Monthly Archives: May 2017

Resilient Businesses Move Their People To The Cloud

Every year, as the Atlantic hurricane season approaches many businesses have a nagging realization that they are at risk due to a catastrophic “Black Swan ” event. Black Swan events are a constant source of risk in states like Florida where many communities are subject to disruption due to coastal storms. This risk is particularly acute for businesses that depend on the storage of on-line data if there is a chance their critical data could become lost or corrupted. But the threat from Black Swan events isn’t limited to Florida, nor is it limited to large scale disruptive events like hurricanes.The black swan theory or theory of black swan events describes a disruptive event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The term is based on an ancient saying which presumed black swans did not exist, but the saying was rewritten after black swans were discovered in the wild. Consider the following scenario…

“We tend to think of disasters in terms of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Hurricane Katrina, or other mega events. Sometimes, however, less notable events occur that can have a catastrophic effect on a business. In February 1981, an electrical fire in the basement of the State Office Building in Binghamton, New York, spread throughout the basement of the building setting fire to a transformer containing over a thousand gallons of toxin-laden oil. Originally thought to be PCBs, the toxins were soon determined to contain dioxin and dibenzofuran, two of the most dangerous chemicals ever created. The fire was smoky and quickly filled the 18-story building with smoke. As the transformer burned, the soot entered the buildings ventilation shafts and quickly spread toxic soot throughout the building. The building was so badly contaminated that it took 13 years and over $47 million to clean before the building could be reentered or used. Because of the nature of the fire, the building and its contents, including all paper records, computers, and personal effects of the people who worked there, were not recoverable. This type of event would be irrecoverable for many businesses.” – Operations Due Diligence, Published by McGraw Hill

What affect would a catastrophic hurricane that affected an entire region or a localized disruptive event like a fire have on the operation of your business? Could you survive that kind of interruption or loss? As the dependence on on-line data has grown in virtually every type of business, so has the risk that loss of their data could disrupt the operation of the business and even result in its complete failure. In response to these threats, there has been an evolution in the approaches used to mitigate these risks as the volume of on-line data has continued to grow. Originally, the concept of Disaster Recovery (DR) emerged as a mitigation strategy that focused on the recovery of critical data after a disruptive event by giving the business the ability to restore disrupted IT operations.

Disaster Recovery (DR) involves a set of policies and procedures that enable the restoration of critical business data and allows the IT infrastructure to be restored to a prior state. DR was originally seen as the domain of the IT department who were given responsibility for mitigating the risk. To minimize the risk, system backups were scheduled frequently and aggressive DR plans that included server cold start procedures and data backups were implemented.

The goal was to restore the infrastructure to the last point where the data had been backed up (at the time, typically on tape). The acceptable DR practices at the time allowed the IT system to be rebooted when the facility power was finally restored… Unless it was in a flood zone or the off-site backup storage facility had also been impacted. In either case, the operation of the facility could potentially be disrupted for some period of time and the data restoration was also potentially at risk depending on where backups were stored.

Now let’s roll the calendar ahead… As technology evolved so did the Disaster Recovery strategies, which lead to new concepts that evolved to the requirements for a Business Continuity solution as a means of mitigating risk. Still seen as the domain of IT, as technology moved towards solutions like shadow servers, distributed data locations and high speed bulk data transmission with hyper connectivity. Data no longer had to be “recovered”, it just had to be connected in distributed locations where it could be remotely accessed. Business Continuity mitigated the risk of data loss and allowed a business to recover much more quickly and efficiently from a Black Swan event because its servers never went completely down.

Business Coaching for Business Improvement

Business coaching can actually bring the much-desired changes to your business. Coach is a word which is derived from “kocsi”, a Hungarian name that means “carriage”. Today, however, the word has a wider use and it basically means transportation of people from one point to the other where they desire to be.

Business coaching, therefore, can be defined as a process that can be applied so as to move a business from its current position to where the owner envisions it to be. What a business coach does is to offer guidance and assistance to the owner in view of business growth, helping in the clarification of the business vision and how exactly it can fit well with the personal goals. This is a very important step and should be a point of focus.

Business owners should be made to understand the importance of reaching their goals for the business and how it can affect them personally. The business owner is responsible for the determination of the passion and speed in which goals are met. When the business owner has a passion for reaching a goal, he will be more determined to make it work by all means.

Usually, a coach will get to know the business owner desires and this helps in the prioritization of the goals and strategies that need to be put in place. It is the work of the coach to meet you with the owner on a regular basis so as to ensure they remain on track to all commitments that they may have made.

Accountability is a critical component of business coaching. It is important to understand that a business coach isn’t a consultant. This means that they don’t work for the business. The main aim is to help you with focus and keep on reminding you the importance of reaching the set goals. They also work to motivate the business owner to actually keep the commitments. They are the sounding board and can even hold a mirror so as to reflect all the blind spots that you may have missed.

Most of the success stories that you may have heard attributed it to amazing business coaches. For business owners who seek to have more time, more money and better relationships and health, it becomes important to have a business coach. The reason why the most business fails is that people are not really taught about ways in which they can actually win at life. Coaching, therefore, bridges the gap and enlightens the business owners in ways that only a coach can achieve.

It is the dream of every business owner to have a winning team around them. Also, anyone in business desires to have great profits in an effortless and exponential way. A winning business allows you to have time and money freedom. If you feel that you need to rethink your commitments and focus on the goals you had initially set out for your business, then getting a great business coach can actually help you and your business to a great extent.

Juggling Living in the Now and Our Businesses

Does anyone else find this quite a tightrope walk? It can be quite mind boggling!

The Past, Future but rarely Present

The business world at large demands projections, business plans, analysis of data and constant checking of figures – which area of our business should we concentrate on next, which country should we try to conquer next? A full time job in itself if we don’t have people to help us out!

All of the above serve to keep us in either the past or the future. The present moment is fleeting and reflects what we have been doing in the past anyway – so why spend so much time analysing it? Surely, by looking at the present moment and where we are – not just in business, but in our lives – we have a pretty accurate yardstick of how we have been creating our lives to date.

Business is a Serious Business

Most businesses are run with the aim of making money – yes, I know – I’m stating the obvious! However, isn’t it just this factor that takes the joy out of many businesses? A bit like a person who loves amateur dramatics, but when they decide to transfer over to the professional stage the joy dissipates because now their lifestyle depends on their success. There is a mantle of seriousness which now envelopes them and, except for a fortunate few, it’s not fun anymore, but business.

This very seriousness is what ties people up in knots, makes them tense, stressed and out of touch with their intuition and guidance. There is too much fear of failure and thoughts of not having enough money to support themselves, needing to go back into work that they hate doing just to make ends meet and even the fear of people telling them ‘I told you so!’

There are many layers to starting our own business. It’s about making ourselves vulnerable because we can ultimately be rejected by the world and nobody wants what we have to offer. The ultimate rejection! It takes courage to take that leap of faith.

We have to be Passionate

Loving what we do is really the only way to have any chance of a successful business, and I’m not just talking about money. I’m sure all of us have had dealings with businesses which have been run delightfully – restaurants that serve the most delicious food for example. Then one day we visit our favourite restaurant and the food isn’t quite as good, the service isn’t quite as personal and, on enquiry, we find that the restaurant has changed hands. The passion and energy of the person/people that started it has gone and, unless the restaurant is taken over by people with equal passion, the customers are going to feel the difference. Is there ever the same level of passion shown for a business which is already a running concern versus one that has been built from scratch with blood, sweat and tears? I don’t know, but I doubt it.

It is our energy which runs our business. We can have unlimited funds to throw at it, but unless we have passion for what we do that money is going to go down the drain, as potential customers will sense that we aren’t in business for the love of it, but purely as a way of making as much money as we can, in as short a time as possible. We won’t show up as people that they can trust!

Getting Things into Perspective

I think that it is imperative to focus on the present moment to stay sane in business. We can easily be forever looking at next month, next year or 5 years hence as to what our business should have achieved by then – along with that is all the pressure of trying to make that imaginary path an actual reality. If we have started a business with borrowed money, we also have the stress of having to report in on our successes or failures to meet financial deadlines. Our stress levels rise exponentially if we are in that situation!

The same as an artist will create a work of art or a piece of music, putting their heart and soul into it, and then tentatively release it into the world in the hope that someone out there will grasp its essence and understand what was in their heart at the time of composition. That is what it is like with our businesses – we put our hearts and souls into them and then hope that somebody, anybody, out there ‘gets it’ and will join us on our journey.

Ultimately, there are no guarantees that our businesses will be financially successful, but we can guarantee that they are emotionally successful on a day to day basis through following our intuition and doing what we love in each and every moment. Using this method will probably mean that projections fly out the window, as we can be lead down an entirely different path and our business could serve completely another purpose to the one we had originally envisaged. We could also be lead to change to another business, or travel another path – who knows. Life is full of surprises!

My point is that when we focus on the future and the money we feel we need to make (sometimes just for worldly validation), we often distance ourselves from the heart of our business, and the reason why we started it. Fear is what we feel when we imagine that we won’t make self-imposed deadlines – again, it’s often all about the money! Then our business suddenly becomes this massive thing which takes over all of our life, and we start to see it as the means of our ultimate glory or destruction – we see our whole lives depending on its success. Then the tables are turned – instead of us being the owner of our business, our business becomes the owner of our life!

I know people who don’t run their own businesses who are working jobs that they absolutely hate, but they fear leaving or losing those jobs because they have tied their whole existence to them. They don’t have enough faith in the Universe to provide for their needs, and transfer the power of the Universe to the company they are working for – making it the be all and end all! If they could just step away from their fears of destitution and homelessness, they would see that the company is merely a tool for the Universe to provide for their needs, and that they can change that and create a much more pleasant and worthwhile experience for themselves.

Similarly, if we can view our business as a tool the Universe has given us to either provide for our material needs and/or our emotional needs, that will help us to lighten up and enjoy the experience. However, if we see our business as our only means of survival, then it’s like having a partner that we rely on to supply every aspect of our happiness! It just doesn’t happen!

Small Business Should Invest in Big Data

Big data refers to huge volumes of structured and unstructured data; however, processing such massive volumes of data via traditional data management tools is inefficient and impossible. To understand big data you have to realize the devices that are collecting it today e.g. bar code scanners, mobile cameras, CCTV cameras, motion sensors, smoke alarms, web analytical tools, CRMs, etc. From the examples, you can see that these devices collect a vast array of data types hence the structured and unstructured part in the definition. The sheer velocity at which the data is being produced cannot be controlled and processed using traditional methods and tools.

However, the use of big data and incorporation of big data analytical technology gives businesses the competitive edge over their competitors.

Big Data and Small Businesses

It is only a thing of the past when terms like big data and business intelligence were associated with large enterprises only. Today, small businesses have to leverage the data they are collecting in order to remain a part of the competition. For years, cost has remained the main reason why small businesses did not adopt big data analytical technologies, but this has changed now. There are budget-friendly tools available for small businesses to take advantage of the data they are collecting today. According to some experts, small businesses can take better advantage of big data since they are able to make the necessary changes far more quickly than large enterprises i.e. real-time response to insights from available data.

According to an IDG study in 2016, 78% of the large enterprises agree that big data strategy has the power to change how businesses have always operated. This shows the acceptance of big data technology and strategies for large enterprises and strengthens the fact that small businesses could become irrelevant if they did not adopt the same strategies.

Benefits of Large Data Analytics

Large Data and Big Companies, a report by IIA Director of Research, Tom Davenport, reveals that businesses are benefitting greatly from big data analytics especially in improving their products, making business decisions faster and reducing costs. Here are some ways small businesses can benefit from big data.

• Cost Savings

The upfront cost of implementing large data tools and strategies is high undoubtedly, but the long term benefits of doing so are matchless. The healthcare industry is a great example of how the use of large data can help businesses reduce their costs regardless of their size. Using predictive analytics, Medicare and Medicaid Services forestalled more than $210 million fraud in healthcare with just 2 years of utilizing the aforementioned technology.

In addition to preventing frauds, small businesses can also reduce their costs by steering clear of creating more inventory than needed, including better partners in the supply chain, etc.

• Improved Decision Making

This is the biggest benefit of large data. It allows businesses to expedite decision making by processing the data fast and giving insights in timely manner. In the past, business decisions were reserved for future strategies in the light of available data and the trends that were observed in it. The amount of data that businesses are sitting on today is huge and thus more powerful insights are to be gained from it.

This vast amount of data requires the use of modern big data hardware technologies. Once both the things are in place for a business, they can understand customers better, create products that are a closer reflection of what customers want and develop a brand based on most reverenced values.

• Impenetrable Security

Businesses are more focused today on using large data to improve their core capabilities, but less attended to a more serious concerns i.e. cyber threats and security breaches. Almost every small, medium and large business is connected to the internet today. Moreover, the Internet of Things has broadened the attackable security surface for businesses making it easier for cyber criminals to attack networks and penetrate company databases.

The biggest concern for modern businesses is that they have to “respond” to cyber attacks that have already occurred rather than being able to prevent them from occurring. The use of big data and big data analytical tools can be a game changer in this area allowing businesses to prevent any security attacks way before they are executed.

Key Technologies Helping Businesses Make the Best of Big Data

As a small business, you will have to familiarize with various technologies that help you store, analyze and take action on big data. Here are some important ones:

• Hadoop

It’s a framework supporting the storing of large amounts of data using an open-source approach. Once data is stored, Hadoop enables the use of a variety of applications using “clustered hardware” at its base. Due to the cluster of commodity hardware, it becomes possible and easy for businesses to process big data despite its increasing volume.

• Data Mining

This is the technology that enables business owners to capture insights, patterns and trends from big data that otherwise cannot be obtained with a traditional approach. Data mining is what allows you to jump in a large sea of structured and unstructured data, make sense of it all and produce analytical insights that help businesses with real-time and future decisions.

• Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics walk side by side with data mining. Artificial is at the heart of predictive analytics, enabling business owners to adjust their present strategies by giving predictions about what will transpire for the business based on existing data.

• Text Analysis and Mining

One huge concern for modern business is to analyze the noise on various web platforms such as forums, blogs, social networks, etc. to understand what customers expect from a particular brand. Finding out about brand mentions and understanding customer’s impression of your brand can help you readjust your marketing approach to gain customer loyalty. Text mining helps small to large sized businesses go through text data from emails, blog posts, social networks, etc. and hear customers “voice”.

With the rise of smartphones, artificial intelligence and IoT (internet of things) it has become clearly visible that businesses will now have to handle mountains and mountains of data, and make use of big data analytical and processing technologies to have the competitive edge.