How Much Of Your Business Can Be Automated?

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Automation is transforming the way the world works.

Businesses of all sizes are embracing huge advances in technology to help them get things done on autopilot.

Implemented well, automation will help reduce your staff’s workload, increase efficiency, reduce costs, boost the quality of customer service, and help you use new data and insights to optimize performance.

The benefits will be felt by customers as well. As your competitors start to transform their businesses through automation, expectations can quickly change. If you don’t adapt, you risk falling behind and losing customers.

Here are three of the main areas that are ripe for automation in many businesses. [Read more…]

6 Low-Cost Productivity Tips To Increase Competitiveness

Increasing workplace productivity can mean the difference between a business that succeeds and a great idea that fails. When a company produces more products or delivers higher-quality customer service more quickly than the competition, it gains the advantage.

To get the most benefit out of technology, however, organizations need to match the technology solution to the business need. Start by assessing business processes to identify areas for improvement. For instance, do employees find themselves bogged down with paperwork? Or does distance hinder effective collaboration?

The following low-cost productivity tips will help address productivity problems without breaking the budget. Some cost relatively little to implement, while others pay for themselves quickly in productivity gains.

Low-Cost Productivity Tips For Remote Workers

For many employees, remote work has become a way of life. A few essential technology items can significantly boost comfort and productivity for remote workers. Here are some examples:

Desktop comfort: Start with a wireless mouse, a Bluetooth keyboard, and a laptop stand.

Headsets: Wireless headsets enable office corridor roaming on calls and generally doing two things at once. Studies show that using a headset increases productivity by up to 40 percent.

Video conferencing technology: When employees spend hours each day on video conference, the right technology makes a significant difference. Start with an external webcam and a dedicated mic. Headsets can increase sound quality, as well.

Multiple monitors: For many jobs, such as customer support, dual monitors increase productivity by streamlining the process of copying between windows and improving multi-tasking.

Fewer Meetings, More Communication

Nothing interrupts a good work rhythm more than a useless meeting. On the other hand, when teams integrate communication technology into the workflow, productivity rises.

For instance, Microsoft Teams incorporates group chat directly into its popular Office apps. This allows team members to conduct just-in-time communication without leaving the work at hand.

Put It On The Calendar

When employees get in the habit of putting everything on the calendar, they work more efficiently. And when groups share a calendar, colleagues can determine availability at a glance, even for team members in another office.

Facilitate Information Sharing

In a data-driven environment, workers require on-demand access to up-to-date information. Cloud-based document management systems make essential documents accessible anytime, anywhere. And when employees share critical documentation through centralized information repositories, people have the information they need to work effectively and reduce errors.

Automate Repetitive Tasks

The more organizations automate repetitive tasks, the more employees can focus on core business tasks. Take an inventory of bottlenecks in your organization and determine whether automation can help solve the problem.

For instance, automation can help reduce time-consuming paperwork such as invoice processing and expense tracking. Likewise, sales and marketing departments benefit from automated call logging and tools that manage social media publishing.

Use Existing Tools More Effectively

Sometimes the solution lies not in purchasing new technology, but rather in optimizing the technology already at hand.

We can also help you adjust your network management and cybersecurity systems to ensure business continuity. And we can assist you with determining optimal email settings and retention policies to streamline communications. Call us today to discuss more low-cost productivity tips.

Best Tips To Maximize Efficiency When Working From Home

A quarter of people plan to work from home either permanently or more regularly when the pandemic is over.

No surprises there. Many people feel more productive when they work from home. And three-quarters believe there are fewer distractions at home (when the kids are at school, anyway).

Here are five things we recommend you put in place for everyone who’s going to be working from home, long-term:

A dedicated working space

Trying to work in the same space as other members of the family is testing for everyone. Help your team to identify where they will work and set up a proper work environment. This will also help them draw the line on the day’s work when they leave their workspace.

Fastest possible Internet

Slow speeds are the biggest frustration. There are often options to speed up Internet speeds. Maybe you could subsidize them upgrading to a better service?

Dedicated tech

62% of home workers would like their company to provide better technology to help them stay connected to what’s going on in the business.

From a data security point of view, you’ll have a lot more control if you give team members a business device to use only for work.

Collaborative software

Whether it’s Microsoft Teams or other software, it’s so easy these days for anyone working anywhere to stay up to speed on all relevant projects.

Help them feel involved

This can be as simple as sending pizzas to everyone’s houses, so your team can have lunch together on a video call.

Four Useful Features in Microsoft OneNote

OneNote is a brilliant tool for staying organized and on top of all of the bits of information you collect throughout each day.

But are you using the Microsoft 365 app to its full potential? Here are four useful features you may not have tried out yet.

Integrate it with other apps

OneNote integrates very well with the rest of the Microsoft 365 ecosystem. Did you know there are also a load of third-party apps that integrate with it?

From Zapier to Feedly, it’s worth exploring the ways that OneNote can work better with the rest of your technology.

Turn on dark mode when the lights go down

If you’re burning the midnight oil and the bright light of a white screen gets a bit too much, OneNote has an excellent dark mode feature. It turns everything dark while still maintaining enough contrast to make it easy to keep working.

Password protect private sections of your notebook

If you’re using OneNote to write or organize information you want to keep private, you can password protect individual sections of your notebook.

This can make it difficult for others to view things you’d rather they didn’t see.

Be careful though… adding a password doesn’t encrypt it. And if you lose your password you lose access to your notebook.

Extract text from images

OneNote supports Optical Character Recognition. This lets you throw a picture into OneNote and have the software automatically extract the text for you.

This can save a lot of time if you need to get hold of text from an image and then paste it into other documents. It can make quick work of a stack of business cards, avoiding the need for you to type all of the phone numbers and email addresses into your computer.

Microsoft 365 Is The Best Thing For Staff Productivity

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Pandemic + Work From Home = relying on technology more than ever before.

The tools available in Microsoft 365 have developed to help us stay productive wherever we’re working.

If you’ve been using Microsoft’s software for years, now’s a good time to discover new features.

If you haven’t started exploring yet, you’re missing out on loads of ways to boost productivity and make your life easier. Here are some of the main things to explore.

Microsoft Teams
Teams has made communication and collaboration even more effective than traditional ways of working face-to-face. [Read more…]

Goodbye 2020! Here’s How To Boost Productivity In 2021

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

What a year we’ve left behind. Thankfully.

Although we didn’t have control over many of the negatives, there were some positive changes we could implement, especially with our businesses.

Many businesses now have people working from home on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. We’ve seen offices downsize and change. More flexible locations and schedules are being implemented.

As much as no one asked for this, it’s been great to see how many businesses that we work closely with have adapted and become more flexible.

This flexibility often results in a more motivated, engaged workforce who really appreciate the ability to work different hours and often work from home (WFH). [Read more…]

Three Big Ways To Improve Your IT Next Year

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

As we head into 2021, are your IT system due for an upgrade?

Here are three key things you can do to improve your IT and keep your business running smoothly into the years ahead.

Move applications to the cloud
The benefits of moving your business to the cloud are clear.

It will reduce your IT costs, improve the level of security, and give you the ability to quickly scale up your IT resources as needed.

You may currently work with a hybrid setup with bits and pieces of your IT in the cloud and other parts of your business still running locally.

With the right IT support team helping you, moving fully to the cloud is smooth and effective.

Take security seriously
It’s hard to read any technology news without reading about the damage cybercrime can do.

Cybersecurity issues can impact all devices connected to the Internet, and businesses are prime targets for hackers looking for an easy payday.

Fall victim and your business could grind to a halt. And your reputation can take a real battering.

Investing in help from a proactive IT support partner who knows what they’re doing is key to keeping your business safe.

Treat your team to new computers
Upgrading your computers is an investment worth making.

You’ll get a happier and more productive team for sure.

New computers will also reduce the amount of time your staff spend fighting with technology that’s slowing them down. The mental boost this can provide is huge, as are the productivity gains your company will see.

Is Your Network Stealing Your Staff’s Time?

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

At some point in the last six months, maybe you’ve been on a Zoom call or chatting away in Microsoft Teams and wondered what would have happened if Covid had come along in the 1980s or even 1990s.

Let’s be honest… the world would have totally shut down. Business would have completely ground to a halt. We couldn’t have done the last six months without the amazing technology that we now totally take for granted.

Depending how old you are, what we can do easily today was literally the stuff of dreams just 20 years ago.

But as much as great IT has made working from home easier and enabled many businesses to keep going, we also must remember that bad IT can still be a massive time thief.

We’ve all become so reliant on computers that we’ve forgotten how to perform simple tasks ourselves. And we go into panic mode when they stop doing what we expect of them.

Most businesses find that even the most committed staff in the world will jump at the chance for a little bit of office down time. So, when computers aren’t doing their job that’s a great opportunity to down tools and do very little.

If they’re in the office, people sit around chatting or go home early, while every second your business is losing money.

That’s not to say that all employees want to take the easy way out. There will be others who like a challenge and want to try their best to make things better, using their own limited IT knowledge or good old Google to guide them.

Unfortunately, IT set ups are complex. And if you don’t really know what you’re doing you could end up digging a far bigger hole for you and your entire organization.

Well-meaning staff, no matter how lovely and helpful they might be, can cause more problems than you could ever imagine.

Just like you wouldn’t want someone who did a biology class 20 years ago to perform open heart surgery on you, you really don’t want someone who’s just watched a couple of YouTube tutorials fixing your business’s computer system.

This is what we do, day in, day out. And we’re the local experts.

If you want to ensure that your workforce doesn’t grind to a halt when things stop running smoothly, it pays to invest in experts who can:

a) Stop most things from going wrong in the first place, and
b) When they do go wrong, get you back on track quickly and reliably

That means minimal downtime, less chatting and more getting things done.

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.

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.