This article is the fourth and final part of a series on the technological challenges business owners face in 2018. In past articles, we’ve looked at cybersecurity measures, getting ahead of the technology skills shortage, and building agility into processes. Today we’ll look at how businesses can incorporate smart processes with technological solutions, or to put it simply: digital transformation.
In order to improve operations and deliver more value to customers, businesses need to effectively integrate the right technologies. All too often, company leaders are lulled into thinking they can maintain the status quo and continue to perform well. But recent history is full of examples of companies that fell into this mindset; by the time they finally responded, it was too late.
Times have changed. The age of digital transformation rewards early adopters (and a few super-fast followers), leaving others to play catch-up and struggle to survive.
A recent cautionary tale
For an example of how digital transformation affects businesses, let’s look at the retail industry. Years ago, local family-owned retail stores dominated most of the market. Then Walmart came along; their “just in time” inventory system facilitated lower prices and an ever-growing network of stores. They looked unstoppable… but along came Amazon. Though at first it seemed like just an online bookstore, Amazon had ambitions of expansion and a well-thought-out digital transformation plan.
As a result, the once-dominant Walmart has been significantly impacted, and has closed stores across the country. In this instance, Walmart has been relegated to the role of “superfast follower.” In an effort to compete, Walmart purchased online retail startup Jet.com and revamped their leadership team to fast-track their plans to catch up to Amazon.
Amazon’s digital transformation has changed the way the retail industry works, and they’ve left big-box retail stores struggling to stay above water. All it takes is a look around the empty shopping malls and shuttered outlet malls to see the impact of digital transformation on the retail industry as a whole.
How to stay ahead
Which role will your business play: the digital transformation early adopter, or the straggler? What should you do now to make sure you are in the right market position?
The following recommendations should help you get on the right track:
Identify and acquire the required resources
To win the digital transformation game, you need to have the right tools and team for success. Assess your ability to execute your digital plan with the resources you currently have. Typically, the technological solutions that brought you to this point won’t be the same ones that will drive your future success.
You also need to determine whether your current internal resources can continue to run the day-to-day aspects of the business while effectively driving your digital transformation. Engage a seasoned advisor who can provide an unbiased review of your current systems, identify opportunities, and drive timely execution. Digital transformation is a new concept for most people, and many companies struggle to figure it out on their own. The right advisor can help your company avoid missteps on the road to a timely and successful outcome.
The Right Plan
Some companies mistakenly think that implementing a new ERP, CRM, or financial system is the extent of digital transformation. While those tools may be a piece of the overall plan, they’re far from the full potential a digital transformation can offer. True transformation involves internal processes, customer experience, delivery of services and products— essentially the full continuum of your business. Make sure your digital transformation leaders understand the difference and are prepared to serve as change catalysts. That means challenging traditional thinking and identifying needs, gaps, and opportunities.
Act and execute like your future is counting on it… because it is. Amazon didn’t gain their advantage in the retail industry by merely crafting a great plan; they also executed the plan in a more timely and more effective manner than their competitors. Innovation and business opportunities have a window of opportunity. Take action now, start fast, and execute to win this race.
Technology protection has improved over the years and hackers have shifted their focus from technical vulnerabilities to individual vulnerabilities. Tricking one person into giving up computer access is the easiest path to sensitive information, and hackers have developed some clever strategies for doing so through email.
Below are some of the top email threats, and how you can protect against them.
Below is a graph illustrating how the list of the world's largest companies by market cap has changed in just the past 15 years.
It's interesting to note that only 1 of the top 5 from 2001 is still in the top 5.
If you go back to 1955, the top 10 list includes General Motors, US Steel, Chrysler, Amoco, CBS, Goodyear, Firestone... and NONE of the these companies make even the top 20 list today.
We live in a rapidly changing world. So, why do once thriving companies fall from their market position?
1. The Status Quo: Company leaders get too comfortable with the status quo. I have frequently heard company leaders state "this is the way we have always done it in this company". Well, that may be, but eventually someone with a more progressive view will change it. For example, Kodak failed to transform their business to digital in a timely manner, Kodak's market dominance in camera film lulled them into ignoring the market shift. By the time they finally acted, their competitors had captured the new digital market and Kodak was no longer a top contender in the new digital camera/film market.
2. Narrow Perspective: Company leaders often rely on just their fellow company leaders and people in their same market for guidance. While it is comfortable to talk with people that think like you and have the same perspective as you, it is also a risk. You need to a broader view to consider all the factors and fresh new options. Business leaders should engage experts from outside their comfort zone to get a broader view and progressive ideas. If you don't, a competitor will.
3. Change: Once you determine your plan of action, it must be executed in a timely manner. Often companies talk about change and progressive ideas, but fail to fully execute. Do you have the right "Change Catalysts" on your team?
Whether you are a market-leading, multi-billion dollar company or a small company, these business principles apply. Currently, Digital Transformation is reshaping every industry. How is your digital transformation going? Will your business be gaining market share or loosing during these rapidly changing times?
Invest in the right Thought Leaders and Change Catalysts to help you craft your company's future.
Market-leading companies fully leverage and optimize technology to improve their operations and deliver more value to their customers. When your technology fails, you’re not only losing profits, you’re also losing customer confidence. Businesses are currently in a Digital Transformation race that rewards the first movers and most agile, and leaves the others playing catch-up to survive. Inadequate cybersecurity can expose sensitive information and put your business at risk. If it’s been a while since you’ve evaluated your company’s technology, most likely there are many issues that you’re not even aware of.
The following are signs that it’s time for an independent review of your Information Technology (“I.T.”) organization:
If you observe any of these signs, it's time for an Information Technology assessment.
Xtrii performs comprehensive, cost-effective technology assessments that are conducted by proven technology experts that have helped some of the world's best companies achieve extraordinary success.
The following is a written transcript of an interview of Mark Johnson, Chief Executive of Xtrii, conducted by Exec Tech.
Before you download that app to your smartphone, consider these questions:
Why do companies spend a lot of money and resources developing smartphone apps, and then give them away to everyone for free? How can social media and app companies, like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter, give you their app for free and let you use their services for free, but yet they are worth billions of dollars?
Because YOU and your sensitive information that they are collecting in the background are their real product and source of revenue.
Have you ever looked at what are the top consumers of your smartphone’s battery?... most likely it’s Facebook and other “free” apps. Why does an app (like Facebook) consume so much of your battery?
It is consuming your battery by continuously searching your smartphone for new information and uploading your information to that company’s servers. Once they make a copy of your contacts, messages, emails, photos, and other sensitive information, they sell it to others for lots of money.
If you want to better protect your privacy and greatly improve your smartphone’s battery, don’t install those free apps. But, if you still want to access those sites, here is a much better way:
Access their website or service through your smartphone’s browser instead.
Yes, it’s that easy… instead of downloading the Facebook app (or other apps), just go directly to their website and logon through your phone’s browser. The app contains their most invasive tools that secretly scan and collect your information. By using your browser instead of their app, you have removed the app’s collection tools and greatly reduced the information they can collect.
You can even add a shortcut icon on your phone’s HOME screen for easy access:
Most smartphone browsers, including Safari (iPhone) and Chrome (Android), have an option to “Add to Home Screen” in their menu. Just select that option, and it will add that website to your home screen. It's just as quick and convenient, and the icon looks just like the app’s icon.
Instead of opening the app, it accesses the information through your phone browser, It’s just as convenient and a similar viewing experience, while saving your privacy and phone battery by using this browser approach instead of the app. Most people see a significant (10% or more) savings in their phone battery level each day, by making this simple change.
With this insight and these few adjustments to the way you access information, you can help keep your personal information private, and greatly improve the battery life of your phone.
How many passwords do you have? ... Personal email? Work email? Amazon? Facebook? Twitter? ..... every website wants you to set up another account with yet another username and password. And you also have other sensitive information that you must remember and keep secure, such as your social security number, passport number, voter card, voice mail password, credit card numbers, combination locks, prescriptions, serial numbers, and the list continuously grows and wants to own a larger piece of your memory.
Eventually the list becomes overwhelming, which causes some people to start using very risky methods to keep up with all the passwords...they write them on a sticky note, write they in a paper notebook, or they use the same password for every service. But this is a recipe for identity theft, lose of your very sensitive personal information, and/or other significant personal impact.
We often see services hacked that we commonly use such as Yahoo, LinkedIn, Home Depot, Zappos, Uber and many others. When they hack those companies/services, they typically steal your username and password, and if you use the same password for every account, the hacker can now access and steal from all of your accounts. I encourage you to create individual passwords for every account. So, you need a better way of securing and keeping up with your ever-growing list of passwords, and I recommend you implement a Password Manager.
A Password Manager keeps your passwords secure by storing them in an app that is protected by military-grade encryption. Password Managers come in several flavors. You can purchase an Password Manager application that you install on your device (your smartphone and/or PC), and with that one-time purchase you own the Password Manager. Or you can pay a monthly or annual subscription fee that provides an application that you install or access through a secure website. A Password Manager will make your information more secure, give you piece of mind, and make your life a lot easier too!
Here are three recommendations for a Password Manager:
In addition to providing business technology guidance to companies, I’m often asked which personal technologies are the best. As we wrap up 2017, I'm sharing my best of 2017 recommendations in this series of articles.
For this best of 2017 review, I will cover the most requested personal technologies in a series of weekly articles. This week’s article will cover the best:
5. To-do list App
6. Printer (personal/small business)
7. Home Security Cameras
8. Data storage (Cloud service, personal NAS… the best way to store your data)
The Best To-Do-List App: Todoist
Start your new year getting better organized with the best to-do-list app, Todoist (www.todoist.com). This category recommendation changed from last year. For many years the best to-do-list app was Wunderlist. But unfortunately, Microsoft purchased Wunderlist, and frankly, they ruined it. This year Microsoft announced that they are ending support for Wunderlist, and attempted to move the Wunderlist functionality into their own new Microsoft To-Do app. So far, those plans are a failure. Microsoft To-Do lacks some key features that were in Wunderlist, and Todoist has added new features, which makes Todoist the new top pick for a to-do-list app.
I have tried many different to-do-list apps, and while each can provide a basic list, the easy of use, intuitive user interface, ability to reliably sync your to-do-list between all your devices, and integrations with other apps (such as Amazon Echo/Alexa) sets Todoist apart from the others. The base version of Todoist is FREE, and even the base version will satisfy most user's to-do-list needs.
The Best Printer: Epson WF-4720
Printers come in many varieties, and the best option depends on your particular needs. For an individual or a small business, I recommend an all-in-one color printer with an automatic document feeder. For a negligible price difference versus a printer-only device, the all-in-one also provides you a scanner, a copy machine and a fax.
The best all-in-one printer is the Epson WF-4720. This one device provides a great color scanner with a high-capacity document feeder, a color copier, a color printer, and a fax, and it's the fastest printer we have ever tested. Typically ink jet printers are very slow, but Epson upgraded this model with their new print technology, and it is shockingly FAST. Who wants to wait on your pages to print?.... nobody. So, when you buy a printer, purchase one that has the right functionality, great print quality AND great print speed.
The Best Home Security Camera: Nest Cam
Many people are looking to upgrade their home security. The home security market has greatly expanded this year, and the market is now flooded with options. One consideration is whether you want just security cameras, or do you want a full home automation system that controls your lights, door locks, thermostat, appliances, and other home functions. In either case, the Nest products are a great place to start. The Nest Cam is very easy to setup, has very solid build-quality, and the video quality is excellent. The Nest app is excellent, and provides a hub to manage all your Nest products. Nest also integrates well with other popular home automation products and hubs, such as Amazon Echo/Alexa and Nexia.
Nest offers the ability to capture the video in the Nest Cloud, which provides you convenient way to access your camera videos from anywhere, and the security of having a copy of the videos at a secure, offsite location....if a thief steals your valuables and your cameras, you will still have a copy of the videos to provide to the police. The Nest Cam can also be configured to send an alert to your phone whenever a person is detected in a designated area (such as your front door or back door), which is another great security feature. And once you receive the alert, the Nest App allows you to have two-way conversation with the person through the microphone and speaker that is built into the Nest Cam. Overall great features and the Nest ecosystem make the Nest Cam the best.
The Best Data Storage: Dropbox
One of the most frequently asked technology question is "What is the best way to store all my files/data"? Over the years, cloud data storage options have changed the way we store and share our files. One of the first providers of cloud data storage was Dropbox, and now even many years later, they are still the best.
This recommendation is for individual use, not a large business/enterprise. The needs are different for a large business/enterprise, and that recommendation will be covered in another article. Today, there are many options for storing your data, with an ever-growing list of cloud data storage providers and new "private-cloud"/NAS options.
Let's review the cloud storage options. Google Drive continues to improve and offer new interesting features. Microsoft OneDrive is becoming more compelling with their bundling of 1TB of OneDrive storage with an Office365 plan. I have used all of them extensively, and frequently compare notes with my fellow technology professionals, and the one that everyone keeps coming back to is Dropbox. It's convenient, reliable, and has the best user-interface.
Private Cloud/NAS: Some people ask about setting up their own "private cloud", by purchasing and configuring a NAS (Network Attached Storage). While the privacy of your own NAS may sound compelling, when you consider the cost and hassles, your private cloud typically isn't worth it. We recently setup our own NAS for an evaluation. We spent thousands of dollars to purchase all the components, many hours configuring it, and it will continue to require maintenance. For the total cost of this NAS, we could have purchased 10+ years of a Dropbox subscription. And the NAS will most likely require even more costly hardware replacements within the next 5 years (or sooner). With your own NAS, you will still need an offsite, backup copy of your data, which will is another additional cost. Overall the cost comparison and hassles of having your own private cloud hardware just doesn't make sense.
Please note: I recommend that you do NOT keep confidential and/or sensitive data in any Cloud service. Instead, keep confidential and highly sensitive data on your own, private encrypted drive and back it up frequently with another, encrypted USB drive(s). Once the backup is complete, keep the backup drive disconnected from your PC and in a separate, secure location.
A case can be made for each of the options, but overall I recommend Dropbox for your primary data storage. With pricing continuing to change and new features being added, this recommendation may eventually change. We will continue to test all of them and monitor the progress, so stay tuned.
To see the other best of 2017 technologies (categories 1-4), click here.
In addition to providing business technology guidance to companies, I’m often asked which personal technologies are the best. As we wrap up 2017, I'm sharing my best of 2017 recommendations in this series of articles. While many technology magazines provide their recommendations for the best technology, their opinions are typically formed in their lab and can be biased based on their advertisers and alliances.
The Advantages: My recommendations are not influenced by advertising, corporate sponsors or other relationships that can impact magazine recommendations .... I simple recommend the best technology. My recommendations are based on a much larger testing environment that includes extensive hands-on experience, feedback from a very wide variety of customers and environments, 30+ years as a technology leader and global technology advisor, and leveraging feedback from a large resource pool of other global technology experts and their experiences.
For this best of 2017 review, I will cover the most requested personal technologies in a series of weekly articles. This week’s article will cover the best:
The Best Smartphone: Apple iPhone X
Over the years I have used both Android and Apple phones. I used an iPhone for many years, and three years ago I switched over to Android. Until recently, my primary phone was an Android phone, the Samsung S7 Edge. Experts point out that the both Android and Apple have the strengths, and I agree. Like many technology professionals I have historically tried to avoid being on the Apple bandwagon, and liked the flexibility of Android. I reviewed the latest offerings, including the Samsung Note 8, the Samsung Galaxy 8, LG V30, Google Pixel 2, and many others.
But, the iPhone X just look Apple to another level, and after using the iPhone X for several months, it is without a doubt the best phone I have ever used. The form-factor of the iPhone X feels really nice in your hand, and is well-balanced. The Note 8, iPhone 8 and other smartphones with comparable screens feel top-heavy and awkward in your hand, and lack the “just-right” feel of the iPhone X. The iPhone X’s Face ID works great, there is never a screen lag (like you see on Android phones), it has amazing battery life, and the best overall user experience. Sorry Android fans, Apple created a winner, and overall the iPhone X is the best.
The Best Smartwatch: Apple Watch Series 3
I have used many different smartwatches, including Android Wear, Samsung Gear, FitBit and Apple. For the past two years my preference has been the Samsung Gear S3 Classic Watch. The Samsung Gear looks great, but the battery life was terrible (it often couldn’t last a full day) and the lack of apps was very disappointing. By far, Apple has the best selection of apps for a smartwatch, and with the Apple Watch Series 3, they finally got the hardware right. With the Apple Series 3, I typically have more than 80% battery life available at the end of the day, and I’ve gone 3 days on a single charge. The Series 3 also adds the cellular capability and phone number mirroring with your iPhone, which gives you the ability to leave you phone at home and still send/receive your calls and messages. The apps, the user interface, the heart rate monitoring, and the overall experience is better on the Apple Watch. Smartwatches will continue to evolve, but currently the Apple Series 3 is the best smartwatch.
The Best Laptop: Dell XPS 13
The form factor, The Dell XPS 13 fits a 13” screen in a 11” form factor. The amazing display is a stunning, edge-to-edge (nearly borderless, infinity display. The size, weight, case material, aesthetics, included ports, and performance are all superior and all make the Dell XPS 13 the best overall laptop. For those that want a 15.6” display and even more horsepower (most people don’t really need it), my recommendation is the larger Dell XPS 15. HP has made improvements, but their awkward trackpad, and overall configuration can’t match the Dell XPS. Lenovo, Samsung and others have too many quirks and quality issues to be a contender. Apple has their following, but the current line of Apple laptops are disappointing, and their core components and overall value can’t match the Dell XPS.
The Best Home Technology:
Mark Johnson is the Chief Executive at Xtrii. He is a proven, 10x CIO, renowned, global technology advisor and business leader.