Business Intelligence | The Intersection of the “Internet of Things” and Big Data

Earlier this month, we gave you our top technology trends for 2015, and, not surprisingly to anyone observing the latest market trends, we highlighted the Internet of Things (IoT). There is often a lot of ambiguity surrounding the concept of IoT, but it all essentially boils down to connectivity. IoT refers to the connection of any powered device to the Internet, enabling interactive device-to-device and device-to-user communication to automate tasks for optimal efficiency and understanding; it has become a catch all phrase for utilizing device-driven data to create something useful.

Often, IoT brings to mind very “techie” inventions like smart home thermostats and wearable devices, and while these energy trackers are early growth areas for the industry, they are just scratching the surface of possibilities. Rather, these technologies demonstrate a major influencer of IoT that will have an astronomical impact on the business sector – Big data.

You see, the Internet of Things is not evolving in isolation; it is maturing alongside another huge market changer. Our lives are driven by data. Every interaction in our day-to-day creates an endless stream of data waiting to be transmitted, stored, and analyzed to make our lives better, which is basically what the Internet of Things is enabling. These two interconnected trends are shaping the market in vast ways. On its own, a small device with no storage or processing capacity would add little to our lives, but by backing it with the curation and correlation of high volumes and varieties of data, the outcome is utterly valuable convenience, optimization, and efficiency.

At the intersection of IoT and big data is true business intelligence. The insight gained through these trends creates competitive advantage. Improved customer experience, optimized processes, elevated business forecasting, and empowered decision making are all created at the convergence of the Internet of Things and big data. There are virtually endless opportunities for connections in the future of IoT, both personally and in your business. Whether that is your car syncing with your work calendar, road conditions, traffic congestion live stream, and available parking detection to provide you with the optimal morning commute, or the ability to track your business’ inventory shipments for quality control and maximum agility. IoT will change how we live, interact, parent, consume, and work.

Recognizing the need to manage and make sense of your business’ data is an essential first step. It is not as simple as slapping a wearable on your wrist – though, at some point in the future, wearable devices for office equipment to auto-manage supplies and self-diagnose issues could be a reality. Industries will be disrupted, markets will evolve, and security will become more crucial than ever as this technology becomes more prevalent in the marketplace. Meet next generation consumer expectations and automate your business by enabling visibility into your underlying data trends. If your business is ready for the cutting edge of business intelligence, consider these areas; a world of interconnectivity is upon us – Are you prepared?


joey_skinnerJoey Skinner is Business Applications Senior Manager
with Eide Bailly Technology Consulting. 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 advanced application development and systems
implementation experience.

jskinner@eidebailly.com

 

SMB Security 101

Forty-three percent of organizations suffered a cyber-attack last year, and according to Forbes, 71% of those affected were small businesses. The absence of dialogue surrounding this steadily growing threat to small and midsized businesses (SMBs) is alarming. When we hear cyber-attacks, we often think Target, Sony, or any of the other numerous high-profile instances of the past year, not the regional restaurant we ate at last month, the family-owned business down the street, or a fellow competitor. But these instances are real and rising.

A lack of preparedness for a massive security hack coupled with minimal resources and general inexperience in combatting today’s advanced cyber-threats combine to create a low hanging fruit “epidemic” for small businesses that many hackers are looking to capitalize on. Joel Brenner, a former senior counsel and inspector general of the National Security Agency (NSA), explains that while “pervasive connectivity has brought dramatic gains in productivity and pleasure, [it] has created equally dramatic vulnerabilities. Huge heists of personal information are common, and cybertheft of intellectual property and infrastructure penetrations continue at a frightening pace.”

To combat this growing threat to your business, regardless of size, we have identified several key precautions to reduce your organizational vulnerabilities.

  • Ensure that you are compliant with any required regulations unique to your business.
  • Run a cybersecurity audit focused on attack surfaces and points of entry. Identify the location of your sensitive data and map it to your access control list, both internally and externally, to further assess vulnerabilities.
  • Confirm that operating systems are equipped with the latest security products and updates, including programs that can detect cyber-breaches within your network and evaluate threat levels.
  • Define access permissions to data across your organization.
  • Establish password protocols, including regular refresh cycles. Encourage staff to avoid passwords comprised of proper nouns, keyboard patterns, et al. and instead opt for meaningless combinations of letters and numbers for optimum security.
  • Invest in industrial strength firewall protection, antimalware and antiviral programs to thoroughly establish your defense foundation.
  • Safeguard sensitive data via encryption protocols.
  • Educate employees; at the end of the day, your people are often your greatest weakness. Train staff on spamming and hacking awareness so they do not undermine your organizational security by absentmindedly opening a malicious email, attachment or link.
  • Determine security practices on-premise, from the data allowed to leave company walls to the sensitive materials that need additional protection measures.

Additional security resources can be found here on our blog or in the following articles by Newsday, Tripwire, Ready.gov, and CFO.com.

Ultimately, if you do not feel confident in your organization’s internal ability and bandwidth to conduct exhaustive security testing to reduce your risk, look externally. Your data is not a gambling chip; cyber-attacks are growing in prevalence, and these steps are not simply recommendations but basic requirements in this day and age. Consider the above precautions the cyber equivalent of locking your front door; if you are not dead bolting the door to your data, you are essentially inviting a cyber-thief into your network.


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

 

Choosing Right or Right Now

As we welcome the New Year and a fresh calendar, it’s easy to get caught up in 2015’s shiny potential. The sense of having a clean slate allows us to conjure up big plans for the next twelve months in both our personal and professional lives. For project managers, this is a season we have come to dread. Although we are all for new projects – after all, without them, we would have no jobs – the turning of the fourth digit presents a highly desirable, and often lofty, target date for projects kicking off this time of year. It is in my experience that the majority of projects that come to life during December and January’s optimistic overload are given the target deadline of “by year end,” which is immediately followed by a proverbial face palm by project managers. As simple as it seems, “end of the year” is often not a realistic due date for most projects fueled by the fires of the New Year’s possibilities.

The sad truth remains that most projects never meet their target finish date. A simple internet search on the percentage of projects that do not meet their targeted completion dates results in alarming statistics ranging from 85% to 90%. What causes this? Simply put, nine times out of ten it’s because a project manager was not involved in setting the target deadline. Unrealistic expectations or promises lead to project due dates being plucked out of thin air with no real understanding of the true effort or scope required for the project’s success. While there is no shatterproof way to identify a realistic, achievable target date within your organization, there is a simple question that will help you narrow down your timeline: Do you want the project done Right, or do you want it done Right Now? Because, unfortunately, the two are not mutually exclusive.

Right versus Right Now

“You get out, what you put in.” This is true in virtually all of life. There are times when it just needs to get done, and then there are times when it needs to be done right. As an organization, you need to decide which is important and what your main objective is before you can decide how much effort realistically needs to go into the project.

Seeing as we just survived another Holiday Season, let’s examine your Holiday shopping to demonstrate the Right versus Right Now concept. Chances are there were people on your list, like family and close friends, that you took extra care in your purchasing to find that perfect, special something. You wanted to do it Right. There were likely also individuals on your list that you picked up the first thing that worked. You wanted to do it Right Now. This is the same in projects. There are times when you just need to get something implemented, perhaps due to a timely regulation change or an upcoming merger, but there are, more often than not, instances in which quality should take precedence over completion date.

Determine Your “Main Thing”

Late businessman and author Stephen Covey once said “the main thing is to keep the ‘main thing’ the main thing.” In terms of projects, you need to define your main objective in order to determine if you need it done Right or Right Now. This is a difficult pill to swallow for some. Who doesn’t want it done right in the end? But, keep in mind, “right” is relative. There are varying degrees of “right.” Right Now is still right; it’s just not the best possible right.

There are times when Right Now is necessary. Situations that require timely implementations without high quality expectations are candidates for the Right Now timeline. The end result is usually clunky and more painful on end users. I like to call Right Now the quick and dirty project. Management in these scenarios say things like “just get it done, and we’ll fix it later.”

Doing it Right, on the other hand, is generally more painful on the project team due to the slow and tedious process but easier on the end user because the final product is more efficient. As a rule of thumb, most software implementations and migrations should be done Right. There’s an enormous amount of effort that needs to be spent verifying business requirements and building processes to minimize risk to the business; the more time devoted to the planning and development stages, the less time required to fix issues during the implementation stage. Doing it Right means consciously taking the time to ensure all your ducks are accounted for and in a row before you cross the street.

What is “Done?”

So we’ve established that the Right Now approach will get it done sooner than Right. But, here’s the kicker – What is “done?” What is your idea of “done?” Yes, the project is implemented and being used, but how much time are you going to need to allocate after the fact to make it truly functional? This is where the boomerang of “we’ll fix it later” comes back to hit you. You are likely to spend far more time cleaning up issues and enhancing a Right Now’s effectiveness than you would have if you had just done it Right in the first place. The Right Now approach is a shortcut that usually doesn’t pay off; instead, it upsets and frustrates end users, creating more work and decreasing efficiencies in the end.

Be Realistic.

As a project manager, over promising has to be one of my greatest pet peeves. A simple solution? Be realistic. Include a project manager in the conversation when determining a target date for an upcoming project. A trained PM will be able to walk your organization through questions that will help identify your “main thing,” determine the “degree of right” required, and establish a realistic target “done” date with more confidence. Take time to reflect on previous project experiences and heed the lessons learned before setting expectations. And remember: “by the end of the year” is not an educated answer.


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

sschindler@eidebailly.com

 

2015 | The Year of Technology Disruption

Another year has come and gone, and as we prepare for 2015, it’s important to reflect not only on the current status of your business but also to ensure that you are aligning your ongoing business objectives to the correct emerging technologies.

Last year’s technology review for 2014 is still largely relevant today; the Internet of Things (IoT) is moving across industries, disrupting markets in its wake, and wearables are continuing to gain traction in development, relevance, and consumer adoption. Interestingly, there is a growing pattern beginning to develop in today’s new technologies, a focus around three key areas: real-time, social, and mobile. Nearly every emerging technology has at least one of these underlying elements, and together, it is shaping the marketplace in vast ways. This April will also mark the 50th anniversary of Moore’s Law which explains the exponential improvement potential of technology. Gordon E. Moore of Intel predicted in 1965 that every two years processing capabilities will double, and this growth projection has proven accurate through half a century.

What does this mean for us?

In short, these are the factors that are disrupting the marketplace today and creating an extraordinary opportunity in technology trends.

Not only is there a central influence from the three leading trends – real-time, social, and mobile – impacting today’s emerging technologies, but there is also an external pressure from Moore’s Law compounding capacity for unprecedented growth in computing, storage, and bandwidth functionality.

Disrupting Technologies Graphic_2

This dual impact from the inside-out as well as the outside-in is generating a unique market climate for emerging technologies to flourish in unparalleled ways. Welcome to the future.

Big Data  |  Not only are smart machines like Watson changing the way we look at data and artificial intelligence/cognitive computing, but the growing presence of algorithms in our daily lives will create a new process of personalizing messaging across devices and audiences. Consumer behavior and engagement is creating a push-back on how the market is viewing the relationship between user and device; rather than the traditional product-driven approach, we will begin to see a shift to a consumer-centric focus for personalized content and storytelling by device and interests via algorithmic curation of big data.
Wearables  |  Traditional wearables like FitBit are seeing increased market competition with the likes of the Microsoft Band, a hybrid wearable at the intersection of smart watch and fitness tracker, which takes data gathered from biometric sensors and crunches the metrics for digestible, actional items to improve not only diet but overall health and wellbeing. There’s also a new focus on wearables for children that will allow parents to keep tabs on their location, activity, and communication. Adoption of this technology is increasing as is its pervasiveness; the NFL obviously understands the value.
Ambient Proximity  |  The next generation of geo-location has arrived. Essentially, ambient proximity is taking geo-location and push notifications to the next level via beacons that send and receive information from individual’s mobile devices. Imagine looking for new running shoes at your preferred sporting goods store and receiving specialized information on your cellphone on specials, product information and even styling suggestions directly from Pinterest. From a retailer perspective, these beacons can provide a new channel to gather data on your customer – everything from number of touches on a new display to how long someone looked at a product as well as the ability to cross-sell and up-sell other products based on real-time data.
Security  |  The numerous wide sweeping cyber-attacks of the past year, from Heartbleed to Shellshock, indicate a key focus moving forward on prevention and vulnerability detection. It will be critical for organizations across industries to conduct regular, weekly security checks looking ahead, especially as more personal data is being transferred and stored over the cloud for financial, government and healthcare institutions.
The Cloud  | Speaking of the cloud, this is one technology that is not going away, so businesses, take note. An effective, simple storage solution, the cloud will continue to see a growing number of applications being built on its platform over conventional on-premise software installs. Additionally, 2015 will introduce seamless indexing and sharing of content across devices on the cloud. Essentially, you could begin reading this blog post on your cellphone with your morning coffee and log on to your work computer hours later to pick up where you left off. Music, videos and content will follow the same trajectory as emails and no longer be device specific with users essentially creating an evolving playlist of content on the cloud to access everywhere.
Internet of Things (IoT)  |  A network of millions of smart digital devices all talking together, monitoring you, and automating tasks to make your day-to-day simpler, faster, and easier than ever. This is a growing reality. Everything from your traditional devices to your toothbrush, alarm clock, and kitchen appliances all connected, each with its own unique address, all feeding together to streamline operations. A little like “big brother” but the potential for continual self-improvement and efficiency is astronomical. This machine-to-machine communication has brought us technologies like Nest, which creates a two-way channel between you and your house to create more efficient and economical heating and cooling practices based on data gathered from your lifestyle and preferences.
Smart Virtual Personal Assistants (SVPAs)  |  This predictive intelligence application processes data gathered over user’s devices –  from calendars and emails to contact information – to anticipate behavior and aid, much like a personal assistant, in the management of tasks, finances, schedules, diet and more. New SVPA technologies like Emu can take a text conversation between you and your spouse regarding dinner, geo-locate the two of you, suggest a nearby restaurant with menus and available reservation times while also cross-referencing your calendar for availability. Once it has determined the best time and restaurant, it will guide you through making reservations and entering the dinner into your calendar – all via a single mobile application. The possibilities here are endless and powerful, and again, show the far reaching influences of big data.

Check out Webbmedia Group’s full 2015 Technology Report here.


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

Have Yourself a Merry Little Tech Cleanse

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” but if you are finding it difficult to step away from your desk, you aren’t alone. It’s been proven, time and time again, that we Americans do not know how to leave work, even during this time filled with family, friends, and Holiday traditions. The work-life balance of Americans has been a long scrutinized topic, and after the recent discovery that U.S. workers took less time off in the last year than at any other point in the last forty years, it’s clearly an interesting subject to explore.

If you’re finding that you need a little extra help unplugging and recharging for the Holidays, we’ve pinpointed a few actionable tips to start your “techervention.”

  1. Stop Multi-Tasking | Continually finding yourself in your favorite comfy chair with your work phone, personal cellphone, tablet, and your laptop? This is a clear cry for help. Begin your digital detox by limiting yourself to one device at a time.
  2. Take a 20-20-20 | Break up your gadget gazing by taking 20 seconds every 20 minutes to focus on something 20 feet away. Your eyes will thank you.
  3. Get Back to Reality | Read a real book during your time off around the Holidays this year, and while you’re at it, go buy a real alarm clock. E-readers and cellphone alarms are gateway technologies.

Head over to Mashable to read more tech cleanse tips, and have yourself a wonderful, un-wired Holiday Season!

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 Business Applications Senior Manager
with Eide Bailly Technology Consulting. 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