business

5 Essential Features of a Successful Intranet

5 Essential Features of a Successful Intranet 150 150 Kerry Butters

A company’s choice to integrate an intranet into their office infrastructure can be of great and, importantly, controlled benefit to the workforce’s communication and shared knowledge resources. Data sharing within the confines of a firewall, yet still with greater web access outside of this safeguard, is at its foremost reassuring to the organization that any sensitive information cannot be accessed outside of the company, yet still the workforce is not shackled by limited web access.

But, be that as it may, and assuming that the firewall that your company has in place is effective in keeping out any uninvited traffic, threatening or otherwise, the real success of an intranet is measured by what happens within the safe confines of the firewall. Indeed, what makes a modern day intranet great is its social dynamic, and the capabilities it has to engage the company’s internal users.

Let’s look in more detail at the features that create a successful intranet.

 

Accurate, Up-to-date and Well-populated User Profiles

One of the most useful pieces of information that a well-functioning intranet can provide for users is for them to be able to see who else is using it. If your company has a medium to large workforce ­– anything above 30 employees, really – it is unlikely that an individual employee will be accurately informed as to whom all of the other employees are, exactly what the chain of command is, and who precisely to turn to if they are encountering a specific problem.

Profile completeness across the board eliminates this problem in an instant. Profiles should all be headed with a picture of the employee, their job description, and a work in progress profile so everyone can be continuously informed as to what is happening in the company. Other information can include which project teams or work groups the individual is involved with, plus identification of skills, knowledge and expertise, so the right person can always be accessed for the right information at the right time.

 

Clear Communication Pathways

Your successful intranet will also provide clear channels of communication going in all directions around the hierarchy of your enterprise. Senior leaders and management heads must be able to communicate all organisational messages to all of their employees individually and en masse if necessary.

What’s more, those same employees must also have access to communicate their feedback, queries and complaints right up to the top of the ladder. Peer-to-peer pathways are also essential and should be encouraged to maximise communication, which inevitably leads to better organisation, an increased team ethos and better productivity. 

 

Collaboration Platforms and Portals

Going far beyond the reach of emails, your intranet can put in place platforms on which a team can begin to convene ideas through knowledge sharing and instant messaging, as well as building up a catalogue of internal and external links to essential knowledge and information surrounding the project, upload videos and start to build an action plan. Once the project is underway the same platform or team-site can be used for members to keep each informed as to progress, any help required or problems encountered.

 

Policies, Payslips and Pensions

Yes, holidays, travel expenses, pension plans, payslips, benefits etc. are all part of running a business and looking after the rights and privileges of your employees. Using your intranet to provide a one-stop platform for your employees to carry out all requests and transactions streamlines these often time-consuming back-end details of your business, saving time and administration costs for the company.

 

Superlative Content

Making sure that your intranet is populated with engaging, well-written content is just as important as it is when marketing yourself out there on the World Wide Web. Content authors are responsible for crafting the culture, personality, ethos and tone of voice for your company, which your other employees must adopt and reinforce as they make their communications with your customer base at large.

The intranet content that your authors create will provide the gateways for all of your employees to attain essential company knowledge. What is more is that this information is forever stored on your intranet, so there can never be a case of an employee leaving the company and taking with him all the essential knowledge of the job in his head. Indeed, the database of company knowledge that your intranet will continuously grow will be one of the most beneficial tools of the system.

The intranet is most certainly not a thing of the past, though in order for it to be a successful platform to increase your company’s productivity efficiency then you must embrace it in every corner and fold of your business. But, once it is all in place, it will prove to be an invaluable communication network for all company knowledge and all employees going into the future. 

How Big Data is Changing the Business World

How Big Data is Changing the Business World 150 150 Kerry Butters

 It’s very easy to assume that any new term that emerges in the tech world will just be a buzzword, with no real significance to anything of use. For the past couple of years the term ‘Big Data’ has often been labelled as such, but with plenty of corporate enterprises now on board with big data analytics, it’s time for those two words to shed any connotations of inflated bombast and for the rest of us to start taking note. Big data is changing the world of business, and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Indeed, big data is getting bigger. That is of course its nature, but the point being that the value of the information buried amongst it all is becoming of increasingly reachable use in the business world. It is changing the shape of internet marketing on a global scale, and below is a list of the key areas in which big data is already making an impact on our lives today (even if we’re not yet fully aware of it).

 

Expanding Customer Intelligence

The internet can be a faceless entity, a factor that is perhaps most noticeable in the world of ecommerce. Customer relations can all but disappear in a company with thousands upon thousands (even millions) of online shoppers, and indeed, picking out exactly who the most valuable customers are in such a vast congregation has been an almost impossible task.

But big data is changing all that. How? Well, big data doesn’t just look at one source of data in analysing customer trends and preferences, as has been the case in the past. Instead it utilises all the information that can possibly be gathered from a company’s social media data, browser logs, sensor data and text analytics to get a fuller picture of their customers – the purpose of which being, primarily, to produce predictive models.

The sheer wealth of data being collated and analysed from innumerable sources is now being exploited so that companies can now predict – often with staggering accuracy – all sorts of information about their existing and potential customers, and they can then focus their marketing efforts in an extremely individualised manner.

For example, as Bernard Marr reports, Wall-Mart can predict what products will sell, car insurance companies can determine how well their clients actually drive, and Telecom companies can predict customer churn. Indeed, by looking at customers’ spending habits, retailers like Target have been able to accurately predict when one of their customers is expecting a baby – it even managed to do it before the baby’s father did (Mail Online).

 

Optimizing Business Processes

One of the most innovative and useful ways that big data is now being used in business is in the optimization of stock, based on the predictions that are generated from web search trends, social media and even weather forecasts. With a more accurate detail of stock investment, companies are cutting down on waste and the need to flog off excess merchandise at reduced rates (and therefore reduced profits).

What is more is that the supply chain can be alerted in advance as to what will be needed, where and when. Indeed, even the delivery route can be optimised using big data. Radio frequency identification and geographic positioning are used to track delivery vehicles and their goods, and then, by using live traffic data, the routes are optimised for the most speedy and safe delivery.

 

Financial Trading

Big data is finding a lot of use in High Frequency Trading (HFT). The development of algorithmic trading is being guided by the growing ability to analyse massive amounts of market data generated both internally and externally. The speed at which decisions can be made about the associated risks of any trading decision is minimised to a microsecond, as algorithms instantaneously analyse big data marketing trends and movements and return clean and clear information that is used to predict what is going to happen next. Indeed, it is now the majority of equity trading that is taking place via data algorithms. These are increasingly taking into account all big data and signals from news websites and social networks so that buy and sell decisions can be made in the blink of an eye, with risk significantly reduced.

The big data revolution is upon us and in full swing. It is changing the way companies target their customers and market their products. Almost any pop-up ad that appears on your desktop whilst browsing at home or at work would have been tailored for you using big data analytics. But within the actual day-to-day functionalities of a business is where big data is also being used to optimise every step of the process, from production to packaging to purchase. This, along with the high stakes attainable at the sharp end of financial trading is what is going to produce the biggest changes in the business world. As processes, supply chains and production lines are increasingly optimised, business capitals will grow, making those high end deals more lucrative than ever.

Top Technology Blogs that your Business Should Be Following

Top Technology Blogs that your Business Should Be Following 150 150 Kerry Butters

Originally a sort of online personal journal,  web logs or blogs have since evolved into a powerful method of communication. Breaking news, insider perspectives, whatever; there’s an infinite number, covering any subject.

Why Should YOU Care?

As a business, you’ll need to keep abreast of developments on the technology front. Not only to stay in contention with rivals, but as a valuable tool in your own endeavours. Miss a couple of days’ news, and you’ll discover that what you’re working on is obsolete, and the company you just bid for was bought by someone else.

25 of The Best

In alphabetical order, here’s your wish list of the best technology blogs for your business:

1. Computerworld Blogs

Computerworld’s blog compiles entries from several different bloggers, adding another dimension to one of the oldest and most respected IT magazines.

2. Computing.co.uk blog

Computing is one of the UK’s leading business technology publications. Their blog is updated each working day, with the biggest stories in technology. Posts are provided by industry experts and the publication’s own reporters.

3.  Crave

The gadget blog from CNET UK. Crave provides news on all the latest gadgets in the market, with product reviews and “How To” guides.

4. David Rowan’s blog – wired.co.uk

David Rowan is the editor of Wired magazine. His blog discusses topical issues, in the tech industry.

5. Econsultancy.com UK blog

Econsultancy is an online community for digital marketing and e-commerce professionals. Their blog is updated throughout the working day, with news and commentary.

6. Fasthosts blog

Focusing on information and advice for industry professionals, Fasthosts blog covers everything from cloud computing to digital marketing. The site contains plenty of links to news stories displayed on other blogs.

7. The Financial Times Tech Hub

This focuses on technological developments and news – and how technology is affecting the financial world more generally.

8. GigaOM

Om Malik’s GigaOM has its emphasis on the new. Analysis on Web 2.0, technologies and start-ups, social media, gaming, etc. The site is one of the largest blogs worldwide.

9. Gizmodo

Gizmodo offers a multitude of posts, presented with a youthful vibe, by some of the funnier bloggers on the Internet.

10. Graham Cluley

Cluley’s blog is dedicated to the latest computer security news, with advice and opinion.

11. The ‘guardian.co.uk’ technology blog

The Guardian’s team of technology correspondents provide a blog filled with in-depth analysis on the latest technological developments.

12. How-To Geek

Here you can get tips on operational matters, like finding out how to remove hyperlinks from Microsoft Word Docs, review products, and play free games.

13. ITBusinessEdge.com

This wide-ranging site is the place to go if you want to stay on top of tech issues and trends affecting your company, and the tech industry as a whole.

14. IT PRO – Today 

Enterprise and business IT news, reviews, features and How Tos – from a UK perspective.

15. Mashable

Mashable takes elements from the worlds of Twitter, Facebook, entertainment, news, and just about anything else relevant to technology, and mixes (okay; mashes) them up into a blog puree.

16. Mighty Gadget

The Mighty Gadget blog gives the latest technology news and reviews relating specifically to the UK. Posts are separated into sections, making navigation easy.

17. Official Google Enterprise Blog

This is the place to find out everything about, well, Google. The search engine, the apps they’ve created, and information about the company.

18. Real Point Blog

A place to share information and tips, as well as industry news and opinion from sectors including technology and IT, digital marketing, and business in general.

19. TechCrunch

TechCrunch isn’t just the second-biggest tech blog, it’s the No. 2 blog overall, behind The Huffington Post. The site is big, their team of contributors is huge, and they have their own network of sites, including MobileCrunch, TalkCrunch and CrunchGear.

20. TechRadar

Not as big as TechCrunch, but TechRadar nonetheless covers a wide range of topics, in the arena.

21. Tech World

A well-established resource for the UK IT industry. It has the latest news, product reviews, enterprise software downloads and “How To” articles. Especially useful, if you’re looking for lots of information on a specific topic.

22. The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Of all the blogs dedicated to Apple, this one does the best job of balancing good writing with nice graphics and pictures.

23. V3 – the frontline blog

A useful resource for technology professionals, giving in-depth news and analysis across a range of technology-related topics. 

24. Zath

Zath reviews the latest technology products, software applications, websites and hi-tech gadgets as well as providing “How To” guides.

25. ZDNet

Founded in 1991, ZDNet was purchased in 2000 by CNET (CBS Interactive), and features product reviews and software downloads, with news and analysis on tech businesses and issues.

There are plenty of others. Most allow you to sign up for email notifications of trending / new topics. So, you’ve every reason to stay informed.

Happy reading.

10 Reasons Why Your Business Should Consider Chromebooks

10 Reasons Why Your Business Should Consider Chromebooks 150 150 Kerry Butters

Modern businesses have a huge amount of choice when it comes to technology products these days. The power of the cloud means that less storage space on the device is needed now, which further increases choice. It’s possible now to work on wafer thin devices that need very little in terms of power, or of course you can choose to have a laptop or a device that’s powered almost entirely by the cloud.

What IS a Chromebook?

Chromebooks are lightweight laptop computers which run on Chrome OS, an operating system made by Google. Designed primarily to be used online, they’re best suited to professionals who already use services like Gmail and Google Docs.

The Chrome OS

Chrome OS is similar to Windows or Mac OS X, but sits on a Linux platform. It’s essentially a souped-up form of the Google Chrome Web browser.Chrome OS does not run regular desktop software, relying instead on Web-based applications. This means Google Docs, Google Drive, Gmail, Google Calendar, and the like. If you’re working without an internet connection, the OS enables Google Drive’s offline mode, by default.

Why Have One?

Here’s your 10 reasons, as promised:

1. They’re Inexpensive

With the gradual demise of Windows XP, the market is ripe for a low-cost alternative. Prices vary, but essentially the Chromebook is a $200 computer. Even the highest-end Chromebooks will run you as little as $250, if you know where to shop for them.

2. They’re Lightweight, but…

Typically, Chromebooks weigh a little over a kilogram. Yet they boot up in less than 10 seconds. The Chrome OS itself is lightweight, and runs smoothly – even on mediocre hardware.

3. They’re Long-Serving

Windows notebooks might give you 4 hours of active time on a single charge cycle – if you’re really lucky. A Chromebook can give twice that amount. Newer Chromebooks can last an entire workday – up to 9.5 hours – on one battery charge.

4. They’re Secure

The Chrome OS has built-in virus and malware protection. Files are stored in the cloud, and the Chromebook file system is locked down with eCryptfs encryption.

5. Free Storage and Software

With the purchase of most Chromebooks, you’ll get an additional 100 GB of storage in Google Drive, free for two years. You of course get access to Google Docs, Google’s free suite of office software. Google Docs can open Microsoft Office files and export to Microsoft file formats.

Along with Google Docs, Google Drive, Gmail and Google Calendar, you can also download non-Google apps from the Chrome Web Store, most of which are free. Examples include Evernote, Dropbox, Netflix, and eBay. Increasingly, many now work in offline mode, too.

6. Full-Size Keyboards

Not as trivial as it sounds. Chromebooks have physical keyboards (minus a few standards, like the Delete key) on a par with laptops – unlike the tablets to which they’re often compared. Better ergonomics translates to increased productivity in the workplace.

7. Television Output

Most Chromebooks can be connected to an HDTV via an HDMI output port. This enables you to play a YouTube video (or similar) on your Chromebook, while watching it on your big-screen TV. A plus, for presentation purposes.

8. Cloud Dividends

With Chromebooks, IT staff can radically reduce the amount of time spent “keeping the lights on”, for devices. This translates to higher uptime, lower service costs, and greater control of the deployment of Web-based applications and content.

9. Ease of Use

If you know your way around a Web browser (Chrome, in particular), you’ll know how to use a Chromebook. This reduces the need for training, and the speed with which Chromebooks can be deployed. 

10. Supervised Accounts (a.k.a. Parental / Management Controls)

Chromebook users can create supervised accounts to track or limit online activity for certain users. You can also synchronise all your apps and passwords with Chrome browsers on other computers. So, if you use Chrome at work, you can sync all data to your Chromebook at home, automatically.

There’s support for multiple users, and an option for 3G/4G connectivity for mobile working.

Bonus: They’re Low-Maintenance

No lengthy waiting periods for OS patches, upgrades, antivirus or anti-malware installs. Chromebooks update themselves in the background, automatically and silently.

There are Some Drawbacks…

Most notably, the fact you can’t use “traditional” desktop software. And the need to be perpetually online (preferably with Wi-Fi), and logged into your Google account, to keep your files updated. Google Docs’ offline mode re-syncs your data once you return to the web, though.

There’s no Skype, but you can use Google Hangout, as a videoconferencing equivalent. Also, no Photoshop, and no professional-level video editing suite.

Chromebooks typically only have between 16 and 32GB of on-board storage. There’s no direct printing facility, either. You have to go via Google’s Cloud Print service.

Ubuntu: Best of Both Worlds

Not the title to a video game. Rather, a strategy whereby you can enjoy Office-style applications on your Chromebook desktop. Offline.

Chrome OS is a derivative of Linux, so you can run both environments simultaneously, switching between the two via a hotkey. And as an extreme security measure, you can wipe the whole system with the press of a button to boot.

You can do this by installing Ubuntu, via a command line using Crouton. Both products are free, and open-source.

What’s Out There?

Chromebooks are currently available from HP, Lenovo, Acer, and Samsung, in a range of prices and specs. Armed with your new knowledge of what Chromebooks can do, you can make your choice by clicking here

How the Cloud Brings You Better Workers

How the Cloud Brings You Better Workers 150 150 Kerry Butters

The cloud has helped to bring businesses around the world closer together. Cloud storage has made documents that would otherwise have to be downloaded immediately available, and cloud computing has brought familiar software to offices that would otherwise have to go without. But perhaps the greatest impact of the cloud on businesses in the future is how it is changing the shape of our workforces.

Everyone’s Local

Whereas in the past businesses were restricted in their hiring by both their location, and their budget for relocating the talent they wanted, cloud services like storage and remote desktops mean that it’s now possible for employees to work from practically anywhere as long as it’s got a data connection and they have a device capable of accessing it.

Remote working like this used to be a burden for businesses, as it often served as a disruption to regular operations. However, now that it’s possible to unify all documents and software in the cloud, there’s no disruption. Any changes made to documents are visible immediately to everyone at the business, regardless of their location. And any new files that are added are immediately synced with the folders of everyone else.

Flexible Working

In 2013, UK telecoms company O2 released a white paper which stated that over 75% of all full-time workers considered flexible working hours to be important to them when considering a job. However, only 18% felt that they had achieved their desired level of flexibility.

This demand, matched with limited supply, is a huge opportunity for any business looking to attract the most talented workers. By offering more flexible hours in some form, be it the ability to work from home, or the ability to begin work early/start later, businesses can make themselves hugely more attractive to prospective employees.

Reduced Office Costs

By making it possible for your workers to either work from home completely/hotdesk with one another/bring their own devices to work with them, businesses have seen a substantial drop in their yearly spending. Leading analyst Gartner estimates that it costs between £1500 and £2000 a year to supply an employee with a dedicated desktop. By removing the desktop, or reducing the number of desktops required by employees, businesses can make significant savings. These savings can then be re-invested into the business to either develop more cloud solutions, or even directly into worker salaries to make employment at your business more attractive.

Hosted Desktop

Removing desktop computers from your office doesn’t mean removing desktop behaviour. Through cloud technology it’s possible for your business to provide a digital, cloud-based desktop that employees can access from anywhere, on whatever device they have to hand. So if there’s only a couch available, your employee can still access their desktop through their chosen device and review or refer to important files.

Furthermore, if an employee has gone home but forgotten to transfer you a file, they can log into their desktop either during their commute, or as soon as they get home, and it’ll be on your desk in moments. Little improvements like this not only improve your office productivity and flow, they also make your employees feel more comfortable leaving their desk. They know that if something goes wrong, or they want to check a document, they can do it from the comfort of their own home.

Better Workers

Comfort is an increasingly important word in recruitment circles. As is work/life balance. More and more employees are looking for a business that isn’t going to dominate their life too much, or interfere with important life moments like birthdays or anniversaries. By offering flexibility through cloud services, it’s possible to offer a level of comfort and life balance that previously would have been impossible for anyone in a high-powered role.

A lot has been made this year about attracting ‘knowledge workers’, people who know and love their jobs and bring that passion with them every day. These workers often have their pick of the best jobs available, so if you want your business to flourish as a result of these talented workers, you need to make it as attractive as possible. That means having cloud solutions, and flexible work options.

Less Disruption

Many employees, in my experience, have voiced dissatisfaction with being made to come into work when the conditions are less than ideal. Obviously businesses don’t always make people come in to work, indeed often they’re allowed to stay home. It was reported in the Guardian that: “Over the snowstorms of two years ago, UK businesses lost more than £7 billion due to a lack of remote working opportunities.”

In the past, businesses might try to make up for the hours lost with overtime, but this is never ideal as it costs the company more, and reduces the sense that employees have flexibility at work. However, by implementing remote working, businesses are able to function completely normally even in the middle of unavoidable disruptions (as long as the internet isn’t disrupted). As a result, employees are happier, and disruption to your business is minimised.

Cheaper Up-Fronts, Happier Workers

The benefits of implementing cloud-technology into your business cannot be overemphasised. It has the potential to revolutionise the way we do business all over the world, and bring beneficial businesses closer to one another regardless of their location. Add to that the increase in flexibility (and therefore happiness) for your employees, and there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t be considering how the cloud can take your business to the next level.

2014 Facts about the Cloud

2014 Facts about the Cloud 150 150 Kerry Butters

Cloud computing is something that’s here to stay. The legacy of the cloud has been debated for some time but now businesses are embracing this new technology at a faster rate. The cloud allows a business to free up its employees with bring your own device policies and remove them from tethered PC options.

There are plenty of reasons to jump on board the cloud bandwagon but there are likely still some areas of cloud computing (and its benefits) that remain unclear to some businesses. According to a recent study, one of the most important reasons to shift to cloud computing is to connect employees through a multitude of computing devices – ones that they already use.

The cloud is simply about removing traditional restrictions on data and making it readily accessible on multiple devices with no decrease in functionality. This better-connected world is becoming more and more commonplace. So, let’s consider some of the other benefits of cloud computing and some that you may not have thought of before.

Here are some cloud predictions for 2014.

Cloud computing will change businesses structure

With cloud computing becoming more prevalent the effects will become more obvious. The best way to put it is simply – every product and service will become more and more wrapped up in IT. All of these applications will end up in the cloud.

Cloud computing can greatly increase the ability of businesses to reach employees and customers making it easier for everyone to connect. These days smart phones can be utilized to monitor a patient’s health for example removing the need to seek medical help. The information (or data) can then be relayed back to a medical professional and the patient’s information can be updated remotely.

It’s likely that the legacy of more IT-centric businesses is that global IT spending will increase significantly. IT will move from the back of the office to the forefront of value-orientated delivery. This growth in the IT sector will out-strip on-premises capacity and eventually it will lead to a much more cloud orientated business community.

The end user will become more important

Cloud computing puts an emphasis on the end user and their experience of the product or services. Applications now have a marked reliance on the end user and how they interact with the product in question. End-users are increasingly the ones driving innovations and new products, as businesses will value their opinions more and more as time progresses.

In the cloud sector the technological advances are targeted at the end user and those companies are discovering just how important cloud based services are for reaching those users. More and more companies will realise the weight that cloud computing options has for back-end processing. This will free up space, time, and infrastructure to focus more on innovative new products instead of just maintaining company infrastructures.

Private cloud will become increasingly important

There is a worry when it comes to cloud computing that relates to privacy and security issues. Many companies have been slow to implement cloud options because of these concerns but the private cloud looks set to alleviate them.

The private cloud is an internal network that a business can use (think intranet) and it can provide a closed cloud environment. Within this environment a business can share data and other sensitive materials without the fears normally associated with wide spread cloud adoption.

There is also the growing desire for a combination of both internal and external cloud services – the hybrid cloud. This provides benefits in a number of ways and lets an organisation experiment with cloud-based alternatives in a much more bespoke and considered manner.

There are however some problems when it comes to a business implementing local, internal based cloud options. Often, private cloud based initiatives don’t succeed due to bad implementation, bad budgetary planning, and the lengthy process of training staff and increasing their skillset accordingly.

These delays do hamper the implementation of cloud-based services but really should be considered as simply growing pains. In 2014 businesses will be forced to fully consider private cloud based options for internally networking and those companies would do well to understand exactly what’s required of them for a successful adoption of these technologies.

Any cloud-based option has to be usable by not just the IT departments but employees in general. If it doesn’t no one will use it and your cloud foray will fall flat on its face. The cloud is an environment that shouldn’t be limited but instead its potential should be fully realised. Any cloud service should be agile, easy to use, and most importantly responsive to a business and its employee’s needs.

The future of the cloud

As 2014 progresses, private cloud computing will become increasingly short sighted. Hybrid cloud too will be only one of many options available to businesses looking to increase its connectivity with both employees and the end user. The idea of a single homogenous cloud environment will be increasingly challenged.

This in turn means that businesses will have to adopt multiple cloud types and incorporate them into its infrastructures. Businesses will face one increasingly pertinent need – to create or obtain the ability to manage this sprawling online environment and manage it consistently.

2014 will see cloud computing become the dominant force in the IT industry. The current successes in cloud computing are only the beginning and businesses will need to learn how to take advantage of this new and emerging technology sector.

Image: Karin Dalziel






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