Operational Excellence

  • Building a Cloud Technology Blueprint for Your Company

    By Rob Carey

    The potential benefits of cloud technology are tangible and tempting for middle market firms. The ability to store company data in a system that can always scale up to meet rising needs is a game changer, especially for midsized companies with little room for error in their IT expenditures. What's more, the various cloud functionalities available from third-party applications allow midmarket firms to battle larger competitors on a more equal footing in critical areas, including data analytics that help inform research and development, sales, marketing and customer service. Other cloud applications improve worker efficiency, thus strengthening the bottom line.

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  • Midmarket Firms and BYOD Policy: Balancing Convenience and Protection

    By Rob Carey

    Among companies of all sizes, the practice of allowing employees to "bring your own device" (BYOD) is becoming more commonplace. For executives at midsized firms, though, the first impulse might be to reject a BYOD policy. After all, midmarket companies do not have IT departments as deep as those at large companies, which can often handle the wide variety of laptops and mobile devices that employees bring. The concerns about business effectiveness, along with network and data security, will naturally give midmarket executives pause.

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  • Cloud Computing and Middle Market Firms: A Good Match?

    By Rob Carey

    The Information Technology Lab at the National Institute of Standards and Technology characterizes cloud computing as "a pay-per-use model for enabling available, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g. networks, servers, storage, applications, services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction." In plain English, here's what that means: Companies can use cloud computing to leverage external technology applications and tools that improve back-office functionality and make client-related processes more robust. What's more, companies only have to purchase the amount of functionality necessary to meet their immediate needs, and they can scale up quickly and precisely whenever their business conditions change.

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  • Trademarks 101: What They Are and Why They Need Protecting

    A trademark helps differentiate your middle market company's goods and services from anyone else's. You can trademark your company name, its logo, its product names and its slogan. If a new company enters the market, it cannot use the names or symbols of an existing company in that same market without violating the senior company's trademarks. They represent legally protected rights and allow for exclusive use so that when any company invests in its brand equity, no other company can steal it.

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  • Annual Reviews: Why You Should Separate Performance and Pay

    Both middle market managers and their employees dislike annual reviews. Managers, already overburdened by the year's end, must prepare reports and sit down with each of their team members to evaluate performance and salary issues. Employees, on the other hand, are anxious about their bonuses and are only listening for how their performance ratings impact their income. Could anything be more uncomfortable and a waste of time on both sides?

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  • How to Handle E-Waste and Old Electronic Equipment

    Sustainability can provide great benefits to a middle market business, including cost reduction and customer and employee loyalty. But claiming sustainable practices is difficult if you don't effectively handle e-waste. Whether it's outmoded computers, broken fax machines, CRT monitors, exhausted rechargeable batteries or obsolete networking equipment or smartphones, a lot of electronic waste is poorly handled.

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  • Lawsuits and the Need for Good Internal Communication

    Being in business means occasionally facing lawsuits. When a customer sues your middle market company over a faulty product or a supplier takes you to court in a contract dispute, there's a clear risk to both your financial bottom line and your reputation. But lawsuits bring other sorts of risk to areas such as employee retention and recruiting efforts. Of course you will have a strategy, led by your legal advisers, to collect all data relevant to the particular litigation. You'll also likely interview all employees involved in the case. But this is just the beginning.

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  • Crisis Management: What to Do When You Get Hacked

    Crisis management, or how you handle corporate communications in the face of disaster, is a well-known set of practices. You bank on being transparent, getting out ahead of the story and taking care of the situation as best as possible. It's about doing whatever it takes to avoid reputation damage. Cyberattacks are increasingly becoming one of the many potential crises organizations can face. If your company is targeted by hackers, there are several key steps you should take to minimize the impact. However, you should also establish a proactive defense before something happens.

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  • Handling a Denial-of-Service Attack

    A denial-of-service attack, also known as distributed denial of service (DDoS), has been a thorn in the side of Internet businesses and organizations since at least 1999. A DDoS attack is easy to launch, and technically inexperienced people can rent the necessary infrastructure and systems from commercial hackers by the day, hour or week at affordable prices. A strike can be extremely effective; attackers even answer countermeasures as they're developed.

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  • Ensuring Web Security: 6 Essential Tips for Middle Market Executives

    By Rob Carey

    The importance of having a secure website cannot be overstated. Besides protecting customers' e-commerce data, you need to be able to fend off denial-of-service attacks and other viruses that can crash your site for days or even weeks. Web security also entails foiling hackers who seek to infiltrate your firm's underlying network by figuring out user identification and passwords and thereby gaining access to sensitive data or emails. A breach in any of these areas could result in a loss of not just money, but also customers, employee trust and your competitive status.

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  • Corporate Sustainability Requires Smart Operations and Marketing

    Corporate sustainability has been gaining attention from executives and customers alike, and not just when companies are enormous. Many midmarket firms have pushed heavily into sustainable practices, and several have been recognized for it. For example, Sun Light & Power makes use of renewable-source energy, keeps half of its facilities near public transit and uses recycled materials in 75 percent of its office supplies. Similarly, First GREEN Bank has LEED-certified facilities, programs to encourage employee use of fuel-efficient vehicles and special commercial loan packages for companies building sustainable facilities.

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  • Mobile Business Technology: 5 Essential Best Practices

    Mobile business technology isn't just a useful option for modern companies — it's a must-have tool. Mobile's impact started with consumers, but it's spread to business users and has become powerful in a range of industries, including real estate, insurance, banking, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. Mobile lets companies respond more quickly and directly to prospects and customers. It also helps firms collect data that provides transformative insights into markets, employees and business processes, ultimately allowing them to offer the type of user experience people want.

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