CFO Tech Blog: How To Become The Tech Savvy CFO

More than ever, today’s CFOs are expected to have a degree of tech savviness. Big data and analytics are tools that are just too powerful to ignore in the CFO suite. If you’re not particularly tech savvy, harnessing the power of these tools to the fullest extent will remain out of reach.

Why You Need to Become the Tech Savvy CFO
It’s crucial to understand just how powerful today’s technology tools are for financial leadership. Whatever the nature of your business and industry, technology can empower you and your staff in the following ways.

Forecasting and Risk
Forecasting has always been a part of the CFO’s role. Forecasting today can be much more accurate, thanks to the rich data that’s available.

CFOs must have the skills to understand and interpret that data (or they must employ people who can). Use robust data and analytics to reduce the amount of guesswork in your forecasting.

Risk management is another responsibility under your purview as CFO. Forecasting and risk management are interrelated, of course, and both have traditionally involved a fair bit of prediction and uncertainty.

If you’re like most CFOs, you’re a fairly risk-averse person. Reduce the risks of prediction and uncertainty by basing your decision-making on data wherever possible.

Advanced Data Visualization Techniques
All this data that companies now have access to can quickly become overwhelming. Today’s tech savvy CEOs harness the power of advanced data visualization techniques to bring the most important information to the surface.

These techniques include making dashboards for interacting with the data and scorecards for presenting it to users at all levels.

Predictive Analytics
In the 1960s, business predictions were often made around a conference table in a smoke-filled room. They were based on some amount of data, but hunches, opinions, and interpersonal power dynamics often played an outsized role.

Today, there’s a better way. Predictive analytics are driven by algorithms and data, not by cigars and opinions. Leverage the power of all the data you’ve collected into predictive analytics.

While they are neither perfect nor omniscient, predictive analytics remove human biases from forecasting. This powerful tool can enhance your effectiveness as a CFO.

Adjust in Real Time
The CFO that understands how to use these new tools can be agile, adjusting in real time based on the data that’s coming in. Many marketplaces change rapidly, and a 6-month-old report may no longer ring true. Big data and analytics let CFOs make these quick adjustments as they continually monitor data and adjust their predictions.

Drive Growth
Acting on your analysis of data can often spur on innovation and growth. Creating efficiencies aids in growth, and as you do so you’re likely to discover new business opportunities, such as a hole in the market that your company is suited to fill.

How to Become the Tech Savvy CFO
Having a tech savvy CFO brings many advantages to a company. As a result, being a tech savvy CFO makes you a much more valuable asset. If you’re not there yet, here are a few quick tips for how to get there.

Learn Analytics
Yes, this sounds basic, but if you don’t understand how to use analytics to do the things we’ve talked about, you need to learn. If others in your company already know analytics, leverage your rank. You are the CFO, after all—make it part of their job to teach you. If you’re in a smaller firm that has yet to embrace big data and analytics, it may be time to go get a certification in this area.

Meet Regularly with Experts
Your CIO, if your firm has one, should be well versed in the sorts of technology we’ve discussed today. Meet regularly with your CIO and ask questions. Do the same with other experts in your network. They aren’t the finance people, so they may not readily see how big data and analytics can transform your role. As your understanding grows and you learn to them the right questions, you’re likely to discover breakthroughs together.

Read What They Read
Sites like CIO.com are go-to resources for CIOs, but you can benefit there, too. Not every article will apply to what you’re learning, but many will. Reading sites like these will increase your overall tech comfort level.
Leverage the Data

As your understanding of analytics grows, you can start leveraging that data in real, meaningful ways. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in a deluge of data if you don’t have the tools to parse through it. At the same time, it’s possible to parse the data so finely that you miss valuable conclusions. As your comfort level grows, you’ll improve in leveraging data to the fullest extent.

Educate Your Team
Last, you need to educate your team. As you journey to become a tech-savvy CFO, teach your team what you’re learning so that they can help you win using data and analytics.

Signs Your PC Needs A Tune-Up (Or Replaced!)

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

One of the most frustrating things a person can experience in the office is a slow computer system.

As modern systems get quicker and Internet speeds continue to soar, we really notice when performance seems off.

Watching a video online 10 years ago versus today is a world of difference. Take it back 15 years, and it’s like two different universes.

Yet, we are so used to these speeds and increases in performance that we often assume that there’s something “wrong” with our computer or Internet connection when it slows down. Sure, this can be the case, but how can you tell?

First, you really need to isolate whether your computer system is slow or if your Internet is causing the problems. This is easier than you would expect.

Try loading a webpage. See if there is a delay in your keyboard input. Look for spinning wheels. These are indicative of system processing actions. You can try opening a few documents or pictures stored on your computer.

If there is no delay but webpages load slower than normal, you likely are having Internet speed issues.

Let’s assume that your Internet is fine. Speed is good, connection is strong. How can we tell if there is something wrong that needs fixed or if it’s just a temporary issue?

Let’s talk about age. The average usable life of a PC is around five years, give a take a year or two based on how good the system specs were at the time of purchase.

For instance, a laptop at a chain retail store might be a great price, but if you buy outdated products to start with, you will definitely have a harder time reaching the target goal of five years of use out of your computer. You can sometimes find a bargain, but a lot of times, you really get what you pay for.

Speaking of getting what you pay for, you may not be an expert, but remember that, while features like touchscreens are nice, they’re not a great help when your system resources are maxed out.

A touchscreen in a laptop is basically a tradeoff for two other specs when it comes to cost. Basically, if you had two identically priced laptops, the one with a touchscreen would have less RAM and a slower CPU, for instance.

Other things can let you know if there is more to it than needing a new PC. Is your lag recent and sudden? How secure are you? Is your operating system up to date?

A recent virus could quickly impact your system. While they don’t always work like this, a quick change in performance is typically failing hardware or an infection.

The best thing to do is to rule out the virus first. Always better to be safe. If you aren’t sure about how to thoroughly check for and remove virus infections, look for someone who can help.

So what if you still aren’t sure? If you are on the cusp of having your computer for four or five years, it might be time to make the call to replace it.

If there is a chance it’s the CPU failing and it’s close in the age range, replace it.

It is a calculated decision, but don’t let trying to save a few bucks for a few weeks longer cause you endless frustration. It may just be time to say goodbye.

Five Ways to Deal With Aging Computer Equipment

While upgrading your tech equipment marks an exciting time in the office, it also presents a problem. With the introduction of new technology, you must decide what to do with your old equipment.

Provided those items are still in good working order, they may continue to be helpful in other avenues. Consider one of these five ways to give your old, replaced technology a new home:

Find a fresh purpose for it

Old equipment may not be up to task in one arena anymore, but it may be useful for something else. For example, old computers could power dummy terminals or be used for browser testing.

Connect with a local nonprofit

Your obsolete equipment may build a bridge with a local nonprofit. If you don’t have a particular organization in mind, ask your team for suggestions.

Donating your items to a nonprofit can elevate your company’s image in the public eye and be tax deductible down the road.

Donate it to a school

Whether your old equipment is best put to use actively or as the technological equivalent of a cadaver in a computer assembly class, schools are always in need of computers for students to use.

Be charitable

Similarly, you can donate your outdated technology to a charity and allow it to either sell your old items or put it to use in their office. This method can even net you and your business a tax break.

Hand it down

What is old to you can be new to someone else. Review the age and functionality of your employees’ equipment, and you might find what you wish to discard constitutes an upgrade to another member of your team.

Challenges Of Staffing In An Increasingly Tech World

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

“Good help is hard to find.” It’s something you have probably heard before. It has been said for generations.

Hiring fresh graduates is always tough as they are unproven and likely accepting their first jobs in their field. Hiring experienced workers costs more money and they most likely need better incentives to switch jobs.

However, fresh graduates may have more experience with recent industrial developments – and experienced workers may not feel the need to adapt to new innovations until it’s absolutely necessary.

So what happens when all paths forward intersect? Where experienced workers are becoming underqualified as the requirements of their jobs change? Where younger people want more than they are worth because they have general technical skills to go along with their chosen path?

This affects the workforce as a whole, not only IT. Much like any other field, we have our own challenges with staffing as time moves forward. Careers in IT obviously have a broad range of computer skills as a requirement, but there are industries where using a computer wasn’t always needed.

Working retail in today’s world will no doubt require use of a computer for most employees from time to time. Selling insurance? Most, if not all, processing is done on a computer. A loan department at a bank is going to use a computer and so are the tellers. Gas station? Fast food? All are places you will typically see computers and other technology in use.

It can be intimidating when industries like construction move away from pen and paper. Your accountant uses computers, and now you probably will too. Major trucking companies may leave the paper logbooks behind in lieu of digital recordkeeping.

So what happens to the employee at the construction company who has been there for 20 years with no computer skills? He is a foreman and all reporting is now done on a tablet then uploaded over a VPN to the main office every day. It’s a complex new skill to learn, especially when put against those who can operate tech with no effort…and who are asking for the same (or lower) salary.

For some people, they may feel like they have to learn a whole new career just to keep up with their own. As challenging as it is for the veteran employee, the same challenge can be had for a new hire. You face the challenge of not only the day-to-day job duties, but also with learning how to use five new pieces of software.

The challenge for employers is probably the most difficult. Keeping your old employees may be just as hard as finding new ones.

As new systems are implemented, experts of antiquated processes become dispensable if they can’t become acclimated. Hiring a recent graduate gives you an employee who knows those new systems, but they may be too “green” and make mistakes experienced workers already learned, adding stress to the environment.

Depending on the size of the company and the industry, there will always be unique staffing challenges. Not everyone will be forced to use a computer or a tablet for work, or you may not be able to employ someone who isn’t proficient with one. As tough as the market is for job seekers, I’d argue it’s a lot tougher on those tasked with hiring the next class of experts.

One thing that’s clear is that we aren’t going to back-track on technology due to the benefits. For every industry, modernization is becoming a matter of “when” rather than “if.” Employees and employers alike will have to keep up.

What Type Of Workstation Is Right For Me?

The average American spends just over 1800 hours a year working. For anyone who works in an office environment, this means a lot of sitting down and typing.

That type of sedentary work can lead to a number of health and comfort issues, not to mention productivity issues.

This means that picking an effective and comfortable workstation is absolutely necessary.

Getting Started
When choosing the right device for your workstation, there are a few things you should take into consideration.

First, you should decide what you will be using your workstation for and in what kind of environment. Will you be doing a lot of work from a central station or will you be out in the field? If you will be doing most of your work from one central location, a desktop computer offers the best price vs performance ratio.

Not to mention, the lifetime of a desktop usually outlasts other types of workstation devices. This is due to replaceable components and superior cooling solutions.

Stationary workstations are not always a viable option for all people, specifically people who spend most of their time moving from place to place on the job.

Someone who spends most of their time in the field would be best suited using a laptop or professional tablet.

Budget
One of the most important factors to consider when picking a workstation is how it fits into your budget. Less is often more when it comes to workstations, so you should always be trying to achieve the goals you set out for yourself in the most cost efficient way possible.

It is important that you purchase equipment that is going to perform well enough to complete the tasks you need it to, but any other additional features should be avoided to cut costs.

As mentioned earlier, desktop computers are the most cost efficient way to get work done around the office, so long as you’ll be staying there all day.

Comfort and Health
Who doesn’t want to be comfortable at work? Most of us spend a good portion of our lives working, so it is absolutely necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The easiest place to start is where you spend most of your day, sitting in a chair. The type of chair you use at work will greatly influence posture, comfort, alertness, and general wellbeing.

How can anyone get any work done if they are miserable and in pain all day? Make sure to pick a chair that has good lumbar support. Ergonomic options are always a plus.

Avoid unnecessary neck strain by keeping your eyes level with your monitor. Small details can also make a big difference, such as having a keyboard with negative tilt.

Negative tilt keyboards are designed to reduce wrist sprain, which is a huge plus for anyone who types all day. These keyboards can also help avoid carpel tunnel issues.

Conclusion
Your workstation is an essential part of your career. Balancing cost, comfort, usability and performance is the key to building the perfect workstation for you, your employees or clients. Cover your needs first, and then don’t forget to shop around for the best price available.

Replace Your PC Every 4 To 5 Years To Save Thousands Of Dollars

Chris Myers is a field service technician for Tech Experts.

When it comes to replacing computers, many consumers and businesses wait as long as possible before committing to an upgrade. However, those businesses would actually be better off in almost every way if they replaced their computers as part of a standard process based on the hardware age.

There are many drawbacks to using an old computer that aren’t immediately visible. All of these result in costs to the business, whether it is due to lost employee productivity, downtime, or lost data on failed drives.

If any of the above issues are visible to a client, they can also cause loss of business purely on the perception of inadequacy or unreliability.

A major difference overall is the gradually decreasing performance that every computer suffers from as time goes on. This is due to the actual mechanical parts wearing down as well as bloat from applications and files.

Additionally, with each new software update, there is more and more of a chance of business software no longer running on older hardware or operating systems.

Computers have many moving parts that have different expected lifetimes. Past four years, it is likely that different hardware components will start failing one by one every four or five months.

Each of these failures will result in a service call to diagnose the problem and replace the part, while the employee is not working.

Hard drive failures are almost always unrecoverable. If that employee does not have a backup in place, there is little anyone can do to restore the lost data.

However, if the upgrade is done while the PC is still functional, absolutely everything can be copied over to the new computer.

This includes files, but also things that aren’t usually backed up, such as applications and user specific settings in their commonly used programs.

On a four-year cycle, each new computer will be at least one major operating system version apart. Operating systems such as Windows 7 and Windows 10 are the framework of the computer and are therefore much harder to change on a computer already in use.

The service charge and software errors for such an installation would be as much or more than buying a new hardware component.

Each new operating system also contains hundreds, if not thousands, of patches to fix security vulnerabilities.

With each passing day, an old computer becomes more and more vulnerable as new holes are found in its programming. Many 5+ year-old operating systems no longer meet the requirements for mandates such as HIPAA.

The price of a new mid-range computer is usually the same as one or two of those service calls. And a new computer would avoid all of the other costs discussed above, usually resulting in savings more than double the price of the new PC.

Enacting a company-wide policy to replace PCs by hardware age also eliminates a great deal of hassle for users, clients, and your IT department.

How Much RAM Does Your PC Really Need?

Frank DeLuca is a field technician for Tech Experts.

First off, note that how much RAM (along with the type and speed) that your system supports will depend on your motherboard.

Consult your PC/motherboard manual, or, if your PC was manufactured by an OEM, use a system checker such as the one found on Crucial.com to find out what RAM is compatible with your system.

Adding RAM to your computer is not a process that will magically make everything run faster. But it can aid your PC in multitasking and performing intensive-heavy tasks like loading 20+ browser tabs, content creation like editing videos or images, editing multiple productivity documents, and running more programs at one time.

Computers may experience significant slowdowns when running a large number of programs at once with low memory.

If all RAM space has been used when trying to open programs, the computer resorts to using virtual memory on the hard drive, which slows the computer down quite a bit.

Upgrading or adding additional memory can eliminate this problem as the computer doesn’t have to resort to using the hard drive for slower pagefile memory.

How much RAM you need in your computer depends heavily on what you use your PC for on a day-to-day basis and on how long you intend to keep the computer.

If you are thinking of investing in a new machine in the near future, waiting things out until your purchase might be the best bet.

If you already have a computer you love but want to shift gears into a different daily task that requires better performance, then upgrading your RAM as part of the process is a great idea and can breathe some extra life into your computer.

Productivity
If you use your Windows 10 computer for word processing, checking emails, browsing the Internet, and playing Solitaire, you should have no problem using 4GB of RAM. If you are performing all of these activities at once, however, you might experience a dip in performance.

Many budget PCs come with 4GB of RAM as a base option. If you plan on keeping your machine for several years, then opting for 8GB of RAM is the safer bet, even if you use it for light tasks.

Video and Photo Editing
This really depends on your workload. If you are editing quite a bit of HD video, go for 16GB or more. If you’re working mainly with photos and a bit of video thrown in, 8GB should get you through. Again, in this instance, it may behoove you to opt for 16GB to give yourself more future-proofing headroom as photo and video quality is only getting better with file sizes exponentially increasing and becoming more memory intensive. Editing will work on lower amounts of RAM, but you’ll become so frustrated with the poor performance that you’ll soon start yearning for an upgrade.

In a nutshell, here are some simple guidelines that apply to most PC devices:

  • 4GB: Entry level memory. Comes with budget notebooks. Fine for Windows.
  • 8GB: Excellent for Windows and Mac OS systems. We recommend this for most people.
  • 16GB: Ideal for professional work and the most demanding tasks.
  • 32GB and beyond: Enthusiasts and purpose-built workstations only.

Remember, buying more RAM than you need doesn’t net you any performance benefit. It’s effectively wasted money.

Buy what you need, and spend what’s left of your budget on more important components such as the CPU or faster storage space like a solid state hard drive (SSD) which can be 10 times faster than a conventional hard drive.

Stopping Power Surges Before They Reach Your Equipment

Ron Cochran is Help Desk supervisor for Tech Experts.

We all have some sort of electronic device that we plug into the wall, either to charge the battery or power the device. While these devices are connected to the power source in your home or office, they are being subjected to power surges on a regular basis. Some of these surges can damage your electronic devices.

The main source of a power surge is inclement weather. A surge protector or suppressor will keep your devices safe from inconsistencies in power delivery.

Most people will use power strips to connect more than one device to an outlet and these are OK to use, but they do not offer any surge suppression attributes.

A legitimate surge protector or suppressor will have a rating that is measured in joules, which represents how much of a power surge it can mitigate without damaging your electronic devices. There are several manufacturers of surge protectors for home use, whole-home use, and even industrial applications.

Depending on your needs and budget, you could install a whole-home surge protection system which would protect all of the devices in your house from a surge.

If you are budget-minded, then picking up a couple brand-name, surge-protecting power strips for your entertainment system or electronics charging station would be sufficient.

The one thing you have to keep in mind is if you are not protecting your computers, printers, and display devices from power surges, then you are taking the risk of losing valuable data on your storage devices.

You are also opening yourself up to the potential need to replace faulty equipment due to the power surge.

These repairs are not cheap and the data that you lost due to the power surge is most likely irreplaceable, unless you have a backup solution implemented.

Now, once you have decided to purchase a surge protector, you will need to decide how many and what devices you want plugged into it, keeping in mind the total power draw of all of the devices.

You do not want to use a lot of high-power equipment on one single surge protector because they are rated for a certain power draw; if you are consuming more power than they are rated for, they might not be able to do their job properly.

On top of an overloaded surge protector having issues operating and protecting your devices, it poses a fire hazard due to wires being overheated.

Winter is over and we are entering the stormy season of spring. Power surges will be happening in our area before you know it.

If you are concerned about protecting your home or office equipment from a power surge, then now is the time to evaluate your needs for a surge protector.

We’d be more than happy to conduct a site survey, then recommend and install surge protectors for your business needs.

Eleven Benefits Of Having Managed IT Support

Chris Myers is a field service technician for Tech Experts.

There are many perks to enlisting a managed service provider to handle all of your technology needs. Here are just a few:

Knowledge Base
You get access to a whole team of experienced professionals who spend all day every day fixing the same problems you are running into. When an issue pops up, chances are we have seen it before and know how to quickly resolve it.

Proactive Support
With our advanced monitoring software, we are immediately alerted to a variety of issues. Often, by the time you notice a problem, we’re already working to resolve it. Detecting and fixing issues early prevents them from escalating into major outages with long down times and expensive repairs. [Read more…]

Mobile Efficiency: Laptop Versus Tablet

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

We are an increasingly mobile society. Whether for work or personal, you’d be hard-pressed to find too many people without an Internet-connected device somewhere nearby. Smart phones are everywhere and basic Internet usage is at your fingertips.

When you need to work on the go or work while actually moving, there are device options that can help you really increase your productivity.

There are obviously many factors that can come into play when talking about meeting your mobile and professional needs.

What kind of tasks do you need to perform? What sort of software do you need access to? Are you going to be switching between applications and run multiple tasks at once? How frequently and how far are you moving?

I know, so many questions! So where can we even begin?

Just like any other job in the world, having the right tools can make things so much easier. If you work at a restaurant as a server for instance, using a laptop is very impractical. Carrying it around typing orders on a keyboard would prove to be difficult, just as writing a novel on a tablet touchscreen keyboard would be. These are some clear-cut scenarios, but most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

So let’s talk about some of those questions.

What kind of tasks do you need to run? If you are just replying to email, stick to your smart phone. That is where you’ll end up anyway.

For everyone else? What kind of programs and applications are you using? The first thing you should check, if you don’t already know, is if there are mobile versions of the programs you use. Some programs may not be user friendly on a touchscreen if you use the standard version.

Use your smartphone to see if these applications are user friendly in a new setting. The app may not perform as well as it would on a tablet, but maybe you can decide if it’s something you can work with. If the programs are available and you are comfortable using them with a touchscreen interface, you may be ready to use a tablet for work.

When it comes to laptops specifically, the first thing I would consider is how much you’ll be moving around. If you travel from place to place, but typically sit to work at different locations, a laptop is always going to be an option.

The difference is the limitations of the device. A laptop has more capability when compared to a tablet. After all, it is a computer.

If you are switching between many programs and applications frequently and use multiple programs at one time, then a laptop will have more capable processing power to allow you to work unbothered by slow system response time.

The best summary I can give is, if you move around while working, get a tablet. If you sit, just in different locations, you’ll be happier with a laptop.

If you can’t find yourself leaning one way or another, the third option would be a Surface type of machine. With the processing power and speed of a laptop but the mobility of a tablet, you will spend more money for the ultimate solution in mobile versatility and efficiency, but won’t feel the constraints of either other option.

It’s all about you and how you want to get your work done.