How To Simplify The IT Processes And Add More Value To Business

What is the Goldilocks process and how can we apply it in IT? Information has it that the Goldilocks’ Principle is applicable to the earth, since geography and science has it that the earth is at the perfect distance to the sun. It is perfectly and precisely positioned such that it is the only planet that can support life. Well, if that is the Goldilocks’ Principle, why should not be applied in IT then?

The Goldilocks’ principle is about making the right choices. Here she is, she breaks in, finds three mugs of porridge. She sips from the first mug and finds it too hot. She sips from the second mug and finds it too cold, and when she sips from the third mug, she finds it just perfect.

When implementing new IT systems, there is always the fear that many users will not be able to harvest the full potential because they do not know how to use the system or simply because many people always oppose change, yet change is inevitable.

Should the IT team make the mistake of asking the users to submit forms with their concerns, they would get so many of them such that they would be overwhelmed in no time at all. You see, some of the users do not even know what benefits they are supposed to get from the process.

But there is a simple way for the IT team to simplify the implementation process in a way that is related to the Goldilocks’ process. How? By making sure that the solutions they offer are “just right”, not too little or too much, too complicated or too simple. Is that hard? No, it is not? Here is what your IT department should strive to do:

1.    Simplify the processes

2.    Remove all constraints

3.    Avoid the process if possible

Simplify the processes

IT will not develop a new process, and that means new software, application, website or any sort of system unless it is absolutely needed. Therefore, whenever a request for software or application comes in to IT from any of the other department, the first thing is to find out whether it is absolutely necessary. If it is, IT will find the simplest way in which to implement it.

How will the process be beneficial to the business? What was it requested for and how? Did marketing encounter a problem that could not be overcome by the existing systems and so they had to ask for another one?

To find out all this information and more, IT will have to do surveys with the concerned users. But then, wouldn’t a normal survey elicit too much response? Of course, it would. Thus, we need to keep the process of getting information simple, you know, like one electronic form only, with a few fields to fill like text, email, name, department, operating system - that is it. If you make the process simple enough for the users, they will keep their questions simple enough.

Removing the constraints

Whichever way you look at the IT processes in a business, there are so many constraints that waste money, time and other resources. In fact, sometimes, there is so much red tape when the IT team wants to implement a new process such that it becomes almost impossible to get approval. For example, consider where the IT team has to get new equipments and then there has to be a purchase order signed for that by one or more managers, or when the IT team needs to implement a new application, there has to be permission coming down the chain of command, thus complicating the process.

Since IT has its own standards that it adheres to, then maybe it is time to get rid of all the approval processes, or make them shorter. If the CIO or the IT director, for example, could approve everything, the time by which new software and equipment are acquired would be cut by ¾. This would reduce the downtimes and add more IT value to business.

Avoid the process if possible

If it can be avoided, well, it should be avoided. But you will find that many IT processes cannot be avoided as they take too much time and if you can pick up the first red flags, then you will see that the process could have been avoided early enough.

Before a process can be implemented, it goes through quite a process, the appraisal, approval and things like that. Firstly, there is a call for a new initiative and the business is usually required to fill a long form with any new initiatives that it can think of.

Usually, if they can fill the entire thing, well, we can say that the business really needs this project. After that, the project will have to be approved by the senior management, costs compared to the benefits, business cases drawn and so on.

The IT department would never let a project get to this far if it is not a viable one. It would have been terminated in its conception. For that, it would take a very good IT department.

Posted on January 12, 2017 .

How Can IT Set Expectations With The Users?

IT is a very important function for a business organization, especially because it enhances the operations of all the other departments. With the advancement of technology, almost every department in an organization today runs on IT. This could be accounting, project management, sales and marketing, customer service and even human resource management. They all run on information technology. Following this knowledge, there is need for IT to ensure satisfaction with all the end users. How will they do that? By setting expectations with the end users of their systems.

What will you get by setting expectations?

   1.    There are many benefits, but the chief one is that you will understand what drives satisfaction and you will work to enhance that as opposed to dealing with everything at a go, haphazardly.

   2.    At the end of the IT project, maybe it was a website development, a system installation and deployment or any other project, you can do a survey to find out whether the expectations you had set out for the users have been met. Ask them!

   3.    You will know what every department needs most. IT cannot go buying equipment wholesale and uniformly for every department. That is not right. Different users need different items. For example, a team of road salesmen, if such still exists would be most suited to using mobile devices while the customer care team would be best suited to using desktop computers and so on.

   4.    By meeting the other departments to set expectations, IT gets a good opportunity to educate the other users about the important role that they (IT) play in the business. Many people in a business organization have very distorted views about IT.

   5.    By setting expectations with different departments, IT gets a good opportunity to educate the people about what they can expect from the systems being installed. That way, if the end users notice that the system does not perform as they were told, they can contact IT immediately and let them know.

   6.    There should be no surprises in IT. Thus, if the team has been developing an application, they should discuss it with everyone who is supposed to use it in advance such that the end users are not caught by nasty surprises.

How to set the user expectations

You need to communicate with the people for whom the system is intended and do a few things, as I will show you below:

Provide them with a structure of the system

This is very important. Most likely, this is an IT system that they have never seen or used before. Thus, the users need to know a rough structure of what the system will help them accomplish, how they are supposed to use it and what will be expected of them in return, regarding their productivity and so on. Simply put, it is as if you will be giving them a rough orientation.

Give them user guidelines

Yes, this is also very important. You cannot just unroll a new system and expect the users to get on with it right away and give results immediately. You must give the user guidelines. With a new system, the user guidelines could be in-built, in form of video manuals, slides and so on. You could also give face-to-face training, or you could use the super-users (people who are good at using the system to such an extent where they can train their colleagues).

Get feedback and give feedback

How will you know whether the user expectations and your expectations as an IT team have been met? Establish communication channels through which you can receive user feedback. Act on the feedback immediately. Complaints? Act on them! Is it possible to satisfy the users of a system? Yes it is very possible if you follow the tips given herein in this short post.

Posted on January 5, 2017 .

How To Become Regulatory Compliant

Big data is music to the ears of an IT operative, but compliance … well that is another matter altogether. It is the elephant in the room for every IT team and every business. The authorities, federal that is, require that consumer information be protected from mismanagement and insecurity. And that is what regulatory compliance is all about.

Different types of compliance are required. Some businesses may require many of them while some may be required to meet just a few of them. One of the things that compliance ensures is the security of corporate systems and that of customer data.

What will the IT team need to do to meet the requirements of compliance? Well, the first thing would be to hire the services of an IT consultant team to help your company towards HIPAA, TJC, HFAP, PCI and Sorbane-Oxley (SOX) compliance.

Hire an IT consultant team to help you become compliant

Many business heads think that IT itself is too much of a cost. That already tells you what they think about IT consultancy services. Given an option, they would not touch such even with a ten-foot pole. But wait until they find that they have to meet the federal and other compliance regulatory requirements. That is when they hire IT consultants to help drive the whole compliance process.

Regulatory compliance is the real deal and it requires not only the best trainers, but the top tier IT consultants in the market. This is not something that the CIO or the IT director can oversee to successful completion. It requires the services of top tier IT consultants who have driven other IT teams to successful regulatory compliance.

Compliance, or at least meeting the compliance requirements is very challenging. It requires many things to be looked into. There will be vulnerabilities that may delay compliance and only an IT consultant would be able to identify such.

IT compliance starts with full assessment to see where the problems with data security could most likely occur and then from there, enhance the best practices to tighten the security. Problems can only be solved after they have been successfully diagnosed. The IT consultant team that you hire will help with that.

Compliance is going to cost the company a good amount of money, but then if the IT team attempts to do it without the services of a consultant, it will cost the business much more money. There are many issues with IT regulatory compliance, but perhaps the main one is data leak.

When it comes to the security of information, there should be proper policies in place to ensure that consumer information is kept secure. Only a top tier IT consultant team will help to formulate the data security policies that every employee will be expected to adhere to in order to ensure that there is no security breach at all. Mostly, security breaches start from within rather than from without.

Regulatory compliance training is very important for the IT team

The compliance regulatory requirements are tightened everyday and therefore, it becomes increasingly hard for the CFOs of companies to keep their IT teams razor sharp to drive compliance. However, all is not lost, because with the help of the IT consultant teams, the local IT team can be trained regarding compliance.

Today, there are many methods of training IT staffs for compliance. They include online sessions and actual classes. They will also organize for certification programs that will ensure the federal authorities that indeed, you are corporate and data security compliant.

Today, it is hard to find the required regulatory expertise internally and that is why you may have to hire an IT consultant team to inject the much needed expertise to your IT team that will eventually drive your business to SOX, HFAP, TJC, and HIPAA compliance to name but just a few of them.

Sometimes, a business may not even know what kind of compliance they need since there are many and others are still emerging. However, after evaluation, the IT consultant that you hire will be able to advise you accordingly.

Posted on December 29, 2016 .

Setting IT Objectives With The Help Of IT Consultants

Here is the relationship between IT and the business – the business sets its own objectives, and then IT sets its objectives and moves to find out whether its objectives are aligned with those of business.

You see, IT is special, since most times it may not be seen to add directly to the ROI of the business. It enhances the operations of the other business units. That is why IT sets its own objectives, which are separate from those of the business.

Most business units express surprise when they hear that IT is going to set its own objectives and they wonder why the objectives of IT are not the same as those of their business units.

Every business unit will have its own objectives and since IT is used to make possible the operations of the business units, the question is; since the business unit is already benefiting from IT, how will IT benefit from the business? This is what IT seeks to find out.

The services of an IT consultant will be required

When developing the objectives of IT, the services of an IT consultant will be needed. This is because there are different parts in an IT department and thus, it is prudent to bring all of these parts together to develop an overall objective of IT, as a whole.

It would make no sense at all to develop objectives for every part of IT. Thus, all the IT units must be brought together to the table and they must be fully involved in the development of the overall goals of IT.

What will the IT consultant do?

The consultant will meet with the leaders of every IT unit, sit down with them and update the plans that were developed in the previous meeting that involved all the parts of IT. Among some of the things that will be reviewed in the plans include the priorities.

If there has been a change of priorities that may have arisen since the plan was launched, well that will have to be readjusted.

The IT consultant will also help the key IT leaders in the business to determine whether they have met any of the objectives set out in the plan appropriately. If they have met any, have the objectives added the intended value to the business? Remember, it all comes down to the value that IT will add to the business. Every department in a business must add value, and IT is no exception.

Helps IT personnel get to their peak productivity

The consultancy team will help IT personnel reach their peak productivity every day, to such an extent that the number of calls to the tech support center can reduce significantly. Fewer calls or tickets to the technical support team means that many end users of the running IT systems are satisfied. However, on the same note, if not careful, too few calls or tickets could mean that many people are having a problem getting through. The consultant will help the IT team figure this out.

The IT consultant helps you become regulatory compliant

The IT consultant will also help the IT team meet the regulatory requirements as set out by the relevant authorities. Usually, regulatory compliance is a big headache for any CIO. But it is a headache that has to be dealt with all the same. You see, there are federal requirements to be met regarding the safety of customers’ data. Considering that this is the age of big data, there is no doubt that compliance is of paramount importance. PCI, HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley are some of the most important compliance certifications that the IT department must have.

The IT consultant will help IT reduce the cost of their resources

Which business does not look for cost reduction means? IT is no different and in fact, it needs cost reduction much more than the other departments because it is already viewed as a cost. A few of the ways for reducing the cost of IT include reducing printing as well as the number of user licenses for the ERP.

The IT consultant will help IT enhance relationship with all stakeholders

From the end users of the IT systems, to shareholders, clients and everyone else, IT can have a great relationship with the rest of the business. The IT consultant will thus help them establish ways in which they (IT) can be involved fully in the monthly or weekly meetings with the other business units.

Conclusion

From this post, it is clear that IT consultancy is very important. Some matters like regulatory compliance can be very complicated. Cost reduction, relationship improvement and increased productivity are some of the areas that IT consultants will help your IT team with.

Posted on December 22, 2016 .

Measuring IT Values In Different Ways

There are many ways of measuring how IT adds value to business. It is very important that a CIO (chief information officer) or even the IT director knows different ways to measure the value that IT adds to business so that he/she can make a plausible presentation to the superiors and thus justify the annual budget requested or granted to IT. However, many CIOs do not understand the different ways to measure the value of IT.

We have recently seen companies downsizing IT because today, IT is no longer viewed with the wonder and awe that it was viewed with several years ago. Today, it is all about value. If it does not contribute to the ROI, then it is not really worth having. And this holds true of any other department. Unless it can be seen to add value to the business, it is not worth having.

All things said, unless you know how to measure the value that IT adds to business, well, you could be facing a downsizing soon enough. In addition, if you do not know the value that IT adds to business, you will not know what systems to improve, what to scrap away and what to hold onto.

Measuring the operational value of IT

This is one of the ways for an IT team to measure the value it adds to business. Consider a bank that offers mobile banking services and therefore brings IT to align the internal and external systems such that the customers access all the information that they need and choose the products they need, all on their own. This would in turn reduce the number of customer representatives, and the rest can be deployed to other departments.

In measuring the operational value, IT should use the key performance indicators, such as how fast the business has been able to achieve certain goals because of implementing an IT system. For example, did the time in which customers get through to the sales reduce because of the integration of CRM?

In 2014, when Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom moved its mobile money transfer platform from Germany to Kenya, the speed of transaction improved from a minute to a few seconds, meaning that more transactions could be completed within a day. That is operational value for you!

Investment value

Here, the IT director should think of a business that offers more than one service. For example, a bank may have a department for asset management, credit, retail banking, capital markets and others. IT can make processes run smoothly in all these departments. For example, IT can be used to streamline the consumer finance operations thus enabling the department to cater to more consumers per day than before.

On the other side of the scales, the operating costs can be measured against the revenue that they contributed to. How much did you spend to get a certain value? If after adopting a certain technology more revenue was realized, then we can say that technology has contributed directly to increasing business value.

Developing value-in-use

The value of IT to a business can be developed as the systems are being used. To maximize IT’s value in use, well, the chief information officer should join forces with the chief financial officer because the latter knows how to get the utmost value out of investments. However, note that the CIO joins forces with the rightful department, only going by the objectives of the business. For example, to reach the optimum operational excellence, then the CIO should partner with the HR manager.

What is important here is to define what the tool of technology that is about to be deployed is supposed to do so that if there is need for training, IT will join hands with the HR to ensure that the end users of the system are sufficiently trained to get as much value out of the system as possible.

Conclusion

You can see there are many ways in which to measure the value that IT adds to business. If more sales are generated after the installation of a new CRM system, well, there you have it. We can say that IT will have generated value for the business because of the effective deployment and use of the CRM system.

Posted on December 15, 2016 .

Getting Consistent Value Out Of IT for Business

Do not just get value for business out of IT. Find out how to get the same value consistently, that is, everyday. Good business value should never be a one-off thing. It should be an all-time thing if you would like to see a direct impact on the ROI.

IT is not a magic wand anymore

Several years ago, people would look at IT as a magic wand because of the things it was purported to be able to do. However, today, that perception has changed drastically. After all, everyone has realized that IT is just a tool of business, and a tool that costs quite a good sum of money. Thus, the question on the minds of many managers is; how much value is the business going to get out of this system? Will IT contribute anything to the ROI? If the answer to these two questions is no, the next thing that the managers think of is how to downsize IT.

Start by changing the terminologies associated with IT

Every IT director has heard of the phrase that IT is a cost. Whenever the term cost is mentioned, only one thing pops into the mind of the accountant - how to minimize as much of it as possible. Thus, the first most important thing to do is to find out how to change the terminologies associated with cost and replace them with better terms like value center or tech center.

IT needs a transformation such that it goes from cost center to a value addition center. IT needs to be considered as a place of value, a department that makes other processes possible and one that needs to be looked at differently. If you are an IT team that is struggling to redefine yourself, start referring to yourself as a value center and find ways in which you can be seen to add more value to the business.

IT should embrace trends that will help the business beat its competitors

Every year or a couple of years, a new IT trend comes into the market. IT should find out more about such trends and know whether they will help them add more value to the business. If yes, they should embrace them fully. Consider a trend like social-driven technology, which enables the business to market its products, and push its brand online to as many people as visit their social media pages and outlets. If maximized, this technology can bring the business a lot of value.

Align internal and external systems to ensure more customer satisfaction

IT should consistently seek ways to increase customer satisfaction. Every business revolves around customers and therefore the more satisfied they are, the better. One of the ways to streamline the way in which customers access business services is by aligning the internal and external systems so that the customers can find what they need, without necessarily going through the customer service desk.

By aligning the internal and external systems, by integrating social media into business, by industrializing data and enhancing many more processes, IT will help make the business more customer-centric thus enabling customers to guide the business in a much better way. Remember, a satisfied customer will be the best ambassador for your business, and will spread the good word.

Where the mistake comes in ... 

It is not that the IT directors do not know that IT can add returns to a business. It is just that somewhere along the way, they make a mistake. I will explain it simply; at a meeting, the IT director, or the CIO says that a certain system that will cost the business $500,000 to implement will bring the business returns of $1,000,000. The budget is passed.

However, after the system is implemented:

   1.    IT just moves on to the next project and unless there is a problem, they do not go back to that one

   2.    IT does not even attempt to keep track of the benefits realized from the system

   3.    There is no profit realization plan in place

   4.    IT leaves the business of finding out how much IT has impacted the ROI to the business

Now, if IT does the abovementioned things, how will they convince the CEO that IT is not a cost but a value center?

Posted on December 8, 2016 .

Aligning Internal and External Systems Can Increase Value of IT to Business

In the alignment of internal and external systems of a business, we are talking about the alignment of business strategy with IT. The customers and the public are served by an external system while the internal users of IT, that is, the managers, the other employees and departments operate on the internal system.

The question is: what can IT do to align the two internal and external systems of information?

Business IT systems should not be established for the benefit of the internal users only. Likewise, they are not established for the benefit of the external users only. The idea is to align them in such a way that the IT team will have satisfied end-users of the systems both internally and externally.

However, a little more emphasis should be paid to the external users since this mostly means the customers. It would be a very bad image for the customer to have to be kept waiting for a call to go through, or for the customer representative to have to browse through the systems to contact a customer.

What is the benefit of aligning the external and internal systems?

   1.    By seeking this kind of alignment, the business is usually looking for a way to make sure that the information for internal processing as well as the information for the external viewing by customers and the public is centralized. This sounds hard, and indeed it is hard. However, IT can find a way in which all this information can be made available at one place.

   2.    The chief benefit of this kind of centralization is that information updates can be done much faster and that once done, there will be no need of replicating anything across the systems because once updated, the update will happen across all the systems, at the same time.

   3.    Remember, the information will be held in one place, thus making it easier to monitor and secure. In addition, the information can be updated easily, thus eliminating any chance of having outdated information being used.

   4.    Another benefit of aligning the internal and external information systems is that the customers experience a better service. The business will also save more money since the centralization of information means that there will be no need of many customer service representatives.

Customers will be able to serve themselves as they can fill up the orders for the things they require, make their own payments without needing the services of a customer care representative.

   5.    Aligning the internal and external systems gives you a good scalable operation at work. How is that possible? You see, no matter how many customers have to be served, the number of distribution points will be enough and if they are not, more can be created as the business grows.

   6.    When you align the systems, you will find that there will be minimal need for training users, since, largely, the external systems are by design simple to use since they are made for customers. Thus, this kind of simplicity will be replicated during the alignment.

   7.    While the information will be made available to the customers as well as the internal users, the good news is that there is a way to shield the information that should not be seen by the external and anonymous users who access the systems over the internet.

At the same time, since the external users do not have as much knowledge as the internal users about how the system works, the IT team will have to interpret the system for them.

Posted on December 1, 2016 .

What IT Needs To Do To Be Seen To Add Value To Business

Description: Integrating social media into business is one of the ways that IT can add direct value to business, but it is not the only way.

In a business, the sales, marketing and customer representative teams are seen to add more value to business because they contribute directly to the increase of the ROI. IT is seen mostly as a necessary cost. But that is not the way it should be. On the contrary, IT as a driver of processes should be seen as a very valuable addition to the business.

But then, perhaps IT departments themselves do not do much to create and maintain a good image. Or are there ways in which IT can really contribute to the direct value of the business? Maybe if IT could come out of behind the curtains where they enable other business processes to run smoothly, they could be seen to add more value to business. We will see.

Here are a few things that IT should use to open up more revenue streams for business

The search has been on for a long time, to find a few ways in which IT can create revenue streams. Is it that hard then? Of course not, although it takes some ingenuity and thinking outside the box.

Here are a few things that we need to know about how IT can create revenue for business:

   1.    Social media in business

The integration of social media into business is changing the way that a business relates with its customers as well as with the community. By using the social-driven IT in business, the traditional way of interacting with customers through the call center is no more the only way to get views about your products and services.

Social media is thriving and with good integration into business, your business website can get many visitors from social media and hopefully, a good percentage of them will convert into buying customers.

Did you know that just asking a question about a product or service on Twitter gets a faster response than when a customer calls the call center? This shows how powerful social media is if it is leveraged for more profit.

Industrializing data

Businesses can also industrialize data and get more value from it. Now, we know very well that data is a domain of IT, without a doubt. Thus, one of the ways that an IT department can help a business get more ROI is by helping to derive the utmost value out of data.

The process of data mining has been made much simpler by the advent of data analytic technologies. Many businesses that have made data the main focus for their business have successfully monetized data to make more money.

Analytical security

It is one thing to have a good network and it is another thing entirely to ensure the security of the network, what with so many new threats coming up every day and with the old ones evolving?

While IT may not seem to bring any direct value by ensuring security, well, businesses realize only too well that data and network security is now a big deal, and it is definitely much more than just installing an antivirus program. Today, the approach is orchestrated-analytical – identify the threat, diagnose to find the root cause of the threat and then find the remedy for it, from then going forward.

Converged data architectures

Back to the issue of data, and we are well justified too since big data is driving businesses, well… we can say that IT should have the infrastructure in place that will help harness big data and get the most benefit out of it. According to some reports, some businesses, for example, retailers, can increase their profit margins by up to 60 percent just by leveraging big data.

The main thing about big data is that you can extract the information you need to make your business processes run more effectively. IT can help with that.

Posted on November 24, 2016 .

How IT Makes Project Management Possible

Meta description: IT can personalize project management software and train the users on how to gain immense value from the tool, thus adding value to the project.

By and by, the management of a business comes to find out that they cannot hold board meetings without the presence of the IT director. This is because virtually every business process is run on information technology. One of the areas where IT adds value to business is in the field of project management.

Every business must at one time or another have a running project. For projects to be completed successfully, the details must be followed intricately.

What is the role of IT in project management?

Project management involves teams of people working together to accomplish a given goal. IT has made the whole process of teamwork easier in the following ways:

   1.    Managing the human resources involved in a project

IT helps a lot in handling a team. Today, you do not have to do interviews face-to-face. IT makes it possible to recruit the right people for a project online using the right exam software, train them, avail information to them and monitor the progress of the project in real time.

2.    Improved communication

Through IT-enhanced and supported communication systems like chat rooms, video and web conferencing, people from different places in the world working on the same project can communicate more easily. Remember, IT led to globalization. With good project management software, queries, clarifications and discussions are attended to immediately so long as one is online.

Using email to reach people working on the same project faces many hurdles and one of them is that you will not know whether the intended recipient read the email, unless you get a reply. However, when you are using the communication features on project management software, you can see whether the person on the other end has read your message. Efficiency!

   3.    Handling information/paperless environment

IT reduces the bulk of paper. Project management software like Copper keeps all the information on a project is in soft copy. IT also stores information in one place for fast retrieval and use. Members of the involved teams can just login and access all the information that they need. The progress of the project is displayed in real time for all to see.

   4.    Better co-ordination

This is important, especially if you are a project leader. You need to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding the progress of the project. There will be no contradiction of roles as everyone’s role will be displayed on the project software’s panel. IT will make sure that everything is working right, that the computers and other end-user equipments are working right so that access to the project software can be enhanced.

   5.    Saves time

Information technology ensures that people working on the same project save more time. In business, time is money. Thus, for people wondering how IT adds value to business, saving time is one of the ways. For example, mobile-enabled software can be used anywhere at any time when working on a project. This saves you a lot of time that could be used to tackle other activities.

Features that good project management software should have

   •    Real time in nature: ensures communication is instant thus no wastage of time. There are no delays in arriving at a conclusion as the decision makers can hold discussions online.

   •    Mobile access: the software is available in a mobile version. You can access any information about your project from wherever you are whenever you want. No restrictions.

   •    Accessibility to all: project management software accounts are accessed by every team member. This eradicates the distortion of information – no confusion. Consequently decisions are made faster than before.

   •    Fast connection: project management software is all about logging into your team’s account and working on your tasks. Your queries will be attended to instantly. At the end of it all, you will save time and reach conclusions faster.

Now, not all project management software is going to meet the needs of your project. Therefore, the IT team needs to customize the software, train the users and be there to attend to any technical queries that the software users may raise. You see, IT adds value to a business by enabling other business functions run efficiently.

Posted on November 17, 2016 .

How IT Can Help To Get The Full Value Out Of Big Data

Meta description: It has been mistakenly thought that big data is a domain of the large enterprises only. Here is how a small business can benefit from big data.

We are in the age of big data. What is big data? Is it any important to a small business? Big data is just that … veeery big volumes of data that is both unstructured and structured, but data all the same.

Information is power, so they say. It seems that in marketing and business, information is money. Therefore, businesses seek to gather as much data as they can so that from the data, they can decipher buying habits, customers’ habits, what visitors do on their website, how satisfied or unsatisfied their customers are, what their competitors are doing, and so on.

Data is crucial to a business. If it is poorly handled, it can cause a lot of confusion and frustration. This is where IT comes in to help you manage your data so that you get the full value of your data bank.

To those who wonder how IT can add value to business, well, one of the ways is to extract as much value from big data as possible and then pass that information on to the marketing department for action.

Is big data mining/analytics fit for small businesses?

Think about it this way … people are talking about your products on social media, but you do not know that because you do not follow everyone on Twitter. If they are not talking about your products, they are talking about their problems and your products can solve some of them. But you cannot generate sales leads if you do not know that people have a need for products like yours!

But big data analytics can show you all that, well, not as big data, but when it is processed, it will show trends, patterns, conversations and event logs. These can be understood by the sales and marketing teams, and they can take action on it.

But then … small businesses find problems when they want to implement big data systems. What happens in the market is that the big data systems that you will find are mostly made for the large enterprises. That makes the systems hard to buy and too complex to implement. However, it does not mean that a small business should forget about getting value from big data. In the market, there are flexible choices for big data systems for small businesses. They just need to know how to get the right system.

How to benefit from big data as a small business

Do not just sit and watch the big boys making money from big data. Get your IT team working to find a system that would be small enough, affordable, yet full of features that will help your business derive a lot of value from big data. Do not listen to the naysayers who say that big data is for big businesses. It is for all businesses!

Find a system that is flexible, a system that allows the small business to use just what they need, and pay for that, as opposed to buying and implementing a huge system meant for large businesses, only for it to go to waste. The very important thing is to make sure the system is scalable so that as the business grows, you can unleash more resources to cater for the data growth.

Probably, it could be hard for the vendor to have a system that is already personalized for small businesses. Thus, the IT team could perhaps see to the customization of the vendor software for big data to fit the needs of the small business.

Let the IT director source for a good system that is simple to implement and to integrate with the existing systems of the business. The implementation of the big data system should not take weeks, a few days utmost should be the maximum. Lastly, the IT director will look for a system that does not require the users to attend long training session, but one that probably comes with an in-built user-guide.

Scalable big data systems, even in terms of cost

Yes, that is right … small businesses should only go for big data systems where the vendor allows them to pay and use just the resources that they need. In future, you can pay for more resources and be assigned more. The vendor system, although small, should be futuristic in design, such that it can accommodate moderate or fast growth of the business in future.

Posted on November 10, 2016 .

10 IT Needs Of A Small Business

Meta description: A small business needs as much IT as a big business. Here are the needs of IT that should be met in a small business.

Good, fully-fledged IT is not a preserve of the big businesses only, but even the small businesses can profit a lot. Information technology is an important aspect of any business however big or small since all functions in a business involve the flow of information, automation and other needs. You cannot afford to ignore information technology for your small business.

Benefits of IT for a small business

   •    It makes work easier and faster by automating tasks and processes
   •    Faster flow of information
   •    Streamlines communication
   •    Improves co-ordination of tasks and human resources
   •    Proper storage of information for future reference( archives)
   •    Cuts human resource costs
   •    Adds value to the business by providing data which can be mined for important marketing information

10 IT needs that are crucial for a small business

   1.    Communication systems

Communication is so important a function in any business. Efficient communication means information has to be handled properly, dispensed to the right people and acted upon to derive value from it and increase the ROI.

IT ensures efficiency in communication through email, chat rooms, video and web conferencing, VoIP and many more.

Proper communication ensures proper coordination of activities, role clarity and synergy of individual efforts. The work of the IT team is to ensure that everyone in the business can access whatever information they want, conveniently.

Setting up a computer network, for example, so that employees do not waste time moving from one place to another to search for information works very well. This empowers your employees.

   2.    Internet connection

This is an important detail of IT. Today, many things are done online. Installing quality internet is very important for the business. Today, smartphones, tablets, desktops and laptops use WI-FI. In case a computer fails, employees can use their company-issued cellphone or tablet for some transactions. Make sure you are up to date in terms of internet connectivity.

   3.    Automated marketing

Marketing is the process of anticipating the consumer needs and attending to them in a way that is profitable to your business. Marketing is perhaps the most important function in a business and today, it has been made much easier by the internet. Data-driven marketing is a reality, ensuring more targeted marketing and higher returns on investment.

Automated marketing involves the marketing automation administrator who should work with the IT team, the lead marketer who should always be in contact with consumers and the content manager who creates content for the website to include relevant information the business’ products and services.

   4.    Integrated marketing

This phenomenon exists to ensure that all people are involved in fostering the growth of a small business. This includes customers, stakeholders, the marketing department and the IT team.

Information technology ensures that every kind of data regarding the small business is obtained from everyone, to make the business more profitable. You have to harness all the information for the benefit of your small business. Of course, for this, the IT team will be playing the most crucial role.

   5.    Establishing an e-human resource system

However small your business is, getting the right talent and putting them to the right job is very important. Your employees, partners and sponsors data is very important. Information technology helps in the collection, storage and the retrieval of such.

Today, you can even recruit employees using online exam software that will help you get all the information you need about potential employees. The software evaluates the data, analyses it and gets you the right candidate for the job faster than a human panel of interviewers would get you one.

   6.    Social media communication

Today, not only can businesses promote their brand on the social media networks, but they can also market their products widely by setting up shop on platforms like Facebook and Pinterest. They can also find great talent on networks like LinkedIn, a network for professionals. If you can have your IT team execute a social media strategy, you will have great brand exposure and many visitors coming to your website from social media.

   7.    Project management software

A small business will also run some projects, just like the big businesses. IT has made managing projects very easy. If it is a big project, you will have different teams working on it. With the right project management software, the teams do not have to meet physically to work on the project or even to communicate.

Today’s project management software, like Copper, come with inbuilt chat rooms where members can chat or post information that will be accessed by others as soon as they log-in or if they are already logged in, in real time.

   8.    Accounting software

Accounting keeps track of the cash flow. Therefore, you need to have your money well managed so that you can account for every penny flowing in and out of your business. 
Accounting software such as QuickBooks, Xero and MS Money will help you in computing accounting data, archiving the information and coming up with comprehensive reports. You will cut the cost of having several accountants. Just one is enough.

   9.    Mobile technology

Advertise on mobile. You should have the IT team execute a mobile strategy, because every day, an average mobile user will glance at their smartphone at least 150 times a day.

Mobile technology enables you and your customers to access business information at any time, wherever you are. For example, the online project management software is supported on smartphone technology to enable follow up on the progress of your project at your own convenience.

   10.    Cloud-based phone system

This phone system is hosted on cloud. Information is exchanged through the internet. Instead of having phone bills, and tons of wires, a cloud phone system is digital. You will therefore avoid paperwork and use less storage space on your computer. This makes it less expensive and easy to use. At the end of the day, running your business will be improved.


Features of cloud based phone system

   a)    Message management - You can monitor the messages and voice calls

   b)    Call forwarding - You can forward calls to your support team, customer service desk, project team and any other department.

   c)    Voicemail - Cloud allows you to record voicecalls, set up multiple voice calls and read the calls online.

   d)    Cell phone setup: You can configure your business cell phones to enable them receive calls on the cloud- based system.

Benefits of cloud based phone system in your business

   •    Promotes a good image for your business

   •    Cost efficient due to easy set up and no extra hardware costs

   •    Flexible, mobile and productive business operations

Posted on November 3, 2016 .

Why a Business Needs an IT Team Even When Using Outsourced IT

Meta description: Even when the business is using vendor software, there is need for an in-house IT team for customizing the software and doing more duties.

Do you need to have an on-premise IT team when you have outsourced IT? Well, you might be tempted to say no especially when you consider that many small businesses take IT as no more than just a necessary evil. IT adds a lot of value to business, and it makes all the other business processes possible.

Outsourced IT is much better and much cheaper than when you have everything on-premise. However, this does not mean that because you have a vendor-supported system you should do away with your IT team. You still need to have a fully-fledged IT department.

You see, IT is a very big process and in fact, it has many processes within the process. Thus, to keep everything moving, you must take care of things from your side too and not hitch too much expectation on the vendor guarantees.

Your IT team will ensure network security

The vendor might have the best SIEM system, for after all, they are IT experts. However, while they will give you many guarantees of data safety and security, you may want to think twice because they are not cyber security experts. Therefore, the IT director will have to hire a cyber security expert to take care of the network safety from the end of the business. The truth is that the vendor will be after making money. They will not take care of the security of the system as a team that has been hired specifically for that would.

Availability and performance monitoring

This is another crucial area of your IT that the vendor will purport to offer support for, but you know very well that only the end user (you) can tell when there is something wrong with the network. Therefore, you need an IT team that can be on duty all the time. Monitoring involves so much and therefore you want to have a team within the IT department keeping watch over the health of the network.

Some of the things they will check out for include monitoring the servers, the network, the data storage and much more. Should there arise a security issue within the network, the IT team will correlate and link the dots fast to diagnose the root cause of the problem.

Fixing equipment and network cables

Everyone has seen a guy from IT in a dustcoat running around fixing network cables and stuff in offices. Thus, even if you have the best, top of the range vendor-supported technology in place, for the end users to enjoy maximum benefit and be able to harvest the full potential from the system, they will need to have working computers. Now, many people in other departments know just how to use their computers.

If it is not working, they would not know how to troubleshoot it. In other cases, it has been proven that a bad computer can cause demotivation, which would acutely affect the productivity of that worker. Thus, a business needs an IT team to keep things running smoothly on the ground, to replace worn out equipment and to offer technical support to the end users. The good thing is that when you have outsourced technology, you will not need a big in-house IT team.

The outsourced technology is standard – not customized

In most cases, outsourced technology will be standard and generic. It will not be personalized to meet the unique needs of the business. Even if two businesses are selling the same products and services, the truth is that they are inherently different at their core. Thus, after getting a cloud system, the IT team will customize it to meet the unique needs of the business.

Use the IT team in other ways

It is true that outsourcing technology takes much of the work from the IT team. However, the team members can be deployed to other tasks within the business. Thus, even if cloud is the present and future of technology in business, do not disband your IT department. You will need it more than before.

Posted on October 27, 2016 .

Should Your Business Outsource IT?

Meta Description: Some tasks of IT can be outsourced to save money and time. Here is what you can do about that.

The advent of the internet has brought about many benefits to small businesses and one of them is that you can outsource IT and other tasks, cheaply. Outsourcing IT has many benefits. However, many small businesses are not sure yet that they want to outsource.

There is no getting ready about it, just go ahead and outsource some of those tech tasks so that you can be left with time on your hands to take care of the business side of things. It works.

Here are some benefits of outsourcing IT

   1.    You can get more done faster and for much less than you would pay if you hired a fulltime employee to work on-premise. Look at it this way, when you hire a worker to work remotely on tasks like website content creation, app development, virtual software support and ecommerce site maintenance from another country, it means you do not have to provide space, desk, computer and other resources. No insurance cover or other benefits will be needed. Just hire and let them work. In addition, you will pay much less per hour than you would pay to a local employee. Most people who provide outsourced labor are from countries where standards of living are low. They can work at lower rates.

   2.    You also have the advantage of just using and letting someone else worry about the upgrade and maintenance of a particular technology. Why should you develop your own software when you can pay to use another one that is ready, bug-free, well maintained, a system that will have an uptime of more than 99%? Just outsource the labor-intensive technologies and worry about the business.

   3.    And then there is the big issue of the growth of the business. Just what will you do when your business grows faster than your technology is growing? If your systems are not scalable, fast growth would lead to their collapse and that would give you a bad reputation among your customers. Thus, you want a vendor-supplied technology that is cloud-based for full scalability.

   4.    Let someone worry about the safety and security of data while you concentrate on the business. Today, the biggest threat to technology is insecurity. When you outsource technology, someone else worries about the data that is stored on their system, on cloud. In fact, even if the IT team promises that company data is safe, it is best to go ahead and outsource cyber security services. Your vendor will also give you all sorts of guarantees, but you should know better. Guarantees sometimes do not hold water and once data is lost, well, the damage will have been done. Something that you should always remember is that IT is different from cyber security and software vendors are experts in IT, not cyber security. You need to get someone whose expertise is in security.

   5.    Others are doing it, yes; even your business competitors are outsourcing technology. Thus, they are having more time on their hands for business and you should too. What outsourcing IT does for a small, or even a large business is that it leaves the managers with time to mind the business side of things, while someone else takes care of the tech side. In a survey that was carried out in 2014 by Deloitte, they established that more than 50 percent of businesses outsource one or more parts of their IT. This means that outsourced IT is the future and the future is here.

Conclusion

To the question of whether businesses should outsource IT, well, the answer is a resounding yes. You will be surprised that outsourcing IT will save you much more money than when you run everything on-premise and by outsourcing, IT adds more value to business.

Posted on October 20, 2016 .

The Role of the IT Director in a Modern Business Organization

Meta description: The IT director makes important decisions affecting the IT team and largely the business. Here is the role that this person plays.

Well, he is the director, the guy in the hot seat, calling the shots, directing cuts, fighting for an increased budget to buy better equipment, and generally making sure that the IT department does what it does best – enable the other departments to succeed.

But there is more to an IT director than meets the eye. Even now in the 21st century, there are still people who do not know what value IT adds to business. Yet, IT is the wheel on which every other business process runs.

Creating IT policy

Mostly, the IT director will create the policies that will drive the IT team, say, for a given period like 3 months, 6 months, a year, 5 years and so on. You see, for the director to ensure that the business derives utmost value from IT, he/she must lay down long-term and short term IT plans and the strategies to implement with his team as they move towards achieving the bigger vision for the business.

In any business, there will be many different needs for IT. It is the duty of the IT director to find out what every department needs and to make sure that they are provided with the same.

He will also oversee the IT team to make sure that they utilize the resources assigned to them amicably, for the profitability of the company. He will also do some study and see what tools of technology the business will need in the near or far future.

Reports to senior managers or the CEO

The IT director reports to a senior manager or even to the CEO himself. Since most of the IT strategies will require a big amount of money to be implemented, only people at the senior levels of management can approve of such. In addition, he must be able to show them how profitable the implementation of a system will be, in the end. You see, for many business heads, what matters is whether a certain system will mean more ROI. If yes, then they will give the IT director the okay to go ahead.

He must have the interests of the business at heart because at the end of the day, he is going to come up with IT policies that will help in the achievement of the bigger business objectives. Thus, he must understand the business objectives and develop IT strategies that are in accordance with those objectives. Remember, the main job of IT is to enable the performance of the other departments in a business.

Here is more about how an IT director runs his show

   1. The duty of recruiting, training and managing his team of IT staff falls squarely on his laps. Since he understands the tools of technology, he would be best suited to spot, hire and train the best IT talent, even more than HR management.

   2. He oversees the implementation of security measures that will keep the company data safe from hackers and the equipment from virus attacks, spyware and malware deployed by people with ill intent. This security will be extended to business-issued mobile devices since they too carry a lot of business data.

   3. He will oversee the reengineering of certain applications so that they can fit the needs of the company. Most of the vendor applications have to be customized since they are generic.

   4. Do periodical reviews of the performance of the available systems to see what needs revamping, what needs to be done away with and so on.

   5. He will be the IT department’s link to the senior management. Thus, he will communicate with the chief information officer (his immediate senior if there is one) as well as the end users to see that they have all they need. For example, he will oversee the establishment of the IT help desk for technical support.

   6. Negotiate with software vendors, draw up and sign agreements with them and oversee the customization of vendor supplied and supported tools.

   7. Create the IT budget for a given period, justify with cost against benefits reports and generally explain how investing in certain systems will add more value to the business.

   8. Ensure that the IT systems of the business can keep up with the changes that are brought about by the dynamic nature of IT. He/she will always ensure that IT is always in stand-by to meet the user demands at peak time without the systems crashing.

Conclusion

The IT director is supposed to perform many more duties. However, the most important include creating a budget, ensuring peak performance of the IT systems and streamlining all systems to run concurrently with the business objectives.

Posted on October 13, 2016 .

Personality Profiles Of IT Departments – A Fun Way To Look At IT

Meta description: IT departments can be classified into four personality types depending on their level of growth and service. Here is more

You can give the IT departments personality profiles to understand where your IT department is. Same as people have different personalities, so do the IT departments, but mostly, this will depend on their level of growth. Most people working in an organization understand neither the IT departments nor the people who work there. Mostly, what they are used to are people running around in dustcoats, fixing network cables and computers.

Hardly do they know that it is the same people who keep the CRM running every day, ensure there is internet connection, ensure other departments can access data from the database and much more. Why don’t they understand the IT department? Here, we will give personality profiles to IT departments so that you can understand better what they do in a business.

In a research carried out by the Green Elephant Team a few years ago, the IT departments were assigned personalities as follows:
   •    Accountant
   •    Nanny
   •    Agent
   •    Butler

The Accountant

Just in the true way that a financial accountant wants to keep track of every dime in the business, the IT departments that have been classified as accountants have the same conduct. Firstly, they do not trust users of their systems. They want to keep a close eye on them. They believe that users can steal equipment and resources and therefore they must have an eye on them. Secondly, these kinds of IT departments believe that IT is a necessary evil for the business – its only that the business cannot survive without IT. Otherwise, they would scrap it. They want to be in control of the cost of IT and want to keep it as low as possible. As long as the available systems are meeting the needs, there is no need of revamping them or getting better systems.

In summary, this kind of IT department is:
   •    Controlling
   •    Wants to be involved in decision making thus may be good at helping the business achieve its objectives
   •    Mostly used in centralized departments like manufacturing where the users do not know much about IT
   •    They want to control users as they believe that lets them control the cost too

The Nanny IT department

This one is a nurturer. The IT team in this case will guide the users patiently until they have grasped the techniques that will help the business get the most out of the IT systems. Really, business organizations that have IT teams who are nannies do well and are able to get the most out of their IT systems. And they are a true nanny in that they will not rest until they have been able to find the best ways to utilize the business processes.

One thing that the nanny is good at is coming up with new strategies and IT products for the good of the business. In fact, the nanny IT department believes that consumers, in this case the end users, always want better and is therefore always looking for better ways to improve the end-user experience.

In summary, this kind of IT department:
   •    Guide users to exploit the IT systems fully
   •    Will focus mainly on how to make better the IT processes thus may cost the business more
   •    Will mostly do much better in areas like retail where users do not have much knowledge about technology

The Agent

These are different from the Nannies because their main work is to help the client, in this case the business, to get the best out of the IT systems. The focus of such departments is on the results mostly, rather than on the means that the business uses to achieve those results. They do not care much about the means and will use any to get to the end. The end justifies the means. All that the agent department wants is to drive more business value and thus they must be involved in business decisions. Mostly, such IT departments are likely to be found in insurance companies and financial services providers. This kind of IT department is the favorite for many CEOs as they are mostly result-driven.

This kind of IT department will:
   •    Want to use IT to increase the competitiveness of the business
   •    Provides excellent tech support to the end users
   •    Will use any means necessary to help the business get to peak productivity

The Butler

The butler IT department takes care of the needs of the users and such a department is best suited to working with IT users who know what they need from IT, or users who understand the system. When they are giving a service to the end users, they will handle every user as if he/she is a paying customer.  However, if you think that a Butler IT department is everything, you ought to know that this kind of IT is only good at serving the users ensuring that their IT needs are met fully. Apart from that, this kind of IT cannot help the business achieve most of its objectives.

In summary, this kind of IT department will:
   •    Serve the end users to their utmost satisfaction
   •    Be great in departments where high knowledge of IT is needed like design, engineering and others
   •    Respond very well to requests
   •    Always seek to enhance the user experience which may cost the business more money

Posted on October 6, 2016 .

Using Technology in Business Communication

Description: Business communication must flow up and down the chain of hierarchical command efficiently. Here is how IT ensures that.

One of the ways that IT is adding value to businesses nowadays is by enhancing communication not only internally among the management and the employees, but externally too. Today, a business can communicate with customers, suppliers and shareholders on the double. In business, when decisions are made at the senior management levels, they have to be passed down to the different departments where they can be actualized. This can be made much easier by information technology.

Very few people have witnessed the gradual advancement of technology in communication. To us, computers are just there, everyday, tools for us to use to make our work easy every day. We hardly give IT the credit they deserve, well, until the systems break down, and then we remember them.

Storage of information has been enhanced and simplified

Imagine… what used to take an entire floor with racks upon racks and hundreds of cabinets of files and folders, can now be stored in the hard drive of a computer, well, at least 99 percent of all that information can be stored in the form of soft data. This makes not only the storage of massive volumes of information much easier, but it also makes retrieval easy and faster. This is what technology in business can do. It can add immense value to business. In business, if you have the information, you have the leverage, but only if you know how to make use of that information.

Reach employees faster

Consider what used to happen many years ago, when you had to walk to find an employee when you needed them. Today, thanks to the cellphone, anyone that you need to speak to is always a touch of a finger away. Today, businesses issue cell phones to their employees so that they can reach them at all times, even when they are out in the field.

Because of the effectiveness of the cellphone, employees can get their orders for duties faster, and more clearly too. Then there will be no contradiction of orders. Furthermore, by issuing them with a company cellphone, you can reach workers even during the non-working hours or days. Things do arise in business to warrant for such.

Customers’ complaints are addressed faster

Thanks to technologies like social networking, today, businesses can enhance their relationships with customers easily by following what customers are saying about their products. Who doesn’t know that customers will take to the social media to vent if they do not get satisfactory services at your business? Thus, it is best to meet them on social media and address the complaints as soon as they come.

In addition, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and other networks are great for launching new products, or just for providing information about your products and services. This is technology at work.

But it is not only on the social media networks that you will find customers. You can also interact with them on the business website and blogs. If they need something, they can fill the website submission form. Such needs to be replied to immediately.

Email communication is one of the most important ways in which technology has changed communication in business for the better. Today, emails can be sent out en-masse to all customers informing them of new products and services, discounts, special offers and more information that will appeal to their desires. If used well, this tool can bring the business a lot of benefit, in that it can be used to pass general information about the business, yet at the same time, it will also be used as a marketing tool.

Flyers, banners, links, anchor texts and more can be embedded into the html emails, directing the recipient to the business websites and blogs.

To use email effectively, the business has to build an email list. It is easy to collect emails from all people who visit your business website. You can reach these people later as you promote your brand.

Many communication tools can be integrated

If you only know about email and the cellphone, you clearly have no idea what technology can do to business communication. You can integrate internet protocol, voice calls, data, voice over internet protocol, social media and more on one plan so that you have a simple means of communication that incorporates everything.

Technology has also come in to help businesses save money. Multinational companies can attest to this one. For example, instead of the company executives hopping on the plane anytime there is a board meeting in Taiwan, they can attend the meeting virtually, or via video conferencing. This saves time and money and decisions can be reached faster in real time, instead of waiting for the CEO to travel all the way to Africa to make a decision.

We could go on about how technology has enhanced business communication, but the above pointers show that technology is the life and blood of any business.

Posted on September 29, 2016 .

10 Ways in Which IT Can Ensure Customer Satisfaction

Description: IT adds value to business by streamlining customer service and other processes. This makes many happy customers who bring return business.

Information technology can be used to enhance customer satisfaction. It is not too hard either; a matter of putting two and two together to get four … well, sort of. The most important thing is to have the technology that you use for enhancing customer satisfaction to be informed by the customers’ needs. How hard is that? Well, not very hard, but you will be surprised that many IT managers just add layers of technology, without caring whether the intended results are achieved.

  1. Efficiency in communication

Any time you step into business premises, you will notice the efficiency in communication, the use of telephones, emails, faxes and text messaging and the efficient flow of communication.

  2. Easy marketing through websites and social media

Getting agents to market a product is both cumbersome and costly, especially if it involves traveling long distances. Today, that has been solved by the creation of business websites and social media marketing.

  3. Integrating online payment gateways to website

People do not have to pay using hard cash. That is so 19th century. Today, customers can find what they need online, read reviews left by other users and then make their order, paying with their credit card or through online payment gateways like PayPal. Technology once again makes this easier by integrating shopping features like shopping carts. Customers love making easy payments.

  4. Inform customers about new products and services

Email marketing! This is the real deal nowadays. The IT team will deploy programs that will not only ensure that the customers are duly informed of any new products and services, but will also use metrics and analytics to find out what emails have been read, and who has responded to the emails prompting.

  5. Inform customers about discounts

Email marketing can be cut to size in such a way that it is used to appeal to the desires of many people. For example, whenever there is a discount, the marketing team can send emails to all contacts in their database and tell them about discounts, new products, clearance sales, or just give them information about your business. This is a perfect way of promoting the brand.

  6. Use technology to customize shopping deals for customers

When you know what your customers are looking for, you will be better able to offer them a good service. Today, by the use of cookies to track the activity of customers on a business website, you can be able to customize shopping deals for the same customers when they visit your website again. This makes the customers feel more cared for by the business. After all, everyone loves a little recognition.

  7. Provide customer service representatives on all marketing channels

A business will use many channels to market their products and services. It is important that in all these channels, you have customer representatives to attend to the complaints of the customers, their needs as well as inform them further about the products.

There is need to have a customer representative on the phone, on the social media avenues and on email. The IT team will also integrate a chat feature on the websites for instant communication.

  8. Help customers book tickets

Tickets are quite irking and no one likes to use them. However, the ticketing system is perhaps the only credible way for customers to lodge complaints. But there is a way that IT can make the customers love the ticketing system. One of the ways is to ensure that when a customer opens a ticket, it stays open until the customer is satisfied. IT can also follow up to find out whether the customer was satisfied and then close the ticket.

  9. Help customers reach the business anytime of the day

When your business has customers from all over the world, or even from just one region, well, one thing that you would like to do is to ensure that the avenues of communication stay open all the time so that customers can reach the business at their own convenience rather than at the convenience of the business. Email, website contact forms, communication on social media and instant messaging assure the customers that they can reach the business during the day, night, weekends and holidays.

  10. Provide customers with what they need, when they need it

Here is how it works … the IT team deploys systems that will gather customer data, their demographics, buying habits, what they do when they visit the business website and whether they are return customers … that sort of thing. Now, all of this data cannot be used if it is in its raw form. IT will however process the data into actionable information, which will then be passed down to the marketing and the customer care teams for action and follow up.

Conclusion

There, you have seen how important the IT team is to the customer care department. IT enhances customer service in more than 10 ways in which, but these are the basics.

Posted on September 22, 2016 .

Why Information Technology Is Vital To Business

Asking why information technology is vital to business is akin to asking why fuel is important to a car. This is the 21st century. This is the age of the internet of things where buildings, devices, objects and cars with internet connectivity can share data. This is the age where technology drives everything, from farming to education. This is the time where technology should take a good chunk of your money for bigger future returns.

But even with all the benefits of technology, many people still think that technology is more of a cost than a value adding entity to a business. This is partially true because yes, laying the infrastructure, buying the equipment and the vendor-supported software will cost the business a substantial sum of money, but you will get the full value for this is money.

IT mostly enables the other departments to do their work more efficiently. For example, it enables HR to better manage the personal data of the employees, find talent faster, train new hires and generally make easy the onboarding process.

Getting value from big data

Big data means just that, big data. Is it important to a business? Only if a business can derive value from the data. From the gathering of the data across the entire business network, the storage and the processing of the data, well, it is a long hectic process, but it is very important.

From the data analysis, there will emerge market patterns, customer-buying patterns and so on. This information is very important to the marketing team. However, to them, it does not make sense if it is in raw form. IT has to process the data into actionable information.

An expanded reach in and out of the office

Here is what IT enables you to do:

 1.The smartphone or the tablet is small and it is a wonder to imagine that having it in your pocket is akin to carrying the whole office with you. You can perform just about any office operation from your internet enabled mobile device.

 2.Businesses can have one or more branches in different geographical locations, these branches need to communicate. E-mails make communication easy and flexible regardless of the distance and location.

 3.Video and web-conferencing make the interactions between teams located in different regions more interactive.

 4.Chat room software can be embedded into the company website to enable communication via instant messaging and so on.

There is no end to the value that IT adds to the business when it comes to communication.

Close transactions faster

This is another reason why you would need to invest in IT for your business. At the end of the day, all that a business really cares about is to generate more revenue. Information technology can help the business to close transaction deals faster.

How? Consider a case where a business engages in e-Commerce. This means that customers visit the website, get information and images about the different products offered there and if they like them, they can go ahead, place an order, and buy online. This is as fast as transactions go!

But it is not only about the direct business transactions between customers and the business. It is also about how fast products can reach the customers, how manpower is reduced, how products can be designed faster, the production process hastened as more people can handle different aspects of the product. This means that products get to customers faster.

Fast business decisions

Think about a CEO who wants to make a very important decision about opening a new branch of the business in a different state. In that case, it would only take him a little time to find information about the economy, business loans and more online.

MIS

This is acronym for management information systems, which assist in data storage. Why do we need to store data in business? So that we can mine it for important information about buying trends, to find out what visitors do when they visit our website and many more. IT will implement the systems that a business needs for tracking revenue and expenses. From the trends, the senior management can decide the way forward.

Conclusion

Let us just say that IT plays a big role as an enabler of other processes like marketing and sales, customer service and so on. IT is for business what the railroad was for the old west, an idea whose time was due, unstoppable.

Posted on September 15, 2016 .

Using IT To Automate The New Employee Onboarding Process

If you are still stuck in the era when people thought IT was more of a business cost than a valuable asset, well, you should just stay in that era. Today, IT adds value to business in a big way, by enhancing the productivity of all departments and in the process, making sure that the business gets the full value for its money.

Here you are, the manager of a thriving business. You have some new employees, whom you hired because of their awesome resumes on LinkedIn. But wait …. Is that all? No. You will need to help these new employees in a process called onboarding, so that you can make them feel part of the business and thus motivate them to reach their peak productivity faster.

Onboarding is the process of bringing new employees on board the business. Now, many people think of onboarding as the process of orientation, but that is not true because orientation is bigger than that, much bigger.

You see, orientation is a small process within the bigger onboarding process. During the onboarding process, a new hire is taken through the learning curve faster so that he gets an inkling of everything that is expected of him and then the rest he/she can learn on the job.

Should you automate the onboarding process?

And now to the elephant in the room, where does IT come in? Can you automate the onboarding process?

The answer is yes. You can automate almost every process today. IT is a godsend for the HR team because with the right onboarding software, the IT team makes things pretty easy for the HR team, leaving them with a lot of time to do other things, while the software does the work of taking the new hires through the learning curve.

Really? Is it sensible to take the very human-interactive personnel onboarding process and automate it entirely? Apparently, yes. Remember, onboarding is a process that familiarizes the new employees with their new business environment and supports them as they embark on the new job projects. This comes with the major objective of assimilating the new hires with the business routines and providing them with the necessary knowledge and skills so that they can contribute to the organization effectively.

Why automate the onboarding process?

Automating the onboarding process makes recruitment more cost-effective and at the same time, it improves the productivity of the recruits. It also promotes the timely flow of information to the new recruit other than flooding the recruit with too much information that can overwhelm him/her.

Onboarding software alone is not enough, as it still requires human input to get the new recruit an employee badge, company key, Active directory user account and security groups and an Email mailbox. All these are automated processes that will have to be entered into the database by the IT team.

An automated onboarding process has several features:
   •Will provide the employee manual guide in a presentable way, such as using a podcast
   •The employees get a nice welcoming message from the senior management
   •The training and induction timetable
   •The personas of the other workers
   •Vacation timetables and others
   •The values, mission and the vision of the business

There are many benefits of automating the onboarding process. For example, the process can be used for a long time as the business keeps on hiring new employees due to expansion. Of course, there will be minor changes, but once the automation program has been completed by IT, it will stay intact for a long time.

Posted on September 8, 2016 .

The Role of Information Technology in Human Resource Management

IT is usable in every department in a business, even in the human resource department. Today, many functions of the human resource department are done electronically, making things faster, economical and more time saving. There is no unit or department in the business world that has not been impacted heavily by technology.

Why do you need technology in human resource management? Because today, human resource is a single unit and it operates as such, it must be served wholly by technology.

There are many roles of information technology in relation to human resource management. A few of them are elaborated as below:

Electronic human resource management (e-HRM)

This is an online system that makes the human resource department to focus on running the business strategically thus intensifying its activities. It also encourages competition and this helps in improving the general productivity of the human resource. E-HRM plays three functions in an organization. One of the things that e-HRM helps the department with is that it takes care of the personal data of the employees, the payroll and so on. Again, there is the relational side of the e-HRM which is mainly concerned with the recruitment and training of the employees.

Personnel management

Information technology has simplified the tasks of Human resource management by coming up with interfaces that accommodates the details of each individual employee. This ensures that personal data is updated frequently and that the data can be accessed fast. This means that no one will be passed over for demotion or promotion since the data is always updated and readily available. Of course, IT makes this possible and maintains the systems.

Personnel training

Many times, there have been issues arising on whether users of a system should be trained by the IT team or the human resource. As we have said in other posts here, the work of training the end users of a tech system should be done by the IT team, because they understand technology.

IT can make the training programs available for new employees even from the remotest places. They can use cloud systems for that. They can also make possible training through virtual classrooms. Training is very important as it makes the onboarding process much easier and more productive. The training program can be embedded into the human resource systems.

Make easy the process of storing and retrieving data

In human resource management, a lot of data is generated and this needs to be stored safely. IT will create and implement the systems that are supposed to store data and retrieve it easily and as needed. Today, files and personal data can be stored in electronic format, which makes retrieval easy and fast.

In addition, the human resource manager can be able to examine the performance of different employees using special metric systems that have been installed by the IT team. There is no way that you can separate the IT team from the operations of the human resource management.

Communication

Business thrives on communication between the senior staffs and the junior staffs as well as between the different departments. By establishing the best lines of communication from employees, potential employees to the human resource and other departments, technology has helped the human resource to gather information about employees by providing a platform like emails that makes them informed and most e updated about everything that take place in the organization.

IT can establish good performance metrics for the HR team

With some businesses employing thousands of employees locally and internationally, it would be a hard job for the HR team to keep track of all of them manually. Thus, the team needs performance metrics to gauge the performance of every employee and to make sure that no one is unfairly passed for promotion or merit awards. Such things raise the motivation of employees making them more productive. In addition, the HR management team can also find out what skills have become redundant and thus, either scrap some positions to save money or redeploy such employees to other positions or departments.

Conclusion

IT might not add any immediate monetary value to a business, but it establishes processes and systems for other departments thus making them more productive. By enhancing HR processes, more work can be done by less people, thus saving the business plenty of money in salaries, insurance and benefits.

Posted on September 1, 2016 .