Knowing When To Fold ‘Em: Signs that you should end your IT project

Though fortitude is a virtue, so is knowing when to quit.  But how do you know when it’s a good time to end a project?  There are three signs that are harbingers of the end.

1.  No one above your pay grade has signed off on it

Even if you’ve got a great idea, it’s difficult to get a project off the ground when upper management hasn’t agreed to it.  Why is this important?  Well, rain comes from on high, funds come from there too.

 2.  Aiming Low

When the time comes to get off the ground, some projects have the barest of minimums.   When you aim low when starting a project the only place to adjust is on the ground.  Projects that aim a little higher tend to the ability to adapt to circumstance.  Morale is better managed if you tried for the stars, but only got to fly in the sky.

 3.  There is no plan B

There should always be a plan in case a project fails.  Not planning for the worst creates a situation in which there is no way to salvage a bad scenario.  Like before, after adjusting expectations and reevaluating what is possible with the resources at hand, you can create a more realistic project.  What would you rather have: 0 for 1 or 1 of 2?  One success or no success?

Small businesses thrive by succeeding, but they stay in business by not faltering.

Skype’s Manager Tool Is Here For You

Skype now launched a new business management tool in over 170 countries.  From Brazil to the US, administrators now have the power to allocate and oversee Skype subscriptions.  There are plenty of new features to consider.

Subscriptions can include the ability to make calls to land and mobile lines.  The advantage over other VoIP services is that you can pay based on a fixed location.  For example, unlimited calls between the US and the UK will cost about $7.14 a month.

You can further streamline usage by assigning privileges of who can call and how often.  That way, those who need to can call as much as they want while lower-level employees have restricted or denied access.

This Skype Manager tool has endless uses.  It can help bring a more solid company policy of sale pitch time limits, communications blackouts, or even just to redirect bandwidth to places you need.  The more you know the more effective it will be.  For more information about IT infrastructure management click here.

Things to find out before you enter the Cloud

Taking your business into the Cloud is a big step.  When working with any vendor you should learn a few things to help better understand both what you want and what they are offering.

What Kind of Successes Have You With Other Clients?

Even if a vendor has had a lot of successes in the past, are they with clients that are similar to your business?  Also, bigger isn’t always better.  Larger companies often have traits that smaller businesses don’t have, and vice-versa.

Try Before You Buy

One of the things that make the Cloud popular is its flexibility and scalability.  I want this software as a service, this to back up to there, so forth and so on.  It can mean that what you want is unique.  Unique is as precise as it is unproven.  So it’s best to ask if there is a try before you try option.  That way you can see the ROI before you invest anything.

What Is The Disaster Recovery Plan?

Hope for the best and plan for the worst.  If something goes wrong, what will the vendor do?  The whole point of the Cloud is to maximize the productivity of your data that cannot happen if your data goes up in smoke.  If IT infrastructure goes down, what’s the back up and what’s the plan to get things back to normal?  These are important questions.

The ability to adapt makes and breaks businesses.  Your choices should be based on the most up-to-date information.


Getting the Most Out of Outsourcing

When you’re a small business every dollar you spend is important.  So when you have to hire outside help, especially outsourcing IT needs, how do you insure your money is cost-effective.  One word: benchmarks.

Traditionally, benchmarks have been touted by outsourcing firms as ways to compare themselves to their competitors.  For example, they would say, “we X company have decreased system downtime by Y percent on average.”  They would use these benchmarks to help set the price.  However, with the changing market, the usage of benchmarks has changed.

Today, benchmarks should be used to ask” what is the best usage of company X’s resources for me?” rather than “how much should I pay company X?”  So how do you decide what is best?

Get a Baseline

To judge how effective a project is you need to know the amount and rate of change.  That’s status after compared to status before.  Outsourcing companies can spin the after data much easier than the before data.  However, you should take a stock of what position you are in.  In the downtime example, if you’re having trouble with your network crashing, you should time how long your network is not working.

Unit Consumption

In this day and age, it’s important to know what you want.  After getting a baseline you should work with your IT service provider to decide how much per unit of improvement will cost.  That way you can zero in on what you want and what you can have.


As always, keep yourself in-check.

Get Working From Home To Work

Allowing your employees to work from home is a great way to introduce flexibility to your production schedule.  In the past few weeks, there’s been a backlash against this kind of work option.  However, the benefits to both employee and employer can’t be ignored.  Here are a few tips to help keep everything on track.

Get Rid of Preconceptions

Working from home is a great way for an employee to make their career fit into their lives.  That means shedding the nine-five notion of working.  As long as you set deadlines and those deadlines are met, there’s no reason to inquire of when the work is being done.  Letting your employee allocate their own time is a sure way to increase trust and reduce stress.

Face Time

This doesn’t have to do with Apple.  You should keep up with face-to-face interactions.  Whether it be a weekly meeting or via the Internet, seeing and being seen is a more effective way to touch base.  There is something to be said about the way human beings have evolved.  Transmit have the information we wish to convey through tone and facial expressions, something that is lost with text exchanges.  You know what I mean?

The Little Things

If you don’t already, you should create a method of dominating small talk to your remote employees.  Things like a newsletter that lists things like birthdays and office events.  That way your remote employees can feel like they are part of the loop.  With social media and other tools, these workers can feel more integrated into the company and vice versa as well for their office bound counterparts.


Study Shows Data Gives the Edge

Francis Bacon said that knowledge is power.  In today’s world, that saying couldn’t be more true.  Recent findings by the Economist Intelligence Unit has shown that companies that have a data-driven culture rate themselves ahead of their peers financially.

Relying heavily on data is nothing new.  The general tradition is to have data analyst to go over the numbers to make recommendations.  However, there is an emerging culture of having the data integrated into the day-to-day doings of business.

With data is more hands, it allows employees to understand what and why they are doing.  Individuals with the gumption may even make recommendations of their own.  As long as they use the data to present their case, there’s no out right reason to dismiss them.

In the end, having more minds thinking about the data will edge out those who limit the pool.

How To Build Your E-mail List

We’ve covered how to build an auto-responder for your business account.  But then the question hit us: where are you get all those e-mails?

1. Writing free e-zine and blog articles

Contrary to popular belief, people are reading more than ever nowadays.  Submitting an article to somewhere like Go Articles is a quick way to increase exposure.  Keeping up a blog and sending out articles on a regular basis helps a business appear current and stay in shape SEO wise.

2. Using Social Media

It is often said that social media is over-hyped.  However, it’s all about how you use it.  For example, answering questions on a LinkedIn group can help both break the ice and show how useful you and your product are.  Posting questions on forums can also include a link to page to sign up for your e-mail list.  People are always more willing to give something if they get something in return including good honest knowledge.

3. Creating Online Webinars

A webinar has a dual purpose.  Using tools like LinkedIn and other social media sites, you can get people to sign up and finally put a face to the company.  Services like GoToWebinar also allow you to record your session to use for later content.  Of course directly interfacing with your customers is always a good thing.

For more information on using technology to your advantage go here.

Nothing Beats Free: Part 3 in an ongoing series

Opening a store is a large undertaking, whether brick and mortar or an online establishment.  It is easy for costs to get out of hand.  Here are some free or free-for-now software to help get your online store off the ground and save you cash.


The 5.2x version of AgoraCart is open source and free, though version 6.0 is coming soon.  AgoraCart is PA-DSS and PCI-DSS compliant, meaning it is secure.  This software is all about plug and play.  After getting the software you can drop in various features like a Pay Now button.  AgoraCart supports 10 different methods of shipping and payment.  You also set it to send thank-you notes to customers.  However, it should be noted that the free version comes with no support other than an internet forum.

Paint.Net was originally created as an alternative to MS Paint.  Now, it has grown to include a tab to help with image manipulation.  Basic recoloring, cropping, and 3D rotation will allow you to make your product photos that much better.  A picture may worth a thousand words, a really good picture is worthy of a sale.

Fedex’s Rate Finder

Making the sale is only half the battle.  Using Fedex’s rate finder, you can get a better picture of what it’ll cost and how long it’ll take to get there under different plans.  This will help you predict how much it’ll cost to ship your product out and what kind of promises you can promote.

You can find more about your IT needs here.




The Top Trends for Small Business Tech in 2013

As spring approached this year, new tech trends for small businesses are starting to emerge.  Well, maybe not new, but there are some strong indicators that this will be the year for smart devices and big data.

Big Data

Sir Francis Bacon once said that knowledge was power.  It was true then and it’s true now.  Small business now have more access than ever to cloud-based analytical tools that help them dredge up useful knowledge from the sea of data out there. A study released by Intuit showed that access to data will increase 40-fold in the next decade.

This is important because that means consumers have an even more powerful flow of information coming their way.  As our information shifting habits evolve so will the tools to analyze what, when, where we are searching.  That is the trick that the small business must learn: how to best be present yourself on the web.

Smart Devices

The time is now for businesses to make their websites mobile friendly.  On personal note, I walked into DSW shoe store and all the sales representatives had iPad.  They were all able to log onto the store’s website and look up stock information, place orders, and show different styles.  Like the cash register, smart device will help people on the floor increase efficiency.


As the nation slowly recovers from its economic pitfalls, small businesses will need to work ever harder in this slippery world to stay on the curve.  As in the past, technology will lead the way.

Is Cloud Accounting Right For You?

Everything seems to be going up into the cloud.  Is accounting in the cloud for you?  Should your books be accessible from anywhere?  Here are a few things you should know before answering those questions.

So Who Owns What?

Unlike desktop versions of software, cloud based products tend to be subscriptions based.  People still run their old versions of Quickbook and Word that ran on Windows 95.  This won’t be the case with cloud based software.  The advantage of this is that with cloud based software like Office 365, you can pick and chose what features you want.  Desktop software tend to come out in one format or a tiered system.  Now you can pick and chose what you pay for.

Where Is Your Data?

If you’re using a cloud based software, then your data is stored offsite.  It’s not on your local hard drive.  It’s some where out there, in the cloud.  So is it secure?  Well, you paying another company to store your data and give you access to it all the time.  This is the biggest crux that the cloud community has to deal with.  But think about your ATM.  You could have all your money stored locally, like in a shoe box under your bed.  Or you give it to your bank and they give you access to your money via tellers, ATMs, etc.

Who Is It for?

In my opinion, cloud based software is really for the medium guy.  If you’re a tiny business and you can count your daily sales on one hand, then this isn’t for you.  A simple double ledger spreadsheet in Excel would do you better.  If you’re a mega-corporation then you would build or higher your own accounting department and have an in-house system.  However, the medium business that is always on the go and in flux will have use for a cloud based accounting system.  As your business grows and changes the cloud is more apt to scale.  It’s going to be easier than making that tough choice to spend a whole lot of money on a software upgrade.