Category Archives: ISM Inc. Blog

Planning for Mobility and Beyond

mobility

The mobile revolution has forever altered how we live, work, and play. We depend on our smartphones to communicate, find information, and be productive at will. Most companies have already adopted a mobility strategy to improve a host of business outcomes, transforming their people, processes, and technologies to suit a mobile-first world. Mobile’s maturity ushers in a new set of concerns for enterprise companies.  Here’s why.

In 2016, an estimated 62.9 % of the world population already owned a mobile phone. Moreover, the number of mobile phone users globally is expected to pass five billion by 2019, according to Statista. Businesses can no longer ignore mobile or the fact that a growing number of people prefer to use their own mobile devices in the workplace. For companies to be most productive and create more revenue opportunities, consultants, employees, suppliers, and other partners require secure and uninterrupted access to company assets and systems. Leading companies have solved the BYOD conundrum by providing custom mobile applications with a focus on securing data. Unfortunately, additional threats remain such as trouble at the device level. Proper security measures are paramount with your sensitive data. A cloud option is a viable one, assuming protections are superior. At the app level, data at rest and in transition should be carefully considered. Encryption, single sign-on, and dual authentication are all feasible, but all should be implemented based on OWASP principles.

Hybrid or native, extreme care must be taken to ensure you develop the right apps with the features that users care about most. Apps that go unused are a waste of time and money. Native apps are built for a particular operating system such as iOS and Android using the platform’s language, tools, and SDK. Hybrid apps are web-based and contained in a native web design. There are many considerations in determining which apps are best for your company. There are pros and cons in both, but native apps tend to provide a more enhanced user experience. Hybrid apps are typically quicker to develop and easier to manage.

By the time you factor in multiple operating systems, integrations, and never-ending application updates, unless you have a sizable IT department, this endeavour may seem out of reach. Enterprise mobility has never been more attainable than it is right now. When you’re ready, let’s talk strategy.

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.

statista-graph

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.

The Evolution of eBusiness

According to Google research, 89% of U.S. marketers reported that personalization on their websites or apps resulted in an increase in revenue. B2B companies are forced to keep pace with customers’ digital preferences and high expectations now more than ever. Customers are comparing the B2B online experience to the B2C online experience and won’t hesitate to voice their opinions publicly. System delays, process inconsistencies, and a lack of personalization and customization are just what customers need to start packing their virtual bags.

We’ve summarized the findings of a recent study we conducted to understand how B2B buyers perceive the current eBusiness experience. The survey went out to 125 B2B buyers in the U.S. In this post we also discuss the urgency with which leading B2B companies must respond to the new digital paradigm across channels and devices. Lastly, we provide ideas and advice on how companies can change the game with next-generation customer portals developed with the one-to-one experience in mind.

The Research in a Nutshell

  • Almost 40% of respondents ranked process issues as the top source of friction when conducting eBusiness
  • Customer experience ranked #1 for attracting and retaining loyal customers
  • Fifteen percent of B2B buyers are not engaged
  • Fifty-three percent of B2B buyers feel that companies are only somewhat responsive to their needs
  • Forty-three percent of buyers believe getting things done easily is most important
  • The retail industry was ranked #1 in providing the best eCommerce customer engagement

Getting to the Root of the Problem

These data help us identify the root of the problem. Hint: it’s not about your website; it’s about your entire eBusiness process and technology infrastructure. B2B eCommerce is inherently more complex than B2C, specifically for manufacturers, as they require heightened coordination and communication among systems and processes. But that doesn’t matter to customers who want to get things done quickly and efficiently. They only care about the experience they encounter and whether it meets or fails their expectations.

One common problem emerged among respondents regarding complications due to lack of automation in the order process. For example; let’s say John purchases 100 motor parts from a sellers’ portal. His purchase order generates a ticket that alerts the processing team via email. The processor enters the order into the system which kicks out an invoice. The invoice is then sent back to the customer for processing. This entire process could take days or even weeks because it depends on the bandwidth of the individuals. It also increases the chance of errors. Alternatively, a custom EDI integration would automate the process and take the onus off of the individual processor. With computer-to-computer electronic data interchange, this whole cumbersome, time-sucking process is seamless not only for the company but the customer too. Sellers can rest assured knowing that their multiplicity of documents are being processed and distributed automatically, saving corporations’ time and money.

Real-Time, Relevant Interactions

Inconsistent or insufficient information about products can frustrate customers who expect companies to have up-to-date information at the ready. Maintaining the integrity and freshness of your data is key to providing the latest and best information in real time. Real-time interactions including intuitive sales and service tools are a must for the on-the-go customer.

Integrating modern data analytics tools with your customer portal enables personalized communications via email and social media channels based on behavioral patterns. B2B customers appreciate gentle reminders and updates about the changes that affect them most such as order updates, product updates, and proactive notifications should a problem arise. Custom chatbots can also engage live customers to help drive sales.

Building the Next-Generation eBusiness Experience

Companies must adapt quickly and invest heavily in modernizing their IT infrastructures to be more competitive and responsive to customers’ expectations. Companies should seek out modern, customizable options for hardware, software, networks, IT resources and maintenance to optimize business performance, control costs, and improve the customer and employee experience. Integrating CRM, ERP (including the aging AS/400), inventory, data analytics, billing, content management, and other mission-critical systems are crucial to providing that seamless and personalized experience. Systems that don’t communicate with each other just won’t cut it in a customer-first world. Hosting your eCommerce platform on a private cloud is a smart and secure option. You may also consider a hybrid option that offers a consistent platform that spans data centers and cloud to simplify IT and deliver apps and information to anyone, anytime, anywhere. A hybrid option also allows you to scale the computing power and capabilities that your business demands without wasting onsite technology investments.

According to TechTarget, APIs have steadily improved software quality over the last decade, and the growing number of web services exposed through APIs by cloud providers is also encouraging the creation of cloud-specific applications, internet of things (IoT) efforts, and apps to support mobile devices and users. Integration of APIs such as sales tax calculations, shipping calculations, product catalogs, pricing, and inventory, enable companies to serve up information seamlessly. Simplistic site navigation, self-service, responsive design, and robust search capabilities are all fundamental elements of our era.

Building a next-generation B2B eBusiness experience requires a well-planned customer first strategy that leverages social, mobile, analytics, and cloud technologies to engage the busy customer. It also requires companies to modernize aging IT infrastructures to enable the optimal response to customer needs and preferences. The fact is you are now competing with companies that have crossed over from the B2C world to take a chunk of your business.  Technology plays an integral role in helping you stay competitive. Ultimately, it will come down to how the customer perceives his/her experience with your business that will determine your company’s fate.

Enabling the Collaborative Healthcare Workforce

Five common misconceptions about moving Office to the cloud.
ISM_Inc_Office365_CollaborationOCT2017
The modern workforce, in general, is highly collaborative, nimble, and connected. For the healthcare industry in which laws such as the HITECH Act and HIPPA privacy and security rules are paramount, the path to technological advancement is often met with skepticism. Nevertheless, 40% of U.S. healthcare providers’ IT budgets are increasing, according to IDC. Leading healthcare organizations are realizing lower costs and increased productivity in the cloud, all while meeting stringent compliance requirements with Microsoft Office 365. Microsoft Office 365 offers a full set of cloud-based tools for Web, mobile, tablet and desktop. It keeps the workforce connected and productive with a host of social apps like Yammer, SharePoint, Delve Artificial Intelligence, Skype, and Exchange for uninterrupted email.

According to Gartner, 80% of Fortune 500 and 65% of Fortune 1000 clients have or will migrate to Office 365. That being said, pockets of doubt remain regarding the perceived vulnerabilities of cloud-based applications. As a leader in enterprise collaboration software, more than 100 million people use Office 365 commercially every month. Check out these examples of healthcare providers that have already migrated to Office 365. In this post, we discuss five common misconceptions regarding cloud applications and why a move to Office 365 is well worth considering.

Misconception #1: Moving workforce collaboration tools to the cloud is not secure enough for the healthcare industry. We blame a lack of knowledge for this, as well as some early-adoption mishaps. Some healthcare organizations are still holding on to the false sense of security that on premise systems provide when in fact many of them could be hacked without their knowledge. “It is becoming increasingly clear that your on-premises systems are not inherently more secure than they would be in the cloud,” says Mark Anderson, founder of the INVNT/IP Global Consortium, a group of governments and security experts helping to solve the increasing cyber threat. Microsoft’s advanced security infrastructure “Assumes Breach” which means it is always working to prevent attacks against its cloud services. To learn more about Microsoft’s services related to HIPAA and HITECH visit the Office 365 Trust Center, or read the white paper Addressing HIPAA Security and Privacy Requirements in the Microsoft Cloud.

Misconception #2: You cannot partially migrate to the cloud. The fact is that almost all organizations start their cloud journeys with partial migrations. Granted not all applications are suitable, however, migrating applications in cycles is a prudent option. The hybrid option offers a consistent platform that spans data centers and cloud to simplify IT and deliver apps and information to dispersed workers across devices. A hybrid option also allows you to control the computing power and capabilities that your business demands at scale and without wasting onsite technology investments. Most implementations start with a hybrid approach, moving single applications such as Exchange and OneDrive to the cloud while developing the long-term plan.

Misconception #3: Cloud costs rise over time. Many companies think that if they buy hardware and a perpetual license for software, it will cost less long-term, as there is no need for license renewal and they can take advantage of tax breaks like depreciation. The fact is that maintaining and upgrading applications on premise costs more in the long run. This argument has been thoroughly analyzed in this article.

Misconception #4: Mobile Device Management (MDM/EMM) can be expensive and risky from a security standpoint. The proliferation of BYOD raises concerns in a cloud environment, as is the security of application data. If an employee uses his/her device to exchange patient healthcare information, let’s say via email or document sharing, there must be stringent security measures for wiping that data clean from the device should an employee move on. This process is even more critical when a company’s data is hosted in a public cloud.

The fact is that Microsoft Office 365 offers built-in apps to manage the BYOD conundrum. Administrators can perform all of the significant functions without additional licensing via the security and compliance center, or they can use Microsoft Intune which enables flexible device and application management so employees can work with the devices and apps they prefer while protecting company information. Both options allow administrators to manage these tasks remotely for employees and for customers.

Misconception #5: Frequent updates of software can break mission-critical applications. With the advancement of microservice architecture, a method of developing software applications as a suite of independently deployable services, DevOps, and Microsoft’s 99% uptime ensures the least impact to your business when upgrades occur. Also, there’s no need to rewrite APIs after an update. Microsoft is collaborating with leading software vendors to ensure a smooth transition to Office 365. It is also minimizing compatibility issues by providing best practices for update management and development.

Microsoft Office 365 is a cloud-based collaboration, communication, and social intelligence powerhouse for the healthcare workforce. Microsoft partnered with Forrester to understand the total economic impact of implementing Office 365 in one health care organization, Advocate Healthcare. The result was an estimated saving of $53.8 million due to increased knowledge worker productivity. Sutter Health also provided a detailed video example.

As a certified Microsoft Gold Partner, ISM, Inc. can help you get up and running on Office 365 with little to no business interruption. As a trusted IT partner to hundreds of healthcare organizations, we’re always ready to help you navigate the journey including strategy, implementation, and maintenance.

The Power of Knowing: Self-Service Data Analytics for SMBs

Self-Service Data Analytics for SMBs

Enterprise companies often enjoy the advantages of a having a large in-house IT department to extrapolate insights from multiple data sources. Traditionally, they’d help line-of-business owners make smarter, faster business decisions. Innovations in technology, along with more competitive pricing models have enabled small business owners to access business intelligence insights without involving IT or enlisting the help of a data analyst.

Modern business intelligence analyzes and transforms data from up to 80 sources into highly visual charts, reports, and dashboards in a matter of minutes. These insights are no longer constrained to the back-office desktop they are accessible online anytime and across a host of mobile devices and native apps.

Modern BI is capable of integrating seamlessly with third-party, cloud-based services or legacy systems, and Microsoft’s Power BI is one of the premier options for companies running Acumatics, NDesk, SweetIQ, Web APIs, UserVoice, Github, Twilio and others. User-defined dashboards combined with customized visuals, live streaming, and interactive features make it an even more attractive option.

Business leaders already know they can’t afford to ignore the treasure trove of data that flows constantly. The challenge lies in accessing those insights quickly and easily without interrupting productivity. Business Intelligence by itself has limited predictive capabilities; however, embedding machine learning like Microsoft’s Azure can help companies predict trends with surprising accuracy. With the help of R language, an open-source language for statistical computing and data visualization, users can create their own desired output.

These insights can be used to optimize future behavior and improve an organization’s products and services. Small businesses can now leverage user-centric analytical tools with robust capabilities such as:

  • SaaS analytics and virtualization
  • Desktop analytics and visualization application
  • Intuitive mobile apps for tablets and smartphones
  • Embedded API to surface Power BI visualization in third-party applications

Cloud-based Power BI empowers teams to pull data from operational systems, sensors, and external sources – explore relationships between them, spot trends and predict ends – and then share routinely updated visual and statistical reports to multiple recipients whenever and wherever they are.

7 ERP Implementation Best Practices to Get the Most Value from Your Investment

Avoid these common mistakes often associated with ERP initiatives
By Jignesh Mistry and Vishal Adheda

ERP-Blog-Image

Since its inception in the late 70’s, ERP implementation has been a daunting task. From SMBs to enterprise companies these undertakings have pained executives year after year, often resulting in large capital expenditures with no tangible ROI.

To harness the full power of ERP, here are some critical components to have in place:

  1. Have a clear understanding of company needs:

Selecting an ERP solution based on short-term goals is a recipe for disaster. It is imperative that business leaders understand the unique needs and requirements of the business now and for the future. Performing a detailed analysis of functionality, flexibility and features will give insight into how the ERP system aligns with the organization’s processes and goals. A thorough analysis will also reveal any gaps in AS-IS and TO-BE process mapping

       2. Involve actual end-users in the research process:

Don’t make the mistake of benching the people who will eventually become key users. Include these important stakeholders in the research process to create a sense of ownership in the project and its outcomes.

       3. Ensure pre- and post-implementation governance:

Keep financial decisions and accountability for user adoption and performance with the steering committee. Call on your leadership to help stomp out confusion and beat back interference from competing initiatives.

        4. Enlist competent project managers:

Select your ERP project manager carefully to ensure alignment of skills and vision. Let the PM take the helm of the process from the very beginning. Sadly, decisions are often made without the project manager’s knowledge, including final decisions about the solution. Once again, this mistake will result in little or no sense of project ownership.

         5. Apply business process modeling:

This is a critical step in the process as it ensures that no business process or planned improvement remains undocumented. The current state (AS-IS) is influenced by existing users because they are most familiar with the process. Thorough documentation removes dependencies from specific business functions and a well-documented process provides clarity to the implementation teams. More emphasis on this phase can lead to increased efficiencies in a future state (TO-BE).

         6. Document Standard Operating Procedures (SOP):

During most ERP implementations, the perceived value for SOPs is slim to nil. However, it’s worth thinking it through to realize the full value of your new system. SOPs help sustain routine processes which can then be automated in the new ERP system. Organizations with high turnover rates will benefit most from this exercise as it helps transition new employees into their roles faster.

          7. Decommission legacy applications:

We’ve experienced instances of legacy systems lingering long after the new one is in place. In some cases, multiple systems are in use simultaneously, resulting in increased anxiety about switching to the new tool and swelling maintenance and support costs. Just let it go!

ERP systems provide an integrated view of how an organization gets things done and helps them identify ways to improve upon processes including automation. Companies that consider these seven best practices will achieve greater implementation success and realize more value from their ERP implementations.



5 Product-Configuration Essentials for a Next-Generation Customer Experience

How leading companies leverage product configurators to boost efficiency, revenue, and the customer experience

By Darshak D. Patel

5 Essentials for a Next-Generation User Experience

Product configurators allow B2B customers to customize items in real time from a variety of components and options. Product configuration as part of eBusiness/eCommerce is essential in providing a seamless and more personalized customer experience. Product configuration is so much more than color, size, and material selections; it enables complex combinations and variances in construction, shape, and functionality.  There are a multitude of algorithms and unique identifiers that run in the background. Thousands of options and restrictions must be indexed and updated regularly. A product configurator is a component of the user interface (UI) which dictates the user experience (UX).

Here are five things to consider: 

  1. Assign unique identifiers: Not only does it simplify the repurchase process, it can be used to identify and reward customers for referrals. This identification system also ensures that your clients receive the right products and that shipping costs stay low.
  2. Leverage dynamic pricing science: In this competitive climate, price, demand, and market conditions change rapidly. Dynamic pricing enables companies to respond in real time while providing the most advantageous options for the customer.  Complete configuration details can then be sent to the customer and to the sales rep.
  3. Enable a next-generation customer experience: The user interface and experience should be seamless. At the most basic level your modeler should include a definition of parts, complete structural data, and dynamic pricing. Any restrictions or potential conflicts should push an alert to the customer and to the engineering team for immediate review.
  4. Personalize the experience: Full integration with back-end systems such as ERP and CRM provides efficiency and agility for responding to customers’ unique needs and preferences on the fly.
  5. Ensure scalability: Customized solutions allow companies to create their ideal system today with the flexibility to add more features tomorrow. Some key components include:
    • Adding custom text to products
    • Sharing configurations in social media or email
    • Adding customized products to a wish list
    • Enabling easy access to quotation and negotiation tools
    • Automating bill of material (BOM)
    • Providing free training and support
    • 3D visualization via third-party (REST/SOAP)
    • CAD model design via third-party (REST/SOAP)

Companies that are serious about meeting B2B buyers’ rapidly changing expectations are modernizing their eCommerce strategies to further engage customers, increase sales, and improve the overall quality of the eBusiness experience. Have questions or need help in this area? Let us know.



4 Reasons Not to Be Afraid of Artificial Intelligence

AI is creating sea change in the manufacturing and healthcare industries and there are multiple positives for businesses and individuals.

artificial intelligence

Anytime you have two well-known entrepreneurs, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, at odds about a topic you know it’s something transcendent. Some common perceptions about artificial intelligence include job loss, conspiracy theories, and even world dominance. At this moment, however, we cannot ignore the extremely positive outcomes AI affords. What AI is, according to Forbes, is a concept of machines’ ability to carry out tasks in a way that people consider “smart.” Many applications fall under the AI umbrella such as machine learning, deep learning, predictive analytics, and others.

Here are four solid reasons not to be afraid of AI:

  1. It saves lives: Early cancer detection and treatment, recognition of brain disorders, and new drug discoveries and treatments are just a few ways in which AI is changing medicine as we know it. Machine learning also helps advance the collection and digitization of electronic health records, thereby improving the quality of the doctor/patient relationship.
  2. It creates possibilities: Ultrasound has been an essential tool in critical moments for monitoring and diagnosing patients for almost a century. A new break-through technology packs the power of ultrasound into a lightweight, cost-effective silicon chip with built-in deep learning. These chips could potentially give access to many healthcare professionals around the world who wouldn’t otherwise.
  3. It entertains: Alexa’s presence in the patient’s room, doctors and nurses can access the records without troubling the patients or logging into computers. Alexa can be a great companion providing stories and music for patients with disabilities. Alexa can also give reminders when it’s time to take/administer medication or serve/eat food.
  4. It skyrockets efficiency: From faster production to optimizing worker schedules leading manufacturers are already experiencing the benefits of AI in their smart factories. Manufacturers can foresee trends and be more innovative by making better, faster business decisions. All of the data from IoT sources presents endless possibilities for manufacturers.

AI

Since AI is still rather young, there are much more applications to which we can look forward. According to Forrester, the evolution of AI will likely see the most success in three – five years.

References:
www.dataversity.net/artificial-intelligence-use-cases-overview/
www.macadamian.com/2016/06/29/amazons-alexa-voice-service-in-healthcare/



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.



*https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Ignite/2015/FND2203

The Power of Beacon Technology in Manufacturing

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

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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.