How IT Companies Can Effectively Manage Client Hardware

Despite the emergence of “The Cloud”, local hardware will always be required. Even the most basic small business client has a router, a network switch, a PC and one or more printers. Other clients may have Firewalls, Servers, Plotters, Multi-Function Units and any array of other hardware – most of it IP-enabled.Multiply that by multiple clients, and you’ve got an awful lot of hardware that becomes really easy to waste a lot of time and effort trying to manage – if you’re not organized.From Chaos to OrderThe first step in bringing order to the chaos is to buy a Label Printer. My personal favorite is the P-Touch Handheld range from Brother. Anything that you can easily carry with you, plug into the mains (battery operated is fine – but batteries run out, and you then start to forget to label things) and print labels will do the job. If you have more than one engineer, buy them all label printers and get them to label them with their own names – they’ll be more inclined to look after them.Next, organize a time for an engineer to visit client sites with his labeler at the ready – grabbing and labeling anything and everything with a power plug on the end and making a written note of each to take back to the office.(Talking of power plugs, get your engineers into the habit of labeling these too, especially servers. Clearly knowing which plug belongs to a PC and which to a monitor is a real benefit when you’re crawling under a dark desk on a dirty floor trying to work out what to unplug and what not to.)Why Labels?But why bother labeling things?

Firstly, you’re acknowledging the existence of a device. If it’s labeled, you know about it and can document it for future reference.Secondly, when new hardware “mysteriously” appears at a client site and a client calls you for support on it (probably outside your support contract) you can save yourself a heap of time trying to work out why Windows 7 Home Edition is installed on it rather than a Business O/S.Thirdly, labeling hardware speeds up the support process. If a user telephones the Helpdesk to say they can’t print to “That printer in the corner of the office”, then you can ask them to read the label and quickly identify which printer it is that they’re trying to print to.What to label?What the label says depends on the hardware, but the label should help you easily identify the hardware in question. Some examples:-PCs – Workstation name, Fixed IP address (if applicable)
Servers – Server name, Fixed IP address, Domain name
Routers/Firewalls – External IP address, Internal IP address
Network Switches – Internal IP address, Management IP address
Local Printers – Locally attached Workstation name
Network Printers – Fixed IP address, Queue Name (//Server/Queue)We’re not going to worry about Workstation and Server naming schemes, IP address ranges or any other standards just yet. Right now we’re focusing on documenting what’s already out there.In some cases the engineer won’t be able to identify network equipment. Rather than ignore the hardware, they should label it as “unidentified” and raise a support ticket or make a written note to investigate how to identify it later.This takes some time, especially if you have a lot of clients – but it’s time well spent. You should make this type of ‘discovery work’ a part of the on-boarding process of every new client, as the time spent discovering hardware now will pay dividends when you’re supporting that same hardware later – perhaps in a time-sensitive situation.Document your findingsGoing forwards, make it a policy that from now on, every piece of hardware you deploy to a client site should have a label on it.Document your findings. If you have an RMM tool such as GFI Max, then you’ll already be able to scan networks for devices. Supplement this automated information with your own findings.Pretty soon you’ll have a good overview of the hardware at all your client sites. It’ll make supporting the client, both remotely and on-site, a *lot* easier.The use of the labeler as a force of good doesn’t stop there.Hardware in the WorkshopWhenever an engineer brings a piece of hardware back to the Workshop for troubleshooting, it needs to be labeled. You might label it with the client’s name, a brief overview of the issue, and if you’re using a ticket system, the ticket number.This might sound obvious, but how many times do engineers walk back into the office, drop off some faulty hardware and then get distracted by something else? In this scenario, a colleague may be left scratching his head over who the hardware belongs to and why it’s here, or worse, think the hardware is “spare” and go and re-use it for another job they are working on…

Talking of spare hardware – it’s worth creating a process to deal with this too. I like to create an area of the workshop that is specifically for Hardware under Repair, Hardware under testing, and Hardware for disposal. Then, as hardware comes in…If it’s hardware that is to be sent back to a manufacturer under RMA, it’s labeled as such and placed in the “Under Repair” area of the workshop.If it’s hardware that may be faulty and required testing, a ticket is raised for this and it’s labeled as “For Testing” and labeled with the appropriate ticket number. The hardware is then placed in the “For Testing” area, and you can confidently give your newly employed Junior Technician something productive to do on his first day in the office.If it’s hardware for disposal, it’s labeled with the fault and marked as “For Disposal”. It’s placed in the “For Disposal” area of the workshop and once every few weeks you arrange for a specialist IT disposal company to collect the pile and dispose of it in an ethical and environmentally-friendly fashion.Save Time With LabelsThe amount of time IT companies can waste trying to re-use faulty hardware that has simply been left lying around, or re-testing known faulty equipment is mind-blowing.A simple system of labeling such hardware saves hours of wasted time.I hope this article has helped to describe how armed with a label printer you can build the basis of a series of systems that lay out how your business deals with client hardware.

The Transformation Of Political Science And The Rise In Crime Rates

The current field of political sciences is dominated by a multitude of ideas that have never in its history featured so prominently in this discipline. The general belief that it has lost its focus once and for all is from time to time counteracted by different opinions. One of those is that the world has come full circle, that mankind has experimented out all possibilities in terms of ideological thinking and that the liberal democracy as we know it has come out of the process as the prize winner both politically and economically. Some define this as the end of history. It also goes by the name of ultra modernism. Globalisation fits in perfectly and all reflects the increasing complexity that we are finding our world to involve us in and which, in order to come to terms with the bigger magnitude of the whole, we are describing in essentially vague terms.The idea that history might have died a death was first launched in the 1980s by Francis Fukayama who wrote a now famous essay entitled ‘The End of History’, in The National Interest on the subject. The idea has persisted during the subsequent historic reality-altering events leading to our understanding of the world in terms of security and globalization, even though the liberal ground is under siege from left and right wing ideologies, parts of which are finding their way into the democratic liberal discourse.However inappropriate it essentially is to define the new ‘winning ideology’ — the policical science discourse is rife with arguments in favor of departing from old fashioned foundationalism and swapping this for a-systemic ideas gathered from all other disciplines– we are at this time almost as happy with any theory that offers a firm grip on reality as the third world would be with a cure for poverty. Much though the world is changing and much though this fast change is reflected in the sciences, the a-systemic ideas making up the political sciences might not necessarily reflect what’s going on in society one hundred percent adequately.Issues like crime and other ‘anti social behavior’ are significantly underexposed in areas of political scientific studies, say researchers. Our highly developed society and increased sophistication in all the disciplines that results in political sciences being a highly esteemed area for study, delivering no doubt high caliber students to society, does not necessarily guarantee a tangible decline in crime rates. We are missing out something big time. Is this the whiplash of a-systemic thinking we all intuitively fear?If you may believe studies undertaken by political scientists, in future, we won’t have a lot of room for corruption and evil wrongdoers in our society. Leaf through an average new book on political science and find hardly a line, let alone a chapter, dedicated to the evil side of human nature. What makes us all think that synchronising everything automatically leads to a better world and therefore a less violence prone society? In the same breath, you might ask, what is the new Left, the new Right, the Libertarian and the other political mainstream thinking on issues such as the Third World? For all our great knowledge and speedy technology-supported understanding of what is going on, we are still not much better at remedying the main problems the world is faced with.

Criminology is part of the exercise of deconstructing the past, deconstructing other disciplines and constructing new ideas from a mixture of all of them which keeps social scientists busy these days. Yet it’s not enough apparently to translate into better thinking on the way safety and society can be organised.Whether a certain approach to crime really is to blame for its rise is debatable. What is certain is that modern societies have become safer and more comfortable in many areas but that crime has risen in equal proportion. “When it comes to crime, or more broadly stated ‘antisocial’ behaviour, society has actually become less safe. Crime constitutes an insecurity risk which is difficult to control. Many citizens and organizations will at some stage fall victim – usually completely unexpected -to behaviour which can harm them, physically or financially”, according to a recent research report by the Foresight Institute of the Netherlands, a semi official consultancy. It is one of the few studies in this field.The increasingly Old World definition of the nation state was primarily driven by the desire to resist this sort of danger, the researchers say. They continue that the way we deal with crime has evolved too. It is at this point that state organization is likely to really begin to crumble. A prime, if not the prime raison d’etre for governments is keeping a population relatively safe and free from crime. The more governments are perceived to be failing in providing the desired high level of societal safety, the less justification there is for governments and their imposing taxes on a country’s population.Changes in the way crime is perceived include treatment of the issue in more scientific disciplines than ever. Yet some, including Fukayama, argue that the social sciences lack a distinct central view on human nature, which stems back from the post Kant era. The only reason that I feel you can raise the human nature argument again is that over the last 30 years in the life sciences there has been a lot of empirical work that has made the concept respectable to scientists. Yet social scientists and certainly people in cultural studies have yet to get that message, says Fukayama. They are very resistant to the notion of human nature.The issue is grappled with mostly by people who try to integrate crime studies into a whole range of disciplines. “Crime has lost its exclusiveness, the approach to crime and crime prevention is no longer exclusively the responsibility of the police and the judicial authorities”, say the Foresight institution researchers. This coincided with a tangible change in society too. In the early 1980s, there was a sea change in the approach to crime and crime prevention. Inspired by understandable self-interest, individual citizens, organizations in the community and local authorities started to feel that they bore a responsibility for crime prevention. Nevertheless, the results are not particularly overwhelming and the researchers at Foresight say that for the situation by the year 2010, some areas of research are still vastly underrepresented.One real life example of high profile people sharing this concern is the situation on the Guernsey islands off the coast of the UK. You’d say this small island offers a perfect case to study the governability of a country with a limited population, to try and test the limits of a system to the full. Politicians might well be aware of this. At least, they appear to have a clear idea and are aware of the unique nature of their society and of the effects of the rules they invent. The measurability of crime renders the subject a good target for analysis, sophisticated ideas of governance and societal structures. The self consciousness leads to frequent interesting debates by politicians on this island. Recently, a senior politician attributed the perceived rise in crime and anti-social behavior the effect of “woolly liberal” thinking. He said the increased emphasis on human rights in particular is to blame for the rise in crime.The politician said that his government’s human rights act had led to offenders becoming “untouchable” by the authorities. Warning of the dangers of liberal thinking, he pointed out that there’s no common sense in Guernsey’s human rights laws which others believe ensure rights and responsibilities of citizens are balanced out rather evenly. He said the woolly thinking underlying the human rights ideas on the island led to alcoholism among the younger population for one.This is one of the issues where the argument that improved technology in the hands of police and law enforcers is going to do the trick, won’t do completely. Developments in modern technology and improved understanding of changes in social control are central to ideas about stamping out crime. The foresight researchers recommend that there should be a radical reorganisation of how financial resources are made available to this effect, if crime prevention is to bear any fruit.Research efforts need to be stepped up dramatically if modern society is to develop adequate knowledge in any form or shape. They believe that the demand for scientific knowledge by the institutions, municipalities, government departments and private sector agencies might seem to be a professionalization of the area, but that in fact it does often not mean anything, especially not in the long run.Fundamental scientific research into issues which are already playing a part at this time needs to be stepped up, the institute believes, in order to keep up with the criminal sector. They predict that by 2010, crime will have changed radically as a result of technological and economic developments and changes in social control and cohesion. There is a great need for fundamental research, for interdisciplinary knowledge and knowledge about long-term, ongoing issues such as criminal careers, say the researchers. In the next ten years there will also be a need for more theoretical research focusing on normative and empirical issues.

The wildly diverging ideas about human beings in the social sciences is exacerbated with a dramatically lowered emphasis on any blatant negative aspects of society in postmodern political science due to the death of positivist thinking. You could argue that this is at the heart of the problem of surging crime despite increased wealth of societies.The political sciences appear most promising in their capacity for addressing the anomalies. It is the best discipline to do so, because it does not plan at neutrality. And, what’s more, the political scientist´s loyalties and engagements will not necessarily be predictable and stable over time. If it doesn’t yield immediate tangible results, it at least is a start. And it makes for less dry reading of the articles and books describing what’s perceived as the state of play in these sciences. You’d imagine that anyone coming up with a theory involving the axiom that history has ended, would be prone to fantasy.And that’s somewhat true; academic attention for total fantastic ideas as a means to understand or create is on the rise. It’s much under attack from critics who say this is a foolish activity, especially when keeping in mind the idea that when you walk the streets of your town you can be subjected to a criminal attack at any given moment. Sceptics will imply that much of the storytelling anyway misses out large parts of reality, especially the less attractive features. Which is, however, not to say that blind spots are not being reduced.But somehow, the rationale itself is changing for the criticism of the ways modern science works. The criticism for instance on the way politicians work, who seem keener to know about the cultural trends, popular culture, the media and power than in the labyrinthine workings of party and parliamentary democracy is that they are not sticking to their own field. Yet the new approaches favored in the political sciences leave more leeway for alternative ways that allow for a greater number of methods to assess reality than many predecessors ever dreamt of.In stead of a total abandonment of all serious work, modern political science presents us with a mixture of both regurgitated theories of old time philosophers and original, rather broad based ideas. And in new, often surprising, ways.Sceptical post modernists will contend that as there is no correct method for political research and researching the political, that it might be wise to adopt an anti-rules method, while the affirmatives may adopt something that can be termed ‘anything goes’. But perhaps several methodologies are best blended together to come to a robust approach to researching a problem. Much hinges too on one’s perspective on history.

Rep V. Direct: How to Best Organize a Sales Team

Sales executives are constantly searching for the ideal structure of the sales team. Should the team be composed only of direct sales people? Should the team be composed only of manufacturers’ representatives? Experience shows that a hybrid sales organization, composed of a blend of direct and indirect sales employees (manufacturers’ representatives), combines optimal performance, cost effectiveness and flexibility.If one observes several sales organizations over an extended period, she’s able to see that relatively often, sales executives make sweeping changes to those organizations, from all direct to all rep, and from all rep to all direct. Invariably, the observer is able to note that sales management ultimately reverses many of those sweeping changes. Sometimes sales executives benefit from observing changes made by others. Unfortunately, too many sales executives develop the understanding of the benefits of a hybrid organization by making one or more poor decisions and then repairing the organization after problems surface. The most durable of sales organizations are those that use a hybrid technique, employing a mix of both direct sales staff and manufacturers’ representatives. Sales teams composed entirely of all direct people or entirely of manufacturers’ representatives are generally not ideal.Why “Direct Only” Teams Are Not IdealMany CEOs and executive teams believe that the best way to build relationships with customers is with a sales team composed only of direct employees. In this example, sales staff cannot be distracted with unrelated business and other product lines. No one can blame the inexperienced CEO and executive team for thinking this way. A salesperson is able to devote 100 percent of this time to the company. A direct sales team suffers from far fewer distractions than a rep sales team. However, experienced CEOs and executive teams understand that they must thoroughly look at a direct sales team before converting to it. Direct sales teams are quite expensive to train and support. The company must support offices in all major markets. Those offices bring along with them assorted costs: rent, administrative support, office equipment, utilities, etc. A competent manager who can work well and represent the company without direct supervision must manage the office. The company must train and occasionally upgrade each office manager.When sales are growing, the office manager must hire and train new sales staff. The company must train the manager in hiring and training techniques. The company must also train the office manager in firing techniques, in hopes of avoiding legal problems.As sales grow, the office must expand to meet growing demands upon the sales office. Cost of sales rises as sales grow. Sales, however, do not grow forever. Ultimately, sales flatten and roll over. Sales usually roll over earlier and more abruptly than hiring plans. Sales may dip at anytime during the year, but hiring plans are usually set at the beginning of each calendar or fiscal year. As a result, hiring is sometimes still underway when industry and office sales are falling. Such dynamics create an environment whereby cost of sales, (as measured by the total cost of running the sales office, divided by the total revenue that the office generates, expressed as a share of sales) rises rapidly.

When a sales office has healthy sales, the company can manage its cost of sales and support them at a predetermined level. If sales grow for a long period, the company can manage the office to cut cost of sales. The sales office can benefit from economies of scale. A sales office supporting 20 salesmen doesn’t need more copiers, fax machines and conference rooms than an office supporting only 10 salesmen. Unfortunately, sales ultimately roll over. It is difficult to cut costs immediately. The office manager must usually see several months or quarters of declining sales before realizing that he must cut costs, including headcount. During this time, cost of sales rises, sometimes well above tolerated levels. The sales office manager and the company cannot cut costs quickly. Which is a chief reason that totally direct sales teams are undesirable.Why “Rep Only” Teams Don’t Yield Peak PerformanceRep only sales organizations afford a number of benefits to the sales executive. The sales teams are already in place. Hiring and firing of salesmen is not the direct responsibility of the sales executive or his regional sales managers. Manufacturers’ representatives generally hire and fire as sales move up and down. The cost of running a rep only sales organization rise and fall directly with the level of sales. A significant benefit of the rep only sales organization is that cost drops immediately when sales drop. It’s possible to accurately forecast cost of sales as a share of total revenue. Cost can never get out of control by hiring too many salesmen, buying too many computers, or leasing too large an office; not infrequent problems for direct sales organizations.Manufacturers’ representatives are not always the panacea for companies looking to hire or expand a sales organization. Large customers often demand direct sales staff; not indirect staff from a manufacturers’ representative. Large customers view their largest suppliers as strategic partners, and like the ability to communicate directly with those suppliers. Communications is sometimes slower and less clear when a customer must communicate with a manufacturers’ representative, who in turn communicates with the supplier. Customers may set the style with which they deal with suppliers as part of their purchasing strategy. For example, they may decide to deal with no more than two or three suppliers on any commodity and to deal with those suppliers directly. This disallows conducting business through manufacturers’ representatives. A supplier must recognize and honor such a strategy, or be ready to suffer undesirable consequences. A supplier must never turn a tin ear to a request from a customer demanding direct sales representation.Large suppliers view their largest customers as strategic partners, and like the ability to communicate directly with those customers. They view the delay when communicating through a manufacturers’ representative as an unnecessary burden. When large suppliers invest management time with strategic customers, they do not want to dilute that investment by sharing management time with manufacturers’ representatives. The incapacity to offer direct coverage to strategic customers is the primary reason that a sales team composed only of manufacturers’ representatives is unattractive.First and Foremost: Do No HarmRecognizing that something is wrong, many sales executives make bold, sweeping structural changes to their sales teams. Fire all reps and hire a direct sales team. Fire all direct salesmen and hire a network of manufacturers’ representatives. Either approach will certainly repair some problems. More than likely, however, extreme changes are very prone to creating new problems of equal or greater scale.Why do so many companies replace one poor-performing sales organization with another that destined to yield performance that is no better than the original? The two most common reasons are inexperience and weakness of the sales executive compared to the rest of the management team. Perhaps the inexperienced sales executive has risen through a single company with an all-direct or all-rep sales force. Now, managing the global sales organization, he opts for sweeping change from all-direct to all-rep, or from all-rep to all-direct sales without benefit of understanding thoroughly the benefits and problems with either a pure-rep or pure-direct organization. Alternatively, the inexperienced sales executive may have developed his management skill at a company employing an all-direct sales organization. He may not feel comfortable managing if hired into an all-rep company. No one can fault a sales manager if he sees massive problems and concludes that he must make sweeping change to an all-direct sales organization. Only inexperience allows him to make a major, highly disruptive change.Another reason companies make dramatic changes in the structure of a sales organization is that the sales executive is weak. If cost-of-sales, expressed as a share revenue is too high, the CEO, the rest of the executive team, or both can apply pressure on the sales executive to affect change and cut cost. If the sales executive lacks the strength to defend his team or the structure of the sales organization, he merely becomes the messenger, not the manager.

The message to the sales executive feeling pressure to make sweeping change in a sales organization is to adhere to the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm. Any sweeping change imposed upon the structure of a sales team will initially be disruptive. Make sure to justify the disruption and be very sure that the change, once implemented, is most likely irreversible. Sweeping change brings disruption, higher cost of sales and lower productivity. All of this might be worthwhile. However, if a sales manager imposes sweeping change and then reverses course within a year or two, disruption from the reversal is much greater and more costly. A reversal of an organization change brings with it disruption, higher cost of sales and lower productivity just like the original change. However, an organizational reversal can erode the sales team’s enthusiasm. A company can handle disruption, higher cost of sales and lower productivity if repaired relatively quickly. Repair of an unmotivated sales team takes much more time.”Hybrid Sales Teams” Work BestA supplier always looks to optimize its sales organization. If a company continuously focuses on cost of the sales organization, use of manufacturers’ representatives is mandatory. The benefits of manufacturers’ representatives are too great to ignore. However, manufacturers’ representatives may not satisfy the requirements for some customers. Strategic customers demand direct interface, excluding the use of reps. The best alternative then, is to merge some of the best features of both a rep and a direct sales organization. Implement a direct sales team to cover the sales to all strategic customers, while simultaneously bringing about a sales team of manufacturers’ representatives to cover all other customers.A hybrid sales team benefits from the cost effectiveness of manufacturers’ representatives. The same team can deal directly with strategic customers. The sales executive may take advantage of the non-disruptive flexibility when adding or deleting customers on strategic customer list. A secondary benefit of a hybrid sales organization is bench strength. Well-seasoned, top-performing direct sales personnel represent a talent pool from which from which to draw regional sales managers.ConclusionExperience shows that a hybrid sales organization, composed of a blend of direct and manufacturers’ representatives combines optimal performance, cost effectiveness and flexibility. The most durable sales organization is one that uses a hybrid technique. Sales teams composed entirely of all direct staff or entirely of manufacturers’ representatives too often underperform.