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14
Jun

Five common IT challenges for fast-growing businesses

Is your business ready to scale up?  – Five Common IT Challenges 

Extended periods of rapid growth can be positive, however, whilst these periods are exciting, they can also create a whole host of new challenges. In this article we will delve into 5 common IT challenges that fast-growing businesses face, and how they can be solved with the help of a trusted provider. 

 

1 . Budgeting for Scaling Up 

As businesses grow, they will also need their systems to grow with them, including everything from software licenses to cloud servers. If businesses are not careful, their IT spend can get out of control, leaving them with a large invoice. Providers will typically be able to give a simple monthly cost per user, with everything included for the end-user and back-end set-up. IT providers can also proactively forecast the cost of larger projects, and the associated ongoing fees, making it easier for businesses to stick to their IT budget. 

 

2. Receiving Adequate IT Support 

As businesses grow, they have different requirements regarding IT infrastructure, as well as IT support. Having a third-party provider means that you can have access to on-hand support for users. This frees up your internal IT team and makes for a smoother adoption process and continued supported usage.  

 

3. Onboarding New Employees 

Hiring new employees on short notice is always a challenge. However, this is only made more difficult when there are new systems to learn. A trusted third-party provider can assist with the onboarding of new employees. This ensures that every employee receives the right training. 

 

4. Lacking Capital Expenditure 

In the early stages of rapid growth, businesses may not have sufficient cash to invest in upgrading IT systems and software to support the growth. Thankfully, with the rise of cloud solutions, businesses can move away from capital expenses and move to operational expenses. An IT provider can not only help with the implementation and deployment of cloud services and use cost management monitoring to ensure the business gets value from their cloud investment. 

 

5. Managing Customer Relationships 

Whilst small businesses can typically get away with using spreadsheets to store customer relationship information, this is not feasible once a business reaches a certain size. This can be solved through the implementation of a customer relationship management solution, such as Microsoft Dynamics 365.  

 

How we can help 

If your business is currently going through a period of growth, or are planning on doing so, Monpellier are here to help. Avoid encountering these five IT challenges by contacting us and arranging a free session with one of our expert consultants who can advise you on the best solution for your business and budget.  

16
May

Business Process Automation in 2022

Business Process Automation: The current state of automation in 2022

Businesses have constantly looked for ways to automate processes, to save time and money whilst increasing output. Over the past 20 years, technology has enabled businesses in all industries to automate repetitive processes. In 2022, these automation technologies have become inexpensive enough for all businesses to take advantage of the benefits that automation provides.

In this article, we will discuss the benefits of automation, some areas for automation and how your business can get started with automation in 2022.

 

Benefits of automation

Speed up processes and eliminate human error – Business Process Automation streamlines repetitive processes, with a solution working 24/7 to complete tasks. This frees up time for employees, enabling them to spend more time doing work to grow the business. Similarly, as manual data entry is prone to human error, automation ensures that all tasks are completed accurately.

Connect disparate systems and data – As businesses have become more reliant on technology, they collect a massive amount of data from several systems. Whilst this data enables better decision making and delivers valuable insights, it can be difficult to connect systems together. In 2022, many automation suites have a variety of connectors enabling businesses to get the most out of their data.

Simplify compliance – Businesses can simplify compliances with automation. As automation runs on exact rules, it ensures that workflows comply with any regulation, and it can also help with audits and record keeping.

 

Areas for automation

Sales and Marketing – Many processes can be automated within sales and marketing to help businesses win new customers and provide better customer experiences.

From a marketing viewpoint, automation can streamline email communications, social media, and other campaign elements, whilst building a stronger journey. Most marketing automation suites connect with a business’s customer relationship management (CRM) software to store data in a single system.

A simple example of how marketing automation can work is an email registration automation sequence. When a prospect registers for an account on a business’s website, they receive a personalised sign-up confirmation. It has their name and details of how to use the services the business offers. Marketing automation suite records each touchpoint, and can to create bespoke customer experiences.

For a sales team, can use automation book meetings or demos. Microsoft Bookings is available with all Microsoft 365 licenses and can enable individuals to select a free time slot and book a call with a sales team member. It automatically adds this event to both parties’ calendars, enabling employees to spend more time selling and less time doing administrative tasks.

Customer Service – Although human interaction is necessary to provide excellent customer service, automation can still help the process. A common method of automating customer service is using a chatbot. There are solutions that can empower businesses to create intelligent conversational bots to improve the customer experience. Microsoft Power Virtual Agents is one of these technologies.

Internal Systems and Processes – Business automation can transform internal systems and processes for any department with the use of Microsoft Power Automate.

Power Automate is a low-code automation solution that enables businesses to automate repetitive mundane tasks with hundreds of pre-built connectors. Some common internal processes to automate include holiday request forms, Active Directory deployments, approval process and employee onboarding. However Power Automate is such a powerful solution so it is possible to automate any processes within a business.

 

How to get started with Business Automation in 2022

As automation technology has become viable for businesses of all sizes, now is the time to stop doing mundane repetitive tasks and start taking advantage of automation. If you want to find out more about how your business can benefit from automation, contact us today.

To find out more products we offer, visit the link HERE.

5
May

How moving to the cloud can benefit not-for-profit organisations

Key cloud modules and advantages for NFPs

Over the past two years, many not-for-profit organisations have adopted new cloud technologies to enable remote and hybrid work. This may have been the implementation of Microsoft Teams to communicate during COVID, or other solutions that enable NFPs (not-for-profits) to deliver essential services. These technologies are the first step in the journey of moving to the cloud. Further adoption technologies can fundamentally change the way NFP organisations work, meaning those who rely on them can receive better services.  

In this article Monpellier will discuss what is meant by cloud computing, the benefits of moving to the cloud for not-for-profit organisations, and how these organisations can continue their journey to the cloud. 

 

What is the Cloud? 

The cloud refers to servers that are accessed via the internet and includes the software and databases that run on those servers. There are three key cloud models that are important: SaaS, PaaS and IaaS. 

Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS are applications that are hosted on cloud services that user’s access over the internet. Examples include the office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) within a Microsoft 365 subscription. 

Platform-as-a-Service, or PaaS, is a model whereby businesses do not pay for hosted applications, but rather they pay for the elements necessary to build their own applications. This includes the infrastructure, development tools and operating system. These are delivered over the internet, through a public cloud provider, such as Microsoft Azure. 

Infrastructure-as-a-Service, or IaaS, is a service that offers storage and networking resources, similar to renting a server. This is the most complex model; however, it offers the most flexibility.  

 

Benefits of SaaS for Not-For-Profits 

  • Productivity – One of the many SaaS offerings is the Microsoft 365 suite of applications which is a perfect solution for those looking to increase productivity. With a Microsoft 365 subscription, users have access to office applications, including Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, cloud storage with OneDrive, and the ability to use Teams for communication and collaboration. As this is a cloud offering, all these applications are designed to work together, to increase productivity and make collaboration within an organisation, or externally, easier than ever. 
  • Security – All organisations are at risk of cyberattack. In recent years, cybercriminals have targeted many charities and NFPs, as they typically have less security. With a SaaS solution, such as Microsoft 365, there are many in-built security features that keep businesses safe from attacks. Furthermore, businesses can use multi-factor authentication within Microsoft 365 to stop 99.9% of account compromise attacks. 
  • Flexibility – Many not-for-profit organisations are looking to adopt a hybrid work model in the coming months. Such a model has many benefits for employees and businesses alike, however without the right technology, it is difficult for employees to work effectively. Cloud solutions are perfectly designed for hybrid work.  

 

Benefits of IaaS and PaaS for NFPs 

  • Scalability – With cloud services, businesses can increase or decrease the amount of resource as required. For traditional on-premises infrastructure, if a NFP needed to increase storage space on their server, or the load is going to increase due to a short period of temporary workers, the entire server would need to be upgraded. With a cloud server, NFPs can temporarily increase the amount of resource to accommodate these changes and decrease it when necessary. This is especially beneficial to organisations that are looking to grow quickly. 
  • Security – If a NFP has their own servers, they are responsible for ensuring that it is secure, both in initial configuration and updates to the operating system and applications. This is a complex process and requires costly security expertise. If the system has poor security, it can result in a data breach. Cloud solutions allow for advanced security configuration, and the Azure public cloud is monitored 24/7 by a large team of security professionals. Cloud services still need to be regularly updated to remain secure, but this can be outsourced to a trusted IT provider. 
  • Cost Savings – Traditional on-premises infrastructure requires a significant capital investment, and over time the infrastructure will need to be upgraded or replaced. Many NFPs cannot afford this initial investment, which can lead to sub-par performance and a poor user experience. With a cloud solution, businesses only pay for the resources they use, which significantly reduces the capital investment and provides better value over time. 

 

How to Move to the Cloud 

Regardless of whether your NFP organisation is looking to move to the cloud with a SaaS, PaaS or IaaS solution, there are many benefits for businesses and users alike. Implementing a new technology can be the catalyst for immense growth and can provide a better experience for those that rely on your essential services. Although moving to the cloud may seem like a daunting task, we are here to help make the process as efficient and effective as possible.  

To find out more about how your not-for-profit organisation could benefit from cloud technologies, contact us today for a free consultation here.  

 

14
Apr

Optimise your logistics with Microsoft Power Apps

3 logistical areas Power Apps can help with 

Working in logistics? Microsoft Power Apps gives you the power to design solutions that can optimise your processes from customer experience to delivery processes. Customers or employees can access Power Apps via mobile, tablets or desktop for remote access and to prevent data silos from forming. 

 

Monpellier explores three areas Power Apps can be applied. 

 

Create a Power Apps portal for customers 

You can create portals using Power Apps for customers to connect with your business. They can set up an account with a delivery method, address, and payment options for a faster and seamless experience.  

When processing the delivery requests, Power Apps can automatically generate tracking numbers, shipping labels, invoice documents and other necessary documents to save time. 

Customers can check the progress of delivery within the portal through geolocation of the delivery vehicle and the number of drop-offs before arriving at the destination.  

 

Create Power Apps for delivery drivers 

Monpellier can create specific apps for different areas of your business. Everyone (with the correct permission) can access the data and see changes for faster and more effective communication. 

Delivery drivers can utilise Power Apps features when scanning the barcode for pick-up or drop-off. Power Apps automatically recognises the barcode and updates the status of delivery on the database. 

Power Apps can use a combination of geolocation tracking and AI to predict actual times when the delivery driver picks up the goods or drops them off.  

 

Create Power Apps to manage parcel storage and security 

Goods can be easily tracked using parcel numbers allowing for full traceability from the customer to the warehouse. Automatically assign a location code of the warehouse based on customer details and delivery service to the parcel number for better organisation. 

Create individual employee accounts to monitor the actions such as transactions, location changes etc. This will improve accountability and allows employers to identify new training opportunities. 

You can set up permissions to protect sensitive information such as customer and employee details. Management can specify who can access certain data and the ability to change the data.  

 

If you want more information about Microsoft Power Apps and other products we provide, please follow the link here 

Click here to get in touch with our consultants today and see how Power Apps can transform your business. 

21
Mar

How Microsoft 365 has changed the modern office

Innovation, Integration and Collaboration 

The creation of Microsoft’s productivity suite has completely transformed the modern office. Through Microsoft 365 cloud technology you can edit in real-time, access your work remotely and have the reassurance of Microsoft’s centralised security. 

 

What is included in a Microsoft 365 Licence? 

 

Top 5 features of Microsoft 365  

1. Real-time editing 

Cloud storage services such as OneDrive saves files online allowing remote access to files along with real-time editing with peers without the need of saving multiple copies or emailing back and forth. 

Hot tip – Set permissions so documents can be securely shared with those with the right access.  

2. Online Meetings 

Microsoft Teams allows team members to meet, call and collaborate remotely. 

Hot tip – Team members can create their teams, or chat with individuals with the ability to share and edit files from the local computer or OneDrive. 

3. Mobile access 

Mobile technology enables collaboration on the move. All files and apps are accessible as well as the capability to respond to different conversations and join meetings. 

Hot tip – Schedule meetings within Outlook and add useful files for participants straight from SharePoint or OneDrive whilst on the move.  

4. Intranet  

SharePoint is a cloud-based service to create, store and share content online. Creating a company intranet that connects employees with different pages allows everyone to stay up to date with company news, job training, industry news and much more. 

Hot tip – SharePoint has comprehensive search abilities that allow employees to find important information at the touch of a button.  

5. Security  

Microsoft 365 has unparalleled security giving the ability to meet key international, regional, and industry-specific standards and terms, with more than 1,000 security and privacy controls.  

Hot tip – Create password policies that require users to reset their passwords after a specified number of days.  

 

Future Development 

  • Microsoft Loop = Coming later this summer Microsoft Loop is designed to supercharge your project management. Find out more.   
  • Microsoft Mesh (for Teams) = A version of Mesh is already available but 2022 sees the release of the Teams integration update. Microsoft Mesh uses virtual reality for meetings enabling people to connect, work on 2d/3d content and feel connected with actual eye contact and facial expressions via holographic technology. To stay on top of Microsoft news, tips and Microsoft newsletter signup HERE to not miss out 
8
Mar

What is Microsoft Loop?

Microsoft’s collaboration revolution

Back in November 2021 the Microsoft Ignite conference was practically vibrating with excitement following the announcement of Microsoft’s latest collaboration offering, Microsoft Loop. Fast forward to today we are still waiting on an official release date, but we do have some early features that you can try out now and lots of information regarding what’s to come.

What is Microsoft Loop?

Microsoft define Microsoft Loop as an application that “combines a powerful and flexible canvas with portable components that move freely and stay in sync across apps”. But what does that mean? Microsoft Loop will integrate with all your existing Microsoft 365 applications giving you the power to share, edit and synchronise content across your team.

Ignite Video Introduction to Microsoft Loop 

 

Microsoft Loop is made up of three elements: Loop Components, Loop Pages, and Loop Workspaces.

Loop Components – individual components such as a table or a piece of text. Components can be shared within Teams chat, email and documents.

Key Feature = Permissions can be set to decide who can only view and who can edit.

 

Loop Pages – collaborative documents with multiple Loop Components, so everything that is being edited is synchronised and organised within one place. When a Loop Component is created, a Loop Page will automatically be created storing that loop and a link will also be generated for access.

Key Feature = Loop Pages lets you access and restore earlier versions just in case an error has occurred.

 

Loop Workspaces – a standalone app where multiple Loop Pages can be created but also other types of content can be added such as documents, links, and other types of content. Loop Workspaces if perfect for specific projects as your team can keep track of their tasks in real-time.

Key Feature = different tasks can be set, and all related documents, Loop Components and Loop Pages can be added to the tasks so everyone can edit at the same time.

 

Microsoft Loop screen images

Features Available Now

Loop Components can be utilised by Microsoft 365 Commercial licence holders across apps like Teams, Outlook, and OneNote. Look for the Loop logo to create a new component and start collaborating.

Loop components

 

What’s Next?

Microsoft have an estimated release date of the first half of 2022 for the full release of Microsoft Loop. To stay up to date with all the latest Microsoft news, tips and advice sign up to our monthly Microsoft newsletter. Sign-Up HERE

4
Jun

5 Reasons your SME should be using SharePoint

Build a low-cost solution to meet your needs 

You can’t escape the phrase ‘Digital Transformation’ this year and although the adoption divide between sectors is reducing, the SME market is still lagging behind. This could be for a number of reasons but one of the most common factors is value. SMEs are more likely to make smaller investments dictated by value, meaning that functions such as accounting and sales are usually the first to get the digital treatment with other areas such as general admin, marketing and operations coming later.  

This is where a solution like Microsoft SharePoint fits perfectly. It’s low cost and designed to scale with your business needs. We’ve gathered our top 5 reasons we think SMEs should be using SharePoint. 

 

Collaboration 

The modern office has changed so much since early 2020 and many companies now have hybrid working. When you factor in that your SME might also have field employees as well as those splitting their time between home and the office and you have a complex variety of needs. Or do you? SharePoint Online can be accessed from anywhere and any internet-enabled device meaning that all employees can get access to the information they need quickly and in real-time. When you then combine other elements such as Microsoft Teams and Power Automate your solution becomes even more intuitive and makes collaborating on projects, documents, tasks and meetings truly painless. 

 

Engagement

You might not currently have a central location for all employees or you might but your solution could be rigid or outdated, regardless of your situation intranets can be tricky to get right. We have found that the best way to create a well-used intranet is to make sure the key players are involved in the conception phase. Find out what your business really needs and how each department manages their individual processes. This way when you begin building your SharePoint intranet it will have all the areas and integrations needed to keep employees coming back to it day after day.

 

Integration

SharePoint integrates with all Microsoft products (Office 365, Teams, Power BI, Power Automate, Dynamics 365 Business Central) and a whole host of other solutions via out-the-box or custom connectors. You can also have custom apps built (at a low cost) using Power Apps that add additional functionality within SharePoint. Custom apps can be developed to do pretty much anything, some common examples for SMEs are holiday management solutions, stock control, interactive expense forms and KPI trackers. 

 

Scalable

Many SMEs start by introducing SharePoint as a document management solution. Then as needs arise the structure is ready and waiting to be scaled up. The platform has the capability to deliver even the most complex internet portals so no matter your requirements SharePoint is flexible enough to serve you. 

 

Protected

A common misconception associated with SharePoint is that it’s not safe due to it being cloud-based. Protection for SharePoint is two-fold, first of all you have the protection implemented by Microsoft which includes access security, application security, data security, physical data centre security, and network security and then you have the protection provided by your organisation. We have more information on the best practices to protect your SME here

 

It can be hard to imagine the possibilities of SharePoint without seeing examples working in real life, because of this we offer free demos and consultations designed to aid SMEs in making digital adoption steps at a pace and budget that suits them. To book your demo simply complete our contact form or call us on 0191 500 8150. 

10
May

QuickBooks versus Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central

Can Microsoft compete in the SME market?

On the surface you might not put the two products together as Dynamics 365 Business Central is more than just an accounting package, however, many small businesses start with an accounting-only package and then add more solutions resulting in a higher monthly cost. 

QuickBooks markets itself as a simple, cost-effective accounting solution for small and micro-companies. Having been around since 2011 (UK-specific version) it’s hard to find someone who has not used or at least heard of QuickBooks. 

On the other hand, you have Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. Not as widely known as QuickBooks, it was first released in 2018 and is Microsoft’s enterprise resource planning system for small to medium-sized businesses. 

Both solutions fit a wide variety of sectors and industries so let’s take a closer look at the positives and negatives for both.

 

Dynamics 365 Business Central’s Strengths 

  • Scalability: Business Central comes with close to 1000 more features than QuickBooks. At its core, you get Financials, Purchasing, Inventory, Operations, Warehousing and Projects and can quickly extend your solution by adding capabilities using pre-built apps or adding customisations. 
  • Customisation: Business Central runs where you need it, in the cloud or on-premises, with the same user experience no matter how you deploy. The mobile version gives you on-the-go access across Windows, Android, or IOS devices.

 

Dynamics 365 Business Central’s Weaknesses

  • Initial investment: As Dynamics 365 Business Central has to be installed and set up by an accredited partner there is an initial set-up cost associated, however, when you compare monthly user subscription prices a D365 Business Central licence at £52.80/user/month compared to a QuickBooks Online Plus licence at £30/user/month there is not a great deal of difference when you consider the functionality chasm between the pair.
  • Training: As a newer solution team members may have no prior experience with Business Central. However there are lots of free helpful resources online and as the solution is sold via 3rd party accredited partners each partner will have their own support offering and training materials on hand. 

 

QuickBooks’ Strengths 

  • Quick Deployment: QuickBooks can be run as a ‘single-tenant’ configuration, meaning you have the option to host the app on a private or public cloud. Furthermore, due to the age and popularity of the solution, there are lots of free support materials available online to help you with getting started. 
  • Low upfront costs: No installation costs and the very basic packages starting from £6 per month plus Payroll. 

 

QuickBooks’ Weaknesses 

  • Scalability: If you’re looking for a solution that can grow with your business and adapt to your changing needs QuickBooks doesn’t offer much flexibility. It comes with data and user limitations and is not suitable for those with robust inventory management needs.
  • No personal support: QuickBooks has a central telephone support offering which for businesses with more complicated requirements may not be sufficient. This differs from Business Central which is provided by a certified Microsoft partner meaning you get personalised support from a team that can get to know your business.  

 

Monpellier is a Microsoft accredited partner based in the North East and Cumbria, specialising in business solutions for the SME market. For more information regarding Dynamics 365 Business Central, a free functionality demo or a personalised quote please don’t hesitate to get in CONTACT.

10
May

Changing VAT rates

Manage VAT rate changes in Dynamics 365 Business Central

Following the UK’s exit from the EU and the ongoing challenges caused by COVID the capability to easily manage and change VAT rates has become increasingly important.

Changing VAT can be a complicated process in some accounting solutions but Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central offers a flexible setup and gives you the power to make changes to VAT with ease. 

As VAT is linked to multiple entities in Business Central including; customers, vendors, items, resources and general ledger accounts, any change impacts your data no matter how small.  Changes in VAT rates are usually scheduled to happen on a specific date and for a set time period, for example, the UK VAT for e-commerce changes that came into force on the 1st January 2021. 

 

Changing VAT Rates Preparation 

Before a VAT rate change date approaches it’s best practice to post and close all open orders. This puts your organisation in the best position to start new orders and/or documents following the change. Once this is completed you can move onto the creation of the new VAT setup and make the VAT switch on entities. 

 

VAT Posting Setup Rate

If you only have a few transactions or only deal in the industry affected by the VAT change you may wish to change the rate on the VAT Posting Setup. Choosing this option avoids changing the Posting Groups on items and G/L codes. 

Please note that this option is only suitable if you are able to close all open orders and documents before the switching date. 

 

The VAT Rate Change Tool

For more complicated scenarios Dynamics 365 Business Central uses the Microsoft VAT Rate Change Tool which can help with conversions of VAT rates on your master data, journals and orders. This comes in handy if you have orders you can not close before the switch date or orders that need to be processed over a longer period of time. 

 

More Information and Advice 

Monpellier is an accredited Microsoft partner. If you are interested in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central or require additional support or training please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team of experts. 

 

For more details relating to Business Central try our informative summary blog