Up until a couple of years ago, many experts would have scoffed at the idea of influencer marketing becoming a powerful marketing tool. These days? Not so much. According to recent studies, an average influencer marketing campaign has earned $6.85 for every $1 spent.
As more and more brands are starting to find out, word-of-mouth marketing is routinely outperforming all other marketing types by a large margin. Does this mean all businesses should focus exclusively on taking advantage of influencer marketing? It's not quite that simple. Though influencers can play a vital role in your marketing strategy, they also bring a specific set of challenges that can affect your campaign.
Here are three things every business owner needs to know about influencer marketing.
1. Not All Influencers Are Equal
Influencer marketing is still relatively new, so it's probably no surprise to see brands struggling to identify the right influencers for their needs. Many celebrity-level influencers have over 300,000 followers on social media, but their fans might not be the right target audience for your brand. Can you confirm that these followers were not purchased? Can the influencer in question provide quality content? What about the level of engagement their posts are generating? In many cases, you'd be better off focusing on the so-called micro-influencers. These people have considerably smaller media followings, but they're often able to influence more purchases from their audience. Additionally, their rates are generally lower than those of celebrity-level influencers. If you want to find the right influencers for your campaign, your first step should be to define your business goals.
Do you want to focus on getting followers, increasing your conversion rate or driving website traffic? Once you have your answer, look for influencers that are relevant in your industry. With enough research, you'll be able to identify those of them who can engage your target audience.
2. Determining Your Campaign ROI
How can you tell whether influencer marketing is worth your investment? With other marketing strategies, the easiest way to do so would be to calculate your campaign ROI. However, influence marketing is somewhat of an outlier in this regard, as measuring direct financial return is often impossible.
One way to approach this issue would be to provide your influencers with unique money-off coupons. Any time their followers use one of these coupons, you'd be able to measure the conversion rate. This is what Nutrisystem did. Nutrisystem is a diet company that launched Nutrisystem Nation Blogger program some time ago. Through this program it reached out to women bloggers, like Beatrice of Bestiews, who would be willing to try the popular diet, and blog about their weight loss experience. Nutrisystem gave these influencers special coupon codes to offer to their followers. People used these Nuitrsystem coupons to purchase the diet program allowing the company to measure the campaign’s ROI.
If you're not planning on providing such discounts, though, you can take note of your other campaign factors such as brand advocacy, brand awareness and reaching your target audience.
There are a couple of online tools that can help you with this task. For example, NeoReach is a social media platform that allows you to monitor your campaign results. Thanks to this tool, you'll be able to keep track of your influencers' impressions and the engagement they're generating. In addition to that, you can take note of your overall campaign spending and compare it with the cost per impression and the cost per engagement.
3. Attracting Influencers
When it comes to influencers, their content creation rates can obviously vary wildly. However, there are some statistics that can help you determine how far you should go in order to attract the right people for your campaign. According to Influence.co, the average cost of an Instagram post made by an influencer is $271. Additionally, an average micro-influencer (fewer than 1,000 followers) will demand $83 per post, whereas celebrity-level influencers (over 100,000 followers) will ask for $763 per post.
We should also note that influencers are busy people, and attracting them is far from a walk in the park. In a recent Econsultancy study, it was found that 59% of businesses are struggling with this task. What's the right way to approach them? Well, many experts believe that influencers are more likely to pay attention to marketers who try to befriend them instead of pitching them.
In other words, you should spend some time researching the influencers you want to work with. If you happen to share any common interests or if you liked some of their recent work, make sure to mention that in your emails. Keep in mind that your main goal should be to give them a reason to care about your campaign.
The World Economic Forum has also listed cybercrime as a major global economic risk and warns that more sophisticated cyber-attacks are on the rise. The economic risk is confirmed by a report from a 2017 Cost of Data Study sponsored by IBM which shows that the average total cost of a data breaches is $3.62 million. Further, the study found out that one in every four companies experience a data breach.
Digital devices are increasingly playing a significant role in people’s lives these days, and this is one of the factors that are fueling cybercrime. A recent Norton Cyber Security Insights Report estimated that 35 percent of people across the globe have at least one unprotected digital device that leaves them vulnerable to cyber attacks. These devices are therefore a growing security concern for small business owners given the fact that a good number of them use small digital devices like their smartphones to run their operations.
Some of the major cyber threats small companies face include Hack attacks, Ransomware, CEO fraud, phishing, denial of services, among others.
So how can small businesses protect themselves against cybercrime?
Fortunately for business owners, there are preventative measures they can take to avoid falling victims to cybercrime. Here are some of them:
Use IBM Watson
Watson by IBM is an artificial intelligence of many talents. It works as A.I by day and a cyber crime fighter by night. It improves a security analyst's ability to keep up with sophisticated threats, by drawing from unstructured data (ex. blogs, websites, research papers) and correlating it with local security offenses.
Educate Your Employees
Small business owners need to train their staff on proper security measures. First of all, “employees should not use their work computer for personal business and vice versa”, says information technology expert Dirk Anderson. It is crucial that every employee in your business understands the inherent risk of digital communications. Run regular cyber attack training sessions and let everyone understand that it only takes a single click to compromise the entire system. They should not be quick to open attachments or click on any URLs even if they receive them from trusted friends.
Restrict Access to Important Data
You need to restrict access to your company’s critical data to only those staff members that have to work with it. Don’t forget to shut down accounts of your former employees as quickly as possible. An employee can access the data after leaving your company and use it to compromise your system. Also, it is extremely important to run background checks on potential employees before hiring them.
Be Aware of Unsecured Devices in Your Business
As noted earlier, breaches through mobile devices are on the rise, and this should be a huge matter of concern. You need to understand that any unsecured connected digital device in your business can be accessed easily by cyber-criminals. It is therefore vital to ensure that all the devices brought into your business are secured with very strong passwords which are regularly changed. Have up-to-date security software on all these devices.
Monitor Your Cloud Infrastructure Constantly
Your cloud provider can do this for you. Ensure that all your servers are secure all the time, monitor advanced threat management systems, web application firewalls, security patch management, data storage, among other things. Regularly scan for any vulnerabilities, and take appropriate measures if you find any. You also need to carry out a security assessment of your website regularly.
Install a Combination of Security Software
Use anti-spam, anti-virus, and anti-malware software and make sure you update them regularly. There are many security protection solutions including Symantec and Avast which have practical solutions for small businesses. Antivirus software experts at Qetes advise to always have a firewall software to fend off spyware, virus and phishing attacks.
Back Up Your Data Routinely and Have a Disaster Recovery Plan
Make sure you back up all your data on the cloud, external hard drives, and other locations. Carbonite offers automatic backup solutions for small businesses from as low as $5 per month.
Use Complex Passwords on All Your Computers And Devices
Use passwords with a minimum of 8 characters and make sure you change them regularly. This resilient password policy should also apply to your employees. Ensure they change their passwords often. There are free password management tools like LastPass that you can use to generate very strong passwords and keep track of all them safely.
To sum this up, at times it may be unfortunate that even after doing everything right, you still fall victim to a cyber attack. It is therefore wise to consider having a data breach insurance that will help you mitigate any costs as result of a data security breach including legal fees.
The low priority that businesses have placed on Data Quality has caused the failure of many projects over the last 10 years. In today’s Big Data era where massive scale and complex data reign, success is achieved by prioritizing Data Quality management.
To gain a competitive advantage many companies are performing advanced analytics on Big Data. It is described using the 5 V’s: Volume, Velocity, Variety, Veracity and Value. Social Media and the Internet of Things (IoT) are examples of large Volume and extreme Velocity of data. Variety represents data types; structured, semi structured or unstructured.
Data Quality impacts all 5 V’s as highlighted by Anmol Rajpurohit in a KDnuggets article. The two most important for Data Quality are Veracity (the ability to trust the data) and the Value the data enables.
Top Data Quality Issues
Lessons learned from top Data Quality issues that existed a decade ago in traditional relational systems with ‘small data’ are still relevant today. Small and Big Data have the same Data Quality issues. An estimated $3.1 trillion are spent in the United States on Data Quality issues, according to IBM Big Data Hub.
Lack of Data Standards
Metadata Definitions/Quality - Incorrect definitions or lack of proper definitions describing the data within a column (i.e. allowed values)
Manual Human Intervention
Data entry errors and use of spreadsheets for data preparation
Broken Business Processes
Changes in business requirements not properly captured/accounted for leading to broken business processes (i.e. outdated data feeds)
Poor Data Requirements
Missing or incorrect data configuration rules, mappings or cleansing handled by custom application code unknown to stakeholders in a data migration/integration project
Big Data Quality
One might argue there has been an increase in Data Quality issues from mere volume with Big Data. Data Scientists spend 80% of their time in data preparation activities as indicated by a Forbes article. A large effort of time is spent cleaning “dirty data” prior to the fun tasks of generating data models, applying sophisticated algorithms and using machine learning.
Data has become more complex in today’s world with new characteristics, but the foundational Data Quality principles remain:
Focus on business goals that produce Value
Prioritize data that supports the business goals and use cases
Institute a Data Quality initiative that identifies data issues inhibiting value
Execute Data Cleansing where it matters
What has changed today is the approach in Data Quality analysis execution, as now it must consider the 5 V’s. Data Quality thresholds will vary based on how data is produced. Social media data will not have the same standards as operational data. Data Quality must be scalable and keep up with the growing volume and speed of data. It’s no longer sufficient to just focus on automation using profiling tools. The future for Data Quality is using Machine Learning (ML) technologies to help detect future issues or similar issues with varying data sets. How will you use Machine Learning to help your Data Quality program?
What is more important: a great product or a great marketing? The truth is that a mediocre product with great marketing will always defeat a great product with mediocre marketing. This is because great marketing can influence consumers through psychological tactics. For example, a marketing campaign that creates scarcity and urgency, makes consumers think the marketed product is more valuable than the one that exists in abundance.
When a market is so overloaded that is difficult for you as a merchant to stand out, your marketing may be more important than the product you are selling.
Weight loss is a very crowded market. It is comprised of commercial weight loss chains (i.e Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig), diet pills (i.e Alli, Belviq), diet food home delivery services (i.e BistroMD, Nutrisystem), medical procedures (i.e gastric bypass surgery), and even weight loss gamification (gadgets and mobile apps). In fact, at some point, an incentive-based app by IBM aimed to bring weight loss gamification to the workplace. Many of these products and services offer effective solutions to the problem of obesity. Yet, as is the case in almost every market, 10% of these weight loss products absorb 90% of the customer base. What’s interesting, the weight loss solutions that are most successful do not necessarily provide a better service than their competitors. They are just better marketed.
The largest weight loss program in the US today is Weight Watchers. More than 8 million people visit it website every month. With more than two-thirds of the U.S. population overweight or obese, there is an enormous weight-loss market – to the tune of an estimated $66 billion this year. Weight Watchers has cornered a significant share of it, thanks to a smart strategy in targeting dieters.
With $1.16 billion in revenue in 2016, Weight Watchers is at least two times larger than its biggest competitors in the space, Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig. It’s also seen a meteoric rise in shareholder support, as its stock price has skyrocketed more than 2,000% from $2.13 per share in 1999 to $44.44 in December 2017.
So how did Weight Watchers rise to the top? Surely, the product they sell is very well designed. For over 50 years they keep improving what they offer to the point that today the company’s reputation precedes its service. But, the company’s success is based to a substantial degree on great marketing tactics, not the product itself. This is, after all, expected for a company that spends 90 million a year on advertising campaigns. Let’s take a look at what Weight Watchers does right.
Lesson 1. Present the Problem, Make it Look Complicated
First, the company makes the weight loss problem look complicated. Despite what dieticians may have been telling us, according to Weight Watchers, it’s not just calories in, calories out. Instead, it’s all about how your body processes different types of foods. A 200-calorie cupcake is processed differently than a 200-calorie salad, according to Weight Watchers’ nutritional scientists.
Weight Watchers’ new Freestyle program incorporates new data from recent research in the field of eating behavior and psychology. What makes us gain weight is not homeostatic hunger (eating to meet the body’s energy needs) but hedonic hunger (eating for pleasure), they tell us. This makes the issue complicated in the eyes of the consumer. If weight loss is not as drop-dead simple as we thought, then we feel that we have to turn to a company who can provide us the right solution.
Lesson 2. Offer an Exclusive Product that Solves the Problem
This brings us to our next point: Weight Watchers has created a solution to a complicated problem that looks relatively easy… but not so easy that someone can follow the system all on his or her own. Weight Watchers has created the PointsPlus system that assigns a certain number of points to each food based on how the body processes it. It used to be that points values were calculated based on calories and fat content, but now calories have been taken out of the equation. It’s now based on what it does in the body, a more complicated equation that considers carbohydrates, fat, protein and fiber. A 272-calorie apple serving has 0 Points while a 272-calorie ice cream serving has 7 points. A sophisticated mathematical formula calculates the points which means that consumers need some type of a guide—whether it be a special Weight Watchers calculator, a book or online tools—to tell them the number of points for each food.
Lesson 3. Exploit Your Competitors Weakness
Another smart marketing strategy employed by Weight Watchers has to with taking advantage of its competitors’ weaknesses. People who struggle with their weight generally don’t like rigid food plans or having someone else tell them what to eat. If they did do well with meal structure and discipline, many of them probably wouldn’t have weight difficulties in the first place. Weight Watchers has smartly tackled this in its marketing campaigns by contrasting the freedom to eat what you want in their program to the food restrictions in their competitors’ programs.
For example, Optifast, Jenny Craig and Medifast are all meal-replacement programs. And Nutrisystem is considered by many the best diet meal delivery service. Although all of them do offer some flexibility in letting customers choose different meals, Weight Watchers has taken advantage by referring to their foods as a “’boxed burger” and “microwave pizza.” Weight Watchers then contrasts this with its own strengths by saying you can eat “real food in the real world. You want a burger? Go ahead you can have it. Weight Watchers is not a diet”.
Lesson 4. Sell Feelings Not Products
That brings us to our next point: Weight Watchers focuses on people’s feelings and making them feel good. On the Weight Watchers plan you can eat “real food” versus “boxed food”–that just makes you feel better. Even in the company’s promotional materials, famous singer Jennifer Hudson talks about how great Weight Watchers makes her feel as a mother and as a performer. She talks about how Weight Watchers gives her so much energy, makes her “feel great and liberated in so many ways”.
In one interview, Jennifer says: “Weight Watchers has helped make my new lifestyle a reality”. What Weight Watchers is doing here is selling the feelings around the product, not the product itself. Currently, in the Weight Watchers home page, spokesperson Jessica Simpson “feels like she’s on top of the world” inviting readers to see why Weight Watchers worked so well for her. Weight Watchers knows how to sell feelings.
Sean D’Souza of Psychotactics explains that businesses make this mistake all too often. They try to sell software, marketing strategies, copy-writing services, websites, etc but what customers need is not the product; they want what the product will give them: money, respect, freedom, etc. They want the feelings associated with the product.
In his book Start with Why, Simon Sinek proves that successful businesses are those that have managed to clearly communicate their “why” (the belief, the lifestyle and the feelings the brand represents). To the contrary, businesses that focused on the “what” (the product), didn’t go that far.
Lesson 5. Give them What They Want, Not What They Need
Finally, Weight Watchers is so successful because it employs one of the best marketing tactics in the book: it gives people what they want, not necessarily what they need. By allowing members to choose the foods they love (as long as they stay within their PointsPlus limits), they are still letting members follow their desires. Perhaps members should be eating more fruits and vegetables (and those foods are enormously rewarded in the Weight Watchers system by usually being worth 0 points), but Weight Watchers gives them the option to eat chocolate, cake, ice cream, donuts, burgers, you name it. By doing so, consumers don’t feel restricted or feel like someone else is telling them what to do, and so they will gravitate more towards that type of weight-loss program.
Lesson 6. Let Potential Customers Join for Free
Allowing people to try your product without attaching any strings to it (i.e credit card information), eliminates the sense of fear and risk that often stand as an obstacle between your product and your potential customers. Weight Watchers allows you to join their program for free. You can experience a Weight Watchers meeting discussion free of charge and without any obligation in some of the 30,000 weekly meetings in the US for people trying to lose weight. For those who want to continue the program promo codes for Weight Watchers products are always available. Of course, there is always a sense of hurriedness as the offer ends soon.
Overall, Weight Watchers provides a fantastic case study of marketing weight-loss products. From offering exclusive solutions to a complicated problem, to letting people join for free, the company has been incredibly savvy in the way it promotes itself to consumers. With the weight-loss market only expected to go up for the foreseeable future, Weight Watchers only stands to benefit as more and more people seek the program that gives them the right feeling when it comes to shedding their extra pounds.
What can YOU learn from Weight Watchers’ marketing approach?
Some people like celebrities can have a significant effect on the character of brands. Since these individuals (influencers) have a vast following and appeal to many people, brands use them to promote and sell their products and services. This is what influencer marketing is all about. While there are other channels for influencer marketing, social media influencer marketing is currently the most effective. Businesses are taking advantage of influencers with a massive following on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, and other platforms to sell their brands.
Although influencer marketing has been around for a long time, it has recently become a hot trend and is expected to be the next big thing for marketers. One of the reasons it is trendy now is the fact there are more people than ever before using various social media platforms, with an opportunity to share their opinion and content on anything. Here are reasons influencer marketing is considered the next big thing;
It is powerful
Influencers can significantly improve your brand’s sentiment among consumers. A study by Rhythmone showed that influencer marketing campaigns that lasted for 14 days or more led to a 9 percent improvement in positive brand sentiment. Investing in influencers who believe in your products and services has even more benefits.
Social media is a big factor
More consumers are shifting to social media by the day, and this is going to make influencer marketing even more effective. Social media is, in fact, turning traditional marketing models on their head. A recent report from Salesforce showed that up to 70% of brands will allocate a bigger budget on social media. Nowadays consumers are connecting with each other on social media and making purchase decisions by learning the experiences of each other and those of their favorite personalities.
It is currently an arbitrage
When Facebook launched its ad network, business owners who adopted it early had record ROIs. Currently, influencer marketing is a massive arbitrage as there is a huge supply of influencers, but few brands are running the influencer campaigns. For instance, Periscope and Snapchat present good markets for influencer marketing but very few marketers are investing in it.
People are getting tired of paid ads
Consumers are these days exposed so many ads that they at times unconsciously tune them out. For instance, can you remember the last ad you saw and what it was promoting? Infolinks (a digital advertising platform) found out that just 14% of its respondents remembered the recent ad they saw and whatever was promoted in it.
Influencer marketing is good for SEO
Besides driving sales more effectively, influencer marketing can also boost your ranking on search engines. A study by The Social Media Revolution suggests that user-generated social media posts account for up to 25% of search results. The more your brand is mentioned on social media, the more relevant and popular you get on Google.
It is more effective that traditional models and other forms of digital media
A case study by WhiteWave Foods and TapInfluence found out that per 1000 views, influencer marketing brings in $285. This is 11 times more ROI over other forms of digital media.
It is also worth mentioning that Millenials have become vital game-changers as far as influencer marketing is concerned. The rules of marketing to this generation have changed, and traditional channels no longer appeal to them. Studies show that these days, only 3 percent of Millenials consult traditional forms of marketing such as TV, magazine and newspaper ads before making purchase decisions. Instead, they go to social media platforms, websites, and blogs to find out what their friends are saying. Again, the Gen X and Millenials only trust people they know.
Contrary to what you might expect, content does not matter so much to Millenials, authenticity does. If they don’t trust you, no matter how good your content is, they will not bother looking at it. Influencer marketing seems to be working for them, and this necessitates the need to engage them on social media or the blogosphere.
Experts also say that consumers’ trust in brands has been decreasing over the years. On the other hand, the tendency to rely upon word-of-mouth has been increasing. Consumers continue to demand authenticity, and instead of using outdated brand messages, authentic brands are now focusing on the human component by, say, putting a face to the brand’s name. This genuine and relatable marketing creates a connection with consumers and can foster brand loyalty if done effectively.
An Influencer can have millions of followers or just a few thousand. The number of people who follow an influencer is not that important. What matters when looking for the right influencer to promote your brand is the level of relevance and engagement. Therefore, while a celebrity with a 100 million followers, like Kim Kardashian’s younger sister Kendal Jenner could be the right influencer for a beauty and lifestyle brand, micro-influencers like Leandro of LifetoLiveit and Alex of Wikigains could be similarly effective for a fitness brand or a brand that uses coupons and deals as a sales promotion tool.
How to know if influencer marketing can benefit your business
If you intend to use influencer marketing, here are some tips for telling if the marketing campaign would be right for you.
Lifestyle and statues. For instance, if you are selling luxury products like watches, then you might want to consider influencer marketing.
Do consumers need to trust your products and services before they buy? If yes, then this marketing campaign can drive sales for you.
If you are working in a very competitive industry or one that is commoditized or homogenized, influencers can help you stand out from the rest.
Online reviews have a very strong influence on the success of any business. According to the Wall Street Journal, consumers’ behavior is influenced by social norms. This is why online reviews—the new social proof—is such a powerful concept. A survey by Bright Local in 2017 found that 85% of consumers trust online reviews like personal recommendations. No wonder why Influencer Marketing has become such a powerful weapon for brands. Just consider the initial steps you normally take when you are thinking about buying a product or service. You most likely go online and begin looking for reviews to help ensure you are spending your hard earned money wisely. Your clients or customers will also want to do the same thing before they purchase your products or services.
According to a study that was conducted by YouGov, 78% of customers consult online reviews before making a purchase. Another online review survey done by Bright Local’s in the year 2016, revealed that 88% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as they trust recommendations from family members and friends. That same study also found that, 74% of costumers say that the positive reviews make them trust a business more.
If you are a business owner, the aforementioned statistics should provide you with sufficient evidence of the importance of the online reviews. That being so, many businesses tend to struggle when it comes to getting reviews from customers. Either they get very few reviews, or none at all. So, how do you get people to review your products or services? Here are our top 6 tips;
1. Spotlight the Customer
Most people like being the center of attention. When you receive a review from a client or customer, you can show gratitude by giving them some spotlight. Giving your customers or reviewers attention can actually encourage other customers to give their reviews. Moreover, expressing your gratitude in public can help you inspire customer loyalty. You can also feature the best reviews on your website or social media pages, and even go a step further and give shout outs to each reviewer by name.
2. Send a Follow-Up Email
At times, it can be somewhat intimidating to use emails to encourage clients to leave reviews as you might feel as if you are harassing them. However, when done correctly, this can be one of the most efficient ways of getting more reviews. If you've the client’s email address, consider sending out a personalized email 2 to 7 days after the purchase. The follow up email should contain links of where to leave a review. Remember to let them know that your goal is to create the best possible experience, and that you do value their feedback.
3. Make It Easy to Review Your Products
In order to inspire customers to review your products, you need to make it easy for them to do so. You should list your business on various different review sites which are relevant to your particular business. Some of the best review sites you might want to consider include: Yelp, Lodlois, ConsumerAffairs for Brands, among others. That said, make sure you not only provide them with the website URLs, but also explain how to leave a review.
4. Respond to Reviews
If you ask your customers for reviews, the least you can do is read what they've written, and respond when necessary. You should show them that you are available to talk by personally responding to their reviews. Responsiveness actually shows that you value their feedback and care about their opinions. It also increases the likelihood of other customers joining the conversation and adding their own reviews.
5. Don’t Forget to Ask for Reviews
This is one of the easiest and most overlooked ways to convince clients/customers to leave online reviews. If you do not ask for reviews, many customers will not remember to do it since they've other things going on. According to a 2016 survey by Bright Local, 70% of customers were willing to write a review if the business actually asked them to do so.
The ideal time to ask for a review is when the value that you have delivered is fresh in the customer’s mind, therefore making it easier for them to recall the purchase, and write a honest review. So, do not wait for too long before asking for a review since the happy memories will get more out of focus with every passing minute.
6. Incentivize Your Customers
It is really amazing what a little incentive will do to encourage people to leave reviews. For instance, you can set up a program which rewards customers at random for leaving a review. The program should be designed in such a way that it rewards any review at random regardless of whether it's positive or negative. That said, be careful not to give an impression that you're trying to compensate customers for writing reviews.
The Superbowl. It is the culmination of a football season and the most watched football game each year. But for football fans and non-fans, part of this event’s draw are the commercials. Every year, the “big boys” – Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, Frito-Lay, and more – put their marketing and advertising teams to work to come up with amazing commercials. For days afterward, these commercials are analyzed and voted upon by a loyal following.
For average businesses, however, this type of marketing is an impossible dream. They have to use more conventional methods, most of which involve developing customer personas, trying to develop relationships with customers, providing responsive customer service, and creating online advertising and content marketing which is, actually, pretty budget-friendly.
Hacking Through a Noisy Environment
The problem with internet marketing, or marketing of any kind for that matter, is that the environment is noisy. Marketers are throwing a lot of “stuff” out there and hoping that some of it will stick with some of their target audience members. And consumers are growing tired of the growing disruptions of marketing of products and services that don’t meet their needs.
Many marketers have also come to use data analytics to keep track of the success of specific campaigns they run – tracking consumer response and the number of conversions that can be attributed to each strategy. And this can drive marketing decisions that they make for future campaigns. It’s a good use of “science” to make marketing strategies more effective.
Before and After-the-Fact Analytics
There is data and then there is big data. Conventional analytics is “after-the-fact” analysis. But what if bigger amounts of data could be gathered and gathered before marketing campaigns were ever crafted in the first place? This is the promise of this new big data science. Here is an example:
A bank has had a portfolio of loan options for consumers – auto, home, personal, business, etc. – for a number of years. Now it must compete with a host of new loan products from a host of new lenders, especially online lenders, and business is falling off. How does it determine how to alter it current products, perhaps design new ones, and market those effectively, in order to gain a good market share? Big data analytics can do this.
With the right software and tools, and the right questions, data can be gathered from all over – from the competition, from social media, from consumer review sites, etc. – and all of that data can be organized and synthesized to provide answers that will drive the loan products the bank will offer, to whom, and even how and where they will best be marketed.
The idea of big data analytics is that it is supremely scientific. It deals only with factual information and is based upon actual consumer behaviors that are gathered from multiple sources and then presented in reports that businesses can use to predict how consumers will act in the future. Armed with this knowledge, business owners, managers, and marketers can make smart decisions about what they offer, when it is offered, to whom, and the best places for their campaigns.
6 Ways in Which Big Data Analytics Can Boost Marketing
Consumers looking for products or services often conduct generic searches. And, according to Matt Kirkman, Director of Grapefruit Digital SEO Agency,
“...consumers rarely go beyond the first page of a search result, in fact, beyond the top five results. What big data analysis can bring to the table is not just the most commonly-used search terms, although that is a critical factor, but also the demographics using those terms, where they hang out online, and the most common needs they identify related to products or services. All of these can be used to craft content that search engines will find valuable.”
More Precise Definition of the Ideal Customer
Marketers spend a lot of time developing a target audience persona. Some of this may be based upon current customers, and some may be a “guess and test” strategy. Big data takes the guesswork out. Companies can see who is buying similar products/services, what and where their related conversations take place, what other websites they visit, the social media platforms they use, and, when, where, and how they prefer to be contacted.
Anyone who has shopped for a product on Amazon or ordered a movie from Netflix, will find suggestions for additional purchases or other movies they might like. This is the result of big data and machine learning, gathering information on previous customer behaviors to predict those of future customers. Marketers for any business can use such data to suggest additional products or services too.
Another aspect of personalization is targeted marketing based upon predictive analysis. When leads come in to sales teams, they can be categorized as hot, warm, or cold, based upon how similar leads have behaved in the past. This allows sales teams to spend their time more wisely relative to those leads.
Better Content Marketing
Marketers have used analytics to measure responses to their content – blog articles, social media posts, etc. The right big data analytics tools, though, can now crawl through related content all over the web and analyze responses to it all. This provides marketers with topics, with “pain points” to address, and with offers such as loyalty programs and discounts.
Managing a Reputation
New analytics tools also allow businesses to monitor any mention of their brands or products/services from any place on the web. They can then immediately access those mentions and respond accordingly. When compliments are given, that behavior can be reinforced with coupons, discounts, etc. By the same token, negative comments can be addressed publicly with resolutions that both satisfy the unhappy customer and let others know that a business is serious about its customer service/relationships.
Because of big data algorithms and analytics, it is possible for businesses to rapidly obtain information on competitors’ pricing, price changes in the sector as a whole, and even price points at which customers may be turned away. Pricing optimization is a huge factor in marketing and sales, and the ability to get information and suggestions based upon actual data relieves marketing departments of a lot of manual research, which may not be comprehensive.
This list of six benefits is only the beginning. Data science is relatively new, and promises to be the single most important factor as businesses look to design products and services that consumers really want and need, to find their ideal customers, and to market their brands most effectively.
You start working on a spreadsheet from your home office. Later, on the train you open it up with your phone to check out a few of your calculations. When you get to work, you open up your laptop, and continue working on it. You’re not carrying the document around on a flash drive. You’re simply taking advantage of the convenience of cloud storage. It may be time to move forward, and treat your accounting the same way.
Using cloud based accounting solutions is certainly not bleeding edge technology either. As of 2014, 69% of accounting firms were using cloud based financial solutions. More than 25% of the small to mid sized businesses that were surveyed indicated that they were using cloud based accounting solutions specifically.
Whether you’re a small business owner handling your own financials or a dedicated accounting pro, there are plenty of reasons to consider cloud software. It’s certainly a technology that’s growing in population overall. Keep reading to learn more about the growth of cloud solutions for accounting, and why it should be a viable option for you.
Access And Collaboration For Team Members
Cloud based accounting solutions are highly regarded because they don’t keep people pinned to their desks. You also don’t have to rely on emails or file sharing to share accounting data with other team members. Instead, those with authority and connection can simply access the accounting system from any connected device.
Cloud based accounting systems also enable collaboration. Files can be accessed, modified, and created by multiple team members. This ensures that everyone has the latest version of each document.
It Takes The Heat Off of Your Systems
In addition to financials, your home-based systems handle a lot. You likely store customer and employee data. You may process transactions. There’s also emails, data related to other systems, security and antivirus software, and more. That’s a lot of processing and storage. This doesn’t come for free.
By moving your accounting to the cloud, you can take a load off of your networks, servers, and peripherals. This can lead to better performance, and more room for the data you do choose to keep in house.
Cloud Accounting Solutions Are Often Less Expensive
In all likelihood, running your accounting solution is the cloud will result in lower out of pocket costs. First of all, if you purchase an in house solution, not only do you have to cover licensing fees, you’ll also have to cover the cost of any hardware upgrades required to host the solution. Also, you may be able to break your payment into a series of monthly payments thus defraying your upfront costs even further.
You’ll also pay less for hardware maintenance and other resources. This is especially beneficial for smaller businesses. Rather than hiring an IT person, or bringing in a consultant to deal with maintenance and upgrades, you can simply leave that to your solution provider. This is much less expensive than paying for an IT pro or consultant that you may only need part time.
Cost of storage is another thing to consider. With cloud based solutions, you only pay for what you use. And, in many cases your subscription options will likely give you plenty of room to grow before you move up to a higher, pricing tier.
Finally, keep in mind that as in house solutions grow, you also have to consider the physical space you have to store servers and other hardware. It’s not much of a stretch to go from having some equipment in a well vented utility closet to needing a fully realized computer room with raised flooring and other bells and whistles.
High Security Protocols And Standards
Unfortunately, some very publicized events relating to cloud storage has put people off the idea of using cloud as an accounting solution. They believe that their information won’t be secure. However, in most cases that’s simply not true. A reputable host is going to have exceptionally high security standards and protocols. They’re also going to have the manpower and knowledge to maintain a much more secure system than most businesses.
Truth be told, unless you’re a large company with a data security team, the right cloud provider is very likely to outdo you when it comes to data security and access control. However, this is important enough of an issue that you should ask questions about data security when you’re exploring cloud accounting solutions.
Flexibility And Scalability
If you select a cloud based ERP solution, or even a standalone accounting solution, it’s quite likely that you will be able to customize it to the needs of your organization and clients. This can often be done by selecting apps that are created by your vendors. Another option is to customize cloud based accounting systems yourself. This is one of the advantages of cloud computing that actually stretches beyond accounting and financials. You can do this in house, or bring in a software development contractor. This option is popular enough that many vendors offer development platforms, and open source products.
Cloud based solutions are also scalable. If you’re operation is growing, the cloud simply grows with it. You don’t have to calculate how much server space you may need in six months or how much you will need a year from now. Instead, you can spend those resources focusing on providing clients with great service and earning profit.
Cloud to Cloud Integration is Now a Possibility
If you’re already using cloud based solutions for other business applications, let your accounting solution provider know. It’s relatively, but the truth is cloud to cloud integration is absolutely a possibility. In all likelihood, all of your cloud based applications can share data amongst themselves in order to truly provide you with rich, enterprise solutions.
Automation Leads to Accuracy
Many cloud based accounting solutions are largely automated. That means there is less human intervention. That leads to less error,and more quality control. Fraud, duplicate entries, and other issues can be flagged and dealt with, often with limited human intervention.
Ease of Maintenance
In order to keep your in house systems working, you have to constantly concern yourself with upgrades and maintenance. Servers must be updated as your company grows. You’ve also got security patches and other upgrades to stay on top of. Even for a small accounting firm, the job of ensuring your servers, devices, and networks stay up and running can quickly become a full time task for at least one of your team members.
That’s not the case with the cloud. You don’t have to concern yourself with maintenance at all. These tasks fall under the responsibility of the software provider. Don’t forget the cost of server downtime. Depending on the solution you choose, a cloud based accounting system may mean you’ve got as little as 45 minutes down time each month.
Not only have cloud based solution providers gone a long way in allaying concerns about security and privacy, they’ve taken steps to ensure that their solutions are more secure than most other options. In addition to this, cloud solutions can be less expensive as well as using up fewer resources. Any accounting firm or small business in need of an accounting solution should strongly consider looking to the cloud. There’s a very good chance that there’s something in the cloud that will meet your needs.
The American Medical Association (AMA) is working alongside leading IT companies like IBM and Cerner to develop an integrated healthcare big data analytics platform. The name of the project is Integrated Health Model Initiative (IHMI) and it is aimed to provide a continuous learning environment that can produce interoperable technological solutions, as well as valid care models based on relevant feedback.
IHMI will feature a central data model for organizing and exchanging information, as well as a physician-led validation process to review the clinical applicability of the data. The technology that will deliver this type of sensitive data analysis will be developed by IBM and Cerner, as well as other partners that may join the project in the future. This new healthcare analysis big data platform is set to be developed and released in 2018.
The Central Aims of IHMI
The main goal of IHMI is to provide a digital basis that will support a collaborative approach to optimizing population health management. This will be achieved by identifying the diverse factors that have led to positive medical outcomes, as well as pointing out the points in healthcare development that require improvements. The platform will also offer comprehensive information for medical research.
According to James L. Mandra, MD, the CEO of AMA, the amount of health data produced in the US has reached impressive proportions. However, much of this data remains "fragmented, inaccessible or incomplete" in spite of its potential to lead to valuable improvements in patient outcomes.
As such, IHMI was created as a collaborative effort that could enable the healthcare system to "collect, organize, and exchange patient-centered data in a common structure that captures what is most important for improving care and long-term wellness, and transform the data into a rich stream of accessible and actionable information”, says Mandra.
The healthcare platform is specifically targeted to gather data about high-cost and high-impact clinical areas, such as diabetes prevention or hypertension management. This platform would serve doctors and researchers in optimizing patient care tactics and developing new healthcare protocols based on comprehensive feedback, which has the potential to improve patient outcomes.
The Usability of IHMI
The AMA's big data platform is will ultimately be designed to be used by doctors. As such, IHMI will feature a close collaboration between physicians and IT specialists that can provide the specialized data analytics features that will be both useful and accessible to the medical community.
According to Laurie McGraw, AMA's Senior Vice President of Health Solutions, the new data platform will actually encompass many existing data standards that the medical community is already familiar with, such as SNOMED, CPT, LOINC, or ICD-10.
However, it will be taken one step further because it will help users gain access to patient-centered data, such as patient goals, function, and state, which are essential for an accurate assessment of patient wellness. McGraw said that IHMI is expected to "build bridges with health technology leaders and bring the physician voice into the innovation space”.
IHMI will help physicians access specific patient information in the patient's record more efficiently by putting together patient care models which can be easily deployed and the biggest advances in IT technology that target protocols and workflows.
This type of interdepartmental collaboration could lead to technological breakthroughs that would deliver sensitive information that is relevant to the specific needs of a group of users. Similar developments where technology can help facilitate certain red tape processes are made every day.
For instance, in 2017 a tech solution was made available that can issue an electronic Vietnam visa for US citizens upon demand. This will simplify the visa release process tremendously and hopefully, the model will be implemented for visa systems in other countries as well. In the same way, IHMI is meant as a technological advancement that could then be applied internationally.
To conclude, the Integrated Healthcare Model Initiative will have the titans of healthcare and IT working together for the development of comprehensive big data analysis platform that will fuel the optimization of the American healthcare system. It remains to be seen when the platform will be made accessible to the medical community, but it has the potential to fuel ground-breaking advancements in patient care.
Think about it. The importance of creating great customer experience predates computers. For example, people have always appreciated the following:
Well organized stores with easy to find merchandise
Knowledgeable customer service staff and salespeople
Servers who remember a customer’s regular order
Helpful suggestions that are based on the customer’s preferences and history
Interactions and experiences that simply work quickly effortlessly and effectively
Experiences and actions that bring pleasure
Historically, have not only appreciated these things, they’ll even pay more for better experiences. Early user experience efforts include Henry Ford’s creation of mass production technology, Walt Disney’s carefully designed strategies to make his parks a joyful place, and Don Norman’s pioneering work at Apple focusing on functionality and usability over aesthetics. In fact, it was Norman who coined the term ‘user experience’.
What’s slowly developed in recent years is that companies can now do a much better job of pinpointing the experiences that customers want. Even better, they can do it more effectively, and much less intrusively. Credit for this can largely go to big data and artificial intelligence.
The Role of AI in User Experience
A large part of the conversation about user experience and AI centers around chatbots. The idea is that AI driven chatbots can become more intelligent over time as they receive input from consumers as well as data from other sources. While this is true, it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Artificial intelligence also plays a role in the creation of websites that deliver great user experiences. For example, The Grid uses artificial intelligence to help create sites with great UX nearly automatically. Netflix allows AI to do the grunt work of creating user experience by creating a framework of algorithms and rules that AI technology can work with. In the meantime, that leaves designers and others time to focus on the more human elements of user experience.
While AI plays a role in UX beyond the bot, that doesn’t mean the bot should be ignored. Chatbots are an emerging technology that have and will continue to improve the user experience. No, they aren’t perfect. There’s no doubt that most of have rolled our eyes at the seeming cluelessness of bots. However, thanks to advances in the way that bots process natural language, the ability for bots to respond and react appropriately to what people input is rapidly improving.
Paul Gordon at 720 Digital specializes in conversion rate optimization. He says, “Bots are no longer intrusive sales machines. They are intelligent. They possess the ability to interact, to show insight, and to meet customers’ needs when they interact. This is an exciting technology that will continue to improve UX down the road.”
Considering that most people have only five apps on their phone that they use on a regular basis, and that the most used of those five is likely to be a messenger app, there’s no reason to ignore the role that AI can play in messenger apps whether it’s facilitating purchase, acting in a customer service role, or simply providing information.
Big Data And UX
Another asset in the ability for businesses to deliver great user experience is the improved ability to collect and store data. This data can then be used to inform decisions about creating better UX.
One way that startups are able to use data to improve UX is by collecting that data in less obtrusive ways. Analytics software can deliver data about true consumer behavior. Not only that, sometimes big data can gleen better information about customer information than customer feedback through surveys and other instruments.
Of course surveys are a valuable means of connecting with customers. Market research is also an apparent tool for reaching out to the users. However, once again it’s intrusive and requires customers to provide input that they would not otherwise give freely.
Businesses have been collecting and using data from customers and other sources for years. However, thanks to analytics they can identify the right questions to ask in the first place, and also identify where data collection might require a bit of sensitivity. After all, at the end of the day businesses want customer data in the most convenient way possible.
What do Customers Really Want From UX
From the time they leave their homes, log into their computers, or walk into your store, customers really want just one thing. They want to be provided with easy, informative, and easy to connect experiences. More importantly, customers understand the value of CX. They want convenient, safe, and entertaining experiences.
With the online-based evolution of the IT world, moving apps to the cloud is a fundamental step in the future of technology. As the demand for app development for the cloud has increased more and more in the past years, specialized cloud-based platforms have been created to take apps from idea to URL.
Nowadays, web developers have several platforms that can optimize their work and enable them to make better apps for the cloud. In this article, we are going to tell you all about the rise of cloud-based platforms for app development, along with the benefits they bring, as well as their inevitable shortcomings.
The Demand for Cloud-Based Platforms
Moving an app to the cloud has become one of the most appealing ideas in the IT world because it is extremely convenient. Essentially, it entails running an app on the internet instead of the company's servers. As this idea grew to become a full-on sector of the IT world, three main types of cloud-based app development have been established. These are as follows:
1. IaaS - Infrastructure as a Service
The IaaS model entails that the app is created on the company's platform. Then, the entire app-platform bundle must be deployed to a cloud infrastructure. This is the most lucrative form of cloud-oriented app development because the developers working on these apps have their work cut out for them. However, the IaaS model provides them maximum flexibility, which could be essential when it comes to apps meant to suit very specific roles.
The PaaS is becoming more and more popular because it offers developers with quite a bit of flexibility, but it significantly reduces the work they have to put in by providing them with specialized features that can optimize certain parts of the development process.
3. SaaS - Software as a Service
The SaaS model means creating cloud-based apps by using a pre-existing app the offers the required functionalities. The best example for this model is the full range of apps that allow users to log in using their Facebook accounts.
Instead of creating new data for the app's log-in system, developers can simply link it to the Facebook app. While this model is clearly convenient, it keeps developers somewhat limited because they need to adapt to existing apps.
While each of the three models has its own advantages and disadvantages, the highest demand has been observed for the PaaS model because it offers the best of both worlds. Developers have flexibility in the processes they choose to run, and the middleware platforms can help them reduce the work they put in.
The Main Roles of Middleware Cloud-Based Platforms in App Development
Middleware cloud-based platforms, such as Heroku, Microsoft Azure, AWS, OpenShift, and others, are all focused on increasing developer experience. These offer a set of specialized enterprise features that can optimize their work by making the development process more accessible.
By simplifying and speeding up the processes of deployment, app configuration, scaling, testing, and tuning, these platforms can let developers focus on the creative part of their jobs, rather than spending a lot of time on technicalities.
In fact, the most complicated part that developers have to get through is the deployment step because this determines how smoothly their apps will run in the cloud. This is where middleware platforms make a difference because they can make the entire deployment process far easier and thus increase developer experience significantly.
It is extremely easy to deploy Django to Heroku, for instance, precisely because the Heroku platform is made to run processes written in traditional programming languages. Then, it will make the transfer to the cloud as smooth as possible.
The Advantages of Middleware Platforms and PaaS
If this is the cloud-based app development model that show the biggest potential for enterprises, as well as start-ups, let us tell you more about the primary advantages boasted by PaaS and middleware platforms.
Optimization of Testing and Deployment
Whether you are using AWS, Azure, or Heroku, middleware platforms are meant to help web developers try various configurations of their app and run comprehensive tests to assess its performance and its compatibility with various cloud systems. This is an essential part of speeding up the deployment process and increasing developer experience.
Increased Focus on Business
By simplifying the app development process, companies can focus more on their core business targets. The PaaS model can optimize the web development department with minimal effort because middleware platforms are specially created to be suitable for any development system adapted for the cloud.
By simplifying the testing process, platforms like Azure and Heroku are not only useful for developing new apps, but also for creating new features for existing ones. If the developers can test these new features quickly and efficiently, they can implement them efficiently to their apps.
The Drawbacks of Middleware Platforms and PaaS
While these specialized platforms for cloud-based app development are on the rise, there are several aspects that must still be improved. While the drawbacks of middleware platforms are not significant, they can constitute issues for certain business models.
While clearly more permissive than the SaaS model, PaaS platforms still keep web developers limited to a series of features. As such, this could prevent them from creating certain features that might be of interest to some businesses. This is why it is essential that these platforms are chosen in accordance with the company's needs.
As any emerging IT sector, Paas platforms require improved cybersecurity. As such, it is essential that companies stay in touch with vendors to have access to the latest updates to this middleware, as increasing security is one of the primary objectives for the optimization of these platforms.
As you can see, cloud-based applications are clearly an important part of the upcoming IT era. By using specialized platforms such as Heroku, Azure, or AWS, web developers can quickly make the transfer from traditional programming languages to cloud-optimized systems, thus maximizing the potential of the entire project.
You’ve finally done it. Your ecommerce site is ready to go live. Now, you can relax and wait for the orders to roll in. Can’t you?
Unfortunately, you can’t. In fact, the day you go live is the day the real work starts. Keeping your ecommerce site up and running, and profitable requires continual maintenance and monitoring.
Ensuring that your site is secure, and that it can handle the volume of transactions you anticipate is, of course, a primary concern. However, that’s something that the average business owner should anticipate and plan for. What many aren’t prepared for are the three most common challenges.
According to experts from Zfort Group, who have developed more than 150 ecommerce websites, there are three key challenges that remain common among all of them after they’ve launched. These are as follows:
Ensuring That Products are Presented in The Best Light Possible.
When a potential customer arrives on one of your product pages, that’s a big deal. It is the successful result of many efforts and investments including:
It’s a real victory. The worst thing you can do is squander that by failing to deliver what the customer wants in that moment. Here’s the real challenge. You’ve got about 8 seconds to make a good impression. There are four things you can focus on to ensure this happens.
The images on your product pages are going to register in the minds of your visitors before any of the text does. High quality images play a major role in whether or not customers will stay to read more, and whether or not they will convert.
Case studies have shown that larger images can increase conversions by up to 63%. Of course, it’s a no-brainer that images should be the highest possible quality. The rest isn’t so cut and dried. For example, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to the number of images that should be included on one of your product pages. That depends on the product you’re selling, and the needs of your customers. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Should the page show photos of various options such as color?
Will customers benefit from seeing the product from different angles?
Is my hero shot adequate?
Would a zoom feature be beneficial?
There are other things to consider as well. Tagging images will help ensure they rank in searches. Keep image file names short but relevant. Use dashes to separate words. These Tweaks are important as 78% of SEO issues can be attributed to problems with images.
Clear, readable, and compelling product descriptions are also important. This is an area where it is imperative to prioritize the needs of the mobile consumer. Keep in mind that 44% of mobile users list the ability to read product descriptions clearly as extremely important.
When writing descriptions, focus on two things - features and benefits. Shoppers want to be able to quickly discern whether or not your product will meet their needs. A scannable list of features will facilitate this. The other side to this equation are benefits. Focus on describing ways in which your product can add value or convenience to the lives of your customers.
Finally, keep social proof in mind. You know your product best, but shoppers want to know what others think as well. To be certain, many will read reviews before making a purchase. Consider embedding positive reviews about your product directly onto your web page.
Use cross reference links and data to improve customer experience, and provide information about your products. Here are some examples:
List relevant product and part numbers, especially if they have changed.
Link to complementary products and accessories that you sell.
Inform shoppers of compatibility with other products.
Let shoppers know if your product is a workable alternative for a product sold by others.
Consumers expect your product pages to load within 2 seconds. If load time exceeds 3 seconds, you’re going to start losing people. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to improve page performance. These include, image compression, enabling caching, optimizing images for SEO for starters.
Why page performance matters so much? Well, if you are experimenting with paid advertising, fast page loading speed will result in more page views, and ultimately higher conversions, especially for mobile users.
Keeping products updated regularly, and the time involved in that.
Stagnancy is the enemy. If you don’t update your products regularly to meet the changing needs and wants of your customers, you’re going to lose sales. In addition to this, your growth going forward will also depend on your ability to select and offer new products that meet your customer’s needs. Pay attention to customer feedback, and keep up with developments in your niche to keep your product offerings up to date. Here are some things to consider when determining whether or not to update or add new products to your site.
Are customers asking for upgrades and changes?
Are there new products arriving on the market that are complementary to the ones you sell?
Have changes to industry standards or regulations occurred recently? Do your products need to be revised accordingly?
Can you exploit new markets and opportunities by expanding your offerings?
Staying On Trend (with Holidays, News, Competitors, Offers, etc.)
Today’s consumers are a bit spoiled. They are accustomed to receiving special offers and discounts to commemorate virtually any event you can think of. Whether it’s Christmas, the beginning of the school year, or some other event, you can count on your competitors holding some sort of sale. Plan ahead so that you can remain competitive.
Keeping up with holidays and current events also offers you some important opportunities. Not only can you impress your customers with special offers, you can also reach them with relevant content as well. Then, there’s the opportunity to offer select merchandise for holidays and other special events.
Your ecommerce site is a bit like a needy pet. It requires constant feeding, attention, and nurturing. By staying on top of the three challenges mentioned above, you can help ensure consistent growth and profitability.
Bitcoin and blockchain. It’s still a mystery to many, including C-level corporate executives. And yet Bitcoin has come to its own, as a cryptocurrency, having closed on October 3, at a price of about $4300/coin. It has become a major disruptor of traditional financial institutions and financial transactions, despite naysayers like Jamie Dimon.
But it is not the bitcoin currency itself that is causing such a stir. It is the technology behind the transactions – blockchain. And it is this technology that is now capturing the attention of a variety of industries, not just financial.
Just What is Blockchain?
Consider that financial transactions in traditional banks are all housed in huge databases of ledgers. When a customer wishes to access his/her account online, he can see every transaction over a selected period of time and be given a real-time balance. This is a personal banking ledger and it is a part of the larger ledger databases that are reconciled overnight, every night.
Here is the issue: these ledgers can be altered, either by those who have digital permission to access them or, unfortunately, by hackers. They are therefore not unalterable, permanent records.
Blockchain technology was developed to make financial ledgers permanent and unalterable. Here is how that works:
All activity (e.g., a banking transaction) is entered as a part of a block of transactions over a specified period of time (e.g. ten minutes). These transactions are verified by multiple people, and the block of activity is then “hooked” to the previous block and to the block that follows it. Blocks are permanent and can never be altered once verified and entered. No one has permission to access and modify, and, if anyone did attempt to do so, the other verifiers would immediately know and shut that down.
The use of blockchain transactions is especially attractive to enterprises that wish to do business in countries in which financial institutions and currencies are unstable. Using a cryptocurrency and an unalterable ledger of financial transactions keeps such transactions safe and secure from corrupt governments as well.
Ethereum is another blockchain organization that began with a cryptocurrency of sorts (called an ether), and individuals can purchase Ethereum tokens just as they do Bitcoins. But these individuals or organizations can use ethers to conduct far more than just financial transactions, as is the case with Bitcoin.
Early Ethereum Blockchain Adopters Have “Shown the Way”
Getting financial aid to organizations in countries with unstable/corrupt governments and financial institutions.
Monitoring the actual activities of countries in climate change initiatives. Right now, there is discussion of using Ethereum blockchain to record the activities of all signers to the Paris Climate Change Accord, as well as the trading of carbon assets. Interestingly, IBM and a company called Energy Blockchain Lab are collaborating to use blockchain technology to record the carbon trading market in China.
Permanent record of people’s identities. More than a billion people are unregistered as citizens of any country. This means that they are not eligible for critical benefits of their home countries. The ID2020 Alliance is a new UN organization with a goal of providing everyone in the world a digital identity, using Ethereum blockchain. In fact, Microsoft and Accenture have already developed a prototype for doing just this.
Corporations are Coming On Board
The prospects of creating blockchains through Ethereum for a host of business activities is what is now attracting corporations to this organization. In addition to financial transactions, Ethereum has opened its technology to a host of organizations and corporations, and all sorts of activity can be permanently recorded on the back of Ethereum blockchain technology. Ethers can be purchased by corporations for the use of this technology.
Consider the following corporate uses of Ethereum blockchain technology:
All of a company’s financial records can be housed in unalterable blocks, not only for its own use but for “proof” if ever needed for tax or legal purposes
Personnel records and all personnel actions can be entered into blocks and never changed – a permanent record that can never be altered by anyone
Financial transactions between suppliers, wholesalers, and customers can be memorialized permanently
Contracts become permanently recorded and cannot be altered. And any agreed upon modifications to contracts can be entered in blocks of the chain as well.
Corporations that deal in Bitcoin can enjoy the collaborative effort between the two blockchain technologies as well as the use of Eidoo.io, a clearinghouse of sorts, which simplifies buying, transferring, and exchanging cryptocurrencies by both individuals and corporations.
Permanent, distributed public ledgers makes blockchain technology a “natural” for supply chain management. If a company has multiple suppliers from multiple states and countries, it is hard to keep track of them all, when orders were placed and fulfilled.
Smart contracts. These are a major part of the Ethereum technology. All parties have access to all terms, and, because the record is permanent, the contracts enforce themselves.
The potentials for blockchain technology are just now beginning to be understood by many more organizations and enterprises than just the financial industry. Already, education is being disrupted, by allowing a permanent irrefutable record of students’ coursework, especially when it comes from multiple institutions and some online. And, no matter what industry niche corporations are in, the use of blockchain can provide security, consistency, permanent records of every transaction and internal activity – records that are publicly available and that provide a transparency that has not previously been there.
Once business owners and C-level executives see the value of blockchain technology, and what it can do to streamline and provide transparency within their operations.
Launching a product is overwhelming. Overseeing or conducting development, doing your marketing, meeting investors – there’s a lot of chores a founder needs to juggle all at once.
Legal matters are often left unattended in this merry hustle and bustle. Of course, developing your vision is way more exciting than getting through the murky legal waters. Yet, failing to establish a strong legal base for your business can cost you your company later on. The following four tips are the bare must-do for any founder launching a tech venture.
Choosing a Domain/Brand Name Without Doing Your Homework First
Just made up a cool sounding name for your venture? Awesome! Now it's time to do some digging apart from checking its eligibility on a domain registrar.
You will need to make sure that you have not picked a name that is the same or sounds similar to an existing registered name, especially a trademarked one. And failing to register a trademark can be a huge roadblock later down the road.
Think Apple. The company has been continuously suing various Chinese companies, who have been “trademark squatting” on Apple’s iPad without any legal consequences. According to the China laws, whoever registers the trademark first, owns it for good. Also, during all those squabbles it turned out the name "IPAD" was already legally copyrighted to a Taiwanese company back in 1988. Suppose that makes a good lesson on why researching and protecting your business name is so important, especially if you decide to expand to a foreign market.
That’s why it may be worse to do some preliminary digging and commission a patent and trademark search before you go all into product development.
Failing To Protect The Source Code and Other Intellectual Property
Intellectual property laws are not evolving at the same pace as the technology advances. Hence, startups now enter a somewhat sticky area with no fine line defined, especially when it comes to the product source code.
Imagine this: you are licensing some software from a 3rd party vendor to power your product, API integration for instance. What happens if that vendor goes out of business just when your product finally starts taking off? To avoid these scenarios, you may want to negotiate a software escrow agreement with that vendor through an agent. The agent will store that licensed source code and give you immediate access to it once the respective conditions apply.
Next, think about your web app design – what if it gets completely or partially ripped off by some 3rd party? While filing for utility patents (protecting the way the product is used and works) is rather common for startups; filing design patents, which protect your product looks isn’t something most companies consider to do.
The official US Patent Office stats prove this tendency: in 2015 over 9.2 million utility patents were issued, compared to just 746,000 design patents.
But think about this – obtaining a utility patent for software inventions has become significantly harder in the US after the Alice v. CLS Bank case. Design patents may be easier and faster to claim and they will still protect the essential parts of your product such as GUI, logo, screen flows and so on.
Operating Without Proper Paperwork
Hiring and legal mistakes come hand in hand just too often. You should prepare in advance all the required paperwork for the new people with clear contracts, NDA agreements and any other supplementary clauses you deem appropriate.
As a founder, formulating strong bylaws should be on top of your agenda. Your work contract should specifically list all the existing policies, how the disputes are settled, descriptions of duty, conditions, and terms of employment and the rights and powers of key shareholders. Also, you should mind the worker's compensation laws in your state (as those differ largely) and establish the procedures for claiming injury compensations, which cause not just financial, but reputational damage as well.
You will also need to have a business owner's insurance (BOP) before moving into an office space. It would have your back covered when it comes to property damage, personal property coverage (hardware, furniture, and other possessions). Some insurances also offer extended coverage for valuable documents (both paper and digital), meaning you can receive compensation of related costs if you lose access to those files.
Have a Formalized Founder’s Agreement
Also called the operating agreement, it will help you avoid certain conflicts among the founding party. This legal document should clearly define the relationships among the founders; outline how the communication is expected to happen and incorporate a conflict-resolution clause that should minimize and regulate the disputes.
Richard Harroch also suggests that a founder agreement should absolutely include your agreement on the following matters:
Who obtains what percentage of the company?
The shared and common responsibilities of each founder and their primary roles.
In case one of the founders leaves the business, can another founder or the company buy that founder’s shares? If yes, at what price?
Is the ownership percentage being subject to vesting based on continued participation in the company?
Are founders entitled to any salaries? How can the salary be changed?
How the key and the day-to-day company decisions will be made?
What are the circumstances for removing a founder as an employee from the company?
How will you decide on the sale of the business?
What kinds of assets will each founder contribute/invest in the business?
While doing the legal chores may be not the most exciting part of your job, you will have to prioritize them at the beginning to avoid paying for your mistakes later down the road.
We consumers love our gadgets. And as technology gives us the “latest and greatest,” we jump to acquire it. From Apple watches to Fitbits, to controlling our home heating and cooling and locking systems, we have become a people wedded to convenience and efficiency.
New “smart homes,” in which everything can be controlled remotely through a single smartphone with a single technology, are the future for sure. But what about the homes that have added smart devices one at a time, each with its own manufacturer and proprietary technology. And these device manufacturers are very jealous of their technology. They want it to be unique and are not particularly fond of collaborating with other manufacturers to standardize the architecture. As a result, there is one app for the refrigerator, another for the heating and cooling, and still another to operate the home locking and security system.
What began as a revolution in convenience and efficiency has turned into a quagmire of device fragmentation.
Middlemen Offer Solutions
Several services have tried to fill the mess created by incompatible smart devices by offering packages of “smart” lights, thermostats, and security cameras that will all work together.
Companies like Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner, and Verizon are happy to sign consumers up for a monthly fee, usually around $40. This may be fine for some basic devices, but appliances and other smart home devices are not included. This doesn’t seem like a truly viable solution for the consumer who only gets a partial “fix” to his incompatibility issues.
Individual Manufacturers Want a Solution that Involves a Monopoly
Manufacturers such as Sony and Samsung have expanded their smart device product lines, hoping that consumers will “dump” their current smart devices and take a package from them. So, a consumer could buy a Samsung washer, dryer, TV, fridge, etc., and they could all talk to one another, but this could obviously be pricey. And a manufacturer like Samsung will not produce every smart device that a consumer may want to purchase. They are savvy, and they will research the quality of everything from slow cookers to robo-vacs and make purchasing decisions based upon reviews and recommendations, not on manufacturer name.
So, What is the Solution?
There is no single solution at present, although many are working on it. The goal is to have a technology that, when inserted into every device, no matter the manufacturer, will allow a consumer to control everything from a single smartphone app.
And there are people working on this right now.
Recently, Qualcomm unveiled two innovations. The first is a chip-based integration system. What it claims is that if consumers put this into their connected products, then those devices will connect to anything. It has also developed a technology that uses Amazon Echo, Apple’s Siri, and Google Home. Consumers can ask a question of any of them, and supposedly, the best assistant for the task will answer.
Two other names in the attempt at standardization of some sort are ZigBee and Z-Wave. Both of these are using wireless networking that will let devices from different manufacturers and different technologies to talk to one another. While hundreds of device manufacturers have “signed on” to one or the other of these standardization technologies, manufacturers of appliances have generally not. And until the manufacturers of the bigger items agree to allow standardization, no progress will really be made by either of these two concepts.
Another hub which sells for $99 can communicate with appliances over Wifi, once those appliances are connected wirelessly. Everything is accessible through one smartphone app, which is at it should be.
The Consumer May Need to Step In
It doesn’t appear as if manufacturers are ready to agree to any standardization which would reduce their control. And if they will not “sign on” to such as Zigbee and Z-wave (or some other standardization element), then the consumer must look to work around them.
Right now, the biggest promise is some type of hub and, while it means another item to buy, at least it is a one-time purchase. Middlemen services’ monthly fees go on forever.
Purchasing the technology that will bypass the proprietary technology of individual manufacturers will ultimately make their technology meaningless. And once that is meaningless, they may be willing to agree to standardization. Remember, while they are certainly on a smaller scale, phone chargers, USB ports and cords, Bluetooth devices, etc. have all been standardized to meet consumer demand. And at one time, Mac and Windows didn’t “speak” either.
Yes, smart homes are still a “hodge-podge.” But we can probably take heart that there are those working on solutions.
This IBM® Redbooks® publication gives a broad understanding of storage clouds and the initial functionality that was introduced for mainframes to have Transparent Cloud Tiering.
IBM DFSMS and the IBM DS8880 added functionality to provide elements of serverless data movement, and for IBM z/OS® to communicate with a storage cloud. They introduced the following key areas:
A gateway in the DS8880, which allows the movement of data to and from Object Storage be using a network connection.
DFSMShsm enhancements to support Migrate and Recall functions to and from the Object Storage. Other commands were enhanced to monitor and report on the new functionality.
DFSMShsm uses the Web Enablement toolkit for z/OS to create and access the metadata for specific clouds, containers, and objects.
DFSMSdss enhancements to provide some basic backup and restore functions to and from the cloud.
This IBM Redbooks publication is dived into the following parts:
Part 1 provides you with an introduction to clouds. You might be new to clouds or have a confused view of cloud terminology. If so, Part 1 is helpful in providing you with the basic knowledge you need.
Part 2 shows you how we set up the Transparent Cloud Tiering in a controlled laboratory and how the new functions work. We provide points to consider to help you set up your storage cloud and integrate it into your operational environment."
Points to consider buying a good mattress and assuring Improved Sleep
Spending in bed around a third of every day is common, regardless of whether this time is spent slumbering blissfully or turning and tossing. All these depend on the mattress. There is no doubt that a mattress has a great impact on the sleep of a person. Mattresses affects sleep also relates to the network of capillaries, the fine blood vessels running beneath your skin.
Lying on your body for a period of time means the weight reduces the blood flow to those blood vessels, thereby depriving the nutrients and oxygen to the skin. This causes pain sensors and nerve cells sending your brain a message to roll over. Rolling over assures good blood flow, but it also disturbs your good sleep.
Ideally, a good mattress improves your sleep and can be more productive at work. This is because a good mattress reduces on your body the pressure points and gives a better night's sleep. However, note that the ideal mattress varies with each person. The productivity level depends on our activity and inactivity. People failing to acquire good sleep at night cannot recharge their brain and body fully. The performance will surely deteriorate.
There is a need to change the mattresses after a span of 5 to 7 years. Likewise, while investing for good bedding significantly, there is a need to ensure there is the original bounce even after 7 or 10 years, so that it proves to be a good mattress improving your sleep and you can be more productive at work. Alongside good pillows are equally important.
Things to consider
Buy mattresses that are not too soft or too firm.
Mattresses too firm may cause misalignment and too soft sinks your body causing bad posture while sleeping, leading to pain.
Consider adjustable beds and if possible take mattress on a test drive
Check and confirm about trial periods or comfort guarantees before buying
Without fail, check the warranty period.
A good mattress improves your sleep and can be more productive at work is true, but as such there is no definition making a mattress firm or soft. This is because a person who is 250-pound may say the mattress is soft, while the same mattress for a person with 125- pound may find it firm.
Which Mattress Is Right?
Finding a right mattress is not like looking for some top-tech brand. In fact, even an expensive mattress may not be as per your expectation. A high price tag alone does not determine the mattress. So, avoid concentrating on brand name or price, and think that you expect in a mattress that is really very personal. The choices vary, some prefer softer, while some firmer.
Of course, there is no scientific evidence proving the mattress type that can ensure you sleep better. Thus, consider buying a medium-firm mattress with a softer pillow that will offer the required cushioning and balance of support.
An adjustable bed also is a good buy if you prefer sleeping positioning your head raised. Such beds allow adjusting your hips and knees to a 90-degree angle and relieve sore joints.
Just under a decade ago, Google’s concept of a self-driving car seemed outlandish. That’s not the case today. Now, brands like Tesla, Lyft, and Uber are actively pursuing the idea. Even mainstream car manufacturers are conducting research into the concept of self-driving cars in an attempt to gain their own foothold in this space.
But here’s what is certain. In the future, we will be driving autonomous vehicles. Yes, there are still things to work out in terms of the technology, but the truth is we are coming closer and closer to this being the reality.
Then again, technology isn’t the true roadblock. Nor is safety. When 93% of all accidents are caused by human error or intentional action, it’s clear that the safest thing to do is take the human element out of the picture for the most part. Instead, it will be legal and regulatory issues, and resistance among drivers themselves that slow down this progress. There will also be pushback from those who benefit from maintaining the status quo. Then there are the logistics of it all.
Job Loss is a Real And Perceived Concern
When self driving cars become mainstream, there are potentially millions of people who could lose their jobs. This includes delivery drivers, taxi drivers, truck drivers, and bus drivers. This will likely impact those working in complementary fields. Imagine the impact of this change on a motel chain or truck stop that relies on vehicle traffic for its main source of income.
This, of course, puts politicians in a quandary. Do they vote in favor of policies that support autonomous vehicles? This gives their challengers ammunition to refer to them as job killing and out of touch with the needs of their constituents. The current political climate doesn’t exactly seem to be leaning towards progression at the cost of populism.
Drivers Will Need to Rethink Personal Safety And Liability
It turned out that the fatal car accident involving a self-driving vehicle from Tesla was the result of the driver’s failure to download a vital software update. In the future, if autonomous vehicles are going to become a reality, one of the challenges will be getting drivers to buy into new concepts regarding vehicle maintenance. Replacing worn brake pads, keeping tires inflated, and having cars checked out a few times a year are all commonly accepted ways to keep cars safe and operational. In the future, keeping up with software upgrades, even installing vehicular anti virus and security software will be considered the vehicle owner’s responsibility in terms of keeping cars safe for themselves and others.
There are definitely unanswered questions. For example, who is liable if a driverless vehicle causes an accident? We know that if a driver loses control of their car because they did not properly maintain it, they are responsible. If a driver is in an accident as a result of their negligence relating to their AV, are they equally liable? What about the manufacturer. There will very likely be new laws that will need to be written. Attorneys will have new challenges to face as they seek to protect and help those who have been injured in car accidents caused by self-driving vehicles.
Tough Decisions And Higher Expectations
Every driver makes mistakes or chooses to drive recklessly. Sometimes those mistakes and choices end in near misses. Other times, fender benders are the result. Then there are times when injury even death are the consequences. We accept that risk.
In spite of the fact that AVs reduce risk, they cannot eliminate it altogether. Although it was later proved to be human error, Tesla was initially blamed for a fatal car accident. Self-driving cars from Uber have been tagged running red lights on multiple occasions.
So, what happens when a self-driving vehicle is involved in an accident? In addition to accepted risk when humans are in control, there is often some level of sympathy and understanding towards those whose mistake cause an accident. Reckless, illegal, or intentional behavior being obvious exceptions to this. There’s no way you could have stopped in time. It could have happened to anyone. Don’t blame yourself.
Reactions to accidents caused by machines are starkly different. There is an expectation that these machines will execute perfectly, and make the best decisions possible. When the inevitable happens, it will and has become fodder to justify preventing this technology from becoming mainstream or rolling back progress.
Security is a Serious Concern
Hackers have already taken over vehicles that have some self driving features. However, in cases where there is a driver present, there is less risk. An alert driver can see that something is amiss, and override the driverless features. When a car is truly driverless, that’s not an option. When all aspects of the vehicle’s operation are software driven, how will the car know when things aren’t right. Auto manufacturers will have to work hard to ensure that the security measures they implement stay far ahead of the malicious individuals or groups who could literally turn a self driving vehicle into a weapon.
Self driving cars will eventually become the norm. It’s inevitable considering that all major players in the automotive industry are slowly adopting the technologies that will take us from fully manual vehicles to partially autonomous, to fully autonomous. However, it is clear that the transition will not be without challenges. Politics, human nature, legalities, and logistics will need to be dealt with before progress is made.
Disruption. That’s the new term for big change that comes to industries as a result of technology. Consider just the changes in communication and services as a result of technology. The internet, smartphones, social media, education, entertainment and beyond, have all changed dramatically in the last decade, showing how technology marches on at an incredible pace.
Disruption in the financial services industry was inevitable. And it is upon us in major ways. What we witnessed in 1998, with the founding of PayPal, we are now seeing on a huge scale, with banking, investments, lending and insurance affected by huge disruptions that are being embraced as quickly as they come. As both financial service providers and consumers look to the near future, here is what to expect.
1. Fintech becomes a solution for the little guy
Traditionally, only investors with deep pockets could enter the banking and financial services industry. This is no longer the case. Lean start-ups, focusing on specific areas of financial services, do not need the kind of money that traditional institutions needed and are eating away at the market share that were traditionally the monopolies of large financial institutions.
Pushing this along, obviously, was the financial crisis of 2008 – people lost their trust in the big banks and welcomed new and innovative services that allowed them to have more personal control and choice.
Everything from transferring money to buying insurance, investing to bank accounts, even getting a mortgage loan can now be accomplished online through companies that do not have the large overheads that traditional institutions do. All they need is talent, and there is plenty of that.
And consumers love this new form of “shopping” for services, especially because they can compare all in one place. In a recent PwC Global study, respondents from traditional financial service institutions stated that by 2020, they expect to lose 25% of their business to FinTech enterprises.
2. Matching investors with those in need of capital
Time was, if an individual needed venture capital, they had two choices – family or traditional banks. The problem with traditional lending institutions was a lack of access unless all “hoops” were jumped through and all conditions met; as an industry, moreover, large institutions enjoyed a concentration of power and, often, a lack of transparency.
To compete with the venture capital industry, savvy disruptors created crowdfunding platforms and what is known as equity crowdfunding. In the former, smaller investors can contribute to a start-up venture with the anticipation of receiving a payback at interest. The latter involves individual investors putting up money for an equity position in the new venture.
Peer-to-peer lending models include such companies asIndiegogo and Kickstarter in the U.S. and Crowdcube and Seedrs in the UK. Additionally, larger companies, like Barclays and Accenture, have been attempting to find new and innovative financial solutions through acquisition, reducing the risk potential or need to conduct the research themselves. Smaller market infrastructure firms such as NEX. NEX have been successful in competing with the larger venture capital institutions and banks by partnering with growing fintech companies.
3. Data science
Data analytics have come a long way. From e-commerce businesses tracking who comes to their websites and what pages they visit and how many move into the buying funnel, technology has moved to the collection of huge amounts of data about consumers and their behaviours. From those aggregate collections, sorting that data into information that large institutions can use to make decisions about what products they offer, to whom they offer those product to, and even when they make such offerings.
This has meant a big paradigm shift from focus on products, to focus on consumers and what they want and value. Financial services institutions that use big data to drive their decisions will win the competitive race in the long run.
4. Investments – more consumer participation
Financial investment services have traditionally lain with brokerage houses and financial advisors who evaluate personal investors’ finances and make recommendations regarding investments. Then along came “day traders” who thought they could compete with the “big boys,” cut out the middleman, and make their own fortunes. In most cases, this was disastrous – they just did not have access to the research and information that the career professionals did. And, again, like banks, these career pros had a monopoly on bringing individual investors into the markets.
The mystique is now gone, and individual consumers are demanding the same information that the investment services industry has and getting it. They are also demanding personal participation in investment decisions and their own asset management. Digital robo-advisors hit the scene, and brokerage houses and investment counselors were caught off guard.
Investment institutions will have to make the change to more user-friendly platforms if they intend to keep a decent market share.
Charles Schwab realized this earlier than others. It began in the 1970’s as a discount brokerage house, offering cheap trading prices to individual investors. But when disruptors like Wealthfront and FutureAdvisor came along, the company had a choice – be beaten or change its business model.
They took some time to analyze this robo-adviser disruption and see if it was viable. It was. And so, the company became a FinTech startup itself by launching Schwab Intelligent Portfolio. It was a huge success and today it outperforms other startups.
5. Insurance and IOT
Insurance companies have also become more consumer-driven, given that customers can shop for their insurance needs online and compare products. This of course has forced insurers to modify products and become more competitive. One of the biggest disruptions in the insurance market is the internet of things (IoT). From home and car security devices to remotely controlled temperature and appliance turn-ons and shut-offs, to devices placed on cars to monitor safe-driving habits, insurance companies can use digital information to set individual rates.
6. Public cloud services will streamline banking operations
The more cloud-based computing becomes mainstream, the more comfort financial services institutions will have using it. And SaaS apps are continually improving. As this happens, core activities of financial services will be taken to the cloud and automated. As this continues to occur, the need for people services within company infrastructures will certainly be reduced. It is predicted that by 2020, core functions, such as payments, statements, billings, and even credit scoring/worthiness will no longer require human/manual work. The implications for underwriters alone, in the mortgage lending business for example, are pretty big.
7. Cyber-Security – A continuing risk of increased technology
Executives in the financial services industry continue to worry about security, especially due to the increase in the use of mobile devices and IoT technologies (particularly older devices that do not have the latest security) on the part of consumers and the potential for cyber criminals to “back door” into their systems. Cloud-based technologies can help some, but are not immune to attacks either.
These are only seven disruptions that technology has brought to the financial services industry. There are more to come – the shift to Asian technological innovations, blockchain technology which is still a bit of a “mystique” to most financial services executives, and the technological advances in the regulatory sector. And there are more to come, for certain. FinTech startups are trying to out-pace traditional institutions. Traditional institutions will need to make decisions to step up their game or to find ways to collaborate with those startups that prove to be successful. If Charles Schwab can do it, so can others.
The financial industry crash in 2008 severely damaged faith in the traditional banks. But even before then, banking and financial transactions had been moving into new digital realms. PayPal had already been around for 10 years, and other virtual wallet systems had begun to pop up too.
Enter Bitcoin in 2009. Developed by an unknown individual or group using the name Satoshi Nakamoto, it is an asset/payment system that uses no intermediary (i.e., a bank) – a peer-to-peer transaction platform that is be fully secure and almost without fees. The concept is that “value” can be virtually exchanged all over the world in a digital environment that does not transmit any sensitive information (e.g., credit card numbers) that could be subject to cybercrime. That “value” can then be converted into any fiat currency on the receiving end, although the value of a Bitcoin would be subject to market volatility, just as currency exchanges can be.
Slow to Catch On
The disruption of cryptocurrency has not been rapid. It’s tough to get individuals and businesses to make a paradigm shift to virtual currency and to understand such things as blockchain technology. But there are many who predict that Bitcoin, and perhaps some other cryptocurrency platforms, will replace the traditional bank card payment system.
We are not there yet – not by a long shot – and there are many “wrinkles” to iron out if this is to happen. But the question is certainly out there. Can Bitcoin replace traditional payment systems? Some say “yes;” others say “no.”
Government-backed currencies have no limit on the amount of money that can be minted. This can create havoc among monetary systems. Currently Bitcoin has a limit of 21 million, although each coin can be divided in much smaller pieces.
Bitcoin transactions are secure, through blockchain technology which produces an irreversible distributed ledger. Transactions cannot be changed in any way once they have been executed, because the ledger is public.
Some third-party payment processors are “stepping up to the plate” to assist with reducing the volatility of exchange rates and locking in value at the time of transaction and providing for instant processing at that locked-in rate.
Merchants will find it too attractive not to get “on board,” considering the drastically reduced transaction fees, and business-to-business transactions will be far more efficient and streamlined.
There are some hurdles, such as too much power in the hands of a relatively few number of “miners” (individuals who maintain the ledgers) and inevitable regulations, but these can be navigated and resolved in time.
The average merchant would have to develop a technical savviness that he is probably not prone to want to do. Bitcoin transactions do not have the support structure that bank card processing has, and merchants would have to create and manage their own digital Bitcoin wallets, in order to accept funds and convert them to fiat currencies.
Traditional payment processors are getting much better with what they do, especially considering the competition out there. Most payment gateway services are providing the streamlining, the lowered transaction fees, and the support that merchants want and need. And they are beefing up security measures by leaps and bounds today.
Merchants who use Bitcoin will still need some processing support, from providers such as Stripe, PayPal, or others that are now in the business – processors who are able to lock in exchange rates at the point of transaction. For example, if a merchant were to accept Bitcoin that is currently worth $1500 U.S., but the value had dropped to $1200 by the time he exchanges that Bitcoin for USD, then he is out $300. The lowered transaction fee is worthless at that point. Using a processor to convert the Bitcoin to a fiat currency at the time of payment processing will be essential, and that actually adds another step to the whole process. It’s just not the maximum efficiency that most merchants want.
There are also problems on the consumer side of Bitcoin transactions. Online purchases using credit cards come with certain risks. The merchant could be fraudulent; ordered products may not be received. Exchanges and refund requests are commonplace transactions. These are currently handled pretty well when normal bank cards are used for purchasing. Refunds can be directly credited to a personal credit card account. And, if there is a dispute, the credit card company acts to resolve it.
Bitcoin transactions are irreversible. There is no process for disputing a charge or getting a refund, except directly through the merchant. And these are not always successful, particularly if the merchant is unprincipled or simply disputes the consumer’s claim. Where is the consumer recourse? Currently, it is non-existent. There are no consumer protections in place. Even if they were to be put into place, they would have to be managed by a processor divorced from Bitcoin itself. In this case, that processor is still in business, not replaced.
It’s still out, obviously. Predictions as early as 2014 stated that bitcoin would replace legacy financial transactions, for merchants and even for individual consumers. That has not happened.
For the near term, fiat currency exchanges, traditional bankcard transactions and processing, and consumer purchasing protections are strongly in place with legacy systems. People are comfortable with their systems, and Bitcoin still holds a mystique that is difficult for both merchants and consumers to fully grasp. It still seems a little bit like “fake money” to many. And change comes slowly.
But no one should discount the ability of Bitcoin to evolve and to take its place within the payment processing industry. The security it offers, as well blockchain technology and lower fees, all provide an attractive alternative to traditional processing through banks and legacy payment processors.
On the other hand, in its current environment, Bitcoin will have to rely on traditional processors that have the ability to lock in exchange rates and to ensure that both merchants and consumers are afforded the protections they need. Only time will tell. For the moment, traditional payment processors are still in business.
This IBM® Redpaper™ publication is a comprehensive guide that covers the IBM Power System™ S822LC for High Performance Computing (HPC) server (8335-GTB model). The S822LC for HPC server is designed for high-performance computing applications that support the Linux operating system and high-performance data analytics, the enterprise data center, and accelerated cloud deployments.
This paper introduces the major innovative S822LC for HPC server features and their relevant functions:
Powerful IBM POWER8® processors that offer 16 cores at 3.259 GHz with 3.857 GHz turbo performance or 20 cores at 2.860 GHz with 3.492 GHz turbo
A 19-inch rack-mount 2U configuration
NVIDIA NVLink technology for exceptional processor-to-accelerator intercommunication
Four dedicated connectors for the NVIDIA Tesla P100 GPU
This publication is for professionals who want to acquire a better understanding of IBM Power Systems products and is intended for the following audience:
This paper expands the set of IBM Power Systems documentation by providing a desktop reference that offers a detailed technical description of the S822LC for HPC server.
This paper does not replace the latest marketing materials and configuration tools. It is intended as an additional source of information that, together with existing sources, can be used to enhance your knowledge of IBM server solutions."
Below, you can read a review which includes more details about one of our clients from Sales and marketing professionals
In today’s world, social media is becoming more and more relevant by the day. With billions logging into Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Instagram and many more every single day the business and marketing opportunities of the sites are endless. People using these sites to gain publicity for their business or their own personal brand have been able to make huge amounts of money by using the convenient format for placing advertisements and their own personal content. As a result of this movement, there are many services on the internet which can be used to increase your social media presence quickly and without having to put in any hard work in order to try and reap the rewards. This may be very risky as it is likely to look very obvious that you have done so but there are certainly positives to using a service such as this to gain thousands of followers and kick start your career.
The effort required
Creating interesting content or growing a successful and exciting business are extremely difficult thing to do. This means that only very few people manage to find a niche online as social media personalities or online businesses which become successful and widely used by the public. Whilst it may not be as honest as using your own ingenuity to come up with great ideas to use on social media platforms, it is far quicker. Using services online where you can simply pay money for Facebook likes or Twitter follows for your personal or business channel is potentially a very quick way to gain a large number of followers. This will therefore quickly increase the amount of exposure you get and will hopefully increase the number of followers you will be able to amass from there on in. This can cut down dramatically on months or years of struggling to get people on the internet to notice you.
The investment made
Making content that is going to grab people’s attention on social media doesn’t come cheap. With millions of viewing options online, there has to be something specific about the message you are creating if you are a new online presence and you want to get people to notice you. Using an instant famous scheme, however, can circumnavigate this problem however as your increased exposure will already have come from a small investment with a company for followers, rather than spending a lot of money on making potentially unsuccessful content to attract people to what you are trying to do.
Social media can be a goldmine
Using social media in the right way can bring an individual or new business huge amount of money and exposure very quickly. Those with large followings on platforms such as Instagram can be paid thousands per post for simply taking photos with products from businesses who want their product exposed on a wider stage. This brings about opportunities to earn huge money from simply having a large following; something that can be greatly helped by the use of instant famous social media schemes. Businesses also can attract higher profile personalities to work with them simply because they have a large social media presence. This allows entrepreneurs to grow into hugely successful individuals or to take their ideas and transform them into a great business, all because they were able to quickly find followers.
Having more followers will lead you to greater advertising opportunities. On social media, there are always people looking for spaces to sell advertising and if you are a presence with a large following already you may have access to some of the most premium advertising spots on the internet. At the beginning, these may be too expensive but if you can take advantage of your quick growth then your bank account should grow and you would then be able to afford the best advertising opportunities possible for your idea or brand. This would then further increase your exposure and let you take your idea even further.
When you are perceived as someone who is successful then you will be granted with a wider range of opportunities for whatever it is you are seen to be growing. This may not happen instantly but after the initial investment and careful management you could hugely increase your online footprint and work yourself into a host of other possible opportunities. Whether they are advertising based or possible investment opportunities in other growing social media presences. The chances you will be given should give you the best possible chance of growing even further and allowing more development of your personal or professional brand. If people see you as a great investment they may even interact with you that way and this could help boost your followers up even further than you ever thought.
IBM® Tivoli® Access Manager for Enterprise Single Sign-On enables users to access all their applications, including web, desktop and heritage, and network resources, with the use of a single strong password. The solution helps simplify password management, protects information with strong authentication, and secures kiosks and shared workstations.
Tivoli Access Manager for Enterprise Single Sign-On helps strengthen security and meet regulations through stronger passwords and an open authentication device interface with a wide choice of strong authentication factors. It also facilitates compliance with privacy and security regulations by leveraging centralized auditing and reporting capabilities.
In this IBM Redpaper™, we take a closer look at how to integrate web-based applications into Tivoli Access Manager for Enterprise Single Sign-On by using its AccessProfile technology.
This IBM Redpaper is a good resource for security administrators who are responsible for configuring and integrating Tivoli Access Manager for Enterprise Single Sign-On into their organization's IT infrastructure."
Here are a few good points you need to take in serious when you try to approach space communities like IBM developers platform.
Communication is an essential skill required invariably to acquire success in any field of like. Writing is again one the most effective communicating modes which plays commanding role in business. Effective, thoughtful and clear writing for managers, entrepreneurs or business professionals can enhance potential scopes of success, better grip over the market and good network.
You can actually never undermine the fact that clear writing reflects clarity of thinking. However, not everyone is born with the power packed communicating skill of impressive and nailing writing skills. At the same time as Bryan Garner, the author of The HBR Guide to Better Business Writing believes everyone has the scope and capacity for improvement. Thus, you can essentially improve your business-oriented writing skills with an effective implication of few strategic movements and tips.
Determining your purpose essentially means collecting your thoughts, understanding the purpose of the business writing. While you write a business mail it can be dedicated to several purposes. Like for example if your purpose is to call your employees for annual talent hunt, then it is not desirous that you bore them describing the activities, its utility in team building efforts etc. You need to be relaxed yet professional in tone. Therefore, understand what to you want to convey to your audience through the writing. It is kind of directional thinking to obtain clarity of thoughts. Therefore, you can frame your writing accordingly once you determine your purpose that is:
To reject a proposition
To argue for a proposition
To seek for approval, etc.
Cut it Short and be Direct
No one has time for reading lengthy paragraphs and phrases when you are dealing in serious business. You need to pinpoint your purpose of writing in the first paragraph itself instead of dragging to the mid of the writing. Postponing the revealing of the purpose to the middle of writing loses the attention of the reader. While injecting the purpose right in the top of the writing you actually purposefully sharpen your argument as well.
Moreover, while framing business writing it is highly recommended to cut off the unnecessary ornamentations and fat in writing. Like, opt for “viewpoint” rather than “point of view”, skip the use of is, are, was, were and use active verbs instead like for instance “indicates” rather than “is indicative of”. You can also essentially avoid the use of ion words with action verbs.
Do not Jargon your write up
Intelligence reflects in simple words as well only if you can clarify your thoughts, nail in your perspective. There is no need of using too much of buzzwords, acronyms and grandiose words. Complicated writing, as well as too much use of acronyms, implicates laziness of mind. Thus it is better to express in simple, easy to understand and direct language and communicative style rather than going other ways. Business writing experts essentially believe that clarity and active conciseness never go out of style in any field of action.
Your website domain name is one of the most important pieces of your business. This essential component is greater than the different parts that comprise it: Websites, email addresses, etc. The overall domain is the core of your brand’s digital presence. As such, it must be defended and protected throughout its lifetime. Risks such as hijackers, spammers, and domain registrars seizing control are all factors to be wary of as you work to protect the health of your website domain.
One of the biggest contributing factors to good domain health is your email sender reputation. Your domain’s registrar will intervene if it notices emails sent from your domain are not reaching inboxes or being marked as spam. Not only will your email service provider block you from access, but your website domain also becomes at risk. The best way to avoid this is to employ an email checker to verify emails.
The risks of a poor sender reputation are as follows.
The Number of Emails You Can Send Will Be Reduced
When an email service provider (ESP) doesn’t recognize the domain sending emails, it will react in multiple fashions, including throttling your email send. This refers to the slowing down and capping of the number of emails that can be sent each day. When a business varies its email send numbers greatly in a short amount of time (e.g. sending thousands one day, hundreds the next), throttling is a common penalty. Timing is an essential part of any marketing campaign, so the consequences of throttling are severe.
Throttling can stem from a poor sender reputation. Your ESP doesn’t recognize your domain because it has been marked as spam too often. By utilizing an email address checker, you can reduce the number of emails that get marked as spam. As a result, your ESP is less likely to mark you as a spammer and instead recognize that you are a legitimate sender. You’ll never have to worry if your email is reaching everyone on your list on the right day and time, or that you’re being marked as an illicit sender.
Your Emails Won’t Make it to Inboxes
A low sender score means your emails aren’t even reaching inboxes. Instead, they’re being marked as spam immediately upon reaching recipient’s mailboxes. Without users able to open and take action on your emails, the overall efficacy of an email marketing campaign greatly declines. This results in a negative impact in all the ways such a campaign can improve business. It means less company awareness, reduced brand engagement, and lost ROI as the ability to convert greatly declines.
Maintaining your sender reputation begins with an email tester. Using such a tool as a way to check emails and validate them ensures a higher inbox rate and better preservation of your sender score. A sender with a score above 90 has a 92% rate of success in reaching inboxes, versus the 72% success rate of a sender with a score between 71 and 80.
Beyond making it to inboxes, your emails won’t even get delivered if the emails you have are bad or your sender reputation is damaged. With 30% of an email list vulnerable to decay each year, it’s crucial that your business has a system in place to replenish emails and make sure they’re real. The easiest and fastest solution to do so is using an email validator.
Your ESP Will Block You
The most significant consequence of a poor sender reputation is complete inability to send emails from your domain. Every email service provider has different criteria for what defines content as spam, but it is up to you to be aware of what these specifications are and do your best to avoid negative experiences. The last thing you want or need in the midst of a marketing campaign is to be barred from using your email.
Verifying and cleaning your email list is one of the simplest solutions for avoiding a slap on the wrist (or worse) from your ESP. Not only does it ensure that your website domain remains healthy and protected, but also protecting your sender reputation improves the functionality and results of your email marketing strategy. Maintaining email send speed and numbers, increasing inbox rates, and staying on good terms with your ESP are all benefits of a high sender score, and is made easier through the use of an email checker.
In recent years there has been much talk about cloud computing, the cloud, the change this entails in our way of developing and managing our applications ... But what is cloud computing really?
Large companies began using this term to refer to those services hosted on the network. In fact that is the first thing most of us come to mind about "Cloud Computing". Therefore, we can say that the word cloud would be equivalent to what we know as the Internet. However, the concept has much more scope and is something that we intend to relate in this article.
Types of cloud
There are currently 3 types of clouds:
Public clouds: These are those that are administered by the service provider. The great advantage of them is that they do not require an initial investment to start using them and do not entail a maintenance expense for the consuming customer. These clouds are shared with other customers within the provider's data centers.
Private clouds: Private clouds, unlike public clouds, are managed by the client to gain greater control. Due to this, it implies an initial investment in the infrastructure since it will be hosted on-premise, ie at the client's premises. As a main advantage, the customer enjoys a cloud of his property where he is the only one who resides in it, although the maintenance costs are borne by the owner.
Hybrid clouds: Finally we have this intermediate option between the two previous clouds. While they say that this type will be the most widespread in the future, it is not as defined as the rest. The main idea is that the customer will be able to keep control of those main applications and delegate the administration in which they consider secondary.
Types of services
Once you have covered the types of clouds that exist, what can we do with them?
Depending on the need we need to cover, there are different types of services within cloud computing:
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): This type of service offers us the necessary infrastructure to be able to upload our environment and also to run proprietary software on it. The two fundamental pillars are computing and storage as a service. Sometimes they refer to IaaS as HaaS (Hardware as a Service). As examples of this type of services we can mention GoGrid and Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud).
Platform as a Service (PaaS): When we talk about the platform within the cloud, the service we offer is the environment where we can directly deploy our applications. The clearest examples in this section are the Windows Azure platform by Microsoft and Google App Engine .
Software as a Service (SaaS): The last service, and one of the best known by the market, are those transformed into final applications provided by the provider, ready to be used by customers. In this type of service we are assured the maintenance, the support and the availability of the software. Within this set, we can find Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard(BPOS) which is a set of well-known applications in its online version like SharePoint Online , Exchange Online , Office Live Meeting and Office Communications Online . Another group of applications within this area would be Salesforce, Known mainly for its CRM in the cloud, and Basecamp where its flagship product is its collaboration tool for projects.
As an advantage of this administration and development model, we can highlight the cost savings as the most important, in addition to the high scalability, reliability, as well as the abstraction of hardware maintenance, something up to now innovative in large companies with its own department ITEM.
One of the concepts that best define the cloud environment is the term "Pay as you go", which means that we only pay for usage and not a monthly fixed fee, such as traditional hosting services.
Lastly, it is worth mentioning the agility with which we have these services, achieving in a matter of minutes a putting into production that could take months, when dealing with the traditional on-premise process.
While it is true that the advantages of cloud computing are worth considering, there are some points that can be crucial when it comes to hitting the cloud:
First, there is the perception of insecurity in moving our information out of our physical reach, which can manifest a sense of vulnerability. To solve this "fear" among potential customers, large cloud companies have efficient, high-security systems to keep data safe from potential attacks.
Another drawback is dependence on an Internet provider. Due to the location of the services, we are tied to this need, so it is advisable to have a second connection in case of failure of the main.
Although less and less, there is still some immaturity in some of the services offered by lack of functionality, in relation to similar products designed to meet these needs in servers within the client.
In this section, we have been able to know the concept of cloud computing as the technological proposal of large companies to refer to the different services hosted on the Internet, as well as the different types of clouds available in the market. In addition we have listed the types of services available to date and how some companies already offer them to the public.
Everyone is familiar with the name IBM (International Business Machines Corporation), but most of them are not familiar with Big Blue. Usually, these two are the same. IBM was formed in the name of the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR) back in 1911 and later renamed to IBM in 1924. We all know the history of IBM and their inventions. IBM is currently running their operation in over 170 countries. Most of our necessary gadgets are their invention like hard disk drive, automated teller machine, magnetic stripe card, UPC barcode, SQL programming language, dynamic random-access memory (DRAM), etc.
The market of IBM is huge. They manufacture both software and hardware products. Besides, IBM is one of the largest companies in the world having 380K employees. They are the record holder of having the most patents generated by a business company. Their research wing is very active and their latest invention is IBM Watson. According to many sources, IBM has a plan to bring revolutionary changes in paystub generator sector.
Today we are going to discuss five of their upcoming products.
First of all, IBM is developing a holographic chatting system (also known as 3D Telepresence). The programmers said that they are very close to make this happen. The improvement of 3D camera makes it easier to reach to the common people. The researchers of the University of Arizona successfully made a system that is capable of sending holographic images to nearby locations in time. Besides, it is said that we will be able to enter into personal computers through 3D visualization. Thus, the pictures we see now in 2D, we will be able to see them in 3D.
Secondly, the next item on the list is lithium/air battery project (battery 500). This project is still under development and the results are quite satisfactory. IBM believes that these batteries will be able to use the same air which we breathe to produce energy. The concept is that these batteries will use oxygen and react with the metals. Besides, these batteries will be lightweight and very small in size. Surprisingly, these batteries will last ten times more than our regular lithium-ion battery.
Now the third item is personal sensor for every scientist. The development of personal sensors is really important for the welfare of the people. It is essential for the scientists to collect data and preserve them in a storage. IBM predicts that it will be possible within the next five years to collect all these data and send it to various devices like cell phones, cars, computers, etc. using personal sensors. Persevering these data in huge amount can be resourceful in the coming days.
A smart computer system for drivers is number fourth in the list. IBM believes that we cannot solve the traffic problem only by creating new traffic rules or constructing new roads. There are other circumstances which control our transportation system. The smart computer system for drivers will not only show the best way to travel but also helps us with necessary objectives. This technology is based on mathematical models which analyzes probable values to help the drivers.
Last but not least, IBM is researching to control the temperature of a computer. According to a calculation, 50% of the energy is consumed in CPU (Central Processing Unit) to make the engine cooler. Now IBM wants to use this warm air in a significant way. IBM considers that this warm air can be used to heat various parts of a building or to heat water or convert it to current.
So, which idea seems more important to you? Let us know in the comment section.
The world is becoming an increasingly digital space. Today we manage, share and store our lives online. Data is gathered from our devices, computers and smartphones that collect and transmit information on what we do; but that is just the beginning. This phenomenon is transforming our understanding of the world and our place in it; it’s become known as Big data.
Big data could be invaluable for business. It could provide a window into the lives of customers that we have never previously imagined. But, there is a problem. How do we unravel the strands of Big data and pick out the relevant parts. Data comes from so many sources; how do we know where to look and how do we access it? In short, how do we turn all this information into knowledge? To understand how big data and analytics works, you have to put it in the context of how things worked before Big data.
Businesses are already using Big data to better understand and predict customer behavior and optimize and improve business processes. But the possible applications of big data are endless. We’re only just beginning to see the emergence of the Big data economy. Your business needs to consider Big data or risk being left behind. IBM Big data and analytics specialize in helping companies understand and leverage Big data.
About five years ago something fundamentally changed. The world started getting smarter; cars, running shoes, medical devices even people through our devices and social behaviors started being instrumented. They started creating valuable data. Every time we pick up a smartphone to make a call or send a text, it creates a call detail record. Hundreds of billions of CDR’s are created every day. Enormous and advanced infrastructure like advanced processing power and in-memory capabilities make it possible for telecom operators to analyze the deluge of CDR’s; but for many, the volume is overwhelming.
Fortunately the infrastructure and the software continue to evolve. Advances in data management software like seo toronto make it possible to explore any kind of data while leaving it in its original state. For a telecom operator this means they don’t have to structure the data before getting insights from it. Instead they can put different data in a giant exploration repository and start to do analytics on all sorts of data at rest; both structured and unstructured.
This allows them to discover interesting patterns, developing new insights around key things that matter like their customers. And because the pattern are based on all data; meaning structured data like billing and CDR data, unstructured data like customer tweets and notes from customer service agents, they are developing a holistic picture that helps to define the best course of action.
For a telecom operator worried about customer churn, this means able to proactively reach out to a customer with a compelling offer before they decide to leave. There’s even potential to use a cognitive system in the call center to help guide a company rep in delivering better service. But sometimes thing are moving too fast to rely on human intervention.
Today, IBM is at the forefront; working with a few leading telecom operators to improve the customer experience even further. By knowing where their high valued customers are located, they can detect network bandwidth issues and address them in real time.
Your immune system is always at work; protecting you from a constant barrage of threats. And to combat such diverse threats, your immune system must be equally coordinated to prevent and detect attacks in an orchestrated, fast response. But what if your body was also vulnerable to cyber threats? You’d need a different kind of immune system, but one that still works as a unified whole to disrupt threats at any point of the attack, no matter how advanced they may be.
IBM threat protection system integrates security solutions together, so you can prevent, detect and respond to cyber threats with just the right course of action and without delay. When your security is overloaded, the health of your IT environment is weakened. Disconnected single purpose solutions make it difficult to monitor the whole network and security teams are forced to defend in the dark. That’s why IBM security developed an infrastructure immune system.
In a market flooded with more than 1200 point product vendors, IBM has separated itself by offering leading solutions that work together across your ecosystem. IBM’s expertise and integration enables full collaboration across third party vendors, technology provider and business partners to enhance security while lowering cost and complexity. Unlike the old way of piling on products to combat each new threat, the IBM security immune system grows, adapts and communicates inside your infrastructure.
You get a more holistic view of your security; a connected and organized framework of defense capabilities sharing critical security data. This deliver greater visibility, richer intelligent and actionable insights. Creating an efficient and effective end to end that reduces gaps in your security, the system features a complete set of solutions and services that address three critical aspects of security.
Security transformation services mitigates risks by consolidating fragmented solutions but don’t always speak the same language. With a unified network and around the clock support from trusted experts, you can close the security skills gap, proactively protect your systems and strategically be ready to capitalize on IT trends.
Security operations and response allows you to prevent detect and respond to threats in an orchestrated and automated fashion; powered by cognitive capabilities an IBM x-force threat intelligence. The IBM security immune system senses, identifies and prioritizes known and unknown threats enabling rapid resolution.
Information, risk and protection keeps your data users acts and transactions safe wherever they are. Real-time analytics and alerts helps you pinpoint risks, gain visibility and control over user identities and manage your sensitive data. You can also strengthen compliance initiative, secure applications, improve mobile collaboration and protect your mainframe environment.
Traditional defense in depth tactics can’t keep up with today’s threats. Like that, now the traditional system of checking a car’s information has become far too slow. That’s where vindecoderz.com will help you to check your car’s unique VIN number and all the vital information with it. There is a new way to think about security with an integrated intelligent defense to keep your organization safe; IBM security intelligence and expertise in one framework.
It’s intimidating. You are a solopreneur or a hiring manager for a small non-tech related company, and you have to hire a software developer. You know nothing about the profession, nothing about coding, nothing about the “going rates” or salary ranges. Your understanding of software is, “Show me what it can do, how it runs, and then I’ll use it.”
So, where do you begin? With this guide, perhaps. Here are the steps you might consider.
Identify Exactly What You Want the Developer to Do
Either you have an idea for a piece of software you want to take to market, or your company needs specific software developed for in-house purposes. Your initial job is to decide exactly what you want that software to do.
Is this a “one-shot” deal for a single piece of software, or is this a longer-term deal where a developer will be working for you on a regular or contract basis?
Do Some Basic Research
It’s not difficult to find any number of resource articles on software development, even in the niche related to what you want developed. You can get an idea of the programming languages that are most recommended and popular with developers. You don’t have to understand them – you just need to understand the programming languages you want your hire to know.
You research will also give you solid information on price/salary ranges – certainly a good thing to know.
Finding the Candidates
You have lots of options, so pick the ones that will work for you, perhaps those that have worked in the past. Remember, the process of recruitment and hiring is no different for software developer. It is the skills and expertise that will be unique.
Get help from a techie you know to construct a job posting/description that will include the skills you are looking for – hard and soft. Post the opening on tech job boards, on social media sites like LinkedIn and wherever else you usually do.
Use the services of a tech recruitment firm – this may be pricier, but the initial screening will be done for you
Use contacts that you know and trust. If you have a network of peers, they may be able to point you in the direction of sources for candidates or, if appropriate for your need, freelancers who are really good at what they do.
Software developers currently working for other businesses may not be actively looking, but if the right opportunity comes up, may want to make a change. This is why you want to post your opening on sources like LinkedIn and tech-related social media platforms.
Narrowing the List
This will be tough, but you can look for some very specific things in resumes or perhaps in initial phone or video interviews. Here’s a short checklist of sorts for that initial contact:
Have they contributed to open-source software?
What languages do they feel most comfortable with?
What is their past experience?
Do they have a portfolio and how can you access it?
Do they exhibit confidence in their own strengths and skills?
Have they worked solo and/or as members of a team?
So, now you are ready to interview the few candidates that have made your short list. What do you ask? Based upon surveys of both programmers and even Google hiring managers, here are questions you should and should not ask. You will find that many of them are questions you would ask any candidate.
This you will ask any candidate. Put a specific spin on this. Ask the candidate about his biggest disaster and how he worked through it. If the candidate is honest, she will be able to identify one and then describe how it was “fixed.” Any good programmer will have had disasters. You are looking for honesty and the work ethic to do what it takes to resolve issues.
Ask the candidate to describe his/her favorite project. As a prelude to this question, you want to inform him/her that you are not a techie. The goal here is to see if the candidate can explain the project so that you have a good understanding of what s/he did – in non-techie terms, that is.
Part of a developer’s skill must be in communication and must be the ability to communicate to those outside of the niche what a project is all about and how s/he will go about approaching a project. Even if you are hiring someone remotely, you will want to be a part of the development, and you will want continual conversation with the developer. Being able to communicate that progress to you in terms you can understand is vital.
Solo or Team Player
Depending on your needs, you need to know your candidates’ experience and their comfort level with how they will function for you. Hiring a freelance means that the developer is comfortable working alone but also communicating with members of your organization who will be impacted by that work. Hiring a employee means comfort with collaboration.
Is There Passion?
One of the ways to gauge this is to ask what development communities the candidate is active in. GitHub, for example. Developers who are really passionate spend non-work time communicating and collaborating with other developers.
When the candidate talks about his/her projects, do you sense excitement? You should.
This is where you may need to have someone with expertise take a look at the projects in a developer’s portfolio. As well, just as you do when you hire anyone, you will want to check references, whether from clients or former employers.
It is not a negative for a developer to have had a lot of past employers. This is a career that is in high demand, and they like to go where the challenges (and the money) are more attractive.
Things to Avoid
A lot of recruiters and hiring managers give developer candidates “puzzles” to solve. And non-techie interviewers often pull these from the web or are given them by other developers. Chances are the candidate has already seen them or something similar. They really are not a gauge of talent.
It’s also not a good idea to ask a developer where he sees himself in five years. If they are honest, they won’t actually know, so it is not a fruitful question. Good developers will go where the challenges fit their needs, so that is really the only answer that will make sense.
You really can make a good hire even if you don’t have expertise in technology. Follow this guide, get help when you know you need it, and make a good hire.
Great customer experiences lead to conversions. You create great UX by ensuring that the customer journey is as frictionless and intuitive as possible. You can’t accomplish that unless you are able to predict customer behavior from the first point of contact to the point of conversion. Brands who are successful at this often rely on insights they gain from big data.
Mined Data Can be Combined With Direct Customer Feedback For Great Insights
Big data doesn’t need to stand alone, nor should it. These large repositories of information can be combined with more intimate and real time information to gain insights on customers’ thoughts, opinions, and motivations.
Here’s an example. Your analytical data may tell you that a particular product is simply not selling. If that is all you go by, it might be easy to dismiss the product itself as a loser.
The problem is that if you make that decision without communicating with your customers or customer facing staff, your assumptions could be wrong, and your predictions about customer behavior could be off base. In this case, the issue may be with pricing, the performance of a landing page, or some other factor not the product itself.
When you listen to your customers and your staff, you can combine the insights they offer you with data to learn about customer preferences, weak spots, and trends.
Big Data Can Provide Information That Can be Used to Personalize Experiences
Data that tracks customer preferences and behavior can be used to create personalized website experiences, and to curate personalized content. This can be done on both a micro and macro level.
On a micro level you can collect specific data about customers. Then, you can predict their behavior based on their specific purchasing habits, social media behaviors, and the data you are able to collect from them through their interactions via social media.
On a macro level, you can collect and store information from general data sets. This can give insights into overall customer behavior, website analytics, and other more general data. All of this information can then be used to create personalized website experiences, to recommend products, and find other ways to predict the customer’s wants and needs throughout the purchasing journey. Salespeople in particular can use this information to identify data driven sales opportunities.
Shopping Cart Analytics Can Predict Future Needs
What customers add to their carts is meaningful. Whether or not they complete purchases, adding an item to a shopping cart is an indication of interest in that item. It can also show need for an item at a given point in time or under specific circumstances. That’s important as well.
Of course, whether or not the customer continues on and makes a purchase is also meaningful. Data can tell you if your pricing, level of earned trust, website performance, or other factors are successfully pushing customers through the funnel. Data can also tell you not only when you are losing them and why.
Combine these metrics, and you can curate special offers, customize your ads, and address roadblocks to conversions. This includes, but is not limited to improving the checkout process so that it is more efficient and is perceived to be safer.
Engagement Metrics Can Be Used to Determine Which Content Will Hit With Customers
If you know what to look for, engagement metrics can help you predict which content is going to earn comments, likes, and shares. By digging into this information, you can determine which content is likely to be a hit, when you should publish the content, and how you should promote it.
The key is to think beyond the obvious. For example, ‘my customers like videos most’ isn’t an insight. Everybody likes video content best. Now, ‘my customers like how to videos when they are viewing my product pages’ is helpful.
It’s also important to use data to understand how customers are engaging. Liking, sharing, and commenting are three different behaviors. The motives behind those behaviors can be very different as well. For example, people tend to like posts without doing much investigation.
Merge Customer Data With Performance and Logistical Insights to Predict Trouble
Your data shows you that bounce rates on two of your landing pages go through the roof near the end of the month. You also notice more shopping carts are left abandoned. Other analytics show you that orders to be shipped out of one of your facilities are frequently cancelled.
What’s going on? You have part of the picture. You know what customers are doing. They are abandoning shopping carts, cancelling orders, and backing out of your landing pages. The question is, what else is going on. Big data can tell you that there are logistical issues impacting your warehouse. It can also indicate that performance issues due to end of month demands are making your pages load slowly. Once you know these things, you can predict when logistical and performance issues may result in problematic customer behavior.
The better you can predict your customers’ wants and needs during any part of the customer journey, the more you will be able to predict what their behavior is going to be. This means you will be better prepared to give them what they need at any point in time. This will help you to design the overall customer experience, curate content, and recommend products among other things. You’ll also be able to predict trends. All of this will allow you to create the kinds of customer experiences that will drive more conversions.
In 2007, some computer engineers at IBM began to build Watson. The goal was a machine that could be programmed to locate information in order to answer questions asked of it. They decided that the big “test” would be for Watson to go on the TV show Jeopardy, and win it. That happened in 2011.
Since that time, IBM has made a conscious decision to use Watson in medicine – to have it master a huge body of knowledge related to medical research, diagnosis, and treatment. To that end, Watson is able to read medical journals from all over the world in minutes; it can review patient histories, track drug trials, and present new therapies to medical professionals. And nothing is ever forgotten – in fact, Watson just keeps on learning.
Now, Watson is dabbling in psychology and overall wellness on a very human level. Alex Sass, CEO of PostMood, has developed an app that combines the social media behavior of individuals (specifically, what they post on Facebook), their sleep patterns, daily diaries, and their Fitbit data, feeds all of that into Watson, and comes up with a “mood” indicator on a daily basis, among other things.
Over time, PostMood provides information on volunteers’ basic personality traits and even makes suggestions for improving their general well-being. Such suggestions may be to post more positive messages, to increase exercise, or to get more sleep. More general analyses are also made – is an individual primarily an introvert or an extrovert, for example.
The goal of this app for the individual is to gain insights into their moods and personality, what causes moods to shift from positive to negative, and to “correct” behaviors in order to increase positivity.
The Larger Goal
According to Sass, the app analyzes each individual participant, provides their reports, and hopefully improves their well-being with recommendations.
Such recommendations usually include a thorough analysis of the Facebook content they post and, as well, what they are reading from others. Facebook is also analyzing what they post and view and gives them more of the same. Negativity thus begets negativity, and the mood becomes rather permanent. PostMood takes all of this in and provides a “score” of sorts, allowing the individual to make conscious choices to change Facebook behavior.
The same goes for other the other aspects of analyses conducted by the app – physical exercise, sleep, personality inventories, and more. Participants thus gain valuable insights into how the choices they make impact their moods.
But Sass has bigger goals. He uses Watson to aggregate all of the data that is collected to generate more “global” patterns of behaviors that promote happiness. From all of PostMood’s analyses, he hopes to be able to come up with daily activities that will promote happiness worldwide
How To Participate
Anyone can sign up for free, as long as they are on Facebook and/or Twitter. Bonus point if you have a physical fitness tracking device.
Participants log in daily and their changing moods are recorded for them based upon their own comments, their posts, their fitness data and the amount of sleep they have had. Daily challenges are set for individuals, based on Watson’s analyses.
This project is the first of its kind to record and analyze the mind/body connection, and Watson has been an instrumental piece in all of this. It allows the aggregation of not just individual data but allows scores to be compiled globally. This allows more generalized daily challenges to be set as well.
According to Sass, Watson has analyzed in excess of 10 million social media posts. And because Watson never forgets anything, he can analyze trends in posting on an individual and aggregated basis.
All of this analysis allows Watson and Sass to generate “mindfulness” exercises that will benefit everyone, using the data that Watson aggregates and mood-tracking software developed by Sass.
According to Sass, 45,000+ from all over the world joined last year and almost half of them are now experiencing a rise in their “happiness scores.” And this improvement is not merely subjective. Watson is analyzing their social media posts, their fitness data, and their sleep amounts to get those scores.
Having been analyzing the data for a while now, Sass says that his top tip for happiness is to get more sleep. “We included sleep tracking in our system this year, and those who manage to get a decent level of shuteye seem to have the edge when it comes to also expressing joy, both internally and through their social timelines.
Biggest Project in Human Predictive Analytics
Sass believes that his Human Happiness Project is the largest of its kind outside of the predictive analytics used by businesses to predict consumer behaviors and trends. AI is used to collect data on such things as purchasing preferences and credit worthiness; it is used to present doctors with data than can drive diagnoses and treatments. But this project can provide predictive analysis of what people themselves can do to make themselves happier and more positive.
If you’d like to let PostMood give you a happiness score and get some solid, actionable suggestions for improving your overall well-being, you might want to join this project. Sass has plenty of funding, and it will be long-term and global.
Go to the PostMood site, read a little bit more about the project, and sign yourself up. You really have nothing to lose, and you may gain some valuable insights into both your personality and behaviors that may be keeping you “down.”
Many of those kids are at least 4 years older now, are graduating high school or may be entering college. But their passions for gaming have not decreased. In fact, they are participating in lots of online competition and dream of either professional gaming or, even more ambitious, getting into game development.
Given the popularity of gaming, there will always be work in the gaming industry. For those who specifically want to move into development, there will be some skill training and some work ahead. Here are 8 tips for these passionate gaming development hopefuls.
Designing: You do not need to learn programming languages. But you do need to understand the process by which games are developed. This will allow you to design the “art” side of games, knowing what a developer will need to do. And, if you are a solopreneur in the industry, then you will need to have that design in as much detail as possible before you speak with a developer.
Identify Your Limitations and Account for Them
If design is your focus, and you are great at creating scenes and music, you may not be so good at character development. If you are working for a company, the expertise will be there, and you will work as a team. If you are a freelancer, however, you will need to partner up with someone else.
If you are in the programming side, and you are struggling with some of the coding, you need to know where to get that help. Understanding your limitations and getting that help will demonstrate to an employer that you want to get things right the first time out, rather than having to debug after testers have pointed out the “fails.”
Good game development requires passionate people who do not see what they do as real work. For them, it is fun. There are crazy long hours, lots of collaboration with others, disagreements, long discussions over Chinese takeout, creative problem-solving, and flexibility/compromises. Make certain that these are all things you will love, or you will develop resentment – never a good thing.
Check Out Options Other Than Development or Design
You may love gaming, and you may want to be a part of the industry. But you are not really into the art or science of it all. There are other opportunities within the industry. These include such positions as testing, marketing, or even doing voice-overs for characters or contributing the music.
Look for Internships
If you want to work for a company/studio, pursue internships. These are amazing learning experiences, even if you do not end up working for that specific company. Other gaming firms or groups will be far more interested in talking to you if you have an internship under your belt. Some internships are even remote, should you not live in close proximity, and many are actually paid.
If you are on the independent side, you may not like the idea of joining a studio as a regular employee. Studios need lots of expertise and, especially if they are small or in the startup phase, they cannot afford full-time employees. Once you have your skill set, check out job boards and niche publications – there will be many opportunities within your skill area.
If and when you take a gig, be certain that you craft a contract, if the firm/studio does not provide one. Any contract should sell out exactly what you are expected to do, how much you will be paid, and a guarantee that your contribution(s) may be used in your professional portfolio.
Be Careful About Pay Offers
There are lots of “poor” studios out there – people who are passionate about gaming and who have big dreams but no money. They are looking for “desperate” people who have their same passion who they can pay almost nothing. Sometimes they will offer you a small equity position or stock in the company or claim that your work will be a great portfolio addition. These things can be tempting, especially if you are hungry for work, but don’t sell yourself short and don’t work for nothing.
Getting Discouraged – It Comes with the Territory
Expect long dry spells. Of course, if they don’t come, great. But when they do, it is probably not because you lack skills. Competition can be tough, and there just may not be a “fit” between a studio’s need and your skillset.
When you hit dry spells or no nibbles from your job applications, take that time to design or develop on your own, to build up your portfolio, or take additional coursework to add to your skillset.
Find ways to network – attend workshops, conferences, and other meetings. Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date, and join groups on that platform. Participate in online forums and discussions; start a blog; develop some podcasts. There are just many things you can do to keep your name out there and to keep your passion intact.
And, if you have to eat, take an unrelated job. Eventually, you will find a position or “gig,” and you will “get your groove” back.
The gaming industry is exciting and fun. It is also evolving rapidly, as technology continues to improve gaming experiences for players. Keep abreast of these advances – you don’t want to become irrelevant.
Bluemix is a cloud platform powered by the world’s most popular open source project. Bluemix is here to help you efficiently develop applications in your way; simplifying how you build and manage them in the cloud. Bluemix let you choose your own programing language; work with your own architecture and make your own design choices.
IBM has changed the way applications are delivered. Making cloud more accessible than ever with Bluemix. IBM Bluemix is a cloud platform as a service developed by IBM. Bluemix allows you to easily extend and enrich the functionalities of your applications with services and API’s from both IBM and third parties that are based on the world’s most powerful open-source technologies to pair your applications.
Bluemix takes care of the infrastructure come with over 100 services to choose from ranging from Watson, IoT, Analytics, API creation management and integration; concerned about provisioning licensing and other time consuming issues. Bluemix’s immediately deployable technologies include push notifications, SQL and NoSQL Database, messaging, security and more. You can easily augment applications with Bluemix’s ground-breaking cognitive learning machine Watson as well as other leading AI services. These services come from both IBM and its community partners.
Bluemix is designed to accelerate innovation tapping into your current cloud environment and delivering more engaging solutions. Since the inception of Bluemix we have seen a huge market response from startups to enterprise corporate clients like SilverHook, Tangerine bank, Hertz car rental, IQ, Capgemini, Volvo, Honda, Citibank and many more.
Bluemix is designed with choice of deployment in mind; even the suit the most sensitive workloads. Bluemix Public allows the user to experience and tap into a world of services across Watson like mobile and IoT in our public cloud environment. IBM Blumix technology could be a leverage in Adwords scripts. Blumix dedicated offers superior combination of security and time to value in a cloud environment which feels like an extension of your own data center. For your very sensitive workloads for data compliance you can bring Bluemix behind your firewall with the markets first of its kind approach private cloud delivery.
Bluemix was designed with speed and ease in mind; it makes life easier for the developer and the entire development team. With Bluemix we provide teams of all sizes with a flexibility to scale computers at a very granular level, seamlessly collaborate in source code, share API’s and manage apps performance logs and costs through a single console.
Developing an application is easy, but deploying ab application is even easier. With Bluemix your application is deployed and running in productions within minutes.
Bluemix’s future-rich built to measure git repository makes everything; from production live coding to building to deploying your application as simple as a push command. You can quickly extend the capabilities of your app in any direction. A click of a button, a copy-paste of the credentials of your new service and you are back on track. And once you’re alive, Bluemix will handle scaling monitoring and logging. So you could spend more time on what you actually love doing.
Doing business on the go has become the new norm. So does dealing with all sorts of financial transactions through your trusted smart phone or device. From purchasing stocks, making wire transfers and quick personal deposits - mobile finances has exploded in popularity the past few years
The industry keeps growing. Over 1.75 billion users are expected to conduct banking operations through mobile devices by the end of 2019. With this explosive growth what are the benefits for financial enterprises? As more of banking moves into the digital realm, the less money financial institutions have to invest into brick and mortar locations, as well as all of the personnel that goes along with that. When technology can perform all of the functions of a bank teller, and when all of those functions can be safely and easily accomplished by a user app, everyone wins.
But there’s some bad news as well - not all of those users are particularly happy with the kind of user experience they are currently having with their mobile banking. According to the latest J.D. Powers survey only 32% of bank customers say they trust mobile banking and most respondents indicated that they are not “fully satisfied” with the current app proposed by your bank.
The bottom line is this - while financial app development definitely is a promising sector, product owners should specifically focus on building a user-friendly, secure and personalized product rather than deploying just “some app” to stay in trend.
Building That App – Key Elements to Consider
There are several steps in the process of creating a financial app that users will find friendly, safe, and easy to use. If you can accomplish these three things, you will keep customers and your costs down. Consider the following critical pieces.
Know Your Customer
Just who is our mobile consumer? Most would say it is the millennial and younger generations. And they would be mostly correct.
But here’s the thing: Gen X’ers and even 45% of Baby Boomers are using online banking too. And people are interacting with their banks far more frequently than they used to. It’s now so easy to check a balance, transfer funds, and pay bills, if, and this is a BIG if, the app is well done. If not, customers will be lost.
So, what are the biggest objections/frustrations of our potential app users? You have to find this out before you can begin to build or remodel an app.
Here is what consumers are saying about their current banks’ mobile apps:
They are worried about security
The application is not user friendly and they have trouble navigating through it.
It’s too slow
The other critical information you need to get from your customers is what exactly do they want to be able to do on your app. You can use data analytics to track customer behavior or you can ask. But, in general, here is what most consumers do on their financial apps:
94% check their balances or transactions
71% will download their bank’s app on their mobile phones
61% transfer funds
57% sign up for alerts
51% deposit checks
48% pay bills
List the Elements You Will Include
Don’t just make a simple list. Create a scenario for each element. How do you want the customer to go through the process involved?
Once you have all of this, you are ready to look at developers, if you don’t have the in-house expertise. Seasoned financial app developers can take what you want and recommend the best technology stack for your needs.
And speaking of financial app developers, be selective as you search for the best one. They should be willing to show you case studies and put you in touch with clients for reference.
Security – It’s the Most Critical Challenge
You already have security measures in place if you offer online banking through your website. Translating those to a mobile app means the following:
Make sure your developer understands your security policies
Application servers must be carefully configured, so that phishing is avoided
Use the most current digital signature technology – you want everything secure and yet easy for the user
Utilize encryption for all user stored data.
Have a password strength checker – never allow your customers to use simply and easily-hacked passwords.
Be firm with your customers on how they are to behave when using your app. They must password-protect their phones; they should never store their passwords with you; they must logout when finished; they must install app updates. They have to do their part to protect their information too.
Keep it Simple
You know the features your customers want. Limit activities to those features only. If the majority of your customers pay bills on the app, then focus the application around that feature. Don’t waste time building features, such as applying for loans, that are hardly used by your clients.
As the app matures continue adding features in a methodical and customer centric way.
Sleek Design and UX
Here are the things to think about:
Only a couple of steps to get to functions - reduce the number of clicks.
Users love notifications - make sure you offer that to them.
Analyze & track the features most frequently used, and focus the user interface on those functions.Test, Test, Test
While security is important, make sure you have a fully refined QA process in place to reduce any problems with the software.
And don’t forget user testing – you’ll get great feedback.
Plan for Diverse Devices
Make sure you app works well across all devices and screen sizes. There are a number of services that offer online emulators for you to test your applications - make use of that.
Consider adding a mobile analytics piece in your application to track detailed information about usage, and better visibility into any problems your customers might be facing.
Cost – It’s Not Your Primary Concern
When looking for a developer for your application, cost should not be your only concern. Financial applications are complicated and require experienced developers who understand the intricacies of the industry, security and functionality. Don’t just go after the lowest priced developer.
Building a financial app will be key to retaining your customers. If even Baby Boomers are using them, the proverbial “handwriting is on the wall.” Take these eight “criticals” and find the right developer now.
So, you have a great idea for an app. You think there is an audience out there, and you are hell bent on developing it so that you can get it to market as soon as possible. Yes, it will be a costly project; yes, it will require hours upon hours of wireframing and development.
It’s time to take a step back and just breathe for a minute. Before you launch headlong into a complex and costly app development, make the smart choice to do the research, determine the need, and then develop an MVP that will “test the waters.”
Developing a minimum viable product is not something new, nor should it be considered a “negative.” It’s normal to want to develop the entire product from the “get-go,” but it is not wise. Consider this: Google and Dropbox both created MVP’s before they moved forward. And look where they are today.
If you have never developed an MVP before, it can seem a bit scary. How do you actually do it? Here is your simple guide to MVP development - five steps that will take you from conception to the creation of a product that can be tested and marketed before you develop full functionality.
Define the “WHY?”
If you are developing an app because you think it is cool, then you may be sorely disappointed. Every app, even a game, is built to solve a consumer problem, not your need. So, do the research. Who is your target demographic and what do they want? Creating a customer persona is a major and critical first step. From that persona, you can then identify individual consumers who are willing to participate in user acceptance testing.
Blue-Sky It – the “WHAT” – The Product Requirements Document
This is the step during which you will develop your product requirements list. It the “What” of your app.
Begin by developing a workflow diagram of exactly how your app will work. You need two columns. On the left, identify the input and on the right, the output. From this diagram, you will be able to identify the product features and create that PRD.
Your Product Requirements Document will describe in detail all of the features, relative to the design and user experience. It will become the “bible” for developers. And those developers must be “in” on these discussions, for they will determine the software architecture that will be necessary, the projected time and cost involved in each feature development, etc.
Another critical piece of the product requirements document will be the criteria for release. At what point will the MVP be ready for testing by your audience? This part of your document may indeed have to wait until you have completed Step 3.
From the workflow diagram that you have crafted, it is now time to start eliminating features and functions. There is one question that you must continually ask as you move through this process – “What is the least important function of those that remain?”
As you eliminate, of course, you will want to keep a listing of what you removed and in what order. Because, once the MVP is released, tested, and proven to be successful, you will want to add those functions in the reverse order in which you took them out. Your engineers must have this list as well, so that they may what functions will be developed next and in what order.
Once you are down to the minimum viable product, you and your developers(s) can craft that section of the product requirements document that includes the criteria for release:
Are all the mandatory functions in place?
Is the app, in its current MVP state, intuitive and user-friendly?
Does performance provide a great user experience?
Short Development Sprints
Divide the development process into short chunks. As working code is developed and tested in-house, pause to ensure that each chunk is still compatible with the “why” of your product development. Sometimes, the nature of software development means that the scope of a function may change. New ideas may emerge. While these may not be on your plate right now, keep track of them for future scaling.
If a new idea is added, what will you take out? Remember, this is an MVP.
What are You Doing About a Business Plan?
If you are a first-time entrepreneur, and our app is your startup, what have you done about a plan to acquire the funding you may need to fully develop? It is time at this point to look for business plan writers, especially if your strength is in tech and not in marketing/writing. Do not wait until your MVP is finished and tested to do this. That plan must be ready to present to potential investors. At this stage in the process, you have the information you need to craft that plan, and you want it polished and ready.
The Beta Testing
Once the minimum functions are in place and once the criteria for release have been met, it is time for actual user testing. For this step in the process, you and the developer(s) must create a list of tasks you want your testers to perform.
During the testing phase, performance of tasks must be closely monitored. Where are there issues with navigation, speed, etc.? Are there “fails” that must be fixed? What bugs must be worked out?
The other key component of beta testing is tester feedback. Is their experience enjoyable? And, most important, does this product provide a solution to the problem or gap you originally identified? User feedback may also generate ideas that will cause you to re-think the additional functions you originally envisioned – all the better! Remember – it’s all about the user, not you.
Your final development revisions and “fixes” will be based upon actual user testing.
Get Your MVP and that Business Plan Out There
You may not love the idea of marketing and investment-seeking, but it is a reality you must face. There are places to start, obviously. App reviewers abound, and you can offer incentives to reviewers to perform this function for you. You may need some professional help or, at the very least, to conduct some research on your own about marketing options.
Ecommerce. Even brick and mortar retailers also now sport a website for online shoppers. In fact, shoppers can go to an online big box retailer, purchase an item, and then pick it up at their local store. Then, of course, are the small retailers who only have an online shop. Add to that all of the newer concepts in online ecommerce, such as subscription-based product purchases (coffee-of-the-month; razor blades, diapers, etc.), and you have perhaps the most major disruption of any industry.
Successful Ecommerce Requires an Amazing Website
Given the fact that today’s consumer has the attention span of a goldfish, an ecommerce retailer has only a few seconds to engage a visitor, provide an exceptional user experience, and keep that consumer entertained, inspired, and motivated to keep looking at products/services on display.
All of this means that an ecommerce website must be exquisitely designed and developed. It must load fast; navigation must be speedy and easy; the cart and checkout process must be smooth and seamless.
How does this get accomplished?
The Early Days Vs. Now
In the beginning were a few programming languages and coders. Every part of a website had to be coded, line by line – an arduous task and one which was assumed by “gurus” of coding that accomplished mysterious miracles that no one else could understand.
But technology has a way of simplifying things. And that is just what has happened with ecommerce technology stack architecture. The components of a technology stack (called microservices) are generally created by different developers who work independently. So, in building an entire platform, there are many choices for microservices. And for those looking for the easiest solution, there are entire platforms, composed of microservices which are already configured, such as Shopify, Etsy, PayPal, or Instacart.
In essence, you will have an operating system, a web service, a database and a programming language, each with components that must be chosen based upon your current and future business goals. Choosing microservices, each one focused on a small task, will all have to support what it is you envision. But because all of those components are standalone microservices that can be easily incorporated into a platform technology stack, it is now a matter of choosing the right stack components, customizing them if and when it becomes necessary. And that is what developers do today.
The job of the ecommerce retailer is to decide what the website must have on the front-end architecture, for seamless user experience, to ensure that products are available to his customers, either through his own inventory or that of drop-shipping suppliers. Oberlo can perfectly help you with the latter. You will also need to ensure that the technology is there for product displays and descriptions, for shopping convenience, and for a perfect checkout process.
Important Considerations for the Technology Stack
Traditionally, ecommerce platforms have been built on Java/.Net/PHP and so forth. They use long-standing application servers, supported by Relational Database Management System (RDBMS). The issues crop up when a retailer needs to scale, either through expansion of product lines and/or an increase in customer base. At that point, the goal is not to sacrifice speed or responsiveness.
Typically, when scaling is necessary, there will be the requirements for increasing number of servers, load balancing, hardware, and such. And a decision must be made whether to scale horizontally (add more machines) or vertically (add more power to existing machines). Horizontal is often preferred because it utilizes less system resources and can handle larger amounts of traffic.
As an ecommerce business considers microservices architecture, they must think about the following:
They want ease of scalability and resilience
They want to modify, expand, replace, and scale without downtime or negatively impacting the system, even if only for a short time.
The following services will be mandatory
Product/Product Catalogue Search
Shopping Cart/Shopping Cart Recovery
Product Detail Page(s)
Here is an example of the microservices that could be chosen for an ecommerce enterprise that is horizontally scalable, non-blocking, and responsive.
MONGODB: This allows a document-oriented data store – products can be stored as documents and in categories – example: OpenSky.com
MONGOOSE: This is the object-modeling for NODEJS
ELASTIC: This is a search server – used by such companies as EBay
EXPRESS: Node.js web framework. Provides middlewares, error handling, and templating
MONGODB – ELASTIC CONNECTOR
PASSPORT: Node.Js authentication network. Separates web application from authentication.
To make ecommerce site building even easier, a number of “big players” have published their technology stacks on StackShare, a site that focuses on all things “stack-related.” There are detailed listings of the stacks used by such companies as Best Buy, Airbnb, Dropbox, Medium, Vine, Shopify, and many more. StackShare also provides the latest news on tools and trends on stack architecture.
The featured stacks include microservices in application and data, utilities, DevOps, and business tools and provide lots of options for ecommerce startups and existing retailers to consider.
Is There an Ideal ECommerce Technology Stack?
The short answer is “no.” Anyone who studies the stacks on Stack Share can clearly see that even the “big boys” use a variety of microservices that are not in common.
An ecommerce retailer is just that – a retailer. S/he is not an expert on technology stacks. And so, the wise move is to do the following:
Determine what it is that the site should be and do
Look at the goals for scaling in the future
Present the requirements and specifications to professional back-end and front-end developers
Rely on those developers who have the reputation and the experience to put together the ideal technology stack for those individual business needs.
Learning the tricks of any trade will take time and dedication. However, IBM offers developers a way to connect, learn, and grow with six different types of developer events including hackathons, workshops, meet-ups, web casts, conferences, and premium events.
Hackathons are unique to the developer community. Although the name sounds bit sinister, hackathons are actually a legitimate way to grow as a developer. During these events, developers have the chance to build innovative apps, typically based on a theme or challenge presented at the hackathon.
The events are competitive, and participants are often encouraged to use IBM Blue-mix for their applications so that they can build, scale, and extend their applications quickly.
A hackathon is currently scheduled for Oct. 20-22, 2017 at Galvanize, located at 315 Hudson St., New York, N.Y. During this hackathon, developers can learn how to take blockchain ideas from concept to creation in just a week. The event will be hosted by IBM.
Possibly the most versatile of training types, workshops come in many formats and styles, ranging from smaller coding sessions or panels to more hands-on activities. The events are held around the world both in person and virtually and cover themes such as Big Data and Analytic, Mobile, Watson and Internet of Things.
The events give developers the opportunity to learn more about developing apps quickly and E efficiently with Blue-mix, IBM's Cloud-based platform for building and managing apps of all kinds.
Don't have time for a workshop? Meet-ups are probably the best option. A more condensed version of a workshop, participants meet in an informal environment to take turn their ideas into real projects while networking with fellow developers.
Virtually learn all there is to know about developing by attending webcasts. During these webcasts, developer professionals discuss the ins and outs of several different aspects of developing, including security, the Cloud, data and analytics, and more.
Conferences are great ways to immerse fully into the world of developing. Usually spanning multiple days, conferences are events containing keynote speakers, demos, workshops, and specialty tracks designed for all levels of developers.
The developer Works Premium events are accessed through an annual membership. The membership gives developers access to the tools and resources they need to grow their skills and complete a project they can really be proud of.
Developers with the developer Works Premium membership can receive up to 50 percent off developer event registration fees. Discounts are limited and are first-come, first-serve.
We generate a huge amount of health related data; from our fitness tracker mobiles apps to electronic medical records. The average person is likely to generate more than one million gigabytes of health related data in their lifetime which is enormous. Clinical trials and researches also add up a huge amount of data. The medical industry is unable to keep up with the tremendous rate at which the information are produced. Here comes the IBM Watson Health cloud.
As modern medicine improves it also gets more complicated. Hundreds of thousands of medical articles are published every year. New discoveries are constantly being made and more powerful technologies create better tools for diagnosis prevention and understanding of illness and disease. The huge amount of personal data could unlock insights to longer and healthier life. So the question is how can the healthcare professionals keep up? And the answer is IBM Watson Health.
The IBM Watson Health cloud brings together a vast amounts of medical data into one centralized thinking hub on the cloud, combining traditional analytics with the advanced cognitive capabilities of Watson. . So, we can say that cloud brings together individual clinical research and social data from a diverse range of health sources creating a secure cloud-based data sharing hub. The ability to learn and overtime refine its analysis based on what it is learning to turn this huge pile of data into knowledge. With the help of IBM Watson, we will be able to do even more to make the data about our health work for us. This Watson Heath value-based offerings delivers more efficient care, engages patients and consumers and optimizes business performance. IBM Watson Health will help redefine paths to better help by putting data to work for all of us.
In spite of these advantages, numerous doctors report challenges fusing shared basic leadership innovation into their immediate patient interactions. The new solution could be intended to address these challenges by incorporating inside the doctor's work process in the electronic health record system. It could summarize key cognitive insights about a patient's health status, assemble a de-identified cohort of people similar to the individual, and describe the results of those individuals under different treatment alternatives.
Imagine if you had a rare, un-diagnosed disease that’s any doctor is not being able to tell of. What if there were a single secure database which could read your symptoms of that disease and run through thousands of clinical studies, similar patient records to determine the disease? Just after one year of its launch, IBM Watson Health is already starting to make this unimaginable impossible task to reality. And its all because of its powerful cognitive computing platform and a wide-reaching partnership strategy.
For instance, say a patient has an uncommon,, genetically linked form of lung cancer. A generalized cancer doctor likely hasn’t had the time to keep up with the latest in specific lung cancer treatments. In the most recent year alone, there have been no less than seven new lung malignancy drugs approved by the FDA. . That doctor may not be aware of how best to use those drugs or even if they apply to this patient.
Meanwhile IBM Watson Health has been fed previous case studies on patients like this by lung cancer specialists. So IBM Watson Health understands the threat and list out a potential treatment for the doctors, with a percentage rank of certitude and risk next to each option. The doctor then reviews the decision and consult the patient about his treatments.
That’s how Watson Health Imaging and Merge are working together to deliver cognitive medical imaging solutions for radiologists, cardiologists and healthcare providers who treat a wide variety of diseases around the world in 2017 and beyond.
In today’s age of technology, there has been a substantial growth in the number of educational activities for kids. Kids growing nowadays usually see their older siblings and parents on the laptop. Hence, their interest is likely to peak about also making use of the device. They will want to get on there and also play games as grown-ups do. However, it’s best that you pick educational activities so that the time spent on entertainment will likewise facilitate learning without the children knowing it.
As parents, you can find educational activities and games on the Internet for children of all ages. Moreover, you can also find several educational related games. If you are looking for arithmetic, there are plenty of websites that offer fun things for kids to do that deal with concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc. Studying is also enjoyed by participating in fun activities. Some sites read stories to kids while they follow along with the words on the screen.
There’s no doubt that technological advancement has brought important changes to humanity. It has also influenced the way kids experience entertainment and learning. Mobile gadgets such as tablets, laptops, computers, and smartphones are the source of entertainment for several kids. Tablets, along with other gadgets can have both negative and positive effects on the overall mental development of kids, but as parents, you can turn these mobile tablets into an educational tool for your kids. Using the best tablet for kids, your child can have a more entertaining and safe learning experience.
Tablets like these come with several essential features that set them apart from regular tablets. For one, the overall design of the tablet is nice-looking, child-friendly and durable, and offers several brain-boosting benefits. Though, for kids to get the maximum benefits, it is necessary to choose one with the right features.
Apart from allowing kids to use educational gadgets, parents must also allow their kids to indulge in outdoor activities and explore the real world. The open-air environment provides experiences that can facilitate the improvement and enhance the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual skills of kids. One great way for your kid to explore the outdoors is with the use of an electric dirt bike that specially designed for kids.
Electric dirt bikes allow kids play outside of their homes, providing them with a perfect opportunity to explore many things around them. An early daybreak biking activity to your much-loved biking trail or even around the neighborhood will allow kids to observe individuals, animals, plants and so many other things that will spark their interest. However, not any electric bike will do. You will have to choose the best electric dirt bike of kids that’s safe, fun and exciting.
In a nutshell, educational activities are great. They develop the kids’ interest and enhance learning. At the end of every session, they learn something new that helps them become smarter, more patient, and allow them to have a better understanding of the world.
Not all startups are high tech, although it would almost seem so these days. Even if you are producing the next best gardening tools, however, you will need technology. And as your business grows, the tech needs do too. Consider just the minimum your business will need, even if it is operated from a home office at first.
Hardware – computers, printers, modem, phone system, mobile devices
Software – These needs may vary, but could include everything from customer databases and management/service, to project management, to accounting, to security, to marketing tools and beyond.
Yet, when things go wrong, there needs to be quick fix, and planning ahead to get that “fix” will be an essential part of your operational strategy.
There are two operational IT functions that must be considered – support for hardware, networking and security, and support for software that you are using.
Fortunately, as you purchase SaaS packages, there is support built in. It is a matter of contacting the tech support people and getting issues resolved as quickly as possible. This support function comes with your purchase or subscription.
It is when other things go wrong – things with networking, with hardware, with security breaches, with system crashes, with disaster recovery, etc. - that an IT professional is necessary.
So, what are your options? Actually, there are many, depending upon your budget and your unique needs.
Best Practices for Getting the IT Support You Need
As a small startup, your best option is to outsource your IT support. Before you sign on the dotted line, however, you need to do your own homework.
Define what you need. Do you need setup functions, or do you need methods for back up and security of what you have already set up?
Get these needs in writing, so that when you discuss options with potential vendors, you have your “list.”
Will you need an “on call” tech support service, 24 hours a day, or will you go for an “as needs” contract, which could result in some down-time.
Can you handle remote support or do you want someone local who will physically appear to resolve your issues?
Is the support vendor able to handle your support needs as your business grows and the level of support needs expands? It makes no sense to bring in an individual who is only good for initial setup. You will be out looking for someone else soon.
Free IT Support
There are a number of free IT support resources online, many of them run by volunteer geeks who have a passion for solving tech issues. In fact, your tech issue may be one that has already been addressed by the resource, and the “fix” may be simple. All of this, of course, takes time and the assumption that you will fully understand the fix that is being presented. Using free resources can be a cost savings but can also be inefficient.
With purchased software and services, there is always free IT support, so long as you have the contact information you need. How many of us have had our Wi-Fi go out and then find ourselves scrambling for the tech support number we need? If you have a reliance on a lot of utility and tech vendors, it may make sense to subscribe to a service that provides customer support numbers for everything from your electric utility to your Wi-Fi provider. Most of these services have a mobile app for download, so you have access to the number from anywhere.
Contracted IT Support – Remote or Local
If you want efficiency and minimum downtime for tech support, your best practice is to contract with a service. You may find them quite reasonable, and, after all, how much does your “downtime” cost?
This is one of the best ways to keep support costs down. When you contract with a remote service, you simply contact a support technician who then accesses your system from anywhere and fixes your issues without the need to come on-site.
You may want to see your IT support guy/gal face-to-face. While this is more expensive, it is an option that many small businesses choose, because it allows a relationship to be built over time, and the consistency of having the same individual who understands the history of your tech issues. If you go this route, be certain that you have checked many references before signing any contract. Usually, contracts can be designed for a “pay as you go” hourly rate, or a retainer option with a set annual fee.
Combination Remote and Local
There are vendors, such as the Geek Squad, that provide both remote and on-sites services. This group offer a huge support network, 24/7, and provides ongoing maintenance as well as troubleshooting when needed. There are usually several contractual options which allow you to add services as you grow. This IT support is owned by Best Buy, a retailer that is likely to be around for many years, so there is the security of knowing that your contract will be honored.
Other Important Considerations
Now that you understand the necessity of tech support and the options you have for getting what you need within your budget constraints, here are the other guidelines for a successful relationship with any vendor you choose.
Make sure that any individual or vendor operation you choose has people with the education and certifications to back up what they claim to be able to do. You want someone who understands how IT fits into your business and who can make suggestions and recommendations that are state-of-the-art. Security is a good example. Hackers target small businesses because their layers of security are much softer. Nothing could be worse than for your customers’ personal and financial information to be stolen.
This may seem like a “touch-feely” non-essential, but it is not. You want tech support people that can feel your pain when things go wrong and are able to see issues from your perspective.
Choose the simplest solution for you, not what any individual or company vendor thinks you should have. IT support should make things run smoothly for you with minimal stress or frustration on your part.
IT support people need to accept accountability for their services. Follow-up on their part is important. And if a specific provided service has not fixed every issue, then they need to return and make it right. Dump any provider who falters on accountability.
This information should be helpful as you look to find the IT support you will need today and that will evolve as your startup grows. But your job is to be proactive – looking at your needs, knowing what you can do yourself and what you cannot, and planning for support over the long-term – will mean that you will minimize downtime and your own frustration.
PRINCE2 is a structured project management methodology which was developed in the UK. While it was initially used exclusively within UK government projects, its use soon became widespread across the UK and eventually managed to reach international organisations as well. Many now consider a PRINCE2 certification to be a necessity for a project management role, but some may still question whether becoming qualified in PRINCE2 is worth the investment.
If employability is the only factor to consider, then the answer is absolutely yes; too many companies simply will not hire a PM without them having at least some experience in working with the PRINCE2 methodology. On the other hand, it’s important to manage expectations and consider what it is about a PRINCE2 certification that is worth the cost.
PRINCE2 Can Get Your Foot in The Door
If you look through project management job listings, you will likely see PRINCE2 as a prerequisite quite frequently. For some people, that may be reason enough to bite the bullet and get certified. Just make sure to keep things in perspective and don’t jump the gun. A five day class isn’t going to teach you some of the nitty-gritty details of project management that you only learn from experience. For example, while PRINCE2 will teach you how break down complex tasks and allocate responsibilities, it won’t teach you how to effectively assign these tasks within your team to fully utilise your pool of talent. This is something you can only learn by getting to know your team and examining independently which tasks are relevant to which skillset.
It’s also important to note that many organisations that ask for you to have a PRINCE2 qualification may not fully implement the methodology within their organisation. Because the methodology is comprised of a set of general principles and techniques for project managers, organisations may pick and choose which elements of the methodology they implement according to which are relevant to their method of working. Not all projects are the same and while PRINCE2 is a useful tool, your suitability for a project management role and your success within it depends on your ability to adapt the methodology and think independently, so potential employers will often ask for project management experience in addition to a PRINCE2 certification.
PRINCE2 May Not be Necessary For Project Support Roles
If you don’t want to be a project manager, but are interested in other roles on a project team, it may not be necessary for you to become a PRINCE2 Practitioner. However, there are many features of the course that you can utilize in your own work and if PRINCE2 is implemented in your place of work, then it will help if you familiarize yourself with the methodology, even informally. Risk management, for example, plays an important role in PRINCE2 and by learning the methods of preparing for and managing risks within a project, you may find errors in your work being reduced as well as time spent recovering from mistakes. In which case, you may want to learn the basics of PRINCE2 Foundation rather than completing the course in full and becoming a Practitioner, or you can purchase the PRINCE2 guidance and study some of the information in your own time.
Being a PRINCE2 Practitioner Can Help You Secure A Project Management Role
If your ultimate goal is to work as a project manager, PRINCE2 is a highly beneficial certification to have on your CV: this is true if you already have project experience and can be doubly true if you are coming from a different career background. As a practical matter, investing in PRINCE2 training courses is simply a necessity if you are looking to enter into a project management role without any prior experience. It will teach you enough for you to understand the basic principles and responsibilities of your position and it will also make you a stronger candidate for employment than if you had applied for a project management position with no experience or understanding of what the job would entail.
Just be aware that you may not be enamored with the methodology initially. Many project teams find PRINCE2 too inflexible for their types of projects. However, becoming qualified in PRINCE2 makes available possibilities to expand on your knowledge and make the methodology more relevant to your industry and projects. For example, PRINCE2 Agile is a qualification that is an extension of the PRINCE2 Practitioner course which mixes together elements of PRINCE2 and the highly flexible methodology Agile PM. For some project managers, paying for two or three certifications to learn the relevant methodology may not seem like a worthwhile investment, which is something you would need to think about before you consider enrolling.
PRINCE2 Does Not Make up For Lack of Experience
A good project manager has done more than master a particular project methodology. They have learned to communicate effectively, make time estimates, use resources, manage project scope, resolve conflict, and deal with inevitable catastrophes.
While a project management methodology like PRINCE2 might teach you the importance of these skills and the basic principles, much of what you will use within your team will come from experience. PRINCE2 does not supply you with a rulebook that you can refer to, so you will need to learn these skills through successes and failures and by collecting experience as a project manager.
PRINCE2 Methodologies Can be Applied in Multiple Industries
While there are some methodologies that only work well in particular industries, PRINCE2 can be applied virtually anywhere. In fact, it’s been said that PRINCE2 can even be used to plan parties or other personal life events. What this means to you, as a fledgling project manager, is that the skills you learn in PRINCE2 can be applied to any industry you are interested in working in. For example, your PRINCE2 skills used in an IT company can be fairly easily translated into skills that are useful at a manufacturing plant or marketing firm. This means you have a fairly wide variety of industries in which you can seek employment.
PRINCE2 is Not Widely Used in The United States
If you plan to seek out project management positions solely in the United States or within firms that do business primarily with American firms, the PRINCE2 Practitioner designation may not be quite as lucrative for you as it would be for a UK professional. This is because, in spite of its popularity in many other countries, PRINCE2 simply hasn’t gained traction in the United States.
While the PRINCE2 certification may be useful to professionals working with multinational companies, or for projects executed by US firms overseas, you might consider learning other methodologies that you may find more useful within the United States. Agile, CPM, Scrum, Kanban, and others are some of the more popular project management methodologies used by American companies.
It may be helpful to think of PRINCE2 certification as getting your high school diploma rather than being the one and only methodology you learn. It is one of the oldest project management methodologies still being used today, and so contains many elements from which most other methodologies were derived. While it is useful for many professionals, it may not supply you with the complete knowledge that you will need in order to excel in a project management position and not always will it be relevant to the industry or organisation you enter into.
If you are going to seek work as a PM in countries such as the UK or India where this methodology is highly popular, it will definitely benefit you. However, it cannot replace project management experience and while it can give your career a boost, it cannot be relied upon entirely to ensure your success as a PM. Think carefully about the requirements of your current role or the role you are aiming for when you consider whether a PRINCE2 certification is worth the cost and learn what you can about the methodology and others before you decide which you would benefit from the most.
We create an immense measure of health related information; from our fitness tracker mobiles applications to electronic medicinal records. The normal individual is probably going to create more than one million gigabytes of health related information in their lifetime which is huge. Clinical trials and examines additionally include an immense measure of data.
New discoveries are being made continually and all the more capable and advance technologies make better instruments for diagnosis prevention and comprehension of sickness and disease. The immense measure of individual data could open possibility of the knowledge to make life longer and more advantageous.
So the question is how can the healthcare professionals keep up? And the answer is IBM Watson Health. This Watson Heath esteem based offerings conveys more proficient care, connects with patients and consumers and improves business execution. IBM Watson Health will cause rethink ways to better help by giving information something to do for every one of us.
The capacity to learn and overtime refine its analysis based on what it is figuring out how to transform this enormous heap of data into information. With the help of IBM Watson, we will be able to do even more to make the data about our health work for us. This Watson Heath value-based offerings conveys more productive care, engages patients and consumers and streamlines business execution. IBM Watson Health will help redefine paths to better help by putting data to work for all of us.
IBM Watson utilizes psychological figuring for analyzing enormous masses of data. Extraordinary compared to other focal points of Watson is the capacity to break down unstructured information. This machine can consider confirm, break down photographs, make conclusions.
In the first place, IBM Watson was being prepared to treat breast and lung cancers. As Watson learns from its own experience, enhancing the exactness and making more certain treatment choices, this machine can now offer treatment for solid and blood cancers: prostate, ovarian, pancreas, liver, kidney, uterine, bladder, colon, cervical, etc. IBM Watson works like a bit psychometry which is best to use on objects who’s history can be proven, so that you can verify whether your impressions were correct or not.
It’s been almost a year since that fateful vote on Brexit. There were two quite diametrically opposed assumptions of the consequences. Those who supported the move saw great economic growth for the UK, now that it was unshackled from the “chains” of the EU. Those who opposed it predicted an economic crash.
None of these has actually occurred. In fact, Brits have awakened every day since June 23, 2016 to “business as usual.” The Pound did take a hit, of course, and that is, as with any economy, a two-edged sword. Consumers pay more for imported goods, and tech startups will pay more for such things as Amazon S3. But outside investors find it much cheaper to do business in London.
The Bureaucracy Moves Slowly
The biggest reason for the continued “business as usual” is, of course, the fact that two years of negotiations with the EU on the details of Brexit have just begun. And the “biggies,” such as trade, exchange rates, immigration visas, etc. have yet to be hammered out.
What This Means for the Startup Climate in London
Thus far, Brexit has had little impact on the startup scene. In fact, during the first quarter of 2017, UK startups attracted $1.4 billion in VC. While it is a bit less than the same quarter of 2016, it is more than quarters 2-4 of last year. The primary reason, of course, is that with the devaluation of the British currency, foreign investors get more “bang for their bucks.”
The number of new startups, as demonstrated by the still-hot demand for office space in Shoreditch, indicates that founders are betting that the Brexit negotiations will leave the UK in a good position in the long run.
While there is a shortage of techies in the UK, and while this shortage has always been easily filled by the immigration policies of the EU, founders believe that #10 Downing Street is practical and realistic and understands the need for IT skills, no matter where those skills might come from. To slam the door too hard on immigration would be a mistake, forcing startups and even more established tech firms to pull up stakes.
Already, there is some talk that Dublin could become a new tech center, if UK immigration policies make it too expensive or prohibitive to attract and secure continued tech expertise needs.
What to Watch For
One thing is for certain – no one knows what Brexit will ultimately mean for startups or investors. A recent survey, conducted by TechCrunch, polled both founders and investors of some of the largest startups and investors in Europe.
Here’s what founders said: Over the next two years, they are very high on Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, Stockholm, Berlin, Helsinki, Paris, and even New York City (where the local government is revamping many of its commercial incentives), as opposed to London. Founders express uncertainty until the Brexit negotiations are complete, and “things” settle down. It appears that London will be losing its status as the startup capital of Europe, at least in the short-term. Founder cite as their concerns exactly those that have already been mentioned – staffing with uncertain visa/travel restrictions, and the ability to raise money in such a climate.
On the bright side, founders also cited the weaker GBP with its consequent ability to raise funds, along with the hope for governmental tax incentives and somewhat cheaper real estate.
Here’s what investors said: They see great opportunity in the same cities as the surveyed founders, but over the next two years, they will be closely watching the negotiations of Brexit. Right now, they are happy to have the devalued Pound and do continue to invest in UK startups, but remain cautious.
One of the challenges, investors believe, will be in FinTech, especially because of “passporting issues” for European banking licenses. Overall, however, investors believe that, once the uncertainty has dissipated, London will again be a highly attractive investment opportunity. They have more faith in the government’s pragmatism than founders do.
In February, Amazon announced that it will hire an additional 5,000 in the UK during 2017. While most of this employment will be in fulfillment centers, 10% will be in research and development centers. – centers that are developing technology for such things as Alexa, Prime Video, and drones.
Late last year, Google announced that it would add 3,000 to its London office over the next several years. And Facebook is increasing its staffing by 50%. Adding to this positive news, Apple purchased a 500,000-sq. foot space for expansion.
Facing the Future
Whatever the Pound does, it seems the larger issue for the UK is the shortage of native STEM skills. The tech sector is now 16% of the UK economy, and if skilled expertise is not to be found “in-country,” immigration restrictions will be a serious blow.
According to the Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec), an organization that represents digital and tech startups, the UK will need an extra two million techies by 2020. They are not producing these people, and they will certainly not be coming from outer space. The recommendation is that the UK offer a special visa for those with this expertise, allowing the tech startup sector to continue to flourish in the UK.
“Brexit means Brexit” is a common saying among the supporters of this referendum. But for startups and investors, the meaning if still unclear. Again, the government of the UK, conservative or liberal, has always been highly pragmatic, and it is unlikely that it will let 16% of its current economy falter.
One of those frameworks was Laravel, developed by Taylor Otwell, and because of its simple yet elegant syntax, building apps with PHP suddenly became fun and popular. In terms of general benefits of Laravel, it is worth mentioning the following:
Free and Open Source
Modular Packaging System – Dedicated Dependency Manager (Composer)
But the popularity of Laravel for developers really lies in the fact that all of the common tasks (repeated across projects) can be solved easily, so that they can move onto the creative tasks of writing custom functions faster. Of course, this means that delivery time is shorter and more cost-effective for the client.
Features and Benefits That Developers Will Love
Authentication and Authorization Systems
On the list of web owners’ important concerns is ensuring that all users are verified and that no unauthorized users gain access to resources (secured/paid). Laravel makes authentication easy and fast, because everything is already configured. And what’s more, Laravel offers a simple method of organizing authorization logic and controlling user access to resources.
Mail Service Integration
Laravel has a simple and very clean API over SwiftMailer library. It also offers drivers for Amazon SES, Mailgun, Mandrill, SMTP, and others, allowing sending mail through local or cloud based services. There is also support for sending notifications via multiple delivery channels, such as SMS and Slack.
Laravel handles security within its framework, by using hashed and salted passwords – passwords will never save as plain text in the database. It includes a Bcrypt algorithm for encryption and, as well, protects against SQL injection via prepared SQL statements.
Kostyantyn Bondar, CEO of DarinX, a web and mobile app development agency, specializing in innovative software products notes that:
“When developing any application, security is paramount. The biggest threats are SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and cross-site request forgery. Laravel is certainly secure. The codebase is exceptionally guarded – code that has been vetted by a number of people. We can say firsthand that having these security features up front is critical. Trying to fix vulnerabilities after the deployment can cost as much as 30X more.”
Developers interact with the Laravel framework by using a command line that will handle the project environment. Laravel has a command line tool – Artisan. This is what allows developers to perform most of those tedious and repetitive tasks, rather than having to perform them all manually.
Artisan can be used to create skeleton code along with the database architecture, build migrations. Developers can create their own commands, and perform tests through Artisan.
Error and Exception Handling
User satisfaction can be impacted by how an app deals with errors. If, for example, a user enters information in a form and then clicks a submit button, only for that function not to work, there is frustration. Most often, the error is the user’s fault, having failed to fill in a form field correctly. When this happens, an error message must be provided to the user explaining what needs to be corrected. Often, developers have to code these functions manually. Not with Laravel, however. Exception and error handling is already configured. Further, it is integrated with Monolog library – there is thus support of solid log handlers.
Speed is critical for user experience. One of the ways to enhance speed is through integration with the backend caching. Laravel supports several cache backends, including Redis and Memcached. This support is built in, so no manual integration has to be coded.
Unit testing must occur throughout any app development, and Laravel makes this easy and it is often far better than manual testing. Support for testing (PHPUnit) is included and an .xml file is already set up. There are simple methods for developers to mimic user behavior and test everything from requests to filling out forms and more.
Within an app, users will click links and assume they will be taken (routed) to what they want – perhaps a product description, or a subscription form. Effective URL routing is critical for any app, Laravel routes are all defined in the automatically loaded app/Http/routes.php file, and developers can easily define app routes.
Business Logic Code and Presentation Code Already Separated
The great thing about this is that layout designers can change a web page appearance without having to go to the developer. Because it is an MVC framework, the separation already exists.
Message Queue System
High traffic means more requests. If an app has not been configured for these events there is the risk that the web server will shut down. Data will be lost. To prevent this, many developers us a message queue system as a part of load balancing. Thus, the system will automatically delay, for example, a scheduled email for a later time, if too many requests are coming in. Laravel provides for this through a unified API that crosses multiple queue backends.
Configuration and Management of Task Schedules
Many tasks may need to be scheduled – a mass email, a cleanup of database tables, etc. Traditionally, developers have had to generate a Cron entry for each scheduled task. No longer. With Laravel’s command scheduler, only a single Cron entry is required.
These are easily installed through Composer.
These are only 12 features of Laravel that simplify a developer’s life. Once a developer really gets into using it, s/he will discover many more benefits that will make building an app easy and fast. Clients are happier in this environment.
The big plusses of Laravel include its large collaborative community, it documentation website, and tutorials. Probably most attractive, though, is the fact that basic tasks common to all projects are already configured, leaving developers to focus on custom functions of individual clients.
Third graders are learning to code; high school students are creating game apps; and business owners are using DIY tools to create their own websites, with easy-to-install plugins for any functions they want. All of these activities used to be part of the skill set of a developer – that person who sits at a computer and writes that indecipherable language called code.
The “mystery” of coding is gradually falling away. With online courses and plenty of books, people can teach themselves to code. Still, when the demands are complex and the projects have lots of breadth and depth, we look for skilled developers/development teams to create what we want. And what we want is more than mere coding expertise.
We want that amazing developer who isn’t just skilled in languages – those can be verified. We want that developer who has a host of other skills and talents to bring to the table.
Staying on Top of the Technology
This almost need not be mentioned. And yet, developers, like any other career professionals, can become complacent and “rest on the laurels” of their current knowledge. Further, if they operate within an enterprise culture that restricts, they can be discouraged from pursuing innovations. This is a bad recipe. Consider just a few disruptive sectors, for example – fintech, healthcare, and media/entertainment. Everything from big data gathering and analysis, to AI, to IoT require an ever-expanding skillset from developers. Amazing developers are “hungry.” They are passionate about learning everything new in their industry. They need to be “reckless” to a point – to be willing to try new stuff, even if it is an epic fail.
Giving Advice and Counsel
Businesses, especially entrepreneurial startups, certainly have general ideas about what they want their websites to look like and “do.” The “look” is largely a design issue. But when it comes to functions and elements, it is the developer who makes it “do,” with both backend and frontend programming. It is the developer who determines the technology stack to best meet the specifications of the business owner. In this capacity, the developer must play a role of “advisor,” providing options and making suggestions on the technology that will best achieve the desired results.
With this in mind, amazing developers will also need some solid understanding of what constitutes state-of-the-art user experiences and interfaces along with marketing best practices. This understanding is clearly outside the realm of coding, and some self-education is in order. A great “crash course” might be something like Vincent Piana’s, “The Website Formula to Success,” offered through FuzzBooster.com.
Creative Problem-Solving in a “Team” Environment
“No man is an island” is an appropriate adage for the web developer. Whether working as a full-time IT employee for a mid to large-sized or as a consultant, the developer cannot isolate himself in a room with his coding tasks. Interaction with designers, marketers, sales, managers, and executives will be required. More and more developers are pulled into critical meetings when businesses are scaling and/or innovating.
Non-techies do not understand the development environment. They will not understand such terminology as “backend stack,” Angular.js, etc. What they do want to understand is how the coding will result in the app, program, website doing what they want it to do.
In these cases, communication can be a challenge. The developer cannot just present a listing of the languages s/he will use to accomplish the task. People want to understand.
It becomes the developer’s task, then, to use visuals to educate. Drawing a picture of the backend stack, for example, will help non-techies understand the relationship between server, database, and API’s. Using visuals to demonstrate how a user will place an inquiry and get a response and how that response will provide a good experience will go a long way in endearing the developer to the client. Doctors draw pictures for their patients – so should developers.
Staying Motivated and Enthusiastic
Amazing developers are problem-solvers. And they stay positive and enthusiastic, even after 6-8 hours of moving links around or finding the “culprit” as they de-bug some function. Amazing developers see these tasks not as drudgery but as exciting challenges that they want to attack and over which they want to be victorious. And they love the battle as much as the victory. A good developer goes through the process; an amazing developer loves every bit of it.
Designers and developers, especially those that are outside contractors, occasionally get a reputation for being somewhat untrustworthy – they may not be as responsive as they should be; they may not keep their clients in the loop as often as they should; and they may miss a meeting or a deadline. These things do not inspire much confidence on the part of a client. While a developer may indeed be working very hard and very consistently on a client’s project, meeting deadlines and attending meetings, even if virtual, are critical components for a client to say, in the end, “My developer is amazing” and to recommend that developer to others.
The developer’s role is certainly changing. From an early “vision” of a nerd sitting in an isolated room creating code to the much more dynamic individual that a developer must be today, there are clearly skills and talents that go far beyond coding. The amazing developer will recognize this and take the steps to develop those hard and soft skills that are now required.
Web/app design is becoming a crowded field. With a growing number of professional designers for hire, it is an easy task to hire someone to craft a delightful user experience – it really is an art form. Designing the user interface, however, is an entirely different matter, and the market is far less “flooded” with UI developers.
UI designers have to take the creative plan of a UX design and translate that into actual screens, pages, and all of the visual elements that users will need to have the great experience they want from an app and to ensure that the experience is delightful no matter what device may be “in play.”
There are some “best practices” in crafting great UI – here are seven of them.
Simplicity and Consistency
One of the essential elements of an app that provides a great user experience is simplicity. Users should not have to try to figure out how to navigate around; they should not face any confusion, but, instead, be directed quite simply.
This means as few buttons and other navigational options as possible. If your app is more complex, than present a link for “advanced options.” This allows users to get the basics down, and they may not want to go any further. For others, the advanced options will provide the interfaces they want to move on to.
Consistency removes “chaos” from the app. Color, font, buttons, and icons should all be familiar and comfortable for the user. Changing these things out mid-stream only confuses the user who has to then force his brain to adjust – not cool.
Understanding the Audience
A good UI developer spends time with the client and the UX designer, in order to understand the target demographic of an app. Think, for example, of the differences between the interface needs of a 15-year old, Gen Z demographic and a senior citizen, Baby Boomer one. They can be huge, just in terms of navigational tools in an app, not to mention typography style and size. The more a UI developer knows about the target audience, the better the “fit” of the interface for that audience. as well, the visuals,
Use Visual Hierarchy
Some elements and features of an app are clearly more important than others. They need to stand out. While consistency is important, those things that should command attention from a user should stand out in some way – through color, size, typography, etc. Another example of the effective use of visual hierarchy would be to create lots of white space around a call-to-action button, so that it immediately draws the eyes of a user.
Making Use of Typography
Too many fonts can be confusing and create some chaos in a user’s brain. In fact, OWDT recommends that app developers should ideally use two fonts. Here is the thing about fonts, however:
The nature of the app should dictate selection of fonts. Is it serious, playful, or inspirational?
The nature of the user demographic should also play into this selection. A younger user will tolerate more contemporary and playful fonts while an older, more serious demographic will not find them comfortable.
You can use size and color variation of the same font to create visual hierarchy too. Different background colors will also provide variation to the same font.
Speaking of Color
The UX designer may have a lot to say about color, so be certain that this is discussed at length. There is an entire body of research on the psychological “triggers” of colors, so study it and be certain that the colors are conveying the right “message” to users. There is a reason why the Lego website and apps use only bright primary colors; there is a reason why Rolex uses blacks, silvers and grays. Color consistency also gives users a nice comfort level.
That said, there is certainly something else to be said for the use of contrasting colors in order for certain elements to stand out and draw users’ attention. Everything in moderation, however. If you use the concept of contrasting colors too much, users can become irritated.
Build in Feedback Messages
This is one of the best arguments for testing interfaces all along the way. You have no way of knowing how users may mess up as they navigate and use your features. They will find ways to mess up, however – count on it. To determine where they may get off course, you will need to test, test, test with actual users from the audience demographic. Once you have identified those points at which errors will occur, you can design feedback messages that will let them know what went wrong and how they can fix it.
Sometimes, especially when users are filling in forms or making payments, there will be a necessary pause while information is being processed. Don’t leave your user “in the dark.” Give them a signal that things are processing so they do not duplicate. And give them another signal when information has been processed.
Forms Must Be Simple
Consider the purpose of each form you design. There should be a minimal number of fields for the user to complete – remember, many of them will be on mobile devices. If the conversion is simply to subscribe to a newsletter, for example, you do not need more than name and email address. For payment purposes, of course, you will need credit card/banking information. If the billing and shipping address are the same, however, a simple check-the-box interface will do. The concept is simple – Minimize.
Interface design is a complex task and it can be somewhat intimidating. If you have experience with UX design, however, you are a natural to move into this more “intimidating” function. Just remember the basics – ease of use, simplicity of navigation, understanding the audience, consistency, compatible typography and color, and visual hierarchy. Juggling all of these elements is not easy, but the person who can do it will be in high demand.
Becoming an entrepreneur is the in-thing now – it sounds cool and trendy. That’s fairly good news for the world; hopefully the world is becoming a better place.
In a world where change is the only constant, the start-up scene is becoming more competitive. It is very important to understand the key traits necessary to become an entrepreneur that can deliver high-impact and meaningful results.
Ego helps you make sense of your thoughts. It gives you confidence and helps you to differentiate yourself from others. That’s great. However, in certain activities, it is recommended that you don’t let your ego control how you think. This is so you can avoid feeling that you know everything, that you’re always right, and dismissing other people’s achievements because you think you can do way better than them. It’s highly likely these feelings can lead to you becoming more arrogant. If that happens, the ego will become your major blind spot.
We’ll borrow an example from Kodak, highlighted in an article from the New York Times dated 2 May 2008. Steven J. Sasson, an electrical engineer who invented the first digital camera at Eastman Kodak in the 1970s, shared his management’s response to him:
“My prototype was big as a toaster, but the technical people loved it,” Mr. Sasson said. “But it was filmless photography, so management’s reaction was, ‘That’s cute — but don’t tell anyone about it.’”
Check your ego before you listen and respond to anyone. This is key in discovering better ideas and tactics to improve your business. It is not a weakness if you admit you do not know about something.
2. Passion to Innovate
We are living in an ever-changing world. Innovation is a must at every level of organisation to respond to incoming business and technology trends. You need to be crazy about it because the cost of not innovating may be a big disaster for your business.
Nokia is a great example.
During the press conference to announce Nokia being acquired by Microsoft, the Nokia CEO ended his speech saying this: “We didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost.” Upon saying that, all his management team, himself included, teared up sadly.
Nokia was a respectable company. They didn’t do anything wrong in their business; however, the world changed too fast. Their opponents were too powerful.
Amazon is a great example of an innovative company that grew tremendously due to innovation.
3. Patience and Perseverance to Celebrate Failures
Google X – the secret Google lab is rewarding staff for failure.
“If you tell them that they've failed you because they didn't find a mountain, no matter how diligently they looked for or how cleverly they looked for it, those scouts will quit your company,” said Astro Teller, Google X.
Tata Group started an annual competition with a prize for the best failed idea (failure is a “gold mine” for a great company) to encourage innovation in their business.
People love recognition and to be valued for their contributions, no matter how small or big. Always find a way to appreciate your supporters (parents, friends, peers, employees) as a great source of feedback and to improve your business. Make them feel special for being part of your circle. Celebrate successes of all sizes. Do not wait for big milestones to celebrate; celebrate the small successes, too.
Celebrate failures as an effective teacher to improve your business. This will help you to improve patience and perseverance to achieve your goals.
extension, it's ready for the next 30 years in the hands of the social media generation.
Robert Gaskins invented and worked alone on ‘Presenter’, printing the two page concept on his dot matrix printer, before later being joined by Denis Austin and then Tom Rudkin.
PowerPoint became the first venture capital investment ever made by Apple’s Strategic Investment Group.
PowerPoint 1.0 for Mac was black-and-white-only, and was first available on 20th April 1987 (on foppy disk of course). Two days after release, all 8000 copies in stock had been sold.
Microsoft bought PowerPoint for $14M (equivalent to $30M in 2017) with the original founding team becoming Microsoft's ‘Graphic Business Unit’.
PowerPoint 2.0, or “Color PowerPoint” was released, to capitalise on hardware improvements. It boasted a massive 256 colours, and also included graphing tools and bullet points.
1992 PowerPoint 3.0 added animations, sound and video effects, transitions and drawing tools, turning businesspeople and teachers around the world into budding Martin Scorseses.
The very first public use of a laptop to project video from PowerPoint took place on 25 February 1992, at the Hotel Regina, in the Place des Pyramides, Paris.
PowerPoint 8.0 (for Windows 97) introduced auto-clipart and ‘Clippy’, the much maligned Office assistant, proving not all evolutions worked out!
2000 Startup adoption of PowerPoint was cemented in the dot.com bubble between when investors wanted 10-slide decks rather than 80-page business plans.
PowerPoint 12.0 included SmartArt to effectively kill off clipart.
Prezi was launched to challenge PowerPoint with an alternative nonlinear approach. Many users love the new concept, but others report audiences suffering from motion sickness from
too much animation.
PowerPoint skipped over 13.0 for superstitious reasons.
Technology startup Glisser launched to live-share PowerPoint slides to audience phones, and incorporated live audience response and integrated social media feeds.
Powerpoint announces Artificial Intelligence elements. 'Designer' helps users automate the creation of slides and presentations. AI marks a significant evolution in PowerPoint and is heralded as a new age of app features.
Social media marketing has gained a lot of popularity in recent times. It is considered to be one of the most effective marketing strategies that can help you reach thousands of customers, and generate huge exposure in a short period of time with least effort. In this post, I will discuss the importance of social media marketing, and how it can benefit small businesses.
Cost-effectiveness: Social media marketing is the cheapest marketing strategy. It’s easy to create free business account on these sites. All you have to do is register with these sites, create professional looking business profile and start interacting with other users. You can even create new posts promoting your product, service or brand. It has the ability to reach thousands or millions of targeted audience within a short span of time. Although, it’s free to open business account on these sites, you will have to spend money in terms of content creation, graphics and development.
Educate and empower online community: Social media marketing allows you to share your expertise with your target audience. By creating educational or informational posts and sharing them online with other users on social media, you can gain quick recognition, trust and followers. In other words, social media can be a powerful tool in educating and empowering your online community.
Direct interaction with customers: Social media marketing allows you to directly communicate and interact with your customers, and respond to their queries. Moreover, by conducting surveys and polls, you get a better insight regarding what your customers think, and how you can make your product or service better, in order to provide better customer experience. Daniel Wallock said it best:
“While it's important to post relevant content to your audience it's just as important to engage with them. Listen to them. Respond to questions. Add value. Effective social media marketing is about building a real relationship with your audience, not just posting great content.” – Daniel Wallock, Marketing Consultant
Generate Leads and Sales: When it comes to generating leads and sales for your small business, social media marketing can play a key role. By creating new marketing campaigns on social media platforms, you can engage with more potential customers online and spread awareness about your offerings. However, you will have to remain consistent in your efforts to ensure quick response to client queries and provide valuable customer support.
Branding and Exposure: Social media is a great platform to build brand awareness. However, in order to boost your visibility and create brand awareness, you will have to create valuable posts that resonate with your audience. If your posts are enticing enough, the users will share it with other individuals, resulting into more likes and shares. Moreover, it even allows you to connect with other business professionals from the same industry.
In a nutshell, social media marketing is worth your effort, as there’s hardly anything for you to lose. Any small business that has an active social media presence is considered to be more professional and competent.
Anyone who owns a car understands maintenance and repair. If we get oil changes regularly, check our fluids and tire pressure, replace brakes when necessary, etc., we can expect the car to last longer than that of someone who does not take care of these things.
Organizations have equipment too; they also have facilities. These are assets much like cars, but in most cases, far more expensive to maintain, repair, and replace. It has only made sense, as technology has provided the wherewithal, to install maintenance and repair software packages that will keep preventive maintenance and repair needs on track.
Customized Software Solutions
Typically, organizations that depend upon their physical assets have contracted with software development firms (often offshore) to craft custom computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS), based upon their specific needs. This can be a lengthy process, because the organization must supply a huge amount of information about equipment, maintenance schedules and work order processes, so that those can be imbedded into the software package. That package is then installed into the organization’s system. There is also the need for continual updating as old equipment is retired and new assets brought on board. And those original developers will still be needed for those updates.
The benefits are obvious – no more paper, employees can receive maintenance alerts and work orders, complete the tasks and “sign off,” and everyone in the organization can access the software and see that tasks have been completed.
Enter Cloud Solutions
This was the next obvious step. Companies such as Limble CMMS have taken CMMS into the cloud with flexibly-designed systems that allow organizations to customize their own maintenance and repair schedules. They do this through a configurable architecture, so that the company can plug in all of the necessary information rather than gather it and send it off to a third-party developer or implementation expert. And updates are a matter of local input.
With these cloud solutions, the benefits increase. Now, anyone can receive alerts or track maintenance and the flow of work orders from any device and from anywhere.
A supervisor who is out of town, for example, can access a work order and see that it is progressing as it should.
A repair technician who is third in the progression of a repair can access a work order and know that parties one and two have completed their parts of the task and are ready for him to proceed.
In essence, greater control is placed into the hands of the organization rather than reliance upon third-party contractors.
What Cloud-Based CMMS Can Do for an Organization
The more an organization is dependent upon its physical assets (think of hospitals, for example), the greater the importance of proactive maintenance and repair and the greater the number of decisions that will have to be made. Cloud CMMS solutions allow all of the following:
What assets must be scheduled for regular, routine maintenance, based upon manufacturer specs?
Who will perform the required maintenance?
How will maintenance tasks be tracked, and what has been the cost?
When a repair is needed, how is it scheduled? And what individual(s) will perform that repair? How will that repair be tracked?
Who needs access to maintenance and repair alerts and requests and how will they gain that access?
How are problems reported to the maintenance team so that a quick resolution can occur?
And perhaps more important? Cloud-based solutions allow updates and changes to be accomplished easily and quickly by those with the authority and access to do so – all in-house. As organizations embrace cloud-based CMMS solutions as more efficient, less costly, and much easier to manage and control, they may very well find that cloud-based solutions for many other functions will also provide them those same benefits. Technology marches on.
The joy of online shopping is only marred by the expenses we often have to in cure in order to fetch the best product. Computer software is no different. Although there are a lot of freeware available in the market, sometimes you cannot absolutely compromise on quality and you have to shell in a few bucks to get the top notch software to keep up with the latest technological trends. However, you don’t need to jump from one website to another to find out which one offers the best deals on software.
DealNews.com is one of the most popular deal comparison sites out there. Software seekers can simply go to its “Computer” category and choose the best deals every day based on brands and category. DealNEws.com also enlists the best deals every day so you can be sure you haven’t missed out on the best market price of your desired software on that day.
Now RetailMeNot.com is not a website that itself sells software. Rather, it is a coupon based website. It enlists deals based on categories and the best brands and their best deals. You can use this website if you have a specific brand of software you absolutely don’t want to miss and still want to save money on it.
OEM software is the newest rage in the software market. OEM or Original Equipment Manufacturer refers to software that is bundled along with the hardware package sold by the manufacturers of the same software company as a retail package. OEMs have become popular because of their affordability, equipped license, cost-cutting feature and quick online activation. Buyoemsoftware-store.com is one of the most renowned names in the OEM software markets. They offer a plethora of OEM software at the cheapest rates in the market.
Ebay is one of the best websites out there for software. One of the most popular e-auction websites out there, eBay not only offers you comprehensive deals on software, but it also allows you to choose from the largest online stock of available resources.
SoftwareMedia is one of the largest partners of Microsoft SMB Partners in the USA. These guys have been in the business since 1997 and have been selling reliable software. They also offer complementary software compliance reviews to assist you in business compliance. They have a rewards program to offer you additional discounts in case you continue buying from them.
Finally, after you are done visiting and comparing deals, your last stop should be Couponbuffer where you can find the latest deals exclusively on software products. Each category and brand has at least 5 coupons to choose from at a time!
People usually don’t prefer buying software and prefer using a free ware or a cracked version. However, if you are in a situation where you need a paid software, it is better to browse the above websites for the best deals and the best prices to save some money in your software-shopping spree.
In 2016, something happened that has likely never happened before. One world power hacked into the databases of another world power in such a way that they were able to influence the outcome of the presidential election. No, that’s not conspiracy theories. It really happened.
This is what happens when everything is so interconnected. Yes, there is convenience in the continuing flow of data. Anyone who is old enough to remember when data was transmitted from place to place in batches can attest to this fact. Now data flows freely, not just from computer to computer, but device to advice, even appliance to appliance. This causes significant risk everywhere, including in supply chain management. Fortunately, there are some steps that can be taken to secure the supply chain
First Understand Where The Risks Are
According to a survey conducted by SCM World, the majority of executives are (37% of those expressing concerns in the named area) are most concerned with supply chain breeches related to incidents occurring in information technology, and data security.
Significant levels of concern are also expressed in the areas of shipping and logistics, and intellectual property. There are many other fears outlined in the graphic, and most of them are likely influenced by the increase in hacking incidents as well as perceived future risk.
Vet Out Your Suppliers
Unfortunately, in supply chain management, you can do everything right, but you are still at risk. This is because everything connects together like… well, a chain. Criminals, other governments, militaries, unscrupulous businesses, etc. are on the lookout for weaknesses in that chain. When bringing acquiring new materials and services, know who you are working for.
Ask them the right questions. Know who they are doing business with, and whether or not they are aligned with countries that are not friendly or concerned with the interests of your company or your country.
If you want to ensure that software vendors won’t let you down either, it’s worth setting up an escrow deposit for the source code and/or license. In that case, even if the vendor goes out of business at some point, you would still be able to run your business smoothly.
Involve Supply Chain Management Teams in Information Security
Many organizations are very concerned with data security risks that come as the result of users abusing their access or doing foolish things that put them at risk for phishing, social engineering, or simply doing something that allows unauthorized access to data by a nefarious entity.
In spite of the fact that purchasing, selling, and transferring goods and services involves huge amounts of data, the risk is often not even considered. For example, an organization might block users in the customer service department from downloading a social media app because of security risk (nothing wrong with this per se: employees are definitely the cause of many security risks), but won’t do its due diligence in mitigating supply chain risk.
Not only should supply chain teams be considered when making data security policy, they should be subject to rigorous auditing as well.
Be Prepared to Spend Money
This may be something that you cannot handle in house. If your supply chain consists of vendors and suppliers from multiple countries, for example that may be more than your in house IT security staff is up for. An information security consultant specializing in supply chain risk management will be able to analyze your current situation and provide the advice and solutions that can help you mitigate your security risks.
Unfortunately, there is no way to completely eliminate the risks that simply exist in supply chain management. As long as you are involved in the process of buying or selling, you cannot avoid being exposed to some level of risk. Fortunately, by educating yourself, being vigilant, and investing in the right kind of help, you can help to ensure the safety of your data.