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Business Answers is a place where HP in the UK can engage with owner-managers in small and medium-sized companies. It embraces this blog, a vibrant LinkedIn group, Twitter and YouTube videos. We hope you find this useful and that you will share your thoughts with us by leaving comments and sharing articles you like with your colleagues.

Displaying articles for: January 2012

12 things that make me more productive

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Productivity is the result of habits and practices that we learn. Change them and you can increase it. Ignore them and you get the productivity you deserve. (See 10 myths about productivity.) Despite a lot of gurus who make a lot of money telling you how to do it, the only person who can figure out if a given technique is going to work for you is you. Here is what works for me. I hope you find some of this useful.

 

  1. Flow. Single minded immersion or ‘flow’ in a single task is the essential requirement for maximum productivity.
  2. Positive feedback. I try not to be too ego-led, but I know that I work harder for people if they have previously given me some positive feedback. Just saying ‘thank you’ is often enough.
  3. Concentration timer. I use the free timer on my Articulate Marketing website. It helps me re-focus every five minutes, helping me to recover if my mind wanders.
  4. One thing at a timeMultitasking can reduce productivity by up to 40%, partly because of the ‘switching cost’ as your brain reconfigures to cope with a new task.
  5. Working when other people don’t. I get my best work done on weekends, early mornings, early evenings and that lovely time over the Christmas holiday when nobody else is in the office. I’m more relaxed, more focused and more productive.
  6. Peace and quiet. I work in a quiet one-person office with a silent PC. This helps me concentrate. For more on this see: how to sound-proof your writing room. Sometimes, just ear plugs are enough.
  7. Process review. In programming, choosing a better data structure or algorithm can improve performance much more than optimising a piece of code, for example by rewriting it in assembler. It’s the same in work. There’s usually a smarter, more efficient way to store or process information but you have to stand back and think about it first. For example, I used to carefully index and file all my receipts for the year. Now I just put them into a folder and figure that the time I may have to spend to search through them later is much less than the time I save now by not filing them so meticulously.
  8. Ubiquitous task list. I use Microsoft Outlook tasks and TaskTask on my iPhone and iPad so I the same task list available with me almost anywhere. This means I can jot down tasks whenever they occur to me and filter or prioritise them later. This is David Allen’s great insight – don’t carry around your to-do list in your head. It’s too stressful and difficult.
  9. Avoiding meetings. I try to avoid them or find a better way to do them. For example, back when I was a journalist I realised that I could do a lot of my interviews by phone and save the travel time. It was a huge boost to my productivity. Now I try to do meetings using IM or web conferencing wherever possible. Much more efficient.
  10. Automating routine tasks. I’m a pilot and I love checklists, standard operating procedures and automation such as autopilots. In the cockpit the more stuff you can automate or simplify, the more processing power you have to think ahead, deal with emergencies and cope with an increasing workload. Same for work. For example, I have simple checklists for packing for a trip or getting ready for a presentation etc. and I have a series of operations manuals for stuff like updating my blogs, booking trips etc. This means I don’t have to figure everything out from first principles every time and that it is easier to delegate tasks.
  11. Delegation. I hired a PA. Best decision I made last year. She takes care of dozens of routine tasks that used to take me hours each week. The way to be maximally productive is to spend more time on tasks that only you can do.
  12. Removing distractions. I try (*try*) to clear my desk and email inbox every day and my paper in-tray every week. I know that I find it hard to concentrate when things are piling up.

 

How to increase your office's efficiency

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Small businesses depend on the motivation and productivity of their staff. With fewer employees, the work rate of each person – and especially the boss – is vital. These tips will help you use IT to become more effective.

 

  • Keep track of all your tasks in one place. . If you want to get on top of a growing list of things to do, gathering all your tasks in one place is a great way to start. Microsoft Office Outlook makes it easy to track tasks and emails that need follow-up.
  • Take action now. Each time you pick up a piece of paper or open an email, make a habit of dealing with it there and then. Do something about it, file it for future reference or bin it. Putting papers back into your in-tray is a recipe for procrastination.
  • Purge unnecessary stuff. Clutter and irrelevant papers get in the way of what is important. Spend some time sorting out your office and get rid of anything that you don't actually need.
  • Go wireless. Wireless networks are great for growing businesses. You can connect to the network and the internet without expensive fixed cabling. People can use their HP Notebooks anywhere in the building – at other desks, in meetings and for presentations. Choose wireless access points and routers that support the latest high-speed Wi-Fi standards because this gives greater range and speed (and it's compatible with older wireless networks).
  • Share information. Using an intranet is a great way to share key information in a team. It's like a private company-only internet site. Setting up an intranet is a great way to get people to rethink how they store and share files.
  • Choose productive notebooks. Look for Notebooks that have built-in productivity features. For example, HP Business Notebooks include HP QuickWeb, which lets you boot up your computer and get online in a matter of seconds, and HP QuickLook, which displays your Outlook diary and email without having to boot Windows.
  • Use collaboration software. Email isn't the only way to collaborate digitally. Microsoft Office Groove lets you create workspaces that you can share with colleagues. They can include file libraries, image libraries, calendars and other kinds of information. When you're online, you have access to the latest information, but when you are not connected, everything is stored on your computer and remains available and gets re-synchronized the next time you're connected.
  • Go paperless. Save paper: don't print unnecessary documents and emails. Save space and filing time: scan documents in rather than photocopy them.
  • Centralize your filing. Set up a central filing system, under lock and key if necessary, so that all your company's important files are kept together (and can be copied and taken offsite as a backup). Similarly, consider investing in a file server and Windows Small Business Server software to run it, so that you can keep all your computer files in one place and control access to them.
  • Set up a filing system that works. Create a structure for your paper files so that it is easy to find things. Consider scanning important files into a central computer server using a scanner with a sheet feeder.
  • Choose productive computers. The latest PCs are more powerful than ever before. Batteries last longer, processors run more applications at the same time and they come with more storage. Perhaps it’s time to upgrade?

 

24 Tech Trends for 2012: A free HP White Paper

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The breath-taking scope of IT innovation may produce business disruption greater than that caused by the introduction of the PC.  The time has come to adopt or perish. Find out more about the tech trends that are going to shape the business world in 2012 in this free HP white paper. Just click on the link below to download your copy.

Intel's Tomorrow Project: Imagining the future

What kind of future do you want to live in? What are you excited about and what concerns you? What is your request of the future? Brian David Johnson, Intel’s Futurist, asks these questions and more with The Tomorrow Project, a fascinating initiative to investigate not only the future of computing but the broader implications on our lives and planet.

 


This is a unique time in history. Science and technology has progressed to the point where what we build is only constrained by the limits of our own imaginations. The future is not a fixed point in front of us that we are all hurtling helplessly towards. The future is built everyday by the actions of people. It's up to all of us to be active participants in the future and these conversations can do just that.


The Tomorrow Project engages in ongoing discussions with superstars, science fiction authors and scientists to get their visions for the world that's coming and the world they'd like to build.

 

Well, that's the official Intel introduction but I found some really cool stuff on this site, such as sci-fi author's imaginative stories about the future and a free downloadable lecture on science fiction prototyping.

 

Gamification: Game On For Your Business?

As technology becomes more interactive and social, one of the biggest challenges for businesses is striking a balance between engaging with customers and asking too much of them.

 

Entrepreneur Magazine recently discussed new business ideas and how they might impact us in 2012. One of the topics explored in the article is gamification, which is “the concept of applying game-design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging,” according to Nathan Lands, creator of gamification.org and co-founder of Gamify. We aren’t just talking Foursquare badges and mayorships here. Traditional companies such as Nike have been hugely successful with gamification to engage with their customers.

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So, does gamifying your site and your brand make sense? If you’re an advertiser, or if your business model is compatible with rewarding customers for virtual achievements, the statistics from the realm of games are compelling. One survey found that 24 percent of those who play casual games actually make purchases after clicking on an ad in the game. Equally significant, research conducted by companies such as M2 and Gartner predict that by 2015 U.S. companies will spend approximately $1.6 billion on gamification. Furthermore, games are in the plans of more than half of the world’s largest businesses.

 

There are plenty of success stories from smaller companies as well. An ‘upcycling’ business in New Jersey, for example, added 160,000 players to its Facebook-based game. One website business increased the number of users who complete their websites by 70 percent by making its tools more fun to use. A company that decided to try applying gamification techniques to fitness signed up 30,000 new users in two months. And a social performance management platform designed to gamify the workplace increased revenues five-fold.

 

If you have doubts about what gamification can do for your business, check out this profile of Kiip, a mobile advertising startup launched last year that describes its business model as “moments-based.” One such moment: A gamer has just reached a significant milestone on the way to victory and is offered a coupon for a free smoothie, which the gamer can refuse by deleting or accept by simply entering his or her e-mail address and then return to the march toward victory. Kiip’s model is far superior to selling banner ads to advertisers, which don’t work well in the realm of mobile computing. Also, advertisers in a recent pilot saw a 50 percent click through rate - when was the last time you saw a banner ad do that? Kiip’s gamification has transformed obstacles into opportunities. 

 

Many believe that enhancing everyday activities with games is nothing short of a cultural transformation. Gabe Zichermann, chair of the Gamification Summit and author of Game-Based Marketing, says the rapid rise in popularity of games is proof that there is no limit to how much fun something can be.

 

Despite the glowing data and anecdotes though, it’s important to consider gamification implications for your current customers and those you’d like to attract. Would customers really visit a dentist’s website regularly to play, for example, a tooth drilling game? It begs the question - what customer wants a daily reminder of going to the dentist? (I can see the game popup now: “Congratulations! You’ve won $50 off a crown!”)  

 

Is gamification in your plans for 2012? Tell us your plans below.

 

This is a guest post from our US sister blog, 367 Addison Avenue

Four cool Microsoft technologies for 2012

Kinect and education

 

 

Navigation with way-finding graphics


 

Connecting analogue things to the digital world

 

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MIT Media Lab alumni Supermechanical have built Twine - 2.5″ rubber square which connects to Wi-Fi and enables objects to communicate using SMS, Twitter, email and HTTP requests

 

Hotel room of the future


 

(Big hat tip to Steve Clayton and the Next at Microsoft Blog)

Free HP white paper: Consumer tech for the business users

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With the world increasingly working on the go, are you sure you’re packing the right tools? Technology is increasingly making it possible to work from almost anywhere. With this flexibility comes a host of benefits – enhanced productivity, better quality of life, and even improved health. But to fully realise the potential of the mobile workplace, you need to make sure you’re packing the right tools. Download our free white paper to get the latest insights, advice and tips.

Visit Intel's Virtual Booth online tech exhibition

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Intel's Virtual Booth Explorer was created as a way for demo teams within Intel to extend the reach and life of the demos that they create. So much time and effort goes into creating a demonstration for a show, that it only makes sense to try to capture that demo and make it available to others that could not attend the show. 

Tags: Intel| Technology

Your Face is Your Password on the latest HP Notebooks

Think of all the passwords you have to remember on a daily basis. You have one to log on to your PC, one for your e-mail, one for your favorite social media site—and the list goes on. For many people, having a dozen different user names and passwords is normal. When you’re dealing with trying to recall all those log-ons, you’re bound to forget one or two.

 

We understand that you want convenience. That’s why we’ve developed a solution to help you simplify your digital lifestyle. Face Recognition is an innovative technology that allows you to log into your laptop, and all your important cloud services and websites, using a single sign-on. Because Face Recognition logs you into your websites using your most personal feature—your face— there’s no need to recall dozens of user names and passwords. It’s all done by simply sitting in front of the computer so the webcam can capture your image.

 

facial recognition.jpegFace Recognition works with your laptop’s webcam. Launch the setup Wizard for HP ProtectTools from the HP Advisor toolbar and select “Face Recognition.” You will now be guided through a brief enrollment, during which the software takes sample pictures of your face. If the lighting is too dark—for example, if you’re on an airplane—the software will brighten your screen, turning your display to all white in order to light up your face. It will then recapture your picture, and log you on. Once the software builds a complete portfolio, it will no longer ask for re-enrollment.

 

Once the software has captured a few images, you’re set to go. You can log in to your laptop, as well as your favorite sites using Face Recognition for HP ProtectTools. At most websites that require a password, a window pops up over your browser and gives you the option to log in using Face Recognition—quick and easy.

 

From your Windows® log-in to e-mail access, from online shopping websites to social networking sites, and even travel sites, all you have to do is look at your screen and you’re in. Thanks to Face Recognition for HP ProtectTools, your face becomes your password.

 

This is a guest post from Melissa Ziegler on our US sister blog, 367 Addison Avenue.

The Innovator's Opportunity

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The Innovator’s Dilemma, by Clayton Christensen, is a book about disuptive innovation and business. He differentiates two types of innovation: sustaining innovations which are incremental improvements on existing products – faster, smaller, better, cheaper – and disruptive innovations which represent something completely new in the market.

 

Enhance or disrupt?

Following our recent post on next-generation UIs, it seemed like a good idea to think about how to turn innovation into products. In particular, what should developers do with insights from academia and research labs like Microsoft’s?

 

Can you use them to enhance an existing product? For example, could you add augmented reality to an existing product? Or disrupt the market, perhaps by developing an altogether new product using a breakthrough technology?

 

If anything’s possible what’s important?

Sometimes user interface innovation takes a while to reach the market. After all, Douglas Engelbart invented the mouse in the 60s but we only started using them with computers in the 80s. Other times, new user interface paradigms spread more quickly, as with web browsers or Kinect technology. The challenge is to pick your bets.

 

Innovation on a budget

Just because smaller companies can’t afford big labs of their own, it doesn’t mean that they can afford to opt out of R&D. Here are some tips for innovating on a budget:

 

 

This is a guest post from our friends at Microsoft MSDN and Ubelly.

Why passion has no place in business

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This is going to be one of my (hopefully) rare curmudgeon posts. Apologies in advance. I just had an attack of the Victor Meldrews this week.

 

I get very cross when I hear people talk about ‘passion’ in business. Either in mission statements (e.g. Microsoft: “your potential, our passion”) or in CV covering letters (e.g. ‘I’m passionate about the insurance industry’).

As a top salesman put it last week: “you can be as passionate as you like but if you’re not making your numbers it won’t help you.”

 

C’mon people. It’s just silly. It’s inflationary language. It’s also just the wrong word.

The dictionary definition: “the suffering of Christ … the state or capacity of being acted on by external agents or forces … an outbreak of anger … an intense, driving or overmastering feeling or conviction … sexual desire…” These are not appropriate or relevant in the work place.

Passion, like solution and mission, is just a placeholder for people who can’t think of a more accurate word. Here are some alternatives which would be much more useful, descriptive and precise. Use them and you’ll stand out from the herd of Apprentice-wannabes who are just giving it 110% as they step up to the plate and all that other crap.

  • Commitment
  • Enthusiasm
  • Energy
  • Persistence
  • Diligence
  • Friendly
  • Loyal
  • Knowledgeable
  • Hard working
  • Expertise
  • Experience
  • Determination
  • Resilience

But the best thing to do is to shut up and do a really, really good job.

 

PS the best song with a list of good words is Philip Glass’s Forgetting with lyrics by Laurie Anderson. Although Tom Lehrer’s The Elements needs a shout too but for different reasons.

 

This is a guest post from Matthew's other blog, Bad Language

Five PC trends you can't afford to ignore

Rise of the Compute Continuum

 

With the growing number of ways users want to be able to access their data comes the need for infrastructure that will support a “compute continuum” for multiple devices. Intel has a vision for this that will allow users to access data in increasingly capable public and private clouds from whatever device they choose.  These include devices ranging from in-vehicle infotainment systems, smart TVs and smart phones to tablets, netbooks, Ultrabooks, notebooks and desktops. Intel is investing in security, connectivity, platform software and other technologies to help bring about this vision.

 

Intel CEO Paul Otellini recently explained that Intel has developed a compute continuum framework that its customers are now using to enable them to have different devices seamlessly interact with one another. Further he claimed that we will see products with this capability shipping this holiday season.

 

Growing capability of Intel vPro technology

 

Since 2006, the capabilities of Intel vPro processors have increased significantly. What began as an enterprise remote desktop management capability has since grown to include wireless clients (2007), beyond firewall clients (2008), KVM remote control (2010) and host-based configuration and enhanced KVM remote control (2011).

 

An array of complementary technologies has also bolstered the capabilities of vPro.  These include of course Intel Active Management Technology (Intel AMT) plus Intel Anti-Theft Technology, Intel Identity Protection Technology, Intel Virtualization Technology and Intel AES-NI (Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions). Tools, such as Intel Setup and Configuration Service for Intel AMT devices, and the vPro module for Windows PowerShell, also contribute to vPro Technology’s growing acceptance.

 

Desktop virtualization

 

This one’s another trend that seems to be picking up speed because of that darn consumerization of IT.  As users want to have access to both their personal and corporate data on one device, this solution provides IT the control it needs while satisfying the users’ desire for flexibility.  For more on this, I recommend a very thorough white paper on this topic by the Intel IT folks called Understanding Desktop Virtualization.

 

Cloud-aware clients


Everyone’s talking about clouds on the server end, but is there any advantage is having cloud-aware clients?  Intel thinks so.

 

A key element of Intel’s 2015 cloud vision is secure access and optimal experience across the client continuum. Earlier this year, Intel announced technologies that would allow applications and services delivered from a cloud to know more about the laptop, PC, tablet or other device that they are accessing.

 

Companies such as Lenovo and NetSuite have announced application services based on this technology that can detect the hardware capabilities of an end-user’s laptop and optimize the services based on the available processing power, memory, graphics, battery life and bandwidth.

 

Ultrabooks

 

Availability of new Ultrabooks, which will provide IT with a more business-savvy alternative to tablets, was the biggest Intel news at the recent Intel Developers Conference. Demos by Microsoft of Windows 8 on several Ultrabook devices certainly support that thinking.

 

With a new emphasis on user-centered design, Intel social scientists told the electrical engineers what users really want. Here’s how Intel is addressing some of those requirements in designing the Ultrabook:

  • Responsiveness. Not only do the Ultrabooks wake up fast, but they wake up already updated. Rapid start technology helps a system come out of hibernation in less than 5 seconds. Intel Smart Connect Technology allows the system to wake up for brief moments while it is in sleep state to download all of the latest updates so that you don’t have to worry about synching your system.
  • Longer battery life. While dropping the voltage of the dual core microprocessor almost in half, the engineers were able to achieve responsiveness comparable to a standard system by extending the turbo capabilities.
  • Security. Intel and McAfee have been working on anti-theft technology for the Ultrabook to give consumers peace of mind that their data is secure, and control over the safety of their data when their device is lost or stolen. Demonstrated at IDF, the technology will be shipping in the first half of next year. Another technology, Intel Protection Technology, is sure to baffle hackers as it creates a secure transaction portal that is able to display an image to a graphics controller so that the operating system or frame buffer (or hacker!) doesn’t see the information.
  • Thin design at a consumer price point. Intel Capital established a $300 million fund to help the ecosystem deliver new and enhanced users experiences with longer battery life, slimmer components and platform technologies.

 

Some of these trends will obviously overlap and combine to create increasingly mobile and increasingly connected devices that more successfully integrate personal and business content on one device. And that sounds great to me.

 

This is a guest post from Rick Johnson from the Intel Premier IT Professionals

How to backup your PC in three easy steps

G4737250012006_JPGHighres_300dpi_100pct.jpegAlthough computer backup is frequently cited in the news and on the web as a business imperative, many small businesses still don’t have a backup strategy in place. If your business’ hard drive crashed today, could you recover those files quickly and easily? If the answer is no, you need to start backing up your files on a regular basis. The good news is, with proper backup, you can recover valuable files in minutes. Getting together your backup plan is as simple as the three steps below:

 

Decide Which Data to Back Up

Like most businesses you probably have the following company and customer data, which should be backed up on a regular basis:

  • Financial and accounting data
  • Customer contact data and email
  • Office productivity software and word processing, spreadsheet and presentation documents
  • Databases, web pages, graphics and similar data
  • Other data specific to your business, such as marketing collateral, computer-aided design (CAD),     drawings, music and video files and so on

In addition, you should do a full back up of your PC’s hard drive to guarantee your operating system and all your important files are protected.

 

To streamline your backup and recovery, configure your applications to save data files to your documents folders on your hard disk or to a network drive, creating subfolders to organize files appropriately. I do this by year and then by topic. That makes it easy for me to sort when I have to look for older documents.

 

Many businesses don't back up installed applications regularly. Instead, they keep the original installation material in a safe place and reinstall applications when necessary. However, capturing an image of a hard disk with all applications installed is a time-saving method for quick recovery.

 

Decide How Often to Back Up
Your backup schedule depends on a number of things, but mainly on how much time and effort it would take to re-create your data. Review your business data and determine which data must be backed up daily, bi-weekly, weekly and monthly.
(Note: Companies that are subject to federal and state data privacy requirements, such as financial institutions and healthcare providers, must adhere to strict data protection rules and procedures.)
Generally, you should back up mission-critical data daily (or multiple times each day) and less-valuable data once or twice each week. Plan to create a full backup of all data and settings once each week and once each month.

 

Choose the right backup method  
Using a solution such as HP Backup and Recovery Manager, you can back up to your hard disk, a secondary hard disk installed in your computer or a USB-attached external hard disk, a flash or thumb drive, a network drive and even CDs/DVDs. Or you can do a complete backup instantly just by plugging in an HP SimpleSave drive. I use a SimpleSave and it automatically backs up anything new on my PC every five minutes, as long as I have it connected. I prefer this to online methods because I don’t need Internet access to back up my PC.

 

It is a good rule of thumb to keep one or more copies of your backup offsite. In addition, ensure that your backup media sets are secure—they contain the same sensitive information as the computer you're backing up.

 

HP has backup options that range from simple plug-and-backup to convenient wireless options and other backup solutions to fit your specific needs. You can find out more about simple solutions here and more advanced solutions here.

 

This is a guest post from our US sister blog 367 Addison Avenue

Tags: backup| hp

The future of user interfaces

Microsoft Research is exploring the future of interaction, including direct 3D interactions with augmented reality.

 

Today’s technology


Let’s take a look at the technology that is already out there:

 

  • Sensors. Today’s mobile devices have sensors that make Star Trek’s Tricorder look medieval. For example, a typical smart phone has a compass, accelerometers, gyros, GPS and cameras. Combined with a screen, you can already experience augmented reality. For example, the SLARToolkit for Windows Phone and this YouTube playlist.
  • Gestures. Kinect gives computers the ability to ‘see’ gestures and track movement.
  • Pico projectors. You can already buy tiny, handheld ‘pico projectors’ such as the HP Notebook Projection Companion and they’re even built into some cameras now. If they were built into phones or laptops, they could project a 3D environment into the physical world.
  • 3D graphics. Computers and even phones have the ability to display convincing 3D graphics and, thanks to KinectFusion, it’s also possible to capture 3D environments from the real world in real time. Checkout this video from Microsoft Research to see a computer build up an awareness of its entire environment and Ben Kacrya’s TED talk about long-range 3D scanning.

Tomorrow’s user interfaces


Each of these technologies gives developers new capabilities and lets them offer users new experiences. The challenge is to figure out what to do with them. This is where Microsoft Research is very active, combining different elements to create new kinds of interactivity, including

 

Holodesk is an experimental system developed by Microsoft Research that brings many of these technologies together to create something very similar to Star Trek’s holodeck. Mixing multiple sensors, physical objects, 3D graphics and intuitive gesture recognition, it lets a user interact with virtual objects almost as if they were real.

 

 

Wearable Multitouch Interaction, which is an experimental system that lets people use their hands, arms and legs as graphical interactive surfaces – as the touchscreen of a phone, for example – and interact with them using touch gestures, as in this Microsoft Research video.

 

Like all research projects, these demos are pre-production versions of soon-to-be-released commercial products. What they do is point to new possibilities and capabilities. In this light, Microsoft has put together a vision of the future that extrapolates the latest touch, gesture and augmented reality technology.

 

 

This is a guest post from our friends at Microsoft MSDN and Ubelly.

Ten business chores you can move to the cloud in 2012

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Got enough time? No, I didn’t think so. Running a small (but ambitious) company is an exercise in managing your time. Every hour must count. Big companies can throw big resources at a problem, but you have to use your ingenuity to find a more efficient solution.

 

However, unlike big companies, you can move faster. Technology can level the playing field and big companies struggle to innovate because their size makes change difficult and expensive.

 

Web-based cloud applications are the perfect disruptive technology to get a competitive advantage over your larger competitors. The right application used the right way can help you get more done. Here are ten business chores you can move online:

 

  1. Keeping track of customers. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online or Highrise let you keep track of customer interactions online.
  2. Invoicing. Get your invoices out sooner and get paid quicker with online tools like Blinksale and FreshBooks.
  3. Advertising. Microsoft adCenter and Google AdWords can help you reach new clients online.
  4. Writing proposals. If you write a lot of proposals, try Quoteroller. It’ll speed up the process.
  5. HR admin. Check out Turbine for time off requests, appraisals, HR records, expenses etc.
  6. Recruitment. Online advertising on Monster and LinkedIn.com can be very effective.
  7. Finding freelancers. Need a little extra help? Try Elance or Concept Cupboard.
  8. Time tracking. Have a look at Harvest, it’s a great way to track those billable hours.
  9. Bookkeeping. The job you love to hate but maybe Xero will make it less painful.
  10. Email and calendar management. In the old days, you needed a big server to run your email system. Now, you can do it online with Microsoft Office 365.

This post is brought to you in partnership with Intel(R) as part of the “Technology in tomorrow’s cloud & virtual desktop” series. For more information please click - HERE

Tags: 2012| Cloud| Web apps

10 Myths of Productivity

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When it comes to productivity, a lot of people think a lot of crazy things. Some of these crazy people are managers in big companies. Others are, well, you and me. In many cases these foolish ideas have been comprehensively debunked by research.

 

Anyhow, here are a few of the most pervasive myths. I think I still half-believe some of them myself:

 

  • Adding more people will help. Adding more people to a late project will make it later. This is the fundamental lesson from Fred Brooks’s book The Mythical Man-Month. Why? The more people, the more communication. The more communication, the less work. One of the things he advises is that if you can buy software ‘off the shelf’ rather than develop it, do so. It’s usually cheaper to adapt the organisation to the software than vice versa. 
     
  • Measuring inputs is the same as achieving outputs. Managers love metrics and it’s a lot easier to quantify the number of hours someone works than to measure the quantity, quality and value of their output. This is why most people get paid by the hour or by the day. What gets measured gets done. So if you pay for inputs, you’ll get lots of inputs. 
     
  • A kick in the ass will help. Fredrik Herzberg nailed this myth decades ago in his Harvard Business Review classic, One more time, how do you motivate employees. This is really a must-read article. The point is that what pisses employees off is not the same as the stuff that motivates them. So focus on that: self-direction, responsibility, recognition, development, progress, respect. It’s self-evident, really. Would you work harder for a boss who just berated you all the time and told you to work harder or a boss who understood your abilities and helped you be your best?
     
  • Incentives help. Will people work harder if you promise them a bonus for timely deliver? Probably not. Or at least, it needs to be a big enough number (>25% of salary, typically) to incentivise people to work longer hours which (see above) is not the same as being more productive. The flip side is that once someone realises that they’re not going to make the deadline and get the bonus, you’ve effectively disincentivised that person to the value of the bonus they won’t get any more.
     
  • Meetings are the same as work. Sometimes you need to get consensus, coordinate action, reach collective decisions and share information. So meetings look like a good way to do this. But in truth they’re usually not. Actually, because of phenomena like risky shift, you can end up with worse results from a meeting than otherwise. Or you end up doing what the boss says anyway. Or you do your email and don’t listen to what other people are saying.
     
  • Busy is the same as productive. I could spend the whole day reading Twitter and blog posts. I’m definitely busy but I’m not productive. The same understanding extends to all kinds of office activities. It’s about doing the right thing and not just doing things right.
     
  • Buzzy is busy. Noisy, open-plan offices undermine productivity. It’s very hard to concentrate with too much background noise. Interruptions destroy focus. Buzzy is great in a restaurant or bar but there’s a reason they don’t let people talk in libraries. Peopleware has great data about the value of quiet rooms, noise reduction and eliminating interruptions.
     
  • Buying a book will help. There are some interesting books on productivity, including Getting Things Done and Seven Habits of Highly Effective People for individuals and Peopleware for businesses. However, just buying and reading the books isn’t enough. You have to test the ideas to see if they work for you. Don’t take a self-proclaimed guru’s’ word for it. Or mine.
     
  • You can run a business in four hours a week. I can’t even run my blogs in four hours a week. Tim Ferriss popularised some useful ideas like personal outsourcing and an idiosyncratic version of the Lean Startup (which I found much more useful). But at the end of the day, you’re kidding yourself if you think you can run a successful business in four hours. 40 perhaps. Like many ‘gurus’, I’m sure he makes more money preaching than practising and I’m not envious of his publishing success. At all. No. Not me.
     

This is an (edited) guest post from my other blog at Turbine. Cut your paperwork, free your mind!

Intel re-inventing the PC ... again

Just like it did with multimedia and CD ROM in 1995 and with Centrino mobile technology and Wi-Fi in 2003, Intel is setting its sights on transforming the PC industry again. This time the vehicle is Ultrabook. In his IDF keynote today, Intel vice president and general manager of the PC Client Group Mooly Eden outlined how Ultrabook devices will transform both consumer and business computing.

 

Eden introduced one of the new breed of psychologists and anthropologists at Intel who are trying to understand what users want from a PC by close observation of how people really interact with technology in their lives. Eden explained that user experience is driving the processor design and joked that he’d had a few battles with the social scientists who are doing the research. But gone are the days when electrical engineers (EEs) designed a system without input from these social scientists.

 

Their research has shown users want six things from personal computers: mobility, peace of mind, reasonable price, power to create, design that reflects the individual’s taste, and an immersive and responsive experience.

 

Not to be outdone, Eden explained how his EEs and software engineers had tackled these challenges.

 

  • Mobility. Intel has trademarked the Ultrabook name so that it can require OEMs to meet certain design targets that include driving the thickness of an Ultrabook to less than his forefinger – and he assured us that he didn’t have fat forefinger!
  • Peace of Mind. Mooly demonstrated new Intel Identity Theft protection and hinted at upcoming announcements from credit companies that will help make on-line transactions more secure. He also demo’d anti-theft technology that Intel is working on with McAfee that will be the first to take advantage of unique, Intel chip-level technologies and will provide device and data protection for consumers such as device lock, data wipe and location tracking.
  • Reasonable price. If the OEMs can hit the below $1000 price, this one looks pretty good.
  • Power to create. 2nd generation Intel Core processors should give it the power it needs.
  • Design. This is another one that is up to the OEMs. But the initial designs they showed at IDF looked pretty cool. Eden had disguised an Ultrabook by sandwiching it in a three-year old notebook to show how thin it was and pulled it out to ooohs and aaahs from the audience.
  • Immersive and responsive. Intel Rapid Start means it wakes up quickly. And Intel Smart Connect means it downloads your email and software updates while it’s sleeping so that it’s ready to go.

Showing off what will make this even more attractive to enterprise, Microsoft demonstrated Windows 8 working and running several applications on the Ultrabook devices and pointed to the future opportunities that the new OS will present across multiple compute devices such as tablets, hybrids and new form factors like Ultrabook.

I'm sure you will hear a lot more on Ultrabooks as Intel laid out plans for three generations of devices. Here’s a quick summary of what you can expect to see:

 

  • 2011: In time for this holiday season, you’ll see systems—some under $1000—from Toshiba, Lenova, Asus, Acer, Samsung and LG. These will include features such as Intel Rapid Start, always-on always-connected, Intel Smart Connect, and built-in security.
  • 2012: Several ODMs, including Compal, Foxconn, Inventec, Pegatron and Quanta were already showing working systems based upon the 3rd generation Intel Core family processor that will deliver technologies such as a touch user interface, context aware sensors, and Thunderbolt (the new, high-speed, dual-protocol I/O technology that Apple is already offering on some of its systems).
  • 2013: Based on the processor code-named Haswell, this generation of Ultrabooks will include world class battery life, sensor-based synch and media sharing, and near-field communication.

Read more on Eden’s keynote featuring Ultrabooks and insights on future Intel products in eWeek or HotHardware. Or watch the keynote here.

 

This is a guest post from our friends at Intel.

 

Is Your Business Ready for a Tech Refresh?

A technology refresh can be a great opportunity to increase efficiency, reduce security risks and give your business a competitive boost. So what’s the best strategy to maximize your current resources while deciding if the time is right for new IT investments? Here are eight things to consider before moving forward:

 

  1. tech refresh image 2.pngAge: How old are each of your current IT assets (computers, printers, networking equipment, etc.)? Identifying a resource that is useful as-is (or with minimal upgrades) is the first step to determining and prioritizing replacement needs.
  2. Capacity: Does your business have assets that are at or near maximum capacity? Determine the risks and business limitations of using resources that will soon be maxed out. 
  3. Complexity: Is your current IT environment unnecessarily complex? How might investments in new resources simplify it and increase productivity? 
  4. Cost: Is your technology too costly to maintain? Is this cost pulling resources from other business priorities? Consider how new investments might reduce costs in the long term. 
  5. Risk: Do you have technology that presents a continued risk to use? How would a failure impact your business? Beyond simple capacity limits, reliability and security are important factors to consider. 
  6. Resources: Do you have the necessary time and personnel to support a new asset or larger infrastructure upgrade? Besides the initial monetary investment, consider training, support and ramp-up time. 
  7. Availability: Do you have an IT asset that’s inconsistent or unreliable? How much is downtime costing you? 
  8. Functionality: If you’re planning on upgrading an application, will your current infrastructure support it? Will you lose functionality of existing systems with an upgrade? 

Once you’ve asked and answered the right questions, you can decide if it’s best to sit tight, phase in a targeted refresh or plan for more sweeping infrastructure upgrades. For companies that decide to move forward with a tech refresh, it’s important to understand these potential benefits:

 

  • Risk reduction: As technology ages, the law of diminishing returns begins to apply. Though it may seem more cost-effective to keep a current asset, the trade-off might be increased liability through inefficiencies or potential security risks. A tech refresh can offer the chance to save money, boost your business’ competitive advantage, meet new compliance mandates, reassure your clients and better prepare your business for growth opportunities.
  • Increased productivity: No technology works in isolation. An upgrade may mean the chance to re-engage with your workforce and leverage office-bound employees in the field through mobile tools like the ProBook Notebook PCs and ePrint-enabled printers
  • Scalability: The new advancements in cloud computing might surprise you. Leverage virtual servers for your computing and storage needs. Scale up or scale back to respond to changing customer demand without huge expenditures for onsite hardware. 

The best tech refresh strategy starts with taking a step back -- understanding what your current IT needs are, anticipating future needs, researching the host of solutions available and then determining how to move forward in the most cost-effective way. 


Whether you choose to put off your tech refresh for the time-being, invest in a simpler upgrade like purchasing new monitors, or dive in and explore the full range of asset upgrade options, the decision is a highly individual one. No single solution fits every business. 

 

This is a guest post from our US sister blog, 367 Addison Avenue

Gestures and face recognition: coming soon to your PC

kinect.jpg

 

Kinect is coming to the PC, not as a hack but as a commercial product with dedicated PC hardware, in early 2012, according to the Kinect for Windows Blog. Some of the changes for the PC version include: a shorter USB cable and new firmware for ‘close up’ applications. You can download the SDK now.

 

Kinect offers PC users some unique capabilities that change the way people interact with their computers, including:

 

  • Skeletal tracking
  • Motion sensing
  • Voice recognition
  • Facial recognition

For example, Calum Cawley, a fourth-year engineering student at IT Sligo and part of the Microsoft Imagine Cup winning team, is using Kinect in his final year project. He’s tracking the movement of actors on the stage and projecting virtual costumes onto them. See different ways people are using Kinect.

 

This is a guest post from our friends at Microsoft MSDN.

5 steps to starting a business in 2012

A record 480,000 new businesses were created over the past year but let’s see if theUK can beat this record in 2012. If you’ve been thinking about becoming your own boss, now is the time to take a step closer to that ambition as this will be a top year for starting and growing a business. Here are five steps you can take today.

 

1. Come up with an idea

You may already have your business idea; in which case you can move straight to step 2! If you’re still considering, ask yourself 3 questions:

 

  • What is your passion/hobby/skill and can this be turned into a way of making a living?
  • Have you spotted a gap in the market? If so, fill it!
  • Have you seen someone do something that you think you can improve upon?

The answers will provide you with the basis of a business idea. Aim to come up with an idea that focuses on a niche; ie creating a particular product or service for a well-defined audience such as payroll services for childcare professionals or a virtual PA for businesses in the food sector. That way, you’ll keep marketing costs low and customer loyalty high.

 

2. Write a business plan


This is not onerous to do and a business plan will act as your route map; guiding you towards business objectives. It’s easy to remember what to include as it spells I’M OFF:

 

I – what’s your Idea

 

M – who is the Market you will serve; include information on where your customers are/their key influences/buying habits etc

 

O – what Operations will you need to create your service or product; if you’re starting as a graphic designer, this may be just a laptop and some business cards, for a fashion designer, possibly a sewing machine and space

 

F – is for Financials; make a projection of sales you expect to make in the first 12 months, calculate costs (stock/equipment/marketing etc) and calculate the profit you expect to make. In the Financials section, you can also work out if you need funds to get started in business; that’s unlikely as most businesses can now be started on a shoestring of a budget. If you do need money, turn to friends and family/the bank/ Fund101

 

F – the final F is for Friends. Find yourself a mentor and/or technical experts to whom you can turn for help. At the outset, this may be someone in your family. It’s important to have a sound support network and that’s covered in the final point below.

 

3. Make a sale


With an idea and business plan in place, it’s time to make a sale. Do so from your own site or blog (if you have one) by plugging in an e-commerce tool or make the most of powerful sales platforms that attract customers on your behalf so you focus on production and promotion. Whether you’re selling handmade cushions or legal services, sites such as Alibaba.com, Elance.com, eBay.com, Etsy.com and Folksy.com can help you make sales. Consider attending markets and shows, having goods displayed in local shops and individual approaches to friends and family who could become customers .. and tell their friends and family to do the same!

 

4. Promote yourself


With a successful sale, you’ll want to tell the world about it! Make the most of free social media tools and set yourself up on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Write a press release announcing your company and customers and make friends with journalists from the local and/or trade press as well as influential bloggers and small business sites such as ours who will be interested in profiling your story. Start to build yourself as the expert in your field and soon the media will be coming to you!

 

Surround yourself with support  


One of the reasons this is such a promising year to start a business is because there’s never been so much support on offer to help you succeed. The StartUp Britain campaign shines a spotlight on useful events/resources/Awards, sites such as Enterprise Nation, BusinessZone.co.uk and StartUp Donut offer content and friendly forums, and events such as StartUp Saturday provide you with all the practical advice you need to get started and introductions to others treading the same path.

 

Make the most of this year; take that idea, talent, hobby or skill and start a business. You know you want to!

 

Emma Jones is founder of Enterprise Nation and co-founder of StartUp Britain   

New year, new PC: How to choose the right kit for your business

How to choose the right PC - HP Business Answers.png

 

Desktop or laptop? Consumer or business model? Buy from reseller, online or retail? What is the best way to choose and buy a computer for your business?

 

When you buy a car, you want to get a good price but you also think about the long term. How much will it depreciate? How much will it cost to service? What about fuel economy and CO2 emissions? The purchase price, however attractive, doesn’t tell you the whole story about the lifetime cost of owning a car. It’s the same with IT. PCs look similar but differences in design, durability and features can make a dramatic difference to how much you end up paying in the long run.

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About the Author(s)
  • Matthew Stibbe is CEO at Articulate Marketing and TurbineHQ. He is an HP fanboy.
The opinions expressed above are the personal opinions of the authors, not of HP. By using this site, you accept the Terms of Use and Rules of Participation