Notaclu (Very) Limited

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Here’s a little story aimed at that rare creature, the managing director or CEO of a company who wants to get to grips with its information technology, read the article below and see if any part of it rings a bell:

Welcome to Notaclu

Notaclu is a small not for profit company on the outskirts of London. It employs 30 staff, mostly on part-time contracts and depends for revenue on successfully pulling in grant money and it’s relationship with lots of outside agencies some public sector, some private sector

Notaclu has internet but not for all the staff, because some “don’t need it!” Likewise not all staff are on email because the need for them to have accounts is not clear. Notaclu generates vast amounts of paper documents.

Notaclu has a website, but no one has updated it in a long time. Some of the links are broken and contacting people is a form that finds its way to the part-time IT bod who then prints it and passes it on as needed. The site is static and no not particularly well put together.  It also uses proprietary formats like MS Word in download format for forms and applications.

Notaclu does not like staff to use Facebook because in the past they have been criticised on that platform for some of their actions. It not really aware of Twitter or Linkdin or similar other site. But is aware that social networks might help them in their constant quest for money.

There has been talk of a blog, but no one is sure how to progress that.

Notclu computers were second-hand when bought (a mixed bag of Dells and odds and sods bought when a bigger firm upgraded and are now more than five years old with the company alone and showing their age. Minor problems are commonplace. The company use an outsourced company to deal with the larger problems since their dedicated IT guru was made redundant due to lack of funds.

There is no RAID on the server, the additional drives failed some months back and there was no money to replace them. Essentially documents find their way to a shared drive but there are no permissions installed, one click could delete everything.

There is no intranet and staff wanting policy information either wade through the hard copy or the equally tortuous hundreds of individual word documents on the shared drive.

OK so very few companies would survive if they were Notaclu. But once fictional company is made up of a number of companies I have been involved in assisting in the last five years with several having many of the problems listed above. So if anyone reading that thought, “he is talking about my company” then they should read on.

What can I do?

Email: if your staff are not on email, get them on it now and make sure they can access it from home. Check out Gmail or one of the many excellent webmail applications out there. Use email to update staff on new events, changes and anything they need to know. Good use of email alone will aid change management in the way that a hundred meetings will not since the member of staff has time to digest content and ask questions in the way a time constrained meeting will not allow.  Many phone have competent email clients.

Internet: This is a no brainer, get staff to spend some time on a computer as part of their admin function, train them to check those sections of the net you want them to see. Even if they only spend a few minutes on the company Intranet a week, you will save time in meetings and and questions.

Website: It may help to think of your website as your newspaper or advertising hording for the internet. You want lots of people to be able to see what you are offering but they will only be able to do that if a) your stuff can be seen and b) they find it worth the effort to come back which in net terms means they will want to see at least a little that is new.  Google search placement makes it essential that a website generates new content. More content and plenty of links to your site from other well-regarded sites will put you high in the ratings for your chosen search term. The trick is to choose a term relevant to your company. Its one of the areas where Notaclu struggle, being number 1 for a search for the name of the company may not be of much help if everyone you want to link with is doing searches based on a service or paradigm.

Intranet: Get one! Put every policy you have, all documents you want people to see and every piece of paper that might be needed to do your work. Encourage staff to visit and flag new and changed documents. Find a space for staff to comment, install a bulletin board. It’s an axiom that in a good company the right ideas will find their way to the right people but a little help never hurt.

Proprietry formats. Microsoft Office may be on plenty of machines, but anyone contacting you is not going to want to mess around filling out and snail mailing a form when they would expect something online and far more immediate. Check out Jotform for a good online system or build your own.

If your Face fits?: If you decide not to use Facebook that is fine, but be clear why you have opted for that. Chances are your competitors are using the social network. Anyone looking to deal with you could well do a search for your company Facebook page as a first point of call. You may regard it as a pain or some excuse to avoid work, but it’s got a lot of people on it. Trying to crack a youth orientated market, looking to bid of young people funding. The people with the cash may check you out on FB first!

If you are worried that staff might spend all their time on Facebook then frankly some managers on the top floor need to talk to one another very seriously.  It should be pretty obvious if your staff are busy fighting Mafia Wars rather than working. Let your peple use their lunch break to browse the net and Facebook, it won’t cost you a penny and you may even get a reputation for being a cool company to work for. As a bonus a switched on web savvy company is more likely to have staff defend it if someone tried to criticise you elsewhere and chances are they will cover a lot more ground that you or your IT staff can.

Blog off! Too simple! There are any number of off the peg blog solutions for blogging. Since we are where we are, I think I would recommend WordPress.

WordPress is very versatile can be made to look like a website and for me hits a number of the blog buttons.  Easy to use; plenty of themes; good configurations options; plenty of users and useful addons. (Big thanks to Zemanta at this point as well for their content addon which takes the hard work out of finding links.)

Serves you right! OK, IT geeks amongst you will probably have been most worried by Notaclu’s attitude to data. Our well meaning buffoons simply do not have a clue. They have data on individual machines and data on a server neither is backed up. The day the server dies is the day the company director losses a lot of weight fast!

Lots of little companies rely on flash drives and CDs to back up data and while this might work its not strategic. It’s easy to set up your machines to have a network connection to shared space on a drive and simple to back up all this data – if that is what you want. You may think you are fine with a single back up solution but suppose you had a fire tomorrow; suppose your single hard drive failed. How much could you restore?

Offsite storage is your friend if you in any way at all value your data. If you think you can manage without a backup then take a close look at your data – policies, records, minutes, videos, photos. Can you manage if they vanished tomorrow?

Your basic requirement is an off site solution backing up everything essential and no older than say 24 hours. Cloud storage is your friend here look for inexpensive options which mark changes in the saved documents to save you time and expense. If you have a decent amount of storage as part of your web package dedicate some for essential backups. If all else fails, at least dump some of the key stuff on DVDs or some largish flash drives and get it off site. Its far from ideal but at least you will not be completely lost if and when that fire happens or that electrical problems blows the fuses and your server.

There we have it, senior staff take note, Notaclu may be the modern version of a firm of insane Luddites, but unless you can cheerfully  you have all of the above covered then you may want to think about your application for Notaclu….got a stamp?

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