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If you’ve taken the leap towards starting your own business or going freelance, you probably envision days of flexible scheduling, self-determination, and direct dealing with clients. What doesn’t figure into this idyllic picture is the endless flow of back end accounting and communications—the turning gears of your business operations.
Luckily there are a seemingly infinite number of startups out there trying to smooth the way for this burgeoning generation of “solopreneurs” by making sure that these tasks take up as little of your precious time as possible. It’s no secret that we live in an increasingly customizable and automated world where our phones track our daily movements, supermarket checkout lanes are becoming obsolete, and email servers generate auto-responses.
Rather than shortcuts, think of automation as a set of tools that help you leverage the work of your business along the pathway towards growth. Automation allows you to streamline many aspects of your interaction with clients, leaving you more energy to devote to the things that matter— the creative work that only you can customize.
1. Accounting and Invoicing
Keeping up with your accounts and sending invoices to clients is an inescapable part of running a business. Sloppy accounting can hurt your relationships with clients and late or incorrect invoices will only lead to late or incorrect payments.
Rather than slogging through manual invoicing, you can use free online invoicing platforms such as Invoice Ninja which provides the ability to transform approved quotes into invoices and automate reminders for ongoing clients. Rather than maintaining project management, account tracking and payment processing across separate platforms, Invoice Ninja offers the option of integrating all of these functions into one.
Unlike other online invoicing platforms, Invoice Ninja also includes the option of partial payments or deposits and live PDF creation for ease of transferring data. Flexibility can be a boon to those running their own businesses, and having one online suite of apps creates ease of access for you and your clients alike.
2. Marketing Across Platforms
Social media presence has become a must for any business, and while information moves across platforms at a seemingly breakneck pace, there’s no need to strain yourself when it comes to coordinating content and maintaining your presence. Tools such as HootSuite and Buffer offer the capability of scheduling content alongside integrated analytics. Let your social media work for you by setting aside a weekly or monthly time to generate content and scheduling it to keep your accounts live and relevant.
3. Email Communications
While platforms such as Slack have changed the shape of workplace communications, email is not going away anytime soon. Email communications are essential to interfacing with current and potential clients, but they can also take up a great deal of time and attention.
The problem with email communications is that you can’t schedule when you receive them. Except...you can. Tools such as Boomerang for Google Suite allow you to snooze emails that aren’t high priority, schedule responses for appropriately timed delivery, and turn on read receipts for outgoing messages.
The free version of Boomerang only provides 10 message credits, so its usefulness is limited. More affordable options such as Gmelius exist, but the bottom line is that scheduling responses is a savvy move that ties in to effective marketing. As your business grows, platforms such as Constant Contact and MailChimp provide a comprehensive email marketing and automated messaging that can ramp up your communication capacity.
4. Backing Up Your Information
Automating backups is not only easy, it’s an essential safety measure. Keeping a backup of your digital data should be a natural housekeeping task, equivalent to locking the doors and shutting the windows of your office overnight.
If you have a Mac, it’s easy to set up backups to the cloud or an external drive in time machine. Simply enter “Time Machine Preferences” and check the “Backup Automatically” box. Windows has a similar function called (funnily enough) “Backup and Restore.”
Both functions allow you to schedule automatic backups and choose which folders and files should be included. So if you have certain files that are updated frequently, you can prioritize those. Carbonite and other services offer backups in the cloud for an added level of security that goes beyond an external disc drive.
5. Client Data Collection
A Customer Relationship Management Platform (CRM) such as Salesforce, Zoho, and Pipedrive could be the next step in scaling your business. CRMs allow you to track customer relationships on one integrated platform and generate reports based on that data.
Effective client relationship tracking is crucial to growing your business, and centralizing data collection ensures that wires don’t get crossed and clients receive tailored attention. By storing data in a digestible format, CRM software also allows you to come up with effective strategies based on real life input from your customers. Most CRM platforms offer free trials, and this automation could be a game-changer in managing your client relationships.
While there is certainly no shortage of administrative tasks associated with running a business, the good news is that there are countless startups devoted to automating these processes to allow you to focus on the relevant data you need to grow your business. What’s more, most of these platforms offer their services for free so that you can continue to grow your business at a sustainable rate without increasing your overhead.
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.
Cloud Computing Made Simple
This half-day briefing consists of an overview and introduction to cloud computing, essentially cloud computing 101, the drivers and the various components of cloud, and concludes with “how to get started” - that is, how clients can capture the silver lining in their organisations.
Just installed Apache Hadoop on IBM's Development and Test Cloud (SUSE instance)!
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According to Gartner, there will be at least 20.8 billion connected devices by 2020; other research predicts as many as 100 billion. And the largest possessors of IoT devices will be consumers – people who want to control everything from their refrigerators and home security systems to their utility costs, cars, and beyond. In fact, according to data published by SYK Cleaning:
61% of older generations want smart technology for its cost savings’
52% of Gen X’ers have priorities for home security
39%of millennials just think smart devices are trendy and cool. And 72% of them would pay up to $3000 more for a home that has smart technology.
Generation Z, just entering the consumer marketplace will consider IoT a given part of their lifestyles.
But all of this boom in manufacturing and distribution of IoT technology does not come without its challenges. And manufacturers have much work to do in some key areas in order to truly ensure that IoT will and can become fully mainstream. Here are the six of them.
The IoT ecosystem at its current state comes with a lack of unified standards in the areas of data exchange and connectivity. This is particularly frustrating for consumers and serves to slow down wholesale and widespread adoption.
What that means for manufacturers is that they must take off their competitive “gloves” and collaborate on standards for the good of everyone. In doing so, they will all reap the benefits of greater consumer adoption and market demand.
This is an ongoing concern for both businesses and individual consumers. When an entire ecosystem can be threatened through hacking into just one individual device, the concern is real.
Just recently, we learned that a couple of our power grids were compromised, and researchers at the University of Oklahoma demonstrated how easy it was by hacking into a wind farm through a single unit.
Security testing of all devices must include identifying any potential vulnerabilities, processes for validating user access, and data encryption, etc. fortunately, there are some pilot programs investigating the use of blockchain technology, and this may indeed hold some effective solutions.
3. User Experience
For IoT devices to go thoroughly mainstream, users have to be comfortable with them, and they have to see them as more valuable than traditional devices. This means ease of understanding and use.
Manufacturers must conduct a lot of testing of devices before putting them on the market, including the following:
Compatibility of device hardware, operating systems, software versions, and communication protocols
Reliability of all components in a variety of environments and conditions.
User friendliness of application as well as usability in a variety of network connections, so that everything operates seamlessly regardless of platform.
This will be the key to success of any manufacturer of IoT devices. Devices and connectivity will certainly become less expensive, making them more attractive, but applications that allow devices to connect and share information with other devices, aka platforms, are numerous and growing That manufacturer who will be able to bundle multiple platforms into a single product will meet a challenge that will give him a huge competitive edge.
These will proliferate in the coming years, and there will definitely be “battles” among them. Ultimately, however, a few will emerge victorious and will dominate entire sectors – smart homes, smart cities, healthcare, etc. This is just another reason why manufacturers need to find ways to collaborate to achieve standardization.
6. The Need for Real-Time Data Streams and Scaling.
While a refrigerator will not necessarily need to provide real-time data to its owner (other than alerts if there is a malfunction), the need for real-time data will become critical in some IoT device use and management, for instance - smart cities. For manufacturers of devices that require real-time data streams, there will be a need for continual updating as newer technologies and apps are developed.
Blockchain, again, has been named among the possible solutions to more efficient, near-real time data exchanges. Yet, this technology currently lacks proper scaling mechanism, making it a questionable choice for larger ecosystems i.e. those created for smart cities.
IBM, however, may be close to solving this issue. The new pending patent application outlines a solution that would ditch the proof-of-work algorithm utilized by most public blockchains in favor of a dynamically adjusted alternative mechanisms that would limit the mining difficulty and associated power consumption by IoT devices to a determined threshold. This adjustment becomes possible after limiting the number of nonces – one-time-use numbers required to validate a transaction on the blockchain. This way, each IoT device connected to the blockchain will have equal chance to solve proof-of-work problem.
For any business that is gearing up to achieve success in the IoT marketplace, there will need to be a shift in thought processes that may actually involve a change in its corporate structure. Producing smart devices is simply not the same as producing a physical object. Mechanical engineers and product developers design physical objects. But smart device manufacturing will involve far more than these traditional roles. Interdisciplinary structures that provide for the necessary collaboration between physical and technological leader and developers may change the entire corporate landscape.
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.”
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
was application advisor取得したので日数は無いけどセキュスぺの勉強を今日から10月18日まで
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Mainstream sectors have come to see the value of blockchain and the potential it holds for businesses and governments alike, especially financial services, insurance, logistics, healthcare, travel, law, education and more.
What every sector is beginning to notice is that the option to have a distributed, immutable ledger to record and store everything from contracts to records and data holds great promise of innovation.
But blockchain technology is not without some major challenges. Sectors and even individual businesses are looking at blockchain for solutions and are working with developers for customized blockchain functionality. Many developers/firms are also working on their own to garner a market edge as they see the future of blockchain technology going mainstream.
Still other businesses, in an attempt to move quickly, are “piggybacking” on existing public blockchains. This may or may not hold the ultimate solution for them, because customized, private and permission-based blockchains seem to hold the real promise.
That said, there are a few technologies currently in the works that should resolve current challenges and propel blockchain technology as a far more mainstream business solution.
Solving The Interoperability Challenge
Imagine this scenario. You own Ether and you want to use it to trade for Bitcoin. You cannot send that Ether directly to Bitcoin to make the trade, because the two blockchains cannot talk to one another. You will have to sell your Ether first, exchanging it for a fiat currency and then purchase Bitcoin as an entirely new transaction. The same is true for exchanging different tokens built atop of the Ethereum blockchain. The good news is that the Ethereum platform now includes a standardized protocol for creating new tokens: ERC-2 that solves the interoperability problem of Ethereum-based tokens.
Another solution for crypto trading is to use a third-party “transactor.” There are many of those cropping up globally and the announcement of eToro launching in the US offers just one prime example of this. One of the key features of eToro’s investment platform is its easy usability and while it does have a social media element available to those who want to use it, it can also act like a clearing house, enabling investors to make coin trades with ease without the inefficiency of personal interaction.
But blockchain is moving far beyond these public ledgers for crypto, and here is where the real issues come in. As it moves into use by businesses and governments, private blockchains are being developed, and they cannot “talk” to each other.
Consider this: a citizen of Canada has all of his identification and travel documents stored in the Canadian government blockchain. He can travel about Canada with no paper documents. If he should travel to another country that has its own blockchain, however, he must carry physical documents. Those two blockchains cannot communicate and transfer his documents back and forth.
The same is true for businesses and sectors that are developing private blockchains.
The solution, of course, is for there to be a method of relaying messages, data, and records among separate blockchains, and this is just what many developers are working on right now.
The proposed solutions fall into two categories:
Developing side-chains that connect two or more blockchains together, operated by a third-party with verification of all transactions before they are passed from one chain to another.
Development of what is known as “atomic” swaps, which users themselves control, without the intervention of a third party. Both users must verify a transaction for it to be relayed.
Blockchain To Satisfy Individual Consumer Demands
Currently, consumers who make online purchases must provide their personal and financial information to a third-party processor, and the recent hacking of those payment systems has resulted in a plethora of expense and inconvenience.
While the blockchain technology may not be ready to handle a large volume of consumer transactions just yet, it can serve another important purpose - protect customers’ personal data. As the legislature is changing towards increased data protections, there may be an increased demand for blockchain-based identity management systems that will empower the consumer to selectively give access to their personal and payment data, and preference. Consumers will “own” their own information rather than giving it up to someone else and leaving it open to cybercrime.
Currently, Microsoft is working on a pilot blockchain-based identity management system that will let users secure and control access to their personal and financial information, through an encrypted database.
Alternatives To Current Consensus Algorithms
When blockchain was new, and still today, the verification process occurs by what is called PoW, or proof of work. Miners attempt to solve cryptographic problems, and the one who first hits the solution confirms the transaction and packs it into a block. The reward for this is financial, of course, and so there is plenty of incentive for a miner to get that solution.
But there are clear drawbacks to the PoW consensus mechanism:
It is costly, and miners must have plenty of funds to engage in the activity. With so many thousands of miners working on the same problem, the energy costs are huge; and they also must buy the latest hardware to function competitively.
Centralization of power can occur as well. Miners can set up collaborative agreements that allow them to control a large chunk of the processing power, and the possibility for nefarious action is increased.
For these reasons, some developers have turned to Proof of State (PoS). This model of consensus algorithm and recording is based upon a miner purchasing a “stake” by buying tokens used in the blockchain system. One individual miner is then selected for each new block commitment, usually occurring every few minutes. This eliminates the need for costly equipment and thousands of miners draining energy resources by working on the same problem and the need for such sophisticated hardware is also eliminated. The one drawback here is that miners who hold the most tokens are usually given preferential treatment – the rationale being that the more a stakeholder has, the more he will be incentivized to do it right. He will not attack his own investment.
There are drawbacks to the PoS model too, one of which is that miners will operate on more than one chain. A Delegated Proof of State (DPoS) has been an early modification, but more consensus algorithms are certain to come, as newer technologies continue to be developed. Here are just three other alternatives that may hold promise.
One new consensus algorithm has been developed, now commonly known as Proof of Activity (PoA). It combines PoW and PoS, as sort of a hybrid. It has advantages of reducing the 51% attack risk and it looks to be more secure than either of the other two when used separately. The downside is that resource usage is not significantly reduced.
Proof of Authority: This is actually a centralized system in which transactions are verified by approved “administrators” of a system. Other miners will receive the “truth” from these authorities. This may be a valuable consensus algorithm for private blockchains.
Block Lattice: This is a structure in which each user gets their own chain and only they can write to it. But everyone has a copy of all of the chains. Each transaction is broking into the sender’s and the receiver’s blocks. If the potential for attacks can be eliminated, this might prove an extremely usable algorithm for business-to-consumer and business-to-business transactions.
Clearly, 2018 will bring new innovations and technologies with respect to blockchain. These three plus those to come will all help to push blockchain into the mainstream, both for sectors and individual organizations. It is a classic case of “supply meeting demand.”
Moving goods from one place to another – it’s all about logistics and transportation. When an enterprise is in the business of moving goods for clients, it’s focus has to be on coordinating the most effective, efficient, and economical way to move them, on keeping clients informed and happy, on marketing to new clients, and, of course, always keeping an eye on the ROI of any new initiative they undertake to improve all of these things.
Traditionally, these have been manual tasks
keying in data from emails, faxes, and spreadsheets,
tracking shipments and deliveries by those same methods,
keeping clients informed, again via those same methods
coordinating with sales and support departments
managing volume and capacities
managing customer service and interactions by phone, silos of emails, and faxes.
invoicing, maintaining accounts payable, managing bids
While all of these tasks do not relate specifically to CRM, everything an enterprise does is at least indirectly related, for it contributes to operational effectiveness, and operational effectiveness keeps clients happy.
The Rise of CRM Software Development for Logistics Enterprises
It is the rare mid- to large-sized enterprise that has not implemented CRM software, either of its own development or through one of many vendors who have designed and developed solutions that can be customized for unique purposes.
In recent years, CRM vendors have moved into development for logistics enterprises, and there are now multiple options.
Selecting an option that meets your specific needs is a matter for research and discussion, both in-house and with potential vendors.
In general, however, there are some key critical features that any option should include.
You will want a solution that is cloud-based. Here is why.
Users need to be able to login from any browser, computer, or mobile device.
The right vendor will be able to provide the infrastructure, hardware, software, and support, so that there is no need to re-configure any in-house systems, or use them for that matter, other than to access the cloud.
The In-House IT department should be involved in the vendor selection process.
Even though the CRM solution will be cloud-based, techies are good at evaluating systems, speed, hardware, and support. They will be able to compare the relative value that each vendor offers in these categories. At the same time, these IT factors cannot be given more weight than the factors that will actually “touch” customers.
Focus On The Functionality That Matters to Your Enterprise
Logistics and transportation enterprises are as varied as online clothing retailers. From a company such as Parcel Delivery, that coordinates small parcel shipping for individuals and enterprises, to a major trucking and/or ocean liner corporation, CRM solutions will require a huge variance in functions.
But, large or small, there are three key functions, in varying degrees, that all CRM solutions should offer.
Support for workflow and business processes in marketing/sales, lead generation, management of bids, contract management, customer service and in-house team collaboration. Security is also a major component, along with what employees can access what on their screens.
Functions of Reporting and Dashboard. You must determine what metrics, analytics, and business intelligence you need and how these will be reported. There is a huge variance among vendors in how this is accomplished, and your people must be comfortable with the chosen option. It will be a top priority to identify the required metrics and make sure they can be easily tracked and reported. Any vendor that is “worth his salt” will allow a business to “test drive” these functions.
Team collaboration is critical. Every customer may be in the systems of multiple departments – sales, contracts, invoicing/billing, customer service, etc. A CRM solution must allow all departments access to one “picture” of the customer. Sales now know when and what the last interaction was with customer service; customer service now has access to contracts and invoicing.
Assess the ROI clearly and carefully. A CRM software solution is a big investment. And you will want to assess the ROI once that big expense has been incurred. Obviously, the most important factor will be increased revenue. The other is in the area of productivity. Both of these can be measured if a baseline is established first and then incremental measurements are taken every 6-9 months.
Expect difficulties in the adoption of the new technology. It’s incredibly hard to implement a new CRM solution. Obviously, this requires training and “buy-in.” And the buy-in only comes if the training is done well. Check out the vendor-supported training, for it is probably “tried and tested.” At the very least, set a schedule of training in modules rather than several consecutive days with people sitting at computers – it will not be retained. The vendor should be able to provide recommendations for the transition to occur in chunks rather than all at once.
A Repeat. Most enterprise employees travel; some area out in the field. When customer contacts are made, speed in response is critical. Any CRM solution must have a full app for both iOS and Android, not just through a browser.
Choosing a CRM solution and then transitioning to it involves a lot of thought, analysis of needs, evaluation of vendor solutions, and then bringing everyone on board. Given the expense and the time required, these six criteria/considerations will be important.
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 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.
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Organizations today are looking to cloud computing to deliver cost savings and faster service delivery. However, most organizations are still struggling to have the basic IT infrastructure that is necessary to take the leap to a robust cloud. This session will explain how service management can help provide the essentials to maintain service levels in the cloud and best practices based on IBM's work with customers. This information will provide the foundation for building and managing a cloud to meet your business objectives and transform IT.