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Work-from-Home Productivity Tools and Tricks

By | Blog, Insight, Inspiration

For many, the current work-from-home situation has blurred the line between work and life. It’s beginning to seem like everything is “from home”.

My wife and I were deciding on a virtual Summer camp for my daughter, who will also be working at my wife’s wellness studio (also virtual). As I was writing this I was thinking “haha, my daughter can start to pay us rent”, then quickly realizing that we’d be paid with our own money, which didn’t have the same appeal.

The other morning, I had to drop something off to them at the studio, and as I walked in, my daughter started to pack up her things. I asked what she was doing and she replied “the boss said to have a good day so I’m goin’ home”! We laughed hysterically, and then it hit me how absolutely crucial it is to make your WFH experience the best it can be, and how important the right habits and tools are. Good habits can not only set you up for success and make you more productive, they can also help alleviate stress and help define more of a division between your work and home life.

Below is a list of some of the top work-from-home tips  from the Calyx team:

  1. Set a morning routine: Get up early, take a shower, make your coffee and breakfast, and prepare your lunch. This will help keep some normalcy to your routine.
  2. Get dressed: This will signal that it is time to get things done and help get you in “work mode”.
  3. Designate a workspace: This will help keep the separation between work and home physical as well as help limit distractions.
  4. Set clearly defined working hours: Stick with your regular hours for consistency and if you live with other people establish boundaries to cut down on distractions. Then disconnect and spend time fully with the people you care about.
  5. Do your “commute”: Committing to a routine will help brain prepare for work and also unwind after. I go for a walk before I start work and after I end each day.
  6. Invest in tech / comfortable setup: A pair of noise cancelling headphones, an ergonomic chair, and a laptop stand can make a world of difference.
  7. Communicate with others on your team: This is a new situation for everyone. Don’t hesitate to talk about struggles or things you may need. Communication also helps from keeping us socially isolated.
  8. Take a walk and stretch: Exercise naturally boosts endorphins, which increases happiness, enjoyment, and interest levels, all of which are important for productivity.
  9. Take lunch in an area other than the one you work: Eat with the kids/spouse, step outside or go for a walk. Do something that will get you away from your computer and give you time to decompress and rejuvenate.
  10. Hold yourself accountable: You’re in charge of your environment and you should treat yourself like an employee. Grade yourself honestly at the end of each day and set clear goals and objectives.

In the words of Australian actor F.M. Alexander: “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.”

It’s true, the things we do on a daily basis are sometimes so granular that they seem meaningless. However it’s the small details that make the biggest impact over time. Pay attention to your daily habits and if you have any tips of your own, reach out, we’d love to hear them.

Creating a Better Way Through the COVID-19 Crisis

By | Blog, Inspiration, News

Wow.

A month ago we would have never predicted the situation we’re all in with the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly the streets and offices are empty. Classrooms hold only echoes of their usual inhabitants. And our favorite bars and restaurants are doing all they can to serve loyal patrons from a distance.

That’s what the powers that be are urging us to do. Distance yourself from other people. Social distancing. I suppose it’s a good enough term for drawing back from everything familiar, everything comforting, everything routine. How else do you put a spin on a new way of encountering the world when it’s the opposite of your instincts and usual way of navigating your days.

But it’s the way it has to be right now in order to preserve what we can for our families and customers. And we’ll comply because the stakes are so high. But, I’ll tell you right now that it doesn’t end there for us. The underlying code of our business is to “find a better way” and that’s what we intend to do now and long after this pandemic is behind us.

We’re patterning after what national and local officials have determined is the better way for Americans right now. Who would have ever thought that cities becoming ghost towns is a better way? But it is. And can it be a better way to ground airlines? Yes. And dare we say it, can it be a better way to limit toilet paper purchases? You bet.

But the American spirit remains strong. We see it in musicians playing soothing music at their front doors so their neighbors can be transported to other places in their minds if only for a little while. It’s in caravans of teachers driving through local neighborhoods so that they can see their students waving from their front yards and the students can see love, dedication and some sense of security in those familiar faces. And it’s in checking on neighbors to see what you can do for them because they may be hesitant to ask. Those are all better ways of living and probably things we should have been doing anyway.

Maybe the goodness will continue. Who knows what will happen from this point on. But one thing is for sure. For the first time ever in our history, we are all the same—people who share the same fears because of a universal risk. This disease has become the great equalizer of our population. We’re all at ground zero.

But that won’t last. There will be a way out of this. A better way to live and interact with the world. But for the time being, we have put some things in place to support our customers.

We are here to help. This is always number one with us. Let us know what you need and we’ll find a solution.

Our workforce is working remote. We’re in different places but we’re all connected. And our same phone and email support process is in place. Call or email at any time and we’ll respond.

We’re teleconferencing. We can still meet with you but for now we’re doing all meetings via Zoom. We can stay in touch without any health risks for customers or employees.

We have more payment options available. The world is topsy turvy right now so we wanted to provide some payment flexibility that may work better for our customers. We’re offering electronic payment options such as ACH or wire transfer. We can work with you on setting up an electronic process in place of checks as needed at your request.

If you need additional assistance or a better way of doing something, please reach out to us so we can work with you. Rest assured, we will continue our overreaching strategy to find a better way for our operations and customer solutions.

This disease will not stop us. It’s forcing us to look at things differently and somehow that part of this nightmare sits well with us. Because it takes people who can find different perspectives and vantage points to make viable changes. To find a better way.

How to Create a Better Way

By | Blog, Insight, Inspiration, Success Stories

How. How. How. Everywhere you turn, there’s more information on how to do this or that to improve your business, your hairstyle and even your morning latte. So, why, you’re asking, does this blog start with another blasted how? Well, it’s because the how’s are important and at Calyx we’re fueled by how to create a better way for our clients. But there’s something that comes before the how’s and it’s how (see what we did there) we arrived at our “create a better way” business driver. We’re talking about our why.

You can’t get to how unless you master your why. Why do we do what we do? A seemingly obvious question that is often overlooked is why do you do what you do? Out of all the things you could be doing today, why are you working where you are? Why do you keep trying to eclipse your last success? Why does your business matter? Why does your role matter?

Getting to Why

Getting to why isn’t as easy as you might think. Why you do something is not driven by money, celebrity or influencers. It comes from inside. It’s a pretty deep dive but that’s where the good stuff is. It’s what makes you want to see other people succeed. And even better, what can you do to facilitate that success. It’s coming from a place of abundance; there’s no limit on success. There’s plenty to go around, and if we can help you grab a healthy handful or more, that’s what we’ll do.

So our “why” is the need to see our clients succeed. And in order to make that happen, we work to create a better way. A better way of thinking about your business. A better way to integrate technology. A better way to think about the future.

Does a better way mean better efficiency, productivity and tighter security? You bet. We especially love it when we can identify and work hand in hand to resolve pain points for clients. Sometimes they’re unsure where a bottleneck is located because they’re just too close to their business.

A Better Way: Example 1

One of our clients was experiencing inconsistent user experiences among their three locations. Remote site users felt left out in the cold because they had an outdated method of accessing apps and data. The tension between remote offices and the headquarters was palpable. Nobody wins in cultural battles like that so we worked to design and implement both short- and long-term solutions. Now they’re working with faster connections and a unified, high-performance solution that works well regardless of location.

A Better Way: Example 2

M & A situations sometimes generate lots of confusion that doesn’t need to be there. We’ve been able to help deliver clarity when businesses are merging and quickly create logical and relative solutions. In these situations,  we employ a number of strategies including the following:

  • Quickly onboard new users and sites onto a common platform
  • Flatten network and simplify connectivity
  • Converge email and file access
  • Deploy enterprise line of business apps
  • Remove on-premise single points of failure
  • Provide secure, easy-to-use remote access
  • Enable flexible work schedules
  • Facilitate greater employee satisfaction with work from home option
  • Remove leadership concern about remote work security

We love bringing order out of chaos. That can mean technology initiatives or simply helping clients look at their businesses in a different way. No matter the situation, if you keep viewing things in the same way, you’ll continue to get the same results. That’s not what we want for ourselves and it’s not what we want for our clients. We’re driven to create a better way.

A Better Way: Example 3

Sometimes that means inviting clients to take a helicopter view of their business. Just seeing things from a different perspective can launch new initiatives full of fresh energy and innovation. We really get excited when we can help with strategic planning to help identify major challenges like we did recently with a manufacturing client.

Each business unit at the company was operating independently and we helped them understand the benefits of working with a common goal. Naturally, there were blind spots that the BUs were unaware of when it came to understanding where they were not in sync. We were able to help them understand the concerns of the business leaders for the overall management of the business and the identification of common goals has them on a more unified, successful path today.

We’ve also helped companies shorten their ROI with some simple workflow improvements. One of our clients is realizing better ROI today due to the discovery of major time and labor savings. We helped them return the total investment in less than six months with the automation of labor-intensive, repetitious data entry. Employee satisfaction is a cherry on top because workers can be moved to more business-building work instead of monotonous data entry tasks.

You may be surprised to hear us say that what we do is not really about the technology. That’s not what drives us. We want to create a better way.  We want to get at the core of why you do what you do. And we’re going to speculate just a bit that you want to create a better way too. For your customers and your employees. So, let’s do some helicopter thinking. Let’s see where you are and where you want to be. Let’s create a better way.

Got Rocket Sauce?

By | Blog, Insight, Inspiration

The most beloved brands exhibit attributes that make those brands exceptionally unique — something that’s highly valued by their audiences and not easily copied by competitors. Starbucks consistently delivers a relaxing and enjoyable experience. Apple provides its hardcore fanbase with luxury and style that’s more about emotion than the products themselves. FedEx delivers uncompromised reliability to businesses and consumers.

These brands each possess a potent formula — their “secret sauce” – delivered with obsessive detail to their operations, personnel, messaging, and packaging to ensure consistent, exceptional brand experiences. Each represents an idea and expectation from their audience that’s ultimately bigger than the brand itself.

What if I told you that the Coca-Cola brand is worth nearly $227 billion? (And that’s the value of the brand alone. It doesn’t account for the factories, bottling plants, fleet of trucks, or their inventory. That’s just the brand.)

To build an emotional connection (which brands like Apple, Harley-Davidson, and Amazon do so well) requires a deep understanding of your audience. It’s Marketing 101, yet often overlooked. It’s why so many industries get a bad rap for being out of touch and failing to address the real needs of their stakeholders. The IT solutions business is no exception.

Our Secret Sauce

From our own experience, building a beloved brand at Calyx has taught us to listen carefully and truly understand what customers need and expect. We know that many companies view IT as an expense. And every three or four years these companies gleefully acquire new hardware, revisit software, and maybe add a few new services, all through multiple IT vendors.

We asked, “What if IT was way bigger than that? More broad-shouldered. What if you could leverage technology to increase your company’s productivity? And efficiency? Even help your company achieve its business goals? What enabled Calyx to pull away from the “IT vendor pack” years ago and win respect was helping C-level executives understand where their IT expenses were coming from — and understand how they could better leverage technology to create a better way to do business. Doing this required some deep business insight.

We responded by creating our own secret sauce — aptly named Calyx “Rocket Sauce.” It’s a potent blend of people, processes and technology to create better outcomes for businesses. It’s how we make clients’ lives easier — and their businesses more productive and profitable. We’re doing something that no one else does: essentially creating a new service category independent of the managed services provider (MSP) group of commodity resellers.

What’s in IT? 

We’ve built Calyx with the best people and processes, redefining what customers can expect from an IT partner. Rather than demystifying the many variables that go into a complete IT ecosystem, we set out to simplify everything. Here’s one complete package, with no loose ends and no self-administration. Everything’s covered, which means you won’t have to call us up in another year because you “need more IT.” We ensure accessibility, reliability, scalability, and security — all with one simple fee per user, and no hidden costs lurking in corners.

Our process of digging deep in the initial groundwork, or “discovery,” phase enables us to gain a holistic view of a business, so our recommendations are grounded in reality. We work to understand our client’s processes and nuances so we’re not adapting a business to technology, but the other way around, as it should be. We educate and prove value through objective analysis and comparison of information. We set out to establish fit by evaluating financial, philosophical and technological alignment between us and a client.

You hear much about core values these days, yet all too often they are little more than inspiration on corporate walls. We’ve made a very conscious decision to ensure that our values become the code by which we operate. They really are the most essential ingredients in our rocket sauce. No variations. No substitutions. Our core values are: Challenge everything. Do what’s right. Own it. It’s all about being better on behalf of the client. We’ve proven time and again that this is how meaningful relationships are built.

Then there’s the tech — or the “how” part — of the recipe, which varies as technology advances and better solutions are created. What doesn’t vary is the quality and support we provide. Our solutions are enterprise-grade, always with business continuity built in. Again, we remove the complexity of IT by ensuring that the user experience is effortless, backed by support that we believe is unrivaled by anyone in the industry.

So, that’s our recipe for success: “The best people + proven processes + technology = better outcomes for our clients.” But don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret.

Your Secret Sauce

Which factors make your business unique and enable you to deliver something exceptional? They certainly don’t need to be as multi-layered as ours at Calyx. But what they must be is relevant. The harsh reality is that no one really cares what you do. It’s true. Just as there’s no shortage of IT solutions providers, there are plenty of companies who do what you do. The real questions are: Do they do it how you do it. And do they do it as well? It’s a critical question to ask of yourself and your business leaders because the “how” is what defines a valuable user experience and sets future expectations. It’s the “how” that enables you to differentiate.

Think Starbucks versus Dunkin’ Donuts (although we might argue that while the Starbucks experience is better, Dunkin Donut’s coffee is superior). Or Google versus Yahoo. Think about the user experience you deliver versus that of your competitors.

At Calyx, we’re big advocates of regularly taking inventory of everything that makes up who we are: our values, skills, strengths and weaknesses, passions and goals. Just as technology changes faster than ever, the needs of our clients also change. It’s important to do a self-check to make sure that what we offer is meaningful and of value.  We always consider what we can do to enhance our clients’ experiences and serve them better. That’s how the very-great brands maintain relevance over time.

Your secret sauce may be in your people, your products or services, or your unique processes. Or it may be a combination of all of these. What matters most is that you and your organization are crystal clear on what distinguishes you from other competitive options, and how to consistently deliver that distinction. When you have that part figured out, you have the recipe for success.

P.S. We even animated our rocket ship. 😛

Your 2020 IT Budget: Hard and Soft Elements to Consider

By | Blog, Insight

The  IT landscape in all sizes of businesses continues to evolve to make operations easier. And let’s don’t forget revenue. That’s why you’re in business after all. Brands are leaning into the fact that IT is an asset, not a necessary evil. Business growth strategies drive companies of all sizes today and IT is a critical component, if not the leading asset in guiding them to greater revenue streams.

IT budgets should be reviewed periodically to ensure proper attribution to components as the business transitions. Additionally, the increase in cloud services and the decline of on-site data centers is altering the scope of hardware and software needs. There will still be the need for servers, security, storage, network infrastructure, employee equipment, and other components and these fundamentals need to be part of a 2020 IT budget.

At Calyx, we work with clients to ensure that they have the appropriate hard and soft IT elements that will support strategic efforts for sustainable growth. We help clients to customize the scope of their IT budget, costs, and necessary components to position their business to grow responsibly.

According to Calyx CEO, Jason Fordu, “Businesses need to adopt a top-down budgeting approach leading with strategic business objectives that can improve efficiency and revenue. Most people think in terms of apps when planning for a new year, but outdated server, security, storage and networking can bring a company down quickly and must be upgraded or replaced appropriately.”

The tech pros at Calyx also advise against keeping outdated software and hardware because of the potential for security risks. If they’re not upgraded, it will be nearly impossible to mitigate threats that come up.

Company size also plays a big part in hardware and software spend. Enterprises have more data infrastructure to monitor and will invest in more power/climate and telephony hardware. Mid-size companies will spend on mobile devices and tablets while smaller businesses will devote the lion’s share of their budget to employee laptops and desktops.

Top hardware considerations for 2020

  • The big data trend shows no signs of slowing down so companies need to accommodate the massive amount of data generated. Storage will be in high demand in 2020, especially object storage because of its ability to address large amounts of data from edge to cloud with query capability and custom metadata tagging.
  • Systems management. Efficient routing, network QoS and virtualization will be big in 2020 so the need for contracting the right systems management will be critical.
  • Load balancer. Another hardware component to consider is a load balancer to keep network traffic moving smoothly. It can move flow smoothly when there’s too much traffic for a server by moving it to other circuits.

Top software considerations for 2020

In 2020, enterprises will allocate a more significant percentage on database management, virtualization, and communications software. Mid-size companies will invest in business support apps and productivity software while the small business will spend their software budgets primarily on operating systems

  • Automation initiatives. Key software trends for 2020 include those initiatives dedicated to automation. This includes Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning designed to alleviate human chores in the workplace. The adoption of AI is expected to triple by 2021.
  • Replace outdated software. Outdated software such as Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 is scheduled to come off support early in 2020 so appropriate upgrades need to occur.

Special considerations

Hardware and software investments differ according to company size. For example, large enterprises adopt emerging technologies quicker and will need a higher level of assistance in integrating technology innovations into their company. Smaller and mid-size companies require more guidance in security best practices and disaster recovery policies.

At Calyx, we work with our clients to help them identify the best options when it comes to upgrading infrastructure, updating disaster recovery plans, identifying security vulnerabilities and working to transform tech environments with upgrades and innovations.

2020 is here so let’s wrap this up. The biggest IT investments will occur with technology end-of-life, upgrades, and new initiatives to support business growth. Enterprise-level businesses already understand how tech can drive revenue and they are more receptive to new tech solutions such as AI to gain competitive advantage. Smaller businesses are more interested in investing in desktops and laptops for employees. Whatever your business size as well as the state of your current tech situation, Calyx can help you position for growth in 2020 and beyond.

An IT Budget Cheat Sheet

By | Blog, Insight

No one looks forward to IT budgeting. No one. Budgeting is a fact of life and part of ensuring that IT is leveraged to support the overall initiatives of the enterprise. An IT budget must both drive and support strategic initiatives so a clear roadmap of business-wide objectives is critical to effective planning for future efforts.

Sometimes the urge to just update last year’s budget can be an easy solution. We get that. Tech departments can be overburdened and extra time is as rare as a Browns Super Bowl appearance. Unfortunately, just updating an old budget likely won’t appropriately incorporate new directions for the business overall. Strategic objectives change each year and IT has to keep pace or the business will struggle to achieve goals.

While IT dollars are expected to be invested in technologies that drive future growth, there are still plenty of businesses that continue to put money towards their digital transformation journeys.

A simple way of starting an IT budget is with the basics as follows in this IT Budget Cheat Sheet:

IT Budget Cheat Sheet

Ongoing expenses

Staff and compensation

  • Recruiting and staff acquisition
  • Internal staff
  • External staff (staff augmentation providers and contractors)
  • Total compensation (benefits, training, travel costs)

Infrastructure

  • Servers
  • Client computing resources (laptops, tablets, etc.)
  • Network infrastructure
  • License and support renewals
  • HVAC
  • Utility power
  • Battery Backup and Generator Costs

Software

  • Licenses
  • Subscriptions
  • Support/Maintenance contracts

Project expenses

For each project

  • Consulting expenses
  • General and administrative (temporary office space, etc.)
  • Hardware
  • Software

The state of IT budgeting for 2020

In 2020, IT budget spends will be diversified over a much broader range of categories (e.g., digitalization, mobile computing, employee training, agility, flexibility, ability to work from anywhere) than in 2019, when IT budgets were heavily invested in security and cloud services as many major operating systems approached end of life. Security and cloud services will still lead investment categories, but many organizations feel they have attained many of their initial goals in these areas. It is critical to do what’s right for your company.

There are indications that more organizations want to fully understand just how much they spend on IT across the company. From a budgetary standpoint, this has sparked a movement to consolidate more of the IT spend (and assets) under a single umbrella, with IT in charge.

In response to the mixed performance of ROI formulas and cost overruns, CFOs and other IT budget decision-makers will likely expect more input from proof of concept exercises and successful trials before approving funding for new technology expenses.

Critical tech investments for 2020

Critical initiatives to consider for 2020 funding include cybersecurity, automation, infrastructure and data. Business confidence in dealing with threats is growing, however how businesses decide to allocate funds to tackle cybercrime may potentially change.

As predicted, businesses across verticals have begun to invest more in automation technology.   Leveraging automation to eliminate mundane and repetitive tasks enables employees to engage in more meaningful work that helps drive business objectives.

The vast amount of data created from Internet of Things devices has driven businesses to think about the value that can be extracted, and this is showing up in the IT investment decisions made by businesses. As an example, IoT provider, AGT International, works with industrial clients to manage and protect  infrastructures through IoT analytics including video analytics and sensors.

Who should be involved in IT budgeting?

Despite enterprise desires to consolidate spends and asset tracking in IT, Shadow IT and end-user engagement in technology purchasing decisions are still very much alive. What has changed is that more end-users (and management) want IT to actively engage in preliminary technology decision-making processes so that they can ensure the technology they want to buy can be used with other existing systems.

A good approach for IT is to take the lead by visiting various user departments in advance of budgeting to see what types of technologies they’re considering for their own business operations.

The role of the CIO in budgeting

Savvy IT leaders will demonstrate the value provided by their budget. Impactful areas of note promote internal and external objectives, from greater stability and operational efficiency to enhanced customer experience and assurances of a secure platform used to conduct business.

Great CIOs understand the balance sheet and P+L ramifications of investments made by IT on behalf of the company. Effectively leveraging the appropriate expense categories (cap-ex, operational expense, amortization and financing options) and working with a CFO or other financial decision-maker ensures that spend aligns with the financial goals and capabilities of the organization.

The Power of the Soft Red Bat

By | Blog, Inspiration

Do you struggle with being your own worst critic and judge, like me? Is so, read on and I hope my story can help.

I have struggled with self-judgment for a long time. However, through the help of a personal friend, I recently learned how to visualize what “bat” I should be reaching for in my mind when I beat myself up. Doing this in advance has made it easier for me to reframe my thinking, change my perspective, and improve my own self-acceptance. It’s had such a significant and positive impact on me that I want to share my story with others who may struggle with self-judgment as I have.

If you’ve ever read the popular book The 5 Love Languages then you’ll understand when I say I’m an “acts of kindness” person. Meaning, I share and also derive my strongest feelings of love from doing things for other people, and vice versa. When my friend asked me what I would do for a friend in need, I didn’t hesitate to respond by saying, “anything!”. He then followed up by asking what I would specifically do and I began to ramble on about how I would listen, how I would provide them with compassion, how I would share my own similar experiences, and how I would ask them what they needed from me.

My friend then asked me what I do for myself when I have a need. His question was met with uncomfortable moments of silence, then a dim light bulb in my mind growing brighter and brighter until I said out loud, “F#%&!”.  In that moment that it became apparent that I freely and easily provide to others without any judgment whatsoever, but do the complete opposite with myself.

My friend asked me to close my eyes and imagine a line of baseball bats in front of me. All the way at one end are those big, heavy professional bats. You know the ones — the Louisville Sluggers made out of the hardest ash and hickory. I was asked to scan my eyes down the line of bats and imagine their size and shape growing smaller and smaller. Midway down the line, I had imagined that yellow hollow plastic ball bat from my youth, the one you used to hit that crazy white whiffle ball with the holes punched into it. Now it’s certainly not as tough as the Louisville Slugger, but I’ve got to be honest, it’s still something I wouldn’t want to get hit in the face with because it would still hurt like hell.

My friend encouraged me to continue scanning down the line of bats until I got all the way to the other end. It was here that I was asked to imagine that small, wide, and soft red toy bat — the one you’re comfortable giving to a three-year-old because it’s not going to hurt them. My friend told me to remember which bat I should use when I want to beat myself up.

I wasn’t asked to not beat myself up. That would be impossible! I was just asked to be a little kinder to myself when I do. The soft red bat I imagined in my mind doesn’t hurt anything like the Louisville Slugger that I had been using. The soft red bat made it easier for me to remember that everyone has faults. I now try to think about how I would feel if I were looking at myself from another’s perspective.

As I look at my friends, or if I were looking at myself as I look at a friend. Would I be harsh and unforgiving in my judgment from this different perspective? No, is usually my answer. Is my thinking irrational? Yes, is usually my answer. I now have an easier time of laughing at myself and being self-deprecating in a healthy way, because the reality doesn’t match the perception, and it’s not as bad as I’ve made it out to be. The red bat reminds me…

Oftentimes when I see someone struggling with self-judgment, I share this story. When a friend, colleague, client, mentor or anyone else seems to be unable to stop, I find myself taking a trip to the store, and picking up another squishy, soft red bat for them. Delivering one of these to a professionally employed adult may seem silly, but sometimes having the right tool, in this case, a foam covered Nerf bat, makes the job easier, and having a visual reminder leaned up in the corner of your office reminds you to be kind to yourself too.

While it took me almost 50 years to begin to understand my struggle and the peace that I have found with a new perspective, I share my story in the hope that others may learn sooner to be kind to themselves. Sometimes we want to hit ourselves or others with a Louisville Slugger, and sometimes we need a crack upside the head to sort ourselves out, but the safer, easier and less damaging approach is to pick up the squishy, soft red bat.

What I’ve also learned:

  • Better clarity and control of my thinking
  • Stronger empathy for myself and others who judge
  • Increased feelings of self-worth
  • Greater self-acceptance
  • More peace and happiness with myself

 

What’s Driving Your IT Budget in 2020?

By | Blog, Insight

More and more companies are realizing the benefit that technology brings to their growth. No surprise there. And it makes perfect sense that experts predict that 2020 budget levels will keep pace with 2019 levels in spite of economic uncertainty. Technology is that vital.

We took a look at a study conducted by Spiceworks which says that budget drivers vary by company size and location. For example, “a greater priority placed on IT projects” is the top factor influencing IT budget growth in enterprises, likely because large organizations are typically better funded and have more resources to allocate against strategic initiatives than smaller businesses.

Plus, the more you’re managing in terms of data, departments, employee devices to connect, manage and secure, 25% of enterprises are also increasing IT spend due to a recent security incident, compared to only 4% of small businesses.

Across all company sizes surveyed in that study, budget highlights within each category include:

  • In hardware, budget allocations for laptops (17 percent), desktops (17 percent), servers (14 percent), and networking (8 percent) hardware top the list.
  • Top software budget allocations include operating systems (13 percent), industry-specific applications (11 percent), productivity suites (10 percent), and virtualization software (10 percent).
  • In hosted/cloud-based services, budget allocations for online productivity solutions (14 percent) top the list, followed by online backup/recovery (12 percent) and email hosting (10 percent).
  • Top budget allocations in managed IT services include managed hosting (13 percent), managed hardware support (11 percent), and managed storage/backup (11 percent).

 

So, what should you consider when developing your IT budget for 2020? What drivers should you pay attention to and which can you pass over this year? The critical thing to remember is that you should fund based on your company’s situation and not just do a cookie-cutter solution that may not fully support your strategic plans.

We’ve identified some components that we think are critical and should be considered when determining an IT budget:

Strategic objectives

One thing that we know is that the IT department plays a big role in reaching the strategic objectives of a company. It used to be that IT-supported whatever was defined as a goal of the business. Not that supporting the business was a lightweight effort, but executives are finally realizing that technology can be put to better use. Now technology and digital initiatives are at the forefront of company growth. Savvy business leaders understand the importance of IT as a growth leader and rely on the CIO and other tech leaders to take an active role in strategic business initiatives.

But before any growth heroics can occur, it’s important to define what you will need to accomplish regarding customer requirements and other objectives as they relate to business growth. For example, the IT budget may have to accommodate upgrades to meet critical objectives in the new year. At Calyx, we challenge everything, especially when it comes to customer growth. We’re not satisfied until strategies align with budgets because it’s only when viewing IT as an asset—not an expense—that businesses can accomplish growth objectives.

Technology lifecycles

The very nature of technology creates the need for change and updating on a regular schedule. That’s pretty much a fact of IT life. The average lifespan for a desktop computer is only three to five years. Servers start to decline in performance after about five years.

And you know this from personal experience—wireless devices have the shortest life spans of all at approximately 18 months. So when determining your 2020 IT budget, it’s a good idea to document each IT asset with its age so that you can project a replacement date and plan accordingly.

Current IT infrastructure and assets

What infrastructure is in place at your company today? What assets do you own? We’re talking hardware, software, servers, printers, network infrastructure, phone systems, mobile, desktop and other devices. Identifying your IT assets will help you develop an appropriate budget by listing everything at the beginning.

Keeping infrastructure current is projected to be the biggest IT challenge for companies in 2020. Businesses will need to address security best practices as well as incorporating a blend of onsite infrastructure and cloud-based services.

From our perspective, company size will also affect budgets for 2020. Small businesses will face security issues and disaster recovery solutions while large enterprises will be challenged when integrating technology innovations into their current tech environment.

Projected revenue

Any budget within the enterprise is contingent upon current and projected revenue for the business. No more, no less. Your IT budget will be contingent upon how much revenue is coming in today and how much is projected for 2020. Makes sense. But you need to account for the state of your revenue. If your business is in a rapid growth phase, you might have to increase normal funding to make sure your infrastructure can handle all the demands you’re going to place on it.

Experts predict that a large number of organizations will direct most of their 2020 budgets toward security and cloud initiatives. We agree that those are critical. But it’s also important to allocate portions of budgets to mobile initiatives, infrastructure upgrades, digitalization and staff training.

What’s our advice on what should drive your 2020 budget? Know your organization. What are your strategic plans for the new year? Be honest about the current state of your infrastructure. There’s nothing worse than not being able to support—let alone drive—business initiatives. But above all, stay strong on recommendations and continue to monitor IT support to grow your business.

Calyx Recognized as a 2019 Weatherhead 100 Award Winner

By | Blog, News

Calyx is proud to have been recognized by the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University as a winner of the 2019 Weatherhead 100 award. This award is a recognition of an elite group of companies who are the best example of leadership, growth and success in Northeast Ohio. Qualifications for consideration of the highly coveted award include being a for-profit, independently owned business residing in one of the 16 counties of Northeast Ohio, and growth in net sales from at least $100,000 to at least $1,000,000 over the past five years.

Calyx deploys enterprise IT solutions to small and mid-market businesses. With proven processes, people, technology and support, clients are empowered to work with less risk, hassle and disruption.

Calyx CEO, Jason Fordu said the team was “elated to be recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in Northeast Ohio, especially among such highly respected companies. This honor is a real testament to the commitment of our team to create better ways for our clients to work and prosper.”

Weatherhead 100 awards were established in 1988 by the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, considered among the pre-eminent authorities on the recognition of entrepreneurship.

Calyx will celebrate this outstanding achievement with other fellow Weatherhead winners at the spirited black-tie award ceremony on December 12, 2019.

Create a Smart IT Budget for 2020

By | Blog, Insight

How self-aware are you when it comes to IT spend?

One of the most important elements of budgeting for 2020 is getting clarity on what you’ll be spending—and why. Too many times, companies don’t even know their total IT costs, which puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to budgeting for a new year. Line items aren’t captured. Locations and users aren’t incorporated. Cloud charges stack up unnecessarily. Vendors sometimes don’t reveal all charges upfront and expenses continue to trickle in. And on and on.

Businesses today recognize that IT expenses rise as businesses grow and incorporate new technologies. This is especially true for those companies that understand that IT is no longer just a few line items on a spreadsheet, but a driver for the enterprise.

Creating a smart IT budget for 2020 may sound like a daunting proposition but it can be gratifying, especially when the results are smart spends that move the business forward.

Strategic considerations when planning

A few strategic considerations you should consider in the context of allocating an appropriate IT budget for the coming year:

  • IT budgets will rise as businesses replace outdated technology: 44% of businesses plan to increase tech spend in 2020, up from 38% in 2019
  • One in four enterprises (1,000+ employees) are increasing 2020 IT spend due to a recent security incident
  • Business adoption of AI-powered technologies is expected to triple by 2021, while the adoption of edge computing is expected to double
  • Two-thirds of large enterprises (5,000+ employees) plan to deploy 5G technology by 2021

Businesses are incorporating the fundamentals like hardware and software as well as new technologies such as AI, machine learning and IoT. Security issues remain prevalent and moving to the cloud is standard operating procedure these days. Worldwide, the projected expenditures echo this upward trend.

https://www.idc.com/promo/global-ict-spending/forecast

And while it’s interesting to see what’s happening on a global scale—and know that you’re a part of that big picture—it’s critical that you determine the best budget and allocations for your business to prosper.

However, building that budget can be challenging when there are so many aspects to incorporate. We get that. That’s why we provide some guideposts for customers to make sure they are taking full advantage of their technology assets while keeping costs down.

Factors to consider for building your 2020 budget

Technology operations don’t exist in a vacuum. There are so many touchpoints across the enterprise that need to be considered, but how can you manage that without creating a maze of a project? We’ve identified some points that will help guide you by asking critical questions:

  • Who needs to be involved in budget development?
  • How do you find accurate and full pricing?
  • Where are you on your technology life cycle?
  • Do you have legacy systems that could be restricting you?
  • What new technologies interest you?
  • What upgrades will you need?
  • Are there compliance issues that need to be addressed?
  • Are your cloud expenditures more than you expected?
  • Where is the business most vulnerable based on an IT risk assessment?
  • How secure are your security initiatives?
  • Do you have the tech talent to take your business where you want to go?

According to research conducted with 1,000 IT professionals, the most important factor in increased spend for 2020 will be updating outdated infrastructure. Other elements that will push spending are security, employee growth and priority of IT projects.

Your IT challenges and goals will obviously be specific to your situation and where you are on your IT roadmap, but there are some business size issues to serve as guideposts. For example, small companies seem to require more support when it comes to best practices for security and disaster recovery.

Large enterprises, on the other hand, tend to adopt emerging technologies quicker and need help integrating new technology into their infrastructure. These differentiators will help create more relevant budgeting and your tech partner can help you allocate appropriately.

We believe in transparency, especially when it comes to budgets. When you work with Calyx, you’ll get all-in pricing. No surprises. We can work with you, your planning team and IT department to determine a realistic spending plan that not only addresses your current pain points but also positions you for innovation and growth.