All posts by vanessa saulsberry

Four Signs Your IT Infrastructure Needs a Refresh

IT architecture

Nothing lasts forever. This truism also applies to IT infrastructure. Technology advances at lightning speeds, making it difficult for aging servers and systems, cobbled networks, and stale strategies to meet the changing needs of a modern organization. Disruptive technologies including mobile, social, analytics, and cloud are forcing companies to rethink their approaches. IT’s ability to adapt to new initiatives and trends while folding in forward-looking provisions for suppliers, branches, devices (BYOD), accessibility, and role management is key to longevity and success.

Here are four strong indicators that it’s time for a refresh.

  • Poor, sluggish performance: You want a profitable, competitive business but your IT base is wearing thin. Imagine your infrastructure as a new pair of jeans. In the 80’s you rocked those jeans, and they fit like a glove. Today, those same jeans would have gone through dozens of patches, three new zippers, and fading beyond recognition. And that’s assuming they still fit. As the number of connected devices increase, companies must find ways to manage the influx of data from ever-increasing sources. According to Statista, some forecasts put the number of IoT connected devices worldwide as high as 31 billion by 2020.


This data deluge requires scalable storage, processing power, and speed that enables easy access to organizational assets and IT services anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

  • You have separate systems and applications for everything: Information sits in one place that you wish was accessible in another. What was once a boon is now a bane with unforeseen and growing layers of complexity. These once tenable solutions have little to offer the modern organization because they don’t communicate with each other resulting in limited insights and grave inefficiencies. Leading companies stay competitive by integrating platforms and applications that enable real-time decision making and maximize their return on IT investments.


  • You have diminished control of IT operations: Administration, upgrades, security patches, identifying vulnerabilities–rinse and repeat. There’s no time for innovation when resources are continually making ad hoc fixes to recurring issues and threats versus being proactive. Are adequate resources allocated to supporting your IT operations? Is your IT staff complying with standards and procedures? Delivering the right set of services at the right time and of the best quality is table stakes for not only the organization but for customers too.


  • It is difficult or impossible to add new functionality: If your company has been around for more than two decades, chances are you’ve racked up multiple systems and applications that are cumbersome to navigate and manage. Modernizing aging IT systems is a huge undertaking, time consuming, and equally costly without adequate resources. Working with the right partner can improve the transformation process significantly, reduce costs, and renew your investments with little-to-no disruption of the business.

In the end, the successful businesses will invest heavily in advanced technologies, evolve their strategies, and modernize their systems to keep pace with rapid change. From custom software and mobile applications hyper-converged infrastructures, it will be easy to differentiate the leaders from the laggards. Consumers and talent alike will be drawn to the companies that stand out.

8 Tips for IT Projects That Don’t Flop


Companies are under immense pressure to deliver more value to the organization, its stakeholders and customers. From Cloud infrastructure, Big Data and predictive analytics to custom applications and integration, leading companies are leveraging new technologies to transform every corner of their business.

Assembling a team with the right skills can be challenging for some companies, and project failure is not an option. We’ve outlined eight essential qualities to look for when structuring your internal teams or when evaluating an IT partner.

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SharePoint’s Progression: Creating Perfect Balance in the World

By Umang Shah

SharePoint's Progression Header Image
*Source: Ignite 2015

Microsoft provides one of the premiere solutions for enterprise collaboration. If we compare SharePoint’s evolution over the past decade to those of the IT industry you’ll find that they have many similarities:

  • Loose coupling/microservice-based architecture: SharePoint started this approach in 2010 with service applications (remember shared service in MOSS?). Since then, Microsoft has been working diligently to decouple as much as possible.
  • Mobile-first approach (Cross-platform, device-specific app development): This trend changed the face of IT services, and Microsoft SharePoint embraced it with responsive design and multi-channel support.
  • Cloud-first model: Features such as Delve are only possible in a Cloud-first environment, and Microsoft invests heavily in machine learning and research to the advantage of its subscribers. On-premise models are no longer feasible, as they require significant investments of time and resources.
  • Improvement in identity management: AAD (Azure Active Directory) is a global active directory. One of the biggest advantages of any enterprise solution is SSO (single sign on), and Microsoft’s AAD is a powerful option. Moreover, Office Groups’ all-in-one authorization maintenance is a cherry on top.

SharePoint developers are anticipating even more changes. For power users and developers, here are the latest developments:

  • SharePoint Community Portal > Yammer: SharePoint Community Portal was one of the most underrated features. It had badges, reputation, and gamification components. Now, with a more modern interface in Yammer it is difficult to find a strong use case for SharePoint Community Portal. Some features of SharePoint Community Portal are not in Yammer but it can be added via Market Place.
  • Insights (PerformancePoint/PowerPivot/Report Viewer/Excel Services) > PowerBI: From the beginning SharePoint has focused on BI. It supported reporting service web parts in MOSS, and then acquired Business Scorecard Manager which morphed into PerformancePoint. It also introduced PowerPivot (SSAS) and Power View (SSRS) in SharePoint mode. These are now separate components of Power BI as a service and are available as an independent component of Office 365.
  • SharePoint Search > Delve & Hybrid Enterprise Search: Search has been a cornerstone of SharePoint and it continues to evolve. Delve “lets the content find you automatically” based on your personal interaction and permissions (machine learning). Hybrid Search (Office 365’s on-premise search service) is a true hybrid option with a single index rather than two separate indices. Although Delve is evolving, it is still not a replacement for the traditional search center.
  • Forms customization from List/InfoPath > PowerApps. InfoPath Form Designer: A rapid form designer found in SharePoint’s older versions that still supports quick editing of list forms and task forms in (Workflow Designer). Eventually PowerApps will replace it, but for now it’s decoupled and can be applied to any data. It also has built-in support across devices with a Cloud-first, mobile-first approach.
  • Task Lists > Planner in Office 365: Originally designed to be used in Workflow, a 2013 addition of the timeline allowed for more seamless project management. It remains the preferred option for structured project management, but Planner has a better user interface and seamless integration with other services.
  • SharePoint 2010 and 2013 Workflow Engine > Microsoft Flow and Logic apps: Many people have moved on because of a workflow issue. The Workflow engine evolved drastically in 2010, and then again changed in 2013, but decoupling would make it even more efficient.
  • Customization (WebPart > client-side WebPart/Sandbox > SP Apps > add in > SharePoint Framework component: Customization has changed significantly in SharePoint. From manually copying all to GAC and web.config changes to structured WSP to APP packages. With the evolution of CSOM API, we are in the era of SPF in which Microsoft decoupled development away from Visual Studio/MSBuild. Also it focused more on a full-stack development model. SPF (SharePoint Framework) is one of the most common buzzwords in the SharePoint environment.

We’ve been helping enterprise companies leverage the power of SharePoint for over two decades. As the Office 365/SharePoint Lead for ISM, Inc.,  we’re always here to answer any questions you may have regarding your company’s strategy, architecture, and governance for implementation.  Connect with me on LinkedIn.


The Power of Beacon Technology in Manufacturing

By Darshak Patel, Ketan Bhavsar, Mahesh Dhapa, Bhumit Patel


When you think of beacons what comes to mind – a lighthouse right? In its simplest form, beacons are Bluetooth Low Energy devices (BLE) that broadcast location signals. Since most major operating systems support Bluetooth technology, it allows businesses to connect a bevy of Bluetooth-enabled devices. BLE is a one-way transmitter intended to help identify the whereabouts of a person or object. More commonly used in retail to engage potential shoppers in close proximity, forward-thinking manufacturers are finding ways to leverage beacons both indoors and out.

Beacons are gaining ground across industries including:

  • Manufacturing
  • Wholesale/retail /trade
  • Hospitality
  • Tourism/travel
  • Education
  • Healthcare

For example; if a manufacturer attaches beacons to its warehouse containers, with mobile device in tow, workers can easily determine the location of the containers and identify the contents.

The RFID chips of the past are no longer efficient with their limited range, high interference, and significant infrastructure investments. A few beacons and you’re ready to cover a large swath of the warehouse. Stationary or in transit, beacons are helping companies become more efficient at tracking their assets, engaging customers, and more.

Moreover, the cost savings for switching from RFID to beacons is significant due to the simplicity of connecting any Bluetooth-enabled device to a WiFi connection. RFID costs can spiral because it requires a good bit of cabling, antennas, and readers plus tags. Meanwhile, beacons are easy on the budget because it only requires readers.

Innovation in People Management

Beacon technology is also a very powerful tool for interacting with users in your warehouse. A custom application installed at the entrance enables employees or visitors to navigate the most complex layouts. For example; a bottling plant has many departments including ingredients, washing, mixing and blending, filling and capping, labeling, inspection, and packaging. By developing a custom beacon app managers can quickly identify the whereabouts of staff and determine the next logical move. This custom beacon technology can also welcome visitors, facilitate real-time interaction, and offer advice on how to proceed through the plant floor cautiously.

Beacons can also help keep employees safe. Installing these tiny devices in high-caution areas can warn employees with customized alerts built into their wearables. It can recite safety procedures and suggest the appropriate protective gear for various scenarios. For instance, beacons can be attached to an employee’s helmet and synchronized to his or her employee ID. Once a match is made it allows the system to analyze ID signals for greater control and security, especially in an emergency when understanding the exact position of your employee is crucial.

When in Doubt, Ask About

As certified Android and iOS mobile application developers, ISM, Inc. can help expand your knowledge on the subject. Enterprise manufacturers will find that BLE technology lowers power consumption on the plant floor which in turn lowers costs. It simplifies inventory management and provides insights that can optimize employee activities and shield them from danger. Embedded analytics add another dimension to this cost-saving technology. At a time when security, efficiency, and productivity are top of mind, beacon technology is a strong answer to the call.

Office 365: An Enterprise Collaboration Powerhouse

By Umang Shah


The call for more choice in enterprise collaboration tools has been answered. Depending on your objective there are many different apps/tools within Office 365 that have very different functionality. First, let’s list of all the existing collaboration tools within O65 for individual analysis. From time to time we’ll publish an insightful article regarding each of the tools we identify today. We’ll call the series “O65 by ISM, Inc.” These Cloud-based, all-in-one tools are available with rich client (Apps) and can be accessed on almost any device.

Several apps are integrated with Office 365 enabling a seamless and secure work environment. From Yammer to Groups to Team Sites, Microsoft has done an excellent job packaging the ultimate tools for collaboration. Remember when porting an object from Word to Excel to PowerPoint was new? Now, Microsoft has extended those capabilities, allowing users to embed apps from OneDrive to SharePoint to Exchange or Teams.

To begin, let’s list all of the existing collaboration tools within O65 for individual analysis. From time to time we’ll publish an insightful article regarding each of the tools we identify today. We’ll call the series “O65 according to ISM, Inc.” These Cloud-based, all-in-one tools are available with rich client (Apps) and can be accessed on almost any device.

office collaboration1

  1. Exchange: The majority of internal collaboration is conducted via email. It is a three-decades-old technology that’s not going anywhere any time soon. Exchange is O365’s Cloud-based email that enables easy access to built-in apps and categorization of incoming streams. Exchange is not going away, but as other collaboration tools surface, we may see a slight decline in its usage. Response times may be longer but it’s a good tool for structured, one-on-one communications.

  3. OneDrive for Business: This is not a replacement of your website; it’s actually a replacement of the “My Documents” folder on your desktop. It is a great tool for external sharing and synchronization for offline viewing. Commonly used for sharing drafts with dispersed team members. We suggest starting OneDrive for business with limited people, and then moving to a more flexible SharePoint document library.

  5. Office Groups: Think of Office Groups as a container of user permissions (both internal and external). Confusion arises because our imaginary container has a user interface under office 365 Outlook, Yammer, and other 0365 services. Once you create a group it enables additional integrations such as conversations, files (OneDrive), calendar (Outlook), and personal notes (OneNote). Some people compare the experience with Yammer, Teams, and others. In the long run the use of Office Group will probably remain as a container for all Office services. Office Groups can be created from Outlook and Yammer to quickly collaborate with internal/external users. Users receive a dedicated email address for the group.

  7. Microsoft Teams: Microsoft Teams is one of the latest collaboration tools for teams. Its Slack-like (persistent chat) tool integrates well with other apps in the suite such as Planner, Outlook, and Calendar. Throw in a little video conferencing capabilities and you’ve created a great way to increase team productivity and engagement. It’s not a replacement for Group, it’s a component of Group (Actual Azure Security framework). This tool is commonly used to quickly connect with specified contacts in a closed setting. Teams are able to plan, chat, share documents, and conduct a video calls in the secure app.

  9. Skype for Business: Most commonly used for impromptu web meetings and instant messaging. This is the quickest way to communicate one- on one or in a team setting. You can even extend it with Cloud PBX for peer- to-peer voice calling. The Skype app continues to outclass its competitors, and at a much more attractive price. Commonly used for daily stand-up meetings in which teams are geographically dispersed. Very useful for quick brainstorming sessions and informal communications that don’t require a saved record.

  11. Yammer: As an enterprise social network, Yammer has carved a niche for itself in helping internal/external teams stay connected. Its user experience and ability to engage large audiences is a huge advantage. It is non-structured and can be focused on large or small teams. The most common use is crowdsourcing ideas across the organization. Ideas can be shared and assessed within Yammer before any action is taken.

  13. SharePoint Site: The quintessential tool for managing lists and metadata, custom workflows, news, and more. Some components of the core site will be integrated with other office 365 tools. All of the other tools use the core concept from the SharePoint framework. Best for solving business issues quickly, creating lists with metadata, and using PowerApps and Flow for small business-centric apps. It has a good user adoption rate due to its popularity, and the SharePoint activity feed helps visualize activities across other office 365 tools.

  15. Delve: Delve is an intelligent, personalized site that uses Machine Learning (Office Graph) to discover and serve up content most relevant to you in real time. It is a secure tool with some borrowed featured from SharePoint for profiles and contacts. The biggest advantage is its Office Graph API. It’s intelligent enough to guide you along your content journey and it continues to get more accurate as you increase use. Good for informal research and understanding organizational structures.

  17. Co-author (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote): We can use the Office application in the Cloud and even in rich clients. We can co-author the documents simultaneously and see each other’s changes quickly. Great for collaborating seamlessly without worrying about version control.

  19. Planner: Planner provides a simple way to work together and organize tasks. It is extremely intuitive and easy to use. Teams are able to keep their projects separate and run visual status reports. Its integration with Teams and SharePoint ensures a seamless and transparent process for completing tasks and meeting objectives. Planner enables quick and efficient planning and management of multiple tasks. Teams can track progress, create sub-tasks, and access robust reports. Can be compared to Trello or Wunderlist.


Imagine you are participating in an active Yammer group to brainstorm ideas about a new product. Someone mentions a new technology that might help speed up the process, and the idea took off. There are several participants located around the world and you need to rally everyone for a quick huddle.You start a quick Skype meeting to discuss the details. During the Skype session, one person keeps close track of the conversation in OneNote. In the span of 10 minutes, a decision was made to move forward with the technology. As project lead you create an Office Team to initiate the project.As time goes by all of the original Yammer participants were invited to the new Office Team to plan the project. You also add Kartik, an independent consultant, to the Office Group and organized all project tasks in Planner. You measure the project’s progress using the charts within Planner, and then share them with your teammates in PowerPoint. I could go on but I’ll stop here. The possibilities for enterprise companies are endless. Office 365 E5 enables greater control of your communications process and ensures that you are operating in a secure environment with all of the bells and whistles at your fingertips.

As a Microsoft Gold partner, ISM, Inc. can help you choose the right app for your collaboration efforts and get you the best ROI from Office 365. Contact our Microsoft team today to learn more.