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Should Your Company Outsource IT? Let's Look at the Facts.

Posted by NetWork Center, Inc. on Jan 8, 2018 11:14:38 AM

For many small to medium sized businesses, the choice to outsource IT can come with a lot of questions. What is an MSP (Managed Service Provider)? Why do SMBs adopt managed services? Let us help you navigate through the process to make the right decisions for your business!

We invite you to download the ebook below and let's begin the conversation.

 

Ebook download: Should Your Company Outsource IT?

 

Topics: Managed Services, Outsourcing

New ERP Solutions to Take Your Company to the Next Level

Posted by Jon Ryan on Nov 15, 2013 4:50:00 PM

manufacturing2Many companies in today’s corporate world of manufacturing have been operating on the same business management and manufacturing software for many years. What does that mean exactly? Is that proof of the traditional bulletproof systems of the past? Or are we seeing companies that become too content with their management solutions? Let’s take a look into the past to understand where we need to be at the present. 

The Past

First of all, what is ERP? Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is business management software that allows an organization to use a system of integrated applications to manage their business. ERP software integrates all facets of an operation, including product planning, development, manufacturing processes, sales and marketing. 

We’ve all seen this before, ordering inventory out of one system while billing the customer from another and using yet a third system to manage your manufacturing schedule. “All Inclusive” solutions to cover all of these tasks were not readily available in earlier version of ERP solution software. Many solution providers of the past concentrated their software on one major component of the ERP process. That limited the amount of offerings from each manufacturer, forcing companies to purchase multiple solutions from multiple vendors. This isn’t all bad though, it’s like buying specialty software for every level of your resource planning system. The drawbacks however include working with multiple vendors, trying to stay up to date on software updates, and compatibility issues when trying to implement or intermingle newer technology. 

The Present

The decisions you make today may have changed since you’ve implemented your ERP solution from the past. Your customers have changed, your employees have changed, and the rest of the industry has progressed in technology, so undoubtedly your manufacturing process will eventually need to change.  It’s easy for a company to confuse increasing their through-put with staying up to speed with their manufacturing process. So what does a modern ERP solution give you that you aren’t getting from your old solution? The biggest benefit of a modern solution is “Efficiency”. Jumping back and forth from program to program, introducing more points of data entry, and increasing your margin of error. Using paper copies of orders and manually scheduling materials and resources. With modern ERP solutions, you have a single interface. Materials can be automatically managed in the system to be driven by customer orders, inventory, and resources. Then you have to look at the life cycle of your ERP solution.  If you’ve had it implemented for 10+ years already, how much longer can it be supported? As businesses start to broaden their ERP requirements and start looking at full service solutions, what’s the stability and longevity of the specialized ERP solution software from your current provider? 

The Future

Most ERP solutions are created in module format. You can implement the entire solution at once or piece by piece to ensure a smooth transition. This module-based design allows you to expand your efficiencies over time as well as keep building on the same system you are familiar with. Ask yourself about your current solution. As your requirements change, how flexible is your ERP solution?  Pick a solution that will be supported for years to come. Look for a solution that has a strong backbone of software like Microsoft Dynamics. Many ERP solution providers develop software that sits on the Dynamics framework and tailors it for a custom industry (i.e. food and beverage, pharmaceutical, etc.). 

ERP Solutions SoftwareKey Benefits

  • More Accurate Order Fulfillment

  • Less Billing Issues to Investigate

  • Easier and More Accurate Reporting

  • Lower Learning Cure to Increase User Roles

  • Higher Productivity from Your Employees


To Host or Not To Host?

Many ERP solutions are offered as both a hosted solution, where your entire ERP solution sits on the solution provider’s servers, or as an in house solution residing on your own hardware. While hosted solutions are becoming more popular, in house solutions are still faster for moving large amounts of data. You’ll need to make sure your network infrastructure can also support large amounts of data being transferred back and forth to a hosted solution. For mobility, hosted solutions are often easier to access outside of the company for remote management. While some solution providers have created mobile apps for ERP, you’ll need to ask yourself what is more important, mobility or speed.  

Conclusion

No matter what your current ERP solution is, even though it may be battle tested, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the inefficiencies?

  • What obstacles do you face in the manufacturing process, and are they caused by an outdated solution?

  • What is the overall business impact of those obstacles and inefficiencies?

  • Are there any data security concerns with your older system?

  • Where do you want to be with your ERP process, and will a modern solution get you there?  

To find out more about ERP solutions, discuss the future of your ERP solution, or have a network and server assessment performed on your current infrastructure, contact NetWork Center, Inc. 

Contact NetWork Center, Inc.

Topics: Technology Solutions, NetWork Center Inc., Managed Services, Network Assessment

Driving Business Processes Using Dialogs in Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Posted by Derik Bormann on Oct 11, 2013 4:59:00 PM

Microsoft Dynamics CRMBefore we start, I know that dialogs are not a new feature, as they were released with 2011. However, as I go around the country teaching classes and assisting with Microsoft Dynamics CRM projects, I am shocked to see how many organizations are not taking advantage of the Dynamics CRM deployments. It seems as though many organizations have a lack of understanding on what they are, how they work, and what they can be used for in the application. This month I want to provide some insight into dialogs, especially because I see them as something that will really compliment the new Business Process Functionality coming with CRM 2013.

First, let’s talk about what dialogs in CRM are and how they are useful. Basically, a dialog is a wizard that you can create to assist users step-by-step through a business process. For example, if your company sets up a new account in CRM and some critical information is missing, the person responsible for capturing that data can launch a dialog that will list the specific fields that data is missing from. There is no need to open the actual record and to try to locate the missing information. Dialogs can also be handy in the call center. You can use them as scripts to guide reps though conversations with customers, and the dialog can trigger other dialogs based on the client’s answers, requests, or objections. 

Dialog and Workflow Differences

There are a few differences that you should be aware of when working with dialogs. The biggest difference is that unlike workflows, which can be tied to specific events in CRM, dialogs have to be manually initiated by a user on the record you want to work with. This is commonly done by using the run dialog button on the ribbon. It could also be done by adding a custom button to the ribbon to provide one-click access or, in some cases, tying them to the system user entity to assist in record creation. Below is a table that outlines some of the key differences between workflows and dialogs in CRM. 

Workflows (WF)

Dialogs

Background Process:  Interacts with CRM entities directly.

Interactive Wizard: Entity interaction is based on user driven processes.

Executes under the security context of owner of the Workflow.

Executes under the security context of the user who initiates the Dialog Process.

Can be either Auto-started or user started.

Can only be initiated by user.

Supports triggers: (Create, Delete, Update, Etc.)

No support for triggers.

Can initiate child workflow processes. Child Dialogs cannot be launched via a workflow.

Can initiate both child workflows and child Dialogs.

Microsoft Dynamics CRMDialog Basics

Before you design a dialog, let’s talk about some of the basics. Dialogs are processes that are designed the same way as workflows. (Navigate to Settings – Processes) The Dialog editor is basically the same as the Workflow editor, but includes additional features specific to dialogs. One of the additional features in the Add Steps dropdown is the Page step. Page is where you create the screens that will act as the interaction points to guide the user through the dialog. On the page design screen, you add prompt and responses to query the user and capture their responses. Pages can have one question or multiple questions based on your needs, but each page requires at least one prompt and response. The responses captured can be stored in the instance of the dialog to update entity information or even passed to other dialogs that need the information.  

Another feature unique to dialogs is Query CRM Data. Query CRM data works very similar to Advanced Find. Let’s say you have just gotten a new lead that lives in North Dakota, and you want to assign a rep to the lead that works in that region. You can use the query CRM data to populate a drop down box that only includes CRM users located in North Dakota.   

Dialogs also can include Input Arguments or Variables. These help to capture information within the dialog that can be used as it proceeds. For example, a call center might have a dialog that drives the direction of a support call based on a client’s answers to questions. When a new call dialog is initiated, the rep may capture basic information about them (name, address, contract number, etc.) and then ask them a question to determine the nature of the call. Based on how the client answers the questions, a different dialog is launched that contains specifics for that path. This process can continue until the call is resolved. As each of the different dialogs is launched, input arguments in the new dialog can store values from the previous dialog. That way they can be used in the current one to evaluate items or update data. This concept of child dialogs are a great tool because they provide the ability to centralize dialog logic, and can break up complex dialogs to make them easier to manage. Another nice feature of child dialogs is the ability to link them back to themselves to allow various inputs of information.   

Other Dialog Considerations

While dialogs can go a long way in assisting your organization’s business process, you do want to take some time to carefully plan out how they will be used. They are very useful, but so are the regular forms in CRM. Don’t overdo it. Remember that dialogs should act as a compliment to the forms that you already have in the system. You also want to consider the users that will be executing the dialogs. Since dialogs run as the user initiates them, their security role in CRM needs to allow them the privileges to do the actions the dialog is attempting. Insufficient permissions will cause an error message informing the user that they cannot accomplish that task. Make sure you test dialogs sufficiently before you publish them to an organization.

Dialogs are a great tool to enhance the user experience and assist in capturing data in CRM. If you would like more information on how to use them, please contact a NetWork Center, Inc. Account Executive. We have a variety of training options available to assist you in creating, deploying, and managing Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

 Contact NetWork Center, Inc.

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Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Managed Services, Filtering

Enhancing the Customer Experience with Project Management

Posted by Jon Ryan on Aug 19, 2013 9:38:00 AM

technology project managementChanging your IT environment is an exciting experience for any company. However, it can also become a time of negative business impact and unpredictable risk. With multiple variables involved in implementing new technology into your environment, having an extensive plan for installation is critical.  Project Management lays the framework to keep the installation on time and within budget. Taking out a great deal of risk and threat of financial over-spending.

Let’s break it down from the beginning. A sales associate is working with the customer and engages his engineers to assess the situation and design a solution. When designing the solution for the customer, an installation plan needs to be created. This is where the project management begins. The installation plan is typically created in the form of an SOW (Scope of Work) or Project Scope. Based on the complexity of the scope a decision needs to be made. In smaller short term installations the engineer or sales associate can manage the installation. However, with longer term installations, a Project Manager can be engaged. So let’s say this is an install that needs a Project Manager to lead the installation and begin putting together a Project Plan.

The core components of a good Project Plan include; scope of work creation; scheduling; timeline and milestone documentation; budget awareness; progress updates (email or conference calls); strong documentation including change control documentation; and post completion review. While documentation is critical for the success, communication is the most important component to a successful project. Customers feel more comfortable with changes or delays as long as they are aware of them. With planning and close management, the possibility of delays or inaccuracies are reduced greatly.

project management success graphThere are many advantages of having a Project Manager versus trying to manage a project using various departments.

  1. Better Efficiency in Delivering Services: Project management provides a “roadmap” that is easily followed and leads to accurate project completion. Minimizing additional labor and time to complete a project.
  2. Increased Customer Satisfaction: Anytime you get a project done on time and under budget, the client walks away happy.
  3. Enhanced Effectiveness in Delivering Services: The same strategies that allowed you to successfully complete one project will serve as a blueprint for future projects.
  4. Improved Growth and Development Within your Team: Positive results encourage team members to embrace and leverage the project management process, building success for years to come.
  5. Greater Standing and Competitive Edge: Set yourself apart from your competitors not only on a deliverables standpoint but for the customer as well. Customers gain a competitive edge with more efficient installation of new technology.
  6. Opportunities to expand your Services: Offer more to your customers by selling products you normally wouldn’t be able to manage the installation of due to complexities in implementation.
  7. Better Flexibility: Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of project management is that it allows for flexibility. As a project changes, the use of change requests allows you to manage labor, time and cost while keeping the customer up to date through the entire process.
  8. Increased Risk Assessment: Having all aspects of a project monitored by a Project Manager allows you to address all sides of installation. This allows you to accurately predict issues and assess levels of risk.
  9. Increase in Quality: As project flow becomes more efficient, the quality of service you can offer your customers increases. Less time is spent correcting mistakes in the installation process.
  10. Increase in Quantity: Faster and more efficient project completion leads to more free time to do more installs.

Project management is being requested by more customers every day. In some cases the management of a project is just as important as the solution itself. If you are making a change to your IT infrastructure and want to experience the benefits of Project Management, you can find out more by contacting NetWork Center, Inc.

Contact NetWork Center, Inc.

Topics: Technology Solutions, NetWork Center Inc., Managed Services

NetWork Center, Inc. Celebrates Fargo Office Remodel

Posted by Angie Ryan on Jun 24, 2013 4:35:00 PM

NCI Chamber Ribbon Cutting 6 20 13On Thursday, June 20th we celebrated our Fargo office remodel with the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce. We held an open house complete with a Chamber ribbon cutting celebration, tours of our building and breakfast.

The ribbon cutting was led by our very own Sales Associate Andrew McKenzie who just so happens to be a FMWF Chamber Ambassador. Andrew passed the baton to our President Ben Carlsrud who explained the many updates that were made to our Fargo office building and why we were so proud to celebrate the remodel.

These updates include:

  • Expanded area for our Help Desk technicians
  • New carpet on both floors
  • New cubicles and standing workstations for service and Help Desk team members
  • Fresh coat of paint on both first and second floors
  • Additional sales team member offices and updated cubicles on the second floor
  • Updated lobby design with NetWork Center, Inc. logo wall mount
  • Built in reception desk and new reception area furniture 

NetWork Center Inc. Before and After Photos resized 600

After Ben expressed his thanks for the many customers, partners, vendors, Chamber ambassadors and NCI team members in attendance, he introduced our Sales Manager Steve Stenerson. Steve shared his excitement for our growing team and how this remodel will provide a better work environment for our employees and allow us to better serve our customer's needs. 

NCI Chamber Ribbon Cutting Celebration 6 20 13 resized 600The ribbon was then rolled out by the Chamber and cut by seven of our employees representing various departments: Sean Todd, Help Desk; Angie Ryan, Marketing; Steve Stenerson, Sales; Ben Carlsrud, President & Service Manager; Mark McQuillan, Accounting; Brett Anderson, Interactive Services; Brad Maczkowicz, Business Development. 

After the ribbon cutting ceremony, attendees enjoyed breakfast and tours of our office. We heard very positive feedback from customers as well as partners and Chamber ambassadors. If you were unable to attend our open house, we welcome you to come by for a visit. Any one of our team members would gladly give you a tour. 

Open House June 2013 resized 600While on your tour, feel free to ask our team members what their favorite part of working at NetWork Center, Inc. is. I'm willing to bet they will tell you our company culture. Personally, I'm proud to work for an organization that provides employees the freedom to achieve their career goals through encouragement, education and advancement. I truly believe each and every employee exemplifies our core values: Commitment to Employees. Dedication to Customers. Responsible Innovation. 

NetWork Center, Inc. understands the importance of investing in employees, and in return, employees invest their time and hearts into helping clients solve their technology needs. 

Contact us today if you would like a tour of our recently remodeled Fargo office or if you have any questions regarding our organization. 

 Contact NetWork Center, Inc.

Topics: Technology Solutions, NetWork Center Inc., Managed Services

5 Reasons You Should Attend our 2012 Technology Showcase

Posted by Brad Maczkowicz on Dec 7, 2012 1:20:00 PM

There may not be a busier time for IT shops than the last two months of the year. Between trying to close out the open projects, reporting to leadership, budgeting and planning for the next year – finding time to get out of the office is difficult to do.

Technology Showcase Email Signature Final450x97 Register Today

Our annual Network Center, Inc. Technology Showcase is on December 12th and we have five great reasons for you to pull away from the office and attend!                                           

  1. Mobility, Mobility, Mobility! The biggest trend in technology is smartphones and tablets. Learn how to manage, secure and deploy mobile devices and how they can make your employees more productive and your customer service better!
  2. 2013 Technology Trends. Learn what the biggest players in IT are expecting from 2013 and how you can benefit!
  3. Breakout Session. We have 6 breakout sessions scheduled that will help you with your 2013 plans!
  4. Top Technology Leaders. Interact with many of the top technology leaders and learn about their emerging technology innovations!
  5. Build Relationships! Establish relationships with technology vendors at our reception and exhibitor display. Visit with Parallel, Exagrid, Implementation Specialists, IBM, Video Guidance and ESET.

Event details can be found at www.netcenter.net/TechShow

What are you waiting for? Register today!  
 

Topics: Technology Solutions, NetWork Center Inc., Mobile Device Management, Managed Services

3 Tips on How to Provide Real Value To Your Customers

Posted by Brad Maszkowicz on Sep 28, 2012 10:18:00 AM

I recently purchased a new vehicle. Although I did not expect a great experience, I did expect more from the organizations I have worked with in the past. Each dealer kept telling me they would give me more value for my money. I finally got so tired of hearing it; I asked them to clearly quantify “Value” for me.

As expected – all I got was silence.

As they scrambled to answer my question, they told me “well, there are fancy rims; we will throw in heated seats; this one has a nice looking radio (which it was not)!” 

That’s Value?  Maybe in their eyes!  Not one of the dealers bothered asking me what value meant to me.

To really understand customer value, you need to understand what your specific customer is trying to accomplish with your product or service.  More than likely, it is not the same for each client.  

technology valueIf I am buying a car to provide inexpensive transportation and from work, then fuel efficiency and maintenance costs should be addressed first to provide me value. If I am buying a luxury car, to look great and be extremely safe for my family, then a 5 star airbag system and sporty rims may be adding more value to me.

The term, “Value” does have dollar implications. Dictionary definitions use words such as worth, importance, usefulness, fair market price while describing value. We often hear people say, “For the price this one offers more value.” The mistake is assuming all features apply to all people.

If you work for a technology service business like I do, providing real value is key and at times difficult to identify or quantify. Here are three tips to consider when discussing value with your clients:

  1. Ask the client how they will measure value. You can and should help them with this, but they need to formulate and express their opinions of value
  2. Use real numbers when possible. For example: Our solution will save you time.  We have all heard that before, right? If you get the customers agreement on what they will do with that saved time, now you are starting to add value. Those 5 hours per week of saved time may drive X% more revenue, increase job satisfaction by X%, etc.
  3. Follow up. This is probably the most important thing you can do to guarantee a long term client.

valueWork through the agreed upon value measurements and see if they are getting the value they anticipated. It may be out of your control or it may be fixable, either way, you have demonstrated to your client you care by following up with them. You can use this information as tools for improvement for yourself, your services, and your company. 

NEVER Assume value. Just like the car salesperson that thought fancy rims would give me more value...that car is still on the lot.

We have found these three tips to be extremely helpful in the technology industry and hope they benefit your industry as well.

Your turn: How have you demonstrated value with a customer recently? 


Topics: Technology Solutions, Managed Services, NetWork Center, Inc.

Applying Technology To Solve Business Challenges

Posted by Brett Anderson on Sep 22, 2012 7:00:00 AM

It’s an eye opening and humbling experience to tell the story of your company. Earlier this month The Forum spent time with some of the leaders of NetWork Center, Inc. to talk about technology, our record of employee retention and what we expect in the future. The Forum did a wonderful job telling this story, but we thought we could elaborate on the future of technology with this blog. 

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” – Albert Einstein

Ben CarlsrudIt’s often said that business success can be tied to your ability to predict change and adapt quickly. Over the past 10 years we’ve seen an evolution in technology that’s changed the way everyone does business. From e-commerce to more powerful mobile phones and the popularity of tablet computers, the successful companies are those that have embraced change and adapted quickly. Two examples to consider: 

  • Where was Apple 10 years ago? How well did it predict the market and its consumers?  Has it paid off? 
  • In contrast, how has the automotive industry faired in the past 10 years?  Specifically, how would you describe the rollercoaster General Motors has been on?
  • How is your business reacting to the changes in the market place?  Are you leveraging technology and these changes to secure your future?

For many years NetWork Center, Inc. has been a regional leader in core technologies which are at the heart of the changes in the market place. This is a difficult concept to understand, but it’s important if you want to evolve with the future. The core technologies – or what we refer to as “traditional” offerings – include the servers, switches and routers, phones and connectivity. Our success over the past 25+ years is based on our deep understanding of how they all come together to make up the core infrastructure.

So how does this help our customers adapt in the future?

Connectivity and core infrastructure isn’t going away any time soon – this technology backbone is what makes all the “new” technology possible. From social media to tablets and smart phones to the Cloud – they all rely on the “traditional” core infrastructure at some level. We’re building on this proven track record of “traditional” offerings with experience in more forward-facing technologies:

  • Mobile Device Management and advisement.  We’re the only local reseller and provider of MaaS360, the leading solution to help manage and secure mobile devices and tablets.
  • We’re the only Certified Apple Consultants in the region.
  • We’ve developed mobile applications for Android and iOS.
  • We‘ve developed feature-rich and robust solutions based on Google Apps.
  • We’ve designed and deployed hybrid solutions that leverage our customers’ local software, remote locations and Cloud based storage and computing.

“Computers are useless.  They can only give you answers.” – Pablo Picasso

Twenty years ago this was what most people thought.  But doesn’t it still hold true?  Computers and technology and all the “traditional” pieces mentioned earlier are just the means to an end. Without the intelligence that Albert Einstein talks about, the core technology itself isn’t very useful. You need smart people who understand business, understand challenges and can apply the technology appropriately to make your business better.

This is what Network Center, Inc. does. We have passionate, intelligent people who listen to your concerns and partner with you on solutions. From the core infrastructure and “traditional” technology to all of the new challenges technology brings. We can help you adapt to the changing landscape and take advantage of opportunities the future holds. 

Contact us to talk about your business –we’d love the opportunity to share our knowledge with you and help map out your future! 

Contact Us Today!

  

Topics: Technology Solutions, Mobile App Development, Mobile Device Management, Cloud computing, Apple Certified Network Consultants, Managed Services

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