When you’re part of the technology industry, the only sure constant is change. Gary Horn, founder, digital architect, and data specialist at Communication Integrity Group (CIG), gets that.
Communication Integrity Group builds solutions designed to clear its clients’ plates
When you’re part of the technology industry, the only sure constant is change. Gary Horn, founder, digital architect, and data specialist at Communication Integrity Group (CIG), based in Olathe, Kansas, gets that. Since he launched the company in 2001, it’s undergone an evolutionary identity change or two designed, Horn says, to keep the company on the “bleeding edge” of technology.
“When we started, we were known as what’s called an ‘interconnect’ company, which is basically a company that connects a customer to a carrier, like Comcast,” he explains. “And we provided the hardware and software for voice, voicemail, and related services. Now, we provide a much wider range of services, such as VOIP solutions, IP networking, infrastructure design and build, data network development, business continuity plans, and more.”
Keeping clients competitive
When it comes to meeting client needs, Horn says, it isn’t always about being on the bleeding edge. “While that’s what we want to do for ourselves, our clients need to use technology as leverage to compete. In that sense, it’s about being productive and taking tasks out of their way.”
In building solutions, CIG’s 22 staffers work with business owners to find and articulate pain points. “It seems simple—you’d assume that most owners understand those pain points,” he notes. “The problem is that you spend so much time and get so used to doing things a certain way, that you don’t always see those tasks as bottlenecks or pain points.”
When thinking about the business and the areas in which technology can make a difference, Horn recommends examining at the operation level as a whole and finding areas in which there are repetitive tasks, being done either by yourself, your people, or your systems.
“When you sit down with any technology provider, you want to be able to present the areas of concern and explain how your business works,” Horn adds. “You also have to understand that there is no ‘magic bullet.’ You need to consider both the short- and long-term implications of any solution, as well as the costs. Your front-line managers want any solution that saves time, but you have to pay for it and make sure it can scale with the business. That’s part of why any provider truly needs to understand how your business works and what success looks like to you. At times, it’s a nice-to-have vs. need-to-have situation.”
What the right solution tends to come down to is process automation—finding those points in the work flow that can be replaced with non-human intervention.
Real-world productivity solutions
Boosting productivity is not necessarily a complex task. In fact, for many business owners, a simple shift in the flow of their day makes all the difference. Horn relates the case of a bakery owner who had to deal with daily disruptions to his much-needed sleep. He’d typically arrive at work around 4:30 a.m. to go through his basic setup. By 8 a.m., the baker went home to get some rest. When his staff came in, they would invariably wake him with questions about the operation, so he’d receive calls almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.
To meet that challenge, CIG developed an internal, IP-based phone technology that used the owner’s recorded voice to take an employee step-by-step through a number of specific tasks. If someone didn’t know how to open the cash register, the employee could simply pick up the phone and dial “*-r-e-g-i-s-t-e-r,” and the instruction would begin.
Another client—the owner of a printing operation—didn’t have a set schedule, but had a range of tasks to be done before the business could be up and running every day. Given his small staff, he was the one that had to do most of these kick-off chores.
“In that case, we developed a solution that used a series of IP and digital technologies to automate several functions at once,” Horn explains. “Now, all he has to do is dial a number on his cell phone from his car, and the system sets everything in motion—from turning on the lights and starting the coffee pot, to powering up his presses—all before he steps in the door.”
In both cases, he adds, clients wound up with cost-effective ways to save time and money, which ultimately translated into having more resources to focus on growth.
In looking at providers and solutions, Horn adds, identifying pain points is just one aspect of creating a solution. The other? “Take nothing for granted,” he says. “Your problem may be frustrating, but technology—even at a fairly low cost—can provide answers you didn’t even think of.”