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March 31st, 2012
Canadian Penny How many pennies are scattered around in your life?  If you could pick up your couch, nightstand and entire house and shake them out, how many pennies do you think you’d find?  Canada figured out what to do about the scattered millions of pennies this week by voting to eliminate the penny altogether.
That’s right, and the move will save the government millions of dollars.  The elimination is also welcomed by local business leaders, who believe that this will make transactions easier.  Similar measures are being considered in the United States as well.
Beyond the economic impact, this decision is symbolic of a reality we face in our worklife every day.  We put a great deal of focus on the little things and lose sight of the big picture.  These actions may be key to profitability, but just like too many pennies — can weigh us down.
With time, things change.  For Canada, the cost of minerals and manufacturing has made the penny cost more than it’s 1-cent worth.  Stepping back, they realized there was actually more to be gained by letting go of the penny.  We see this same epiphany everyday by working with owners and managers to change the way they look at managing IT.
Most organizations have handled IT in-house for so long they are blind to whether their methodology is efficient or cost effective.  Just like the Canadian penny, the world around small business has changed and IT simply doesn’t make sense to handle yourself any more.  Few things stay the same or fully relative forever.  For profitability’s sake, be willing to look at areas in your business with a difference frame of reference.  You might be able to cash in.
December 2nd, 2011

Trends in business change every day. One trend that appears to be gaining momentum is telecommuting, but is it a trend at all? There are many of ideas around whether telecommuting is good for business or not. Some of the questions raised are, “Will it make employees more productive? Will they be happier, lonelier, more connected or less? What are the benefits to the company?” These are all considerations when deciding if telecommuting is a good fit for your company’s culture.

This study shows there can be wonderful benefits to telecommuting.  Below we’ve laid out some pros and cons:

Pros

  • As people aren’t wasting time and money commuting they often work longer hours.
  • Telecommuting employees are generally less stressed.
  • Telecommuters can adjust their working hours around their lives and the hours they are most productive – even if that is at three a.m.
  • Telecommuting is fantastic for those who do not thrive in the typical structured nine-to-five work environment.
  • Telecommuting encourages self-reliance and problem solving, and develops time management skills.
  • Telecommuting allows employers to hire highly skilled people.
  • Telecommuting saves the company and the employee money.

Consof course, there is a flip side to every coin

  • Telecommuting can cause burnout especially for those with poor time management skills, which in turn leads to resentment of the company.
  • Telecommuters often complain of being cut off and feeling lonely or depressed from lack of socialization.
  • Telecommuting can cause a lack of motivation, as there is not a physical tie to the rest of the team.
  • Telecommuting can lead to a break down in communication due to distance.
  • Telecommuting can require a little more time than normal to set up a home office.

For both manager and employee, successful telecommuting takes strong communication, time management skills, and clarity of job responsibilities. We are seeing more and more people desiring an independent working environment. But in the end, whether telecommuting will work or not, depend on the company’s culture and the employees’ mindset. Tell us what you think; will telecommuting be the way most businesses are organized in the future or will it fade out? 

November 4th, 2011

You likely have read a lot about the world becoming more and more connected. We don’t only mean with individuals but within our own lives as well. Having our devices more connected makes life easier. Device connectivity can keep you from interrupting your work, for example, by transferring a document you are working on at home to your smartphone you can work on it during your commute using a voice transcription app. Microsoft has an interesting take on the future of connectivity, click here to see a video of their vision. This may not be very far off and it begs the question: what apps, devices, or combination of the two will help create a future such as this? Here are a few which I have found.

iControl

iControl is a home energy management and security product that Comcast revealed recently. Using this product, people can monitor their homes in real time through video, control the thermostat, and turn the lights on and off giving the “lived in” illusion when away. The iControl software plus hardware and apps along with Comcast broadband make it possible for people to have full control over their homes even when far away.

Air Sharing

This app for the iPad enables you to use your iPad or iPhone as an external hard drive for your computer. Being able to effortlessly access and transfer your documents allows for more mobility in your workday.

AirPlay

Wirelessly stream music, videos, and photos to Apple TV using Apple’s AirPlay. This enables you to flow easily from your walk, where you were listening to a podcast or audio book, to your home without interrupting your entertainment.

Will the future be filled with gadgets, apps, and software that synchronize all aspects of your life? In this era of connectivity, we are deeply attached to our devices. Hopefully they will one day be so interconnected that they will even be a few steps ahead of us. If this requires less effort on my part, I’m for it…what about you ??

September 23rd, 2011

When large companies adjust their service plan it usually comes as a surprise to the consumer. They may change pricing, put new limitations, or get rid of certain services altogether. While these transitions go smoothly for many companies others make changes so abruptly and drastically that it can cause quite a stir.

The way in which Netflix handled its recent service changes is a perfect example of this sort of news being received poorly. Netflix decided to separate their services, DVD-by-mail and streaming, and raise their prices significantly for both. Customers viewed the execution of the change as abrupt and confusing. In the brief time since the initial announcement, many of Netflix’s subscribers have canceled their accounts altogether. In fact, the number was considerably more than Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, was expecting.  In effort to apologize for the way Netflix handled the reorganization announcement, Hastings emailed all subscribers and posted a letter on the Netflix blog. He acknowledged that he “… messed up. [And owes] everyone an explanation,” but then went on to announce yet another change!  Netflix is breaking up the services even more into Qwikster, for DVD-by-mail, while the streaming services will remain as Netflix. This surprise did not have the intended effect and in fact elicited even more backlash. We will have to wait and see how Netflix deals with this new PR debacle and they may be realizing that sometimes an apology isn’t enough.

In late June, AT&T changed their service plan to a tiered pricing plan and eliminated their unlimited data plan. While this upset many people, AT&T chose to honor those who already had the unlimited data as part of their plan.  This allowance for a grandfathered plan might have saved the company from  losing a lot of customers to other carriers.

When companies announce changes to their service plans it can be a tricky situation. Before doing so they should discuss how they are going to announce it and consider the possibility of an undesirable reaction that could lose them customers. Proper planning will provide a plan of action if a negative backlash occurs. Here are a few ideas to help soften the blow.

  • Notice, and Lots of It:  Give the public plenty of notice and utilize a forum where customers, particularly those directly affected, can express questions and concerns.
  • Grandfathered Services:  Honor services and prices current clients have prior to the change.
  • Details:  Explain the change in detail! The more transparent you are with your announcement, the more your clients will trust your decision.
  • Discounts: Offer a free month of service or some other type of coupon if clients take advantage of multiple services

If you have any more ideas of ways companies could make the news of service plan changes easier, we’d love to hear from you!

September 2nd, 2011

We learn about people filing lawsuits against companies and individuals quite often and it’s usually very serious news. The tech industry is no stranger to this, but every so often we will hear about a lawsuit that tickles the funny bone. The following list of a few of the most interesting lawsuits in the tech industry over the past decade is unbelievable.

Allergic to Pentium? – In 2002, a Dutch woman tried to sue Intel and her government because she thought that her Pentium processor gave her hives. The 486-base processor did not cause her harm and her case never made it to the courts. Apparently, no court was “itching” to take her case.

Lead into Danger by Google? - In 2009, a woman attempted to sue Google for the poor walking directions she was given. She followed the directions onto a narrow dark highway that had no sidewalk or shoulder and was subsequently hit by a car. Google “dodged” the lawsuit and the case was dismissed.

Sony Killed Star Wars Galaxies! – In 2010, distraught fans of the online MMORPG Star Wars Galaxies put together a class-action lawsuit against Sony for shutting it down. Due to dwindling subscriptions, Sony continued with the shut down plans.  Unfortunately, I think the “force” is not strong with this case.

Woman sues man over a failed Mafia Wars romance – A woman fell in love with another player of the Facebook game, Mafia Wars, and spent thousands of dollars on Mafia Wars gifts for her beau. After the relationship ended she sued him for the money she had spent.  Her case and her love life are now “sleeping with the fishes.”

While most lawsuits are no laughing matter, every once in a while you find one that is absolutely amusing. These instances of incredible tech industry lawsuits are perfect illustrations of this. If you have heard of any please share them by leaving a comment here or on one of our other social media accounts! 

August 24th, 2011

Google has recently received a small amount of press because of their restriction of users creating profiles under pseudonyms. Currently, Google doesn’t allow fake names, and this has some people upset. One of the appealing things about the Internet is that is seems to offer blanket anonymity. Anyone can be whomever they choose, but is that necessarily a good thing? To answer this question, we first have to consider the pros and cons of being anonymous.

Pros

    There aren’t many sites that mandate you to use your real name, or even have any means of verifying that the name you provide is real or not. This allows you to assume several personalities, crafting a new version of yourself every time you log on. This can provide a layer of safety when providing your full identity can be dangerous. Consider users who have been the victims of abuse or stalking, the freedom to be anonymous on the Internet helps them to be less accessible and therefore less vulnerable. Anonymity comes with a certain level of freedom.

Cons

    Many problems caused on the Internet begin with a misuse of anonymity. Email scams, social media spam and profile hacks begin with the creation of a fake Internet identity. While tactics such as IP address tracing and validating the information given when setting up Internet profiles can provide the true identity of any Internet user, creating a fake profile is the easiest way to scam someone else. While being anonymous on the Internet is often a plus, it’s important to consider the negatives that complete anonymity can create.

    The moral value of total Internet anonymity is a matter of personal responsibility. It is only as good as the person who uses it. Anonymity being good or bad is not a matter of anonymity itself, but rather, a matter of the users of the Internet. When considering if you are for or against it, first reflect on how you use it.

August 19th, 2011

We see new technologies enter into our lives everyday. It seems like the minute we purchase a new computer, a better, more effective version is released. It is hard to stay ahead of the technology curve. You might not be aware that there are a few technologies that have with stood the test of time.

What characteristics does a technology need to accomplish this? Adaptability is at the top of the list, along with versatility and configurability. Here are a few which have stuck around for more then a few decades.

Virtual Memory – 1962 – This allows systems to use hardware memory more efficiently by recycling space used for memory. This idea led to time-sharing or the ability for systems to multi-task.

MOS Chip – 1967 – Metal-oxide semiconductor. This technology is employed today to make computer chips and is known as CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor). The technology has changed a bit over time so adaptability is one trait which has kept it alive.

C programming language – 1969 – Designed by Dennis Ritchie at Bell Labs, C is the most popular and widespread programming language in the world. When you get something right why change it?

It is quite incredible that technologies invented over 50 years ago still make up the foundation of those we use today. While our machines get thinner, faster, sleeker, and more easy to use, the core technology that makes it all possible is strong enough to withstand the pressures of the machines we dare to dream up.

You can find more technologies which have withstood the test of time here: http://www.osnews.com/thread?484715

August 17th, 2011

We are all familiar with finding annoying spam messages in our e-mail inbox, labeled by subject lines offering cheap Rolex watches or urgent cries for help from friends mysteriously trapped in Europe. But what do you do when the tables are turned and it’s your friends who are receiving spam messages from your personal e-mail account? When this happens, it means your e-mail has been hacked. If you ever find yourself the victim of a spamming crime, remember to follow these 3 steps in order to regain control.

Notify Webmail Provider

    The first action you should take is notifying your webmail provider. Make sure to contact them through their helpdesk or contact service and inform them of your hacked account. Reporting any hacking problems will allow the webmail provider to rectify the situation and then reinforce their security to ensure that this situation will not be repeated.

Change Password

    Perhaps the most important step to take after finding your e-mail has been hacked is changing your password. This will ensure that whomever has compromised your account won’t be able to do so again. It’s also a great time to create a more intricate password, one that won’t be easily guessed by a traditional hacker. It’s not surprising that randomized password guessing compromises most emails. After all, the most common password is “password.”

Notify your contact list

    Let everyone on your contact list know that any emails received from your account over the past several days may have been spam. Doing this will help ensure that no scams are successful and no viruses are transmitted. Sending out an email to all your contacts is the responsible thing to do in this situation. Make sure to communicate the message clearly in the subject line, as some members of your comment list have already opened a spam message and are currently avoiding your e-mails.

    No one likes having his or her personal information compromised. It’s important to remember that, if your email has been hacked, your online banking and other Internet managed services may also be compromised. If you’d like more information on what you should with a hacked email, please take a look at this article.

August 12th, 2011

Most of us set goals in our personal lives. It keeps us motivated and each accomplishment gives us the drive to keep reaching further. We do this in our home life so why not do this in our work life too?

Approximately 30% of our lives are spent at work. Some people are unfulfilled by this time. Many people do not feel that they are an active part of the company and let whatever comes into their inbox dictate how their time is spent. Setting goals gives people a sense of control and allows them to choose how they spend their day. They feel like an active member of the team as they have a say in establishing  goals and the part they will play in their completion.

More than ever people work autonomously; people who work like this must be proactive about setting goals. Regardless of whether you work in a group or autonomously, here are a few tips that will help you start the process of goal setting.

  1. Set or Assess Goals Every 3-6 Months – These types of meetings will allow the team or individual to analyze the goals, set specific times for their completion, and help them stay focused.
  2. Write Goals Down – Records helps to solidify the goals in your mind and provides a reference point for motivation or redirection.
  3. Aim High – A challenging goal once completed is sure to provide a great sense of accomplishment.
  4. Find a System to Measure Performance – By breaking goals down into smaller ones and determining the skills that need to be perfected, you can more easily measure the progress toward the finalization of the goal.
  5. Celebrate Each Achievement – Whether working individually or with a team, be sure to celebrate each step that has been reached that supports the larger goal. Positive reinforcement goes a long way and it can be as simple as a word of acknowledgment.
  6. Schedule the Next Goal Setting Meeting – Schedule these meetings in advance so people know the deadline to have their steps completed by. You may even see a boost in productivity as they want to show the team leader how much they have achieved.

We all want to be proud of the work we do and feel like we contribute. Keeping focused on our goals can illustrate achievements in a very real way and be a reminder of the part we play in the larger picture.

July 27th, 2011

Business cards are an essential and longstanding cornerstone of effective networking. The format is as standard as the medium, a small stock-paper card with basic contact information and, if you’re feeling saucy, a witty catch phrase. However, more and more creative thinkers are handing out extremely memorable business cards that toss out old networking conventions and replace them with unforgettable innovations. The very standard of what is and what is not a business card is changing. If you’re looking to improve your networking skills by creating a business card that will have people talking, contemplate a few of these creative techniques.

Add Texture

This is one of the most straightforward ways to make your business card more memorable. Adding texture to a card engages the sense of touch in a dynamic way, creating an additional layer of memory in the brain. It may sound silly, but if your business card has an fascinating texture, then the brain of the receiver will have one more thing to notice. Check out this great example.

Make Them Share-Worthy

Hand out a card that people will want to share with their friends or hang up on a wall at work. A simple and clever design on the back might just inspire others to show it to their coworkers. For example, take a look at this great mustache design on the back of a particularly fun business card. This sort of design will have people holding the card up to their face and, in turn, sharing it with others. Check it out here.

Make Them Digital

Who says a business card has to be a card? Why not go green and implement digital business cards by creating QR codes instead? QR codes are a popular trend among tech-savvy smart phone users. Demonstrating the ability to use this technology effectively will impress your audience, making your business card (and more importantly, your business) more memorable. Here are some tips on using QR codes.

Creating a business card is only limited by your imagination. Making your cards unique will make them more effective networking tools. For more tips and tricks on making business cards, make sure to read this article.