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    Do more work faster with these unusual productivity hacks

    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    Do you start the day with a rush of energy, only to find yourself staring vacantly at your screen by mid-afternoon? Or stay late regularly just to keep on top of business as usual? If you’ve tried all the usual strategies to improve your effectiveness at work (catnap anyone?) don’t panic! Here are four unusual, but effective, ways to supercharge your productivity.

    1. Play games

    Yes that’s right, ditch the paperwork for five minutes and play a game. The distraction and mental stimulation of a few minutes playing a game can perk you up for work tasks. Better still: combine the two. Gamification is a growing trend when it comes to training and development. Just like children, adults learn through games as well, and also enjoy the process much more than conventional textbook or lecture-based learning. Research shows game-based learning can even be more effective.

    2. Go green

    It’s no wonder Google installs living walls in its offices – greenery improves air quality and wellbeing. There’s plenty of hard scientific data to show how vegetation sucks up toxins and cleans the air. But more importantly, office plants can significantly lower workplace stress and enhance productivity. According to one US study, people in a green workspace were 12 per cent more productive and less stressed than those working in a plant-free environment.

    3. Swap desks

    Changing desks with a colleague every so often can give you a new perspective. As well as a change of scene, you also get to interact with new neighbours which promotes collaboration. Socialising with different colleagues can energise and encourage you (and their ideas may get you out of a rut). Even if you hotdesk, picking different locations rather than grabbing the same desk every day is a good idea. A change of scenery can be inspiring.

    4. Roll the story dice

    Writers sometimes use story dice to get them past a mental block. It’s not really the result on the dice that makes the difference (which may be a symbol to inspire a plot twist, such as an aeroplane or a dagger) but the process of rolling that breaks the block. If you’re feeling stale and swamped with work you can’t motivate yourself to get through, create a lucky dip of tasks and pick one randomly to tackle.

    Remember that the mind tires quicker than the body. According to research, workers in desk jobs start flagging even more quickly than manual labourers. You may well have limited inspiration per day. If so, when you hit the burnout phase, switch from creative tasks to more routine ones. Enter that data. Do your expenses. Save the report writing or brainstorming for tomorrow morning.

    Do you start the day with a rush of energy, only to find yourself staring vacantly at your screen by mid-afternoon? Or stay late regularly just to keep on top of business as usual? If you’ve tried all the usual strategies to improve your effectiveness at work (catnap anyone?) don’t panic! Here are four unusual, but effective, ways to supercharge your productivity.

    1. Play games

    Yes that’s right, ditch the paperwork for five minutes and play a game. The distraction and mental stimulation of a few minutes playing a game can perk you up for work tasks. Better still: combine the two. Gamification is a growing trend when it comes to training and development. Just like children, adults learn through games as well, and also enjoy the process much more than conventional textbook or lecture-based learning. Research shows game-based learning can even be more effective.

    2. Go green

    It’s no wonder Google installs living walls in its offices – greenery improves air quality and wellbeing. There’s plenty of hard scientific data to show how vegetation sucks up toxins and cleans the air. But more importantly, office plants can significantly lower workplace stress and enhance productivity. According to one US study, people in a green workspace were 12 per cent more productive and less stressed than those working in a plant-free environment.

    3. Swap desks

    Changing desks with a colleague every so often can give you a new perspective. As well as a change of scene, you also get to interact with new neighbours which promotes collaboration. Socialising with different colleagues can energise and encourage you (and their ideas may get you out of a rut). Even if you hotdesk, picking different locations rather than grabbing the same desk every day is a good idea. A change of scenery can be inspiring.

    4. Roll the story dice

    Writers sometimes use story dice to get them past a mental block. It’s not really the result on the dice that makes the difference (which may be a symbol to inspire a plot twist, such as an aeroplane or a dagger) but the process of rolling that breaks the block. If you’re feeling stale and swamped with work you can’t motivate yourself to get through, create a lucky dip of tasks and pick one randomly to tackle.

    Remember that the mind tires quicker than the body. According to research, workers in desk jobs start flagging even more quickly than manual labourers. You may well have limited inspiration per day. If so, when you hit the burnout phase, switch from creative tasks to more routine ones. Enter that data. Do your expenses. Save the report writing or brainstorming for tomorrow morning.

    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    Five of the coolest big data projects to inspire you

    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    You can never have too much data. The more data you gather, the more informative the results can be, and it’s leading to some pretty exciting results. Here are five of the coolest big data projects to inspire you.

    Mining for data

    Mining giant Rio Tinto believes it has already saved $90 million through better data processing. Its new Processing Excellence Centre is staffed by 12 mineral experts who continually scrutinise processing data from five coal sites in Australia, as well as operations in Mongolia and the US. Around 30GB of data is streamed in real time every day with a lag of only 100ms and then examined by 20 different analytic systems. Through spotting anomalies, it has enhanced a range of processes and procedures, including increasing the recovery of copper and gold at Rio Tinto’s Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia.

    Map to success

    Mapping technology is driving a raft of fascinating efficiency and productivity improvements using big data. One company reaping the benefits is Australian energy company Ergon Energy, which uses mapping technology, specifically a product called Google Maps Engine, to map the growth of trees near and around it’s entire 150,000km of poles and wires across Queensland. The technology uses sensors to capture images and data that are then turned into 3D models of vegetation growth, which guide the company’s pruning program. Ergon Energy estimates it may save close to $60 million dollars over the next five years, because it can now respond with the right work at the right time. 

    Saving trees

    Continuing the forest theme, Global Forest Watch estimates forest usage, change and tree cover by using satellite imagery and Google technologies, and reveals how many millions of hectares of forest are lost every year. The aim is to help people and governments all over the world manage forests better, increasing conservation. It reveals Australia lost 5.9 million hectares of forest from 2000-2012, only gaining 1.4 million new hectares in the same period.

    Improving education

    Billions of dollars are wasted in productivity due to undereducated citizens. To improve education, the UK has developed the most comprehensive databases of school children in the world. Tracking 600,000 children from 3000 schools, it now has 10 years of data including exams, socioeconomic status, geography, transport, free meals and behaviour issues. Analysis already suggests that socioeconomic factors are less important than originally thought, but school performance and responsiveness, as well as science and technology courses, are critical.

    Falling Fruit

    Aimed at urban foragers, Falling Fruit highlights over 700 types of edible plants in over half a million urban areas worldwide. From blackberries and kumquats to macadamia nuts and garden parsley, hundreds of locations are identified in Australia’s major cities alone. There’s even a single apple tree marked in Alice Springs. Falling Fruit is built on public data as well as contributions by individual foragers and demonstrates the power of crowdsourcing data.

    What’s interesting from all these projects is the continued role of human input in both collecting and analysing data. For any business planning a big data project, getting timely and accurate reporting to build data sets is critical. We’re still some way off from a fully sensored, fully automated world.


    You can never have too much data. The more data you gather, the more informative the results can be, and it’s leading to some pretty exciting results. Here are five of the coolest big data projects to inspire you.

    Mining for data

    Mining giant Rio Tinto believes it has already saved $90 million through better data processing. Its new Processing Excellence Centre is staffed by 12 mineral experts who continually scrutinise processing data from five coal sites in Australia, as well as operations in Mongolia and the US. Around 30GB of data is streamed in real time every day with a lag of only 100ms and then examined by 20 different analytic systems. Through spotting anomalies, it has enhanced a range of processes and procedures, including increasing the recovery of copper and gold at Rio Tinto’s Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia.

    Map to success

    Mapping technology is driving a raft of fascinating efficiency and productivity improvements using big data. One company reaping the benefits is Australian energy company Ergon Energy, which uses mapping technology, specifically a product called Google Maps Engine, to map the growth of trees near and around it’s entire 150,000km of poles and wires across Queensland. The technology uses sensors to capture images and data that are then turned into 3D models of vegetation growth, which guide the company’s pruning program. Ergon Energy estimates it may save close to $60 million dollars over the next five years, because it can now respond with the right work at the right time. 

    Saving trees

    Continuing the forest theme, Global Forest Watch estimates forest usage, change and tree cover by using satellite imagery and Google technologies, and reveals how many millions of hectares of forest are lost every year. The aim is to help people and governments all over the world manage forests better, increasing conservation. It reveals Australia lost 5.9 million hectares of forest from 2000-2012, only gaining 1.4 million new hectares in the same period.

    Improving education

    Billions of dollars are wasted in productivity due to undereducated citizens. To improve education, the UK has developed the most comprehensive databases of school children in the world. Tracking 600,000 children from 3000 schools, it now has 10 years of data including exams, socioeconomic status, geography, transport, free meals and behaviour issues. Analysis already suggests that socioeconomic factors are less important than originally thought, but school performance and responsiveness, as well as science and technology courses, are critical.

    Falling Fruit

    Aimed at urban foragers, Falling Fruit highlights over 700 types of edible plants in over half a million urban areas worldwide. From blackberries and kumquats to macadamia nuts and garden parsley, hundreds of locations are identified in Australia’s major cities alone. There’s even a single apple tree marked in Alice Springs. Falling Fruit is built on public data as well as contributions by individual foragers and demonstrates the power of crowdsourcing data.

    What’s interesting from all these projects is the continued role of human input in both collecting and analysing data. For any business planning a big data project, getting timely and accurate reporting to build data sets is critical. We’re still some way off from a fully sensored, fully automated world.

    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    What are your customers telling you?

    Monday, April 14, 2014

    Your website, social media, CRM, point-of-sale systems and sales team are all silently collecting information about your customers. But do you know where to find the best insights within this mass of data? Here are three places to start looking.

    The online experience

    In 2013, the number of Australians shopping online broke past 50 per cent for the first time, according to Roy Morgan Research. At the same time, 23 per cent of online shoppers admitted to visiting conventional stores less often than they used to. Metrics such as page views, traffic source and bounce rate can tell you a great deal about what your visitors are doing, but are you getting to the ‘why’?

    And why does this matter? For one, it’s about delivering a better customer experience. A recent LivePerson survey found that 83 per cent of consumers want clear guidance when looking for a solution online, with 48 per cent abandoning a website within five minutes if they don’t get it.

    To gather this type of information, you could add short feedback surveys to your site, or have support staff ask for feedback at the end of a chat session. Finding out what the customer is thinking when they go online can help you connect the dots in ways that might be missed if you rely solely on automated tools.

    Wearing the customer's shoes

    It goes without saying that your service staff should be adept at face-to-face interaction with customers. But other employees, including managers, can also learn valuable lessons by embedding themselves in the customer’s world.

    An example is Adobe’s Customer Immersion Program, where senior company leaders spent time in the customer’s role to find out for themselves if the experience matched their brand promise. One discovery was that jargon-heavy ‘business speak’ may be fine for internal communications, but as a customer plain English is preferred every time.

    The same philosophy applies to social media. People use it to connect with friends, so aren’t likely to be very receptive to advertising messages. It’s much better to focus on two-way interaction and to be sympathetic to customers’ needs. Clothing retailer Boden provides an excellent example of how to use Facebook for better customer engagement.

    Examining past behaviours

    The customer’s past purchasing patterns – what they’ve bought, channels used, service interactions and other facts and figures squirrelled away in your customer data – are great fuel for building a picture of what they are likely to do in the future.

    The internet has also made it much easier to track after-purchase data, such as reviews and complaints – even ideas for future products. My Starbucks is a good example of customer-driven innovation at work.

    If you lose a customer, don’t forget to ask why. Are they unsatisfied with service delays? Why are they switching to a cheaper competitor?
    As consumers get more tech savvy, opportunities to learn from them continue to emerge – and getting to the heart of what they want is the best way to stay relevant.

    Your website, social media, CRM, point-of-sale systems and sales team are all silently collecting information about your customers. But do you know where to find the best insights within this mass of data? Here are three places to start looking.

    The online experience

    In 2013, the number of Australians shopping online broke past 50 per cent for the first time, according to Roy Morgan Research. At the same time, 23 per cent of online shoppers admitted to visiting conventional stores less often than they used to. Metrics such as page views, traffic source and bounce rate can tell you a great deal about what your visitors are doing, but are you getting to the ‘why’?

    And why does this matter? For one, it’s about delivering a better customer experience. A recent LivePerson survey found that 83 per cent of consumers want clear guidance when looking for a solution online, with 48 per cent abandoning a website within five minutes if they don’t get it.

    To gather this type of information, you could add short feedback surveys to your site, or have support staff ask for feedback at the end of a chat session. Finding out what the customer is thinking when they go online can help you connect the dots in ways that might be missed if you rely solely on automated tools.

    Wearing the customer's shoes

    It goes without saying that your service staff should be adept at face-to-face interaction with customers. But other employees, including managers, can also learn valuable lessons by embedding themselves in the customer’s world.

    An example is Adobe’s Customer Immersion Program, where senior company leaders spent time in the customer’s role to find out for themselves if the experience matched their brand promise. One discovery was that jargon-heavy ‘business speak’ may be fine for internal communications, but as a customer plain English is preferred every time.

    The same philosophy applies to social media. People use it to connect with friends, so aren’t likely to be very receptive to advertising messages. It’s much better to focus on two-way interaction and to be sympathetic to customers’ needs. Clothing retailer Boden provides an excellent example of how to use Facebook for better customer engagement.

    Examining past behaviours

    The customer’s past purchasing patterns – what they’ve bought, channels used, service interactions and other facts and figures squirrelled away in your customer data – are great fuel for building a picture of what they are likely to do in the future.

    The internet has also made it much easier to track after-purchase data, such as reviews and complaints – even ideas for future products. My Starbucks is a good example of customer-driven innovation at work.

    If you lose a customer, don’t forget to ask why. Are they unsatisfied with service delays? Why are they switching to a cheaper competitor?
    As consumers get more tech savvy, opportunities to learn from them continue to emerge – and getting to the heart of what they want is the best way to stay relevant.
    Monday, April 14, 2014

    10 predictions for the future of work

    Monday, April 07, 2014

    Here's what you need to know about the future of work: one size fits all is going out the window and the age of the individual is dawning. Here are 10 predictions about the future world of work.

    1. Bring your own device

    Say goodbye to company-supplied phones, tablets and computers, and hello to a wide spectrum of personal devices. 

    2. Why not choose your own workspace too? 

    By 2020, oDesk predicts that one in three people will be hired to work online from anywhere they want. American Express asks all new employees to take a survey on their working habits and decides where to put them – at a desk, in a home office, on the road or a mix – based on the results.

    3. Get used to group projects

    Physical, virtual, status and geographical barriers are being demolished to encourage the free flow of ideas. Samsung is installing floor-to-ceiling windows in its new US headquarters in the belief that people who can see each other are more likely to work with each other. 

    4. I, worker

    Clerical and call centre jobs will be the first to be replaced by clever computers that can handle customer questions and accomplish routine tasks. And it's already happening. Last year, ANZ Bank employed IBM’s Watson supercomputer to offer advice to its private wealth clients.

    5. It won’t only be cyborgs cutting your grass

    Get ready for a truly global workforce. By 2030, China, India and Brazil will be talent powerhouses, pumping out more highly qualified individuals than anywhere else. 

    6. Gen Y will be running the show

    By 2020 Generation Y will make up 35 per cent of Australia's workforce. This young, tech-savvy group will demand employers accommodate their values and lifestyle choices, but they'll deliver results in return.

    7. Your boss will give you shoulder massages

    Employees – particularly Gen Y and Z – will expect to be taken care of in ways most employers can scarcely imagine at present. If you want to attract top talent, you’ll need to lay on the free food/yoga classes/housing, etc.  

    8. Permanent jobs will become extinct

    The casualisation of work will continue apace as it becomes increasingly uneconomic for businesses to offer ongoing employment. Having contracts from multiple employers will be the new normal and building a strong personal brand will be essential.

    9. Pay will be totally merit based  

    With increased capacity to measure (down to the last second and cent) exactly what contribution workers are making, expect to see remuneration much more tightly tied to your impact on the business’s profitability rather than the job title you flaunt. 

    10. You’ll get paid to play games

    Workers used to Angry Birds during their commute will keep on playing once they reach the office. Japan's NTT Data built an online game to foster leadership qualities in their staff, and other companies are enthusiastically embracing the 'gamification' of work.

    The future of work is all about more. More talent, more demanding workers, more exciting working spaces and more challenges for employers. But get ahead of the curve and there’s something else waiting: more profits.

    Here's what you need to know about the future of work: one size fits all is going out the window and the age of the individual is dawning. Here are 10 predictions about the future world of work.

    1. Bring your own device

    Say goodbye to company-supplied phones, tablets and computers, and hello to a wide spectrum of personal devices. 

    2. Why not choose your own workspace too? 

    By 2020, oDesk predicts that one in three people will be hired to work online from anywhere they want. American Express asks all new employees to take a survey on their working habits and decides where to put them – at a desk, in a home office, on the road or a mix – based on the results.

    3. Get used to group projects

    Physical, virtual, status and geographical barriers are being demolished to encourage the free flow of ideas. Samsung is installing floor-to-ceiling windows in its new US headquarters in the belief that people who can see each other are more likely to work with each other. 

    4. I, worker

    Clerical and call centre jobs will be the first to be replaced by clever computers that can handle customer questions and accomplish routine tasks. And it's already happening. Last year, ANZ Bank employed IBM’s Watson supercomputer to offer advice to its private wealth clients.

    5. It won’t only be cyborgs cutting your grass

    Get ready for a truly global workforce. By 2030, China, India and Brazil will be talent powerhouses, pumping out more highly qualified individuals than anywhere else. 

    6. Gen Y will be running the show

    By 2020 Generation Y will make up 35 per cent of Australia's workforce. This young, tech-savvy group will demand employers accommodate their values and lifestyle choices, but they'll deliver results in return.

    7. Your boss will give you shoulder massages

    Employees – particularly Gen Y and Z – will expect to be taken care of in ways most employers can scarcely imagine at present. If you want to attract top talent, you’ll need to lay on the free food/yoga classes/housing, etc.  

    8. Permanent jobs will become extinct

    The casualisation of work will continue apace as it becomes increasingly uneconomic for businesses to offer ongoing employment. Having contracts from multiple employers will be the new normal and building a strong personal brand will be essential.

    9. Pay will be totally merit based  

    With increased capacity to measure (down to the last second and cent) exactly what contribution workers are making, expect to see remuneration much more tightly tied to your impact on the business’s profitability rather than the job title you flaunt. 

    10. You’ll get paid to play games

    Workers used to Angry Birds during their commute will keep on playing once they reach the office. Japan's NTT Data built an online game to foster leadership qualities in their staff, and other companies are enthusiastically embracing the 'gamification' of work.

    The future of work is all about more. More talent, more demanding workers, more exciting working spaces and more challenges for employers. But get ahead of the curve and there’s something else waiting: more profits.

    Monday, April 07, 2014

    Making virtualisation work for your business

    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    Virtualisation offers businesses a way to create a more secure, low cost IT environment, while improving productivity and efficiency.  

    What is virtualisation?

    As the technology that has been quietly driving the cloud computing revolution, virtualisation is starting to be recognised in its own right as a way to improve business productivity and efficiency. 

    With the ability to “virtualise” the functionality of servers, networks and applications independent of their underlying hardware systems, virtualisation is now being seen as a way for businesses to create a more secure IT environment while offering flexibility to workers at the same time.

    While it has yet to enjoy widespread adoption in the workplace, the concept of virtualisation has been around for years, starting with the development of the mainframe computing model in the 1960s.

    Some of the common types of virtualisation in use today include:
    • Storage virtualisation: Software technology that allows data from multiple storage devices to be consolidated into a virtual pool, allowing for centralised management of data.
    • Network virtualization: A layer of software technology that allows for easier configuration and management of heterogenous networks in an organisation.
    • Desktop virtualization: The running of virtual machines (VMs) on a server that can be accessed by client devices via remote desktop software. The VM's resources (operating system, applications, data, etc.) work as if residing locally on the device.
    What all of these technologies have in common is the ability to virtualise systems independent of their physical hardware layers. For example, with desktop virtualisation, a user's computer or handheld device would not run its own copies of applications, but rather a virtual instance of those applications running on a VM. To the user, it appears as if everything is running locally – there is no difference.

    The virtualisation model is especially attractive to IT managers in BYOD environments. Employees could easily access instances of applications and data on a variety of devices without needing to store anything locally, making access secure and compliant with business policies.

    The benefits of virtualisation

    The argument in favour of virtualisation can be convincing. Instead of having to maintain, update and troubleshoot separate applications across numerous machines, a virtualised environment would allow an organisation to install and manage all data, applications and updates from one central location.

    As a case in point, consider what happens when an employee loses or accidentally damages their laptop or other BYOD device. Your IT team must then work to restore all the data and applications that once resided on the device – a process that could take hours, even under the best circumstances.

    If the employee had been running a virtualised desktop on their device instead, then a spilled coffee does not equate to instant disaster. Instead, your IT team would simply issue a new laptop to the employee, who would then connect to the VM where everything is already running and ready to go. Your employee could be back to work in minutes, rather than hours.

    Most organisations have yet to embrace virtualisation

    According to a 2013 study by Cisco, 40 per cent of information workers stated they had never heard of desktop virtualisation, and 80 per cent of decision makers said they didn't know whether or not they would benefit from the use of virtualisation. Conversely, 73 per cent of workers said the ability to access work files remotely would be important to their jobs.

    What these findings reveal is that, in spite of familiarity with technologies such as mobile and BYOD, there is still a big knowledge gap in many organisations regarding virtualisation, even though it could benefit many employees by allowing them to work and securely access files from anywhere.

    Making virtualisation efficient for your enterprise

    Some experts point out that between the costs of having to maintain powerful servers and multiple desktop licences, virtualisation can remain out of reach for some organisations. To address the perception of virtualisation being an expensive, niche technology, some providers are working to create low-cost enterprise solutions, such as Citrix's XenApp, which can deliver Windows applications as secure mobile services.

    To determine whether or not virtualisation is right for your business, you need to look at how much control you want over your environment, your business's security requirements and your budget, among other factors. But as more people learn about the ability of virtualisation to provide a secure yet flexible IT environment, this technology is sure to make more of an appearance in the workplace in the years ahead.

    Virtualisation offers businesses a way to create a more secure, low cost IT environment, while improving productivity and efficiency.  

    What is virtualisation?

    As the technology that has been quietly driving the cloud computing revolution, virtualisation is starting to be recognised in its own right as a way to improve business productivity and efficiency. 

    With the ability to “virtualise” the functionality of servers, networks and applications independent of their underlying hardware systems, virtualisation is now being seen as a way for businesses to create a more secure IT environment while offering flexibility to workers at the same time.

    While it has yet to enjoy widespread adoption in the workplace, the concept of virtualisation has been around for years, starting with the development of the mainframe computing model in the 1960s.

    Some of the common types of virtualisation in use today include:
    • Storage virtualisation: Software technology that allows data from multiple storage devices to be consolidated into a virtual pool, allowing for centralised management of data.
    • Network virtualization: A layer of software technology that allows for easier configuration and management of heterogenous networks in an organisation.
    • Desktop virtualization: The running of virtual machines (VMs) on a server that can be accessed by client devices via remote desktop software. The VM's resources (operating system, applications, data, etc.) work as if residing locally on the device.
    What all of these technologies have in common is the ability to virtualise systems independent of their physical hardware layers. For example, with desktop virtualisation, a user's computer or handheld device would not run its own copies of applications, but rather a virtual instance of those applications running on a VM. To the user, it appears as if everything is running locally – there is no difference.

    The virtualisation model is especially attractive to IT managers in BYOD environments. Employees could easily access instances of applications and data on a variety of devices without needing to store anything locally, making access secure and compliant with business policies.

    The benefits of virtualisation

    The argument in favour of virtualisation can be convincing. Instead of having to maintain, update and troubleshoot separate applications across numerous machines, a virtualised environment would allow an organisation to install and manage all data, applications and updates from one central location.

    As a case in point, consider what happens when an employee loses or accidentally damages their laptop or other BYOD device. Your IT team must then work to restore all the data and applications that once resided on the device – a process that could take hours, even under the best circumstances.

    If the employee had been running a virtualised desktop on their device instead, then a spilled coffee does not equate to instant disaster. Instead, your IT team would simply issue a new laptop to the employee, who would then connect to the VM where everything is already running and ready to go. Your employee could be back to work in minutes, rather than hours.

    Most organisations have yet to embrace virtualisation

    According to a 2013 study by Cisco, 40 per cent of information workers stated they had never heard of desktop virtualisation, and 80 per cent of decision makers said they didn't know whether or not they would benefit from the use of virtualisation. Conversely, 73 per cent of workers said the ability to access work files remotely would be important to their jobs.

    What these findings reveal is that, in spite of familiarity with technologies such as mobile and BYOD, there is still a big knowledge gap in many organisations regarding virtualisation, even though it could benefit many employees by allowing them to work and securely access files from anywhere.

    Making virtualisation efficient for your enterprise

    Some experts point out that between the costs of having to maintain powerful servers and multiple desktop licences, virtualisation can remain out of reach for some organisations. To address the perception of virtualisation being an expensive, niche technology, some providers are working to create low-cost enterprise solutions, such as Citrix's XenApp, which can deliver Windows applications as secure mobile services.

    To determine whether or not virtualisation is right for your business, you need to look at how much control you want over your environment, your business's security requirements and your budget, among other factors. But as more people learn about the ability of virtualisation to provide a secure yet flexible IT environment, this technology is sure to make more of an appearance in the workplace in the years ahead.

    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    Should you trust in the cloud?

    Tuesday, April 08, 2014

    No longer just a trendy buzzword or emerging technology, cloud services have gone mainstream. In Australia, the use of cloud services is at an all-time high, with a recent IDC survey revealing that 86 per cent of organisations in Australia are now using some form of cloud-based technology – and that number will only increase over time.

    The risk of avoiding cloud services

    Despite the widespread adoption of cloud services, some IT executives continue to express concerns about security issues such as cyber-attacks and theft. Although not unfounded, in some cases these fears may actually work to increase risk in the organisation rather than reduce it. For instance, when a business is reluctant to embrace the cloud, employees or departments may go ahead and use the services anyways, creating an environment where the risks cannot be properly addressed.

    Instead of shying away from the cloud, decision makers would be better served by educating themselves about cloud technology in order to create the type of structure that will actually protect data while simultaneously reducing risk. Here's a look at some practical measures businesses can take to increase their trust in the cloud.

    Choose the right type of service

    Amongst the many cloud providers, there are fundamentally three different types of cloud service options, which are infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS). While the names may sound a bit confusing, the basic differences are:
    - IaaS is a fully outsourced service based on a pay-as-you-go model that allows businesses to store data as well as run applications. Instead of having to buy their own servers, companies can use the enterprise-grade infrastructure of an IaaS, such as those offered by Google, IBM, and Amazon, allowing them to reduce their operating costs and remain flexible at the same time.
    - SaaS, also known as “service on demand”, is a type of cloud service that allows businesses to rent software applications rather than having to buy them. Google Docs and web-based CRM systems would fall into this category. Users simply log into the system via the web, upload their data and run the application using the service.
    - PaaS is a type of cloud service that allows businesses to write their own software, with the PaaS service running and delivering the program to end users on the web.

    Choose the right level of security

    Cloud services offer varying levels of security and protection, so you'll want to research your cloud provider thoroughly. The CSA (Cloud Security Alliance) has identified several possible threats to data stored in the cloud, including:
    Data breaches due to hackers.
    • Data loss due to hackers or natural disasters.
    • Account hijacking due to stolen credentials.
    • Threats from malicious insiders.
    • Technological weaknesses.
    As such, you'll want to find a provider that provides a high level of protection at all data entry points and allows businesses maximum control over their data. For example, look for a provider who:
    • Allows you to control your own encryption keys. 
    • Provides encrypted backups where the user controls the key. 
    • Uses two-factor authentication techniques when possible.
    At a minimum, data should always be encrypted at rest, in transit, as well as on mobile devices, and encryption keys should always be physically and logically separate from the data they protect. In addition, companies that deal with sensitive data such medical records and credit card payments must take extra measures to ensure their cloud provider adheres to specific industry standards to prevent liability.

    Choose to create a secure STAR environment

    STAR stands for secure, trusted and audit-ready. A secure STAR cloud environment, therefore, is one that adheres to the highest standards of security, complies with industry regulations and has the resilience to withstand the most adverse events. Since businesses that use cloud services are essentially entrusting large portions of their IT operations to an outside third party, it's critical that businesses and cloud providers work together to build a cooperative partnership of trust. 

    Because risk, even when minimised, is an inherent part of the cloud technology, there must be open lines of communication and transparency from the start. Service agreements must be in place and both parties must have a clear understanding of expectations and policies should any issues arise so they can be handled in an efficient and straightforward manner.

    Offering lower cost, scalable infrastructure, universal data access and more, it's clear that cloud computing is here to stay. Instead of fearing the cloud, businesses should educate themselves on all aspects of cloud technology and work towards finding the right cloud service provider with whom they can build a long-term relationship of reliability and trust.

    No longer just a trendy buzzword or emerging technology, cloud services have gone mainstream. In Australia, the use of cloud services is at an all-time high, with a recent IDC survey revealing that 86 per cent of organisations in Australia are now using some form of cloud-based technology – and that number will only increase over time.

    The risk of avoiding cloud services

    Despite the widespread adoption of cloud services, some IT executives continue to express concerns about security issues such as cyber-attacks and theft. Although not unfounded, in some cases these fears may actually work to increase risk in the organisation rather than reduce it. For instance, when a business is reluctant to embrace the cloud, employees or departments may go ahead and use the services anyways, creating an environment where the risks cannot be properly addressed.

    Instead of shying away from the cloud, decision makers would be better served by educating themselves about cloud technology in order to create the type of structure that will actually protect data while simultaneously reducing risk. Here's a look at some practical measures businesses can take to increase their trust in the cloud.

    Choose the right type of service

    Amongst the many cloud providers, there are fundamentally three different types of cloud service options, which are infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS). While the names may sound a bit confusing, the basic differences are:
    - IaaS is a fully outsourced service based on a pay-as-you-go model that allows businesses to store data as well as run applications. Instead of having to buy their own servers, companies can use the enterprise-grade infrastructure of an IaaS, such as those offered by Google, IBM, and Amazon, allowing them to reduce their operating costs and remain flexible at the same time.
    - SaaS, also known as “service on demand”, is a type of cloud service that allows businesses to rent software applications rather than having to buy them. Google Docs and web-based CRM systems would fall into this category. Users simply log into the system via the web, upload their data and run the application using the service.
    - PaaS is a type of cloud service that allows businesses to write their own software, with the PaaS service running and delivering the program to end users on the web.

    Choose the right level of security

    Cloud services offer varying levels of security and protection, so you'll want to research your cloud provider thoroughly. The CSA (Cloud Security Alliance) has identified several possible threats to data stored in the cloud, including:
    Data breaches due to hackers.
    • Data loss due to hackers or natural disasters.
    • Account hijacking due to stolen credentials.
    • Threats from malicious insiders.
    • Technological weaknesses.
    As such, you'll want to find a provider that provides a high level of protection at all data entry points and allows businesses maximum control over their data. For example, look for a provider who:
    • Allows you to control your own encryption keys. 
    • Provides encrypted backups where the user controls the key. 
    • Uses two-factor authentication techniques when possible.
    At a minimum, data should always be encrypted at rest, in transit, as well as on mobile devices, and encryption keys should always be physically and logically separate from the data they protect. In addition, companies that deal with sensitive data such medical records and credit card payments must take extra measures to ensure their cloud provider adheres to specific industry standards to prevent liability.

    Choose to create a secure STAR environment

    STAR stands for secure, trusted and audit-ready. A secure STAR cloud environment, therefore, is one that adheres to the highest standards of security, complies with industry regulations and has the resilience to withstand the most adverse events. Since businesses that use cloud services are essentially entrusting large portions of their IT operations to an outside third party, it's critical that businesses and cloud providers work together to build a cooperative partnership of trust. 

    Because risk, even when minimised, is an inherent part of the cloud technology, there must be open lines of communication and transparency from the start. Service agreements must be in place and both parties must have a clear understanding of expectations and policies should any issues arise so they can be handled in an efficient and straightforward manner.

    Offering lower cost, scalable infrastructure, universal data access and more, it's clear that cloud computing is here to stay. Instead of fearing the cloud, businesses should educate themselves on all aspects of cloud technology and work towards finding the right cloud service provider with whom they can build a long-term relationship of reliability and trust.
    Tuesday, April 08, 2014

    The internet of things - what does it mean for business?

    Monday, March 31, 2014

    It’s called the internet of things (IoT), where your fridge and your washing machine can talk to one another without any human involvement. So what does the IoT mean for business?

    Google surprised a lot of people earlier this year when it splurged $US3.2 billion on an upstart consumer electronics company called Nest. Nest is best known for its internet-connected thermostats and indoor smoke alarms. The devices, designed with a panache normally associated with Apple (indeed, Nest’s founder helped develop the iPod), could be controlled from smart-phone apps, and would also learn from the day-to-day life patterns of its user. 

    Dig a little deeper, however, and what Google had done was fire what could be the first salvo in the coming war over the internet of things. These ‘things’ are devices connected to the internet, and one another, and some of them, such as Nest’s thermostat, are capable of learning from their environment.

    The growing internet of things

    Research firm Gartner expects there will be 26 billion installed devices in the internet of things by 2020 and that the market will be worth over $US300 billion in the same time period. Rival research firm IDC has the number of connected devices pinned at 212 billion, an order of magnitude larger. 

    “It’s important to remember that while the market for the internet of things is still in its infancy, there is a long legacy of autonomous wired and connected things,” said IDC’s program vice president, mobile services, Carrie McGillivray, in a statement. “The enabler for increased growth over the forecast period is the pervasiveness of wireless connectivity and ubiquitous access to the internet, regardless of location.”

    What’s in it for business?

    According to consulting firm Deloitte, the opportunities for business in the internet of things are wide open. Already insurance firms are using telematics – the monitoring of car and driver behaviour – to better tailor coverage packages for their customers. Automatic teller machines may use sensors to monitor and take action on behalf of a consumer, while financial services companies could connect to a fitness monitor to tailor health insurance for individual clients based on their personal health needs.

    Opportunities already exist for retailers wanting to take part in the Apple ecosystem. Its iBeacon product allows a retailer to beam information and offers to a customer’s iPhone – so long as the customer has installed the retailer’s app. The key for retailers is that once the app is installed, it doesn’t need to be running to send the offers to the potential customer.

    However, business also needs to be aware that there are still some significant hurdles before the internet of things achieves mass-market penetration. Privacy aspects need to be worked out – for example, when should information remain private and when is it okay for the information to be shared with third parties? 

    There’s also the issue of standards and interoperability. Take iBeacon. It targets iPhone users, but ignores the bigger market of Google-powered Android phones made by Samsung, HTC and others. A strategy like that is typical of the way Apple goes to market, but when Google comes along with its own offering, unless there’s some sort of standard, retailers will be left having to deal with two incompatible systems.

    With Google and Apple moving quickly to exploit the internet of things, there are also myriad opportunities for other businesses to get on board, from retailers beaming offers to customers, to car companies offering real-time maintenance and diagnostics on their cars. And with the market set to explode between now and 2020, Google’s purchase of Nest, giving it a valuable foothold into the internet of things, could look like the best investment it has ever made.

    By Josh Gliddon

    It’s called the internet of things (IoT), where your fridge and your washing machine can talk to one another without any human involvement. So what does the IoT mean for business?

    Google surprised a lot of people earlier this year when it splurged $US3.2 billion on an upstart consumer electronics company called Nest. Nest is best known for its internet-connected thermostats and indoor smoke alarms. The devices, designed with a panache normally associated with Apple (indeed, Nest’s founder helped develop the iPod), could be controlled from smart-phone apps, and would also learn from the day-to-day life patterns of its user. 

    Dig a little deeper, however, and what Google had done was fire what could be the first salvo in the coming war over the internet of things. These ‘things’ are devices connected to the internet, and one another, and some of them, such as Nest’s thermostat, are capable of learning from their environment.

    The growing internet of things

    Research firm Gartner expects there will be 26 billion installed devices in the internet of things by 2020 and that the market will be worth over $US300 billion in the same time period. Rival research firm IDC has the number of connected devices pinned at 212 billion, an order of magnitude larger. 

    “It’s important to remember that while the market for the internet of things is still in its infancy, there is a long legacy of autonomous wired and connected things,” said IDC’s program vice president, mobile services, Carrie McGillivray, in a statement. “The enabler for increased growth over the forecast period is the pervasiveness of wireless connectivity and ubiquitous access to the internet, regardless of location.”

    What’s in it for business?

    According to consulting firm Deloitte, the opportunities for business in the internet of things are wide open. Already insurance firms are using telematics – the monitoring of car and driver behaviour – to better tailor coverage packages for their customers. Automatic teller machines may use sensors to monitor and take action on behalf of a consumer, while financial services companies could connect to a fitness monitor to tailor health insurance for individual clients based on their personal health needs.

    Opportunities already exist for retailers wanting to take part in the Apple ecosystem. Its iBeacon product allows a retailer to beam information and offers to a customer’s iPhone – so long as the customer has installed the retailer’s app. The key for retailers is that once the app is installed, it doesn’t need to be running to send the offers to the potential customer.

    However, business also needs to be aware that there are still some significant hurdles before the internet of things achieves mass-market penetration. Privacy aspects need to be worked out – for example, when should information remain private and when is it okay for the information to be shared with third parties? 

    There’s also the issue of standards and interoperability. Take iBeacon. It targets iPhone users, but ignores the bigger market of Google-powered Android phones made by Samsung, HTC and others. A strategy like that is typical of the way Apple goes to market, but when Google comes along with its own offering, unless there’s some sort of standard, retailers will be left having to deal with two incompatible systems.

    With Google and Apple moving quickly to exploit the internet of things, there are also myriad opportunities for other businesses to get on board, from retailers beaming offers to customers, to car companies offering real-time maintenance and diagnostics on their cars. And with the market set to explode between now and 2020, Google’s purchase of Nest, giving it a valuable foothold into the internet of things, could look like the best investment it has ever made.

    By Josh Gliddon

    Monday, March 31, 2014

    Five tips for successful social selling

    Wednesday, March 26, 2014

    Many organisations are using social media, but few have yet to properly harness the power of using social for selling. Here are five essential tips for success.

    1. Get to know your customer

    Whether Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, the trick is to understand what your customers want and to engage with them in a way that shows you care about their needs, without being intrusive. There are many ways to find out what the customer is thinking – from hashtag searches on Twitter to getting into direct conversations with customers to gain a better understanding of their pain points and the tone of voice you should be using.

    2. Provide a consistent buying experience

    While Facebook storefronts are becoming more and more common, there is still a large divide between the number of people buying through standard website shops and those who purchase through Facebook shops. There needs to be consistency across all your storefronts.

    One way to achieve this is to create a landing page – which can be done with the assistance of third-party apps like Heyo – to place a highly targeted marketing message and call to action in front of users. If your followers are ready to buy, you can add a shopping cart, using tools such as Ecwid.

    3. Offer special incentives

    When someone follows you on Twitter or likes your Facebook page, you can turn them into a fan immediately by offering something in return, such as a discount code or special offer. Facebook Offers was recently introduced as a tool to help businesses leverage the power of reciprocation.

    Such incentives can have a potentially huge impact, so it’s worth putting in the extra effort in order to give your customers the value they believe they deserve from following your social pages.

    4. Encourage sharing

    Many businesses such as retail shops, travel agencies and real estate agents can create huge brand buzz by posting images of products that their followers can then share with other people in their network. This kind of interactive experience can be a great way to build brand awareness and drive traffic to your website.

    Platforms such as Facebook also allow you to target consumers by demographic and social connection. For example, selling to friends of fans can be much easier, as friends’ advice is usually considered more trustworthy.

    5. Offer fantastic customer service

    Ultimately, social media is about providing great service by engaging in direct dialogue with your customers, in much the same way as you would face to face. If a complaint is posted, take it seriously rather than ignoring it. Show that you are ready and willing to answer any questions your followers have about your products.

    Social media has moved beyond being a place where we chat with friends – it’s become a global community built on openness and trust. Stick with these principles and you’ll be received as a member, rather than an intrusive outsider.

    Many organisations are using social media, but few have yet to properly harness the power of using social for selling. Here are five essential tips for success.

    1. Get to know your customer

    Whether Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, the trick is to understand what your customers want and to engage with them in a way that shows you care about their needs, without being intrusive. There are many ways to find out what the customer is thinking – from hashtag searches on Twitter to getting into direct conversations with customers to gain a better understanding of their pain points and the tone of voice you should be using.

    2. Provide a consistent buying experience

    While Facebook storefronts are becoming more and more common, there is still a large divide between the number of people buying through standard website shops and those who purchase through Facebook shops. There needs to be consistency across all your storefronts.

    One way to achieve this is to create a landing page – which can be done with the assistance of third-party apps like Heyo – to place a highly targeted marketing message and call to action in front of users. If your followers are ready to buy, you can add a shopping cart, using tools such as Ecwid.

    3. Offer special incentives

    When someone follows you on Twitter or likes your Facebook page, you can turn them into a fan immediately by offering something in return, such as a discount code or special offer. Facebook Offers was recently introduced as a tool to help businesses leverage the power of reciprocation.

    Such incentives can have a potentially huge impact, so it’s worth putting in the extra effort in order to give your customers the value they believe they deserve from following your social pages.

    4. Encourage sharing

    Many businesses such as retail shops, travel agencies and real estate agents can create huge brand buzz by posting images of products that their followers can then share with other people in their network. This kind of interactive experience can be a great way to build brand awareness and drive traffic to your website.

    Platforms such as Facebook also allow you to target consumers by demographic and social connection. For example, selling to friends of fans can be much easier, as friends’ advice is usually considered more trustworthy.

    5. Offer fantastic customer service

    Ultimately, social media is about providing great service by engaging in direct dialogue with your customers, in much the same way as you would face to face. If a complaint is posted, take it seriously rather than ignoring it. Show that you are ready and willing to answer any questions your followers have about your products.

    Social media has moved beyond being a place where we chat with friends – it’s become a global community built on openness and trust. Stick with these principles and you’ll be received as a member, rather than an intrusive outsider.

    Wednesday, March 26, 2014

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