Ann Arbor Business Monthly June 2015 : Page 1

BUSINESS MONTHLY • ann arbor • chelsea • dexter • manchester • milan • saline • whitmore lake • ypsilanti ann arbor area Volume 11, No. 4 June 2015 $2.00 Latest Technologies Can Help Businesses Prosper By Duane Ramsey Several local fi rms are helping businesses and non-pro fi t organizations to use the latest of fi ce technologies that make it easier for them to do business successfully and expand. A lot of changes in technology have occurred in just the past fi ve years. With the speed at which technology is changing, business owners need to take time to examine how technology can help them become more successful. Software is now approaching its 60th birthday after getting its start in the 1950s. (link is external) Computers have had a place in the small business workplace for decades, especially with the advent of Apple computers and the IBM personal computer in the 1980s. With software and hardware being around that long, business owners should not assume they know all the bene fi ts of technology in their businesses. Today, technology goes beyond smart phones, iPADs, tablets and other mobile devices. “Our clients hire us to design and build custom software,” said Rich Sheridan, CEO of Menlo Innovations in Ann Arbor. “We are like a custom home builder. If you have the house of your dreams in mind, you would want to fi nd an architectural fi rm and a build fi rm INSIDE: Governor Snyder’s Much-Needed Move On Licensing – Page 5 A Good Financial Plan Should Be Simple – Page 6 Voters Point To Issues For Proposal 1 Failure – Page 6 New FDA-Approved CPR Device – Page 7 Let’s Bring Back REAL Relationships – Page 8 Small Business and the Internet by Mike Gould “Moving Day” – Page 11 business “briefs” – Pages 12-15 Deadline for July 2015 BIZ MO – June 20, 2015 “Hospitality & Tourism in Washtenaw County” August 2015 Working With Your Banker Rich Sheridan leads a tour of his fi rm Menlo Innovations for a group of visitors. Photo courtesy Menlo Innovations. to bring it to life. We do the same thing for software.” Menlo does this for clients by creating software that is widely adopted and used by the intended end users. We do this through a unique set of practices including High-Tech Anthropology that pairs programming and working in an open and collaborative environment, he explained. “We use the term ‘anthropologist’ quite deliberately. The only way to understand what makes a new system successful is to study and observe the potential end users in their native environment. This includes gaining an understanding of the differences between users of the software, the kinds of mistakes each are prone to make, and how those differences should drive the design,” Sheridan said. With an empathetic approach in mind, high-tech anthropologists have a self-stated goal: to end human suffering in the world as it relates to technology. They gather requirements by designing potential solutions and checking design assumptions with representative users, getting customers involved. A group of entrepreneurs who licensed technology developed at the University of Michigan came to Sheridan’s team at Menlo with a challenge. They had a concept to build a medical research device known as a fl ow cytometer that counts cells in fl uids to be used primarily in AIDS and cancer research. They wanted us to build the software for it to tell what happens with the test results of the cytometer. We worked with them Technology (Continued Page 3) ann arbor area BUSINESS MONTHLY P. O. Box 460 Hamburg, MI 48139-0460 PRSRT STD US POSTAGE PAID ST JOSEPH MI PERMIT #335

Latest Technologies Can Help Businesses Prosper

Duane Ramsey


Several local firms are helping businesses and non-profit organizations to use the latest office technologies that make it easier for them to do business successfully and expand.

A lot of changes in technology have occurred in just the past five years. With the speed at which technology is changing, business owners need to take time to examine how technology can help them become more successful.

Software is now approaching its 60th birthday after getting its start in the 1950s. (link is external) Computers have had a place in the small business workplace for decades, especially with the advent of Apple computers and the IBM personal computer in the 1980s.

With software and hardware being around that long, business owners should not assume they know all the benefits of technology in their businesses. Today, technology goes beyond smart phones, iPADs, tablets and other mobile devices.

“Our clients hire us to design and build custom software,” said Rich Sheridan, CEO of Menlo Innovations in Ann Arbor. “We are like a custom home builder. If you have the house of your dreams in mind, you would want to find an architectural firm and a build firm to bring it to life. We do the same thing for software.”

Menlo does this for clients by creating software that is widely adopted and used by the intended end users. We do this through a unique set of practices including High-Tech Anthropology that pairs programming and working in an open and collaborative environment, he explained.

“We use the term ‘anthropologist’ quite deliberately. The only way to understand what makes a new system successful is to study and observe the potential end users in their native environment. This includes gaining an understanding of the differences between users of the software, the kinds of mistakes each are prone to make, and how those differences should drive the design,” Sheridan said.

With an empathetic approach in mind, high-tech anthropologists have a self-stated goal: to end human suffering in the world as it relates to technology. They gather requirements by designing potential solutions and checking design assumptions with representative users, getting customers involved.

A group of entrepreneurs who licensed technology developed at the University of Michigan came to Sheridan’s team at Menlo with a challenge. They had a concept to build a medical research device known as a flow cytometer that counts cells in fluids to be used primarily in AIDS and cancer research.

They wanted us to build the software for it to tell what happens with the test results of the cytometer. We worked with them for three and a half years as they built the hardware and we built the software to go with it, Sheridan explained.

“The software tells the story of what happens with the results,” he said.

The company, Accuri Cytometers, released their product into the marketplace. It was so successful that the firm was bought by one of their competitors, Sheridan reported.

Sheridan and his colleagues have created software for numerous local clients including the City of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, U-M and its health system, VA hospital, Domino’s Pizza, Edwards Brothers, ProQuest and many others.

“We like to tell a different part of our story. We’re building a culture here that we are storytellers in today’s society. We believe that the art of storytelling needs to be revived in companies because that’s how people learn,” he said. “We teach others how to take that approach which has become 20 percent of our revenues,” he added.

“We are passionate about sharing our culture and processes with the world. We offer workshops, books and tours to help others understand our methods, how they can be applied in other industries, and why they are so important to achieving successful outcomes within a team.”

Sheridan and his team have taken more than 3,000 people on tours of their facilities to show them what they do. They take as many as one to two tours a day with groups coming from Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and around the world. He had a tour for 26 people on May 11, the day he was interviewed for this report.

GDI Infotech of Ann Arbor helps major corporate customers streamline databases and eliminate inefficiencies and overlapping functions in software applications. It has worked with firms as large as Comerica Bank to many smaller organizations.

“We have created software packages for academic executions and product packages for plumbers and pipe fitters as well as many other businesses,” said Maurice Collins, chief operating officer at GDI.

Technically in industry today, the trend is using software models for business processes. It takes established processes and puts them into electronic form. Today, GDI is building software to improve business processes and reduce training time for employees to learn each process.

“The software understands the business process for them. It results in a lot more efficiency within the workforce. Don’t worry about learning the business process. If you understand your job, you will be able to get the job done using custom software we provide as required by the end user,” Collins explained.

GDI developed information system architecture to enable integration across divisions and an enterprise data model that substantially improved efficiency and reduced errors for a leading marketing services company. GDI partnered with the client to address its business-critical IT needs.

The main goals for the project were to integrate systems across business units; streamline training and improve usability; ensure data quality and integrity; develop a single source of record for data, and drastically reduce the number of spreadsheets used for data manipulation and storage.

The project was successfully delivered on time and within budget. The new data model is now the core system that supports all applications and its growing number of business users, according to Collins.

GDI built a procurement match-making offering for businesses to be matched with other businesses for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation in Lansing. Merit Hall is utilizing GDI’s platform to help better recruit construction workers and place them on appropriate projects.

GDI recently introduced a new software product called InfoReady which helps companies find grant opportunities and other applications. GDI customers are already using that software such as MSXi for their applicant tracking needs in North America.

“It basically does search aggregation, filtering unstructured information and allowing it to be applied very quickly through social media channels,” said Bushan Kulkarni of GDI and InfoReady.

Earlier this year, Kulkarni gave up his role as CEO of GDI in favor of leading the software firm, InfoReady Corp., a spin-off of GDI. He remains chairman of GDI while serving as CEO of InfoReady which operates out of GDI’s offices in Ann Arbor.

In May, InfoReady was named as one of the Top 50 Companies to Watch by the Michigan Small Business Association, according to Collins.

Kulkarni’s team-building and open-book approach to management has had a positive effect on the company’s development. Employees are encouraged to contribute strategic ideas for business growth and profitability, according to Kulkarni.

Since its inception in 1993, he has grown GDI Infotech from a start-up to a profitable business solutions provider. GDI has been named to the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies three times and named fastest growing company in Michigan twice.

University Office Technologies (UTEC) started by selling copy machines in Ann Arbor in 1975. Today, the firm has expanded its business into providing IT services for businesses, government entities, non-profit organizations, school systems and universities.

“Most companies with two to 100 employees contract their IT to a third party” said Kevin Van Kannell, president of UTEC. “We work with a variety of businesses and organizations to keep their copiers, printers and all other technology working for them.”

The advantage his firm brings to companies and organizations with limited budgets is providing the vision and staff needed for IT. Some clients need both while others may only need one of the two, he added.

“Our mission is to help your business become more efficient through the use of cutting-edge technology. We’re so diverse because we see many different technologies and offer so many skillsets for clients who need us to run their network and more. We sell and service a wide variety of technologies,” Van Kannel said.

The workplace has changed because companies are not printing as many documents but rather moving them online to improve the workflow for better efficiency. We help connect people so they work more efficiently, Van Kannel explained.

“We provide complete IT departments for some clients. We’re proactive in our network management for them,” he said.

UTEC offers an ecosystem of technology products that are designed to execute tasks specific to each client. Quite simply, the firm sells and services technological efficiency.

“A lot of businesses are intimidated by technology. We provide them with updated technology that isn’t going to frighten them,” said Mark Funchion, director of technology at UTEC.

“We push them (clients) to try new technology and they challenge us to continue to find the latest and greatest,” Van Kannel added. “We value innovation, which is why we supply the most advanced technology products to optimize any office.”

One of the products UTEC has used to improve efficiency in the classroom and workplace is Sharp 70-inch Aquos Boards. The firm has many boards in businesses and schools that use the Sharp Cloud Portal Office program to display, file and share documents, presentations, spreadsheets and videos, as well as for teleconferencing.

The firm provides various services to clients ranging from one-person law firms to U-M and Eastern Michigan University. EMU’s athletic department utilizes an Aquos Board for various uses such as diagramming plays, for example.

Local firm helps schools manage technology
University Office Technologies (UTEC) is helping several school systems manage their technologies by providing IT staff and services to them on a contract basis.

It all started in 2013 when UTEC President Kevin Van Kannel met with Mark Funchion, who was head of IT at Airport Community Schools in Carleton. UTEC had been providing and servicing the district’s copiers and printers at the time.

Airport Schools was experiencing a great deal of turnover with IT people and was looking for a solution to that problem, Funchion said.

“Hiring IT people is not our specialty. We’re in the teaching business,” said John Krimmel, IV, superintendent of Airport Community Schools.

So, Funchion and Van Kannel came up with a plan to provide the school district with IT staff and services. Airport Schools became their first client of that service and Funchion went to work for him at UTEC to help the firm implement the plan.

“It’s a true partnership bringing new tools and technologies to students in the schools,” said Van Kannel. “We worked closely with the superintendent to make sure things worked well for them.”

“It’s been financially advantageous for us,” said Krimmel. “It’s a win-win for both sides.”

Krimmel cited the CAD program for architectural and mechanical designs now offered in the middle and high schools. Airport Schools has partnered with Schoolcraft College on a middle college program in which students can obtain technology certifications.

Airport Schools are utilizing the Aquos Boards for teaching by replacing the old whiteboards used in classrooms and media centers. Airport’s Virtual Academy uses the boards to communicate with students who are unable to make it into school.

Funchion began with a staff of three IT specialists working with school clients. UTEC now has 10 IT people working at several school systems that are clients of the firm.

Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/article/Latest+Technologies+Can+Help+Businesses+Prosper/2025795/261340/article.html.

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