What Your Business Can Learn From Holiday Shopping Trends

I don’t know about you, but the majority of my Holiday purchases were made online this year. The convenience and ease-of-use outweigh a trip to a crowded shopping mall every day and twice on weekends in my book, and statistically, almost half of Americans agree. A recent survey by Burst Media found that the key reasoning behind this is a preference for the relaxed online shopping experience, and according to HubSpot, the internet is fast becoming a preferred retailer with an expected growth to 192 million savvy e-shoppers by 2016. In fact, online spending is forecast at over $70 billion this Holiday Season, an increase of more than $10 billion year over year.

It is no shock that e-commerce is the way of the future, but simply listing your product or service online isn’t enough. The brands that incorporate e-commerce into their business model successfully understand the importance of maintaining a solid customer experience. We’ve all been that person on hold, waiting for a customer service representative to aid us in some form or another, being transferred around and prompted to repeat the same information over and over.

This is what we like to call a market differentiator, and it all boils down to this: The businesses that do e-commerce well understand the importance of back-end integration.

As we look at the big picture of technology evolution and market trends, it is becoming increasingly apparent that there is a growing bridge between a business’ e-commerce solution and their customer relationship management (CRM). This seems like a no-brainer; why wouldn’t a business want to be running on a single platform that tracks not only sales and order management but also customer data?

But many retailers are missing the mark. Why? The inability to access to real-time information compiled from multiple touch points across the entire organization. In this regard, having multiple channels to interact and engage with your customers almost works against your business when they are not integrated to deliver a complete, centrally located record. A 360-degree view of the client relationship, from online and in-store history to social media and email interactions, empowers your business representatives to offer a customized, efficient customer experience, and by providing seamless customer data to the hands of the team members at the front line of your business, your organization becomes more effective across KPIs.

Whether your business is B2B or B2C, the convergence of e-commerce and CRM systems presents numerous possibilities to both observe and measure your customer interactions and build upon your engagement opportunities. From personalized merchandising and offers to providing representatives with valuable account information at their fingertips, you can not only increase the quality of your customer service but also gain insights into the shopping trends of your customer, allowing reps to leverage cross-sell or up-sell techniques based off actionable inventory and engagement data. This integration can also provide the foundation for customer self-service which is rapidly becoming a demanded, if not expected, aspect of the online shopping experience today.

More and more e-commerce hosting providers are building CRM functionality into their sites, but unless there is a plug for your existing back-end, you are looking at replicating data. Rather, we are seeing an upswing of multi-functional business systems available in the market, combining traditional business back-end processes with e-commerce. Dynamic enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems like NetSuite combine e-commerce, point-of-sale (POS) and order fulfillment with traditional back office systems – from inventory management and financial reporting to support and marketing CRM capabilities – all on a single, scalable cloud platform. Additionally, nontraditional CRM systems such as Salesforce and InfusionSoft have expanded services, including e-commerce and analytics with multiple business application extras. CRM functionality ingrained in e-commerce retailing will become increasingly commonplace looking ahead, and the organizations that focus on this integration will be the businesses that stand above the rest and gain a competitive advantage in an increasingly commoditized marketplace.


trina_michelsTrina Michels is a business applications manager with Eide
Bailly Technology Consulting. Analytical by nature, Trina
aims to streamline operations that are often overlooked
by integrating and implementing end-to-end solutions for
her clients that support their unique business objectives,
leveraging technology to maximize goals.

tmichels@eidebailly.com

 

To Be or Not To Be {Agile}

The concept of Agile Project Management (APM) has been turning the heads of management teams across industries lately. This isn’t particularly surprising; who wouldn’t be interested in a business approach that promotes high speed, high quality, and high impact results? But before everyone jumps on the agile bandwagon, let’s take a look at what agile really is and decipher if it is truly the most effective solution for your organization.

Agile Is …
First and foremost, agile is a project methodology originally designed for software development projects that promotes value-driven, iterative deliverables accomplished over short 2-4 week periods, dubbed sprints. The objectives and requirements are defined at the beginning of a sprint, and those are the only items addressed during that sprint. If new requirements arise, they go into a work-in-progress (WIP) backlog to be assigned and executed in a future sprint. The appeal of agile lies in the “sellable” product resulting from a short timeframe that is consistently improved and built upon until all the stakeholders needs are met.

Agile has ultimately become the new buzzword for getting things done. It allows flexibility and continuous improvement throughout the entirety of a project, focusing on collaboration and personal accountability in order to achieve a high quality end-product. Daily “stand-ups” are at the heart of agile which allows any issues to be identified immediately and resolved quickly, making for more effective forward progress.

One of the biggest draws to utilizing APM is the fluidity of project requirements. In the traditional waterfall project management approach, requirements are fully defined during the planning phase and set in the stone with a scope document. It is then the project manager’s job to protect the defined scope with all the severity and aggressiveness of a Secret Service agent. In a true APM style project, however, requirements are never rigid, eliminating the need for a scope document (yay!). But before you get on with your happy dance and jump on the agile train, let me point out that an agile project is still a project, which by definition must have a clear start and finish. Even with agile, you must define the basic requirements to be met, in turn allowing other requirements to be repeatedly added during each sprint.

Agile Is Not …
Agile is not an excuse to avoid planning and/or documenting throughout a project. While the overall project requirements are fluid and continuously identified, APM is not a license for scope creep. Scope in the agile world is a moving target and will morph and evolve throughout the lifecycle of a project, but scope changes still need to be controlled. An agile scope is defined more so at the sprint level rather than the project level; if there are scope changes, it needs to go into the WIP backlog to be reviewed in an upcoming sprint.

Agile is not the best solution for every project. For APM to be value added in your organization there must be dedicated, knowledgeable resources that are readily able to make on-the-fly decisions. This is where a number of organizations fall short. The majority of organizational structures are functional, meaning they are organized into teams based solely on function; the ideal structure for APM is project-focused where the organization is divided into project teams with team members reporting directly to a project manager. In order for a functional organization to fully adopt agile, project resources would need to be pulled from their functional roles and be dedicated to a single project – which, let’s face it, is sometimes easier said than done.

The pace of agile requires quick, definitive decision making. If there are approval processes or multiple decision makers outside the project team that need to have the final say, agile will not work within your organization. At APM’s core is constant progress, and waiting for decisions to be made throws off the entire development and balance of the project. APM also relies heavily on constant communication between project team members. Therefore, ideally, the project team should be in the same location or, at the least, in the same time zone. As previously mentioned, a key element of APM is the daily “stand-up” scrum where team members conduct progress reports at least once daily to identify issues early and make any necessary adjustments to successfully accomplish the requirements of the current sprint. Global or virtual teams have a tendency to reduce communication and minimize accountability, two pillars of agile without which the project will fall apart.

To Be or Not To Be {Agile}, That Is the Question
According to research done by the Project Management Institute (PMI), roughly two-thirds of organizations are using Agile Project Management to some degree. The question becomes to what degree are they truly agile? It is in my experience that many organizations call themselves an agile business, but in reality, they are only utilizing a couple tools out of the agile toolbox. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it may be better for an organization to adopt a marriage of waterfall and agile philosophies, as each has its strengths and neither is a one-size-fits-all solution.

To identify which methodology to use for a given project, there are a couple key considerations that will tip the scales in the right direction:

  • What are the project restraints? Projects that have a triple constraint – time, budget, and scope – are more effectively managed through traditional waterfall practices because of its strict scope management. Agile is better suited for projects that have fluid requirements that are iteratively defined.
  • What are the stakeholder reporting requirements? If stakeholders are expecting a detailed project plan and regular percent complete reports, they would likely be more comfortable with a waterfall approach.
  • What are the commitment and decision making capabilities of the project team? If you have the luxury of having fully dedicated resources that are empowered to take decisive action on the project, agile would be a great fit.

When it comes to project management, you do not need to be rigid in your requirements, and there is no rule that states you have to stick to just one methodology. Customization is not the enemy in this case; project management is a buffet! Take what you like and put together your own personalized project management system. If you don’t like it, change it. If it isn’t working, modify it. Every organization is unique, and the management of your projects can be too.


sabrina_schindlerSabrina Schindler is a technology consultant with
Eide Bailly Technology Consulting. She is a
certified Project Management Professional (PMP)
with more than 7 years of experience managing
software application implementation and
optimization projects covering scope, timelines,
and resources.

sschindler@eidebailly.com

 

Storage Strategy | Is Your Data Working With Your Budget?

As we approach year-end and the annual closing of the books, have you examined your storage needs and budget for the upcoming year? How much have you spent on data storage and backup this year? If you know this number off the top of your head, you’re ahead of the game. Most SMB owners look at the costs associated with managing their IT infrastructure – including storage, networking, backup, disaster recovery, business continuity, et al. – as a lump sum of ongoing expenses. The only way to recognize the costs associated with managing your IT environment is to divide it into manageable components and digest each piece individually, storage being one of them. As the saying goes, divide and conquer, right?

According to TechTarget, the average cost for purchasing storage for a Storage Area Network (SAN) is around $0.08 per megabyte. For Network Attached Storage (NAS), it’s closer to $0.06 per megabyte – and falling. Add time management to the equation and the total annual expense ranges between $0.66 and $1.50 per megabyte. With data coming in so many unstructured varieties today  from video to emails and presentations needless to say, the megabytes can add up quickly. Fortunately, there are many options available to businesses for both the actual storage and the location of that storage. Often, the best solution is a combination of services, creating a customized solution that fits your individual business.

As Entrepreneur.com explains, the best way to develop your storage strategy is to carefully assess your business needs with the assumption that not all data is created equal. When embarking on a needs assessment, it can be wise to engage with a consultant that understands the criteria and how it impacts your business. Some of the key considerations you will want to address include:

  • Which applications generate the largest | most files?
  • Which applications run on which servers?
  • How old is the data?
  • How much of the data is duplicate or stale?
  • How much of the data is not business essential?
  • How quickly do you need to be able to access the data?
  • From which locations do you need to access which data groups?

Once you understand the nature of your data, you’ll be able to assess your needs with relative ease and accuracy. Online cloud storage services like Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, and iCloud enable businesses to back up their data to a secure, remote server, protecting against the possibility of local damage or loss. Large files can be shared with ease and are accessible from any browser through a secure login; however, retrieval is only as fast as the speed of your network. Network Attached Storage (NAS) is another popular solution for small and mid-sized businesses needing large amounts of economical storage that multiple users can share over a network. NAS services allow users to consolidate storage while increasing efficiency and reducing costs and are scalable, similar to cloud options, to meet your business’ growing storage needs.

The first step any business should take when addressing storage spend and capacity is to assess their needs through a thorough scoping of their environment and evaluation of their current and future business requirements. From there, engaging a storage expert – like Eide Bailly Technology Consulting – can determine the right solution for your budget, capacity and business critical processes, be that a stand-alone service or multi-solution strategy.

As we approach a new year and a fresh ledger, make a point to familiarize yourself with the needs, costs, and technologies associated with your IT infrastructure. Is your current environment working with your growth strategy? Now is the time to develop a storage strategy that protects and ensures the accessibility, reliability, and integrity of your data for a prosperous 2015.


mike_arvidsonMike Arvidson is the Director of Eide Bailly Technology
Consulting’s Infrastructure Services. With more than 20
years of experience in the IT industry, Mike’s wealth of
knowledge includes network systems implementation,
integrated new technologies, and information security.

marvidson@eidebailly.com

 

Thanksgivalytics: Big Data on the Field

If you are anything like the millions of other Americans on Thanksgiving, after having had your fill of turkey and mashed potatoes tomorrow, you’ll settle into your couch with a slice of Grandma’s famous pumpkin pie and watch what is being touted as the best NFL Thanksgiving lineup ever. But as you partake in the long standing Thanksgiving Day tradition of family, food and football this year, take particular note of the stats and instant replays gracing your television screen during each game’s broadcast.

The NFL has gone next-gen.

Partnering with Zebra Technologies, the National Football League is tracking nearly every “mission critical” item on the field of 17 stadiums this season – except for the ball (more on that later) – via MotionWorks™ technologies. Each player is equipped with two quarter-sized radio-frequency identification (RFID) sensors in their shoulder pads, measuring speed, distance, and acceleration with only a half-second latency and within less than a six inch margin of error. Referees and first-down markers are also sporting the new devices, displaying a widespread acceptance of this technology and the real world relevance of big data and visual analytics in business today.

HOW IT WORKS
Zebra MotionWorks

While this integration of cutting edge analytic technology into the league will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the coaching staff, players, and game itself, the main value proposition for live big data visualization on the field is currently being focused on enhancing the fan experience. In fact, until all 31 NFL stadiums have installed the RFID sensor readers, the league isn’t releasing the data gathered to teams. Rather, the NFL is approaching next-gen statistics from the sole viewpoint of the fan, creating a real-time, immersive viewer experience with their favorite team unlike ever before.

Footballytics

Future iterations of this technology will see live time updates on not only motion but also an individual player’s physical condition such as heart rate, body temperature, lung capacity, and other training intensity data. Eventually, the sensor technology will be incorporated into the most critical asset in the game – the ball itself – without altering its weight, balance, feel or motion.

Imagine a game in which, after an interception, a quarterback will instantly compare his targeted receiver’s path to its designed route from the sidelines on his Surface Pro 3; where the sensors in a wide receiver’s equipment will determine if his actual speed and acceleration are meeting expectations; where coaches will look for cornerbacks consistently jumping routes and be able to adjust play calling on the next possession; where general managers will identify underperforming and overpaid players based on unprecedented statistical analysis capabilities.

This is yet another example of how analytics and big data are infiltrating our day-to-day lives, creating a better way to experience, excel and enable an otherwise largely unchanged industry. This Thanksgiving, after your second helping of mashed potatoes but before your food coma, observe the real time analytics in action from the fan’s perspective. In future seasons, big data will be empowering teams in the NFL to pinpoint problems in execution, strategy and personnel in nearly live time, enabling them to implement business critical changes within a single commercial break. Case study after case study indicates that implementing this technology into your organization can be the catalyst to drive your business forward, impacting everything from how upper management interacts with reporting to how your business capitalizes on the consumer experience. Take a cue from the National Football League’s playbook and put big data into the game.

 

“Footballytics” aside, Eide Bailly Technology Consulting would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our past and present clients in the true spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday: Gratitude. Thank you for your continued business.


joey_skinnerJoey Skinner is the Director of Eide Bailly Technology
Consulting’s Business Applications practice. Joey has
more than 22 years of experience in the information
technology field in roles ranging from application
architect and developer to technology consultant.
His expertise includes a strong understanding of
accounting principles and work flow procedures
with strong application development and systems
implementation experience.

jskinner@eidebailly.com

 

The Evolution of Business | How to Remain Relevant During Transforming Times

Evolve or fade; this is the reality of today’s business environment. Continuous, consistent transformation is absolutely necessary to keep pace in an age of unprecedented technological advancement and increasingly shifting consumer demands. Social media has brought forth a two-way channel of fostering the needs of the relationship era, but it has also increased the noise exponentially. Gauging what your customers want and need during this time of hyper-connectivity is sometimes easier said than done, but the fact remains that the most successful businesses are taking a stance of business model evolution, anticipating consumer demands ahead of the competition and adapting their business offerings to fit the times.

Businesses need to continually strive to find a better way in order to stay competitive and relevant in the marketplace, either through a fundamental transformation or constant evolution over time. Businesses that have withstood the test of time, like Corning – who transformed from manufacturing glass casings for the light bulb at its founding in 1851 to developing leading fiber optics and electronic device technologies such as Gorilla® Glass today – understand that adaption is innate to continued business success.

The trends impacting the evolution of business models today are unparalleled in their force and number. A recent survey report explains that “business transformation has taken ahold across the broad corporate landscape due to the confluence of several important triggers, including a tipping point in globalization, a major slowdown in Western economies, significant shifts in technology and energy costs, and the challenges of regulatory compliance.”

Businesses must take note by strategically approaching these triggers through continual realignment of their business models. Flexibility and keen perception to changing environments and consumer demands are key, as even these transformation triggers will change over time.


So, where do you start?

ASSESS  |  As previously mentioned, take into consideration the following when determining a change in your business:

  • Consumer Demands
  • Industry Trends
  • Regulatory Drivers
  • Economic Influences
  • Market Competition
  • Internal Revenue Streams and Cost Structures

SHAPE  |  Establish your strategic vision and define the goals and objectives to accomplish it. Organizations today must actively anticipate the needs of their customer, continually striving to be one step ahead of market trends while also accurately identifying how to achieve it within their business.

ALIGN  |  Align your people, process, and technology to find a better way. Your vision, influenced by the trending transformation triggers in the market, will guide your business’ path, but in the end, leaders must align their business model to fit their direction. Define the depth and scope of your evolution, taking into consideration internal processes and procedures that are the foundation of your back-end business. The current state of your business must be built on solid internal acceptance of any of the practices you wish to bring to market. You cannot successfully bring a service, solution, or product to the market – even if there’s established consumer demand – without embracing the technology and change in-house first.

EXECUTE  |  According to research, over half of businesses undergoing a change fail at achieving their desired trajectory. “In the current complex and fast-changing business climate, organizations often underestimate the significance of operating model refinements necessary to effect transformation across people, process, technology, data management and risk management components.” Don’t be a statistic; plan before you leap.


Change is inevitable, and today’s world is moving faster than ever. Peter Drucker knew it and in 1992 penned an enlightening and altogether spot-on expose on the nature of transformation.

“In a matter of decades, society altogether rearranges itself – its worldview, its basic values, its social and political structures, its arts, its key institutions. Fifty years later a new world exists. And the people born into that world cannot even imagine the world in which their grandparents lived and into which their own parents were born. Our age is such a period of transformation.”

If your business wants to remain relevant during a time that is seeing extraordinary transformation and technological advancement, it must evolve. Constantly. The process of change is not a check box, completed and removed; it is an ongoing frame of mind, engrained in to your business culture through every decision and every process. Business leaders cannot sit stagnantly in a state of complacency with their current revenue stream, because even if you are not adapting, the market and your competition are.

 

 

At Eide Bailly Technology Consulting, we are constantly realigning to the needs of our clients, expanding our services and solutions to continually find a better way to drive our clients’ businesses forward through the use of technology. This has been realized recently in the growth of our ERP presence in a thriving, new market. Head over to our newsroom to learn more about our expanded expertise and how we’re transforming to provide additional value to our clients.


scott_kostScott Kost is the Director & Principal of Eide Bailly
Technology Consulting. With over 25 years of
experience in the IT industry, Scott’s wealth of
knowledge includes new technologies
implementation, information security and
system operations, leadership
development, and strategic planning.

skost@eidebailly.com

Two-Factor Authentication: The New Standard

Password protection seems to be frame of mind for nearly every online consumer these days. With headlines surrounding credential hacks constantly appearing, from Dropbox to Gmail, it’s no wonder that the topic is a consistent area of concern.

So what can you do?

Well, for one, update your passwords regularly, be that seasonally or on a different rotation cycle. And not to your cat’s name like this guy.

Second, you should consider implementing the latest security practice of two-factor, or two-step authentication. Commonly used with banking sites, this process adds an extra layer of defense against hackers. As the name suggests, it protects your account through the requirement of two sets of identification information, such as a password and a pin. Some online services have even implemented a SMS prompt where, after correctly entering your password, a text message is sent to your cell phone with a unique string of characters to be entered to gain access to your account, drastically improving your account’s integrity compared to the standard single key method. 

Two-factor authentication is not perfect, but it does reduce the probability of a hack since it necessitates more than one set of personal credentials be compromised in order to penetrate your account. The addition of SMS protocol increases your defense substantially as cybercriminals would not only need your passkey but also possession and access to your cell phone.

Many services are jumping on board with two-factor authentication as the new standard for cybersecurity. Google announced in October the support for Security Key, an open standard that allows users to log on to their account via a physical device such as a USB containing a six-digit confirmation code in combination with their traditional password. Similar to the SMS route, both sets of credentials are required to access your account.

This trend in multi-key, multi-source validation recognizes a new era of cybersecurity, which could result in the extinction of single-factor passwords altogether.

 

For more information on how to enable two-factor authentication on your accounts, from Google and PayPal to Microsoft and Facebook, head over to Gizmodo to read tips and tricks by account type.


joe_tillmanJoe Tillman manages and oversees a group
of talented
engineers and IT testers within
Eide Bailly Technology
Consulting’s Service
Center team. With more than 13 years in
the technology industry working as a
business analyst and project manager, Joe
performs process and system reviews while
working with clients to define future strategic
goals, identify gaps, and develop an
executable roadmap
.

jtillman@eidebailly.com                                         

 

3 Reasons Rapid Growth Businesses Need Cloud ERP

In follow up to our recent posts on How Cloud ERP Creates Competitive Advantage and the 7 Practices of Highly Effective, Rapid Growth Businesses, we thought we would spend a little time focusing on habit #3: Think Efficient and how it applies to ERP.
Any successful organization is built on a solid foundation of efficient processes through the use of flexible technology solutions. An ERP system can be a catalyst for accelerated business when strategically implemented, and the right system will drive your business forward, not hold it back with bogged down reporting and manual processes. The benefits of cloud ERP in growing your organization are threefold:

  1. Learning Curves, Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That
    Time is money, and that sentiment could not reign more supreme than for hyper-growth businesses. Traditionally, migrating to a new system – especially a system so integral to your back-end office like ERP – has required a significant investment in training for administrators and end-users alike; however, cloud ERP is instinctively easy to use. Additionally, cloud implementation has a fast turnaround time, giving your organization the ability to spend valuable time focusing on expanding, rather than on downtime with an on-premise deployment. Look for an ERP that runs on the same terminology as your current system so you can jump right in where you left off.
  2. Integration, Now Customized
    Growing businesses require defined processes, processes that will ideally fit to your exact organizational needs. Often times, though, entry-level ERP either cannot accommodate and adapt to business requirements or there is a lack of resources – like time and money – to undergo an obtrusive, major on-premise ERP deployment. The beauty of cloud ERP is the ease of implementation combined with flexible functionality. An organization running on cloud ERP has the power of configuring on their side – customizing forms, adding user defined fields per client, and adapting scripts based on business logic. There is also the bonus of add-ons to the core ERP system; these application extensions via third-parties or the ERP vendor itself add expanded functionality with a few clicks of a button. Cloud-based ERP platforms allow for easy incorporation between business critical areas – whether that’s e-commerce, customer relation management (CRM), or inventory management – through these application extensions, giving you all the information you need working together on one platform.
  3. Eyes Wide Forward
    When you are projecting to grow by large percentages, planning ahead can be daunting. Don’t let your ERP be a limitation. Traditionally, organizations had to accommodate for their future growth by predicting their system needs months to years in advance and, often, missing the target. Keep your business’ focus on current needs while preparing for the future by implementing an ERP solution that will grow with you. Traditional ERP limits growth due to its innate lack of scalability, giving the cloud a distinct advantage. The flexibility and scalability of cloud ERP allows it to expand with your business without a large investment up-front, making it an asset in your growth and not a restriction.

Cloud ERP is particularly efficient in rapid growth organizations because at its core is an adaptable platform that is quick to implement, designed to integrate, fundamentally expandable, and relatively easy to learn – all of which are challenges often faced by emerging businesses using conventional solutions.


trina_michelsTrina Michels is a business applications manager with Eide
Bailly Technology Consulting. Analytical by nature, Trina
aims to streamline operations that are often overlooked
by integrating and implementing end-to-end solutions for
her clients that support their unique business objectives,
leveraging technology to maximize goals.

tmichels@eidebailly.com

 

Move Over Grim Reaper, Hackers Scariest

halloween

Happy All Hallows’ Eve! Looking for a good spook?

According to the recent crime poll by Gallup, over two-thirds of Americans are “frequently to occasionally” worried about being hacked, far surpassing all other crime fears. Concerns of stolen credit card information and the integrity of personal information on devices topped the upper sixtieth percentile in this year’s report, clearly showcasing the growing prevalence of cyberattacks today – and it appears to be justified.

With fears of the Grim Reaper earning less than 20%, perhaps we should rethink our Halloween costumes this year and trade in those black cloaks and scythes for a code book and keystroke reader.

How Cloud ERP Creates Competitive Advantage | Version-Locked versus Version-Less

Leveraging the advancements in technology to gain a competitive advantage is nothing new in today’s business world, but when was the last time you examined your ERP system under the same lens? The pace of business is changing; organizations simply cannot afford to move at yesterday’s speed, and much of today’s demands fall on process efficiency. However, according to Forrester Research, “approximately half of ERP customers are on releases that are two versions behind the current release, which may be four years old or more.” That statistic alone indicates that a large chunk of the marketplace is running on technology that was created when fax machines were still widely relevant and e-mail was just a novelty. The version-locked ERP of yesteryear is fundamentally incompatible with the current structure for success, and it should come as no surprise then that only 4% of today’s IT leaders feel that their ERP system offers a competitive advantage for their organization.

Version-locked ERP is plaguing many businesses today. The aging, on-premise system grows farther out of alignment with the needs of the organization every day, with no updates for new regulations or integrations to the latest e-commerce platform, stagnant behind a buildup of customizations and manual connect-the-data spreadsheets. Before you know it, the business finds itself in a quicksand situation, stuck in place by an ERP system that isn’t evolving with the pace of business and being swallowed by a market that demands continual progression.

Regardless of industry, businesses remaining relevant in today’s economy are growing more distributed, spanning across geographies like never before, and mobility has become a key driver in performance. But in large, organizations are hesitant to implement business applications built on a similarly dispersed, accessible platform. Old ERP was designed before mobile devices and connect-anywhere capability, when business never left the office, but performance beyond the PC is the foundation of the cloud. If the current structure for success is accessibility and fluidity in an elastic workforce, what better platform than the cloud to drive your business processes forward?

Combining the agility and dispersed access enabled through the cloud with the real-time data of an efficient ERP system creates a true competitive advantage for your business – empowering staff across your organization to collaborate and align with business objectives, regardless of their location and independent of your IT resources. Cloud ERP frees businesses from the inflexible, change resistant ERP of the past. They can run on a system that is essentially version-less, with automatic updates to new features and functionality, migrating any customizations with each upgrade. In short, version-less cloud ERP enables businesses to experience today’s innovation while continuously aligning their ERP needs with their evolving business operating environment.

  

Click here to read more about cloud ERP and “The 8 Ways Outdated ERP Damages Your Business.”

 


stuart_tholenStuart Tholen is the Director of Eide Bailly Technology Consulting’s
Enterprise Resource Planning services. With more than 30 years of
experience in tax, audit and IT, Stuart has focused on building and
developing a consulting department to customize and integrate
business solutions for the end-user.

stholen@eidebailly.com

 

 

 

 

Application Whitelisting: A Critical Piece in the Security Puzzle

Following the release of Windows Server 2003, the capability to implement Software Restriction Policies (SRP) has been widely accepted as one of the safest ways to secure corporate networks. Integrated via Microsoft Active Directory and Group Policy features, SRP identifies and controls the programs running on a domain to increase reliability, integrity and manageability of the devices within an environment.

A common SRP technique is blacklisting where known threats are blocked from running through your anti-viral or anti-malware programs. Utilizing blacklisting methodologies within your organization is an essential aspect of any security strategy as it is a cost effective approach to threat detection; however, this is a reactive defense that cannot scale to today’s growing volume and variety of threats. In the instance of a zero-day attack, such as Heartbleed and Shellshock which leveraged previously unknown system vulnerabilities, blacklisting techniques alone will leave your organization completely susceptible as it can only protect you against the known, and in today’s highly ambiguous grey area of security certainty, organizations must be preparing for evolving threats to remain secure and successful.

Enter: Application whitelisting.

Whitelisting is a proactive approach to SRP configuration where, instead of blocking known attacks, a network administrator defines a limited set of permitted programs, called a whitelist, which are allowed to run on a domain. By default, this prevents all other programs – including most malware – from running within the environment. Essentially, it functions as an “if-than” filter thwarting unauthorized applications from breaching a system. When employed in conjunction with traditional security measures, it creates an additional layer in an organization’s defense-in-depth strategy.

Take, for example, if an employee opens an email or inserts a USB drive containing malicious code; through the effective use of whitelisting, it will be unable to run within the domain, maintaining the integrity of your organization’s network. Traditional downtime in such situations ranges from a couple hours to a number of days, depending on the penetration of the malware. While you may feel that your network data is secure, can your business withstand an extended outage?

For an effective application whitelisting solution, network administrators should note that all executable code must be blocked by default so only approved, whitelisted programs can run. Additionally, network users cannot have modification abilities on the files allowed to run, and all installations and downloads of new applications will involve administrator authorization. While there are definite advantages to application whitelisting, like the defense against current malware and the absence of daily oversight, there are some disadvantages to consider before implementing in your organization. Efficient application whitelisting requires regular maintenance of the whitelist as new applications are added and removed based on the approval process defined within your organization. This, in turn, requires some performance overhead for enforcement and continuous improvement definitions. It is also important to consider that end-users will be limited on downloads, applications, and files they are permitted to use which can create some frustration and annoyance. Proper communication on the importance and necessity of rigid policies should be a priority within your security strategy as staff will be more receptive to restrictions when they are made aware of the reasoning. Engage your employees as advocates on your journey to network integrity and never underestimate the importance of a communication plan with all organizational changes.


mike_arvidsonMike Arvidson is the Director of Eide Bailly Technology
Consulting’s Infrastructure Services. With more than 20
years of experience in the IT industry, Mike’s wealth of
knowledge includes network systems implementation,
integrated new technologies, and information security.

marvidson@eidebailly.com