4 tech trends to watch in 2019

The winter holidays will be over before you know it and 2019 will be upon us. Tech trends move faster than ever before because innovation moves faster than it used to. Follow these tech trends in 2019 to make sure you don’t fall behind. Make it your resolution to work with the right IT service provider and keep your technology going strong year-round.

1. More Autonomy

In 2019 the robots will start to think for themselves a bit more. That’s not to say that we are getting anywhere close to some of the more scary science fiction movies with fully autonomous robots.

Some predict that cars put out in 2019 will have more autonomous features than ever before. Now, some new cars have features like assistance with parallel parking, but experts predict that at least 10% of cars hitting the road by 2021 will be fully autonomous. However, in May of 2018, GM announced that consumers would be able to buy the first fully autonomous car in 2019.

2. “Digital Twins”

A digital twin is not a new virtual pet toy for your kids to enjoy. It’s actually a useful tool that helps businesses monitor physical devices or even entire buildings. A digital twin can be a full 3D model of a device like a plane engine, or simply a monitoring system for your building or office.

Digital twins are a helpful way to meet safety requirements or monitor utility usage. Using a combination of sensors in physical objects & digital twins will help companies get more useful data than ever before, and this trend is expected to continue in 2019.

3. Blockchain Becomes More Than Bitcoin

Blockchain is the incredible technological idea that has enabled the widespread use of digital cryptocurrencies. It can be used to enable privacy and digital protections like never before. Other uses for blockchain are also being explored.

Expect this trend to continue in 2019. Some creative uses for blockchain include making the transfer of and collaboration on documents even more secure, verifying the authenticity of high-end luxury goods and some experts even believe it can be used to prevent voter fraud.

4. Video & Live Video Continue to Dominate

It’s not just enough to have social media channels anymore, it’s important to note that channels with video, and especially live video tend to have much more interaction. This is due in part to algorithms used that sometimes favor video posts..

According to one study, 90% of people use online videos to help with purchase decisions and even just mentioning the term video in an email newsletter subject line can increase opens by up to 19%. People spend 1/3 of their time on the internet watching videos.

This doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time and resources on pre-recorded videos According to information put out by video giant Vimeo, 80% of people would rather watch a live video than read a blog, and similarly, 82% of people would rather watch live video than look at a static social media post.

Expect this trend to continue to grow in 2019. Make sure to use live video features on your brand’s social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and others.

Contact your Managed IT service provider to keep up with these and other tech trends in 2019!

BYOD 101: The SMB owner’s starter guide

BYOD is a modern business acronym that stands for “bring your own device.” Today, most employees use their own mobile devices or laptops for work to some extent. Creating a solid BYOD plan can save your organization from security nightmares. Not sure where to begin? We can help. What follows is a simple guide to creating a BYOD policy.

Why is BYOD important?

When your employees connect to company resources from multiple devices, you need to secure important data. As of right now, only about 39% of businesses have BYOD policies. This is a worrying trend considering that people may be using their devices at your company without following any type of security protocol! Make sure to protect your business’ data by implementing such a policy and training your employees on how to stay safe with their own devices.

Important Factors to Include in Your Policy

Before you create your BYOD policy, you need to consider some important factors. The following factors will help secure your network and keep your plan relevant.

Security is not optional

Ensure that your employees follow security procedures, even on their own devices. Choose mandatory anti-virus and anti-spyware programs for any device that connects to your network. This protects not only their device but also company information and potentially your office networks.

Make it general for longevity

Putting specific devices in your policy means constant revisions as new devices come out. Keep your device list general but be specific about what your employees need to do with those devices. This means that your policy will last for as long as you need it to, which can save time and money in a small business!

Consult with your teams

Don’t let your IT department come up with a BYOD policy in a vacuum. Consult every department in the company. This will lead to a more comprehensive policy that considers many factors. When you consider everyone’s needs, the policy is less likely to leave unanswered questions.

Use the cloud for better security

If you let your team store sensitive data on their devices, it leaves it open to peeping eyes and hackers. Instead, use a cloud storage solution that protects your data from unauthorized access. Your employees can access the data from anywhere, and everyone stays a bit safer whether they are accessing company graphics, a CRM or other assets.

Use a VPN

Using a VPN protects data while it is in transit and is great for organizations who are following the above recommendation to use the cloud. A VPN is basically like a protective tunnel that encrypts data as your employees send information back and forth to your in-office network or the cloud. VPNs are a smart choice whether employees are working from home, using their own devices or traveling for business or pleasure.

Time to make a plan

Now you are ready to teach your employees how they should behave when using their own devices for work. Curious to learn more about BYOD policies? Contact your managed IT services provider to find out how they can help!

 

5 ways to use technology to improve productivity

Productivity is a big buzzword in office culture, and for good reason. The more productive your staff is, the greater your overall efficiency and the lower your total expenses. Who doesn’t want to see their employees get the maximum work done in the least amount of time?

There are plenty of technological tools to help increase productivity. The following are a few we’ve seen work in business settings.

1. Cloud-based project management

If your project management software is housed based on a single machine (or even on your local network), there’s a good chance it isn’t accessible remotely. However, if you use cloud-based project management software, your employees can stay on task no matter where they are.

Many cloud-based options even include a smartphone app for optimum access. It doesn’t matter if you’re across town for a quick meeting or across the country at a conference. You’re still engaged.

Options like Basecamp, Asana and Zoho are great for agile teams and those with workers who prefer to work from home at least part of the time.

2. Instant communication

As we alluded to above, it’s not uncommon to find more folks working from home. In fact, some teams are spread across the globe, working together as part of multinational corporations.

And, of course, sometimes you just don’t want to get up and walk across the office to have a conversation. It will disrupt your flow.

With technology, you can easily communicate with anyone, anywhere. We recommend instant messaging apps for the easiest, most seamless communication. You can IM from your PC or your phone, and it’s so much like texting that it will feel immediately familiar to everyone.

3. Automate everything

With all the business automation tools available today, you never need to be in the position where a critical (but fairly minor) task is forgotten.

You can use automation for everything from pre-scheduled email marketing campaigns, to CRM-based reminders to follow-up with prospective customers, to in-depth analytical reports that get delivered straight to your inbox each week.

Automation is an immediate productivity booster. There’s no reason to pay someone to do something by hand that can easily be automated. Instead, free your employees to focus on the things that really require their attention.

4. Easy Outsourcing

Consider this scenario. You don’t have the right person for the job, but you also don’t want to hire a whole new employee.

There are technology tools that make it easier than ever to hire outsourced help. It even possible to hire specialists in situations where a high level of expertise is required.

Online services like Upwork or Fiverr allow you to easily view and hire freelancers for simple, straightforward jobs. When partnering with whole outsourced firms and high-level specialists, we recommend using the previously mentioned communication & project management tools.

5. Online Learning

Employee training is actually an important component of productivity. Not only does it improve the skills of your employees, which naturally makes them better at their jobs. It’s also a perk. Most employees appreciate an environment that fosters their own development.

Companies are increasingly turning to online learning as a way to offer more affordable value for their employees. One major benefit is the flexibility that comes with online learning. Whether we’re talking about online classes through a university or a specialized training course, online learning is extremely convenient.

If any of these productivity-enhancing options sound like they’d be a good fit for your business, we encourage you to reach out to your managed IT services provider. They should be able to help point you in the right direction. Plus, they can ensure you have all the network capabilities you need to support the tech tools you want.

Which CRM solution is right for your organization?

Customer relationship management (CRM) software empowers businesses of all sizes and sectors to make smarter, more accurate decisions.

According to some estimates, over 90 percent of companies make use of a CRM solution—and for good reason. On average, CRM solutions see a return on investment of $8.71 for every dollar that you invest.

Despite the obvious benefits of CRM software, however, it’s not so obvious how to choose the best solution for your organization. There are a lot of options available to you. Plus, your company’s situation may be influenced by a number of different factors:

  • Number of employees
  • Industry
  • Specific business requirements
  • Preferred pricing model
  • Upcoming projects
  • Existing resources and technologies

Whether you’re making your first CRM purchase or replacing an existing system, this article will go over the most important concerns that you should consider when choosing a CRM solution.

Defining CRM return on investment

There are essentially three different approaches to CRM solutions: basic, standalone, and integrated.

  • Basic CRM systems include standard functionality without any custom features or coding. This enables you to get up and running quickly and easily.
  • Standalone CRM solutions include more complex processes than basic CRM systems, including custom features for reporting, views and workflows.
  • Integrated CRM systems connect a standalone CRM system with external applications, websites, and systems. This helps you share data and make your workflow more efficient.

No matter which type of CRM you select, you need to understand the value of your CRM solution to evaluate whether it’s the right choice.

For example, focus on how a CRM will improve your customer relationships by giving you easy access to important metrics and key performance indicators, as well as helping you manage connections on social media.

On paper, defining the ROI of a given CRM is easy: simply weigh the costs of using it against the benefits that you gain by doing so.

In practice, however, calculating CRM ROI involves a good deal of subjective assessments and estimates about how much given features are worth to you. Note that most of the value you extract from your CRM will likely come from a few of the most frequently used functionalities.

CRM factors to consider

The cost of a CRM solution is perhaps the best factor to contemplate first since it can disqualify certain options right off the bat. Consider questions such as:

  • What is the pricing model? Subscription-based or a perpetual license? Most CRM applications, especially those that are cloud-based, use a per-month, per-user pricing model.
  • What are the different pricing tiers? Which features that you consider important? Make sure you’re looking at the price for the tier of service you’ll need.

CRM software comes with many different features and functionalities. Some of the capabilities that might interest you include:

  • Lead management and sales for finding, nurturing, and converting new customers
  • Marketing tools for email and SMS campaigns
  • Reports and dashboards for highlighting important metrics
  • E-commerce integration

Depending on your business, you may have other questions to ask when evaluating CRM software options, such as:

  • How easy is it for employees to learn and use the software?
  • What kind of support and maintenance plans are available?
  • How will the software integrate with your existing technical setup?

Final thoughts on your CRM solution

With so many advantages at stake, deciding on the right CRM solution isn’t a task to be taken lightly.

If you need help selecting the right CRM software for your business, contact your IT managed services provider for additional guidance.

Client Testimonial: Canino Electric

 

“We’ve been with CCS for a little over 10 years now, so that speaks for itself that we’re really satisfied.”

– Katie Canino
CEO, Canino Electric

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If you’re interested in seeing what CCS Technology can do for your company, let’s get the conversation started. Just fill out the form below and a friendly member of our team will be in touch with you shortly.

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4 Microsoft Dynamics CRM tips to help you become a superuser

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a customer relationship management (CRM) software package from Microsoft. Dynamics CRM is intended to help users improve the productivity and effectiveness of their sales and marketing campaigns and get better business insights, especially by integrating with other Microsoft products such as Office 365.

If you’re like most Dynamics CRM users, you’ll want to get the most mileage out of the application, uncovering any hidden tips and tricks that’ll help you along the way. In this article, we’ll go over 4 Microsoft Dynamics CRM tips that’ll help you become more efficient.

1. Know your keyboard shortcuts

Time is money when you’re working with CRM software, and every little bit can help you become more productive.

Let’s start our Microsoft Dynamics CRM tips with some of the most useful Dynamics CRM keyboard shortcuts.

  • Shift + Tab: Move backward to the previous field or option (just as Tab moves you forward to the next one).
  • Ctrl + [: Switch to the first tab on the command bar.
  • Ctrl + ]: Switch to the last tab on the command bar.
  • Ctrl + K: Automatically fill the current field with the correct value after typing a few letters.
  • Ctrl + Shift + S: Save and create a new document or workspace.
  • Alt + S: Save and close.

2. Add members to different marketing lists

Since the release of the 2015 version of Dynamics CRM, you can now add Leads, Contacts or Accounts from one marketing list to another marketing list. This saves you the time and effort of looking up and adding each member individually.

Here’s how you can do this.

  1. Under Marketing, select the Marketing Lists option.
  2. You will see a list or grid view of your active marketing lists. Click on the list whose members you wish to add to another list, and then click on the Record Associated View icon.
  3. Select the members of the list that you want to add to another list, and then click on the ellipses icon. Click on “Add to Another Marketing List.” From here, you can select the desired list or create a new list.

3. Use business rules

One of the benefits of CRM software such as Dynamics CRM is the ability to define your own business rules.

In Dynamics CRM, business rules are pieces of business logic that can be expressed by non-technical users, without having to write code in a programming language such as JavaScript. This empowers business users because they no longer have to wait for developers to do the work they need.

In fact, this is so powerful that our list of Microsoft Dynamics CRM tips wouldn’t be complete without it.

For example, users can define a business rule that hides a field or changes the value of it based on the size of a value in another field.

To use business rules in Dynamics CRM, select the Fields or Business Rules section beneath a given entity when you’re in the Solutions section. Keep in mind, however, business rules can’t replace all the functionality you can achieve with JavaScript.

4. Automatically generate documents

Sales and marketing campaigns are absolutely rife with piles of paperwork that must be created and reviewed. You can save yourself time and improve your customer relationships by automatically generating templates in Microsoft Word.

Here’s how to do it.

  1. From the Settings menu, select Processes. Create a new process of type “Workflow” on the Campaign entity, and set the scope to Organization.
  2. Set the workflow to run when record fields change and select the field as “Status Reason.” Click on Add Step > Check Condition, and then Add Step > Perform Action. The Action should be “SetWordTemplate.”
  3. Click on Properties to the right of Action, and choose the “Selected Template” that you want to generate. Finally, choose the Target to be your current campaign.
  4. Save and activate the workflow.

Unlocking the power of OneNote

With Office 365 now in use in more than 120 million businesses around the world, interest in OneNote is higher than it’s ever been before. But this surprisingly versatile bit of software is still rarely used to full effect.

For the most part, this is because users are unaware of the wealth of built-in features that could be making their lives a whole lot easier, or streamlining the working processes of their whole office.

However, you don’t need to be an IT pro to make smarter, more efficient use of OneNote. Here are seven tips, tricks and shortcuts that will help you unlock the power of OneNote and put it to work effectively in your company.

Password protection

Robust cybersecurity is essential for any sensitive files or data. Sometimes, however, you may also want to password protect an internal document or notebook simply in order to give different users different levels of access.

OneNote has a feature specifically for this. What’s more, it’s extremely quick and easy to use, with password protection available in just a couple of clicks from the “Review” tab.

Simple, efficient email

OneNote allows any user to quickly and simply email their notes. By using the “Email Page” button, any user can send an email-friendly copy of the contents of a given page—including attachments and embedded files—to any number of addresses.

This is ideal for sharing minutes after a meeting, but this feature is also frequently used as a quick and simple way to transfer notes between devices even in the absence of a cloud.

Embed, embed, embed

One of the most useful things about OneNote is that it allows for the embedding of lots of different kinds of data. You can, for example, embed an Excel spreadsheet into a OneNote page. This makes the information from the spreadsheet instantly available, without the need to attach or refer to another file.

Videos, audio clips, and content from a variety of websites including YouTube and Slideshare can also be seamlessly embedded.

Transcribe from images

Pulling text from images may not be an everyday job, but when it’s necessary it can be a slow and labor-intensive process. OneNote contains a tool designed to streamline this process by copying text from an image with a single click.

The “Copy Text From Picture” option (shown when an image in OneNote is right-clicked) copies text directly to the clipboard, from which it can be pasted wherever the user requires.

Dock OneNote

Although it may seem trivial, the ability to dock OneNote to the side of a screen can be a massive productivity enhancer. It allows users to take notes from videos, websites or another program without constantly flicking back and forth between the two.

It’s super convenient to have those notes immediately at hand when, for example, making a video call or completing another task.

Employ page templates

Page templates are exactly what they sound like. They allow users to set up and save a document with a range of features such as text boxes and checklists. A clean version of this template can be opened any time it is required, making this a feature which can be applied to great effect across an office.

If you want to unify the way in which your employees take notes or approach another common task, OneNote page templates are a vital resource.

Check your history

Relatively few users are aware that OneNote preserves a version history for each and every notebook it handles. This means if a section is deleted in error or some vital notes are edited out of existence, the key information can be easily retrieved by referring to a past version of the notebook.

This is no replacement for a full backup solution, but it can be extremely useful on a day-to-day basis!

5 amazing things you can do with cloud ERP

Cloud ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) is changing the business game. According to Forbes, “Cloud ERP is the fastest growing sector of the global ERP market with services-based businesses driving the majority of new revenue growth.”

They cited the increased flexibility and speed of cloud ERP as chief factors in the fast-emerging system’s success.

What does this mean for growing SMBs? In addition to the myriad advantages cloud systems provide over their on-premises counterparts, making use of cloud ERP opens the door to some interesting capabilities you might not have considered. The following are just a few examples.

1. You can go mobile

If you’re accustomed to using on-premise ERP, you already know you have to stay connected into the local server to gain access to it. This isn’t the case with cloud ERP.

As a cloud-based system, you can pull up information from your cloud ERP anywhere you have an internet connection, on almost any device. This increased availability translates to an improved ability to collaborate with your team and freedom to engage in critical business while on the go.

2. You can streamline your operations

As a function of cloud ERP’s accessibility and mobility, you can streamline your business operations and productivity. You needn’t wait for an onsite connection to perform critical tasks. You can perform those tasks wherever and whenever you choose.

Let’s use accounting as an example.

Working in tandem and on the go, you and your team can ensure that accounts are always accurate and current. This also grants a real-time look at your accounts/finances—an invaluable benefit in situations where every moment counts.

3. You can scale more easily

With cloud ERP, you aren’t “locked in” as restrictively as you might be with on-premise ERP. This means you can scale-up—adding new features and functions as they become necessary—more easily. You can grow at your own pace and improve your business more strategically than before.

4. You can stay up-to-date automatically

When using on-premise ERP, the downtime and scheduling woes of software updates are often a major hassle. You might have to shut down your system entirely to perform said updates, and may even lose some of the customizations you had in place.

With cloud ERP, you can perform updates automatically without affecting your business or losing integrations and customization. The process is quicker, simpler, and more conducive to allowing your business to continue moving ahead at full steam.

5. You can maintain tighter security

With cloud ERP, you can manage security concerns more easily than with on-premise ERP. The cloud-based solution mitigates the need for team members to save sensitive files to their devices. They can access what they need through portals and dashboards.

And in the event a device goes missing, you’ve reduced the likelihood of important information falling into the wrong hands.

A dual advantage here is that with most of your information stored in the cloud, you’re already ahead of the curve if disaster strikes at your place of business and you need to implement your business continuity plan to stay in action.

Keep the cloud in mind when selecting your ERP

The amount you can do with cloud ERP will often outclass what’s capable with an on-premise ERP system. Be sure to work with a provider who understands the finer points of cloud ERP implementation to maximize your potential benefits.

Client Testimonial: JA Watts

 

“I definitely think CCS Technology goes above and beyond in terms of customer service.”

– Cynthia Yang
HR Generalist, JA Watts

What about you?

If you’re interested in seeing what CCS Technology can do for your company, let’s get the conversation started. Just fill out the form below and a friendly member of our team will be in touch with you shortly.

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3 different approaches to CRM systems

It’s essential that you have a CRM system (Customer Relationship Management) for managing customer data. Deciding which type will best fit the needs of your business will depend on various aspects of your company, including your budget and who’ll be using it.

There are three general types of CRM systems to choose from.

Implementing a basic CRM system

A basic CRM system is your general cloud-based implementation. The configuration would be limited to UI layout, with built-in configuration that would edit necessary fields. This type of CRM typically does not include any type of customized coding or involve any extensive processes.

This is a basic cloud solution that can provide standard functions, yet is still powerful enough to make a difference for your company.

Using this type of CRM system, you would likely focus on one single component of the modules such as sales, which would further limit the scope. Pre-built additions can be added to the basic CRM.

A basic CRM also involves transferring data of your accounts, contacts and leads into a CRM application. It won’t be necessary for the user to have all the data entered manually before using the application. With a basic CRM, a company can implement and use the CRM solution with a minimum amount of costs and in the shortest time. Some of the benefits include saving time in tracking and consolidating customer information.

Choosing a standalone CRM system

Standalone CRM is considered the superset of a basic CRM system.

This will involve the implementation of more complex processes including custom reporting, custom views, customized workflows and add-ons. Some of the benefits include the following:

  • Send automated emails or notifications
  • Gather and accurately maintain customer information
  • Analyze data and uncover various trends
  • Improve your customer service

It’s important to note that the data migration sometimes involves multiple sources which can require the need for data cleansing.

For a company that decides to use a standalone CRM, employee training will be required. CRM training for administrators will also be required if the business plans to self-maintain this kind of CRM application. This training will help those using the system gain greater efficiency and enable your company to better understand and meet the needs of your customers.

The benefits of an integrated CRM system

Integrated CRM includes the range of a standalone solution while integrating the CRM application with an external system. An external system could include an ERP application, different websites or some type of home-grown application.

This enables the systems to share data.

The integration of systems can be accomplished by either using some type of commercial off-the-shelf middleware application or by custom programming. By creating your own website to function seamlessly with the CRM system you’ll find there are several benefits for your business.

  • Maximize the company’s overall operational efficiency
  • Increase and improve the automation process
  • Spend less time on administrative duties
  • Increase employees’ time spent marketing and servicing customers
  • Eliminate the duplication of data entry
  • Provide synchronization for all your data
  • Provide better leads for your sales team

Companies using an integrated CRM solution will need to provide training for their employees. And, like a standalone CRM system, administrator training for an integrated CRM will also be needed if the company plans to self-maintain the CRM application.

We recommend finding an experienced technology company to assist with both implementation and maintenance of your CRM system, no matter which type you choose. Many managed IT services providers can help with your CRM, in addition to other critical areas like cloud solutions, enterprise resource planning, security services and basic IT support.