Six Business Technologies That Don’t Work

Decades since the introduction of personal computing there are still too many business technologies that don’t work. Oh, the hardware and software firms will tell you that they do. But they still don’t get it. For example, go to Microsoft’s support site and type in “Microsoft Word Error” (leave out the quotes). I did this and got 2,380,000 results. Is this indicative of something working?

Of course I’m not being entirely fair. Many of these results go back in time. Most are minor problems or may be due to my mix of search keywords. And, with the exception of Windows Vista, Microsoft is a good company that makes good products. All I know is thank God they don’t build airplanes.

The problem is that people in the technology business seem to have a different definition of when something “works.” To me when something works, it works all the time.

For example, we are probably the only family in my county that does not own a digital TV. We have a large Zenith in the living room that I bought more than ten years ago and it’s…fine. Yes, I’m a cheapskate. But the thing works! And honestly, do I really need to see a close-up of Kirstie Alley dancing the Flamenco? The same goes for my refrigerator. It’s never failed me. Neither has any of the lamps in my house. Or my indoor plumbing. Or the telephone. Or an episode of Seinfeld. Or a Whopper from Burger King. These things can be counted on to work for me whenever I need them.

I wish I could say the same for my Tivo, which still can’t seem to record the right channel all the time. Or my satellite service from Sirius, which always seems to go blank at the exact moment when Howard is about to say something funny. But these are annoyances. What’s more than an annoyance is when the technology that I’m using to run my business is not reliable or consistent. In other words: when it doesn’t work. And, in at least six instances, this is happening too often.

The Cloud. For example, cloud applications can be great, but the cloud is still not a working platform for many businesses both big and small. We have a few clients who have outsourced their internal computers to companies that provide them with a managed cloud-based service. It’s “OK” says one client who didn’t want to be named in this column. Just OK. That’s because oftentimes the performance is slow. It depends on the speed of the internet where people are and the time of day they’re trying to get something done. Integrating applications through the layers of permissions has been difficult. There have been a couple of instances where services went down. In all cases these clients muddled through the issue. But no one’s working faster because of it.

Security and reliability in the cloud still doesn’t work. Not when our largest, most “trusted” companies like Google, Sony and Amazon are losing hundreds of thousands of emails, misplacing confidential security information or going dark for hours and hours. Why do you think most companies, particularly in the financial services and healthcare industries, aren’t running to the cloud? It’s because they have extremely sensitive data and they are required, by law, to keep it that way. Sure, cloud applications have a lot of potential. The future for this technology looks bright. My company sells a few of these. And in certain cases, these solutions are a great option for many businesses. But if you’ve got a mission critical, highly sensitive system that you rely on to run your business you’re not moving it to the cloud yet. That’s because the cloud still doesn’t work.

IE9. I apologize if it seems like I’m picking on Microsoft here. But Internet Explorer 9 doesn’t work either. I should know. I upgraded to Microsoft’s new browser about three weeks ago. And two days after I upgraded I had to download Mozilla’s Firefox browser. Why? Because many sites weren’t working properly with my new and improved IE9. For example, the very blog that I’m now writing can no longer be uploaded through Forbes’ blogging tools like I could when I was using a previous version of Internet Explorer. Is this Forbes’ fault? Is this some kind of configuration issue? I don’t know. Forbes uses WordPress, the popular blogging platform. Certain graphics on other sites are not appearing correctly, if at all. Is this happening all the time? Of course not. For the most part I’m surfing fine using IE9. But I’m running into display and performance problems that I shouldn’t have to be dealing with in this late age of internet browsers.

Google’s Apps. Anyone get this one? I use Google Voice and it seems that after I get about fifty voicemail messages I can no longer call in and retrieve them in order of when they were received. So that doesn’t work. My BlackBerry’s Google Maps is slow as molasses and sometimes doesn’t give me the right position I need so I need to still print out MapQuest directions when I go on the road. So that doesn’t work. Also, am I the only business owner who hasn’t figured out how to use AdWords effectively? I know I’m not the brightest bulb in the bunch, but I’ve tried every keyword combination in the world and still can’t find my company anywhere when searching, although my balance of dollars gets depleted inexplicably. I’ve spent too much time and money trying to get this to work for me and have given up. Fail.

Skype Video. Skype Video doesn’t work for me either. Ever seen what I look like in my underwear? It ain’t pretty. Just ask any number of my kids’ friends who’ve seen this disturbing image of me in the background (and in crystal clarity) while video-chatting on their MacBooks. My son also video-chats on his iPhone. The quality is amazing. The performance is excellent. I’m a Windows guy and darn it, I want to video chat with my customers too. So I try this using Skype. And the result is….meh. The picture is grainy. The performance is terrible…stilted, slow, choppy. I’ve tried this from many different places and with a number of different people. And the results are always the same. Skype video is inferior to Apple’s video-chatting. Maybe I need to pay to use a better video service for my business. But why? Apple’s video chatting is free.

Printing. Amazingly, most office printers don’t work either. My clients grumble about them all the time. Those new “wireless” printers mysteriously disappear from the network only to strangely re-appear minutes later. Where do they go? Even printers that are hard-wired to a server sometimes go AWOL for unknown reasons. Anyone who gets the “printer cannot be found” message knows what I’m talking about. We’re all used to rebooting servers and printers to clear out the print spool because, for reasons unexplained, a million print jobs get queued up and can’t be executed. Paper still gets jammed, just like we’re still in an episode of Mad Men. And when these problems occur, the printers’ error handling procedures never seem to know how to handle the error, resulting in missing pages or incomplete jobs. We accept inferior printer technology like we accept rush hour traffic and Piers Morgan. A necessary evil.

Reports. After eighteen years of selling business software do you know what problem is still number one for most of my clients? Reporting. Software makers get all wrapped up in sexy new features and functions and hundreds of ways of doing the exact same thing that they seem to forget the most fundamental use of their products: most business software applications are systems built around databases. And the data is still not entirely accessible.

Sure, some vendors include lots of reports with their products. But God forbid if a company wants to create their own report. Or customize an existing report. Or want to access data remotely from their mobile device. Or want to give their customers the ability to retrieve order information when they want. This can be done, but it almost always requires dark magic. And the use of outside consultants. Maybe the product’s internal reporting tools can be jiggered. Or maybe a third party reporting tool (like SAP’s Crystal Reports) has to be deployed. In any case it’s not easy. It’s expensive. And the minute something changes, like an upgrade or a new reporting demand, everything breaks down. Reporting technology is still a mystery for most small businesses. The basic data is retrievable. But the important analysis, customized for the company’s most productive use, isn’t. This stuff still doesn’t work.

Key Principles for Small Business Technology – Ignoring the Fluff

Fluff is evil. Fluff is obscure. Fluff is out to get your small business. Let’s face it, as a small business owner you are often ignored and under served by the members of the technological community. Sometimes it seems like the sole purpose of some software packages and technology consultants is to rob you of time and force you to question your sanity.

Applying these six simple business principles to your small business technology initiatives will help you battle techno fluff and ultimately increase your revenue and productivity.

Principle 1: Identify and Perceive Fluff. It is quite simple – any technology solution that does not fit within principles 2 through 6 needs to be carefully scrutinized and, if applicable, identified as fluff and treated appropriately.

Principle 2: Solutions Must Be Stable. Any and every piece of technology that you implement within your business needs to be stable. This means that it works with a minimal amount of support, and/or that support is both excellent and easily available. This means that the solution does not negatively impact your business. What does an hour outage for an application cost your small business? How about a missed email to your sales staff?

Principle 3: Make It Easy. Easy access to company information and applications empowers employees to focus on your business. This means you only implement software tools that are simple to use and fulfill their purpose without adding unnecessary complexity to the lives of your employees. If the solution can be explained in a minute and the benefit is easily apparent, it is likely not fluff.

Principle 4: Support. One reality about all technology – it is eventually going to break and require support. For any new (or existing, for that matter) technology that your company is looking at, it needs to have good support. Technical staff and vendors need to be available during business hours and able to fix problems in a timely manner. Also, don’t buy from companies that can’t provide referrals for quality support. This also means that onsite technicians need to charge reasonable rates, have a good demeanor and be punctual. For those employing IT staff, it means leadership, technological support of business goals and happy end users. Remember that support is not consulting. The person providing support may not be the right person to offer business technology advice.

Principle 5: Knowledge. It is often the case that one or two hours of training can save a person or company time, improve interaction with customers, increase security and ultimately increase revenue. With new technology projects, be sure that training for end users is close to launch day. Identify the person in your company that will become the expert on new software. The success of any software implementation can be judged on how well end users are trained and how smooth launch day goes. If training resources for a solution you are evaluating are limited, move forward cautiously.

Principle 6: Integration. Integration that works succeeds immediately. Integration is all about increasing productivity and making things easier to do. Sometimes this is amazingly simple and inexpensive, and other times it is extremely complicated and requires expensive consulting and software development. The result always needs to be the same – a tangible improvement in the way that work is done. Before pursuing any integration project, do a quick cost vs. benefit analysis. The solution that costs $10K from one vendor might only cost $2K from another. Always get multiple bids on integration projects and if you have any doubts get a third or fourth opinion. Lastly, always, always, always verify integration claims that software vendors make. Often software “can” integrate, but that does not mean that it will do so easily. Request a demo of any major integration features you are looking for – make the vendor prove that it works.

VoIP Business Technology Solutions Help Boost Your Business

Almost all corporate houses or business organizations earn profits on the basis of the communication and management that they share with their employees or customers. For instance, if a corporate house uses a phone as its main mode of communication, then it can earn more profits by switching from the traditional PSTN systems to the all new VoIP business solutions. This switch over to VoIP solutions will definitely help business organizations to slash down their communication costs to a large extent.

The solution of Voice over Internet Protocol effectively uses a package of changing method for sending the calls. The use of this new technology allows corporate houses and business organizations to cut down the calling costs because like PSTN, they are not regulated.

Moreover, it improves the productivity of call without any problems. The VoIP business technology solutions provides flexibility in calls which in turn ensures the development of an organization regardless of their locations.

Following accounts for the best VoIP technology solutions:

Professional Training:

Few renowned service providers offer initial training to the professionals working in corporates. As they are using this technology for the first time, training not only makes them comfortable but also helps them in understanding this technology better.

Call Tariffs:

Different VoIP service providers offer different tariffs for transferring the call. Make sure that your service provider offers you the rate which is at par with the rates of the industry. Always remember that even a difference of cent will count once you start making international or long distance calls.

Ease of Functioning:

A good VoIP service provider would try to incorporate the IP telephony with the communication structure of the organization with maximum comfort and minimum discomfort.

Features:

Make sure that the VoIP service provider offers you with all the features like call waiting, call conferencing etc. so that you can improve your business to a large extent.

Moreover, VoIP business solution ensures communication with superior quality of voice using the high speed broadband connections. The usage of high speed broadband connections allows the user to enjoy clear transmission of voice, data or video over a single line. Besides the broadband network, business organizations opting for the change require particular software and hardware for availing the benefits associated with this technology.

Business Technology – Measuring Value Of

Each year, new office technologies are introduced. Different versions and the constant availability of upgrade options influence and complicate purchase decisions. Budgetary constraints require that companies carefully consider their business needs and potential value derived from making any type of business technology purchase. Companies can follow these tips to make the best technology purchases for the businesses.

The quality of the purchase and the price are linked. Although there are a lot of free and cheaper solutions available, the right purchases will bring value to an organization. If increased productivity is the aim, then the company should consider investing more when making a purchase. A company should expect the purchase price to be a good indicator of the level of productivity or performance to be expected as a result of buying a solution.

Whether or not a technology or system to be implemented across the organization is available as a lease option may be another key consideration. For some businesses, leasing is a viable option as it spreads the costs out over a period of time and locks in certain service options. Leasing gives a company a chance to remain current on some technologies in some cases. It may also be an option for a company in need of an immediate upgrade. A company may need a longer timeline to circumvent upfront cost requirements.

Some companies are able to recoup costs on their office technology by reselling it. If a company is considering a specific technology, it may want to consider resale value as well. In addition to gauging productivity and efficiency, resell value may be a good way to assess value. Conducting research on the brands will reveal resell value and other depreciation information.

Warranty is another consideration. Warranties should be considered a part of the value for any purchase. Warranty information on service and replacement terms matter in the long run with any office technology purchase. Looking beyond price and features into whether or not a warranty is available is another smart way of assessing the value of a purchase.

Business Technology Solutions – Escalate Your Profits

The primary focus of all the prominent organizations is on improving profits and controlling costs.

Specially to establish and run small business, it becomes necessary to perform various tasks properly. Many business owners experience a great problem if they are not able to keep abreast with the latest technology. Business sector is witnessing new inventions and additions every now and then, you need to take benefit of as many latest tools and services that are obtainable to make your business flourish. Even within a tight budget, you can manage to endow your business with great technologies at an affordable price using various Business Technology solutions. Let us consider some points on how these solutions help you to grow your business.

With excessive use of Internet worldwide, it has become quite easier for businessmen to reach to their target audience. Internet is providing great opportunities to entrepreneurs to make their presence felt and market their services or products. Social networking has become an incredible way to make use of technologies to promote your business and that to free of cost. You just need to create your accounts on these sites and get unbelievable exposure to the people across the world.

You can also run your online payroll using efficient payroll solutions available online. It definitely helps you to function your business successfully and makes it easier for your employees to get their money on time.

Besides payroll solutions, technologies such as web conferencing solutions have an incredible advantage as they help a lot in interacting with foreign clients.

You can make a big difference in your profits by using IT solutions regarding your business. IT solutions providers help a business with its security management, CRM, network planning, HRM and other computing services.

In addition to this, there are utility service providers as well. They work for quality performance of businesses by understanding the business goals of their clients

Virtual phone systems offer great heights to your business. Through these systems you can avail multiple extensions, call forwarding and many other compiled options from a single location. Now, even a small desktop can manage the professionalism just like big business, that’s the wonder of technology. Tele-seminars are the result of the popularity of these extremely beneficial technologies.

This is a new concept that has been embraced by many organizations to escalate their profits. It is a cost-effective approach that enables the organizations to streamline the business processes.