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1. Use Project Management for Smooth Organizational ChangeПт, 24 сен[−]
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As organizations grow, business evolves and process reengineering takes place as a part of the continuous improvement journey to support the organizational needs. On one side, a whole task force, internal and maybe external might have to be involved in this evolution. On the other side, many stakeholders and end-users have to adapt to this change to successfully integrate with the new systems and processes. It becomes imperative to tie these parts to the whole successfully for a smooth transition. This article throws light on various steps that take place for this smooth transition at the 3 levels – leadership level, implementation level, and operational level.

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Transitioning systems at the leadership level

To successfully transition a system at the leadership level, the company must organize the leadership for this project. That process happens in three steps.

Achieve buy-in from key leadership

As the need for change is assessed, the first step is to communicate this need to key leadership. This could mean different things to different organizations – leadership could be:

  • the ones whose contribution and support is imperative
  • those who demonstrate maximum influence among the end-users
  • the functional department heads.

A buy-in is sought from the leaders. This step ensures maximum positive stakeholders within the organization to drive and deliver the transition. This also eliminates future risk of uncovering some important system or process features from a stakeholder with a great technical expertise that may be later harder to integrate or come with high costs.

Identify a task-force

The leaders together identify one change champion and a task force (made up of teams or departments) who will implement the change. This would be the team who will be involved in the day to day implementation of the transition. At times, there may be a need to identify if the entire capability to implement the change exists within the organization, subject matter experts, external suppliers or vendors are required in parts or whole. This is best identified at this stage so the internal task force can be aligned with the required competencies.

Communication to end-users

Typically, a town hall is conducted to communicate the upcoming transition to the end-users. At this time the team would articulate

  • what the new system or process holds for the future
  • why this change is important for the organization
  • what are some benefits of this effort
  • when the transition would happen

It is important to instill the change mindset in the users, clear the air about fears or hesitations that may present themselves, and enable their technical and operational preparedness to accept the transition. Despite all the efforts, some may welcome the change while some others may express concerns. Be understanding of the users when this situation arises, and give them time to acclimate to the transition in order to encourage smooth adoption.

Implementing change in the organization

There are two main steps to implement change within the organization: make a plan and follow the plan. While seemingly simple, these two steps can cause stress if not handled carefully.

Create the roadmap

The champion and the task force create the roadmap or plan for the change. This will

  • Outline activities and key milestones along the transition journey
  • Identify external interdependencies for deliverables from subject matter experts, vendors, and others
  • Mark out important review and decision points during the development of the new system or process itself
  • Establish workflow disruption points like black-outs and go-lives
  • Define training and preparedness related dates

The roadmap should also include key dates for all items. A roadmap is an important artifact that helps the team plan, track and monitor the progress of implementation. Depending upon the ability of the task force to use scheduling tools, simple Kanban-style boards like Trello or more complex scheduling software like Microsoft Project or Primavera may be used.

Follow the roadmap, implementation, and acceptance

As the new processes and systems get built, it is a best practice to invite representation from user groups in addition to the leaders, champions, and taskforce for the review meetings. This will increase useful insights and feedback on the UX (user experience) that will go a long way in improving the product along the implementation cycle. For the users, it would offer a sense of being a part of the process, thus maximizing chances for successful integration into the future workplace.

Change at the operational level

While implementing a roadmap to change may feel like the end of a systemic change, you’ll need to keep in mind that turning the software, process, or system on will not guarantee buy-in. Making real change at the operational level requires training and work to fully transition the team.

Assess training needs

Depending upon whether it is an altogether new system or process or change to some parts of the systems, one needs to assess what new knowledge and skills are required by the users to successfully use the new system. It is also a good idea to check with subject matter experts or vendors who would have implemented this across many organizations and hence may be able to give handy tips on areas which need more focus from their learnings in the past.

Training modality and implementation

Several modalities of training are possible – in person instructor led; online instructor led, online self-paced, simple document review over a document that calls out the areas of change with specific actions, pairing with a mentor for ongoing support to name a few.

Picking one or multiple modalities for implementation would completely depend upon the extent of training needs, geographic spread of the users, their calendars, and what works for an organization.

The final transition

Introducing a new system or process into an organization is easier from a transition point of view than making changes or new additions to parts of the existing systems or processes. At this juncture, the first step is to identify the dependencies and parts that still rely on the prior system. This will be followed up with updating and migration of the prior system to a version compatible with the new or changed system.

Good transition plans also identify and communicate the black outs (downtimes) well in advance to the user group in order to minimize disruption to workflows. In addition, it is mission critical to ensure the planned transition related works are completed within the target downtime.

A change requires planning for successful execution

Managing change / transition is an amalgamation of involving key stakeholders for their acceptance of the idea and engagement, careful planning of the steps involved, implementation and continuous monitoring, tying in the dependencies together along with efficient and effective communication. With these kept in mind, transitions would be a huge success.

The post Use Project Management for Smooth Organizational Change appeared first on TechnologyAdvice.

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2. What is Employee Performance Management?Чт, 23 сен[−]
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The success of a business depends on the proper performance of its employees. Employees are tasked with the responsibility of providing high-quality goods and services that represent the value of their company. Ideal employees demonstrate competency and organization to meet the expectations of management and consumer demand. Organizations should maintain positive labor relations between the employees and supervisory leaders to encourage high-quality performance, including effective communication and talent management.

Employee performance management involves the implementation of a system that best facilitates optimal employee performance. Effective performance management generally requires organizational goal setting, outlining clear expectations for employees, and employee performance evaluation to encourage positive employee development.

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What is Employee Performance Management?

Employee performance management is a staff administration procedure that encourages the improved performance of the workforce members. Specifically, this process operates at an individual level, as it aims to enforce the proper behavior of each employee through the evaluation of their performance. Performance evaluations help managers to review the individual performance of employees and provide them with constructive feedback. HR experts are often involved in annual appraisals and performance discussions for talent acquisition, as an employee’s performance is a key indicator of the value that they may bring to an organization.

Setting goals for performance

For this appraisal system to effectively encourage positive performance, management should first determine organizational goals for improving their business. Goal setting can help develop performance expectations for employees that would serve to benefit the company’s operational integrity. From here, leadership may establish a performance plan to improve staff coaching and provide clear expectations of performance standards. Effective performance management requires strong leadership skills to ensure competency of the staff members and should encourage positive employee engagement.

Assessing performance

Performance assessments are conducted by management to rate employee performance on how well it serves their organizational goals. Effective performance appraisals take place regularly and often exist in the form of an annual performance review.

Employee performance is usually measured by whether workers are meeting performance expectations and performance standards. Performance discussions between the employee and worker may then take place to discuss the previous performance period and address any critiques or changes that may encourage employee development.

How software can boost employee performance

Some organizations use performance management systems to reap the benefits of employee performance management. These performance management tools help leadership communicate goals and conduct annual reviews and performance appraisals quickly and efficiently. Dissimilar to traditional coaching methods for improving employee competency, performance software is designed to meet performance goals through the evaluation of continuous feedback.

Employee management programs can offer many features that may be beneficial to organization management. Unlike the traditional performance management process, this technology allows for consistent employee performance and progress measurement, so leadership can always be updated and aware of workforce behavioral trends. The programs are designed to provide more accurate measurements and measure more employee behavioral factors than traditional performance management methods. In addition, the ability to record relevant information and provide data analysis automatically lets management staff have more time to dedicate to other essential duties.

Additionally, performance management software technology is intended to increase employee performance. Rather than providing feedback in a performance conversation just once per performance management cycle, performance software is designed to meet performance goals by evaluating continuous feedback.

Many of these systems facilitate individual accountability by providing positive employee recognition for those with good performance ratings. These systems often support HR manager duties, so your employees can spend less time worrying about the proper documentation of hours and pay. And clear communication is a cornerstone of most performance management systems. These systems allow management staff to easily and quickly provide employee goals and feedback through the platform so that staff members can be sure of their performance expectations.

Benefits of implementing a performance management software program

There are many systems currently on the market that allow companies to use performance management software to benefit their businesses. BambooHR performance appraisal software provides detailed analytic reports that enable Human Resource and management staff to compare information, make strategic decisions, and collect employee feedback from multiple leadership sources.

ADP Performance Management program promotes leadership unification as well, by allowing all talent management to access employee performance status and data quickly and easily. It also utilizes corporate goals to align workers, and lets employees feel empowered by allowing them access to their system profiles.

The Lattice software system supports employee engagement, development, and leadership management together. It has an option to praise employees through the platform for good performance, and feedback can be provided through the system so employees can learn and improve.

A software-based performance management process benefits staff in leadership roles and boosts employee performance through employee support. Ongoing performance management allows leadership to analyze data and set effective organizational goals for employees. Employees can be made aware of goals easily through the software systems, can track their progress, and can feel more confident in their performance choices. In addition, a positive employee experience overall may motivate workers to improve their performance and increase organizational effectiveness.

Encouraging staff improvement with performance management

Employee Performance Management is a practical method of encouraging optimal staff performance. Organizations can apply more effective employee performance management through a thorough assessment of their employee performance. These systems are designed to facilitate workforce improvement through continuous performance management coaching, clearly communicated objectives, and increased employee engagement. These programs benefit the functionality of the performance management process for Human Resources and leadership staff, as they can maintain communication through these platforms to develop effective performance management strategies and performance improvement plans. Organizations can strengthen their team and promote successful workforce practices through the utilization of performance management software programs.

The post What is Employee Performance Management? appeared first on TechnologyAdvice.

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3. What is DevOps?Чт, 23 сен[−]
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As businesses increasingly rely on cloud-computing, DevOps (Development + Operations) has become a framework for continuously delivering value to your customers. DevOps also addresses evolving business challenges across an entire organization, not just within the IT team. But what exactly is DevOps? Read on to find out what it is, what some useful tools are, and what features are important in choosing DevOps tools.

What is DevOps?

DevOps refers to a set of practices that integrates and automates processes that used to run separately in Development and in Operations. Developers plan, build, and test software, while those in IT deploy and maintain that software.

In the DevOps framework, these two groups work together in a continuous feedback loop to deliver quality products more quickly. DevOps is often depicted as a figure 8 loop to show just how tightly interconnected development and operations have become.

Related: Key DevOps Principles & Practices for Success

Types of DevOps Tools

There are a range of DevOps tools available on the market, like configuration management, container management, test automation, and many more. Here, we’ll focus on those that facilitate automation, collaboration, communication, project management, and server management across your company’s tech stack.

Automation

Take the need for human intervention out of the value stream for tasks like testing and bug-fixing with automation tools. CEO and co-founder of Flugel Diego Woitasen explains the importance of coding your automation on top of your infrastructure: “Once you have defined your architecture, you need to start coding the automation of your infrastructure. This is a must in cloud environments, you do not build things manually, you build automation to build your infrastructure. You need the architecture first because that’s going to represent the building blocks (or infrastructure as code modules).” Flugel’s team can write that code for you, and it’s yours to keep, even after a contract with Flugel expires.

In terms of scalability, Jenkins helps scale automation as your infrastructure grows. Vagrant focuses on automation within the workflow. Chef is also a highly-rated provider of automation tools for configuration management in DevOps. Finally, Ansible offers an automation platform to cover a range of tasks and processes in your DevOps.

Collaboration

A DevOps tool for collaboration enables users to work effectively with one another. These tools often feature automation to take care of repetitive tasks, so that DevOps can focus their energy on the processes that allow application availability and scalability. Basis Technologies, for example, offers a centralized dashboard to facilitate collaboration across different teams. Docker also makes it easier for DevOps to work together and allows for easy image storage and management. Katalon TestOps helps to streamline the workflow for DevOps teams.

Also read: Choosing the Right Containerization: 10 Alternatives to Docker

Communication

Communication tools for DevOps span a few different functions: information sharing, day-to-day communication, and user notifications. Some DevOps tools, like Splunk, facilitate exchange of information across verticals in your company, whether you’re in software development, sales, or an executive level business administrator. In addition, some tools, like Katalon TestOps, focus more on internal DevOps team communication that isn’t necessarily accessible to stakeholders outside of the software development lifecycle (SDLC) process. Finally, other tools, like Icinga, will alert users of application issues.

Project Management

There are some project management tools out there for DevOps to track progress in the SDLC. An important thing to keep in mind is change management, since everything may not go according to plan. Jenkins seamlessly integrates change into projects and supports continuous integration and delivery. Puppet Enterprise is another DevOps tool that allows you to oversee the entire infrastructure. Like Jenkins, it also allows you to detect and take care of any issues that may pop up in the workflow, but it also features workflow visualization. If you want your DevOps processes to be accessible to others outside of the DevOps team, consider Rudder. It can be configured, according to non-expert, expert, or DevOps manager use.

Server Management

For successful DevOps, you need a tool that will monitor the health of your server, whether on-site, cloud, or hybrid. Solarwinds offers a variety of tools to find and fix server issues. Nagios offers something similar but boasts an outstanding log management tool. The Scalyr DevOps platform features a Scalyr Agent that can be dropped in any server to immediately start monitoring your server and deliver updates in real-time. Flugel specializes in cloud management and optimization that, among other things, takes care of processing alerts, collecting information on your key metrics, and responding swiftly to incidents.

Choosing a DevOps Tool: Key Features to Look Out For

According to Woitasen, the challenges that most DevOps teams face, especially in SMBs, include security and compliance, cloud automation, costs, productivity, observability, and availability and scalability. The DevOps tools listed above will help your DevOps team tackle most or all of these challenges. In light of these key areas of concern in DevOps, here are some features that you may want to consider when choosing tools that are right for your business:

  • Analytics is crucial for accessing the data you want, when and how you want it via reporting, data visualization, metrics, log management, etc.
  • Compliance reporting ensures that your DevOps is conducted according to governmental and industry standards to avoid hefty fines.
  • Integration might be important to you if you’re currently using a platform like AWS or Microsoft Azure, as many of the tool vendors listed above offer API.
  • Streamlining: Since DevOps is about a workflow rather than a horizontal step-by-step process, any tool that streamlines and automates tasks in the SDLC is worth considering.

There are a range of DevOps tools, more than can be listed here, and your organization will not necessarily need all of them. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing DevOps tools.

A final note to consider is that choosing the right tools is one thing, but the tools are only part of the process. It’s important to also cultivate a DevOps culture and mindset in your organization because key stakeholders need to work together on cross-collaboration and continuous development, testing, deployment, and feedback.

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4. The Key to Employee Retention: Knowing what your Individual Contributors Care AboutСр, 22 сен[−]
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While individual contributors (ICs) and executives may have the same business goals, your ICs probably care about different things when it comes to what they want from their employment. To be effective as an executive, you need to know what your employees care about, so you can keep them engaged with the business. So what’s really important to your ICs?

What do your employees want?

Stability

One of my close friends has been working at the same job for nearly ten years. She does far more than what’s listed in her job description, is reliable, and has been very loyal, refusing to even look at other jobs. However, she has to have a side business just to afford her (modest) lifestyle in a small town in South Carolina. When she asked for a raise and a retirement match and stated her case, not only did they deny her outright, but they also refused to give her the extra week of vacation she was due per the handbook. For the first time, she’s seriously considering leaving.

My friend isn’t greedy. She doesn’t want more money just because. She’s doing more work than her job is paying her for, and she actually can’t afford to live on her salary alone. She’s not looking for wealth, but she is looking for stability and the ability to save for her future.

While more money is always going to make an employee happy, they’re unlikely to seek it elsewhere unless they need it to improve their quality of life or that’s their main motivator. If employees are happy in their job, just a salary increase isn’t going to tempt them to leave for a company they know nothing about. Employees appreciate the stability of a workplace they know and aren’t likely to shake things up unless there’s a problem.

Flexibility

Now that many employees have proven they can be just as productive at home as they are in the workplace, they want the option to continue working from home. As an executive, you better have a very good reason if you’re planning to tell your team they have to come back into the office, especially with all of the options for remote working software. Otherwise, they’ll likely look for another job that offers more flexibility.

Work location is just one aspect of flexibility, however. Flexibility may also include work hours, paid time off (PTO), or even how your employees complete their work. Maybe one of your employees is a night owl that works better from 7-10 PM than they do from 8-11 AM. If they’re not dealing with clients and they complete their assignments by the deadline, working hours really shouldn’t matter.

Also read: 7 Lesser Known Benefits that Make Employees’ Lives Easier

Trust

A company that I previously worked for installed software onto our computer that would track how many times we clicked or typed on our computer, and it would take screenshots of our computer randomly every ten minutes or so. The worst part? I was an in-office worker and salaried. I felt like I had to explain every weird screenshot or that I would get in trouble if it took a picture while I was choosing a podcast on Spotify.

Your employees aren’t children, and most of the time, they know how to manage themselves effectively and be productive.

That level of distrust stressed me out a lot, and I ended up burning out relatively quickly. Your employees aren’t children, and most of the time, they know how to manage themselves effectively and be productive. Your performance management software should tell you if employees are meeting their goals, but until then, have faith that you’ve hired the right people.

Feeling valued

Of people who want to leave their job, 39 percent said it was because they don’t feel valued at work. Employees want to know that their work matters and they’ll continue to have a place within the organization. And this valuation doesn’t have to be expensive. A gift card to their favorite coffee shop or music streaming service can tell your employees that you appreciate their work and recognize them as more than just a faceless worker.

Employee engagement software that includes feedback surveys can help you keep a pulse on how valued your employees feel in their roles. It can also allow employees to recognize and thank each other, deepening the sense of camaraderie among your team.

Also read: 5 Pulse Survey Solutions for Your Engagement Woes

Finding out and implementing what’s important to your ICs

Your individual contributors don’t all fall into the same categories. They have different extrinsic and intrinsic motivators, and you won’t be able to find out what those are unless you ask. Additionally, it may change over time, so you’ll need to keep checking in with employees to see how they’re feeling.

To find the best employee engagement software for your business, use our Product Selection Tool. Once you fill out our survey, you’ll get a short, unbiased list of software recommendations tailored to the needs of your company.

The post The Key to Employee Retention: Knowing what your Individual Contributors Care About appeared first on TechnologyAdvice.

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5. Choosing the Right Containerization: 10 Alternatives to DockerСр, 22 сен[−]
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What is Docker?

Docker is the most popular software solution for containerization and container management for developing applications. It’s used by a wide range of businesses from major corporations to start-ups and mobile centric platforms. It’s popularity is due to its broad accessibility and wide array of features. It’s very easy to get in and use it, which makes it tempting for developers to rely on it for their containerization needs.

However, not all businesses are built the same, just like how their usage of containers isn’t always the exact same. Different applications have different needs and uses for containerization software, and Docker may not be the best choice. Here is a list of 10 alternative containers you can use besides Docker:

1. ZeroVM

ZeroVM

ZeroVM is open-source, lightweight and based on Google’s Chromium Native Client. The VM stands for Virtual Machine, but unlike regular VMs it doesn’t simulate an entire environment, it only virtualizes the space needed to run the application, which allows for much faster deployment and isolation. It’s extremely quick and secure, offering security even for unverified code to run without fear of attack or interception. Skipping the whole OS to only run an application saves a lot of processing power across multiple environments as well.

2. Podman

Podman.

Podman is also an open source alternative, but it has a unique advantage among Linux systems. It runs containers in the background without root privileges. It achieves this by integrating directly with the systemD instead of having to access it with privileges like Docker does. Since it can only be accessed through the local system this way, it provides a unique extra layer of security. It also has a larger integration toolset than Docker. Podman is even supportive of files made for Docker.

3. Vagrant

Vagrant Logo.

Vagrant specializes in running multiple conditioned virtual environments together using multiple virtual machines and operating systems. It can make a whole self-contained and secured virtual network of virtual machines. These virtual machines can then be imaged and shared across different platforms to other team members who can work on the development simultaneously without sharing a single environment or system. Docker locks isolation to the user level, but Vagrant opens it up and gives higher customization to accessibility.

4. OpenVZ

Open VZ Logo.

OpenVZ is very much like Docker in terms of their features, but OpenVZ comes with a different set of tools. An OpenVZ user can create multiple isolated Linux containers on a single server. These containers act as their own virtual servers with unique IP addresses, system libraries, applications and files. This allows for independent access and activation of developing applications across a wide network. OpenVZ uses its own Network File System to allow users to access its virtual servers freely, which can all be controlled by a systems administrator. It’s focus is more on hosting virtual servers, but can still handle application development on them like Docker can.

5. Rancher

Rancher Logo.

For much larger scale developments across multiple teams, container clusters are often useful. Docker has its own variant, Docker Swarm, to deal with those. Rancher is built specifically for wide scale development across a large network of developers. It automates the management of clusters based on the settings and configurations of the administrator. Once all the clusters are organized by department, permissions and privileges can be given without further input, ensuring that everyone gets to their designated environment with minimal issue.

6. Buildah

Buildah Logo.

Buildah is actually complementary to Podman more directly than it is with Docker. Both use some of the same functionality in their build processes. It’s an OCI image-builder that can be built from either a Dockerfile or more generic Containerfile to remain OCI compliant. What it excels at is the layer control over the images it generates, which allows for multiple changes to commit to a single layer at once. It can also create images with nothing at all, so the isolated environments can be customized starting from zero with only the applications that are necessary. Each user has a view of their own images only, which maximizes security within teams but complicates sharing work with others.

7. Containerd

Containerd Logo.

Containerd is all about simplicity and ease of use. It was formerly part of Docker’s toolkit, but has since become an independent, standalone container runtime application. It is installed alongside Docker, but can also be installed without Docker. It’s great as a more entry-level tool since it lacks most of Docker’s larger network of features and focuses exclusively on acting as a low-level container. Its work can then be easily accessed through Docker and updated, making it both an alternative for lower level development and a step in the natural path of developing with Docker.

8. VirtualBox

Virtual Box.

VirtualBox allows users to run multiple virtual machines that also use different operating systems, a feature that Docker can’t do. It can also switch data from one OS to another via the use of cloud-based storage without compromising the user’s security since the virtual machines don’t use the same OS kernel as the host machine. It’s not lighter by comparison, but the ability to transfer files and applications between different virtual operating systems gives access to entire industries worth of products that Docker development ends up ignoring.

9. RunC

RunC Logo.

RunC is another former Docker component that has become its own standalone modular tool. It was released this way to improve container portability. It’s universal between operating systems and is capable of running its containers at runtime, allowing for faster development and testing in isolated environments. Its portability allows development to segue between hardware upgrades with ease. And it can work with or without Docker. If a project has to last between a major relocation effort, runC can keep things stable until hard wired access is regained.

10.LXC (Linux Containers)

Linux Containers.

LXC is, quite simply, the built in Linux Containers ability that is part of the open-source system. It’s not based on Linux, but uses Linux directly to run multiple isolated environments off of a single machine. Docker used to be better than it in every way, but LXC has been updated to the point where it can now contend in the way of disk performance, volume management and sharing IP address and system files on the host machine. It runs much lighter but still does all of the important functions, and hypervises the environments it creates.

Competition Breeds Innovation

It’s never healthy to stay attached to only one solution in app development. It is beneficial to branch out, test new potential solutions, and figure out if there is an easier solution to be found in a less popular platform.

The post Choosing the Right Containerization: 10 Alternatives to Docker appeared first on TechnologyAdvice.

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6. Benefits of Integrating ERP with IoTВт, 21 сен[−]
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By 2025, there will be approximately 38.6 billion internet of things (IoT) devices worldwide. While many of these will be in homes, businesses also use IoT devices in a variety of industries. However, businesses that don’t integrate their enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems with their IoT devices are missing out. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits organizations gain when they integrate their ERP and IoT.

If you aren’t yet using an ERP system, use our Product Selection Tool to find the right one for your business. After answering a few questions, you’ll get a customized list of software recommendations.

Which ERP system is right for you?

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Better IoT asset and inventory management

Deskera inventory management view.

Supply chain organizations need to keep a close eye on their inventory and machinery to keep production running smoothly. IoT devices with artificial intelligence (AI) track the storage conditions of inventory and adjust temperature or humidity levels if necessary. This provides a better environment for your raw materials and would allow your IoT devices to send alerts to the ERP system if you needed to order more.

Additionally, AI inventory management systems that integrate with ERP systems, like Deskera can automatically submit a new order when stock levels are running low. The system will track the weight of inventory or RFID tags that leave the stock room, and once the amount drops below a certain level, it can initiate a reorder.

Many pieces of modern machinery can now be considered IoT devices themselves. By integrating these machines with your ERP system, the equipment can schedule maintenance when it needs it, order new supplies, or provide data on production efficiency or errors. An industrial printer, for example, could monitor its own toner levels and alert a technician about a paper jam or similar error.

Also read: The Best ERP for Supply Chain Logistics

More accurate forecasting from your ERP

Forecasting in Netsuite ERP.

When a company integrates their IoT devices with their ERP system, they’re able to pull production data directly from their equipment to keep their data accurate. Then, the AI included in the ERP system has more accurate information to pull from when creating forecasts. Taking data directly from the IoT devices prevents the chance of an analyst mixing up data sets or inputting numbers incorrectly.

Let’s say you run a manufacturing plant that can make around 100 cars per day according to the data your machinery provides. Using that information, historical sales data, and staff availability, an ERP system, like Netsuite, could identify when you need to start production on next year’s new model to meet expected demand.

Real-time insights for better business decisions

Data insights from SAP ERP.

IoT devices that import data directly to ERP systems like SAP also provide businesses with real-time information that they can use to improve their decision-making. Pulling data from IoT devices provides businesses with more information from more sources to make more informed decisions. Additionally, IoT devices and sensors typically offer a continuous stream of data, meaning organizations are always working from the most relevant and recent information. Not only does this make companies more flexible because they can adapt faster to changing data, but it also offers them the ability to make proactive adjustments rather than reactive ones.

For example, maybe your company recently upgraded one of your machines after the previous one broke. You’re considering updating the rest of your old machines to the new model, but you want to know if the investment will be worth it. Using the data that your upgraded machine imports to your ERP system vs. the data from your old machines, you can see how their efficiency compares in real-time and determine whether the new machines will provide the needed ROI.

Reduced operating costs

SYSPRO ERP budgeting.

When your ERP system doesn’t integrate with your IoT devices, your processes slow down while you wait to gather data from your equipment and import it into the ERP software. Instead, IoT devices that have been integrated with your ERP system can automatically transmit data, removing a need for human input and reducing operational costs. To see the biggest reduction in operating costs, opt for ERP software that includes AI, like SYSPRO.

Can your business benefit from ERP and IoT integration?

If you have both an ERP system and IoT devices in your business, you should integrate them to improve your asset and inventory management, forecasting, and insights. IoT devices can provide a lot of insight for your business that you could be missing out on if they’re not automatically sending data to your ERP.

To find the perfect ERP system for your business, use our Product Selection Tool. After filling out a short survey, you’ll get a list of software recommendations customized to your company’s needs.

Read next: How 5G And IOT Will Influence The Next Generation of ERP Systems

The post Benefits of Integrating ERP with IoT appeared first on TechnologyAdvice.

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7. What Is Marketing Automation?Вт, 21 сен[−]
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Marketing automation is a software platform that helps organizations automatically manage customer marketing operations across multiple channels and automate repetitive marketing and sales tasks. Marketing automation platforms use tools that streamline and simplify the tasks needed to support a modern marketing campaign. With marketing automation software, an organization can initiate a marketing campaign that targets their customers with automated messages using the web, email, social media, and texting. A variety of communications are sent automatically, based on instructions called workflows.

Marketing automation software supports implementing digital marketing strategies without the need to manually press the “send button” for each email, campaign, message, or post. A good automation strategy, combined with good marketing automation tools, will identify the customer base, design the most appropriate content, and then trigger the marketing process. Once the campaign begins and the results start coming in, the marketing campaign’s effectiveness can be analyzed and components can be adjusted to match customer behavior. Automated marketing strategies take manual labor (and the tedium) out of digital marketing. They also support analytics, lead generation and the sales force, and help improve the customer journey. (For those interested in sales pipeline management, different software is used.)

CRM vs. marketing automation software

Customer relationship management (CRM) focuses on collecting data from existing customer accounts and managing customer pipelines. Marketing automation, on the other hand, is about coordinating and personalizing one-to-one communications with potential customers to manage followup marketing efforts and advertising. Both CRM and marketing automation ultimately have similar goals — to collect and manage customer data.

Key features of marketing automation software

Marketing automation is both a strategy and a type of software that helps you achieve your marketing goals. These features are typical to marketing automation platforms and can significantly decrease the workload of your marketing team.

Workflows

Workflow automation is explained as automating various marketing tasks by using preset rules, with the tasks being triggered automatically. Workflow triggers are events which launch the workflow. The triggers are typically actions taken by the customers while visiting an organization’s website or app. Automated workflows can be used to create detailed diagrams capable of communicating big picture goals to the entire organization. A marketing automation platform like Pardot lets you map your customer journey and automatically move customers along the funnel.

Content marketing

Content marketing describes a low-pressure marketing strategy designed to attract, involve, and retain new customers. This is accomplished by sending/sharing relevant, informational articles, podcasts, and videos. This marketing strategy (providing it targets the right people) establishes the content’s publisher as a reliable and helpful “assistant or consultant” to the customer. Content can be distributed via an email marketing tool like Act-On, or you can put your content behind a lead generation form landing page built by a company like UnBounce. Content marketing is specifically focused on the creation and distribution of content across multiple channels. It is often used in combination with inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing

The marketing strategy known as inbound marketing is used to draw potential customers to “your” website. Unlike content marketing, inbound marketing uses search engines to draw potential customers to it with useful articles and information. Inbound marketing emphasizes a website’s visibility on various search engines, drawing potential customers to the site. This process typically encourages readers to inquire about products and services, and purchase them. Marketing automation platforms like HubSpot supports inbound marketing by automatically guiding visitors through the customer journey.

Joshua Gill, a marketing consultant at?Inbound Authority, said, “Inbound marketing is so powerful because you have the power to give the searcher/consumer exactly what answers they are looking for, at the precise point that they need it. That builds trust, reputation, and authority in whatever niche you are practicing this form of marketing in.”

Marketing funnel automation

Marketing funnel automation is a multiple step process. Real-world funnels have a top that is wide, and which steadily narrows to a small opening at the bottom, guiding its contents directly into the container. In terms of marketing automation platforms, a marketing funnel channels a website’s visitors to the sales automation process, with the goal of guiding them to the purchasing process, while promoting a positive customer experience.

There are a number of steps used to assure potential customers have enough awareness of the business’ products/services to consider making a purchase. The bulk of the website visitors start at the funnel’s top, with a wide variety of reasons for visiting the website. Ideally, most of them start on the landing page, and gradually move to the payment page. Over time, website visitors are guided through the funnel, and sent marketing messages designed to slow-walk them through the marketing/advertising process, and to making a purchase.

Business-to-business (B2B) marketing automation

Many B2B organizations use marketing automation platforms to communicate with other businesses. Unlike business-to-consumer marketing automation software, B2B marketing automation software provides them with the ability to design their marketing for the narrower parameters of a business audience. Marketing teams can segment customer data quite easily, supporting the creation of ad groups that target specific industries, and monitor the success of each advertising effort. This allows marketing automation specialists to easily target specific businesses, while filtering out businesses who are not likely to become customers.

Business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing automation

Many B2C organizations are adopting a social media marketing strategy, and using other digital marketing channels. A variety of very useful tools have been created for small businesses to respond to potential customers. B2C marketing automation can significantly improve multi-channel marketing efforts, improving the effectiveness of this marketing automation strategy. While a number of the larger B2C industries use automated marketing, smaller businesses can also use marketing automation solutions. These solutions include:

How companies use marketing automation software

In the last few years, marketing automation has revolutionized digital marketing, allowing businesses to connect with their customers more efficiently. As stated in Social Media’s Today 2019 State of Marketing Automation Survey report, 91% of marketing automation users think it is “very important” to the overall success of their marketing activity. Additionally, 63% of the surveyed businesses outpacing their competitors were using marketing automation technology. How it is used is important when answering the question, “What is marketing automation?” Listed below are some of the ways organizations use marketing automation solutions:

  • Welcoming Emails– Crocs provides an excellent example of a welcoming email. Their “Welcome!” is sent out automatically, with a 20% discount for the new subscriber, as well as a newsletter.
  • Product Launches & Updates– Apple’s introduction of the iPhone 13 included sending smartphone advertisements to iPhone users, promoting pre-orders.
  • Reminder emails– The School of Life (a provider of educational materials) sent out automated emails, reminding its customers of a “Black Friday” sale, and offering 20% off on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
  • Newsletters– Food 52 sends out a killer newsletter. Their articles are written in a light, friendly tone and their artwork is eye-catching.

Marketing automation software

The successful use of marketing automation requires delivering the right message, at the right time, to the right person. Marketing professionals can create personalized campaigns based on customer behavior, and focused on creating a personalized experience. A marketing agency is no longer needed when a marketing automation system is in use. Marketing automation users can promote lead nurturing and customer engagement with little manual effort.

Ready to see which marketing automation software is right for your company? Use our product selection tool for fast, free recommendations by our unbiased Technology Advisors. Fill in your requirements on our marketing automation software page, and we’ll contact you with a short list of marketing automation platforms that meet your needs.

The post What Is Marketing Automation? appeared first on TechnologyAdvice.

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8. Azalea Health Acquires dashboardMD for Improved AnalyticsПн, 20 сен[−]
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On Sept. 8, EHR vendor Azalea Health announced its acquisition of dashboardMD, a provider of BI reporting and healthcare analytics.

This union of cloud-based software solutions gives healthcare providers the ability to draw actionable insights straight from the electronic health records, leading to better patient outcomes through technology and data-augmented care.

dashboardMD’s President and CEO Jose Valero will assume a new role as Director of Analytics, and Azalea’s Co-Founder and CEO Baha Zeidan will remain CEO. The teams from both companies will be merged once the deal closes.

Zeidan said in a press release, “Incorporating dashboardMD’s unrivaled analytics capabilities in our clinician-friendly EHR and bringing Jose in to lead Azalea’s data analytics practice will empower providers to better manage clinical quality measures and have enhanced visibility into their revenue.” He goes on to say that the joint effort will “supercharge the healthcare analytics space and help the medical field take a giant step forward.”

Also read: Choosing An EHR: A Comparison Of The Best Electronic Health Records Software

Azalea delivers electronic health records, revenue cycle management, data insights, and telehealth solutions designed for community and rural practices. The tool also provides resources to help clinicians meet their Meaningful Use requirements. With the dashboardMD acquisition, the solution will also offer clinical and financial analytics along with BI reporting for provider organizations. This reporting includes daily interactive dashboards, scheduled reports via email, performance scorecards, predictive analytics, and ad-hoc analysis tools.

EHR systems improve alongside healthcare analytics market boom

This acquisition is likely the catalyst for a wave of analytics-driven EHR solutions. Right now, the healthcare analytics market is $21.2 billion. By 2026, that number is projected to reach $75.1 billion, with COVID only causing the importance of big data in the health industry to expand.

In the past, EHR and EMR tools weren’t designed for data mining or integration. Most systems weren’t able to integrate medical datasets from other sources, and if they were, employees with the skills and time to do so were very limited. To make matters worse, poorly designed, time-consuming user interfaces were a common complaint among doctors and nurses. No one wanted to spend more time dealing with an EHR than they had to.

And while some EHR and EMR tools still don’t support the ability to access the data mine stored in unstructured files, many of these tools are evolving to provide reporting and analysis capabilities, along with better user interfaces. Here’s a few uses a clinician can leverage with a data-centric EHR tool:

  • Medical data history makes diagnosing and treating more accurate and efficient.
  • Disparate data sets can be combined to strengthen financial planning.
  • Tracking the flow of patient visits reveals where improvements can occur.
  • Your organization’s performance is clear—meaning comparison to peers and national standards is possible.

The amount of health data will only continue to increase as organizations move to aggregate all of their information into one platform. As the healthcare sector is one of the most data-heavy industries, and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) is on the rise, there’s a lot of room for opportunity and value. But with opportunity comes great responsibility.

Bias problems with advances in the healthcare industry

Chris Bergh, CEO of DataKitchen, Inc., a DataOps consultancy and platform provider that manages analytics creation and operations for healthcare organizations, warns of the dangers that AI and ML pose in the healthcare industry.

“One common problem is that biased data is used to train and develop ML algorithms. The AI model then goes on to perpetuate bias on a grand scale – you might call it institutionalized bias. In one well known example, UnitedHealth Group’s Optum division developed an algorithm that predicted severity of illness based on past spending data. However, spending on patients reflects existing institutionalized racial bias.”

Bergh goes on, “Since less money is spent historically on black patients than white patients, with the same level of need, the algorithm underestimated the level of need of black patients by 17 percent to 46 percent. If an algorithm like that were deployed across a healthcare provider’s customer base, it could have imposed unfair constraints on healthcare spending on black patients.”

This is not to say that AI and ML should be avoided, but rather used with caution while bearing in mind the consequences of AI bias.

Azalea and dashboardMD aren’t yet in the conversation about AI, but this step in data analytics is one that moves the healthcare industry another rung higher on the technology ladder.

These companies are making smart moves that not only benefit them from a business standpoint, but also benefit doctors and patients who wouldn’t have been able to afford a heavy-hitting, on-premise analytics solution.

The post Azalea Health Acquires dashboardMD for Improved Analytics appeared first on TechnologyAdvice.

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9. Blockchain Could Revolutionize Business FinanceПн, 20 сен[−]
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Propelled by the recent explosion in the popularity and value of cryptocurrencies, industry specialists and regular Joes alike started thinking of ways to apply crypto’s underlying systems in other areas. From data protection to eCommerce, potential blockchain applications started popping up everywhere – and for good reason.

Blockchain’s peer-to-peer system and anti-tampering capabilities make it ideal for any sector that benefits from the quick transfer of verifiable, fraud-free information and transactions.

One such sector is business finance, and it’s not hard to see why. The finance sector runs on the endless flow of contracts, finance processes, and transactions. The overall efficiency of this massive volume of constantly transitioning paperwork could be significantly improved through blockchain.

Let’s take a look at how the world of business finance could benefit from the blockchain infrastructure.

What is the blockchain?

You’ve probably come across the term ‘blockchain’ numerous times already, thanks to its ties to cryptocurrencies. However, blockchain is not only tied to virtual money – it forms the core underlying system that makes the crypto world tick.

Blockchain represents a distributed ledger, where networked computers (nodes) each hold a copy of this ledger. This ledger comprises interconnected blocks representing records of transactions, which is why the network is referred to as the blockchain.

Due to how these blocks are chained to one another, tampering with previous transaction data is impossible. Whenever a new transaction occurs, all nodes on the network verify its validity by checking it against their own copy of the ledger. Then, a virtual vote of sorts occurs, and if the majority of the nodes agree that the transaction is legitimate, it gets added to the next block.

Business blockchains

The blockchain network is central to the idea and functioning of cryptocurrencies. This peer-to-peer system alleviates the need for any central regulatory institution. The network’s infrastructure combined with the use of cryptography guarantees the anonymity and legitimacy of each transaction. The core idea of Bitcoin and other cryptos is to transform the current financial system and cut out needless intermediaries and long transaction times. These same hopes and aspirations are what drives the application of blockchain in business as well.

The Deloitte Global Blockchain 2019 survey shows that 91% of respondents believe that they would achieve a measurable return within five years of investing in blockchain. Additionally, 83% of respondents saw compelling use cases of blockchain in business, and 86% of them agreed with the statement that “Blockchain can enhance our integration toward more “touchless” business processes.”

The will and optimism for using blockchain in business are evident, and we already saw the first steps in applying blockchain in eCommerce and cybersecurity. Now, the world of finance is readying itself up for the potential use of blockchain to optimize business processes.

How can blockchain help business finance?

The first image that comes to mind when someone says ‘business finance’ is probably that of tons of paperwork, accountants, money transfers, contracts and sales agreements, and other tenuous legal work. These are exactly the areas where blockchain can massively speed up and streamline the overall functioning of finance.

The main field in which blockchain could help significantly is trust. Traditionally, two businesses working together have unaligned databases. Information on how much work was done on one side, how much time it took, or how much it cost could differ between databases of two businesses, leading to discrepancies, conflict, or slow-downs.

By using a distributed, tamper-proof database like the blockchain, all records would be instantly synced across the network and transparent to all parties. The same goes for fiscal transactions. Typically, banks hold funds until one party delivers the products the other party paid for. Thanks to the speed and transparency of the blockchain, coupled with the use of smart contracts, this whole process could be sped up considerably.

Smart contracts are programs on the blockchain that automatically execute or document certain processes once the right conditions are met. Thanks to them, suppliers can immediately get funds once the goods arrive, without the risk of fraud.

Thanks to the blockchain’s ability to store legal documents, verifying the legality of contracts and sale agreements also becomes much easier, as they’re stored securely on the blockchain and are freely available for viewership to authorized parties.

The distribution of invoices stored on the blockchain to all parties involved allows for easy transaction verification and VAT settlement down the line.

These are only some of the possible use cases of blockchain – the potential is practically endless. In addition to B2B blockchains, many companies are opting to create internal blockchain networks to handle intra-company processes – allowing them to optimize the company’s entire workflow.

The blockchain revolution

So, is the business blockchain revolution around the corner? Well, yes and no. While many companies have already started applying blockchain solutions to their processes – and they’re proving very effective – there are obstacles in the way.

There are numerous compliance and privacy issues with existing legal regulations. Proper access control in a blockchain network could prove hard to manage, and transaction privacy goes against the core tenets of blockchain. Incorporating financial institutions into the blockchain, which cannot be omitted from business transactions altogether, could prove to be a problem as well. The coming years will show how well business finance and other sectors will be able to tackle these issues.

Aleksandra Arsic is a Content Specialist. She’s a bitcoin and blockchain technology research author, with a background in economics. Other areas of focus include growth in marketing, IT, and e-commerce.

The post Blockchain Could Revolutionize Business Finance appeared first on TechnologyAdvice.

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10. 7 Common Pitfalls Enterprises Make In Their Content Marketing StrategyПн, 20 сен[−]
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Modern enterprises rely heavily on their sales teams and outbound marketing methods to find new customers. Although this has worked for many companies, the cost of acquisition for customers can be very high and reduce the overall ROI of marketing efforts. Having a refined content strategy is an alternative way to bring organic leads and customers to enterprises. This allows sales teams to focus on selling and it reduces the overall marketing spend that’s commonly used on lead generation, paid advertising and other marketing campaigns.

Content marketing has been one of the highest ROI forms of marketing for modern enterprises. In fact content marketing provides 3x more leads while costing 62% less than traditional marketing strategies. Most companies are well aware and have experienced the benefits of content marketing, but they are still falling short in their content marketing strategy.

Companies that don’t have significant experience with content marketing can fall into common pitfalls that can lead to little traffic and few conversions. Some of the top pitfalls include:

1. No content strategy

Many enterprises just publish content like news without a clear content strategy. Although it’s good to have some content on your site, there has to be a purpose for every piece published. Without a content strategy, a company publishes random content and wastes their marketing dollars. This leads to little no organic views from search engines and your customers will be unable to find you.

Having a content strategy will enable you to find the keywords that your customers are searching for and generate thousands of free visitors to your site every month. It’s important to sit down with your content team and map out which content is going to be published and why before the beginning of each quarter.

2. Poor keyword research

Keyword research is the backbone of having an effective content marketing strategy. Without keyword research, a company has no information on what keywords are being searched for, how difficult a keyword is to rank for and similar data. Enterprises often invest thousands of dollars into content without doing any keyword research and this leads to no return.

Doing proper keyword research results in ranking for content and getting more impressions and clicks from Google. The majority of companies use tools like Ahrefs, Ubersuggest, Moz, etc. to get this done. These tools will give you the most accurate estimate of how much traffic a given keyword is getting and how difficult it will be for your site to rank for those keywords.

Also Read: Ahrefs vs. SEMrush

3. Ignoring competitors

Competitors are often a great way to find out which keywords to rank for. SEO tools allow you to do competitor research to estimate how much traffic a competitor is getting along with the keywords they rank for. This can help inform your keyword strategy and pivot quicker to get more views.

Ignoring competitors can lead to a large gap between you and your competitor. SEO often compounds and the content and links gap between you and your competitor may become too big to overcome if you ignore your competitors for too long. Most SEO tools have the ability to do in-depth competitor research and you can see which content is bringing in the most traffic for them.

4. Tracking wrong KPIs

Many enterprises track wrong KPIs that have little to do with revenue. This is commonly used to justify wrong content strategies to teams and key stakeholders. What companies need to do is to focus on the few KPIs that directly impact revenue from content marketing. This includes metrics like organic views, conversion rates, bounce rate and more. Tracking the wrong KPIs can lead to a negative ROI on SEO efforts in addition to wasted time and capital.

5. Inconsistent publishing

Consistent publishing is important to get organic traffic from Google and increase the amount of keywords you rank for. When a company starts to write content on their site, it may take several months until Google starts ranking the content and bringing organic visitors to the site.

It’s important to keep publishing content because this will allow SEO to compound and bring in more views. Without consistent publishing, companies may never gain the momentum needed to start getting significant traffic

6. Not building links

Links are crucial to building domain authority and increasing organic traffic. When a site starts publishing content, it starts with a domain rating of 0. This means that Google has not given this site any domain authority on any topics. When you get links from other sites, this acts as a vote of confidence that your site is legitimate and your content is valuable for searchers.

Many enterprises do little to no link building even though they have the network to do link building at scale. Some strategies that enterprises can use to build links include guest posting, using infographics and leveraging social media. This will help improve your domain authority dramatically and it will attract more sites to link to yours since your content is ranking better.

7. Lack of conversions

Many enterprises have little to no conversion strategy. There’s no point of bringing thousands of visitors to your site each month without turning them into a customer. Taking simple actions like adding a call to action (CTA) at the end of each blog post can help capture some of your visitors and turn them into customers. Conversions is where most of the money is left on the table during content marketing. If an enterprise cannot improve conversions on their own, a possible option is to hire a B2B SEO agency. They are well equipped with helping enterprises improve their conversions and net more revenue.

Taking a few steps to set up and optimize your conversions can result in many new customers for your enterprise. Some practical steps you can take to improve your conversions include optimizing your headlines, making content more readable and creating a compelling call to action.

Ali Ali is a freelance writer and blogger at alisquared.co. He enjoys writing about marketing, freelancing and building an online business.

The post 7 Common Pitfalls Enterprises Make In Their Content Marketing Strategy appeared first on TechnologyAdvice.

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