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Archive for July, 2011

Back in the 1990s I visited a former colleague in New York City and we went to a Broadway show that was a tribute to Stephen Sondheim called “Putting It Together.”  I was unable to resist seeing this show given that Julie Andrews (my favorite) was one of the performers. You are probably past the point of asking yourself “what does a Broadway show have to do with business?”

You know that I frequently tie in a personal story or analogy with a business topic. And you also know that I am in charge of the soft side (i.e. non-technical) of our IT business – marketing, sales, client and vendor relationships for which I am grateful and I know that our clients are grateful that I am not touching their technology. As time goes on and my experience and insights into the world of marketing expand, I am forever reminded that it’s a “step by step” process to put all my efforts together in a cohesive manner. As with a website or business in general, marketing is a living and breathing work in progress; it’s very dynamic.

Last month I wrote about organizing my photos and getting my backyard into order. This month I will let you in on my newest task for organizing which will allow me to manage all of my marketing and business activities at a higher and dynamic level.  It definitely would receive a score of “10” from those who are more visual (versus auditory or kinesthetic). The exciting part of my creation in progress is that Phil and I will have a more efficient tool for being more productive with the soft side of our business. And, Phil is more visual when it comes to retention of information. When I mention someone’s name, he may have a blank look on his face. But when I give him some visual information like the per-son’s office, his recall is heightened.

This tool which I am dedicated to working for us is called a “Marketing Wall.” I cannot take credit for this idea because it belongs to my peer Rich Crockett back in Pennsylvania. Below is a photo of my original incarnation of the CMIT Denver marketing wall (I had a large white board and index cards). It worked for displaying the different types of activities and projects in the works or to be developed; however, it was not managed well by yours truly. There are dynamic and static elements to this “wall.”

The most dynamic element to this Marketing Wall must be the management of all of the content by myself AND the daily huddle with Phil to review what is happening in the world of marketing. The importance of backing into all the details for what I need to manage the multiple layers of marketing is not falling on deaf ears. There is the electronic side to managing my marketing activites and I will need to be diligent and consistent in always coming back to the Wall on a daily basis.

Phil has told me that I enjoy projects like this and what I must remind myself is that assembling a new and improved Marketing Wall, version 2.0 is not the end product. The Wall is a means to an end (thank you Niccolo Macchiavelli) and if it makes the ongoing process of managing my firm’s marketing activities more fun and productive (and therefore revenue generating), that will make it all worthwhile. And, with a new 4’ x 8’ marketing wall, it will bring more life to my office for I cannot depend on my custom Disney drawings to appeal to everyone who enters my office (as much as I think they should always generate conversation).

A Daily Work In Progress

 

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Since we are on the subject of the cloud, why not expand into an important topic – social networking safety. I have been as guilty as many others (and yes, I am in the technology consulting business as a non-technical participant) of clicking on what seems to be “safe” links. So far, I have been lucky. Too many others have not been so lucky. Just make sure to “think before you click.”

Thanks to my Microsoft at Business resource articles and for this purpose, the Microsoft Safety & Security Center, I have 11 tips for you to safely navigate in the social networking galaxy.

Social networking websites like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and Windows Live Spaces are services people can use to connect with others to share information like photos, videos, and personal messages. As the popularity of these social sites grows, so do the risks of using them. Hackers, spammers, virus writers, identity thieves, and other criminals follow the traffic.

Read these 11 tips to help protect yourself when you use social networks (click here to read the article in its entirety).

  1. Use caution when you click links.
  2. Know what you’ve posted about yourself.
  3. Don’t trust that a message is really from who it says it’s from.
  4.  To avoid giving away email addresses of your friends, do not allow social networking services to scan your email address.
  5. Type the address of your social networking site directly into your browser or use your personal bookmarks.
  6. Be selective about who you accept as a friend on a social network.
  7. Choose your social network carefully.
  8. Assume that everything you put on a social networking site is permanent.
  9. Be careful about installing extras on your site.
  10. Think twice before you use social networking sites at work.
  11. Talk to and with your kids about social networking.

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Have you seen the Microsoft commercial on TV about “To The Cloud?”  It seems like Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear should be exclaiming “To The Cloud and Beyond?! So, how frequently do you hear someone talking about “the cloud?”

Explaining the cloud is tough. Using it is easy.

If you don’t have an iPad, you certainly know someone who does (my 14 year old has the original version). So you know that when you buy a song from the iTunes store, you put it on your computer (PC or Mac) and can add it on one other device, usually your iPod. If you introduce another device to the mix, Apple says no-no, only two devices.

All of that changed last month. Now when you buy a song, you can put it on iCloud, Apple’s music storage server in the “cloud.” The best part is you can access it from any device now, because when you log in you are identified as the owner of the song. That’s the cloud. Microsoft has had free storage available for Windows Live users for several years; it’s called “Skydrive.” I use Skydrive for storing select files and as well as the Hotmail calendar (through Windows Live) for our extended family shared calendar.

Wait, you say, I don’t have a Mac or iPod. Okay, fair enough. That box that sits on the floor under your desk or in the server room can be moved to the cloud. Your operating system, files and software have “left the building” and you connect to them through the Internet. Now someone else can worry about patches and virus protection and updating software. That’s the cloud.

The best part is that you can choose the device you want to use to access the cloud. It can be very device agnostic. Want to connect via Blackberry? Go ahead! iPad? Go for it! iPhone? Yep! Slate tablet? Sure, have at it!

It’s not about the hardware and maintenance anymore; it’s about the value of up-time and reliability.

And guess what, you are already using the cloud and probably don’t even think about it.

Do you use Facebook? That’s in the cloud. Do you watch videos on YouTube? Do you have a Gmail account or a Yahoo Home page? That’s the cloud. How about when you use Skype for chatting (text or video) with family and friends? That’s in the cloud. Ever go to your bank’s website to look up something or make an electronic transfer? Yep, that’s in the cloud too.

What about those pictures you send to Walgreens and pick up two hours later at the Walgreens of your choice? Oh, and what about Netflix (I am a fan of this), movies on demand with Comcast or your cable tv provider? That’s the cloud.

Yikes! It’s everywhere. We can all hope that all of these different clouds are cumulus and not storm clouds like we experienced last week here in Denver.

The cloud is a pretty simple concept. You can get to your files and applications from anywhere on the planet, at any time, and on almost any device. It really doesn’t matter if it’s a laptop, iPad or a Blackberry. The device is just your preferred tool to retrieve your information.

For the first time, the consumer will likely arrive at the cloud fully equipped before business gets on board; but once getting on board, it’s going to move fast.

Using a full cloud solution you are freed of worrying, “do I need to upgrade my server” or “does my PC talk to my Mac.” Just connect to the Internet and work from anywhere.

The cloud offers some obvious advantages:

  • You can save money on support, equipment and software since they are taken care of by the cloud provider.
  • It’s like electricity; it’s metered. You just pay for what you use.
  • Instant backups do away with worry about data loss. And there are multiple datacenter locations for redundancy backups.
  • No more dreading “patch Tuesday” and “will my PC work on Wednesday”.
  • A failed server won’t put you out of business.

Now, not every situation is perfect for the cloud:

  • You may have very specific line-of-business software that can’t be hosted in the cloud – at least not yet.
  • Or you may need a commercial grade broadband connection, which makes it more costly to have information in the cloud.

We have been investing our time working on how this fundamental change will help our current and future clients as well as our business. We will continue to intersperse more about the cloud on an ongoing basis in our e-newsletters, blogs, website and print newsletters because it’s not a fad, it’s a trend. Please email your questions and thoughts to me at dbush@cmitsolutions.com. If you are interested in a cloud assessment, let us know. We are cloud integrators and always have the business in mind versus the latest technology when making our recommendations.

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