IT Tech News and Information

Transforming Your Business Digitally Starts With Team Cohesion

August 24th, 2019 by Tracy Slaugher

How to Transform Your Business Digitally With Team Cohesion

The digital transformation of any company starts with people. In your company, this means engaging every level of your staff prior to starting the transformation.  

In order to survive in an increasingly tech-based age, businesses of all sorts must keep up with digital trends and advances. For many, this means undergoing a digital transformation.

How you go about this transformation will depend largely on your company’s particular industry, overall size, and ultimate goals. However, one thing remains constant: Effective digital transformation must start with team cohesion.

What Is Digital Transformation?

Before delving into the importance of team cohesion as it relates to effective digital transformation, let’s talk about what a digital transformation actually is and what it looks like.

Generally speaking, a digital transformation is the complete reformation of a company’s business processes, the goal of which is to push all operations into the 21st century by implementing the latest and most effective digital tools and processes. Of course, this doesn’t mean that businesses should digitally transform and begin implementing the newest digital trends just because they are new.

The goal is effectiveness in streamlining business processes and ideally, enhancing the experience of both customers and employees. The process of digital transformation will necessitate large amounts of time and money, hard work, trial and error, flexibility, and most of all: A willing and enthusiastic team, the members of which are all on board.

Why is team cohesion so important for digital transformation?

Essentially, you need absolutely everyone in your business – from CEOs and CIOs down to the most entry-level positions — to be on board and engaged throughout any digital transformation process.

At the same time, while most companies will focus on getting top-level management to be enthused about a digital transformation, it’s actually the frontline staff who need the most motivation because they will be doing most of the work. It’s these individuals who truly need to be enthusiastic and engaged for the coming endeavor of digitally transforming an entire company — no easy task.

Practically speaking, this means lower-level workers — those who are going to be the ones actually implementing, using, and troubleshooting the technology. These are also the individuals who will be explaining and troubleshooting the technology with customers and clients, making it even more important that they are in-the-know far before the process begins and throughout the duration of the transformation.

How can a company effectively engage its team prior to digital transformation?

1. Aim for cohesion across teams.

Your first step in developing team enthusiasm for a digital transformation is ensuring cohesion across all sub-teams or departments. This means ensuring that every team leader knows the shared objective of your company’s digital transformation.

As noted in the introduction, every company aiming to accomplish a digital transformation will have different goals based on their unique industries and other critical factors. It’s essential to pare down your ultimate goals into phrases and ideas that can be easily grasped and maintained throughout the entire process. These must be shared with team leaders, who should then be tasked with sharing them with their employees. The core goals of your digital transformation should be reminded to your team again and again throughout the process.

2. Ask for feedback.

Again, it is not the CEOs and CIOs of your company who are going to be doing most of the work at implementing each phase of your digital transformation. It’s going to be the actual employees who do this. This means that they are going to encounter problems and hiccups.

The first thing to remember here is that there are definitely going to be problems and hiccups. It goes without saying that a huge digital transformation is no easy undertaking, and it will take a lot of time, energy, and money to ultimately accomplish your goals. Throughout the process, make sure that you are soliciting regular feedback from your employees, and get this feedback from all levels — not just from team leaders and managers.

3. Make sure team leaders are reporting back to you regularly.

Lastly, while the actual lower-level staff is going to be implementing the steps of this digital transformation process, you need to be sure that you are getting reports back from team leaders regularly. You want feedback from these individuals too, but it should be in the form of actual reports, completed in a structured manner.

Each phase of your digital transformation needs to be planned out, explained to team leaders or department heads, and implemented within the lower-level staff. From there, the effectiveness of each step needs to be reviewed fully by department heads and you — upper-level management. Finally, remember that you should not only be reviewing this information once. It should be reviewed periodically for up to a year after the end of your digital transformation process.

Digital transformation is certainly a push for better, more effective technology. The results can be revolutionary for your company. However, it’s crucial to remember the importance of people in the digital transformation process and to focus on team engagement first — before tackling the practicalities of this endeavor.

Will Improving Online Reviews Boost Your Website Engagement?

August 23rd, 2019 by Julie Lough

Are your online reviews killing your website traffic? It’s true — many customers won’t click if they see your reviews are less-than-favorable.  

Increase Website Traffic

When is the last time you felt strongly enough about a product or service to leave an online review? While some people do it as a matter of course for every restaurant, doctor’s office and retail establishment they visit, most people only take the time to review something when they were either extremely pleased with the service or over-the-top mad about their experience. Unfortunately, this can result in some pretty painful online reviews, but does it really impact the traffic to your website — and ultimately your business revenue? You might be surprised to learn that more than 95% of people aged 18-34 read reviews for local businesses before making a decision and 86% of all consumers do the same. Still think reviews don’t matter?!?

Improving Engagement with Positive Feedback

When customers leave your business, it can be challenging to know if they’re satisfied with their goods and services. It may not be until you read an online review that you find the uber-polite professional who left your office with a smile is now posting to all their friends on social media about the horrid experience that they had. In general, people are not fans of direct conflict and may leave their poor feedback in a very visible and damaging way for your business — through online reviews. Yelp, Google and many other sites provide an easy way to aggregate both positive and negative comments about your business, all of which can be visible from within a Google search of your business. Google adores reviews and according to Moz data, their search algorithm could be impacted by up to 9% by consumer reviews. Google wants to present the most trusted and relevant search results and one of the best ways to do that is to listen to the audience: your consumers.

Offsetting the Damage from Negative Reviews

As you can imagine, if Google takes up nearly 10% of its algorithm to focus on your reviews, a few poor reviews can drop you significantly lower in the all-important search engine results page. Reviews are a vital part of your SEO strategy, and it’s challenging to bounce back from negative reviews in the past. One of the things new customers are looking for is the responsiveness of the business to this type of feedback. If you watch your main review sites carefully and audit for positive and negative reviews, you can offer timely feedback that shows you recognize there are issues and you are taking steps to solve them in the future. This can help turn a negative review into a positive, encouraging new customers to take a chance and click through to your website.

Driving Positive Reviews is a Critical Component in Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Did you know that a Harvard study shows that a one-star increase on Yelp can lead to a 5-9% increase in sales? That’s what you call a direct correlation, and it makes reviews fully relevant and worth working for. Fortunately, those same customers who are ready to spout off about a negative experience are also surprisingly willing to post a positive review — but only if you ask. Up to 68% of consumers will take the time to review your product or service, and all you have to do is ask! Your marketing strategy should include a simple tactic that some of the best businesses in the world use (think Amazon): send a quick followup note via email requesting that customers leave a review on your preferred platform. When you flood the web with positive reviews, your business is more likely to rank higher and receive more high-quality traffic than a competitor who is not focused on improving their online reputation.

The moral of the story is that reputation still matters, even in a world where digital rules the day. In decades past, word of mouth reputation was what needed to be protected and that truly hasn’t changed as we edge into the future. Protecting the online reputation of your business is relatively straightforward and that quick automated email after a sale may be your very best selling tool — and the least expensive marketing tactic that you deploy!

Six Advantages to Hiring a Local IT Company

August 21st, 2019 by Julie Lough

Local IT Services Company

Why You Should Choose a Local IT Services Company

Learn about 6 advantages to hiring a local IT services company to support your technology needs, including knowledge of the local economy and proximity when you need support. 

Having a technology partner that understands your business, its needs and its priorities is vital. Technological advantages can differentiate your company from the competition, improve efficiency and improve the bottom line.

One oft-overlooked criterion when choosing a technology company is its location. You want a technology partner that is close to your business and can be available when you need support, guidance or advice.

Here are 6 reasons why choosing a local IT company is the right decision.

1. Faster Response Times

When there’s an emergency, you need to make sure your company’s networks, devices, software, data and connections are available, working and uncompromised. While technology allows many IT issues to be handled remotely, in an emergency, you may want or need in-person expertise to address the issues.

Geographical proximity is also an advantage if you’d prefer someone come on-site to provide an expert assessment.

2. Local Personnel on Your Account

Having a local account manager overseeing your account is a tremendous asset. Having an account manager and other lead staff members locally allows for more physical interactions that allow for better working relationships, strategy development and a stronger long-term relationship.

3. Knowledge of Local Business Market and Climate

By choosing a local organization to support your IT, you’re partnering with a fellow member of your local business community. A local IT services provider knows the makeup of businesses in your area, the strengths and challenges of working in your community and the opportunities available due to location. If your business is in an industry that has many companies working in the same geographical area, your local IT support partner will know about the industry standards and expectations. The local IT company also will be aware of the technology infrastructure available, such as access to the Internet and Internet speed. Armed with that knowledge of the local business scene, your MSP can recommend customized solutions that fully leverage the local characteristics in which you do business.

4. Budget Advantages

Having a local It services provider can save you money. For one, you will not incur large travel costs; usually, the clock starts on onsite service time charges as soon as a tech steps out of the building. Having a long-distance MSP means more downtime for your business while waiting for a technician or consultant to arrive.

5. Same Time Zone

Having a local IT company in the same time zone as your company has an advantage. While ideally, you will partner with an MSP that provides 24-hour support, it’s more convenient to have a partner that has more staff working and available during the same work hours your business is operating. That can make a big difference in terms of responsiveness and resolution time.

6. Peace of Mind

A local IT services company makes life easier on so many levels. With a business partner you can contact easily, can respond to your needs faster, understands your local economy and technical infrastructure and is a member of the same community, you will have more peace of mind. A local MSP provides more reliability and availability when you need it most.

Having a local IT services company as your strategic technology partner is a smart choice.

The Top Online Journal Services For CEOs

August 16th, 2019 by Julie Lough

How to Choose the Right App for CEO Online Journaling

Learn why many business leaders turn to journaling to build their brand and improve their leadership skills and see what features the top applications offer.

CEO Journaling

When you want to establish your own personal and professional brand online, using an online journal is an effective way to spread the word about your insights, leadership, business and philosophy. Having the right tool to help you get your message across to readers is an important decision.

Other CEOs use journals to fine-tune their skills, reflect on their days and improve their leadership skills.

“Setting aside as little as 10 minutes a day to record your thoughts stimulates reflection critical to making sense of the fast-moving world around you,” notes a recent Strategy and Business article. “Journaling engages the analytical, rational functions of the brain, which gives the more creative parts of your cranium space and time to work their magic.”

Below are the top online journal services that CEOs can use to build a better online persona or simply track their thoughts and perspectives.

What Features Should I Look For in a Journaling App?

The most effective apps are those that offer features that make it easier to write and publish. Some of the most common features among the top apps are:

  • Easy interface. You want to be able to focus on writing, so you need a minimalist interface that lets you focus your thoughts and write well. The app you choose should also be easy to use, with a limited number of clicks or taps needed to add an entry.
  • Exporting. You want to choose a product that allows for exporting into formats such as PDF, RTF or common word processing extensions that allow you to use the content wherever you want.
  • Syncing. Keep your journal synchronized across your devices with an app that has synchronizing capabilities.
  • Reminders. Gentle automated nudges to enter your thoughts are a good way to maintain the habit.
  • Visual support. You may want to add other elements to your journal, including photos, videos and graphics.

What Are the Top Online Journal Services for CEOs?

You have many choices when it comes to journaling services. Here are a few of the top options:

  • Day One. Automatically add metadata such as date, location, time and weather, synchronize your entries across devices, and use a dark mode if working in low light. It also uses IFTTT (“if this then that”), a free web-based service to automate the creation of entries on multiple apps.
  • Diario. A great choice when you want to add lots of images. You can add folders, tags, dates, locations and other filters.
  • Diary. A simple interface makes Diary popular for shorter entries, which can be shared easily with friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms or via email. Provides cloud storage and reminders, too.
  • Journal. An intuitive interface and clean layout highlight this product. Synchronize with Google Maps to add location metadata and street views. Export entries to file types suitable for printing. Security features include Touch ID, Face ID and PIN protection and automatic backups to Google Drive.
  • LiveJournal. One of the oldest journaling apps dating to 1999, LiveJournal lets you share and read others’ journal entries while writing your own.
  • Momento. Connect Momento to social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube and you can automatically add social activity to your journal.
  • Penzu. Security is the name of the game with Penzu, which offers double password protection and 256-bit encryption, along with customizable backgrounds and fonts.

Whether for branding or reflection, the right journaling tool can improve your professional outcomes.

Protect Yourself From Ransomware In Windows 10

August 15th, 2019 by Julie Lough

Windows 10 Security Tips

Protect Yourself From Ransomware In Windows 10

You may have been using Windows 10 for some time now, but it’s likely that you haven’t mastered all of its features just yet.

You’ve heard about ransomware, right?

It’s a type of malware that encrypts your data so you can’t access it and holds it for ransom. Usually, this malware makes its way into your systems by posing as a file or program you think you want. Even if you don’t end up having to pay the ransom, it’s a lot of trouble that you should try to avoid.

Did you know that you can enable Controlled Folder Access in Windows 10 to protect against ransomware?

Enabling Controlled Folder Access protects the default Windows data storage locations in your profile from access by unknown applications. When compared to identified and allowed programs, if the malware is determined to be unsafe, you’ll get a pop-up letting you know it was denied access to your storage.

Get More Out Of The Clipboard In Windows 10

August 8th, 2019 by Julie Lough

Windows 10 Tips

Get More Out Of The Clipboard In Windows 10

You may have been using Windows 10 for some time now, but it’s likely that you haven’t mastered all of its features just yet.

Copy/Paste was a revolutionary feature when it came out years ago. However, operating systems have been slow to adopt the next logical step in its evolution – the clipboard.

Did you know that you can save 10 or more items to your clipboard on a long-term basis?

It’s simple – hit the Windows key + V to bring up your clipboard history. It’ll show you the many things you’ve Copy/Pasted, any of which you can choose to delete (for security purposes, if it were, say, a password) or pin for later use.

That way, you don’t have to always go back and Copy/Paste that same info from the same note or .doc file – you can have it ready for use on your clipboard for as long as you need it.

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What Should Manufacturers Know About IoT?

August 7th, 2019 by Tracy Slaugher

Essential Information on IIoT

Manufacturers are also benefitting from changes made possible by the industrial internet of things (IIoT). Learn the basics to start your company’s journey into the world of IIoT.  

Consumers have long been engaged in benefits reaped from the internet of things (IoT). Manufacturers are also benefitting from changes made possible by the industrial internet of things (IIoT). These innovations maximize energy efficiency and productivity in the factory setting. Learn the basics to start your company’s journey into the world of IIoT.

What is IoT?

The internet of things refers to interrelated computing devices, digital or mechanical machines, and animals, objects or people that receive inputs and outputs from each other. Each component has a unique identifier (UID) and can transfer data via a network without requiring human intervention.

What is IIoT?

IIoT stands for Industrial Internet of Things. It’s the application of IoT to manufacturing and other industrialized settings. Instrumentation and sensors connect to machinery and vehicles, mainly in the energy, industrial or transport fields.

Besides home automation, which more people are becoming comfortable with, there’s a whole world of possibilities opening up in the manufacturing realm. IIoT is the network of industrial devices that drive automation and communications in systems that collect, monitor, analyze and deliver new insights. These insights drive smarter, faster business strategies for businesses.

IIoT is changing the way companies operate. For example, predictive analytics can detect corrosion within a refinery pipe. This real-time production data can also reveal additional capacity at a plant, or facilitate rapid product development thanks to service data feedback. IIoT software solutions are driving positive business outcomes for those who implement it.

What are the Benefits of IIoT?

One of the biggest benefits of IIoT is predictive analytics. Instead of stocking parts for machine failures, predictive analytics would order replacements on an as-needed basis — saving time and money in the long term. This is just one example of the power of predictive analytics.

Manufacturers are always looking for ways to save energy due to the high cost of energy consumption on an industrial level. IoT technologies optimize energy consumption by using real-time data from machines in numerous facilities. It analyzes the data to find out where systems could be run more efficiently. The technology beneath these innovations has a large upfront cost but is well worth it.

How Can Manufacturers Deploy IoT Technologies?

Transforming facilities to IIoT is far from easy. Deploying IoT technologies is far more involved than installing smart automation at home. To avoid mistakes and misunderstanding, IoT deployment needs to be completed by IT experts familiar with IoT technologies.

Hiring an IT provider familiar with IIoT and manufacturing can help ensure a successful implementation. Savvy consults can bridge the gap between the manufacturer’s goals scope and budget constraints. It’s crucial that manufactures express their goals clearly so that IIoT can be used to optimize operations and cut down on any bottlenecks in the current system.

There are numerous opportunities for manufacturers to use IIoT solutions for more efficient factories that fatten their bottom line. Many manufacturers are already using or implementing IIoT, making it crucial for others to do so in order to keep up with the demands of the market.

Auto-Lock Your Computer In Windows 10

August 2nd, 2019 by Julie Lough

Windows 10 Tech Tips

Auto-Lock Your Computer In Windows 10

You may have been using Windows 10 for some time now, but it’s likely that you haven’t mastered all of its features just yet.

Do you know how to get your computer to automatically lock while you’re away from it?

It’s a feature included with Windows Hello. While you may already be using Windows Hello to unlock your computer with face recognition, you may not know about Dynamic Lock.

Here’s how it works – you configure Dynamic Lock to recognize a Bluetooth enabled device you keep on your person, such as your phone. After starting up, if that device goes out of range for longer than 30 seconds, your computer will automatically lock itself.

This feature allows you to get up and leave your computer unattended for short periods without having to worry about someone else snooping around your data.

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Will Your Business Be Impacted by the End of Microsoft Exchange 2010?

August 2nd, 2019 by Julie Lough

End of support Microsoft Exchange 2010

Will Your Business Be Impacted by the End of Microsoft Exchange 2010?

Exchange 2010 has been a great program for businesses for many years, but its time is now winding down. Find out what this means for your business. 

All good things must come to an end. For Microsoft Exchange 2010, that end will happen at a date in the very near future: January 14, 2020. Migrating away from an integral piece of business software can take some time, so if you’re not already planning this shift for your business it’s time to get started! While Microsoft is encouraging people to shift away from the perpetual license option and go towards Office 365, you can also move to Microsoft Exchange 2016 if you don’t want to move to the cloud. At the end of a product’s lifecycle, the manufacturer determines that the vast majority of individuals and businesses have already moved on to a new platform, and they stop providing new features, security and bug fixes, time zone updates and support. In today’s world, your email server is your first line of defense against malware and ransomware — making the lack of security updates a key reason for taking the time to upgrade before time runs out on your support.

What Does the End of a Software Lifecycle Really Mean?

As with most software companies, there are several stages in the lifecycle of Microsoft Exchange and other Microsoft Office products. They are generally defined as mainstream support, extended support and service pack support. Mainstream support is generally guaranteed for a minimum of five years after product ships and is valid while the vast majority of people are still actively using the platform. Extended support generally lasts another five years, and includes a more limited support infrastructure. There are limitations on the work that the software teams are willing to do on products in this stage of life: non-security hotfixes are not released and there are no new functionalities added to the platform. While the platform is still considered secure and supported, this stage is an indication that it’s time to start your search for what comes next. In the final stage, you only receive critical security updates and little else in terms of support.

Why It’s Time to Move On . . . Quickly

Exchange 2010 doesn’t support an in-place upgrade, meaning you’ll need to find the time and IT staff hours to migrate completely — setting up new servers and mailboxes if you decide to go the route of another perpetual license option. Moving to Office 365 may be a good option for your business, but there is still a bit of setup required before you can make this move. With only a few months left before security updates are no longer provided, many organizations are scrambling to be sure they beat the deadline and maintain a platform that is fully protected and receives regular security patches. Email is a mission-critical application for your business, making it crucial to ensure that you’ve made a decision and have a game plan in place long before January 2020.

Upgrade Options Available

There are a few different ways to get out of the woods if you’re still running Exchange 2010. It may seem intuitive to simply upgrade to Exchange 2013, but that product has already completed Phase I and II of its lifecycle and is no longer receiving cumulative updates. Exchange Server 2016 is a better option if you prefer to stick with perpetual licensing models, but the product is already several years old. Updating to the most recent version of Exchange 2019, which was released in late 2018, seems like the best option — but it’s important to note that you must first upgrade to 2016 before making the jump to 2019 versions. Moving to Exchange Server 365 may provide a range of benefits for your organization such as better integration, improved security and continuous updates but it’s also important to note that there are additional decisions to be made around the other aspects of Office online.

Finding the right solution for your business does take time and analysis, but it’s vital that you take the first steps soon to reduce the risk to your organization. Critical patches for Microsoft products are released on a fairly regular basis, and your business can be opened to cyberattackers if you miss a single update — much less several security updates. Completing your migration will provide your technology team with peace of mind knowing that your most important channel of business communication is fully protected by an up-to-date Exchange server.

Staffing In The Digital Age

August 2nd, 2019 by Julie Lough

Staffing Digital Age

Digital Disruption Forces Businesses to Rethink Staffing Strategy

See how rapid technological advances are revolutionizing how companies approach the structure of their workforces and new strategies for employee recruitment.

The remarkable pace of digital transformation has changed how businesses operate at every level. Companies today need to be nimble, taking a close look at emerging technologies, choosing the right investments and continuing to thrive in the face of constant disruption.

That means reexamining business models, processes used and, perhaps most critically, the nature of work and who (or what) does it.

Understanding staffing in the digital age means taking a strategic approach to personnel.

What Staffing Model Works in the Digital Age?

Traditional labor models are not always the right choice in the digital era. Major initiatives are conceived, launched and executed more quickly than ever, requiring companies to act nimbly. Leaders are shifting towards a model that’s both strategic and flexible.

The modern staffing model may include a mix of the following:

  • Permanent employees who focus on the most critical initiatives
  • Skilled contract employees that support the work, complementing permanent employees and providing talent not available internally
  • Specialists that provide additional capabilities and are available on an as-needed basis to complete high-value projects

This approach allows companies to be responsive, provide the right resources for time-sensitive and mission-critical work, and make key hires.

As a recent Deloitte report notes, HR offices are grappling with how to address personnel management in a digital age. “HR’s concerns will soon be revolving around the changing nature of the organization and employees becoming increasingly digital,” the report states.

Organizations must be mindful of the realities of work, including:

  • Digital trends that are pervasive, including cloud computing, social media, mobile connectedness, cybersecurity and data analytics
  • A multigenerational workforce that includes several generations whose entire lives have been digital in the same workplace with older employees whose technical comfort and skills may be lacking
  • Hyperconnected employees looking to blur the lines between work and personal lives
  • An emerging group of digitally skilled employees
  • Business models that are challenged by digital disruption and new competitors
  • Employee perceptions that they are the first consumers of and ambassadors for their employers’ brands

“HR needs to be more pre-emptive with regard to digital transformation as it plays an important role in shaping the organization’s digital identity,” cites Deloitte. “It is a challenge and a real complexity to plan future capabilities of a workforce in the digital economy.”

What Are the Challenges of Staffing in the Digital Age?

The greatest challenge is talent. For many highly skilled positions, competition is fierce, with potential employees having considerable leverage. Advanced data analytics, robotic process automation and cloud computing are just three needed areas where demand is high as companies seek to incorporate emerging technologies into business processes.

Recruitment is fiercer and requires more creativity than ever before. Companies are using a number of tactics to improve their hiring outcomes, including:

  • Pre-Employment Networking. Companies are forging relationships with potential candidates well before there are available openings. A focus on engaging potential talent may include providing insights into the company and its strategic plans, offering informational interviews, social gatherings and regular check-ins with a recruiter. Relationships forged early can lead to faster-hiring processes.
  • Digital Solutions. Digital labor platforms allow for integrated personnel management, connecting the primary HR functions under one roof. With recruitment, hiring, onboarding, training, development and evaluation in the same platform, it allows organizations to be more nimble and cohesive in employee matters. According to a recent McKinsey Global Institute report, using a digital labor platform can increase output by 9 percent, reduce employee costs by 7 percent and add 275 basis points to profit margins.
  • Flexibility. Many employees today expect to have a high level of flexibility in when, where and how they work. Remote employees can use digital technologies and powerful collaboration tools that keep them in contact with colleagues. A digital mindset in the HR office and throughout the organization makes companies more attractive to candidates.
  • Focus on Company Culture. Businesses today need to focus on corporate culture. Why? Because there is more information available about most workplaces. Sites such as Glassdoor provide detailed information about companies, including employee reviews that can paint a clear picture of how an organization treats its workers. “Top performers know their value and are growing more footloose as a result; many are going online to find new opportunities and to evaluate potential employers,” notes McKinsey.

Recruiting and retaining employees in the digital age requires employers to think very differently about their workforce. Flexible, creative and strategic approaches allow for better outcomes.