Using Workflow Automation to Boost Employee Productivity and Satisfaction

Using-Workflow-Automation-to-Boost-Employee-Productivity-and-Satisfaction

READ TIME: 4 MIN

Using-Workflow-Automation-to-Boost-Employee-Productivity-and-Satisfaction

Using Workflow Automation to Boost Employee Productivity and Satisfaction

When you hear the term “automation,” it may evoke images of robots performing manual tasks in factories or warehouses. Although this is one form of workplace automation, the type of automation we’ll discuss in this article involves use of software to automate routine office tasks.

This is the type of automation that employees love, as it takes some of the most disliked job tasks off their hands. What are employees’ most disliked office tasks? Here’s what topped the list of responses workers shared when asked this question: data entry, digital filing, managing emails, and creating reports1.

If your eyes glazed over just reading this list, we understand. These are essential tasks, without a doubt, but they are also undeniably boring and repetitive. Additionally concerning is that they often occupy a rather large proportion of employees’ time. In fact, office employees in the U.S. reported that they spend about 40% of the work week on repetitive, routine tasks2.

Obviously, work can’t always be fun—that’s why it’s called “work”—but creating a positive work environment for employees is important for staying competitive in the war for talent. Reducing routine task load is an important retention strategy to consider because when such tasks are excessive, employees may:

  • experience boredom and disengagement;
  • need to work extra hours;
  • make mistakes due to feeling rushed; and
  • have less time for higher-value activities.

Both boredom and burnout due to excessive workloads can decrease employee productivity and increase the likelihood of turnover3. So, it’s worth your while to evaluate possible ways to minimize routine tasks by taking advantage of business process automation.

Microsoft 365’s Power Platform offers some handy tools for automating routine work tasks. The great thing about these technologies is that they don’t involve writing code; you simply use a point-and-click approach within the flow designer4. They also allow for cross-platform connections, which opens up an enormous range of possibilities.

Following are just a few ideas for process automation using Microsoft’s Power Automate, Power BI, and Power Apps:

1. Expedite document approval, notifications, and filing processes:

Using Power Automate, you can designate a trigger that sets in motion an automated sequence of actions. For example, a trigger might be uploading an incident report to SharePoint or via Microsoft Forms. You could use this action to trigger notifications via Teams or email to persons in the approval chain.

For field employees, you might create an incident reporting app through Power Apps that allows them to submit reports via a mobile device. You can also add automatic reminders to ensure the approval process doesn’t stall. You can even specify the file format and location of the approved report, and Power Automate will take care of these final steps for you.

2. Receive notifications when data thresholds are reached:

Power BI can be used to track and visualize streaming data from multiple sources, which you can use to create real-time dashboards where you can specify data alerts. For example, you can create data alerts for sales targets, factory sensor readings, or mentions on social media. In Power Automate, you can then designate Power BI data alerts as triggers for notifications (via Teams, Slack, SMS, etc.) to keep team members updated.

3. Eliminate redundant data entry:

Power Automate allows you connect data sources across platforms to streamline data entry and reduce errors. If, for example, you were using Salesforce for lead tracking but also maintaining a related spreadsheet in SharePoint, you could designate new entries into Salesforce as a trigger for automatic updates to the SharePoint document.

4. Generate and disseminate reports:

Power BI allows you to generate reports using real-time data, and you can use Power Automate to distribute the reports via routes such as email or DropBox. As an example, you could collect customer feedback using Forms, stream this data into Power BI, and then specify the reporting interval in your Power Automate task flow. You could then set up additional task flow steps for distribution and storage of the final report.

As you’ve probably gathered by now, the combinations of automated workflows you can set up across platforms are numerous, creating almost endless opportunities to streamline your employees’ workflows. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, NexusTek can provide support with implementing Power Platform in ways that meet your specific business needs.

Would you like to learn more about how to leverage business process automation tools?

References:

  1. Cision PR Newswire. (2020, January 21). Global research reveals world’s ‘most hated’ office tasks. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-research-reveals-worlds-most-hated-office-tasks-300989956.html
  2. (2021). How much time do we actually spend on recurring tasks? (Study 2021). https://clockify.me/time-spent-on-recurring-tasks
  3. Lufkin, B. (2021, July 4). Being chronically bored at work can have damaging consequences—and we need to talk about it more, say experts. BBC Worklife. https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20210701-the-damaging-effects-of-boreout-at-work
  4. Foley, M. J. (2019, November 4). Microsoft rebrands Flow to ‘Power Automate’; adds no-code Power Platform virtual agents. ZDNet. https://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-rebrands-flow-to-power-automate-adds-no-code-power-platform-virtual-agents/

Disaster Recovery as a Service: Protecting Your Business From Ransomware

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Disaster Recovery as a Service: Protecting Your Business From Ransomware

Defending your business against ransomware attacks is a multifaceted process. Your first layer of defense is prevention, which should include measures such as employee awareness training, proactive monitoring for malware, and timely installation of updates and patches.

In spite of such precautions, ransomware attackers may still manage to find their way into your systems. With a ransomware attack on businesses occurring every 11 seconds1, this is clearly a threat of the highest order. This is why it is vital that you honestly assess the dreaded, worst-case scenario question:

What If My Company Were the Target of a Ransomware Attack?

If threat actors successfully launched a ransomware attack against your company, they would almost certainly encrypt your data. This means that, although your data would still be present, it would be converted into a form that is unusable. This would immobilize your IT system, effectively shutting down most if not all business operations.

When you consider the fact that the average downtime resulting from a ransomware attack is 3 weeks2, it becomes glaringly apparent that downtime is immensely expensive. Downtime costs quickly accumulate due to lost productivity, loss of daily revenues, and even loss of long-term customers. For some industries, such as healthcare, network downtime can even be life threatening (e.g., for patients who depend upon continuous care).

The operational paralysis caused by downtime is a primary source of leverage that hackers use to coerce their victims into paying ransoms. That coercion takes the form of an extortion attempt that would go something like this:

The threat actors would inform you that upon your payment of an untraceable ransom (usually in the form of a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin), they will provide you with the decryption code that will allow you to convert your data back into usable form. Until you pay, they will hold your data hostage.

To Pay or Not to Pay—Is That the Question?

Now, you might be thinking, “But we have our data backed up…why would I pay these criminals for a code to decrypt our data when we can just rely on our backups?” Smart question, but the thing is, before you thought to ask that question, the threat actors anticipated not only the question but the answer.

A concerning trend over the last few years has been for ransomware attackers to first go after existing backups, well before anyone is aware that their systems have been breached3. After deleting or compromising the backups, the attackers then proceed to the stage of their scheme when they inform the victimized business of their shakedown.

As a key decision maker for your business, this would put you into a position of choosing between (a) paying the ransom, or (b) losing your data and possibly your entire business. This is one reason why so many businesses ultimately do end up paying ransoms.

Interestingly, 66% of businesses polled stated that they would never pay the attackers if caught up in a ransomware attack; however, in reality, up to 65% do go through with the payments4. This suggests that if you wound up in the crosshairs of ransomware attackers, you might actually find yourself defenseless and willing to concede defeat by paying the ransom.

Your Protection Against Ransomware Attackers

This brings us to the good part of our story: The key to protecting your business against ransomware attackers is indeed backing up your data. However, cybercriminals may specifically seek out backup files in your network, so you must also maintain backups in off-site storage that is inaccessible to threat actors.

Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS), which includes off-site data storage, is an essential element of establishing your business continuity strategy. Data is backed up continually and is immediately retrievable in the event of loss. Integrating DRaaS into your overall IT strategy helps you to prepare for the worst of situations, ensuring that your IT systems—and therefore your business operations—remain functional during crises such as ransomware attacks.

By storing backups safely out of reach, you disable the attackers’ capacity to manipulate you via data encryption. The happy conclusion to this story is that with thorough preparation that covers all contingencies, your company can successfully weather a ransomware attack.

Are you interested in learning more about how DRaaS solutions can help you to weather IT disasters?

References:

  1. Morgan, S. (2021, December 30). Top 6 cybersecurity predictions and statistics for 2021 to 2025. Cybercrime Magazine. https://cybersecurityventures.com/top-5-cybersecurity-facts-figures-predictions-and-statistics-for-2021-to-2025/

  2. Durbin, S. (2021, June 1). Ransomware is everywhere—Here’s what you need to consider. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2021/06/01/ransomware-is-everywhereheres-what-you-need-to-consider/?sh=2f0023ee7c1f

  3. Weeks, R. (2021, March 31). #WorldBackupDay: How to protect the last line of defense. Infosecurity Magazine. https://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/opinions/how-to-protect-the-last-line-of/

  4. Fruhlinger, J. (2020, June 19). Ransomware explained: How it works and how to remove it. CSO. https://www.csoonline.com/article/3236183/what-is-ransomware-how-it-works-and-how-to-remove-it.html

Creating Opportunities for Your IT Team

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Creating Opportunities for Your IT Team

In today’s business context, where most—if not all—critical functions are mediated by technology, it’s not an exaggeration to say that your IT team literally keeps your business running. As we grapple with the ongoing trend of increased turnover across industries and job types, the unfortunate reality is that the chances of losing some of your top IT talent are high. The financial costs of turnover are staggering; a conservative estimate is that the costs associated with losing and replacing a single worker come to about 33% of the employee’s salary1. Losing key members of your IT team, however, can have far-reaching consequences that extend beyond the financial costs. Turnover within the IT department can be unsettling to remaining team members, resulting in increased workloads, fatigue, and mistakes. This type of disruption can ultimately create ripple effects across all departments, reducing organizational productivity and performance. Clearly, holding onto your top tech professionals is an urgent business priority.

Predictors of Turnover for IT Employees

Stemming turnover of your IT talent requires a solid appreciation of its root causes:
  • Stress due to excessive demands: Work overload can cause IT employees to feel lower levels of commitment to their organizations, which increases the chances that they’ll submit their resignations2. Many IT professionals—especially in smaller businesses—are a “one-stop shop” for any and all technology-related processes and administrative tasks.On any given day, this may include maintaining technology infrastructure, managing updates, and troubleshooting technology issues. Compounding IT workers’ stress levels are the after-hours tech support calls that can adversely impact their work-life balance. These conditions set the stage for burnout, which is a common cause of turnover.
  • Lack of opportunity for growth: One of the most important factors IT professionals seek in a job is the opportunity for stretch goals—those that challenge them to develop their skills and abilities in new ways3. Many IT employees may have valuable strategic insights into ways to better utilize technologies to achieve business goals. IT staff who are run ragged managing service calls and administrative tasks all day, however, may be deprived of the chance to apply their technological acumen more strategically. If this is the case, they may look elsewhere for better opportunities.

Supporting Your IT Team Via a Managed Services Provider

Working with a managed services provider (MSP) can be a great way of addressing predictors of turnover in your IT team. Partnering with an MSP reduces demands on in-house IT staff, making their workloads more manageable and decreasing the likelihood of burnout. The nature of MSP support can vary depending upon an organization’s needs and priorities:

  • Help desk support from an MSP provides employees with guidance and instruction to resolve a variety of IT issues that arise during the workday.
  • On-site technical support from an MSP provides a dedicated engineer to help with troubleshooting and planning when an in-person presence is important.
  • Full MSP support involves system monitoring and technical support on both a remote and on-site basis.

Freeing up IT professionals’ time gives them the opportunity to grow and expand, ideally into more strategic roles. A robust IT strategy that aligns with the overall business strategy is essential to maximizing your organization’s performance.

Creating opportunities for IT employees to contribute to strategy not only creates a stimulating environment where they can thrive, but it also furthers the company’s capacities for attaining its overall business goals. This is the definition of win-win.

As technology occupies an increasingly pervasive role in the business realm, leading thinkers suggest that all businesses are now essentially technology businesses4. Recognizing this fact, we must acknowledge that our IT employees are no longer solely technicians who help us get through the tactical elements of our days. IT professionals now represent an essential voice in strategic planning conversations.

Partnering with an MSP such as NexusTek can ensure that you stay on top of day-to-day IT needs, while also giving your in-house IT staff the opportunity to contribute in strategic ways to your business.

Would you like to learn more about using MSP services to create opportunities for your IT team?

References:

  1. Avogino, T. (2019, February 23). To have and to hold. SHRM. https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/all-things-work/pages/to-have-and-to-hold.aspx
  2. Harden, G., Boakye, K. G., & Ryan, S. (2018). Turnover intention of technology professionals: A social exchange theory perspective. Journal of Computer Information Systems58(4), 291-300. https://doi.org/10.1080/08874417.2016.1236356
  3. (2021, June 23). New research finds that stress and burnout are the main reasons more than half of leaders plan to leave their jobs in the next year. https://www.qualtrics.com/blog/labor-shortage-study/
  4. Rakesh, N. (2018, December 7). Every business is a technology business—some just don’t know it. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2018/12/07/every-business-is-a-technology-business-some-just-dont-know-it/?sh=566e6677360e

Getting Ahead of Cybercriminals: 5 Essential Cybersecurity Practices

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Getting Ahead of Cybercriminals: 5 Essential Cybersecurity Practices

Ransomware attacks that hold large, prominent companies’ networks “hostage” pending multi-million-dollar ransom payments make for attention-grabbing media coverage. We’re much less likely to hear news stories about cyberattacks on small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), which might give you the impression that smaller businesses are less likely to be victimized by cybercriminals. Did you know, however, that two thirds of SMBs experienced a cybersecurity attack within the last year1?

This may come as a shock, as the resources of smaller businesses are dwarfed by those of large companies. Although you might assume this would make SMBs less attractive targets for cybercrime, consider the following2:

  • SMBs often have less sophisticated security practices, making them easier targets for cybercriminals.
  • Lack of cybersecurity knowledge within SMBs may result in failure to recognize that a security breach has occurred, giving criminals ample opportunity to obtain sensitive information.
  • SMBs are less likely to report cybersecurity breaches to law enforcement, making them less risky targets for cybercriminals.

If you’re finding the prospect of staying ahead of cybercriminals overwhelming, you’re in good company: 88% of SMB leaders view their businesses as vulnerable to cybercrime3. However, many of these leaders share that they don’t know quite where to start to protect their businesses.

The first step in cultivating a security strategy is to understand your sources of risk. The following is a list of five essential cybersecurity practices, along with descriptions of the underlying risks they address:

1. Cybersecurity Awareness Training

Why Is This Important?
Social engineering attacks, such as phishing and smishing, harness psychological manipulations aimed at tricking employees into clicking on links or sharing confidential information. All it takes is one employee to fall for a social engineering ploy for a security breach to occur. This is why employee error is the #1 cybersecurity risk your business faces; cybersecurity awareness training is the best way to counter this threat. In fact, businesses that offer awareness training can cut their cybersecurity risk by up to 70%4.

2. Install Patches and Updates Immediately

Why Is This Important?
Patches and updates are routinely required to address known vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can target. Staying on top of patches and updates is vital to keeping hackers out of your systems, but busy professionals often delay installations as they attend to competing priorities. Make it a priority to ensure your software and operating systems stay current.

3. Proactive Monitoring

Why Is This Important?
Although you might imagine that you would easily recognize if your systems had been penetrated, many breaches are not obvious to the untrained eye. In fact, the average length of time between breach and detection is over 6 months5. Proactive 24/7 monitoring of your systems by a certified engineer ensures that any breaches are identified quickly so that you can respond immediately.

4. Vulnerability Scanning

Why Is This Important?
Every device—remote or in-office—that is connected to your organization’s network creates a possible entry point for hackers. With the rise in remote work and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) practices, there is an increasing number of devices connected to workplace networks. BYOD practices create particular risks, as employees’ personal devices are less likely to be updated and more likely to be lost. Routine scanning of your company’s network edge helps to identify any points of vulnerability that need attention.

5. Create an Incident Response Plan

Why Is This Important?
Most SMBs lack the knowledge and preparation to respond effectively in the case of a cyberattack. This can be disastrous in the event of an attack, as 60% of SMBs are forced to close within 1 year of a cyberattack7. Develop a comprehensive incident response plan for your business, so you know exactly how to respond should you fall victim to cyberattack.

Partner with NexusTek for Your Cybersecurity Strategy

To address your cybersecurity needs, NexusTek offers the above and additional services in our three cybersecurity plans:

Essential Plan:
This managed protection plan offers 24/7/365 monitoring and alerts with managed cybersecurity and an annual security health review for a crucial foundation of defense.

Standard Plan:
Building on the protective base of our Essential Plan, this managed protection and response plan adds proactive steps to fortify your business, including security awareness training, managed DNS security, vulnerability scanning, and incident response.

Advanced Plan:
For robust cybersecurity, this managed detection and response plan enhances a business’s security effectiveness with managed SIEM to detect malware, log correlation and aggregation to analyze malicious logins, and incident response to eliminate threats. A security health review is conducted each quarter to stay on top of vulnerabilities and their solutions.

Would you like to learn more about how to get ahead of cybercriminals?

References:

  1. Hubschmid, F. (2021). How to protect your small business from cyber threats. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2021/06/02/how-to-protect-your-small-business-from-cyber-threats/?sh=2453e01556cd
  2. Gafni, R., & Pavel, T. (2019). The invisible hole of information on SMB’s cybersecurity. Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management7(1), 14-26. http://www.iiakm.org/ojakm/articles/2020/OJAKM_Volume8_2pp1-16.php
  3. S. Small Business Association. (2022). Stay safe from cybersecurity threats. https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/manage-your-business/stay-safe-cybersecurity-threats
  4. Morrow, S. (2021). What is security awareness training and why is it needed? https://vpnoverview.com/internet-safety/business/security-awareness-training/
  5. Ponemon Institute. (2020). Cost of a data breach report, 2020. https://www.capita.com/sites/g/files/nginej291/files/2020-08/Ponemon-Global-Cost-of-Data-Breach-Study-2020.pdf
  6. (2021). Why every small business should care about cyberattacks, in 5 charts. Vox. https://www.vox.com/sponsored/11196054/why-every-small-business-should-care-about-cyber-attacks-in-5-charts

How to Improve the Employee Experience with Technology

READ TIME: 4 MIN

How to Improve the Employee Experience with Technology

What is the Employee Experience? Employee experience (EX) is the collective of what people encounter and observe during their employment at a company.

Remote working continues to be a growing trend going into 2022, and as a result the talent available to organizations can now be recruited at a national level. Not only is this beneficial to businesses looking to recruit top talent, but it also empowers job candidates to be more selective with which company they want to join. If one company doesn’t offer the perks they desire in a job, they now have access to thousands of other businesses competing for their talent.

One of the ways companies are distinguishing themselves from competitors is a focus on EX. Creating a work environment that’s positive, collaborative, motivating, and provides work/life balance helps to attract top talent, improves employee retention, and increases productivity. The technology employees rely on plays an important role in the employee experience, especially for remote workforces.

Here are some examples of how technology can help improve EX…

Employee Need: Efficiently and seamlessly perform job tasks Technology Solution: Latest IT Hardware

There are few things more frustrating than a device that runs slowly or constantly malfunctions. Employees require efficient laptops with the latest standard in HDD space and RAM, and a mid to large sized monitor (sometimes 2 for dual viewing). Those items should be the golden standard for technology needed to productively work from home.

Devices like HD web cams, wireless mouse and keyboard, Bluetooth headphones, and wireless printers, help to expand employee capabilities when working from home. Employees that are well equipped with the right technology will be more productive, feel valued by their employer, and confident in carrying out business critical tasks.

Employee Need: Work collaboration and people engagement Technology Solution: Microsoft 365

With the increase in remote workforces, one of the new challenges that businesses face is creating a collaborative and engaging environment away from a physical office. Microsoft 365 can help employees stay connected and collaborate with team members, as well as create a positive and engaging experience.

Microsoft Teams (a video conferencing and collaboration platform) is tremendously valuable not only for teamwork, but also as a tool to foster a positive employee experience.

Some examples of how Teams can be leveraged to enhance the employee experience include:

  • Communication during recruiting and onboarding
  • Getting to know your employees and starting a dialogue
  • Recognition and acknowledgement of key achievements
  • Regularly provide updates and progress to team/company goals
  • Team building activities like Coffee Calls, Trivia, Book Clubs, Virtual Celebrations, Cross-department calls, etc.

Employee Need: Technology that simply works and easily fixed if faulty Technology Solution: Expert IT Support

Traditionally, an office may have an “IT person” that can troubleshoot and fix system or device issues. However, now that many workforces have transitioned to work from home…how can remote employees resolve issues on their work devices? If an employee is having technology issues and doesn’t have an IT expert readily available 24/7 to help them, you’re looking at hours (maybe days) of lost productivity and an exasperated employee that just needs their technology to work.

We all know technology is prone to have moments of failure, so ensure your employees have the tech support they require to maintain productivity and perform their job responsibilities without hassle.

Employee Need: Confidence in the protection of their work devices Technology Solution: Cybersecurity Awareness Training

The security of a company’s data and assets isn’t only the responsibility of IT leadership, everyone in an organization has a role in exercising cybersecurity best practices. Employees (especially remote workers) are heavily targeted by cyber criminals because they know the greatest vulnerability in a business’s defenses is the people due to natural human error.

The absence of cybersecurity training, along with not having the proper security solutions to help protect employees, can lead to uneasiness and a lack of confidence in carrying out daily tasks…especially if employees routinely engage with external parties.

Investing in cybersecurity awareness training will provide your employees with the essential knowledge they need to identify potential cyber threats and protect company assets.

Need Help Improving Your Company’s Employee Experience?

SMB Trends for 2022

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SMB Trends for 2022

The new year has arrived! For businesses, it is a time to celebrate the successes of 2021, reflect on the lessons learned, and strategize how to enhance the business going forward.

The workforce has changed rapidly over the last 24 months. Although the technology term “digital transformation” has been a buzzword for a few years now, a multi-year global pandemic and evolving employee workforce preferences has accelerated the adoption of this tech philosophy.

We’ve compiled what the market experts are saying some of the technology and employee trends will be for small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) in 2022.

“Big Business” Systems and Processes

Customers have easy access to information at the tip of their fingers, and they’re doing more research about the products and services they’re interested in before initiating contact with a company. According to Keenfolks, 87% of buyers now begin product searches online, 75% of consumers expect a consistent experience across every channel, and 67% of customers prefer self-service over speaking to a company representative.

What do all those stats mean for SMBs?

It means if your business processes and technology are not making it easy for customers to self-research your company, engage with your brand across different channels, or provide a certain level of self-service automation (for both prospective and current customers), you may be missing a golden opportunity to stand out from your competitors.

Deliver the “seamless and easy” experience consumers have come to expect in the marketplace by utilizing cloud-enabled technologies and automated process where it makes sense for your business model.

Hybrid & Remote Workforces

Initially thought to be a temporary solution to navigate around the recent pandemic, companies are now faced with an inevitable truth…employees do not want (and are refusing) to go back to the office.

Over the last year and a half, the “experiment” of remote working has shown that businesses can still operate smoothly, employees are productive (some research shows an increase in production versus in an office) and they prefer the flexibility that comes with remote working.

Consider these stats from Forbes Magazine:

  • 97% of employees do not want to return to the office full-time
  • 61% of employees prefer to be fully remote

Of course, not every business can be fully remote, as some jobs require in-office/field workers to perform essential tasks to meet the demands of the business. Sometimes a hybrid of remote/in-office policies and procedures work better for some businesses.

Whichever option better fits your business needs, make sure your business-critical applications and data are accessible in a secure cloud environment, your employees have cloud-based productivity and collaboration software (e.g., Microsoft Office 365 and Teams), and your networks have end-point security protection to defend against increasing cyberattacks on remote workforces.

Strategic Inventory Management

Over the last several months, businesses across the U.S. have been faced with supply chain challenges brought on by the lingering pandemic effects of economies shutting down, manufacturing slow down (or coming to a complete halt), and the limited availability of raw materials.

This trend will continue well into 2022, so businesses of all sizes and in all industries must be prepared to manage their inventory accordingly and manage customer expectations.

Technology like cloud-enabled ERP systems and the ability to provide mobile real-time data updates will help with tracking and forecasting product inventory, as well as the accompanying labor/services your business delivers.

In a recent Forbes article, Rick Itzkowich states, “Supply chain shortages are not going away. Delays in getting raw materials and delivering finished products are going to be longer than expected. Planning, adjusting, and strategizing your inventory management is critical. Manufacturers look to increase raw materials, as the cost of not having a product is higher. If your company isn’t suffering directly, your customers are feeling the stress.”

Employee Experience and Career Development

Your people are your most valuable asset. The ability to work remote, and the work/life balance it provides, has become the standard in the minds of many workers. Couple that with the now expanded job market, where talent can be accessed from across the U.S. instead of confined within your city, employees want more from their employers.

Chris Herd, Founder and CEO at Firstbase, captured this when he stated, “Companies who adopted technology 20 years ago replaced every company that didn’t. Companies who adopt remote work will replace every company who doesn’t in 20 years. The reason is incredibly simple: Talent and efficiency.”

People are now empowered more than ever to ask the question “why should I work for your company?”.

In addition to flexibility with remote working, make it a point to build and/or reinforce a company culture that lets your employees know they’re valued and can grow. Create an employee experience, from new hire on boarding to career development, that demonstrates to employees that you’re invested in helping them succeed in their role. Train your employees with new skills and look for opportunities to promote from within.

Businesses that offer growth opportunities and create an employee-focused culture are more likely to attract top talent, reduce employee turnover and increase performance.

Best Tech Gifts for the 2021 Holiday Season

READ TIME: 6 MIN

Best Tech Gifts for the 2021 Holiday Season

This holiday season, whether it’s for your colleague or your spouse, your cousin or a friend, give them a present that embodies the spirit of innovation! We’ve collected an array of the best technology gifts on the market, with multiple options to fit any budget. Empower your colleagues and loved ones with everything from productivity hacks to workstation must-haves so that they can start 2022 off right.

Screen Time

A monitor is a workstation essential, whether working in the office or from home. While a laptop is perfect for on-the-go, a monitor—or better yet, dual monitors—offers more screen space for productivity, improved picture quality for photo or video editing, and a more ergonomic setup for a happier, healthier work environment. Below are three of the best monitors, according to N.Y. Times:

  • Best Picture Quality: Dell P2721Q for *$510
  • Best Ultrawide: Acer XR342CK Pbmiiqphuzx 34″ 21:9 Curved IPS Monitor for *$650
  • Best on a Budget: ViewSonic VA2456-MHD for *$270

Dell’s 4K monitor, ideal for creative workers, is highly rated for its color accuracy, adjustable stand, and port selection. For those who enjoy one ultrawide screen for a seamless layout of applications and programs, Acer offers 34 inches of unbroken horizontal space as well as a pixel count high enough to replace two monitors. ViewSonic’s 24-inch 1080p monitor is ideal for both space savers and money savers, offering a quality monitor for smaller workstations that is considerate of smaller budgets. No matter which of the three you may choose, rest easy knowing they all have three-year warranties

All in the Wrist

Now that you’ve got the monitor sorted, it is time to pair it with a wireless mouse and keyboard combo. The wireless feature is top notch when on the go, whether on a hybrid schedule between the office and home or rotating through favorite local cafes. Even if the keyboard never gets packed up, having no visible wires to get caught on or clutter a workstation can greatly simplify things. Here are some of the top wireless keyboard and mouse combos, as recommended by Reviewed.

  • Best Overall: Logitech MK850 for *$80
  • Best Value: Logitech MK270 for *$25
  • Best for Multiple Devices: Dell KM7321W for *$80

Type in ease with MK850’s comfortable wrist rest and its fully-featured, ergonomic mouse. For a quarter of the price, MK270 is not only an affordable option, but a quality one that is easy to type with programmable hot keys. Dell’s premier multi-device wireless keyboard and mouse connect with up to three devices that are easy to switch through and features an elegant design for a minimalist workstation.

Get in the Zone

Whether in the office or at home, tuning out distractions and tuning into projects is critical for maintaining high productivity levels. Noise-cancelling headphones eliminate the water cooler chatter or the tumbling washing machine so that your colleagues and loved ones can get stuff done. Here are the highlights from TechRadar’s round-up of the best noise-cancelling headphones of 2021:

  • Best Overall: Sony WH-1000XM4 for *$350
  • Best Earbuds: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds for *$280
  • Best on a Budget: JBL Tune 750BTNC for *$130

Sony took first place for its sound quality and new features, including multipoint pairing, DSEE Extreme upscaling, and conversational awareness, all wrapped up in a lightweight design. For those who do not enjoy over-ear headphone designs, Bose earbuds offer best-in-class ANC, clarity, and a comfortable fit. With a reliable brand name like JBL, the Tune 750BTNC are easy to use and feature strong active noise cancellation at a budget-friendly price.

Make a Call

Nowadays, basically everyone has a phone. Since it is the one item many people never leave home without (because it is usually glued to their person), investing in a high-quality phone is a worthwhile expense. If you’re a practical gift giver, then you can’t go wrong with a smartphone. Check out a few of the best phones to buy in 2021, according to CNET.

  • Best Overall: Apple iPhone 13 Pro for *$999
  • Best Foldable Phone: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 for *$1,050
  • Best Camera on a Budget: Google Pixel 5a with 5G for *$450

Apple is known for its high-quality cameras, and its latest smartphone, iPhone 13 Pro, adds a third rear camera with 3x optical zoom. Samsung is bringing back the flip phone in a big way with a main screen that measures 6.7 inches but folds to fit in a pocket without the bulge. While half the price, Google Pixel 5a features a 6.34-inch OLED display, a quality camera, and is water-resistant.

Power Hungry

Whether travelling to a coffee shop for an afternoon change-up or flying in between meetings, there is one thing you can count on: Charging stations may be few and far in between. Empower your colleagues and loved ones this holiday season with portable power banks so that they can take charge(s) wherever they go. PCWorld reviewed the best power banks of 2021:

  • Best Overall: Mophie Powerstation XXL for *$60
  • Best on a Budget: Anker PowerCore Fusion 5000 2-in-1 Portable Charger and Wall Charger for *$30
  • Most Rugged: Goal Zero Sherpa 100AC Portable Power Bank for *$300

Mophie’s efficient power bank offers 74Wh of power, three ports, and a sleek design, making it the complete package. Free two birds with one key with Anker’s combo power bank with two USB-A ports plus a built-in wall charger. For those on the road all the time, Goal Zero has got you covered with a rugged power bank loaded with extra features that can take the jostles of travel.

Lost N’ Found

Running late for work and can’t find your keys? Never again with a Bluetooth tracker. Attach it to your phone, keys, laptop, or another valuable item so that you can quickly locate it or track if stolen and in range. Giving someone one of these smart devices is a smart choice (ha!), so check out the best Bluetooth trackers, according to PCMag:

  • Best iOS-compatible: Apple AirTag for *$30
  • Best Android-compatible: Tile Pro for *$35
  • Best Smart Home Integration: Samsung Galaxy Smart Tag for *$20

Whether stuck in the couch cushions or left 100 miles away in a hotel from last week’s conference, your Apple devices can be found with the nifty AirTag. Durable with good connectivity, Tile Pro can be submerged for up to 30 minutes and has a battery life estimated to last up to a year. Track and locate your devices as well as activate start home automation routines with Samsung’s Smart Tag.

Pocketful of Sunshine

With the huge increase in video conferencing due to remote and hybrid work environments, most people are in front of a camera at least once a weekday, and so, a ring light makes a solid gift. Help your colleagues and loved ones put their best face forward with one of these best ring lights of 2021, according to Spy.

  • Best for Video Conferencing: Rotolight Video Conferencing Kit for *$300
  • Best for Remote Work: Video Conference Lighting Kit for *$21
  • Best Pocket-Size: Auxiwa Clip-On Selfie Ring Light for *$14

Kit out your loved one with Rotolight’s 1000+ Lumens and a CRI color accuracy rating of 96 so that they always look sharp. The Video Conference Lighting Kit offers a 48 LED light with 360-degree adjustment that clips onto a laptop or computer for easy setup. Carry a ring light wherever with Auxiwa’s pocket-size, clip-on light with 36 LEDs and three brightness settings.

Lunch Break Fun

All work and no play didn’t work so well for Jack, so help your colleagues and loved ones decompress with a fun tech gadget that won’t take up too much desk space. These quick games will keep brains active and fingers warm so they’re ready to hit the keyboard again after lunch.

  • Best for Mindful Gamers: Winning Fingers Electronic Memory & Brain Game for *$40
  • Best for Star Wars Fans: R2-D2 Tamagotchi for *$20
  • Best for Arcade Lovers: Street Fighter II Champion Edition Micro Player for *$60

Winning Fingers offers four speed games and memory games fit for adults and kids in an LED cube design. Tap into 90s nostalgia and help your digital friend, R2-D2, learn new skills and play mini-games. Released in 1992, Street Fighter II: Champion Edition has been miniaturized with twelve characters and 78 different possible match combinations.

Focus Group

Jumpstart productivity in 2022 with a gadget that improves time management and focus. Enable the people in your life to work towards their goals with technology designed to help keep them on top of their game.

  • Best for Hot Drinks: Excalibur USB Beverage Warmer/Cooler for *$16
  • Best for Time Management: Mooas Cube Timer for *$15
  • Best for Fidgeting: Fidgi Pen for *$30

Ideal for coffee or tea drinkers, users can eliminate wasted time with a beverage warmer/cooler that keeps them out of the kitchen and away from unnecessary chitchat. Users can delegate how much time each task needs with a cube timer, perfect for time management and any size desk. For those fond of clicking pens, try the Fidgi Pen, which comes packed with seven different features for discreet (and quiet) fidgeting while focusing.

Happy Holidays

We hope you’ve found some exciting technologies and inspiring gifts in this blog!

 Thank you for reading, and happy holidays from NexusTek! We look forward to seeing you in 2022.

*Please note all prices mentioned in this blog were up to date at the time of publishing on December 8, 2021.

**This list of technology products is solely for the purposes of offering our audiences market knowledge and does not signify NexusTek’s endorsement of the abovementioned brands and/or products.

2021 Technology To Be Thankful For

READ TIME: 4 MIN

2021 Technology To Be Thankful For

There’s plenty of technology to be thankful for in 2021: dual monitors, automatic standing desks, noise-cancelling headphones, streaming, food service delivery apps, mRNA, which led to the COVID-19 vaccines, etc.

For the purposes of this blog, let’s narrow the focus to trending and emerging technologies that are making businesses faster, more accurate, and more productive. While these technologies may not be brand new, their uses and impacts are still new to many businesses going through their digital transformation journeys brought on by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Let’s start counting our blessings.

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is not new. In fact, it has been around for over 20 years since Kevin Ashton first coined the term in 1999. IoT did not begin to gain popularity until 2010 when the number of objects or devices connected to the internet (such as smartphones, tablets, fitness trackers, etc.) outnumbered people on the planet. With the onset of IoT came the birth of Industry 4.0, which capitalizes on interconnectivity, automation, machine learning, and real-time data to maximize business operations.

With the widespread shift to distributed business models due to the COVID-19 pandemic, investments into digital solutions to support remote workforces increased. Among these investments were IoT devices and sensors to streamline and automate processes, perform tasks remotely, increase productivity, and collect and analyze real-time data to improve operations and customer service. Thank you, IoT!

Edge Computing

The increased volume of data from IoT devices gave rise to a new IT architecture. Edge computing, distributed and open, analyzes and processes data at or near the original source of data unlike cloud computing, which transmits data to a data center that may be miles away. Edge computing lowers bandwidth costs and decreases latency levels. Rapidly growing, edge computing is forecasted to reach $17.9 billion by 2025, according to Research and Markets.

The addition of edge computing to a distributed cloud-based solution allows businesses to analyze and process data in real-time without impacting the performance of the application itself. Limiting the distance data travels also increases data security and privacy, protecting businesses from cybersecurity breaches, non-compliance fines, and lost customer trust, which is probably the best gift no one ever thinks to wish for.

5G Connectivity

The next generation of the mobile network, 5G is based on multi-access edge computing, leading to increased connection speed and reliability. For example, you could experience 40-50 seconds of lag time on a 4G network, but only 10 milliseconds on 5G. Seeing as how broadband usage increased 47% in Q1 of 2020, slowing down broadband speeds by as much as half, according to Open Vault, companies might consider switching their networks to 5G pronto.

5G makes software-as-a-service (SaaS) products more effective and run smoother and faster simultaneously, so one application’s performance does not impact another app. 5G also allows companies to connect more endpoints, including IoT devices, which will only be enhanced with 5G connectivity. Today’s distributed business model also benefits from the improved mobility of 5G, allowing companies to more reliably connect with remote employees, customers, and new audiences in expanded territories. So, do you want to do more in less time? Yes please!

Remote Services

IoT, edge computing, and 5G networks support remote services, which grew rapidly in 2020. From remote diagnostics to remote monitoring, companies can remotely check the performance of and identify errors in manufacturing equipment, farming technologies, or even ATM machines through the real-time data of their corresponding IoT connections. This proactive maintenance can eliminate issues before they arise and avoid unplanned downtime.

Utilizing mobile devices, interconnected equipment, and remote monitoring management tools, IT service desks can also remotely support distributed workforces. Remote employees do not have to commute to offices or mail their devices in order to troubleshoot their issues. Service desk technicians can remote into their devices from anywhere and resolve the problem at any time. Remote services lead to increased employee productivity and improved customer satisfaction. Oh, remote services, where would we be without you?

Security

Since 5G is mostly software-based, cybersecurity can be written into anything connected to the network, improving data analysis and threat detection. However, devices that sit on the network’s edge (like in edge computing) are more vulnerable to cyber breaches. With IoT connections expected to reach 30.9 billion by 2025, according to Statista, the number of vulnerable entry points is high.

That’s why a multilayered cybersecurity approach is quite possibly the technology to be most thankful for. Firewalls and anti-virus software won’t cut it. Businesses need endpoint security, multifactor authentication, email security, incident response, Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), and vulnerability scans of network edges. In case of a security breach, a business continuity/disaster recovery plan wouldn’t be a bad idea either. All of these elements work together to build protection, detect threats, and eliminate breaches, ultimately avoiding non-compliance fines and leading to increased system uptime and improved brand reputation.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us, resulting in improved business operations thanks to the power of IoT, the speed of edge computing, the capability of 5G, the flexibility of remote services, and the protection of cybersecurity. Companies that embrace the possibilities of such digital solutions will be forever grateful as they keep pace with ever-increasing customer demands and outstrip competitors. If your business has yet to invest in remote service desk support or a multilayered cybersecurity plan, NexusTek’s managed IT services and managed cybersecurity plans feature multiple variations with customizable options so that you can find that right solution for your business.

5 Ways to Improve the Wholesale Customer Experience

READ TIME: 4 MIN

5 Ways to Improve the Wholesale Customer Experience

Providing an excellent customer experience strengthens the loyalty of 64% of customers, according to a Salesforce survey. In today’s world of instant gratification, customers expect on-demand engagement and satisfaction of their needs. Industry 4.0 is revolutionizing every market, including wholesale distribution, and it is the key to enhancing the customer experience, and ultimately, leading to the industry’s success.

Here are five ways to improve the customer experience through the digital transformation of your wholesale distribution business.

Technology

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is automating manufacturing and improving efficiencies through smart technology such as sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. These advanced technologies collect real-time data and analytics to improve productivity and enhance the customer experience. Such data can be crucial to catering towards customers, 45% of whom, Salesforce noted, say they will switch brands if a company does not actively anticipate their needs. Wholesale distributors must stay abreast of this rapidly evolving transformation and invest in smart technology to outpace the competition because it will only continue to progress. In fact, the total number of IoT connections will reach 83 billion by 2024, according to Juniper Research, and sensors will reach $27 billion by 2022, reports Zion Market Research. To support such advanced technologies and securely store and process big data, wholesalers will need to proactively monitor and maintain their IT infrastructures.

Omnichannel Environment

Rather than a multi-channel approach, where a customer can access your business from multiple touchpoints, from mobile to desktop, an omnichannel approach creates a uniform customer experience that picks up where they left off across all touchpoints. According to Salesforce, connected processes are very important to winning the business of 70% of customers. To ensure retailers receive their goods and services as quickly, accurately, and cost-effectively as possible in this omnichannel environment, wholesalers must utilize fully integrated Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) solutions to streamline business processes, from inventory management to scheduling shipments. Not only will this improve real-time demand fulfillment of customer expectations, but also increase customer security and improve compliance with vendors. Healthy IT is critical for an omnichannel environment and a seamless customer experience.

Anywhere Operations

Anywhere operations is an IT model that supports customers, enables remote employees, and delivers product deployment from anywhere, no matter the location of the assets or people. Gallup identified anywhere operations as a top strategic technology trend, and estimated that by the end of 2023, 40% of organizations will have implemented anywhere operations. Fully integrated EDI solutions will help implement anywhere operations, drawing together various business operations as well as improving real-time decision-making. The ability to remotely access real-time information, data, and analytics from anywhere at any time allows on-the-road salespeople to provide updated pricing, check inventory, and review customer profiles for a more tailored customer experience. Wholesale distributors need to maintain a health IT infrastructure to sustain anywhere operations and must manage asset tracking, software licensing, and hardware warranties and provide 24/7/365 help desk support to ensure their mobile workforces never miss a sale due to IT headaches.

Uptime

According to Salesforce, 66% of customers want instant, on-demand engagement. A slow website or shipping mistake can cost brand reputation and loyalty. It is critical that wholesale distributors ensure their products and services are always available to the customer or risk losing their business for good. A Vanson Bourne survey found that 82% of companies had experienced unplanned downtime in the past three years for an average time of 4 hours and costing an average $2 million. As a result, 46% of companies could not deliver services to customers and 37% lost production time on a critical asset. From supply chain management to a reliable online presence, wholesalers and distributors must maintain a smooth integration between the back end and front end of their business, and that means dedicating resources towards decreasing downtime. Increasing system uptime reduces errors, improves productivity, and enhances the customer experience.

Security

It is also important to maintain a healthy IT infrastructure for security. System glitches cause 27% of data breaches in the consumer industry, according to Ponemon Institute; and the average cost? $2.59 million. Whether it’s from the non-compliance fines, cost of lost productivity, or various charges to get your systems back online in a timely manner, the cost of unsecure systems is high. Maintaining the security of your systems and customer data is not only important for compliance, but also for customer loyalty. 59% of customers believe their personal information is vulnerable to a security breach, reports Salesforce, and 54% agree a commitment to safeguarding their data strengthens their loyalty. Wholesalers must support the front end of their business with seamless, healthy IT on the backend, because without security, there is no customer experience to be had.

A good customer experience is built on good technology, whether that means IoT devices with real-time data, seamless omnichannel environments, anywhere operations and support, system uptime, or information security. If your IT department is small, overwhelmed, or even nonexistent, a managed service provider has the expertise and bandwidth to ensure optimal technology performance at your wholesale distribution business. An award-winning MSP, NexusTek offers multiple managed IT plans with various levels of support so that you can find the plan that best fits your company needs and goals. Our 24/7/365 proactive system monitoring, alerting, and maintenance keeps your IT infrastructure running smoothly to increase uptime, decrease glitches and breaches, support advanced technologies and applications, and enhance customer loyalty. Improve the customer experience with managed IT from NexusTek.

3 Ways to Prep Your Business IT for the Holiday Shopping Season

READ TIME: 3 MIN

3 Ways to Prep Your Business IT for the Holiday Shopping Season

The holiday shopping season is coming.

Last year, U.S. online purchases during this time totaled $188.2 billion—32% more than in 2019, according to Adobe Analytics. However, serious sales, enormous crowds, and frenzied purchases can both promote and disrupt business. Massive, simultaneous traffic can lead to website crashes, shipping errors, and security breaches that impact the business and its customers. Companies must shore up their mission critical infrastructure to properly prepare for the onslaught of holiday activity.

Here are three ways to prep your IT for the upcoming holiday shopping season.

Systems Upkeep

Ensure your business has a healthy network infrastructure to handle massive traffic and support smooth integration between the back end and front end of the business, eliminate unplanned downtime, and enhance the customer experience.

A downed website is a direct hit to a business’ bottom line. In 2019, J. Crew lost 323,000 shoppers who were on track to spend $775,000 in five hours; Walmart may have lost as much as $9 million in half that time; and Costco, down for 16 hours, missed out on $11 million. That’s rough. But it’s not all about the money; it’s also about the people. PwC reported that 1 in 3 customers would leave a brand—they love, by the way—after just one bad experience. Would you say missing out on 50% off the latest big screen television because of website malfunctions counts as a “bad” enough experience? Probably. In today’s world of instant gratification, 66% of consumers want—and expect—on demand engagement, according to Salesforce. For those consumers who would give their favorite brands another chance, PwC found that 92% would still completely abandon a company after two or three bad experiences. With a poor IT infrastructure, a business could easily lose more customer loyalty in one season than in the entire year.

Security

Safeguard your business data and customers’ personal information through a multilayered cybersecurity plan that protects your systems, detects cyber threats, defends against attacks, and eliminates breaches through incident response.

The end of the year is prime hunting season for cybercriminals on the prowl for overwhelmed businesses and unsuspecting holiday shoppers. Kaspersky found that cyberattacks on holiday shoppers were up 15% in 2019, and last year, the most DDoS attacks in Q4 were on December 31 with 1,349 attacks recorded across the globe. Consequently, 59% of customers believe their personal information is vulnerable to a security breach, according to Salesforce, and 54% say that a company’s commitment to safeguarding their data strengthens their loyalty. Unfortunately, the consumer industry lacks security automation with only 41% partially deployed and 42% not deployed, according to IBM; as a result, malicious attacks comprise 45% of data breach causes in the consumer industry, with system glitches accounting for 27% and human error for 28%. The cost of weak cybersecurity practices and a lack of security awareness training can lead to lost data, customer loyalty, and overall brand reputation.

Backup and Recover

Maintain frequent data backups and proactively outline business continuity and disaster recovery plans so, in the event of disaster, whether virtual or physical, your business can minimize damage, restore data and systems, and recover business operations quickly. Data backup and restore can be a lifesaver if a website goes down or a ransomware attack strikes in the frenzy of Cyber Monday. According to FEMA, 40-60% of small businesses will never reopen after a data loss; in fact, 90% of companies that are unable to recover business operations within five days of a disaster fail within a year. Mercer reported that more than half of companies do not have a business continuity plan. Ponemon Institute found that companies that implemented business continuity management policies nearly halved the mean time to recover and improved cost savings by 50%. A robust BC/DR plan promotes a swift rebound, which can make all the difference to your bottom line and customer loyalty this holiday shopping season.

Ensure the optimal customer experience for this year’s massive waves of website traffic with a healthy IT infrastructure to increase uptime, a strong cybersecurity approach to protect data, and tough cyber resilience to quickly recover business operations in the event of disaster. If your IT department needs extra help this holiday season, NexusTek’s certified engineers are available 24/7/365 to offer proactive system monitoring and maintenance, managed cybersecurity and incident response and remediation, and data backup and recovery services so your business never misses a sale. Maximize this holiday shopping season with optimized IT support from NexusTek.