Thursday, January 29, 2009

Money for nothing

In these times of economic ‘non-spending’ many resellers are glad they have implemented managed services. This basically means they charge clients a monthly fee that covers some form of service. The idea is that over the longer period the amount charged is less than the cost so a tidy profit is made. However, in uncertain economic times like these managed services provides much needed regular cashflow for IT resellers because clients are no longer making large infrastructure purchases or calling up to have things repaired. In most cases they are going longer before making a call that costs them money.

 

Now managed service resellers might be sitting back thinking they are pretty in pink but I wouldn’t get too cocky yet. I foresee two issues that will even affect you. Firstly, as business tightens up clients are going to be looking at every outgoing and asking whether it is justified. If they are ‘paying’ for IT support and they don’t feel or see they are getting the value for that they’ll look at cancelling it or at the least bumping it down a level to save money. Secondly, it is all well and good to extract cashflow from existing managed services clients but I think most will struggle when attempting to sell that offer to prospects. So, as I see it, you will get cashflow from your existing managed services clients but that is going to be under pressure as the client’s cashflow comes under pressure.

 

Now there is a caveat here. If you are ‘sitting back’ and simply expecting your managed services cashflow to keep rolling in then don’t complain when it starts to wane. Now’s the time that you need to be telling all your customers and prospects exactly what the benefits they receive as part of their managed service ‘investment’. You need to illustrate how much benefit they do receive (real and imaginary) for their dollar. You need to worker harder to demonstrate that by going with managed services from you they are actually SAVING MONEY!

 

That’s the trick to maintaining, and maybe even improving your managed services income. You need to elucidate exactly what the benefits are FOR THE CUSTOMER. Even though you may not believe they are a benefit they still maybe to the customer so make sure you tell them.

 

A managed services approach in IT certainly provides resellers with a big advantage in times like these but don’t simply sit on you butt thinking that the cash is going to keep rolling it. If the customer doesn’t think (note – it’s from the customers perspective not yours) they receive value from what they pay, then they are certainly going to start questioning whether continuing to pay is such a good idea. Get off your butt and remove the doubt from their mind because all revenue these days requires work.

Big bad SharePoint

Interesting article about how people (especially IBM) are scrambling to bridge the SharePoint divide. In part, the article says:

 

“Big Blue is clearly worried about the broad proliferation of SharePoint sites. They are cropping up in companies and departments everywhere. With the free Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) so easy to turn on, and departments needing a simple to use, cheap place to store documents and collaborate on work, it's no wonder they skip WebSphere to get their jobs done. So IBM, not wanting to get kicked completely to the curb needs an integration story for all these SharePoint data stores.”

In these poor economic times even large businesses can see that free Windows SharePoint Services can make them far more productive. The article also goes on to say:

 

“But it doesn't look like IBM is the only big boy scared of the SharePoint craze. It seems the Open Source community may also be a little concerned about loosing market share to the mighty marketing machine that is Microsoft.”

So it would seem that SharePoint has them all running scared. Why? Because it is such a great tool. Because it is a platform on which on-going development is happening. As more and more people get on board with SharePoint the whole ecosystem around the product grows. Sure, Microsoft probably makes lots of money from SharePoint Office Server (MOSS) but Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) is free. It is even an integrated part of SBS 2008. So why do so few small businesses use it?

 

I think simply because no one has ever shown them what SharePoint is. If there was ever an opportunity in this market, then here it is. SharePoint is a quick and easy way to provide real time saving solutions for clients. It is a great way to help save them money by doing things better.

 

So what’s the first step? If you aren’t familiar with SharePoint then start using it, see my Windows SharePoint Operations Guide as a way to get skilled up quickly, visit my SharePoint site http://supportweb.ciaops.net.au for free document downloads, go out and buy some books and read, but mainly start using it so you can sell it. Why? The opposition is running scared when it comes to SharePoint and that sounds pretty encouraging to me.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

GTD with Twitter

Now I’m still not convinced about the business value of Twitter. It know it is big the US but not so much here in the land of Oz. Aside from my scepticism I’m keeping my toe in the Twitter water just to see what develops and to understand the technology better.



As you can see I don’t have a lot of followers or follow a lot of people. As I said I am still very sceptical of this a business tool for helping get things done (that’s what GTD is short for by the way). That was until I came across the following blog post How to get things done with Twitter.

Here you’ll find some great suggestions on how to use Twitter as a reminder service and to link it with your Google calendar amongst other things. Handy.

I’m still not convinced but via some of the suggestions in this post I am beginning to see that maybe used correctly there can be business benefits. However, it does rely on you building a fairly extensive network of contacts and then keeping up to date with them. Is that amount of work worth the potential payoff? I’m still deciding.

MSRT

When you do a Microsoft Update every month (I hope you do!) then you’ll find that one of the items listed is the Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT for short) update. Now for months I’ve simply applied the update as a normal part of the process not even caring what it does.

 

So I did some research and found that Microsoft actually have a site dedicated to telling you what the MRST is all about. You’ll find it at:

 

http://www.microsoft.com/security/malwareremove/default.mspx

 

and as the site says

 

The Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool checks computers running Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows Server 2003 for infections by specific, prevalent malicious software—including Blaster, Sasser, and Mydoom—and helps remove any infection found. When the detection and removal process is complete, the tool displays a report describing the outcome, including which, if any, malicious software was detected and removed.


Now, it is updated monthly to include checking for all the newest nasties. I’m not quite sure how it exactly works but it sits in the background monitoring for rogue software. If it detects any you are informed at the next login. It is my understanding that the tool actually does a scan once a month when it is updated. More technical information on the tool can be found at:

 

http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=890830

 

You always gotta wonder what something like this is doing sight unseen in your machine. Is it running? Is it doing anything? Well, as it turns out you can run the tool from the command line. Simply press the Start button, select the Run command from the menu and type MRT and press enter. After a few welcome screens you are able to select from a number of scan options.

 

image_2_40E8E3E4

 

Select the scan desired and press Next.

 

image_4_40E8E3E4 

When it’s all done you should hopefully see

 

image_6_6ED6369C


Now the tool doesn’t replace anti virus/anti spyware software but it is worth ensuring that you update your system every month via Microsoft Update to ensure you get this handy free utility.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Increase your value

I’ve been reading the following article “Fireproof you job” and recommend it as a good read. The article focuses on what employees can do but many of the strategies can be also be implemented by businesses.

 

Take for example the item Increase your value - Keep on top of advances in your field and expand your expertise beyond your core area. In the IT field there is simply so much that needs to be kept up with, sadly that still needs to be done. However, I think that it is good idea to try specialize in one area. You should try and pick one that would be of most benefit and exposure to customers rather than simply technically challenging. Maybe something along the lines of mobility, either getting phone to sync with data or enabling simpler remote access, whatever it is make sure it is highly visible to the client. Most of the technical tools are already present but you need to position yourself as the ‘expert’ in the field. Pick an area that will have most impact for you client and then learn everything you can about that, then make sure you use this as your method of attracting business.

 

Secondly, many IT people do not have a broad enough range of skills outside their core IT knowledge. Your clients employ you to solve technical issues which they have little knowledge about so how can you communicate more with them if all you understand is IT? Are there other consulting opportunities available with clients if you had skills in other areas? The IT service business is a pretty crowded place. Ask any IT service business what they do and the answer will usually be along the lines of “we provide quality solutions to client’s IT needs”. Boring! Now imagine if you gave the following answer instead “we save our clients $10,000 a year on their IT costs”. Not only are you going to have prospects attention you are going to make them come one more step down the process with you by asking “How?”.

 

Pure technical skills no longer cut it in the IT business. Why? Google my friends, Google. Given enough time you can find the answer to just about any technical question on Google. So now what makes you so special? What makes you command the fees your do? Even if you invest some time and money on improving your abilities through sales training, business development and accounting they are all adding value to yourself and your business. The common cry these days is that you need to become a ‘trusted business advisor’ but you can’t become a ‘business advisor’ by simply knowing only the technical side. This is why is so important these days to develop skills outside any core IT knowledge you have. In many cases it won’t be nearly as much fun or excitement as IT but that is all part of growing, some pain is always involved.

 

In the coming months those that take action and follow a strategy are going to be those that survive and prosper when times improve. Almost anyone can provide IT solutions these days. So what are you doing to stand out from the crowd? What are you doing to prove to your clients that you are worth your fee? Take the advice employees are getting and implement it in your business or otherwise you will find yourself looking for work.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Two hundred thousand views

Well it took about 9 months to get to the first 100,000 views but it has only taken just over 6 months to get to 200,000 views. What am I talking about? I’m talking about my online videos on YouTube.

 

I am constantly amazed that people actually watch my videos and also find them helpful. So to everyone out there that has watched on of my videos I say thanks. To everyone that has taken the time to comment on the videos I also say thanks. An especial thanks goes out to those who have actually emailed me directly about the videos. It helps to know that people are getting something from what I create.

 

Initially, I established my videos while at Saturn Alliance but since then have returned to running CIAOPS. As such, I have also created a new video area where all recent videos now appear. So if you have subscribed to my initial Saturn Alliance videos don’t forget to take a look at http://www.youtube.com/directorciaops for my new video creations.

 

As always if you have any comments or feedback on my videos please contact me (director@ciaops.com) I’m always happy to hear what people say – good or bad.

 

Thanks for watching and stay tuned for more.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Change is bad

So I’ve been looking at IE8 which comes with Windows 7. Now all this is still in beta and may be subject to change but I can’t comprehend why Microsoft has done the following.

 

To run Windows Update in IE7 in you went Tools | Windows update like so:

 

image_2_491FC556

 

But now in IE8 Windows Update doesn’t live under the Tools menu

 

image_6_491FC556

 

It live under the safety menu

 

image_4_491FC556

 

I’ll tell you one thing, it is changes like these that really confuse and annoy the average user. It may make sense to the programmers in Redmond but to your average IE user it doesn’t. You would also think that to encourage people to run Windows Update you’d leave the option to do so in the same location, but no.

 

Sure, it may be a small thing but it makes it just that little bit harder and more frustrating for users. That is going to translate into reduced product acceptance and greater frustration, not to mention the extra support. I can just hear the support calls now - “Are you running IE8 or IE7. Ok, is Windows Update under the Tools menu? No? Oh well that means ….”

 

It really doesn’t make things easier in my books!

What to learn

Microsoft has come out and said that it is going to reduce its workforce by 5,000. Now if you read the article there are some other interesting gems including:

 

“sales and profit will probably drop as the recession eats into software demand”

”as personal-computer sales slow and companies curb software purchases in what may be the worst recession since World War II”

”customers opted for machines with cheaper versions of the operating system”

”People aren't buying PCs”

”The economy and technology spending slowed more than expected”

”The PC market will be the same, or weaker, for the remainder of the fiscal year”

“All of them saw a very sort of violent slowdown in spending”

“While consumers and businesses hold off buying computers with the latest premium version of Windows, demand is increasing for netbooks, machines that cost less than $US500 and use the cheaper Windows XP or the rival Linux operating system.”

Gloomy eh? So the question is what steps are you taking in your business to combat this slow down? What strategies do you have in place to reduces expenses and grow revenue. What’s your marketing strategy? Or do you simply live in hope that this will all blow over and you won’t feel the effects? If you haven’t taken action then the sooner you start the better.

 

Even Google is going to be affected:

 

“Spending in the US on ads linked to Web-search results increased 21% in 2008, compared with a growth rate of 30% in 2007, according to research firm EMarketer Inc. in New York. The firm estimates growth of 15% in 2009”. – SMH

Now more than ever you need to be carefully considering your whole business because if you’re in the IT business chances are you’re going to see a downturn unless you have made investments in strategy, revenue growth and cost reductions.

 

If you need help, advice or support start building a network of businesses and people who can help, don’t leave it till it’s too late.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What’s coming to WSSOPS in February

I’ve been working hard adding more information to my Windows SharePoint Operations Guide. In February subscribers will find information about an addition migration technique that is particularly handy when you want to merge the content of two SharePoint sites together. There is also a new section covering recommended SharePoint books not only for administrators but also for users. As well there is information site columns and creating additional document library templates.

 

I like to think part of the value of the Guide is that fact it gets updated with more information every month. So when you get the Guide you not only get all the information it currently contains (plus the other benefits) but also updated information (and any additional benefits) that come along for the period of subscription.

 

And you never know, there maybe some more special offers coming real soon, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Get well Steve

For those that don’t know, Steve Jobs of Apple fame is taking a leave of absence due to health reasons.

 

He’s an inspiration guy who has endured many reincarnations, trials and tribulations.



If you haven’t heard the speech he gave at Stanford University a few years ago then I’d suggest you have a look here:



No matter whether you love or hate the guy, you have to admit that the IT industry would all the poorer without a personality like Steve Jobs. He has given us so many IT icons, from the Apple II, to the Mac, to the iPod and iPhone and more. I think any serious observer has to admire what he has created and his ability to create innovative products that appeal to masses.

 

Steve Jobs has faced adversity before and overcome. He faced serious issues before and overcome. I wish him all the best in this latest battle and compel everyone else to do the same because a world in which Steve Jobs is not an active player is a world a more ‘innovation-poor’.

 

All the best Steve and get well soon!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Too hard

I’ve been reading the news about the latest worm that has now infected 8.9 million machines. Now if you believe the reports:

 

From an estimated 2.4 million infected machines to over 8.9 million during the last four days. That's just amazing.” – CRN Australia

“It is the most serious large scale worm outbreak we have seen in recent years because of how widespread it is” - CNN

Now how can that be? IT companies spend so much of their time reinforcing to clients that they need to update their machines. Many have already put in place automated patching tools and still the number of infections rises faster than ever before. How can this be? The vulnerability was patched last October by Microsoft yet it goes to show how few systems out there are being patched regularly.

 

Many would point the finger at home users who rarely update their machines. I must say that I agree with that assessment because most of the students I ask in my IT courses never update their machines. This attitude makes us all vulnerable. Is it their fault for not patching or someone else’s for making it too hard?

 

Doesn’t it strike anyone else that things are not getting better they appear to be getting worse? For all the banging on IT people do about security each new worm outbreak happens faster every time. How can people have confidence in our connected world if so many machines can be compromised so quickly? Sure, maybe these report are over blown and maybe the infection does do that much ‘damage’  but don’t you get the feeling it is only a matter of time?

 

Clearly, keeping systems up to date is simply too hard for the vast majority of users. Clearly, the message about IT security is not getting through. Clearly, many people have no idea that their machines have been compromised. Clearly we need to do something. Clearly it seems, everything we have tried so far hasn’t worked! Any ideas?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hidden information

I am currently reading a fascination book called “Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means” by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi. This was also after reading “Sync: How Order Emerges From Chaos In the Universe, Nature and Daily Life” by Steven H. Strogatz, which I didn’t find as good as Linked but none the less is still very interesting and a recommended read.

I’ve found that Barabasi’s book is far easier to read and understand and for me is more consistently interesting. One of the interesting concepts it talks about is the fact that most search engines can only index 40% of the web. The reason for this can be perhaps be explained by the following diagram from the book.


 In the central core are all the most common web sites that can be navigated from other web sites in the core. To the left are the “In Continent” web sites. These sites allow you to navigate to the web sites in the core but not back to the “In Continent” area. Likewise, the “Out Continent” web sites can be located via links from the core but don’t allow a return path. You also have smaller islands of web sites are separated from all areas.

We all tend to believe that the popular search engines fully index the Web. We expect that when we do a search we receive results from every web page on the Net. The more I read Linked the more I understand that the Web is not a random place, rather a network that is governed by links and their popularity, which develop in a way very different from what we expect.

Linked doesn’t only deal with computer networks it also applies its discoveries to things like social networks which has got me thinking. How many of us believe that we are truly “linked in” when we are in fact simply an island with a very small number of contacts? How many of us actually work to improve the number of social connections we have? Because these give us access to so much more information.

It is clear that the reason why Facebook and other social networking platforms have become so popular because they tap into this leveraging ability. However, I don’t think that you need to have Facebook to achieve this I must say. There are plenty of old fashion ways to move yourself closer to the core of information.

Anyone who is successful is always looking to boost their access to information. What are you doing?

Communicate like crazy

Many businesses are unlikely to have experienced a downturn like what we can expect to deal with this year. I have come across the following article “How to manage your business in a recession” by Fortune Magazine. There are 10 worthwhile suggestions about how you can go about managing in tough times, however I think the one that struck me as having the most relevance was “Communicate like crazy, balancing realism and optimism”.

 

It seems to me that during 'challenging times’ most businesses tend to batten down the hatches and hope for the best. They tend to make responses which isolate themselves from the business community that helped them succeed during good times. During ‘tough times’ employees, customers and so on also share similar fears. Failing to provide information about your situation and direction only heightens those fears. Alternatively, providing unrealistic information can be just as bad because it is clear that every business is going to be affected by the poor economic conditions, so trying to tell people otherwise is just plain stupid.

 

There is nothing worse than not knowing, because most people only assume the worst. It is therefore important that part of any business strategy going forward is to ensure the lines of regular communication stay open. Whether that be printed newsletters, email marketing, town meetings, on site customer meetings, support groups, whatever, now is the time to ensure that you actually do more! Now is the perfect time, for example, to form greater alliances with your business peers to find out what they are doing to cope. If you stick your head in the sand you are pretty much guaranteeing that you are going to have little or no support when you need it.

 

I also like this from the final part of the article, “[m]arathoners and Tour de France racers will tell you that a race’s hardest parts, the uphill stages, are where the lead changes hands. That’s where we are now. When the recession ends, when the road levels off and world seems full of promise once more, you position in the competitive pack will depend on how skilfully you manage right now”. Your skill is a direct measure of ability to learn. So seek out those who have the skills you desire and learn, baby learn.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Incentives

I’m happy to say that The Computer information Agency is now providing gift certificates for referrals. This means that if you recommend our products or services you are entitled to a reward.

For example, if you recommend our Windows SharePoint Operations Guide to someone who purchases it then we’ll provide you with a $20 gift certificate from Amazon or a $25 gift certificate from Kiva.



For those who aren’t aware, Kiva is an organization that makes micro-loans to the very poor. I have spoken about this in a previous blog post and believe that it is really excellent way to help people overcome poverty. Even better it allows your donation to continue to work and help others. It feel strongly that even though we maybe feeling a ‘financial pinch’ currently there are many for are far worse off and we should be doing more to help.

Remember, all you have to do is recommend our products and services to someone else and when they taken them up you’ll get a reward. You can choose to reward yourself or help someone else in need, the choice is yours.

Further confirmation

It is never a good idea to dwell on the negatives but I’d like to firstly point out the reality here. In December the US lost over 500,000 full times jobs. This brought the job losses in 2008 to the greatest since World War II (almost 2.6 million). To me, there still seems to be an air of ‘it can’t happen here’ in Australia. Well the sorry news is that it is! As the article “Massive drop in full-time jobs” notes:

 

"The massive decline in full-time employment, down nearly 44,000 it's a big worry”

The reality is that no matter what business are you in you need to start making changes simply because the environment is changing. Failing to do so may mean you eventually end up failing as well.

 

As they say,”you can’t control your circumstances only your reaction to them”. That’s why it is important to try and focus on the positive. Every market present opportunities, it is just a matter or recognizing these. In many cases this may mean stepping outside the normal comfort zone, which can sometimes be very hard.

 

The major secret is that you need to talk with people. Discuss things with your family, friends and your peers. You need to be constantly seeking out people smarter than you and considering their advice. You need to develop goals, short, medium and long if you want to prosper. Most people are happy to help where they can, so take advantage of that to lighten the load. If you put your head in the sand then no-one (including yourself) can help you.

 

Get out there and starting utilizing and growing your support network.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Wanna see something truly amazing?

It's hard these days to really find a technology that blows my mind. Most of the stuff is normally just an upgrade or evolution of what is already out there. Sure some stuff is gee whiz but there ain't much HOLY COW anymore.

Well take a look at this and I'm sure you'll agree this stuff is truly amazing.

Firstly, watch the presentation of the technology at :

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/129

then visit the following to see it in operation for yourself.

http://labs.live.com/photosynth/

I would try and describe what it is but the presentation and the site do a much better job.

Friday, January 9, 2009

It isn’t really Windows unless

I’ve download the beta release of Windows 7 and just installed it under a Hyper-V virtual machine and started to play with it. (I have to say again what a magic thing Hyper-V is).

So what’s the first thing you do when you install a new version of Windows? You check that all the critical applications are still there. So I checked and
 
yes, thank goodness Solitaire is still there in Windows 7. Phew. Even better it seems like there a few new games on offer as you can see from


 So, let me just test these ‘critical’ applications for a bit and let you know how I go with the ‘less’ important stuff in a coming post eh?

History lesson

I have always been a big fan of history. Not only do I find it interesting to help understand how we got where we are I believe that there are so many lessons to be learnt from history. Why? As simple as it sounds I firmly believe that history repeats itself over and over, with people making the same mistakes time and time again.

 

In that vain I came across the the following quote:

 

"Owners of capital will stimulate working class to buy more and more of expensive goods, houses and technology, pushing them to take more and more expensive credits, until their debt becomes unbearable. The unpaid debt will lead to bankruptcy of banks which will have to be nationalized and State will have to take the road which will eventually lead to communism."
- Karl Marx, 1867

Seems everything old is new again eh? These words from Karl Marx couldn’t be truer than they are today, over 142 years later! (don’t know if we’ll go down the communism road again but you never know).

 

My point? Sometimes the best indication of the future comes from the past, because we seem unable to learn from the past so we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Think about your current situation, what can you learn from what you’ve seen before? What can you learn from others who may have seen it all before? The answers are there but most people choose to ignore them. Will you be one of them?

 

*** Update *** it would seem the quote from Marx is false. For details please the comments on this post for details. I appreciate the time taken to correct my history!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How much to give away?

Many years ago I never used to charge when customers called me up with issues that were relatively brief. Normally, I’d be out on site somewhere and actually documenting the time taken was too difficult. I realized over the years that I was missing out on a good deal of revenue and providing many people with a ‘free-ride’ that wasn’t being returned.

 

The situation improved once I started using SharePoint to track these calls. At the end of each month I’d look down a list and see how much in total each client had requested of me. This would allow me to provide them an appropriate invoice for the time and handle an queries about the charges should they arise.

 

Now there are still some things that we all give away for ‘free’ but the question is, should we? It is ok to give something away if eventually it is going to generate you some income I believe. Let’s say that you help someone on the phone, the hope is that they’ll keep coming back or at least tell someone else what a good job you did. I think the secret is that you need to track closely what you do indeed give away for free so you can determine whether it does in fact provide any return down the track. If it doesn’t then you should probably stop doing it.

 

The other issue with giving away free stuff (whether your time or knowledge) is if the receiver doesn’t know what they are getting for free, then any ‘value’ from your side is lost. In this economic climate I think that it is more important than ever to ensure that customers know exactly all the services you provide which they receive. It is important for them to understand that their ability to contact you directly or have their call returned in a very short period of time is why they pay the amount they do. You availability does have a price. If you don’t somehow communicate that benefit they are simply going to take it for granted and in that case you are giving away something for nothing!

 

Now more than ever it is important to examine ALL the products and services you provide, even if you don’t charge for them, because they all have value. The choice you make about what to charge and not charge for needs to be communicated so that everyone understands the value that is being provided.

 

So take some time and document all the benefits you provide customers, including the ‘free’ ones and then use it to communicate with clients and prospects alike. Some things that you give away for ‘free’ may actually bring you more business but won’t if you don’t let people know.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Delicious

Now I’m always amazed at how few people really use Web 2.0 applications apart from the obvious ones (i.e. Facebook). As such, I thought that I’d tell you about one of the most handy Web 2.0 applications I know of – Delicious.

 

Delicious is what’s known as a social bookmarking site. Now instead of saving my bookmarks to my browser I save them to Delicious. The first major benefit is that I can access these bookmarks from any Internet connection. Next, I can ‘tag’ each bookmark so that it can be easily sorted. Then I can subscribe to other users Delicious bookmarks so I can see what information they are bookmarking. For more about social bookmarking see this YouTube video:

 

Now if you interested, you’ll find my Delicious bookmarks at http://www.delicious.com/directorcia. You can choose to ‘join’ my network so when I bookmark stuff you’ll see it as well. The idea as more and more bookmark stuff they are able to find information that is relevant to them. It’s the whole idea behind Web 2.0.

 

You can add and edit you bookmarks via a webpage but you can also download Delicious plugins for FireFox and Internet Explorer, which makes bookmarking to Delicious as easy a bookmarking to your normal browser.

 

As I said, I find Delicious to be one of the most handy Web 2.0 applications I have come across and I use it everyday. If you don’t then I strongly suggest you take a look at what it may be able to do for you!

Monday, January 5, 2009

The ‘Distraction Virus’

Here’s yet another article about the negative effects of technology distractions on the workplace and society in general.

 

Some take aways:

“Training needs to include distraction coping mechanisms. Company training programs teach applications, and sometimes even productivity. But maybe it’s time to institute training programs that explicitly help people cope with online distractions.”

 

Couldn’t agree more. For example, most employees are simply ‘expected’ to know how to use emails. They are never trained or shown how to use it as a business tool. In most cases they don’t have time to learn how to use email programs like Outlook effectively so they simply use it in the most basic manner. This is hugely inefficient and takes a significant toll on the productivity of the business. With some simple training and guidance this can be easily overcome.

 

“Productivity means nothing if time gained is squandered”

 

You can save all the time in the world but if you spend that mindless surfing the web, YouTube, Facebook, blogs etc then it is a zero gain. The problem is that we have created technologies designed to distract and entice us away from our work and this trend is only going to increase.

 

“Think about the obesity problem. A century ago, America had the world’s healthiest population, tallest people and best food. Fast forward to today. The quality of food has declined as the quantity has increased. Now 60 percent of Americans are overweight, and a quarter clinically obese. And low-quality food is also making us shorter.”

 

This is very interesting analogy to what is happening on the Internet these days. The article talks about how the younger generation are being driven to distraction and likewise to under achievement. We are all feeding on a sugary diet of technology distraction that is causing us to waste our time mindlessly and fail to achieve our goals. Every day it is getting worse and the article laments the future, where like our diets, we have gorged ourselves beyond the point of no return.

 

Much like the growing obesity epidemic we now face a distraction epidemic that is ruining our productivity and our competitiveness. As the articles says:

 

“The individual, the company, the nation that is best at avoiding distractions in the future will have an enormous advantage in the competitive marketplace.”

I see the ‘distraction virus’ in so many businesses and most don’t even know they have it. For that reason I have created my
Smarter productivity and Do less emails products. Also don’t forget my free The problems with emails document and Overcoming email frustrations books to help comprehend and combat distractions.

 

Clearly, we need to start changing the way we use technology or we are going to pay the price.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Mobility the key

Interesting that now the sales of laptop have surpassed desktops as this article says, isn’t it? And according to this article, 2009 is going to be the year of the smart phone. It seems everyone has taken to these Web 2.0 and social networking sites and want to be able to update them from anywhere. It also seems that it isn’t just the young’ns that are doing it, entire demographics are discovering the benefits of Web 2.0 technology.

 

To me it shows the trend that people want to be able to access their stuff where ever they are. They don’t want to be tied down to a desk, they want the freedom of being anywhere and still be able to access all their stuff through their mobile or wireless broadband connection. For me this is simply verification that at the back end cloud computing is becoming more and more important.

 

If you are a reseller then you really want to be taking close note of these trends and making sure that you are able to make revenue from them, because if you don’t then someone else will. Problem is as demand increases prices and margins get driven down so you need to consider your strategy carefully. Yet there is opportunity.

 

A good example of an innovative Web 2.0 application I recently found is Wesabe. It allows you to manage you accounts and bills but the innovative part of it is you can get advice from other on how to save money, where to buy the cheapest item, what specials are available. The whole idea is that by creating a “community” people can help each other not only achieve their financial goals but also save money. I think this concept is a very powerful part of Web 2.0 in that you are using the collective intelligence of the Internet community, which given the size of the Internet population is pretty powerful.

 

It is these trends that you can’t ignore. Even if you can’t understand why people are moving that way you have to accept that they are. If you want a piece of the action then you need to put aside your “technology prejudices” and look for the opportunities. As I have said before, if you are a technology reseller, decide whether you want to own a business or enjoy a hobby. If you want to own a business you have to move to where the demand is or you face being marginalized.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

IT will suffer as well

Now I’m no economist but I must admit that I’m pretty sceptical when I hear people claim that the IT industry won’t suffer as much as other industries in this downturn. To further disprove that notion consider the following article from the Australian newspaper, which says in part:

 

THE IT industry suffered a major decline in job advertisements for 2008 recording a 37.17 per cent fall compared to 2007 figures.

 

The IT industry was the fifth worst affected market for job advertisements…


The tech industry has performed worse than the general economic situation because these jobs tend to be more caught up with global organisations that are taking financial hits in all global markets..

Like I said I’m no economist but times in tech are going to be tough, if not now then real soon. The first half of 2009 is going to see some major changes in the way businesses operate and will operate in the future. If you are an IT reseller then you need to be making adjustments to your business now. You need to be minimizing expenses, watching your cashflow and looking for alternate sources of income to name just a few.

 

If you fail to this your chances of running into problems is much greater and you’ll have less room to make adjustments then. Sure you love technology and prefer to ignore the “business-stuff” but guess what? If your business goes bust, then you’ll be on the unemployment lines and if you only have IT skills then I’m sorry to report (as the above says) there is over a 35% drop in IT jobs on offer. Good luck finding work.

 

So do something NOW to ensure your business survival. We all have to do things we don’t like in life but in the long run it may mean you can continue doing what you love.

I’m sick of patching

You know that you’ve go to do it. You know that it could cause problems with yours and your customers systems but all good tech people know that it is just a part of life. Sigh.

 

A recent post from Susan Bradley detailing recommendations of how resellers should approach patching just confirms to me why I want someone else to do this. There is just so much time and hassle involved it demonstrates to me that we have built our technology on shaky ground. I acknowledge that patching applies to all software simply because it is developed by fallible human beings but man, you’d think it would be getting better. Even if you aren’t a techie read the post and consider that someone should be doing this for all your systems at least every month. What a waste or time and money but without doubt it needs to be done. Sigh.

 

The most likely reason is that because technology is so pervasive these days it means it has to support people who have software from pre-Y2K to 2009. That’s a hell of a lot of software and when you start mixing and matching it on different PC’s, that an even greater number of variations you have to account for and patch.

 

I can see why customers believe that there is conspiracy going on here between developers and IT professionals. Not only do they have to pay for the software they also generally have to pay for someone to update it and debug and issues that arise. To a customer this is painful and seems to happen on a never ending basis.

 

Again, it confirms to me why cloud computing is so appealing from a customers point of view. Any updates are applied on someone else’s hardware and they don’t have to worry, it is all part of the monthly fee. Sure, many resellers make money out of offering update services but I reckon many customers don’t have this service and many probably don’t want to pay for it anyway. It is always tough to sell a service that simply maintains the status quo. To be more effective maybe you are better off simply selling a repair service and making money when the client finally appreciates they should have done something. I’ll guarantee you’ll have their full attention then!

 

Honestly, this is all getting far to hard. Honestly, you gotta wonder whether these IT systems are really making any return on investment given the constant maintenance that is involved. Honestly, I’m sick of testing patches on multiple systems before I apply them in production. Honestly, I’m sick of the downtime they cause. Honestly, I want it to be someone else’s problem because it is all just too much work and it is preventing me from doing my work!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Unorganized email use is a time waster

I’ve spoken before about how constant email notification interruptions can waste up to eight hours a week, simply due to the time it requires to recover from such distractions. I’ve also spoken about the fact that most businesses simply assume their employees know how to use email correctly, when in fact they don’t. Here’s an article that provides further ammunition about how much time inefficient use of email costs.

 

An article in the UK Telegraph says:

 

The survey, of 4,000 people from 150 UK businesses, will show that the average worker wastes one hour every day through inefficient use of email.

 

… said that workers had not been given appropriate training for proper use of emails.

 

…but seldom if ever given any formal training on or provided any corporate guidelines for, it's no wonder that email is a significant sources of stress, miscommunication and inefficiency for companies and individuals.

Now don’t forget that one hour a week wasted is ON TOP OF any time also lost due to interruptions!

 

It is really amazing when you stop and think about the fact that there probably is not a knowledge worker anywhere that doesn’t use email and yet their company has never bothered to train them in how to use it correctly. Therefore, for every employee a business has, they are wasting at least a 10-15% of their potential. In this day and age what business can afford to throw away 10-15% of their output per employee?

 

I have created a free downloadable document that details many of the common frustration of email that any business or individual should look at overcoming. As a lead on from this, I have also created the following documents: Overcoming email frustrations in Outlook 2007 and Overcoming email frustrations in Outlook 2003 which are available in print and downloadable format. Normally, these books sell for about $35 but until January 31, 2009 I have a special deal going which you can find out about here. To take advantage of this offer please contact me directly via director@ciaops.com.

 

Also, don’t forget we also conduct email productivity seminars in your office to help everyone become more effective with email and save you at least an hour a day that you can spend on getting your work done.