Archives for June 2012

CPAs make a case for customer relationship management

BY SETH FINEBERG

Despite best intentions and good advice, accountants have long avoided or been mystified by the concept of customer
relationship management practices and tools. To be fair, many in the profession still barely understand what CRM is or
can do for a CPA practice, but times are changing.

In 2011, our survey of the Top 100 Firms found that CRM was the most popular technology plan among those that were
planning on implementing anything new that year.

Firms discovering the benefits of the latest CRM tools are doing so for the purposes of better communicating with their
existing client base, marketing services, building practice areas, or as a key component to overall firm growth.
Below is a small sample of the CRM solutions CPAs selected, how and why they chose them, and their overall experience
of working with them.

Creating processes

Firm: WebsterRogers / Florence, S.C.
Size: 120 staff
Product: Results CRM
Commencement date: January 2012
On record: Director of practice development Tim Allen
Challenge/objective: Wanted better tracking and management of the sales processes across eight offices.
Amount spent: Five users for under $2,000. This was a one-time fee, plus extra customer care costs for one year, which
includes upgrades.

Process: Allen was hired in June 2011 and was already speaking about CRM at a high level in different parts of the firm.
Once he garnered partner buy-in on the idea of adopting a CRM system, he began researching them, demoed a few, and
made a recommendation in September 2011.

“I had been tasked with managing the sales process; apart from keeping track of activities, we needed to manage that
better. If we wanted to grow by $2.4 million, we need to bring in $200,000 worth of business each month, and without
CRM we’d have no idea what’s in the pipeline,” said Allen. “It’s an evolving activity in our firm. Many of our partners have
little to no familiarity with CRM systems; some may have no idea what a CRM system is. I said we need to have this tool
for the firm and was tasked by the executive committee to go out and research and make recommendations.”

Results CRM was recommended by an outside IT consultant, and Allen, along with the firm’s managing partner and client
services manager, liked what they saw. Once approved, Results CRM, a cloud and on-premises-based system, was
deployed in November 2011 as a pilot, and by January 2012 the firm started using it collectively.

“We really liked the ease of use, and compatibility with our existing [accounting and practice management] systems was
also a key driver,” said Allen. “It eventually came down to pricing, and it was one third to half the cost of the next logical
CRM choice. Because we wanted to do it slowly, we wanted the system on our servers, but we will eventually move to the
cloud.”

Results/lessons learned: Allen admits that because of tax time, they are not currently using the system as much as he’d
like. The current challenge is making certain all data entered into Results CRM system is “clean,” meaning correct contact
information, names and titles. This, he explained, is a large part of working differently throughout the firm.

“It’s not something we’ve historically thought about – we never had to have the information in that manner,” said Allen.
“Having the system is not the be-all and end-all, there are growing pains as well as a cultural change, and they have to
gather complete information on their prospects and clients; otherwise, this will not be effective. As much as I’d like it to be
a revolution in the firm, it’s turning out to be more of an evolution.”

Next steps: The firm will likely have more active sales partners on the system after busy season, as well as education to
help partners identify a “qualified prospect.” Allen is not expecting immediate results.

“We have aggressive growth goals and we are sticking to them. We’d rather reach for the stars and fall short than be
conservative and just hit numbers,” he said. “This is going to be a long process; it’s not something our partners have a lot
of experience with. Partners and accountants in general are not used to a systematic approach to sales.”

**Click here to read the full Accounting Today article**

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The ROI of Virtualization: Get Big Results from Your Servers

used with permission from the Cisco Small Business Resource Center

Virtualization is more than a buzzword. It can save you thousands, or even tens of thousands, of dollars.

Innovative businesses of all sizes are applying server virtualization to:

  • Reduce operating expenses for electricity, facility space, and IT labor
  • Cut capital expenses (CapEx) for server hardware
  • Become more efficient and agile

What is server virtualization? It consolidates onto one physical server virtual versions of business applications and their operating systems (OS) – such as file servers, Microsoft Exchange, or SQL databases – that must otherwise be housed individually in dedicated servers.

Businesses that invest in server virtualization realize ROI in up to five ways, report Cisco® Certified Partners that provide virtualization services to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

1. Reduce Costs for Hardware, Floor Space, and Energy

“You’ll typically see cost savings in the area of 50 percent on hardware, power, and cooling,” says Doug Renner, CEO at Peak IP Solutions. A Cisco Premier Certified Partner, Peak IP Solutions specializes in IP communications and infrastructure, and provides a range of managed services.

The consolidation of multiple applications cuts all the hardware costs of a dedicated server – hard disk, CPU, memory, power supplies, network cards, switch ports, and the server itself.

Virtualization is a “green” technology. It requires less facility space than dedicated servers and decreases the costs to heat and cool that space. It also reduces the costs to power the servers and their internal fans.

One customer of Ubisec Systems that converted 30 dedicated servers to 2 virtual hosts cut its energy costs by 70 percent, says Edward Sohn, CEO at Ubisec. A Cisco Premier Certified Partner, Ubisec Systems specializes in cloud infrastructure, voice, and security solutions; it also offers managed services to SMBs.

2. Save on IT Staffing Costs

“Fewer servers means less IT staff time spent on them,” says Renner. He estimates that virtualization can reduce ongoing system administration and maintenance time spent by IT staff by about 20 percent.

Having fewer servers also reduces the labor costs for specialized OS knowledge. “As anyone with at least 10 servers knows,” says Sohn, “having servers from multiple vendors requires expertise and ongoing training in each vendor’s OS.

“And when there’s a problem, having servers from multiple vendors can take much longer to resolve because you don’t have ‘a single throat to choke.’ Having integrated virtualization – for example, Cisco Unified Computing System (Cisco UCS) servers running VMware-saves a lot of staff time, pain, and money,” he says. Prices on Cisco UCS C-Series servers start at about $3000; an optional virtual interface card also reduces CapEx for network interface cards, HBAs, cabling, and switches.

3. Increase Application Availability and Peace of Mind

Virtualization technology helps prevent business downtime. One reason, says Sohn, is that the newer and simpler server environment increases performance and management control. Renner adds that a controller built into Cisco UCS C-Series servers lets all configuration and management be accomplished remotely.

Virtualization also allows each server to be easily and regularly backed up and replicated as a complete virtualized image onto a separate disk-based storage appliance, says Renner. If an application or server fails, the backup virtual server can be used immediately.

4. Consolidate Disaster Recovery

Virtualization helps protect against business disruption in the case of a natural disaster, power outage, or human error or attack. A business with a backup virtual server can replicate it and store a copy offsite, by doing so itself or using a managed service.

Peak IP Solutions provides a managed service that replicates and monitors server backups and stores encrypted copies offsite at two data center sites.

4. Become More Agile and Efficient

Adding new business applications is a whiz. “Building a traditional application server – acquiring it, setting it up, and configuring it – typically takes a few weeks,” Renner says. “In a virtualized environment, adding a server can take as little as five minutes.”

Virtualization can also streamline routine business processes. Before seeking help from Peak IP Solutions, one software company with about 500 employees at multiple sites had been setting up a variety of dedicated Linux, Windows, and other OS servers to develop, test, and perform quality assurance on its code. Now staff engineers test their code much more quickly on the fully configured virtual servers.

“And when they find a bug, they can save the exact situation into storage and refer to it whenever they want, like a reference volume in a library,” says Renner.

Is Virtualization Right for Your Business?

Applying server virtualization is a technology journey. “It’s not just a server project or a network project; it’s both,” says Sohn.

The first step is to assess your business’s current server, network, and storage performance and capacity, and evaluate future requirements. The next step is to perform a cost/benefit analysis.

Cisco Certified Partners with expertise in virtualization can help your business with both of these steps, and throughout the virtualization journey – including planning, technology financing and training, and award-winning ongoing support.

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Support is ending for Windows XP and Office 2003

Keeping your technology up-to-date is good for your productivity and security—as well as your bottom line. 

Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) and Office 2003 will be reaching end of support in April 2014. We want to help you avoid the risk of running an unsupported version of Windows & Office, and to assist with your IT planning for 2012. The objective of this letter is to highlight the potential risks involved with the upcoming end of support of these products and to outline the options available to mitigate these risks.   

What is the situation and potential risk? 

Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 will no longer be supported from April 8, 2014 onwards. After this date, Microsoft will notprovide any public support for these products, including security patches, non-security hotfixes or incident support. 

Running Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 in your environment after their end of support date may expose your company to potential risks, such as:  

  • Security & Compliance Risks – Unsupported and unpatched environments are vulnerable to security risks. This may result in an officially recognized control failure by an internal or external audit body, leading to suspension of certifications, and/or public notification of the organization’s inability to maintain its systems and customer information. 
  • Lack of Independent Software Vendor (ISV) & Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Support – A recent industry report from Gartner Research suggests “many independent software vendors (ISVs) are unlikely to support new versions of applications on Windows XP in 2011; in 2012, it will become common”. And it may stifle access to hardware innovation: Gartner Research further notes that in 2012, most PC hardware OEMs will stop supporting Windows XP on the majority of their new PC models. See Creating a Timeline for Deploying Windows 7 and Eliminating Windows XP SP3, June 2011.

What are the available options?

  1. Upgrade – This option affords customers the best return on investment by deploying a modern PC with Windows 7 Enterprise and Office 2010. Whether you’re a small business or the largest corporation with offices worldwide, moving to a modern PC with Windows 7 Enterprise and Office 2010 offers your business the ability to improve productivity for your employees and increase operational efficiency through improved PC security and management.

    To help customers with the migration/deployment process, NUMGI offers several options including proof of concept (POC) and production pilot programs, to help you achieve a successful upgrade to Windows 7 Enterprise and Office 2010.  

  2. Purchase a Custom Support contract through Premier Support to stay on unsupported products – If, for any reason, you decide to remain on Windows XP SP3 or Office 2003 after support ends, you have the option to purchase Custom Support. As a condition of buying a Custom Support contract, you must have a Premier Support agreement and Microsoft asks that you have a migration plan in place. The cost of Custom Support is significantly higher than regular support, and rises annually due to the rising costs of supporting a legacy product. 
  3. Do nothing – Microsoft recommends customers avoid this option for it can put you at risk of potential security and compliance issues.  

Where can you find more information?

  • Full details on Microsoft product support lifecycle is available at: http://support.microsoft.com/lifecycle
  • Full details on end of support for Windows XP and Office 2003 is available at: www.microsoft.com/endofsupport 
  • Full details on Microsoft deployment guidance, training and free deployment tools for your IT Professionals at: www.microsoft.com/springboard

We can work with you to help you upgrade your PCs for today’s business environment. Contact us if you would like a personalized evaluation of your current PCs.

Use with permission from Microsoft.

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Randy P. Johnston

Business Owner, Author, and Nationally-Renowned Consultant

Randy Johnston, local business owner, author, and nationally-renowned consultant, graduated from Hutchinson High School in 1973. A graduate of HCC and Kansas State University, Mr. Johnston earned his master’s degree in Computer Science from Wichita State. Starting his career on an IBM mainframe, he eventually gained vast experience as a programmer, college instructor, author, entrepreneur and consultant. At one time he received the first IBM PC in Kansas and the first Compaq portable computer in the state. Eventually he became involved with the development of Local Area Networks, Computer Aided Design, Desktop Publishing and Wide Area Networks. Mr. Johnston continues to consult with some of the country’s most progressive accounting firms as well as many other industries including banking, manufacturing, and distribution, and a broad range of computer software publishers and hardware manufacturers.

Mr. Johnston is the husband of Pam Johnston, also an HHS graduate, and the proud father of four children, also alumni of HHS. He has also found time to enjoy family, golf, and playing the bass clarinet in the Hutchinson Municipal Bank, for which he has served as president. Mr. Johnston served on the USD 308 Board of Education and was vital in the development of a plan to update outdated technology district wide. He also enjoys writing and has published a number of books over the past thirty years, including programming texts and computer introduction books. Randy has been published or quoted in hundreds of magazines, newspapers, and journals over his career. He has been recognized as one of the Top 100 influencers in the accounting industry from 2004-2011. Mr. Johnston has been invited to speak at more than 50 state, national, and international conferences each year. For these reasons, Mr. Randy Johnston has assured his place on the Hutchinson High School Wall of Honor.

2012 – Honoree

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Providing IT Services and Technological Solutions for Your Financial Institution’s Needs

Network Management Group, Inc. has a very long and established history in the financial services sector. In the last 30 years of providing IT and technology services to financial institutions of all sizes across the country, we have seen the vast and dramatic changes in regulations and required security protocols. In just the last few years many previous system implementations and strategies have been rendered outdated and ineffective, which requires many financial institutions to implement new solutions that are both cost effective and deliver proven results. As a result of our extensive experience, NMGI specializes in protecting revenue from lack of productivity, lack of security, and unnecessary operating costs.

In today’s market, no matter the size of your business or where it is, you simply must have security features in place for all of your computers, data, records, and electronic communications. Your well-being, your customer’s well-being, and the future of your business depend on it. Further, your employees need to be aware of, and vigilant towards, all new security threats. It comes down to mitigating risk, and a technology security breach is a very real risk today. Developing risk management strategies and implementing effective IT solutions require professionals who know the ins and outs of the financial sector, including the regulations that govern banking and financial professionals.

Among other services for the financial sector, NMGI specializes in providing critical solutions for secure data backup that meet regulatory standards for disaster recovery. Our experience with the financial services industry spans three decades, so we can assist you with your operational and technology processes including business continuity planning. We are not strictly a technology or IT consulting firm because we have extensive banking experience. Our Consultants specializing in banking and finance have first-hand knowledge of operational problems and are available to speak with you today.

Services Include:

  • Compliance and regulatory agency assistance
  • Security Assessments
  • Security awareness training for GLBA compliance
  • Secure email
  • Platform Integration
  • Policy Generation, Review, and Management
  • FedLine Advantage integration done properly
  • ATM patch management and secure routing
  • Technology Planning
  • Technology Product Selection
  • Marketing Assistance
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