Do I need cyber insurance for my business?

When it comes to cyber insurance, many people in small and medium sized businesses assume that the risks involved with cyber security don’t affect them, or that they are already protected. They say things like “We don’t take credit card payments so we’re not at risk”. Or, “We have anti-virus protection and the website is secure”. But when they learn about the different risks and areas they could be liable for, such as being responsible for client data, and data privacy laws, many are surprised.

Before you bury your head in the sand, consider one common cyber security incident:

What would you do if you had a security breach and had to tell your customers you’ve lost their data?

Data security breaches are a more common occurrence than you may expect, especially for SMEs. The Notifiable Data Breach Scheme managed by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner actually imposes certain threshold requirements where businesses are obligated to notify clients about the breach, and notify the Privacy Commissioner. Not only would this affect the company reputation, but also take up valuable time and resources to fix.

The Notifiable Data Breach Scheme applies to agencies and organisations that the Privacy Act requires to take steps to secure certain categories of personal information. This includes Australian Government agencies, businesses and not-for-profit organisations with an annual turnover of $3 million or more, and regardless of your annual turnover applies to credit reporting bodies, health service providers, and TFN recipients, among others.

So, it’s more than worth taking a few minutes to learn about common cyber misconceptions, how your business could be affected, what the potential costs might be, and what the options are if you need insurance cover.

How could cyber threats affect my businesses?

There are some scary statistics when it comes to the cost of cyber risks:

• $10,299 – the average cost of cyber crime for small to medium-sized businesses (according to Norton SMB Cyber Security Survey 2017)

• $1.9 million – the average cost for medium sized businesses (100-500 employees) if hit by a cyber attack (according to Webroot, 2017) with the figure over $1million for larger organisations (Radware 2018-2019 Global Application and Network Security Report)

• 25 hours downtime or more – was the number of hours it costs for one in four businesses hit by cyber attacks (according to Small Business Best Practice Guide 2017)

• Downtime is the main impact of a cyber security threat (39%), followed by expense for re-doing work (25%), inconvenience (27%), financial loss (11%) and data loss (13%). Of those that had lost data, over half (52%) had not been able to recover it.

• 54% of cyber attacks are from email or phishing scams (according to Norton SMB Cyber Security Survey 2017)

• Up to $2,100,000 fine from the OAIC for not complying with mandatory data breach laws for a company and up to $420,000 for an individual. (Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme, February 2018)

• 59% of Australian organisations are affected each month by interruptions caused by cyber crime (according to Commonwealth’s Stay Smart Online guide for small business)

• 2,500% increase in the sale of ransomware on dark net sites since 2016 (according to The Ransomware Economy, Carbon Black 2017)

When people see these stats, they see that the relatively low cost of cyber insurance is dwarfed by the volume and range of potential costs that it covers for.

4 main reasons why SMEs are easy targets for Cyber Attacks

Attacks on small and medium-sized enterprises are on the rise due to:

1. Lack of resources 1 in 4 Australian small businesses have fallen victim to cyber crime (according to Norton SMB Cyber Security Survey 2017) as SME clients are focused on their core business offering – be it as a Real Estate Agent, Lawyer, Accountant, Doctor, Mechanic, Manufacturer or whatever industry they specialise in. SMEs often lack the time, resources or expertise to understand their cyber exposures.

2. Lack of education on Cyber Large organisations provide training to their employees on the importance of cyber security and the key risks to be aware of. Simple human mistakes like lost smart-phones or accidentally sending an email to the wrong person, are the cause of 30% of cyber incidents (according to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner Quarterly Report December 2018.)

3. Weak network security or IT infrastructure SMEs typically handle their own IT systems and security themselves, or outsource to someone as they lack the expertise. This contracts with more robust IT teams and operations in larger organisations.

4. Businesses hold valuable data There is a common misconception that SMEs won’t be a target of cyber threats as they have no data or information that is of value or worth stealing. SME data is more valuable that people think. Even if the SME isn’t the direct target, the SME might be a critical point into the integrated supply chain of their valued partners.

Costs associated with cyber attacks for businesses

The costs a business may incur due to cyber security breaches come under three main categories:

1. First Party Costs The businesses’ own cost to respond to the breach, including but not limited to IT Forensic Costs, Credit Monitoring Costs, Cyber Extortion Costs, Data Restoration Costs, Legal Reorientation Expenses, Notification Costs and Public Relations Costs.

2. Third Party Claims The businesses’ liability to third parties arising from a failure to keep data secure, including data held on behalf of businesses by either an outsourced supplier or freelancer, or cloud service provider for which businesses are legally liable. Insurance Coverage is available for claims for compensation by third parties, investigations, defence costs and fines & penalties for breaching the Privacy Act.

3. Business Interruption Reimbursement for businesses’ lost profits resulting from a Business Interruption Event. In a lot of cases policies provide coverage these days not only limited to malicious attacks. Coverage can be made available for Business Interruption Loss arising from unauthorised access, any damage to the business data and/or programs, and any system outage, network interruption or degradation of the businesses’ network.

Laws & regulations governing Cyber & Privacy Risks

There are many laws and obligations which businesses must adhere to in relation to cyber security:

• Privacy Act 1988

• The Information Privacy Act 2014 (ACT)

• Telecommunications Act 1997 and the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979

• National Health Act 1953 (NH Act)

• Data-matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990

• Crime Act 1914 (Crime Act)

• Anti-Money Laundering and Counter- Terrorism Financing Act 2006(AML/CTF Act)

• Healthcare Identifiers Act 2010 (HI Act)

• Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records Act 2012 (PCEHR Act)

• Personal Property Security Act 2009 (PPS Act)

Security is simply managing risk

There are various ways businesses can manage cyber security risk:

• Reducing the risk businesses should seek to put in place procedural, technical and physical controls in order to reduce their exposures.

• Accepting the risk an internal process a business has taken to evaluate the risk versus reward

• Transferring the risk insurance should be seen as an additional layer to the security process, not an alternative

• Avoid the risk When the likelihood and impact from the risk to the business is too high businesses can remove the risk source, for example by deleting old data, deciding not to start or discontinue the activity.

What does Cyber Insurance cover?

Cyber Insurance covers a business for the cyber exposures it faces from both third party claims (for example actions brought by the Privacy Commissioner or clients suing for breach of privacy) and first party cover including Business Interruption and other expenses that might incur as a result of a cyber attack. The first party expenses a business might incur include, but are not limited to, costs to repair or restore systems, credit monitoring services if data has been breached and public relations expenses.

What can I do now to avoid cyber and data privacy risks?

In addition to considering insurance coverage, there is still lots you can do to mitigate potential risks for your business.

Nine Steps to tighten your Cyber Security

1. Network Security Protect your networks against external and internal attack. Manage the network perimeter. Filter out unauthorised access and malicious content. Monitor and test security controls.

2. Malware Protection Produce a relevant policy and establish anti-malware defences that are applicable and relevant to all business areas. Scan for malware across the business.

3. Monitoring Establish a monitoring strategy and produce supporting policies. Continuously monitor all systems and networks. Analyse comprehensively for
unusual activity that could indicate an attack

4. User Education and Awareness Produce user security policies covering acceptable and secure use of the business’s systems. Establish a staff training programme.
Maintain user awareness of cyber risks.

5. Home and Mobile Working Develop a mobile working policy and train staff to adhere  to it. Apply the secure baseline build to all devices. Protect data both in transit and at locations.

6. Secure Configuration Apply security patches and ensure that the secure configuration of all systems is maintained. Create a system inventory and define a baseline build for all devices.

7. Removable Media Controls Produce a policy to control all access to removable media. Limit media types and use. Scan all media for malware before importing on the company system.

8. Managing User Privileges Establish account management processes and limit the number of privileged accounts. Limit user privileges and monitor user activity. Control access to activity and audit logs.

9. Incident Management Establish an incident response and disaster recovery capability. Produce and test incident management plans. Provide specialist training to the incident management team. Report criminal incidents to law enforcement.

Want to learn more or have a question?

Polina Kesov is a specialist in cyber insurance and Director at ii-A www.ii-A.com.au. To find out more about the risks involved in cyber security and what your insurance options are, get in touch for a free consultation with Polina.

The Benefits of Recognising Your Team Success & The 3 Rules of Celebration

Have you, as a team, raised a glass to last month’s successful efforts? Don’t forget to celebrate you and your team’s success for the sake of improvement in team spirit and performance. There are several reasons why you should be recognizing team success if you aren’t doing so already. But first things first, what is success? Have you, as a team, raised a glass to last month’s successful efforts? Don’t forget to celebrate you and your team’s success for the sake of improvement in team spirit and performance. There are several reasons why you should be recognizing team success if you aren’t doing so already. But first things first, what is success?

How do you define success for you and your team? Is success making $50,000 in revenue in the previous month? Or is it a 60% year-on-year growth in terms of sales? Or is it winning an industry award? These benchmarks could be identifiers of success, however, success does not always have to be something that involves money or a long-term effort.

You should celebrate success whenever you achieve a goal. Short term objectives count. Personal efforts also count when the achievement contributes to the team’s common goals. Basically, everything that gets done and contributes to the mission of the team, is a team success.

For example, one of your customer support staffers goes an extra mile to satisfy a client. The client leaves a positive feedback regarding her service. You should definitely acknowledge her efforts and at the same time, you should encourage her to share her story with the rest of the team. Success sharing and celebration are both important. Both are extremely beneficial for team performance and should not be taken lightly.

Why should teammates share success stories?

Success stories can be very helpful. They are the practical tips others can adapt in order to solve similar problems. For example, a member of your customer support team gains an exceptionally high level of customer satisfaction because she works out an ideal flow to deal with inquiries and follow up with customers. Others can learn from such a workflow. Encourage her to share the best practices to benefit the whole team’s performance.

Besides, success stories are a great source of inspiration for others to excel. Think about why you read biographies of successful people in various fields from politics to arts. Not all the tips you come across are applicable to your personal and professional life, however, you are inspired by their strong will to excel at what they do and their passion to make a difference. Such aspiration is likely to affect you more if it comes from people you know and whose work you value.

Sharing stories helps strengthen your team as they become more and more familiar with one another. For example, your manager knows which skills your sales agent excels at and what inspires her. She will find out the best way to work with her in the future. As an owner/manager, you will also find it much nicer to supervise a close-knit team.

Why should everyone recognize everyone else’s success?

Recognizing success is very powerful. Peer recognition brings fulfilment because it reinforces the meaning of one’s hard work. When you show your respect to one’s achievement, you are likely to boost his or her self-esteem, which is the second highest need of a person according to Maslow’s hierarchy.

Moreover, a manager can motivate an employee a great deal by showing gratitude and appreciation towards his or her accomplishments. This motivation will make it more likely for the employee to work harder and be inspired to contribute more and more to the team. Mutual respect creates a stronger relationship between team members and increases the level of loyalty.Recognizing both individual and team achievement helps build a sense of solidarity and identity for the whole team.

How to share and celebrate success

The story

Sharing success is like telling a story. You want to tell a good story that has an impact. You want to help and inspire people to achieve their own goals. Here are some tips for a good story.

Focus on useful content 

You want your audience to take home practical tips. Think of the exact step-by-step process that you have taken to achieve a goal. Share these steps as a tool to solve a similar problem.

Be inspirational and authentic.

You want to inspire your audience to gain something for themselves. Think back to the obstacles, especially mental blocks, and how you overcame them. A story that talks to one’s feelings tends to have a stronger impact in the process of being remembered.

The celebration

As manager, you should take time to celebrate employee achievement. Show them that you do not take their hard work for granted. Besides, it is helpful to create an environment where teammates can easily recognize and celebrate each other’s success. Here are some tips for you, as manager, to make a positive impact with recognizing employee achievement.

Do it soon  

One rule for recognition is the earlier, the better. As a manager, you should always know what is going on in your team. If your employees do something great, you should be the first to notice and congratulate them. Give them a handshake or high five as soon as you can. An official congratulations or a bonus can come later, but there is no reason why you should wait to say thanks to an employee for his or her hard work.

Make it public

A public recognition is much more impactful than a private one. You don’t have to put up a stage with flowers and stereo sound system every time, but a compliment in public is far better at boosting one’s esteem than one sent via an email or even 1-on-1. A celebration only feels like a real one with a crowd. That is why we gather for fireworks to celebrate a new year or a national holiday. As manager, you could hold weekly meetings (e.g.15 minutes of heroism) to make success acknowledgement official and public.

Add a bonus or a token gift 

A high-five or a handwritten thank-you note is great but more is in order in many cases. Rewards and hard work often go together. Depending on the level of achievement, a certain form of reward is due.

Rewarding your employees is important, but you should learn to do it appropriately and perhaps in a creative and authentic way.

Rewards can come in all shapes and sizes, and can involve cash or non-monetary rewards. Traditional rewards often include a monetary bonus or a pay raise. Inarguably, most would be happy and motivated with a bigger pay check, however, there are rewards that can be just as effective that will cost the company far less. To name a few ideas:

• A day-off pass to use for extra time off or flexible hours
• A nice, long lunch to celebrate the achievement together
• A voucher from a fine restaurant in town
• A massage gift card
• A one year Spotify subscription

Do you have some good ideas? The key is to link a reward to the employee and his or her accomplishment. For example, a junior salesperson reaches a milestone of the first $10,000. A pen holder made out of the number 10,000 to be put on his desk would be a nice gift because it will remind him of his achievement every day. Go an extra mile to find out what your employees like, what their hobbies are, and what they are passionate about. For example, if an employee likes reading, a book signed by his or her favourite author could make a great gift. Personalizing rewards shows that you not only care, but will go the extra mile to make sure your employees feel recognized.

In brief

Building a great team is a challenging job. You should take pride in your team’s success by taking the time and effort to celebrate it. Whenever you achieve a goal, acknowledge your appreciation in a timely and public manner. In addition, don’t forget to give a reward or a token gift. Recognize employee achievement and you will reap the rewards from their motivation and loyalty.

 

Source https://blog.impraise.com/360-feedback/the-benefits-of-recognizing-your-team-success-and-the-3-rules-of-celebration-360-review

The Golden Rules of Goalsetting

Five Rules to Set Yourself Up for Success

Have you thought about what you want to be doing in five years’ time? Are you clear about what your main objective at work is at the moment? Do you know what you want to have achieved by the end of today?

If you want to succeed, you need to set goals. Without goals you lack focus and direction. Goal setting not only allows you to take control of your life’s direction; it also provides you a benchmark for determining whether you are actually succeeding. Think about it: having a million dollars in the bank is only proof of success if one of your goals is to amass riches. If your goal is to practice acts of charity, then keeping the money for yourself is suddenly contrary to how you would define success.

To accomplish your goals, however, you need to know how to set them. You can’t simply say, “I want” and expect it to happen. Goal setting is a process that starts with careful consideration of what you want to achieve, and ends with a lot of hard work to actually do it. In between, there are some very well-defined steps that transcend the specifics of each goal. Knowing these steps will allow you to formulate goals that you can accomplish.

Learn five techniques for setting effective goals.

The Five Golden Rules

1. Set Goals That Motivate You

When you set goals for yourself, it is important that they motivate you: this means making sure that they are important to you, and that there is value in achieving them. If you have little interest in the outcome, or they are irrelevant given the larger picture, then the chances of you putting in the work to make them happen are slim. Motivation is key to achieving goals. Set goals that relate to the high priorities in your life. Without this type of focus, you can end up with far too many goals, leaving you too little time to devote to each one. Goal achievement requires commitment, so to maximize the likelihood of success, you need to feel a sense of urgency and have an “I must do this” attitude. When you don’t have this, you risk putting off what you need to do to make the goal a reality. This in turn leaves you feeling disappointed and frustrated with yourself, both of which are de-motivating. And you can end up in a very destructive “I can’t do anything or be successful at anything” frame of mind.

Tip: To make sure that your goal is motivating, write down why it’s valuable and important to you. Ask yourself, “If I were to share my goal with others, what would I tell them to convince them it was a worthwhile goal?” You can use this motivating value statement to help you if you start to doubt yourself or lose confidence in your ability to actually make the goal happen.

2. Set SMART Goals

You have probably heard of SMART goals already. But do you always apply the rule? The simple fact is that for goals to be powerful, they should be designed to be SMART. There are many variations of what SMART stands for, but the essence is this – goals should be: Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Relevant. Time Bound.

Set Specific Goals

Your goal must be clear and well defined. Vague or generalized goals are unhelpful because they don’t provide sufficient direction. Remember, you need goals to show you the way. Make it as easy as you can to get where you want to go by defining precisely where you want to end up.

Set Measurable Goals

Include precise amounts, dates, and so on in your goals so you can measure your degree of success. If your goal is simply defined as “To reduce expenses” how will you know when you have been successful? In one month’s time if you have a 1 percent reduction or in two years’ time when you have a 10 percent reduction? Without a way to measure your success you miss out on the celebration that comes with knowing you have actually achieved something.

Set Attainable Goals

Make sure that it’s possible to achieve the goals you set. If you set a goal that you have no hope of achieving, you will only demoralize yourself and erode your confidence. However, resist the urge to set goals that are too easy. Accomplishing a goal that you didn’t have to work hard for can be anticlimactic at best, and can also make you fear setting future goals that carry a risk of non-achievement. By setting realistic yet challenging goals, you hit the balance you need. These are the types of goals that require you to “raise the bar” and they bring the greatest personal satisfaction.

Set Relevant Goals

Goals should be relevant to the direction you want your life and career to take. By keeping goals aligned with this, you’ll develop the focus you need to get ahead and do what you want. Set widely scattered and inconsistent goals, and you’ll fritter your time – and your life – away.

Set Time-Bound Goals

Your goals must have a deadline. Again, this means that you know when you can celebrate success. When you are working on a deadline, your sense of urgency increases and achievement will come that much quicker.

3. Set Goals in Writing

The physical act of writing down a goal makes it real and tangible. You have no excuse for forgetting about it. As you write, use the word “will” instead of “would like to” or “might.” For example, “I will reduce my operating expenses by 10 percent this year,” not “I would like to reduce my operating expenses by 10 percent this year.” The first goal statement has power and you can “see” yourself reducing expenses, the second lacks passion and gives you an excuse if you get sidetracked.

Tip 1: Frame your goal statement positively. If you want to improve your retention rates say, “I will hold on to all existing employees for the next quarter” rather than “I will reduce employee turnover.” The first one is motivating; the second one still has a get-out clause “allowing” you to succeed even if some employees leave.

Tip 2: If you use a To-Do List , make yourself a To-Do List template that has your goals at the top of it. If you use an Action Program , then your goals should be at the top of your Project Catalog.

Post your goals in visible places to remind yourself every day of what it is you intend to do. Put them on your walls, desk, computer monitor, bathroom mirror or refrigerator as a constant reminder.

4. Make an Action Plan

This step is often missed in the process of goal setting. You get so focused on the outcome that you forget to plan all of the steps that are needed along the way. By writing out the individual steps, and then crossing each one off as you complete it, you’ll realize that you are making progress towards your ultimate goal. This is especially important if your goal is big and demanding, or long-term. Read our article on Action Plans for more on how to do this.

5. Stick With It!

Remember, goal setting is an ongoing activity, not just a means to an end. Build in reminders to keep yourself on track, and make regular time-slots available to review your goals. Your end destination may remain quite similar over the long term, but the action plan you set for yourself along the way can change significantly. Make sure the relevance, value, and necessity remain high.

Key Points

Goal setting is much more than simply saying you want something to happen. Unless you clearly define exactly what you want and understand why you want it the first place, your odds of success are considerably reduced. By following the Five Golden Rules of Goal Setting you can set goals with confidence and enjoy the satisfaction that comes along with knowing you achieved what you set out to do. So, what will you decide to accomplish today?

Source https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_90.htm

6 Things Great Innovators Do Differently

Take a look at any successful enterprise and you’ll find innovation at its core. That was just as true a hundred years ago when Henry Ford perfected the assembly line as it is today, when modern day giants like Elon Musk bring cutting edge technology to market. Innovation, as I’ve written before, is how people come up with novel solutions to important problems.

Take a look at any successful enterprise and you’ll find innovation at its core. That was just as true a hundred years ago when Henry Ford perfected the assembly line as it is today when modern day giants like Elon Musk bring cutting edge technology to market. Innovation, as I’ve written before, is how people come up with novel solutions to important problems.

The tricky part is that every organization faces different types of challenges. Some, like Intel, focus on improving old technologies, while others, like MD Anderson Cancer Center, strive to make fundamental new discoveries. There are also those that innovate business models, marketing campaigns and many other things.

That’s why there is no “one true path” to innovation. There are, in fact, as many ways to innovate as there are types of problems to solve. However, in researching my upcoming book, Mapping Innovation, I noticed that there were universal traits across every organization I looked at. From corporate giants to startups to world-class labs, here are the 6 things they had in common.

1. Seek Out Problems

Most people think that innovation starts out with a great idea, but the truth is that it starts with a great problem. Whether it’s Steve Jobs looking for product categories that “suck,” or scientists exploring the fundamental nature of the universe, every innovation starts out as a tough problem that needs to solved.

One thing I noticed about the innovators I researched is that they didn’t just wait for good problems, but they actively went searching for them. Jim Allison, who developed cancer immunotherapy, told me he just liked “figuring things out,” while Charlie Bennett’s interest in finding computation in the natural world helped lead to quantum computing.

I found the same thing when I looked at organizations that are able to innovate consistently. IBM Research has, throughout its history, set up “grand challenges” and searched for unresolved problems in the marketplace. Experian has set up a special unit, called DataLabs, to seek out and solve its customers’ problems. Google’s long-held practice of “20% time” is essentially a human-powered search engine for problems.

So hiring smart people and encouraging creativity are not enough. if you want to make your organization more innovative, the best thing you can do is to think seriously about how you search for problems.

2. Choose Problems That Suit Your Capabilities, Strategy And Culture

After World War II, groups of natives in the South Pacific called cargo cults, built makeshift airstrips complete with antennas protruding out of coconut helmets, improvised headphones and guys waving sticks to signal airplanes in the hopes that valuable cargo would drop from the sky. They had seen soldiers employ similar tactics and were following suit.

Of course, it never worked. Indeed, it seems more than a little bit silly. Simply setting up an airstrip is not what causes cargo planes to fly across the world to a particular location. Anyone who would believe such a thing is missing some very basic principles of how air travel functions. It is patently absurd. Yet modern managers find it completely sensible to try to learn the one thing that can make you innovate like Steve Jobs or the 5 habits that made Elon Musk an innovator. Much like cargo cults, they believe that simply emulating the same tactics will yield the same results, regardless of context. Perhaps not surprisingly, they don’t fare much better than the islanders.

The truth is that your innovation strategies need to suit your capabilities, strategy and culture. Just because something worked for someone else doesn’t mean it will work in your organization. You need to build your own innovation playbook.

3. Identify The Innovation Strategies Most Likely To Solve The Problems You Face

Too often, we treat innovation as a monolith, as if every problem was the same, but that’s clearly not the case. In laboratories and factory floors, universities and coffee shops, or even over a beer after work, people are sussing out better ways to do things. There is no monopoly on creative thought. But that leads us to a problem: How should we go about innovation? Should we hand it over to the guys with white lab coats? An external partner? A specialist in the field? Crowdsource it? What we need is a clear framework for making decisions.

As I wrote in Harvard Business Review, the best way to start is by asking the right questions:
(1) How well is the problem defined? and
(2) How well is the domain defined? Once you’ve asked those framing questions, you can start defining a sensible way to approach the problem using the Innovation Matrix.

Show me any successful innovator and I can show you another that is just as successful and does things very differently. The key to innovating effectively is not the objective merits of any particular strategy, but whether that strategy addresses the problem you are trying to solve.

4. Leverage Platforms To Access Ecosystems Of Talent, Technology and Information

Traditionally, strategy was largely seen as a game of chess in which managers sought to optimize their value chain, maximize bargaining power with buyers and suppliers and minimize threats from new market entrants and substitute goods. Yet today, the nature of power has changed and advantage is not determined by what assets you control, but what you can access. That’s why today, firms must leverage platforms to access ecosystems of talent, technology and information. Even the internal capabilities of the largest corporate giants pale in comparison to those which can be found outside the boundaries of an organization. As Bill Joy, put it, “no matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else.”To understand how this is playing out, consider the case of Microsoft and Linux. Back in 2001, CEO Steve Ballmer saw Linux and other open source technologies as a serious threat to its business and went so far as to call Linux a cancer. Yet today, Microsoft not only actively participates in open source communities, it’s even learned to love Linux. Why the change of heart? It realized, as have many other tech giants, that while it’s difficult to compete with an ecosystem of tens of thousands of developers, you can make a great business by accessing their talents and building on top of their work.

5. Build A Collaborative Culture

Many thought that the digital age would lead to a more solitary existence. With so much you can access through your computer screen, why would you need to go to an office? In fact, just the opposite has happened. While remote work has become a reality, it’s much harder to go it alone than it used to be. In fact, collaboration has become a competitive advantage. To understand why, let’s look at scientists, who probably have the greatest potential to work alone. Yet they are increasingly choosing to work in teams and those teams vastly outperform solo performers. The journal Nature recently noted that the average scientific paper today has four times as many authors as one did in 1950.

Collaboration was also something I repeatedly came across in my research for the book. Not only was the point continually stressed by almost everybody I talked to, I also noticed that in response to my fact checks my sources invariably pushed me to give more credit to others and less to themselves. As MIT’s Sandy Pentland has put it, “We teach people that everything that matters happens between your ears, when in fact it actually happens between people.”

6. Understand That Innovation Is A Messy Business

When we think of innovation, we often conjure up visions of Steve Jobs wowing the crowds at Macworld, but the truth is that innovation is a messy business. Part of the problem is that we mostly see successes, while failures often go unnoticed or are swept under the carpet. We get taken in by myths and gloss over the realities. Consider the case of Alexander Fleming. Many know the story of how he “accidentally” discovered penicillin one day when a mould contaminated a petri dish in his lab. But few realize that his work lay dormant for over a decade until another team of scientists saw its potential and put in the years of work needed to engineer it into a miracle cure. That’s why so few organizations can innovate well.  It is such hard, heartbreaking work. It doesn’t lend itself to shortcuts or “silver bullet” solutions. Truly breakthrough innovations are never a single event, nor are they achieved by one person, or even within a single organization. Rather, they happen when ideas combine to solve important problems.

By Greg Satell

Source https://www.forbes.com/sites/gregsatell/2016/09/16/6-things-every-organization-needs-to-innovate/#c869f5513c05

Managing Change – Three Ways To Manage Change In Your Business

Any business that is serious about innovation and growth will have to master the ability to manage change because innovation will always lead to change. Before we get into the five points of the article, it’s important to provide a little context regarding change management in business and why it is such a huge area for improvement.

A PwC Report in 2013 from the Katzenbach Center with over 2,200 participants from various levels of business highlighted that the global success rate of major change initiatives is only 54% and 65% of employees feel pressured to adapt to too many changes at once. Already we can see that managing change is a difficult process as just over half succeed and more than half of employees feel pressured by change. Furthermore 48% of respondents stated that their company’s lacked the skills to ensure that change could be sustained. While an astounding 44% of survey participants reported to not understanding the changes they were expected to make. With these seemingly damning results the conclusion from the report was that any change management process should focus on being culturally driven from the top down and should be characterised by open communication and clear purpose.

With this information in mind here are three ways to improve your ability to manage change successfully in your business.

1. Drive Change Through Culture

In the Katzenbach Center report it was outlined that 84% of respondents believed that an organisation’s culture was vital to the success of the managing change. What this points to is that it is vital when aiming to make any long term changes within your business to consider the culture of your organisation and to understand that any significant change will be affected by the culture. With that being said a great way to try to drive change with your culture is by getting your employees excited about the changes by outlining their personal opportunities for development and growth during the process. Nothing motivates people more than showing them the personal benefit in what they are doing.

Another approach that could be used is to create a ‘Cultural Change Board’ to help drive change. This board would be made up of key individuals within your business who hold influential positions and importance to the culture of the company. While the owner or director and managers may be driving the strategic implementation of the change, this board would help get the rest of the employees on board. An example of individuals that might be a part of this group could be an individual who has great personal relationships across the whole business; this individual could be asked to get the others excited about the transformation by talking about its benefits. Another individual might be a long term employee who can add some perspective on how the employees and business are going with the transformation to the executive and managers. Another individual might be a young, innovative manager who is typically known as an ‘ideas’ individual. All three members of your ‘Cultural Change Board’ should liaise with management to convey the opinions and feelings about the process transformation. This technique not only opens up a strong line of communication between the staff and management but also helps to more firmly connect the change to the culture, as other employees will see these influential staff members as willing participants. If you can successfully use your businesses culture to drive the changes you want to implement your chances of success and long term adoption increase significantly.

 2Role Modelling From The Top Down

This step of the change management process seems to be very simple but its value cannot be overestimated. It is imperative that from day one of the transformation process that the desired process changes are integrated into the daily processes of all relevant employees. This goes from the most junior floor staff all the way through to the director or board members.

Role Modelling of the new processes in manager and staff daily routines has a twofold effect. Firstly employees that see their leaders undertaking the process changes will feel inclined to participate themselves. Seeing your manager or director undertaking the proposed changes creates a personal accountability for the changes in each employee. The second effect is that employees that see others undertaking the new changes in their daily routines will have a support network to draw upon. If individuals are unsure of how to execute the process or change they need only look at their neighbour and mimic their execution.

Obviously this point is very self-explanatory but the impact of not holistically carrying out the changes across all levels of the business cannot be overstated. A lack of consistent engagement with the changes will kill the transformation very quickly.

3. Fully Engaging With Change

Engagement with the proposed changes goes beyond simply telling employees to undertake the process changes or modelling them yourself. Engaging with change is a process that is enriched by structured communication. Some businesses when undertaking significant change will hold large ‘Town Hall’ style meetings. At these meetings employees from all levels of the company are invited to discuss how the changes would impact them.

Another method of opening up communication and increasing engagement would be to host IC (Innovation and Change) Meetings where a smaller numbers of employees would meet with their direct managers and discuss how the changes impact them, how they (changes) will help them and talk about how they will go about implementing the changes. These smaller meetings are great opportunities for management to get a feel for how their employees are dealing with the changes and to get a macro view of the transformation process.

A fantastic idea for managing change that was used by a global publishing house was hosting an Internal Change Fair. This fair basically brought together all the various departments and management teams to produce a short presentation or display that highlighted how the changes were being introduced and managed going forward. It provides a great way for individual departments to showcase innovative thinking and for driving change by making it slightly competitive amongst employees.

Change management is vital to any evolving small-medium enterprise; never forget that change starts at the top and that most people struggle with it. The role of the manager is to facilitate the easiest pathway for their employees to adapt.

Sun Tzu’s Art of War As A Model For Business Management

Sun Tzu’s Art Of War As A Model For Business Management

The responsibility of being a manager is not something to take lightly at any level of the command structure, whether you are a team leader, department head, store manager, regional manager, general manager or executive your importance to the success of a business is critical. A manager’s role is critical because it is they and they alone who must prepare, select and manage the metaphorical battlegrounds that the business is looking to engage in.

At this point many of you may be wondering what Sun Tzu, an ancient Chinese military general has to do with business management…Well his treatise The Art of War, has and is still regarded by many military and business figures as being critical reading material for those who have to manage people, change and overcome obstacles or challenges. The Art of War has been used countless times by influential business figures, writers and teachers to teach basic management skills and behaviors. Just a few examples of business books based off Sun Tzu’s teachings are:

  • Khoo Kheng-Hor’s, Sun Tzu & Management
  • Gerald A. Michaelson’s, Sun Tzu – The Art of War for Managers: 50 Strategic Rules Updated for Today’s Business
  • Mark R McNeilly’s, Sun Tzu and the Art of Business: Six Strategic Principles For Manages
  • Donald G. Krause’s, The Art of War for Executives: Ancient Knowledge For Today’s Business Professional.

Bearing that in mind we will now outline the five principles that any manager or business owner should follow whether they are at work or on the battlefield…

1. Capture your market without destroying it or yourself

Sun Tzu:Generally in war, the best policy is to take a state intact; to ruin it is inferior to this…Do not put a premium on killing. To capture the enemy’s army is better than to destroy it…For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the peak of skill, to subdue the enemy without fighting is the peak of skill”

Sun Tzu’s teaching is very clear that it is better to capture your market without having to destroy it or destroy yourself. The goal of any business should be to survive and prosper but to do this a company must aim to capture and secure a hold on their market. This means that the business must drive from the market or diminish their enemy’s role in it. Companies can do this in many different ways but some of them are:

  • Attacking under-served areas of the market.
  • Use marketing campaigns to draw a response from competitors that can then be countered quickly and effectively.
  • Enriching customer service or service quality to improve your market reputation.
  • Engaging more actively with social media and community marketing events.
  • Engaging in more detailed data analysis of the wants and desires of your target market to better isolate and capture your customers.

The most important thing about whatever method of approach you take to capturing your market is that it is not destructive. As Sun Tzu says “to subdue the enemy without fighting is the peak of skill” or in other words, it is better to capture your market through alternative methods than engaging your competitors in direct, aggressive price wars as it not only damages your own bottom line but as a whole reduces the profitability of your market. Where is the logical sense in seeking to destroy something artificially that you wish to possess? Sun Tzu’s teachings encourage business owners to think beyond the simple goal or result. He emphasises that sometimes the most direct solution is not always the best.

2. Avoid your competitor’s strength and attack their weakness

Sun Tzu: “An army may be likened to water, for just as flowing water avoids the heights and hastens to the lowlands, so an army should avoid strength and strike at weakness”

This quote is perhaps the most easily understood of all those featured within this article because it counters the prevalent business idea that the only way to defeat your competitor is to take away his primary income. Sun Tzu is saying that armies or in our case businesses should not target where their competitor is strongest but in fact where they are weakest. To give a real world example. If you owned a travel agency and your nearest competitor was one of the strongest of your peers in their airline sales due to their huge discounting and extensive corporate flight networks, you would be better off targeting and stripping away their large but weaker (more highly priced) car rental packages as a point of attack. To try to compete with their discounting would diminish the profit of the flights for both businesses and also force you to outlay large amounts of capital to cover the discounts. Whereas the car rental packages you offer are already cheaper so you would just have to invest the time to develop an effective marketing campaign to pull clients away from your competitor.

Sun Tzu’s logic regarding attacking a competitor’s weakest point taps into the idea behind the ancient Chinese torture Lingchi or “Death by a thousand cuts”. While destroying your opponent’s largest business area would effectively defeat them, at what cost to you and the market would this occur? Stripping away all of the smaller and seemingly insignificant other business areas will cripple their business just as surely as a thousand small cuts would eventually kill your enemy. It is these considerations of strategy and end goal that a manager must consider.

3. Use Foreknowledge and deception to maximise the power of business intelligence

Sun Tzu: “Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril”

This lesson from Sun Tzu is all about knowledge or as we would call it in the modern business environment…data. Any business that wishes to overcome their competitors and truly dominate and understand their business environment must make data driven systems and approaches a focal point of their business. For some businesses this will be collecting customer data, analysing sales figures from specific campaigns or assessing staff conversion rates. That being said other businesses and managers; those truly wishing to be victorious and increase their profits might look at more advanced analytics, modelling and industry wide benchmarking or even predictive analytics for their marketing or purchasing campaigns. Every manager must know that knowledge is power and increased power for the savvy business owner or manager results in increased profits.

For more information regarding financial benchmarking, dashboards or setting up more advanced analytics please feel free to contact us.
4. Use speed and preparation to swiftly overcome the competition

Sun Tzu: “To rely on rustics and not prepare is the greatest of crimes; to be prepared beforehand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues”

This lesson ties directly into the previous lesson because for a manager to effectively take advantage of “foreknowledge” (Data) you must make your business into one that can exploit an opportunity or weakness; efficiently and quickly. In essence what Sun Tzu is saying is that business managers must aim to have their company’s well planned and agile in order to quickly react to sudden opportunities in the marketplace while also ensuring that the business has a long term vision that is well thought out and planned in advance. Ensuring that your company uses agile project planning methodologies could be the difference between making money and losing money.

There will be an article in the coming months covering the agile project management methodology.

5. Develop your character as a leader to maximise the potential of your employees

Sun Tzu: “When one treats people with benevolence, justice and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders”

A truly great leader who can develop and showcase these strategic concepts will maximise the potential of their employees. Sun Tzu is saying that a manager’s job is not only to demand the best from their staff but also from themselves. To do this a manager should first and foremost be reflective on their own duty and should always aim to be “first in the toils and fatigues of the army (workforce)” or in other words always be willing to work as hard as or harder than any of your staff. There should never be a job that you delegate that you, yourself wouldn’t be willing to do. Sun Tzu says that the leaders that truly inspire their troops (employees) place their own needs, ego and concerns behind those of their employees. A leader must in essence be exactly that, a guiding force from the front rather than a looming figure overlooking his or her staff.

The ideal character of an inspirational leader Sun Tzu characterizes as someone who is wise, consistent, honest, humane and courageous while also being strict.

So in summary while this article may not be showing particularly innovative managing approaches it is important to remember that sometimes to move forward we must first look at the past to understand the foundation of future action. Sun Tzu’s management concepts are timeless and if applied correctly can help managers increase their businesses profitability and their own professional practice.

Email Management: The Key To Workplace Efficiency

Email is one of the great contradictions of the modern workplace. Not only is email one of the largest drivers of productivity but it is also one of its most frequent obstacles. This is because while email is one of the most vital tools for any business owner or employee due to its ability to facilitate immediate communication, this immediacy is often also highly distracting and obstructing for deliverables. The process of managing your emails is a repetitive task that almost all workers must undertake to carry out their duties effectively. With that being said it is a thin line between obsessively controlling your email and being controlled by your email. To help people with this admittedly difficult task we have included in this article some tips for managing your email more effectively.

Control Your Email – Don’t Be Controlled

Some people will obsessively check their email to action, archive, prioritise and reply to any new email they receive. While others will wait until their inbox piles up with a sufficient number of unanswered emails that it motivates them to action them all by close of business or end of the week. While not everyone falls into one of these two management styles both are equally damaging to productivity and workplace efficiency. Constantly checking email can disrupt your train of thought or ‘work-flow’ thus impacting deliverables, while not checking or actioning your email can delay deliverables and cause communication issues.

Below are four excellent ways to ensure that you are controlling your email and not the other way around:

1) Restrict when and how many times you check your email during the course of a day. For example checking and actioning your email three times a day (Morning, Lunch and Afternoon) can help boost productivity by preventing distraction.

2) Establish email filters that automatically sort and categorise your received mail by the level of priority to prevent wasting time individually organising and sorting your new emails.

3) Restrict your email software from notifying you with audio tracks or visual prompts to further reduce the chance of being distracted from your working rhythm.

4) Create an automatic reply which informs people when you will be actively checking and actioning your emails.

Creating A Prioritising System

While most people will attempt to prioritise and action emails relatively quickly many people can’t or don’t. With that in mind, it is important to consider how much time you spend actioning emails each day as it can detract from delivering and as the old business adage goes  “time is money!”. This is why it is vital to master the ability to prioritise. There are dozens of ways to make email prioritisation more effective but we will discuss a few of them by using a brief hypothetical example.

Scenario

Contact: “Dave – Telstra – IT Support” Dave sends me more than a dozen emails a week and sometimes quite a few per day. His emails vary from those that can be actioned within a minute (simple requests) or more complicated projects and issues that may require a week or more of work. Dave manages a large team of staff who also liaise with me and as such I am often cc’d into many emails simply so I am informed.

Example Priority System

With Dave and the example in mind I have created a priority system whereby various levels of emails and requests are filed, categorised and scheduled. For example “Urgent” requests or those needing to be completed within a day or two are always filed within my “Urgent” folder or label, less significant emails to be actioned within a week or two are filed into the “Pending” folder or label. If an action or email is “On Hold” then I refile it into my “On Hold” folder or label. These folder or label structures are systematic and are applied to all my clients and contacts…always with no exceptions.

Consistently applying priority divisions using folders or labels can be a great first step towards controlling your email priorities.  Another useful organisational folder or label to use is “To Read”. Any emails where you are a cc or bcc receiver could be filed into the “To Read” folder. The best method to do this is not to waste time reading the whole email as your receive it but instead skim over it to determine if it is an urgent or actionable email and then file them to fully read later. In order for this simple folder or label system to work it is important to have a means to keep track of tasks and actionable deadlines within your email.

A great way to keep track of your emails is by utilising the built-in calendars most email services provide. Both Google and Outlook, in particular, have excellent calendars with a high level of functionality for setting reminders, colour coding, flagging etc. Being able to set reminders at later dates for specific emails can be great for time management and preventing yourself from being bogged down in your new emails. For example entering “To Read – Dave – Data Error 2/2/016” into a calendar tells you firstly who it is from (Folder – Dave), what it is roughly about and the date it was received. The date on your calendar is the date you need to action that email. While setting the reminders will take a small amount of time it is worth it for the organisational gains.

A more advanced method of email prioritisation could also be by creating email filters that automatically move and label emails as soon as you receive them. Almost every email service provider offers this functionality. An example of this might be that Dave sends me a daily email with the subject line “Report – Successful Data Connections”. This report requires no actions normally but is more for reference on an ad hoc basis as needed. To control this email I establish a filter within my Gmail to archive those reports automatically to the “Data Connections Report” folder or label. This means I have one less email in my inbox but it stores them effectively for use later if needed. There are many tutorials available online for creating filters but I have included links to two of the most popular services Gmail and Outlook.
Gmail: https://support.google.com/mail/answer/6579?hl=en

Outlook:https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Manage-email-messages-by-using-rules-50307363-0e79-4f6a-95c0-04b922a2ff13

It is important to remember that you have to find a system that makes sense to you and works for your purposes. Any priority system will be unique to each user but the most important things to remember are consistency, organising folders or labels and where you can automated reply’s and filters.

Fostering Positive Email Behaviours

One often underrated element of training and documentation in businesses is Email protocols. Establishing email protocols and standards of communication across your business can be very effective at limiting your internal email bloat. This could be as simple as formalising communication paths such as;

Emails to upper management from staff must run through their manager who then forward or action them to upper management
(Staff – Manager – Upper Management). Having this formalised within a memo or as part of a wider reaching training session would be helpful.

Another simple protocol that could be put in place is establishing a live chat application within your business such as WhatsApp or Skype. Often an email request that requires a very short response (less than 2 minutes) could be completed by a short, one line instant message that takes half the time to notice and reply to. Providing a means for employees to communicate without calling or physically communicating (interrupting another person) can be extremely beneficial to reducing email management demands.

In summary, email management is a vital component of any business or workplace. Business and workers that learn to more efficiently manage their email will see an improvement in their overall work productivity.

Predicted Business Trends and Practices For 2016

This article will focus upon listing some of the business trends and practices predicted for 2016 by various media and business groups.

1) Same Day Delivery and On-Demand logistics companies will continue to grow as larger companies (Uber, Amazon, Woolworths) test their capabilities in this growing industry.

2) There will be a large increase in the number of businesses up for sale due to Baby Boomer’s reaching retirement age.

3) Customers will wield even more power over businesses through social media technologies that are focused on product/business reviews.

4) Customer relationships developed through personal relationships and human connections will continue to play a vital part in repeat and return business despite the growth of technology that limits this factor.

5) Businesses will be looking to increase both their cyber security and their data security capabilities.

6) There will be continued large-scale adoption of cloud computing for large and small businesses alike.

7) There will be an increase in the number of businesses that use mobile ‘beacon’ marketing or mobile location-based marketing.

8) Businesses will have more reasons to develop their mobile marketing and websites as search engines weigh mobile friendly sites much more heavily in their ranking algorithms.

9) Businesses will utilise applications that are mobile friendly and cloud based to help them run their front, mid and back office. The ability to work from your mobile will be a growing trend within 2016.

10) Data analytics will be the focus for small businesses in 2016, while emotional and predictive analytics gains ground within the business world.

11) The costs of cloud computing will continue to fall but the cost of cloud management and analytics will remain steady as demand grows.

12) There will be an increase in top-level domain names in 2016, such as those that are delineated by location “.syd” or by profession/field “.lawyer” or “.it”.

13) Businesses will need to update their payment systems to utilise the many online and alternative payment methods (Square, Bitcoin, Apple/Google Wallets, NFC Technology, mobile payments and EMV chips etc).

14) The small and medium business world will see a huge increase in the “software as a service” market. Applications such as Office 365, Google Apps or Okta will see a significant amount of growth within the SME marketplace.

15) Technological accessibility (huge supply and low costs) in the realms of PoS Systems, CRM Software and Marketing Platforms will help support the continued growth of start-ups and small businesses.

16) Adapt or Die will be a trend that gains more traction within 2016 as businesses that do not familiarise themselves with new technologies and growth areas such as cloud computing, data analytics and ‘software as a service’ will suffer the consequences.

17) Increasing employees social engagement within businesses through social programs and charity programs will be increasingly popular to building healthy work cultures during 2016.

18) There will be a resurgence of the traditional marketing fields of relationship building and word of mouth marketing as the market becomes further saturated with social media marketing.

19) There will be a huge increase in the amount of targeted marketing carried out by businesses in all industries to combat the mass generic marketing that is the stable of the digital age.

20) Small businesses will utilise modern tools such as Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, Smallknot, Rockethub or Youtube to build hype and access funding for development directly from customers. They will also use these platforms to offer genuine and mutually beneficial communication.

21) Video marketing and real-time customer feedback will be a huge growth area through platforms such as Periscope, Meerkat and Twitch among others.

22) There will be continued growth of “Re-Marketing” within the advertising world and small businesses may come to rely on pay per click advertising schemes.

Aim For The Clouds: Cloud Computing In Small-Medium Enterprises

This month the innovation article will be focusing on Cloud Computing. We will be talking about what it is, how it works, a major misconception about cloud computing to do with security and why it is important to small-medium businesses.

What is ‘the cloud’?  How does it work?

To put it simply the cloud is a term used in technology to define any service or storage system that is accessed through a network (Internet) from a different location. Unlike the name implies the cloud doesn’t just float around on the internet; the data or services are stored on immensely powerful servers within large, ultra secure data centres (Picture a warehouse full of servers). The types of cloud based services can range from simple storage services such as Google Drive/Dropbox to more sophisticate client record management systems such as Salesforce or even companies that offer complete ‘virtualisation’ which basically means all your software is run from their centre and streamed to your office systems. Those are just a small amount of the potential uses for cloud computing; their potential as a means for innovation and change is outstanding. To further explain how these types of systems work it is helpful to use the example of a cloud computing service we are all familiar with such as the internet banking website/app almost all banks offer their clients.

Example: The process of starting your internet banking app/website while being connected to the internet is the beginning of your cloud interaction. By entering your identification ID and pin you identify who you are to the data centre’s servers so they can do the hard work of retrieving the correct information for you. Any changes or actions you undertake to your account is conveyed to the servers where the changes are made and saved. The cloud nature of this interaction is that you can access your account from anywhere on any compatible device as long as you have a stable network connection (internet) and your required identification or passwords.

Put another way, utilising a cloud storage service or a cloud computing solution is like having access to a safe deposit box that is not only accessible anytime and anywhere but also like having an army of workers available to you to undertake complicated tasks related to the contents of that deposit box. The cloud is about more than just storage it is about utilising the processing power of these data centres to allow small, medium and large companies to undertake colossal tasks, easier and more affordably.

Misconception About Cloud Computing Security 

Within business particularly the small-medium enterprise market there remains some hesitance regarding cloud based services. The major cause for the hesitance for adopting cloud based solutions is fear. Companies fear that there are security issues by having information stored offsite and accessible over the internet. There are some obvious misconceptions fuelling these fears and a lack of understanding about the power, significance and potential of adopting a cloud based approach for your technology needs.

To dissolve this fear about security we have to consider the simple fact that the data centres used for major cloud computing operations are the banks of the digital age. Major data centres (Such as Equinox in Sydney and others) contain huge amounts of sensitive data from the private sector (banks, lawyers, financial services) and even government data. These data centres are almost always highly secure digitally and physically. A simple Google search investigating the security of these centres will show that most have 24/7 security guards, CCTV, gates, fences, pass cards, pin codes or even biometric scanning systems. On top of this all data centres always have disaster plans in place, whereby they are able to still operate or transfer your data to another centre in the event of emergencies. That is just the usual physical security features, almost all data centres also have full time staff who maintain the condition of the servers and also deal with any cyber security threats. In fact the hardware in the centres themselves is often specifically designed to be very difficult to hack into, certainly much harder than hacking into an office network or computer.

At this point after discussing what cloud computing services are, how they work and the major barrier to their adoption you might be asking yourself why is cloud computing important to small-medium enterprises? The answer is not simple in that because of their versatility and potential they can fulfil a number of roles for small to medium sized companies. That being said in a study conducted by MYOB, Australia’s most prevalent business management software provider over 1,000 organisations identified their reasons for utilising cloud based systems, which were:

– The ability to work on our data whenever and wherever we want (42%)

– Allows for one or more team members to work remotely when needed while maintaining work continuity (28%)

– Allows the company to reduce the number of IT issues they have to fix (26%)

– Their data was more protected within a cloud based system than on their own servers (23%)

– Reduced their IT software and support costs (18%)

– Allows real time connectivity to other sources of data accessible over network (e.g. banking details loaded into the cloud) (16%)

– Provides faster networking and processing than previous system (15%)

– Reduced cost and increased flexibility with IT software and services (15%)

– Removes the need to maintain and install software on office systems (15%)

* Information adapted and used from the MYOB Industry Research paper titled Australia SMEs & Cloud Computing

 

Upon reviewing these reasons given by leading SMEs who utilise cloud based services it can easily be seen how and why they can be so important to companies that want to grow and innovate their business.

Business Trends of 2015

In 2015 there have been a significant number of new and revisited trends within the business world. These trends are particularly focused around how businesses are structured, how employees approach employment and the business environment. Here is a list and brief outline of nine prominent trends that have seen growth this year:

Freelancing

1) There has been a larger number of Australian’s participating in some form of freelance work than ever before. This work may be on top of their normal nine to five or it may be making the shift to contracting or business ownership. This trend is not only occurring in the younger generation of workers (Gen Y) but also among the Baby Boomers. The Gen Y workers are not finding fulfilling employment opportunities or stable contracts so they undertake freelance employment as a means to improve their work situation. The Baby Boomers on the other hand are tending to freelance for flexibility, to reduce stress and to offer them more control over their lifestyle.

Self Directed Professional Development

2) The issue of skills shortage and a lack of employee training opportunities has been around for a long time however lately  more employees are being forced to look for development opportunities themselves. Professional development should be a priority for both individual employees and across the whole company. The ideal workplace would have staff looking to further develop their skills who would be supported by their employers to achieve those development goals.

Dynamic Working Environments

3) The modern business is no longer based in the nine-five, office environment mentality. With the advent of budget national airway carriers and the technological advances in communication (Skype, whatsapp, cloud based programs) the modern office is one that is constantly moving. Employees are now flying in and out of offices, Skyping into work, working remotely from home, working while on the road or while visiting clients due to the connectivity and mobility available to them. This has made the workplace a dynamic and fluid environment that isn’t constrained to one location or a certain time. Flexibility is the buzz word of most modern work environments.

 The Young Upstarts (Youth Management)

4) Young people are more often feeling driven to enter into management roles earlier in their careers. Long gone are the days where employees would wait for an opportunity later in their career. Twenty something’s and those in their early thirties with the increasing costs of living and competitive working environment are looking to take on more responsibility faster. This drive to be a “boss” is a contributing factor to the large increase in freelancing in particular from younger employees.

 Internships

5) The business world has pivoted even more so towards internships in recent years. More and more businesses are offering positions to fresh graduates or currently studying individuals either paid or unpaid. This trend has occurred due to a convergence of factors such as; the approaching retirement of the baby boomer generation, the need for more technically adept employees and the financial benefits interns can provide for a business. Internships will continue to grow in the year and years to come, particularly within the technology, financial and consulting services (though they have been a staple of those industries already for years).

Hiring: Social Media As A Tool

6)More people are beginning to realise that using social media to research both potential employees and employers is a must. Countless individuals and companies don’t realise how much of their personal life, personality and nature is available online to anyone. While social media searches can help employers narrow their hiring candidates it can also help job hunters see what they are getting into. With that in mind more and more companies are developing specific strategies and procedures for their social media for both the company and employees. Look for more directed and targeted policies that look to attract potential employees in the coming months and years.

The Open, Bright And Collegiate Workplace

7) The dominance of the traditional office environment is almost certainly coming to an end. More and more prospective employees are looking for businesses to work for that offer comfortable, modern and collaborative working environments. Companies such as Google, Acuity, Lego, Fujitsu, Facebook and others are leading the way with working environments that are designed to embrace modernity and foster collaborative working relationships. The days of the cubicle or shut in office are almost gone, say hello to the colourful, engaging open plan or pod styled offices of tomorrow.

 Volunteering

8) In today’s business environment people sacrificing their already limited free time seems to be unlikely however recent trends are actually proving this to be false. Employees are becoming more and more involved and excited by opportunities to volunteer their skills or time to charitable works and programs. Offering these opportunities to employees has a two fold impact, firstly it provides your employees with a way to feel good about their work by having a positive and selfless impact and secondly it gives the company greater exposure in the wider community. Businesses can undertake volunteering or charity programs through pro bono work, donations or through participation in events for charity such as completing Walk For Life, Seven Bridges Walk or even the more challenging Tough Mudder.

 Not So Fancy

9) The idea of casual Fridays has been around for a long time but today, it’s not so much casual Friday that is becoming more prevalent but more like casual Monday – Friday. Businesses are finding that employees who are more comfortable at work produce better results. For smaller businesses allowing your employees more comfort in the workplace while maintaining a professionalism that suits your industry is a balance you must try on. It isn’t just technology companies that are moving towards the casual wear offices and workplaces, get on board before your ties, tie your hands and you are forced to change!