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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.

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

Read More

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 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 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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Why the Demo Isn't Dead

I’m a firm believer in a tailored product demo that speaks to a potential customer’s exact requirements. You can talk with prospects on the phone all day but when it comes down to it, a great product will absolutely speak for itself – so do less talking and more presenting. Product demos are the best way to show off your product to clients and win their business. But a poorly executed product demo, whether it’s boring, long-winded and generic or - worst of all – the “show up and throw up”, will kill your chances of moving forward.

Here are some tried and true tips on creating and presenting a perfect demo.

Understanding a Prospect’s Needs

There is no one-size-fits-all product demo. Different clients are going to have different reasons for using your product and it’s your job to figure out what they want before you present the demo. The best way to prepare for a demo is to conduct a thorough needs analysis call (NAC) prior to the demo. The

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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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