Multinational business magazine The Economist has been working with Microsoft Enterprises business solution, Microsoft Cloud, to create a micro site called Empowering Business.
The site contains some very interesting bite-sized video snippets of business advice from industry experts. In this article I’m going to explore some of the advice that is offered on the site.
In under 30 seconds, the CMO of technology news site Mashable, Stacy Martinet, explains how businesses can control their own publicity channels. Historically, businesses have been dependant upon buying advertising, or relying upon the media to cover their brand. Now however they can control – to a much to a much greater extent – what messages they send out, when they send them and how; through the use of blogging, social media and other forms of new media. This has fundamentally changed the way we (consumers) perceive organisations, and also how they market themselves to us.
On the Empowering Business site, Stacy Martinet also explains what she believes is the biggest mistake made by marketing professionals. She believes that thinking about marketing campaigns in an old fashioned way – running a project for a set period to achieve specific results – is a mistake. She suggests that businesses today should focus on constantly and consistently building and improving their brand(s) on a 24 cycle, rather than focusing on producing a specific return every 3 or 6 months.
Liz Crawford, CTO of beauty subscription service Birchbox believes that having a good understanding of your market and then being able to use technology to your advantage, to make your organisation more efficient, more effective and more innovative, is the key to being a successful Technology Officer.
Senior Lecturer at MIT School of Management, Claus Otto Scharmer, suggests that self-leadership is a skill that every leader needs. He states that before you can lead others, you need to be aware of how to lead yourself. If you can assess yourself to enable to you understand what you do and how you could improve, then you can transfer this knowledge into how you can make other people better too.
HR Consultant Jessica Miller-Merrell, from Xceptional HR, explains how company culture is a bottom-up phenomenon. She suggests that many high level mangers believe that they can dictate company culture from the top-down. Jessica states that because the employees are the culture, managers must get employee buy-in for an organisation to change how it operates.
Technology has had an undeniably colossal affect on how we do business. We can now communicate with people around the world in real time, pay for goods with the swipe of a card or click of a mouse and download files from the cloud with the push of a button.
Like with most things in life though, technology does have its downsides. Historically, technological problems have centred around speed and reliability. Thanks to advances in programming, processing power and cabling, technology is now faster and more reliable than it has ever been. This is also in part thanks to more people becoming ‘tech savvy’. People expect more of technology, and more people are working to improve it. As such, the age old issues of speed and reliability which have plagued almost all forms of technology, are no longer under the spotlight. I would argue that security is now a bigger issue.
The growth of the global tech savvy population means that more people understand how technology works, which is great in some respects, but from a security perspective, it can be concerning. If your employees know how to access confidential files you store on your server, or your customers are able to apply 99% discounts to products in your online shop then you have a problem.
In it’s recently released business security e-book, Dell state that they believe many of the security problems we face today are because businesses use fragmented systems and they use a different security solution to protect each one. Whilst your payment system might be completely watertight, if it’s linked to your website, which happens to contain some vulnerable Java technology, then hackers may be able to crawl into your systems. To quote Dell’s Director of Product Marketing, Bill Evans “Patchwork solutions that combine products from multiple vendors inevitably lead to the blame game“. He goes on to say that when using fragmented systems, each vendor “is responsible for only part of the problem” making it very difficult to properly secure your systems.
There are many different solutions for companies out there. As a business you could ground yourself firmly in the first half of the 20th century and refuse to adopt technology of any kind. After all, if all the details on your client, Mrs Jones, are kept in a file in filing cabinet 35B on the sixth floor of the of your customer information storage centre, a hacker cannot squirrel their way into your network and then publish Mrs Jones’ details on the Internet. That does however mean that when Mrs Jones pops in to see you, you have to keep her waiting for 20 minutes whilst you go to find her file – as opposed to typing her name in and pulling up her details on your tablet.
There are often benefits of using software and technologies from different vendors, and it would be foolish to dismiss a good business system just because it has a few minor potential security floors. The challenge then is to find a security system than can protect your new technologies.
Using a single, comprehensive security system, such as Dell Endpoint Security to protect all your information technologies would help top alleviate many of the problems that arise when using a patchwork network of security systems. Using one system would instantly eliminate conflicts between security software. It can also be much easier to manage one unified system than trying to juggle several separate schemes.
Naturally each individual security system may have some specific advantages that one universal security system may not, but the fact that a universal system is just that, universal to all your businesses technology, is a huge advantage.
Dell believes that all good universal security systems should: protect the entire business both internally and externally; comply with all internal policies and indeed national laws; and enable employees to adopt technologies with confidence and ease, promoting efficiency and innovation.
What are your views on business technology security? Let us know in the comments below.
I read with interest this week that leading UK supermarket chain Asda is starting to sell oddly shaped vegetables in a bid to waste less food. This announcement leads me to draw a few conclusions that I would like to share with you all, and brings back a few memories.
My mum and dad had 3 boys to bring up, in the dark shadow of the mills of Manchester, and they probably weren’t what we would call rich (today). Every year we went to Skegness for our summer holidays, and every Sunday went to the market.
Markets were a different thing then I think, everyone went. My mum used to buy her biscuits there. She bought them in a bag, a huge bag a bit like the ones we use today to put the rubbish in. The biscuits were broken. They had not made it into the boxes in the factory, were collected up and sold in huge sacks for next to nothing (I presume).
There was a chip shop too that put batter bits on your chips if you asked, the crumbs that had fallen into the fat off the fish, lovely.
As I became some form of adult I continued the tradition. A local chocolate maker sold bags of ‘misshapes’, again chocolates that had come out of the mold wrong, had treacle dribbling out of them or had got squashed. The same chocolates that cost a fortune in their branded high street shops.
Surely this must be a good way to use the wasted ones, although there is the issue of supply and demand that I raised in my previous post about food waste.
So back to Asda. They are going to sell strangely shaped vegetables for less than their regularly shaped cousins. Are they going to sell them for less though because maybe they are worth less (or worthless)? This is a strange idea for sure. They are all fresh vegetables, they all contain exactly the same nutritional value, you can cook them all and they all taste the same, so why sell them for less?
Well we live in a society here in Europe that has engineered a situation in which only certain shapes are good. You might recall I mentioned ableism in a recent post and it certainly isn’t difficult to see how the human figure has been moulded into an ideal type, with all variations somewhat frowned upon or in need of correction (particularly I feel in the case of women).
And this is also the case for vegetables. In this case aesthetics is enshrined in law, as the European Union has regulations about the size and shape of fruit and vegetables. These regulations were ridiculed in the popular press ten years ago as it was said that straight bananas could not be sold. Read all about it here.
And vegetables come in at least 3 categories; nice looking that go into supermarkets, not so nice looking that go into processed food production, and unfit for human consumption, that go into animal feed. But it can all be used, you get less for the ugly ones however.
So producers have always been able to sell these vegetables, but for different uses and at different prices, so I must come to the conclusion that this is a marketing ploy in order to sell them for more. Just my opinion of course, but cynicism runs deep in my line of work.
It would be great to see them though in with their cousins for sale all together at the same price, but reports are that they are often left on the shelf to rot. Apparently people prefer a correctly curved banana to a straight one, and a straight marrow to the one in the photo above.
Facebook are back in the news again, this time for conducting research without the consent of their users. Although maybe that is a false statement, users may well have signed those rights away without realizing too.
All Facebook did was to “deprioritizing a small percentage of content in News Feed (based on whether there was an emotional word in the post) for a group of people (about 0.04% of users, or 1 in 2500) for a short period (one week, in early 2012). Nobody’s posts were “hidden,” they just didn’t show up on some loads of Feed. Those posts were always visible on friends’ timelines, and could have shown up on subsequent News Feed loads”. This is the explanation offered by the author of the report about the experiment. Read the full text here.
Simply speaking they wanted to adjust the type of information a user was exposed to to see if it effected their mood. So if a user receives lots of positive news, what will happen to them? What will they post about?
Some studies have suggested that lots of Facebook use tends to lead to people feeling bad about themselves. The logic is simple, all my friends post about how great their lives are and about the good side we might say. I who have a life that has both ups and downs are not exposed to the downs, so I feel that I am inadequate.
This sounds reasonable. I am not a Facebook user but the odd messages I get are rarely about arguing with partners, tax problems, getting locked out of the house, flat tyres, missed meetings or parking tickets. I presume Facebook users do not suffer from these issues, they always seem to be smiling.
So in order to test the hypothesis a little manipulation of the news feed. More positive or more negative words, and then look to see how the posts are effected. The theory above does not seem to hold water as a statistic however, although bearing in mind the methodology etc (and the conductor) I take the claims with a pinch of salt. More positive words tend to lead to more positive posts in response.
Hardly rocket science we might say.
I have a degree in sociology, an MA in Applied Social research and work in the field. Conducting experiments of this type is not allowed in professional circles, it is considered unethical, there is no informed consent, rights are infringed upon and the list goes on. What if somebody did something serious during the experiment?
Of course “The reason we did this research is because we care about the emotional impact of Facebook and the people that use our product”.
If readers are interested in looking at a few other fun experiments that might be considered ethically dubious I can offer a few. Check out the Stanley Milgram experiment, where people administered (False) electric shocks to other people who got the answers to their questions wrong. Yale University here, not a fringe department of Psychology. Researchers were investigating reactions to authority, and the results are very interesting, but you couldn’t do it today.
Or how about the so-called Monster study. The Monster Study was a stuttering experiment on 22 orphan children in Davenport, Iowa, in 1939 conducted by Wendell Johnson at the University of Iowa. After placing the children in control and experimental groups, Research Assistant Mary Tudor gave positive speech therapy to half of the children, praising the fluency of their speech, and negative speech therapy to the other half, belittling the children for every speech imperfection and telling them they were stutterers. Many of the normal speaking orphan children who received negative therapy in the experiment suffered negative psychological effects and some retained speech problems during the course of their life. The University of Iowa publicly apologized for the Monster Study in 2001.
Terrible as these experiments may sound, they were conducted in the name of science. Their results may have proved useful. Facebopok (along with 23andME and other commercial entities) are behaving in the way they are because they want to make more money, their interest is solely there (even if they dress it up as better user experience). And in the case of Facebook they have access to 1.3 billion users, and mandate to do whatever they like with them.
The post was a review of a letter sent by some of Europe’s largest corporations to the European Commission. The letter claims that regulation in the EU risks damaging development and the economy, they want a series of things to be taken into account within the regulation process.
It is easy to read and short and I recommend a look, it is free to download through the link above, but I would like to take one of their suggestions and apply it to food regulation, as part of my food series.
The letter calls for the “Full inclusion of relevant expertise”, and this sounds perfectly reasonable. But what does it actually mean in practical terms?
If we take the example of GM food development that I raised last week, it means finding experts in the field and putting them on committees to determine if proposals are safe. Now this means that you have to look to industry, because most of the experts work within the industry.
Now I believe that in all likelihood an expert working for a nuclear energy company will tell you that nuclear energy production is 100% safe, a nanotechnology researcher will paint a glowing picture of how the future is bright thanks to nano developments, and a GM food expert will do the same.
In the USA, the Federal Drug Administration is responsible for regulating the safety of GM crops that are eaten by humans or animals. According to a policy established in 1992, FDA considers most GM crops as “substantially equivalent” to non-GM crops. In such cases, GM crops are designated as “Generally Recognized as Safe” under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and do not require pre-market approval.
But here the waters start to murk and merge. As I said, experts in the field working or having worked for industries working with technology are likely to be positive about their products. And the FDA seems to contain several of these experts, and some of them may have helped to make the distinction above.
According to this IVN article, over the last decade at least 7 high ranking FDA officials have also held high positions in Monsanto, the largest producer of GM seeds in the world. This is generally accepted as true, and in fact Monsanto have several employees present or past that have held high ranking positions in other capacities in the US Government. This is known as the revolving door in the USA, and it is worthy of exploration.
The website states that “At the forefront of this controversy is Michael R. Taylor, currently the deputy commissioner of the Office of Foods. He was also the deputy commissioner for Policy within the FDA in the mid ’90s. However, between that position and his current FDA position, Mr. Taylor was employed by Monsanto as Vice President of Public Policy.
Other Monsanto alumni include Arthur Hayes, commissioner of the FDA from 1981 to 1983, and consultant to Searle’s public relations firm, which later merged with Monsanto. Michael A. Friedman, former acting commissioner of the FDA, later went on to become senior Vice President for Clinical Affairs at Searle, which is now a pharmaceutical division of Monsanto (Oh Donald Rumsfeld ex Secretary of Defense was also on the Board of Directors). Virginia Weldon became a member of the FDA’s Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee, after retiring as Vice President for Public Policy at Monsanto”.
“In order for the FDA to determine if Monsanto’s rBGH growth hormones were safe or not, Monsanto was required to submit a scientific report on that topic. Margaret Miller, one of Monsanto’s researchers put the report together. Shortly before the report submission, Miller left Monsanto and was hired by the FDA. Her first job for the FDA was to determine whether or not to approve the report she wrote for Monsanto. In short, Monsanto approved its own report. Assisting Miller was another former Monsanto researcher, Susan Sechen”.
The article states that “Monsanto received copies of the position papers of the EC Director General for Agriculture and Fisheries prior to a February 1998 meeting that approved milk from cows treated with BST.
Notes jotted down by a Canadian government researcher during a November 1997 phone call from Monsanto’s regulatory chief indicate that the company ‘received the [documents] package from Dr Nick Weber’, a researcher with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Sources noted that Weber’s supervisor at the US FDA is Dr Margaret Mitchell who, before joining the agency, directed a Monsanto laboratory working on the hormone.”
Oh and the hormone treatment made the cows sick, but you can read Robert Cohen’s reported testimony before the FDA on the subject of rBGH including the disclosure that, while at the FDA and in response to increasing sickness in cows treated with the hormones, Margaret Miller increased the amount of antibiotics that farmers can legally give cows by 100 times. Once again I cannot verify the transcription but it is widely reported on the web and was apparently shown on C-Span Congress TV live.
I am not suggesting that there is any collusion here, and as Monsanto argue people move jobs, taking jobs that suit their qualifications. A look at these people’s profiles show that they have many different positions, many of which we would say were undoubtedly working for public good. But some suggest that some of their positions might lead to conflicts of interests. But if you need experts where are you going to get them from? Here though I might simply suggest that you don’t need so many experts.
Within my life’s work of trying to promote responsible innovation I have come to the conclusion that a broader public involvement within decision-making process must be a good for society. Closed sessions full of experts deciding what is or is not safe for us may be efficient in terms of getting things done, but the public’s voice is not heard, and maybe that voice could lead to more responsible choices, or at very least some reflexivity in the decision-making process.
On a closing note, arguments are currently raging in the US about the labelling of GM foods, as currently there is no need to label it, something pushed for by many organizations. There is a counter movement that is arguing that as the FDA state that there is no fundamental difference, GM products that do not contain additives should be allowed to be labelled as “natural”, in the way organic vegetables are. This Common Dreams article presents a critical view of current practices that although strongly worded offers an insight into how a section of US society thinks about the issue.
The question remains however, who do we want to regulate our food and the technology used in its production?
Building your own business is not as intimidating as it used to be.
This is partly down to all the different technologies that are available to us now, specifically, the Internet. So in this modern world of technology ANYONE can be an entrepreneur…
Well, not exactly. You may have the tools you need, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have the temperament necessary to become a GREAT entrepreneur. Without that, it may be possible you’re not meant to be a successful businessman at this point. How do you know if you have what it takes to succeed this way?
You’re a charmer
While whilst being an extrovert isn’t a prerequisite for winning in business – you don’t really think that Bill Gates was an extrovert before he was successful, do you? – however knowing how to speak to people is. The fact of the matter is that most companies cannot succeed without the hard work of multiple individuals. It’s not just about getting investors to put money into a venture; it’s also about inspiring people to do what needs to be done for the sake of the organization. You need to be able to talk people into doing things that they never thought possible, if you want to win the game of business.
You’re a bit of a mad scientist
While you don’t need an actual science degree to become an entrepreneur who can compete with the best in today’s market, you still need some level of scientific curiosity to be able to offer customers something new.
Asking questions like “why is this not working?” and “what does THIS button do?” pave the way towards innovation – something that consumers today really, truly, value. You need to be brave enough to ask questions and explore some pretty crazy alternatives if you want to compete in and dominate the industry of your choice.
You’re pretty darn stubborn
You can’t expect yourself to succeed if you don’t know how to stand your ground. Sure, you also need to know when to stand down and admit that you got some things wrong. But, for the most part, you need to have the stomach for the trials and tribulations most entrepreneurs have to face. You can’t expect instant success for your business, and you need to be able to push through your company’s darkest moments if you want your enterprise to survive in its first year or so. If you want to take your business to the top, then you darn well better believe in what you’re doing.
You’re an optimist
You can’t build a business if you always think of the worst-case scenario (and panic) every time the progress of your company hits a snag. Apart from stubbornly believing in what your enterprise has to offer to the world, you also need to believe in looking at the brighter side of life. That way, instead of focusing on the problem itself, you’ll just find other elements of the situation that you can use to your advantage. If you can look at a crisis and think that it gives you an opportunity to show off the company’s resilience, then you have a better chance of succeeding.
So, do you think you’re meant to be a successful entrepreneur?
When trying to promote your business on social media websites, there are a few basic tips that should always be followed. Using these tips will allow for a smooth entry into the world of social media, and make your efforts more successful. In this article, we will discuss those basics and help you to develop a “getting started” plan for your social media efforts. Read on to learn more.
Whatever your choice is for social media marketing, make sure that you use correct grammar. Meanwhile it is tempting to use abbreviations such as LOL or LMAO, remember that you are trying to come across as a professional who knows a lot about his or her company. Do your best to spell everything correctly and use punctuation where it is needed.
Network With Others
Try to collaborate with other people and companies when using social media. When they link to your content or share your content, you are being exposed to a brand new group of fans and followers. Return the favor and link to their content as well. The more people who link to your content and social media posts, the better off you are.
To make sure your social media page appeals to your target audience, research books, magazines, and other things you believe they’d enjoy. Try to match the tone of the content you see in your research, and incorporate popular phrases. Doing this will help your target market to trust you and will make them interested in what you have to say.
Understand that technology is driving social media and vice versa. Every day that social media becomes more popular, technology races to catch up, which prompts social media to become more popular. Know what the technology is offering your customers in their social needs so that you can take part in talking WITH them, as opposed to talking AT them.
Never spam when posting on social media. Posting spam is the quickest way to lose followers and damage you and you companies reputation. Spam posts on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites make any legitimate marketing difficult. If your posts are just a few words and a link to a product, you are posting spam. Give relevant content or reviews along with any links you post. The holidays may be a big time of the year, but don’t use the opportunity in the wrong way. It isn’t the best phase to test out new theories or gamble with a big risk. Stick to your proven guns and utilize them in a more customer-friendly manner. You will have all year to plan out a strategy for the next holiday season.
Use Local Media Sites
To successfully market your business on social media, you should take advantage of Yelp. Yelp is an online community where real people review local businesses. Yelp carefully filters its reviews to protect against scammers, and the Yelp community of reviewers is very close-knit. Positive reviews on yelp can bring your business legitimacy and help attract new customers. Make sure to monitor yelp for people’s ideas and suggestions about how to improve your business and help yourself achieve the best rating possible on the website. You also may want to look for outside help utilizing best SEO companies recommendations.
Find The Influencers
Find some influential bloggers that are out there in your niche and offer to be a guest poster on their blog. This would then allow you to have a link back to your blog. It may also attract people to follow you on the various social media sites that you are on.
You can get your followers’ attention by posting something in a format that makes reading easier. For instance, try coming with a list of top 10 tips or writing questions and answers. The visual aspect of your article will make it more appealing and your readers will be more likely to share it.
Develop quality content targeted for social media. If you are just haphazardly flinging words, advertising or any number of mundane snippets at your customers, then you are wasting your time and losing their business. Be as concerned about your social content offerings as you are for the content on your business site.
The world of social media offers tremendous advertising potential, with huge numbers of users being added every day. Every business wants to take advantage of this platform, including yours. Getting your business marketing efforts started the right way will increase your social media following, and increase profits too. In this article, we have provided some basic information which, when implemented correctly, can make your marketing plan a successful one.
Has your business ever reached a point where it’s run out of spare capacity for important files on its hard drives? If so, you might wonder what you could do to make sure it never happens again. The same might go for moving large files around, which can be fiddly at the best of times when email accounts cannot cope.
A business can never have enough spare capacity for files. A growing number of businesses throughout the world have turned to cloud computing to help do both for a variety of reasons, which include:
Being able to store files online in a ‘cloud’, an online space where they can be accessed securely.
Being able to share files from the cloud with clients and colleagues – collaboration is also possible.
Providing a viable alternative to a traditional server which is far more cost-effective.
While all this is help to make using the cloud palatable, there may be a possibility that businesses aren’t getting what they expect from some cloud storage providers, and that’s where enterprise cloud computing services like Egnyte come in.
Value for money
As with everything else they buy, businesses should make sure they get the most from their cloud storage and online file sharing package. There are a number of pitfalls facing companies who turn to the cloud for some of their IT solutions which they would do well to avoid.
The main one is the limits placed on the amount of file space you have to work with and the size of files which you can share. Many providers have limits in place, so it’s important to get as much space for as little money as possible. Also, consider what your business needs – how big are the files which you share and how much space do your files take up?
As this article states, the way in which your file sharing vendor affects your internet connection is also important. If you have several file sharing accounts, they could slow your internet speed down, so take that into consideration before choosing the right service provider.
Another factor that should influence choice of a cloud file sharing provider is the security of their services. Most providers have security software which limits opportunities for accounts to get hacked, while a few have taken extra steps to make users’ accounts practically impervious to even the most sophisticated malware.
It seems like starting a website should be easy enough – there are almost unlimited free online resources spouting off advice, it can be relatively cheap to launch a website, and, naturally, you have the best business idea for your website. So why is it that so many website startups fail?
1. Low Quality Web Design
One of the biggest mistakes that web startups make is having poor web design. Your website is the most important aspect of you company so why would you skimp on that? The overall design of your site is what initially draws people in, it’s what their first impression of you as a company is, so having a solid website design is crucial to your success.
2. Poor Content
In the same respect as low quality web design, having poor content on your site will be a huge turn off to people. To retain visitors you need to be able to provide content that wows them. You want to show anyone and everyone that visits your site the best you have to offer, so why would you fill your site with uninteresting or poorly written content?
3. Poor Marketing
You can have the best website and the best content in the world, but if no one ever sees it then it won’t really matter, will it? You can never retain a customer if you can’t even catch their eye to begin with. This is why it’s imperative to spend ample time marketing on social media, through email campaigns, and through traditional marketing routes. You have to be willing to put time and money into your marketing scheme to achieve the best possible outcome – after all, you reap what you sow.
4. No Passion
Picking a niche market just because you think it will be profitable is one of the worst reasons to start a business. You have to actually be passionate about what you’re trying to make money off of, otherwise it’s going to be a lost cause and people will be able to see right through you.
5. Not Enough Funds
When you don’t allocate enough money for a startup company, you run the risk of forcing the company to fizzle out because you lack the proper funds to keep it going – or worse, you risk driving yourself into debt.
Get rich quick schemes rarely work in life and the same holds true for web startups. The road to success can only be reached by hard work, dedication, and money. So if you’re contemplating launching a startup business, make sure that it’s something you really want to do, otherwise you’ll be doing your potential customers and yourself a disservice.
If you run a business, the likelihood is that, every once in a while, after poring over your finances, you look at ways of saving money. You might look at how much you spend on your energy bills, whether you could cut jobs or persuade some of your employees to work part-time instead of full-time or even look at technology that can help to reduce your company’s outgoings.
Video conferencing is perfect for any company that wants to reduce its costs, but you may wonder how it can do that. If you regularly go to meetings away from the office, you’ll surely be aware of the expense involved. If you’re not spending a fortune in fuel costs, you’ll probably be paying for plane, train or coach tickets or even a taxi, and doing this all the time can really add up. By video conferencing, you eliminate all those travel costs.
You can invite anyone you want to a conference call, irrespective of where they are. You can talk to them for a very low price or even for free, plus you can do all things you can do in a normal meeting thanks to the visual element of video conferencing such as showing prototypes or graphs. It also allows for collaboration too, which sets it apart from other forms of communication.
Saving time – this is another benefit that video conferencing can bring to your business. Meetings take a lot of time to get to, but by arranging a conference call in their place, you could save your business and employees hours at a time. This allows you to prepare for the meeting properly, while you can also get on with any other important tasks such as accounting.