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  • Latest Articles

    Do more work faster with these unusual productivity hacks

    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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

    1. Play games

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

    2. Go green

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

    3. Swap desks

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

    4. Roll the story dice

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

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

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

    1. Play games

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

    2. Go green

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

    3. Swap desks

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

    4. Roll the story dice

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

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

    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    Five of the coolest big data projects to inspire you

    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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

    Mining for data

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

    Map to success

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

    Saving trees

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

    Improving education

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

    Falling Fruit

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

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


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

    Mining for data

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

    Map to success

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

    Saving trees

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

    Improving education

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

    Falling Fruit

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

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

    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    What are your customers telling you?

    Monday, April 14, 2014

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

    The online experience

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

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

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

    Wearing the customer's shoes

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

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

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

    Examining past behaviours

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

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

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

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

    The online experience

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

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

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

    Wearing the customer's shoes

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

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

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

    Examining past behaviours

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

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

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

    10 predictions for the future of work

    Monday, April 07, 2014

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

    1. Bring your own device

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

    2. Why not choose your own workspace too? 

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

    3. Get used to group projects

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

    4. I, worker

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

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

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

    6. Gen Y will be running the show

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

    7. Your boss will give you shoulder massages

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

    8. Permanent jobs will become extinct

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

    9. Pay will be totally merit based  

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

    10. You’ll get paid to play games

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

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

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

    1. Bring your own device

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

    2. Why not choose your own workspace too? 

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

    3. Get used to group projects

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

    4. I, worker

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

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

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

    6. Gen Y will be running the show

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

    7. Your boss will give you shoulder massages

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

    8. Permanent jobs will become extinct

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

    9. Pay will be totally merit based  

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

    10. You’ll get paid to play games

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

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

    Monday, April 07, 2014

    Five tips to escape the notice of hackers

    Thursday, April 24, 2014

    It seems that today's headlines are rife with big-name security breaches, including that of major retailer Target and, more recently, Kickstarter. But it's not just the big guys who are at risk – businesses of all sizes can become the unwitting victims of hackers due to weaknesses in their IT infrastructure or just plain oversight. 

    While it's impossible to entirely eliminate the threat of malicious activity, here are five things you can do to escape the notice of hackers and minimise the risk of becoming another statistic.

    1. Perform regular software updates

    Systems that aren't updated on a regular basis can reveal security holes that are particularly vulnerable to hackers. To stay protected, be sure to set your computers to receive automatic software updates and install them regularly, especially for operating systems, virus protection and web browsers. Note: if you are unsure how a particular update will affect your system, do some research online before testing it.

    2. Run a network penetration test

    Because all hacking attempts occur at an entry point in a system, doing a penetration test to identify vulnerable areas in your network will assist you in fortifying your business against both external and internal threats. Penetration tests are usually performed by a team of IT experts using a combination of automated tools as well as real-life experience, so pick your testers carefully to ensure they have the right credentials for the job.

    3. Clean up your code

    Hackers are skilled at finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in website source code. As such, experts recommend that you:
    • Remove all user comments and names from your code as these can give enough clues to allow hackers to crack into your site.
    • Prevent SQL injection attacks by locking down your database and only allowing appropriate values to be returned by a database website query.
    • Remove or change all test, sample and default pages that come with web server applications.

    4. Always use strong passwords

    Perhaps not surprisingly, 80 per cent of cyber-attacks revolve around weak or stolen credentials. Fortunately, creating strong passwords is one of the simplest ways to protect your business against hackers. Good passwords should be at least eight characters long, should not contain a complete word and should include a combination of alphanumeric characters and symbols. Some experts recommend changing passwords as frequently as once a month.

    5. Create a user-awareness campaign

    Your organisation can have the best security policies in the world, but they won't do much good if people aren't aware of them. Get your employees on board with an ongoing security-awareness campaign and make sure they understand the importance of good security practices, for instance, with periodic quizzes or simulated phishing emails.

    With hacking techniques becoming more sophisticated each day, businesses everywhere can no longer look away when it comes to protecting their security. By being proactive and following these and other steps, you can go a long way in helping your business escape the watchful eye of hackers.

    It seems that today's headlines are rife with big-name security breaches, including that of major retailer Target and, more recently, Kickstarter. But it's not just the big guys who are at risk – businesses of all sizes can become the unwitting victims of hackers due to weaknesses in their IT infrastructure or just plain oversight. 

    While it's impossible to entirely eliminate the threat of malicious activity, here are five things you can do to escape the notice of hackers and minimise the risk of becoming another statistic.

    1. Perform regular software updates

    Systems that aren't updated on a regular basis can reveal security holes that are particularly vulnerable to hackers. To stay protected, be sure to set your computers to receive automatic software updates and install them regularly, especially for operating systems, virus protection and web browsers. Note: if you are unsure how a particular update will affect your system, do some research online before testing it.

    2. Run a network penetration test

    Because all hacking attempts occur at an entry point in a system, doing a penetration test to identify vulnerable areas in your network will assist you in fortifying your business against both external and internal threats. Penetration tests are usually performed by a team of IT experts using a combination of automated tools as well as real-life experience, so pick your testers carefully to ensure they have the right credentials for the job.

    3. Clean up your code

    Hackers are skilled at finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in website source code. As such, experts recommend that you:
    • Remove all user comments and names from your code as these can give enough clues to allow hackers to crack into your site.
    • Prevent SQL injection attacks by locking down your database and only allowing appropriate values to be returned by a database website query.
    • Remove or change all test, sample and default pages that come with web server applications.

    4. Always use strong passwords

    Perhaps not surprisingly, 80 per cent of cyber-attacks revolve around weak or stolen credentials. Fortunately, creating strong passwords is one of the simplest ways to protect your business against hackers. Good passwords should be at least eight characters long, should not contain a complete word and should include a combination of alphanumeric characters and symbols. Some experts recommend changing passwords as frequently as once a month.

    5. Create a user-awareness campaign

    Your organisation can have the best security policies in the world, but they won't do much good if people aren't aware of them. Get your employees on board with an ongoing security-awareness campaign and make sure they understand the importance of good security practices, for instance, with periodic quizzes or simulated phishing emails.

    With hacking techniques becoming more sophisticated each day, businesses everywhere can no longer look away when it comes to protecting their security. By being proactive and following these and other steps, you can go a long way in helping your business escape the watchful eye of hackers.

    Thursday, April 24, 2014

    Five ways tablets can help you win business

    Wednesday, April 23, 2014

    It’s amazing to think that a device that barely existed less than five years ago is now an essential part of our work and home lives. Here are five ways tablets can help your sales team win business.

    1. Readiness

    A tablet doesn’t require a long boot-up time. There’s no scrambling around to find cables and hook up a laptop to a conference room projector. A tablet is as immediate and accessible as a brochure – you simply pull it out and it’s ready. Make sure you preload it with all the material you need, particularly large video files, in case wireless access isn’t optimal (or available) in your meeting location.

    2. Intimacy

    A tablet’s smaller form doesn’t get in the way of person-to-person conversations in the same way a large screen does. It becomes more of a conversation than a presentation. You can also pass it from person to person, physically engaging them in your demo. You can use a tablet in any setting, whether a café or regular meeting room. It’s also a great way to videoconference in a third person, wherever you are.

    3. Interactivity

    Products and features can be demonstrated in a much more compelling way on a touchscreen tablet than on a traditional display. Potential buyers can ‘touch’ and ‘swipe’ products and explore them manually, whether rotating 3D images and animations or exploring a website or software demonstration. As the saying goes: show, don’t tell.

    4. Information

    Tablets are also great for recording client data. You can use them to take photos and record meeting notes and easily share this information with colleagues and clients immediately. Tablets are also great for carrying out interactive and location-based surveys, as well as sending the results back to HQ.

    5. Immediacy 

    As well as helping you close deals faster, sales staff can also instantly submit orders through a tablet, further speeding up the sales process. The tablet is your till – innovative software can handle payment and invoicing straight away with no need for delays that might see intentions cool off.

    To fully reap the benefits of tablets in sales, Forrester says the entire sales process itself must be reengineered, from training sales reps to developing new customer-facing software and materials. But if this can be achieved, tablets can generate “tangible improvements in sales performance”.

    According to Sales Management Association research, 70 per cent of executives in sales organisations using tablets are already seeing a positive return on their investment. More than 90 per cent of sales organisations plan to invest more in tablets in the coming year. Will your company be among them?

    It’s amazing to think that a device that barely existed less than five years ago is now an essential part of our work and home lives. Here are five ways tablets can help your sales team win business.

    1. Readiness

    A tablet doesn’t require a long boot-up time. There’s no scrambling around to find cables and hook up a laptop to a conference room projector. A tablet is as immediate and accessible as a brochure – you simply pull it out and it’s ready. Make sure you preload it with all the material you need, particularly large video files, in case wireless access isn’t optimal (or available) in your meeting location.

    2. Intimacy

    A tablet’s smaller form doesn’t get in the way of person-to-person conversations in the same way a large screen does. It becomes more of a conversation than a presentation. You can also pass it from person to person, physically engaging them in your demo. You can use a tablet in any setting, whether a café or regular meeting room. It’s also a great way to videoconference in a third person, wherever you are.

    3. Interactivity

    Products and features can be demonstrated in a much more compelling way on a touchscreen tablet than on a traditional display. Potential buyers can ‘touch’ and ‘swipe’ products and explore them manually, whether rotating 3D images and animations or exploring a website or software demonstration. As the saying goes: show, don’t tell.

    4. Information

    Tablets are also great for recording client data. You can use them to take photos and record meeting notes and easily share this information with colleagues and clients immediately. Tablets are also great for carrying out interactive and location-based surveys, as well as sending the results back to HQ.

    5. Immediacy 

    As well as helping you close deals faster, sales staff can also instantly submit orders through a tablet, further speeding up the sales process. The tablet is your till – innovative software can handle payment and invoicing straight away with no need for delays that might see intentions cool off.

    To fully reap the benefits of tablets in sales, Forrester says the entire sales process itself must be reengineered, from training sales reps to developing new customer-facing software and materials. But if this can be achieved, tablets can generate “tangible improvements in sales performance”.

    According to Sales Management Association research, 70 per cent of executives in sales organisations using tablets are already seeing a positive return on their investment. More than 90 per cent of sales organisations plan to invest more in tablets in the coming year. Will your company be among them?

    Wednesday, April 23, 2014

    Could green technology one day power business?

    Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    From solar powered phones to mini windmills, everyone is jumping on the green bandwagon. With continuing pressure to minimise our carbon footprint and energy costs, it’s no wonder futuristic energy technologies are generating a lot of excitement. Here are four interesting developments in green energy. 

    Micro windmills

    Wind farms have been controversial due to their size and visibility, but micro windmills are so tiny they can fit on a grain of rice. The aim is to charge mobile phone batteries using minimal wind, even waving your arm should be enough. They also anticipate that flat panels with thousands of micro windmills could be mounted onto buildings to harvest energy for lighting, security or wireless communication – definitely one way for businesses to cut their carbon footprint.

    Midnight "sun"

    Solar energy is great, except it doesn’t work in the dark. However, scientists are now working on a way to harvest energy from Earth's infrared emissions to outer space. Thanks to the sun’s heat, the planet is warm compared to the freezing vacuum beyond, and this heat imbalance could be transformed into thermoelectric power. This would help resolve the issue of storing solar energy harvested during the day to use power at night.

    Pterofin technology

    Pterofin uses an oscillating wing to generate energy using natural air or water currents. The wind-turbine technology is based on biomimicry – copying what birds and fishes do naturally. Its founder essentially reverse engineered the movement of a fish’s dorsal fin. Researchers estimate that one six foot Pterofin placed on a roof could fulfil a quarter of household energy needs. 

    Cold fusion

    The Holy Grail of energy sources, cold fusion is gradually inching towards commercialisation. It’s claimed that a desktop-sized reactor could generate unlimited energy, but it may be a while before people are comfortable having nuclear reactors around the place, albeit "LENRs" – low-energy nuclear reactors. Whatever happens, commercially available cold fusion could transform the entire world economy as we know it, breaking our reliance on fossil fuels once and for all.

    While we await these wonders, there’s still a lot to be done to improve current energy technology. Better efficiency, better battery life and better storage are all in the pipeline.

    We can also do better with what we’ve got. A study suggests Europe could cut its carbon emissions by 40 per cent by using only low-cost, existing technology. And in Australia, merely investing in ICT is estimated to cut national carbon emissions by up to five per cent.

    From solar powered phones to mini windmills, everyone is jumping on the green bandwagon. With continuing pressure to minimise our carbon footprint and energy costs, it’s no wonder futuristic energy technologies are generating a lot of excitement. Here are four interesting developments in green energy. 

    Micro windmills

    Wind farms have been controversial due to their size and visibility, but micro windmills are so tiny they can fit on a grain of rice. The aim is to charge mobile phone batteries using minimal wind, even waving your arm should be enough. They also anticipate that flat panels with thousands of micro windmills could be mounted onto buildings to harvest energy for lighting, security or wireless communication – definitely one way for businesses to cut their carbon footprint.

    Midnight "sun"

    Solar energy is great, except it doesn’t work in the dark. However, scientists are now working on a way to harvest energy from Earth's infrared emissions to outer space. Thanks to the sun’s heat, the planet is warm compared to the freezing vacuum beyond, and this heat imbalance could be transformed into thermoelectric power. This would help resolve the issue of storing solar energy harvested during the day to use power at night.

    Pterofin technology

    Pterofin uses an oscillating wing to generate energy using natural air or water currents. The wind-turbine technology is based on biomimicry – copying what birds and fishes do naturally. Its founder essentially reverse engineered the movement of a fish’s dorsal fin. Researchers estimate that one six foot Pterofin placed on a roof could fulfil a quarter of household energy needs. 

    Cold fusion

    The Holy Grail of energy sources, cold fusion is gradually inching towards commercialisation. It’s claimed that a desktop-sized reactor could generate unlimited energy, but it may be a while before people are comfortable having nuclear reactors around the place, albeit "LENRs" – low-energy nuclear reactors. Whatever happens, commercially available cold fusion could transform the entire world economy as we know it, breaking our reliance on fossil fuels once and for all.

    While we await these wonders, there’s still a lot to be done to improve current energy technology. Better efficiency, better battery life and better storage are all in the pipeline.

    We can also do better with what we’ve got. A study suggests Europe could cut its carbon emissions by 40 per cent by using only low-cost, existing technology. And in Australia, merely investing in ICT is estimated to cut national carbon emissions by up to five per cent.
    Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    Making virtualisation work for your business

    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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

    What is virtualisation?

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

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

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

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

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

    The benefits of virtualisation

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

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

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

    Most organisations have yet to embrace virtualisation

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

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

    Making virtualisation efficient for your enterprise

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

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

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

    What is virtualisation?

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

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

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

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

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

    The benefits of virtualisation

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

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

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

    Most organisations have yet to embrace virtualisation

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

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

    Making virtualisation efficient for your enterprise

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

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

    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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