5 Things Middle Market Companies Need to Know About IT Projects

From training employees to getting buy in from leadership, there’s a lot that goes into rolling out a major IT project. During a panel at last fall’s BusinessTech18 conference, a group of middle market IT experts identified the top five things companies should keep in mind.

A panel of IT experts took the stage during BusinessTech18 last fall to shine a light on what middle market companies need to understand about how the rollout of IT projects interact with their overall business strategy. The panel, which included Martin Ziemianski of Ozanne; Christian Tracy of GMS; Dean Wolosiansky of Lindsay Precast; and Matt Gabel of Westfield Bank identified five critical items these companies should have on their IT Radar. And they are:

No. 1: Training is the hardest part

It’s one thing for a company to invest in its IT infrastructure. It’s another thing entirely for employees to buy in. One way to increase employee buy in is to have an outside firm come in for a talk. The panelists likened it to how children will listen to an outside voice more closely than they will to mom and dad.

No. 2: Build a relationship with vendors

Speaking of third-party teams, it’s often best to allow this outside team handle major tech rollouts as they often are in the best position to understand how that particular application was intended to be used. It also allows companies to avoid having to employ a huge team of developers.

No. 3: Think about the end user

When considering adding or changing any technology, companies should put some thought into how this platform will impact the end user, whether that’s customers or employees. Leadership needs to step outside of themselves and look at what the best value is for the business.

No. 4: Get leadership’s buy in

While it’s important for a company’s leadership team to step back and let experts handle implementation, it is nonetheless crucial to get buy in from this group. Achieving this buy in is important because it can help to influence the rest of the organization’s employees to buy in to the project as well.

No. 5: Don’t back off once you’re done

It’s important to keep in mind that your job is not finished once the tech is implemented. It’s easy for attentions to backslide once all the work is done. The panelists suggested implementing training related to the project in short sprints over a longer period in order to better retain people’s attention.

BusinessTech18 was just one of the many events the Greater Cleveland Partnership participated in to help companies obtain the education and resources needed to succeed. Click here to view a list of upcoming events that could help your business in 2019.


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  • Next up: 6 Steps to Improve Cyber Security
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  • 6 Steps to Improve Cyber Security

    While cyber threats to your business evolve over time, the basic principles of defense remain the same. It’s with that thinking in mind that the Federal Trade Commission published its report “Start with Security: A Guide for Business” which details cyber security best practices as gleaned from previous FTC cases. Following are six steps you can start implementing today to keep your network safe.

    While cyber threats to your business evolve over time, the basic principles of defense remain the same. It’s with that thinking in mind that the Federal Trade Commission published its report “Start with Security: A Guide for Business” which details cyber security best practices as gleaned from previous FTC cases. Following are six steps you can start implementing today to keep your network safe.

    1. Think Security First

    Regardless of what action you want to take, make your choice with security in mind. For instance:

    • Don’t collect data you don’t need: Review what you’re asking your customers to provide. Is any of it sensitive data that could compromise them if you’re hacked? Do you absolutely NEED to have all of the information you’re asking for?
    • Hold on to information only as long as you need it: Collecting personal customer data can be a necessary action companies have to take, but once the deal is done, it might be unwise to hold onto it. If your business is storing credit or debit card numbers for days after a sale is finalized, you might be leaving yourself vulnerable if you’re hacked.
    • Keep Data Secure at All Times: Utilizing encryption methods are important, but make sure that data stays encrypted at all times. Encrypting does no good if, for example, it’s decrypted at some point by a service provider and then emailed back to your office.

    2. Control Access

    Not everyone on your staff needs access to the sensitive data you have on hand. Put controls in place to ensure only those on a “need to know” basis can see this data.

    3. Secure Passwords and Systems

    Insist on complex and unique passwords to access your administrative system. And guard against brute force attacks—programs that endlessly guess at passwords until they luck into a match—by restricting the number of password attempts.

    4. Monitor Your Network

    All of the computers on your network don’t need to talk to each other. House particularly sensitive data in a secure place on your network. And monitor activity on your network, too. Look for suspicious activity that could indicate unauthorized access.

    5. Remote Access

    Have a mobile workforce? Before you activate a remote login account, assess whether it is secure. And ensure virus protections are up to date on any online portals. Relatedly, update and patch any third-party software you might be using.

    6. Verify Security of Service Providers

    It doesn’t matter how secure things are in your own house if the security your service providers use is lacking. Make sure to put security standards in writing in any contracts you have with the firms. And if they say they have secure processes in place, verify that this is true.

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  • Next up: 7 Digital Marketing Tricks to Know
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  • 7 Digital Marketing Tricks to Know

    With the rise of additional channels such as mobile, digital marketing has taken on an increased importance in recent years. But according to a recent Adobe survey, just 9% of marketers believe their digital marketing strategy is working. How can your small business cut through the clutter and devise a digital marketing plan that gets results?

    With the rise of additional channels such as mobile, digital marketing has taken on an increased importance in recent years. But according to a recent Adobe survey, just 9% of marketers believe their digital marketing strategy is working. How can your small business cut through the clutter and devise a digital marketing plan that gets results?

    That’s the question we posed recently to Nicole Burke, a veteran marketer and founder of consulting firm The MOD Pros. She identified seven steps small businesses should take to ensure a successful digital marketing campaign.

    1. Discovery Phase

    This is one of the most critical parts of the process. It’s where you compile research and get insights about your brand. Look at competitors. Where your customers make their buying decisions and how they think of your brand. It’s important at this stage to remove your bias and think critically about what people think of your brand.

    2. Digital Footprint Assessment

    After the research is done, now it’s time to take the next step and create a digital footprint assessment. This is a picture of your entire footprint on the Internet comprising your social media, your partners, your website, etc. This process includes looking at your website, are your links working, is your content current? This process also covers social media. Is your messaging consistent with your brand? Are you getting interaction?

    3. Website Design and Accessibility

    Make sure your customers can browse and interact with your site regardless of the type of screen they are using. It has to be responsive to smartphones as well as desktop machines. This will help build credibility with your audience and build conversion rates. Search engines such as Google, which want to provide the most relevant content to searchers, also give preference to responsive sites.

    4. Content and SEO

    This might be the most difficult step. Start with the end in mind as it relates to content. Have a strategy, process and schedule. Circle back to your business objectives. As for search engine optimization, ensure the design of each page of content is accessible to search engines, including internal text links, metadata, etc.

    5. Social Media

    Make sure your business is playing on the right social networks. How do you do that? Take a step back and understand your business does not have to be on every single network. Where are your customers? Does this social network make sense for my product or business? What am I trying to share? If it’s images, then think about Pinterest; if it’s broader awareness, consider Twitter or Facebook.

    6. Backlinking and Directory Listings

    Backlinks are incoming links to a Web page. You want to make sure the sites linking to you are credible and there are a few free tools that can help you do that. Check out OpenLinkProfiler, RankSignals and SEO SpyGlass

    7. Review, Measure and Analyze Results

    Now that you are putting your digital marketing framework into action, you need to ensure a system is in place to measure and act on results. Here are a few key performance indicators to watch:

    • Total visits: This will give you a big picture view of how your content is faring.
    • New sessions: This will show you how “sticky” or how many visits are new or recurring.
    • Channel-specific traffic: The point of origin for your traffic.
    • Bounce rate: The number of visitors who leave your site before exploring further.
    • Conversion rates: The number of people who took a desired action, such as signing up for a newsletter, made a purchase, etc.

    View COSE webinars on other topics such as legal, sales and more.

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  • Next up: 7 Marketing Tactics to Know
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  • 7 Marketing Tactics to Know

    Seasoned marketer Nicole Burke gives the inside scoop on the tools, tips and tactics you need to add to your marketing mix.

    Seasoned marketer Nicole Burke gives the inside scoop on the tools, tips and tactics you need to add to your marketing mix.


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  • Next up: 7 Tools You Need in Your Legal Toolkit
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  • 7 Tools You Need in Your Legal Toolkit

    Growth isn’t going to happen for your small business unless you have the right framework in place to support your operations. This includes having the right legal contracts and documents on hand to ensure your firm is protected with customers, employees, and even your co-owners.

    Growth isn’t going to happen for your small business unless you have the right framework in place to support your operations. This includes having the right legal contracts and documents on hand to ensure your firm is protected with customers, employees, and even your co-owners.

    During a recent COSE WebEd webinar, Sharon Toerek, principal of intellectual property and marketing law firm Toerek Law, outlined seven important types of legal tools every small business owner needs to make sure are in their legal toolkit.

      1. Choose and Document a Legal Structure

    First, choose the legal structure that is appropriate for your business (a sole proprietorship, partnership, or entity like a corporation or LLC).  Keep in mind that if you don’t select one, you’ll automatically be considered a sole proprietor (if one owner) or a partnership (if more than one owner) for legal purposes. Then, make sure your company has the proper documentation to support it, such as bylaws, a code of regulations, or an operating agreement. These documents are important because they prove and define your legal structure and liability. Also, before they can provide any sort of capital assistance, bank officials are going to want to make sure a correct corporate structure is in place.

      2. Keep Track of Relationships

    It’s critical to document all of a business’s relationships—both inside and outside of the company—in writing.  If the business has more than one owner, do you have documents that detail how that relationship can be unwound if necessary? How are you going to value the share the departing owner holds if they are bought out? Businesses should have a buy/sell document on file that states exactly how such a situation will be handled. And don’t forget to include wording on whether a non-compete or non-solicitation promise will come into play if someone leaves the business. If two businesses collaborate on a project, such as in a joint venture, the roles and responsibilities of each party should be clear and defined in writing.

      3. Handling Customers

    Sure, handshakes are important. But don’t enter into any deals with customers based solely on a handshake. Have something in writing that spells out the conditions of your relationship with the customer. For example, if you’re a service firm, use a service agreement that indicates your fees, the services the company is agreeing to provide, when the customer will pay, along with other relevant terms. Also, remember to state in the agreement what happens if a customer doesn’t pay, or isn’t paying in a timely fashion, such as recovering collection costs and attorney's fees.

      4. Employment Law Documents

    Even the smallest company should document its employment relationships and policies in writing in either an Employee Policy Manual, an Employment Agreement, or both.  Try to create these employment documents to be able to accommodate growth in the business, and review and update them periodically. Also, make sure job descriptions are up to date and consider whether the company needs additional policies to cover such issues as a zero-tolerance policy on workplace violence, discrimination and harassment, or accommodations such as employee telecommuting or employee personal device use.

    5.  Employment Law Postings

    Businesses need to make available, in a place accessible to all employees, postings of certain employment laws. These include:

    • EEOC Notice
    • Wage and Hour Law Notice
    • FMLA Requirements and policies
    • OHSA documents
    • Child Labor rules
    • company polygraph policy (if applicable)

    6.  Government Filings Required for Employees

    In addition to the employment law postings you have to display, don’t forget about the various filings that are required as well for each of your employees. These include:

    • Reports to the IRS, state and city tax authorities on income
    • I-9 Reports
    • Ohio New hire reporting

    Be sure to have all forms or related reporting websites handy so you don’t have to start from scratch with these forms every time you bring someone new on board.

    7.  Thinking about IP

    Every small business has some intellectual property, including, for most, your customer list and your goodwill and brand. Do a trademark search (a federal search, especially if you conduct business online or outside of the state). A good place to start this search is with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website at www.uspto.gov/. Keep in mind trademarks are classified by category, so it’s possible for a lawn care company to have the same trademark as a consulting firm. Also, for businesses that rely on freelance help, it’s critical to have a written agreement in place that indicates you own the rights of any assets created by an outside freelancer or contractor. Finally, remember to have a confidentiality policy to protect company trade secrets like customer information or proprietary products or processes – this information can only be a trade secret if it’s carefully maintained.

    Interested in learning more about COSE’s WebEd Series and other events? Visit www.cose.org/events

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  • Next up: ‘A Day in the Life’ of a Hyland Solution Developer
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  • ‘A Day in the Life’ of a Hyland Solution Developer

    Curious what it’s like to work at Hyland, creator of OnBase? Not play badminton in the atrium or order the daily special from the diner. I mean work at Hyland. Do amazing work and feel great about it. Our new blog series, A Day in the Life, explores what it’s like to work at Hyland, in one of a hundred different disciplines. Today we chat with Tom Alspach, a Hyland solution developer.

    Curious what it’s like to work at Hyland, creator of OnBase?

    Not play badminton in the atrium or order the daily special from the diner. I mean work at Hyland. Do amazing work and feel great about it.

    Our new blog series, A Day in the Life, explores what it’s like to work at Hyland, in one of a hundred different disciplines.

    Today we chat with Tom Alspach, a Hyland solution developer.

    OnBase Blog (OB): Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to Hyland.

    Tom Alspach (TA): I graduated with a degree in MIS and worked at two small companies doing custom software development and consulting work in the Cleveland area before Hyland. I was aware of the company as I had friends working here, but was always concerned of losing my identity in a larger company, so I didn’t seriously pursue moving initially.

    OB: How did you choose your career path?

    TA: It took me a while to settle on what I’d really like to do, but MIS was a perfect fit. I really enjoy technology, as well as building things, so software development was a good choice. I found out early on that I really enjoyed helping customers solve their problems. Having some business knowledge in combination with technical knowledge has fulfilled that.

    OB: What kind of education and experience did you need to land your role at Hyland?

    TA: I attended a Hyland tech fair one summer on the recommendation of a friend. Basically to “give it a try.” I ended up talking for a long time with the person who is now my manager. I loved how he described the job and company. It changed my mind on what coming to a large company would mean.

    We obviously work as part of a larger whole, but our group is small and close-knit. That made it a comfortable transition for me.

    For my position, individuals with a technical degree and programming experience are desired. The technologies we touch vary from project-to-project.

    OB: What technology do you closely work with?

    TA: We work pretty closely with Microsoft technologies, but we can pretty much hit anything depending on the customer. In our role, it is relatively rare that we develop directly against a database, but not unheard of (typically SQL Server or Oracle).

    The languages and technologies we use are really determined by the project. They can be anything from C# to BizTalk to web-based technologies (and many in-between).

    OB: What projects are you working on and what do you spend the majority of your time doing?

    TA: I am in an uncommon scenario for our group. I am on a dedicated project and have been for 15 months. Usually we’re on several shorter projects at a time.

    It’s a web-based HR onboarding/offboarding solution that integrates with OnBase as hosted by our cloud services offering.

    I spend a majority of my time doing development work, though my days vary depending on what part of the release phase we’re in.

    My duties are similar, however, to most of our group’s projects where we’re responsible for discovery, implementation, testing and go-live.

    In my time at Hyland. I’ve done AP integration work, college admissions projects, custom websites and web-services, signature pad development – it’s really all over the board. That’s what I love about my job.

    OB: What are some of the common misconceptions associated with your job?

    TA: I’m not sure if I’ve heard of one! If I had to name something it might be that we just do integration and scripting work.

    OB: What is most enjoyable about your job?

    TA: I love developing relationships with co-workers and customers and building something that really helps them day-to-day in their business.

    OB: What are some personal tips for doing this job well?

    TA: Having the desire and ability to pick-up new technologies quickly is an important skill. A good balance of communication and technical skills is also a must, since we’re responsible for interacting with the customer to get their requirements, as well as actually doing the software development following.

    OB: What is the worst part of your job? What helps to deal with it?

    TA: The nature of our job – installations, upgrades, and so forth – makes it necessary to sometimes do that work off-hours. It’s not frequent, but it does occur. There is always flexibility given around late nights/long hours to maintain balance.

    OB: What is your advice for people who are interested in this position?

    TA: Nothing beats experience, but I’ve also seen our group bring on people with expertise in one or two areas. In the end, it’s a desire to learn and contribute. If the job sounds exciting, I’d recommend applying.

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