December News:

On The Calendar

December at The Fulcrum Group Happy Fulcrum Anniversary to Bob Wierdsma!

Happy Fulcrum Anniversary to Senior IT Delivery Executive, Bob Wierdsma!

He was attracted to The Fulcrum Group because of the focus on improving local Non and For Profit Business and Governments’ value from their investments in IT, and Fulcrum Group's focus on Service.  Bob is responsible for Managed Services Delivery from the Service Desk, Platform and Professional Engineering teams.  Bob has held numerous managed service and IT outsourcing leadership positions, from engagement through transition and delivery, both as a provider and a customer.

He led teams responsible for vendor management, strategic sourcing, consulting, account management, logistics, strategic planning, channel partner management, shared services, business development and global IT service delivery across 76 countries with NCR, was a Principal Architect at Dell and Senior Director of IT at GameStop prior to joining the company.   Bob has his MBA from TCU and is married with three children.

Regarding the immediate future, Bob says, "I hope 2021 grows up well and doesn’t act like the 2 year old 2020 was!  Looking forward to traveling more, bringing new things forward and leaving old things behind next year.  Downhill skiing and SCUBA diving are my two faves....besides my wife & three kids!"  Since March, Bob's enjoyed passing time, "working in the office, through the lockdowns & ‘rona to keep the lights on, our Fulcrum teams and customers taken care of."

In any case, we're happy to have Bob with us to brave what 2021 might have in store...Let's hope it's all just a little less exciting!

Fulcrum Group Microsoft Office 365 Tips & Tricks Training We hope you were able to join us online last week for our expanded Microsoft Office 365 Tips & Tricks session.  If you weren't, you can catch a recap here

Remember, starting this month, rather than focusing solely on Teams, we expanded to an hour session and shared great training tips on the entire Microsoft Office 365 suite!  If you are interested in next month's session, it will be January 14th - please reach out to David Johnson.  We'll send you an Outlook invite to join in.

While this series continues, it can always be accessed from our Events page.  

Reminder: Holiday Hours Over the holidays, The Fulcrum Group will be closed after 12 noon on December 24th, Christmas Eve.  We will also be closed Christmas Day, December 25th, and Friday, January 1st for New Year's Day.

We'll let you know about any additional upcoming special events through our social media pages, which we'll update on our Events page as they occur. Quick links to our social media pages are accessible right from our website and in every monthly newsletter email you receive from us.

If you're new to our newsletter and you'd like to subscribe, let us know.

Project Management Deep Dive

Project Management Deep Dive

In October’s newsletter, we went over Project Management Basics.  This month, we’ll be taking a deeper dive into Project Management

Project Management starts with understanding the customer’s outcome and needs, and how to mitigate risk and provide return on investment.  Having a picture of the end in mind is essential, and understanding what success looks like is key to project management success.

When you have a project that is large enough to require project management (in our case, it is usually projects over 16 hours), it is a good idea to pick a framework to work from.  Some common project management frameworks include Systems Development Life Cycle, Agile Project Management, or Cisco PPDIOO Lifecycle Approach, amongst others.  Having a framework provides best practices for implementing and managing your projects, and eliminates the need for you to develop project management processes for your organization from scratch.

Below are the 4 phases of Project Management that we live by.

Discovery – We start with understanding the customer’s outcome and needs, and how to mitigate risk and provide return on investment.  We do this by performing discovery of the customer’s needs through standardized questions and tools.  If it is a cybersecurity engagement, we utilize our Cybersecurity Preflight Questionnaire for discovery.  If it is a Unified Communications/VOIP engagement, we utilize our VOIP Preflight Questionnaire.  This allows us to come up with a Project Cover Sheet that defines the basics of the project scope, outcomes, key stakeholders, and high level phases.

Design – After discovery is complete, we move to the Design phase.  Here, we gather more information, capturing technical information about the customer’s environment and current state, develop the detailed plan, and create the initial documentation (detailed scope of work, network maps, detailed design document, testing criteria, project signoff form, etc.).

Implementation – Upon completion of the Design phase, we kick into high gear with Implementation.  In the implementation phase, we are highly engaged with the customer through the Project Kickoff meeting, where we explain the team members, timeline, design, and communication.  After the Kickoff meeting, then the meat of the implementation occurs, with regular communication and updates provided.  Upon completion of the project, we test for the testing criteria, get project signoff from the customer, and deliver final documentation.

Manage & Monitor – For IT projects, it’s not enough to plan and implement, you must also plan for managing and monitoring after the project is complete.  A good project plan includes some preplanning for management and monitoring, so testing for alerting and monitoring isn’t too time consuming.  Upon completion of the project, we test for the testing criteria, get project signoff from the customer, and deliver final documentation.

Other Keys for Project Success:

Team Work – Identifying customer leaders, testing with end users, communicating with 3rd party vendors

Coordination – Assigning the right resources for the project, having a realistic timeline, understanding the goals/deliverables/testing, and consistent communication

Frameworks – Pick the right framework for your typical projects, don’t over complicate it

Reach out to The Fulcrum Group for any upcoming IT projects that you might have.  We’ll be happy to help you plan them out for success! 

Work From Home Best Practices

Work From Home Best Practices At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, many if not most businesses flipped to a remote work scenario for most of their employees.  Here at Fulcrum Group, not only did we have to do the same thing, but we were intimately involved in setting up remote work scenarios for most of our clients.  Below are a few best practices we've outlined for Work from Home going into 2021. Cybersecurity – Flipping to a remote work scenario has opened up more cybersecurity risks for small business owners.  Here are our top 3 tips for cybersecurity in a remote work scenario:
  1. Only use corporate-owned computers to access to corporate-owned IT networks. Don’t allow employees to use their own personal computers; they can bring an array of cybersecurity risks including missing patches and antivirus.
  2. Implement Multi-Factor Authentication. MFA is essential for protecting email systems like Office 365, and can even be extended to other cloud applications.
  3. Implement Whole Disk Encryption on any computer or laptop that is taken outside of the office. When computers and laptops leave the office, they are significantly more likely to be lost or stolen.  Without Whole Disk Encryption, you can’t ensure that the data on these computers is safe from thieves.
At Home Workspace – Working from home has exposed both good and bad for both business owners and employees.  Here are two great tips to keep in mind for making the most of your At Home Workspace:
  1. Employees – If possible, setup a dedicated space for work. Invest in a docking station, 2nd monitor, and ergonomic chair.  Get outside for exercise or a walk daily.
  2. Business Owners – Encourage your employees to have work/life balance. Have regular one on ones with your employees and check in on their mental health.
For more information and tips, check out our latest blog post on this topic.
2020 Fulcrum Group Cybersecurity Recap

Cybersecurity SPOTlight: 2020 Cybersecurity Recap

It's certainly been a difficult and strange year. A major pandemic and political unrest has led to a year that we'd all like to forget.  Let's look at Cybersecurity in review for 2020...

Cybercriminals Ramp Up Efforts During the Pandemic

If you thought cybercriminals might give us all a break during the pandemic, those thoughts were quickly dashed, as cybercriminals were waiting with targeted scams preying on our fears and uncertainty.  This proved that cybercriminals will show no sympathy in light of current global conditions.  Instead they ramped up their efforts around email phishing, text and phone scams, and ransomware attacks.

Rapid Move to Work from Home Exposed Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities for SMBs

The rapid move to Work from Home scenarios for many small businesses was done in such a frenzied way, that it was inevitable that these SMBs would be left with many cybersecurity vulnerabilities.  Many SMBs allowed their employees to use their own home computers to connect to their IT systems remotely.  These personal computers owned by employees are a huge cybersecurity threat to SMBs, as there is no visibility to the SMB as how they are secured.  Various estimates from IT experts show that on average more than 80% of personal computers belonging to employees (and not their employer) are lacking basic cybersecurity such as up to date Windows patching, non-existent or insufficient antivirus, and elevated privileges.  These vulnerabilities put SMBs at high risk of being infected by malware, or worse, ransomware.  In addition, employees have experienced a variety of issues related to Work from Home as well as Work/Life imbalance.

Social Media and Proliferation of News Sites

As the pandemic rages, more people are visiting social media and news sites, often to debate political hot button issues.  Cybercriminals honed in on these contentious issues, and tried to inject their scams wherever possible.  Think twice before clicking on links to web sites that you don’t know or trust.

Vistage Executive News - Top 5 HR Initiatives, Preparing for 2021

Contributed by Mark Mitford, Vistage Partner and Managing Director, HR Catalyst Consulting Go here to read original article and watch video. Vistage Executive Group

2020 as 'a year to remember' is an understatement.
Since March, 2020 has become a tale of 3 very different business scenarios: 1) those who are having an outstanding year financially, 2) those who have struggled significantly and may have taken drastic measures to survive, including significant layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts, etc. and 3) those who are on life support currently - or even worse, planning on shutting their doors or putting their business up for sale.

We have been forced to go into crisis mode, react quickly and work smarter on every level. Now in 4th quarter, it's a great time to consider how to prepare for 2021. There's every reason to remain strategic and develop a plan to turn this corner and move forward. Remember, every great business has to continue to think strategically and look ahead - this is the priority of the business owner, CEO and their leadership teams - as employees are looking for their leaders to lead them, keeping status quo as much as possible. This is the premise of the 5 critical areas outlined below.

5 Critical Focus Areas from an HR/People Perspective for 2021:

1)   Performance Management

Keep on schedule with performance reviews. Discipline around this schedule will provide time to discuss employee performance for 2020, and also help keep the focus on career development and open conversations with your employees.

2)   Create a Strategic Workforce or Talent Plan for 2021

Significant changes - either rightsizing for growth or decline - may have been made this year.  Now is the time to step back and make sure you have the right people in the right seats.  

3)   Talent Retention Strategy

Take care of your “A” players. They are the starters on your football team. They are the drivers of your company’s future and keeping them content means growth for your company. Many companies are seeking the best and actively hiring again this quarter, so doing whatever is needed to keep them from being poached by an outside company is smart strategy.

4)   Focus on Your Culture

While some companies are fully back in-office, others are not making plans to return to the office until 2021, each scenario impacting a company's culture significantly. How do you maintain the culture you worked so hard to create when you only see your employees virtually? Strategizing around this and maintaining your culture is important, whether everyone is onsite or part of your workforce remains remote. Engagement varies depending on these different circumstances, so keeping your company's culture front of mind can help increase your employees' engagement.

5)   Compensation Plan Despite a challenging year financially for businesses, targeted salary increases and bonuses going into next year are an important consideration. Adaptability and strategy may be called for in your approach if your business has really suffered. Compensation planning goes hand in hand with your talent retention strategy. As #3 stresses, taking care of your A players is key for future growth.

Staying disciplined enough to maintain your business' patterns of ebb and flow is important in creating a consistency. We owe it to our employees to keep our company culture a focus point, and giving proper attention to strategic hiring needs going into 2021. Most important, we must take care of our employees and maintain open communication. At the end of day, being thoughtful about your key people and processes will pay off for your business, helping your employees see stability and a future going forward with the organization. With these tips, we can position 2021 as a year to remember for positive reasons as we all contribute momentum toward propelling the US and global economies.

Fulcrum Group Did You Know

Did You Know...? Project Managers

Did you know that Fulcrum Group now employs a full-time Project Manager to ensure that your IT projects are done on-time and on-budget?  Reach out to us to find out more.