How You Could Benefit From A Fractional CIO

How You Could Benefit From A Fractional CIO

Every business can benefit from having a full-time CIO on board. Yet not all small and medium size businesses can afford the expense of hiring a full-time CIO.

Still, a CIO handles some of the most important processes of any company. Systems design, development, datacenter operations, security, breakdowns and more – the CIO is responsible for this complex world of technology that changes on a daily basis. Even if you don’t bring a CIO on board, the work still has to be done.

Or face the consequences.

Increasingly, companies are discovering that a fractional CIO is a way to get all the benefits of hiring a CIO without having to physically bring a CIO on board. The key benefit is having expertise and capabilities that come with a technological officer, without having the overhead and benefits associated with hiring another executive.  You’ll get:

IT Direction
Think of a fractional CIO as a consultant who can provide real-time information and expertise when you need it most. They can help you develop a framework for technology and build in policies and protocols to keep your data safe and secure. They help you achieve your business goals without having to become experts in the latest and greatest technology yourself.

An on-board CIO can sway towards giving into company politics. A fractional CIO is in a unique position of being able to offer sound advice without being dependent upon the final outcome. The company can make the most of having the knowledge and guidance of a true expert, without worrying if decisions are made with agendas in mind.

High-Level Expertise
Fractional CIOs stay on top of new technology and guidance because it’s their job. They learn and grow by taking into account all policy and changes. Because fractional CIOs often have different clients in different industries, you receive an added benefit of working with someone who stays on alert for innovation and design. They consistently look for ways to incorporate change into everything they do.

Business Optimization
Having a CIO on board means they look beyond technology to find ways of increasing efficiency and automation company wide. Fractional CIOs are in a unique position of being able to scope out a variety of opportunities, thinking on a broader scope, and utilizing all tools and resources available to narrow in on best practices. You can receive outside perspective without the blinders that sometimes comes with being internally focused.

Think bringing on a fractional CIO would benefit your company?

5 Ways To Improve Your Delegation Skills

5 Ways To Improve Your Delegation Skills

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I’ll just do it myself, it’s easier that way.”

We all have tasks that come across our desks that seem like they are fairly easy to do, and will only take a few minutes of our time. Why bother delegating it to an employee? Yet the harsh reality of it is the more you keep these tasks to yourself, the more they add up into a time-consuming and wasteful day.

As a manager, if you take on every role and wear every hat within the business, you’ll limit how much that business can grow. The only way a business can grow to its full potential is if you learn to effectively delegate the smaller tasks that others can do.

Delegation is a learned trait. And with just a little practice and foresight, you can quickly learn which tasks are better assigned to people on your team.

Start by learning to let go. Do you see yourself as a micromanager? Have you routinely fallen into the “do it yourself” trap? That’s okay, recognizing it is the first step in letting go. Micromanagement is a waste of your efforts and will eventually demotivate the team members around you. If you recognize yourself in this statement, the first step is to learn to let go. Delegate a little. As they do a good job, release more to them. If you really see them struggle, it’s time to find an alternative. Are they really the right person for the job? Is someone else on the team better situated for the task?

What to delegate, and what not. What should you delegate? In reality, as much as you can. If you are a manager, your tasks should be limited to:

  • Developing key strategy
  • Building relationships
  • Working on only the important tasks that make a difference to either of these processes

All else should be delegated to someone else. Never delegate work simply because you don’t enjoy it, or keep the best tasks for yourself. This can be demoralizing and leave your staff feeling like they aren’t a part of the team.

Delegate based on strengths. This is where relationship building and teamwork comes into play. You should never delegate simply to get something off of your desk. Instead, learn the strengths of everyone around you, and assign tasks based on where their strengths lie. One person’s chore is another person’s passion. And by playing towards strengths, you will create a happier team overall.

Spend your time teaching. A big part of your job should be building relationships. And part of that process is training them to be better team players for the job. If you spend the time teaching skills the first time, they will better positioned the next time the task comes around. Invest both time and resources in helping coworkers stretch their skill sets and build up their judgement muscles. The more they learn to do on their own, the better assets they become for the team.

Always offer feedback. Poor delegation comes from not giving a person the right tools for the job. If you don’t communicate true expectations, and don’t offer the right tools that will allow them to complete the job satisfactorily, it’s setting both sides up for failure. Likewise, if you don’t offer feedback throughout the process, and give thorough credit where it is due, a team member won’t feel valued. Don’t slip into the mistake of giving negative feedback only. Positive feedback helps your team grow and gives the motivation they need to continue doing a good job.

Are Your Employees Responsible For A Data Breach?

Data breaches have become a common topic in the news. While we tend to think of data breaches as being caused by hackers in far away lands, studies consistently show that isn’t true. Internal threats are equally dangerous to customer data, whether they are caused by malicious behavior or by human error.

Are Your Employees Responsible For A Data Breach?When it comes to employees choosing to access data with the intent of malicious behavior, it’s usually for one of two reasons: they are looking for financial gain or they are seeking revenge. Because they are actively choosing to access data with the sole intent of causing damage, they will also be looking for the weakest points of entry. The more layers of security you have in place – such as firewalls, antivirus software, antispyware, antiphishing software – the more you can protect what they can gain access to.

The more common internal threat comes from human error ignorant carelessness. These behaviors often expose the company’s “hidden” vulnerabilities. Often they are caused by savvy employees looking to do their jobs more efficiently, and in the process make the company’s data more vulnerable. These well intentioned employees:

  • Bypass security because it’s time-consuming and restrictive
  • Sidestep security because of the inability to perform work
  • Create workarounds to improve their individual efficiencies

· Are often not aware of the company’s security policies, and in many cases haven’t received the proper training to understand the vulnerabilities

Many companies have actually rewarded employees that discover work-arounds that expose security flaws in order to bring them to light and fix them.

The most important thing companies can do is to put the right security measures in place, and follow up by providing proper employee training. The more critical data an employee has access to, the more important training becomes. Those persons in accounting, human resources, legal, personnel, account management, as well as various levels of management may have access to a higher level of data flow than others within the company. This is where your biggest vulnerabilities lie.

It’s a fine balance between security and productivity for the day to day workflow.

The goal is to limit who has access to what data, as well as to determine why a person needs the data he/she has requested. Tools and procedures to consider implementing include:

  • System wide encryption
  • Inspection access controls
  • Password management
  • Authentication
  • Device recognition
  • Data disposal
  • Transparency

The battle to fight data breaches starts from the inside. While it’s important to secure all data from threats both inside and outside of your organization, it’s equally important to do so in a way that won’t hinder your employees’ progress. There is a fine line to balance all of your efforts. Want to talk more? I’m happy to share my ideas.

How To Keep Your Telecommuters Motivated

How To Keep Your Telecommuters Motivated

There is an interesting thing happening with the way we work. Close to 3 percent of US workers now consider home their primary place of work. That’s 3.3 million employees, not self-employed or unpaid volunteers, that work the majority of their shifts from the comforts of their own homes.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. While 3 percent might not seem like a very large number, the results show that this number is growing stronger every day.

From 2005 to 2012, the rate of growth of employees working at home multiple days of the week grew nearly 80 percent during that time frame. And while telecommuting only grew 3.8 percent from 2011 to 2012, the year was plagued with job growth problems, with the workforce actually declining 1.5 percent. Which means even as jobs decreased, opportunities for employees to have more flexibility and freedom increased, giving more people the opportunity to work from home.

Telecommuting has a lot of benefits. It can be a very strong recruitment and retention tool, can help business owners lower expenses, and can help maintain flexibility in the way employees do their jobs. It can expand your market share simply by having employees closer to client hubs, allowing them to build stronger ties with your client base without the need for travel expenses.

With all of these benefits and more, its no wonder more businesses are turning to telecommuting.

But what about the motivation side of things? Some people can work well from the comforts of their own home. Others, maybe not so much. And if you’re not there watching over them and tracking performance levels, how can you make sure your workforce stays on track, and stays motivated towards the cause?

Start With A Plan

When you hire an employee, they are presented with a job description and a list of expectations. The same should be in place when allowing an employee to move into a telecommuting position. These should be the ground rules of the relationship and give your employee an understanding of expectations. These rules should include:

  • How you’ll measure performance
  • How you’ll maintain professionalism and the company vision through communications made from home
  • Expectations for staff and office meetings
  • The communication process between you, other employees, and clients
  • The number of hours worked, and timeframes to be available

The key to a successful telecommuting program is flexibility. Which is also why you’ll have to determine what the most important part of your relationship will be – hours or productivity? Does it matter how many hours they work if they can provide productivity and complete tasks in a sufficient manner in their own timeframes?

Regular Communication

While regular staff meetings may not be a part of your plan, regular communication should be. If you won’t be meeting in person more than a few times per year, at the very minimum you should have regular phone and/or video conferences to determine how well your employee is working.

When you are in an office situation, you can pick up body language clues by being around them. Are they tired? Are they bored? Do they have fear over certain situations? Are they avoiding certain tasks? That becomes more difficult when you aren’t viewing behavior regularly.

Watch and listen when you meet to determine how well they are doing. This may take time to learn overall telecommuting management skills, as well as how to handle individual responses from each distinctive worker.

Foster Teamwork

Whether you are a company of a handful of employees, or you have hundreds of employees both in the office and out in the field, its important to remember that you are in this together, and you all have a common goal you are working towards. This may take time to build rapport and trust, and to allow all of your employees to come together and learn what they can about each other.

Make sure each employee stays active. If your employees are scattered across the country, do they live in certain regions or cities? Can they get together as a team within a smaller region, either with or without you present? Can they regularly visit client offices to maintain a good relationship with your client base? Can they attend regular training, or head back into the corporate office occasionally to mix with other employees? Make sure they get involved with others on the team, both employee and client based, in order to avoid feeling isolated.

And above all, make sure each employee is motivated to do the best they can do. While that may require different strategies for different people, the more skills you learn as a manager, the more you’ll see situations upfront before they escalate.

Yes, management styles are changing, and will continue to change in the future. But with a little creativity, you can have a happier employee base, a stronger company, and a more productive workforce in a very effective way.

5 Strategies For Creating New Productivity Habits In Your Project Team

5 Strategies For Creating New Productivity Habits In Your Project Team

As we head into the New Year, many people develop a long list of resolutions to put into place.

Resolutions are always about change; they are about putting things into your life that don’t already exist, and changing habits in such a way that they make your life better, such as losing weight, or making your life more productive, such as organizing your home and clearing out the “junk”. But resolutions don’t have to be on a personal level alone; why not take this time to build new productivity habits in your project team as well?

Studies show that almost half of our daily routines are spent performing habitual actions. If your team has been together for a while, they probably do many things out of routine more than because it’s the most efficient way possible. As a project leader, its your job to step back once in a while, and analyze your overall performance. Are you working the best way possible to allow innovation, and keep things moving at an optimal pace? Or are you getting bogged down in the “as-is” mentality when it comes to doing things just to get them done?

Make this New Year a time when you reevaluate your team’s productivity habits, and change things up a bit to set you on a new course for the coming months. Change is not something human nature enjoys; we all fight it along the way. In fact, research shows it can take up to 60 days on average to make a new habit stick. Here’s how to introduce new habits to your team, and how to make the transition smooth.

Lead By Example

Successful team leaders don’t issue orders and step aside; they lead by example. Have a clear vision of where you want to go and what you wish to achieve by implementing these new productivity habits. Set the tone for the project. Set expectations, and give your team updates to show how well you are working towards the goal as well. And when you have setbacks, don’t hide them from the team. Admit falling back to old, comfortable ways, and show your team how you personally overcame the setback.

Bring In The Support Team

Recognize the fact that in some cases, you may need additional support to make a change stick. You may need new software programs or apps to make your office more productive; that may mean training sessions to understand how the system works. Recognize what you and your team needs in order to make the most of your new direction.

Establish Structure and Strategy

Have you clearly defined what the change means to your team, your project, and your company? What are the implications if you don’t change? How will you hold people accountable? Change is difficult at all levels, but its even more difficult if you can’t understand the purpose of the change. In some cases, it may be easier to bring on a few team members who are natural leaders with a “get it done” attitude, and help them understand the strategy first. When you have more than one person on board, it can provide support for the people that are having a more difficult time. Support is everything when implementing change.

Act With Urgency

Remember, to bring a new habit into existence will take on average 60 days to make it stick. What are you doing each day to make sure you are on board with doing things the new way, and your team is following in your path? While you don’t want to hover and develop an “in your face” attitude, communicate and look for opportunities to share both your successes and setbacks with the process. Engage with the team and set timetables for meeting deadlines and overcoming hurdles. Possibly set up reward systems for when successes are met faster than expected. If you take the attitude that this is the direction, this is the future, with no turning back, your team will follow along.

Cultivate A Sense Of Ownership

It isn’t just you or your company that will win when change is brought on. It should also give your team members more flexibility and more freedom to grow as employees. People like learning new skills; it adds to their skill set and makes them more valuable as an employee. It can give them more opportunity to stretch and approach things in new ways. Throughout the change, listen to each team member’s opinions, questions and concerns. Don’t just map out how this is good for the company or the project, offer advice on how this will help a person expand their career goals. And when people see ways to improve or move forward in ways you may not have thought about, use that to help grow overall. At times of change, even the smallest of breakthroughs can have a big impact; use them to cultivate togetherness throughout the team.

Projects, teams and people succeed when change brings everyone together and on board in a manner they are comfortable with. Bringing on new productivity habits doesn’t have to be difficult; it just has to have purpose. Give that gift to your team this New Year, and watch how much you can accomplish in the coming year.

Health-Focused Wearables: What Do They Mean For The Future?

Health-Focused Wearables: What Do They Mean For The Future?

Has technology made its way to the top of your wish list during this holiday season? You’re not alone. New phones and tablets consistently find themselves in top placement. And something else has entered the marketplace and is zooming to the top as well: wearable technology. From glasses, to smart watches, to fitness trackers, to smart shirts, each are designed to connect with and improve our lives in some way.Health-Focused Wearables: What Do They Mean For The Future?

The wearable technology market was valued at around $6.3 million in 2010; its predicted to top out in 2014 at around $5.1 billion. Huge growth, with only more progress to come. All of this adds up to a lot of change not only for what consumers can do on their own, but how the health care industry can use it to stay more current and more relevant with their patients in the process.

Google recently released analysis from the Google Play Store, which showed that the Health and Fitness category was the fastest growing app category this past year. There are now more than 100,000 apps dedicated to mobile health for both iOs and Android technology, a figure that has more than doubled in the past two years. And while figures show that the mobile health and fitness app market is currently worth around $4 billion, that number is expected to increase to $26 billion by 2017.

In short, people care about their health like never before. And with easy ways to track everything from heart rate, to calorie intake, to how many steps they take throughout the day, its also easier than ever for health professionals and patients to reconnect and find ways to work together to improve health and keep people in the best condition of their lives.

As a health care provider, its time to think outside of the box, and see how you can begin integrating this technology into your own practice.

The wearable technology is still small. But its growing steadily.

When was the last time you visited the app store? Browsing through the health and fitness category can reveal all kinds of things. You’ll find apps that track weight, diet, exercise, calories, and of course a whole lot more.

Why use an app? Because it makes life easier. Whether you keep the data on your smart phone, or its tracked through a wearable, you have instant results for your progress. There’s no guess work, or having to go back and write things down. It can be used to pull statistics over time, and can match trends to how a person is doing compared to industry norms.

The people using this technology care about their health, and as a health care professional, this is one of the easiest places to start. If you start using wearable technology and understanding some of the apps available to the general population, you can use it as you are talking with your patients about their fitness goals. Start by using it yourself to see what the technology can do. As you find things you love, share it with patients that are also heavy into technology. The early adapters will help you determine what’s possible, and help you feel more comfortable as new and improved technology makes its way into the marketplace.

Health practitioners can drive demand

While consumers are currently driving demand because of the instant results they can see with these new devices, its health practitioners that can drive it to an entirely new level.

Just this year, Apple entered the mobile health market by partnering with Epic Systems and the Mayo Clinic to produce HealthKit, a technology that will unite feeds from health monitors and report back to a hospital’s electronic medical records system. It will be a repository of statistics, allowing a unique way to monitor highs and lows in a patient, even flagging problem areas to either contact a patient with immediately, or to address when a patient comes in for a regularly scheduled appointment.

If health practitioners see the benefits early and start using technology in whatever way possible, it has the ability to not only make this technology more readily available, but will also reduce the cost and make it more accessible to everyone.

Wearable technology is here to stay; only time will determine what direction it takes and how sophisticated it becomes. But as an early adapter, if you get involved now, even if its only on a personal level, you will lead the way as we enter this new phase of health care.

Do you use wearable technology? What is your experience?

How To Keep Remote Employees Safe From IT Threats

How To Keep Remote Employees Safe From IT Threats

There are many reasons to allow your employees to work remotely, or telecommute from the location of their choice. It can bring cost savings to your employee, as they won’t be spending hours in the car going to and from work each day. It can allow you to reduce office size. It can create happier, more productive employees as they can work from home, and realize the benefits of being in a less stressful environment. It can also allow you, the employer, the chance to expand your search area and find even more qualified people to do the job at hand. If they don’t have to come into the office everyday, the world is your search potential.How To Keep Remote Employees Safe From IT Threats

When your employees work from one location – the office – its easier to reduce risks and keep everyone safe from threats that can harm your corporate systems. When employees spread out, sometimes around the world, new threats materialize right before your eyes. How will you keep your company data out of the hands of hackers, electronic eavesdroppers, or even shoulder surfers as they watch your employee enter passwords when they work from a local coffee shop?

It’s a matter of creating a strong system to protect your data, and ensuring your employees are on board with the safety techniques that go along with keeping company data out of the hands of people that shouldn’t have access.

The first step in a remote employee safety plan is to determine what type of access is needed. This is not a one-size-fits-all philosophy. Not every employee needs similar access; it should be on a case by case basis.

  • What system and data do employees need?
  • How sensitive is this material?
  • Do they need administrator privileges?
  • Do they need to share files with other team members?
  • Is the data confidential?

There are, or course, many ways to look at each question, even when dealing with just one employee. From a security perspective, always approach each decision with these in mind:

  • What would happen if an intruder gained the same access as the employee?
  • What would happen if an intruder gained access to an employee’s account, and pushed to gain access to more data?

If a hacker makes it in to a certain level, chances are he will use his entrance and push the limits. Which means its important to create restrictions around every level of security you have.

Access should always be on a limited or need-to-know basis. If an employee doesn’t need access to something, it should be blocked from view.

You should also use a secure gateway, or firewall, to block or filter access between the various networks you use on a company wide basis. For some, using company email and having access to the Internet may be all they need. For others, they may need access to internal resources, such as local area network (LAN) applications, mainframe applications, or client software.

The more you have, the more access granted to outside terminals, the more complex a system may have to be. In which case a series of gateways may be in order to divide internal resources based on the needs of the remote employees. High risk organizational data may be separated by a gateway from systems with lower level risk documentation, with access granted on an individual basis.

You can also increase security by reviewing your password policies. “Password” is not a great password, and yet it consistently makes the top ten list of passwords used. Randomly created passwords are always better than allowing an individual to create their own. And the longer a password is, the harder it is to break; we recommend 12 characters in length or more. You may even choose to incorporate a password that expires every few months for a step up in security.

With the current trend towards cloud infrastructure, every employee becomes a remote employee from a systems perspective. This puts even more emphasis on addressing security around remote access strategies.

In addition, as mobile applications continue to grow, remote employees will become the new norm. Whether its traveling for business, or working from home, when employees need access to your systems, only the best safety precautions will continue to keep you safe year after year. Don’t put your data at risk; make sure your systems are safe.