Opinion by Thought Leaders
Read the latest opinions from tech & business pros across the globe.

Growth and Scaling Downfalls – Part IV

 

In the previous post “Growth and Scaling Downfalls – Part III” we discussed strategy aspects of a scaling project. The next topic on the scaling preparation “to do” list is measuring success and failure.

Scaling and growth both depend a great deal on experimentation: be it at tactical level deciding who will do what to strategic level defining success or failure. That being said that kind of decision making naturally requires a great deal of analysis; qualitative or quantitative.

Quantitative

Data driven quantitative analysis is or should be the basis of virtually all business decisions. Though an established field, the quantity of data that has been previously inaccessible or impractical for usage has changed the field. The same quantity of the data sets that are now available have also created several other side effects for small and mid-size organizations; ranging from increased cost for proper analysis to “analysis paralysis”. Hence, the usage has to be defined in terms of practicality: both the collection and analysis of data have to be defined within the context of cost and impact.

Qualitative

In a previous discussion about decision making we discussed the usage of qualitative decision making. Those parameters previously discussed i.e. strong pattern recognition as part of the qualitative decision making are particularly applicable when it comes to growth and scaling. In practical terms it translates to a combination of using practical experiences both industry related as well as general business experiences to decide on both tactical and strategic level: the industry know-how combined with generic business experience will provide the sort of “umbrella” coverage that will leave little room for “guessing”.

On the front line

Interestingly enough there are some unique aspects to data usage when it comes to scale and growth: though the basic methodology of collection and analysis is the same, the decision making direction should entail a more dynamic version of “bottom to top” or “top to bottom”: Micro decisions vs. Macro decisions: 

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Growth and Scaling Downfalls – Part III

 

In the previous post “Growth and scaling downfalls-Part 2” we discussed human capital aspects of a scaling project. The next topic on the scaling preparation “to do” list is strategy.

Though strategy is understood to be a vital part of any business project, when it comes to scaling and growth, it takes an entirely more fluid role: both macro and micro strategy have to be substantially more adaptive and flexible.

Macro strategy

Though the term is more widely used in financial industry, it similarly applies to the concept of business strategy at large. For this discussion “Macro Strategy” is to be understood as the “general strategy” that defines the overall approach based on organizational philosophy, culture, goals and methodology. In context of growth and scaling, “Macro Strategy” similarly refers to general organizational approach both in theory and practices as how to approach any given project.

So, why does it matter?

Essentially, the macro strategy will dictate the overall approach through the lens of organizational mindset; which includes factors such as cultural, social, structure and flexibility. It can also be shaped by outside factor such as target market, brand perception as well as industry specific norms and standards.                                                                        

For instance, an organization that is dead set on market domination is less likely to be deterred by its competitor’s abilities, approach or resources. Hence, the Macro strategy may have an oversized impact on the initial planning of growth and scaling.

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You Need to Know About Your Healthcare Breach

 

A total of 2,701 breaches have been reported to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) since 2009, with 138 breaches reported during the third quarter of 2019.  Over 230,588,249 patient records have been affected by breaches since 2009 according to the same data.  This is a staggering number.  For perspective, if these were unique patient records, it would represent approximately 70% of the United States population.  A breakdown of all reported breaches, including the reason for the breach can be seen below in Figure 1.

While theft represents a higher number of incidents, hacking is the reason for 77% of all patient record breaches reported to HHS.  The data makes is very clear that Protected Health Information (PHI) is highly sought after by cyber-criminals.  PHI can be monetized on the Dark Web for an average of $4 - $7 for each record.  The value is greater than that of credit cards, for example, because the personal information contained in PHI does not expire, and thus can be used again and again for wrongdoing. 

Stop-Gap Measures

In my role as a Security Officer, I tell concerned executives that it is a matter of when, not if their organization will be negatively affected by cyber-events.  All hope is not lost, however.  There are important steps organizations can take to ensure they are prepared to respond when needed.  

Conducting a risk analysis is a vital part of a robust cybersecurity program.  This includes a thorough evaluation identifying all threats, controls, vulnerabilities, probability and impact.  By conducting a risk analysis, organizations are better positioned to mitigate threats and prioritize their cybersecurity activities.

Ransomware is often reported as a type of Unauthorized Access, and is one of the most ubiquitous attacks.  While there are countless ways organizations can design a layered approach to protecting against hacking and ransomware, ensuring their backups are air gapped is an absolute must.  This will ensure that if ransomware is successful at infiltrating their environment, their backups will remain unencrypted and thus available.

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Growth and Scaling Downfalls – Part II

 

In the previous post “Growth and scaling downfalls” we discussed human capital aspects of a growth project. The next topic on the scaling preparation “to do” list is financial resources.

It goes without saying that pre-planning for financial resources needed to meet scaling goals is not only essential for obvious reasons, but it also important in contributing to both tactical as well strategic decision making.

Who?

So, who should be involved? Granted that there many different methods, it stands to reason that such determination should be a “top down” approach, as in starting with the project manager. Additional team members should include project sponsor, member of operations management as well as finance. Of course, it is understood that the CFO (used here generically to refer to the leadership of the financial division) had to be involved in the initial SOP creation for such projects.

How?

The mechanics of a budget creation are certainly widely known and not a subject of this discussion, however there are couple of points worth mentioning:

• Realistic budgeting: one of the rather common issues in budgeting for growth is the ability to understand the nature of such project. It is extremely vital to understand that unlike other projects, the uncertainties in growth and scaling dictate building a larger margin of errors into the budget.

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Why CIOs Need to Prioritize Their Resources for the Business

 

Priority alignment: this should be a focus of any CIO looking to grow a business. Indeed, the adaptive CIO must set clearly-defined roles for each branch of the department, especially important as it pertains to the role of CIO vs. IT manager. In essence, CIOs need to be focused on helping the CEO with the company's strategy and let their IT managers handle the back-office work.   As CIO puts it, the IT department has to help the business make more money; as CIO, you must remained focused on the business rather than concerning yourself with providing the computer, the network or the server. This is what the IT Manager's role is, and you're paying him/her handsomely to do that. By clearly defining those roles and sticking to them: this is the only effective way to grow a business. Otherwise, resources are wasted, not to mention time and money.

The Path to Alignment

Sure, digital transformation has begun placing more and more demands on the CIO position -- a role that has undergone am impactful shift over the years from maintaining a stable portfolio of back-office technology to crafting ways that technology can bring in more money for the company's bottom line. But progress has been slow.   For many years, CIOs worked toward a goal of closely coordinating IT projects and overall strategy with business processes, with a recent Public CIO survey saying that executives still report IT-business alignment as their #1 IT management concern.   A shift is afoot. Another survey -- Deloitte's 2019 Global CIO Survey -- revealed that the two top expectations for CIOs are, in this order, to:

  • Align with the business
  • Transform business processes
  • Achieve IT operational excellence

Based on these findings, experts say the two kinds of CIOs needed in the future include a “business co-creator” CIO who devotes a majority of his or her time to driving business strategy or encouraging change, and a "change instigator" who acts as a leader in technology-enabled business transformation.

Still, the CIO is always at a perpetual inflection point, spinning plates in the air, as they face opposing functional and strategic priorities. On one hand, CIOs are called upon to be more active in all business decisions, as competition demands more transformative, innovative solutions for clients and customers. On the other hand, IT is responsible for maintaining most of the functional yet essential aspects of tech strategy, such as security and data management. Just one wrong step, like a data breach, and it's game over.

The plates the CIOs are spinning are getting greater in number yet faster and smaller in size. How can CIOs and IT manager stay in their respective lanes in order to properly grow the business?

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Growth and Scaling Downfalls – Part I

Many of us have either been part of a “growth and scaling” project or have led such efforts. We all have some battle stories of what worked and what didn’t; yet we hardly ever hear about the preparation that goes into a successful “growth and scaling” project. In this series, I will address several of more important considerations and factors.

The Beginning

Scaling and growth both as principal as well as in practice are simply a function of evolution: a given organization reaches some specific benchmark that leads to a need to grow the business. Those benchmark can be as objective as following a road-map that specifies steps or as subjective as the executive team deciding it is time. Without exploring the details of the decision making, let’s look at one of the most fundamental factors: The Team.

The Evolution

Even without extensive business experience, logic simply dictates that growing or scaling a business can only be successful when the said business has the resources, i.e. human capital and financial means. To keep the discussion on point, I will forgo discussing the bootstrap version of this topic. 

Human capital or the team that is going to be in the front line of those growth/scaling efforts needs to be able to execute the directives that are designed to stimulate and augment the overall growth path. In order to do so some basics, have to be in place:

• Quantity: the team size has to be realistically feasible in relations to the workload

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Here's Why eSports Revenues are Trumping Traditional Sports

 

Traditional sports are getting a beating by eSports and the answer for why will surprise you. Before we get into that, let's define what eSports means. Basically it describes the world of competitive, organized video gaming, whereby competitors from different leagues or teams all over the country and indeed the globe face off in all the games popular with at-home gamers, from Fortnite and League of Legends to Call of Duty and Madden NFL. Millions of fans all over the world tune in to watch these gamers, who treat eSports like it's their day job (in fact, for many, it is their day job). That's because it's a pretty lucrative industry, pulling in billions of dollars a year (yes, that's billion with a "b").

A Look at the Numbers

Whether gamers and viewers attend live events, tune in on TV or online, or use streaming services like Twitch, it's all happening in real time, a platform that allows the most popular gamers to build up their fandoms to fever-pitch levels. According to a recent report, 380 million people worldwide are estimated to watch eSports this year, including 165 million eSports enthusiasts (A.K.A., frequent viewers), with the bulk of them watching from North America, China and South Korea.    Tournaments and other events bring in viewing crowds rivaling most traditional professional sports outings, surpassing such events as the World Cup and the World Series. To illustrate this, the 2017 League of Legends World Championship brought in 80 million viewers, the most ever for a competition in the history of the industry. Consider that the current World Series is the lowest rated and least-watched World Series game since 2014, according to Sports Media Watch.  According to Statista, the global eSports market revenue was valued at nearly 865 million U.S. dollars in 2018, expected to reach 1.79 billion U.S. dollars by 2022. The majority of this revenue stems from sponsorship and advertisements, followed by betting, prize pools, merchandise, tournaments, and ticket sales.

A Look at the Why

So why is eSports smashing new records every day? Why is it overtaking the collective consciousness of kids and adults alike at such a break-neck speed? Why is it raking in money by the bucket? Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why eSports is so popular and is surpassing traditional sports is that it doesn't discriminate. You can be virtually any age, from any background, from any athletic or academic level, from any region on the planet, and you can make out big time with eSports. Take a look at the 16-year-old from Pennsylvania who just won $3 million from Fortnite to become its first-ever solo world champion. Or check out the latest Wall Street Journal article that explores why the next generation of competitive gamers is over the age of 60. This is pretty interesting, considering the eSports industry has always been largely young and male. 

A big shot in the arm for the eSports industry is how it's attracting big celebrities to get in on the game, including basketball legend Michael Jordan (a traditional sports powerhouse dabbling in both realms!) and investors like Mark Cuban who also has a lot at stake in eSports-related entities. Even the New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft paid $20 million to buy the Boston-based team in Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League.

eSports vs. Traditional

Whitman reports the U.S. will have more viewers than every professional sports league except the NFL by 2021, projecting there will be 84 million viewers of eSports by then. This is higher than the 79 million MLB viewers or the 63 million NBA viewers for traditional TV sports. The only number eSports can't touch -- yet -- is the viewership for the NFL's Superbowl at 141 million viewers. 

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Best Decision Making - Experience Versus Data-based?

 

The daily life of any executive entails an endless amount of decisions: those decisions are made based on factors such as experience, data, organizational needs and goals. Those decisions are likely to be additionally impacted by the ever increasing demand for speed. Hence creating a tempting environment to excessively rely on decision making based on experience. This begs the question: does relying on experience as sole point of reference for decision making viable? And if it is, how do we maximize the odds of better outcome for those decisions?

Variety of experience

It is a fair to stay that we all perceive reality differently: people can be in the same situation or conversation yet have an entirely different take away. The same applies to “experience”; one single instance of “experience” can be sufficient to deter or encourage a particular action based on the perceived “lesson learned”; it is even entirely possible to classify the same instance of “experience” as good or bad solely based on the perception of the experience and/or its outcome. This leads us to the question: if the said experience is the basis of one or more decisions, how can potential errors or bias be minimized?

Single or multiple experiences

It goes without saying that a single instance of an experience is rather a debatable proposition when it comes to decision making. It should be rather obvious that a single instance of “data point” be it qualitative or quantitative can’t possibly be considered as reliable basis for fundamental decisions. That being said when can experience be reasonably viable? Is it a functional of quantity? Quality? The answer is not that one dimensional. 

A single instance of virtually anything can signal flawed results and conclusions because there are many variables that can change the actual and or perceived outcome. Some of those factors include stakeholder’s behavior and actions, circumstantial organizational resource limitations and or allocation as well as interpretation biased by multiple level of internal and external actors. Hence, logic dictates that one, two or any quantity of an experience is susceptible to flawed conclusion analysis.

Patterns

So, if even multiple instances of a given experience can’t be relied upon, what is the solution? One possible solution is reliance of patterns; this method would strip away a lot of the shortcoming of utilizing the experience or experiences as a data point by looking at common denominator’s as opposed to evaluating the experience in its entirety. Additionally, it would allow for larger set of qualitative data points because it eliminates the necessity of using only personal experience as opposed to being able to include external and/or third party input even unrelated to specific projects and/or industries.

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Is Your Digital Transformation Strategy for Real?

 

Digital transformation is a good thing and it's been talked about the last several years as CIOs, CEOs, and other execs look to make a move. However, lately it's just become a "buzzword," generating a lot of hype. How can you ensure you have a solid digital transformation strategy?   Many businesses, large and small, are attempting to transform their processes using digital tools. Many cases of transformation have been successful, creating solutions that enhance problem solving while driving efficiency and bottom line gains, says Forbes. Digital transformations are even tougher than traditional change efforts to make work. However, the most effective transformations usually rely on certain factors for success. Here are some things you should be doing.

1. Secure Strong Leaders

Digital transformations demand change at all levels of your organization, particularly from key decision makers and tech-savvy leaders. Research has shown that companies that engage a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) to be a supportive force behind their transformations are nearly two times more likely to have a successful digital transformation than those that do not. When people in leadership roles are heavily involved and invested in the planning and execution, the transformation is far more likely to succeed.

2. Take Inventory

Once your key decision-makers have committed to making a digital transformation strategy work, it's time to take stock of your company's tech stack, including competencies and gaps, as part of your email marketing, CRM and internal collaboration systems so you can better streamline your processes. Often times, digital transformations stem from a desperate need to re-platform. Maybe your current system is obsolete or maybe your existing system just isn't working for your employees and users any longer. Whatever the case, changing your technologies can reawaken your whole business.


3. Craft a Digital Roadmap

Creating a vision to strive for is important because digital transformation isn't just about implementing new technologies and stopping there. Rather, it's a systemic grassroots effort that needs to be fueled by a well-thought-out vision. Know how you will leverage your digital tools as part of a detailed plan for execution across your whole company.


4. Reiterate Your Goals

Take another look at your goals, going over your digital transformation agenda over and over, making sure you have included:

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Why Women in Tech are Building a Better Tomorrow

 

More and more women are pursuing educations and careers in the STEM fields, and that is a good thing. Indeed, women in tech are building a better tomorrow, and we're going to go into why in a little bit. First, a few statistics.

A Look at the Numbers

Here are some interesting stats about women in the tech workforce, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology:

  • 57% of professional occupations in the 2018 U.S. workforce were held by women.
  • 26% of professional computing occupations in 2018 were held by women.
  • 20% of Fortune 500 CIO positions were held by women in 2018.
  • 3.5 million U.S. computing-related job openings are expected by 2026.
  • 49% of 2018 Intel Science and Engineering Fair finalists were female.

Most stats look promising, but some are actually moving backwards. For example, in 1985, 37% of computer science bachelor's degree recipients were women, compared with just 19% in 2017.

Why is this? According to a study in Entrepreneur, researchers say one reason women choose to not pursue computer science degrees is because they buy into the stereotypes about the types of people who work in the STEM field and can't picture themselves fitting into that framework.

As an aside, women should be treated like any other teammate, championing each other and giving credence to their expertise. A recent study in the Economist found that women's voices are judged more harshly than that of men. This is one barrier of many that discourages women from entering tech-heavy industries.

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Health and Wellness of Successful Leaders

 

Taking care of yourself is a key part of being a successful leader. To that end, it's necessary to build in time for yourself to ensure you're putting your best self forward every day. "Health and wellness" will mean different things to different people. To some, it may mean eating cleaner, cutting out processed foods and making smarter choices with natural, whole foods. To others it means finally establishing a regular exercise routine every morning before hitting the office. To others it may mean taking 15 minutes out of the day to meditate or do yoga, or even start parking far from the building in order to get a walk in twice daily. Perhaps to you, it means taking steps to reduce the anxiety and stress that is infiltrating your life.   Whatever the case may be, health and wellness should be a priority for every leader.


Prioritizing Health for Success

As a leader, you're more vulnerable to stress than others. As a result of putting others first as well as your growing business, you may have been neglecting your own health, happiness and well-being. It may work for awhile, but no one can keep that up for very long. The sad result is often failure and burnout. With burnout comes a loss of productivity, which is never good for anyone's bottom line -- or health for that matter. The recipe for long-term success begins and ends with you.

At its core, leadership is about the ability to set a vision and persist over the long run as you lead yourself and others to take on the challenges of running a successful business. Taking care of yourself now will impact your energy levels and stamina over the long haul. Yet so many leaders ignore this simple fact and just keep running on empty. As your tasks grow bigger and the work piles up day after day, it's understandable that self-care will be relegated to the back burner to make way for more critical priorities.  But while it's understandable, it's also not OK. Those who don’t prioritize their health can become fatigued, stressed, dehydrated, sick and yes, unbearable to work with. This pattern of behavior is more common than you might think. One thing is for sure: managing your health is a vital part of being not only a successful leader but an effective human being too.


Stress: It's a Killer

You didn't get where you are today by shying away from challenges and the stress that comes with it. But just because you've made it this long doesn't mean you're immune. Some day, it will affect your ability to be a successful leader, and that's science talking. You may blame your nagging headaches, frequent insomnia and decreased productivity on illness. However, stress may be at the root of it all. Stress symptoms can affect your whole body, as well as your well-being, thoughts, feelings and behavior. It can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and obesity, and can increase your risk for heart attack, says the Mayo Clinic.   Common effects of stress on your body include:

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension and pain
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Change in sex drive
  • Upset stomach
  • Difficulty sleeping

In addition to the physical health side effects of stress, there's also mood to contend with. It can lead to anxiety, depression, restlessness, lack of motivation and focus, and irritability. 

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Succeeding in the Business of Life

 

Success in business is akin to success in life: hard work pays off. Life is simply better when you're on your game, and when you excel in deed, word and thought, you exude that confidence to others, whether that's your spouse or your colleagues. So, how can you operate at your very best every single day and motivate the people around you to do the same? Here is some advice on succeeding in the business of life.

Embrace Your Uniqueness

Explore your uniqueness...what makes you YOU? Is it your leadership style? Is it your enthusiasm and zest for life? Is it your never-back-down attitude? Is it your propensity to be kind to everyone no matter their status in your organization? Those are all great qualities to explore. Your uniqueness also stems from your personality and those daily quirks that make you endearing to others. Decide what your differentiator is, embrace those traits that make you uniquely qualified, experienced and interesting, and channel the confidence that is sure to evoke a positive response in others, says Inc.
 

Don't be Afraid to Take a Gamble

Successful people don't get where they are by always playing it safe. They aren't afraid to take a risk, take the road less traveled, stifle their fears and truly go after something they want. In fact, the best entrepreneurs are gamblers by nature. Yes, it's risky but it can also be incredibly rewarding and  fun. Successful entrepreneurs combine a healthy tolerance for risk with diligence, backed by diverse experience. They aren't afraid to fail, learn and repeat, over and over again. Those trials and failures are what will make you a better person and ultimately more successful in the business of life.

Assume Everything is Possible

Successful people don't cower from challenges, or take a Negative Nelly attitude to any project that is proposed. Instead, they assume everything is possible until it's proven impossible. Not everything will work out, to be sure. But when faced with a challenge, think of it first and foremost as overcome-able. Open your mind to consideration of every solution, always defaulting to "yes." This open mind will allow new ideas to infiltrate your business life that you never thought possible before.
 

Scare Yourself a Little

If you're terrified to get up in front of people to speak at conferences, take a public speaking class to get better at it. If you have a bit of anxiety meeting people in business or social situations, push yourself out of your comfort zone and attend parties, gatherings and work events. Perhaps it goes a little deeper than business, and you want to conquer something death defying, like skydiving. Whatever makes you push the envelope and scare yourself a little will only force you to grow as an entrepreneur and individual, advises Success.

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Simple Yet Effective Leadership

 

Leadership is not a complex beast. It's simple, yet not easy to implement. Natural and not forced. Sought after but not always achieved. Leadership is simple, yes, but it also has to be effective in all the right ways. Leadership is all about relationships, says Inc., and they are far more important than issues. Even so, most leaders focus on the issues without ever truly developing relationships of trust. When the relationships work, the bottom line will work itself out.

Good leaders, when confronted by a challenge, must determine which role everyone will take and how they will tackle the problem at hand. Just like people aren't two-dimensional, neither is leadership. It's possible and even expected to take on different roles and styles depending on the situation and person you are involved with.


Trust and Correction

Just like a romantic relationship or a friendship, when there is trust between people or a group of people, feelings aren't hurt when correction is offered. That so-called healthy conflict is vital to growth and progress. But because very few people foster trust in their relationships, they fail to engage in healthy conflict, often reverting to lying to their leaders and vice versa. Correction must happen in a leader/employee role. There is no way around that. Performance may even improve for a time. But often, that unhealthy conflict doesn't have the long-term intended effect it was meant to have. That's because the relationship is not secure, which can lead to disaster in no time flat.

That's why leaders must strive for a deeper relationship of trust. Without healthy doses of communication and trust, employees have no sense of security in their roles. They're not even sure what their leader is thinking, what he or she really wants, or even how to deliver it. Lacking stability, it's nearly impossible for followers to bring their A game when it comes to creativity. This is where the relationship fails and goals are not met. Trust. It's so simple yet lacking in so many relationships in a business setting.


Shortcuts to Effective Leadership

You don't need an MBA or hours of executive training courses under your belt to be a good leader. All it takes is some common sense and emotional intelligence. It's so obvious that most leaders miss it. Check out these shortcuts to effective leadership:

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How to Be Your Most Productive You

 

At the end of the work week, you may look back exhausted at the 60 hours or more that you put in at the office and be dismayed at all the work you actually didn't get done. But you were there every day, from sun up to sun down. You had meetings, company lunches, hours of work at your desk each day. Why couldn't you get it all done? Are you feeling less than satisfied with what you've been accomplishing? It's likely not your lack of drive that's to blame. It's more likely that you're unproductive, failing to make the best use of your time. One of the keys to success is using your time wisely, rather than spinning your wheels and exhausting yourself. So, how can you be more productive in your work and life?

Set Clear Goals

Take some time to plan out your goals, or clarify and adjust the ones you already have. Seeing them on paper can push those goals into reality rather than something that's just floating around your head. Set both personal and business goals for the long and short term. Identify the goal, be specific, and set a time frame. This will help keep you accountable. To avoid procrastination, set clear and concise time frames for an added challenge, suggests Forbes. Don't forget to add in any setbacks you may predict that could roll back your goal. 

Stop the Excuses and Distractions

Setbacks and distractions have the power to weaken your goals and defeat you. Come up with a strategy that allows you to push through those challenges, past the pain, and into the pleasure of accomplishment. Adopt a laser focus to that one task, every day, reaching your goal closer and closer. Set priorities within the task. What has to be done first? What can wait a bit? Think about what you are currently doing: does it serve your goal or pull you away from it?

Embrace Your Strengths

Only YOU know YOU! If you do your best work first thing in the morning, follow that urge. If you do better late at night, burn the midnight oil and take advantage of your creative juices. Perhaps you do your best work after your fitness routine. Do you work best from home or does the chaos of a busy office fuel you? Whatever it is, identify the environments in which you thrive and get to work. Don't fight them. Working against your instincts will burn your energy and productivity.

Set Aside Time

Each day, set aside time for extreme focus for at least 90 minutes. Put away the phone, don't touch your email, tell your co-workers not to disturb. Use this block of time to work solely on your goal. Once finished, that sense of accomplishment will drive you forward another day.

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How To Build An Effective Team For Success

 

Building a team is much like building a home: brick by brick, step by step. The first building block is exceptional leadership. From there, everything else will fall into place with the end result being a pretty even blend of both an art and a science. A leader who can consistently build high-performance teams is key to the success of the whole operation. Large and small, companies need someone with the knowledge of building long-lasting teams -- something many managers can't do and the reason why many leaders don't reach the highest forms of success. Forbes puts it this way: it requires the ability to master the art of people, knowing just how to maneuver hundreds of people at the right place at the right time. 

Akin to a game of chess, building an effective team takes strategy and a little bit of luck, with strength at the forefront even amidst the knowledge that the wrong move could cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars. Nothing like pressure, right? Well, leaders operate their best under pressure. Building a team is just another day at the park for top executive leaders. So, how can you get there? Let's take a closer look.


Focus on Roles

A thorough selection process brings long-term benefits, even if this means you spend more time recruiting than you have time for. Hiring someone just to have bodies in the room can imperil your team, points out Entrepreneur. You don't want to run the risk of becoming a revolving door, whether that's because prospective employees view the role as a temporary landing pad and don't really want to put in the investment of learning, or because you realize later that they won't make a good fit. Either way, time is money. Invest resources in people whose roles truly match with objectives set forth by your company. Often, this isn't something that sticks out on their resume. No candidate will say "I'm only aiming for this job as a stepping stone to something better." Often, this takes gut instincts on your part -- another quality of a great leader.


Play to Strengths

Understanding what each individual member's strengths are allows each person to shine. It's rare for an employee to vastly improve on a deficiency, especially if that deficiency is just a part of their character. A team member who isn't good at managing details will probably never be good at that task. But if you play to their strengths -- perhaps they're great at communication with clients -- and pair them with a detail-oriented team member, you'll shore up both parties.


Encourage Transparency

Just like families, teams need to know how to work things out on their own. You can't be called in to referee every little disagreement. When things start going off the rails, bring together those who aren't getting along and make them work through their concerns, suggests Inc. Letting them put you in the middle of a he said/she said situation wastes your resources that could be better spent elsewhere (like making money for your company). Your job as a leader is to help your team members understand each other better. Sure, it will be uncomfortable at first. Such transparency is always raw at the beginning. But instilling this strategy right off will encourage them to try resolving internal issues on their own, only bringing you into the equation when absolutely necessary.

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Traits That Make A Great Digital Leader

 

As the eCommerce market continues to grow in the United States and continues to take over the traditional brick and mortar stores, the need for digital leaders is important. However, the digital economy is a frontier that needs to be groomed and tamed still for the average company. In a report created by MIT and Deloitte called Aligning the Organization for Its Digital Future, they say that 44% of organizations are not prepared for the new digital issues that are going to arise in their future. But what does that even mean for your company? Preparing for the digital future is not a rudimentary task, but an overarching task that encompasses your company’s ethos, activities, people, culture, and structure of operations. Despite so many changes that are on the horizon for the average company in America almost 90% of organizations have stated that they have attempted to upgrade their companies digitally. Whether those decisions come from the big corporate overhead structure or from the small office down the hall there has to be digital leaders that are bringing those to changes to fruition. There are many traits that distinguish a digital leader in being able to take the lead in a company.

They Hire Digital Natives
One of the most important traits to possess is talent attraction strategies that will bring new foreword thinking individuals to an organization. Making sure that they are developing the talent in their office to match the development from the overall tech industry. They will be able to be encouraging to the other members of that staff and will collaborate to bring new digital methods to the employees. Also, surrounding yourself with smart individuals is always a recipe for success.

Digital Strategy
Having a digital strategy for the company that you are working for is the bread and butter to having a digitally forward thinking company. Making sure to have a positive digital footprint should be the number one concern for your digital leader. That involves making sure the customer experience is up to par with other digital companies that are already established online. Having constant engagement with your clients online will show that there is a digital proof that you are taking care of your customers and open to facilitating dialogue with the constant needs of your customer base. Being proactive in your online strategy is a valid method to creating a positive social proof of your company. Set the tone for your customer experience to be constructive, easy to distinguish, and contains a history of positive reviews.

Distinctive Branding
A digital leader will consider all types of factors when they are creating distinctive branding for their company online. They will understand that a brand’s very existence is key with the branding and marketing they put out in the online world. Keeping in mind that all marketing and branding is reflective of the values, opinions, and beliefs that come from the company. It must be considerate of all types of individuals stemming from all backgrounds in order to cast the widest possible net for the largest possible customer base. Remembering that each company does have a certain set of values that they might find important to be a part of or represent. The famous sentence “All publicity is good publicity” doesn’t always ring true for the Internet as many campaigns can spread like wildfire if they are not properly handled and executed.

Have a Vision
All the famous visionaries that have created some of the top marketing campaigns and business successes always had a clear vision for where their company wanted to go. Unclear visions of the future always end up in a fog of not well thought out scenarios and situations that are not positive for a company’s long term goals. Remembering what your digital strategy can uniquely contribute to the companies over all well-being is important to consider in any major decision. With a guiding vision your company’s online strategy can become more than just a platform but a community of supporters who are all engaged with your product or vision. It is important to be the company that is collaborating with others, influencing, and educating their online audience. The possibilities are endless in terms of “being the change you want to see” with your company’s online strategy.

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How The Executive Team Can Help Transform Company Culture

 

Company culture: you hear this term a lot these days. But what does it mean exactly? Is it fluffy and abstract or quantifiable and measurable? Turns out, a little bit of both. Company culture forms the core of any business, large or small. It's what everything else is built around, forming the foundation of success. But while integral to each company's staying power, culture can't result from a top-down mandate that demands compliance; rather it has to be cultivated organically and reside in the collective hearts and habits of the people who work for you, points out Harvard Business Review. This shared perception of "it's just the way we do things here" has to be instilled from day one. You just can't teach optimism, conviction, creativity and trust. However, you can foster, grow, cultivate and encourage change.

It's up to the executive team to carry this through. It's the team's job to plant the company with culture, water it and watch it grow.

Turning the Ship Around

So, what happens when the company culture has gotten a bit off track and needs to be steered anew? Transformation is in order, and the executive team is the one to lead the charge. As someone who holds the valuable position of leadership, it’s your job to effectively facilitate a workplace culture that encourages each employee to flourish, says Business.com. Be prepared, any change you propose will likely be met with skepticism. After all, people as a whole tend to get into routines and become resistant and even hostile when challenged with sudden calls for change. That's why you must facilitate sustainable change that gives each employee a reason and a chance to flourish and succeed.

Changing company culture doesn't happen overnight. It's not like you can trade in your old culture for a new one like you would a car. It takes time, dedication, patience and a lot of tenaciousness. Attempting to push through a big change isn't as easy as it looks, especially when you know that cultural habits are well ingrained, for better or worse. Drawing on the positive aspects of the culture and turning the tide toward your advantage can offset many of the growing pains you'll experience along the way.

Tips for Fostering Sustainable Change

So let's get right down to the nitty gritty. Infusing change in company culture isn't a one-and-done proposition. It needs to be sustainable to effectively meet the challenges of longevity. Here are some helpful tips you as the member of your company's executive team can try to ease the burden of transition.

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Building Your Entrepreneurship Digitally

 

Jean-Baptiste Say provided a definition for the concept of an entrepreneurs, which stated that they, “shift economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield.”  Entrepreneurship is the process of running and designing a new business venture with all of the financial risks. In today’s digital economy there is about 46% of businesses who are still waiting to make their first digital footprints. It is hard to imagine being a business that has no online presence, so it is still important to map out what exactly these digital entrepreneurs are doing to be successful. 

According to Entrepreneur.com, they surveyed over 350 small businesses, which had 10 employees and less than 1 million in revenue and found that 32% of businesses decided to not have a website is because they claimed it was not pertinent to their industry. The second most popular reason, at 30%, is that the companies did not have the financial ability to take their business online and they didn’t have the technical know-how to maintain the upkeep of the website.  Furthermore, and 12% of companies were using social media as an alternative to building their own website to get themselves out digitally. 

Who is a Digital Entrepreneur?

The word “entrepreneur” first appeared in the French language in the 17th century and was first was used to denote the meaning of an adventurer (Bhanudas, 2013). Not every entrepreneur is considered a “digital entrepreneur” and that’s because they don’t utilize the digital environment in their business plan or strategy. Digital entrepreneurs focus their work solely in the online space and work on digital commerce, which is the main focus of their businesses. 

Examples of individuals who are using the internet as a place of business are people who are selling digital products like eBooks, online education, membership sites, downloadable software, web hosting, software as a service, and of course selling eCommerce products. People in the industry are the purest form of entrepreneurs in today’s economy because the internet environment is still currently in an infancy stage.

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Why We Need Mental Toughness

 

Do you feel constantly behind the eight ball? Are you chasing the elusive definition of SUCCESS every single day but it's always just out of your grasp? Your mental strength may need some fine tuning. There are many reasons why certain people are more successful in business and other aspects of life than others, and mental toughness is one of those deciding factors that puts them over the top. Everyone has mental strength to varying degrees. It's what you do with what you have, and how you create and develop what you don't have, that can separate you from the pack.

Mental toughness is defined as the ability to work hard, be persistent, and respond with resiliency when faced with failure or adversity. It's an inner quality -- not easy to quantify -- that enables a person to stick to their long-term goals no matter what. Grit...determination...unwavering focus on the end goal. These are all words to describe people with mental agility and strength. That's great. But how do you get it and why do you need it?

Tips for Becoming Mentally Stronger

Working your mental muscle doesn't just fall in your lap. You have to work at it, not just periodically but every single day. Inc describes remarkably successful people as being great at delaying gratification, withstanding temptation, overcoming fear, and prioritizing consistently. Here are some habits of professionals who master mental toughness. Try these tips in your own life.

Always Act in Control

Notice how we didn't say "always BE in control." There's a big difference between being a leader and being a dictator. You can't possibly be right or have total control over things 100 percent of the time. We're talking more here about the illusion of control through confidence in your daily life. Many people assume luck has a lot to do with success; however, successful people will tell you luck may play a small role but they didn't wait for luck to carry them through. They act like success -- and by extension, failure -- is well within their control. Remember that old Dry Idea antiperspirant commercial that said "never let them see you sweat"? Well, the same principle applies here: never let them see you out of control.

Don't Waste Mental Power on Things You Can't Control

Mentally tough people rarely waste brain power on things in which they have no ability to impact. Mental strength, like muscle strength, doesn't come with an unlimited supply. It must be used wisely. Misdirected worry saps you of the energy to focus your mind on more important areas of your life, funneling the important stuff off to the side. Instead, do the greatest good in areas that you can.

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Creating Highly Successful Habits

 

We look at them with envy. We want what they have: that charisma, that business success, that certain something that makes them stand out from a crowd. They are highly successful people, and they are envied. What do they have that you don't? Turns out, they have dedication and an unflagging sense of persistence. That's not all. They have a laser beam focus on the end game and the best path to get there. They don't let distractions get in the way, they broaden their minds every single day, they put their health first and they have a PLAN. Not just for tomorrow but for a decade, two, three from now.

Creating highly successful habits in your own personal and professional life doesn't take an MBA. It doesn't even take a lot of cash. Here are some habits of successful people and how they view life just a little bit differently from the rest of us.

Talk to Yourself

Even at the top of your game, even when you're bringing in the numbers that make everyone else jealous, there's another level that goes beyond honing skills to be even technically better. It involves perfecting your internal dialogue. Research suggests that talking to yourself like you would to someone else in your same situation can help you better handle stressful experiences, says Business Insider.

Make a Plan

Many people wait till the morning when they get behind their desk to make a plan for the upcoming eight hours. Successful people are one step ahead -- they do it the night before. Getting off track is easy when you don't have a plan. It's even easier when you wait till the last minute to make that plan. Without looking ahead as early as the night before, you won't really know what you want to accomplish and how to get there. By the time you make a plan in the morning, already an hour has gone by and you've wasted critical energy that could be better spent on productivity. Give yourself clear goals the night before your day and you'll be able to wake up and hit the ground running, advises Success.

Eliminate the Negatives

The secret to planning, then, is to begin with the negatives and systematically eliminate them from your path to success, advises Early to Rise. First, identify the obstacles in your path. It can be something as simple as hitting snooze five times in the morning or as complex as not hitting your sales goals for the quarter. Isolate the obstacle, then develop two solutions for each, as having both a Plan A and a Plan B virtually guarantees you will stay focused.

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Ecommerce and Mobile Platforms

 

An innovation is an idea, practice or object that has taken root in society and is perceived to be new or created a new adoption of a concept or technology. Innovations have many parameters when becoming part of a social system, especially with the onslaught of so many new different technologies that are being created on a daily basis. One particular innovation that has made a particular successful diffusion into society is the mobile telephone or smart phone. The mobile phone has been a technology that has had a large number of early adopters and become an integral part of the communication channels that individuals use to participate in daily conversation. Innovations have certain conditions that are important to becoming successful: relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability, and observability.

One particular group of individuals has taken on the innovation of the mobile phone more efficiently than any other group, tech-savvy young people. Millennials are the largest generational users of mobile telephones and are harnessing some serious spending power. They are embracing online shopping on their mobile telephones and setting a trend in forcing technology makers to figure out how to build the relationship even further between ecommerce platforms and potential shoppers. For the millennial generation the mobile platform is the method of choice for interacting with technology. Furthermore, they are more interested in harnessing the power and control while using these platforms during shopping activities. Technology innovators and business leaders must answer this call to address the rise of mobile ecommerce use. The question is not whether or not this will become the future of shopping but when will it take over all traditional methods of shopping.

Users are accessing the web more and more on a mobile device or tablet rather than a desktop with the intent of shopping and making ecommerce purchases. Statically, during the holiday shopping season this year a third of all shopping was done via a mobile device. Furthermore, 84% stated that they have experienced a bad mobile transaction experience will trying to make an online purchase. With that type of high percentage of bad transactions, there is the opportunity to create more positive mobile responsive websites that will be more user friendly.

Improving mobile responsive websites to be more user friendly can be as easy as making a few improvements. Making sure the website is programmed to be adaptive can provide the best user experience for every user on every single device. Making sure that all buttons on the website are tap-friendly and are the correct size for any important call to actions or links. The main navigation is the most important part of the menu so that the items are easy to read and to utilize for the consumer on their phone. Part of making the menu accessible is to use text for contact information so that users are able to tap and contact the company easily. Furthermore, the visual content on a mobile website needs to be adapted so it gives visual ques and intertwines words. Having lengthy paragraphs on mobile sites is not user friendly and will drive users away because it is hard to view on a mobile telephone. 89% of executives feel that the user experience will be their primary factor to competition. A user-centric and user-friendly website is becoming the priority for getting a competitive edge and advantage.

The innovation of the mobile telephone has become so much more than just a communication device, but has been adopted into society, especially by millennials, to become a small computer that aids people in many types of transactions. Utilizing this trend, business leaders should use big data and predictive analysis to increase productivity in their businesses. Getting on board with mobile is the wave of the future and will increase sales capabilities when utilized properly.

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CEOs Must Invest in Digital Transformation

 

Does your company have a digital boss? What we mean by that is, do you have a leader on board who can easily leverage new technology advancements in order to grow your business? In today's business climate, this "luxury" is no longer an option. In fact. Raconteur says that "data is the new oil." They both generate substantial wealth and power global economies, but one crucial way in which they differ is their longevity. Oil is a finite fossil fuel, meaning it will come to an end at some point. Data, by contrast, is infinite. Just take this example: within the next couple of years, 40 zettabytes of new information will be created, translating to four million years of HD video.

So, then, it's a no-brainer that CEOs must make significant investments in digital transformation. Indeed, it's a strategic imperative for any business that wants to surge ahead rather than just limp along. Digital resources are taking on a new importance, making them serious contenders as asset classes that are well worth the investment. The big challenge, then, is to blend the strengths of the old with the opportunities of the new, requiring tech-savvy CIOs to dive into and own the data themselves to interpret, analyze and align.

A Climate of Exponential Digital Growth

Think the Industrial Revolution was a frenzied pace of advancements and breakthroughs? Well, it was -- then. But it pales in comparison to the exponential pace of digital transformation now. The next decade alone will bring furious growth into many sectors, from 3D printing and neuroscience to digital telepresence and cryptocurrency, points out New Scientist. Therefore, it's not really a choice to embrace technology enablement; rather, it's mission-critical to the survival of every company. CIOs and CEOs don't necessarily have to be tech experts themselves; however, they must have a clear appreciation of how technological advancements will redefine their business models, operational processes and customer experience engagement, says CIO.

How Industries are Evolving

From retail and banking to media and healthcare, new technologies are injecting themselves into all sectors -- in many cases, pushing out traditional companies through the leveraging of digital advancements. There is no more room for ignorance. Just look at the Blockbusters and Borders of the world that failed to migrate into new territory as smoothly as icons like Netflix, Amazon, Google, Airbnb and Zappos.

So, what are these relatively new entrants into traditional industries doing right? They have been able to build market share fast by:

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What Young Adults Want in Their Careers

 

There is no doubt that the generation that comprises the group of people known as millennials is unlike any generation encountered in the past. Including people born from the early 1980s through the mid 1990s, millennials are unique in numerous aspects, ranging from the technology available during childhood and today, the relationship with parents, economic and educational prospects, and overall culture. Generation Z, which is also known as the post-millennial generation or the iGeneration is equally as unique, and as these young people transition into adulthood, there are numerous questions about what the future will look like.

But while millennial and generation Z culture may be something that those of other generations are neither able to relate to nor understand, when it comes to the workforce, what young adults want from their careers may more closely resemble the desires of other generations than one would think.

What Young Adults Want in Their Careers - The Similarities and Differences

There are a number of things that young adults today want in their careers that are very different from what young adults from generations past wanted. These differences are based, in large part, due to technology and opportunity. For example, working remotely was hardly an option for generations past, but with the proliferation of wi-fi, there are many jobs that can be performed from anywhere in the world.

When polled, young people are also much more likely than older Americans to say that a top priority in finding a new job is that the job is enjoyable and provides the individual with a feeling of “making a difference.” Older Americans, on the other hand, are likely to prioritize salary.

But there are also a lot of similarities between what younger and older generations want in a career, too. Some of these similarities include:

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Why High Performing Organizations Always Win

 

Winning. It's a place everyone wants to be, but few can actually claim. From sports to politics to school: high performing individuals make things happen. It's no different in business. You may already be an Executive of a high-performing company. Or you may be a competitor of one, always striving to hit that mark. So, what makes an organization a winner in terms of performance? From engagement of employees to leadership through all levels, there are certain qualities that define a high performance organization (HPO) from top to bottom. Let's take a further look.

Areas of Focus

Companies who hit the nail on the head in terms of top performance tend to focus on:

  • Performance goals
  • Employee engagement
  • Philosophy about why and how people work
  • Values-driven work culture
  • Teamwork approach
  • Efficient, effective processes that garner results
  • Strategic organizational vision and execution
  • Leadership throughout all levels

High performance organizations have been a subject of study for many years. In fact, the HPO Center has created an entire strategy to achieve it. They define a High Performance Organization as one that achieves financial and non-financial results that are far better than those of its peer group over five years or more through the focused discipline that truly impacts the organization. Research shows that there is a direct and positive correlation between certain factors and organizational results, despite which sector, industry or country you are in. They point out the five strands of success as being:

  • Management quality
  • Openness and action orientation
  • Long-term orientation
  • Continuous improvement and renewal
  • Employee quality

By following these factors, organizations can vastly improve anything from revenue growth and profitability to Return on Investment (ROI) and Total Shareholder Return.

The Why's of Winning

In order to understand why high performing organizations are successful, it's important to take a look at the foundation of the whole concept of the organization and how it's run. It takes a holistic approach to bring a healthy foundation of knowledge and experience to complex systems, organizational culture and performance improvement. It also becomes necessary to challenge existing beliefs as to what truly makes a winning company, working from the inside out to build and sustain powerful change capabilities. Interaction within all levels of organizations must take place, as each level shares experiences and resources to stimulate further success. Examples of foundational principles that define this approach include:

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What Do Boards Really Want From CEOs?

 

Designating the right person to lead a company in the CEO position is perhaps one of the most critical roles of a board of directors. Second most important is monitoring that leader's performance on an ongoing basis to ensure consistency. The right CEO, says Forbes, is someone who can assist the board in developing and implementing strategic and business objectives while driving performance to achieve those objectives in a sustainable way. At the heart of it all is collaboration. No board wants to hire a CEO that goes his or her own way, with little input from others as to which direction to take the company. Rather, the ideal situation is when both parties work in conjunction to stay the course.

This doesn't mean there aren't clear roles between the two. By nature, a CEO's role is to manage, while the board's role is to govern. Board members also known as directors, are elected by the corporation's shareholders. Their role is to provide guidance and strategic planning to the company’s top officers, who are often busy running the daily operations of the business. Another main role is to hire, oversee and, if necessary, fire the company’s top officers, including the CEO.

The CEO's role is to determine and communicate the organization’s strategic direction, balance resources (capital and people), foster the corporate culture consistently, make the final call on all decisions, and oversee and deliver the company's performance, points out Entrepreneur.

What's the connection between the two entities?

Built on a foundation of trust and honesty, boards expect their CEOs to achieve two things: apply skills, industry knowledge and experience to fulfill company objectives; and commit to an open yet constructive relationship with the board. These objectives are all well and good, but how can they be quantified? What happens during the scouting, recruiting and hiring process whereby a board decides on the ideal candidate?

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Winning Brands Have Winning Cultures

 

A few weeks ago, we talked about building a winning culture and how fostering workplace culture that is considered "winning" goes much further than your bottom line. In fact, you must develop and nurture an environment that is conducive to forward-thinking, a successful mindset and a deep-rooted belief that you're all in this together. Today, we segment off that topic just a bit and talk about winning brands and what kinds of workplace cultures they are known for.

The strength of any initiative is driven by the core of the team behind it. Good isn't enough. Great is. In order to deliver great, you need to surround yourself with people who can drive the efforts to those goals fueled by the right attitude and determination. Once you have this in place, it's up to you or your designated "brand champion" to focus the team’s potential and deliver results. The brand champion is responsible for setting the tone of the company, inspiring a culture of positivity and unity so the team can better align itself with the big picture. That unity is the glue that holds the company together, ensuring its goals and objectives are met.

In order to have a winning brand, you have to:

  • Establish unified company goals.
  • Create a long-term plan that works with those objectives to reach goals.
  • Offer team incentives to meet goals.
  • Celebrate the wins and use losses as teachable moments.
  • Be a leader and guide the path to success.
  • Keep a positive attitude and have fun.

While all those bullet points are important, the last one may be the most. When you look at winning brands in this country, like Amazon, Google and Apple, you'll see the culture revolves around creating a low-stress atmosphere built on mutual respect that embraces out-of-the-box thinking. When you think of a winning brand, you don't picture people in cubes tied to their desks in suits (although that works for some companies!). Rather, you picture casual work environments where creativity is welcomed and the lines of management are blurred.

A lot of this culture-driven change stems from the generation leading the charge.

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Keeping Your Goals in Focus

 

Eyes on the prize: this is the mantra of many leaders in business. This laser focus commitment to goals is certainly noble, certainly something to aspire to. But in reality, it can be quite difficult to keep those goals front of mind, especially when you're trying to lead a company fraught with distractions at every turn. You're likely confronted with many choices every single day: bottom line vs. company direction, sales vs. strategy. Sometimes the two can coexist. Sometimes they can't. So how can you keep your goals for success in focus as the leader of your organization?

Persistence

Self-doubt. Negative thoughts that stifle creativity. Lack of change despite efforts. All of these things can creep in and threaten your ability to remain focused on the end goal. But even when your goals seem out of reach, the key is to stay motivated. Try these strategies:

  • Surround yourself with positive people. Feeding your soul with positivity surrounded by those who only have your best interests at heart can bolster your resolve and lift you up. Brainstorm. Ask for opinions. As a result, you may find a solution you never realized was right in front of you. Isolation can be the biggest road block to goals of success.
  • Keep the big picture in your crosshairs. When your attention sways to the daily minutiae of company operations, your focus on the end game can shift all too easily. Sometimes just having a big sticky note or picture of your goal in front of your face all day, every day, can serve as the reminder you need to stay on track, says Entrepreneur. We all need to be re-energized every now and then.
  • Reach out for help. If you're stuck in a rut, don't be too proud as to fail to ask for help. Go to your boss, a manager or a mentor. It doesn't always have to be someone above you. Just the act of reaching out can bring a new light to your dilemma and open the door you need to step forward.

Perseverance

If you, like everyone else on the planet, has ever developed a goal and then failed, you probably know the crushing defeat you feel. Sometimes you even forget what your goals are. You may even get frustrated, feeling that your plans failed you. However, it's actually the other way around. Every goal set is achievable; it's usually the person setting the goal that gives up on it mid-way. The goal setting is the easy part. Even the implementation is easy. It's the follow-through that gets most people by the throat.

Distraction isn't taboo. It's normal. Embrace it, know it will happen, then do all you can to avoid it. Try these strategies to persevering even in the face of the apathy that can creep in so slowly you don't even know it's there until it's sapped you of your will to reach your goals.

  • Narrow down your goals: If you find yourself losing focus too easily, it could be that you're over-burdening yourself. Instead of setting a checklist of lofty goals, stick with between one and three. Don't even think of other goals until you can check those off. Reaching your full vision on two goals is much more effective than making partial progress on five goals that never see a resolution.
  • Compile a vision board: This is essentially a collection of pictures and images that represent your goals and dreams. Designed to help you more clearly visualize your end goals, a vision board can inspire you to take consistent action, points out Business Insider. It can also remind you of your goals every day when you glance at the board, so put it in a prominent place in order to reinforce your goals daily.
  • Break down your goals into manageable chunks: One overwhelming goal can actually distance you from the vision. Instead of setting one large goal, break it up into several small ones that you can check off after you've achieved them. This will reduce the chances of discouragement and procrastination. Taking a breather in between can bolster your confidence and inspire you to go on.
  • Track results: How can you know if you're getting closer to your goal if you don't track results? Identify one to two performance metrics and review them daily or weekly, whatever works for you. View them as a connection to your end goal -- a weathervane of guidance, if you will. Use these metrics to stay on track or adjust your plan as needed.

The crux of any goal is to create a set of action plans, followed by immediate action to keep positive momentum moving forward. Success can only come about by persistence, perseverance, and consistent follow-through.

 
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Why AI is Crucial to Cyber Security

 

When you think of AI (artificial intelligence), the first thought you may have is in regards to games, recreation, and futuristic robots. After all, AI is the next big thing in virtual video games, taking "reality" to a whole new level. However, AI is so much more than that. There has been a lot of hype about AI in the last couple of years. Again, most of it in the form of promises of faster answers, better outcomes, and improved productivity. From advanced machine learning and intelligent apps to digital twins and conversational systems, AI is just breaking out of an emerging state with substantial disruptive potential across all industries, says Gartner. Please don't misunderstand, there have been many examples of advancements in various industries with AI algorithms from predictive analytics in healthcare to cognitive science.

However, a lot of AI development is being spent in the cyber security space, as well it should with the advent of ransomware, sophisticated malware and the like. All the top technology companies are spending millions each year on AI and cyber security -- from Microsoft to Google, from Cisco to Symantec, including the big name anti-virus companies. However, in the last few years, there has been an increase in startups around security tools that tout machine learning and AI (Darktrace, Cylance, AlienVault, etc.). You can look at this trend by checking out Gartner's Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017, 2016, and 2015.


Robust security strategies are critical

While there is no "silver bullet" when it comes to protecting your company's network (at least not yet), it is important to have a robust, multi-layered security strategy. Unfortunately, those who are becoming most advanced when it comes to AI in terms of security are the ones on the offensive: cyber criminals, says Banking Technology. The way to combat these criminals is to escalate AI defenses. However, nothing is fool proof. There's not enough manpower in the world to make sure networks are 100% secure 100% of the time, especially with the prevalence of a cloud-based infrastructure.

Solid products, knowledgeable technical staff, and end-user training go hand-in-hand. This should include social engineering training and the use of AI/machine learning in your environment. As an example, on top of your traditional firewall and IPS (Intrusion Prevention System), add an industry-proven endpoint monitoring system, preferably one that uses machine learning to identify and prevent bad code from executing. Then, add a tool that gives you a holistic view of your entire network in real time that identifies advanced threats, including those stealthy, unconventional, silent attackers. Be sure that your end-user security training is inclusive, given regularly, and updated often as trends change around social engineering and phishing.


Additional risks in the healthcare realm

The risks with cyber security aren't just financial, although that aspect can certainly be devastating. We've all heard the stories of major retailers and credit card companies getting hacked for stolen account numbers and sensitive private information. However, the threat goes beyond that into the very realm of life and death. We're talking specifically about the healthcare industry. Whereas cyber attackers in years past have struck quickly and loudly as part of a virtual sneak attack, today's cyber criminals are taking it much more slowly and methodically. The focus now is not just on stealing the data, but altering that data without detection, according to CNBC.

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CIO value proposition: Negotiating key IT vendor contracts

 

While it's important for CIOs to provide a strategic advantage and to work on creating a partnership mentality, one area that needs to be smartly managed are those cumbersome and expensive vendor contracts.

We've talked about how CIOs can bring value to the organization through flexibility, business capability, strategic advantage and the development of a partnership mentality. Companies nowadays are measuring the value of their IT departments and their services, comparing their company's technology and capability to others' technology acumen and agility. Are they creating benchmarks as a result of those outcomes? While it's important for CIOs to provide a strategic advantage and to work on creating a partnership mentality, one area that needs to be smartly managed are those cumbersome and expensive vendor contracts.

Before you negotiate a key vendor contract, you need to have developed the right vendor management strategy; failure to do so can result in a dysfunctional relationship that can negatively impact your business, according to The Balance. While you need to be prepared to play hardball, you must also value your vendor and build a strategic partnership that is mutually beneficial for both parties. Although you want to be the hero and negotiate a rate that boosts the company's bottom line, you don't want to go too far and turn your vendor off. And you REALLY don't want to cut corners on service, which can hurt your business and cause an eventual breakdown of the relationship.

So, how can you negotiate key IT vendor agreements so as to benefit your company as well as preserve the vendor relationship?

Recognizing the value

In terms of IT buyers, strategic partners are vendors that have not only provided effective delivery of systems and services, they have gone one step further to become transparent, responsive and trusted collaborators for generating value for the enterprise -- consistently. Vendors who fail to achieve this competitive advantage will only have price to fall back on, bringing them too far down the competitive ladder. The "mutual win" can be put at risk if the most strategic vendor relationships are not pursued strongly.

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