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

How Tableau Transformed Traditional Data Analytics in Not-For-Profit

 

Having been an avid Tableau user over the last few years I can almost connect with Tableau like it has been my companion on this data journey thus far. Since the time we were looking to streamline reporting to let our end users have the capability of a somewhat self-service reporting platform without the need to wait on the IT department for data. Even as efficient the IT department was, the fact was that data does not wait for anyone and is continuously getting aggregated behind the scenes. So what if we had a way to get the insights behind this plethora of data and make informed decisions and when challenged with this task is when Tableau came into the picture and found an unlikely home in the Not-for-Profit sector where Excel has been the undisputed data crunching platform for the Company’s Data analysis needs. 

So, what is Tableau?  Tableau is a powerful and fastest growing data visualization tool used in the Business Intelligence Industry where data analytics is a key player in organizations strategic goals. Tableau helps in simplifying raw data into the very easily understandable format. Data analysis is super-fast with Tableau and the visualizations created are in the form of dashboards and worksheets. The data that is created using Tableau can be understood by professional at any level in an organization.

I remember the days when I used to be a “salesman” talking about Tableau at my company, getting people to take a look at this new software and see the endless possibilities we could achieve using web reporting tools Letting the end users dictate requirements by giving them more visibility on what the possibilities where and what questions can be answered right there in the tool.  In fact, what questions can be asked by looking at this massive Electronic Health Record data dump from an altogether different perspective without the need to be limited to pivot tables, and numerous filters on your data set. All this just so Excel could handle the data volume without breaking down, and not to forget the numerous times users had to break down data on multiple tabs and sometimes multiple workbooks to come up with an Excel dashboard. Then repeat the steps all over again. Not to mention the recurring scenarios where end users fall back on free texting data ever so often, which in turn chokes up the reporting capabilities without being on a modern data analytics platform like Tableau.

In the U.S. Midwest and mostly across the country, only a minority of companies say they have a modern reporting platform and regularly base decisions on data. In fact, most companies struggle with data-related problems, organizational issues or outdated BI and analytics infrastructures which were mostly built in the 90’s. They ignore more recent usage scenarios such as explorative analytics on big data sources. These problems become even more obvious when contrasted with modern infrastructures built in the cloud and the need for data platforms to connect to data sources outside your firewall. Additionally, the challenges caused by exploding data volume and variety as the saying goes “You are only as good as your Data”.

Finally, the highest pressure evolves from competition as more and more companies are trying to find innovative solutions to address the Data needs. Healthcare companies must react quicker than ever to changing demands from their customers, health insurance marketplace, insurance payors etc., to keep pace with their competition. The time has come to modernize today’s reporting landscapes and base decisions on information rather than gut-feeling – the legacy of the past must be overcome to reach the future of reporting to stay in the present.

 
 
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How to Define a CDC Architecture for Real-time Insights

 

Change Data Capture in the real-time streaming environment can be stitched together through a data pipeline based solution leveraging different tools that exist today


Understanding Real-time Data Capture

Most transactions (operations) in the current world are real-time, resulting in constant CRUD operations (Create, Read, Update, and Delete) on transactional systems. However, typical data warehouse implementations have been D-1, where reports and dashboards always reflect KPIs as of yesterday. This was mainly due to:

  • The defined ETL processes, and
  • The pipelines created to work in batch mode.

Today in current environments, reports and dashboards should be as real-time as possible. While 'Change Data Capture' as a framework is fairly  standardized and is enabled through different tools, the focus was not really on real-time data capture. CDC, as a design pattern, allows the process to capture these types of changes and provides efficient integration with the rest of the enterprise systems. The approach of capturing and processing only the changed data leads to all-round efficiency improvement, in terms of computing, performance, storage, and costs of ownership.


Flexibility with Options

We can achieve the CDC approach in multiple ways:

  • By developing ‘Database Triggers’ at the source application database to extract, based on the change that happened.
  • By implementing a comparison logic in the application layer to identify the changed
    data and create an alternate, yet continuous, pipeline to capture changed data.
  • By implementing a dedicated CDC tool such as GoldenGate, Syncsort, etc.
  • By implementing CDC platforms such as Confluent, Striim, Attunity, etc.
  • Leveraging the CDC capture mechanism provided by the databases, such as
    SQLServer.
  • Extracting changed data from the database transaction log files.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to each of these approaches. A few of them are listed below:

  • The Database Triggers Approach is a time-tested traditional approach, however with the caveat that it impacts the operating system performance.
  • Application Logic/Triggers is an approach that can only work if the record passes through the application layer. For example, a deleted record may not pass
    through the application layer and hence, gets missed in this approach.
  • CDC tools are typically expensive and may not be in the affordability range for all projects.
  • CDC tables feature is provided by only a few database vendors.
  • The Database Log Files-based Approach is technically an ideal approach, as it does not affect the OLTP system and can get to all types of changes that happened in the database. However, log-based CDC drivers for all the database systems are not available.

It's Best Presented This Way

Presented below is our analysis and findings in terms of implementing CDC based real-time data integration using Kafka as the messaging engine.

1. Context:
Extract the changed data from the source system (Azure SQL) in real-time and process / transform it as a stream, using spark streaming, and store in a star
schema modelled RedShift database.

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Accounts Receivable Automation and How it Affects People and Processes

 

As more companies look for ways to streamline internal processes, the question I am asked the most is about personnel. This goes beyond the whole, “Robots are taking our jobs” trope; it speaks to how companies maintain their culture and employee loyalty in times of uncertainty. The concerns of employers balancing client retention, cost reduction, and innovation are even more heightened as we face a shaky economy.

But what if cost-reduction or risk-reduction measures did not mean losing headcount?

Picture the following scenario:

A manufacturing company is expanding their B2B operations online after recognizing that their growth is stagnating. Diane in the Accounts Receivable department cannot handle an increase in B2B buyers, but the company’s leadership wants to expand into eCommerce and double the size of the business.

A solutions provider pitches the idea of outsourcing the accounts receivable functions, offering a white-labeled, omni-channel invoicing and terms program for the B2B buyers. The program includes the following

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Are Computer Viruses a form of Biomimicry?

 

What is biomimicry?

Biomimicry is a tool which can be used while seeking innovation. The concept is that nature has already solved many design problems through the process of evolution. Living things that are still extant have received bits and bytes of code in the form of genetic material and when this information interfaces with the environment, sustainable life forms emerge. Animals, plants, viruses, and bacteria adapt by engineering themselves over the billions of years that life has existed on Earth. The Biomimicry Institute provides numerous examples.

Neural networks mimic Nature's system of a syncytium of nerves to create a mathematical system useful to solve nonlinear problems. Another example of biomimicry given by the Institute of the same name is that of the Murray effect, demonstrated in the veins of leaves and arteries of animals. Murray, an early 20th century physiologist described a formula for the radius of first and successive order branches to maximize conductance of fluid. Flow of fluid in the veins of leaves is important for transport of water, nutrition, and gases, so is an obvious object of study. Leaf venation has evolved over time in response to environmental conditions. This is an example of the genetic code (bits & bytes) being transmitted selectively according to environmental pressure. Dicotyledon leaf venation has many closed loops which are able to carry fluid in the event of damage to other veins including, the central ones. This type of redundancy is built into retinal blood vessels and it has been postulated that it might make for better water and electricity distribution networks, too. Could such a system of reticulating, interconnected, looping pathways build redundancy which allows digital systems to be more resistant to attack? Parenthetically, stoma to various pathways could open and close (like vacuum tubes, zeros and ones, ons and offs) in response to the amount of fluid in the environment. Could we use biomimicry to make digital systems better able to respond to fluctuations in demand?

What are real world viruses?

Viruses are packets of DNA or RNA and protein. They cannot live by themselves but must invade living cells like bacteria or animal cells where they can take over those cells to reproduce. Viruses have a genetic code and can evolve just like single or multiple cell organisms can. Typically, viruses have a nucleic acid genome, a capsid, and an envelope. The capsid surrounds the DNA or RNA and is made of proteins that are, in fact, encoded by the virus’s genetic material. Some viruses have envelopes which are bits of lipid taken from the host cell when the viruses are extruded.

Although viruses have many characteristics of a living life form because they carry genetic material can replicate and undergo natural selection, they do not have a cell structure, which is been considered an import important characteristic of life. They are somewhat like a disembodied bot. Viruses are called virions and they can spread to human cells through various vectors such as blood sucking insects, the fecal-oral route, sexual contact, or airborne particles from sneezing. This is roughly analogous to a computer virus spreading through the internet or through a thumb drive or an unsuspecting host opening a malicious email. The body's own immune response and antiviral medication are roughly analogous to cyber security.

The genetic code which animates viruses is carried on strands of DNA or RNA which carry four types of nucleic acids-guanine, cytosine, thymine, and adenosine, which give cells the instructions they need to make proteins responsible for cell function. How they do this may provide important lessons for computer scientists. Moreover, microbiologists I have much to learn from the computer lab. Computational biology may be a discrete enhancement to conventional thinking. It could be called a form of biomimicry when computer antibodies against computer viruses are inducedDigital ants can swarm to and isolate digital threats.

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Lead Your Team Through Crisis: Advice and a Gift from a Former Crisis Counselor

 

It feels like a chapter from a Stephen King thriller, doesn’t it?

I don’t think any of us had this in mind as we headed into 2020.  And, here we are.

You may or may not know I was a family therapist and crisis counselor in my previous career.  During my time in that role a small community was shaken to the core by a disgruntled citizen in an creatively armored bulldozer, wildfires that devastated our homes, and workplace and school shootings shook our sense of safety to the core.

Mental health and the capacity for resilience is critical for our survival right now.  The good news? Your ability to acknowledge your own and other’s emotions is a built-in ability most people have.

While an in person, one-on-one strategic brainstorming session isn’t on the table right now, I am offering advice for leaders to support you as you take the most important action you can right now as a leader.

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Happier Employees and Better Retention in Three Simple Steps

 

Reduce the Headaches of Turnover, Starting with the First Interview.


Simple changes during the Interview & Orientation phases can dramatically reduce your turnover, in addition to lowering training costs and boosting morale (and thus productivity!).

We currently in a Candidates' Market, like it or not.  The philosophy that "the employer writes the check so employees should comply and be happy" no longer applies in terms of retention and securing top talent.

The incredibly fast pace of the Healthcare industry, ever-changing compliance and regulatory standards, mergers, and now a global pandemic converge to make hiring and retaining employees the perfect storm.

The average unemployment rate in 2020 is 3.5 %, the lowest since 1969. "Voluntary" employee turnover is also up almost 8 % from 2017 to 2019. These figures illustrate a costly and challenging situation for owners, hiring managers, and human resources.

The bottom line is that Employees have the power, especially in industries with a skilled talent shortage, such as healthcare.  They have options, and they know it.  Employees are no longer leaving to retire or relocate. If they are unhappy and feel that there are greener pastures elsewhere, they are quick to move on.  This creates a considerable strain on any organization, including costly forced overtime, executive burnout, lowered morale, and ultimately – more turnover!  A recent study revealed the top preventable factors that cause employees to resign:

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Why STEM is Important for Every Girl

 

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. This core set of so-called "21st-century skills" form the tools students will need to have if they want to succeed in the workplace of the future. In this ever-changing, increasingly complex world, it's more critical than ever that the youth of our country are prepared to bring knowledge and skills to solve problems of all kinds, make sense of information, know how to gather and evaluate evidence, and be able to use that evidence to make critical decisions.   STEM ensures a nation where our future leaders, neighbors, and workers know how to understand and solve some of the most complex challenges of today and tomorrow, as they continue to meet the demands of a dynamic and evolving workforce. The U. S. Department of Commerce states that STEM occupations are growing at a rate of 17 percent, while other occupations are growing closer to nine percent. STEM degree holders tend to have a higher income even in non-STEM careers. Students and workers skilled in STEM play a key role in the sustained growth and stability of this country's economy, and remain a vital part of helping the United States win the future.   In short, STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy, and fuels the next generation of innovators.

Why STEM is Important for Both Sexes

STEM education is inherently designed to prepare both girls and boys for a future where most jobs will require a basic understanding of math and science, and where advanced skills will be critical. Children of both sexes will be needed in order to use the technology that powers the world. 

STEM is important for both boys and girls for these reasons:

  • Preparation of future jobs
  • Break down gender barriers
  • Tackle pressing issues such as climate change
  • Build confidence
  • Develop valuable life skills
  • Challenge boundaries
  • Invest in the future

Why STEM is Especially Important for Girls

STEM careers have a stigma as male-dominated fields. Yet for the first time in history, girls are exceeding their male classmates in both science and math. They are showing an even greater aptitude for the STEM classes, challenging that very stigma every single day. Girls who major in STEM go on to become CEOs of companies, leaders of industry and respected professionals -- no longer titles reserved just for men.

Diversity in the STEM work force has come a long way. As our country has rapidly transformed into an information-based economy, employment in STEM occupations has grown – indeed outpacing overall job growth. Since 1990, STEM employment has grown 79 percent and computer jobs have seen a 338 percent increase during the same period, according to Pew Research Center.

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Unpacking Digital Transformation in Payments: How to Create an Effective Payments Strategy in a Shaky Economy

 

Like many professionals in the financial sector, rarely a day goes by when there is no news about how “digital” is shifting the commercial landscape. Companies are innovating to enhance not only user experience, but internal processes. How can companies prioritize digital on both sides of the interaction between buyers and employees?

Most of the time when I hear about “digital transformation,” it has to do with UX and how customers want to interact with a business website. But if a company wants to outpace competitors, they need to drill down into the details of what creates a meaningful interaction with their target customers. We all want the online experience to look pretty, but what about the back-office processes that go along with the payment experience?

The B2B payments experience is traditionally filled with pain points. In the U.S. alone, the use of paper checks in almost half of B2B transactions cost businesses over $550 billion in profit in 2018. Coupled with the rise of eCommerce transactions and the need for omni-channel payment options, most businesses are struggling to keep up with the digital needs of their business buyers. Internal processes for providing payment terms in B2B transactions are not digital-friendly, require personnel completing redundant tasks, and are not flexible enough to expand beyond a strategic buyer base.

Creating a scalable, digital experience for B2B buyers is key for companies in the next decade. Exploring their expectations can help with developing strategies for improving the end-to-end purchase experience.

In B2B transactions, relationships between sellers and their strategic buyers hinge on the payment experience. As more businesses take their catalogues online, frustration with the purchasing process can lead to cart abandonment and decreased share of wallet. The ability to pay with multiple options is crucial, with over 20% of B2B buyers citing lack of payment options as a key issue in online purchasing in the past year.

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Americans Favor Technology in Quest for Better Sleep

 

Six in 10 Americans are turning to tech to aid their sleep, according to new research.

From using smartphones to set their bedtime and apps to limit evening screen time, to using a watch to note their biometrics, 57% say tech has been beneficial in improving their sleep.

Sleep isn’t as simple as just laying down and closing our eyes, now — in this age of screens and digital detoxing, the survey of 2,000 Americans found 66% would actually like to incorporate more technology into their nighttime routine.

Commissioned by Eight Sleep and conducted by OnePoll in advance of World Sleep Day on March 13, the survey looked at Americans’ poor sleep habits — and the modern-day solutions they’re turning to.

It’s no wonder people are looking for something to improve their sleep, as results found the average respondent received just five hours and seven minutes of sleep per night — much less than the recommended eight hours of shut-eye.

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3 Things Amazon & Other Employers Need to Know About Health Tech

 

On the one hand, Amazon is no different from other large employers, wrestling with the healthcare benefits cost demon that squeezes both its bottom line and employees’ take-home pay. On the other, no company beyond Walmart has proven better at squeezing costs out of flabby legacy business models.

Amazon’s new virtual health clinic, Amazon Care, allows the company’s Seattle employees to consult with physicians online, schedule follow-up appointments and even set up prescription drug delivery. Once the kinks are worked out of this system, you can bet the farm that Amazon will be figuring out a way to offer similar services to the company’s 300 million active customers.

For this effort to succeed, however, there are three things Amazon – and other employers, for that matter – must keep in mind:

1.  The success of telehealth depends on the underlying care model.

Without a doubt, telehealth can do great things. It gives people the ability to get a timely response to a minor medical concern, and it encourages those who might forgo or delay care because they lack transportation to get medical advice from the comfort of home.

However, the healthcare services delivered via telehealth must be woven into strong, value-based primary care versus creating yet another silo of care. The value-based primary care model gives physicians the freedom to practice medicine in the way they were trained – with a strong emphasis on time-with-patient and addressing underlying health issues, not just treating symptoms – via a very modern online platform. There’s no well-functioning healthcare system in the world not built on this kind of primary care.

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Is Life Better With Or Without Technology?

 

Technology Dominates Modern Day Life, But Is It Good or Bad?


As a Gen X’er (those born between 1965 and 1980), I grew up alongside technology. However, life in the 80s and even the 90s was much different than it is now, and my childhood didn’t feel like it was dominated by all things electronic. We didn’t have cell phones, Google, or social media when we were young (much to the shock and horror of my kids). I didn’t spend the majority of my youth staring at a screen. I wouldn’t have grown up in any other decades, although that is all I know. Many people argue that we had it better than kids do now, but did we?

Communication and Entertainment - From Street Lights to Cell Phones

Growing up, I spent most of my time playing outside with my friends. I have so many fond memories of running around outside for hours, exploring and going from friend’s house to friend’s house until it got dark. When the street lights came on at dusk, that was my signal that it was time to head home. My mom also had a giant bell that she would ring, and we would hear it from a distance and know that it was dinner time.

In elementary school and junior high, my friends and I passed notes back and forth to chat, and we knew about 1,000 different ways to fold a piece of paper. My friends and I would often mail letters to one another despite living just down the street and having the ability to walk to each other's houses. I still have all of my notes and letters from childhood saved in a box, and it is quite a large collection.

We used landline phones with super long curly cords to call family and friends, and long phone calls were common and plentiful. One of our home phones was a rotary phone, and I still remember hating when someone had a 9 in their phone number, as that number took the longest to dial. When we were out and about, we carried around quarters for payphones, which we used to call our parents and tell them when it was time to pick us up from the mall. When I got to high school pagers (aka “beepers”) were popular, and it felt exciting to be able to communicate on-the-go.

During my youth music was mostly played via the radio or cassette players, but we also occasionally pulled out the record player. We spent hours waiting by our boomboxes, waiting to hear our favorite song on the radio, and when it came on we would quickly press record to try to tape the whole song on our cassette tapes without missing a beat. We used portable Walkmans to listen to our taped playlists. In the early 90s, audio CDs replaced cassette tapes, and cassette tapes basically became extinct.

MP3s, or digitally-compressed music files, brought about a new level of accessibility to music in the late 90s. However, it was still tricky to grab music off of the internet, until Napster came along. Napster was a software that enabled people to download their favorite songs from other users, who had retrieved them from ripped CDs, often breaking copyright laws. The software peaked from late 2000 to early 2001 until it declined in the early 2000s due to lawsuits from musicians and music companies. The Apple iPod, a portable media player that was released in late 2001, was designed by Steve Jobs and revolutionized how we listened to music. Apple came through once again in 2003 when it introduced a new way to download music with the iTunes Music Store, which offered millions of songs for only 99 cents apiece. Now we have a plethora of ways to download inexpensive or even free music online using iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Pandora, etc.

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Why Fear is Every Leader’s Worst Enemy

 

What do leaders struggle with? High-achieving performers and executives generally direct their attention to practical matters regarding execution of strategies, completion of large initiatives, revenue generation and so much more. Obviously, lofty goals come with their own challenges to face on the path of continued success for the individual and the organization. While it's tempting to throw tools and training of all kinds at high performers to support their endeavors, is that what leaders truly need? Is it really as simple as offering additional strategic and tactical advice?

If the answer was yes, then no company anywhere would find it challenging to reach their goals and realize their vision with the right talent in the mix.

Because humans are involved, it's not that simple. Businesses and HR departments spend a lot of time and energy trying to find programs and approaches that will equip their high performers with tools rather than taking the time to find out what makes their leaders and innovators tick. Personality tests are helpful, but they are limited in their utility. Likewise, skills- and habit-focused training is somewhat generic in that there's often a one-size-fits-most, formulaic approach. The truth is that there is no out-of-the-box test, training, or formula that will succeed in moving a leader forward if there's an underlying reason why the individual hesitates to do what needs to be done in the first place. Typically, there is an underlying reason, and it's a common one despite evidence of outward success.

That reason is fear.

Yes, fear. We tend to believe that the more success someone has, the less fear is a factor in how they think and operate. In my experience as an executive coach, that's simply not true. In fact, as the perceived stakes become higher with more responsibility and status, fear becomes more complex. It may not show up in recognizable form, making it harder to trace to the root cause. Perhaps fear shows up as hesitation to take action or have a difficult conversation. It frequently shows up in the form of procrastination, as it's easier to put something off than face the reasons why they won't take it on. It can also manifest as time spent on areas that are less critical. It's more comfortable to focus on a less complicated action or project rather than deal with the real priority because there's risk and uncertainty involved.

To further complicate matters, being near the top of an organization can be isolating. Who can you be vulnerable with? Can you be truthful without being punished for doing so? Will what you share be used against you? Will the truth of the leader's experience make them appear weak and poorly equipped to handle their role? Whether these concerns are based in reality or not, sharing vulnerabilities and asking for support is perceived as too big of a risk to take.

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Avoiding Vendor Cloud Lock-In

 

Cloud lock-in’ is a familiar phrase; but what does it mean? We explore the various outcomes which can lead you to become ‘locked-in’, and how you can avoid it.


ERP vendors are forging ahead to a Cloud-based future, none more so than SAP and Oracle who are both using every tactic at their disposal to push their customers onto their Cloud products.

However, many organizations have been reluctant to move their entire ERP suite onto the Cloud, over concerns like cost, suitability, and complexities in migration. But one factor that many don’t consider is ‘Cloud lock-in’.

In this blog post, we’ll analyze what Cloud lock-in actually is, what can cause it, its effects, and ways of overcoming it.


What is Cloud lock-in?

First, be aware of the difference between Cloud as a platform for your ERP system (e.g. hosting a traditionally on-premise product on an AWS Cloud), and using a vendor’s Cloud-based SaaS product like S/4HANA:

  1. With Cloud as a platform, you are merely using someone else’s hardware to run your software in the Cloud – this potentially provides additional flexibility and cost-effectiveness.
  2. Cloud based SaaS products allow you to use a vendor’s software that is hosted within the vendor’s own Cloud.

It is the second version that we will be talking about in this blog, as it is controlled by the vendor and where you as a customer can experience Cloud lock-in.

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High-Functioning Disabilities at Work: A Roadmap for Success

 

If you are a high-functioning individual suffering from a mental or behavioral health ailment (which may or may not be protected under the disabilities act for reasonable accommodation), your daily life at work is quite possibly a tough battle. A tougher one possibly than of those who are off-work on leave and therefore, although quite possibly much more debilitated, can have some level of control on the amount of uncertainties that will disrupt their wellbeing. Whether you are depressed but your severe phases come in cycles, or are a GAD (general anxiety disorder) sufferer who can pull through most of the days but not all, or suffer from a Psychosis that occasionally manifests at work but doesn’t completely impede your ability to be employed, you are someone who shows up to work and does great (either because or in-spite of your disorder) while pedaling like Stanford ducks underneath the surface. You either didn’t disclose your disability at work, or even if you have, will not avail (unless it’s the last option) the ‘reasonable accommodations’ available to you. But most challenging is the fact that no one talks about the likes of you. There are no career development articles, best known methods, behavioral guidelines, leadership skills, that will acknowledge you, let alone provide direction. No one wants to talk about us. We ourselves don’t want to deal with the not normal parts of our otherwise normal days. But we are the new normal. Mental health at work is becoming more and more a matter with work and life complexities skyrocketing. So, the counsellor’s couch toolsets need to come into the mainstream career conversations, not just tip toe-d around in chapter seven of self-help books.

This is an even bigger problem for women because of unhelpful gender stereo-typing and unfair labelling. Hormonal. Emotional. Un-professional. No, we are not, but men are in majority and therefore, ‘testosterone-ic’ behaviors are considered professionally more acceptable, and even downright desirable, even when they are outcomes of the same struggles that manifest as tears for women. Reactions are also grouped, and gender labelled, instead of categorization by mental health condition which could serve the helpful purpose of mental health awareness.

I have had to craft my own guidelines, success definitions, and daily steps. The first step is to address head on the fact that we, and others like us, exist. Note: this doesn’t suggest mandatory declaration or disclosure. In fact, my advice on that is to tread very carefully irrespective of what printed policies say. There’s a lot of progress still to be made on unconscious bias and mental health awareness. But we need to ruthlessly trash any of the shame we might feel within ourselves. And then, we need to be aware of signs in others that would require us to have higher self-control and greater compassion. Empathy is one gift out of this curse, and we should take advantage of that by being the higher EQ individuals in the room. We will need that to shield us against our behavioral ‘eccentricities’ which we will not be able to always control. We also have to take a social responsibility, if I may call it so, to be vocal in our own ways possible appropriately. Finding a tribe, an outlet, and working to help a cause that affect us daily is a great strength provider, and the base of this pyramid that I will try to build here for excellence at work for the likes of us.

There are two well-known principles I am going to base this roadmap on. One is the known concept of run the business, grow the business, transform the business (or you might have heard it as keep today secured, plan for tomorrow, transform the future – or similar – you get the theme). This is a familiar concept for business. Now think of this and apply this to what I’d like to call a ‘self-aware roadmap for career sustenance and development’. First, acknowledge that you have some limitations, know what they are, what your triggers are, and have foolproof, well-practiced plan for managing them. First for today, and then for tomorrow. Below are some tips on that.

Meditation and Mindfulness

This horse has probably been beaten to death, but not in a way that can work for high-functioning strugglers who need some tools while at work. Focusing on your breath while driving to work on your worst days and forcing yourself to continuously re-ground through tools like counting, concentrating on a sound, tapping is something you need to not only know of, but also have written down somewhere to be able to use regularly. It takes a bit of time and on our worse days, a lot of determination, but eventually the calming effect of focusing on the moment starts becoming more and more apparent.

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New Age Career Management: Make Flashpoints a Part of Routine

 

We get to hear about career flashpoints almost daily these days. In search of anecdotes for career setbacks, or while in the middle of reflections that are leading to nowhere, we possibly look for these ourselves and stumble upon articles after articles on how life’s severe downturns – from divorce, to health diagnoses, to job loss – forced stepping out of comfort jones and ultimately more fulfilling career happily ever after. These accounts are quite accurate no doubt, for that is how life works. It’s a chaotic dynamic equilibrium in which persistent strategizing eventually works, as does random events.

Either small gains, or great achievements, always emerge out of most situations. And since finding fulfillment is a whole different matter from achieving absolute success and absolute success can’t be defined absolutely (unless we are talking Bill Gates), all really ends well at the end. The point however is that unless it’s a physical end of life, ‘the end’ is really never an end. It is just the current point in time. Those who are writing those articles, unfortunately will go through both beautiful highs and frustrating lows again.

Therefore, flashpoints, or turning points - no matter what we call them - never stop coming. Most work environments today are going through an interesting dichotomy of ‘take more time to reflect, foster human connections, introspect, go after fulfilment, keep your core values in mind’ but ‘work faster, cheaper, longer, constantly, keep upskilling, ensure continuous increase in productivity (aka increase value to shareholders) and be obsessed about the customer(read work).’ Flashpoints are bound to become more frequent. Less big bangs and more continuous clustered fireworks. And bounce back times are going to be shorter.

For me, given the high flux, high churn and mostly ambiguous environment I work in, it is more a continuous evolution. A point by point (often weekly if not daily) re-strategizing. Those ‘oh my god’ moments followed by months of reflection and nirvana that I thought would happen one, maybe two, times in a 20/30-year career have become the norm. Redeployments, job losses, change of bosses, personal crises will cause no shortage of forced reflections, but it’s almost given that for most of us (barring some who have fallen into a career sweet spot of promised decade long or longer tenure), there will be no luxury of years of introspection driven re-invention. Therefore, this needs to be continuous too.

Below are three guidelines, or verticals as I would call them, that I cluster my continuous career strategizing around. It took me a bit of time to put some guard rails in place instead of the chaotic, frantic, what do I do and what should my career (or life) thoughts be based on (which would often be tailored to nature of the immediate crises) modus operandi. I now find these immensely useful, for doing this frequently is not easy if not made into a structured habit.

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Remote Jobs Benefit Employees and Employers

 

These days it seems as though companies are all trying to “out cool” each other and compete for the title of Best Place to Work. Taking their cues from Google, it’s now quite common for companies — especially tech companies — to offer their employees perks like gyms, game rooms, lunches, coffee baristas, and more. Many companies are moving from old musty buildings to brand new buildings with glass walls, bright colors, games, and even built-in beer taps.

I’ve worked in a few places like this, and I even worked as a recruiter at one. People who came in for interviews saw the ping pong table and arcade games and were instantly sold on the company culture. “This must be a super fun place to work,” they would say. And it mostly was, although that had much more to do with the people and the environment created by management than the games, which mostly collected dust.

Employees love bells and whistles. We love bagels with assortments of cream cheeses, and we get excited about wearing jeans to work. We love clubs and games and feeling like we’re part of a hip company culture. Sure, all those things are great, but many people would happily do away with all of those things entirely and embrace the benefits of working from home instead.

Although many companies have gone entirely paperless, there is often still hesitation from employers when it comes to allowing employees to work outside of the office. Yet the benefits of working from home far outweigh the benefits of working in an office, both for employees and employers.

Benefits for Employees

  1. Greater Productivity. Remote employees can focus on getting the job done without office distractions. Research done by Gallup has consistently shown that remote employees are happier, satisfied, and more productive.
  2. More Money. Working from home saves employee’s money otherwise spent on gas, fancy work clothes, and fast food. Getting more work done can lead to greater commissions for commissioned employees.
  3. Health Benefits. Waking up, rushing around, and dodging traffic doesn’t make for a great start to the workday. Cutting out commuting cuts out stress and makes for happier employees. At home, an extra chunk of time can be spent doing refreshing things like taking a power nap, taking a quick walk out in the fresh air, doing some yoga stretches, etc.
  4. Work/Life Balance. Instead of taking PTO and rushing around between the office and the kids’ school, parents can take a quick break and pick up their kids from school and see them more often. These small things can make a world of difference for both parents and children in terms of happiness.

Benefits for Employers

  1. Greater Productivity. One of the main concerns’ employers have is that if they allow their employees to work remotely, employees will be less productive. This mindset has been proven wrong repeatedly. Studies consistently show that productivity increases when employees work from home.
  2. More Money. When employee productivity increases, so does company revenue. Allowing employees to work from home also cuts down on office costs for supplies such as coffee, paper towels, etc. Healthier employees also lead to lower health insurance costs.
  3. Fewer Employee Absences. When employees work from home, they are less likely to call in and take unscheduled paid time off. Rather than calling in sick, an employee can sit at their desk or even lie on their bed at home and work, rather than coming in and spreading germs around the office, subsequently causing more employees to call in.
  4. Less Turnover. Healthier employees with a greater work/life balance are more satisfied employees, who are much more likely to stay in their position.

If the idea of letting employees fly away from the nest is still a terrifying idea for employers, they can start by allowing their employees to work from home one day a week or a few days a week. Rather than worrying about giving up control, employers should worry about employees’ productivity and overall well-being, for the benefit of all parties involved. In today’s world, companies should adapt and allow employees to work remotely in order to continue to attract and retain top talent.

 
 
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High Touch Leadership in a High-Tech World

 

How do we lead others more effectively today when we are so heavily reliant on technology? This is a great question all leaders should work to answer for themselves.

Today, more of our employees work remotely, teams are spread across a large campus or they work from home and may never be physically located in the same space.

The world has changed, hasn’t it? I have been an entrepreneur since 2006. However, prior to this all the employees I was responsible for leading were co-located with me in the same offices. I was in the Army for several years and my team was with me, and then while leading in the hospital my team was with me.

Today, we have tools allowing us to work from anywhere and work with others located all around the globe. As an entrepreneur, I now have people working with me from thousands of miles away. I am in Arkansas, but have virtual partners in Canada, New York, Florida and California. I have worked with teams in England and have used resources from Fiverr to help me create branding for my business.

Why does all this matter? Leadership of others requires the ability to be high touch. The foundation of leadership is trust and trust is built over time in a relationship of consistent communication.

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Why Communication Follow Up is Critically Important

 

The follow-up: it's been a mainstay of the business world for decades. But this gesture of courtesy seems to be going by the wayside more and more. Could be a generational thing, or it could be because we're increasingly being pulled in all kinds of work, digital and social directions. But more on that later. For now...why is communication follow up so critical in the business world, not just among executive leaders but at all levels of an organization?

As Chron puts it so well, it's not so much that communication isn't occurring (it is), but the deficiency lies more in the follow up. A critical communication skill is honing the ability to learn to identify the deliverables or follow up tasks that all parties may have previously agreed to, affirm commitment to those tasks and then follow through to ensure the tasks and commitments have indeed been carried out. Without the second half of that equation, there is no accountability. Without accountability, what is the purpose of having a plan in the first place?

Follow up is vital because it:

  • Keeps everyone accountable.
  • Ensures stated tasks get done in a timely manner.
  • Expresses renewed interest in the matter at hand, as well as the people involved.
  • Shows you care enough to check up on the status.
  • Displays integrity and strength of character -- two big qualities in business.
  • Reiterates the plan so everyone can review each task or deliverable.
  • Ensures everyone is on the same page.
  • Reduces the chance of mistakes and misleading statements.
  • Keeps you front of mind for your clients.


People are being reduced to commodities, says Entrepreneur so eloquently. In today’s marketplace, you have to be different. You have to stand out. How can you do this? Get great at follow-up. It's becoming a lost art but you don't have to be resigned to that fate. The heart and soul of the follow up in communication is "connection." You want to maintain a business connection, of course, but you also want to maintain that personal connection, that special something that ties you to another person. Pay attention, gather information and then use it for the follow up. If you're following up with a client, for instance, state the reason for your follow up, but also touch on something personal. Ask how their daughter is feeling if the last time you spoke your client mentioned her child was home with the flu. Ask about that vacation they took to that resort you recommended.

These are all connections, and they matter.

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How Valuable Medical 3D Video is Saving Lives

 

There is still a lot of hype around the new technologies in medical advances, but there is certainly some good promise and use cases for the industry making progress. In this case, we will be talking specifically about 3D video. Before we get started, let’s cover some basics on this technology as not to confuse it with others like 360° video and Virtual Reality. While it is typical people mistakenly use these terms interchangeably, they are not the same, even though they can seem the same or similar.

So, 360° video is video that’s only filmed in 360 degrees and has no depth of field. As far as “VR”, this is the most common, when speaking virtual reality. This type of video essentially captures a dome-like panoramic view allowing you to see in different directions, not different angles. While you can watch 360° video your cellphone combined with a 3D Headset, it’s still truly not 3D.

3D Video

So, 3D is truly fascinating and is improving rapidly. This type of video gives you depth of field. Nowadays, you can simply view 3D video using a 3D headset and a newer cellphone. Using this setup, you’ll notice that the experience is comparable to what you might have seen at a 3D movie theatre, but significantly better. What’s challenging is this 3D technology is new and relatively expensive.

Again, to compare 360 video and 3D videos – the first is a full view of 360 degrees, but no depth of field. While 3D video has depth of field, but its viewpoint is somewhat restricted. Good news – with the rapid increase in technology advances 360 videos will become 360 3D videos.

Virtual Reality

You might ask, what is virtual reality (VR) then? VR is basically 3D video, but only its computer generated and not filmed. VR is really using stereoscopic rendered images, the same filming technique in a 3D video, essentially. Remember, VR content is all computer generated using such software as Unreal Engine or Unity.

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Small Business Needs More Diversity in Leadership

 

In a not too distant past, diversity at the leadership level was not as common; nor was it commonly agreed upon beneficial practice. Though still not at desirable levels such practices are more widely discussed and accepted. However, most discussions around diversity tend to be around midsize and larger organizations; supposedly having a “trickle-down effect” if those larger organizations lead by example.


Before going into its necessity for small business, let's agree on a couple of simple principals for this article:

  • Diversity should almost never come at the expanse of qualification.
  • Diversity is proven to have a positive impact on revenue and profits.

Now that we have established some ground rules, let’s move on to why small business should be the main place where inclusion and diversity takes place.

Why?

It doesn’t matter what school of thought you prescribe to and it doesn’t matter where you look: small business is the backbone of United States economic growth engine. It equally employs the largest number by leaps and bounds. So one would wonder why we expect large companies to lead the way of having more diverse and inclusive leadership. The answer is: we shouldn’t. We should expect diversity and inclusion to “trickle up” from small businesses not only because of their unparalleled dominance but even more importantly because of their inherent flexibility, nimbility and adaptability.

How?

So, since Small Businesses (SMB) are so dramatically dominant how would or should they go about such diversity and inclusion? Most of the conversations on SMB starts around entrepreneurs and their ability to succeeded in highly competitive markets where the competitions is not static: not only is it likely that they are already either competition with established businesses but also trying to create interruptions, but they also have to wrestle with the traditional challenges of SMB including funding, human resource management, production and quality assurance as well as consumer dynamics.

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Women in Tech - Successes and Challenges

 

Digital Transformation represents a paradigm shift that is revolutionising almost every field. We have to be aware and prepared for these forthcoming changes in order to innovatively manage operations and gain benefits.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen the advancement of Emerging Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain and so on. These big shifts and innovations in tech field are driving the digital workforce transformation. Several forces are changing the nature of work, such as the demand for digital skills and the emergence of new work models. It should be emphasized that, despite what many people can think, technology is going to act as an integrator and not as a replacement for skills needed: although machines will gradually become more powerful, humans will actually be even more essential.

About that, it’s important to analyze how women are involved in building the future of work. In fact, while the world of work is changing rapidly, advancements in workplace gender equality have progressed at a glacial pace. Women In Tech continue to be underrepresented and the World Economic Forum suggests that it will take 200 years to achieve workplace gender equality. It’s unfortunately true that tech is still a male-dominated world, since realities like the gender wage gap and the gender leadership gap lead to a lot of implicit bias.

The image here shows the results of a survey by Ivanti over 500 women working in technology across the globe.

As you’ll notice, being a woman in tech implies many successes. Some of the best things are: making a positive impact in organization/industry and doing a job that is never boring. But, as with any good thing, there are also many challenges involved. Among the biggest challenges emerged from the survey: being taken seriously due to gender perceptions (63% of WIT), having no female role models and gender pay gap.

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Are You Maximizing Your Investment in Your Experts?

 

In the ever-evolving business world in which technology enables rapid changes and evolution providing more robust tools, paving the way for better and more effective business management, it is hard to argue with the impact of prospective. Be it the burning the desire to be more data driven or the ability to have near complete operational awareness; the access and subsequent analysis of such data is likely to result in even more questions and potentially more doubt about the validity of such analysis. Without going into intrigues of data analysis and bias i.e. information bias, selection bias, and confounding, let’s have a look how it can be reasonably mitigated in a startup setting.

The basics

Let’s start with a realistic assumption: startups have some inherit limitations, mainly around resources i.e. funding and attraction of high quality talent. Both of those are equally relevant to decision making at macro and micro level, hence it stands to reason that decision making at both levels are limited. This particular conclusion, though semi subjective has a real impact on the explicit and/or implicit expectations of virtually all stakeholders.

Mitigations

Once the realization of those limitations are taken into account, the next step would be seeking a method to mitigate those perceived shortcomings. The usual reaction tends to be an increase in resource allocation to either tools or human capital; and frankly there is nothing fundamentally wrong with that approach. However, it raises the questions about feasibility, effectiveness and efficiency.

Human capital vs tools

It is no secret that previously mentioned advancements in business related technology has resulted in an amazing array of advanced and sophisticated tools that allow even non experts to compile, visualize and interpret a wide range of data points. The real question is however the utility and impact: can such tools replace expertise? The answer is not straight forward: generally speaking, even amazing tools that democratize availability of complex data cannot be expected to provide appropriate strategy within the context of individual organizations. Sure, the data sets and factual conclusions that are not a matter of “opinion” are a great start; but how the decision makers can use that business intelligent in the context of specific setting are a point of contention.

Tools, no matter how sophisticated are truly at the mercy of the user. We all have heard the expression – tools are only as good as the user; and there is a lot of truth to that. Simple factor such as the breadth and depth of the tool its elves can have an immense impact on the output; which brings us back to the human capital i.e. expertise. But does that imply that human capital re: expertise trumps tools? Again the answer is not that “black and white”: essentially those two function symbiotically. In an optimal setting the end user has an expert level knowledge of the tool combined with matching expertise to use the conclusions both tactically and strategically in context of the field and said organization.


External vs. Internal

Now that we logically concluded that the said expertise has to be in context in order to maximize the output of the tool, it is important to explore the human capital strategic impact.

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For Truth’s Sake, Can Blockchain Save Journalism?

 

A quick search on “the problem of journalism today” returns results that speak to issues of balance and bias, trust in the press, and, of course, the unabating and pervasive problem of “fake news.” An article published in The Washington Post reads, “The crisis in local journalism has become a crisis of democracy,” and other sources ponder, “Does journalism have a future?

The answer could lie in blockchain, the technology that is usually reserved for circles discussing cryptocurrency or supply chain integrity. But applying blockchain technology to journalism may very well generate the results that the public is demanding in terms of content integrity and a decentralized publishing platform.

What Is Blockchain?

Blockchain can be an elusive technology for the average person to understand. A great--and very simple--example of what blockchain technology does is offered by The New York Times, with the author of the article asking you to look at a coin dancing on the screen in front of you. Now, note that this coin--which is being displayed on your screen and therefore cannot be touched or held by you--is a crypto coin. The coin, unlike a real coin, doesn’t have an actual physical presence that you can hold. But, like a real coin, it does represent value. Every movement that the coin makes, and the movement of every other coin like it, is being constantly recorded and updated in a shared ledger. The name of this ledger is ...blockchain!

If you’re a person who benefits from more specific, technical details, then a more complex definition of blockchain, providing by Blockgeeks, is:

A time-stamped series of immutable records of data that is managed by a cluster of computers not owned by any single entity. Each of these blocks of data...is secured and bound to each other using cryptographic principles.

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How Women Bring More Value to the Boardroom

 

Diversity in the boardroom: it's a critical factor in the growth, ingenuity and success of today's businesses. But what is it? How exactly do women in authoritative positions add value to the bottom line? Gender diversity invokes a multitude of perspectives on how companies can solve problems more efficiently. It makes sense, then, that companies with more women on their boards are setting the tone for a much more inclusive workplace culture through all levels of the organization.

The Numbers

It used to be that this "boys' club" mentality viewed women in the boardroom only as a way to appease and placate. This viewpoint is an archaic one that hasn't just evolved over the decades because women have worked hard to prove their worth (although this is certainly true) -- it has evolved to become the status quo because women in the boardroom get results. Quantifiable results. The numbers don't lie.

  • Companies with at least three female board members enjoy a median productivity of 1.2 percent above competitors, says Forbes.

  • Gender diversity on management boards has a significant impact on productivity growth and on returns to investors.

  • One recent study of more than 1,000 leading firms across several countries and industries revealed that gender diversity resulted in more productive companies, as measured by revenue and market value, according to the Harvard Business Review.

  • The Credit Suisse Research Institute (CSRI) detected a link between firms with more female leaders and stronger share price performance over time. The report revealed that companies with more than 20 percent female managers had out-performed those with less than 15 percent female managers by five percent.

These numbers all look good. And yet, not even 17 percent of women worldwide fill board seats and not even five percent fill CEO roles, suggesting that females still have a long road to walk to achieve parity with men in the boardroom. Women have been soaring to the top in established professions such as medicine, banking and law, taking top spots at GM and IBM. But there's still a big gap when it comes to women on corporate boards. In fact, men hold about 80 percent of all board seats for companies in the S&P 500 stock index, according to Bloomberg. Even more concerning is that growth in female representation on such boards has slowed.

The Female Value: Productivity

It seems females are in the driver's seat when it comes to getting the job done. Studies have shown that companies that strive to incorporate a greater gender balance enjoy stronger corporate results. A report from MSCI revealed that having women on boards boosts corporate productivity. And a McKinsey report showed that organizations with the most gender-diverse teams at the executive level are 21 percent more likely to do better in regards to profitability.

Research from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also shows a link between productivity and gender diversity, whereby women and men complement each other throughout the production process. The Peterson Institute for International Economics performed a study that says employing women at C-Suite levels significantly increases net margins.

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Growth and Scaling Downfalls – Part V Final Thoughts

In the last few posts we touched on Growth and Scaling preparations in terms Human Capital Management, Financial Resource Management, Strategy Management and Project Evaluation Management. In the last post in the series we will touch on additional practical considerations.

Limitations

All said and done, there are many limitations that are outside the control of any organizations including market and competitor behavior, consumer perceptions, external stakeholder objectives as well as rapid innovations. Those and many other factors that shape the overall perceived and real “business environment” that will inherently have an influence on the outcome of any business related project. Hence it is vital to account and plan for certain margin of error that will dictate changes, adjustments and pivots.

Expectations Management

Though a stable tool of business management, expectations management is one of THE most important yet clearly underutilized component of scaling and growth projects. Drawing on the idea that there are inherently many more unknowns in those projects that can lead to limitations, it is extremely vital to utilize both the theoretical and practical aspects of expectations management theory.

Diminishing Returns

Growth is NOT unlimited nor is Scaling. Contrary to the belief that there is no ceiling to expand and grow, the reality is much different. As mentioned previously, the sheer fact that are many components outside the influence of an organization, it is rather logical to see why there are real life limitations. Hence it is extremely important to start off those growths and scaling projects with reasonable outlook and goals.

Business Process Engineering (Reengineering)

When limitations and expectations management are accepted and implemented, process engineering and reengineering become indispensable. In line with other component, business process management, engineering and reengineering have an even more outsized role when it comes to scaling and growth in order to address and accommodate both the limitations and expectations management.

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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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Why the Customer Experience is All That

 

We’ve seen more recently that customers are quick to provide their own survey or opinion on their latest customer experience with a product or service they purchased. You only have to wait a couple of minutes after the customer has left the store and it been blasted on social media or left in a Google Review. You’re either lucky or not so lucky, depending on the customer’s experience if it goes viral or not. Regardless, you’ve lost at least one lifelong customer, if not hundreds or thousands more.

In Shaun Belding’s article, “The $62 Billion Reason to Improve Your Customer Experience”, he explained how United Airlines lost $770 million dollars in just a few days when a video of Dr. David Dao being dragged out of his seat went viral. All it took was one person to share the video on social media with a few key followers and the wildfire was set in motion. It’s important that you are putting your customers’ needs and request first, whether a mistake was made with their order, or how they felt they were treated with their service. Always remember that a customer is minutes away from raving or raging about their customer experience in a Google Review or on social media.


Love Your Customers

Of course, there are a few people that no matter how you try and right a situation (sometimes there really was no situation to begin with) will always blast a negative opinion on social media. That’s why it’s important to proactively provide that positive initial interaction with them, whether it’s their first or one-hundredth time. Your demeanor means everything in terms of conversing and interact with them.

For best results, it’s best to put yourself in your customer’s shoes so you can better understand them and empathize with their need or struggle. Being in that consumer-mindset will help you believe in doing the right thing when it comes to your customers, or the people you are trying to help. Keep in mind that we are all human and mistakes do happen. Whether you are the provider or receiver of a product or service, let’s keep this in mind and always try and make the best of everything. Remember, we have one mouth, but two ears. Listen more. Acknowledge any mix-up, provide (or accept) the apology and move the conversation into the next positive phase of the transaction, most importantly the relationship.


Measure the Customer Experience

In order to continue to build your brand’s attraction and loyalty, a positive customer experience is the key each and every time. There is no exception. Your customers are your best marketing and salespeople for your business! Once you understand and embrace this, you will be on your way to growing a strong flourishing business with continued referrals for years to come. The same goes for a negative experience. Not only could you lose that customer, but many others that may know or read about their poor experience. Keep the following in mind as you measure the customer experience:

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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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