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Insight

Packing Trust for Your IT Journey

By | Blog, Insight, Inspiration

Think about the last time you packed for a trip. You didn’t include shoes that pinch or your Guns N’ Roses Appetite for Destruction t-shirt for business. You left out the wool coat for Nassau in the middle of August. Let’s just say that you could project what to include because you had basic information that would make your trip more efficient, relevant, and gratifying. You probably had valuable insight from someone who has been where you’re going. You had trust.

It’s the same with a relationship with your IT Solutions or managed services provider. The good ones will help you align your business with client needs and help you pack appropriately for your business journey.

At the end of the day it’s all about alignment and trust. What goes into that suitcase will be different from what others are packing but it works because you have the insight of a trusted partner.

And you’re headed to something brand spanking new.

Choose a ride-or-die managed services provider

In order to gain customer trust, you have to be aligned with them via shared long-term strategies. And the best way to get there is creating—and sustaining—growth. The same goes for your business. You should have your own set of objectives and growth strategies. A solid plan for growth for your business should always include shared values, common goals, and vision.

Your IT solutions provider should be able to help define your vision and be honest with you about the practicality of your ideas. Sustainable growth is always easier when you share common values and objectives defined at the onset. And that’s just the start. Don’t stop until you’re comfortable with your IT solutions provider. You may, however, have to get used to being a little uncomfortable once in a while, but that’s normal. Sometimes you have to break a few things and start from a different vantage point. That’s where the real trust comes in. Lean into a ride-or-die relationship with your IT solutions provider to experience authentic relationships and real ROI.

How do you know you have the right ride-or-die partner?

You might be surprised to hear that lining up a bunch of tech is not our priority when engaging with a new client. Don’t get us wrong, we’re tech devotees and live and breathe new IT initiatives. But we can’t help define your growth strategy until we know that we are aligned philosophically with your business. When we’re all shaking our heads yes on basic alignment, we dig into tech and financials. You’ll then have the infrastructure you need at a value that works for you.

  • Philosophical alignment. We believe that there’s always a better way. Whether that means pivoting with existing systems or building from the ground up, we want to help. We’ll look at your business from a helicopter perspective to make appropriate recommendations that position you for long-term success.
  • Technical alignment. Once we get to know each other philosophically, we’ll dive into the technology aspect to determine solutions that will enhance your deliverables while supporting operational needs. We don’t do tech for tech’s sake. It has to have a purpose. It has to support the enterprise. And it has to have value. A Calyx engineer will visit with you when you’re ready and glean the fundamental information necessary to develop an IT strategy for today and years from now.
  • Financial Alignment. When the rubber starts to hit the road, you’ll need to know your financial investment currently as well as what to expect in the future. We conduct a total cost of IT analysis and provide a comprehensive view of your IT expenses. This enables you to accurately compare cost differentials and know how to plan financially.

This is also a great opportunity for us to illustrate the expenses we’ll eliminate, and puts an exact price on the added value and benefits we provide. To get started, we’ll send our Excel Workbook to help assemble all of your operating and capital expenses related to IT.

Early C-Level Engagement can make or break IT strategy

At the end of the day, you’re going to need C-Level buy-in on technology investments so why not include them at the beginning and let them feel part of the decision making. Execs are less likely to eliminate or reduce funding if they feel part of the initial discussions. This will be a huge help when it comes time to pivot on the IT plan and invest in new solutions.

At Calyx, we understand the complexities of engaging the appropriate people at the appropriate times when reviewing a company’s IT infrastructure. We’re deeply rooted in every client situation and can make valuable recommendations when solutions grow weary and efficiency lags.

From the helicopter view of our leadership team to the techs working on your solutions, we are committed to engaging, aligning, and earning trust. And you can always rely on us to tell you what to pack as you move further along on your business journey.

It’s Never Crowded on the Extra Mile

By | Blog, Insight, Uncategorized

There are tons of managed service providers out there. They work hard to offer a dizzying array of commodities in hopes that something sticks. If they’re lucky, they’ll land on a mix of deliverables that might move the needle for your business. Chances are, they’ll come up with something that meets the status quo if they work at it long enough. But status quo doesn’t cut it — not today, when technology should literally be considered among your business’ most valuable assets. To get there requires an IT partner who is vested in your success in terms of growth, frictionless customer experiences, and better financial outcomes. 

Look, all MSPs are not ill-intentioned, they just don’t go far enough. They can’t get past the limited piecemeal approach to IT. They just haven’t traveled the extra mile yet. We know because that’s where you’ll find us and it’s definitely not crowded.

Most customer journeys start out in the same place. You need a foundation of systems and solutions. But businesses don’t stay static. They grow, evolve, and pivot. And they need a partner who can see further down the road to not only report on roadblocks and detours, but to find alternate routes.

Businesses also need an IT partner with whom they align, both technically, philosophically and financially. It’s a critical measure that sets the foundation for a successful partnership.

Let’s take a holistic view

OK, enough with the road trip metaphors. This is serious stuff. Your business is serious stuff and you deserve insight and support from an IT solutions provider that operates less on line items and more on a holistic view of your business. The interrelatedness of partnering with a company that delivers real solutions, not just patches.

Sometimes business leaders fall into traps of maintaining the status quo because things seem to be working OK. Fair enough. But, we’d like to suggest another option. How about partnering with a business that can view the full scope of your internal operations without preconceived notions? Let’s face it. You have skin in the game and may be skittish about making any serious changes because your business could be disrupted. Risks might be revealed, or vulnerabilities exposed. Well, we’re here to tell you that if you don’t at least entertain new ideas or perspectives or be open to the possibility that there might be a better way, things will get worse. And we’re just not willing to let that happen.

What you should expect from an IT solutions provider

There may be huge disconnects between what you’re getting from your MSP and what you should expect from a true IT solutions provider, like Calyx. A sort of before and after if you will.

  • Holistic approach. You may be used to getting lots of solutions from an MSP. Lots of line items and add-ons to plug holes and weak spots may work temporarily but aren’t an ideal solution. You need a holistic helicopter view of what’s going on in your company and we can take you there. And when you work with us, we’ll be looking from that perspective frequently to predict and prevent issues before they become problems.
  • Cloud-first strategy. And while we’re taking that helicopter view, we’ll recommend a cloud-first strategy because it simply doesn’t do you any good to put on piecemeal, on-premise patches and hope for the best.
  • White glove service. You don’t need excuses, only solutions. We’ve elevated service and support to white glove status and wouldn’t even know how to pass the buck if we tried.
  • Simplified pricing. We will never nickel-and-dime you and won’t surprise you with new line items out of the blue. There’s no convoluted pricing. Tech solutions should be an investment in your company and every recommendation we offer will support that objective.
  • Built-In Backup and Recovery. Dealing with a system outage is stressful enough. You don’t need a bunch of different fixes that will cost you as the meter is running. Backup and recovery is included at no additional costs in every product we provide.

We also offer other holistic solutions such as unparalleled security, accessibility, enterprise-class technology, month-to-month contracts, and a 90-day full money-back guarantee.

Don’t accept the acceptable.

We encourage you to explore available technology and solutions with us. No strings attached. And if you’re skeptical about growth, give us the chance to change your mind. All you need is an open mind to learn more about what is possible, and not just acceptable.

We guarantee you a positive technology experience. That means really listening to your business concerns as well as your growth dreams. When you partner with us, you’ll get technological expertise as well as professionals with innovative business acumen.

Our goal is to give you dramatically different tech and business experiences. We want your business to succeed. From day one, we’ll be vested in your success in terms of growth, frictionless customer experiences, and better financial outcomes. So, are you ready to go the extra mile with us? We’re pretty sure you’ll like it out here.

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.

The Customer Journey: Getting it Right

By | Insight, Inspiration

I don’t know about you, but every time I reach an important goal in my life I catch myself looking back on how I got there. What was difficult? What was easy? What surprised me about the whole thing? And, of course, what would I do differently. One of the things I’ve learned is that it doesn’t help progress to wait until the end of the so-called journey to review. I’ve learned to take stock along the way now. And course correction is my new best friend.

I believe the same is true for our customers. Nobody wants to wait until the end of a new IT project or solution to see how things work out. Waiting doesn’t help revenue, productivity or efficiency. Clarity guides the paths we take with customers now because it’s the only way to arrive at the new destination with complete understanding. Gray areas have no place here. What we aspire to are clear milestones to track progress.

Creating a Customer Journey that Matters

First off, each journey will be different. Not only between customers, but for each customer individually as their journey extends. Journeys aren’t meant to be static. And they aren’t meant to be cookie cutter solutions. We begin at the beginning but not before some serious exploration into customer aspirations and goals.

Before we make the first IT recommendation, we want to know why customers do what they do. What are their intentions? Who are their stakeholders? What made those stakeholders happy in the past? What needs work to get back to that place of success? What new paths can they take to not only satisfy—but delight—the stakeholders in their world?

The Calyx Customer Journey

At Calyx, we define our unique customer journeys by three consecutive phases:

  1. Get it Right
  2. Do it Right
  3. Keep it Right

Our overarching driver is to create a better way for each of our customers. We’re in the business of delivering better outcomes, consistently. That means putting the right people to work on their business. Accountability and buy-in rule. And milestone communications facilitate awareness and change.

Our initial assessment phase is how we Get it Right with customers. It’s here that we determine mutual fit —philosophical, financial and technical alignment. We build the groundwork for this through deep dives to understand a business’ current situation and their visions for what’s ahead. We dig in and do a total tech assessment complete with an IT cost analysis. We’ll come back to you with a 100% guarantee. And something else you probably haven’t seen in awhile. A promise—in writing—to improve your operations and profitability.

Then it’s time to get down to business in the Do it Right stage. This is the onboarding phase when we transition your technology to position your business for success. And we do it seamlessly, with minimum disruption. During this phase you can expect lots of planning from us as we define the implementation, assign teams, create configurations and more. We also provide training and stand right there with you as your new technology goes live.

Technology should be easy to use, highly secure and always available. Those are table stakes. But it must also be well supported. Just as we were steadfast during the first two phases, we’ll also provide continuous support in the Keep it Right phase. Tech is not a set-it-and-forget-it proposition. We back you up with continuing learning and support as your configuration evolves. We stay in constant communication via monthly reports, and ongoing analysis and feedback.

We also want our teams to align properly and that means the right people and the right values. Of course Calyx team members have the right skill sets and experience to support your business. That’s a given. But you may be surprised by the depth of their empathy and support. Your challenges are their challenges. And they’re not satisfied until you are. We hire people who are empathic, compassionate and operate with integrity. Those are qualities that you can’t teach, and you can’t join the Calyx team without them.

We pride ourselves on the core values instilled in everyone at Calyx. Every day we work with companies at different places in their journey. Assessment, implementation and review are in a continuous flow but you can also count on us for a steadfast commitment to our values.

We do what’s right. We challenge everything. And we own it. These are our guideposts.

Know that the development of our customer journey did not happen overnight. It took years of working to understand clients’ expectations, analyzing what’s worked, and rethinking what hasn’t. While every customer journey will be unique, there are common truths to consider on your quest to deliver just the right journey for your clients:

  • Begin with your ideal customer profile. Creating a customer journey that’s meaningful and valuable must begin with a clear understanding of who’s embarking on the journey. Your clients have wants, needs, desires, goals, and expectations, and you can only fulfill them when you really understand them. Deep insight into what motivates them enables you to deliver valued experiences beyond their expectations.
  • Consider every touchpoint. Touchpoints are all the places where your customers interact with your business, whether it be via your website, social media, in-person meetings, or email. Each touchpoint represents an opportunity to deliver value by understanding how clients interact with your business. How can you simplify the process for them? How can you surprise and delight them?
  • Know your resources. A well-planned journey requires the proper provisions for success. Realize that the journey you’re planning will touch every aspect of your business, from sales and marketing to customer service, to operations and human resources. Take inventory of the critical resources you have as well as those you may be without. This assessment will help you determine what’s needed to deliver the experience you envision.
  • Back it up with data. It’s a common (and dangerous) mistake to be presumptuous about the best way forward or the value you’re delivering. Use data to support your assumptions. Talk with your clients to get their insight and perspective. Always know where they stand. Make sure that you’re not putting obstacles in their way, or taking shortcuts that hinder the experience you’ve promised to them.
  • Accept that it’s a work-in-progress. Map your customer journey with the clear understanding that it’s an evolution toward something better. You’re likely to make bad assumptions or find gaps your team had overlooked. That’s part of the process, and it’s never-ending. Review it regularly. Reimagine and reshape, knowing that iterations are necessary steps toward creating a better way.

We’re interested to learn about where the journeys with your own customers will lead. What will be revealed at each touchpoint? What are their needs and pain points? How do you delight them? The answers will come. Clarity will arrive and you’ll find yourself in partnership, not in contention. That’s the importance of your willingness and discipline to create meaningful customer journeys.

Lessons Through the Crisis

By | Insight, Inspiration

The COVID-19 crisis has certainly altered our ways of working and navigating through our business and personal lives. I think I’m like most people and could never have imagined how different things would be in such a small time window. I’ve heard people call this our “silent spring” because the noise of an active economy and our sheltering in place have stilled almost everything we know.

But one thing I do know is that Calyx is doing everything possible—and then some—to make sure our clients have our full attention. Our cloud platform enabled customers a seamless transition to remote work so they could maintain their operations without skipping a beat. Calyx employees are still working from home to stay safe while maintaining client support.

One thing that has not changed for us, however, is communication with our customers and with each other. Communication has always been valued and welcomed at Calyx and we’ve ramped up efforts to make sure customers are really heard as they manage through the disruption. Members of the management team call customers daily to keep them up to date and learn where we can provide support. 

In addition to communications, one of our core values is to “challenge everything.” There’s always a better way. Whether that means creating a new cloud configuration for a customer or just learning how to encourage collaboration in work-from-home scenarios. At Calyx, there will always be a healthy measure of debates and ideas to create necessary solutions. There‘s even more need for that now.

We’ve always found that listening is the key component of communications. At Calyx, we pride ourselves on listening, digging deeper and providing meaningful solutions. During the early days of the pandemic crisis, we listened to not only what the market needed but, more importantly, to what our clients needed. It was necessary for them to focus on their families and the viability of their companies, so we decided to scale back sales initiatives and focus on projects such as our virtual sales platform and our potentially altered future environment. 

The Calyx executive team keeps us informed of daily operations as well as where we are on our plan for this pandemic crisis. They also know that people can’t do their best work if they’re distracted by personal hardships so they have made support available to employees. The best leaders can manage admirably through crisis operations but it’s the exceptional ones who remember that there is a human being behind every square on an org chart. The execs at Calyx just get that.

They also challenge us every day to create a better way. That’s our mantra for business but I recently discovered that it works for me personally too. My ten-year-old daughter was recently telling me about an art project while I was “multi-tasking” (aka half paying attention). A few minutes into the conversation she looked at me and, unable to hide her disappointment, said “Dad, you’re not even listening.”

Her reaction was an enlightening moment for me. I saw her hurt and also realized how subconsciously distracted I was. After sincerely apologizing, I helped her understand that my work issue had nothing to do with her value. What she had to say or what she does is very important to me and I assured her we would never have this conversation again. 

A few days later as I was headed to my home office, my daughter stopped me once again and said “Dad, come look at this real quick.”  I quickly went into auto-pilot and said “ok.” I then stopped and asked her what she actually wanted. She thought for a second and then told me that she made some bracelets and my looking at them would take less than five minutes. This effective communication allowed us to be present and enjoy a meaningful, small moment. 

This crisis has helped me realize the importance of effective communications and that some of my focus has been on the wrong things—things that have the illusion of importance. I’m now more aware that there is always a better way in business—and in my personal life. You just have to have the courage and vulnerability to pursue it. In the words of early 20th century businessman, Thomas Dewar, “Minds are like parachutes: they only function when open.”

Stay safe and pursue 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. 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. These fundamentals need to be part of a 2020 IT budget.

Supporting Strategic Efforts

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. 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 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 the 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. This ensures that 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.

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.