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A SoftwareCEO Blog By Curt Finch

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Tips & Tricks from Software CEO Curt Finch


3 IT Tools that CEO's Can't Live Without

Though our economy continues to improve, it remains critical for business owners to make intelligent decisions about technology. We shouldn’t let our optimism get in the way of our better judgment. Hopefully we can all take a lesson from our slowly fading recession and remain cognizant of cash flow, making sure that our purchases are worth their value and can really aid companies in increasing ROI.

Mobile ToolsSince my induction into the technology industry in the 80’s I’ve sat by only to witness a constant river of technology “one hit wonders” arrive and disappear with nothing but a whimper. On the flip side, there have also been those which have become truly integrated and vital to my business operation; think Twitter, Alexa, Moz, Pardot. More often than not, these tools fall into the vital categories of efficiency, security, and convenience. The following three time-tested software tools have been critical to my company for some time, and represent the most helpful and long-lasting tools that I have encountered to date.

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The Busy Boss' Guide to Easy Project Risk Management

Let me ask you a question. How can you spot profitability leaks and cost overruns in technology projects before your peers – and then fix them?

You really have two options to choose from, and it’s the easiest choice you’ll make all year. You can do it the hard way or the easy way. The path you choose depends to some degree on the consequences of failure and your budget.

The Hard Way

Standard risk assessment methodology requires you to first identify threats – human, operational, “reputational,” financial, technical, political, etc. Then, you have to come up with an estimate of likelihood for all those different threats and invent early warning systems that will notify you to launch your backup plans for each one.

That sounds really hard, especially for small businesses with constrained resources.

Most of the projects I’ve been involved with would have been finished before we could have identified, estimated and planned for all of those risks. If your project is extremely large and complicated, that kind of planning probably makes sense. If, however, you

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How Genius Is Your IT?

I have written in the past (repeatedly, actually) about the value that the "Bring Your Own Device" trend can have for businesses. Let’s assume you agree and want to implement BYOD activities into your corporate architecture. How do you do so in a way that makes sense for both your business and your employees? How, in the end, do you keep all those devices running happily and to the benefit of your company?

Some businesses have turned to what many consider the source of the BYOD trend: Apple. Their “Genius Bar” customer service system has proven both popular and effective and therefore many businesses are structuring their internal shops to mirror that success. When employees need help with technology, the idea is for companies to develop their own version of the Genius Bar staffed by corporate IT professionals. But what exactly makes the Genius Bar so great, and how can you capture that in your business?

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Why Smart Project Management Data Will Never Go Away

Over the last 10 years, a trend has become apparent in the use of timesheet software   among companies of all sizes. More and more, corporate executives are seeking to understand their project accounting costs. If they know their project costs – and many don’t – they can discover financial problems with projects early on and fix them. This can potentially save you millions.

According to a study by McKinsey and Company, research shows that "on average, large IT projects run 45 percent over budget and 7 percent over time, while delivering 56 percent less value than predicted." Sometimes, companies can do something about that – like cancel the project, put different resources on it, or change the scope – but sometimes they don’t discover the problem until it is too late to save the project. This means that many projects may fail for reasons that could have been discovered and fixed!

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The Anatomy of a Great Social CEO

We all know just how effective of a tool social media can be when used to help establish and promote a brand, as well as enable interactions with a company. The question that businesses must answer is: who should act as the communiqué for a company? While higher-ups within a company might be tempted to delegate all corporate social media interactions to other staffers, a recent 2014 study from BrandFog determined that 75% of respondents agree that social media engagement makes CEO's better leaders.

Of course, before a company turns anyone loose on social media, there needs to be a corporate strategy and set of best practices in place. It does very little good to simply prop a business leader in front of a Twitter profile and tell him to go at it. In that same vein, Joshua Stiemle, of Forbes, notes "if you’re merely going to set up social media profiles and then do nothing with them, that

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Crunching Numbers in the Cloud

Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle, dismisses cloud computing as merely the latest fashion in the computer industry. I suppose he also dismisses that more than one-in-five IT decision makers have deployed over half of their total applications to the cloud, according to the Cisco Global Cloud Networking Survey. Regardless of any debate, cloud computing adoption rates are on the rise. According CDW LLC’s 2013 State of the Cloud Report, 39% of organizations either already utilize cloud computing solutions or are currently implementing them. This number is up from 28% in 2011.

Maybe somewhat surprisingly, cloud computing is a very attractive option for business accounting software. Accounting software takes up a significant amount of hard drive space, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. Cloud computing solves this problem by putting the majority of files and data on a separate server. This frees up hard drive space for individual desktop computers and saves money that might have been spent on additional storage equipment.

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How Mobile Apps Can Get You In The Competition

Now that it's 2014, you'd think that this would be a given, but it's not. Not yet, anyway. When was the last time you used a mobile app at work? According to a study by the Small Business and Entrepreneur Council, small businesses that use mobile apps to manage their operations save more than 370 million business hours and more than 725 million employee hours annually. That’s a huge amount of time saved which is important for any company – after all, time is fleeting and needs to be invested wisely. The study, which surveyed firms with 20 or fewer employees, found that 31% of companies saved an average of 5.6 hours per week because of mobile apps. So what are the best apps for saving your company time and money? Below is a list of some of my favorite apps to up your company’s productivity and profitability.

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3 Automation Tips for the Next Generation CEO

Small businesses owners are often barraged by automation software systems that promise to streamline an important business process. These systems can hold significant appeal, promising to reduce both costs and manpower requirements while still getting necessary work done. However, these systems usually claim to be “set it and forget it” type of deals. This can be misleading, and can result in unrealistic expectations as well as flawed implementation strategies. Fortunately, it is possible to derive a great deal of value from automation systems as long as you understand both their advantages and their limitations.

It’s important to understand which processes can be reliably automated within your company. These can include payroll, billing, cost accounting, IT infrastructure monitoring, internet related marketing, prospect and customer engagement management, competitive intelligence monitoring and many others. The trick is to determine which processes--if automated--will provide the most value for your company in particular. One method to determine this value involves carefully tracking employee time to determine if employees are spending large amounts of time on processes that can be easily automated. In cases such as these, implementing an automated system often provides a high return on investment by decreasing time spent on tedious activities while freeing employees to work on other tasks.

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Small Business? Pay Attention to Big Data

Big data is big news. Everyday a wealth of digital information is generated by people around the world through emails, blogs, social media posts, online credit card purchases, cell phone usage, and more. According to IBM, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated daily. And 90 percent of the total data in existence was created within the last two years.

Todd Taylor, NetStandard’s Vice President of Hosted Technology, explained at IBM Edge2013 how this remarkable data growth offers businesses unlimited possibilities. “Business data will paint a true picture of business performance that goes beyond profit and loss statements…to display real-time performance in a global economy.” This information can then be translated into improved marketing, tailored services, and cost savings.

While many large businesses have invested in big data technology, small businesses have been slow to take part. Taylor explains that while big data technologies might not seem appealing for businesses with limited resources, it is better for businesses to invest in analytics now, before their big data grows to unmanageable proportions. Not only that, but big data is more accessible than ever, thanks to a rise in cost-effective big data technologies. In addition to the well known

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Hire Me: The New Tech Skills Employers Are Looking For

If you’re in school, a recent grad, looking for work, or just looking for a new work situation in the tech market, you should be on the hunt for not just new opportunities but also new skills to add to your resume. Employers want new hires to have a good foundation in technology basics as well as great business and people skills.

Cloud & Mobile Technology

Cloud and mobile technology are invading the modern workplace. Because of this, familiarity in these areas will greatly increase your potential of getting hired.

So how can you become a cloud expert? One way is to become familiar with Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). PaaS is used to develop programs in the cloud. The development tool itself is hosted in the cloud and accessed through a browser. As servers move to the cloud, having knowledge in PaaS will become increasingly important for companies.

Puppet is another software tool that

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