As I travel throughout the U.S. it seems that no one in the airport is without a mobile device. Whether they’re 8 or 80, they are all using mobile devices of some sort!
Just 10 short years ago, in 2002, smart phones were a twinkle in the eye of early providers like RIM, who released the Blackberry in 2003. This first edition smart phone was embraced by business people for its larger screen size and full keyboard, making it easier for on-the-go executives to type emails, read documents and in general, conduct business while they were out and about. Believe it or not, Blackberry had about four years to dominate the market before Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007. Android was rolled out two years later, in 2009, and by 2010—just eight short years—over 297 million smart phones had been sold worldwide.
In 2011, that number increased by about 40% with a total of 491 million smart phones sold last year alone. It’s estimated that by 2015, nearly 1 billion smart phones will be sold, adding to an already large population of smart device owners. If we figure in some tablet numbers (i.e. iPad), the number of smart mobile devices in the market is nearly staggering.
So, what does this mean for you? It means, that “if you don’t have a mobile strategy, you don’t have a future strategy,” as Ian Carrington Director of Mobile & Social Advertising Strategy for Google was recently quoted as saying.
The good news is, with the increased number of units on the market, the number of opportunities for businesses of any size to have a mobile presence has risen dramatically as well. Whether it’s placing banner ads on targeted mobile sites or apps, creating and promoting your own app or working with a partner like DROSTE CONSULTANTS to make turn-key apps work for you and your customers, you can get on board the mobile train. Which is good, because as you can see, it’s moving full steam ahead.
I’m a big believer in finding tools that make life easier. Especially in business, where a majority of my day is spent making calls, communicating with clients and managing staff, anything I can use that makes my business run smoother, be more productive and allow me to generate revenue are invaluable to me. So, I’m going to share one of my secrets with you.
Ready? Here we go.
It’s an online project management system created by 37signals, LLC and since I began using it in 2010, I honestly can’t imagine my life without it. Here’s what I love most:
Completely user-friendly and intuitive – Set someone up with a login and password and turn them loose. If they have any online acumen at all, they’ll figure it out.
Easy to navigate permissions – You can easily set up who sees what projects and receives updates, making it a great tool for organizing multiple teams as well
as multiple projects.
Invite-only feature for your VIPs – I have now begun to invite clients to use it when we embark on a new project. By sending them an email with a username and
password they can have real-time access to everything happening with their
project and communicate back to my team as well.
I could honestly sing the praises of Basecamp all day, but I think these are the key features that make it so perfect for small or medium-sized businesses or even larger firms. The pricing is nice, too – it’s on a sliding scale based on your project load. Go to www.basecamp.com for more information, or shoot me an email and we can chat about how awesome it is.
*Disclaimer: Basecamp is a product of 37signals, LLC. I was in no way compensated for this post, just wanted to share my love of such a great tool!
Please Note: This is a shortened version of the original blog posted on Question Everything – A Blog by Megan Sullivan on January 18, 2012. Since the original posting, SOPA as it currently stands has been shelved, however, supporters of the original bill have said they will reintroduce something similar at another time.
SOPA and PIPA are the latest acronyms to flood the interwebs, many of the articles promising death and destruction should either of these bills pass in the Congress. I whole-heartedly agree they are not good for America, Americans or the world at large, however, I think the real issues surrounding them, while alarming, have kept us from focusing on some of the other byproducts such laws would create.
1. Censorship is a slippery slope and we won’t gain traction back quickly.
No matter how anyone spins it, SOPA is a form of censorship. The language written into the bill does not directly state it, but then again, it never would have gotten as far as it has with a blatant mention of the “c” word. SOPA is meant to censure any website that so much as thinks about copyright infringement or offers a mechanism that could allow for copyright infringement. That means comment sections, photo uploads, back-linking etc.
2. A free flow of ideas breeds innovation.
Let me quote Sir Isaac Newton, you know, the guy who put a name to gravity: “If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” I’m not saying that people don’t come up with new ideas or inventions; they do. But, most of the things that are being created now are building upon someone else’s creation or discovery. We wouldn’t have thought to break the sound barrier if we hadn’t known one existed. We wouldn’t be trying to cure cancer, if someone hadn’t discovered it in the first place. See where I’m going with this? Innovative thinking is an organic result of the thinking that came before. It is spawned from the “what if?” question that often follows the discovery of something and then leads to the next. By limiting what is available and how someone accesses that information, we are limiting those who would share their work and discoveries with the internet at large.
3. The Internet has done more good than harm.
While it is not truly universal or available to everyone (there are still limits to access based on income, connectivity, etc.), it is still quickly becoming the most accessible media. Unlike newspaper, TV, radio or telephone, the internet needs very little to get carried from one city, one state, one country to the next. If we disregard connection issues for the moment, how else can we explain the ubiquity of the internet and its role in global movements, such as the uprising this past summer in Egypt or even opposition to SOPA? The beauty of the internet is that it shrinks our world, allowing us to garner information from others who have different views and experiences than us. It has also made things like medical information, education and news available to people who did not have access before.
4. Passage of SOPA won’t stop online piracy.
Newsflash: the people whom this bill is designed to stop, i.e. online pirates who take great pride in stealing Hollywood’s latest blockbuster or the music industry’s latest album, already KNOW THEY’RE DOING SOMETHING WRONG. They don’t need legislation to tell them that. Passage of this bill will not cause them to sit up and say, “Oh no, that’s illegal? I better stop then.” It will simply encourage them to find new and more creative ways to make pirated content available.
5. SOPA is a machete.
This is not the job for hacking with a giant, unsharpened knife. If anything, it’s the job for a scalpel, and one that is wielded by an expert (or team of experts). Website owners and content creators/managers will need to be involved in writing and enacting legislation that will not only work, but is easier to follow and enforce.
Whether SOPA or PIPA actually pass or are even brought to a vote before Congress is not yet apparent. (Author’s Note: SOPA was shelved by January 20, 2012.)
The best thing we can hope for is that this first proposed bill has shed enough light on the situation that people now understand how important and potentially damaging such a law could be. This should aid the cause in the future when the new language is proposed and help 1) to determine if the new proposed language is better than the current incarnation and 2) to mobilize the general population faster to ensure that we continue to let the government know we will not allow such a bill to pass without understanding its intricacies and how it will affect everyone.
Read the full language of the Stop Online Piracy Act Here – Library of Congress Website
About the Author:
Megan Sullivan is a former Droste employee and currently works in strategic marketing for the Orlando Sentinel Media Group. She has previously written for daily newspapers, online review sites and maintains her own blog. With degrees in communications and professional writing, Megan has worked at a traditional advertising agency, an Internet marketing firm, a digital ad network and now, a multimedia company. Any digital issues (like SOPA) are near and dear to her heart, hence this post.
If this past holiday season taught us anything it’s that we’re addicted to our mobile devices.
- U.S. smartphone penetration is up to 44% and 57% of those owners access the mobile web and download apps on a regular basis
- Time spent with mobile devices has also risen to 65 minutes per day, which is second only to TV
- Fifty-six percent of smartphone owners have looked for store information on their device while 32% have actually made a purchase
- By 2015, it is estimated that m-commerce transactions will amount to $670 billion
Is your business ready for the mobile revolution? At DROSTE, we are releasing our first client-branded Mobile App, DROSTE iOrder and we know this is the wave of the future. As smartphones get smarter (hello, Siri), businesses must advance their thinking as well. Having a readily accessible app that delivers a stellar mobile experience is the key ingredient to capturing a portion of these m-commerce dollars.
Not convinced? A recent survey indicated that 2 out of every 5 shoppers who have a negative mobile experience with a brand will not come back. They won’t try again on a laptop or desktop computer, won’t make their way to a brick and mortar retailer, they won’t even try accessing the mobile application again. Imagine if you lost two out of every five customers who came into your store. Scary, right?
While getting an app launched is time-consuming there are some interim steps you can take. Ensure that your location can be found on other mobile-heavy applications such as Foursquare, Shopkick or Yelp. Make it easy for customers to find you and you’ll make it even more enticing for them to shop with you. And don’t forget that having a website that can be accessed on a mobile phone is very different from having a mobile-enhanced website. Mobile is our future and it’s time for businesses to jump on board.
If you’d like to know more about DROSTE iOrder Deli/Bakery Pre-Order Mobile App, please visit the link on the site or contact us at 978-686-5775. We’d be happy to show it off and discuss ways we can help you join the mobile revolution!
Sources: M-Commerce Booming On Tablets, Online Media Daily, November 2011; 2 in 5 Mobile Shoppers Penalize Retailer for Unsatisfactory Site, Marketing Charts, November 2011
It’s not easy to book time against something that doesn’t, in the short term, return dividends. However, it is imperative for you and your team to spend time thinking creatively about what’s next on the horizon. You’re probably thinking, “Must be easy for you since your business is technology.” But I can assure you, it’s not. Just like you, I also get caught up in the daily activities of making clients happy and delivering solutions in a timely fashion. It may be my business to stay ahead of technology and innovative solutions, but it has to be yours as well.
Here are a few of my tips for carving the time and making that “mind shift.”
- Find time when it’s calm and quiet
I find it easiest to work on the creative process over the weekends and early in the morning. It is my time to be alone and really look at the big picture.
- Separate this creative time from the weekly grind
Taking time outside of a normal work week allows me to leave behind the daily demands and focus on the process of future corporate innovation.
- Achieve inner calm
Reaching a clear place of thought can be very hard in the midst of a week with customer and employee demands on your time. However, enabling this “mind shift” is mission critical in order to thrive and prosper.
Evidence of how important this is can be seen as we drive our highways past once thriving business parks that are now dormant. Polaroid, Blockbuster and Wang; we wonder where these companies might be now if they had spent more time looking towards the future and planning strategically. Once big captains of industry, they are now gone and mostly forgotten.
Our world is transforming at light speed. This is a fact that will not change. Carving time from the daily demands of your industry to achieve the “Innovative Mind Shift” is mission critical for your company’s long-term success.
Our world would be very different if Columbus and his intrepid team had maintained the theory that the world was flat and never tried sailing beyond the horizon. But because of their courage and determination, everyone the world over discovered the earth was actually round and there were more lands, people and places out there than we’d imagined.
While Columbus’ discovery changed our world, he was following in the footsteps of explorers before him just as others would come after the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. Where would your organization be if no one there had this similar drive to discover? At DROSTE, many of the innovations we’ve made have come from the questions raised by our employees and our clients. This discovery takes us down a natural path of evolution, allowing us to grow beyond the status quo.
So, who is the change agent in your office? Who’s the person asking the questions? If you’re lucky, it’s someone at C-level. If you’re really lucky it’s someone who not only likes to ask questions, but act on the answers. Because just asking isn’t enough.
Keys to Organizational Discovery
Ask the question, work the problem, brainstorm on the white board, whatever it takes
2. Development Process
Once the question has been asked and answered, it’s time to put your ideas into motion. For some of us, this is as simple as a to-do list, but for large corporations implementing major change, it means change management, including a documented process with a timeline, assignments, milestones and deadlines. (Although not necessarily a Gantt Chart. Those things can be hard to read.
Now that you have a plan, it’s time to implement it. In any organization, this means identifying your strongest “doers” and handing them a checklist. The trickiest part of this is giving them enough leeway to do the job, but also offering support in case they need it.
Enacting a plan and following the steps is all well and good, but it’s imperative that you test it as well. Releasing a product or process without proper vetting can be disastrous whether your users are internal, external or the public at large. People will always make recommendations for the way something new could be better, but you don’t want them pointing out major bugs.
Okay, you’ve tested, prepped your team, prepped your market, it’s time to get this thing off your desk. And now, it’s time to launch. Be sure that, as with every other step in this process, you have a plan.
Sometimes the easiest thing to do is make a change. It’s checking in, following up, asking questions after the fact that can be a challenge.
Your first attempt at change following a major discovery will be difficult. However, unlike Columbus, you won’t have to deal with scurvy or dwindling supplies. But even with obstacles, the act of discovery and the change it brings is worth it; for your business, for your employees and for you.
A few weeks ago, I talked a bit about virtualization and the proliferation of virtual servers in today’s business. As I mentioned at the time, virtual servers have become a great resource and cost-saving measure for many companies, allowing them cut down on the square footage and power devoted to physical big-box servers sitting in their facilities.
The Cloud is the next step in virtualization. While people have talked about the nebulous (pun intended) Cloud for a while, it’s always been a little hard to nail down. (Okay, that’s the last one, I promise.) However, as more and more businesses, large and small, have adopted this as a solution, information has become much easier to source and interpret. Here are the key features everyone should know about the Cloud:
- It’s shared server space.
The beauty of it (and the way to save money) is that it’s a bit like crowd-sourcing your server space.
- It’s virtual.
This may seem obvious, but it’s worth noting.
- It’s big.
The amount of data you can store is astronomical. Because many companies “buy in” to the cloud, providers, like Amazon, these high-tech, high-availability resources at cheaper rates.
- It’s more stable now than it was.
It’s still vulnerable to outages just as any technology would be. However, with back-ups in place, the risk of a fatal outage is greatly reduced.
- It’s the next tech bandwagon.
Many of the big players in technology—Google, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM—all have Cloud solutions in place. Apple announced this summer that it too will offer an option, iCloud, starting some time this fall.
DROSTE is always on the move looking for new ways to assist our clients with the latest innovations. The use of Cloud technologies and how it might best apply to your company is what we do! We deploy our software products virtually around the world today, offering our clients a huge cost savings on software installation and maintenance.
At DROSTE, technology continues to evolve quickly and our dedicated team is eager to be at the forefront of each innovative wave.
The latest financial news from Wall Street hasn’t been very encouraging. S&P’s downgrading of America’s credit rating sent the stocks into a swan dive that seems to have stabilized, but given the current state of our economy, and Washington’s attempt to balance our nation’s budget, it appears bracing for more rough waters would not be alarmist.
As this is easily the third year of our down economy, you probably think you’ve cut costs from every conceivable column in your ledger. There couldn’t possibly be a stone you left unturned because that would mean extra revenue and you’ve been over all the accounts with a fine-tooth comb and magnifying glass.
What if I told you DROSTE has been working with clients across the country to cut costs in that one area you think you can’t—your workforce. And even better, DROSTE’s Workforce Management suite of products doesn’t hack at your workforce and labor hours with a machete; it’s more a scalpel approach, surgical and precise.
Often organizations look to human resources and their employees as the first place to reduce hours and therefore increase revenue when the economy is tight. For most companies it is by far the largest expense on their books making it a giant target. However, simply loping hours off of your projections and providing your managers with a reduction in hours, but not a reduction in sales projections won’t work. Despite the down economy, grocery stores are not necessarily less busy, but simply producing less revenue as customers opt for store brands and cheaper products to fill their carts.
So, if your number of customers remains steady, but your number of employees decreases, what does that do to your customer service standards? How about the look and feel of your store? What other corners are getting cut simply because you don’t have the hours to devote to putting bodies in your stores?
This is where DROSTE’s Workforce Management solution, a three-pronged approach that addresses Labor Forecasting, Scheduling and Time & Attendance, really shines. Using a proprietary model designed in conjunction with labor expert John F. Connolly, DROSTE works closely with clients to determine all of the tangible and intangible tasks and responsibilities their employees take on every day. Even five-minute jobs, like changing out register tape or straightening the customer service desk is included in this model, accounting for every minute that employees are on the clock.
Taking POS data into account, DROSTE builds a labor forecasting tool specific to your business that accurately projects not only the hours you absolutely need to meet your customer service standards and achieve your sales goals, but also when you need them. The art of correctly scheduling is not easily learned and can take a number of years to truly master. And often, overscheduling can be as simple as having two cashiers available to open your store as opposed to only one.
DROSTE’s modeling tool also helps managers to reevaluate their preconceptions about how they schedule. Often times, managers write schedules because “that’s the way it’s always been done.” It’s faster and far easier to follow a formula even if, over time, that formula has become outdated or incompatible with your business. By surrendering control of forecasting and scheduling to the DROSTE programs, everyone gets an objective look at how their schedules should be written. It is quite an educational experience.
Now, depending on your organizational make-up, you might have labor experts already on staff who can work with these basic principles and help to design a more accurate labor model for you to forecast and schedule from, and that’s great. However, DROSTE and John F. Connolly & Associates are ready and willing to walk you through this time-consuming process.
Clients who have implemented Workforce Management have found great success, seeing a significant decrease in their labor costs. It all comes down to ROI—Return on Investment! It’s not just a catchphrase for our clients; it’s a measurable value.
The second step in the DROSTE Workforce Management process is scheduling. Using a sophisticated Auto-Scheduling algorithm, our Labor Scheduler can automatically fill in the empty slots in your schedule keeping employee availability, time-off requests and minimum shift lengths in mind. Managers using this feature have told us they’ve cut the time it takes to write a schedule in half, freeing up those hours for the managers to be on the sales floor with customers and employees. With some upfront work and input of your store’s specific parameters, you’ll be amazed at how accurate the Auto-Scheduler can be.
Our third step is capturing Time & Attendance data to send to payroll using our DC Clock program. By interfacing directly with time clocks, DC Clock captures all of the clock in/out data in real-time, while also communicating with the Labor Scheduler to share schedules and ensure that employees are not working outside of their shifts. DC Clock really offers you and your payroll team a lot of flexibility with a robust reporting tool (many of them user-defined), as well as an easy-to-read and even easier-to-edit timecard interface.
Once you’ve seen these systems at work, it will be evident how they can positively impact your bottom line and do something that might seem impossible—save you money while maintaining your customer service standards.
We have to evolve. As human beings, as individuals, as a species, as a group, as the universe, we must evolve, become more than we are this minute so that we can become more than we are in the next and so on.
Nowhere is this forward momentum more necessary than in business and, more importantly, technology. Over the past 100 years, technology has experienced a massive growth spurt, taking it from an infant learning how to crawl to a full-blown young adult, who is probably gearing up for a quarter-life crisis. Without this growth, we would still be riding in horse-drawn buggies, sending messages via a telegraph and using encyclopedias to look things up.
Instead, we are experimenting with electric and solar-powered cars, using electronic messaging as our primary method of communication and carrying around pocket-sized computers (i.e. smartphones) so that the Internet, the modern-day encyclopedia, is never further away than our back pocket.
All of this can be credited to innovation. At DROSTE, we’ve been riding the wave of innovation, often being the first in our industry to create new technology or apply previously developed tech in a new way. As our software has evolved, we’ve reinvented the way our clients handle their business, migrating manual processes to automated ones and often increasing efficiency by removing a step or three of the process.
While some companies have embraced innovation whole-heartedly, it is actually consumers who have adopted it with a vengeance. We’ve seen more and more customers willing to learn and adapt to this new method of living, conducting business and interacting at a startling rate, often surpassing business’ adoption of these new processes or hardware. In many cases, consumer use has spurred companies into action, making it impossible for them to compete in the marketplace without adopting new technology.
A primary example of this is the iPhone. Designed and marketed as a personal device, upon its release, companies realized the iPhone and its operating platform had the power to transform the way they interacted with their consumers. The mobile application, now simply called an ‘app,’ became part of our vernacular and the organizations that learned how to harness this technology first were viewed not only as innovative and forward-thinking, but as invested in their customers and the customer experience. Two elements very important for success.
As we’ve done previously with software applications, we at DROSTE have developed a way for our clients to reach their consumers on their smartphones, further engaging with the customer and enhancing their footprint in the marketplace. Our first iPhone app, launched late last year, iOrder is DROSTE’S initial step into the client-consumer realm. Allowing consumers to place their deli or bakery orders before even arriving at the store and then simply swing by to pick them up, is yet another example of innovative technology making people’s lives easier. And DROSTE is helping to bridge the gap by offering cost-effective, innovative solutions that businesses of any size can take advantage of.
How innovative is your organization? Could you be more innovative? Unlike so many other things, innovation is a state of perpetual motion—moving forward so that others can move forward with us.
Cloud is the latest buzzword in the world of Information Technology, Computing and Data Warehousing. While companies as varied as IBM and Amazon have their own versions of the Cloud (and their own definitions), it appears to be a concept that’s going to stick. But before we jump feet first onto a cumulonimbus, let’s take a step back and dig a little deeper into this concept of Virtualization.
Virtual Servers are the foundation of the Cloud. Before Virtual servers we needed a box with memory and hard drives for each function we wanted to support—picture a giant CPU. We needed at least a file server, an email server and a web server. The problem was three boxes are three times more expensive than one box and even the most organized and efficient IT departments could only utilize about 10% of the capacity for each of those servers.
Also, three boxes means three times the space to store them. In addition to size, servers take a lot of energy to run and a lot of A/C to keep cool. If you were in business in the ’80s and ’90s you no doubt suffered from one or more server outages due to overheating.
Additionally, while servers can be backed up, a server crash was not a little thing. Often, in order to restore the data, the entire operating system would have to be rebuilt, all of the software reinstalled and then the data reinstated on the new box. This process could take up to three days, meaning your productivity just bottomed out while your IT guys sweated it out in a server room that’s about 95 degrees with the air conditioning on.
Enter the virtual server, a far more elegant solution and precursor to the Cloud. By using virtual servers technology, we at DROSTE were able to reduce the number of our physical servers from fourteen to three. Not only did this reduce our carbon footprint but it lowered our overhead costs as we didn’t have to maintain over a dozen machines. Additionally, in our case, a virtual server using de-duplication, can backup the 14 virtual servers in the space required by three physical servers. As the amount of data organizations and the world at large need to store grows, this type of storage efficiency will be key.
More importantly, virtual servers offer some practical solutions to common problems. For one, they allow for easier and quicker disaster recovery, often taking no more than half a day to restore from back-ups. For our company, the virtual server has served as a terrific test environment for our team and our clients as we can deploy software without affecting the client’s other third party programs or systems. And a test environment can be cloned from an existing environment quickly, allowing for faster testing and troubleshooting to identify and rectify problems.
In the coming weeks, I’m going to talk more about the Cloud and how it differs from its precursor, the virtual server. For businesses of all sizes these virtual solutions cut costs in a variety of areas, including hardware and IT. As the amount of data grows and the demand for secure storage solutions rises, the Cloud will become the Virtual Server of the 21st Century.