Blog

April 11th, 2014

ERP_Apr07_AFor growing and startup businesses, choosing the ERP system that is the best fit for your circumstances is the first step. Your choice of implementation partner can make the difference between a system that works and a system that accelerates your growth. A great technology partner will share the best practices that deliver continuous business process improvement for a long term return on investment.

Avoid mistakes as you grow the business

If your business is growing, it’s changing. Whether that change comes in the form of new types of customers, new regions served or new distribution channels, you need to optimize business processes as you expand. A great implementation partner should be able to share best practices to keep you from making common mistakes as you grow the business.

Ask the questions that establish the approach that each vendor takes. Do they implement out of the box functionality and leave the rest to you, or do they take the time to understand your business? Question to uncover their approach include:

  • Can we take a phased approach to the implementation?
  • Will you help us identify our most inefficient processes?
  • How do leaders in our industry manage these business processes?
  • Do you deliver an ongoing training plan as part of your implementation?
  • What percentage of your clients continue to work with you after the initial implementation is complete?

The implementation of ERP should be the first step, not the last

Your ERP system is the foundation for the future. Adding the modules and functionality that you need as you grow the business over time should be an integral part of the plan from the start. Ongoing training will help your employees get every drop of productivity improvement that the system can deliver. With confidence that you have the latest technology supporting you, the business can take on new challenges with confidence.

A great implementation partner will make sure that you get the most from your ERP investment, now and over time. Ask the right questions to build the long term ROI. Ready to get started? Let’s talk.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 9th, 2014

SocialMedia_April07_ASocial media is an important tool for any business, and those that want to really engage with customers and valuable connections really need to have visual forward content. The problem many business owners come across is in finding the right software to create this content. Sure, you can use a program like Adobe Photoshop, but while using an expert can prove too expensive, going it alone can be too difficult to achieve for many. There are other tools available.

In this day and age where compelling visuals are possible online, it is extremely important to learn how to create attractive visuals to aid your social media marketing campaigns. You at least need a working knowledge of how to enhance your photos and make them more attention-grabbing. There are a number of free or highly affordable tools out there that can help you do just that.

PIXLR - This advanced photo editor works like Photoshop, only it is easier to use and therefore ideal for beginners. You can create images from scratch or perform advanced image editing. Using fairly simple tools can maximize the potential of images. For quick editing, there’s PIXLR EXPRESS or PIXLR O-MATIC, which are free to use. Visit the PIXLR website to learn more and start use these programs.

PicMonkey’s Online Photo Editor - This photo editor can transform ordinary images into fantastic photographs in just a few clicks. Select the image that you want to modify and add special effects such as fancy text, or simply crop and re-size. The photos edited using PicMonkey can be uploaded on Facebook and other social media platforms. PicMonkey is free to use so you can just go to the website and start editing away. For added frames and special effects there’s a premium version you can upgrade to for USD $33.33 per year.

LiveLuvCreate - This website can be used without any charge and offers a variety of design layouts and graphics. Using this platform you can edit your own images and there are also a ton of images created by users on its library that can help give you inspiration. Among the tools available are borders, filters, and photo effects, as well as fonts, colours, and styles. Visit the website to set up an account and start editing your images today.

Canva - If you want to create your Facebook cover photos from scratch, or if you want to design some blog images, this is a free application that might prove useful. This tool is very convenient and can be used to create business cards, invitations, posters, and presentations. Visit the website today to start creating your own visuals.

Quozio - If you are into quotes, Quozio lets you upload famous and favorite quotes, visualize them, and then share them on your social network. Simply enter an interesting quote and then select a background image. Instead of simply posting what’s on your mind, you can make a quote more attractive and appealing by transforming it into a visual using this free app. Visit the site today to visualize your next quote.

Whether you are posting on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network, your content cannot come alive without the use of quality graphics and images. If Photoshop does not work for you, these other tools are ideal substitutes for creating appealing graphics for a variety of social media platforms.

Make sure to share your own list of top photo tools for everyone to see! And, if you would like to learn more about leveraging social media in your business, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
April 2nd, 2014

Productivity_Mar31_APresentations are an integral part of any business, regardless of size. There is a good chance that you will have to give at least one presentation in your career, with many people giving so many they lose count. Many small businesses are starting to hire remote workers or carry out business over large distances, which forces them to create presentations online. However, with this type of presentation it can be especially hard to attract and keep an audience's attention.

If you are creating an online presentation to a remote audience there are a number of factors you should keep in mind if you want to grab your audience's attention and keep them following and paying attention. Here are five of the most important tips:

1. Make it visual

For the most part, visual presentations have a higher chance of success - that is, the message being grasped by the audience. This is especially true for online and remote presentations, largely because when more people are on a computer, partaking in a presentation, they will often be multi-tasking.

If you have a ton of text there is a good chance you will lose your audience within the first couple of slides. Instead aim for a presentation that is heavy on graphics and visually appealing. Using bright or contrasting colors will draw the eye and will increase the time you have your audience's attention.

If your presentation is about a product create picture slides with a minimal amount of text; let the product speak for itself. For presentations involving graphs and charts, include these graphics and a couple of key points. The rest you can fill in with spoken narrative.

2. Focus on the audience

Online presentations and those using meeting software should be audience-friendly. This means making it easy for them to join and partake in the presentation by sharing slides, and also asking if anyone has any points to add or even expand upon with an interactive presentation element.

While presenting, there will be slides and points that are more important than others. To highlight this you can 'sign-post' the salient points. Make these visually larger if they are text, and pause to point this out with the script by telling your audience: "This is the most important point"; essentially demanding they pay attention.

Finally, try to limit technical glitches. This can be the quickest way to lose engagement if your Internet cuts out or the computer crashes. Try to present at a time when you know connection will be strong and stable and have a backup in place in case something goes wrong.

3. Adapt to different audiences

Every person in the audience will have different expectations of your presentation. Some will want just the facts, while others might be looking to be convinced by an opinion or argument expressed in the presentation. You should take the time to get to know your audience and what they expect and then develop the presentation around this idea.

If you do your homework and know a bit about your audience, you can take steps to connect with them early in the presentation, if not before, and drive engagement.

4. Create, edit, practice, edit, practice, edit, practice, present

It may sound a bit redundant to edit and practice multiple times, but it really will help when leading an online presentation. First you should create your presentation, then edit it. You are looking to keep your slides as short as possible - no more than four points and two minutes spent talking for each slide.

Really the first edit should be about content, grammar and spelling. Once this is done, practice presenting as you would on the actual presentation day. Start with a blank desktop screen, log into the software/site you will be using, load the presentation, share it, and then actually present. Time yourself and note any issues.

Next, go back and edit the presentation some more, making sure you aren't spending too much time on one slide or that each of the slides does not have too many confusing points, etc. Keep practicing and editing until you are not only comfortable, but know the content inside and out.

You could also try recording your voice. This will allow you to hear where you need to work on inflection and overall style. If you find that you are tuning yourself out when you listen to the presentation, you may want to practice some more and try to inject some extra interest, whether through humor or engaging facts and ideas. This is really vital is you won't have that face-to-face contact with a physical presentation where you are present. If you sound engaging, the audience are more likely to connect with you.

5. Develop your own style

No one likes a dull presentation where you just talk about what's on the slides. Try to give your presentation a narrative arc and structure. Where possible include personal experiences or even tell a relevant joke from time to time. If you are passionate and show that you are trying to connect your audience will likely not click away from the presentation or drift off to other work or simply to surf the Internet and Facebook.

If you are looking to learn more about presentations and how to use software for expert presentations, or even how to conduct your next remote presentation, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
April 2nd, 2014

HealthcareIT_Apr02_AChief Information Officer (CIO) Denis Tanguay’s workload has quadrupled over the past few years, and he has been struggling to stay on top ensuring that systems are secure and available when his employees need it. How did he overcome these struggles? He found a solution in outsourcing.

As the CIO for Central Maine Healthcare explained in a Health Care IT News article, getting ready for Stage 2 meaningful use attestation and transitioning to ICD-10 put tremendous pressure on him and his 70-person IT staff.

A few years ago, Tanguay began working with an IT provider, which took work off his staff’s plate. Central Maine Healthcare uses IT providers in a number of ways, from service requests for new PCs, keyboards, and software installations to help with user calls. They’re essentially an “insurance policy," says Tanguay. "They have already blazed those trails and made sure that whatever we're going to be using has already been tested, what versions of firmware and software work well."

Tanguay says the result of outsourcing some IT functionality has resulted in easier software upgrades, quicker response time, greater system stability, improved data security, and better disaster recovery procedures.

Moreover, outsourcing has allowed Tanguay to focus more on the things that are important. “My CEO has a line,” he says. “’We're not in the IT business; we're in the healthcare business.’”

When it comes to IT outsourcing, health-care providers have the option of doing a little or a lot,” says another recent article. They can turn over an entire IT function, or farm out small portions. If you are struggling with managing IT systems in your practice, or would like a little help ensuring compliance with the always changing regulations, contact us today to see how our managed services can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 28th, 2014

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

Connect departments for better service

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

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

Collaboration builds efficiency

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

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

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

 

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 27th, 2014

BI_March24_ABusiness Intelligence, or BI, refers to the processes and systems involved in the collection of business information for analysis to determine the past and current status of your company. It serves to give a better insight into what is about to transpire. Many companies from different industries use BI tools in their business, but the question is how can different departments use them?

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

Marketing Department

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

Sales Department

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

Finance Department

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

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

Inventory

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

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 26th, 2014

Office_Mar24_AMicrosoft Outlook is an application included in the Microsoft Office Suite. While it’s most commonly used to access different email accounts e.g., personal and business, it also has other features, including calendar, contacts, and tasks. It also comes with a search folder that lets you instantly find messages that fall under certain criteria.

Outlook is one of the most popular email platforms allowing you to read emails from almost any account. The inbox is where the majority of your interaction with Outlook is, but the problem is that many users receive so many emails that it can be overwhelmed quickly. This makes it more difficult to find important emails, or separate the spam/less important emails.

One way to deal with this is by creating a customized search folder for important emails. This makes searching for vital messages easier as they are saved in a separate folder.

Default and predefined search folders in Outlook

There are three default search folders in Outlook and you can see them under “search folders” in the mail navigation pane on the left side of the window. These default search folders are categorized mail, large mail and unread mail. Categorized mail contains messages that are categorized by color.

The large mail folder is a search folder that includes messages that are over 100 KB in size. Unread mail, as the term suggests, contains emails that have not yet been read.

Predefined search folders are also available. These are existing search folders that you can add to the search menu, below the other folders. Some of these require that you enter specific criteria, while others do not. For instance, “mail flagged for follow up” does not require any criteria, while “mail with specific words” asks you to enter certain words that the message must contain to be included in the folder.

Adding predefined search folders can be done by following the steps below:

  1. Click File.
  2. Select New and choose Search Folder. The New Search Folder window will appear.
  3. Click on any of the predefined search folders.
  4. Select the option you want if asked for a specific criterion.
  5. Click OK.

Create a new search folder in Outlook

It’s also possible to create your very own search folder. You get to set not only the criteria, but its name as well. This makes it convenient to easily access important messages as you don’t have to browse through the inbox or various folders in your mailbox.

Here’s how to create a new search folder in Outlook:

  1. Right click on Search Folders in the mail navigation pane and click New Search Folder. You may also press ctrl+shift+p on your keyboard to make the window appear.
  2. Click Create a Custom Search Field followed by Choose.
  3. Enter the name of the new folder in the name field.
  4. Click Criteria and set your preferences to further personalize the folder and click OK.
  5. Click Browse and select folders to add in your customized search folder, then click OK.
  6. Select OK on the new search folder window and the new folder you created will be added under your search folders.
Messages in search folders will still remain in the original folders where they are saved. Even if you view the messages and delete the search folder, the messages will still be accessible in their default folder. However, if you select and delete a message in a search folder, it will be completely removed, even from its original folder.

If you have any concerns or feedback with regards Outlook search folders, feel free to get in touch and we’ll help you in every way that we can.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 21st, 2014

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

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

Which distribution channels should you tap?

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

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

Get it right with ERP

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

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

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

 

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 20th, 2014

Hardware_Mar17_AIt’s hard to imagine printers completely disappearing in offices. While no one can refute how most documents are now housed in the digital realm, there will always be a need to have these documents printed out for one reason or another. While offices do have printers, it may be confusing to pick a new printer when you need a new one.

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

Multi Function Printers (MFP)

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

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

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

Inkjet Printers

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

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

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

Laser Printers

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

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

Laser printers offer users many enticing benefits including:

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

What type of printer should my business get?

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

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

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
March 19th, 2014

BCP_Marc17_AA business without a DRP (Disaster Recovery Plan) is like a circus acrobat without a safety net. The question is, are you willing to take that kind of a risk with your business? Considering how attacks to your business can come in many forms be it cyber, natural disaster or man made (among many others), it makes perfect sense to have an effective DRP in place.

While there are several facets to a DRP that are going to determine whether it will be effective or not, making sure that you’ve considered these 5 tips is definitely a good start.

1.) Commitment from management

Because the managers are the ones who will coordinate the development of the plan and be the central figures who implement the recovery plan, it’s crucial that they are committed to it and are willing to back it up.

They will also be responsible for setting an allocated budget and manpower to creating the actual plan. That said, it’s very important that they know the concept behind it and how huge of an impact a DRP can have on a business.

2.) A representative on each department should be available when creating a DRP

It’s unthinkable to believe that your DRP is well optimized when you haven’t had a representative from each department coordinate with you while creating the recovery program.

Considering how they themselves are the front line of your organization with the best knowledge about how their department works, it’s a huge plus that you should take advantage of when creating a DRP.

With the representatives on your team, you’ll be able to see things from their perspective and gain first-hand knowledge from those who do the actual work.

3.) Remember to prioritize

In an ideal world, you should be able to restore everything at the same time after a disaster strikes. But since most businesses usually have a limited amount of resources, you will usually have to recover systems one at a time.

Because of this, you need to have a hierarchy or a sense of priority when determining which systems should be recovered first. That way, the most important systems are immediately brought back up while the less important ones are then queued in order of their importance.

4.) Determining your recovery strategies

This is one of the main focal points of a DRP since this phase tackles the actual strategies or steps that you’ll implement to recover your systems.

When determining your actual strategies, it's important that you brainstorm and think about all the options that you have to recovering your systems. Don’t simply stick with the cheapest possible strategy or even the most expensive ones.

You have to remember though that the simplest strategy to implement is probably the best one. That is, as long as the simplest strategy covers the critical aspects of your system recovery.

That said, avoid over complicating your strategies as you might face unnecessary challenges when it comes to the implementation of the recovery strategy.

5.) Do a dry run at least once a year

Your DRP shouldn’t end with the concept alone. No matter how foolproof you think your strategy is, if you haven’t tested it you most likely have missed something important.

It's during the dry run phase that the need for extra steps (or the removal of one) are made even more evident. You can then start polishing your strategies according to how your dry run plays out. It would also be a good year to practice your plan each year and update it accordingly.

These tips will help you ensure that your DRP will remain effective should a disaster occur. If you’re having a hard time figuring out how to go about the process of creating a DRP, then give us a call now and we’ll help you with the process.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.