Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Benefits of Cloud Computing Applications

What are the benefits of cloud computing applications in the modern HR workplace.

In the HR workplace today there are many benefits to using cloud computing applications. The average corporation uses a ratio of one human resource professional to every one hundred employees and considering that many corporations are either international or perhaps dispersed across a large country, HR teams are often not all based in the same place. Additionally many people now work remotely, a perk often given by companies to appeal to those wishing to avoid a long commute, or who don't want to place young children in daycare.

Having employees work from home is also environmentally friendly, since it reduces the number of cars on the road; however, it can be very costly for businesses to set these employees up with their own hardware and software licenses and it can also be logistically difficult to service both hardware and software when an employee is not situated in an office, with an in-house IT support team available.

This, of course, leads to one of the main benefits of using cloud computing applications. They negate the need for costly hardware that can host a large software application (cloud applications are hosted on the cloud so companies do not need to provide the server space for hosting); an IT support team (cloud application providers take care of technical support); software licenses, and software installation, period; the cloud can be accessed from anywhere, anytime.

Furthermore, the HR department typically deals with sensitive information; having this information securely stored on a remote server reduces concerns about loss of information, should the company experience a breach of security or damage from fire, water or a natural disaster. HR application provider, Shift iQ, protects its data centers from these perils with the use of the latest VESDA smoke-detection technology and FE-25 clean-agent fire-suppression technology. Cloud computing application providers also back up information, just in case anything should happen to it on their end, and take care of upgrades.

However, the primary concern expressed about cloud applications is the security of information. Shift iQ has taken numerous steps to ensure security due to the fact that it is designed specifically for HR professionals. These measures include storing Shift iQ's off-site data in a Fire King DS-Series data safe with biometric and employee-specific pass codes being required for all security checkpoints. All internal and external entry points are protected with reinforced steel doors and door frames, safety glass and walls. Video recording of all entry points is archived for a year. There are also glass-breakage sensors, visual alarms and audible alarms to alert staff in the event of a break-in attempt. With regards to online security, Shift iQ is certified through McAfee Secure and VeriSign to protect from hacking attempts and client communication is kept secure using Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption certified by VeriSign.

The multiple benefits of cloud computing applications have proven that they are the way of the future for companies' technical needs. In dealing with the modern business world, there is no more effective way of sharing information in a secure, technological and cost-effective manner.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Considering the Cloud

Cloud computing is not the trend of the future; it’s the trend of the present. If companies still have reservations about going ‘in the cloud’, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate. It is understandable that businesses may have concerns but traditional software methods are fast becoming a dying breed. Cloud computing allows for a vastly reduced infrastructure with dramatically lower maintenance costs and license fees while also offering anytime, anywhere access to all authorized members of an organization, whether office-based or mobile.

The customer relations management (CRM) software market for enterprises is shifting. Businesses are rightly demanding that their system be extendable, scalable and user friendly. They expect software to allow not only for marketing and analytics but also to be able to integrate with social media. Research shows that the majority of customers now ‘tweet’ their queries or complaints rather than phoning help lines and companies that are not aware of this trend may soon find themselves losing customers. A colleague recently brought home to me the effectiveness of this when they told me that they had attempted to get help from a well-known major communications company. Three, yes three, phone calls later, each involving waits of 45 minutes to an hour, the problem was still not solved and the buck was being constantly passed. She then ‘tweeted’ her frustration and this led to an instant result. A satisfactory response was received and the situation was swiftly resolved. Leading IT research and advisory firm, Gartner, estimates an 80% increase in enterprise use of social networking tools through CRM. Social CRM strategies enable businesses to track and respond promptly to customer feedback or queries using Facebook or Twitter.

Mobility is also key; clients expect to be able to access their files easily while on the road whether on their smartphone, tablet or laptop. InSite’s data systems are fully compatible with BlackBerry, iPhone and other popular mobile devices. Surveys, polls tests and quizzes can be configured to work on any smartphone and, with iPads and similar devices, intercept surveys can be accessed anywhere.

Businesses have understandable apprehensions over issues of cost, security, integration and availability. Ongoing costs, as aforementioned, should be considerably lower with any cloud computing system. Most companies offering cloud computing have impressive security systems in place; getting into Fort Knox would be easier! Integration is also made simple by most providers and availability, especially for mobile users, should be a given. InSite Systems can offer seamless integration with full mobility and state-of-the-art security, both physical and technological. InSite also offers clients free daily security scans for all of its on-demand applications.

The benefits of the cloud are manifold while drawbacks are difficult to find. A professional cloud computing software provider will make every step of the changeover simple and stress free for the consumer.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Why Cloud Computing is the Way to Go

Customer data management (CDM) is essential for any company interested in attracting business, increasing sales, keeping existing customers and ensuring brand recognition. In other words, pretty much any business!

Small, medium or large, a business needs to keep track of its customers — not just their contact details or records of their orders, but their buying habits, and preferences. CDM solutions help companies manage and use their customer data, enabling businesses to identify customer behaviour and sales cycles. Additionally, they allow companies to identify their ‘best’ customers; CDM allows companies a 360° view of their customers and the way these customers interact with their business.

Using cloud computing to manage your customer data offers scalability and dramatically increased accessibility and mobility while also substantially reducing costs — a ‘no-brainer’ it would seem. So, is cloud computing the magic answer? Given that customer data management is essential to any business, whether it be a huge corporation or a small online business run from your basement, then it simply becomes a matter of how companies choose to organize and access this data. Cloud computing is generally promoted on the three-pronged approach of scalability, mobility/accessibility and cost savings.


A small business, in particular, may have an adequate customer data management system in place that serves its needs perfectly well — for now. However, when the business grows, it needs to consider a larger customer base, more staff members and increased orders or sales. The beauty of cloud computing is that its scalability makes it feasible for a business to take on cloud computing even while it is quite small. There is no longer any need to be concerned that the business will outgrow its current system and have to go through a costly and inconvenient upgrade at a later date.

Accessibility and mobility:

These are clearly linked together; not only can an infinite number of partners or employees be granted access to a company’s data, full or limited, as required, but they can access — and edit — that data even when they are away from the office. As more and more businesses find that their key people are either working remotely or frequently travelling or out of the office; mobility is key. Good cloud computing solutions allow access to a company’s database that can be password controlled, affording different employees different levels of access. InSite Systems, for example, offers customer data management solutions that are completely compatible with any mobile device.

Cost savings:

The cost-saving potential of cloud computing is enormous; previously, companies needed servers with hosting contracts and had to pay for expensive software licenses; the hardware and software involved could add crippling costs to start-up businesses and could leave many small businesses using out-of-date software since they could not afford the constant upgrades. Cloud-based applications are user-friendly, allowing companies to save tens of thousands in IT technician salaries every year. Software upgrades are automatic and seamless and applications are available anywhere anytime.

Given all the advantages, the main concerns that business owners voice, when changing to cloud computing, have to do with security. Again, this should not be a problem. The initial security concerns have been thoroughly dealt with through improved technology. If anything, cloud computing makes your data more secure since it is hosted offsite. Even if your offices are totally destroyed by fire or natural disaster, your data will be accessible from any computer with an Internet connection.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Engaging a Distributed Workforce

As more and more companies come to rely on remote workers, many issues arise. A company may have employees working remotely for a variety of reasons: key employees travel, necessitating a remote connection, at least temporarily; having employees from all over the nation or globe offers businesses the opportunity to draw on talent and expertise that may not be available locally; locally-based employees may wish to work from home to cut down on commuting time and costs. The problem is how to ensure that remote workers feel valued, engaged and motivated.

Sharing goals, updates and events:

If remote workers are to stay engaged with the company they must be aware of, and share, the company's goals. They also need to be included in every update in the company and in events, large and small, business and social. When workers are in different time zones it can be difficult to ensure that everyone is up to date. Cloud computing helps by having data available to employees anytime, anywhere, but the HR department faces the not inconsiderable challenge of keeping everyone on the same page. Every worker's contribution must be recognized and valued, while their input must also be obtained for many company decisions.

Maintain regular communications:

All communications from head office should be mobile compatible so that remote workers can read and respond easily. These employees must still be able to see themselves as a valuable part of a team. Having regular times scheduled for conference calls, messaging, email updates, etc. can help assure that everyone is not only kept in the loop but also accountable; no one can argue that they weren't advised of something or missed a vital email.

Provide remote workers with the appropriate tools:

Clearly, a remote workforce needs the right tools: laptop computers, iPads or PC tablets, smart phones, etc. are essential to allow remote workers, permanent or temporary, constant accessibility to up-to-date data. Conference calls can be arranged to work around time zone differences and communication networks must allow for updating employees that may be absent from the office as frequently as needed. 'Face time' and video chatting can help managers based at a company's head office identify more regularly with their remote workforce; speaking to a 'face' tends to be more meaningful than sending or receiving emails or text messages.

Avoid isolating remote workers:

It is only too easy for remote workers to feel isolated and left out, a situation that will clearly be detrimental to morale and the achievement of a company's goals. Remote workers are not able to walk over to a colleague's desk for a chat and cannot readily stay abreast of office gossip (a mixed blessing perhaps, but being completely unaware that a colleague has married, had a baby, is seriously ill, etc. will only add to an employee's feeling that s/he is not really part of the team). Regular social updates may be needed to make remote workers feel part of the 'family'.

Provide ongoing training and education opportunities:

Whether they are located on the other side of the globe or just the other side of the city, remote employees are entitled to have access to the same education and professional development opportunities as their office-based colleagues. Online educational programs, such as those provided by Shift iQ, allow remote workers to participate in online, self-study or instructor-led programs while managers can easily assess workers' knowledge and understanding of new initiatives and analyze test results.

Keeping their remote employees fully involved is essential if a company is to get maximum benefit from a remote workforce. Fortunately, technology is on our side; in the twenty-first century, there is really no excuse for allowing any employees to feel out of touch.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Motivating Your Employees

Interestingly, money — whether a bonus or a raise in salary — is often not the key motivator for employees. Of course, money is always welcome — no one is going to turn down a raise, unless it comes with unacceptable conditions — however, bonuses are initially heavily taxed and then frequently spent quite quickly. Likewise, employees soon become accustomed to a salary increase and simply adjust their lifestyle to fit — six months later they may see no appreciable benefit. Does this mean employers should institute a salary freeze? By no means, cost-of-living raises are only fair and people do deserve to have their efforts or increased skill levels suitably rewarded.

Nevertheless, there are other ways to motivate employees that may be far more effective than an increase in salary. Demonstrable appreciation, more vacation time, flexi-time, better working conditions, shorter working hours, offering ongoing educational and personal development programs, social events and engendering team spirit may all succeed in motivating people. A surprising number of workers, for example, when asked if they would prefer a raise in salary or more vacation time, opted for more vacation time. A change in the work/life balance may be a considerable inducement for many people and it is likely to have side benefits in reduced stress, leading to happier employees and fewer sick days, which lead in turn to higher productivity — a 'win-win' situation.

Not all employees are created equal; depending on where they are in their career and what their family situations are, motivation will vary. The chance to pursue a course to improve skills and possibly earn a promotion is likely to be far more attractive to younger employees than to someone within two years of retirement for example. Likewise, employees with young children are more likely to value flexi-time or a greater allotment of vacation days.

Showing appreciation is such an obvious solution to the motivation question and yet it is overlooked surprisingly often by employers. Many of us fall into the trap of complaining when something is wrong while barely noticing when everything goes right. Everyone wants to feel special; showing appreciation can range from a simple 'thank you' for a job well done or for going the extra mile, to a tangible reward. Recognizing a particular employee's achievements publicly can be tremendously motivating, both to the employee and to others who may be stimulated to achieve the same recognition.

Social events and team-building exercises can also help engender a feeling that the workforce is like a large extended family and that everyone is valued and appreciated. Recognizing milestones in people's personal lives; birthdays, weddings, engagements, births of children, etc. shows that management is interested in the employee as a person, not just a cog in the wheel and organizing social events for holidays or special occasions provides light relief.

Having an effective mentoring program and affording all employees access to professional development and the possibility to update skills or earn a promotion is also a no-brainer. Updating skills and competencies is essential to the efficient running of any business and helping employees to climb the ladder will both motivate and encourage employee retention. Employees who feel they can go no further with their present company, or are not being encouraged to develop their career, are employees that will be searching the employment ads for a position where they can indeed achieve their goals.

InSite offers an integrated suite of applications, providing a cost-effective way to develop and deliver online learning, compensation and performance management programs to businesses anxious to motivate their employees and optimize their organizational talent.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Work Smarter, Not Longer

Traditional workplace culture is changing — rapidly. Gone are the days when new employees feel they have to climb the corporate ladder as rapidly as possible, putting in punishing hours in order to do so. Today's employees are more likely to be demanding a healthy work/life balance. Forward-thinking companies are well aware of this and have changed, or are changing, their corporate structure accordingly.

Generation X employees may be the children of 'baby boomer' moms who bought into the 'superwoman' ideal prevalent in the 70s. These women were programmed to feel they needed to put in 70-hour weeks at the office while simultaneously raising their children, whipping up gourmet meals, enjoying an active social life and maintaining a household. The message passed to the next generation was that work was more important than family, a message that understandably may have caused a strong reaction, leading today's generation to seek more flexible working conditions. 'Latchkey kids' themselves, they want a different scenario for their own children if they have them; even if they don't, they still want time to enjoy life outside of work.

There was considerable social media buzz recently about a video where Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (Forbes 5th most powerful woman) admits to leaving work at 5:30 every day so that she can eat dinner with her children. Apparently we are still shocked that someone in her position would admit to leaving the office — at the designated close of business — to spend quality time with her family. In fact, she herself states that it is only in the last year or so that she has been comfortable admitting this. She also remains in touch via email late at night and early in the morning; nevertheless, she has made a decision to be present with her family every evening because she feels that is very important. In fact, she suggests that this should be the norm for any employee, regardless of gender or family obligations.

Many employees in their 30s are still carrying student loans while simultaneously taking on larger mortgages, car loans and after-school care/daycare fees. They are certainly not looking to opt out of the rat race and start an alpaca farm — what they do seem to want is to work smarter rather than longer, without being perceived as shirkers. Flexi-time is only the beginning; this generation wants to be able to telecommute, at least part of the time; working from home has gained huge popularity in the last decade or so. The advent of widespread wireless Internet availability and smartphones has enabled office personnel to work from almost anywhere and still remain in constant touch with other team members.

Forward-thinking employers will provide their employees with the flexibility they desire and foster a workplace culture that encourages professional development and movement within the corporate structure while actively discouraging long hours spent in the physical workplace itself. Working remotely reduces stress and pollution from long commutes as well as allowing employees more time to enjoy life outside of work. Taking off early on a summer afternoon to head for the beach or the golf course and finishing that project later in the evening can do wonders for one's stress levels, resulting in happier, healthier workers — wise employers are beginning to recognize this. Shift iQ's Learning Management System is completely mobile compatible, allowing workers to access professional development anywhere, anytime.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Benefits of Virtual Teams

Virtual teams can offer considerable benefits to companies, whether small, medium or large.

Accessing a wider pool of talent:

The pool of available talent is no longer limited to one city or town. While it is true that one could, for certain senior positions, hire employees from elsewhere in the country, this would normally involve paying removal expenses. Additionally, a higher salary would probably be required to compensate the new hires for uprooting spouses and families. While many people may be happy to move anywhere for the right position, many excellent potential employees are not — their spouses have good jobs, their children are settled in school, they have friends and family and commitments in their current community. Virtual teams avoid all these problems; suddenly the available talent pool is nationwide or even worldwide.

Cost savings:

Cost savings for some corporations using virtual teams are considerable, running into millions of dollars a year. Clearly relocation packages are no longer an issue. Additionally, there is a significant reduction in travel costs, commuting, and paying for office space. Of course, some of these cost savings are passed on to the employee, making the position even more attractive.

Time saving and increased productivity:

As mentioned above, virtual teams allow employees the luxury of flexibility; commuting is eliminated, employees are subject to lower stress levels and take fewer sick days, resulting in increased productivity. Additionally, having a team whose members are located across several time zones effectively expands the business day from eight hours to twelve hours, even twenty-four in some cases. Projects can be accomplished in a shorter period by utilizing more hours in the day.

Sales and marketing:

Having team members in multiple locations gives customers access to a physical presence nationwide or even globally.

Small/medium businesses:

Virtual teams can help level the playing field for small or medium businesses, giving them advantages that were previously only available to larger corporations since marketing and communications can be outsourced to different countries.

Obviously, virtual teams also present unique challenges but these can be readily overcome with experienced leadership and careful selection of team members. Virtual team members will need to be self-motivated and capable of working alone without the stimulus of co-workers. They will also need to be good communicators; maintaining effective communications may be one of the biggest challenges facing virtual teams. Cutting-edge technology — allowing cloud computing, video conferencing, email, messaging, etc. — will be the team members' strongest ally.

Effective team leaders will be able to establish clear performance standards and ensure that all team members are clear on the company’s goals. A collaborative ethos that allows all employees to feel that their opinions are welcomed and respected, enabling positive discussions, needs to be fostered by the team leaders. Remote team members need to feel they are not being left out of the loop and that they have the support of the rest of the team. Successes also need to be celebrated, just as would happen if all team members shared the same corporate office space.

Virtual teams clearly need to be able to communicate and access information anytime, anywhere. To this end, cloud-computing options offer the perfect answer for virtual team members.