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Defining Web 2.0

There is a lot of disagreement about what the phrase Web 2.0 means.  Let’s clear that up. 

One answer is that Web 2.0 refers to the propensity of recent Internet applications to be more collaborative and provide for a richer user experience.  Web1.0 was a Web site that looked like a brochure or a resume.  Web 2.0 is a blog. Web1.0 was your newspaper’s classified ads, just webified.  Web 2.0 is eBay or craigslist.  Web1.0 was Netscape (i.e. here’s some software). Web 2.0 is Google (there’s nothing to install but it’s powerful).

Web 2.0 is about harnessing collective intelligence and eliminating the software release cycle – it’s about providing services, not products.  It’s about trusting users as co-developers of content or even of technology. As an example, Amazon.com does this with its user review system.

A more cynical definition of Web 2.0, found in the blogosphere in Europe, (where they tend to be more conservative about technology) is

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How To Avoid An Evil Datacenter

As with most companies, we store the bulk of our data internally on our network here at the corporate headquarters, but we also store a fair bit of it at our datacenter. We have software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications which we host for our customers, as well as for ourselves. We have our web site, of course, which must be up and running 24x7 or my CEO calls me up in a panic. We have an FTP server for support, as well as one for the public, etc. You get the picture. We’ve got resources that are needed by our remote employees as well as our customers. In essence, we need a reliable 24x7, redundant, fast way for our people and the world to access our data. If this sounds familiar to you, you might be in the same boat that we were in. We needed a datacenter. 

I’m oversimplifying our needs a bit, since we are a hosted service provider for literally hundreds of organizations around the world. You see, with the software that Journyx creates, you can either host it locally on one of your own servers, or you can ask us to do it for you, taking away that overhead. Since we host our customers

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How to Use the Requirements Creation Process to Improve Project Estimates

Estimation can be one of the most difficult parts of a project.  Important questions must be asked in order to form the right figures and plans.  How long will the project take?  How many resources will it consume?  Consultants may also ask the following question: What is the appropriate amount to bid on this project?  These questions are not easy to answer at the outset when one generally has only a vague idea of what will be required throughout the project. 

The good news is that there is a fairly simple way to improve project estimation and, consequently, the bidding process.  Most people do not realize that the requirements creation process can lend insight into the length and scope of a project.  Let me give you an example of how this method works and then explain how you can implement it within your own company. 

The Story 

Back in 1992, I was working for a consulting company named The Kernel Group (TKG). During this time, I was put in charge of porting Tivoli

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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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Multitasking: It's Assaulting Your Team's Productivity

It’s seemingly impossible to avoid multitasking in today’s busy world. The constant bombardment of emails, phone calls, and appointments quickly begin to pile up, so to combat this we attempt to juggle more activities at once. I instinctively answer the phone as I’m driving home from work or respond to an urgent email while I’m reading a report, but are these the best solutions to my problems?

Mounting evidence suggests that multitasking is the enemy of productivity. Though it may lead us to think that we’re being more productive, we’re in fact thwarting performance ability and significantly lowering quality of work along the way. While we can all recognize how multitasking affects the texting driver, the negative impact of multitasking in the workplace is not as immediately apparent.

A 2010 study in the journal Science tackled this issue by examining just how the human brain handles multiple simultaneous activities. Research suggests that when a person performs a single task, the goal-oriented areas of both frontal lobes work to engage the task together. When an additional task is added, the two lobes divide responsibility and each hemisphere focuses on its own objective. While our two lobes can work collaboratively to accomplish an independent task, they must divide to accomplish anything more fragmented.

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Open Source: A Threat or an Opportunity?

Ever since the advent of Open Source Software (OSS), people have wondered about its impact.  Is it a good thing that breeds innovation, or is it a dangerous thing that will put traditional software companies out of business?  Even today as its popularity continues to grow, many are unsure of how they feel about it.

The truth is that fears about OSS are often unfounded.  There are reasons for its popularity that have more to do with functionality and flexibility than with cost, and the new dynamic that OSS has brought to the technology world is actually a step in the right direction.  By commoditizing the software market, it prohibits vendors from becoming complacent and propels us all much further than we might have gone without it.  Here are some of the ways in which OSS can actually work for and not against us.

What is OSS?

OSS is software that permits the use and modification of its source code by anyone. It is characterized by some of the following attributes:

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Microsoft Dynamics in the Cloud: Are You Ready?

This year’s Microsoft Convergence Show had a record-breaking 10,000 attendees.  During the show, Microsoft showed off its hybrid cloud strategy for their Dynamics products.  Dynamics CRM can now deploy identical software both onsite and in the cloud.  Dynamics NAV and GP will follow suit in 2013, with AX coming soon thereafter.  How can you get your Dynamics product ready for functionality in the cloud? 

Simply put, if Dynamics is in the cloud, you should have all of your add-ons in the cloud, as well.  I’ll use the example of adding timesheet software to Dynamics.  This is a common add-on seeing as how Microsoft Business Portal lacks an essential time-tracking functionality.

Microsoft Dynamics Business Portal lacks data validations and thus is prone to human error.  This is a huge time sink.  If your managers are busy manually checking timesheets, it negatively affects company operations.  Another downfall of Business Portal is the lack of

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Developing a Wireless Mobile Strategy

No CEO can afford to ignore the smartphone technology trend that is changing everything about how we do business.  According to recent Morgan Stanley research, mobile internet is ramping up much faster than desktop internet did and is projected to outpace it in the next five years.[i]  It is coming on faster than any previous technology has, so you can either choose to develop a strategy and use this opportunity to your advantage, or you can fall by the wayside as your competitors take the lead.  

A Changing Landscape 

New Business Models – Smartphones are changing the way companies do business in a number of industries.  Carriers, for example, are looking for ways to keep up with the new bandwidth requirements.  In addition, smartphones have led to a regression back to client-server models.  While the web enables users to choose whatever browser they want, companies that develop software apps have to offer one for each specific phone.

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Three Tips to Build an Employee-Focused Reporting System

Businesses often put a strong emphasis on reporting metrics, and rightly so. Whether these metrics are collected via website analytics, sales figures or production output, executives usually recognize the importance of insight into daily operations and initiatives. However, there is a fundamental flaw with most reporting systems. Despite the fact that numerous tools make it simple to retrieve and report data, the employees who directly influence those figures rarely get to see the data. Both managers and employees can greatly benefit from seeing the impact of their contributions, or more importantly, where those contributions are coming up short. Following are three ways to help create an employee-focused reporting system in your own company. 

1. Break Down Metrics By Department 

It certainly doesn’t hurt to show employees company-wide metrics focused on overall profitability or the like, but they will benefit most from seeing metrics on which they have an impact. As an example, the services team should be able to review percentage of hours billable. Technical support should be exposed to customer satisfaction information. Obviously, the sales team has a plethora of figures that can aid them such as close rates and deal sizes. You can glean many of these metrics from your

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Using Time Data for Business Improvement

Time and attendance tracking is necessary for obvious reasons, yet many business owners do not realize that this data can deliver enormous benefits to the organization, aside from payroll.  In fact, having employees track their time against tasks and projects allows managers to develop key performance indicators to measure progress against strategic goals such as increased billability, adherence to project estimates and project profitability optimization.

Key Performance Indicators

A 'key performance indicator' or KPI measures an organization's progress towards a strategic goal.  When leveraged correctly, KPIs can make a huge impact.

First, you must determine what the most important business goals are. It might be increased profitability, reduced number of defective parts per thousand, maintaining a certain percentage of customer satisfaction, or perhaps revenue per store location. Once this is established, you can create a KPI to help you measure your progress. 

Next, you must ensure that your KPI is measurable. "Make customers more successful" is not an effective KPI without some way to measure the success of your customers. "Be the most convenient drugstore" won't work either if there is no way to measure convenience.

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The Technical Support Project: How to Create a Winning Team, Part 2

This is part two of a three-part article series. You can see part one here.

Staffing is the most critical part of creating a winning technical support team. If you make mistakes with the steps discussed in my first article but excel at hiring and managing your people, you will succeed in the end. If, however, you do well with the mechanics and make mistakes with staffing, you will certainly fail. 

Your Staff Today 

Even if your current staff is doing a good job, you will still have to bring new people in to help you rise from the ashes. I know you don’t want to fire the people you have today—that can be unpleasant—so give it some time and the problem will probably resolve itself for you. Your current staff will naturally turn over when they get tired of listening to complaining and blaming. Your task will then be to hire better than you have in the past.

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Three Tips to Build an Employee-Focused Reporting System

Businesses often put a strong emphasis on reporting metrics, and rightly so. Whether these metrics are collected via website analytics, sales figures or production output, executives usually recognize the importance of insight into daily operations and initiatives. However, there is a fundamental flaw with most reporting systems. Despite the fact that numerous tools make it simple to retrieve and report data, the employees who directly influence those figures rarely get to see the data. Both managers and employees can greatly benefit from seeing the impact of their contributions, or more importantly, where those contributions are coming up short. Following are three ways to help create an employee-focused reporting system in your own company. 

1. Break Down Metrics By Department 

It certainly doesn’t hurt to show employees company-wide metrics focused on overall profitability or the like, but they will benefit most from seeing metrics on which they have an impact. As an example, the services team should be able to review percentage of hours billable. Technical support should be exposed to customer satisfaction information. Obviously, the sales team has a plethora of figures that can aid them such as close rates and deal sizes. You can glean many of these metrics from your

Read More

The Technical Support Project: How to Create a Winning Team, Part 3

This is part three of a three-part article series. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Now that you have a new and improved technical support team in place, you need to let people know.  This includes departments within your company and external customers, both of whom need different types of marketing.  This article will outline some ideas on how to spread the good word. 

Where to Start 

What happens when you tell someone to do something?  The person’s reaction will be based on your relationship with them.  An acquaintance might tell you “no”.  A friend will explain to you why they aren’t going to do what you told them. Your kids will pretend to obey while they secretly do exactly the opposite.  Your employees will sometimes do you the honor of attempting to do what you tell them to.  That, frankly, is as good as you will ever get by telling someone to do something.

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How To Get Payroll To Max Profitability Throughout The Company

When payroll executives implement time and attendance systems to automate payroll, they often miss the chance to facilitate greater profitability throughout the entire company. These executives are, of course, payroll experts. They are usually not, however, experts at project management or billing automation.

The time data they collect, if collected appropriately, can also be used to automate project management, project costing, project tracking and project estimation improvement, as well as for internal, external and reverse billing automation. Most payroll and HR executives know little about these subjects, but increasingly, they are being asked to rise to new challenges.

These new challenges are being caused by the tectonic shift from capital businesses to people businesses. This is a shift of valuing time as much as money.  About 50 years ago, when most people twisted bolts in a factory, workers were not considered volunteers, they were not empowered, and managing the money of the company (i.e. the capital) was much more important than maximizing the time and knowledge of the worker. Such businesses are called capital businesses because power and wealth flowed from the capital.

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How can you best monitor and control vacation plans - so you can win?

Many companies - especially small ones - ignore paid time-off (PTO).  They’re casual about vacation and emergency absence time, as well as its tracking and accrual, but as they grow, PTO can become a significant expense that must be managed.  Following are some things to think about as you develop or improve your PTO plan. 

1. Talent – How To Get It 

Controlling and understanding PTO expense allows you to recruit better talent.  You can promise and allow people more vacation than your competitors if you know that it's controllable.  This tips the balance, allowing you to build a better team than your competitors.  It’s another way to win. However, don’t let your great teams experience burnout. 

2. Burnout or Slacker? 

Your company’s profitability can be wrecked in two ways: by overwork with its associated burnout, or by too much absenteeism.  Everybody needs a vacation once in a while

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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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The Technical Support Project: How to Create a Winning Team, Part 1

You might compare technical support to a team of jugglers. It requires a lot of communication and teamwork to be able to handle flying bowling balls, knives, flaming batons and pianos. For instance, you will need to know when a baton or knife is heading your way, or who will be able to catch the piano. There are three big processes to put in place in order to facilitate the communication required to do this juggling.

  • Decide on 3-5 levels of case severity and decide on service requirements for each (how quickly you intend to respond and fix). If you already have priorities defined in your maintenance contracts, try to use them. Discuss the plan with your team and make sure they understand that top priority cases must be addressed first, so someone must pay attention to incoming cases and prioritize them immediately.
  • If you find that you don’t have the time to fix a problem so the customer never sees it, an alternative is to publish the solution in order to allow them to solve problems themselves. If you don
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Key Performance Indicators: How to Use Cost Data to Analyze KPIs for Your Company

Companies that sell services to other businesses—data management, software development or IT consultancies, for example—often track time in order to automate invoicing, but they may be overlooking the other benefits these systems can provide.  Real-time access to relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as ‘percent billable’ and ‘completed vs. estimated’ can give early warnings of project problems and lead your company to faster growth and more profitability.

What’s a KPI? 

A key performance indicator is ‘key,’ which means that your KPI has to be one of a very few things that you are measuring which you believe will make a huge difference to your business long-term. In other words, a KPI measures progress toward a strategic goal.  If you have 100 KPIs, then you’re not going to be able to use any of them to drive organizational behavior because your company doesn’t have 100 strategic goals.

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Keys to Effective Personnel Management

Most managers know that trying to keep track of employees, with their various projects and skill levels, is a daunting task. Perhaps it is not so bad when you only have two employees, but when you work in an organization with 500, it is simply impossible to keep track of these resources without a little help. Here are some of the ways in which managers can manage their personnel more effectively in order to maximize success. 

1 – Understand Employee Skills and Availability 

Different projects require different skill sets.  For example, a project team might require engineers, sales representatives, plant managers or R&D professionals. Finding the right person to assign to a project or task can be extremely challenging without the right resource management processes in place. 

Even when managers understand resource availability, it changes. They might run around and get all of the vacation schedules recorded in a big spreadsheet, only to find that a week later it has all changed. Rather, what managers need is real-time access to team member schedules, tasks and available time. This makes assigning people to tasks much easier. The system should also be web-based, since the team is probably not all in one workspace 24 hours a day. Spreadsheets do not work very well because they do not allow for global access from various participants (and they also cannot be audited).

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From 1996 to Today: My Experience as a Software CEO

When we started out 15 years ago, we had a simple product, no real competitors and product installation was so easy that project management for customer rollouts didn’t seem very useful to us.  Over time, as the flexibility of our products increased, we added a professional services capability to our company that was, in its earliest stages, somewhat haphazard and delivered inconsistent results to our customers.  This led to customer satisfaction issues that were a real impediment to our success as an organization.  Since delivering demonstrable customer value is the only moral way to achieve business success in our industry, we knew we had to fix this problem quickly.

Once we inculcated some repeatable processes based on project management disciplines into our delivery, we were able to go so far as to productize our initial customer rollout service.  This has been so successful that we’ve been able to strategically virtualize that service in certain instances. For example, we use a vendor to assist with every rollout that includes

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