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January 29th, 2014

Office_Jan27_BThe presentation is an important part of any business, with many managers and owners relying on Microsoft's PowerPoint to develop and deliver their presentations. In fact, this software has become so popular that many now call digital presentations PowerPoints. Regardless of how they are referred to, it can often be tough to give a great presentation. One tip many experts offer is to use lists.

What are lists in PowerPoint?

A common element of many PowerPoint presentations is the list. These lists are usually presented either ordered or unordered. Ordered lists use numbers like 1,2,3, while unordered lists use icons like dots which are commonly called bullets.

If you have a list with numbers or points in it, you will likely be better able to capture and retain the attention of your audience while making your presentations easier to read and follow. In fact, there are some presentation experts out there who only use bullet point lists, preferring to use these as a guide or pointers to note what to talk about.

How to put a list into your presentation

If you want to add a list to your presentation slides:
  1. Open your presentation or start a new one.
  2. Add a new slide and click on the text box.
  3. Enter your content and after each list item press Enter.
  4. Select the content you want to make into a list and press either the Numbered list or the Bulleted list icons under the Paragraphs section. This will put your content into a list.

Formatting your list

Once you have added a list to your presentation you may want to format it to make it more visible or even change the type of icon e.g., from 1 to I. You can do this by:
  1. Selecting your list.
  2. Pressing the arrow beside either the bullet list or numbered list icon in the Paragraph section of the Home ribbon.
  3. Clicking on Bullets and Numbering from the drop down menu.
  4. Selecting the icon you like, as well as color and size, and pressing Ok.

Tips for better lists in your presentation

  • Know the difference between bullets and numbers - For the most part, there is little difference between bullets and numbers. That being said, numbers usually indicate a ranking or steps. Bullets are often used for points that are all equal, or at least don't need to be ranked specifically.
  • Limit the number of list items - The best presentations limit the number of list items on each slide. It is a good idea to have no more than 4-6 points per slide. This helps ensure that your audience can read the slides and will pay attention longer, instead of reading the list and stopping listening.
  • Bold the main point - If you are going to have a list with text explaining the main point, bold the main point and put it first. Much like this list on this post. This will highlight the main point you are trying to make to your audience.
  • Keep text to a minimum - No one likes to read large amounts of text in a presentation. In fact, most people will stop listening to you to read the slides. Try to have no more than one to a maximum of two lines of text per list item.
  • Think about whether to animate - In most professional presentations, it is best to leave out the animations. These can take too much time to actually show or can even lead to mistakes that can be difficult to recover from while presenting e.g., clicking advance too early. On the other hand, some animations are useful, especially if you need to draw attention to an important fact.
If you are looking to learn more about using PowerPoint and the other programs included in Microsoft Office please contact us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 23rd, 2014

Security_Jan20_BBusiness technology is becoming increasingly complex to manage. In fact, many business owners and even IT departments often don't have the time to oversee every business function. One area where help is often needed is with regard to security, and more specifically antivirus based solutions. There are so many different options available that it can be tough to pick and manage even one. This is where an IT partner can come in useful, as many offer managed antivirus services.

What exactly is managed antivirus?

By now, most people are familiar with the term 'antivirus'. They know that the majority of solutions are a monthly or yearly subscription that they pay for. By subscribing, the company that created the program will update virus databases, allowing scanners to identify viruses during a computer scan. This type of antivirus software is often referred to as unmanaged, largely because the end-user has the ability to deny updates, turn off the scanner, or uninstall it.

A managed antivirus solution is provided by IT partners. These tech experts take care of installing the software on computers and other devices, and will then manage the solution. They will also ensure that scanners are up-to-date and scans are scheduled for a convenient time, thus protecting computers. The best way to think of these solutions is that they are specifically provided by a company to look after your computers and protect them from viruses.

Benefits of managed antivirus solutions

Companies that choose to integrate a managed antivirus solution generally see five main benefits.
  1. All systems will have the same level of security - With a managed service, your IT partner will make sure to install software on all your systems. This means that there should be the same program installed on your systems, and that the antivirus will be updated to ensure that systems are protected from new security threats that come along.
  2. It is easier to manage - Managing your antivirus solution can be a tough task, especially in larger companies where different solutions may need to be employed. By working with an IT partner, your antivirus solutions are managed by tech experts. This is a great solution for business owners who aren't too familiar with technology, or an overworked IT department.
  3. The solutions can be low-cost - Most managed antivirus solutions are offered as a monthly package, where companies pay per user. For some companies, this solution is more affordable per user than a non-managed solution. This is especially true if you have a high number of users and need to purchase multiple licenses.
  4. Management is continual - With unmanaged solutions, many users turn the antivirus protection off because it can slow their computer down or because they believe their usage habits are not compromising security. Managed antivirus solutions usually can't be uninstalled or turned off, meaning your systems are continually protected.
  5. Your systems are truly protected - Regardless of how secure your systems are and the steps you take to ensure that malware doesn't get through, the chances are you will eventually be infected. When you are, it may be tricky to actually completely remove the virus. IT partners are trained in how to do this quickly and efficiently and can usually completely remove the virus, ensuring that your systems are truly secure.
If you are looking for a managed antivirus solution, contact us today as we may have a solution that will work with your business.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 23rd, 2014

Hardware_Jan20_BMobile devices are a popular tool for many employees, most of whom will at some point use their device for a work-oriented task. In an effort to allow or address this many companies are adopting a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy. There is another similar trend that is also gaining popularity, which is CYOD or Choose Your Own Device.

Below is a brief overview of BYOD and CYOD and the main differences between the two concepts.

BYOD

This is a policy companies adopt that allows employees to bring their own devices to the office and use them for work purposes. While the majority of these plans focus on mobile devices, there are some companies that even allow users to bring their own computers to work on in the office too.

The biggest benefit of adopting this policy is that it can save companies money, because the purchase and maintenance of devices is at the expense of the owner of the device, not the company. This can also lead to higher productivity as employees are using their own device which they are comfortable using.

On the other hand, the biggest drawback of this policy is that it does pose a potential security risk. Because users are accessing company networks and the sensitive data stored within them from their own devices, businesses may see an increase in security breaches. The other downside of BYOD is that it can be tough to control devices and restrict access to data. Companies adopting this policy need to ensure that they have a solid system in place that deals not only with security but how the devices are to be used.

CYOD

Where BYOD is a policy that allows users to bring their own devices to the office, CYOD is a policy that allows users to choose from a number of approved devices. Usually, the company provides these devices and keeps them if the employee leaves or resigns.

The biggest benefit of this type of policy is that you get to pick what devices to offer and also manage them. This means you can limit access to apps, information, and even certain functions. There is also a knock-on effect with this system too, in that your organization will generally be more secure because you manage the devices. You can install virus scanners and other programs that help ensure your networks and the info stored within are secure.

As with most things, there are downsides to this policy too. The biggest is that you likely won't save any money on hardware, largely because you will have to purchase and maintain this yourself. Another potential disadvantage is that your employees may not be happy with the choices on offer and may want to choose to use their own devices. While this isn't the biggest negative, it could lead to a decrease in productivity, or if employees use their own devices anyway it could create a potential security issue.

Which policy should companies adopt?

If you are choosing between the two policies you need to pick what suits your company and employees the best. If you are operating on a narrow budget and have older hardware it may be a good idea to look into a BYOD policy. On the other hand, if you are worried about security and ensuring that only approved apps are used a CYOD policy will be a better idea.

If you are looking to adopt a new policy, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
January 22nd, 2014

BCP_Jan20_BIt feels like the number of disasters striking around the world is growing year-on-year, or perhaps they are simply highlighted more in the media. Whatever the reality of disaster risks, many business owners and managers keep an eye on potential problems that will impact their companies, and have implemented some form of business continuity or disaster recovery plan. As 2014 is underway, many are wondering what disaster recovery trends to expect for the year to come.

Certain trends relevant to small to medium size businesses are vital for company leaders to be aware of in 2014:

Recovery will get even faster

When looking into recovery options, almost every company wants a solution that is as fast as possible. Recovery speed often depends largely on bandwidth and the storage method used. Each year, companies are able to access faster bandwidth connections and obtain more affordable, yet faster storage options.

In 2014, this trend is set to continue. Businesses around the world will continue to gain access to faster Internet connections and disaster recovery specialists will likely improve the speed with which they can implement a backup.

Many solutions will also be able to help businesses align or optimize their processes. ln turn, this will enable faster recovery and stronger protection. It’s highly likely that with this combination you could see a business up and running again within hours instead of days.

Increased reliance on social media as a communications channel

During a disaster it can often be a challenge to communicate with employees and stakeholders. Traditional communication methods, like the phone, may not be working well, if at all, which make it more difficult for plans to be enacted. One alternative is to use social media to make contact and communicate.

Because most social media platforms are hosted in numerous locations around the world, they are hardly ever down. If you have an Internet connection, you can pretty much guarantee that you will be able to get a message out. Combine this with the fact that almost everyone has a social media account on at least one platform, and this proves to be a great option that allows you to reach people quickly.

We predict that in 2014 companies will realize this in higher numbers and begin to implement social media into their existing plans and even train employees on how to use this platform in an emergency situation where other communication lines are down.

Geographical based backup solutions

There were a number of high-profile disasters in 2013 that affected large areas. Some companies saw their backups and secondary backups wiped out because the location at which they were stored was situated in a disaster zone.

In order to have a truly effective backup solution, many experts are suggesting that multiple backups of data should be made and stored in multiple locations that are as geographically diverse as possible.

There is little doubt that businesses have learnt this lesson from the fate of either themselves or others, and will be implementing or looking for solutions that host backups in different locations more readily. In 2014, we predict that many providers will be marketing multi-location backups as a main feature. What this means for businesses is more secure backup and a higher chance of recovery when faced with disaster.

Growing reliance on managed backup solutions

As systems become increasingly complex they become more challenging for many small business owners to back up and manage at the same time. In 2014, there will likely be an increase in the demand for managed backup services.

These services are managed by an IT partner, who can not only help set up backup and recovery systems, but also support recovery after a disaster. The key here is that they give businesses of all sizes a way to implement a backup and continuity plan properly, at a fraction of the cost as was previously the case. We predict that small to medium businesses will take full advantage of services like this, and providers will begin to focus more on offering this type of service.

If you are looking for a backup solution, why not contact us. We may have something that will work for you. Give us a shout today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 15th, 2014

SocialMedia_Jan13_BSocial media, while still fairly new, is starting to enter a more mature phase. Most businesses have a presence on one or more social media platforms and are comfortable with at least the basics. As we start 2014 however, social media is growing and businesses will find that they need to be doing more in order to be successful. One of the first steps to take is to know what trends could be popular in the coming year.

Here are five social media trends we believe businesses should track throughout 2014.

Successful content will become more helpful

One of the key rules of marketing is that you need to create content that is relevant to your target audience. If you can’t show how your company, service or product will help the customer there is a high chance that they won’t invest, or will look elsewhere.

Throughout 2014, we should see a shift of strategy with companies using social media to engage with customers to leverage data and create content aimed at being helpful to ‘fans’ and followers. This might include tips on how to use products and visual images that show fans how to use products, etc.

The key idea business owners should grasp is that they should not be using social media to promote their company, but rather using social media to help. When you can help your followers, you will see more positive association with your brand and possibly even more sales.

Planning ahead will become increasingly important

It used to be enough to simply have a social media account, but now you need to also be active. As more companies break into social media, you will need to post more content on a regular basis.

Because many managers and business owners are busy, they often lack the time to concentrate on social media, especially as demand grows. This means that companies will have to start planning ahead if they want to be successful on social media. What this means is likely hiring a new employee, or appointing a staff member, to run your social media activities. You will also need to schedule posts and content well ahead of time, as well as set budgets.

If you just post occasionally now, or have a profile that isn’t that active, the first step you need to take is to schedule a day each week where content goes out. Take a look at older posts and see what worked well with your audience and create similar content. Schedule the content to be posted at roughly the same time each day. Over time, ramp up when you post – try posting new content on different days to see how reactions and interest changes. The key is to stick with it, and you will begin to see some positive returns – likely an increase in Likes, Shares and Comments.

Content will need to be mobile

It’s not difficult to see that the mobile device – smartphone and tablet – has become the gadget of choice for many social media users. Some have even gone so far as to stop using social media on their computers entirely. This trend will grow throughout 2014 and what this means for businesses is that they need to be creating content that can be viewed easily on mobile devices.

Because mobile screens are smaller, and many companies are starting to create mobile oriented content, we should see some more visually oriented posts, including both movies and images. At the very least you should ensure that your content posted on social media platforms can be easily viewed by users on mobile devices and your other social related sites, like your blog, can also scale to fit on smaller screens.

Social data will play a key role in company strategies

As the number of users on social media continues to grow, we are starting to see a trend where many users are basically using social media for everything. Because these systems are online, data regarding nearly everything is being tracked and made available to companies and users. This social data can be a huge help if leveraged properly. For example, it allows you to see what users like and dislike, and the content that works best in certain regions, and different dynamics, etc. You can extrapolate this information to your products or services e.g., if post on how to use your product is liked more than other posts, you can assume that the product is seen to be good.

In 2014, companies will increasingly come to realize that they have access to this data and will start to use it to plot their marketing and social strategies. If you aren’t already tracking your social data, now would be a good time to start. It will also pay to learn how to analyze it and develop useful insight.

Social integration is the next step

The first step in social media was to get users, including businesses, online and interacting. Now that this is happening, it’s time to move onto the next step. For businesses this means integrating social media into their company. In 2014, that’s what we predict we will begin to see businesses doing in larger numbers.

This trend has already started with businesses linking their websites to social media profiles but we predict it will go even further with companies integrating social data and plans into the organization as a whole. This will likely be the connecting of social data with other streams of data to make marketing and overall business decisions. In other words, social media will become an integral part of business.

What do you think the biggest social media trend will be in 2014? Let us know today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
January 9th, 2014

Security_Jan07_BWith each new year comes resolutions, goals and trends. One popular goal of many small businesses is to ensure that their systems are secure for the year to come. Often, the first step to take is to look at current trends, but when it comes to security, you should be looking at threats. If you know what potential threats may arise in the year to come, you can better set security plans in motion to limit these from adversely affecting your company.

Here are four security threats businesses should be aware of in 2014.

Increased attacks on cloud end-points

Cloud-based systems saw solid growth throughout 2013, with numerous systems being introduced and older systems reaching new levels or maturity. Small to medium businesses in particular were heavy adopters of these systems. Because of this, we expect to see an increase in attacks against cloud providers.

Providers know this and take steps to ensure security of systems on their end. Hackers know this too, so will be likely going after the weaker points – end users. It is expected that hackers will begin targeting users of cloud systems with various schemes that try to gain control of computers and mobile devices. Once access is gained, they will go after their main target: Corporate or personal clouds and the data stored within.

This could pose a problem for many companies, especially those who access cloud systems from their mobile devices. January and February would be a good time to look into the security of all of your systems, ensuring that your cloud-based systems are secure on all devices.

Mobile malware will continue to gain popularity

Take a step back for a minute next time you are in public and look at how many people have smartphones or tablets in their hands. Chances are, at least 60% or higher will. It is fairly obvious that the mobile device is the most popular trend in tech at the moment, and whatever is popular is also a target.

We predict there will be an increase in mobile malware attacks throughout 2014. This could see either an increase in the number of apps that have malware in their code, or websites that host malware. When you visit a site with this malware, you are informed that you need to update an app, and when you agree to this the malware is downloaded and installed.

This could prove to be a tough for companies to manage, especially since the number of mobile users will likely grow. If you haven’t started looking into how to secure mobile devices, now would be a good time to start.

Growth in social engineering scams targeting mobile users

Social engineering is the act of essentially tricking people to give away confidential information. Hackers have been using this for years – for example, emailing users telling them their bank account has been compromised, and that if they click on the link in the email and enter their account info, the account will be secured. In reality, the link is to a fake site that captures information which can then be used for any number of illegal activities.

As we mentioned above, the number of mobile users is steadily increasing. This means that it is highly likely that hackers will begin to target these users with mobile specific social engineering. This could be tricking them into downloading an app which then steals information stored on the phone, or simply targeting those who use just their tablet.

In order to prevent this from happening, you need to brush up on how most social engineering schemes work. You should also encourage your employees to look where the links in emails lead to and be aware that generally, most major businesses like banks don’t email customers asking for passwords or user names.

Windows XP will become a big target

Microsoft will stop support for Windows XP and Office 2003 in April of this year. What this means is that they will no longer be offering security updates, software updates or support for these products. It is a sure thing that these programs are about to become a big target, and that new security loopholes and exploits will be found on a regular basis after the cessation of support.

For businesses that are using a newer version of Windows like 7 or 8, you should be secure from these exploits. If you are using XP on the other hand, you might want to upgrade as soon as possible. Contact us, we can help with that.

From the overall looks of things, we think this year will see a drastic increase in mobile based security threats, along with attacks on older versions of software. Now is a good time to review your strategies regarding both mobile and the software/hardware you use, to ensure that it is secure. If you would like help with this, please contact us today for a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 9th, 2014

Productivity_Jan07_BJanuary is a common time for many people, business owners included, to set goals and resolutions for the year to come. This year, as with years in the past, many business owners and managers will likely have a resolution centered around productivity. Being more productive has obvious benefits, but to become more productive, we often need help. One option is mobile apps which can play a key role in boosting your productivity.

Here are five great mobile productivity apps that are free, or cheap enough where they won’t break the bank.

Asana

Most small to medium businesses have team members working in different areas that often come together to work on projects. Managing who does what in these projects, and collaborating on tasks can be a chore. What Asana does is allow users to schedule and assign tasks within projects.

Each user’s tasks are presented in a to-do list with due dates clearly divided, so each person knows what they need to focus on, and when the work is due. Other users can also see each of the tasks so they too know what each member is doing. If you are a project or task oriented business, this could be a great tool to help you and your teams stay on track.

While many businesses use the Web based version, there are mobile apps for both Android and iOS devices that could help if you or team members are often out of the office. It is free for teams of up to 15 members. Check out Asana’s website for more information on pricing for teams with more than 15 users.

Evernote

Many working in smaller businesses often find themselves filling more than one role. This means they are likely constantly thinking about another task, often coming up with ideas, questions and even answers. The problem with this is many of us forget that one all important idea by the time we actually get around to switching our hats and our focus. Evernote is an app that allows users to jot down notes and ideas more readily.

Because this is a mobile app, you can share notes with your colleagues – kind of like a brainstorm – or even record images and sounds to keep something like a dictionary or wiki. What really sets this app apart from other note apps is that all of your notes are synced with an account, which makes them available on nearly every platform you use.

The basic version of Evernote is available for free on nearly all mobile platforms, and a full-featured business edition is available for USD$10.00 per user, per month. Visit the Evernote website to learn more about the program, and to download it for your device.

Any.do Cal

Part of the Any.do family of apps which focus on tasks, Cal is an extension that makes your device’s calendar easier to focus on. At a quick glance, you can see your whole day’s activities and events. This is really designed to be a calendar app that is used for both work and personal life, giving you a better idea of what your full day looks like – not just a part of it. In an effort to highlight or promote better work/life balance, it will also show you your free time.

The app is available for free on both Android and iOS, and if you are looking to further enhance it’s capabilities, give Any.do – to do list – a try.

Pocket

The Internet is one of the best productivity boosters, yet it is also one of the best ways to waste time too. Because so many news outlets and stories are now online, you can spend literally hours of your day reading various articles and blogs. While these articles may be useful, reading them when you should be working instead is not the best for your productivity.

That’s where Pocket comes in. This app allows you to save articles and blogs you come across in your browser or email for later reading on a mobile device. So, if you are at work and come across a really interesting article, don’t stop to read it, save it to Pocket and read it on the way home or while on a break.

Pocket is free and works as an extension to your Web browser. First you need to go to the Pocket website and sign up for an account, then install the browser extension (click on Your Web Browser under Ways to Pocket). After that, install the app on your Android or iOS device.

Doodle

While the name suggests a drawing, Doodle is actually a scheduling app. It allows you to set a number of potential times and dates for a meeting and then ask all participants to select what works best for them. This makes it easier for you to schedule meetings with different people, while also reducing the number of back-and-forth emails that inevitably come about from setting up meetings.

When you pick the times, the participants tick what times or dates work best for them, which you can then view and pick the time that works best. What sets this app apart is that it syncs with almost all other major calendar apps like Google Calendar and Outlook. It’s available on both the Apple App and Google Play stores for USD$2.99.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
January 8th, 2014

BusinessValue_Jan07_BTechnology is an important part of any business and has come to be relied on for many tasks performed in a multitude of roles. As you likely know, tech advances at a furious pace, so fast in fact, that it’s often a challenge to keep track of all the innovations and trends. In an effort to help monitor progress a bit easier, take a few minutes to look ahead at the year to come, in terms of what tech developments are on the horizon.

Here are five tech trends small to medium business owners and managers should keep their eyes on for 2014.

Tech we wear

Wearable devices like the smartwatch will become one of the hottest gadgets in 2014. While this concept really began in 2013, with devices like the Google Glass and the Samsung Galaxy Gear, you can bet that most device manufacturers are developing some form of wearable tech for this year.

The biggest evidence that supports this claim is the inclusion of newer, faster BlueTooth standards in both iOS and Android updates. These updates allow devices like phones and tablets to connect to existing wearable devices like fitness bands and wireless headphones.

What this means for businesses is a potential increase in the number of devices connecting to networks, such as from employees bringing devices into the office. Companies will need to look back at their mobile device policies to ensure that their systems remain safe. Concerns aside, these devices could pose a new way to interact with customers or even to create different, engaging content.

It really remains to be seen as to how businesses will benefit from this type of tech, but there is a good chance that many companies will find a productive use for it.

Changing views on the cloud

Many experts like to think of cloud systems as a new concept, but it’s really reaching the end of this part of its life cycle. By now, most businesses are using at least one cloud-based system and have at least a basic grasp of what it is.

Because of its prevalence and increased use, it’s difficult to actually completely avoid the cloud. Many have started to realize this fact and we think 2014 will see an increasing number of business owners begin to change their views on the cloud. They will start educating themselves and looking for systems that really meet their needs instead of simply picking one that everyone else uses.

This change of view, and increased education will likely lead to an increased adoption of cloud systems. This will be due to strategic decision-making rather than because business owners feel they simply need to be in on the cloud. This also likely means that many cloud providers will become even more transparent and likely more willing to help customers by creating systems that are truly useful to small businesses.

Mobile marketing will become mainstream

It is pretty apparent that mobile devices are the next big thing, and in 2014 mobile marketing will become one of the most popular forms of marketing. From developing mobile specific content to advertising only on mobile platforms through apps like Facebook, we should see a rise in the number of mobile ad campaigns.

Overall, this should lead to more ads being shorter, visually forward; essentially easily digested by mobile viewers. Beyond that, businesses of all sizes will start to pay attention to mobile related data, distinguishing mobile users from desktop users, and looking for ways to cater to both crowds through different campaigns.

Increased use of two-factor authentication

Security is always an issue that many business owners are worried about, as well it should be because there is a good chance that security concerns will increase in 2014 – especially if mobile wearable devices really take off.

In order to make it more difficult for accounts to be hacked, many of the larger companies like Google, have introduced two-factor authentication which requires users to enter a password and another form of information, usually a PIN number sent to a mobile device.

In 2014, it is highly likely that we will see an increase in the number of services that offer this form of authentication. What this means for many businesses is increased security, which should be welcomed.

IT becomes more of a core business function

Historically, IT has been seen as a separate business entity, something that supports core business functions. But, as many companies increasingly rely on technology, it has started to shift and become more of a core business function.

Many business owners will begin to question their existing technology and whether it really is giving them the best value possible and if they are using it effectively. Because of the largely complex nature of many systems, small business owners that take an interest in their IT will likely find that they struggle with managing and optimizing it. They will instead turn to an IT management partner who can help them find customized solutions.

While this isn’t a new trend by any means, technology is becoming increasingly advanced and many companies are struggling. If you are looking to make IT more of a core business function, or would like to gain control of rampant systems please contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 3rd, 2014

BI_Jan02_BBusiness Intelligence - the collection and transformation of data into useful information that can be used to make better decisions - is one of the more important business processes, and saw continued popularity in 2013. Because of this increased use, there are a number of trends that we believe will be become favorable in 2014.

Here is an overview of the potential Business Intelligence (BI) trends we could see emerging and growing in 2014.

1. BI is more accessible

Historically, to get the most out of Business Intelligence you need to be experienced or to employ a data scientist. Over the past couple of years BI methodologies have become easier to execute. Throughout 2014 it is highly likely that we will see most ordinary business users continue to gain skills in this area and consequently carrying out business analysis and BI activities.

This means we should see an increase in the number of programs that are user-friendly, while still providing the powerful tools that experts have been using.

2. BI and Big Data solutions forecast clouds

Cloud-based solutions have helped allow small to medium businesses to access tools that were previously only used by enterprises. Many BI solutions are starting to incorporate cloud-based versions and this trend will undoubtedly continue in 2014.

These solutions will put important data in the hands of individual businesses, while also providing them with the ability to store and analyze their data with ease, as long as they have an Internet connection. Many of these solutions also allow for increased collaboration and some even have mobile apps which could help make adoption easier.

3. Predictive analytics are more accessible

Predictive analytics is the process of looking at existing data for trends and important information that you can use to help make predictions and decisions. This type of analysis has largely been the domain of experts and large companies, but in 2014 this process should become increasingly available to small businesses.

4. Social data is even more important

The majority of customers are active on social media. This has led to a huge source of potential information that businesses can benefit from. From Likes to Shares, Comments, etc., companies will begin to pay closer attention to this data. It can help businesses gain insight into brand awareness, how relevant they are to customers, and even gain important information they can use to conduct competitive analysis.

5. Storytelling from existing data

One of the main objectives of analyzing your data is so that you can tell a story with it. If you have no narrative arc attached to your data, it is highly likely that the message you want to get across won't sink in.

By visualizing your data in a way so that it tells a story you will be better able to gain a concise meaning from an overwhelming amount of data

If you are looking to learn more about BI and how it can help your business, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 2nd, 2014

Office_Jan02_BMicrosoft Excel is one of the most versatile office tools available to business owners and managers. This spreadsheet creator allows for users to track hours, sales, and really almost any kind of data. It also allows data to be manipulated, usually by visualizing it, so that it is easier to digest and understand. Excel 2013 has a great feature - Quick Analysis - that makes visualizing your data even quicker and easier.

Below is an overview of the Quick Analysis tool in Microsoft Excel 2013.

What is Quick Analysis?

In older versions of Excel, if you wanted to visually analyze your data, you would have to first create a chart or graph and then format it. This could take some time and also lead to mistakes, not to mention the fact that it can be a challenge to pick the correct type of chart or graph for your data type.

To make it easier to visualize your data, the Quick Analysis tool was introduced with Excel 2013. This feature allows users to instantly create charts and graphs with the click of a button. It even suggests a visualization method that best fits your data, making picking the correct way to show the information far easier. You can even add miniature graphs to single cells - called Sparklines - that allow you to quickly spot trends without having to look at a full graph.

How to use Quick Analysis

Enter your data in a spreadsheet, and if need be include column headings.
  1. Select the data you would like to visualize.
  2. Press Ctrl + Q to open the Quick Analysis gallery. You can also select this by hovering your mouse over the bottom-right corner of the selected cells and clicking the icon that pops up.
  3. Select the tab you want e.g., Charts for suggested charts. Note: The options available to you will change based on the type of data you have selected.
  4. Hover your mouse over an option to see a preview of the selected visualization.
  5. Click on your choice to create the visualization in a new worksheet.

Which Quick Analysis is best?

When you open the Quick Analysis gallery you will notice that you have five different options:
  1. Formatting - Lets you adjust the data you have highlighted. You can set a color for the data to set it apart and quickly see both high and low values, or even remove formatting altogether.
  2. Charts - Lets you select different charts and graphs based on the data you have selected. This can include pie charts, bar graphs, line charts, etc. If you press More Charts you will be able to select from a larger list.
  3. Totals - Lets you calculate numbers in rows or columns. Some useful options include Running Total which keeps a total even when you add more data, and Sum which will total either a column, row or the total sheet. Be sure to pay attention to the colored dots in the icon as they indicate whether a row or column will be calculated.
  4. Tables - Allows you to create tables or sub-tables using just the selected data. You can also create a pivot table. You should also be able to select More if the type of table you need isn't there.
  5. Sparklines - Allows you to add small charts beside your data. These one to two cell visualizations are great for quickly identifying trends within your data.
If you are looking to learn more about Excel 2013 and how you can leverage it in your business, contact us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.