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Big brother technology? January 19, 2009

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Solutions, Tools.
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Alright, I recently had someone tweet a link that really gave me wierd feeling when I read the article.  From a technological perspective I thought WOW that is cool.  But, from a personal standpoint I thought WOW that is scary.  I will share the link and let you decide what you think of the new technology that made me think that.

New RFID Technology Allows You to be Tracked WITHOUT Your Knowledge

Give me a comment on what your feelings are!

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You Don’t Know! January 16, 2009

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Focus, Business Solutions, Efficiency Process, Tools.
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We track data for everything in today’s world.  We have thousands of fields worth of data on our clients, customers, employees, acquiantences… everyone.   How are you using that data?  No… I mean USING that data.  Is there a report that is generated once a day that no one looks at?  Do you have a screen that you can look at if you are interested?

Shouldn’t you be using that data to make more sales, improve expenses, or whatever?  If you aren’t using the data to make things better, why are you storing it?

Found a great blog post about this kind of thing that you will enjoy called The 1 Secret Small Businesses Must Know In Order To Survive And Prosper.  In that article the author makes the statement:

You don’t know what you don’t know.  Failing to realize this fact and make adjustments is a very good way to ensure you make mistakes.

That is absolutely true.  You have all of the data you need available to you but are you using it?  You definitely should be.  Imagine the impact of being able to analyze the information that you have available to you.  Examples:

  1. Which vendor is providing us the best cost/benefit?
  2. Which salesperson is most successful?  Why?
  3. Which customer would be most apt to take on that new add-on for added revenue?
  4. Which customer has provided us with the best referrals?

Those are just a few of the potential questions.  What other questions can you come up with?  Do you have the data to find out?  Why aren’t you?

Game Changers January 15, 2009

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Solutions, Efficiency Process, Efficient Technologies, Green Business, Tools, Virtual Office.
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There are going to be changes to the way we do business over the coming years and I believe that mobile technology in phones is going to be a huge game changer in that realm.  It all started with email and SMS and now we are entering a new dimension.

Mobile/Phone Computing

This is probably the biggest market for growth in the business sector over the next year, at least from an efficiency standpoint.  There are many new “toys” that are available or will be available in pretty sort order.

The first one I have to mention is the business favorite Blackberry.  With the release of the Bold and the Storm, Blackberry is staking it’s claim on trying to be the leader in the SmartPhone for business market.  Many applications are going to be written for the platform and it has the potential to change the way you do business if it hasn’t already.

Obviously, the iPhone is going to be a huge player.  Right now, it trails the Blackberry for business use but if I had to bet it will make a serious run at the BlackBerry.  iPhone really changed the rules when it comes to user-friendliness and “cool”.  It is definitely a cool customer and has huge potential to revolutionize.

Palm has apparently restaked it’s claim on the PDA market with the Pre.  I haven’t actually seen or played with this system but from the reviews I have read, it may just put Palm back on the playing field.  Many had written Palm off, but remember how successful the Treo was in the day?  Pre may get them back there.

I haven’t been able to try out Android from Google yet but I have some great things about it.  Some of the applications that are being written for it are awesome.  Utilizing GPS positioning and data mashing to provide best prices in the area,  nearest restaurant, etc., etc., etc.

Of course we can’t leave out Microsoft’s Windows Mobile offering.  We all know that they won’t be far behind.  They have a huge installed base, a bunch of big name partners, and pile of cash.

The Game Will Change

No matter which system reigns supreme or which vendor falls the fact remains that the game is changing.  Mobile phones are going to change the way we do business.  It won’t be long and we won’t remember a day that we couldn’t get information at our fingertips no matter where we were.

How can you optimize your business and services to take advantage of these new wonders?

Make Confetti! 4 Tips to limit paper usage January 13, 2009

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Solutions, Efficiency Process, Efficient Technologies, Green Business, Tools, Virtual Office.
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One of the things that I see in most businesses when I work with them is that the use of paper as a medium has not decreased.  In fact, I wonder if to some extent the ease of printing hasn’t actually caused it to increase.  Growing up in a household that was funded by the production of paper (Dad worked at a paper manufacturer) I would say thank you!  Ha Ha.  Seriously, I think that there will always be some demand for paper but through intelligent use I think that you can decrease your use, thus lowering your cost of doing business.

Idea #1: Use your document management system

Store all of your electronic documents in a management repository.  Whether that is a Windows file folder, Sharepoint server, or what ever utilize it.  Make sure that people use it and have access to what they need.   I have seen so many instances where the system existed and things were still printed because the people who needed it didn’t have access.

The type of system that you use will probably really depend on your needs and your budget.  Simple folder based systems will store documents but aren’t designed for easy searching of the documents.  More complicated solutions allow for searching and indexing.  Some systems will also add intelligent routing and document handling so the document will end up on the right screen at the right time.

Idea #2: Invest in a projector

If I had to guess I would say that 50% of all printed documentation is printed to hand out at a meeting.  That is a total guess on my part but I bet that the percentage is pretty high.  How many times have you printed 10 copies of some documentation so people can review them during the meeting?  And… how many times do they get pitched after the meeting?

The better solution: invest in a projector and display the necessary documentation when you need it during the meeting.  This will drastically cut back on your cost of printing and supplies and also the amount of paper in your office and garbage.

Idea #3: Invest in a scanner

Probably the single largest source of paper in many offices is the U.S. Postal Service.  Mail is a huge generator of paper in your office.  I would say invest in a scanner.  If you scan mail as it comes in and then put it in the document management service that you have available you get many benefits.

  • No more mail that gets lost.
  • You have a record of correspondence.
  • Your employees can get mail even if they are out of the office
  • Virtual office employees have access
  • With intelligent routing systems even someone being on vacation doesn’t stop the mail being dealt with

Idea #4: Store your faxes

Instead of printing faxes send them to your document management system.  This will allow you to not have to print documents that don’t need to be printed.  It also gives you all of the benefits listed above for mail.   If you are really looking to take the leap there are services available that could allow you to get rid of the fax machine all together.

Now we can make confetti!

The more that you can keep the paper in electronic format the easier it is to track and find.  Also, it makes your office more easily accessible from the virtual world.  You will decrease the cost of doing business when it comes to office and printer supplies.  Also, you will decrease the amount of products that you sending to the recycler or landfill.

If you have other ideas of how to limit paper usage and expense in your office post a comment.  If you need help with the document management and intelligent routing please let me know!

Thinking Differently Required January 9, 2009

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Efficiency Process, Efficient Technologies, Green Business, Payment.
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Sometimes we wonder why things are done like they are.  Sometimes we just accept things as “that’s just how it’s done”.  Other times it just drives us crazy.  The blog post on the Trust Matters blog yesterday fits one of the those drives us crazy times.  I happen to agree with the author that the same thing is also a pet peeve of mine.

Trust Matters Blog: Keep Your Damn Receipt!

Rant

The fact that I always get a receipt drives me nuts as well.  As Mr. Green points out there are times when it makes sense.  Such as I want to return it or it’s a business lunch etc.  Do I really need a receipt when I buy a fountain drink or a candy bar?  Do I really need a receipt at McDonald’s?  No.

I will throw out one other pet peeve with receipts.  Do I really need 45 pieces of paper every time that I eat out?  It amazes me in a computerized world that I seriously get 7 feet of receipt paper to pay the bill at Applebee’s or Chili’s.  I really don’t need all of that.  I can understand that the credit card companies still want a signature but other than that why all the paper.

Options

I appreciate it when someone/gas pump/ATM asks if I want it.  I usually say no but it’s nice to have the option.  I think that it makes no sense for me to get a receipt.  Do I actually balance them up against my card statement?  Or worse, what if I paid cash?  I typically end up just throwing away/shredding all of those little pieces of paper.

I would really like to see another set of options added.  They are all electronic options.  My post a few months ago about the Apple Store outlined what my vision would be like.  Here would be some of the potential options:

1. Sign the receipt electronically

2. RF Based CC payment at location (table, gas pump, grocery store)

3. Pay with cell phone

4. Question asked: How would you like your receipt?  (E-Mail, SMS, etc., or via tree)

I think that the time has come to expect the ability to have these options.  The systems already exist.  This is not sci-fi type technology.  Applebee’s already has the PDA that I can sign on for Car Side To Go.  Why not at the table?  Not only are these more green options, NO ONE wants the paper receipts.  AND… if they do give them the option.

Thinking Differently is Required.  No more because that’s how we’ve always done it!

Automate your website copyright year January 2, 2009

Posted by Jeremy in Tools.
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John Jantsch posted a good web site tip about automating your copyright year and I thought that I would provide a link to it.

http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog/2009/01/01/automate-copyright-updates-on-web-pages/

Hope that you find it helpful.

Christmas Present December 31, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Solutions, Efficient Technologies, Tools.
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Before I start I will have to warn you that this post is an idea ramble.  I decided to write down the thoughts that were stumbling through my head.  Enter at your own risk!

Christmas is a great time of year.  Everyone is festive (at least before Christmas) and for most the spirit of the season is in the air.  Also, you get to give/get presents.

My big gift this year was a Garmin GPS unit.  It is one that has traffic update technology built in.  Guess what else is built in to it?  Advertisements.  Very smart move on Garmin/the advertisers part.  Every so often a lit ad pops up on the screen (not too intrusive).

It got me thinking about a couple of things.  First, how long until companies will be able to broadcast coupons/ads when you near their stores?  Imagine your favorite restaurant being able to let you know what today’s special is as you near the corner.  Great advertisement.

The second thought I had was how many ways companies could use this type of technology to make them more efficient.

  • Couriers can use this technology to route their trucks.  That’s a simple one.
  • What about planning a stop at that client you haven’t seen for a while after your lunch meeting because you notice the icon on the GPS.
  • Maybe the tech support company who can know where all of their resources are at any time so when that client calls with a huge issue they can send the nearest technician.
  • Shipping companies who are able to see where loads exist and where they are headed and can give discounts so they don’t have to run half empty.

I think that there are probably a hundred different things that specifically tie to the GPS systems alone.  Think about integrating your phone with Internet access with the GPS in the phone to provide data.  This technology exists today.  You can get the lowest gas prices near you.  You can compare grocery prices on your phone.  These are the first wave of applications of the technologies.  What is coming for this?

How can you utilize the new phone, GPS, PDA, smartphone, etc technology to make your business better?  Can you provide your staff more accurate data?  Can you make your customer’s experience easier?  Give it a try!

Your Website Efficiency December 19, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Efficiency Process, Efficient Technologies, Payment.
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Stumbled on to this article.  It has some excellent tips on how to optimize your site for sales.  SEO is important but turning hits into sales is also very important.

http://www.conversationmarketing.com/2008/12/5-things-ecommerce-site.htm

The key is what I described a few articles ago.  Make things convieient and efficient and good things will happen!

Outsourcing of resources December 16, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Business Focus, Business Solutions, Efficiency Process, Green Business, Resourcing.
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Many people really have problems with the outsourcing of resources.  That is especially prevalent in the IT arena.  Many people feel that they can hire some IT resources and get a project done faster and cheaper.  Yet, in many places we don’t even consider that as an option.

First, I have to give a clarification that many people make a mistake about. Outsourcing and offshoring are NOT the same thing.  I am discussing outsourcing in this article Here is my general definition of the two terms:

Outsourcing – Hiring a external specialist to complete a task

Offshoring – Outsourcing that occurs overseas

Ran across an article that discusses this concept on ZDNet called “Why are you managing your own power plant?“.  In this article Mr. Frome discusses how many businesses automatically think about managing their own IT resources and in many cases it might have been a better decision to outsource the work.  He asks five questions that I think are very important to consider:

1. Does it give me a competitive advantage?
2. Are there companies out there who have already created what I need?
3. Are there vendors who have more expertise in this area and stronger alliances with retail partners than me?
4. Does it take up much of my internal resources?
5. Could I benefit from the economies of scale of a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model?

The questions are key to consider.  Unless businesses have a huge IT shop with a bunch of resources who are just waiting for the next initiative it will be extremely hard to justify in house development of many of the systems.

One of the main reasons is question #3.  In most cases, there are businesses out there who have more expertise in creating solutions than most business’s IT shops will have.  When that is all that development shops do they have a significant skillset in that realm.  In addition, many times they will have utilized that skillset to create a team that can handle most requests that they receive with ease.  This is very difficult for other businesses to acheive.

Another huge point that the article discusses is question #5.  It is pretty hard to answer no to that question unless you are the only customer in the world who uses your specific software.  Because the vendor can share the cost of the system over many clients the cost will be lower than if you build it yourself or even have it developed specifically for you.  This also means that you benefit from the ideas that other customers come up with.  As features are requested and added by all businesses you benefit.

As Mr. Frome points out in his article it is technically feasible for each of us to generate our own power but we don’t because of the expense and hassle.  Many companies do the same thing with legal, marketing, accounting, printing, and many other resources.  IT is something that needs to be considered in a similar fashion to those specialties because in many cases IT outsourcing makes a lot of sense.

Minneapolis Airport to Use Paperless Boarding Passes December 11, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Business, Efficient Technologies, Green Business.
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This seems like a great idea as long as it’s implemented well. Travelers can download boarding passes to cell phones or PDAs. Will be interesting to watch.

http://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/stories/2008/12/08/daily43.html