The Rise of Artificial Intelligence

“Siri,  what time is it in London right now?”

“Alexa, access the audio of last nights conference.”

“Echo, shut the shades for the presentation.”

If you thought that artificial intelligence is not a trend in 2017, think again. AI is  all around us, on our smartphones, in our cars and in Amazon dots that sit on our countertops. Automation has been around for decades but slowly that automation has taken on more of a role in our business and home lives. Automation has made work easier, in some cases to the point of replacing the human factor. Automation has also become more intuitive and accurate. Where this trend is going has experts wondering just how far artificial intelligence will play a role in the business world.

Most expert in AI agree that the presence of artificial technology is not going anywhere and will in fact increase in its use. Here are just a two ways that AI may begin to impact the business world within this year.

  • Data Sorting – One area that artificial intelligence is thriving is sorting and organizing big data. AI can gather and analyze massive amounts of data in short periods of time. It can then deliver insights and recommendations based on what it learns, and act on those insights without relying on a human to intervene or guide it.
  • Supervising – While the idea of a machine supervising work may seem a little too “out there,” it is in the realm of possibility. Many automated processes in companies can be switched over to AI technology and leave employees to handle more subjective jobs. Human employees can then oversee the technology handling the software.

Keep an eye on AI in the workplace and return to our blog to find out more as the year unfolds.

Can Virtual Reality Help Your Company?

Virtual Reality seems more like the plot of a sci-fi movie that anything that could help you in the business world. Well, more and more businesses are coming up with new and different ways to integrate virtual reality into their businesses in ways that could benefit their customers, clients or even employees. Virtual Reality may be able to help your clients access content in a way that is not always possible in a two dimensional setting. The year 2017 may be the time that VR explodes in the business world. Let’s take a look at just a few of the ways that virtual reality may benefit your company.

  • Prototypes – For many businesses that have products that are in development, VR could allow clients or employees to create, use or rework a virtual model of your product and make necessary changes before actually paying for production.
  • Designing – If part of your service or product requires designing, VR may help save time and energy in engineering plans or designs. Replications of structures can make this work easy and allow a better viewpoint that can troubleshoot any design flaws.
  • Tours – For businesses that want to show off their showroom or workshop VR can allow for virtual tours even from a remote location. For example, in real estate, a buyer from another state could easily see a property hundreds of miles from home without leaving their home.
  • Training – Many businesses require training on equipment that may mean hiring a specialist. VR can allow employees to get their hands on equipment in the virtual world where there is no fear of breaking equipment.

Wondering how VR could be useful to your business? Give M&H a call.

Business Communication and Collaboration Apps

Communication is key in the business world whether it is relaying critical information to employees or staying up-to-date with clients. In order to maintain adequate communication, no matter who with, having a proven method or protocol can assist greatly at work. In this blog, let’s continue examining how technology can help you communicate better.

What type of communication do you use now: email, instant messaging or phone calls? Is it working or does it need to be streamlined to make communication more effective? If you are looking to enhance your communication or develop new strategies to stay in touch, consider these advancements on technology to help guide you along the way.

  • Slack – This app is one of the most popular ways for internal teams to collaborate. Slack features chat rooms organized by topic, private groups, and direct messaging. Files, groups, and members are all completely searchable, making it easy to pull up previous conversations. It’s available for web, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. [slack.com]
  • BaseCamp – If you need to maintain regular communication with clients BaseCamp may be a viable choice. It is designed to make it easy for people in different departments within a company to share files and collaborate on projects. By consolidating internal communications, project management, and client relations in one place, it provides an efficient and streamlined solution for managing a variety of internal communication and collaboration needs. Basecamp’s discussion boards eliminate the need for complex, hard-to-navigate email chains by consolidating discussion about a subject in one place. It also manages tasks and to-do lists for staff members. [basecamp.com]
  • DialMyCalls – If your business prefers to alert customers of upcoming events, appointments or due dates DialMyCalls may be the method for you. Many businesses use DialMyCalls to send out important notifications to employees, or to remind staff of upcoming events, meetings, or due dates. It’s also useful for reaching out to employees to cover shifts when someone gets sick or needs to miss work because of a personal emergency.

Business Apps for Time Management

In our last blog we began looking at technology solutions for busy business leaders and managers. We explored organization and how advancements in applications can help you get organized and stay organized. In this blog we will continue to look at technology, but shift gears towards time management applications and tips.

There are hundreds of apps out there, mostly free, that can help you keep track of your precious time whether you need to bill clients per hour or just as a way to stay productive and on task. Using your time wisely can become a little bit easier if you try to track and monitor how your time is spent and where it may be wasted.

  • Project Tracking – Ever wonder at the end of a large project how many hours were spent on the actual work? It would be great to know if the end justify the means or if possibly you wasted time somewhere along the way. Toggl is a great app that can help you track how much time you spend on different projects. Effective time management starts with being clear on exactly how much time you actually spend on your projects and tasks, and then analyze how you can manage them more effectively.
  • Staying on Task – If you or any of your employees have trouble staying on one project at a time or get caught up multitasking an app that helps them focus may be helpful. Focus Booster is an app that us based on the pomodoro technique, that helps employees maintain focus and manage distractions.
  • Planning – Part of time management is planning ahead on what needs to be done on each project you are tasked with. Mindmapping is a great productivity technique, and Mind42 is the best free mind mapping app. It helps you to get more organized by focusing your thoughts thereby gaining clarity on what needs to be done.

Why Regular Updates on Phones and Computers Are Important

Frequent updates are important for technology. New updates include new codes for the phone, apps, even java settings need to maintain its updates in order to keep your laptop functioning fast and properly.

Updates are simply designed to keep your phone and laptop up to date on the newest software and programs.

Technology is improving rapidly, and a consumer’s demand is for smarter and faster phones. Updates on smartphones help maintain the software working as it should, this includes working on glitches and simple functions such as helping from not freezing or screen not working on command. This is very useful to help maintain problems from becoming frequent. They also are used to help add new features and capabilities that further help and provide a better smartphone experience.

The same goes with laptops. Along with updating bug fixes and enhancing the computer experience by bringing you new software development and features, it helps users adapt to security vulnerabilities. If you wait a while to update your computer’s software, it can become slow and vulnerable to security breaches. Computer updates are important to stay protected from cyber attacks and malicious threats that are more seen through non updated softwares. Leaving your computer open to infection. Whether your laptop is running on Windows or Mac OS, updating and restarting your laptop can keep you secure and allow your laptop to speed things up.
Updates are not something that need to be done every week, but should be done at regular intervals. They can be very helpful and improve the way it looks and its function all while providing stronger security.

What If . . . things go wrong with your computer?

Accidents happen especially when we are stressed and overworked. Accidents on and around technology can be a whole lot more than a “whoops” moment. They can be downright damaging to the hardware and potentially files that are on the hard drive. We have compiled a few “What If. . . “ moments in case you are wondering what will happen to your technology if  (insert horrible event here) happens.  Here’s hoping you don’t have one of these events any time soon.

  • What if you spill a drink on your keyboard? The answer according to Guardian Online is fairly straightforward. “If you‘ve only spilled a small amount of clean water on it, you may well get away with it. You can remove and clean a sticky keyboard using a damp cloth or soft toothbrush and distilled water before drying it thoroughly, and in extreme cases, people try methylated spirits (ethanol) or solvents (isopropyl alcohol).”
  • What if your hard drive gets physically damaged? The answer really depends on the extent of the damage and if data can be recovered. If the damage is minimal try to get the data off the drive and take it in for a check up. If the drive is seriously damaged now is not the time to find out that your data recovery strategy is not up-to-date. Contact your IT department or the consultants working with your department who may be able to find backed up data or recover the data on that drive.
  • What if I accidentally open suspicious email? Obviously don’t click on emails that look suspicious in the first place but if your mouse gets moved or something unforeseen happens, disconnect your device, backup your files, and then call your IT department or IT consulting company to check your machine for malware or other suspicious content.
  • What if I get ransomware? According to PC World, “Don’t negotiate with e-terrorists. Instead, remove many ransomware viruses without losing your files. The process varies and depends on the type of invader. Some procedures involve a simple virus scan, while others require offline scans and advanced recovery of your files.” For specifics read here.

Mastering the Google Drive

Google, the big name from search engines to personal email, does it all. In fact your small or medium sized business may now be using Google Drive as a primary mode of organization and communicating in and out of the office. If your company, like many successful businesses, uses Google Drive to communicate, share and document client content and emails, you may need some tutorial on how to become a Google Drive Master. Here are a few tips to help you “up your game” with Google Drive.

  • Get Organized – Organization is key to being able to navigate Google Drive seamlessly, especially when you have a lot of files. Organize your files, spreadsheets and documents in folders using stars and color features so they are easy to find and access. Google Drive also allows you to select and move or open multiple files at once.
  • Look at History – If you have been looking at multiple drafts of a document you can easily look at revision history of Google Drive to choose an older version you may have liked better. With Revision History, you can see up to 30 days of file revisions with each person’s changes showing in a unique color. You can even click ‘Show more detailed revisions’ button at the bottom to get a minute by minute view of the edits that have been made to the document.
  • Insert Links Easily – To add a link in Google Drive, simply type Command + K. Based on the word highlighted, Google automatically shows the top search results for that word.
  • Use Translator – If you want to read a file written in another language or translate a document you have written, it is simple to do within Google Drive. Simply click to Tools -> Translate document.
  • Add Ons – There are a large number of add ons that can be chosen to do specific tasks for your unique business. While there are tons of options that you can personalize to your own needs, but here is a link so some of the more useful ones here.

 

Common Email Deliverability Terms and Concepts

In our last blog we discussed email marketing services. This week we are touching on common terms and concepts for email deliverability and success. It is not enough anymore to send out email newsletters or announcements and hope that they are opened and read. It is important to understand which emails get opened, why and how long the viewer read the email and what will work in future campaigns. If you or your company are just beginners when it comes to the email marketing strategizing, here are a few terms that can help steer you in the right direction when planning your next email campaign. Once you understand what the numbers mean, then you can start strategizing your next email campaign.

 

  • Acceptance Rate – The percentage of email messages that are accepted by the mail server. Note that an email being accepted by the mail server does not necessarily mean it will get to an inbox.
  • Open Rate – The percentage of recipients who opened your email message. When someone clicks on an email, an image pixel in the email loads and is counted as an open. However, remember to use click through rate for reader engagement metrics.
  • Click Through RateThe proportion of the audience who clicked on one more links contained in an email message. This will give you a better idea of how engaged the viewer was on your email.
  • Bounce Rate – The percentage of total emails sent that could not be delivered to the recipient’s inbox, known as a “bounce.”
  • Conversion RateThe percentage of recipients who clicked on a link within an email and completed a desired action, such as filling out a lead generation form or purchasing a product.
  • Read LengthThe length of time when a person opens an email, until they close it.
  • Black List – A list that denotes a sender as a spammer, making it difficult for the sender to get future emails into an inbox.
  • SpamNot asked for, or not work-safe email. Over 90% of email sent is classified as spam.
  • HamEmail that is generally desired and isn’t considered spam.

 

Top Email Marketing Services

Email has been around since the first one was sent in 1971. Since then, most of us have developed a love/hate relationship with email. It endlessly piles up in our “inbox”, making the typical office worker collect on average 121 emails daily. According to DMR Stats Online, most employees check their email about 74 times a day! While this may seem time consuming and counterproductive, email is still the most pervasive communication tool around in 2017.

 

Email marketing has spanned the numerous stages of digital marketing evolution and is still going stronger than ever. This is no surprise given that 269 billion emails are sent daily worldwide. Email marketers however are not all that concerned with how many emails are being sent, but are more concerned about the click through and click open rate for marketing emails. Too many consumers and clients are inundated with too many emails that they do not bother to open or even click on at all.  That is where email marketing services come in handy.

 

In order to conduct a successful email marketing campaign and get consumers to actually open and read your business’s email is a huge feat!  Email marketing services can help with some of the following issues surrounding this marketing strategy including:

  • Increasing Customer Mailing Lists
  • Engage Customers
  • Eye-catching Subject Lines
  • Personalizing the Email
  • Adding Images and Graphics
  • Creating a Relevant Call-to-Action
  • Optimizing for Mobile

 

Some of the top email marketing services can be found if you follow these links. Read and research each for the specific needs of your company.

 

7 Best Email Marketing Services for Small Business (2017)

 

PCMag’s Best Email Software Review

 

Review’s Best Email Services

 

Amazon Web Services

Many of us enjoy using Amazon on a daily basis when we order products through Amazon Prime or watch movies through the Amazon Stick. But did you know that small and medium sized businesses have been using Amazon Web Services for features such as: computing, storage, database storage, analytics, application, and deployment services that help organizations move faster, lower IT costs, and scale applications. Millions customers are using Amazon Web Services for products and solutions. Let’s take a closer look at this and how it may be a good choice for your business.

 

Whether you are running applications that share photos to millions of mobile users or you’re supporting the critical operations of your business, a cloud services platform provides rapid access to flexible and low cost IT resources. Here are some of the benefits that businesses may procure with the use of Amazon Web Services.

 

  • Ease of Use – The intuitive applications of Amazon allow users to quickly and safely run aspects of business.
  • Affordable – Businesses only pay for the compute power, storage, and other resources used, with no long-term contracts or up-front commitments.
  • Security – Businesses will benefit from a data center and network architecture built to meet the requirements of the most security-sensitive organizations.
  • Flexible – Select the operating system, programming language, web application platform, database, and other services you need. With Amazon Web Services, your business will  receive a virtual environment that lets you load the software and services your application requires.

 

Contact M&H Consulting to find out more about these web services and whether they can be helpful; to your company.