkitworks.com

601-264-0969 ext 112

Monday, April 6, 2009

CONSUMERS IMPACT ON BRANDING

PepsiCo, producer of Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice, recently replaced their iconic packaging (the orange with the straw) with a glass of orange juice. While a seemingly small change in the company’s brand, loyal Tropicana orange juice drinkers immediately responded and expressed their disdain for the new packaging. They emailed, tweeted, blogged etc, their complaints with the new logo. In effort to appease their angered consumer base, PepsiCo quickly reverted to the old logo.


The Tropicana orange juice debacle clearly illustrates how important it is for companies to involve their existing consumer base in brand -related decisions. Rather than being retroactive by changing the product after the backlash, Tropicana should have taken into account the opinion of the buyer. In doing so, Tropicana would have not only avoided the backlash but also established a stronger relationship with customers.

While, Tropicana solicited professional logo design advice, in the end it was the customer who had the last say. By hearing and responding, Tropicana did ease upset customers. However; had they involved their loyal customers in the process in the first place, the whole situation could have been avoided.

The reason I wanted to send this to our clients is simply this: We are not our brand-our customers are. Without you, we’re nothing. So, if there is something that you would like to see changed, or just something that you would simply like to voice, please let us know. We are hear to listen, and to help.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Now's the Time To Improve Productivity

There’s little you can do to solve our world’s financial woes. So why not focus your effort on something you can control – making your organization more efficient and productive in a tough economic environment. Our Q1 2008 newsletter introduced the Dynamics SL Business Portal and how it could be used to organize and access information from anywhere at any time. In this issue, we’d like to expand on this topic a bit and explore ways to reduce IT costs and improve efficiency.

Your Portal to Efficiency
The Dynamics SL Business Portal is a collection of predefined, Web‐based pages that interact directly with Dynamics SL data. Samples of preconfigured pages include time and expense entry, purchase requests, and employee self‐service. The Business Portal is built on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (“SharePoint”) technology. As such, its utility extends beyond your Dynamics SL system. SharePoint can act as a central repository that manages all of your organization’s documents, allow you to collaborate with others inside and outside your organization, and automate many common business processes. SharePoint also reduces IT administration expense as it provides web‐based access to Dynamics SL, eliminating the need to load software (and subsequent updates) on every user’s workstation.

One View, One Set of Project Documents
SharePoint is a great tool for managing project documents. Think of the productivity gains you’ll experience by merely clicking on a Dynamics SL project and accessing a centralized library containing related consulting contracts, statements of work, change orders, project plans, status reports, and project meeting minutes. No more wasted time digging through file cabinets or searching the network for misplaced documents. Project data from Dynamics SL can be combined with other important sources of information including spreadsheets, graphs, and notes. Perhaps best of all, everyone is working from the same SharePoint portal so your project team is always working with the most recent documents.

Improving Communication
With project calendars, team member information, announcements, and meeting notes all centrally located and available over the Web, SharePoint significantly improves communication within your team. What’s more, you can extend SharePoint technology to your customers. With appropriate security, they can access important project information online and reduce the time your staff spends responding to project status inquiries. You can even include a process for your customers to view and approve your invoices online which will speed‐up payment and improve cash flow.

Who’s Managing This Project?
With a multitude of graphs, tables and even “green/yellow/red” conditional alerts, Project Managers can use Dynamics SL Business Portal and SharePoint technology to track key performance indicators (KPI’s) such as staff utilization, project milestones, and actual vs. budgeted project expenses. Share‐Point can also be used to automate time consuming, manual processes like approving change orders.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Charting Your Course To Success

You’ve probably heard the old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” The same holds true for your business. Today, there are various “dashboard” tools available that convert huge volumes of raw operational data into visual cues that will enable you to respond more quickly to changes, help you make more informed decisions, and set (or keep) your business on a course to success.

The View From Here is Great!
Business dashboards communicate an abundance of complex information quickly. They translate information from Microsoft Dynamics GP and other data sources into visually rich presentations using gauges, maps, charts and other graphical elements for a quick view of your key performance indicators or “KPIs.” KPIs refer to critical metrics that measure the health of your business. Examples might include total sales, gross profit margins, desired inventory levels, or any other metric you watch closely to quickly determine whether your business is performing within an acceptable range.


While dashboards are extensively used by managers and executives, associates at all levels of an organization (with proper security) can evaluate visual metrics that are important to their role within the company. In addition, most dashboards will allow you to drill down into the underlying details to further investigate an issue and to support a quick and informed response.

It’s Like Driving a Car
Like the dashboard in your car, one glance provides everything you need to know about your speed, fuel level, and other vital gauges. The same can be said about a business dashboard that aggregates huge volumes of data and presents it in a format that’s easy to interpret at a glance. And with flexible personalization options, you can choose which KPIs and gauges are important to you. Dashboard elements can also be arranged in a specific order and display as much or as little detail to fit your needs.

What About My Current Reports?
Traditional reports play an important role in your company. However, dashboards offer advantages that can be used to compliment your existing reporting structure. Dashboards can combine data across multiple databases into a single view … a task that can be a bit more difficult and time‐consuming using traditional reporting tools. Plus the visual cues and graphical charts provide meaningful insight at a glance (it’s a lot harder to “glance” at a 15‐page report). It’s all about empowering you with tools to monitor and evaluate business performance in real‐time, make quick and informed decisions, improve profitability, serve your customers better, and chart your course for success!

What’s the Best Tool for Creating Dashboards?
There are a host of business dashboard tools available for Microsoft Dynamics GP. Depending on your needs and the complexity of your operations, you can leverage a combination of tools that are built‐in
to your existing system and/or add‐on products that take web-based and dashboard‐style reporting to the next level.


Contact us for information about using dashboards to monitor & evaluate business performance or to discuss dashboard reporting options for Microsoft Dynamics GP

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Things Coming to i.t.works

Hello everyone. This post will be short in nature, but I just wanted to let you in on a little secret. "Coming Soon", i.t.works will be anouncing a new way of doing things that can help not only new clients, but our existing ones as well. For right now, we will call it the "i.t.works Stimulas Package", a creative way to help you save money when times are tough.

So please be on the look out for a new blog post on all the details.

Also, we would like to welcome Ian Meservy and Anthony Gingrich to the staff at i.t.works. Many of you may have already had contact with Ian (he has been here for a little while), and we are excited to have him on board as a new consultant. Anthony is a new programmer for i.t.works, and trust me, good things will come from knowledge and talent. Please feel free to reach out to them when needed. You may reach them at ian@thinkitworks.com and anthony@thinkitworks.com.

Again, if there is every a time that you need anything, please do not hestiate to contact me via phone or email. I am here to help you.

Well, I hope you all have a great day, and don't forget to keep a lookout for our announcemet.

Russell Yearwood
i.t.works
601-264-0969 ext 112
russell@thinkitworks.com

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

CONVERGENCE 2009, NEW ORLEANS, LA

Coming up March 10-13 in New Orleans is Microsoft Convergence 2009. Convergence is Microsoft's premier customer event for the Dynamics line of business, and it's one of Microsoft's largest conventions each year. A few people recently asked me why they should attend, given the difficult economy, and I was surprised that I quickly rattled off ten reasons why they should go. I'm sure that there are more but here are the ten biggest ones I came up with:

1) Learn how to get more out of your existing Dynamics program. Plenty of sessions at Convergence provide you with tips and information for fully exploiting your version of Dynamics. This is important information for tough times and give you the chance to look like a hero when you return home with ideas for improving the efficiency of your current setup.

2) Learn about new features planned for upcoming releases.The economy will turn around. When it does, people are going to want to know how to get ahead of the competition. Convergence can give you a heads up on all of the great new features in upcoming Dynamics releases, so you can better position your firm to compete.

3) Get Continuing Professional Education.If you are a CPA or other professional who needs continuing professional education (CPE) credits, your company is probably going to pay for them anyway, poor economy or not. Why not get two -for-one by attending Convergence to learn about Dynamics and getting CPE at the same time?

4) Learn what works from other users.You are not alone. You also don't have to figure everything out by yourself. There are thousands of users at Convergence, many of whom have been experiencing the same challenges as you. Convergence is the perfect place to ask questions and learn what works in the real world from real users.

5) Interact with product and support team members.Many of Microsoft's product team support members make it to Convergence. Being able to ask them questions is a phenomenal opportunity. There is nothing like walking through a scenario, in front of the application with a support team member looking over your shoulder.

6) Attend parties.Team Members and Partners are often more relaxed after the event. The social events are a great place to pursue some relationships that pay big dividends down the road. Don't underestimate this opportunity for networking. It's not frivolous. I've gotten some great info from clients.

7) Try something new.Hands-on labs at Convergence provide an opportunity to try out a product or process without worrying about setup, licensing or breaking something. If you've been wondering if a particular module would meet your needs, this is a way to figure it out quickly in a semi-structured environment.

8) Learn about Add-on Solutions.One of the benefits of the Dynamics ecosystem is that it is rich in vendors with applications designed to enhance your solution. This is the perfect place to pull out a list of pain points and see if there is an add-on solution that meets your needs. It doesn't matter if your pain is related to compliance, tax, efficiency or something else entirely; there is probably a third-party solution for you.

9) Learn about related applications.Convergence doesn't just cover the Dynamics applications. Related applications like SQL Server and the Microsoft Office products are covered as well. These products are an integral part of a Dynamics solution, and obtaining more information helps you better leverage your implementation.

10) Quick return on investmentIf you learn one thing that saves you eight hours of consulting time, you've essentially paid for the entrance fee. If you learn how to save two hours a week, you've gained one day-month in productivity. What is that worth to you?

Friday, February 13, 2009

ARE YOU LINKEDIN?

Most people use LinkedIn to “get to someone” in order to make a sale, form a partnership, or get a job. It works well for this because it is an online network of more than 8.5 million experienced professionals from around the world representing 130 industries. However, it is a tool that is under-utilized, so I’ve compiled a top-ten list of ways to increase the value of LinkedIn.

1. Increase your visibility.
By adding connections, you increase the likelihood that people will see your profile first when they’re searching for someone to hire or do business with. In addition to appearing at the top of search results (which is a major plus if you’re one of the 52,000 product managers on LinkedIn), people would much rather work with people who their friends know and trust.

2. Improve your connectability.
Most new users put only their current company in their profile. By doing so, they severely limit their ability to connect with people. You should fill out your profile like it’s an executive bio, so include past companies, education, affiliations, and activities. You can also include a link to your profile as part of an email signature. The added benefit is that the link enables people to see all your credentials, which would be awkward if not downright strange, as an attachment.

3. Improve your Google PageRank.
LinkedIn allows you to make your profile information available for search engines to index. Since LinkedIn profiles receive a fairly high PageRank in Google, this is a good way to influence what people see when they search for you. To do this, create a public profile and select “Full View.” Also, instead of using the default URL, customize your public profile’s URL to be your actual name. To strengthen the visibility of this page in search engines, use this link in various places on the web> For example, when you comment in a blog, include a link to your profile in your signature.

4. Enhance your search engine results.
In addition to your name, you can also promote your blog or website to search engines like Google and Yahoo! Your LinkedIn profile allows you to publicize websites. There are a few pre-selected categories like “My Website,” “My Company,” etc.
If you select “Other” you can modify the name of the link. If you’re linking to your personal blog, include your name or descriptive terms in the link, and voila! instant search-engine optimization for your site. To make this work, be sure your public profile setting is set to “Full View.”

5. Perform blind, “reverse,” and company reference checks.
LinkedIn’s reference check tool to input a company name and the years the person worked at the company to search for references. Your search will find the people who worked at the company during the same time period. Since references provided by a candidate will generally be glowing, this is a good way to get more balanced data.
Companies will typically check your references before hiring you, but have you ever thought of checking your prospective manager’s references? Most interviewees don’t have the audacity to ask a potential boss for references, but with LinkedIn you have a way to scope her out.
You can also check up on the company itself by finding the person who used to have the job that you’re interviewing for. Do this by searching for job title and company, but be sure to uncheck “Current titles only.” By contacting people who used to hold the position, you can get the inside scoop on the job, manager and growth potential.
By the way, if using LinkedIn in these ways becomes a common practice, we’re apt to see more truthful resumes. There’s nothing more amusing than to find out that the candidate who claims to have caused some huge success was a total bozo who was just along for the ride.

6. Increase the relevancy of your job search.
Use LinkedIn’s advanced search to find people with educational and work experience like yours to see where they work. For example, a programmer would use search keywords such as “Ruby on Rails,” “C++,” “Python,” “Java,” and “evangelist” to find out where other programmers with these skills work.

7. Make your interview go smoother.
You can use LinkedIn to find the people that you’re meeting. Knowing that you went to the same school, plays hockey, or shares acquaintances is a lot better than an awkward silence after, “I’m doing fine, thank you.”

8. Gauge the health of a company.
Perform an advanced search for company name and uncheck the “Current Companies Only” box. This will enable you to scrutinize the rate of turnover and whether key people are abandoning ship. Former employees usually give more candid opinions about a company’s prospects than someone who’s still on board.

9. Gauge the health of an industry.
If you’re thinking of investing or working in a sector, use LinkedIn to find people who worked for competitors—or even better, companies who failed. For example, suppose you wanted to build a next generation online pet store, you’d probably learn a lot from speaking with former Pets.com or WebVan employees.

10. Track startups.
You can see people in your network who are initiating new startups by doing an advanced search for a range of keywords such as “stealth” or “new startup.” Apply the “Sort By” filter to “Degrees away from you” in order to see the people closest to you first.

ARE YOU LINKEDIN? CONNECT WITH ME AND OTHERS AT I.T.WORKS AT http://www.linkedin.com/in/russellyearwood

Thursday, February 5, 2009

New Support Procedure

Dear Client,

First let me take this opportunity to say that I hope each of you had a great 2008 and wish each one a prosperous 2009.

The purpose of this email is to inform each of our clients of a new procedure here at i.t.works. Starting this week we have changed our support call procedure to help you the client. From here on out, each time that you have a support issue, in which you would require our assistance, please call (601) 264-0969 ext 112, or send an email to support@thinkitworks.com. At that point, your support call will be logged and assigned to our support team for completion. Once the issue is resolved, the case will be closed and you will be notified.

One thing to point out. When calling in or emailing your issue, please have as much detailed information as possible. This will allow us to expedite your case.

Please note that by calling in direct to a support technician and not following the above procedure will only delay your call. Support calls that follow the new procedure are priority, and therefore completed first.

If you have any questions concerning the above, please do not hesitate to contact me via email or phone.

Also, if you would like, you may join me on Windows Live Messenger. My Live Messenger ID is russell@thinkitworks.com. If you do not have Windows Live Messenger, you may download it at Windows Live Messenger

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.