Maybe IT wasn’t completely wrong

Use caution with cloud-based software

Not too long ago, business leaders had to go to IT to get new software approved and installed. Now, enterprise grade business applications are a Google search and credit-card swipe away. And the quality and variety are outstanding! Want to get your team collaborating and reduce the volume of email? A quick web search will yield over 20 office communication/collaboration platforms. Every one of them accessible in the cloud via every device you own. While this bounty is a good thing, there are some drawbacks. And IT has experienced the pain of those issues for years.

IT departments select the business applications they allow into the organization based on how easy they are to manage, move, and secure. And while IT has a bad reputation for putting their needs over the needs of the business, IT also has valid concerns. Business leaders need to understand these concerns to avoid getting stuck in a bad situation.

Standard User-experience (UX) Design
Business software used to look like Microsoft’s products. Everyone in the office was familiar with the look, feel, and interactions in Microsoft’s software. This made it easy for anyone to use any software that looked like Microsoft Office and made employee training much easier. Fast forward a few years and UX designs have fragmented. Some software looks like consumer-focused products like Facebook. Some business software looks like Microsoft Office. And some software has a unique design you won’t find anywhere else. The more of these applications your business uses, the greater the learning curve for employees. The lack of UX design standards can increase training cost and cause loss of productivity.

Interoperability
IT vets every application to ensure the underlying architecture is similar. IT wants the same code base so customization is easier. They want the same database so moving and aggregating data is possible. And they look for the same data structure and naming conventions so reporting is easier. For IT, all the applications the business uses need to play well with the other applications. They call this interoperability. With the proliferation of cloud-based applications, interoperability is much harder to do. Simple things, like what an application calls a customer, can create massive issues when trying to get a single view of your data. For example, what if you want to understand the value of a customer across the customer lifecycle? You have customer data in your marketing automation platform. Also in your customer relationship management (CRM) system. And in your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Even in your accounting system? The more applications you use to manage interactions with your customers, the more data you have put together. Once you get the data in one place, you still have to make it look the same. For example, one application calls the customer “name,” the other application calls the customer “first name” and “last name.” These differences make getting a good understanding of your customer a monumental task.

Vendor Lock-in
IT is adamant that it be easy to switch between competing products. They want it to be fast and easy to get data out of one application and into a competing application. Now that business leaders are making more decisions about the applications they buy; business leaders are beginning to feel the pain of vendor lock-in. Say a CMO decides to buy a marketing automation tool. Six months later, the marketing team finds the software is missing necessary functionality. They want to start using a competing product. But there is no way to get the data out of their existing tool and into the new software. The marketing team must decide if losing six months of customer data is worth making the switch. They either lose data, or they keep using a tool that doesn’t work. Most of the time they keep paying for the old software to keep access to their data and they buy the new software to access the functionality they need. Cost and productivity both take a hit.

There is no question that IT needs to be more flexible when it comes to giving the business the tools they need. But business leaders need to learn from IT’s experiences. IT and business leaders can work together to find software meets business needs and works for the long run. The resulting decisions will drive productivity in a flexible -and manageable- way.



Career & Culture: Summer is Winding Down

Greystone Technology Denver Happy Hour

Gratitude and our Annual Happy Hour

Last week we celebrated summer winding down with Greystone clients, friends, and family at our annual Happy Hour at the Kitchen Next Door rooftop in Glendale. It’s a tradition that the event gets rained on, and this year held true to form. Despite the rain, it was a great time and a solid reminder for us to appreciate the client and employee partnerships that have built Greystone into the company we are today. Without clients willing to partner with us, and without committed team members who share our vision, Greystone as we know it wouldn’t exist. Thanks to everyone who attended and made the Happy Hour a great time, and thanks to the Kitchen Next Door for the fantastic food and drinks.

Kickball is Over – What’s Next?

With the end of the summer and Kickball season at an end, we’re turning our attentions to the fall league season. There are a wide variety of indoor league choices in Colorado, some that we didn’t even know were an option! Consider these fine choices:

  • Skeeball
  • Basketball
  • Bar Games
  • Bowling
  • Dodgeball

To date, dodgeball has the most votes, which could be interpreted in many ways given that this is a work league. Do people want the opportunity to pelt their coworkers with balls? Are they drawn in by the glamour of the 2004 epic Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story? It’s hard to say (those costumes were pretty epic), and the final choice remains to be seen.



Finding Opportunity in the Cloud: Infrastructure-as-a-Service

In our first post in the Finding Opportunity in the Cloud series, we defined what “The Cloud” is. Now that we know what cloud is, we’ll dig into the types of cloud services.

There are three types of cloud service, each meeting the specific requirements of different types of business problems. The first type of cloud service we’ll  look at is Infrastructure-as-a-services IaaS.

With IaaS, you pay to use someone else’s servers, computers, storage, bandwidth, and physical data-center space. When you buy IaaS, you only get the infrastructure and sometimes the server operating systems (like Linux or Windows Server). There are no applications, like Microsoft Office or Salesforce, running on the servers. You must build or buy the software you want running on the infrastructure you are leasing.

Some of the biggest companies you know, like Netflix, Geico, and Coca-Cola rely on IaaS to run their businesses. Amazon alone claims to have over 1,000,000 IaaS customers.

 

Who are the vendors?

Some examples of IaaS vendors include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine, and IBM Cloud Computing. Not too long ago there were a plethora of IaaS vendors including local data-center and hosting companies. Now, most of the cloud vendors are reselling the services of either Microsoft, Amazon, or Google.

 

When does IaaS make business sense?

The companies providing IaaS services buy A LOT of servers, storage, memory, physical space, cooling, electricity, etc. Which means they get them much cheaper than you can. They also have software development teams that build tools making managing the infrastructure much easier. These tools can enable you to start a server, add or remove memory or storage to your server in real-time as usage increases or decreases, then shut the server down when you are finished. Getting access to more resources or turning resources off can be done using the management tools and you only pay for what you use when the server is running. This pay-only-for-what-you-use feature, ease of management, and ability to quickly add and remove resources are the main reasons for using IaaS. IaaS makes sense if you have a large number of servers or have development teams building custom software and don’t want your IT team to waste time building, deploying, and maintaining the servers.

 

Example Business Case: 

The servers supporting T-Mobile’s 2015 Superbowl commercial needed to scale from zero interactions before the game to potentially millions of interactions when the ad aired at halftime. Building that kind of infrastructure -and hiring the people required to build and maintain the infrastructure- would have cost tens of millions of dollars in sunk cost. T-Mobile used AWS and was able to scale up to hundreds of servers during peak usage then shut the whole thing down when the ad campaign was over.

In the next post in this series, we’ll explore the business case for Platform-as-a-Service, PaaS.



Tech For Non-Technical Leaders – Collaboration

Technology for Non-Technical Leaders  

 

How does technology boost collaboration? Microsoft OneDrive. This tool has the ability to improve the efficiency of collaboration and performance of a business. Gone are the days where documents are lost and people are locked out of editing. In this video, Kaati Ross, Manager of Support Services at Greystone Technology, explains how OneDrive can optimize collaboration within a team and in a company.

If you have questions about collaboration or OneDrive, please call us at 303.757.0779.



Finding opportunity in the cloud

Cloud computing

The Cloud.

Even for an industry rife with hyperbole and marketing abuses, “The Cloud” stands out as one of the most inflated and misunderstood concepts in technology. Unfortunately, this misinformation leads to businesses making poor decisions about how, when, and why to implement cloud computing. In this series of blog posts, we’ll help to clarify what the cloud is -and is not.

This series of posts is a primer for business leaders. We won’t get buried in the technical minutiae. Instead, we’ll focus on giving you the information you need to make the right decisions for your business.

First of all – what is the cloud?
Quite simply, the cloud is on-demand, pay-for-consumption computing resources accessible over the internet. This definition contains some key concepts, so we’ll look at them in greater detail.

On-demand: Cloud services are available when you need them, and you turn them off when you don’t. This on-demand feature is key to making cloud services cost effective. With computing resources you purchase, like servers and laptops, you pay for them whether you use them or not. With cloud services, you only have to pay when you turn them on.

Pay-for-consumption: Most cloud services are metered, like your electricity. You don’t have to pay for the entire power plant, just the electricity you use. Most cloud services are billed based on what you use, so you don’t have to pay for the cost of a high-end server, just for the computing resources you use.

Computing Resources: This one is self-explanatory. Cloud services are delivering computing resources like storage space, processing power, and internet bandwidth. You could consider hardware and the physical space required to house the hardware as cloud services, but that is splitting hairs.

Example: The office communication platform Slack is accessible via the internet. You pay for the number of users using the software (as opposed to paying for the cost of the servers and memory required to run the software). And you can turn your subscription to Slack on or off immediately with no ramp-up costs.

For the next post in this series, we’ll take a look at the types of cloud services with some examples and businesses cases.

 

 



Tech for Non-Technical Leaders – Windows 10

Technology for Non-Technical Leaders

 

 

Ben Bielicki, Implementation Consultant here at Greystone, answers the question “Why Use Windows 10?” There are multiple reasons to use Windows 10. Security is just one reason to use Windows 10 as it is built to address today’s threats and help defend against an attack. It also allows businesses to move away from an on premise server and move their information to the cloud.  Find out what else Ben has to say about the benefits of using Windows 10 for your business.

If you have questions about Windows 10, please call us at 303.757.0779.



Greystone Career & Culture, July 26

It’s the End of the Kickball Season 
Sometimes, you just have to get silly. Greystone was in rare form this past Monday for our final kickball game of the season – the theme was “Greystone Prom”. We couldn’t stop there, though, not us.

Kaati, our Manager of Support Services, went to the thrift store over the weekend to get all the gentlemen lovely dresses and ties and tuxedo shirts for the ladies. She took it a step further than that even, making corsages and boutonnieres for everyone. It was really hot, and while the ladies complained about all that kickballing in shirts, ties, and vests, I dare say that the gentlemen were enjoying the breeze. Many guys commented that skirts weren’t such a bad idea after all.

Our competing team didn’t have enough players to participate, so the Greystone team split up and played with the other team so everyone could enjoy the game. It was so much fun, that we’re already plotting which team sport to play in the fall.

BuiltIn Colorado Top Companies Hiring Event Tonight! 
Greystone is looking for people focused IT professionals to join us as Technical Engineers in our Denver office – there are several open positions right now. We’re excited to be going to BuiltIn Colorado’s Top Companies Hiring Event this evening, where we’re hoping to meet some of those new team members. BuiltIn Colorado plans great events – check out the event here, and consider coming to meet us! You won’t be able to miss us in our Greystone t-shirts. Have some drinks and talk IT with us. Go to Careers to see our open positions and go here to Learn more about the event.

Agility Recovery – Celebrating our Client’s Success
A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated in a big way with premier client Agility Recovery. It wasn’t that long ago Agility Recovery made the decision to move their office to downtown Denver. It has been amazing to go from an all-hands-on-deck effort to get their IT systems moved (even Jesse Armstrong, Greystone’s president, was crawling under desks to install cabling and computers) to the office-warming party in a beautiful and modern space.

Our team worked closely with Agility to get their new office space set up for success. We set up the IT infrastructure, made sure that each employee had phones, monitors, and everything they needed for immediate business success. Greystone spent the weekend before the move testing everything so that when Agility Recovery team members came in, they could immediately make an impact. We’re so pleased with how the move went, and how our work was received by the client.

This effort culminated in the office-warming party in early July, which was attended by our team as well as tons of important Denver people – the Mayor’s office, the Chamber of Commerce, and so on. We’re so honored to have been a part of this transition for Agility, and we’re honored to continue to provide their IT services . We love seeing our clients grow and succeed!



Tech for Non-technical Leaders: Single Sign On

Technology for Non-Technical Leaders

 

As the number of applications we log in to every day goes up, so to does the frustration of trying to remember a slew of login and password information. Single Sign On (SSO) can be a solution to the problem, and provide a way to use one set of credentials to access all your business systems and applications. In this Technology for Non-Technical Leaders video, Kaati Ross, Manager of Support Services, explains what SSO is and some of the benefits and drawbacks of SSO.

If you have have questions about SSO, please call us at 303.757.0779.



Colorado Tech and Education Events – July 16th – July 31st

Denver events never stop – even in the middle of summer! Here are a few events worth checking out over the next few weeks.

Tuesday July 25th, 5:30pm-8:00pm – An Evening with Michelle Obama

Join the Women’s Foundation of Colorado, a highly respected and regarded organization, as they host Michelle Obama for an intimate evening of conversation. This is not a politically driven event, just an evening of conversation with the former first lady. A portion of the proceeds will go to TOGETHER, a nonprofit that propels Colorado women and girls from promise to prosperity.

Why Attend: Regardless of your political persuasion, Michelle Obama has persevered while facing challenges. She has a great story to tell. This will be Michelle Obama’s only event here in Colorado this year and you will be surrounded by incredible and amazing women.

Get tickets here.

Thursday, July 27th, 6:00pm-8:00pm, Finding Opportunities in the Cloud – Technology for Non-Technical Leaders

Technology for Non-Technical Leaders was started after many conversations on how business leaders are having to make technology decisions for the business without a technical background. The events this group puts on are around educating and connecting business leaders in the community on technology and how to make more informed decisions for their business.

This event will focus on “The Cloud.” We have all head that phrase many times, but do you really know what it means? Do you know if it’s the right solution for your business? Well, it’s time to find out!

Why Attend: This is a chance to get past all the marketing hub-bub around “The Cloud” and learn what it really is. Jeremiah Fellows will be the guest speaker for this event. He has a background in technology to marketing and has worked in a wide range of industries – smart guy! Also, leaders from various industries will be at this event – great to network with and learn from.

For more information on this group and the event, you can find it here.

Friday, July 28th, 10:00am-3:00pm, Thriving in a Multi-Generational Workforce

The Women in Business group of the S. Metro Chamber presents this half day workshop.In it, learn from an experienced baby boomer and millennial on how to not just work together, but thrive together in the workplace. There is a lot of speculation on how millennials are bad to work with and that baby boomers aren’t adaptable –  it’s time to change that perspective. Baby Boomer Brooke Chesnut and millennial Anastasia Button, help businesses to understand and navigate this multi-generational workforce.

Why Attend: It’s a free opportunity to learn how to better engage with your staff. Millennials make up the majority of the workforce these days, and it’s important that everyone in the company -no matter their age- can communicate and work together effectively.

Get more information and RSVP here.

 



Top 4 Concerns Companies Have About Cloud Services

Business leaders top concerns about adopting cloud services are changing. While security and cost still give company leadership the jitters, it seems these fears are lessening while concerns about vendor lock-in and compliance/governance are growing*. However, in an informal Twitter poll, we found that IT leaders were still ranked security and a loss of control as their highest concerns while governance/compliance and vendor lock-in were not as big an issue. This lack of alignment can pose a challenge to the business.

When business and IT are not in agreement about the risk and reward of cloud services, it becomes impossible to build an effective strategy for leveraging these services. Business units use cloud services without involving IT in the consideration or purchase process, resulting in increased security risk and cost. While is seems the needs of the business and IT are at odds, it is possible to develop a strategy that balances the needs of each group so the organization can take advantage of the agility and scale that cloud services provide.

These trends are just some of the topics we’ll be exploring at the Technology for Non-technical Leaders Meetup Group on July 27th.
 
 

*http://www.kpcb.com/internet-trends