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Oct 20
Office 365 Tricks and Treats

​Is your office so haunted by ghastly surprises that it seems like it's Halloween every day? Forget cloves of garlic and silver bullets, Office 365 can help you get rid of:

1.       Vampires sucking the blood out of your productivity

Do your presentations lack life and look pale? The trick with Office 365 is to use Apps for Office. Download these apps from the Office store apps, plug them into Office  and you quickly find maps, images, definitions, exchange rates and much, much more without leaving PowerPoint, Outlook or Word. Use Apps for Office to get the blood flowing again in your documents.

 

2.       Witches brewing your email and file servers

 

Don't let your servers melt down in server rooms or data centers that are not designed properly. The treat with Office 365 is that it resides in Microsoft data centers where server cooling -- including the innovative use of outside air -- is not an afterthought, but an integral part of the design.


 

3.       Goblins smashing up your documents

​​

Do uninvited guests sabotage your shared documents? Do you have no way back to your original version? Do you have to start over? The trick with enterprise Office 365 is that it comes with SkyDrive so you can version control your documents and determine who can view and/or edit your documents.

 

4.       Headless Horseman chasing you through the hallways

 

Do your documents look like they've lost their heads when you try to view them on other online document viewers? The treat with Office 365 is that your documents retain their integrity when you open them with Office 365.

 

5.       Bats biting their way through your computers

 

What do you do if your PC or device goes dead while you're editing a document? The trick with Office 365 is that you can switch to a different device and continue working exactly from where you left off.

 

6.       Gargoyles providing no real office security

 

Is your data only protected by a façade of security? The treat with Office 365 is that it offers world-class Defence In Depth physical and virtual security at their data centers. With Office 365, anti-malware and anti-spam is built right in.


 

7.       Little devils taking down your internet connection

 

Cloud applications with no desktop versions leave you fuming mad when you have no internet connection. The trick with Office 365 is that you can work on your documents even when the internet is down. Once you have vanquished the demons and re-established your control of your connection, your documents will sync with the cloud and you can access them from other devices.

 

8.       Zombies sucking out the soul of your workers

 

How reliable are your cloud applications? What do your workers do when the applications go down? Stop having your workers walk around like zombies. The treat with Office 365 is that it guarantees 99.9% uptime and that guarantee is financially backed.

 

9.       Werewolves taking over the workplace

 

The sun never goes down with Office 365. The trick with Office 365 is that it comes with global 24/7 support, so your workers are never going to start howling at the moon when they can't get answers even when they're on their fifth cup of coffee in the middle of the night making last minutes changes to sales presentation the next day.

 

10.   Mummies in the IT Department

Is your IT staff so tightly bundled up by legislation and compliance issues that they can barely produce any business results. The treat with Office 365 is that compliance is easier because Microsoft is permanently attaining certifications and attestations such as ISO 27001 and SSAE 16 and keeping up with updates.​

Sep 27
CapApex To Deliver Keynote Speech at Global Business Conference

New York, NY – CapApex LLC, an enterprise software consulting company, announced today that CEO Carlos Pardo will be delivering the keynote speech at the Global Business and Strategic Mobile Talent conference on October 17th in New York City. This full-day conference will take place at the Bryant Park Hotel in midtown Manhattan and will bring together leaders in the new landscape of business across borders. Mr. Pardo will be speaking about cloud computing and the opportunities it affords companies transacting global business. CapApex has also reserved a section outside the speaking room to foster discussion between conference delegates on their understanding and concerns about cloud computing in the global workplace.

 

About CapApex LLC

CapApex was created to help companies that traditionally would struggle with enterprise software implementation and were ultimately unsatisfied with the results. Many of these implementation projects placed an unrealistic and unnecessary workload on the people in the business. The results, unfortunately, were far too often projects that were over-budget, under-scope and low on quality. CapApex believes that implementing enterprise software should not only provide an excellent return on investment but also a realistic path to success. The goal is to provide companies with the tools and processes that fit the business as well as the technology.

 

Contact

To learn more about this conference and to reserve a spot, please contact:

CapApex
521 Fifth Ave., 17th Floor
New York, NY 10175
Office: (212) 292-4340
Fax:    (212) 292-4595
info@capapex.com

Sep 24
6 Steps to Improving Business Performance

​It's tough trying to figure out why your company is not performing as it should. You have probably implemented policies and procedures specifically designed to improve business performance. Your employees surely are working as hard as anyone possibly could. And still the results are not there. What should you do? Consider the following:

1.       Do not blindly pursue better performance at all costs

There may be legitimate reasons for poor performance -- perhaps legislation or regulation that require you to create and approve endless paper trails that slow down your processes. Of course, you will still want to analyze whether you could automate these processes, outsource them or introduce some other procedure to improve performance. However, be ready to acknowledge that there may be activities where no improvement is possible.

2.       Focus on broken processes not bottlenecks

Yes, bottleneck resolution can give you some short-term benefit and sometimes may even provide the same solution as a process driven analysis. However, focusing on the bottleneck can lead to unnecessarily widening the bottleneck whereas the core problem may lie somewhere else -- perhaps the bottle is too wide or you've tilted the bottle too heavily. You may find, for example, that credit limit approvals are piling up on the approver's (virtual) desk and customer orders are, thus, stalled. Focusing solely on the bottleneck may lead to hiring a second approver to share the workload or providing the approver with new tools to help her approve (or reject) more credit limit requests per hour. However, if you focus on the process and its goals (reducing risk and speeding up order processing amongst others) you may discover that the core problem is not the bottleneck. Perhaps the approval task was poorly designed to be carried out only at certain times whereas the approver could be processing the requests as they come in (reducing the angle of the bottle). Perhaps the rule for requiring credit limit approvals is too inclusive (you're holding up perfectly trustworthy customer orders and, thus, widening the bottle more than necessary). Of course, focusing on where process has broken down means completely understanding your processes and their goals.

3.       Analyze the problem

You need a good grasp of the causal links that are degrading performance of certain activities. You need to know the critical path of the process. In other words, take a look at:

  • All the activities that make up the process
  • How long the activities take to execute
  • Dependencies between the activities
  • Resources (people, software, machines, etc.) required to perform the activities
  • Milestones

You need to examine if there are holes in the process. If activity B depends on activity A terminating you need to ensure that the person who executes activity B is available when activity A is completed.

4.       Diagram your solution

A great way to work with processes (and have other people understand them) is to visualize them using diagrams. This is not easy, but it is a task that will help you streamline your processes. If you don't streamline, your diagrams (with all the different decision branches) could stretch over dozens of pages. Your goal is reduce your sub-processes into manageable one-page diagrams. There are BPM (business process management) tools that can help you map out processes, but in order to diagram your solution you could use Visio or other graphical tools.

5.       Test the solution

You may have defined some issues with your current processes and discovered ways to resolve the issues, but until you test them you won't know for certain that they work and that they don't cause other (maybe even larger) problems.

6.       Automate and test again

Once you tested your solutions, investigate whether there are any opportunities to get even bigger gains by automating some or all of the process activities (and if you find some, don't forget to test the process again). Look for tools that automate activities that are rote, prone to human error and time consuming. BPM (business process management) tools can provide a cost and time savings. Review those on the market. There are several and they each have their strong points. But even if you don't have the team or budget to purchase a BPM tool, you can automate processes with the tools you may already have -- Outlook, SharePoint, even Windows come with the ability to automate certain activities.

Aug 20
Are online passwords safe?

​Despite promising efforts to implement a better method, today's online security relies primarily on passwords.

But how confident can we be that our data, activities and, to some extent, our daily lives are secure from prying eyes? Can we continue to believe our data is well protected when we keep hearing about high profile compromises to some of the most well known and commonly used websites? Here are some recent examples of compromised passwords in the news:

Of course, we will never achieve 100% security online (or offline, for that matter) and, in the end, we depend on the quality of security provided by the websites to which we subscribe, but there are ways we can make it better. First, let's look at the wrong way.


What is the most recommended (but wrong) strategy for managing passwords?

 

The well-meaning -- but, ultimately, incorrect – advice given by many security experts is to memorize a set of strong passwords.

Four phenomena conspire against this strategy.

1. Strong passwords are difficult to memorize. Strong passwords should appear to be random characters (preferably a combination of letters, number and special characters). Strong passwords should never have words, names or any other recognizable set of consecutive letters or numbers (eg. phone number or date of birth). According to many security experts, strong passwords should be at least 16 characters long. Unfortunately, the unwanted side effect of strong passwords is that they not only block access to potential intruders but also to the password owners themselves. The more difficult it is to recognize (and guess) a password, the more difficult it is for the password owner to memorize it. Ultimately, people resort to weak passwords that they can remember.

2. Strong password policies often require overly frequent password changes. This makes it even more difficult to remember strong passwords because by the time one has practiced the password enough to memorize it, one needs to change it. This causes most people to make their password simple or use a password that ends in a number that is incremented on every password change. Either method of complying with a frequent password change policy reduces, rather than increases, the security that one expects strong passwords to provide. 

3. Strong password policies differ between websites. Devising a system to simplify password memorization runs the risk of subscribing to a new online account with different password rules. For example, one account may forbid passwords with special characters and another may require them. Trying to adapt to new and contradictory rules only makes the task of memorizing the set of passwords that much harder.

4. Strong passwords should never be reused. If the same password has been set for multiple online accounts, once one account is compromised so are all the others. But with so many online accounts (email, banking, credit cards, social media sites and many others) how can anyone but savants memorize them all when using strong passwords?

What is the net result of this strong password policy?

The net result of all four of these issues is that one rarely achieves the level of security expected from strong passwords and, in the end, most people resort to weak passwords.

And that just leads to this: in a recent case of thousands of compromised web servers detailed in EWeek, the gaping hole in the security was weak passwords. The article quotes Matt Bing, senior research engineer for Arbor Networks: "If you actually look at the passwords that successfully logged on to these sites, they are the weakest of the weak—ones like 'admin' and '123456'"

Is there a way out?

Yes. There is a way out of this arduous memorization boot camp. It is possible to have unique strong passwords without having to memorize them all.

How?

Writing them down!

What? Say that again.

Experts tells us repeatedly never to write down our passwords. Unfortunately, this is bad advice. It is advice that essentially overwhelms people's capacity to memorize and motivates them to use weak passwords. Good advice should provide a realistic chance of success.
 
The irony is that our addiction for weak passwords -- which we know is wrong, and that we condemn vehemently in others, and that we just can't kick -- is only baited by the unrealistic expectations of strong password policies.

The proper advice is to write passwords down in a secure way. Of course, it is a terrible idea to write one's password on a sticky note and affix it to one's monitor. However, if one writes passwords down in a little black book locked in a drawer inside a locked office or home, then those passwords will be very secure. They will certainly much less vulnerable than weak passwords that are easy to memorize or guess.

Fortunately, there are two strong methods for recording passwords. These methods are even more secure than recording passwords in a little black book stored in a locked drawer. They are using password software and password cards. Both of these methods have their pros and cons.

1. Use password management software

There are several popular password management applications that can keep one's passwords away from prying eyes while accommodating the effective creation and use of strong passwords.

Password management software (www.lastpass.com, www.keepass.info, www.agilebits.com/onepassword among others) creates and stores strong passwords in their own database. This feature means that the user never needs to remember a password again (except for the password used to unlock the list of passwords). It also means that using complex passwords with many characters does not require additional effort compared to short simple passwords. An added benefit is that one can sync passwords across many devices. Most of these password managers have the ability to make the passwords available on one's laptop, smartphone and tablet. One can even use passwords on devices not owned by the user (for example, when borrowing a friend's laptop). All the user needs is just one strong password. Having the passwords stored in software is essentially equivalent to having them written down. The only difference is that they are written electronically rather than on paper and that they need a master password to decrypt them. For most people, memorizing just one strong password is even easier than memorizing dozens of weak passwords.

There are two disadvantages to this approach. The first disadvantage is that there is only one line of defense. If the master password is compromised, so is the whole set of passwords. The second disadvantage is that most of these software packages store the passwords online. Even with encryption, online databases of passwords can be vulnerable to sophisticated attacks. If this is a concern, then the next method may be preferable.

2. Use password cards

A password card (www.passwordcard.org, www.rainbowcards.org, www.grc.com/offthegrid.htm and many others) is a matrix of random characters that can contain a nearly infinite combination of passwords. The main drawback of this system is that the user must enter the password manually rather than have it entered automatically by the software (or copying and pasting from the software). However, the very compelling benefit is that the passwords are not stored in any discoverable, hackable online database.

All one needs to do is have a starting point for the passwords and essentially random, unique passwords are now available for use without the need to memorize them.

The password card can be kept in one's wallet, for easy and always available use. The card can also be stored as an image on one's computer, cellphone or even on one's online file storage space (Dropbox, SkyDrive, SpiderOak, etc). Put a copy in one's safety deposit box and the passwords will never be lost!

Some have suggested that the passwords are vulnerable should one's card be stolen. On first sight it looks like there are only as many passwords as there are characters on the card to begin the password with. However, this would only be true if passwords could only be created from a series of characters from left to right. There is no reason why the passwords must be created in a straight line of characters. Passwords could be created from diagonal, zigzag, spiral or any other patterns that one wishes to use. In addition, the passwords do not need to be the actual characters on the card. If the pattern chosen results in a list of characters such as wr4FS3vx, the actual password could be a list of characters offset from the characters on the card. The offset could be the next character in the alphabet and the next highest number. In this case, characters on the card (wr4FS3vx) would become xs5GT4wy. Capitalization could be reversed (wr4FS3vx would become WR4fs3VX. The actual passwords could use the next character to the left on the keyboard. There are so many ways that one could obfuscate the passwords that even losing the card, having it stolen, or even taping it to one's monitor would not reveal what the passwords are. 

Admittedly, there is an initial short period to become accustomed to decoding the passwords from the card. However, it becomes second nature quickly. 

A quick note on biometric devices

Biometric devices such as fingerprint readers can also provide access to online accounts. In the future, this may be the way to go for password management. But for now it's not a complete solution for password management. Reliability issues aside, not all sites are compatible with the readers and the method is not portable. A fingerprint reader built into a computer only manages passwords for that computer, not other devices (other computers, smart phones/watches, tablets, etc.) Even if the fingerprint reader is also an USB device, it will need to carried around and be configured on every machine from which one wants to access one's accounts. One's online life becomes completely dependent on that reader.

Caution: email account security is more important than one may think

Be careful if assigning different levels of security to different accounts. For instance, some people may think they need strong security only on financial accounts but not on email accounts.

Interestingly enough, other online account security often depends on the level of security on email accounts. Most online accounts have a system for recovering passwords that sends instructions to one's email account on how to reset the password. If an attacker gains access to one's email account, now that attacker has the ability to reset all the other accounts that the email owner has associated to that email account. Email accounts should have at least as strong passwords as other accounts.

Don't strain your memory

Stop trying to memorize complex passwords. The best way to make and use a strong password for one's email account (and all other accounts) is to write the password down! Password management software or password cards are very effective ways to accomplish this.

Thank you

A big thank you to Michael Pardo who co-wrote this article and provided most of the subject matter and insight.

Aug 19
Is your Company Ready for Enterprise Software?

What is the best way to make sure that your enterprise software acquisition will be a success? Good preparation. Whether you are a novice or a seasoned buyer, before you make the leap and start your selection process, you should ask yourself the following questions:

1.       Do you know what you want?

Every day you will see marketing campaigns prodding companies into adopting the latest feature or technology. You may also feel pressured into following your competition in adopting new software. But neither of these should be your instigator. Enterprise software exists because it provides advantages to many companies, but the first question you ask shouldn't be:  What can this software provide? The question you should ask is: What do you need (or want)? Your customers may tell you if you cannot produce back order rates they will drop you. That's a need. You need to provide your customers with accurate back order rates. Maybe enterprise software can help. Twitter integration in an ERP may look impressive but if you have no business case for it, you are being misdirected. Business requirements discovery is an integral and preliminary task in an enterprise software implementation project, but, in fact, this should be done by your company long before you enter into discussions with a provider. What are the biggest problems at your company? Does your current software adequately handle your current needs? Is enterprise software the right solution or are there better ones?

2.       Have you studied the market?

You need to conduct a preliminary study to see whether taking on new software will solve current (and, possibly, future) problems. Beware not to be steered in the wrong direction by a flashy presentation of software. If you are not going to be driving off-road, don't be persuaded by the impressive features of a new 4x4 SUV.

3.       Do you understand the return on investment?

Determining return on investment is not easy. The providers you are considering may offer their own calculators, but in the end the data that is entered is yours and the results will only be as good as you are in determining how much time and money your current activities are costing you. Even if it's not completely rigorous, don't embark on an enterprise software implementation project until you have a good idea how much it's going to cost you and what benefits you can hope to receive from your investment.

4.       Do you have the budget?

So, at this point, you believe that your selected enterprise software package more than repays the cost of implementing. Beware: companies often run over their budgets in enterprise software implementations. You need a tight rein on this so be careful when determining the budget and do not forget to take into account unanticipated future costs. Adjust your ROI calculation? Maybe.  And, in the end, ask yourself: it may eventually repay itself, but can you afford it?

5.       Do you have sufficient internal resources?

Good providers will make implementation as easy as possible on your staff, but it will still require a significant investment in time from your employees. If your company is properly staffed, your employees are not sitting around waiting for an enterprise software project. How will you staff the project? Will you bring in temporary workers to take over some of the day-to-day duties of your project team? Will you outsource some of your project team functions? A provider can help you, but you need to make the proper determination of your staffing needs.

By answering these questions you can determine whether or not your company is ready to transition to or upgrade its enterprise software platform.  If you need further assistance in deciding what your company is ready for, please contact CapApex at 212-292-4340 or email info@capapex.com for a complimentary analysis.

Aug 14
4 Ways to Bridge the Communication Gap Between IT and Business

I would like to expand on an issue raised in yesterday's informative post at mrc's Cup of Joe Blog on business/IT alignment stumbling blocks and their solutions. The very concept of a business/IT dichotomy in itself perpetuates the myth that IT is not as integral a part of business as HR, Purchasing or any other department. One of the main reasons for this misperception and misalignment is: miscommunication.

This is not an easy issue to resolve. Let's face it: we don't have to search as far as interdepartmental exchanges to find communication problems. If you are like most people, you have had jobs were you didn't understand what your boss -- or even your colleague at the next desk -- was talking about. So what can we do to improve communication between departments? Here are some first steps:

1.       Common Vocabulary

It all starts with speaking the same language. One way to do this is to create a lexicon. This can be done informally – especially for small organizations – but it doesn't hurt to make it official and put it down on paper. Learning the lexicon should be one of the first tasks given to a new employee or project member. It's not enough to simply add it as a section to an encyclopedic Employee Handbook that no one ever consults. You will need to train your employees properly and your managers will need to ensure proper usage of your company's vocabulary. Maintaining the lexicon is not easy, but you shouldn't let it be daunting either. It requires good communication skills, and, more importantly, a good understanding of your company's business. In order for IT to engage properly with business, there must be a common understanding of the most fundamental terms used in the company. A term as basic as "customer", for example, can cause confusion if understood differently by different departments. Can an individual be a "customer"? What about a government agency? What about a supplier? It will all depend on the way your company conducts its business. But all parties will need to understand in order to work efficiently with each other. The only exception is if you are working on the Tower of Babel.

2.       Goal Alignment

Too often IT and business although working on the same project are in fact working towards different goals. On the surface, they may seem to be speaking the same language, but the underlying concepts are not aligned. What is the solution? Business cases. Remember IT is also part of the business so IT projects also need to have business cases. This is a common requirement at many companies, however, unfortunately a requirement is often left to the wayside once a project has been approved. A customer portal may be approved because of a requirement to have customers enter orders more quickly. However once the project begins, the business case (quicker sales order entry) is quickly forgotten and project members start concentrating on their particular objectives and practices. In the end, the portal is developed with many outstanding features however order entry is slow, confusing, and in the worst case completely missing (perhaps customers can consult orders but are not able to enter them). Everyone working on the project should know and understand the business case. It should not be lost anywhere in the communication chain from the project sponsor to the CFO to the financial project lead to the IT project lead to the development lead to the software developer. Good communication means that members of the team are working towards a common goal.

3.       Milestone alignment

Even if business and IT use the same language and seem to be moving toward to the same goal, if the milestones are not clear to both parties, there will always be arguments about how much progress has been made. With a common language and goals, business and IT will be better able to setup and approve milestones. In turn, this will allow them to judge together whether milestones have been achieved or not.​

4.       Shared documentation

Far too often, IT can't understand business documentation and business can't understand technical documentation. If IT and business share common project vocabulary, goals and milestones, the documentation should be shared and perhaps even (partially) written by both parties. We shouldn't expect that IT become experts in finance or vice-versa, but the project documents should contain a glossary and clearly state the business goal and how the goal will be attained. Of course the terms in the glossary should not be new for IT or business. It should be a refresher of agreed word usage.

Enabling better communication is not a one-off activity but a continuous cross-company effort. Good internal (and of course, external) communication is paramount to a business's ultimate success. In order to work together effectively, there must be tight communication between departments based on a common language and oriented towards shared documented goals.

Aug 09
Eight Benefits of Microsoft Office 365 – Moving Your Business to the Cloud

With cloud computing on the rise, more and more businesses are "moving to the cloud" for many reasons: to lower costs, enhance collaboration, and have the ability to work anytime anywhere on any device to name a few. The new Microsoft Office 365 is a popular and affordable solution to easily move your business to the cloud. Carlos Pardo, CEO of CapApex, an enterprise software consulting company, discusses why companies, big or small, should consider using Microsoft 365 and eight key benefits companies will receive.

Office 365 is a cloud-based service hosted by Microsoft that provides email, shared calendars, document sharing, instant messaging, and video conferencing. You don't need to install software. There are no networks or servers to set up. You are up and running immediately with world-class security, global 24/7 support, high-scalability and high-availability built in. With your complete Office in the cloud, you can use any device (from PCs to smartphones and tablets) from any location to access your email, collaborate on documents with your colleagues, join community discussions or approve requests from a SharePoint workflow.

​"The capabilities of Office 365 will help your company decrease costs and maximize work flow efficiency which in turn helps your bottom line. Not only is Office 365 easy to set up and use, it provides anywhere access, easy and worry-free IT and the best value compared to traditional software housed on a company's server instead of in the cloud," says Pardo.

The software is available in three different plans for small businesses, midsize businesses, and businesses that want advanced enterprise services and compliance features. The Small Business Premium plan is for a maximum of 25 users, Midsize Business plan for up to 300 users, and the Enterprise E3 plan for an unlimited number of users.

Eight features and benefits of Office 365:


1.      Add more power to the Office you rely on

Work from virtually anywhere using the Office applications you trust across your favorite devices—PCs, Macs, iPhones, Android smartphones and other mobile devices.

2.      Access email and calendars on the go

Keep everyone in sync with enterprise-grade email and shared calendars they can access at their desk or on the go.

3.      Create a website that builds your brand

Market your business with a website that's easy to set up and update—with no hosting fees.

4.      Conferencing made easy

Connect immediately or set up and host online meetings with multi-party HD video conferencing, real-time note taking, and screen sharing.

5.      Work better together with file sharing

Collaborate with teammates, partners, and customers with documents that are always up to date and accessible from almost anywhere.

6.      Use Office on the go

Stay productive and never miss a meeting, even on the go. Access, edit, and view Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents on iPhones, Androids and Windows Phones. Use the OneNote, Lync Mobile, and SharePoint Newsfeed apps on most devices.

 

7.      Security and privacy

Your data is yours. Microsoft does not scan emails or documents for advertising purposes. It is a leader in industry privacy, transparency, security, and compliance.

8.      Extend your reach with Office Web Apps

Create, store, edit, and share Office docs online, so they're available wherever you and your teammates are working.


CapApex works with businesses to create dynamic Office apps that provide real-time access to your ERP or CRM data. They can also help you design optimized business processes using Office's workflow capabilities. 

To sign up for a free Office 365 30 day trial visit www.capapex.com. ​

Aug 02
Checklist to Ensure your Enterprise Software is Strong and Healthy

When your enterprise software first arrived into the world, you were so full of hope. You saw the projected growth charts and you anticipated the milestones: its first streamlined customer service workflow, straight A's in cost reduction, playing well with your other information systems and leading your sales team to touchdown after touchdown against your competition. What you didn’t expect was your company being kept back a year -- year after year – because your software refused to grow. But that’s exactly what happens if you don’t perform regular checkups. Carlos Pardo, CEO of CapApex – an enterprise software consulting company – offers a short enterprise software health checklist that you should use periodically to determine if your software is as healthy as it should be. Whether your software is brand-new or has been in your company for years before you got there, if you don’t take care of it, it will become lethargic, get sick and grow old fast.

  • Active Lifestyle

Your software needs to be active in order to grow. Check that your users haven’t discarded it and replaced it with Excel or, even, pen and paper for the business processes your software was intended to optimize. Perhaps the processes were never properly implemented or maybe a workaround was found because of a temporary malfunction and the effort was never taken to return to the proper workflows. In any case, the longer your software sits on the bench, the more practiced your users become in not using it. Your software will be considered the alternate and users will hiss and jeer if asked to bring it into the game.

  • Good Nutrition

If you don’t nourish your software with the data, RAM, disk space, bandwidth and infrastructure that it requires, it won’t be able to keep up with the activities you want it to carry out. Feed it properly, but don’t feed it junk. If data standards are not being followed and the data being entered is not clean or, worse, corrupt, the output from your software will become incoherent and your software will huff and puff until it grinds to a halt. You will spend more time trying to push it in the right direction than enjoying new milestones with it. It is easier to identify and fix a data issue when it first appears than dealing with a complex myriad of data issues later on. Frequently revisit your data standards and check data quality.

  • Pulse Monitoring

Even though you should perform regular checkups, you should also have as much permanent monitoring as possible. If you haven’t set up monitoring or analytics, you

won’t have any real measure of whether your software is running a fever trying to keep up with the demands. Don’t leave this to guesswork, monitor your software on measures that are critical to your business and technology.

  • Hill Climbing / Interval Training

Do your users run out of breath when you try out new versions or features of enterprise software? Make sure that you have healthy practices and training routines in place to constantly improve business processes. When users have good practices, they will run faster and farther with new ideas you (or they) introduce to improve your software. Check that your staff has been properly trained to use the software. They should not only understand the basic functionality, but you should enable them to use customization or personalization features so they can really get the most out of the software. Lean practices will make new hills to climb not seem so daunting. 

  • Cross training

Are you only exercising certain functions in your business to the exclusion of others? Do you participate in the software publisher's beta testing? Do you conduct analysis to determine if you can get even better business performance by introducing unused features of the software, add-ons or customizations? Check that your practices are well balanced; that you haven’t neglected important business processes.

  • Fresh Air

Do you let your users get out and see the whole wide enterprise world outside your company? Do you participate in webinars/conferences/user groups? Are your staff aware of what educational materials are available to them outside your internal documentation? Check that new ideas are permitted into your enterprise software discussions.

  • Healthy Relationships

Don’t let your software be a loner. You should have close relationships with the specialists that can help you keep your software in proper shape.  Do the software publisher, their partners and other third parties properly maintain your system? Do you trust them to give you timely replies to your issues and questions? These companies also go through changes – make sure you are keeping an open and regular dialogue with them.

  • (Continuing) Education

Your software and users never stop learning if you let them. Have you documented your processes? Do you document all modifications to your software or does you documentation only reflect the configuration at the time you first installed the software? Do your employees know where to find relevant documentation?

  • Open Communication

Your users need to know how to spot any health issues with your software. They need to understand more than their own tasks with the software – they need some vision into the end-to-end processes. In order to achieve this, your company needs to enable effective communication between management, business, IT and other departments.  

  • No Smoking Policy

This is more prevention than intervention. If you discover that the server on which you installed your software has been neglected and smoking in the corner of the server room, it may just be too late. You need to ensure that you have given it a healthy environment that is not conducive to lighting up. Check all the classic temptations: faulty or non-existent cooling systems, dust collecting in the hardware, poor casing, etc.

There is no miracle pill to remedy what ails your software. There may be many reasons why your enterprise software growth has stalled – we’ve all seen the blame games that get played out when the question is asked. However, one thing is certain:  your system won’t fix itself. You need to carry out regular rigorous and honest health checks. If your system is struggling to keep up, you need to intervene because the stronger your enterprise software the stronger your business.  

Jul 25
10 Ways to Break Free from your Office (or Just Bring it with you)

Are you chained to your desk? Do you worry that there will be total meltdown if you spend any substantial time away from your office? Can you attend that conference next month? What about an on-site visit to a customer? What if you are snowed in at home?  If you cannot completely break free from the office, bring it with you.  Carlos Pardo, CEO of CapApex – an enterprise software consulting firm – offers 10 ways to break free from your office but continue work as usual:

  1. Adhere to your company's security and mobile policies. If your company has implemented policies regarding data security and mobile technologies such as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), whatever else you do, you need to know and adhere to these policies. These policies should have little impact on the tips below, but if they do, your company policies, obviously, take precedence.
  2. Let people know that you're out of the office. This can be done in numerous ways -- from auto replies on any channel that people contact you (email, phone, instant messaging...) to shared calendars to announcements on company portals. Most of your contacts need that information. They may not be happy that they can't get hold of you, but if they know that you're not available and for how long, somehow they always seem to be able to adapt.
  3. Delegate. Some tasks can be postponed or cancelled. Some cannot. You need to make sure someone will handle these tasks during your absence.
  4. Determine an emergency contact channel. This may differ depending on your job function and your preferences. This could be a designated email address, colleague or phone number. Insist that this channel is to be used only for emergencies.
  5. Check destination connectivity options. If you know your destination, you will be well aware of the connectivity options. If you are travelling to a brand-new location, inform yourself first of the communication options that are available as you prepare your trip.
  6. Designate a travel device. You may feel you need to designate several travel devices depending on the duration and purpose of the trip just as you might have several sets of luggage. However, I find that it's easy to maintain only one device. And, easier still, if this is your full-time companion -- not just for travel. Don't fall into the trap of trying to make this device do everything -- it can't. Your work computer can't do everything either. Make sure that your device will handle your essential tasks and that you have implemented strong security both for it and your applications.
  7. Subscribe to online services. Online services can be a life saver. Make sure you have all your important documents on the cloud. If you subscribe to Office 365, your documents follow you wherever you go. If your battery dies, or you break (or lose) your device, as long as you can find a connected device with a current web browser you will have access to all your documents and workflows.
  8. Be prepared for communication blackout. Even when travelling to a well-known technology-leading location, accidents can happen. Make sure you have the possibility to work with your applications even without a connection. With Office 365 you can continue your work on desktop versions of the office while you are offline. Your documents will sync with the cloud once you re-establish your connection.
  9. Be safe. Be careful when you use public computers. Stick to trusted providers. Don't download classified documents to these devices and make sure you delete your work before you finish working.
  10. Backup. Use the backup features provided by your online services provider to prevent data loss. Office 365 provides various levels of backup at their data centers.

Don't let fear of work disruption keep you trapped at your desk. With the right preparation and with new online services you can be just as productive at your office on the road as you are at the office you left behind. 

Jul 17
How To Make Better Business Decisions - 6 Questions to Ask
Decision making does not begin or end with the decision. Moreover, if done properly, the decision is not the hardest part of the process. Carlos Pardo, CEO of CapApex -- an enterprise software consulting firm -- discusses the questions you should be asking during the decision making process.

1.  Are you solving a clearly defined problem? The hardest part of decision making shouldn't be making the decision. The hardest part of a non-trivial decision making is properly identifying the problem or opportunity. We think -- or are told -- that our problems are obvious. "Growth is stagnant" or "We need to create an iPhone-killer." Far too often this leads to a disordered decision making process -- we end up proposing solutions before we properly understand the problem. Furthermore, we are rewarded for that behavior. When we come to the table proposing solutions we are considered company saviors. Pointing out problems means we just aren't team players. But, the truth is, if you have clearly defined the problem and properly tested the proposed solutions, making the decision is the easiest part of decision making process. Making the decision is hard -- very hard -- when the problem is too vague or untestable. What you need to do is express the opportunity or problem in a manner that you can identify it. For example, can you see the problem on the shop floor? Can you see the opportunity when your customers are using your products? Is it something you can point out to someone else? You can't point to "growth is stagnant", but you could point to "salesforce laptops have unreliable internet connections". Drill down on why the laptops have poor internet connections before you start considering any solutions. Your solutions should not be identifying the problem, you should already know your problem inside out before looking for solutions. It's not easy, but you need to be able to test solutions against your problem. And, most of all, you need to determine, unambiguously, whether the proposed solution lets you take advantage of the opportunity (or if it fixed the problem). If you aren't addressing the right problem, you are just aggravating real problems or losing real opportunities. Making the right decision is really more about doing a proper company health check than it is choosing the correct treatment.
 

2.  Is it an important problem? No matter how many decisions you make during your workday, there are so many more that you could be making. We don't have our feet up on the desk waiting for reluctant problems to come our way. We are swamped. So you need to determine whether a problem really is important. If the problem is not important, you should make your decision immediately -- the consequences of the decision don't warrant prolonged analysis. You may even want to avoid the problem. Global expansion, for instance, sounds great -- who doesn't want to expand their market? But what if you're still struggling with your local market? What if your products aren't suitable for foreign markets? This problem (your small market coverage) is only distracting you from meaningful activity. You need to prioritize. Your decision should solve a clearly defined problem. And that problem should be an important problem.

3.  Do you have enough information to construct your tests properly? Stagnant growth", for example, is not the core problem you will be addressing. For decision making it is too vague and too complex to test properly. The proposed solutions ("initiate better sales training," "install better machinery," "improve factory safety," etc) would not only be difficult to test, but almost certainly would require different types of tests for the proposed solutions. The act of deciding would be necessarily imprecise. "Salesforce laptops have unreliable internet connections" would be a better problem to tackle, but still you need to drill-down to the problem's core (is it the network card, the network provider, etc.) in order to determine what solutions are pertinent and viable. Gathering information, proposing solutions and constructing tests for non-trivial problems is not easy. If you know your problem inside and out then you will be better prepared to construct your tests. Being able to point out your problem should mean that it is easier to point out when the problem has been resolved. Beware that you must know the conditions of successful or unsuccessful tests before you conduct the test, not after. This will eliminate intuition or guesswork creeping into your decision. The results of these tests are the basis of your decision. If you are stuck at this point, you may have to revisit your earlier questions. You may still not have identified the real problems. There is no shortcut. Your decision should solve an important, clearly defined problem. And that decision should be a tested and informed decision. 


4.  Have you put your decision into action? The longer a problem goes unresolved the more opportunity for it to cause damage to your company. If you've done due diligence and there's nothing you are waiting on -- no last minute missive from the governor -- it is time to move. Hesitation will only devalue your decision. Your tested and informed decision solves an important, clearly defined problem. You need to act on that decision.

5.  What if you're wrong? You will make wrong decisions. But, the world does not end with your decision. Life goes on, even through up and downs in your company's stock. You can't turn back time and change your decision. It's not always easy to acknowledge that you've made the wrong decision. But if you properly analyzed the risks, you should have prepared for the possibility to change lanes, make a slight right or left or even a complete U-turn. You have acted on a tested and informed decision that solves an important, clearly defined problem. And you've given your company a way out if the decision leads you in the wrong direction.

6.  Have you learned anything? You should learn both from what you did wrong and from what you did right. Having gotten this far, you may now have a better idea of what sources of information are reliable or not, what are good indicators of good or bad business performance and what bad habits your company has acquired over the years.  You have acted on a tested and informed decision that solves an important, clearly defined problem and you've given your company a backup plan. And what you learned from your decision will help you make even better decisions in the future.


If you are not asking yourself these questions, you should. It takes time to instill good decision-making habits, but they will help you stop making decisions that do not solve real problems, that do not lead to action, that are irreversible and from which no lessons are learned.​

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