Blog

November 12th, 2014

Productivity_Nov10_BAs a business owner, you probably send out emails pretty regularly. Some of these emails are likely to colleagues who will then send a message to a third party on your behalf. This inevitably entails going back-and-forth between you and your employee. This can cut down productivity and lead to mistakes. One way to avoid this is to pre-draft the message that will be sent along.

What exactly is a pre-draft?

The idea behind pre-drafting an email message is that it helps to reduce the amount of back and forth between two parties when one of the parties is contacting a third party. If you have ever had an employee draft a message that came from you then you are likely well aware of the number of emails that can go back and forth before the email actually goes out.

Essentially a pre-draft is a message included in the original message that is to be sent along to a third party. When you include a draft message, the person who will be sending the message can then just cut and paste the content, personalize it, maybe tweak a sentence here or there, and then send it along.

How do I create one?

If you are currently working on an email message that will be sent by another employee on your behalf, try to come up with the outline and basic message yourself. It's best to clearly mark this message in the original email by using a flag like: "Message to send", and changing the actual message to another font or color.

Because most of these messages will be personalized, include placeholder text where your staff member can personalize the message. For example, To . This not only makes it easier to spot areas that need to be personalized, it also means messages can be sent out quickly and easily.

When is this useful?

To be honest, pre-drafting won't work for every type of email you send. But, there are some situations when this comes in handy, including:
  • When you are asked to provide a testimonial on a service. You can write a basic testimonial with areas for customization.
  • When you need to send follow up emails connected to a recently sent email campaign or message. You can draft a basic follow up message that can then be customized as your employees see fit.
  • When you want to post something on numerous social media sites. You can simply write the post once, then provide spots to customize based on the network.
  • Introductions and references. If you have been asked to provide a reference or an introduction, then draft a standard message which can then be changed as needed.
If you mark these emails as a pre-draft, or place them in a pre-draft folder, they can then be quickly found and modified in the future.

Looking to learn more about increasing productivity in your business? Contact us today to see how our systems can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
November 12th, 2014

BusinessValue_Nov10_BOne common technological system that every business needs is the phone. While digital systems like email and chat are quickly becoming the main way many businesses communicate, there will always be a need for a phone system. If you are looking for a new system for your business, there are a number of factors you need to take into account before purchasing one.

1. Know the types of systems out there

Phone systems, as with many other types of technology, have evolved and changed drastically from the traditional phones that we are all familiar with. As a result, it pays to be aware of the four main types of phone systems available for small to medium businesses:
  • Key systems - These systems are commonly found in many older small businesses as they were designed for up to 40 users. Typically, a Key system offers businesses basic features like hold, line switching, line management, etc.
  • PBX - Private Branch Exchange, is private phone networking technology that enables businesses to manage up to hundreds of phone lines and numbers. PBX is usually employed by larger businesses who need multiple phone lines and the ability to network offices together.
  • Hosted PBX - These are PBX systems that are managed and hosted by a provider. The system itself is usually housed offsite, which means less up-front investment for the company.
  • Centrex - These are specific business features and packages developed for your business by a major telecommunications provider which are usually added onto your monthly phone bill.
Generally speaking, these four types of phone systems are available in two ways:
  1. Analog - Traditional landline phone systems offered by phone companies, commonly referred to as PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network). Analog is familiar to many business owners as it uses existing lines strung by telephone companies.
  2. Digital - Newer phone systems that use network connections to transmit voice communication. The most common of these systems is VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol).
While there are four main systems, the increasingly popular adoption of digital systems like VoIP has led to Key and PBX systems essentially merging together into one platform. Some providers however do offer scaled down versions of PBX over network connections that they refer to as Key systems.

2. Consider these four questions

As you are looking for a new system? If so, it might be a good idea to ask yourself the following questions:
  1. How many lines and phones will I need? This will likely be one of the first questions a vendor will ask when you start looking for a new system. Take some time to think how many phone lines you will need. For example, will you need one for every employee? Or will a line for every major office or department be enough? You will quickly find that some teams won't need lines at all, while others will need one for every person.
  2. How much do I want to manage this system? If you want to have complete control over every line, the supporting systems, and the hardware itself, then going for a hosted solution may not be the best of ideas. On the other hand, if you are looking for a solution that is simple to manage for you, then hosted or managed solutions might be the answer.
  3. How fast will my business grow? If you are expanding quickly, then you will need a system that can develop with you. Many landline systems require technicians to install new lines which can take time, so businesses that are growing quickly may benefit more from digital systems.
  4. What other equipment will I be using? This is important to know before you talk to vendors because some systems may not work well with existing technology, or other systems you may be using. If you make a list, vendors can then help you quickly find a system that is compatible with your other equipment.

3. Ask your users what features they need

Before looking for a new phone system, you should ask the people who will be using the system what features they need in order to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Some teams may need wireless devices in order to better talk to customers, while others might find video conferencing worthwhile; others still may need a more unified communications platform, including text and instant messages.

The key here is to develop a list of features that your business will need before looking for a new phone system. This will make it easier to find one that fits your needs.

4. Work with your IT partner

We can work with you to help you find the best solution for your business; be it managed, digital, or analogue. If you are looking for a new phone system, contact us today to learn more about our solutions and how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 6th, 2014

BusinessValue_Nov03_BTechnology is constantly evolving, so much so that it feels like there is a near constant stream of systems and devices being released on a daily basis. This fast-paced development has forced companies and their IT teams to move rapidly with the times. As such, IT as a whole has been basically divided into three main areas, which companies should be investing in.

1. Commodity-oriented IT

IT is made up of systems that support day-to-day operations, so it is essential that you invest in this area because it is what supports your core business practices. Without proper investment, your employees may not be able to carry out their tasks adequately. Commodity IT is essential but it does not bring increased value to your company. Sure, implementing a new email system could save money but it does not directly lead to increased profits.

One of the best ways businesses can get the most out of commodity IT is to first identify which systems the business relies on. From here, you can look to see if improvements can be made that will reduce overall expenses and increase productivity. Regardless of what you do with commodity IT, all changes and improvements should be operations-oriented; making jobs easier.

2. Business value focused IT

Business value IT involves any system that supports key operations and processes that drive overall business value. Essentially, these systems are not only essential, but they allow businesses and customers to do what they need to do. A good example of business value IT for companies with online stores is the technology that supports the store. Without it, customers would not be able to make purchases from the company.

With this form of IT you want to invest in systems that increase the value you offer customers and employees, while increasing your bottom line.

3. New opportunity IT

New technology and systems can help give your business a competitive advantage when properly integrated, while increasing overall business value. A good example of this is leveraging a new social media platform to help gain customer insights, or implementing technology that allows your business to capture and analyze data quickly and easily.

Companies able to incorporate new technology will often find that they have somewhat of a first mover advantage, and if leveraged correctly you could see increased profits and customer retention.

Get a good IT strategy

The vast majority of companies choose to focus a large percentage of their IT budgets on commodity IT. What this results in is a focus on simply maintaining existing IT systems, without actually investing in new systems. Ideally, you want to minimize your technology upkeep expenses, and invest more in discovering new technology and systems.

How do you do this? That's where a company like us comes in. As your IT partner, we can help ensure that your systems are managed effectively, costs are minimized, and we can even go so far as to help you find and implement new systems. Contact us today to see how our solutions can help maximize your IT investments.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 6th, 2014

BI_Nov03_BFor many businesses it is important that there is steady and productive interaction with clients and that they can capture important data from these interactions. While there are many ways to achieve both these objectives, there is one way that is gaining traction with many companies, especially those who want to capture better data: gamification.

What is gamification?

It's human nature to be competitive, and many of us exercise this nature by playing games. Be it team sports, board games, video games, or even office-related games, many of us partake in some form of game on a regular basis. Gamification is the incorporation of game elements, such as points, rules of play, competition, etc. into business-related processes.

By implementing game elements into areas like marketing or training, you can drive engagement, while also collecting better data, primarily because most people will be more willing to provide relevant information when they are invested in a game.

When it comes to implementing these elements into business processes, many companies tend to focus on either customer gamification or employee gamification.

Customer gamification

The vast majority of customer-oriented gamification relates to rewards programs and repeat customers. Small to medium businesses who have successfully implemented these elements usually do so via social media and mobile apps. Repeat customers gain points for each purchase and when they reach a certain level receive a freebie perhaps or a rebate. This in turn drives the need to keep purchasing and to "win".

Many businesses have been successful in implementing this game characteristic into social media, where people who interact gain levels and therefore access to such benefits as discounts. Businesses implementing customer-oriented gamification often see both increased engagement and better data flowing into the organization. In fact, many businesses have found that the data implemented through these elements has been useful in decision-making and overall business intelligence efforts.

Employee gamification

Employee-based gamification is usually employed by businesses to encourage teams and individuals to work together towards a common goal. For example: Implementing a point or badge-based sales system where at certain sales levels badges are awarded, which can then be used for a reward, has proven to be incredibly successful for many sales-oriented companies. Publicly announced results and recognized rewards can also be a great employee motivator.

As with customer gamification, employee gamification can be a great source of data. For example, by tracking where employees are, and their results, you can quickly see weak spots or places where help may be needed. Essentially, more data means the ability to make better decisions.

Should my company implement gamification?

While this may sound like an exciting, and useful tactic to implement in your business, it's not for everyone and it won't fit well with all activities. What you should do is to look at whether the objectives and goals of the program you wish to implement can also be paired with gamification.

If you find that gamification, or elements of it, won't benefit your business program, then it's best not to implement it for the sake of it.

How to implement gamification

There are a wide number of mobile apps developed around gamification, along with social elements and ideas. What we suggest is talking to us to see how we can help first. We can work with you to find solutions and ways to implement your solutions. Contact us today to start the game of business success.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 4th, 2014

Office365_Nov03_BFor businesses looking to integrate Office 365, there are a number of plans available. Some offer full versions of Office 2013, while others include just Office Web Apps (OWA) - browser-based versions of Office. Because of the different plans available, it can be slightly confusing to figure out which one to go with. Here are five questions to help you decide.

1. Am I comfortable doing all, or most of my work in a browser?

Because Office Web Apps is browser-based, you will be spending a fair amount of time in your browser. Many of those who have switched to OWA have found that it takes time to get used to working with the system. Because of the way many of us work, you will start to see multiple windows and tabs open with different documents which could lead to increased confusion and more time finding the tab and window you need.

What's more, you will need to ensure that all browsers on all computers in your company are kept up-to-date if you want to use OWA. For example, older versions of Internet Explorer may not support OWA. This means you will need to spend time ensuring that everyone within the business is updating when necessary.

To get around this, you can work with a company like us who can ensure that browser activity is not only secure, but also up-to-date, which basically guarantees OWA will work when you need it to.

If, however, you are not comfortable using your browser for everything, then it may be a good idea to go for an Office 365 plan that includes the full version of Office 2013.

2. Am I going to collaborate on files with users both in and outside of the organization?

Many business tasks are real team efforts, where users need to collaborate on documents. While this is possibly with any Office program, one of the biggest weaknesses of traditional Office installs is version control.

If you have shared one document with a number of different users you will quickly find that the changes they make and send back to you are likely going to need to be manually added back into the original document. This takes time and can lead to confusion, errors, and a lack of productivity.

With OWA, any document you create is stored on your OneDrive account and can be easily shared with other users. When the document is opened, all changes are made directly to the main document in real time. This means each user can see the changes show up as they are being made, which increases the effectiveness of collaboration.

Of course, this is possible with almost all Office 365 plans - especially if you also integrate SharePoint, but OWA offers by far the easiest solution to collaboration. So, if you collaborate a lot, then OWA may be a better version of Office to use. That being said, if you just need a few people to edit documents or offer comments, then Office 365 plans with Office 2013 will usually be the better option.

3. Will I need to format documents, or need advanced features?

The Web-based versions of Office offer many of the key features found in the desktop versions. However, some advanced features, like in-dept formatting, adding charts, etc. are not currently available with OWA.

While many users find OWA is enough to meet their day-to-day document production needs, those who use the advanced features of each Office app will be better off with Office 365 plans that offer full installs of Office 2013.

4. Will I need more Office apps than just the core five?

Currently, OWA apps available to users are: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Lync. These five major apps cover the majority of document production needs for most users, however, if you require other Office apps, like Access, or Publisher, that aren't included in OWA, then you will be better off going with an Office 365 plan that offers Office 2013.

5. Will I be constantly connected to the Internet?

In order to get the most out of OWA you will need to have a strong and constant Internet connection. While you can create documents offline, you will need to connect in order to save and update them. If you spend a lot of time out of the office, this may be a real inconvenience, especially if you often struggle to find a solid Internet connection.

What we recommend is talking to an Office 365 vendor like us. We can explain the different Office 365 plans in depth and how you can integrate them into your office. Contact us today to learn more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 3rd, 2014

HealthcareIT_Nov03_AMedical Group Management Association (MGMA) 2014 annual conference attendees were fortunate to get some tips for improving patient satisfaction from Joan Hablutzel, senior industry analyst with the MGMA—because doing so is essential to the success of a medical practice in an increasingly competitive health-care marketplace. Here are 10 of them.

  1. Say hello and smile when patients arrive to acknowledge their presence.
  2. Answer the phone in three rings with a consistent greeting to show the practice views the patent as an individual.
  3. Show empathy in your communication with the patent by observing his or her mannerism sand responding in kind.
  4. Explain what is going to happen, whether it’s a process or a procedure.
  5. Don’t interrupt when a patient is talking.
  6. Look for signs that a patient is dissatisfied or concerned—and when you hear concerns, don’t ever leave it at “I don’t know.” Find someone who does.
  7. Always respect patient confidentiality.
  8. Live up to your promises. Set time estimates and update patients if they change, apologizing when necessary.
  9. Say goodbye and wish the patient well upon departure to affirm respect.
These steps may be simple, says Hablutzel, but implementing them can truly transform the way staff members interact with patients, boosting their perception of your practice and driving growth. Contact us today to see how our systems can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 3rd, 2014

HealthGeneral_Nov03_AA Westchester County, New York, practice has surged from 16 physicians in 1996 to 250 physicians today thanks to care transformation driven by analytics.

Westmed Medical Group, which operates five large ambulatory care sites staffed by both primary care and specialist physicians, currently has more than 250,000 patients and $285 million in annual revenue.

Under the group’s “industrial” care model, process and procedure data is analyzed to determine what clinical tasks can be shifted from physicians to nurses, what workflows can be streamlined to enhance patient care, and what tests can be reduced, for example. Westmed CEO Simeon Schwartz says “That allows us to get our arms around the care process. If a neurologist is doing twice the number of MRIs for headaches than anyone else, we now understand why that's happening and we've put in a headache approval form.”

Strengths and weaknesses in clinical staff performance are shown in user-friendly dashboards so care providers can see what they are doing. This is key to the group’s success, says Schwartz. “The fundamental nature of our management strategy is that we do not tell doctors what to do—we show them what they are doing,” he says, noting that physicians are highly data-driven and tend to do the right thing.

The results of Westmed’s efforts have been monumental. Staffing is 3.91 employees per physician vs. 5.5 for the average multispecialty group. And, Westmed operates at 12.8 percent below the American Medical Group Association (AMGA) median for practice overhead even though it’s located in one of the most expensive areas of the country.

Do these numbers feel unattainable in your practice? The truth is, with a properly implemented and maintained system and analytics platform, they are actually quite attainable. If you are looking to learn more about how you can improve your practice, contact us today to learn about the systems we offer and how they can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 31st, 2014

Security_Oct27_BAs businesses continue to implement more and more Internet-based systems, there is always the risk that systems could be breached and security compromised. If you conduct business online, there are a number of measures you can take to ensure that your activities and your company's vital information are secure. Here are five.

1. Use two-factor authentication whenever possible

Two-factor authentication, or two-step authentication as it is also known, is the idea of using two pieces of information to log into accounts: Your usual password and a code that is usually sent to a mobile device or generated by a code generator.

By utilizing this safety feature, you can further increase the security of your accounts, largely because the chances of someone getting their hands on both the generated code and your password are slim.

Some sites don't use a code and instead ask a question that needs to be answered every time you log in. If this is the case, make the question something that is difficult for a hacker to guess. For example, use your address from 10 years ago instead of your current address.

2. Audit who has access to what data

Between all of your online accounts and social media profiles you will likely be surprised at just how much information about you can be found online. There are a multitude of scare stories online, where someone has had their accounts hacked and identity stolen, largely because they had left pertinent information online without even thinking about it.

It is a good idea to audit what information you have online. This includes looking at the contact and personal information you have on social media profiles, account information, etc. Ideally, if it is not necessary information, then it shouldn't be shared. As for social media profiles, make sure only the absolute basic personal information is online and limit who can see this information.

3. Watch what is posted on social media

Because of the nature of social media, we often feel the need to share our whole lives online. This can often lead to oversharing, and even sometimes oversharing of personal information. There are stories online of thieves monitoring social media for businesses posting about how they are going to be closed for a holiday, with all staff gone. Once a thief finds this information, they then break into the business without worrying about people being there.

If you are going to share information online, be sure to limit the potentially sensitive information that you post, especially if the content is shared with the public.

4. Change your passwords regularly

It seems like almost every week news breaks of a password or account information breach. What this translates to is the fact that your accounts are always facing a potential risk. Therefore, you should make it a habit to change your passwords on a regular basis.

Most experts recommend at least once every three months, but if there is a breach where your account information may have been leaked then naturally change your passwords straightaway.

To ensure maximum security, you should use a different password for each account, and keep these as separate as possible.

5. Work with an IT partner who can offer enhanced Internet security

Ensuring that your business is secure online can be an on-going battle that you will likely not win easily. One of the best steps to take is to work with an IT partner like us. We offer a variety of Internet security solutions that can help stop malware intrusions before they infect your systems, block access to potentially harmful sites, and even scan Internet-based email solutions. In other words, we can help improve your overall online security.

If you are looking to learn more about how we can help your business be secure online, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
October 29th, 2014

BCP_Oct27_BBusiness continuity plans are an important part of any business, especially if owners and managers want to see a business through any disaster. In order to have an effective plan, it is important that businesses integrates technology that can support a plan. The fact is though that this technology will eventually need to be replaced. Here are five tips that can help you determine whether you need to upgrade to a new system, or replace existing ones.

1. New technology and systems offer increased resilience

When it comes to continuity and the systems supporting it, businesses need to ensure that they are resilient. This means implementing hardened systems that will remain working in adverse environments; systems like UPS (uninterruptible power supplies), etc., so that should a disaster occur services will still be available.

Beyond this, it is a good idea to implement systems that can be switched from one location to another quickly and easily. A good example of this is implementing cloud storage and backup which can be recovered to other systems with minimal fuss.

Technology that increases the resilience of your systems and continuity plans is worth implementing.

2. Enhanced data protection and availability

During and after a disaster, it is vital that businesses have access to their data. If your data is not protected in an efficient manner, or easily accessible once it has been backed up, you could see a decrease in business effectiveness and delays in fully recovering.

Technology or systems that enhance data protection and availability over your existing systems are worth including in an upgrade, so that you can benefit from data being available when you need it most.

3. Systems offering increased communication

Communication during and after a disaster is crucially important if your business is to survive and recover full operations. When a company faces disaster, communication networks need to be strong and available at any time. So, if you can find systems that enhance the ease and effectiveness of your communications then these could be worthwhile upgrading to.

4. New technology is available to simplify plan development and auditing

If you have developed a continuity plan in the past, you know that it can be a time consuming task. While essential, many business owners do not have the necessary time to commit to this. This is where systems and technology can help.

A system that makes the auditing and development of plans easier may be worth including in an update.

5. Technology that decreases costs

With businesses operating on narrower margins, many business owners want systems to keep costs low or at the very least ensure costs don't rise. If the systems you are looking at have been proven to reduce operating costs, then it may be a good idea to consider them.

It is important however to not integrate technology simply to save money. You should aim for solutions that are affordable, but that will also offer these worthwhile benefits and more.

We recommend talking to us to find out how we can help you find the services and technology your business needs to ensure your business continuity is not only working but will also deliver when you need it.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 22nd, 2014

SocialMedia_Oct20_BWhile social media has become an important and integral part of many business's marketing plans, it can be easy to get stuck in a bit of a rut when it comes to developing dynamic content and varied posts. This often sees companies sticking with the same content types, which can get quite boring for all parties. To help, here are five types of content that you should be sharing.

1. Selfies

The 2013 "word of the year", according to the Oxford English Dictionary, has become so popular it's no mean feat to avoid it these days. Truth be told, the selfie is popular for a reason: It is a quick way to get people to engage with your content.

The key here is to know when to take a selfie for your social media sites. What you want are selfies that make your company look more human, for example a group lunch meeting or after-work game night that shows people having fun. When done in the right way, selfie posts can increase interaction. Just be sure to limit the number you post, as too many could lead to you being perceived as being too focused on your company and not your customers.

2. Inside looks

When we find a product or service we like, we are often curious to learn more about it. This includes learning more about the company that makes the products or services and how it operates.

If you have a growing fan base, why not create content that provides customers with an inside look at some aspect of your business. Take pictures of your office, videos about how your products are made, or perhaps write content about how certain services are created and delivered. Basically, try to come up with content that gives people an inside view of the company.

The reason this type of content works is because it often gives customers a deeper understanding about a business, and creates a closer connection to the products and services. If you can increase overall attachment, you can increase the chances that customers will interact with content, stay loyal to your brand, and even share information about your company or recommend you.

3. Quotes

Famous quotes can be a great way to get a message across in a strong way. If for example you are hosting a Thanksgiving party, or Halloween party, adding a themed quote to your post could be a great way to encourage social media users to interact with it.

Also, if you can find quotes that are relevant to your industry, you could post these whilst asking for opinions or to further a point you're trying to make.

4. Fill in the blanks

While this may sound a little simple, posts that ask your audience to fill in a blank can be a great way to drive engagement while giving your customers a chance to tell their own story. For example, if you are a bakery who produces well-known donuts, asking a question like: "The first time I had this donut was _." could be a good way to inspire customers to interact with you.

5. Videos

One of the more drastic changes many social media sites like Facebook have implemented in the past couple of years is a feature that automatically plays a video when someone pauses on it while scrolling. While not fully welcomed by all users, this move has actually led to the number of video views increasing by as much as two times.

While creating a video because everyone else is, is a bad idea, if you have content that you know can be turned into a useful video e.g., a how-to video, then this could be a great way to reach your target market in an interesting way.

If you are looking to learn more about how you can leverage social media in your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media