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…]

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.

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.

Are IT Issues Ruining Your Workplace Productivity?

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

Studies conducted by CareerBuilder Harris Poll in the US showed that at least 22 minutes a day are wasted by an average worker dealing with IT-related issues.

According to the poll, the leading cause of time wasted in the workplace is related to cell phone use, which ranked the highest at 50%, gossip which followed at 42%, and closely behind was internet use at 39%. This article will briefly outline how companies can work through IT issues so that they can save on time. And time is money.

How Much Time Is 22 Minutes Really?
Going by the average time in a 40-hour workweek, 22 minutes a day is close to two hours of work time lost each week. Imagine what that equals for a full year or 52 weeks. It comes out to be over 95 hours per year. When translated into days, that is close to two weeks spent dealing with IT-related problems. [Read more…]

RAM And You: How Much Memory Do You Need?

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

Is there anything as frustrating as experiencing issues with your computer? There are many different performance issues that can affect your experience as a user.

If your computer is running slower than normal (or slower than it should), there are so many things that can factor in. One of the more common causes is system memory being over utilized.

First, we have to understand the different types of “slow” your computer expresses.

If Internet pages are slow to load but programs like Microsoft Word are quick and responsive, your speed issue is Internet related.

If programs are slow, lag out, or won’t respond, you are dealing with a system issue.

In these cases, a restart can be your best friend. If a restart doesn’t help your system, take a look at your resource usage. The task manager will show in real time the usage of your CPU and memory (RAM).

Let’s say your RAM usage is high, even after a restart. This is a problem and you just don’t have enough system memory to support your daily tasks.

How does this affect your system? What can you do about it? How much is enough?

A shortage of RAM on your computer wreaks havoc on the system performance. It not only limits the work that the RAM is capable of handling, but it also affects the CPU and the hard drive performance.

When applications need more than the available RAM, they use virtual memory from the hard drive. The amount of virtual RAM can be increased in your system by increasing the size of your paging file.

While this may help to run your programs, your system performance will suffer greatly.

The virtual RAM your system will use is much slower than physical RAM, causing a bottleneck where you are now reliant on the speed of your virtual memory. This limits the speed of data traveling between the CPU and RAM as well.

We know the RAM is limiting our performance. While the paging file allows you to run the programs you need to work, your system performance will make multi-tasking nearly impossible.

The best thing at this point is to upgrade to more physical memory.

There are some limitations to upgrading your RAM. Operating systems have a maximum supported amount of RAM. This varies from operating system versions, from year to year, as well as 32-bit versus 64-bit.

Your motherboard and CPU could also have a maximum amount of RAM.

RAM sticks come in different memory quantities as well and each slot in your computer may have a maximum, as well as an overall system maximum as well. A single stick of RAM can be 512mb or 8gb and anywhere in between.

RAM also comes in many types that can vary based on your specific motherboard. Upgrading your RAM can make your system run better, but there are many things to factor in when you upgrade your RAM.

So how much RAM do you need? It varies for everyone, but the more programs you use, the more RAM you need.

If you are buying a new computer for modern business, a minimum, of 8gb is strongly recommended and 16gb is even better. If you run many programs, especially things like graphic and video editing software, you may want more. If you are upgrading your current system RAM, similar rules apply.

Your tasks and usage dictate your needs; don’t be afraid to give yourself one of the best performance upgrades out there by adding more memory to your system.

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.