Reports to be finalized hold you captive in your office; business meetings keep you in the conference room all day; and the ritual of exchanging ideas with your business partners keeps you locked up in your workplace. Break free and boost productivity outside of your office with Microsoft Lync, a messaging tool that allows you to escape your office and still perform all your duties just as effectively.
The corporate workspace is an area where focus is as critical as productivity. However, because of office distractions, many employees often struggle to focus on what needs to be achieved, resulting in increased company expenses and less effective output. While a drop in productivity sometimes cannot be avoided from time-to-time, there are ways to ensure that it doesn't decline too much.
When it comes to problems with productivity, it can sometimes be difficult to spot what the main issues are. Productivity can suffer over time as challenges and work habits have an effect on what is achieved and how. Even if you're not aware of any productivity concerns, it is worthwhile checking from time to time where you can boost efficiency.
Prepare for the day aheadNothing is as important as knowing which of your tasks matter the most. Collect your thoughts the night before and create a to-do list for the next day. Determine which demand needs immediate attention and which can be done later that day.
A priority list will enable you to focus on those business needs that require immediate attention, allowing you to complete more tasks. By allocating a specific order and time to each individual job you will be able to more clearly achieve and evaluate your progress at the end of the day.
Shut personal connections outThe worst distraction in the office is employee connectivity to the outside world. Social networking sites, emails, and personal calls divert the focus from significant and pressing work concerns to personal matters.
The key here is to look at how you can contain the social aspects which make work enjoyable and employees happy, and balance this personal freedom with the demands of your business. You may find that restrictions are needed, such as limiting personal phone calls. Some companies impose a ban on social media sites and keep a tighter reign on personal communications. Other companies keep a more open policy but instead instill in employees a personal responsibility to impose limits on their own behavior.
Get in the working zone By showing your colleagues that you are busy and concentrating on your work you put up a barrier to them distracting you. By being polite and friendly but putting your work game face on you can show your determination and produce results to show at the end of the day. It's easy for time to drift by with idle chat and unnecessary interruptions which could wait until break time.
Set personal deadlinesYou may have a deadline set by the demands of a job you are focusing on, or set by someone working with you, but personal deadlines are also necessary. By giving yourself a set time to furnish reports and deliver outcomes, for example, you keep yourself focused and produce results. Keep your desk free from piled-up paperwork and tasks so you do not have to cram to meet deadlines.
Determine your distractionsKnow which, from among the office clamor, distracts you the most and create a way to eliminate, minimize or extract yourself from this problem. Is it noise from other people that is bothering you or perhaps as simple as the pop-up notifications on your computer screen? Do yourself a favor and deal with it.
Focus is at the core of these guidelines. Start asking yourself what is preventing you from concentrating. Look at how you work and what the situation is when you're in the flow and getting what you need to achieve done.
Productivity is essential in the corporate world as it is about fulfilling goals, ambitions and commitments, which can have a spillover effect on your life outside of work too. Determine which from among your tasks need to be fulfilled first, focus and boost your productivity.
Social media has become such a large part of business strategy and marketing. Many businesses invest time, money and energy into creating a wide variety of content for their social media platforms. One of the most popular types of content is articles. While many businesses go to great lengths to create articles, some have a problem with ensuring or increasing the chance that what they write and post will be shared.
The key to getting your content sharedThere are countless blog posts on how to create content that is shareable. And to create content that will be shared by users on social media and other platforms you need to know why content gets shared in the first place.
In order to help, we scoured the Internet and found a great article over at OK Dork, which was written by the content masters at BuzzSumo. This article listed things you can do to increase the shareability of the content you produce. While it is quite a long article, we found there were some great tips worth talking about here. In order to make things a little easier, we have split this article into two parts. Here are the first five tips you can leverage to increase the reach of your content, and more specifically the blog articles you create:
Create longer contentTake a look at what people share on their social media profiles and there is little doubt that the vast majority of content is short, and can range from often photos and videos of funny cats to memes. But look at the articles that are shared and you will often find that the most popular ones are actually longer, or long-form as they are referred to by content experts.
The main reason for this is because there are fewer long-form article creators out there, and there is a demand for higher quality, well researched and well-written articles. Sharing this type of content generally adds some depth to a posting which can create a more involved and sustained dialogue.
You might want to mix it up to increase shareability by creating some articles which follow this longer style approach. You could try writing shorter articles on a regular basis, for example, with a 2000 word article say once a month.
People like imagesThink about the last time you read an article in the newspaper without an image, or even saw a link on social media without an image. Did you remember the content, or did you even click on the link? Many people wouldn't. So, if you want your content to be shared on social media add some visuals.
With longer content visuals not only serve to draw the eyes of the reader and break up content to keep the reader engaged. For shorter pieces, an image can attract initial attention and give the reader some an idea about what the subject of the content is.
The key here is to include visuals with every piece of content. Make sure that the image relates to the content and is interesting enough to capture attention, enough that users will want to share what they see and read.
Even Twitter users like imagesAlthough Twitter is largely based on text posts visual content tends to be shared more by users of this platform.
As per the point above, try to have a visual with every piece of content. If you are an avid Twitter user, try coming up with titles or overviews that are 100 characters or less. This will leave room for a link on Twitter to the content. If social media users likes the content, and there is an image too, chances are higher that they will share it via Twitter.
Using certain emotions really helpsIf you want people to share your content, you need to write articles that evoke emotion. The three most successful, when it comes to sharing, are:
The other emotion to capitalize on is selfishness. Take a look at your Facebook News Feed and we guarantee that you will see a ton of quizzes shared by people. These quizzes are usually something like "What TV character would you be?, or "What's your dream job?", etc. While entertaining, these quizzes appeal to our more narcissistic sides. They provide little to no value to your followers, but they can be fun and help social media users establish an identity which they can compare with others trying out the same 'test'.
You can also try to create articles that challenge normal assumptions or are opinion pieces on relevant hot-button issues. The spark of debate that the content ignites is sure to attract interaction with comments and sharing, and you can also keep interest going via social media.
Users love infographics and listsWhen writing your articles, you have a wide variety of ways you can format your content. Most people will agree that your articles, regardless of length, need to be broken down into easy to read sections, especially if you want to keep mobile users reading. There are a number of ways you can do this, but the two most popular are through infographics and lists.
What this tells us is that readers generally prefer content that can:
- Display a large amount of information in a clean, easy to read, and visual format i.e., infographics.
- Are scannable.Take for example list articles. You can format these to be highly scannable, yet still include all the essential information.
- Tell us what to expect. We like to know what an article is about before we read it.
Next month we will reveal five more tips to enhance content sharing. In the mean time, if you have any questions about creating effective content or on social media, contact us today.
Predicting the future is a skill many business owners wish they could have. After all, if you could tell what will happen six months from now, you might find that business would be infinitely easier. Of course, this is not possible to such a precise extent. That being said, businesses do have tools at their disposal that they can use to attempt to predict the future, such as predictive analytics.
What is predictive analytics?Before looking at why businesses might want to implement this type of analytics into their operations, it's worthwhile defining what exactly predictive analytics is. Simply put, predictive analytics is a form of business intelligence that focuses on combing existing information for patterns and useful data that can then be used to make predictions on future outcomes or to identify trends.
It is important to stress that this form of analytics does not tell you what is going to happen. Instead, it is used to figure out what might happen. Think of it as similar to a weather forecast for your business - meteorologists can never tell you what the weather will be like over the next week, they merely use the data they have at their disposal to forecast what the outlook is likely to be in the next few days.
The vast majority of companies who apply these analytics to their business often do so to gain a better understanding of their customers, partners, and other stakeholders. From this they can better identify possible risks and opportunities.
Five reasons to use predictive analytics:
- Compete better - Companies who use predictive analysis can generally compete smarter. This is because they can leverage existing data to figure out why their customers choose them. By doing the same, you can then focus on highlighting your strengths. This is especially useful if you have some quality strengths to play with.
- Work out how to better meet demand - If utilized effectively, you can predict with some accuracy the level of demand for your products, including sales of specific items at certain times, and high/low times for customer visits. From here, you can schedule deliveries or staff to ensure products and staff will be available.
- Exceed expectations - While forecasting customer demand is important, what really keeps customers returning is when you exceed their expectations. One of the best ways to do this is by offering products or services the customers need them; or even before they need them or know they do. By understanding customer buying habits you can develop individualized campaigns that focus on their upcoming needs; offering useful products and/or services.
- Increase efficiency - Analyzing your existing data can help predict when you may have supply issues, or where production problems may crop up when launching a new product or service. With this warning system in place you can take steps to limit any negative repercussions or make provisions to guard against a predicted problem. This then can help increase overall efficiency.
- Better able to reach clients - By first tracking customer touchpoint data - when did they contact you and how - you can then use this data to forecast when your customers will be looking at social media, more willing to read an email you send, and even when they might be more willing to talk with you on the phone.
It’s undeniable that work gets done faster and easier with help from cloud-based apps. It can be difficult, however, to find the right apps that work for your business. Whether you want to create online documents, share calendars or even make video calls, Google Apps for Business is designed to help. This cloud-based tool could become a valuable add-on to your business success and productivity.
What is Google Apps for Business?Google Apps for Business is a range of cloud-based productivity apps divided into four main groups or functions: communicate, store, collaborate, and manage. The apps all focus on integration for maximized productivity; which means keeping your team connected and of course giving you the access to work from anywhere.
CommunicateA company that lacks communication is a company working in the dark. But with apps like Gmail, Google Hangouts, and Google Calendar; no longer will you have to be worried about issues of work slipping through the cracks.
- Gmail - Gmail for businesses features storage starting from 30GB, automatic backup, spam protection, and multiple email addresses, and is available on both the iOS and Android operating systems. Whether you want to create labels, prioritize your Inbox or even read and draft messages without connection, Gmail’s got your back. Or, if you’re thinking about migrating from another platform, Gmail has powerful migration tools to ensure a quick and easy process.
- Hangouts - Connect face-to-face from anywhere with Hangouts, a high definition video conference app that allows up to 15 participants in one call and comes with built-in screen sharing, which allows you to see any file from a participant's screen; perfect for presentations. External parties can also join Hangouts even if they don’t have Google Apps account. Never miss out on important meetings again even if you’re far apart. To go even further, Hangouts also includes instant messaging which is handy for internal communication.
- Calendar - Plan less and do more with Calendar which easily lets you set up meetings and appointments from Gmail to your calendar. You can also share documents and create group calendars directly from events as well.
StoreWouldn’t it be nice if you could do away with external hard drives and storage devices and have your work accessible no matter where you were? With Google Drive you can do exactly that and more.
- Drive - Keep all you work in one secure place and access it from anywhere. Featuring 30GB of storage space, upgradable up to 16TB, Drive lets you upload, share, edit, and even download any type of documents while automatically syncing these to your computer. This means you’ll never have to hit save again. Not only that, but you can also view over 40 popular file formats without having to buy extra software to open them.
CollaborateWork faster with more hands involved. Without the right platform though, this is easier said than done. Now with apps like Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Sites, collaboration has never been easier.
- Docs - Create and edit text documents right in your browser. This app supports co-editing, meaning multiple people can work on the same document at the same time. It also comes with security functions such as document access control and add-ons like mail merging and advance editing. As an added bonus, if you use Google Chrome, you can enable the ability to edit documents offline and have them sync the next time you connect.
- Sheets - Lets you create and share spreadsheets, charts, and pivot tables even without an Internet connection. Multiple people can do real-time editing, as well as create surveys or questionnaires with built-in forms. You can also easily convert other spreadsheets with the original file structure remaining intact.
- Slides - Draw charts, diagrams, and make presentations with Slides. Equipped with practical functions like co-editing, as well as working without Internet connection, you can get ready for your presentation at any time.
- Sites - Brings content together under one roof by letting you easily create a wiki for your team or customers without writing a single line of code. Simply create a new page and fill in the information as you would in any document. This is a great way to quickly establish and share a centralized information source e.g., a FAQ.
ManageBeing the backbone of an organization can be quite a handful. But with the right apps. along with good integration, you can do away with the nasty headaches of account management and backup.
- Admin - Manage Google Apps for your organization with the Admin feature. Whether you want to add users, manage devices, and set groups or restrictions, you can do so with just a few clicks while being sure all your data is kept safe.
- Vault - An archive for emails and chats, Vault manages, retains, searches, and exports your organization’s emails and chat records, making sure nothing gets lost.
Behind every successful business lies strong back-end support. Having the right people in your business is vital, and being equipped with high quality hardware sets the stage for smooth operations. If you’re not sure which hardware is essential for your business, not to worry, we’ll take a look at five essential pieces of hardware that could improve your business productivity without compromising ease of use.
The desktop or laptop computer
The computer has quickly become the workhorse of almost every business, without which most modern businesses would likely not be able to operate. Whether operating a multi-user workstation, laptop or a desktop, investing in a reliable computer will surely save you from stress and sweat.
When looking for a computer for your business, You’re likely going to use a computer for your business for at least three to five years, so go for one that requires low maintenance. Many businesses opt for a reputable choice, like a Mac, or a PC running Windows. Many of the bigger name brands are known for their friendly user interface and minimal upkeep. For those looking for one with portability, try a laptop or ultrabook.
Regardless which system you choose, you need to ensure your new computer is compatible with your existing software and systems. The last thing you want is to invest in us a brand new machine and have to spend even more on new software or hardware updates.
Mobile devicesIf you’re constantly on-the-go, having a trusty mobile device can be like having a personal assistant. Think tablets, e-book readers or even smartphones. Not only are these devices easy to carry around, but a lot of them are equipped with useful work applications and specifications that are capable of performing tasks you would usually accomplish using a computer. Many business owners find that the versatility of a mobile device compensates for its cost.
When it comes to mobile devices, there are three main systems businesses have to choose from:
- Android - Owned by Google, you will find a wide variety of devices suitable for any need.
- iOS - Owned by Apple, offers reliable products and a wide number of apps for your business.
- Windows Phone - Owned by Microsoft, these devices are most suitable for offices that utilize Microsoft’s other services. This is largely due in part to the deep integration between systems.
Laserjet printersNot every business uses a printer but even if your business is one that encourages a paperless work space; investing in a durable laser-jet printer can save time and energy. At some point you will need to print, whether that is a contract, documents or image files.Some laserjet printers are also equipped with a scanner, photocopy and fax function. With a price tag starting from approximately USD$100, having one in-house beats needing one any day.
Wireless routersBroadband modems are an integral part of any Internet-connected business, but get your hands on a wireless router and you won’t look back at cables again. Not only does a wireless router keep your office connected to the Internet without cables, it also acts as an Internet splitter, meaning all your devices can be connected from anywhere within router range. Not only that, but most modern wireless routers come with built-in firewalls as well as the ability to limit a network to computers you trust, which means more safety for your computer.
Network serversWhile personal computers are capable of acting as a network server, a dedicated server will give you the advantages of faster CPU (Central Processing Unit), high-performance memory and increased storage capacity. A good network server solution can effectively support your database, email applications and other files, as well as provide comprehensive security and backup options.
We recommend talking to a specialist to make sure you are buying the right package for both current and future needs. An IT partner like us can be a huge help in selecting, implementing and managing a comprehensive network solution.
Hardware is available in every market and the sheer amount can make choosing the right solutions difficult. However, once equipped hardware can enhance workflow as well as results.
Looking to learn more about hardware and network server solutions? Contact us today.
Cash flow is the lifeblood of every business. It’s pretty straightforward – you need to keep cash flowing into the business to cover your expenses like payroll, rent and materials. While it may be straightforward, it’s not easy.
As your company grows, manual systems can really slow down the processes that directly affect cash flow. Printing and mailing invoices once a week delays payments in and takes employees away from revenue producing activities. Hours spent calling past due accounts instead of sending out automated reminders wastes valuable time.
By automating systems and consolidating data through an ERP system, you can get cash in the door faster to support the expenses that you need to pay. An ERP system that integrates all departments, allowing you to:
- Get invoices out the door more quickly. How much lag time is there between service delivery and billing? When service techs are connected to ERP through mobile devices in the field, you can bill the customer before the truck leaves the driveway.
- Identify problem accounts. Track collections over time to keep tabs on accounts receivables and be proactive with slow payers.
- Streamline supply chain processes and inventory management. Keeping inventory levels minimized with just-in-time practices will help you reduce the cash tied up in excess stock.
- Optimize purchasing to keep inventory right-sized. Through better forecasting and inventory management, you can make better decisions about purchasing. Track turnover and match buying trends to optimize stock on hand.
- Automate processes so you can grow without adding more employees. An ERP system allows you to manage more transactions without having to hire more people. For example, automate the collections process, sending reminders to past due accounts based on predefined rules. Employees will have to call far fewer accounts for payment.
- Support contract and subscription billing. Many businesses are finding monthly maintenance contracts are a popular replacement for expensive annual payments. Are there new services that you could offer through a subscription model? Automated billing and collection processes will augment and streamline cash flow.
- Have better insight into cash position. Through the consolidated data delivered by an ERP system, you can monitor current and future cash flow. With an understanding of cash position over time, you can take proactive steps to affect receipts and payments. Make smart decisions across your business ‒ from marketing and inventory to customer credit limits, discounts and payment terms ‒ to bring down costs and turn margins into cash.
The tool that allows the vast majority of businesses to utilize the Internet in order to carry out their day-to-day operations is the browser. While there are numerous browsers available, many businesses rely on Internet Explorer (IE). This browser comes pre-installed on all machines using Windows. However, if you use IE, there is a new exploit that you should be aware of.
What exactly is a zero-day flaw?A zero-day flaw is a security vulnerability that is taken advantage of by hackers on the day it is discovered. In other words, there are zero days between the discovery of the vulnerability and people taking advantage of it.
The way most software programs work is if a user finds a security flaw, they will usually inform the developer who will then develop a fix and release it in a patch that users download. The problem is, sometimes it is a hacker who discovers this vulnerability. Instead of reporting it, they start to capitalize on the flaw, exploiting it to attack other users before the developer becomes aware of it and has a chance to fix it.
The IE zero-day flawIn late April, news broke that a zero-day flaw had been discovered in Internet Explorer's code. The flaw affects IE versions 6-11 - essentially every supported version of the browser. Hackers had found a previously unknown flaw that allowed them to gain the same access rights as a user.
How it worked is that the hackers sent emails to users with links to a website that hosts a malicious code. These emails were largely phishing in nature, meaning they aimed to get the user to click on a link in the email. Some of the subject lines used in attacks included:
- Welcome to Projectmates!
- Refinance Report
- What's ahead for Senior Care M&A
- UPDATED GALLERY for 2014 Calendar Submissions
How do I guard against this exploit?The good news is that Microsoft has released a patch that fixes this exploit. This has definitely been welcomed, and what is really interesting is that Microsoft has actually released the update for XP users as well - this coming after the cessation of support for XP.
To guard against the exploit you should firstly update the version of Internet Explorer that you are using. The easiest way to do this is to go to the Internet Explorer website and download the latest version - version 11 - of the browser. Version 11 can run on both Windows 7 and 8, so the vast majority of users should already be running this latest version.
If you are using an older version, Microsoft has pushed the patch out via both IE's automatic update feature - so restarting the browser should install the update. The other option is Windows Update. Simply running the Update program and installing the updates should ensure that the latest version of IE is installed.
For Windows 7 and 8 users, you can do this by:
- Opening the Control Panel on your system.
- Clicking on System or Performance and Maintenance followed by System.
- Selecting Automatic Updates from the menu in the window that opens.
- Following the instructions in the new window that opens.
If you are using XP, you can visit the Microsoft Update website using Internet Explorer and following the instructions.
Aside from updating your browser, you should ensure that your anti-virus and malware scanners are up to date and scheduled to scan your system on a regular basis. Be sure to look at all emails closely as well, if one seems a bit dodgy, or you receive one from someone you don't know, it is best to ignore it and delete it right away.
Businesses who are using XP should seriously consider updating because Microsoft will not be introducing security updates in the future, leaving your systems at greater risk of attack. At the very least, it may also be a good idea to switch to another browser like Firefox or Chrome, both of which will work on XP and are updated regularly.
Worried that your systems are not secure enough, or still running XP? Contact us today to see how we can help.
Marketing is an integral part of business operations and there are some useful strategies that can be employed, with one of the most effective being content marketing. This is creating your own branded content and sharing it on various platforms. When carried out successfully, businesses can see increased brand recognition and many more benefits. The question is how exactly a business can be successful with content marketing.
In a recent infographic published on LinkedIn, a number of interesting facts were highlighted about what the most successful content marketers have in common. Here are some of the findings from the infographic and the related reports it is based on.
What do successful content marketers have in common?Regardless of the industry, the more successful content marketeers have the following four traits in common:
- They have a content marketing strategist - According to the statistics, almost 86% of the successful companies have a dedicated content marketing strategist.
- They have a strategy - While not 100% necessary, over 66% of successful companies have a content strategy and plan, or roadmap, that dictates what content is produced and when.
- They spend a lot more of their marketing budget - It can be tough to split any budget, but the more successful companies spend nearly 40% of their marketing budget on content marketing, as opposed to the least successful who only spend up to 16%.
- They find creating content far easier - This one is kind of silly at first glance - of course it follows that whatever you find easier you will be more successful at. However, if you hire a strategist who knows what they are doing, creating content will be easier, and more likely more successful.
How exactly are they successful?From the figures from the infographic it is easy to see what the successful content marketers have in common, but the question we really should be asking is, "What makes them so successful?"
1. Use lots of social mediaThe main thrust of content marketing is to get the word out in as many ways as possible. Social media is the best and most versatile way to do this, and that's why over 87% of businesses use this platform. But for a truly successful strategy you need to use more than one site and in fact the most successful use seven sites at least to share their content.
This makes sense as the more platforms you use the higher the chance that your content will be viewed. So which platforms are the most popular? LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are the three most popular but other platforms like YouTube, Pinterest and Google+ can also prove effective.
2. Diversify your contentIn many cases diversification of services or ideas can be one of the best ways of driving a business forward. This is especially true with regard to content marketing, where the best marketeers use an average of 13 different tactics. In descending order, the five most popular tactics are:
- Social media
- Articles on your website
- In-person events
While 13 may seem like a large amount, especially for small businesses, the message is clear: To be successful with content marketing, you should diversify and utilize a number of different tactics as possible.
3. Have specific goals for your campaignsAs with most aspects of business, you need a clear direction in order to be successful. Without a goal there is a good chance that your content initiatives will be somewhat aimless and lacking in overall effectiveness. There are a near endless number of targets businesses can set for their content initiatives. The three most common are:
- Raising brand awareness
- Lead generation
- Customer acquisition
4. It's not all digitalOne interesting finding was that one of the most effective ways to drive a content marketing strategy was through face-to-face events. In fact, over 70% of content marketeers believe that these in-person approaches are effective.
What this indicates is that while digital strategies are useful, and can be a great way to reach a wide number of different customers, these can go hand-in-hand with traditional style marketing. As well as focusing on producing digital content you might want to integrate this with some good old fashioned physical collateral.
At the very least, you should be attending events that are relevant to your industry, as well as networking. By getting your name out in person, you can encourage other to connect to you on the Web where they can view your content on various platforms and interact with you online, increasing the overall effectiveness and reach of your content.
Looking to learn more about content marketing and how our various solutions can help you deliver? Contact us today.
Most businesses using an entry level accounting system or legacy ERP manage many of their processes outside of the system, usually with spreadsheets. These “workarounds” may even keep the business running pretty smoothly. They are easier than replacing the system and cheaper than a custom application.
The risk of spreadsheets
Workarounds may have become a comfortable way of doing business in your organization. Excel spreadsheets that hold customer and inventory information are stored in shared folders and carefully managed. But there are risks associated with those spreadsheets that put company assets in jeopardy. Questions to consider include:
- Are all the folders housing spreadsheets backed up regularly?
- If a salesperson was hired by a competitor, could he make a copy of the customer spreadsheet and take it with him?
- Can you pass an audit by your industry regulatory agency based on your spreadsheets?
- Are you sure that the equations in your calculated fields are correct?
As your business grows, the risks associated with unsecured and potentially corrupt data increase. Decisions that keep your business going are being made based on the information in those spreadsheets.
Centralize and secure data
Most workarounds exist either because the old system is too hard to use or it doesn’t provide the function at all. To get rid of workarounds, you need a system that is easy to use and works the way your business does. Today’s ERP systems have become far more user friendly and flexible than the solutions of the past.
Through standardized processes, ERP will improve employee productivity and the consistency of output – whether you create services or products. With all the company information in a central system, managers will be able to make decisions with complete data, without the extra spreadsheets to check.
To keep the foundation of your business strong, you need to centralize and secure corporate data. Today’s ERP solutions are more affordable than you imagine. Cloud options put ERP in reach for every size business. Let’s talk about replacing those workaround spreadsheets to secure the future of your business.