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Insight

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 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.

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.

Why Your IT Budget Must Align with Business Goals

By | Insight

Today’s technology is amazing. And what will come in the future will probably blow our minds. But as much as we love new tech, we are committed to delivering only responsible recommendations for our clients. No question. Technology in any business scenario has to be purposeful. Technology for technology’s sake just isn’t an option.

To us, it is critically important for technology to align with our clients’ business goals or the tech investment is scattered and the business suffers in the end. Today’s CIOs and tech managers have had to transition from a “run costs” way of operating to a strategic mentality. Technology initiatives are a critical component of driving business growth, no longer the backroom “business as usual” department.

“CIOs are under mounting pressure to address digital needs with “grow” and “transform” functions, as well as to renovate the operational environment with “run” functions. They also must still demonstrate how IT is meeting strategic business goals,” says Suzanne Adnams, research vice president at Gartner.

Ultimately, what all this means is that most of your IT budget should be spent on areas that drive revenue. That may be easier to ascertain in some businesses than others but revenue should be top of mind for almost every IT decision.

A Roadmap for Better Alignment

So, is there a roadmap or a good approach to aligning IT budgets with business goals? We’ve developed some processes and planning guides and share them here.

  1. Know when to let go. So many IT departments spend a significant portion of their budgets maintaining the status quo. That includes outdated systems that truly don’t support the business but they have been in place for a long time and it’s just an assumption that they need to be there. Not necessarily. In many situations, there are innovative solutions that could replace old products and actually work toward business growth.
  2. Update your IT roadmap. A roadmap should lay out your current IT situation including tech, functions and staff. This is usually a pretty dynamic document which will allow you to change due to market and business transitions. This is usually the place where the IT department includes their wish list for new tech. That’s fine but be sure that roadmap changes align with what’s happening with the business overall. Your priority should be to either accelerate or decelerate spending based on business activity.
  3. Focus on growth. Typically businesses with plans to grow revenue, market share and influence expand their product and services offering. To support these initiatives, CIOs must determine that their IT capabilities will perform appropriately. Usually, these growth strategies need increased budget for capital projects and technology upgrades. Essential growth functions include business process analysis, project management, solution and application architecture, and procurement.
  4. Change your view. CIOs are no longer just the keeper of smooth functionality; they are also being charged with determining new markets, generating revenue, delivering innovation and creating new services and solutions. Fortunately other C-level executives realize the power of technology and willingly work in partnership with IT departments to support digital transformations within the business.Today’s CIOs now get involved in capital investment management, research and development, business architecture, digital solutions and more.
  5. Account for disruption. This may seem like it’s unrelated to driving growth but it’s important to be realistic. In spite of all your best efforts on driving revenue, thinking ahead and working proactively, disruptions still occur. It can be anything from a power outage to a major weather event. This is just a fact of life for an IT department and your managed services provider can help you determine the allocation for this line item.
  6. Incorporate industry standards and compliance. Regulated businesses must accommodate meeting compliance requirements as part of the IT budget. Just be aware that if you are spending more on compliance than you are on IT business drivers, your IT budget may not be aligned with overall business goals.

The synergy between CIOs and other C-level execs is a positive move toward budgeting that’s both responsible and flexible to accommodate business growth. When the helicopter view of a business is in sight, it’s easy to see that IT has a huge impact on the future of any company. Real, sustainable business growth can only occur by looking at major strategic initiatives—instead of individual line items—and budgeting accordingly.

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.

10 Reasons Why You Need an IT Solutions Provider to Guide Cloud Migration

By | Blog, Insight

When it comes to managing enterprise workloads, the cloud rules. Nothing else enables them to run smarter and reduce cost when it comes to IT services for business.

“Cloud services are definitely shaking up the industry,” said Sid Nag, research vice president at Gartner. “At Gartner, we know of no vendor or service provider today whose business model offerings and revenue growth are not influenced by the increasing adoption of cloud-first strategies in organizations. What we see now is only the beginning, though. Through 2022, Gartner projects the market size and growth of the cloud services industry at nearly three times the growth of overall IT services.”

Once the decision has been made to move to the cloud, most companies employ the expertise of a Cloud Solution Provider to optimize benefits and minimize risk. IT professionals are equipped with a complete understanding of the cloud, how it operates and how to take full advantage of its benefits to support and help grow businesses.

An IT solutions provider can migrate email, desktops, applications, servers, and data to the cloud, manage it on an ongoing basis and be available for consulting as your enterprise grows. To break this down even further, we’ve identified ten reasons why using a partner is critical to successful cloud migration:

  1. Frees you up to grow your business. Most business leaders are more skilled and knowledgeable in their industry, and not on managing technology. Using the skills of a Managed Services Provider lets you do what you do best—envisioning and executing growth strategies—while an MSP implements and supports technology initiatives.
  2. Instills confidence in the future. Digital transformation isn’t a one-and-done situation. Your technology initiative will continue to alter as new tech emerges to coincide with and support the growth of your business. Having a proactive solutions provider positions you for future-proof technology.
  3. Creates cost savings. A full-time IT staff is often not feasible for a small or medium-size business. Utilizing a Cloud Solutions Provider can help to offset the cost of a full IT staff, and bring specialized skill sets that are out of reach for most SMBs, without sacrificing quality and support. In most service provider relationships, you’ll receive a fixed recurring monthly fee to help you manage expenses without sacrificing support.
  4. Decreases resolution time. With the tools a service provider can leverage, most issues can be quickly assessed and resolved remotely. When an issue requires hands-on support, the partner can dispatch the right technical resource to resolve. Less downtime means your business operates fluidly with no impact to customer interactions or other workflow processes.
  5. Greater security is possible with cloud migration. Breaches of IT assets are all too common threats to businesses today. However, the right IT solutions partner can bring cloud security expertise in all the steps of a secure IT environment—development, deployment, implementation and ongoing monitoring, management and maintenance.
  6. Streamline backup, disaster recovery, and business continuity. Business continuity is critical in all companies so the possibility of a huge outage can strike fear into many business leaders. Aligning with the right IT solutions provider can avoid catastrophic loss situations through the smart storage of data and responsiveness.
  7. Monitors the cloud IT environment. There are varying levels of support available with most Managed Service Providers. Look for a partner that aligns with your needs to ensure uptime, security, and availability, and will effectively monitor your cloud IT environment.
  8. Helps determine Your total Cost of IT. Your MSP partner should be able to simplify your IT budgeting and finances. A quality partner will help you assess your total cost of ownership in a cloud assessment to realize the benefits of a right-fit solution.
  9. Integrates critical services. Cloud services are managed in enterprise datacenters which allows all enterprise users access. Some businesses find they need a more complete ecosystem of enterprise-class IT-as-a-service solutions, such as Calyx’ @Work model, which includes a fully-managed cloud environment, on-premise network and support, and business intelligence.
  10. Builds strong business relationships. When it comes to technology in your business, you need a partner you can rely on. The foundation of a good relationship is trust. Find a partner that looks to understand your business and how cloud services can enhance your services, products, offerings or customer experience. This fosters growth in your business, which should be the outcome desired by all parties.

One of the smartest decisions you can make for your business is partnering with a reputable, professional IT solutions provider. When you partner with an IT solutions provider like Calyx, you’ll see reduced security risks, lower total cost of ownership, business scalability, streamlined processes, better continuity and more productivity for your business.