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COVID-19 Employee Screening in Texas has a $50,000 Hidden Risk

Businesses in Texas are excited to begin reopening their companies on May 1st. But, before they do they need to be aware of a hidden risk in implementing their re-opening plan. A risk that could cost as much as $50,00 per employee. 

Uncovering the hidden risk

In Governor Abbot’s Report to Open Texas, the Minimum Standard Health Protocols are outlined for every business to follow. The cornerstone is screening employees for COVID-19 symptoms. Which means you will need to be able to prove that you did the screening consistently and thoroughly. This is where the new risk that most businesses haven’t had to deal with in the past rears its ugly head. When you start collecting health information for employees you are collecting sensitive personal information. This has to be protected according to the Texas Business and Commerce Code and if it isn’t you can be fined up to $50,000 per incident. Most businesses in Texas are not prepared to handle this type of information correctly.

What you need to do

Like any other sensitive information data collected during the employee screenings should be stored in an encrypted, secure location and never transmitted unencrypted. Online file systems like Dropbox, Microsoft One Drive, and Google Drive are not configured by default to have encryption and most require an extra cost to get to the level of protection you need.  

What you will need to do is train your employees, document everything, and protect all the information that you documented.

1st Train your employees

You will need to train your employees in several ways. They need to know to self-screen themselves before coming to work. The employee that is responsible for screening employees when they come to work needs to know how to properly handle sensitive information. I suggest that you review your existing Sensitive Information Handling Policy with them and explain the importance of keeping that information safe and confidential even from other employees. 

2nd Document everything

You have to document everything. Make a paper trail of the training that you did and the policies that you put in place. Document your daily enforcement of those policies. This will help protect you in case an employee or customer becomes ill with COVID-19. 

3rd Protect the data

Protect all that documentation. You could just keep it all on paper and lock it in a secure filing cabinet but, that isn’t practical for companies that have more than a handful of employees or those that have more than one location. Every business is different and there is no one size fits all solution.* However, I can tell you the one question to ask your IT advisor to see if the way you are handling the information is secure.

The question you need to ask

“Is the way we are handling this information considered HIPAA compliant?”

If your IT advisor answers “No” or doesn’t know if the solution meets HIPAA requirements, then it probably isn’t being done correctly. Although your company probably doesn’t need to be HIPAA compliant it is a easy way for someone that doesn’t know Business IT Security to make sure they are protecting their sensitive data.

Technology is constantly creating new risk

Technology has a tendency to create new risks unexpectedly. This generally happens when an old process becomes digital but can also occur when new regulations get passed without your knowledge. The typical IT technician is not going to catch these types of business issues. A CIO would normally bring this type of information to light but but most mid-size and smaller businesses can’t afford to fill that role full-time. To protect your company from these types of surprises in the future you should look at IT outsourcing that includes all four roles of a successful IT department.

*Edit to original article

So after writing the article I found CheckIns for Business which is an app that will work for almost any size business. It has the level of security that I mention in the article and it is the tool we are going to be using for our customers.

 

Why every business should have a QA process no matter what

When the goal is repeat customers, quality management is a no-brainer. But it’s all too common for surveys to list poor service or product shortcomings as a top ten complaint.

It’s clear that quality is on the minds of savvy consumers who demand and expect more. The takeaway is that quality matters, regardless of product or service industry.

Developing and implementing a strong QA process can help you stay on track with customers. Here’s a pathway to guide your journey.

Quality assurance

Quality assurance is a key element for keeping customer needs front and center.

Quality assurance focuses on preventive measures throughout process operations. The objective is simple: meet customer requirements.

QA should be proactive, dealing with issues before products or services reach the customer. Remember, quality is in the eye of the beholder. Your quality assurance has to live up to the customer’s expectations. That’s what matters.

The QA process

A QA process is a consistent, repeatable system for verifying and delivering on customer standards.

It’s a combination of process-oriented activities that consider the means, methods, policies, procedures, reviews and audits necessary for ensuring quality. It also includes comprehensive system training for personnel charged with performing work that impacts the quality of goods and services.

The process typically follows the Deming PDCA cycle for continuous improvement, which applies to any business.

Steps to creating a QA process

A successfully implemented QA process helps the business’s bottom line by creating effective operations that deliver on quality. Here’s how to create yours:

Step 1

Start with a plan. Form a cross-functional group to shape the plan and lead the effort. The plan must address specific quality goals and objectives the QA process needs to achieve. It should also acknowledge project deliverables.

Step 2

Determine resource needs and gain commitment to move forward. Due to cost and time commitments, buy-in from top leaders is crucial.

Step 3

Conduct a baseline assessment. Examine what you do now for quality assurance, and take note of what’s working and not working. The goal is to identify problem areas and associated policies, protocols and procedures that need improving.

Step 4

Define the future state and determine what’s required to get there. This includes specific action items you need to complete to achieve quality goals.

Step 5

Establish an implementation timeline with designated responsibilities and follow-up protocols. This is key for system execution.

Step 6

Set up a method for continual review and enhancement of the QA process. Include appropriate success measures. For example, conduct customer satisfaction surveys or put procedures in place to check for elements not working properly.

Implementation Hacks

Even the best plans can hit a snag. Here are some pointers to help keep the QA process implementation on track:

Hack #1

Don’t throw team members to the wolves. Train them and make sure the mission is clear.

Hack #2

Don’t skip the planning step. Failure to plan almost guarantees a failed implementation.

Hack #3

Don’t forget about monitoring to assess implementation success.

Hack #4

Don’t go it alone. Get support from a qualified resource skilled in strategic business consulting.

The Payoff

Quality products and services are a must when it comes to business longevity, efficiency and profitability. A QA process provides businesses with a better understanding of current methods and upgrades needed to consistently deliver on the promise of quality.

The payoff of such an effort is measured in customer satisfaction, business gains from increased productivity, and cost savings from minimized quality issues.

What is customer experience and why does it matter?

When you think of the “customer experience,” you might think of the traditional fare: customer surveys, discounts, handling complaints and the like. But customer experience today comprises so much more.

In general, customer experience includes any and all business interactions based on perception.

Gartner states that within two years, about 50 percent of CIOs will use artificial intelligence (AI) in some capacity to improve the customer experience. This may include using technologies such as chatbots, email and text support, self-checkouts, and social media integrations.

Whatever your line of business, there are many ways to optimize customer experiences in a digital world. The problem isn’t a limitation of options. Instead, many businesses owners simply don’t tap into the necessary business consulting tools.

But if you want to remain competitive, it’s time to up your game.

The changes we’re seeing now aren’t just because technology is evolving. The customer is evolving, too. That’s why the customer experience is being optimized across all industries. And your small or midsize business needs to keep pace to remain successful.

When everyone is your customer

Today, employees, business owners, investors, shareholders and partners wear two hats. They are both stakeholders and customers.

Businesses have to engage these people with sales, marketing and services. Lack of engagement isn’t an option. Furthermore, you have to follow through with each group through the full sales process. And if you can turn them into brand champions who bring you new organic customers via word of mouth (or social media), even better.

Customers now share feelings, and more significantly, their opinions. They talk to each other and share online. Customers want to be nurtured, hence the need for customer-centric grooming that’s friendly, helpful and professional.

Separating yourself from competitors

While you, of course, have your own strategies, you should also factor in what separates you from your competitors.

Listen to your customers’ needs

Read their feedback. Yes, actually go online and see what your customers are saying about you. Let them know you are listening to their ideas and complaints.

Aim for the heart

Appeal to your customers’ emotional side. Heartfelt messages are meaningful—provided they’re sincere.

Simplify your products and services

Walk the customer through their journey and make the experience easier. Never stop asking yourself what doing business with your company is like from the customer’s point of view.

Lead from the top

One study found that nearly 60 percent of businesses generate more profit when CEOs are responsible for managing customer experiences. And businesses need to exceed customers’ expectations.

It’s not about referrals or volume. It’s about personalized experiences that let customers know they matter. That’s what customers in every vertical want, even if they’re limited on resources.

So how do you get it right?

Steps to maximize the customer experience

If you’re looking to do a better job with your company’s customer experience, we suggest you start in the following areas.

Develop and maintain complete customer profiles

These should absolutely integrate with your CRM. Using your CRM, customize the customer experience with everything from messaging to automation.

Personalize all of your interactions with your customers

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a customer service phone call, confirmation of an order, or an inquiry about a special discount. Be the voice they hear and be helpful. Always.

Get your products and services right

Amaze them with fast and accurate delivery, and offer helpful support every step of the way—every time.

Conclusion

Customers need to be looked after at every level in order to maximize the customer experience.

If you’re concerned that your business is in a chaotic state, disorganized and reactive rather than focused and proactive, maybe it’s time to talk to a business consultant. The right support goes a long way to making your customer experience everything it could be.

5 easy things you can do to boost your SMB’s cybersecurity right now

Cyber attacks happen to everyone, big and small.

Anthem Healthcare, for instance, suffered a month-long attack in 2015, which allowed hackers to steal the private information of 80 million people. Small and midsize companies (SMBs) are routinely infiltrated as well.

It’s not alarmist to say that someone may be trying to break into your network even as you’re reading these words. So the following advice is critical to SMB leaders everywhere.

1. Review rigorously

As soon as possible, conduct a thorough review of your SMB’s digital infrastructure. For example, test the strength of your firewall. Also, make sure the information your team has uploaded is thoroughly encrypted.

If you’re looking for ideas as far as how to organize your review, the National Institute of Standards and Technology provides risk assessment documents that are easy to follow.

An extensive inspection will let you find outdated modes of cybersecurity. For example, some businesspeople employ two-factor authentication, believing it to be the safest system available. However, multifactor authentication represents an even safer alternative.

Once your review is finished, create a schedule for regularly updating your anti-spyware, anti-ransomware, email filters, operating system patches, antivirus programs and other safety tools.

2. Find knowledgeable employees, and make them more knowledgeable

Hire individuals with at least a basic understanding of cybersecurity. Furthermore, you could subsidize advanced cybersecurity classes for all of your new hires. As best practices evolve, take the time to explicate the latest strategies at your company-wide meetings.

You should also draft official cybersecurity policies for your business, and every worker should be required to read and understand them. These guidelines ought to explain each person’s role in protecting your company’s data and what someone should do if he or she suspects a breach has occurred.

The concept is similar to that of a neighborhood watch program. If everyone remains vigilant, serious security problems can be mitigated and often avoided.

3. Restrict access

Your employees should each have their own login, and they should be required come up with strong passwords that include letters, numbers and symbols. In addition, it makes sense to limit all of your staff members’ access to the company network. Everyone should be able to get into the programs they need and no others.

You could also ban your employees from conducting any business on their personal mobile devices. If they must use those gadgets on the job, at least have a member of your IT team install powerful security apps on them.

4. Prepare for the worst

Envision a nightmare scenario in which no one who works at your SMB can access your network due to an attack. All of your data is potentially exposed. From there, work out a detailed disaster plan that addresses who will report this crime, who will contact your vendors, suppliers and distributors, and how you will share the bad news with your customers.

This doomsday plan should also include the names of specialized attorneys you’ll turn to for representation and how your communications team can minimize the negative publicity that will follow.

Also, make sure you have adequate data backup. All of your data should be safely stored somewhere outside your network—perhaps in the cloud. You should be able to access that information at any time. That way, if you can’t access your network, your business activities can continue while IT professionals work on solutions.

5. Rely on third-party expertise

When it comes to assessing your current cybersecurity circumstances, developing plans, and the other steps listed above, it’s advantageous to get assistance from an outsourced consulting firm. You want people who can review your situation with a fresh, dispassionate set of eyes.

Pros who are equipped with the most up-to-date knowledge.

Such authorities also stay abreast of changes in the laws that govern corporate cybersecurity. As such, they can make sure you’re in compliance with all regulations at all times.

An outside security team will manage your network from, well, the outside. Therefore, they may be able to detect possible threats more clearly than your internal IT professionals, all of whom are facing the same dangers as the rest of your staff. And, as time goes on, that outsourced group can provide you with all necessary fixes and patches, lessening your team’s workload and stress levels.

Cybersecurity can be a scary topic when you reflect on the myriad and evolving hazards your SMB faces. But, in collaboration with a reputable consulting firm, you can face the future free of fear . . . and free to focus on your growth and prosperity.

The high cost of regulatory non-compliance

You might think cutting a few corners on regulatory standards is a savvy way to shave your quarterly budget. And you wouldn’t be alone. The reality of non-compliance, however, is much grimmer than you might expect.

There are direct, immediate and serious consequences for the non-compliant.

For one, you may get hit with a huge fine. But some of the ways regulatory non-compliance cost you big aren’t as obvious. For instance, failing to comply with technology regulations can ruin your reputation or lead to other long-term effects.

The high cost of regulatory non-compliance shouldn’t be underestimated.

Throwing money away in fines

If any of the data associated with your business is medical in nature, you are likely bound by HIPAA rules. This strict set of government regulations seeks to protect the confidentiality of protected health information. HIPAA violations are expensive.

Fines are charged per health record, at a rate of at least $100. Let a server full of patient information become non-compliant, and you’re looking at thousands—or even millions—of dollars in fines.

Other industries impose similarly devastating fines on businesses who don’t comply with data regulations. Financial records are bound by FFIEC-IT regulations, and the FTC can fine companies that put consumer data at risk.

And then there are new European regulations to consider—even if you operate out of the US. Failing to comply with GDPR could lead to a fine of 4 percent of your global revenue. No matter your industry, the fines alone make it irresponsible to roll the dice on IT compliance.

Losing new business

Failing to comply with IT-related regulations also has long-term implications. Once the fines are settled, customers may not trust you with their data anymore.

After Target had a major credit card breach in 2014, the company’s sales dipped by 46 percent. Failing to operate within regulations doesn’t bode well for how much you respect your clients. In a world where customers are apt to be hyper-sensitive about who has access to their information, being outed as regulatory non-compliant (even if there is no breach) could be catastrophic on quarterly sales.

Retail companies like Target haven’t been the only businesses to lose money after a data breach. Major financial institutions such as Equifax have also faced fierce criticism for letting sensitive data into the hands of nefarious parties.

Even if a company takes major steps to rectify a breach and become compliant with all regulations, the word-of-mouth damage has been done.

Paying serious legal fees

So, you’ve been found non-compliant. You assemble a PR strategy and gulp at the size of the fine. But wait, there’s more. Getting out of the mess you’re in will also force you to rack up serious legal fees.

Fighting a fine and dealing with the mountain of paperwork involved with resolving the matter can cost you thousands alone. You may also get sued by outside parties, depending on the situation. If you violate HIPAA regulations, for example, patients who believe their data was compromised can sue you.

When it comes to new regulations, like GDPR in Europe, being non-compliant is relatively new territory. That could mean a longer legal process if you’ve been found non-compliant, and at the very least you’re unlikely to know how to handle the situation on your own.

You may think you’re being smart to avoid the legal fees associated with setting up compliance, but it gets worse if you fail to abide. Pay for lawyers and an experienced business consultant up front rather than facing a crisis later.

Risking cybersecurity losses

If the fines, lost business and hefty attorney fees don’t scare you off from regulatory non-compliance, the risk of lost data should.

Regulations, irritating as they may be, typically exist for a reason. When your IT system is not adequately protected, chalking up fines may end up being the least of your worries. Unprotected cloud servers can be breached, computers without a strong enough firewall could be infiltrated by ransomware, and improper password protocols leave your systems at risk.

How much money would you lose if you couldn’t access your records for three days? What if there were permanent data losses? If you are non-compliant with security regulations and protocols and data gets lost altogether, the ultimate costs are nearly incalculable.

Regulatory compliance is a non-negotiable

There are plenty of reasons to remain compliant with industry and government regulations—not the least of which is that it’s the legal thing to do.

If you fail to meet the standards, the costs can be serious in both the short and long-term.

It’s bad enough that you could still get hacked when you do everything right, and the mitigating factor of non-compliance just opens a new can of worms. If you need some help with your regulatory compliance, contact the TechBundle today.

Tech-based vs. policy-based regulatory compliance—which is right for your SMB?

The growing global economy is impacting local markets in many ways, but making them safer isn’t one of them. All that growth comes with a corresponding rise in criminal activities which, in turn, drives up the proliferation of international regulatory compliance systems.

Attaining and maintaining regulatory compliance with any one of those systems—let alone several of them at once—is becoming harder to do.

Many SMBs are now challenged to establish a set of compliance policies and practices that can protect them from intentional or inadvertent violations as well as keep them in the clear for the foreseeable future. Most find they must choose between two distinct processes: set and enforce an internal roster of compliance requirements or find a technological solution that will do the compliance management for them.

Both strategies provide value, but with so much to think about, it’s difficult to know which option to pursue.

Compliance regulations rise in the face of escalating criminal activities

Not only are markets global, but so are the internationally based bad actors who prey on trusting digital customers and partners. One recent report indicated that fraud and corruption are on the rise in both the developed and developing world:

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In Africa’s emerging markets . . .

The number of fraud complaints is up by 30 percent in Nigeria, and 44 percent in Egypt.

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In Germany . . .

Reported fraud cases have risen by 26 percent.

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And worldwide . . .

The incidences of cybercrime are increasing. In 2017, the ransomware “WannaCry” attack spread through 150 countries, infecting more than 200,000 computers, and costing the global economy as much as $53 billion, according to Lloyds of London, a global insurance leader.

Fraud and corruption are on the rise in both the developed and developing world.

SMBs aren’t immune to the threat

While some SMB owners believe their enterprise is too small to attract the attention of these nefarious characters, the data demonstrates otherwise.

Fact #1

An Australian survey concluded that SMBs are actually bigger targets than their larger competitors because most SMBs haven’t invested in appropriate compliance or defense technology or practices. In the year ending June 2015, reported cybercrimes against Australian SMBs rose more than 105 percent over the previous year, with the cost to each business averaging AU $10,000.

Fact #2

In the U.S., SMBs made up 61 percent of cyber-attack victims in 2017, costing those owners an average of $117,000.

Clearly, the data reveals that even the smallest SMB is a cybercrime target and that many still struggle with how to maintain SMB regulatory compliance while preventing an attack.

Even the smallest SMB is a cybercrime target.

A comprehensive approach that incorporates both policies and practices and technological tools offers the best position for compliance structure from which to defend against an attack.

On the human factor side

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Train your staff

Nothing can replace a well-trained workforce that prioritizes high production quality and appropriate compliance standards. Ensure that your staff knows why following compliance procedures at every step of every process is critical to the company’s success.

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Make it a culture thing

Too many SMBs leave compliance processes to the IT department or hold workers accountable via the HR department. The threats posed today, however, are too significant to delegate regulatory compliance management to any one company division.

Ensure that every element of your enterprise has comprehensive training, materials and protocols in place to achieve compliance and make sure upper-level leadership can coordinate them all into a single, complying whole.

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Document everything

Require and monitor appropriate documentation of all activities, materials, tools and related compliance data. Most regulators require proof that compliance practices are in place, including proof of changes made over time.

Even the most compliant company can trigger censure if their systems are 100 percent compliant but they can’t prove that fact.

Compliance Quote

On the technology side

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Keep it current

Outdated programming that can’t recognize today’s sophisticated attacks poses a significant threat to your business. While updates to current programming may be prohibitively expensive, cloud-based programming and tools can afford better service at an equally better cost.

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Keep ahead of the regulators

Too often, regulations lag behind criminal realities. A body of regulations develops over time and usually after significant research and industry inputs. It’s not unusual for regulatory compliance practices to be in tune with existing rules while being hopelessly ill-equipped to manage incoming digital threats.

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Jump to the cloud

Consider a cloud-based compliance system that can change as threats evolve.

Cloud services are uniquely well-suited to manage regulatory compliance because the programming, management, maintenance and currency of those systems are controlled by specialists whose sole focus is to ensure top compliance capacities.

Unlike your small business’s internal IT department, where your IT crew must also deal with daily glitches, catalog changes and similar business functions, a cloud-based compliance service is always on duty for one specific reason—to monitor your compliance concerns.

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Adopt a quality management system

In many cases, an automated quality management system outperforms every other quality and compliance strategy. This is because an automated system is specifically designed to identify challenges at the earliest possible moment, creating alerts. Often, automated systems will catch a problem before humans are even aware that something is awry.

Implementing such a system offers a second benefit in addition to compliance confidence. It speeds production by guaranteeing the highest quality is reached by every product and process.

Often, automated systems will catch a problem before humans are even aware that something is awry.

Take a coordinated approach

Don’t let your SMB be the next victim of tomorrow’s cybercriminals. The compliance and automation consultants at TechBundle can help you master your compliance and quality challenges.

What does “leveraging technology” actually mean?

Small and medium businesses need to leverage technology to promote growth. However, like many often-used phrases, the catchphrase “leveraging technology” is used in so many ways, it almost loses its meaning.

The question should be, “How can SMBs use technology to establish a long-term competitive advantage?”

SMBs are slow to leverage technology

When a business leverages technology, that digital transformation will make fundamental changes in the way it conducts every aspect of its business. SMBs can achieve that change by leveraging the technologies that are being introduced at an increasing rate.

However, SMBs aren’t the first to do what’s necessary to achieve digital transformation. According to research done by the SMB Group, only 48 percent of SMBs are planning to find ways to move toward transformation, 36 percent have started to do things that will support transformation and 16 percent have no digital plans in place.

It’s critical for SMBs to leverage technology

This lack of progress comes at a time when the need for transformation is becoming ever more important. The digital age has changed the way people interact with one another. As a result, customers expect to have that same freedom with the brands they buy from.

These customer expectations exist for all businesses, regardless of the size of the organization. A number of trends are driving this imperative for digital transformation.

People are changing the way they want to work

The days when everyone in a company worked in the company’s physical location are going away. Today, many businesses need to develop new ways to support employees when they are outside of the office or telecommuting.

The technology needs to support letting employees conduct business from their telephones, including checking email, responding to meeting requests and more.

Customers are changing their expectations

Often, the biggest challenge for SMBs is attracting and retaining customers. Being responsive to customer expectations is a critical factor in meeting that challenge.

Technology can help SMBs improve the customer experience by being accessible online, providing self-serve capabilities, collecting and responding to customer information, and much more.

Technology is evolving to provide answers for companies of all sizes

Strategic business consultants are quick to point out that, regardless of a company’s IT maturity level, management can take the company to the next level with a well-planned cycle of improvement. In today’s environment, there’s no reason why SMBs can’t use the same type of technology that serves large enterprises.

The price of technology is falling and the capabilities offered are increasing, as these examples show:

  • SMBs can use technology to integrate workflow automation to buy back time to focus on critical business innovation.
  • Chatbots can take over customer service tasks that include interacting with customers, answering routine questions and routing telephone calls.
  • Social media management becomes much less time consuming and more effective when software such as Hootsuite is used to eliminate many of the time-consuming and repetitive tasks that are required to maintain a vibrant social media presence.
  • Online project management software is helping companies of all sizes track projects and provide a platform for communication among team members.
  • Cloud-based accounting systems are making it simple for SMBs to produce invoices, send them via email, and keep track of revenue and expenses. These systems also integrate with complex accounting programs like QuickBooks. As a result, business owners no longer need to supply accounting activity to their CPA manually.

This partial list of technology demonstrates how an SMB can transform many of its processes to save time, reduce costs and improve competitive advantage. The results that are produced when companies leverage technology can be truly impressive.

Looking to the future

The things SMBs have done in the past to be successful won’t work as well in today’s digital world. Building a brand, responding to customer expectations and developing a strong competitive advantage is within reach of SMBs who leverage technology and take digital transformation seriously.

4 ways to maximize your business technology

Dawn Kirchner-King joined Armstrong Building Products in 2015 as their CIO.

She described the company as “a black-hole cost center,” where company leaders didn’t know how to maximize the use of their existing business technology. Dawn changed that.

She used tactics like standing meetings and proven project management practices to increase employee output and boost company efficiency. She also improved the Armstrong Building Products’ CRM suite, streamlining processes and enhancing the company’s customer service capabilities.

Essentially, she used the resources she had in order to help strategically grow Armstrong Building Products.

You don’t have to be a multimillion-dollar company to get the most out of your business technology. But you do have to use IT solutions strategically to grow your company. Part of that is making the most out of what already have.

To help you maximize your current resources, we’ve created a list of 4 different ways you can get the most out of your existing tech.

1. Implement automation

A great way to increase efficiency using your existing business technology is to harness the power of automation.

Even with the advancements in machine learning and robotic process automation, there are some jobs robots will never be able to do. Closing deals, brainstorming ideas, and developing company culture will always require human collaboration.

However, automating simple processes saves your employees time and allows them to focus more energy on mission-critical projects. Automation also reduces errors in tasks like data entry, posting to social media, and sending standard email replies.

2: Use dual monitors

While it may seem like a simple suggestion, giving each of your employees a second monitor increases their productivity by 20-30%. Why? With two screens, employees don’t have to spend time continually switching between different documents and browsers to enter data or compare information.

If your employees spend 3 minutes per day switching between documents, a second monitor can save them 13 hours of work per year. Multiply that number by every employee in your office, and you’ve saved yourself days of work.

Most monitors aren’t that expensive. Spending $100-$200 on a second monitor for every employee has the potential to save you thousands of dollars per year, every year.

Plus, if your employees have a work laptop, a video cable can easily turn their desktop into a second screen.

3: Train your employees

Training is a necessary expense. It’s an investment in your company’s growth. When your team is using your business technology correctly, they’re more efficient. The more efficient your employees are, the more productive they are. The more productive your team is, the easier it is to grow your business.

Training employees will greatly reduce the amount of time you’ll spend fixing policy and process-related mistakes down the line. Plus, it’ll boost your network security. When your team employs security best practices, the less likely they are to accidentally compromise sensitive information.

That being said, effective training is an ongoing process. It’s not something to do once a year. Your policies and processes will change. And as business technology evolves, you’ll use new solutions in your company. Employees need to be trained every time there are new policies, processes, or technology that affect how they perform their job.

It’s best practice to have the materials you went over in training accessible at all times. That way if your team needs a refresher, these resources are readily available.

4: Test your backups

Testing your backup methods regularly may seem obvious. However, many business owners don’t and suffer negative consequences later.

Downtime costs businesses up to $8600 per hour. It’s no surprise that 93% of companies that lost their data for more than 10 days filed for bankruptcy within a year.

Hardware fails, employees accidentally delete crucial documents, and rolling blackouts happen. If your data isn’t backed up, any one of these disasters has the potential to destroy your sensitive business data and your company’s reputation. Plus, if you can’t get back up and running quickly, your competition is more likely to edge you out while you play catch up.

That’s why it’s critical to test your backups often. We recommend testing your backups on a monthly basis at the bare minimum. You should also perform restore tests whenever you install a new application, or when an application is updated or patched.

To make sure you don’t forget, you can automate your backups. Some solutions even let you do this without interrupting employee productivity.

Using business technology to gain a competitive edge.

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There are many simple things you can do to get the most out of your current business technology. This list is a great place to start. If need further assistance, a business consultant can help you strategically get the most out of your IT solutions. And they can help you pick new, cost-effective technology that will drive your business forward.

IT maturity: What it is and why you want to improve it

Jeff Bezos founded Amazon in 1994 as an online bookstore and initially ran it entirely out of his garage. In July of 1995, he sold his first book. Two years later, he issued the company’s IPO. Today, Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer and is on track to be a $1 trillion company by 2022.

How did Jeff Bezos achieve such success?

Through hard work and dedication, of course. But there’s another critical component to Amazon’s success story that every business should pay attention to: Jeff Bezos harnessed the power of technology to continually fine-tune his strategy and improve company-wide operations. In other words, he improved Amazon’s IT maturity level.

The 5 Stages of IT maturity

IT maturity is essentially how well an organization uses information technology to achieve business objectives.

Organizations with a lower IT maturity level tend have inefficient operations, inconsistent quality of work, and trouble adapting quickly when business needs change. Companies with a higher level of IT maturity have standardized processes, consistency in their quality of output, and the ability to adjust to business growth more easily.

At TechBundle, we define the five levels of IT maturity as follows:

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Level 1: Chaotic

Organizations at this level are in a constant state of disorganization and approach IT in an unpredictable manner. There is no cohesion between their minimal IT infrastructure and their business operations. These organizations are reactive, unable to predict issues,  and cannot develop standards for resolving problems.

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Level 2: Disciplined

Companies at a level two are more aware of how effective IT solutions help them achieve success. They have begun to implement minor technology best practices. However, these companies primarily take a reactive, ad-hoc approach to issues and are constantly putting out IT-related fires.

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Level 3: Predictable

At this level, organizations automate maintenance, implement proactive IT support, use asset management, and adopt process standards. IT issues are now predictable and have standardized processes by which they are addressed, meaning that problem resolutions are consistent and effective. Additionally, these businesses track performance analytics, making it easier to optimize their technology over time.

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Level 4: Integrated

Businesses at this stage of IT maturity are highly efficient and completely embrace process and technology best practices. They thoroughly document their IT environments, have guaranteed SLAs in effect, and use available resources efficiently.

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Level 5: Strategic

Businesses operating at this level strategically leverage IT innovations to continually optimize processes, efficiently achieve business outcomes, and gain a competitive edge. Additionally, they link information technology and business metrics, allowing them to make informed decisions in regards to ongoing improvements.

The more mature your organization is, the better its bottom line. In order to determine your organization’s IT maturity level, you need to start with a maturity assessment.

Discovering your IT maturity level

No area of your organization is an island. An objective view of how you currently use technology versus how you should be using it will help to pinpoint the areas in need of improvement. A great way to get this perspective is through an IT maturity assessment.

There are a variety of IT maturity assessments available. At TechBundle, we have our own process for determining IT maturity. Here’s how we do it.

The assessment

First, we interview everyone in the company who uses any kind of technology on the job, starting with the people on the front lines. That’s the core of your business operations. Then we talk to your leadership team. We want to know where they feel you are and where they see the business going.

In each conversation, we’re looking for the underlying business processes that guide the flow of data through your organization. This is followed by an in-depth technical assessment to determine the current state of your infrastructure, cybersecurity and disaster recovery plan.

The analysis

After completing the assessment, TechBundle analyzes all of the results. We compile our findings and present you with a maturity level for each of the main departments of your company—Finance, HR, Operations, Sales and Customer Experience, for example. We’ll also report on the IT maturity of the three major technology areas of your business—infrastructure, cybersecurity and disaster recovery.

The strategy

Of course, in-depth analysis doesn’t do you much good if you don’t know what to do next. That’s why we also provide an actionable list, prioritized based on business goals, financial risk and technology best practices. Our recommendations also include cost estimates to allow for easy budgeting.

That way you have all the information you need to strategically leverage technology to enhance your maturity.

Moving your business forward

As a business owner, you know that heavily focusing on one area of your organization typically means that other areas will suffer. This same idea rings true when it comes to improving your IT maturity level.

Said another way, it’s very difficult to accurately gauge your own IT maturity. That’s the advantage of bringing in a skilled IT consultant. They can help you more effectively facilitate the implementation of new technology, while simultaneously optimizing your business strategy and its components over time.

Workflow Automation: 4 Things Business Owners Need to Know

Back in 2007, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone at Macworld. It was an expensive device without a keyboard or stylus. It didn’t even have 3G. He called it “revolutionary.” Critics felt otherwise.

“That virtual keyboard will be about as useful for tapping out emails and text messages as a rotary phone.” – Seth Porges, TechCrunch Columnist

“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item.” – Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO

Today, the iPhone is the most popular phone in the world, by a longshot. 85.7 million Americans use the device. And Apple itself is on course to reach a $1 trillion valuation in 2018.

How? They are experts in innovation and leveraging technology to their advantage. Apple evolves with technology trends, continuously integrating these new technologies into their devices and their business model.

You can harness the power of technology to innovate your business, too. In order to remain competitive and improve business outcomes, you need to. We’re going to tell you how to get started.

“Innovation is the heart of every exceptional business.” – Michael E. Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It

Workflow automation simplified.

When you program the software your business uses to complete processes that would normally be done manually — data entry, support ticket creation, or posting to social media — you’re automating your workflow.

The core idea behind integrating automation is to boost operational efficiency and achieve continuous improvement. When routine tasks are automated, your team can focus their energy on more complex projects and business growth.

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” — Bill Gates

What to know before workflow automation integration.

The organizational and leadership implications of workflow automation are huge. And while it’s normal to want to dive right in, these are uncharted waters. You need to create a strategic plan, first.

A business strategist can help you navigate the integration process, simplifying its complexities and helping you create a successful implementation strategy. However, if you want to sail the seas of transformation alone, here are 4 things you need to consider.

  1. Document existing processes before implementation.

Loss of knowledge and skills is the “technical debt” of process automation. As you use technology to replace manual labor, you could lose some of the institutional knowledge these individuals possess.

Before undertaking automation, consult with your team on how they currently perform tasks and why they use the process they use today. Document the current process and the rationale behind them. Your employees may be incorporating strategic solutions you didn’t know were needed.

  1. Assess your priorities.

Take stock of all your current bottlenecks. The best way to approach this is to do a deep dive of your current business processes, end to end.

What steps are currently manual? Where are the easiest places to incorporate automation? What can you automate almost immediately with the least amount of resources and the lowest impact on your organization overall?

Decide which opportunities of automation will bring the most value at the lowest cost and start there.

  1. Start small. Scale later.

Heavily customized workflows are hard to troubleshoot and take more time to fix when failures occur. Additionally, large-scale automations can be costly. We recommend implementing existing solutions first.

“45% of work activities could be automated using already demonstrated technology.” — McKinsey

There are plenty of pre-designed automation tools on the market. Some are relatively straightforward. Some are more complex, like solutions that use RPA (robotic process automation) and cognitive computing technologies to improve workflows. To start, try a couple of these in one or two areas of your business. If you see ROI, integrate these innovations on a company-wide level.

  1. Appoint managers.

There are a lot of moving parts in any automated process. Ideally, every new system within your organization will be overseen by someone. This person will help spot errors and track its effectiveness.

If appointing a member of your team to manage the automation process is outside of your current scope, you can enlist the help of an expert consultant or hire a new employee.

Leverage workflow automation in your organization.

Remember, innovation is the key to success. Automating manual processes will help you increase profitability, agility, and brand value. These tips will help you decide the best place to start implementing automation within your organization.