Blog

July 31st, 2015

164_Prod_ CFor many small and medium sized business owners like yourself, Managed Services may be a confusing topic. You’ve likely heard that they can lead to greater productivity and profits, but are unsure as to just how they do this. If you’ve been confused for long enough, today you’ll finally understand the process by which Managed Services can lead your business to increased productivity and a higher bottom line.

Managed Services essentially amounts to preventative IT maintenance. What this means for your business is that little IT problems are nipped in the bud as soon as they bubble up, and before they have a chance to compound into much bigger, more costly ones. But before we delve deeper into how this increases your business’s productivity levels, it makes sense to look at the history of this service and the role of “preventative maintenance” in our culture.

Why preventative maintenance matters

Managed Services have been around for decades. But despite this, many businesses have been slow to catch on. And really, is it all that surprising? Preventative maintenance is not exactly a priority in mass culture. Whether you hire a mechanic to replace a catalytic converter, a plumber to repair a leaky pipe or doctor to correct your coronary heart disease, many of these oftentimes preventable problems have been culturally accepted as commonplace. Yet people are so used to the mindset of thinking “everything is okay until it’s not”, which is really where the true problem lies.

Additionally, when preventable problems are ignored long enough to the point they explode into emergency repairs, your wallet almost always suffers. This is just as true for a network crash to your business’s IT infrastructure as it is for a trip to the emergency room for a neglected health problem.

Because Managed Services prevent catastrophic IT repairs that surprise you out of nowhere, your bottom line will enjoy long-term savings. Along with this, you’ll also get a significant bump in your productivity levels.

How does Managed Services boost productivity?

To answer this question, it makes sense to look at a fundamental principle of productivity - focus. Imagine if you’re trying to complete a new marketing strategy for the next quarter. You’re doing some research, compiling a list upcoming networking events and trade shows to attend, when suddenly you’re disrupted by an urgent phone call. After you’re off the phone, you return to your research, and then your secretary bursts in with an handful of vendor invoices you need to sign off on. As these disruptions continue to pile up, what happens if your IT breaks down and you’re unable to use your computer? Basically, you don’t get anything done during the day. You become stuck.

When it comes to IT, Managed Services take preventative measures to ensure your IT is always running at its optimal level, so that you don’t suffer technology breakdowns or distractions that blow your focus - preventing you and your staff from getting any work done. Smooth running IT won’t resolve all your productivity problems, such as your staff focusing more on Facebook or their phone rather than their work, but it will resolve all of those that relate directly to technology. No longer will your business be held down by daily computer disruptions and associated repairs, and instead you and your staff can move forward and focus on growing your business. That is the beauty of Managed Services. More productivity, focus and growth for your entire organization.

Have more questions about Managed Services? Give us a call today. We’re happy to provide you the information you need.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
July 29th, 2015

BusinessValue_July28_CBusinesses that are winning in today’s marketplace are the ones that make technology work for them, not the other way round. When used correctly, technology can make every task much faster to execute, from communicating with customers to sending messages, gathering information, and more. So if you’re looking to increase staff efficiency, consider the following methods to implement technology into your day-to-day business operations.

Change office communication

In order to increase efficiency, set up instant messaging software such as Skype on your employees’ workstations. This allows them to send instant messages to correspondents instead of having to get up from their desks to see whether the person is available. Of course, if you need to discuss big projects or issues, face-to-face communication is likely the best choice. But you can simply send a quick message for more trivial conversations, saving precious minutes and allowing you to get more work done.

Install video conferencing

Traveling to offsite meetings and training sessions takes time and, all too often, time spent on the road is time lost. Rather than commuting for hours outside your office, opt for a networked phone solution that offers video calls and conferencing. This way you can hold a video conference to discuss business matters from the comfort and convenience of your office. You can also take things up a notch and equip the conference room with tools to pull up documents and have them displayed on a big screen, so that everyone in the meeting can follow the conversation with ease.

Upgrade workstations

Outdated technologies and workstations limit your business’s progress, and are a hindrance to developing clued-up, efficient employees. Aging phone systems and slow networks can frustrate your team and bring productivity to a standstill. So it’s important to take the time to assess your current workstations, applications, hardware, and tools. This doesn’t mean that you have to buy a set of entirely new workstations. But you should replace obsolete equipment with more up-to-date machines. In addition, make sure all software and applications are up-to-date to ensure maximum efficiency and employee satisfaction.

Implement ERP software

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is business process management software that allows organizations to automate processes and centralize data in order for employees to collaborate more efficiently. ERP software provides employees with up-to-date business information that they can easily access and make use of. What’s more, ERP also eliminates redundant data entry and reduces the number of spreadsheets that are used to record critical business data, by storing information in a centralized database.

To get the maximum return on your technology investment, it’s also important to partner with a knowledgeable and reliable service provider. Get in touch with our tech experts today to find out how we can implement technology to help your employees become more efficient and productive.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 19th, 2015

Office365_Jun4_CFor all the undeniable value that email brings to both personal and business users around the world, there’s something else that can’t be denied: the amount of time we waste dealing with the seemingly endless flow of unwanted and irrelevant messages that land in our inboxes. Even when a message is somehow valuable to us or our business, chances are it’s not something we need to deal with right there and then and disrupt our productive flow in the process. But no matter how many email management hacks we use to try and control email flow, the messages keep on coming. Clutter from Outlook could be the magic solution.

Originally announced at Microsoft’s Exchange Conference at the start of 2014, the Clutter add-on for Outlook began rolling out last November to Office 365 business customers who had signed up for the first release. During the initial trial period for Clutter, the function was disabled by default - now that’s been changed, and as of June 15 the tool was due to be turned on by default for all Office 365 users.

At the heart of Clutter is a desire to prioritize email, and move less important messages from your inbox so that you can review and deal with them at your convenience. With only your highest priority emails waiting for you in your main inbox, the idea is that you enjoy fewer distractions and so enhance productivity in your real job - which, for most of us, isn’t email at all. Clutter is an intelligent tool, meaning it picks up hints on which emails are important to you based both on the type of the message and how you are addressed in it. It also uses the Office Graph social feature to track your prior actions both within the Outlook Web App and on Outlook clients for desktop and mobile devices.

Messages identified as lower priority are whisked away to a specific Clutter folder for you to review when you have the chance. Alternatively, you can simply choose to ignore the messages, treating the Clutter folder as another kind of junk filter, and the messages will remain conveniently out of view. In order to ensure that it doesn’t inadvertently start mis-identifying messages as low priority, Microsoft is keen to stress that Clutter won’t do anything until it is confident it has a thorough understanding of your behaviors and your email preferences - for most people this will happen within a matter of days, depending on the volume of email you receive.

You’ll receive daily and weekly notifications so you’re aware which messages Clutter is moving, and don’t miss something important - significantly, these notifications are no longer sent as emails, since replacing an inbox-cluttering message with another one would seem to somewhat detract from Clutter’s purpose. If a message is wrongly picked up as low priority and moved to your Clutter folder, you can move it back to your inbox to be dealt with sooner, and Clutter will learn from the mistake in order to improve its handling of your messages in the future. In the same way, you can choose to proactively teach Clutter about your preferences by marking specific low-priority messages as Clutter.

According to Microsoft, Clutter already shifts more than a million low-priority messages daily, and saves its users almost an hour and a half in productivity each month - figures which are expected to rise as the tool is adopted more widely. If you’ve already enabled Clutter manually, or have enabled it but later switched it off, nothing will change; if you haven’t yet taken any action at all, it will be automatically turned on for you if it hasn’t been already. If you want to disable it, you can do so from the Options page of either Outlook on the Web or the Outlook 2016 Preview, or can simply click the turn it off link at the bottom of notifications.

Clutter gives you a highly personalized email filter that knows which messages are of interest. If you want to learn more about using Office 365 in your business, give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 21st, 2015

164_Prod_CAn unfocused staff is a recipe for a lack of productivity. And with distractions like social media, broken equipment and technology, and employees who’d rather spend their day chatting than doing their job, it may seem impossible to get your team to produce the results you desire. So what’s a business owner to do? Here are four tips that are sure to get your staff more focused and productive.

Set clear goals

In order for your employees to produce results and reach their productivity potential, they need to know what is expected of them. At some organizations, it may be perfectly acceptable to spend one hour surfing the Internet everyday and seven hours working; or it may be considered normal to count a lunch break towards the eight hours worked. The truth is that more and more employees are bouncing between jobs from company to company, and each organization has a different set of standards and expectations. If it’s not communicated to your employees what yours are, you can be certain that they’ll make up their own.

Additionally, your employees need to know what results you expect them to produce. Maybe that means they need to sell a certain volume of products each month, or maybe it means they need to consistently score a four-star customer satisfaction rating. Whatever it is, your employees need to be aware of your expectations and have some sort of goal to shoot for. This gives you a way to see the results each employee is producing. Then you can try to find a solution to increase the productivity of your lower performing staff.

Be personable with your employees

Have you ever had a boss that rarely interacted with employees and that everyone feared? Maybe he stayed locked away in his office most days or ignored staff members as he quickly strode through the office never cracking a smile. Do you think employees want to produce results for a boss like this? They might, but it may be out of fear of losing their job rather than genuinely wanting to help that boss and the company at large.

Interact with your employees. And not only about work. Ask them how their weekend was. Find common interests to talk about. Take the time to get to know them. It’s easy for employees to not produce results or care about their job if the business owner is unapproachable and distant. On the contrary, if the owner is personable and friendly with staff, it is harder for an employee to slack off and not commit to the company’s growth. It’s natural for employees to work harder for a person they know, rather than one who’s “all business” and persistently unavailable.

Listen to your employees’ feedback

To go along with being personable, take the time to gather and listen to your employees’ feedback. If you show that you value their opinions, they’ll feel part of the team and organization. When this happens, they’ll be more committed to your goals and will want to see the company succeed as much as you do.

Of course that doesn’t mean you need to take every bit of employee feedback and run with it - it simply means keeping an open mind. Your team will respect you more and work harder for you as a result.

Provide reliable equipment

This is a no brainer. But if an employee doesn’t have the reliable equipment and tools to complete their job, their productivity levels will plummet. A broken computer, crashed server or faulty Internet connection will have your staff twiddling their thumbs and playing with their phones in no time. If it’s your technology that’s the culprit in this situation, Managed Services represent an exceptional solution to prevent your IT from ever breaking down in the first place. What does that mean for your staff? Less downtime, more productivity and more results.

Interested in discovering more ways to boost employee productivity? Want to learn how Managed Services can ensure the reliability of your IT and prevent downtime? Contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
May 7th, 2015

Productivity_May6_CWhen it comes to working in the office, a lot of things can hamper your productivity. Some of them are easy to deal with, such as redundant email checking and social media updates, while others are more difficult to handle, such as sudden power outages. The latter can be a real productivity killer, especially if your company relies heavily on Internet connectivity to perform day-to-day operations. But there are several methods to ensure productivity, even during power outages - here’s how.

Install a UPS for each computer

A UPS (uninterrupted power supply), is an alternative, emergency power source. During a power outage, your computer will turn itself off automatically as there's no power. UPS prevents that by running your computer off its own battery. If you’re working on a file when a power blackout occurs, UPS is especially helpful. It can only buy your computer a few minutes of time at most, but that’s enough time to save vital files and power down. If you still need Internet access, try another method we’ve listed below.

Find a Wi-Fi connection

The advancements in technology made it possible for you to take your work outside the office. You can resume your business activities and Internet connectivity by using the mobile data plan from your smartphone or tablets, and then access your files via cloud storage and file sharing applications. If you don’t have a data plan, then head to the nearest Wi-Fi-friendly place to continue your work, such as a coffee shop. VoIP software installed on your portable devices can help you to connect to your clients efficiently.

Make good use of your batteries

Now is not the time to browse social media or play games. When you take your work offline, it’s best to preserve your devices’ batteries by doing only important tasks and turning off power-sucking applications. Buy an extra charging device to extend your battery life, if necessary.

Finish offline tasks

When no Internet connection is available, you can take the time to clear off any neglected offline duties, whether it’s clearing up desks or arranging files and documents. You can even gather a team to brainstorm new ideas for projects, or discuss any ongoing issues within your organization.

Work from home

If a power outage renders your employees helpless in their duties, then sending them home with a business laptop won’t hurt, if they’re able to continue their work from there. There are many ways to keep them accountable without being intrusive and, as long as they are making progress in their jobs and are able maintain their professional integrity, there’s not much to complain about. Make sure telecommuting is only allowed when necessary though - working alongside colleagues and sharing ideas face-to-face is still one of the best ways to induce productivity.

Achieving power-free productivity is possible when you have a plan prepared for the situation. For more productivity tips to boost your business’s bottom line, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
April 23rd, 2015

164_Prod_CIn today’s world of ever-changing technology, information overload and endless to do lists, it can seem hard to keep up. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to just get more done? While there’ll likely always be tasks to accomplish and something to do, there are certainly things you can change to boost productivity. And that starts with identifying bad habits. Here are five of them you should kick now to bring your productivity to an all-time high.

Constantly checking email

This is an obvious one most people already know of, but how many of us actually follow it? The reason it’s a productivity killer is because it destroys your focus. Even worse, constantly checking email has been linked to anxiety, depression, lower performance and even decreased memory function.

To overcome this habit, designate specific times of the day to check your e-mail. For example, first thing in the morning when you wake up, after lunch, and at the end of the work day. This will prevent constant email checking from breaking up your flow while you’re on the clock.

Working long days

It’s 8pm, you’ve already worked 12 hours, but you just want to knock out one more item on your to do list. You’re exhausted, but you tell yourself to push through anyway - even if it takes another hour. How many of us have been here? If it’s more often than not, it may be a good idea to kick this habit as it’s an absolute productivity killer.

Studies have shown that working more than eight hours a day lowers productivity and raises the risk of burnout. The reasoning is simple...mental fatigue. Once you’ve worked a certain number of hours, your focus will be less sharp and your productivity will consequently drop. Which leads us to our next point...

Not getting enough sleep

Rest is essential to maximizing your productivity. And the most essential type of rest you can get is sleep. Research has shown that getting five hours of sleep or less multiple nights in a row has the same effect on you as a 0.10 blood alcohol level. Not only that, but you’ll also suffer from headaches, be mistake-prone and get distracted more easily. Basically you’ll be an unfocused mess.

Working continuously without a break

Studies have shown that you need to take breaks if you want to achieve maximum productivity. This is because a break allows you to rest your brain. Often during a break, you may even come up with new creative solutions to problems. And the best part is that when you return to work, you’ll feel revitalized with a fresh focus and ready to be challenged.

Multitasking

In this day and age, multitasking is often touted as a positive skill. And while this may be true in small bursts, spending hours juggling tasks is a surefire way of lowering productivity. The reason behind this is that switching between tasks causes a loss of focus and creativity. Think of your brain as a computer with a limited amount of RAM. Now what happens when your computer’s RAM is pushed to the max? It usually slows down and doesn’t function as well. Your brain acts in a similar way, the only difference being that you can’t buy more RAM to install in your brain - not yet, at least.

On the contrary, studies have shown that focusing on one task for a larger block of time (don’t forget to throw your break in, though) allows you to boost your productivity and get into a flow with your work. Try it out and you may find yourself accomplishing more tasks than you ever imagined possible.

Interested in learning about more ways to increase productivity? Want to find out how your technology can help? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
April 11th, 2015

Browsers_Apr10_CWhen was the last time you opened a web site, got everything you needed from it and then closed it? It’s something we do less and less - instead, more of us are accustomed to keeping a page open for reference for some time, perhaps even leaving it open when we put our computer to sleep, and often bookmarking it to go back to later. But what if you need to access that page when you’re working on a different device - say your smartphone or tablet - and perhaps even in a different location? New support for syncing bookmarks in the popular Opera browser, between its and mobile and desktop platforms, makes it easier to keep track of all the pages you’ve opened but haven’t quite finished with yet.

Bookmark syncing is already standard practice on most browsers, and those who use Google Chrome in particular will already be familiar with being able to log into the browser on different devices and access all your bookmarks just as you left them. Yet, despite its popularity with over 300 million users, it’s a feature that was oddly missing from Opera until an update last month. Bookmark syncing is now supported across Opera’s desktop platform, Opera Mini for iOS, and Opera for Android, with Opera Mini for Android expected to follow soon.

Syncing your bookmarks on Opera browsers is as simple as it is on the likes of Google Chrome. Simply sign into your Opera account on each device that you use (after creating an account if you don’t have one already), and your bookmarks will magically appear for you to access, edit and add to. Of course, if you’re happy as you are, then you can use Opera as you always have done and without signing in - the only difference is that you won’t have access to your bookmarks on any devices where you’re not connected.

Though it may lack the glitz and glam afforded to other, newer browsers like Chrome and Firefox, Opera is a stalwart that has been around since 1995. At the start of this year, one of Opera’s original developers unveiled a brand new browser, Vivaldi, after he became disillusioned with Opera’s change of course from its original functions and purpose. Designed for power users who spend a lot of time online working with high volumes of content, Vivaldi might be for you if you not only like to bookmark lots of pages, but also have a tendency to keep numerous tabs open.

Learn more about how different browsers can help you boost your organization’s productivity - get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Browsers
April 2nd, 2015

iPhone_Mar27_CGoogle has finally invented the missing piece in the jigsaw for iPhone users - the tech firm has completed its suite of apps by adding iPhone functionality to the popular Calendar App. Now you can schedule yourself to within an inch of your life, all without leaving your iPhone and without bothering with integration between Google Calendar and your phone’s own built-in diary management tools.

Like its Android sibling, Google Calendar for iPhone takes a colorful approach to displaying your engagements in a daily or three-day view; much like the web version, events from different calendars are categorized by color for quick and easy identification. As well as your existing Google calendars, the app imports and works with any different calendars you already have setup using your phone’s own tools. You can also take a step back and look at the whole month at a glance - though you don’t see individual appointments in this view, it allows you to select a specific date from the calendar and zoom back in to check what you have going on.

Continuing the aesthetic theme, the app takes your diary entries and prettifies them - think a background image of palm trees if you enter the details of your upcoming holiday to the Bahamas. You’ll also get useful supporting data for your day-to-day events, like maps to get you to your next meeting or an idea of the weather when you jet into a new city for the night. And if you’re a Gmail user, you can have the app automatically create events from your email - perfect for having details of meetings and travel bookings plugged into your schedule for easy reference. Features like this bring you the benefits of travel planning apps like Tripit without the hassle of having to forward each email confirmation across first.

Adding diary engagements manually is a breeze, too - this functions in much the same way as the web-based Google Calendar, except that you can tap into your iPhone’s contact list to select those you want to invite to your events. The app can also go some way to predicting where you’ll host each event, and so autofill the location for you.

While many of the features of the app are not dissimilar to things you can already accomplish using Google Calendar on the web, the app’s release means all of those tools are finally bundled up and easily accessible to those of us who just can’t stray too far from our iPhone. A switch to the new Google Calendar for iPhone app means a big step up in performance and productivity if you’re currently using the far more basic features of your phone’s in-built calendar app.

Want to learn more about using the iPhone in a business setting? Give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPhone
March 26th, 2015

Productivity_Mar25_CToo many of us associate corporate meetings with long, dull sessions that lack focus, go round and round in circles and end up not reaching the concrete conclusions we need from them. In fact, many of these meetings probably don’t even need to be held in the first place, and certainly plenty of us would rather be at our desks getting on with our jobs than sat in energy-devoid boardrooms. But there’s another way - enter Do.com, a meeting productivity platform that has recently made announcements that show it’s on the up. Here’s why it might be time your organization upped the ante in meetings and jumped on the Do.com bandwagon.

Do.com aims to end what it terms ‘meeting hell’, and the platform is currently used by more than 5,000 organizations from top businesses like Dominos to sectors of the US government. When you add Do.com to your company’s productivity strategy, you benefit from a host of meeting-oriented features including management of agendas, notes and actions. The tool can also be used to share files for the purpose of discussion during meetings, and to display a timer to keep deliberations on track and avoid that ultimate hell of never-ending meetings.

The cloud-focused application has signaled it is on an upward trajectory, recently adding $2 million in funding. The additional capital will be used to further expand Do.com and its features, as well as the team behind it. Consequently, it appears that now is a great time to be getting onboard, with lots more to come from it. The most recent technical development to be announced is its new integration with Office 365. This will give Do.com further relevance and usability value to business owners around the world who are already taking advantage of the numerous benefits of the Microsoft cloud-based suite of productivity applications.

Do.com can already be used in conjunction with Evernote and Google Apps like Drive and Docs, but the move to integrate with Office 365 puts it in reach of an ever larger audience. Those not yet accustomed to high-tech meeting solutions may still be using pen and paper to manage their company get-togethers. But Do.com identifies its technology-based competitors as core cloud applications such as Dropbox, Trello, Evernote, Google Apps - everything from Docs to Calendar to Drive - and even good old email. Yet Do.com does something these individual apps don’t - while they all tackle one particular element of the organization and follow-up to a meeting, Do.com handles the whole lot with a single holistic, meeting-centered approach. With its latest moves, that’s what the platform hopes will be attractive to productivity-deprived business owners.

Want to find out more about Do.com and other productivity and cloud-based technologies? Get in touch today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
March 21st, 2015

iPad_Mar20_CIf you’re on-trend and at the forefront of developments in the Apple range, you’ve long since switched your allegiance from what suddenly seems like a clunky, oversized iPad, and are using the sized-down iPad Mini. The changes almost echo the trend in pre-smartphone times, when smaller, smaller, smaller was all we were hungry for. But, however you dress it up, size reduction almost always comes at the expense of functionality. Here’s why you might want to dust down your full-sized iPad and let it enjoy a new lease of life. Better still, grab a brand new iPad Air 2.

It’s big enough to share

Whether in meetings or on the go, the full sized iPad screen is better suited to showing documents, images and web sites to others. The iPad Mini may be more easily portable, but its screen size is comparable to that of the iPhone 6, and a phone just isn’t the best platform for displaying information to a group. The screen size on models like the iPad Air makes this much easier and more effective.

It takes great photos

For some time, the iPad camera seemed inferior to that of the iPhone. But the iPad Air 2 changes all that - the 9 Megapixel camera makes it perfect for photo needs in the office. We’re thinking instant capturing of whiteboard scribbles at the end of a brainstorming session, quickly and efficiently scanning documents, and maybe just the odd workplace selfie. It’s suddenly comparable to the camera power of the iPhone and superior to that of the iPad Mini. Combine that with the bigger screen, and the business productivity advantages of the full-sized iPad Air 2 are plain to see.

It’s a productivity machine

Again it comes partly down to the full-sized screen, but a more generously proportioned iPad - whether that’s the new iPad Air 2 or an older model - is simply better for getting the job done. While the iPad Mini boasts the same resolution as the iPad Air 2, the latter’s extra screen area gives you more space to work with. The Mini offers the same amount of limited room for maneuver as the latest iPhone model, which is fine when you’re on the move and want to complete a quick task on the fly, but less so when you need to get serious work done. The larger screen allows you to drag and drop information, move things around and switch between multiple applications at ease.

Getting the highest levels of productivity out of your technology is all about selecting the gear that works best for you. Want to learn how to best deploy iPads and other Apple devices in your business? Give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPad