Get More from Your Technology: Train Your Team

One of the keys to success for any new software rollout is training for your team. It is also one of the most commonly missed steps. Why invest in new technology and fail to show your team how to use it? Software vendors may claim their applications are intuitive and easy to use, but your staff will still need training to understand how these new tools impact their day-to-day work. Without that, you’ll never realize the full benefits of your new technology.

Of course, training is not limited to technology. In fact, technology now enables you to provide world-class training resources to your team on nearly any business topic you can imagine. Here are some ideas to get your team on the road to success.

Software Application Training

Most software applications offer online training. When you select new software programs, training should be a critical part of your assessment, as quality training programs can make a huge difference in the success of your project.

Options vary by vendor, but most offer an online training portal. Contents may include videos, demonstrations, online tests, and downloadable user guides. The best portals allow you to select a curriculum, assign it to individual team members, and track progress as they complete their training program.

Even if you already have software in place that you’ve been using for some time, it’s worth reviewing whether your team could use additional training. Maybe they could use a refresher, maybe there are new features, or maybe there is more they could do with what you already have. Don’t assume that everyone is already making the most of your software just because they’ve been using it a long time.

Microsoft

Microsoft offers a variety of free and paid online training. Nearly everyone in business uses Microsoft Office, and undoubtedly there are tips and tricks that could improve your team’s productivity. Visit https://support.office.com for their Office support portal, which includes how-tos, troubleshooting tips, and training videos and tutorials.

Lynda.com

For more in-depth training on many commonly-used software program in business, including even more resources for Microsoft Office, check out http://lynda.com. Their affordable subscriptions give you on-demand access to thousands of training programs. The more people you train, the lower the cost per person. Their training includes popular programs from Microsoft, Adobe, ACT!, Google, QuickBooks, and many more. There is something for everyone here.

Learning Management Systems

Sometimes you need training about non-technology topics, but technology can still play a key role. Check out a category of software known as “Learning Management Systems” (LMS for short). These products track your team, their training assignments, and their progress towards completion. Some LMSs offer canned training on general business topics, which will get you started. With others, you can create your own online training using their presentation tools. It’s just a matter of determining what features will serve your company best. The real advantage of programs like these is that to use them, you have to think through your team’s training needs and create a plan for them. Training becomes a routine part of their work instead of a “nice to have” that never gets done.

Training Libraries

Some LMS providers, like SkillSoft and SumTotal, stand out above the rest for their huge library of business-related training topics. They have training classes on technology topics as well as a full gamut of business skills. Need to train your financial people? Select the accounting curriculum. Want to help your managers become better leaders? Assign them to communications and management training courses. Are you focused on customer service? Pick a few classes on delivering an amazing customer experience. Subscriptions to these tools are not cheap, but if you make good use of them and require your staff to take appropriate coursework, the investment can have a huge payoff.

Online Education

Visit http://www.edx.org, for an amazing array of world-class college courses. Founded by Harvard and MIT, this website publishes online courses from top universities around the world. All classes are free, and there are hundreds of choices. Sign up key members of your team for top-notch business school classes, or find coursework in your industry (architecture, engineering, etc.) to keep your people up-to-date on the latest ideas.

TED Talks

Another incredible online resource are the well-known TED Talks, at http://www.ted.com. TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, began over 30 years ago as a way to spread great ideas. Talks are usually 10-20 minutes long and cover a wide range of topics. You are sure to find something relevant to your business. These can be great motivational topics to share with your team. Pick a relevant topic, watch it together, and spend time after debriefing how it applies to your business. This can spur creative thinking and generate fresh new ideas.

How to Plan a Successful Training Rollout

One of the surest ways to fail at a training rollout is to point people at a training website and tell them to go get trained. It will never hit the top of their priority list, and that means it will never get done.

In order to get results, create a well-defined training plan. If you are using a Learning Management System, you can create the plan inside the LMS and then easily track your team’s progress. However, for small teams you can do something as simple as an Excel workbook. The elements of a training plan include course assignments by person, duration of each course, and schedule/deadline for completion. Some courses will apply to your entire team; you’ll assign other by role and skill level. Be sure to allocate time in their day to take the training classes, instead of piling it on top of an already full schedule. Be realistic about the time needed and how it fits in with the rest of their work. It takes time and dedication to make this happen, but you will be amazed at how your people flourish when you demonstrate commitment to helping them grow.

 

 

Join Our Team!

logo_CMYK_transparentJoin our team! We handle computer and network support, serving as an outsourced IT department for our small to midsized business clients in the St. Louis area. Are you a solutions oriented, innovative thinker? A team player who has a “whatever it takes” attitude?
We’re a friendly, fast-growing company with a collaborative, team-focused culture, and we take great pride in contributing to our clients’ success. Are you ready to join our team?

Apply HERE
Dedicated Field Engineer- Tier 2 Support

This position will be a dedicated resource for one of our clients, working from our office and still very much a part of our team here at CIO. Most of the work will be done by phone, however there will be occasional travel required, averaging one week per quarter. You must be equally comfortable in person and on the phone with executive level clients, and extremely professional and quick on your feet. This position is not a management role, but there will be a leadership element as the communications lead for this client. You must exhibit an intermediate degree of technical knowledge that can be applied to this customer’s technical issues and problems. Moreover, as the primary support for the client desktops, printers and infrastructure, you will be responsible for resolving issues with the support of our team as necessary. By providing exceptional service delivery, you will secure the company’s positive reputation with this client. We will rely on you to perform service and preventive maintenance activities on products, and assist in installations and deployments.

Responsibilities:

  • Work independently to answer service desk calls, urgently analyze technical issue(s), troubleshoot over the phone and via remote log-in, and escalate problems to Level 3 support when appropriate.
  • Provide onsite and remote desktop support to our clients who have critical response time requirements for their business technology systems.
  • Troubleshoot, diagnose and resolve all hardware configuration, application software, security, firmware and connectivity issues at the desktop level.
  • Troubleshoot, diagnose and resolve all wireless configuration and connectivity issues.
  • Troubleshoot, diagnose and resolve issues with smartphones and tablets, such as iPhone, or Android.
  • Propose and successfully implement process improvements.
  • Provide problem resolution and Trouble Ticket responsiveness at the local Help Desk.
  • Multi-task to support a variety of network and end-user environments with executives, business owners, managers and end users.
  • Demonstrate superior communication skills to respond to diverse clients with urgent needs while recognizing they are looking for solutions, not technical explanations.

Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Information Technology, Business Technology, related field of study or equivalent work experience (minimum 4 years experience working in similar role).
  • Experience working in a managed services organization preferred but not required.
  • Microsoft MCP, Comptia Network+ and/or Comptia A+ certifications are a plus!
  • Microsoft certification is highly desired as we are a Microsoft partner.
  • Certifications or extended work histories may be substituted for the educational requirement in some situations.
  • Proficiency in supporting Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.
  • High Proficiency in Word, Excel, and Outlook.
  • Knowledgeable of desktop software such as Microsoft Office Suite.
  • Basic server support skills and understanding of Windows 2003, 2008 and 2012.
  • Networks, internet connection issues, as well as be able to configure network devices such as routers.
  • Basic desktop VPN connectivity troubleshooting and configuration (Cisco, Sonicwall, OpenVPN).
  • Security software such as Anti-virus, Anti-SPAM, Anti-Spyware, and other security related technologies.
  • Ability to adapt to an ever changing environment.
  • Ability to solve practical problems and deal with a variety of situations; ability to interpret a variety of instructions.
  • Deadline and solutions oriented with the ability to handle multiple competing priorities; wide variety of responsibilities means you’ll never be bored!
  • Team player who can roll up their sleeves and get involved in everything from big projects to mundane, simple tasks – A true go-getter!
  • Not easily frazzled and strong time-management skills during busy and slower periods throughout the day.
  • Valid driver’s license and proof of insurance.

This position does require Engineers to be part of an on-call rotation to handle basic triage and network emergencies for a one week duration usually once every month and a half for each Engineer. This position will require travel averaging one week per quarter.

Benefits:
We value our employees’ time and efforts. Our commitment to your success is enhanced by our competitive compensation and an extensive benefits package including paid time off, medical, dental and vision benefits and future growth opportunities within the company. Plus, we work to maintain the best possible environment for our employees, where people can learn and grow with the company. We strive to provide a collaborative, creative environment where each person feels encouraged to contribute to our processes, decisions, planning and culture.

Tech Troubles Just Waiting to Happen…

Is technology working smoothly in your business? For most, there are at least a few challenges and frustrations. However, even those lucky few who think they are in good shape may have hidden issues waiting to be uncovered. Here are some common “gotchas” that can cause a huge amount of grief if they aren’t caught in advance. Check into these potential trouble spots now to prevent disastrous issues later.

Security Updates are Stalled

With all the hacker attacks lately, you’ve surely heard how important it is to apply Microsoft patches on a regular basis. You can set these to apply automatically, and you may have done exactly that. If you think that makes you safe, think again. It is common for security updates to stall or fail from time to time, which means it’s very likely at least a few of your PCs are behind on patching and thus vulnerable to hacks. Your servers require reboots to complete certain patches, and those have to be done manually to avoid unexpected downtime. Those pending reboots can hold up additional patches that need to be applied. Again, you may not be as up-to-date as you think. Better safe than sorry – go check, now.

Default Passwords in Use

You have a password policy in place requiring complex passwords that change every few months, right? Believe it or not, the most common passwords in use are “password” and “123456.” How hard is that for a hacker to guess? For network equipment, hackers try the default administrator passwords that are factory-programmed. If your IT guy never bothered to change them, or you don’t have an IT guy and just plugged it in hoping it would work, you are easy prey.

Thinking You Will Know If You are Hacked

Most people are under the mistaken impression that they will know if they are hacked. Viruses like Cryptolocker make the news because they are so visible and bold. The virus encrypts all your data and requires a paid ransom to release it. These hackers use the “dark web” (a hidden part of the Internet) and BitCoin (a digital currency that is difficult to trace) so that their identities are not revealed. If you get hit with this hack, you’ll know it. However, more often a good hacker will leave no trace. They will get in, steal your data, and get out. Like the Cryptolocker hackers, they too rely on the dark web, where they can sell credit card numbers, social security numbers, and other financial data. They can make a lot of money doing this.

Unlicensed Software

Often as your company grows, your tech will reuse software licenses. If these are paid, and the right type of licenses, that’s just fine, but it’s easy to lose track or make a mistake in how they are used. “OEM” licenses, for example, cannot legally be transferred to another computer or server. Volume licenses let you have multiple activations, so you can keep using them, but you have to pay enough to cover what you are using. That may not seem like a big worry, but there is a very unfriendly organization called the Business Software Alliance (BSA) that seeks out companies with licensing issues. They pay handsomely for tips, to incent employees to tattle on their employers. They even advertise on Facebook these days, so they are becoming more and more visible. If you become the target of an investigation, you will need legal counsel, you could face 6-figure fines, and it will take a tremendous amount of time to resolve. It’s not worth the risk.

Expired Support Contracts

Nearly every tech vendor offers support contracts for their products, whether it’s hardware or software. The expense can add up fast. Vendors often let you choose different plans with different response times – for example, do you want to get replacement parts within 4 hours or is the next business day acceptable? Do you want to be able to call for help 24×7, or will business hour support be sufficient? When things are running smoothly you may feel like a lower level of support is just fine, but if you are in the middle of a crisis, consider what you would want in that case. If you call in only to find you no longer have support, you could spend precious hours just trying to sort that out before you can even start to get the help you need. Downtime is costly. When key equipment like a server or firewall fails, you need immediate assistance to get your business back on track.

Backup Failure

Once you get your backups set up, they just keep running…right? Unfortunately not. Backup jobs may work flawlessly for months on end, and then for no obvious reason they start failing. Or you may find that backups appear to work fine, but they were set up incorrectly, so you don’t have everything you need. Or the backups run successfully, but the recovery process fails. There are many points of failure in the backup process. The way to head off these problems is to do recovery tests at least a few times every year, and be sure to monitor the backup jobs in between. When you do a recovery test, you restore entire servers in a test environment to make sure they come up properly. The better quality backup software options have ways that this can be done easily, and regularly; with lesser quality products this can be a very complex, time-consuming endeavor. Don’t forget to test your offsite backups as well. If you don’t run these tests, you may find out the hard way that your backup didn’t work. Businesses that face a catastrophic data loss rarely survive.

Do It Now

Technology is complex, and it is easy to find potential problems lurking just beneath the surface. Everything here is important but not urgent – at least, it’s not urgent until a problem hits. Take action now to prevent devastating issues later.

 

Fresh-Picked Gadget the SaneBox

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Have you ever felt overwhelmed or even drowning with the number of emails in your inbox? Sanebox could be your answer. Sanebox  creates rules about sorting your email for you and keeps you focused on high-priority emails.

Want to see these gadgets in real life? Come visit our “gadget grove” of tech toys you can try out yourself.

 

Does Your Work Flow Smoothly?

What you need to know about Workflow Automation Software

When it comes to your business processes, do you have challenges with accountability, inconsistency, missed steps, quality control, and delegation? If so, you are like just about every other business out there, but you can choose to be better. There is a category of software known as “workflow automation” software that will help you address all these issues.

What Is It?

Workflow software enables automation of your business processes. You use the software to outline steps involved in your key business processes, including who is involved, what they have to do, and when. Then the software notifies everyone involved based on the timing and steps that you’ve defined. If implemented correctly, everyone knows their assigned activities, they receive reminders if they run behind, and managers can easily check whether their team is on task. Even complex processes become easy to manage.

How Does It Work?

Workflow software can be set up for just about any business process. As an example, let’s look at the hiring process. Once you’ve identified the need to hire a new staff member, there are many steps that must take place. For example, once the position is approved, you’ll need a job posting and you’ll start screening resumes. If you break it down into a workflow, it might look something like this:

  • Manager approves new/replacement position
  • Manager (or maybe HR) updates the job description
  • HR posts the job to an online job board
  • HR waits for resumes to come in
  • HR screens resumes as they arrive; if approved they forward them to the hiring manager
  • The hiring manager screens the resume; if approved they notify HR to schedule an interview

There will be many more steps regarding the interview itself, additional screening steps, sending an offer or rejecting a candidate. These steps may seem obvious, but when several people are involved, it’s easy for steps to be missed or delayed. Using workflow software ensures that each step gets the attention it should, and then communication flows smoothly from person to person as steps are completed. It also ensures that you follow a consistent process every time you hire someone, which reduces the risk of any HR liability.

How Do You Choose?

There are many software solutions out there. You may even have workflow capabilities built into software you already own. If you have something already, take a look – having workflow integrated with software you use is far simpler than setting up a brand new application.

Ease of use is a critical component. Check out how easy (or hard) it is to set up a new workflow. Don’t just watch a demo; try it out yourself. Processes can be complex, but it shouldn’t take a programmer to configure them. Look into reporting, to make sure you can easily see workflow statuses and manage your processes. See if your workflow software can link directly into other software tools that you use, so that your team doesn’t have to constantly switch between applications. It must allow complex logic: a single chain of events, multiple chains with multiple people, different paths for approvals versus rejections, time-based activities such as reminder notices, etc., as well as any combination of these items. Activities should be linked to positions within the company (e.g. President, HR Manager, Operations Manager, etc.) instead of specific people.

Many packages have extra features, which include anything from project management to file storage to forms management. If these features have value for you, weight them accordingly during the selection process.

Keys to Success

The hardest part of rolling out workflow software is the non-technical side: you have to clearly and accurately define your business processes. The more time you invest in setup, the better the software will work for you. It works in reverse, too: because the software requires very detailed, very specific definition of your business processes, it’s a great opportunity for process improvement. Don’t limit yourself to doing what you’ve always done when there might be a better way.

Get off to a good start by selecting only one or two processes. If you try to do more, you’ll get bogged down and overwhelmed. Pick the one or two processes that right now are the most painful, and work on getting those set up perfectly. Many vendors offer training – take them up on it. Involve key members of your team. Make sure they call support if they run into issues they can’t solve. Ask for advice and best practices. Most processes you set up may have your own personal flair but they are not unique, so the consultants you work with are bound to have good suggestions and experience that can benefit you. After you’ve been through the workflow process a few times, regroup and see if further changes need to be made. Keep tweaking the process until it runs as smoothly as possible.

Be sure to limit who has access to configure the workflow processes. When you invest a lot of time getting the software set up properly, you don’t want just anyone to be able to go in and change it. Someone might not understand all the ins and outs of why a process is set up a certain way, and if they start making changes they might break it by accident. The business side can be complex; it also takes time and training to understand how the software itself works.

Once you have those first processes nailed, pick the next two or three that will provide the most benefit. Repeat what you did with the first few processes: carefully review the steps, involve the team, get advice from your consultants, and keep tweaking the process until it’s smooth. You want these to be perfect too. The more you do, the easier it will be to continue expanding into new areas. Still on the fence about workflow? Take a moment and imagine what your business would be like if all your processes were this streamlined!

 

Juicy Read: Cold Hard Truth On Business Life and Money

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Cold Hard Truth: On Business Life and Money

By  Kevin O’Leary

If you want to be a successful entrepreneur and amass wealth, you’re going to have to work for it. But the good news is: with the right guidance, focus and perseverance, you can turn entrepreneurial vision into lucrative reality and have the personal freedom that only wealth can buy.

 

 

 

The Cold Hard Truth About Owning A Business

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At my last mastermind meeting in Nashville I met Kevin O’Leary, aka Mr. Wonderful, the deadliest of the sharks on the hit tv show “Shark Tank.”

He wasn’t nearly as ruthless speaking to our group of technology business owners as he is on the show, but then again we weren’t trying to do business with him!

He was however pretty merciless with his advice for us, as business owners, when it comes to work/life balance.

Mr. O’Leary flat out said, “There is no balance. A true entrepreneur falls in love with their business and spends an inordinate amount of time working on it, but there is a give and take. You are not going to have a normal family life when you are starting a business, because it needs you 25 hours a day. But if you are successful you get something no one else has, financial freedom. It’s a sacrifice, but if you love your business and you are willing to work hard for 4, 5, 6, 10 years, the rest of your life is free. Working hard is not about money or greed; it’s about freedom, personal and financial freedom.”

That is a cold hard truth for me! Twelve plus years into business and I am still working like I’m a startup most days, but I love what I do and am willing to do what it takes to see more of the freedom Mr. Wonderful is promising.

What are you willing, or not willing, to do today in your business to get you to the future you desire?

 

wendysig