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March 28th, 2014

ERP_March24_AWhen you started your business, everyone was probably working in the same room – or at least the same building. Collaboration was a given, and communication didn’t need much support.  As your business grows, a more dispersed workforce needs help to keep them connected. ERP can provide the foundation to share the information across departments that keeps employees working in synch.

Connect departments for better service

As your company has grown, with separate departments and multiple locations, it’s more challenging to keep information flowing across the silos. A fully integrated ERP solution will connect sales, service, operations and accounting data to:

  • Give salespeople insight into real-time inventory and margin to help customers place orders that meet their needs.
  • Provide service reps access to field personnel schedules to provide real time updates and set customer expectations.
  • Allow production to see the in-stock inventory and items on order to reduce interruptions in manufacturing.
  • Give the shipping department insight into inventory across multiple locations to reduce transportation costs.

Collaboration builds efficiency

In addition to added customer service, connected systems make employees more productive. When workers can access contracts instead of requesting them from the accounting department, everyone saves time. With instant access to information across the organization, employee stay focused and solve problems more quickly. Build efficiency through:

  • Centralized contract management to allow sales, service and accounting to check terms.
  • The ability for service teams to bill for completed work directly from the field.
  • Easy access to parts availability and location, so that production and service teams can get the materials they need quickly.

Employees who are tightly connected to other departments and the information they need are more productive and deliver better customer service. Break down department silos and build collaboration with ERP.

 

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 27th, 2014

BI_March24_CBusiness Intelligence or BI applications are used by businesses from different fields for their information analysis. These tools help determine what individual businesses may be doing right or wrong, which can help them decide on the best path to take to reach their goals. BI tools are helpful to many businesses. However, some business owners question how these tools can be used in different departments.

There are various BI tools available nowadays that support small to large companies. You can find Business Intelligence tools that fit your company’s size, needs and budget. These applications can be used in different areas of the business:

Marketing Department

A marketing department is responsible for promoting a company’s products, services and brand to increase public awareness. With successful marketing, a business can attract potential clients that can be possibly turned into creating sales revenue. The company can use BI to determine which campaigns are successful or not, as the case may be. Through this, investments can be focused on those campaigns that work whilst avoiding those that have previously failed.

Sales Department

Sales managers and supervisors can also use BI to analyze successful deals, as well as those that they have lost, to see what strategies have worked. The system can also help determine which sales teams hit or exceed set goals in order to analyze what they are doing right. Moreover, this helps determine which products or services are most saleable so these can be pushed further to attain more goals.

Finance Department

BI software makes analyzing, reporting, and managing financial data more convenient. Those who are involved in the process can easily access the information they need through the system. Analysis is easier as the data is organized and accurate. Money in and money out can also be tracked with greater efficiency.

Moreover, these tools often come with features that allow users to create scenarios and determine the possible results from there. This is extremely helpful in deciding on the best action to take as the tool gives you a view of the probable outcome. The success rate is higher if forecasting using a BI tool.

Inventory

Business Intelligence also plays a vital role in inventory tracking of products, items or supplies. For instance, companies in the retail industry can track the movement of products or items from the suppliers to the warehouse and on to their delivery to clients. Any problems encountered in the process can be quickly identified so they can be fixed in time.

Items in demand can also be pinpointed, as well as low stock and overstocks. Items that are low in stock can be ordered immediately, especially if they are in demand, to ensure that the needs of clients are met. This also lets you avoid overstocking, which can be a waste of money when investment is better used for fast moving items.

These are just some of the ways businesses can use BI in their operations. If you have further questions about the topic, do not hesitate to give us a call. We’ll be more than happy to assist you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 26th, 2014

Office365_Mar24_CMicrosoft Office is a collection of desktop applications from Microsoft, designed for Windows and Mac computers. In 2011, Office 365, which is a cloud-based version of the suite, was introduced. This allows users to access these applications on the Web, including Excel. Microsoft Excel contains spreadsheets which are often used in creating and managing databases, finances, and more. Did you know that the rows and columns of cells can be renamed for easy identification?

Like other spreadsheet applications, Microsoft Excel documents are based on cells that can be arranged into rows and columns. It is within these cells that data is entered when creating a worksheet for various functions including data management and computations, etc. Each cell in the spreadsheet has a corresponding name, which is identified by its column letter and row number.

For instance, the cell under column A that belongs to row 1 has the default name A1. You will see this in the name box, which is located on the upper left side of the spreadsheet, next to the formula bar. This name can actually be changed however.

Why name cells in Excel

As mentioned, the default name for each cell in an Excel spreadsheet is based on the relevant column and row. One of the reasons why you may want to change this name is to make it easier to find what you are looking for, especially when there’s a lot of information in a particular spreadsheet. For instance, if you name a particular cell 'Total', searching for this word is much faster than scrolling through the spreadsheet to find the correct cell or trying to remember its specific column and row.

This is also the case when creating formulas for computations. Instead of using the cells’ column letter and row number, it’s more convenient to use a name that you can easily understand. For example, naming one cell 'GrossIncome' and the other one 'Deductions' makes it easier for you to compute net income by subtracting Deductions from GrossIncome for the result.

Another benefit of naming cells is that it is easier for other users to understand. If you are sharing the spreadsheet or workbook with other colleagues or business associates, using cell names that are easy for everyone to identify reduces potential confusion.

How to name cells in Excel

Naming cells in Excel can be done in two ways. The first is by changing the name directly on the name box and the other one is by defining names under the Formulas menu. The difference is that when naming a cell through the define name feature of the menu you can select its specific scope.

This determines where the specific name will be recognized as having the same value, such as in the entire workbook or in a specific spreadsheet only. Changing the name in the name box will automatically determine the workbook as its scope rather than the whole spreadsheet.

Changing a cell name in the name box:

  1. Select the cell that you want to name.
  2. Go to the name box and type the name you prefer.
  3. Hit enter on your keyboard.

Defining a cell name:

  1. Select the cell that you wish to name.
  2. Click the Formulas menu.
  3. Choose Define Name.
  4. Type the name of the cell in the new window that pops up.
  5. Select the Scope.
  6. Click OK.
Remember that a cell name should not contain any spaces. The uppercase and lowercase letters R and C are also not available as cell names, since they represent column and row. Furthermore, aside from letters, the first character of a cell name can also be a backslash or an underscore. The rest can be a combination of letters, underscores, periods and numbers, which can be up to 255 characters.

If you have further questions about changing the cell name in Excel, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 21st, 2014

ERP_March17_AThe business of distribution is changing. Barriers between customer and suppliers are being eliminated by the internet and ever-improving logistics management. As a manufacturer, retailer or distributor, these changes offer you the opportunity to expand your distribution channels.

While the opportunities to work directly with your end-user have never been better, consumer expectations have never been higher. Prior to your expansion into new distribution channels make sure that you can deliver the quality service that keeps customers coming back. Fully integrated ERP that connects service support to customer, inventory and supply chain information can ensure that your expansion will be successful.

Which distribution channels should you tap?

Businesses are capitalizing on closer connections with customers to expand channels in multiple ways, including:

  • Adding new geographic markets – Through the internet, you can reach across political boundaries to sell to more companies in your industry.
  • Selling directly to big box stores – For smaller manufacturers, more affordable EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) systems can open opportunities to sell directly to large retailers.
  • Selling directly to end users – Through a well-managed website, you can build your internet presence to sell directly to your retail customers.

Get it right with ERP

As you expand your business through new channels, you need to make sure that you have the systems in place to serve your customers well. Customers expect you to be able to deliver information and products on their terms, so know your market to implement the right systems. ERP will allow you to offer the functionality that supports customer service at multiple levels, including:

  • Supply chain management – If you are going to ship your products to new regions, put the reporting processes in place to track shipments every step of the way.
  • EDI – Receive and transmit order information automatically to meet the commerce requirements of big box outlets.
  • Customer self-service – End users want to place and check orders online without having to talk to a service desk.

As you explore your options to expand distribution channels, consider how the processes and systems that you have in place will serve your new customers. Make the transition with the confidence that you will serve your market well.  Let’s talk about the systems that you need to expand your horizons.

 

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 20th, 2014

Security_Mar17_CAny business that employs technology in any aspect will eventually begin to worry about how secure their systems are. In order to ensure security, many companies implement a security strategy. While these strategies are a great way to ensure the security of your business systems and data, there is one element that many business owners forget: The audit.

Auditing and the security security strategy

Auditing your company's security is important, the only problem business owners run across is where and what they should be auditing. The easiest way to do this is to first look at the common elements of developing security strategies.

These elements are: assess, assign, audit. When you develop a plan, or work with an IT partner to develop one, you follow the three steps above, and it may be obvious at the end. In truth however, you should be auditing at each stage of the plan. That means you first need to know what goes on in each stage.

During the assessment phase you or your IT partner will need to look at the existing security you have in place. This includes on every computer and server and also focuses on who has access to what, and what programs are being used. Doing an assessment should give you an overview of how secure your business currently is, along with any weak points that need to be improved.

The assignment phase looks at actually carrying out the changes you identified in the assessment phase. This could include adding improved security measures, deleting unused programs or even updating systems for improved security. The main goal in this phase is to ensure that your systems and networks are secure.

Auditing happens after the changes have been made and aims to ensure that your systems are actually secure and have been implemented properly. Throughout the process you will actually need to continually audit and adjust your strategy.

What exactly should be audited?

When conducting an audit, there are three factors you should focus on:
  1. The state of your security - Changing or introducing a security plan usually begins with an audit of sorts. In order to do this however, you need to know about how your security has changed in between audits. Tracking this state and how it changed in between audits allows you to more efficiently audit how your system is working now and to also implement changes easier. If you don't know how the state of your security has changed in between audits, you could risk implementing ineffective security measures or leaving older solutions open to risk.
  2. The changes made - Auditing the state of your security is important, but you should also be auditing the changes made to your systems. For example, if a new program is installed, or a new firewall is implemented, you will need to audit how well it is working before you can deem your security plan to be fully implemented. Basically, you are looking for any changes made to your system that could influence security while you are implementing a new system. If by auditing at this point, you find that security has been compromised, you will need to go back to the first step and assess why before moving forward.
  3. Who has access to what - There is a good chance that every system you have will not need to be accessed by every employee. It would be a good idea that once a security solution is in place, that you audit who has access to what systems and how often they use them. This stage of the process needs to be proactive and constantly carried out. if you find that access changes or system access needs change, it would be a good idea to adapt your the security strategy; starting with the first stage.
If you are looking for help developing a security strategy for your business, contact us today to see how our managed solutions can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
March 20th, 2014

Hardware_Mar17_CWhether you have a brick-and-mortar or Internet based business, you’ll surely need to print out some documents at one time or another. The question is, do you even have a printer? There are an increasing number of businesses who don't. Considering how everything is setup on the Web nowadays, it kind of makes one wonder what type or printers are being used in the offices these days?

These three printers below are the most common printers found in offices these days.

Multi Function Printers (MFP)

Multi Function Printers are also commonly known as all-in-one printers. With this type of device, your printing, scanning, faxing and photocopying needs are covered! These printers usually come in a variety of sizes with many being small enough to fit onto a small desk.

Aside from the multi function features that MFPs have, these are the common benefits that business owners can gain from this type of printer.

  • They take up less room.
  • They are usually lower in cost. Though it may seem expensive compared to the other types of printers, if you consider buying a fax machine, scanner, photocopier and a printer, you’ll find that buying an MFP is actually a lot more affordable.

Inkjet Printers

Inkjets print documents by spraying ink onto paper, and can usually produce prints with a resolution of 300dpi (dots per inch) with some actually able to print documents as high as 600dpi. This makes them ideal for printing saller images and reports.

What most business owners like about inkjet printers is the fact that they are usually affordable, making them an ideal device for businesses that just want printers. Since most offices (if not all) have computers, you’ll most likely see inkjet printers in the majority of offices. Here are some more benefits that people like about inkjet printers.

  • Fast printing speeds.
  • Can produce really high quality print.
  • Easy to use.
  • They can produce vivid colors.

Laser Printers

If there’s one very notable feature that you’ll love about laser printers, it would be the printer's capability of producing very high quality documents. In fact, laser printers can produce copies with a resolution of 600 dpi - 1200 dpi.

One of the main differences that laser printers have is the fact that they use toner (colored or black powder) instead of the inks that are used in most other printers.

Laser printers offer users many enticing benefits including:

  • Very high resolution.
  • Fast results.
  • High volume printing.
  • No smears at all.

What type of printer should my business get?

If you are looking for a new printer, it can be a little confusing as to which you should get. If you don't have a scanner or fax machine, it would be a good idea to look into a Multi Function Printer. Looking to print smaller or shorter documents or only occasionally? An Inkjet would probably be a better choice. If you need to print on a regular basis, or print in mass quantities a laser printer could be the best choice.

With all the types of printers available in the market, choosing a specific printer to use in your office can be quite confusing. If you need help in choosing which printer to go for, then give us a call and we’ll give you our expert advice on the matter.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
March 11th, 2014

Office365_Mar10_CMore than just avoiding the most common presentation mistakes, you need to have a firm understanding of what techniques to use when creating an effective PowerPoint presentation. If that’s what you’re looking to do, then you’re definitely in the right place. The 5 tips we’ll be sharing in this article will help you create a PowerPoint presentation that will get you results you desire.

Choose a font size and style that can be seen by your audience from a distance

There is no point in creating a PowerPoint presentation if your audience can’t even see or understand what’s on your slide. One of the best ways to ensure that your audience does in fact understand what’s written is for you to use the proper font size and a simple font style.

You have to consider how far back your audience might be sitting when watching your presentation along with the technology you will be presenting on. For example, if you are in a theater using older projection technology, it may be hard to read certain types of font, colors, etc. So it is better to use a larger font size and contrasting colors.

If you can, try to practice the presentation ahead of time and sit at the back to see whether your slides can be seen and read.

Emphasize on the information and not the look of your slides

Don’t ever compromise how your information is presented for the sake of how the slides look. Remember that the point of doing the presentation is to convince your audience to act and not to impress them with a beautifully made presentation.

In order to do this simply create your presentation with only the information your audience needs. Leave out any visuals and focus on outlying the information first. Once you have the information on the slides, then you can add the effects and visuals, being sure to keep them minimal so the information shines and is highlighted.

Avoid handing out printouts of your presentation

One of Seth Godin’s - a marketing and presentation guru - tips for avoiding a really terrible PowerPoint presentations that focus on selling products or services, is to have a maximum of 6 words or lines per slide. The slides are more for points that you will talk about and expand upon. Anymore than that is less than ideal.

Now imagine what would happen if you give your audience a print out of your presentation. They probably won’t be able to make out what your message is since there are only a maximum of 6 words per slide. Beyond that, note packages often lead to people reading ahead and paying attention to the notes in front of them, rather than you, the speaker. Plus, the rustling of paper when people flip pages can also be distracting for the audience and presenter alike.

What we suggest is instead at the beginning of the presentation note that you will make the presentation available online after the presentation is over and providing scrap paper or notebooks for people who wish to take notes. That being said, if the presentation you are giving in educational, notes with a copy of the slides would be a good idea, but be sure to keep the content of the actual slides minimal, more just talking points.

Be consistent

Whether we’re talking about the message that you’re trying to convey, the theme of your slides or the tone/pacing of your presentation, you have to be consistent.

The more consistent you are, the more focused your audience will be. This is because consistency helps establish and give clarity to your message, making sure that it doesn’t fall through the cracks.

Phrase your points in a way that it talks directly about the benefits

We all like to be on the receiving end of something good right? If you focus on telling your audience about the benefits that they can acquire, chances are they’ll be very attentive because your presentation is all about their benefits.

These PowerPoint presentation tips can help you get more results out of your presentations. If you are looking to learn more about how you can leverage PowerPoint for better presentations, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 7th, 2014

Productivity_Mar03_CNo one can refute the positive benefits of creating a to-do list when you really need to get things done. One of the most evident advantages is that it gives people who use it the ability to increase their productivity. A problem many business owners run across is that their lists are hard to follow, leading to a decrease in productivity.

Here are 5 tips which will help you devise an effective to-do list:

Add a notes section

A notes section is a general area for all the tasks in your to-do list. Its main purpose is to provide you with space to add notes about your tasks. Or, instead you can use this area to type in challenges that you encountered when handling specific tasks.

On the flip side, it could also contain the best practices that you employed which enabled you to finish the task effectively and efficiently. These notes are important because by revisiting these jottings you can learn from them and be better able to optimize your way of doing things and your approach.

Prioritize

Ignoring client meetings because you're supposed to be fixing your cabinet, for example, based on what’s written in your to-do list, is a sure fire way of negatively impacting your business.

Your to-do list needs to be devised in such a way that there is a clear sense of priority. The most important tasks should be added to the top most part of your list just to make sure that you don’t miss these and they are tackled and completed first.

Break down your tasks to bite-size activities

Can you imagine writing down 'work' in your to-do list? Having a to-do list with broad topics like this won’t help you in the slightest bit.

You need to break down your lists into more specific tasks so that they provide the clarity that you need to achieve. Here’s a good example of a well-constructed list:

  1. Send 20 outreach emails to prospects.
  2. Discuss with the team the concept of having a systems' mindset.
  3. Review the offer of client X and decide whether to accept it or not.
Notice how the examples above are more tangible compared to simply writing down 'work'? With a list like the one above, you should be able to comfortably tick each task with a clear idea of when it has been completed.

Add a deadline whenever possible

Adding a deadline helps you gauge your output. By being able to see whether you’re lagging behind you can make any necessary changes.

A deadline also prevents you from procrastinating since you’ll be more conscious of time and a definitive end point.

Be realistic

Adding a week's worth of tasks to your daily to-do list will just discourage and frustrate you. Be as realistic as you can when writing up your list. If you honestly think that you can’t finish all of the tasks within one day, then add some of them to the next. That way you won’t be frustrated with a long list of tasks that you haven’t completed at the end of each day.

If you are faced with productivity issues and are struggling to get the kind of output you're hoping for in your business, then put giving us a call at the top of your to-do list.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
March 6th, 2014

Security_May03_CAs a business owner or manager you face important security issues on a daily basis to look after business computers and systems. From malware to bugs in software, there is almost always a security issue to be dealt with and it can be an uphill battle dealing with them. But, knowledge is power and knowing about security threats can help you battle them more effectively. One of the latest threats to come to light is a bug in Apple's software that all Apple users should know about.

About the bug

News broke on many security websites mid-February about a potentially critical security flaw in Apple's systems following the company releasing an update to their mobile operating system, iOS.

The update notes released by Apple noted that the patch "provides a fix for SSL connection verification." This is a fairly common update as it is aimed at improving the security of communications between websites and the device. However, security experts found out that without the update attackers who can connect to a network are able to capture sensitive information being sent in banking sessions, email messages, and even chat messages using what's called an SSL/TSL session.

What exactly is SSL/TSL?

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TSL) are used in networks to essentially establish an encrypted link between a server and your computer. They are most commonly used to secure websites and the transmission of data. Take a look at some websites and you may see a padlock on the URL bar, or https:// in the URL. This indicates that the website is using SSL or TSL encryption to protect the data that is being transmitted e.g., your bank account information on a website.

In other words, SSL and TSL are used to ensure that information is exchanged securely over the Internet.

What was the problem and what software was affected?

It was found that there was a bug in the code Apple's software uses to establish a SSL connection which causes the whole SSL system to fail, potentially exposing data that should have been encrypted to anyone connected to the network with the right tools.

According to security experts, this bug has been found to affect devices running older versions of iOS 7, OS X 10.8 and newer, Apple TV, and possibly iOS 6. It is important to note that the bug is only found in Apple's SSL technology. Any app that uses Apple's version of SSL could be affected.

Has Apple solved this?

Luckily, Apple has released updates to all of their devices that should solve this security exploit. If you have not updated your device or computer since the middle of February you could be at risk.

How do I prevent my systems from being affected?

The first thing you should do is to update all Apple related apps and devices, including all mobile devices. If you are unsure about whether your apps are secure enough, try using another app, especially another browser. The reason for this is because browsers like Chrome and Firefox all use a different SSL technology and are unaffected by this bug.

You should also remain vigilant and not connect to any open or public Wi-Fi connections or even secured Internet connections that could be easy to break through. Basically, as long as you update you should be fine. However, it may be worthwhile using another browser if you are really worried about whether you have a secure connection.

If you are looking to learn more about this security flaw, or how you can secure your business from threats like this, contact us today. We can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
March 5th, 2014

BusinessValue_Mar03_CBusiness owners and managers are often looking for ways to connect with their customers, drive value and build brands. The difficulty is that there's no easy solution to achieve this. Many business have a website and social media profile but find these are often not enough to drive relationships and business forward. Another element you might want to try, that can help drive business connections, is blogging.

If you're looking to get people more involved and connected with your company, spread your brand image and message, and perhaps establish your company as an industry leader, then blogging might just be the answer.

There is little doubt that companies that blog effectively do see an increase in overall value. That being said, it can be a challenge to develop and maintain a successful blog.

Here are 7 tips for businesses looking to start a blog or develop an existing one into a more successful platform:

1. Define your topics and your audience

As with almost every business process, there needs to be a solid foundation on which to build your blog, such as the topics you write about and your audience.

Take a minute to establish who your target audience is, such as your average customer. Pick some basic characteristics that cover the majority of this group. Focusing on who you are writing articles for can make writing not only easier but more relevant and effective.

Many of the most successful business blogs choose blog topics based on their services or products and news. The key is to select topics based on what you think your audience will find useful or interesting. You might not want to spread your blogs over too many topic areas as these can be hard work to cover on a regular basis. About 4-8 is a good amount to aim for.

2. Be consistent

With defined topics and a target audience in mind, you are well on your way to establishing a solid foundation for your blog. The next element is to devise a calendar of how often you write blogs and cover certain topics. If, for example, you picked four topics this could equate to one article a month for each topic.

What you are striving for is consistency. You should be writing and posting a new article at least once a week, or more. If you establish a calendar based around your topics you will find it easier to write content on a regular basis and soon it will become a natural part of your weekly tasks.

3. Be relevant

Even with defined topics, it can be a struggle to come up with new ideas for blogs. It can be tempting to write about a new product or feature, but you have to be careful that it doesn't read too much like boring marketing material.

Instead, focus on what your audience would like to read. Often the most successful articles are those that answer common questions asked by clients, or talk about how a product or service can help a client. Other articles could be related to your products rather than directly about them. For example, if you own a coffee shop then writing about food that goes well with coffee might be an interesting blog idea.

Personal opinions can provide an interesting perspective and many readers find these types of business blogs refreshing. However, you do need to be careful of ostracizing those who might not agree with you or putting people off with negative blogs.

4. Don't forget the CTA

Remember, your business blog needs to have a purpose: You want to not only develop interest in the company, but to drive business. At the end of most if not all of your articles you can include a call to action (CTA) that suggests to the reader to contact you, come in for a visit or email.

5. Keep articles easy to read

It can be tempting to write a 4,000 word article with a ton of great information. Google and many search engines do look positively at long-form content and this might work well for your search rankings. The only problem is that when many of us read articles online we skim them, looking for salient points and skipping up to 90% of the article.

To that end, keep articles on the shorter side - around 500-1,000 words. Use shorter sentences and headings like H3 and bold to separate content and make it more scannable. Writing a longer article? Split it into two, three or even four parts. This helps drive interest to return to check out the new parts when they are posted.

6. Promote and share your content

Share your blog content on your social media profiles. This increases the reach of your blog, but also drives traffic to your website. You can put an easy to see link to your blog on your homepage and even in email headers.

Many writers also find success in contributing, or writing a blog for other websites. This helps not only spread your ideas, content, and company name, but can also help find content for your blog as other writers contribute to yours. Try contacting friends and colleagues to see if they would like you to write a post for their blog.

7. Remember you don't have to be the only contributor

Finally, you don't have to be the only person writing your blog. Ask your employees if they have any article ideas they would like to write about. The more writers contributing, the more content there is. This also takes the pressure off of you having to develop, write, and post everything, as well as offering a different voice for variety.

If you are looking to launch a blog, contact us to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.