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ERP Tools, Automation and AI: The Keys to Achieving Better Enterprise Efficiency? Print E-mail

Information is a big driver for success in enterprises. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions, for example, have become an integral part of the business. The ERP not only enables the business to make operational decisions based on resource utilization and availability. It also enables strategic visibility and planning. 

Running an effective ERP can be a CIO’s dream come true. As Dave Lechleitner, chair of the Software Technology Council, said, “The most important improvement [in ERP] is the increase in efficiency through more up-to-date and robust planning and scheduling capabilities. This real-time insight then further improves efficiency in other parts of the company as well, such as sales and customer service.”

Committing to an ERP system, however, is not without its caveats. It can also be a nightmare if utilization is mired with difficulty in managing upgrade cycles, buggy code and inarticulate IT staff. This is especially true with legacy deployments, which can already be bogged down by years of customizations, a huge database and the complexity of third party add-ons. 

Even the best IT staff can become overwhelmed with standard or bespoke code that is full of bugs, has complicated upgrade procedures, or requires a prohibitive amount of time dedicated to its maintenance. Surprisingly enough, it’s some of the more established ERP platforms that present these problems, since legacy systems often suffer from a backend that has had years of patchwork done to it, growing ever-more-complex with every iteration. 

Many CIOs will outright refuse to work with newer software, or even upgrade their existing installation, because they fear that the change may bring chaos along with it. This often requires many man-hours of planning and testing before actual execution. 

Automation is one solution that is known to result in cost- and time-saving. Enterprise automation tools like Panaya, for instance, apply big data analytics to determine potential roadblocks to successful ERP upgrade and deployment. The platform enables smooth upgrades and transitions to enterprises using SAP, SalesForce and Oracle e-business suite, identifying functionalities that might break with upgrades, and offering possible fixes and solutions. 

However, going beyond enterprise automation for ERP upgrades, there is a bigger potential, which has warranted software and services giant Infosys to acquire the automation startup at a valuation of $200M. Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka cites how automation can "help amplify the potential of our people, freeing us from the drudgery of many repetitive tasks, so we may focus more on the important, strategic challenges faced by our clients.” 

This means that the core technology running big data analytics and automation can potentially be applied to other aspects of the enterprise. For Infosys, for example, automation can be applied to other sectors and industries that it services, such as banking, finance, manufacturing, and application development. 

Enterprise automation, when applied in a correctly-focused manner, can help us free up resources that can be dedicated to other areas that we need to service, making CFOs happy! Businesses are already performing business process management (BPM) in one way or another. An ERP is meant to crawl deep into your data and turn it into information that can make an enterprise much more efficient and productive. Applying automation to improve — or possibly overhaul — a business’ strategy and tactics, might just be the key in achieving better efficiency and productivity in the enterprise.

 
Top 3 CIO Concerns in 2015 Print E-mail

What are the top 3 concerns CIOs have in common? Their never ending security concerns, systems availability and services downtime, and acquiring the right human resource capital. according to a recent survey.

These insights are derived from a December 2014 study of 276 U.S. CIOs and executive IT professionals commissioned by Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS).

The increasing frequency and complexity of cyber attacks places security high in the ranks among IT concerns for CIOs. Approximately 51 percent of survey participants believe security planning and security remediation budgets should grow annually.

External security threats and cyber attacks grab the biggest headlines in the news and represent the lastest share of IT security budgets but internal threats are often the root cause of security disasters. Approximately 62 percent of the surveyed CIOs stated leaving mobile phones or laptops in vulnerable places as their chief security concern, followed by password sharing at about 59 percent. These internal security challenges drove 60 percent of CIOs to mention in 2015 they plan to enforce tighter security policies for employees, consultants, and business partners.

CIOs typically direct their CISOs and other IT security staff to prepare against outside threats by deploying virus protection software, spam filtering sotware, and Operating Systems security patches and updates. Delivering the message to employees is often difficult. Employees are the end users of most corporate systems and they must be held responsible for their own actions and the impact it may potentially have on overall organizational security.


Downtime is Expensive

Downtime is also a major concern for CIOs as it directly effects organizational efficiency and profitability. Approximately 42 percent of CIOs reported that their disaster recovery plans are vital to their organizations and will be among the last line items cut from 2015 IT budgets. CIOs believe that the damage to an enterprise's reputation far outweighs the monetary costs associated with these recovery and continuity services.


Human Resouce Capital Management is Painful

Approximately 38 percent of respondents noted that CIOs are concerned about talent acquisition. Recruiting and reaining IT talent is a constant concern for CIOs and 50 percent of survey participants do not believe talent acquisition and retention get the appropriate attention it deserves.

 
 
Why CIOs Need To Worry About Page Loading Speeds Print E-mail

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_person_navigating_through_a_Chilean_bank_website.jpg 

Based on studies conducted by Dynatrace, 47% of online consumers expect a web page to load within 2 seconds. On the other hand, 40% say that they will likely abandon a page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load, while 52% state that quick page loading is important for their site loyalty. More importantly, in the same study nearly 80% of the online shoppers surveyed say that they are less likely to buy from the same site again if they are not satisfied with the performance of the website.

Affecting the Bottom Line

Companies that do business online should understand the importance of optimizing their websites or web pages. Loading time affects the bottom line. It has effects that go beyond plain consumer dissatisfaction or frustration over a site. As the research has showed, there are many things affected by web page loading time.

Page abandonment is one of the major adverse results of a slow loading website. The longer a page takes to load, the higher the page abandonment rate becomes. This is just what many would expect. Nobody would want to spend more time on one online store when there are hundreds or thousands of others that could offer a better experience.

Consumer engagement also suffers when a website takes time to load or when it is not as responsive as how consumers desire it to be. Consumer engagement, by the way, can be defined as the way a consumer interacts with the store and demonstrates interest in the products being offered. If the product galleries of an online store, for instance, require several seconds to show photos and product specs, consumers will likely leave. 

Conversion and customer retention, moreover, are direly affected by slow page loading. As the Aberdeen Group, Google, and Microsoft reported, a mere 1-second delay already translates to 11% fewer page views, 16% customer satisfaction reduction, and a 7% loss in conversions. Also, a website performance issue will make 37% to 49% of site visitors switch to a competing website. It’s also important to remember that most consumers are likely to rant about or share their bad experience with others. This is the opposite of word of mouth, which results in lost customers even before they become potential customers.

  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Internet_Connectivity_Access_layer.svg

Catering to Shorter Attention Spans

Online consumers’ attention spans are way shorter than those of their offline counterparts. This is the case with Internet users in general. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (of the US National Library of Medicine), the average human attention span has been reduced from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8 seconds in 2013. The main culprit for this is technological advancement that has been creating a wide variety of external stimuli, especially on the Internet where various types of media are displayed. This shortening human attention span is nothing new. Even in the early 2000’s, there were already reports about attention span issues brought about by the increasing presence of digital technology. 

Businesses don’t have the luxury of time and “concern” to try to address this shortening human attention span problem. Instead, it’s more practical to turn to interfaces that are more suitable to the shorter attention spans of online shoppers. Aside from making web pages or online store displays appealing but concise, it’s essential to shorten page loading time to optimal levels. It’s already difficult trying to catch an online shopper’s attention with content, so just imagine how worse things could get when you have nothing to show yet because it’s taking a lot of time to load.

  

 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WebNow_Internet_Marketing_Service_Santa_Barbara.jpg 

Addressing Slow Loading Times

Slow page loading times are certainly avoidable. There are ways to avoid making pages that take longer than two seconds to load.

One of the most important things to do to shorten loading time is to optimize web pages. Optimization can be through a number of ways, which may include some or all of the following: optimizing image file sizes (through the “save for web” option in image editors), the efficient use of image formats, GZIP compression, loading scripts and CSS externally, good site coding, web page caching (example: through plugins like WP Super Cache), and using 301 redirects prudently. Google has a great online page speed test and optimization that can gauge a site’s speed and offer suggestions to help improve page speed. Consider using it.

For websites that enjoy high amounts of traffic, there are considerable benefits in using content delivery networks (CDNs) and load balancing. CDNs help optimize load speeds by reducing server lag. This is done by delivering cached static content from a distributed array of servers around the globe, thereby reducing latency and processing load on servers. CDN services work well in conjunction with load balancing, and some services will actually bundle in these two services together.

Load balancing refers to the distribution of traffic and processing load across multiple servers to reduce response time, maximize throughput, optimize resource use, and prevent instances of overloading. This can be done through various means, such as DNS-based balancing, through a physical appliance or with a cloud-based platform-as-a-service load balancing solution. The basic premise is to ensure servers are running at optimal levels, and are not overloaded even with traffic spikes and heavy load.

Geographical targeting or geotargeting may also be used to serve content deemed most suitable for the site visitor. Geotargeting identifies a site visitor’s location (usually the country, region, state, or IP address) to limit the amount of content presented according to perceived relevance.

 Freedigitalphotos.net | Photo by renjith krishnan

Conclusion

The advantages of faster page loading are compellingly demonstrated by many of the Internet’s leading companies. Amazon, for one, reports having a 1% gain in revenue for every 0.1 second of page loading improvement. Shopzilla gained 12% revenue and 25% page view increases after cutting page loading time by 4.8 seconds. Yahoo, likewise, reported increased traffic (at 9%) for every 0.4 seconds of page loading time improvement. There’s just no reason why you shouldn't try to improve your page loading time.

The effects of page loading speed to businesses engaged in online activities are undeniable. Even one second or a split-second difference can translate to considerable increases or reductions in sales, customer engagement, conversions, and customer satisfaction. Thanks (or no thanks?) to the shrinking attention spans of most Internet users, businesses need to understand and work around the importance of speed in presenting content online. 

 
How To Pick The Right Technology Infrastructure For Web Meetings Print E-mail

Of late, a lot of energy and time has been spent by CIOs on ensuring security and data privacy. But with growing reliance on technology, tasks such as client meetings which used to be handled by HR now comes under the purview of the CIO. An increasing number of businesses today require the CIO to make decisions on the kind of collaboration infrastructure for web meetings, conferences and webinars.

 

Given the sheer number of options available, it might seem like a simple plug and play. But there are potential downsides and consequences to the platforms that you choose. Skype, the most popular choice for video meetings has little to no features available for sophisticated business meetings. WebEx, one of the popular choice among enterprise customers is too overwhelmed by technology and often requires the assistance of an expert technical team to handle the connections and interactions. In addition to this, it is also extremely expensive for regular sized businesses.

 

As a CIO, you may pick one of these popular choices that have already made a name for themselves in the market. However, you would either be compromising on the features or the budget. It is hence important to do a cost benefit analysis of the features you need, the quality of service offered and the end cost to arrive at the right tool for your business. Here are some features you must look for in your conference tool.

 

Audio/Video Conferencing: This is the lifeline of any sales interaction. The ideal tool should let you connect over a phone line or a browser and should provide both audio and video interaction.

 

Is Not A Software : The trouble with tools like Skype is that it is a software. This means that all the attendees need to have it installed for the meeting to take place. Ensure that the service you pick can be accessed over a browser and the attendees need not anything apart from clicking on a link to be able to access the meeting.

 

Desktop Sharing : Sales interactions over the web inevitably require the sales manager to take their customers or prospects through the product and its features. This is not possible without desktop sharing (where it is made possible for the attendees to view the presenter's desktop screen). This also makes it easy to take attendees through presentations, word documents, multiple software without the need for attendees to open multiple documents.

 

Record Meetings : A web conferencing tool need not be just that. Content marketing is proving to be an immensely valuable strategy for gaining new clients. An increasing number of marketers have now been demanding video tutorials from the technical team that can be put up on YouTube for inbound lead generation. According to Jarek Wasielewski of ClickMeeting, such content marketed over blogs and social websites also help with SEO and can generate viral buzz. So if your business has plans for content marketing, make sure that your web conferencing tool also provides the ability to record meetings. This way, the content can be reused as a marketing tool for building new leads.

 

Mobile Apps : A number of popular web conferencing and webinar tools are still strictly desktop-based. Depending on who your prospects are, it is difficult to get them all to access your meeting via a computer at the same time. With mobile apps, it is easy to connect different attendees even when they are on the move.

 

Besides the above features, you may also have other needs like custom branding tools, API access, etc. Also, you may not need all of the above features for your company's specific needs. It is hence recommended that you invest in a service that offers exactly what you need and no fluff. Fluff costs money. Also, considering that the quality you showcase through such meetings have a bearing on your sales and revenues, ensure that the product you choose is quality in order to prevent slow connectivity and network disruptions.

 

What other considerations did you take into account while picking a conferencing tool for your company? Share them with us in the comments.  

 
CIOs Choose Their Top 5 Strategic Priorities in 2015 Print E-mail

 According to a recent gathering and discussion of strategic priorities among CIOs at a CIO Journal event, CIOs reached a consensus on a prioritized set of recommendations to drive business and policy for their organizations in the coming year.

After a full range of discussion topics consensus seemed to form around two major themes: cybersecurity, and delivering change through effective communication with the rest of the business.

According to the Journal here are the top five:

"1. Make security everyone’s business. Ensure everyone in the business community, including vendors and other third parties, know what the boundaries are, what needs to be protected and where there’s room for flexibility. When it comes to security, everyone connected to the business is a cop on the beat. That said, everyone is also a target. CIOs can help build comprehensive education systems across layers of their companies that include governance at every step. In today’s connected age, CIOs mused on the idea that “everyone is a sensor,” and therefore susceptible to the opportunities and challenges in today’s threat landscape.

2. Cyber risk = business risk. A primary responsibility for a CIO or CISO when talking to the CEO or board of directors is to articulate how cybersecurity translates into dollars and cents. Putting monetary value on security events, and tying security to real-life business cases, can show senior executives the potential impact of a cyber event in terms that make sense to them.

3. Be the change agent. CIOs can no longer afford to sit around simply absorbing the change that filters through their organizations. Instead, CIOs themselves should work to drive change at all levels of the business. How to do it? Understand the steps needed to create change in the first place; factor corporate culture into your plans; pace yourself; and fight to deliver tangible business outcomes.

4. Have a business-centric vision. As CIOs look to create change within their organizations, strategic vision and execution will be essential. CIOs highlighted the importance of speaking the language of business, tailoring the message to stakeholders and using terms they’re comfortable with. Once CIOs have communicated and executed on their visions, it’s crucial to measure success. After that, rinse and repeat.

5. Anticipate a “cyber 9/11” event. Cybersecurity incidents aren’t going away, and there’s a good chance they’ll get worse. To handle potential catastrophic events, cybersecurity issues should be elevated to an international level. That means companies and governments across industries and regions must organize themselves and prepare for what could come. CIOs likened the process to securing a common cyber-border, sharing information across a number of partners to ensure each stakeholder is optimally protected."

 

 
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