How To Make Tough Decisions

How To Make Tough Decisions

Leadership has its benefits.

It can also become one of the most difficult jobs to have, especially when faced with some of the toughest decisions of your life.

Things like firing someone, downsizing an office, or even canceling a project can increase a leader’s stress tenfold. Not to mention the added turmoil that comes along with it if the decision winds up blowing up in your face.

What’s a leader to do?

Like everything in business, decisions don’t have to be made through gut instinct (although that sometimes helps). Instead, a few simple questions can guide you to not only making a tough decision, but also support the results as well. Ask yourself:

How will this decision effect the people?
A decision is never just about the leader; it ripples down and impacts the entire company. A decision may only effect one person immediately – firing a person, for example – but ultimately it will impact a variety of people throughout the workplace. Consider everyone your decision will touch. Will it improve morale or hurt it? Will it make the office better or worse? How long will it take to implement the decision and who will be a part of the process? The more thought you put into the decision as you are finalizing it, the easier implementation can be.

Who can I trust to help me make this decision?
Every great leader has a strong support system behind him or her. Who can you trust to give you advice? Find people to support you in many different ways. Not every person will be able to provide the same perspective in different situations. But as you lean on people and discover their strengths, don’t be afraid to call upon them to provide you with the details you need to finalize your decision making process. Choose your mentors wisely. Reach out and find support for different aspects of your life. From coaches to friends, mentors and allies, all are important assets in a leader’s Rolodex. Nothing can allow you to make a better decision than knowing you have the right partner by your side, providing you with the right amount of information you’ll need to make an educated decision.

What are the facts? Am I allowing emotions to get in the way?
It’s hard to make decisions when your heart gets in the way. A great leader must learn to separate facts from emotions when finalizing a decision. Emotions can sway an argument. Facts never lie. Gather enough facts about a situation to make a clear judgment call, then use them to support your actions.

Is this the right decision?
Each of us has an internal set of guidelines, morals, that help guide us every day. Sometimes we make decisions based on what we think is right; sometimes we make them based on what we know is right. Who has influenced you to make this decision? Are you implementing it based on orders from top management? Do you feel it’s the right decision for the situation? Don’t just take action based on orders. It’s much easier making a decision and living with the results when you know your actions match your inner judgment.

How can I back my decision?
Once a decision is made, a great leader will have to face his critics. Some will love and support a decision; some will not. Yet once a decision is made, it’s more important than ever to have a clearly defined path – a vision of the future – and stay true to course to move forward and upward. Keep your support system close, and remind people of the ultimate goal throughout the process.

The Internet of Things: How It Impacts Your Business

The perfect storm is brewing. It’s building no matter where you live or what you do. Geography no longer matters.

Instead, the perfect storm is being created by anything that has an on or off switch. If it can be connected to the Internet, or connected to something else, it has an impact. Cell phones, tablets, televisions, garage door openers, furnaces and coffee makers all make the list. So do jet engines, automobiles and cash registers.

When connected, it produces an estimated 26 billion links around the world.

Yes, that’s how you define the Internet of Things. A vast network of connected “things” that provides an ever-growing connection of people to people, things to things, and people to things. And it’s growing smarter every day.

There are many instances of how this looks in our lives:

  • Your FitBit talks with your smartphone to track your daily activity
  • Your tablet controls your thermostat, alarm system and lights

Even if you haven’t graduated to using this type of technology yet, you will in the coming months and years. And it’s going to change the way we do business in a big way.

Products will become smarter

No longer is a product just a standalone product. Companies will have to incorporate technology into everything to make it all work together. Sports equipment, for example, will track every movement you make, and provide you with data on how well you did and how to improve your performance.

Smarter products will lead to smarter decisions

As sensors become smaller and can be attached to more things, it will allow businesses to track at deeper levels to make better decisions. Imagine being able to connect sensors to all high-level pieces of equipment, being able to detect malfunctions from the moment they occur. Not only can this add to the longevity of the equipment by being able to fix and replace on a faster timetable, but it can also thwart significant problems in things like jet engines, preventing dangerous and life-threatening hazards in the process.

Smarter decisions will change business models forever

As businesses adjust to new levels of connectivity, they will find their business models changing before their eyes. What if a heart surgeon suddenly finds wearables make his patients more aware of their conditions and better able to control their own health? Would he move from solving problems after they occur into a business model where he helps teach heart wellness instead?

Other similar business models are sure to emerge. And as one thing changes, the impact behind it will surely change tenfold.

Risks. Rewards. 

The most important thing to do right now when considering how the Internet of Things will impact your business in the coming months and years is to think bigger. The more you understand, the more you can put into place. The more you learn, the better prepared you will be.

The future is coming. Will you be ready?

How Artificial Intelligence Will Impact Business

How Artificial Intelligence Will Impact Business

Steve Wozniak. Elon Musk. Stephen Hawking. The list reads like the Who’s Who of people at the top of their fields.

What do they all have in common? They all have a deep commitment to integrating artificial intelligence safely into our world. They’ve even signed a letter of commitment to prove it.

But what does that mean for us, businesses and consumers that are simply trying to do our jobs as best as possible?

Artificial Intelligence is defined as the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially in computer systems. These processes include a variety of human functions, including learning, reasoning, and self-correction. It’s quickly playing a role in all kinds of activities, from speech recognition, translating, and visual perception. We see it in our everyday lives.

Look no further than your phone to see AI in action. Ever ask Siri on your iPhone for a restaurant nearby? Or ask Cortana on your Android for directions? That’s AI helping you out with your everyday tasks.

At this point, our mobile devices are still primarily being used for status updates, texts, and selfies. But as artificial intelligence continues to become smarter, we see all kinds of ways to put it to use. Siri, for instance, can become your built-in assistant, and become smarter with each request you make. You no longer have to do some of the most repetitious parts of your day. Like copy/paste. Or switch back and forth between platforms to perform basic tasks. If Siri anticipates your moves, she can make them for you, saving you valuable time.

But of course, that’s only the beginning.

Imagine being able to upload an image and having everything about that image be instantly recognizable. Facial features can be analyzed and tagged, so it’s easily transferable to your social sites. And the image can also be analyzed for what is happening in the photo, creating copy that mirrors the actions in the image. It may not be perfect … yet. But AI is adding sophistication to the programming, and it’s only a matter of time before it’s a seamless process that requires little interaction from you, the user.

And of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Artificial intelligence doesn’t end with mobile and social media. In fact, it’s being used in every aspect of our lives.

It’s important to remember that AI is only in its infancy; it has many problems that still need to be worked out. Such as the axiom of AI being used for good versus evil. AI currently still acts randomly based on a limited number of predetermined, programmed conditions. But as AI becomes smarter, more opportunistic with the way it thinks, it can fall into many different hands for many different purposes.

Amazon, for instance, uses a machine learning service that analyzes results from data, based on its own internal algorithms, to predict customer spending habits. This concept can be transferred and used in other businesses in a variety of ways. If you can gain better insight into behavior, you can use it to produce AI that will help guide the critical decision-making process.

But what if the not-so-good use that same prediction model to learn your online search behavior, and use it to gain your trust to get access to your most private information?

While AI will continue to grow and be put into use in a variety of ways, it’s the threats that also have to be monitored along the way. When something is developed for good and has the opportunity to improve our lives, there are always threats that exist to use it for bad. Threat modeling, threat prediction, and threat analysis are all ever-growing challenges in the world of IT.

And if you don’t begin to take the necessary steps now to counteract what’s coming, the future may impact your more than you can imagine, sooner than you think.

How Two-Speed IT Architecture Can Help Your Business

How Two-Speed IT Architecture Can Help Your Business

To operate a business in today’s world, having a digital business strategy is no longer an option, it’s a requirement. It gives us the freedom to move from platform to platform, accomplishing each task easily and seamlessly. And as a business, it requires strong capabilities in a variety of areas not only to compete, but to thrive.

  • We have to think digital about products and services. Wearables, for example, are making it possible for doctors and their patients to track daily activities and make better diagnosis from having detailed data available 24/7.
  • We have to think in multichannel experiences. How about sending a newsletter through email to your customer with a coupon, which they can bring in on their smart device to have you scan and receive the discount?
  • We have to think in terms of customer behavior. Through customer tracking programs, we can have insight into customers’ buying habits, from how they shop to how they buy, and improve the customer experience along every path.
  • We have to think about automation. More and more people, expect quick action and immediate response . By automating operations and processes, not only can you deliver when customers demand it, you can also reduce operating costs.

While each of these steps are vitally important to a thriving business, they also bring substantial challenges for IT. While each of these four challenges opens up a world of opportunity for a business, they also open up the potential for unlimited vulnerability.

Two-speed IT architecture can help companies develop high-speed customer-friendly capabilities, while allowing behind the scenes processes to remain operating at a slower pace.  It recognizes the value of both the back-end operational systems, and the ever-changing requirements of user engagement.

Two-speed IT manages the trade-off between building and operating responsive applications that meet customers, employees and vendors’ requirements, and the reliability and control required for the safety and security of systems themselves. Operating two-speed IT involves finding and operating the right software and applications for the job, and goes beyond to encompass a variety of skills and needs, including analytics, innovation and security.

Each side of the IT equation – the operational side and the application side – must move at its own pace. A two-speed approach places equal value on the needs and capabilities of each side.

 

Have questions? Lets talk.

3 Excuses Businesses Believe That Put Data At Risk … Do You?

3 Excuses Businesses Believe That Put Data At Risk … Do You?

Today’s best run companies are moving away from their “no” and “slow” policies on security, and are making better managed, more enhanced business decisions that support their efforts both in the present and in the near future. Security doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does take the mindset and the aptitude to learn to run it like a business, no matter how large or small your operation is.

Excuse #1 Security is a plug and play system

Every business, no matter how big or small, has a variety of risks associated with doing business.

Your data may be at risk when an employee surfs the Internet, visiting sites that allow viruses and other harmful programs to have instant access to computers.

Your client files may be at risk if they are not properly guarded.

Your documents and archives may be at risk if they are opened and used on unsecured programs and devices.

And that’s just the beginning.

Yet many businesses approach data security in a plug and play way. They purchase one off-the-shelf system and expect it to work for everything. They piece together a few inexpensive modules and expect it to offer full coverage.

Yet to be fully covered, you have to start by looking at where all of your risks exist, and choose programs and devices that leave you fully covered, internally and externally.

Excuse #2 Current security practices have worked well in the past

Most businesses have a hard time keeping up with the ever-changing world of security. Security challenges typically fall into three categories:

  • Complex, individualized threats
  • Increased regulatory pressures
  • Protection from ever-changing technology (mobile, social, cloud, etc)

Yet because each of these threats can change every day, it’s difficult for most businesses to develop strong policies to compensate the risk. IT departments must deal with legacy systems, perform with lower budgets and smaller talent pools. There also tends to be a lack of visibility throughout the company, understanding what information is truly critical, its worth, and having different levels of management understand the difference.

As a result, many companies exist in reactionary mode, choosing new technology based on “coolness” rather than how it fits into the overall system.

Excuse #3 Security is one small department within the business

Especially for upper management, it’s easy to push aside security risks and allow the IT department to handle all aspects. IT security is often thought of as a black hole division – upper management may not truly understand the risks, and it’s even more difficult to demonstrate cost justifications for new and upgraded features.

Senior executives must be involved in the decision making process of choosing security systems to take full responsibility for the risks of the business. We recommend a systematic approach from beginning to end, from the collection of data, to performance, to analyzation. This should cover all aspects of the enterprise, including financial impact, vulnerabilities, asset management, incident and threat reporting, and full compliance information.

Reducing your security risk doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does take a well thought out plan. No matter how long your security plan has been on the back-burner, there’s no better time than today to change and bring it to the forefront of conversation.

Improving The Service Quality Of Your Business

In some aspect, every business is a service business. Making sure a customer is handled effectively from beginning to end is the key to a happy customer. But many businesses struggle to keep this process in top shape. While even tiny improvements can have a big impact on both retention and increased satisfaction, it won’t happen if you don’t spend the time putting a plan in place.

Start With Motivating Your Employees

People don’t buy from your company; they buy because of a relationship they have with someone in your company. No matter how much they need what you offer, if a customer has a bad experience with an employee, they will find another company to support their needs.Improving The Service Quality Of Your Business

Good employees create good business. So spend the time necessary to make them the best they can be. Start with the onboarding process and bring them into your company with open arms. Employees shouldn’t be thought of as a “one job” employee. Instead, teach them every aspect of what your company does, and how they fill a little piece of the big picture. If an employee feels like they are an important part of the team, they are more likely to go out of their way to provide their best work performance level possible. It’s not just a job – they enjoy what they do.

Also make sure you have a plan in place for what quality service means, and have a way to teach that process to your employees. Don’t assume that employees retain the information from year to year. Update your training and provide new concepts to employees along the way. Remember, if you don’t actively define what quality service means within your company, chances are your employees are using their own version. And more than likely the two don’t align.

Talk To Your Customers

Customers will tell you what they think of your company, of your customer service process, and even offer suggestions for change. You just have to ask. Yet keep in mind that your customers are busy people, and won’t give you feedback unless the process is easy.

Talking one on one is the easiest way. Wherever you have one on one contact with a customer, ask for feedback. What can we do to be of better service to you? What can we provide that we don’t already offer? Simple questions can provide you with a world of information from very smart people that see your business through a different set of eyes.

Also remember that in this technology driven world, you can learn a lot by monitoring what people are talking about online. Do you have a Twitter account and use it well? Do you monitor review sites to learn of complaints? If you haven’t taken to the online world to connect with your customers, it’s time to learn easy ways to connect and stay in touch with the people that can have the biggest impact on your business.

Update Your Quality Service Tools

When was the last time you chose to work with a company and had complaints about the way the business functioned? We do it all the time. It’s easy to look into another business and see ways to fix a problem when you don’t live inside the business every day.

Turn those concepts back on your own business. Are you doing all you can to provide quality service every day?

  • Do you have user friendly websites that allow your customers easy access to the information they need most, both from the website and through secure logins
  • Do you have point of sale systems in place that make it easy for a customer to complete the sale both online and off
  • Do you have security features in place that protect customer information from potential hacks?

Think like your customer. Then service them in the same manner you prefer to be serviced by the companies you do business with. Quality service is an ongoing process. If you work at it a little each day, you’ll keep your customers and employees happy for the distance.

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.