How Necessary Is An IT Strategy?

How Necessary Is An IT Strategy?

Strategy. Planning. Purpose. Tactics.

Everybody talks about the importance of having each of these things in place. Yet how many businesses are upfront with what their strategies truly are? How many employees are on board with each key tactic, and know how to move forward when challenges arise?

Strategy is a strange thing. Everyone agrees that having a strategy is an important part of operating a business. But what should it include? Who should understand the policies in the plan? How well should they be monitored? How effective are they at running the business?

Is it a solid strategy that is used before every purchase and before every decision being made? Or is it simply something that looks good on paper, and is referred to only on occasion, and usually when problems arise?

Lots of questions, I know. But as you read through and asked each of these questions to yourself, hopefully you started to see a pattern. You either began nodding your head, knowing you’ve developed a strong plan that your company adheres to very well; or you’ve seen holes in your own approach to developing a strategy, and recognize that you need improvement.

A solid IT strategy is important for many reasons.

Provides guidance for your company and industry

We are in a world of change; keeping up is not an option. Not only is new technology being developed every day, government regulation is also changing quickly, putting more requirements in place for the end user. A solid strategy helps everyone in the organization understand their core capabilities, identify where the trouble spots are, and spot risks before they arise. It helps everyone stay focused on what truly matters, and helps deliver the best performance now and as things change in the future.

Operate in a changing world

Every day, new technology is being created, digital devices become available, and equipment and programs become more effective. How do you keep up with it all? In the world of IT, it can be very confusing. Especially if you run a large organization that takes months to get things from concept to implementation. How do you implement something that is out of date even before the final user is in place?

The key in many cases isn’t about the final product or system you choose, its about how well you adapt. Whether a change is implemented due to a new policy, a new regulation, or simply as a way stay on top of technology, the importance comes from seeing the big picture first. Technology will always grow and adapt; having the keys to allow you to do so effectively will keep you relevant in a changing world.

Creating direction for the future

What is your ultimate goal? All organizations need to make sure their staff understands that purpose, and what it will take to get there. Every business has a specific purpose, a specific “thing” they offer to their clients and customers. IT is only a part of the picture. Customer service, resources, operations, even engagement all play into perception. The customer is there for an end result; not for the way you use technology, or how fast you can implement. It all comes into play in the way you perform your ultimate task and reach your definitive goal.

While its important for your staff to be trained to be as efficient as possible, its equally important for them to remember what the end goal is, and how you use that knowledge as you move and build towards the future. Clients are your ultimate purpose. If you can find a way to keep them happy, while at the same time staying relevant in your industry, that’s the perfect union of a solid IT strategy.

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?

3 Easy Ways You Can Stay On Top Of The Latest Technology Trends

3 Easy Ways You Can Stay On Top Of The Latest Technology Trends

Whether you run a small office with just a few staff members sitting around you, or you’re in charge of dozens of employees in several locations throughout the world, one of your job duties is to continue to have a firm grasp of new technology.

New technology affects everyone sooner or later; we see it every day. It can be something as simple as understanding a new privacy policy issued on a social site like Facebook. Or it could be integrating an entirely new program throughout the company, run exclusively with handheld technology. Some ideas are hyped as the next biggest technology tool ever, yet just as quickly fade into neverland. And some ideas will develop into the biggest industry standard that will impact businesses far and wide for years to come.

3 Easy Ways You Can Stay On Top Of The Latest Technology TrendsHow do you know the difference? How do you stay on top of it all, perform all the duties of your full time position, and still have a little time left over for the things you like to do?

Unquestionably, it does seem to get more difficult all the time. Yet as a participant in today’s global economy, its more important than ever to stay on top of technology; you simply don’t have a choice if you want to stay relevant in the workplace. You don’t have to work 24/7 to do it; with three easy steps, you can consciously stay on top of the latest tech trends.

Experience It

Imagine sitting down and reading a manual on how to fly an airplane. In it you’ll find a step by step program that tells you all about the inside of a plane. You’ll learn about what happens when you pull every lever, turn every knob, flip every switch, and what gauges should register at in order to stay in the air.

You can even take it a step further and add a few controls to your reach through a simulator. You can sit in the pilot seat, interact with the program, and watch it all unfold around you on a screen.

But none of that is the same as experiencing it. Would you jump into a plane, just you and this new pilot who only completed the above training, and trust him to get you up into the air and back down again safely?

Sometimes the only way to stay on top of technology, to really understand its true power, is to experience it. If the trends show more people in your community are using mobile devices to run daily operations, there is a reason for it. If more of your staff is requesting wearable technology, there is a reason for it. Don’t ignore what statistics show is entering our society in a big way.

Find Your Sources

Information is just a click away. Blogs, sites, newsletters, posts, feeds; there’s no ignoring the amount of content ready and waiting for you all the time.

While it’s difficult to find an actual number that defines how many websites are currently online – the number changes all the time – according to some statistics, the number rose well beyond the one billion point in 2014. Over one billion domain names are in existence: that’s a lot of sites!

Obviously, there is no way to stay on top of all of this information, nor should you even try. But you can be selective about what information you do follow, knowing that once you find a great resource, reading it should be a part of your regular routine. Here are a few of my favorites:

LinkedIn – Not only can you find great information shared by your friends and colleges, you can join groups to network with as well.

FastCompany – A business magazine filled with business, management and technology related articles.

TED – Ideas Worth Spreading is their tagline; you’ll find short, informative videos that will entertain and educate you on a wide array of topics.

MeetUp – Find a local group to network with – it’s a great way to gather and stay abreast on the latest trends.

Trust The Expert

Finally, never forget you have great resources all around you. Collaborate with interesting people both in your workplace and in industry specific groups. Start up conversations with people that have both experience and vision. Take someone out for coffee or lunch to understand more about what they do.

And when you have very specific questions, give me a call. No question is too large or too small. In fact, some of the questions that seem the simplest may have the largest impact on your business.

With technology, there is no holding back. If you hold back, assuming you’ll pick it up down the road, you can easily be left behind. Technology builds on technology; one step always leads to another. The more up to date you stay, the more you invest in today, the more you’ll be ready for tomorrow. And if you use these three tips to stay ahead of the game, you’ll be surprised at what may be waiting for you around the corner.

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.

The Process Of Running A Paperless Office

The Process Of Running A Paperless Office

The paperless office isn’t a new concept. In fact, for most of us, its been around our entire careers.

The idea of a paperless office was originally created as a marketing message intended to describe the office of the future. It was expedited through ads for items like the 1964 IBM2260 video display computer terminal, and through articles written in top magazines like Business Week. The idea was that as personal computers made their way onto every desk top in every office, and in homes throughout the world, automation would make paper redundant.The Process Of Running A Paperless Office

The prediction of the PC was dead-on; the forecast of being paperless, not so much.

Yet the concept of a paperless office is still a work in progress. Since about 2000, the use of office paper has leveled off and is now declining. One of the top reasons is the generational shift, and the fact that younger people are more comfortable reading and storing things without the inclination of having a paper backup.

Paperless is not merely the concept of scanning everything paper and converting it into electronic files. A paperless office means having a strategy in place to have the proper equipment, software, systems, and processes to be as efficient and effective as possible. Otherwise it may just be a huge waste of time, and will not improve the functionality of your office.

If your goal is to go paperless in the coming year, or at least increase your efficiencies and reduce paper wherever you can, there are some important things to consider at the beginning of the process.

Storage

Being efficient with paperless technology is only as good as the retrieval system. If you can’t access documents when you need them, frustration can easily make you resort back to your old ways. Your first decision has to be how will you store your digital files, and how will they be backed up? Will you take charge, keeping them on an internal computer or network, or will you place everything out in the cloud? The good thing about it is technology solutions are more affordable than ever before. You can purchase terabytes of storage space for a fraction of what it used to cost for a handful of CDs.

Organization

The larger your company, the more succinct your system will have to be in organizing your digital files. Will you organize by client name, type of document, department, or by some other method? There is no right or wrong answer to how you organize, as long as you and your staff are consistent with every file. The best place to start is by considering how you currently file. Do you file by year? By client last name? By type of document? In some cases mapping it out first and creating a flow chart may help you see how to file things in an effective manner.

Naming

Each file within a category will have to be named individually. You should also spend time determining the overall structure so every employee names in the same way. Names can include the client name, point of contact, date of origination, or services provided. By adding detail to the file name, it can make both searching and browsing an easier task. You can also use indicators to determine course of action. For instance, you may include an “in” by the date to indicate an internal document, or an “ex” by the date to indicate the document was received from an outside source.

Starting Simple

If you’re a brand new company, you can adopt a fairly easy process to implement a rudimentary paperless office. But when you’ve been in business for years, where do you begin? There are many different lines of thinking, but for many the easiest place to begin is with a single process, then add other processes as staff become compfortable with each change. Typically, its best to have a set cut off date and adopt the new paperless process going forward. Accept that the old, closed files, do not need to be converted. Simply box them and put them away following normal storage procedures.

Advanced Document Management

For complex processes, companies that have multiple disparate locations, or even plans to implement many diverse paperless processes, it would be useful to explore robust document management systems that store document meta data in a centralized database for search and retrieval (and advanced routing and rules). File-based paperless application do not scale well in these situations.

Every situation is unique, but my team and I have years of experience in these applications and processes and are available to help you achieve the promise of paperless.

How To Build An Effective Team As A New Team Leader

How To Build An Effective Team As A New Team Leader

Nothing is more exciting than being promoted and put in charge of a new project. Yet after the excitement of the promotion wears off, overwhelm may quickly set in as you think about the journey ahead.

As a new team leader, your first order of business is to build an effective team. Whether the team came with your promotion, or your first task is selecting the perfect participants, where do you begin?

All roads lead to you.How To Build An Effective Team As A New Team Leader

As a team leader, your purpose is to lead a team as effectively as possible to its end purpose. The primary reason for forming a team is the combined skills and expertise of many can and should trump the contributions of individuals. The tighter the coordination, the more each team member provides his or her best, the more tasks stay on track and add to the end result, the more beneficial the outcome will be to all involved.

If a team works effectively, it’s easy to forget the team leader’s role in making it all happen. It runs that well.

Yet that doesn’t happen by accident. Team leaders have many challenges to overcome before the team can fulfill its purpose. Before a team can reach its goal, a team leader must:

1. Identify goals and objectives and effectively share them with team members.

The clearer you can define all aspects of the project, the more your team members will align with your thinking. Also keep in mind that the more on board your team is with the ultimate goal, the easier your job will be to keep everyone on task. Start with broad goals:

  • What is the purpose of this project?
  • What is the end result?

Then break it down into as much detail as possible.

  • What tasks are needed?
  • Who is the best person for each task?
  • What skills are needed?
  • How should the task be performed?
  • When should the task be completed to keep us on track?

The clearer you see the project, the more your team will as well.

2. Identify all resources needed and make sure they are easily at hand.

Resources come in all kinds of formats. You may need monetary resources, special training and education, specific tools for the job, or applications to help run things more competently.

Teams can’t be productive if they are waiting around for the right resource. The more you can anticipate the needs ahead of time, the more resources you can have in place as they are needed.

In some cases, you as the team leader may know what resources will be needed. In some cases, your team has a stronger idea of needs and requirements. Start an open dialog early to ensure your team has the essentials from day one.

3. Create clear assignments for each team member, providing the appropriate training when necessary.

One of the greatest challenges you can face as a team leader is hearing a member say, “I didn’t know I was supposed to do that”. Not only can it set the project back, it can also cause a rift amongst the team members.

Ensure that you clearly define each team member’s role before the project begins, and clarify tasks along the way. If something changes or moves off task, it’s your job to guide it back into place. If training is necessary, provide it.

You can also assess your own strengths and weaknesses along the way, and watch how they impact the team. If you have a weakness, find a mentor or even another team member that can help you stay on track.

4. Keep the team on track until the team finishes the task at hand.

Staying on task and controlling the outcome are all part of the process. In all cases, establish a metric to be used for measuring performance and outcomes. The clearer you can define each process, the more team members will be able to guide themselves towards the desired result.

As the team reaches milestones, and heads towards the completion of the project, consider rewards as well. Nothing says, “job well done” more than a leader recognizing the work of his team. Remember, you as a team leader only succeed if your team shines. Keep that as your ultimate goal, and you’re well on your way to success.