Blog

integration and implementation of technology-focused business solutions

Why staff experience matters for our clients

June 20th, 2017

We often get asked if we are a contracting firm. The simple answer to that is, “No.”

LSG Solutions does not hire newbies into entry-level positions and then try to train them to be the equivalent of a skilled worker. Contracting firms typically hire three new employees for every one skilled worker.

We pride ourselves on being a skills employer, rather than taking the the “body shop approach” that some IT companies take. We invest heavily in our team members and in addition, subcontract our FTE staff with some of the best technologists who enjoy our projects and our approach to client projects.

We do not guess and assume someone has proper skills based on a resume. We vet for the advertised experience by the in-house experience we already have. Our hiring process is rigorous to ensure we have the most skilled talent available to our clients.

Technology experience

The team at LSG is comprised of people with a wide variety of technology experience. This, combined with continuing education into the latest advancements, means our people have a “big picture” view of projects and their future impacts.

Project management

If you have read a few of our past blog posts, you’re probably with familiar with our commitment to project management. Ensuring transparency, completing project goals, and building lasting relationships drives our team members.

Our employees don’t think like technicians. We approach our work as project managers, understanding the importance of accountability, building trust, and ultimately, customer satisfaction.

Our staff brings experience, technology, advisory, and project management experience. Our focus is on your deliverables, not our hours on a timesheet. We believe these are the qualities that help us collaborate with clients and move their business forward.

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Visibility into your Project – a MUST

June 6th, 2017

We often get contacted to fix broken IT projects. Once we’re involved, we often see common themes emerge.

For those who are charged with overseeing the project, having a few clear strategies in mind at the outset can make all the difference.

Here are things to plan for to keep your IT project on track.

Build a team

A project manager will likely be assigned to oversee the project via the vendor. However, it is essential that the customer have representation to provide proper oversight, as well.

From our experience, we find it’s best for customers have their own project manager. This gives two varied perspectives for managing the project.

End-users must have a voice at every step of the planning and implementation phase. They have unique insight into what is needed, what isn’t needed, and what’s actually practical from an operational aspect.

Decide what 100% completion means

The vendor and the customer may have very different views of what 100% project completion means. Before the project begins, set a target goal everyone agrees on.

This ensures everyone understands the expectation, and it limits miscommunication.

Set project metrics and targets

Incremental targets help the entire project team stay on track. It also creates an opportunity to identify gaps early on.

As a group, consensus should be made on metrics for tracking the targets and the incremental milestones. This helps build accountability and trust between work groups.

Ask questions

Team members should feel free to ask tough questions. Even if you have limited experience overseeing an IT project, questions can educate you to the various components and processes of a project.

If questions cannot be answered, project members should be tasked with finding the answers.

Again, this keeps the project running smoothly and helps avoid future roadblocks.

Whatever IT project comes your way, it’s important to both vendor and customer have transparency about the project scope and processes.

If you need help moving a project forward or getting one started, please contact us. We value the opportunity to partner with organizations to meet their IT needs.

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How we can help you with a broken project

May 16th, 2017

It’s not unusual for us to get called in to fix a broken project. We’re always happy to help.

And after years of helping businesses with this issue, we’ve learned a few things about broken projects.

These can be on a large or small scale. In most cases, our client has spent money with the intent of reaching a preset goal, but for a multitude of reasons that goal was not achieved.

We are then called in to get the project back on track, and help our client reach their goal.

We’ve found that there are a few important things to keep in mind in order for us to help our clients pick up broken projects quickly and efficiently.

What happened

To fix a problem, we need to know in detail what happened from the beginning. This can be difficult, since people previously involved on the project may be hesitant to divulge information for fear of finger-pointing or receiving blame.

However, this is not the time for accusations. This is the time to lay out a road map of what happened, so we can identify the barriers and work to overcome them.

An easy way to focus the team on the problem at hand, and not on specific people, is to have each person discuss the tasks they performed, what went well, and what could have been done better.

To get people talking openly, it’s often helpful to have the project manager or lead start the discussion listing what they did, what went well, and what they could have done better.

What needs to be done

Often, our clients have a clear vision of their end goal. However, sometimes on a large IT project, the vision becomes blurry. This can be due to unforeseen impacts of the project, or differing expectations from various stakeholders.

Whatever the reason, we meet with the team and all stakeholders to ensure that everyone understands the project finish line.

To stay on task as the project starts moving forward, teams can adopt the stoplight description for tasks. When the team meets for project updates, each stakeholder can list the status of their task as a green, yellow, or red light. A green light means that the task is completed or being completed. A yellow light indicates that there are some gaps or challenges with a specific task. A red light means that a task is at a full stop.

When these updates are given, the team can compile a list of all the tasks with a yellow or red light status. Then, using all the resources available to the team, they can begin working through that list to mitigate those challenges.

Keys to reaching the end goal

We have found some key points are especially helpful to remember when completing a project that has faced some challenges in the past:

  • Start and finish something before adding on to it.
  • Appoint someone on staff as the project manager.
  • Have a secondary project manager for oversight and accountability.
  • Communicate often.
  • Agree on a system for approvals to give checks and balances for the project.
  • Set expectations with both developers and end users.
  • Avoid best case and worst case scenarios. Reality is usually somewhere in between.

Rest assured that, with patience, broken projects can certainly be fixed.

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Oracle software audits: What you need to know

May 2nd, 2017

Recently, a company in Oklahoma told us about their experience being audited by Oracle. They were long-time Oracle users, and had never previously been audited.

Over the course of many years, their company’s IT personnel installed and ran various Oracle programs, but never performed a self-audit to check for appropriate licensing.

For this client, years of installing new features without referring back to their licensing agreement with Oracle ended up costing them a lot of money. $200,000 to be exact.

This is a common problem we see. Often, businesses install Oracle software, and as their IT needs change, install more software. However, during the installation process, there are specific boxes that get checked, allowing for greater functionality that is over and above what’s provided in the business’ original software license with Oracle.

This cycle gets repeated. Over time, this leads to major (and expensive) problems during an audit.

Here’s what you need to know in order to prevent an expensive penalty from an Oracle software audit.

Oracle’s honor system

Unlike Microsoft systems, Oracle’s software can be installed based on an honor system. Oracle does not require a key code to install their product.

While this allows for ease of use at install, it can also allow users to inadvertently install features they may or may not need, and which may or may not be included in their licensing agreement.

Oracle does perform random audits of users. If a user (business) is found to be using software or features without the proper licensing, Oracle charges a penalty based on what the user would have paid if they bought the appropriate license in the first place.

Be the skeptic

Any time your team is installing new software, be the skeptic. Teach your IT people that it’s okay to question whether a new feature is included in the license.

Always refer back to the licensing agreement for comparison. If something isn’t clear, be proactive and reach out to Oracle or an approved Oracle vendor, like LSG Solutions, with any questions.

Self-audit

Get your IT staff in the routine of preforming self-audits. Compare the current software running with your licensing agreement to see if there are any gaps.

If gaps are discovered, ask questions such as:

  • Is this feature being used?
  • Why was this feature turned on or installed?
  • Should we purchase the appropriate license or uninstall the item?

As always, LSG Solutions is ready to help your organization with any needs related to Oracle software licensing. Some of our clients will self-audit and then ask us to assist in verifying the information, which we’re happy to do.

Though we are an Oracle Value-added Reseller in Oklahoma, our relationship with our customers is paramount. We’re not the Oracle police. We don’t report customer information back to Oracle. But we will help you get back in compliance, so you won’t face a huge penalty if Oracle audits your company.

Please contact us at 405-285-2500 or our contact form for questions and other assistance.

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New Oracle 12c R2 features for on-premise customers

April 22nd, 2017

At LSG Solutions, a key part of our work is anticipating new releases from Oracle and defining how they will help our customers. One such release, Oracle's 12c Release 2 (also known as detailed release 12.2.0.1), is now available for on-premise customers.

Previously only available to cloud customers, this version's new features continue Oracle's commitment to streamlining systems for business.

Here are a few important features included in this release.

Hot Cloning

In this version, there is no need to put the source into read-only for cloning. You can refresh a clone and relocate a PDB. This allows for a smoother software development cycle, as well as more efficient integration and delivery.

Expanded Partitioning

Without impacting current DML operations, 12.2.0.1 allows you to convert non-partitioned tables to partitioned tables online. They can also be set to read-only status to prevent inadvertent DML action.

These expanded partitioning features increase the manageability of various applications and continue to drive down the cost for storing volumes of data.

Vault Simulation Mode Protection

Security continues to be a top priority in this version. Vault simulation mode protection allows customers to test realms and command rules protections without denying access to the user.

Violations are logged on a simulation log file for tracking.

This feature increases efficiencies, which allows you to move new realms and command rules to production more quickly.

Approximate Query Processing

Being able to quickly access accurate information from your database is essential for business agility. This new feature allows approximate results of large volumes of data with little deviation from the exact numbers.

Again, aggregation of data in this manner speeds up processing time and makes better use of resources.

As with every new release, we know you may have questions specific to your business and systems. Please contact us for more information. We can help you plan next steps to support your business.

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Will you need to switch to Oracle’s Standard Edition 2?

April 4th, 2017

Effective December 2015, Oracle launched Standard Edition 2 (SE2), intended to replace Standard Edition 1 (SE1).

We’ve recently seen an increase in customers asking questions about upgrading to this version. So, with that in mind, let’s take another look at SE2.

Oracle has always offered a database option for small and medium sized businesses with Oracle Database Standard. When compared to Oracle Enterprise, the cost savings alone made it the obvious choice for targeted users.

Customers using Standard Edition 1 (SE1) should be aware that this version is no longer supported. For customers using other versions, they may be seeing limitations on performance and limited processor capability.

Oracle says that SE2 is:

  • An affordable, full-featured database
  • Built for ease of use, power, and performance
  • Available on servers supporting a maximum of two sockets
  • Optimized for small business
  • Zero-cost license migration from either SE or SE1

SE2 vs. Enterprise Edition

It’s important to understand the differences between Oracle’s two types of databases.

SE2

This version is the small business edition. It is scalable as your business grows. However, you should be aware of possible licensing requirements when changing from one version to another.
Affordability is a hallmark of this version. Prices range from $700 to $17,500. Though it has a maximum support of two sockets, this is typically a good option for small and medium sized businesses.

Enterprise Edition

For those businesses needing greater scalability, Enterprise Edition will be the better choice. This version is available on single and clustered servers. There is no socket limitation.
Cost is a consideration with this version, as prices range from $4,750 to $47,500.

Migrating from SE1 to SE2

As Oracle moves forward with SE2, customers may have questions about migrating from their old edition to the new. Oracle says they expect this to be a seamless process. Though, as with any new database, delays or challenges may arise. It is important to fully understand the transition, and how it will affect your business before the migration.

We at LSG Solutions look forward to speaking with you and working with you through this change. Please contact us with any questions or simply to discuss your options.

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Oracle 12c R2 database available to on-premise

March 10th, 2017

Released in 2013 to all customers (on-premise and cloud / DBaaS), 12c was available for purchase or upgrade for any customer. However, Oracle 12C R2 is Oracle Corporation’s first database release available only to database cloud (DBaaS) customers, in October 2016. In order to boost ‘cloud’ revenues, the Oracle 12c R2 version was no where available to download for supported customers for months.

However, recently Oracle made available, Release 2 of 12C, to the on-premise customer. Linux customers were the first to benefit from the wait while Windows customers were appeased later, in March 2017.

Features

With this new release of 12C, customers can expect:

  • The elimination of downtime with specific features
  • The ability to perform maintenance without taking the system offline
  • Improved performance
  • Improved Multitenant architecture allowing for more databases per virtual or physical server.
  • Further streamlining of space consumption and overhead of indexes
  • The ability to perform simulations with a timeline predictor
  • “Hot cloning” (a copy made without shutting down the source database)
  • Ability to perform simulations for enabled features
  • Ability to split items up across multiple databases, or to offload one thing into multiple databases
  • Increased memory

Moving organizations forward

Oracle understands the demands on business and organizations to do more with less. Their commitment to improved systems allows customers to do just that.

With ever-expanding features, this is a good time to assess your organization’s database and support timeline. It may be time for an upgrade. Though upgrading may seem expensive, when compared to the loss of productivity due to system downtime or inability to access data, the long-term benefit is often well worth the expense.

If you are considering upgrading to Oracle 12C or have general questions about your database, please let us know. We offer a wide range of services to assess what you have and help you plan what you need as your business scales.

Oracle 12c Whitepaper

Transforming Data Management – March 2017

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Leaving the nest: biz-E stands alone

March 7th, 2017

For many years, LSG Solutions met the IT needs of medium to large business. During that time, we also recognized the opportunity for services targeted to small business.

Small business clients were investing in software solutions (SaaS) via the internet that quickly enabled the HR, CRM, Sales, and Accounting functions of their companies but created data integration issues.

Eventually, this service-based solution with inexpensive database software morphed with the small business’ office IT support.

Through the database and software services that LSG Solutions already offered to medium and large Oklahoma business, we determined there was a significant need for those services on a small-business scale. We were uniquely positioned to meet that need, and we created a new branch of LSG Solutions to do it: biz-E.

Over the past few years, we’ve worked to build strong relationships with small business owners, gaining their trust and meeting their needs.

As biz-E grew as an arm of LSG Solutions, 2016 seemed the right time to start branding it. This branding included blogs, social media, and a specialized website. This branding effort led to further growth.

So, this year, we are proud to announce that biz-E is now a separate entity from LSG Solutions. Customers can still expect the same quality service and communication. Separating biz-E from LSG Solutions allows our dedicated biz-E team members to concentrate their area of expertise specifically to our small business clients.

Some of the services biz-E offers includes:

  • Managed IT services
  • Data integration solutions
  • IT alignment with business processes
  • Data and software security
  • Cash-flow friendly, fixed-cost services

For more information on how biz-E can meet your small business IT needs, contact us. We look forward to speaking with you.

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Making a positive impact with change management

February 21st, 2017

In our last blog, we discussed the basics of change management. We covered why it’s important and what should be included in the process.

For this blog, let’s go one step further and look at how to create a change management plan that has maximum positive impact for all involved.

WIIFM?

This is the most important question people will ask when faced with any type of change: What’s in it for me? People want to understand what they can expect and how it impacts them.

If you want to create buy-in and engagement, be prepared to answer this question. Often with software or other IT implementations, people are worried about technology replacing them or some of their job functions.

Being aware of this and ready to answer their questions can help alleviate concerns and focus stakeholders on the project goals.

In the case of software or other IT implementations, explain to team members how the change will directly benefit them by increasing their efficiency or freeing them up to do other functions that require people and not systems.

Be sure to point out other added benefits, including those to the customer and end user.

Get the right people to the table

In the initial planning stages, it’s important to get the stakeholders to the table to discuss the project. This must include those doing the job most directly impacted by the change, as well the end user, just to name a few.

Getting essential information early on means greater visibility on potential roadblocks and more people to problem-solve for solutions.

Also, engaging people in the process and decision-making gives them a sense of ownership, which creates more buy-in as the project rolls out.

Create a system everyone understands

All organizations have different ways of communicating, and many departments within those organizations have their own specific jargon.

When mapping out your change management strategy, create a clear system for communicating project status and the challenges that will inevitably come up.

This could be as simple as using a green, yellow, and red light system.

During meetings, various groups involved in the implementation of the new project or system can use this to describe their current status.

For example, let’s say the marketing department is tasked with implementing a new social media strategy. During a status update meeting, the marketing representative announces that task is a red light, which means they are making no forward progress. The representative explains the reasons surrounding the issue. Then the rest of the group brainstorms and helps the marketing representative create a time-bound plan to move that task from red light to green light status.

That’s just one way you can handle inter-departmental communication during significant changes. There are many others that may be a better fit for your organization.

Whatever strategies your organization uses for change management, remember, having a plan is essential. Help connect your stakeholders to the mission of the project by answering WIIFM, getting the right people to the table, and creating a simple system to communicate.

Keep people informed and celebrate the wins along the way. Great change creates great opportunity.

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Managing change so it doesn’t manage you

February 7th, 2017

In a rapidly advancing business climate, organizational agility is key. Market disrupters appear at a breakneck speed and leave companies struggling to keep up.

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins says, “Change is inevitable. Progress is optional.” In the realm of change management, truer words have never been spoken.

So, what is change management and how can it impact your business?

Planning the process

Change management is simply a process put in place to ensure business functions and relationships are maintained while implementing new procedures or systems.

It’s planning a way to manage change, so it doesn’t manage you.

For example, if your organization is implementing a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, there will likely be effects felt across the entire business. From the marketing department to sales to customer service, many people need visibility on planning the implementation, carrying out the implementation, and then providing appropriate feedback to make necessary adjustments.

A change management process creates a roadmap to make sure these things happen at the right time.

Setting expectations

One of the biggest benefits of a change management strategy is creating appropriate expectations for all stakeholders. The communication surrounding expectations is crucial.

When implementing new systems or processes, everyone should understand what will and will not happen. Nothing derails an implementation plan faster than over-promising and then under-delivering results. The implications on morale and future support of new projects can be massive.

To maintain buy-in, everyone impacted by the new project or process needs to be included in preliminary discussions. Time should be spent asking stakeholders about their needs, expectations, and concerns.

After the feedback is gathered, time should be spent with the same team reviewing the feedback and outlining the implementation. Emphasis should be placed on appropriate expectations including timelines, deliverables, and communication plans.

Common missteps

During implementation of new projects or systems, one common misstep is failure to plan. There should be clear guidelines on the goals of the project, who owns what pieces of implementation, and how everyone can ensure effective communication.

Assuming these things will happen organically will derail the project. Without clear guidelines, inefficiencies become the norm as scope creep takes over. Teams are then left feeling confused and frustrated.

All of this can be avoided with some basic change management planning.

Change management may sound complicated, but the core principles are not. Remember, it’s simply casting a vision for where you want to go, establishing goals to achieve the vision, and mapping out how the team will get there.

When done well, the process will increase your organization’s agility, threshold to deal with market disruptions, and ability to grow relationships during change. In today’s business, this is the winning combination that sets organizations ahead of their competitors.

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CONTACT

501 E. 15th St., Suite 200B
Edmond, OK 73013
(405)285-2500
info@lsgsolutions.com