What Are The Five Perspectives In Business Analytics

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

Business analytics is an approach to identify the challenges faced by an organization and finding solutions to them. In other words, business analytics help you implement changes in the business to streamline tasks and activities.

Your role as business analysts is to bring efficiency to the working process. To analyze business activities and bring change, you need to understand how your business works. Depending on how it works, you need to consider the change you can bring to the organization to boost productivity.

Agile
Agility is an effective perspective to compare your traditional business analytics with new and advanced innovations.

The reason why this tool is effective is it provides you data considering your user stories and product backlog. Here are some benefits of using agility:

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How Tech Solves Managerial Problems In Small Business

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

Before the digitalization of the business sector, it was impossible to comprehend how easily you can perform business tasks today.

Every business industry is drastically changing by integrating new and advanced tech tools. The way you communicate with clients and other employees is different from how it used to be. This is possible because we now have tools capable of solving our problems in a better way. Here are some ways in which technology is solving managerial problems in small businesses:

Resource Planning

Whether you are a small business or an enterprise, you will agree that managing your resources is a challenge. Especially when you are a start-up, you need to visualize your business process and create effective resource plans. Integrating an Enterprise Resource Planning tool into your business infrastructure is an efficient way to solve departmental problems including finance, sales, marketing, and accounting.

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Outdated Software Could Cost Much More Than An Upgrade

It’s nice when we own something and it’s completely paid for. Think of a car or large purchase you financed. Once it’s paid off, you feel great: money is freed up and it’s yours.

However, often in these situations, you’ve poured a few years of use into it by the time it’s paid off. When something finally breaks, the warranty has probably already expired. Then, you’re forced to decide if you are going to put money into this old car or appliance or if it’s time to upgrade instead.

When you don’t upgrade your car or appliances, there may be some small risks in terms of missing out on improved safety or the newest features, but the biggest risk will be monetary.

Businesses sticking it out with old software isn’t much different, but the consequences can be much worse.

Software is sometimes pricey, and often, the outdated software will still technically work. We get used to the layout and processes, and it becomes easy to use. After five or ten years, you know where all the buttons are. Your documentation for employees might be based this particular version, and you may not have the time to overhaul your reference materials.

The issue with this is, while you’re happy to run the 2015 version of a software, that software company has released a new version in 2016, 2017, 2018, etc. Usually, they will still update old versions for a short time after new ones come out.

Once these software companies stop providing updates, however, any known vulnerabilities will remain unpatched and any new vulnerabilities that are discovered will not be addressed.

If you know the software inside and out, so do the hackers. It’s far easier for them to utilize a known flaw than attempt to break a new and unknown software. The longer you wait to update, the more likely it is that your data or network will be compromised.

Yes, paying for that new version of software is not something we want to do, but in the long run, it may save you a lot of money and headaches.

Software as a Service (SaaS) also makes this a little easier to deal with. Rather than paying a huge amount one time upfront, you can often subscribe and pay a smaller amount monthly or yearly that allows you to install new versions as they come out. This usually includes security patches and updates too.

Another consequence of holding out on updating old software is the possibility that your PC may need to be suddenly replaced or updated. If it crashes or becomes too slow to reliably use, you can lose that program. A lot of software is provided via download, and it may not be available for download once it’s time for a new PC.

In addition, if you bought something that was written for Windows 7 and have not upgraded in the past six years, it may not be possible to use that program if you are stuck five versions behind. Also, since you paid the vendor long ago, they often won’t help you reinstall the old software; instead, they’ll require you to buy a current version before assisting.

We understand that staying with what you’re familiar with is easy. Since you own the software, it carries a financial benefit as well. However, the short-term financial gains risk data loss and essential parts of your business becoming unrecoverable in a disaster. Look at software updates like insurance: you are paying to keep yourself as protected as possible and working to minimize any potential risk.

Using Technology To Maximize Your Business’ Efficiency and Communication

In today’s world, we have so much technology that we barely know what half of it does, let alone how to use it. We tend to stick to what we know and forgo the rest. However, once you understand how you can optimize the relevant tech in your business, you can radically improve efficiency and communication.

One easy way to increase your business’ efficiency and keep everyone on the same page is by using a group-based calendar.

Staff can see what the plans are for the day, who’s going to be out of the office, schedule meetings and appointments, and more. Everyone can plan their day around each other’s availabilities and come in every day knowing what to expect.

Shared drives, either on a network or through a hosting service like OneDrive for Business, can also save time and increase work efficiency.

Shared folders and drives can be divided by department (like Marketing) or use (like Scanned Documents), ensuring files can be accessed instantly in their current version by all allowed parties. You can also filter out who has access to certain folders.

If it would be a right fit for your business, it might be worth looking into a customer relationship management (CRM) system.

A CRM system does what it sounds like: it tracks your relationships with your clients. It does much more than digitize your client files; these are a powerful tool that can do a lot of heavy lifting in organizing your business, managing your clients and workload, marketing, collaboration between employees, and client satisfaction.

There are many, many webpages written on the topic and many CRM options to choose from at all different price points, so some independent research will benefit you here.

We use a CRM program at Tech Experts to track all of our clients’ service tickets, manage invoicing, build marketing campaigns, monitor statistics, and more.

Back to the tech that’s easier to implement. If you use a fax line, you may be able to switch to an email-to-fax/fax-to-email service or an online fax service.

These solutions function just like a regular fax line (make sure the provider you’re considering is HIPAA compliant, if needed) and are often cheaper than a traditional fax machine when compared. These faxes can be sent from anywhere, to multiple parties at once, and save on paper and equipment costs.

Many companies, including ours, use an online library (also known as a knowledge base) to store employee training and reference materials.

This makes it easy for both new and established employees to check procedures without having to interrupt another employee; they simply log in and find the article they need to complete their task.

Additionally, if someone does need to ask for help, they can be directly linked to detailed processes, saving time for everybody involved.

These also allow you to control who has access to what spaces. Services like this are typically browser-based, but something similar could be set up on shared network drives as well.

With the amount of people that are currently working remotely or people who will be working remotely in the future, communication is key.

Not only can these help with communication inside of your business, but also assist in communication with your customers.

Three Scary Questions To Ask About Your Data On Your Staff’s Phones

More and more businesses encourage staff to use their own personal cell to access company data.

It’s very convenient and cost effective for everyone. Isn’t that the point of having all your data and apps in the cloud? You can access anything anywhere on any device.

But there are downsides. Any time someone accesses business data on a device that you don’t control, it opens windows of opportunity for cyber criminals.

Here are 3 scary questions to ask yourself.

What happens if someone’s phone is lost or stolen?

What’s a pain for them could be a nightmare for you. Would you be able to encrypt your business’s data or delete it remotely? Would it be easy for a stranger to unlock the device and access the apps installed?

What happens if someone taps a bad link?

Lots of people read their email on their phone. If they tap on a bad link in a phishing email (a fake email that looks like it’s from a real company), is your business’s data safe?

Despite what many people think, phones can be hacked in a similar way to your computer.

What happens when someone leaves?

Do you have a plan to block their ongoing access to your business’s apps and data? It’s the thing many business owners and managers forget when staff change.

If you haven’t already, create a cell phone security plan to go with your general IT security plan. Make sure everyone in your business knows what it is and what to do if they suspect anything is wrong.

If you need a hand, don’t forget that a trusted IT security partner (like us) can give you the right guidance.

Do You Have A Business IT Strategy?

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

As a business owner, you already know the importance of strategy and planning.

Without it, you have no aim, no goals, and really, no direction.

While you probably spend a lot of time working on your strategy every month, quarter, or year, how much of that time is spent on your business’s IT strategy?

If the answer is “not very much”, it’s time to change that.

Your business’s IT is one of your most powerful, crucial tools in growing your business, keeping your team productive, and giving your customers a great impression of your company. [Read more…]

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.

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.