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Go Mobile with Your Own Business App

Everything is going mobile these days, including businesses. A report by AppDirect found that companies are increasingly creating mobile apps as a way to reach and expand their customer base. Currently 64 percent of Fortune 500 companies and 88 percent of Fortune 100 companies offer a downloadable mobile app. But mobile apps aren’t just for large corporations. With the many app development options available, going mobile is a viable choice for small businesses too.

And all evidence points to it being a smart business decision. Building a local following has always been one of the surest ways for a small business to thrive, and according to Forbes, 49 percent of smartphone users use apps to find local information. Building an app can help you reach this mobile user audience and stay connected with your existing customers. And apps are also an easy way to jumpstart PR initiatives.

But it

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How to Pick the Right Tech For Your Company

In a 2013 survey from the National Small Business Association, it was discovered that 70% of small business owners say that keeping up with new technology is very important to the success of their business. But technology is a significant financial investment, even for established small businesses, and the number of options can be overwhelming.

In fact, according to another survey by Brother International, 63% of small business owners often feel overwhelmed when trying to decide which new technologies to adopt.

"Our survey shows that while small business owners understand the value of new technologies, they struggle with choosing the right products, as well as the right time to adopt them to have the greatest impact on their business," said John Wandishin, Vice President of Marketing at Brother International.

In order to help you navigate what’s what in the new technological landscape, we’ve put together the following tips to assist you in

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What a Scattered Office Means For Your Company Culture

Telecommuting is increasingly becoming a way of business life.  According to the United States Census Bureau, an estimated 20 to 30 million people work at home at least one day a week. Worldwide, the numbers are even more impressive. The Citrix Workplace of the Future survey found that 24% of global companies allow their employees to work at times and locations of their choosing.

What are the benefits of this approach? For employees, telecommuting eliminates commuting costs and provides a better life/work balance. For companies, it lowers employee-related and real estate costs, which can be a major boon to small businesses that may lack the capital and infrastructure to maintain a traditional office environment. Additionally, this work arrangement allows businesses to hire from a wider pool of applicants, including disabled and geographically removed workers.

However, working from home also presents a number of unique challenges for both employees and employers. Recently, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer revoked her company

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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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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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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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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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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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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

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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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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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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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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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 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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