REDMOND, Wash. — Dec. 18, 2009 — Walk into Frank Cerullo’s office, a stone’s throw from the Hudson River in Hoboken, N.J., and you might think you’ve encountered the ultimate sports fanatic. Logos of every major league team adorn the walls of GameWear Inc., Cerullo’s booming business. The company sells team-branded bracelets, necklaces, key chains, and MP3-player, cell-phone and smartphone cases that are made from the same leathers and stitching used to make baseballs, basketballs and footballs.
But, like a lot of burgeoning businesses, GameWear has experienced its share of growing pains, including some of the IT variety. For example, the company has more than 4,000 stock-keeping units (known as SKUs), and associated with each are at least four types of product images. “We have 10 different varieties of bracelets just for the Phillies,” says Cerullo. “When a retailer calls asking for a photo they can put in their catalog, we have to quickly locate the right photo and graphics.”
GameWear’s customer service representatives have to organize, track and retrieve more than 50,000 files. “It’s easy to misplace a PDF, Word or Outlook file. We used to spend hours tracking down mislaid files,” says Cerullo.
That was before he upgraded the company’s PCs from Windows XP to Windows 7. The search function in Windows 7 lets the GameWear team quickly find any type of file regardless of whether it is on local drives, network drives or the Internet.
For small and midsize businesses, Windows 7 offers an opportunity to leap ahead of rivals by improving employee productivity, reducing costs and enhancing security.
“I can’t point to just one feature of Windows 7 as the most important for a small business like mine,” says Cerullo. “Rather, it does hundreds of things a little bit better or faster than previous operating systems, and at the end of the day that adds up to a significant productivity improvement. I would estimate it is about 30 percent faster than Windows XP, which we used to run, and that it has provided my employees with at least a 10 or 15 percent improvement in productivity. And it took less than a day to upgrade all 12 of our PCs.”
Cerullo says the features and tools in Windows 7 that help GameWear employees work more efficiently include Snap, which makes it easy to compare two documents side by side, and the Problem Steps Recorder, which he says despite its name is useful for more than capturing computer problems — for example, creating training tutorials.
Cerullo initially had a concern about whether the proprietary applications his business relies on, which were developed in Windows XP, would be compatible with Windows 7. “Then I found out about Windows XP Mode,” he says. Windows XP Mode lets users run Windows XP business software on their Windows 7-based desktops. “That’s when the upgrade decision became a no-brainer for me.” Although Windows XP Mode was key to Cerullo’s decision to upgrade, he has yet to use it, because all of his applications work just fine in the new operating system.
GameWear upgraded last July to the release candidate (RC) version of Windows 7. Why didn’t he wait for the official release? Cerullo explains: “As a small-business owner, especially in an economy like the one we’re in now where we’re trying to do everything we can to squeeze as much productivity out of our work force, why not start taking advantage of the latest technology as soon as it becomes available, rather than play a catch-up game with your competitors later?”
“A Quality of Life Thing”
New York law firm Dewey Pegno & Kramarsky was also looking to improve productivity when it installed Windows 7 Professional. Stephen Kramarsky, one of the firm’s partners, sums it up: “It’s a quality of life thing. How can I squeeze more productivity out of the same or a lesser amount of time? The technology that answers that need has got my attention.”
According to Kramarsky, the first big difference in Windows 7 is the Aero desktop experience. Features such as Snap, Peek, Taskbar Pinning and Jump Lists accelerate his ability to navigate deposition transcripts and work through complex briefs in multiple windows simultaneously.
Kramarsky is also impressed with the faster boot and resume times in Windows 7. “If I’m rushing to a meeting or deposition, I can be up and working again in seconds versus waiting a minute or more with other operating systems. Attorneys work in a time-compressed environment where some seconds are longer than others,” he muses.
“Overall, I’d say Windows 7 is a big ‘win’ in three areas: speed, stability and usability,” says Kramarsky.
“A Thousand Tiny Things”
The experiences of GameWear and Dewey Pegno & Kramarsky are typical. Endpoint Technologies Associates, a computer industry research and analysis firm, recently surveyed several small and midsize businesses that had used Windows 7 on a trial basis. Respondents were uniformly positive in their evaluation of the operating system, citing time savings as the single greatest benefit.
Elite Personnel, a Maryland staffing agency, for example, estimated that the efficiencies in Windows 7 cumulatively saved at least 30 minutes a day per employee. And Geosynthetics, a British industrial supplier, described the many ways that Windows 7 sped up work, projecting that migrating its entire sales force to the new software would save the company 300 hours annually.
“Some of the features that businesses found most useful were what they called ‘small’ things,” says Endpoint president Roger Kay. “For example, almost all cited the Taskbar and Thumbnail previews as major productivity enhancements. These seemingly modest enhancements are the heart and soul of Windows 7’s appeal. Microsoft has done a thousand tiny things right.”
Old PCs Feel New Again
Windows 7 can breathe new life into older PCs. For Essential Apparel, an online retailer of lingerie, outerwear and sports gear, the fact that Windows 7 doesn’t require hardware upgrades was a key factor in the decision to deploy a beta version of the new operating system last February. “And because Windows 7 can run on the same PCs we were using for Windows XP, moving to Windows 7 effectively extended the useful life of our older PCs,” says Bob Mayer, Essential Apparel’s president.
Mayer estimates that the company saved about $20,000 this year in capital spending, because Windows 7 enabled the retailer to defer hardware upgrades.
“Two additional features that really sold us on Windows 7 were Windows Touch and search,” says Mayer. Touch screens have replaced computer mice and keyboards in the company’s warehouse, because they are more compatible with the folding and packing operation. And customer service representatives now use the Windows 7 search function while on the phone with customers to quickly locate product documents and images dispersed throughout the retailer’s network. In the past these files could take 30 minutes or more to find, by which time the customer may well have moved on to a rival vendor.
Essential Apparel, GameWear, and Dewey Pegno & Kramarsky benefited from the advice and expertise of IT consultant and Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Carl Mazzanti, of New Jersey-based eMazzanti Technologies. Mazzanti guided the three firms — and dozens of others — through the upgrades and provided custom applications as needed.
For example, taking advantage of the gadgets capability in Windows 7, Mazzanti created a custom order-processing gadget for Essential Apparel. Mayer estimates the gadget shaved 15 percent off the amount of time it takes to ship an order.
“And we’re getting faster and faster the more we work with the new technology,” says Mayer. “Our goal is to begin processing orders as they are received. If we can consistently ship faster than our competitors, that becomes an important selling point for our business, and that’s the sort of benefit that Windows 7 makes possible.”
Seconds and Pennies
For Mazzanti, the Windows 7 value proposition is clear. “Small and medium-sized businesses today want to get more out of what they already have, whether that means getting by with less staff, being able to leverage their existing infrastructure, top-line growth or bottom-line improvements. Windows 7 is an enabler of all of these. For nearly every business, it saves time and it saves money. The path to savings may be different for different businesses, but the savings are there. You’d be surprised how quickly seconds and pennies add up to hours and dollars.”