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Articles and case studies to assist with the daily challenges all businesses face.

4 steps to ensure a smooth system implementation process

Where to start?

Implementing a new system or process into your business is always going to be a challenge. Time, money, processes diagrams... all real reasons not to take the first leap into improving your business in the long run.

The biggest problem is when leaders don't get buy-in from their teams before making the decision to implement a new system. Ultimately it is your team who will drive any system or process this is implemented, so it is imperative that they own the decision!

If you don't know where to start in the implementation process, check out these 4 steps you can follow to ensure a successful implementation:

Step 1: Acknowledge
Before making the decision to implement or replace a process or system, you must clearly understand the reasons for doing so. Often the need for a new process is to rectify serious issues with an existing one, so it is critical to acknowledge that the existing process is broken. Understand that this process was implemented for a certain reason, but that business needs change, and that's okay. Now its time to move forward and improve.

Identify your champions
What I have personally found has been crucial to my own success with implementing new processes/systems for my business and my clients; is identifying 2 or 3 champions that are passionate about the idea.

Step 2: Choosing the right process or system

Before you decide on what process or system is right for you, you need to work backwards. Understand your end goal and what you want to achieve from implementing this process or system. You will have greater insight into what options will work for you, and therefore eliminate the ones that won't work.

Step 3: Benefits, not features
Everybody loves a flashy feature. We get excited about shiny features that new products can offer us, but don't get distracted! Features don't necessarily fix problems, benefits do. Allow your team to experience the benefits of the new process or system, and they will begin to drive the change themselves.

Step 4: Owning the idea
Those that are going to be working with the new process or system need to own the change and ultimately need to help management decide on what needs to be implemented. By giving them choices that make sense to the business, and allowing them to choose the final product will empower them with a system they believe will work for them. You will see astonishing results down the line.

Having employees who are driving from the inside always helps. Get in touch with me personally if you would like to chat in more detail about how to start your implementation.

Author: Dan Marcus, Founder Magnetic Software

Save, scale, secure: why small businesses should take to the cloud

The internet has changed all aspects of our live. From how we bank, get around, or communicate with friends, or even – as I hear – date. From a business perspective, however, it has radically altered the ways in which businesses communicate with consumers.

Did you know, the internet has also changed the very way in which business owners run businesses? There are a plethora of applications – both mobile and desktop – which can be used to simplify task, account and HR management, which often prove to be time consuming. The facts are simple. In the dark old days before the internet, you had to buy software (usually with a licence), install it, and then only run it on your computer. Once you had your software, it pretty much was yours to use as you saw fit, and more importantly, manage.

Under the cloud model, however, business software is run online, but a third party, and you can access it through your browser. With the cloud, there’s never a need to actually “own” any software. While this may seem “dangerous”, its actually a positive change. Rather than buying a product – thereby making it your responsibility to manager – you’re renting a service which is your provider’s responsibility to ensure it works. It’s like renting a car, you expect to be able to jump in and drive off, safe in the knowledge that your car will work. The same is true of cloud services. When you sign up, you get to use the software without worrying about installing it, maintaining it, downloading updates or keeping it secure.

As a business owner, I have found the greatest benefit of cloud solutions to be financial. Much like my car analogy – renting vs buying; there’s no massive upfront cost when signing on with a cloud-based provider. Of course, you pay monthly, but you can scale your use of the product as per your business demands.

An additional saving in using cloud computing is the fact that you will never have to upgrade your software again. A good cloud service provider – who will want to retain your business – will ensure that their service is always on the cutting edge of the latest innovations. The cost to upgrade the product is theirs, not yours. To put it into accounting terms, the spend on technology will no longer be a capital expense, but rather an operational one.

One cannot talk about “the cloud” without addressing the security concerns many have about it. Many concerns are valid, but can be mitigated.

A reliable cloud service provider ensures that it stays up to date with today’s ever-evolving industry standards and regulations. At the very least, look for a provider that uses 512-bit SSL encryption – the same kind of encryption used in online banking. If, when you ask a provider about this, and they can’t answer, look elsewhere. The cloud provider should be running periodical backups (at least on a daily basis). This means, that if something goes wrong, they will be able to recover your information.

A top-level cloud service provider’s servers in within state-of-the-art data centres with power-redundancy, hardware mirroring and multiple internet connections.

And finally, the best cloud providers never access your data without your clear, explicit permission. So yes, if you can find the service provider who can answer all these security concerns about the cloud, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Few, if any, businesses can escape technological advancements. But just as the fax machine made way for email, and email made way for instant messaging services, technological advancements are a key driver of commercial competitiveness. Today we’ve entered the era of the cloud. Not making use of it means that you’re not only continuing to saddle your business with unnecessary costs, but also failing to grab the competitive advantage the cloud offers your business.

Author: Dan Marcus, Founder Magnetic Software.

No Meeting Week Drives Productivity

The Problem
Have you ever taken a step back and looked at how much time you waste in meetings? Nic Haralambous wrote a great article on the 25 minute meeting a while back, that resonated with me. While I fully agree with his principles, being a small business in the B2B and corporate market, it is difficult to ask clients to come to your office for meetings. This means that travel time also need to be taken into account. So, for a 25 minute meeting, you are out of the office for at least an hour.

Last month, I found myself falling far behind on crucial tasks because day after day I was in meetings. Worst of all, my inbox was filling up faster than I could say "Zero Inbox". I started missing important mails that needed to be attended to.

Don't get me wrong, meetings are important. They are essential to grow your business, but do we really need to meet at the drop of a hat? How often are you asked "Hi Dan, I would love to chat about this idea..." I am the first person to jump at something like this, i love opportunities, but can't we open from the first contact? If you want to meet about something, email a short description of what the chat is about and if it grabs my eye, then lets meet - otherwise we are just wasting time.

I used to be the biggest culprit. I love meeting people, networking, discussing ideas and jumping at any opportunity to meet anyone whenever I could. But it became too much. Before I could blink, my diary was filled with meetings for the next 3 weeks. Yes, some were important meetings that had to take place, but the majority were catch ups. The penny dropped when a friend asked whether we could have lunch, and I could only book another meeting with him in 3 weeks time.

The Solution
I implemented the No Meeting Week Principle once a month. For that week, I cancelled all my internal meetings, pushed big client pitches to the following week and planned my week around productivity. Ultimately I was doing work that made an immediate impact to our business. The results were outstanding! I produced 3 months' worth of work in a single week and our business reaped the positive outcomes.

Moving forward, I plan to have 2 meeting days a week, with the remaining 3 to be saved for creative and productivity days; doing things that make an immediate different in our company. The key to success to my no meeting week? You simply have to say no - no matter the situation. There will always be another day. Well that's my opinion at least.

The other killer when it comes to meetings are Management Meetings. As Jason Fried said so well in his talk "Why work doesn't happen at work", the biggest distraction at work is "M&M" - Meetings and Managers. Eight to nine hours of work in a day is minimal, it flies past in the blink of an eye, so it is crucial that every moment during office hours is spent wisely.

Next, I'm going to look into Richard Brandon's philosophy of working longer days for just 3 days a week. I'm skeptical but its worth a try.

Author: Dan Marcus, Founder Magnetic Software