Tuesday, September 30, 2008

How can technology help small businesses? - Work from anywhere

In this series of posts I have explained how SMB companies can streamline business and improve their position by leveraging communication technologies. Today I will be addressing a third way to do that: “Work from anywhere”:

As your business grows, success means giving people the flexibility to work from home or on the go. With Unified Communications solutions, your workforce has easy, secure, wired or wireless access to:

  1. Your company's resources. Securely access data whether you're in the office or working remotely. Being mobile and staying productive in any environment helps boost revenues.
  2. Customers, colleagues, partners, and suppliers. Customers can reach available workers as incoming calls are automatically routed to whatever mobile device your employees choose. You can provide secure guest access. Employees can work after hours from home and save money on travel costs.
  3. Your network. With dual-mode phones that work both on data and cellular networks, you can continue conversations even as you move in and out of the office

Give employees secure access to the same phone and data network that they have in the office, even when they're away. This helps your company save money, boost productivity, and improve customer service. Some technologies that make this possible are:

Once again, a secure network foundation connecting various devices, such as PCs, phones, and printers is key. Security is very important, as you permit emploees access to your network from home via VPN technologies. Also, wireless business phones enable employees to work from anywhere on site with their desk phone close at hand and access information on the company network.

A combined voice and data, with voice, data, voicemail, instant messaging, automated attendant capabilities, video, and remote-access security built into one network is what is called a Unified Communications Network. Integration equals low cost.
Wireless access lets your workforce stay connected to the network even when they're not working at their desks. You can easily provide secure guest access to visitors, too.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

How can technology help small businesses? - Serve customers better

In the previous post I explained how SMB companies can improve business – reduce OPEX, increase profit, stay competitive – by using technology. Today I will be addressing the second way to do that: “Serve Customers Better”:

The most satisfied customers are those who have easy access to your company 24 hours a day. Linking your customer information to a secure voice and data network can help you increase customer satisfaction by:

  1. Immediately identifying incoming callers. When customers call, their records pop up on a computer screen. Now your employees have everything they need to quickly address customer inquiries.
  2. Viewing other employees' phone status. Don't know the answer to a customer's question? You can quickly determine whether or not the right person to help them is available. You'll save time—and provide more attentive customer service.
  3. Understanding call patterns. Managers can easily see data for caller wait times and abandoned calls, so they can identify where additional training, hiring, or other improvements may be needed.

You can deliver the information that your customers need, regardless of when or how they contact you. And, more importantly, your workforce can easily collaborate to meet customer needs. Some of the technologies that can help your business follow.

Just like in the previous post, a secure network foundation, combining voice and data on one network is of most importance. Start by building a solid technology foundation that allows you to offer limitless possibilities for your business. If you fail to have a solid and stable technology infrastructure, it will be a roadblock instead. Technology is a double edge sword.

Wireless connectivity and wireless business phones, added to your network, enable employees to work from the sales floor, the office, or even the warehouse with their desk phone close at hand.

Software and applications that link your customer relationship management database to the phone system on your data network, enhance the functionality of both. Anyone can instantly call a customer by double-clicking his or her phone number in the shared company database. Anyone can IM with them on a public and free client. Anyone can maintain your customers informed on the web. And see important information when customers call, via instant computer screen pop-ups.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How can technology help small businesses? - Be more productive

What is important for your small business? The obvious answer from any business school is to reduce cost while increasing profitability. The difficult part is how you get there.

There are multiple challenges. First, competition is fierce, especially for SMB start-ups and established companies, whose main pressure is exercised by large companies and multinationals. In addition to that, due to the large amount of communication channels and low cost of information today, your customers are presented with many more choices and therefore becoming more scarce. Finally, the global economy is a reality, making everything unstable and more sensitive to issues. For example, an economic debacle in China will impact your business in Latin America, your vendors, your customers and your ecosystem partners at the same time anywhere in the world.

There are three alternatives to combat these challenges and strive for lower production and operation costs and increase in profitability by means of leveraging technology. In this post, I will be talking about the first one: “Be More Productive”: Work more efficiently; do more with less.

You can take productivity to the next level. Look for ways to help teams be more productive through better collaboration:

Don't just tell; show. When unveiling a new product to a remote sales team, turn a regular call into a video call for maximum impact. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is price less.

  1. When communicating with your customer, be “virtually” there by having a rich-media web conference with video.
  2. Easily bring people together to solve problems. Need to call an urgent meeting? With just a few clicks, quickly find out who's available and set up conference calls or online meetings. Access customer information wherever you are, so you can easily work with colleagues to resolve issues quickly.
  3. Stay connected to mobile workers. With multiple channels of communication always available being out of the office no longer means being out of the loop. As a matter of fact, you should never leave the office.

Remember, the golden rule says when workers stay connected, they stay productive. Here are some ideas:

Start with a reliable, flexible, secure network infrastructure foundation combining voice, data, video, and wireless on one network so everyone can roam about, stay connected, and be productive.

Add software that links your customer relationship management database to your phone system. That way, computer screen pop-ups let you instantly view data about each customer. Instantly find out if someone is available to answer a question or attend a last-minute meeting.

Add video telephony software and cameras, allowing you to turn regular phone calls and online meetings into video calls along with phones that are designed to keep mobile workers in touch and give them anytime anywhere access.

Add applications that deliver call control and presence features to enable workers to know if colleagues are available and how they prefer to be reached and use toolbars within common applications like Microsoft Outlook and Internet Explorer to enhance productivity.

Using Twitter to Monitor Energy Consumption

A GreenTech blogger kept track of her energy consumption for 2 weeks in Twitter. She lays out her conclusions of that experiment.

read more | digg story

Monday, September 15, 2008

Imagine, Facebook for something useful...

We all have the typical Facebook friends who use
the site’s “Status Update” feature to tell the world he or she “is happy”, “is full from eating so much cake”, “thinking”, or some other gibberish like, “George is
Fridayyyy!” Like many of you out there, I used
to think Facebook’s Status Update feature was an absolute waste of time. But these previously questionable micro-posts are evolving into a useful tool for individuals and businesses.

Most of us, however, don’t know how to use this feature properly. It is safe to say that a good number of Web 2.0 light users are still misusing their status-updates with banalities and absolute nonsense.

If we relate Facebook with a big house where all your “friends” living in, then think about the status update as sticky notes on the fridge. For example, a note saying, “Jose is koowa6652owakoo!” or a sticky that only one other person could understand would make the sticky notes seem like garbage – or at the very least, out of place.

Before you start defending whatever expressions you usually post on Facebook, let's take a look at those who use the mother of all status-updaters, Twitter (www.twitter.com). Twitter is basically the same idea as Facebook’s status-updates – minus Facebook.

For instance, we could learn a bit from Twitter user and Vancouver local tech critic, Jeffery Simpson. He recently wrote an article revealing how he used Twitter to get some assistance. Realizing he was lost, Simpson posted a “tweet” – as Twitter posts are called – with his phone number asking for help. Soon enough he received a call that guided him back on track.

Another good use example is Rebecca Bollwitt, a renowned Vancouver blogger (www.miss604.com). Whenever she writes an article, a tweet goes out to more than 1,100 people who chose to follow her.

Even businesses benefit from this feature’s proper use. Darren Barefoot, founder of the tech-marketing firm Capulet Communications (www.capulet.com), uses tweets to solicit aid from other users. Barefoot posted a message asking for help translating a couple of messages and had 3 offers in less than 24 hours.

See? It can work a little better.

The challenge, then, is learning how to use this feature properly so we can take full advantage of it. Granted, most of us are not critics, bloggers, or reporters with constant thrilling news to report, but the potential for good use within our less influential social network is there.

In fact, as I’m finishing this article I noticed my friend Ray, who usually reports pure baloney, is for the first time making good use of his status update: he’s asking if anyone wants to go golfing tomorrow – Hallelujah!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Cisco Nexus 7000 aims for data center dominance

Building a big data center and looking for a switch to match? How do 256 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports and nearly 1.7 terabits of capacity sound? Intending these boxes to be a data-center mainstay for the next decade, Cisco has constructed the Nexus switches to be outside of the current offerings. Value Prop: Power and unified Fibre Channel/Ethernet

read more | digg story

Sunday, September 7, 2008

America's Cup this year will feature multihulled sailboats.

Due to constant bickering and deadlock negotiations between BMW/Oracle's Larry Ellison and Alinghi's Ernesto Bertarelli, we'll have an innovative and unpresedented America's Cup with multihulled vessels like catamarans or trimarans. BMW/Oracle will have a trimaran.

read more | digg story

Friday, September 5, 2008

Rules for Going Global change: do it from the beginning

Globalization is inminent and no longer a novelty. It is, perhaps the strongest weapon in the business world to raise barriers of entry and improve brand image. However, in today's Internet era, globlization for small businesses was limited to the use of the Internet. The international presence was only possible in the virtual ether.
Small businesses are realizing that to compete, not only they need to have that Internet presence and the capability to process transactions and reach customers in the other side of the world. In order to compete, they have to establish a physical presence too.
The rules have changed, the marketplace is the entire World. If you are going to enter a market, why not utilize the whole world for testing.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Speed test: Google Chrome beats Firefox, IE, Safari

In spite of speed tests name Google's Chrome way much faster than Opera, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari for JavaScript, a key foundation for rich Web apps. And in spite of all the huge fan base praising it, my opinion about these products is the same: yet another product that does not satisfy a market transition, but only a fan base and maybe a fad.

read more | digg story