IT Budgets – Round 2 Means Budget Cuts…Or Does It?

When you spend all those hours trying to align your IT budget with company goals and fulfill the needs of your end-users for the upcoming year, it can be disheartening when the finance team asks you to cut more deeply. After all, the IT department’s needs are in alignment with company growth and strategies, not some made-up number. Fortunately, there is a way to get what you need to fulfill your obligations to end-users and still maintain a budget that finance will embrace.

Flexible Solutions for Flexible Needs

NEC Financial Services has provided IT finance solutions for more than 30 years, and during that time has supported many companies in getting their IT needs met through flexible financing options. The best part? You can purchase various IT hardware, software and associated items from multiple vendors and have NEC create a financing package customized to your specific needs.

“We believe in orchestrating the best solution for our customers so that it simplifies the overall IT purchasing process,” said Herschel Salan, vice president, NEC Financial Services. “IT acquisitions can be difficult. By simplifying the financing process with a single source, it removes some of the complexity and gives our customers an easy way to budget for their required technology.”

#IT budget doesn't have to be an issue for new #technology. Click To Tweet

Providing this type of service is a standard part of the NEC finance model. This team understands the nuances of purchasing technology, and the complexity that comes from needing to upgrade while maintaining legacy systems, or to utilize newer technology, such as cloud, while still keeping sensitive information on premise. In fact, the NEC Financial Services team goes beyond the dollars and cents, providing a common-sense approach to our customers’ technology acquisitions.

“We go the extra mile, essentially acting as a project manager or liaison,” said Salan. “Our team performs due diligence on the technology provider for the customer, so we can be sure that all parties are informed as the project comes together.”

Salan went on to explain:

“Sometimes our customer is not that familiar with a technology provider and is unsure on the best steps to take to learn more. Our service provides due diligence so the customers know the providers that they are doing business with, and will have good information to make a solid decision. This includes any red flags that may come up such as financial capacity being stretched too thin, as well as being manufacturer authorized to sell and support the products.”

Obviously, having this type of information helps buyers make a solid, secure decision on moving forward with a technology provider.

No Cookie Cutter Here

A common complaint regarding the financing of technology is how difficult it can be via traditional sources. Bankers are not technology people. “What sets NEC Financial Services apart from many of the traditional financing options are: (1) we understand how technology is a business enabler and (2) we have the ability to help enable the acquisition of the technology, “according to Salan.

Furthermore, underwriting is often standardized, making it difficult for loans to be issued unless you can find a less traditional resource. NEC Financial Services approves more than 90% of transactions submitted. How is that possible?

NEC #Financial Services approves more than 90% of transactions submitted. How is that possible? #IT Click To Tweet

“We have a proprietary credit scoring system that ensures we are making the best decisions for our customers,” said Salan. “We take the time to understand the customer’s needs and goals, and then to understand what the acquisition of the technology will do to improve and support the business. Doing so enables us to really invest in our customer’s success and future, and give them a way to finance technology that could be a real game-changer for their business.”

More Than One Way to Get that New Technology

NEC Financial Services has a multitude of finance options that allow for customers to acquire important technology, including:

  • Leasing Options – from Operating Leases to Finance to Own, NEC has several leasing options that support customers’ needs.
  • Maintenance Financing – how nice is it to have the option to finance one of the more expensive, yet critical components of a new technology purchase – maintenance?
  • Tech Refresh Lease – Customers can get technology  updated with a simple schedule as an addendum to the master lease or finance agreement. It’s easy and gives a customer an opportunity to keep on top of technology changes.

Winning Round Two of Budget Cuts

Don’t let those rounds of budget cuts get you down. Simply find the best finance option available and get the technology you need to be successful.

“Our goal is to develop long-term relationships with customers who are growing and need a partner that really understands technology to provide financing options,” said Salan. “Technology is in our DNA, and our team is committed to providing excellent service to ensure we get our customers the technology they need to improve their businesses.

Whether it’s aligning with a major business objective, needing to replace obsolete technology, or keeping on top of rapid technology changes, NEC Financial Services has options available for you.  Contact us today to learn more!

Flipping The Educational Script

When it comes to our current educational system, there is certainly no shortage of opinions. Realistically, we need a more efficient, better way of educating young people and adults. Fortunately, there are some forward-thinking innovators who are up to tackling the task of improving how we educate and teach.

For many students, and instructors, memories of the classroom are comprised of boring lectures and staring at the clock waiting for the torture to end. Traditionally, the classroom experience has been very linear with the instructor providing lectures, students taking notes, and of course, the dreaded pop quiz or exam. However, with the continued adoption and advancement of technology, learning experiences are changing for the better. A recent article in Fast Company magazine covered the information provided from the world’s most innovative companies in education, which outlines some of the innovations we can expect over the next five years. These include:

  • Students will interact with others remotely.
  • Success of technology in the classroom will still rely on skilled instructors.
  • Degrees will be unbundled, and we’ll think about diplomas differently.
  • Students will have a voice.
  • Educators and institutions will be forced to adapt.

Many of the innovations these companies expect to see are available now, including the advent of collaborative learning and online communication for the classroom. The progression of learning is now a multi-dimensional process where teachers and students pull together to enhance the learning experience. It is critical for learning management systems (LMS) to begin working toward how individual students learn, rather than a providing a traditional classroom format online.

For these reasons, NEC has created a collaborative tool that literally flips the classroom, thereby allowing students and teachers to collaborate in a way that is powerful while really improving learning opportunities.

Knowledge is Power

NEC recognized that educators were looking for a solution that provided faculty a tool to expand upon course curriculums through the addition of content. Currently, teachers are working to flip the classroom using multiple resources and platforms such as YouTube, Google Drive, and Schoology. They need a way to provide a cohesive student user experience while minimizing the amount of time students spend visiting multiple sites. Therefore, NEC constructed the Collaborative Content Management Solution (CCMS) and has joined with PassTheNotes (PTN) to offer cloud-based learning management and leverage the best existing educational solutions.

It’s an integration of technology that empowers both students and instructors to “flip the classroom” in a way that now incorporates students in the process of creating curriculum. Using the foundation of PTN, NEC embeds the collaboration solution into our user interface, providing an efficient method for faculty and students to use the entire solution easily and seamlessly.

The effect is a “flipped” classroom, where students and teachers collaborate during classroom time (either in person or online) and students not only listen to lectures during their own time, but they can also contribute to the next class lecture by uploading content into an online folder. Think of it like this – what was normally lecture now becomes an interaction between students and faculty to really drive home learning, and what was normally homework time is spent listening to faculty lectures and allowing students to add their own input to the next classroom experience.

Today, the Internet and social media are a huge part of almost everyone’s daily life. Younger generations are constantly glued to their multiple portable devices. NEC is giving students the ability to be a part of their own educational experience by gathering existing industry knowledge to develop integrations to meet the ever-changing educational needs.

The benefit to faculty and students is tangible and already being realized for those institutions adopting a flipped classroom model.

Collaborative Learning

Teachers and faculty are not only able to follow the core curriculum in a more organized and simplified manner, but also are provided with the flexibility to add and expand upon their teaching elements. NEC helps faculty expand on course curriculums through the addition of content that better connects with students. In addition, NEC’s CCMS includes comprehensive training and professional development so that teachers can focus on education rather than the technology.

Students are developing a desire to be more engaged in their education. Through the flipped classroom, students can make this desire a reality. For instance, if a student is browsing the Internet and comes across a blog, video, or article that reminds her of something she is  learning in school, it can easily be uploaded into the class folder. If a teacher is providing a history lesson, students are given the opportunity to collaborate on the curriculum by uploading videos from current day events that tie in with the lesson. Then, not only are students more engaged, but teachers are able to help them draw conclusions in a real-life manner that was not previously available. Through this process of sharing information, students are actively participating in their education. This creates a more personal learning experience whereby students can relate events in their life with classroom material.

 

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Flip the Script

Education is rapidly becoming a #collaborative interaction between teachers and students.  It is now moving toward a workgroup team dynamic that is focused on the educational experience and leveraging technology to increase student engagement. Students are now finding that the subjects they are studying are not only interesting, but are also relevant in everyday life.

Plus there are additional benefits beyond the improved learning environment. Students are learning to work in a virtual environment, something employers will desire in future employees. In addition, they learn valuable teamwork and collaboration skills that will help them with their future endeavors.

If you desire more information on NEC’s CCMS and how we are flipping the classroom, check out the information on our Collaborative Content Management Solution page.

Collaborative Education Empowers Young Minds

Few things are more emotional than debate regarding our educational system. Parents want the best for their children, teachers want to provide creativity for their students, and students want to be empowered to be a part of their own learning process, while also having access to the latest tools, technology and information. All this must be wrapped up in a system that ensures learning objectives are met, and students are absorbing information that will prepare them for their next steps in life.

Recently we caught up with Gregory Alvarez, senior manager, Education Vertical Market, for NEC Corporation of America, to learn more about the changing landscape of education and how NEC’s Collaborative Content Management Solution (CCMS) creates solutions to solve challenges in the collaborative education model. Here’s what Gregg had to say:

Q: What are some of the shifts you see in education that are driving the need for new learning solutions?

A: Education is moving more toward a “creator” versus consumption environment. In the past, students were given textbooks. Now, they often consume their assignments on a tablet or laptop, which allows for more elements such as video, presentations, and audio files to be included.

Social interaction is also becoming a large part of the educational experience, particularly since students are so accustomed to using social media to interact with friends. Educational environments are working to provide that same level of interaction via blogs and discussion feeds to keep students more engaged. Furthermore, students can now have access to virtual learning environments, allowing for more progressive learning environments such as flipped classrooms while also supporting learning at home. If students are out of school due to weather, injury or extended illness, they can continue studies with minimal interruption, ensuring they stay abreast of their studies while also keeping them engaged.

Higher education, while ahead of the curve with student technology use (the average college student has three-to-five networked devices), is looking to redesign the classroom and improve students’ interaction. Now these institutions are moving towards work group, project-based learning where students create workgroups and collaborate on class assignments. The goal is to prepare students for today’s work environment where collaboration and teaming are the new norm.

These schools see a need to get students more engaged, as well as provide professors the flexibility to go beyond the core curriculum and expand teaching elements. By providing the flexibility for educators and students to collaborate on learning objectives, everyone has an improved educational experience.

For example, if a teacher is providing a history lesson and students can collaborate on the curriculum by uploading videos from current day events that tie-in with the lesson, then not only are students more engaged, but teachers are able to help them draw conclusions in a real-life manner that was not available before.

Q: What is NEC’s Collaborative Content Management System (CCMS) and how does it support this new educational shift?

A: It is a learning management system (LMS) solution for higher education and K-12 that is powered by the cloud software platform PassTheNotes (PTN).  As a technology leader, NEC takes pride in anticipating market changes and the impact that technology will have on society. NEC recognized that educators were looking for a solution that provided a tool to help faculty expand on course curriculums through the addition of content. This helps engage students in their educational experience with a service and methodology they are most comfortable with (the Internet and social media), giving students the ability to be a part of their educational experience.

Our collaborationwith PTN enables NEC to offer a cloud-based learning management solution that leverages the best of the PTN content management/educational solution with NEC collaboration and communication solutions. PTN is a dynamic, innovative company of veteran educators who understand and process customer feedback to continually improve the offering. We view our working together as a way to improve education for students, thus better serving the community.

The NEC CCMS provides benefits to educators and students they cannot find in other learning management systems today, including:

  • Immediate access via a non-proprietary platform providing technology-agnostic solutions.
  • Single sign-on access with popular applications such as Dropbox or Drive.
  • Collaboration within the platform so students can invite students to create modules for enhanced learning opportunities.
  • Built-in application for taking and hosting notes.
  • Social interaction leveraged via discussion feeds and peer reviews and grading.
  • Seamless integration of additional technology such as unified communications or biometric facial recognition.

Q: What other educational trends are on the horizon?

A: We see a number of trends that are quite interesting, including:

Biometrics and Facial Recognition –While traditionally seen in law enforcement or security, biometrics is making its way into schools and campuses to address specific use cases. The most obvious use case is for security, where facial recognition can capture an image match against a database to determine if the individual belongs on campus.

We’re also seeing more interest is using facial recognition for verification of course completion for accreditation. Facial recognition is being considered as a tool to address attendance taking as well. This becomes a time saving solution in K-12 and for higher ed use to support class attendance requirement for course credit.

Learning analytics is an educational application of “big data,”a method used by business to analyze individual activity. In education, learning analytics is being used with the aim of improving student retention and providing learners with a superior personal experience. Learning analytics uses student data to build better pedagogies, identify at-risk students, and assess whether programs aimed at student retention are successful.

In the future, we see the introduction of other technologies and teaching methodologies that could take hold, such as.

  • 3D printing
  • Gaming and gamification
  • Making online learning more natural

Thanks to Gregg for providing a fascinating overview of current and future educational trends, while explaining how technology provides #SolutionsforSociety in education. You can learn more about NEC’s educational solutions, as well as see demonstrations of other innovative solutions such as unified communications, cloud contact center and SDN by visiting booth 1121 at Enterprise Connect 2015.

 

Photo by NEC Corporation of America on Flickr and used here with Creative Commons license.

How to Stay ‘Mobile’ During a Severe Weather Event

As the polar vortex recently bore down on much of the Midwest and East Coast, bringing lots of snow and multiple headaches, the topic of remote working comes to mind. Seasonal events such as heavy snow—not to mention the ice storm that paralyzed parts of the southern U.S. in early December—can disrupt businesses as well as daily life in many ways. Lack of electricity, canceled flights, delays or shutdowns in local transportation all have an adverse affect on daily activities.

Keeping a business operating at optimal levels when employees can’t make it into the office quickly becomes a problem. The losses in productivity and resulting lost business can mount up fast.

Cloud Services Can Help

Luckily for today’s businesses, technology exists so that many employees can perform their jobs remotely as seamlessly as if they were in the office. For example, cloud-based Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) enables employees to work remotely, helping to keep things running at the business. Communication tools such as softphones, instant messaging, and audio and video conferencing help dispersed teams collaborate and work on projects even when the weather outside is frightful.

Enabling employees to do their jobs even when they can’t get into the office keeps them safe during dangerous travel conditions, but it also means not losing employee productivity over the course of the weather event.

UCaaS keeps communications running smoothly, especially critical for organizations that heavily rely on communications for their revenue. During inclement weather, unified communications solutions can:

  • Integrate email, voice and instant messaging into a cohesive communication system so all employees can keep in touch
  • Provide access points to all data used by an organization so that users can communicate with others inside and outside their organizations quickly and more easily
  • Lower overall IT and telecommunications costs, particularly labor costs, because of the inherent economies of scale available through an integrated communications platform
  • Give access to carrier-grade communications that deliver consistency with easy-to-use functionality

Virtual Desktops—at Your Service

Other cloud services can make working remotely a reality as well. For instance, Desktop as a Service (DaaS) means moving an employee’s desktop to the cloud and making it accessible anywhere, anytime by an Internet-enabled service. Virtual desktops can be linked through a private network connection to a secure, remote data center far from the bad weather. Best of all, desktops in the cloud look and behave as if they are part of a corporate IT environment. Customers and employees won’t notice a difference in the quality of service.

Plus, the ability to deploy, manage and support desktops through DaaS reduces costs and eliminates the complexity of deploying and managing virtual desktops. Hardware costs can be reduced by nearly 60% and easier management means lower operating costs. Other benefits of DaaS include:

  • Improved security and compliance through centralized updates
  • Better mobility for your workforce through seamless access from any device, at any location
  • More flexibility to easily deploy and quickly scale desktops
  • A disaster recovery strategy to get desktops back up and running quickly

Routing Network Traffic Using SDN

Software-defined networking (SDN) simplifies the network management, proactively addresses network performance and quickly re-routes network traffic as needed—all critical functions during a severe weather occurrence.

SDN can help businesses keep their mission-critical processes up and running. Using OpenFlow technology, an SDN solution centralizes control of the network and automatically monitors network traffic, distributing it according to pre-defined policies and constantly updated network resources and traffic conditions.

Think of a delivery truck’s route from point A to point B. If the truck runs into bad weather conditions or an accident on the route, the driver can access a traffic monitoring app such as Google Turn by Turn to identify and then access another route quickly. The driver is able to quickly re-route the truck so that it doesn’t lose any more time in making its delivery.

So, when bad weather strikes, having the right tools and technology in place to enable mobility among your workforce can make a real difference. Consider including UCaaS, and SDN solutions in your disaster recovery plans to help create a safe and secure environment that protects your data and applications and keeps your businesses running.

To learn more about these solutions follow the links below:

UCaaS – http://goo.gl/5AGs87  SDN – http://goo.gl/HGiyf