Contract Savings: Multi-year Agreements

One of the easiest ways to negotiate a discount on an original contract or a renewal is to agree to a multi-year term. Vendors love the idea of locking in revenue over the long term and a multi-year agreement is the easiest way to do that. They should also work hard to manage your relationship and keep you happy so that you’ll renew at the end of the initial term. However, contract renewals and negotiations are resource devouring processes that they would rather avoid. So would you, as the client. There are a few things to consider before automatically jumping into a long-term contract, though.
 
Technical Obsolescence:
 
If you’re going to agree to three or five years of a service or product that relies on technology, it’s important to determine whether that technology will be relevant so far down the road. If you’re utilizing technology that is soon to be replaced with better/faster stuff, you may end up stuck with a solution that doesn’t allow you to compete with your more agile cohort.
 
Market Competition:
 
Something that directly benefits you as a business consumer is vendor competition. If the market for a particular solution is growing with copy cats, prices will undoubtedly fall and offerings will quickly expand. Social networks for the enterprise is a perfect example. More frequent renegotiations would be to your benefit.
 
User Growth:
 
If you know that you will be growing quickly in the near future, but you aren’t ready to share that with a vendor, a shorter  term will allow you to renegotiate when you have more users – a situation that usually nets you a lower per-unit price. You can also factor in tier-based pricing that automatically reduces your costs as you grow past certain milestones, but many vendors don’t offer such arrangements.
 
There are other things to consider when deciding on a term length, but this should get you started thinking about the possibilities. Your situation will bring up issues specifically related to your business. In the end, you’ll be able to find a term length that fits your needs and maximizes your savings.
 
If you’d like to discover more ways to save money, avoid costs, and increase net profits for your company, contact GHS today!

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Contract Savings: When CPI is Your Friend

One Monday, I was asked to review a contract renewal. In it, the vendor had proposed a one year extension of services with a 4% increase in pricing. As the client had used the vendor’s services for a few years, and earlier analysis showed the pricing and product to be in line with the market, the client had intended from the start to renew at least twice. My review was a sanity check.

My initial thought was that doubling the renewal term was a safe bet and would reduce the cost increase by half. I also noted that the 4% increase seemed reasonable on the surface, but it wasn’t so great in light of the current economy. Flipping back through the original contract, I highlighted the clause I had originally included which limited price increases to 5% or CPI, whichever was lower. A quick check of the tables showed that CPI was definitely the better option at 1.7%.

Had this been a $100k contract, here’s how it would have broken down:

Original Renewal Request:

–          1 year @ 4% = Two-year total cost of $212,160

Revised Renewal Agreement:

–          2 years @ 1.7% = Two-year total cost of $203,400

That’s a savings of $8,760 for five minutes of review (and a well-written original contract). What could your company do with a 4% cost avoidance?

To find out more ways to save money on your contract portfolio, contact GHS today!

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Father’s Day: What My Dad Taught Me About Working and Living

From the age of 7, I was raised by my step-dad. My father was still in my life (still is), but the day-to-day job of raising me along with my mom, fell on her second husband. In the world of nurture-vs-nature, he was the nurture. I thank my father for passing on some decidely great genes, but my step-dad did the real work.

From an early age, I knew my dad was different from other dads. He came home from work on a Friday afternoon, took off the jacket part of his three-piece suit, rolled up his shirt sleeves, and pushed a mower around the front yard with his pin-striped vest flapping in the breeze. He never minded that the other 30-something men in the neighborhood were sitting on their porches drinking beer. He had a chore to do. As soon as I was old enough, of course, that chore became mine – that’s how I ‘earned my keep’.

When I was young, I thought all he did was work.  Looking back, however, there was another side to him.  Outside of the office, he raced an open wheel car around a dirt oval in Monroe, NC every Saturday. He could tear down and rebuild a carburetor in the kitchen sink (much to my mom’s dismay). His brother got him into the sport at the age of 36 and within a few short years, my dad was ranked 9th in the nation. One of my favorite memories was traveling to another state for Nationals and staying in a Holiday Inn with an indoor heated pool (what kid wouldn’t love that?).

Health problems lead to his early retirement from the C-level corporate world in the late 90s, but it wasn’t long before he was running his 20-acre horse ranch in Texas, which he did full throttle. Though my mom has passed on, my dad is still getting up at the crack of dawn to feed horses, mend fences, muck stalls, and mow the back acreage. He plays with the latest electronic gadgets, goes to Rangers games, and does a bit of international travel.

Looking back from my perch at the age of 41, I realize what he was all about. It goes beyond the work-hard-play-hard mentality. He took the example of his father, a World War II marine, and combined it with his innate talents to become a CFO, a champion race car driver, a rancher, and many other things – and he’s still going strong. Throughout his life, he has put his full energy and passion into everything he’s done. No half-measures, no timidity. Just pure, honest effort.

That is his gift to me – whole heartedness. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability. If I give my word, I’ll stick to it. And if I face a challenge, I’ll see it through to the other side. Not everyone grows up with a role model in the house – I’m glad I did.

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Developing a Training Budget for Your Organization

You have a competent staff of individuals hired to fulfill mostly specific – sometimes generalist – roles in your organization. As your team has grown, so has the complexity of the projects you are responsible for and the technology that supports them. It’s time to devise your training strategy. It’s a fairly straightforward process, though it will take serious thought and focus to come up with a winning strategy:

Skills Assessment:

First, catalogue your team’s skills. You can do this by listing proven skills – those used on a frequent or significant basis as supported by successful completion of a particular project or task. Or, you can do an education assessment based on personnel records listing training in institutions of higher education, technical or trade schools, completed courses, and active or past certifications. A complete list, cross-referenced by position rather than employee, will be the first step of determining where your team is lacking.

Gap Analysis:

Next, complete a review of all completed, pending, and future planned projects to determine what skills are needed (or were required in the past). Generate a list of the skills without reference to employees, positions, or projects.

You will then need to compare your requirements list with your skills catalogue and note any discrepancies. You should find that your team has unused or underutilized skills that can be more fully exploited on future projects. You will also find required skills that are not filled by any members of your current team. Analyze how this affected past projects – did you hire a consultant to come on-site, outsource work to another firm, or simply not deliver on certain aspects of the project?

Once you’ve completed your list of skills gaps, try to assign a dollar cost to each gap. This should be based on known (past) impacts, estimated impacts (cost of hiring consultants, loss of customer functionality, etc.), and consideration of your team’s ‘face value’ in the eyes of the customer.

Prioritization:

The next step, prioritization, should be done blind to the budget. Costs of training should not affect the priority or importance of completing it. List your gaps from highest to lowest priority, based on dollar value or perceived value, regardless of the cost to obtain the training. This is the basis of your short and long term training strategy. How quickly you reach your goals will be based on your final budget.

Planning To the Dollar:

With your priority list in hand, begin researching the expected costs of the training needed to fill each gap. You must consider the method of delivery (OJT, Classroom, Distance, etc.) and weigh any trade-off between costs and value, as well as the number of employees needing the training. Once you have assigned costs to each gap, you may find that training is not the answer – it may be more reasonable to bring in a consultant based on intermittent need, or to add employees with the missing skills from internal or external hiring sources.

When you have finalized your prioritized list of gaps best filled by training, you can schedule them in order across your team calendar. Your approved quarterly and annual budget will dictate how much training you can complete, and how quickly, but using the ‘Power Pay’ mentality will get your most important needs met most quickly.

After completing the planning and master scheduling, compare your plan to current and upcoming projects. If you see projects that will require your missing skills before that training is completed, budget for a consultant or some other stop-gap measure. Leadership may decide to temporarily increase your training budget if that is more cost-effective than your stop-gap option.

Quarterly or annual reviews of your training strategy will make your training plan and budget easy to assemble each year. Remember, money doesn’t matter until you move from strategic planning to tactical. Before the end of a year, you’ll see tangible returns on your training dollar.

If you’d like help with your business planning, contact GHS today!

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Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

The best First Step in any BYOD policy is to make the cultural shift from managing devices to managing data. It is in IT’s best interest to set connection standards and then focus on the data rather than the hardware used to access/create it.

At the core of your solution is your chosen Mobile Device Management (MDM) software – regardless of the vendor (MobileIron, Good, etc), we would recommend taking a sandbox approach. Isolating data on the personal device in a separate stack  eliminates many of the worries around virus infections, data theft, and accidental mixing of personal and business information. This also makes remote wiping of the device a near non-event: it can be done remotely, on command, and without interfering with the user’s personal apps and data. This solution is great for email, calendar, and contacts management.

For deeper corporate access, consider something like Citrix Receiver. It provides full access to a corporate desktop and applications while maintaining tight security over the connection. Access is easily controlled at the Citrix server side and no data is stored on the personal mobile device. Another win for security  management.

As far as the hardware goes, IT should be agnostic about manufacturers, yet specific about rev levels. Promote a list of approved OS’s and sample devices. For instance, set minimum requirements such as iOS 4.1 or Android 2.2, not iPad 2 and up or Motorola Droids only. It’s in a company’s best interest to list a handful of tested devices  as acceptable, but don’t officially ‘approve’ any specific device. Devices obsolesce so quickly that it’s hard to keep up, but OS requirements tend to hang around for years (you still test for IE6 compatibility, I bet).

When it comes time to isolate a device from the network, your best bet is to block the MAC address. This is a one-stop solution that will kill all but the most devious ex-employees’ attempts to illegally access your network. Combined with a remote wipe through your MDM, you can eliminate a threat with just a few keystrokes.

On the HR/legal side, a signed copy of your AUP sets the stage for you and your employee. A clear statement that employees are responsible for their conduct on ALL devices, corporate and personal, and acknowledgement from all users, will cover the company when blocking and wiping becomes necessary. Spot checking by your security team and annual re-education covers acceptable-effort requirements.

In the end, moving to a data-centric vice device-centric mentality will make your BYOD policy implementation quite smooth and you will likely find it one of the easiest technical initiatives to manage in your shop. BYOD and mobile device management sounds like the newest challenge in an ever-changing tech world, but IT shops have been managing remote laptop access for years. BYOD is nothing more than an evolution of the same sensibilities.

If you’d like some help integrating BYOD into your environment, contact GHS today!

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Mobile Tech in Healthcare

Here’s a brief white paper on the impact of mobile technology such as smartphones and tablets on the modern healthcare practice. From making appointment scheduling easier for patients and health record reviews faster for doctors, to helping customers shopping for healthcare find the right provider, mobile healthcare solutions can impact all points within the commercial medical process:

Mobile Technology in Medical Practice

For more information on integrating mobile technologies into your business, contact us!

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Welcome to Green Hippo Solutions

We at GHS have moved our site to this new WordPress format in an attempt to refocus its purpose. The previous site was static and uninspiring. With this new blog-based format, we hope to share updates and valuable information with you that can directly benefit your company. As we add more content, check back frequently – or just subscribe to the mailing list and get updates directly to your inbox.

Here’s to a dynamic new relationship!

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