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The days when the IT department runs in the background providing behind-the-scenes support for the rest of the organization have passed. Today, IT is the command center of business operations, extending its reach to human resources, manufacturing, logistics, finance, security, sales, and strategy. With its ability to take such a pivotal role in the company’s health, competitiveness, and financial strength, how can business leaders be more proactive in anticipating the next big thing in IT applications?
 
1. Predicting Customer Demands
Real-time, low-cost access to data, combined with devices that can think and interface with humans, have become the new power tools in the drive to become more customer-centric. Advanced analytics tools provide data that point to customer preferences that can help businesses create microsegments of customers, with customized products and pricing strategies that match these micro demands. Some artificial intelligence tools can monitor social media activity to identify subtle shifts in sentiment that can affect product demand and pricing strategy. With applications for insurance, travel, finance, retail, and health care markets, business leaders can use this new knowledge to generate new income streams. The Trump Hotel Collection, for example, uses analytics to fuel a flexible precision pricing strategy to increase revenue on high-demand days and increase occupancy on lower-demand days.
 
2. The Internet of Things
The increasing prevalence of sensors in machines, consumer products, packages, and devices allow businesses to collect data that they can monitor after the product is in the hands of the consumer. General Electric uses Internet of Things technology to monitor and track the performance data of equipment, using predictive analytics to calculate when maintenance is needed for cars, trucks, and machines so that they can schedule repairs before failure occurs. Commercial vehicles also have sensors to analyze brakes, lights, and engines to minimize downtime and reduce costs of operation. The ability to track products after they leave the manufacturing plant gives organizations the capacity to learn from usage reports so that they can improve their products to match customer usage and performance levels.
 
3. Enhanced Communication Improves Productivity
When employees have fewer administrative burdens, they are more productive and can focus more of their attention on mission-critical activities. Freeing them from mundane tasks can promote innovation, and with its ability to break down the physical barriers of geography, technology allows employees to work together and communicate virtually. At the same time, intelligent assistants can provide reminders that prompt employees with specific actions to meet predefined organizational and project goals. Cyfe is a project management tool that allows teams to capture, monitor, measure, and analyze projects by pulling data from multiple sources, including Google Calendar and Salesforce, to create real-time reporting, goal setting, and alerts. These action reports allow teams to see, in real time, how their counterparts are meeting predefined goals and track key performance indicators. The tool allows teams to catch any aberrations early enough to create adjustments and changes.
 
4. Personalization
Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbots make it possible to engage customers in live chat conversations, often with more patience and intelligence than humans. Telecoms are using machine learning to improve their history of poor customer service with AI-powered search and chatbots that can find answers far faster than humans. Colleges and university admission departments are using the same type of intelligence to recruit students who have a higher chance of succeeding at their schools based on historical patterns of behavior. After enrollment, they can use AI tools proactively to uncover students who are exhibiting risk behaviors, through attendance patterns and grades, so that the university can intervene to get these students back on track to graduate. While this is not exhaustive, the point is clear. When it comes to IT, business leaders must expect IT to disrupt long-standing practices within all areas of their business. The quicker and more resilient business leaders are, the earlier they will be able to understand the risks and use technology so that they can stimulate growth and innovation.
 

Data security will continue to be top of mind for enterprises in 2019 and beyond. With major shifts in how data is stored, and the talent pool required to keep up with cybersecurity roles, now is a perfect time for companies to reevaluate their data security strategy.

Twenty years ago, AOL bought Netscape, the struggling Apple rolled out its iMacs and Linux broke through to the mainstream. It was a long time ago, in other words, in a tech world that looked very different from today.

It’s puzzling then that so many data security applications are created for the way we stored data two decades ago. Systems by McAfee and Symantec are designed to protect data in relational databases. But today, some 80% of the data is in an unstructured format.

That’s just one reason that we keep hearing about data breaches and why governments in Europe and, most recently, California, are regulating how businesses control data and consumers’ ability to access it.

These regulations, combined with increasing threats, are why we need a new approach to data security.

 

The Way Most of Us Store Data Has Changed

Data from some 143 million people — about half the country — was compromised in Equifax’s data breach. Stunningly, it took the company two or three months to realize that it had been compromised in the first place. At first, the company claimed that the number of compromised accounts was 1 million.

One thing that’s clear from that incident is they didn’t know which systems got breached and which data was stolen. Equifax isn’t unusual; most companies today don’t know what data they have, where they’re selling their data and whether someone is accessing that data in a malicious manner. That’s a major blind spot, so it’s worth taking a look at how we got here.

That’s a big change from years ago when data was most data was in a structured format and there was a lot less of it. 10 or 20 years ago, having a few gigabytes of data or terabytes was a big deal. But now almost every organization has a few petabytes or hundreds of terabytes. They need large amounts of data like that to use AI and machine learning to try to glean insights.

Unfortunately, most of the widely used tools are still dealing with data as it was being collected and stored 20 years ago. They’re very focused on relational systems.

 

The Talent Needed to Cope with the Change Hasn’t Kept up

You may ask why this is the case. That brings us to the second point: skills. A lot of information security people's skills have not evolved. Unfortunately, things are likely to get worse. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that the current cybersecurity workforce gap will jump to 1.5 million next year. Some see that number hitting 2 million in 2019.

This talent shortage means that companies often don’t have enough qualified people to assess threats to data security and there aren’t enough out there creating solutions for the current environment.

 

Perimeter Security Isn’t Up to the Task of Protecting Data

Perimeter security hasn’t taken into account how data actually needs to be secured. Data is no longer contained within an internal network. Organizations usually provide network access for partners, remote employees, and customers.

Hackers can gain entry via any of these access points. While perimeter security is still an essential component of a security strategy, companies need to protect the data itself.

 

Know What Data You Have

When it comes to data, knowledge is power. In order to protect your data and comply with new data protection regulations, you need to first get an accurate read on where you stand. The three questions every organization needs to ask itself is: “Do I know what data I have?”, “Do I know where it is?”; and “Do I know who is accessing it?”

You need to know the answers to those three questions before you can go in and secure that data. Otherwise, you’re still fighting a 2018 war with 1998 tools.

 

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While success metrics associated with the launch and implementation of enterprise ERP systems have gone up over the last 10 years, up to 40% of ERP system operators continue to experience schedule slips when trying to get a resources-based platforms online. While market complexity and rapid technical demands have caused some of these logjams, there are hosts of well-understood errors that continue to lurk within the bowels of after-action reports.

 

Here are four of the more glaring weaknesses leading to ERP schedule delays:

 

1. Malformed requirements

As the old saying goes; ‘measure twice, cut once’, but regardless of the sophistication of maturing ERP systems, many enterprise folks still don’t seem to be interested in understanding their own needs.

This is particularly true when it comes to the development of necessary business requirements, which guide and measure activities during an ERP launch.

This guidepost document defines and validates practical responses regarding ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘when’, and ‘where’ business weaknesses may exist, and where a new ERP platform is supposed to marginalize that pain. However, if your plan is poorly executed, it’s likely that your schedule will be badly skewed and failure-prone as well; causing lost time, increased frustration, and ultimately wasted money.    

 

2. Erroneous budget assumptions

ERP platforms are expensive.

To make a point, let’s be redundant for a moment when I re-assert that ‘ERP platforms are expensive.’

Consequently, if you are unable, or unwilling to establish a set of proper budgetary requirements at each stage of an implementation, it is likely that you’re going to run out of money sooner rather than later.

This is not meant to be as a criticism, but as a cautionary component that all enterprise managers should be mindful of when considering an ERP launch. Again, if the enterprise doesn’t have the money to do the job the right way, don’t play the game at all; otherwise all you’re doing is causing a larger and potentially scarier problem downstream.   

 

3. Failure to account for practical training needs

I grant that training may seem to be the poor stepchild of all tasks relating to an ERP implementation, but ignore it at your own peril. The reason for this admonition is simple: if you short-shrift your workforce in terms of time and/or educational attention, you’re simply asking for trouble when you try to turn the lights on.

Among the ‘usual suspects’ relating to schedule slips, this one causes the most trouble, since people aren’t machines, and harbor all kinds of problems that are not necessarily obvious until it’s too late. So, take your time, and ensure that your training schedule is well padded.

 

4. Misconstrued management expectations

This failure is another of those ‘soft errors’ that looks like nothing, until it blows up in your face. Senior managers are funny animals. Some come from well-papered academic backgrounds, while others come ‘up’ from the ranks, but they all want the same thing; confidence in an expected outcome, and particularly when an enterprise is executing a risky, and costly, business endeavor.

 

In this context, selecting, installing, and launching a complex ERP platform falls under a management ‘risk rule’ entitled; “I’m going to lose leadership credibility if my decision is wrong.’

Consequently, if a senior manager is a couple of levels above the technical team, regular status will be necessary; as in daily; and sometimes, hourly; depending on the schedule situation.

Ultimately, if a hard-stop emerges, then it behooves the technical team to get that information up the chain immediately, while not dawdling, otherwise bad things begin to happen. From a senior management perspective the latter event falls under the management ‘risk rule’ entitled; ‘Whose head is going to roll first, but it sure isn’t going to be mine.’

Sometimes this question also falls under an overarching risk rule entitled; ‘covering one’s rear end’. Either way though, it’s always better to deliver bad news regularly and immediately, rather than allowing a potential situation to spiral out of control, particularly if you’re the poor guy who failed to send the memo up in the first place.

 

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In 2018 it can often seem that technological innovation is relentless. Whether it’s the newest iPhone release, the latest Mac or the new, well, anything made by Apple really. With so much constant tech innovation it’s easy for us to dismiss new products and software as irrelevant, assuming that little change is really occurring and won’t be of benefit to us. However, ignoring these technological progressions could have detrimental effects, particularly for business owners.

In recent years, technological advances designed to help businesses have made significant progress. Slowly, computer systems and AI have been replacing the need for manual completion of error-prone tasks which dominated HR teams already stretched time for decades. Those businesses which dared to jump first into the world of tech-meets-businesses reaped the rewards, as they witnessed just how big an impact this kind of innovation could have on a company’s success.

Despite the overwhelming number of businesses now operating using internal computer-based systems, many are still understandably reluctant to make the change. It can be daunting for a business to consider switching from a system which they are accustomed to, and has run smoothly (enough) for years. But, whilst there may be an initial transitional period as your company adjusts to your new business system, for those who don’t make the switch, the risks are far higher.

One of the most important software innovations for any business is something known as ERP. Enterprise Resource Planning is undoubtedly one of the most useful tools available to businesses and their owners today. Aside from providing a number of features specifically designed to optimize the efficiency of your business strategy, this type of software is also a cost-effective investment that will serve you for years to come.

For those of you still in doubt here is a list of just some of the benefits which introducing ERP software to your business can provide.

Faster and easier communication.

Communication is key to the success of any business which is why ERP systems prioritize offering an online workplace platform to enable ease of communication between employees.

Frees up time to prioritize time-consuming tasks.

By taking the reins of repetitive tasks that can be easily completed by computer systems, ERP allows more time for your employees to concentrate on complicated tasks.

Clarifies company goals.

Increased visibility for ongoing targets, projects and long-term company goals helps employees to stay on track and progress efficiently.

Tracks progress.

To accompany the clearly displayed company goals, ERP also provides highly formatted reports helps to monitor progress towards specific targets.

Allows problems to be resolved more promptly and efficiently.

Graphic dashboards provide easily digestible visualization of data which allow any anomalies and warning signs to be identified, enabling you to react in a timely manner.

Personalized to the needs of your business.

ERP software can be specifically adapted for each business to ensure that it perfectly meets the needs of your team.

The evidence is clear, ERP software has the potential to revolutionize your business. And with more and more companies making the switch every day, those who don’t adopt an ERP system soon, risk falling behind their competitors.

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