Implementing the Best Technology Solutions for Your Business

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Technology is one of those parts of your operational infrastructure that plays a massive role, even if you don’t realize it. For quite some time, you’ve been using all of the standard fares for business technology, such as computers, server units, and networking components. All technology solutions for your business must eventually be replaced, so your company must have an established approach to make this happen in the most seamless and least stressful way possible.

It all starts by having a solid IT implementation strategy. Let’s take a look at some ideas you should consider when looking at your business technology strategy.

Identifying Your Technology Pain Points

When considering technology, you must think with intention. If you don’t, you might implement a “solution” that is entirely unnecessary and, thus, makes your network more complex or complicated than it needs to be. It is best to keep things simple when possible, as the more technology you implement for your business, the more opportunities there are for things to go wrong. To make sure you implement technology with intention, you must consider what problems the technology will solve.

Ask yourself, “What challenges does my business face today?” Your answer will determine which problems you want to solve.

Creating a Technology Plan and Moving Forward

Next, you want to consider how you proceed and what solution to implement. There are many choices to make, so you shouldn’t leave anything off the table. Consider multiple solutions to the problem and think about which one is appropriate for your specific needs.

Ask yourself, “How does my chosen option solve the specified problem?” If you can answer this question, then you know that you should seriously entertain implementing that option.

Implementing the Right Technology Solutions for Your Business

Now that you have determined which solution is the best forward, you can start the implementation process. This process might include a needs analysis or a cost breakdown, so whoever is in charge of the implementation process should have access to all of this information. Furthermore, you will also want to have a complete understanding of how much the solution will cost your business to implement and the expected timeline for that implementation.

Ask yourself, “Do I have the means to implement this technology?” If the answer is yes, then you can move forward with confidence.

Get Started Today!

AE Technology Group understands the frustrations of implementing new technology solutions for your business, so we make it our goal to provide accessible technology management and implementation services to all businesses, big or small. To learn more about how we can help your business get any technology solution off the ground, reach out to us at (516) 536-5006.

The Metric of Productivity With Remote Work

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For any business endeavor, productivity has to be at the very top of the hierarchy of metrics. Think about it, it doesn’t matter what field you work in or what market you cater to, if your business isn’t productive it is going to have a hard time being profitable. For almost a year, many businesses have relied on remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and regardless of what you think about remote work, metrics have shown a fairly surprising rate of productivity out of remote workers over this time. With 12 months of data in hand, we take a look at why productivity is still a king of metrics and how the ongoing pandemic has affected the workforce’s productivity.

Remote Work?

Before March of 2020, a large percentage of businesses wouldn’t dream of letting their staff work from home for more than one day or less. It had been tried—with varying degrees of success—for the past decade. Most business owners cited drops in productivity as the core reason why it was disallowed. When governments started instituting shelter-in-place mandates last March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many business owners had little choice but to allow their staff to work remotely. They could sustain operations apart or shut down together.

Most immediately chose to allow for remote work.

There were a litany of problems with this. Firstly, not all businesses had the infrastructure in place to allow their staff to work remotely. They had to scramble to purchase remote-access software or other solutions that would allow people to work remotely without taking on extraordinary risk. At the same time, hackers and scammers shifted into overdrive as the pandemic was a perfect opportunity to try and get over on people and businesses.

Finally, a workforce that was clamoring for years for additional flexibility got their wish but weren’t ready to do their jobs from home.

This whole storm led to a hiccup of productivity. For the first two months of the pandemic, more businesses failed than in any two-month stretch since the housing crisis. Productivity was way down, and many businesses made the decision to either pull the plug completely or make the investment overhauling their workspace so that their employees could come back to work. All-in-all, March-to-May 2020 was a stressful time to be a small business owner.

A Productivity Miracle

As summer 2020 approached, something happened. People settled in. Government stimulus programs helped businesses afford the technology they needed. Productivity went up. Not just to pre-COVID levels, but slightly higher. The newly-remote worker took this as an opportunity to show their employers that they could be productive from home, and they were. Businesses were learning how to properly get the most out of their employees, even if they hadn’t seen them face-to-face in months.

The reason that is actively cited for this is technology. Communication and collaboration had to improve for business to work, and they did. In fact, productivity is known to grow by 20-to-25 percent in organizations that prioritize connectivity between employees. Technology makes this possible, so any productivity growth that was there in the summer of 2020, had to do with the fact that (despite people being in different locations) they had to be more connected in order to effectively do their jobs.

Reality Sets In

As the pandemic has dragged on, productivity levels have slowly started to decrease. People working from home for long periods of time remained productive, but the people that were never allowed to began to struggle, and it showed up in the productivity statistics. From June to October of 2020 productivity was at comparable levels to where it was in 2019, but as winter came, productivity dropped substantially. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, productivity dropped a total of 4.8 percent in the 4Q of 2020.

That is the single largest drop since 1981. Let’s take a look at the reasons why productivity is trending downward (it’s not all the weather).

  1. Stress – The pandemic has had a marked effect on public stress, that much is true. How quantifiable is it? Right now, the collective stress levels are comparable with the levels when the pandemic started a year ago. In the past year, America has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, racial protests, a contentious election, a riot in the Capitol, and a stumbling vaccine rollout (just to hit the big points) and mental health professionals are suggesting that the people of the U.S. are experiencing collective trauma. People simply don’t have the capacity to continue to be stressed at levels we are now seeing and it has a major impact on their ability to be productive, inside of an office or at home.
  2. Fatigue – Regardless of what you do for a living, when your job changes drastically, but expectations don’t, it will tire you out. People that are working remotely are tired of being at home all the time. They are tired of their kids not being in school. They are tired of utility bills increasing. They are tired of being tired. Fatigue is one of the largest productivity killers inside any business, and with people largely stuck at home, it’s difficult to get the energy to sustain the focus that is expected.
  3. Lack of Incentive – Workers, whether they work at home or at a brick-and-mortar location, aren’t seeing the returns they’d like to see from their hard work. Many workers, especially front-line healthcare and retail workers have been going to work the whole pandemic with very little reward for the perceived risks. For remote workers, especially those who have children, their priority hierarchy is dictated by the situations they face. If they need to home-school their kids or find solutions for pandemic-related issues, it won’t be a big surprise when their work suffers. Businesses are doing all they can to stay afloat, so wage growth or other incentives that they may have seen are all but removed from the equation, as well.

Productivity is extremely important for every business and to get the most out of your staff, you will need to stay engaged. Where your workforce works have less to do with their productivity than other factors, that if confronted, will work to boost their output. One of the biggest misconceptions business owners and managers have is that paychecks are the best motivator. Sure, they are effective, but if you are seeing drops in productivity with remote work (or your in-house staff) engage your staff. Make them see that you are trying as hard as they are and only when everyone does the best they can, will we pull ourselves through this period.

AE Technology Group can help you utilize technology to boost productivity. If you would like to learn how, give us a call today at (516) 536-5006.

How to Conduct a Productive Online Meeting

how to conduct a productive online meeting

Effective communication is the key to keeping clients and partners happy. Fortunately, groundbreaking technological innovations have occurred in the past decade, allowing us to communicate seamlessly with people located far and near without the need to meet physically.  Learning to conduct a productive online meeting is an invaluable asset today, especially when you want to work from home or when you can’t travel to attend a meeting.

With the right digital tools, anyone can effortlessly schedule, plan, structure, manage and conduct virtual meetings with customers, clients, partners, employees, and bosses. With the correct approach, you’ll just be as involved, engaged, and productive as you are in in-person meetings. However, running an effective online meeting requires adequate preparation. Here’s how to go about it.

Pick the Right Platform

The first step you should take is choosing an ideal online meeting tool. There is a broad array of virtual programs out there. Some are meant for social connections, some for enterprise meetings, while others are a blend of the two. Typically, the right tool should allow you to set up and host a virtual meeting, invite a number of participants, and share your screen.

More advanced tools may enable you to share files, chat with participants, and record the meeting. The tool you pick will depend on the capabilities you want and the objectives of your meeting. After selecting a platform, test the system to check whether the camera, microphone, and features such as the multi-participant capability work. Testing and knowing how to operate it will save you time and embarrassments during the actual meeting.

Have a Clear and Well-Communicated Agenda

We’ve all been through meetings that had no clear agenda and seen how the conversation quickly loses track. When the purpose of the meeting is vague, the participants will definitely get confused, become less engaged, and lose sight of the important issues. Setting an agenda and notifying everyone allows each individual to come to the meeting adequately prepared, and to be on the same page. When crafting an agenda, make sure you:

  • Set the key talking points.
  • Request input from those who will attend the meeting.
  • Ensure the topics are relevant to the participants you have invited.
  • Assemble the relevant documents or research concerning the agenda.
  • Appoint a meeting moderator to bring order and control proceedings.
  • Locate time for last-minute questions, comments, and other additions.
  • Notify everyone of the items they should have, e.g., headphones, collar mic, pen, and notebook.

Prepare Your Space

How you prepare your space will make or break the success of the meeting. For official meetings, you don’t want your pets, your kids or phone competing for your attention. Such interruptions not only affect you, but they throw the whole meeting off course. To avoid such mishaps, remove anything that could cause distractions, tell everyone at home you are having a meeting, and lock the door of the room you will use. Make sure the space you use is clutter-free, quiet, has ample lighting, and has a clear background.

Apart from organizing your space, you also need to adopt virtual meeting etiquette. These include being neat and presentable, maintaining eye contact with the camera, limiting body movements, speaking clearly and concisely, refraining from snacking during the meeting, and avoiding performing other tasks such as opening emails. You should also mute your phone, turn off all notifications on the device you are using, and avoid rustling papers.

Go Slow and Steady

Virtual meetings should have a slower pace than in-person meetings. Most systems take around 3 seconds to communicate, and this lag can cause problems to the participants when you proceed to speak in the normal space. Make sure there are sufficient pauses after you finish a statement and ask questions. Pausing gives the participants the opportunity to seek clarification or ask questions without interrupting you.

Recap Before You’re Done

Before concluding the meeting, briefly go over the main points. If participants have been allocated duties, let every person recap what action item he/she is responsible for, and the time frame for delivering it. This phase provides clarity, reminds everyone what they are supposed to do, and ensures accountability.  When the meeting is over, share your notes with all participants to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Bottom Line

Although holding a virtual meeting has been made easier thanks to technological breakthroughs, you need to make adequate preparations if you want to have a fruitful meeting. Start by acquiring the right virtual meeting program, set an agenda, and prepare your space. With the right approach, your clients, partners, and boss will definitely be impressed.

If you are looking to digitally transform your business and expand your reach and communication capabilities, AE Technology Group will help you achieve your goals!

How to Find Balance Between Productivity vs. Security and Compliance

how to find balance between productivity vs security and compliance
However, in order for each one of them to work successfully, business owners must find common ground between each of them.

The truth is productivity, security, and compliance are all important to your business. However, in order for each one of them to work successfully, business owners must find common ground between each of them. More importantly, it’s imperative to define how each of them apply to your business needs too. On the one hand, you’re business is always trying to meet the demands of higher productivity and then on the other hand, security and compliance become just as important.

How does your business find a way to balance their goals of productivity, security, and governance? 

How To Balance Productivity, Security & Compliance 

Your business may define productivity as producing 500 units one week and then 800 the next. It’s obvious your level of productivity has increased. Your business was more productive in the second week than in the first, right? For a service provider, your productivity is defined by the number of customers your business is able to serve. However, today, productivity means giving your employees the flexibility of doing their job which could mean logging into your network from a mobile device, but this opens the door for exploitation by hackers. So, how do you continue to balance productivity, security, and compliance? The experts suggests; “a professional blend of management, resources, and strategy.” 

The need for productivity has created a demand for device compatibility, new workforce benefits, new technology, and vendors that have access to your network information. This has created IT obstacles that have never existed before which insights the need for a balance between productivity, security, and compliance. In fact, it may be harder for small business to keep up with the demands of all three, but here’s how your business can find the perfect balance: 

Choose To Be Adaptive & Context-Aware 

Stop asking users to authentic themselves and take the matter into your own hands. For example, when a user is logging into your network, background authentication checks like: are they using the same device, has their number recently been ported or are they logging on from a geographical location are all safety and compliance measures that can help you form the perfect balance between productivity too when met with the right tools. Your governance rules may be more stringent with a administrator who can change your system configurations or your finance staff who can access sensitive data over employees with less privileges. 

Think Technically “Smart” 

Why give your employees access to more of your network than what they need to do their job? The best balance between productivity and security is the least-privilege rule. Never give your employees access to more than what they need to avoid a security risk, but with the ability to still remain productive. For instance, any data that users upload to the cloud should be encrypted or blocking any downloads from a bring-your-own device (BYOD). 

Utilize Adoption & User Experience

Users absolutely hate things that get in their way. For instance, complex password requirements and hardware tokens feels like it is enabling their work which impacts their productivity. However, there are proven technologies that will streamline and improve the user experience while protecting your security. Use single-on features that don’t require a key fob, adaptive authentication (that remembers their device and log-on pattern), or even go passwordless. 

Bottom line: How do you balance productivity, security, and compliance? Identify the most profitable balance between the three along with what works best for your employees and for your business. 

You’re invited to contact us at the AE Technology Group for more details on balancing your productivity, security, and compliance. We’re you IT support and managed services professionals. Together, we’ll focus on the productivity of your team while protecting your business security and keeping you fined tuned with the current compliance standards. 

Office 365 vs. Office 2019 for Business

office 365 vs office 2019 for business
Office 365

Microsoft is an essential part of many business’ operations. Businesses rely on Microsoft Word for their word processing needs, Excel for spreadsheets and PowerPoint for presentations. The cloud has become an integral part of Microsoft’s offerings, and this had led the company to offer two different versions of Microsoft Office: 

  1. Office 365
  2. Office 2019

 Each version can be used for business, but which is ideal?

Office 365: Cloud-based

Office 365 is cloud-based, so you pay for a subscription either monthly or yearly. Cloud-based, Microsoft worries about updates, infrastructure and security. You or your employees simply log into Office on your web browser and can make Word documents, spreadsheets or any other file under the Office suite of products.

What’s nice about Office 365 is that it can be accessed anywhere on any Internet-connected device.

You can work on a document in the office, go home, and then work on the document some more. Automatic saving makes the process streamlined. Office 365 for business comes with the following office applications:

  • Access (only on PC)
  • Excel
  • Outlook
  • PowerPoint
  • Word

All versions come with OneDrive, but the higher version comes with a few extras:

  • Exchange
  • SharePoint
  • Teams

You will receive a desktop version of Office applications with Office 365. The maximum number of users on the business plan is 300, so everyone in the office can have access to Office 365.

Office 2019: Standalone Version

Office 2019 is a standalone product, so it’s a one-time purchase. You won’t have to pay subscription fees, but you won’t have the benefit of online collaboration on the cloud. Licenses are valid for one PC or Mac, and fully-installed versions will include the following:

  • Excel
  • OneNote
  • Outlook
  • PowerPoint
  • Word

You’ll need to update Office 2019, and all of your files will be stored on your computer or server. A disaster recovery plan should be in place when using the standalone version of Office 2019, or you risk losing your data if your hard drive fails, you get a virus, or data becomes corrupted.

Which Office is Best for Your Business?

If you don’t have the budget for Office 365, Office 2019 may be the best option. In most other cases, Office 365 will offer the most flexibility. Not only does Office 365 come with its own version for your PC or Mac, but it will also offer:

  • Regular updates from Microsoft (you never need to upgrade)
  • Cloud-based data storage
  • Ease of collaboration for larger teams
  • Linking directly to files in the cloud
  • Access to all applications on multiple devices

Office 2019 will need to be updated when Office 2020 is released, but you can continue using Office 2019 for as long as you wish.

Contact us today to develop an Office 365 solution for your small- or medium-sized business.