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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Collaboration Applications helps Communicate New Ways even in the Call Center

Collaboration Applications helps Communicate New Ways

Collaboration is a much discussed topic but it means different things to different people. Many consider it to be a way to have conference calls with colleagues or clients. Others view collaboration as a way to share team files and project documents. However, with 40% of the workforce mobile or away from their desk at any given time collaboration has become more difficult. Collaboration is really bringing people together to communicate together on a common topic via telephone, web, video, cellular or tablet device.

One of the biggest challenges of audio based collaboration calls is that once engaged you cannot converse outside of the call using the telephone. This is where collaboration tools that includes instant messaging and presence are very valuable. This is the discreet method to communicate privately outside the call or to pull in another participant. Also audio conference bridges do not offer the ability to share documents or engage in a webcam session. The old collaboration methods actually inhibit a company from becoming more productive.

The weekly sales/operations call has just started and Beth is reviewing the dashboard metrics. Participants can see the charts she emailed before that she is referring to and Sales were up 3% for the month, all cold weather clothing is sold out due to the frigid weather, 3 stores were affected by the ice storm power outages which affected sales, and the new Barrie store is ready to be fitted with shelving and is on track, IT is still struggling with the CRM implementation. Marketing is launching a new FaceBook campaign and twitter account to use social media as a sales driver but the Call Center CSAT scores are still low and worrisome. Beth now makes her way around the horn for a quick “anything new” from each business lead. John in sales is no where to be found and is probably out skiing with clients.
Brenda in Marketing is excited about a new product that she saw at CES 14 that fit into the “smart wearables” category. “Show us what you have there?” Ok hold on I am sending everyone an email with some photos. After several minutes everyone is looking at some photos. Brenda then blabbers on how cool they are and how they work but some listeners cannot visualize so they do not completely understand the concepts. Rick suggests we table it for the next monthly meeting. “But but Brenda jumps in….we need to order it now!” Rick asks that they set up a call with Danny to discuss it further.

Beth shuts the conference brdge down and everyone ventures off respectively for a coffee refill, while she writes up a summary to send out to the team and to the VP.

Obviously Beth doesn't have any real time collaboration tools to make her meeting more effective. What would be different?

Beth shares her slide deck with the team with her shiny new collaboration tool and everyone can see the content off a web browser no matter which device they use.

  • They can see the revenue slide, they can then see the sales by product category (look we are sold out and winter coats)
  • A photo of the new Barrie store can be seen
  • Marketing can show they social media advert progrom
  • Call Center stats for CSAT can be seen to be in a downward spiral with a dismal net promoter score of 22
  • Where the heck is John? With presence and instant messaging he can be tracked down to jump in for 15 minutes to share his new sales campaign
  • And Brenda can switch her webcam on and show everyone how the Bluetooth enabled gloves work with her Q10  BlackBerry and how the new baseball cap with an embedded usb memory stick and wi-fi router can change the world.

Ahhhhhhhh   “I get it everyone nods and clicks on the thumbs up symbol on the collaboration toolbar”

Collaboration can really change the way teams communicate and improve productivity in enabling better decision making but also allow users to become engaged regardless of location. All participants were all out of different offices and Rick was actually at a Starbucks. Beth the smart one let her dog out in the backyard so his barking wouldn't be so annoying.

The missing puzzle in all of this is that everyone didn't seem worried about the Call Center. The fact is the call center could play a huge part in improving revenues and customer service and can be integrated into the CRM, web site  and various Social Media platforms. Empowering the agents and consumers in a collaborative manner can bring innovative improvements to the business bottom line.

So when thinking about how to transform your business you need to look at how the current tools are being used today and how the new tools can bring measurable improvements.

Yes, new products on the store shelves can increase revenues but the back end processes and customer touch point improves can also do the same.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Blackberry actually did get something right! It’s called QNX

Blackberry actually did get something right! It’s called QNX
BlackBerry acquired Ottawa based company QNX, 4 years ago, to develop their new operating system BlackBerry 10 for the new smartphones. The ill-fated but still workable Blackberry Playbook runs on QNX and the latest 2.0xxx update did add some worthwhile improvements. I was thinking to add a mount and install it in my car. Perfect for Wardriving and listening to Podcasts as the 7 inch screen size would be ideal. However, QNX has experience with in car operating systems already so why not just get a QNX equipped car.
CES 2014 had many examples of how the in car experience is being improved and new technologies being applied. This is a growth area for the world that includes the internet of things.
QNX displayed a modified Mercedes CLA45 at CES that has an “infotainment” system built into the dashboard. The technology utilizes speech recognition and supports applications on the Android Jellybean operating system
The QNX technology in the Mercedes includes an app that operates on HTML5 — one of the programming languages used to create web pages — and allows drivers to control the windows, door locks and car stereo from a key fob.
The car offers a preview of what’s to come in the next five years for the automotive industry.
Manufacturers like Chrysler, Fiat and Honda already use QNX software in vehicles on the roads today, including the company’s echo and noise cancellation technology designed for hands-free smartphones.
In 2013, QNX software was shipped in 11.6 million vehicles around the world.
Google is also working on their version of an OS in the car with the promise of an Android-based system developed in partnership with Audi, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and graphics processor Nvidia called the Open Automotive Alliance.
Together, the companies aim to make it easier for drivers to connect their Android operated phones to their car’s audio system.
QNX software is built into the diagnostics of blood analytics systems some defibrillators and X-ray machines. The U.S. military has software developed by the company running in its nuclear submarines. And in Las Vegas, security software from QNX is deep inside slot machines.

If BlackBerry chooses the path of being a software services company then QNX will play a big part in that product mix as the world of internet connected cars becomes more common place.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Why buying Ontario food is good for you and your family, local communities and the environment.

Why buying Ontario food is good for you and your family, local communities and the environment.

It supports our communities

Choosing fresh and delicious local food helps to create jobs and supports our economic growth in Ontario. It also builds a strong sense of community by supporting Ontario’s farmers and businesses. Every time you buy local, you make a positive impact.

It helps the environment

Ontario farmers take pride in being good stewards of the land, helping to preserve it for future generations. Buying local also means your food comes from closer to home, and the closer, the fresher!

It's nutritious and tastes great

Adding nutritious Ontario foods fruits and vegetables to your diet can help contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

Cutting the Cable

The term “cutting the cable” has become popular and there are many alternatives for people frustrated with traditional cable providers and their $200 cable bills.

Netflix: They offer a streaming service for $8 a month. They offer many TV shows, movies and documentary programming and you should be able to find something to watch any time. The US service has a lot more content and more recent movie titles.

TV Antenna: A digital TV antenna captures HD channels off the air for free just like in the 1970s. You will get sharp crisp HD signals from all the networks and depending on your location it can be done with an indoor antenna. Most are pointing their outdoor antennas to Buffalo to secure US content. When our Rogers service was down due to the ice storm, I was able to still able to watch TV shows using the antenna.

Smart TV: My friends new Samsung Smart LED TV plugs directly into the Internet, allowing streaming of YouTube and other services. You do not need to connect your laptop to the TV anymore.

Apple TV: Still an option for content that you cannot find on Cable

Don' forget the new XBox and Playstation consioles that have also become media centers.

4 Cloud Apps that simplify the workflow and simplify your life!

4 Cloud Apps that simplify the workflow and simplify your life!

There has been so much talk about the cloud these days that if your head is not in the cloud then there is a problem. Ok, lets get back to the ground here and see what all this means. Simply, cloud based apps denote that the actual software application and or its storage (or both) are stored in a hard drive not on your device. The increase in tablets, smartphones, netbooks, ultrabooks and lots of data is causing a problem with data storage. This is a huge issue if your 16GB smartphone or tablet cannot compete with your 750GB hard drive on your ancient laptop.

Here are some great cloud apps that I am using more and more in order to connect to my data from any device, anywhere and anytime (I have internet access).

The important thing to remember is if you are camping up north or at your aged parents house – the internet may not be available to access these apps. Yes, that’s right the internet is “the last mile” between your device and the cloud app and its storage.

Google Docs
Google offers a free browser based word processing app. Just log into your Gmail account and check in the apps section for Google Drive and there you will find free apps to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms and even drawings. Use Google Drive to share these files with other devices. Take advantage of your Samsung Chromebook to create documents and then use the drive app to complete the work on your tablet while at a Starbucks. You can also edit the document from your smartphone while in line at the CIBC (using the Bell provided wi-fi and thus saving your data use on your TELUS smartphone).
The programs are as easy to use as OpenOffice or Microsoft Office but do lack the sophisticated features the former offers.This Google Cloud stuff is really versatile and you can do things your laptop at home in its carrying bag cannot do for you.

When I log into my Gmail account, I can now also log in just as easily into my YouTube account. I find I am using this visual medium more and more to view reviews and as well to post my reviews and report on some activities I have organized (TEDxYouth@Vaughan and TEDxVaughanWomen). I am able to use my Samsung Note 3, iPhone 4, iPad or traditional Nikon cameras, (my son will not let me use his GoPro Hero 3 as of yet) to shoot the video. Some newer cameras allow uploading into YouTube automatically, but I suggest using iMovie or a similar editor first to clean them up. I am working on a mobile vlogger tool that will allow better audio and lighting attachments to be installed.

Like photos, video can be a big differentiator for those using Social media to increase demand generation and brand presence. Real estate agents have already figured it out but I am seeing an uptick in business using it to connect with, educate and better inform potential customers. This is more important as the web savvy consumers seek to engage better with the brands they love and those they don’t know exist yet. Video is a strong way to connect with audiences but make sure they are well produced and tell a story.

I am new to this app but it has some excellent possibilities in creating dynamic slide based presentations. It is a very visual and non-linear medium that can reduce the amount of “Death by Powerpoint” tragedies. The free version allows only a 100MB of storage but those that take the time to master the application will find the $5 a month fee to be very reasonable. The completed Prezi presentations can be stored on-line and shared or used offline as well. It has some great templates to use right out of the login.

This app provides file storage, sharing and back up features at a monthly price. Every device that needs access to a shared file storage area needs an app to be loaded. Now you can store files in the cloud and have access to them from any device. I prefer to use Google Drive as it has more free storage 15GB versus 2GB. However, it does offer online back ups and better file sharing features that may be of interest to you. No need to carry everything around on a USB stick that wont work with a tablet or smartphone.

I like FREE and these apps do exactly that and will make you more productive and provide access to your working files from any device especially as we have become a multi-device consumer. Give them a try and see if they can help you simplify your life.

Consumer Electronics Show 2014 - 5 New Trends

CES Las Vegas is the launching pad for new products, ideas and technologies. Here are 4 worth watching!

1. Sony to launch a Cloud based TV service and their game streaming service PlayStation Now. The service will be preinstalled on their Brava lines of TV. Interesting as you can pay Sony directly for a movie on demand and not your local cable company or Apple.

2. Wearable Computing and Health Peripherals were out in full force.This is the next big growth segment.

3. Curved HD Television sets and 4K. looks like the 72" TV you bought on boxing day is now obsolete. 4K is promising but there is not much content yet to watch beyond your own created HD 4K videos.

4. Internet of Things. Smart homes, smart cars and smart everything. More sensors and apps to control items in your home or monitor them, dashboard enhanced cars and the fantastic Kolibree Smart Toothbrush.

Mentoring Works!

My father was an entrepreneur and he was my first mentor. I learned a lot from from his success and his mistakes. It was learning from his life experiences and taking this to create my own journey. Without him I would not have had the confidence to succeed. Why is that?

My dad came to Canada with $2, a suitcase with a change of clothes and telephone number of a house that would take him in. The clever lady had a room, a laundry service, a lunch bucket operation and also sold cold beer. All the people in the house were all looking to survive and create a success story. It worked. It was the immigrant incubator if you will. The incubator found my dad a job, that helped the house succeed that helped him make friends and create a network of friends. This was 1959.

Mentorship in its simplistic format is all about helping anyone, learning from anyone and teaching others with no selfishness.

Mentorship is an essential ingredient in any successful business because for any start up the path is a scary and  lonely one that needs a platform of support.

If you are a student in a education system then there are various programs that brings students and mentors together. If you are a lonely soul in a garage with a great business idea then its a daunting challenge to get connected to helpers.

There is a big gap in mentorship today and One Million Acts of Innovation is helping decrease the gap, but many millennial entrepreneurs still lack skills in connecting the dots.

Mentors are able to help connect those dots, increase engagement and keep the positive dialogue alive in making success happen. I had a chat with a young business minded student and he wanted to spend $5000 on a marketing program. I suggested that he spend $500 and use the flyer approach and some leg work to get a bigger audience engaged to his offering. It worked in a way that gave him new customers and increased his cash flow that allows the next steps to happen.

CES 2014 Wearable Technology Highlights

The CES show went above and beyond the watch with some interesting new products. Expect to see a lot of growth in products that link to your smart phone or tablet. Some useful and some are not.

Waterloo based Thalmic Labs has the Myo Gesture Control Armband $149. This straps onto your forearm and responds to motion and the electricity generated by your forearm and fingers. It communicates via Bluetooth. This device allows you to interact with say a television by changing channels with a flick of your hand. It is a gesture based controller.

The Smarty Ring $175 is an Indiegogo campaign that has a LED display to alert you to incoming calls, texts, emails and social media feeds

Lambda Hat $225 is a baseball cap that records data for meetings and places with its camera. It allows you to easily add geolocation information for photos and videos. The software also includes facial recognition technology.

Google Glass $1000 integrates real time viewing technology with the browser. It is still in development stage but promises to change the way we will consume the internet. Imagine watching a YouTube video on how to make risotto and making it in your kitchen at the same time.

Everpurse $199 This is a purse with a built in charging socket.

Nymi $79 is a bracelet that authenticates your identity by your heat rate pattern. This can then be used to unlock your computer or to  unlock your door or car without a key or passwords.

Sensoria Fitness Socks $149 include an anklet that calculates your steps, altitude, speed and calories being burned. It also can figure out your walking pattern and weight distributions.