TQS Tech Team

TQS Tech Team

Social Media: You’re Overthinking It

How Sales pros can simplify their social strategy.

Social Media isn’t this mystical creature that few people have ever seen.

Anyone can post on social media. Every entrepreneur should post on social media today. 97 percent of Internet users conduct online research on local products and services before committing to a purchase. You can dramatically shape your position in the market solely through your web / social presence.

My post today is going to cover 3 basic steps to improve your sales, through brand awareness & impact on your customers.

  1. Start with your phone.
    1. Usually I'd say the first step is your mind, but in this case you need to start with your phone. The word phone implies that you are having an auditory conversation with your audience. Today this is no longer the case. With social media we have much further reach because we can connect to multiple parties in truly exciting ways.
    2. Social media lowers the barrier to entry. In most cases social media accounts are free to set up, so I’d recommend trying a few different platforms (twitter, instagram, tumblr) to find one that works for you.
    3. Maybe you provide value to your market through the written word. There is a social platform for that. Or perhaps you connect better with people through video, social media has made a lot of developments to cater to this market. Even if you’re just share others’ content, you can still grow your network as long as you’re providing them with value. A great example of this is telecommunications company, Avaya, following up on someone posting “shoretel or avaya?” and closing a deal worth $250,000.
  2. Align your business goals with social goals
    Business Goal Social Goal
    Brand Awareness Reach
    Thought Leadership Consumption
    Word of Mouth Shares
    Leads Action
    Sales Conversion
    1. This will help you understand how social media can contribute to your bottom line.
    2. The best example of this is social media generating leads. For example, someone is interested in your real estate services and checks out your website, but they still have questions for you. They then message you on twitter and you schedule a meeting. This is now an opportunity to sell. If your average deal size is $1,000 and one of every 10 inquiries closes, each lead is worth $100 to your business (minimum).
    3. For social media to work you need to know who you’re talking to. This way you can tailor content to your market in aims to improve this 10%. No need to overthink this one, your market will tell you what they like (you can even ask them)!
  3. Publish!
    1. Write down your ideasThe beauty of this is that it motivates you to stay creative beyond just social media. It’s true that you shouldn’t just publish anything (even though it may be tempting), so get started with a fun brainstorm session. As mentioned, there are plenty of mediums for you to interact with your market. Go out take a bunch of photos, record yourself giving an inspirational talk, or simply start writing. My favourite writing exercise is called a waterfall, you’ve probably heard it before. Set a timer for 10 minutes sit yourself in front of a stack of papers and write anything that comes to mind. Don’t stop writing! Think out loud to get some momentum. Throw this out at the end if it makes you feel better. It’s easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking, than to think your way into a new way of acting. This is a great warmup for any sort of brainstorm session. Quick Tip: Keep a postcard pinned writing side out on your desk. Some people find it easier to pretend to write to someone.
    2. Edit. From this exercise you may come up with some longer form writing, but for starters let’s cut some of your most effective sentences. Posts on social media are generally shorter than that of blog posts, the messaging is most effective when they are saying the same things. Spreadsheet open to copy effective sentences for linkedin, twitter, and facebook. By putting them in this format you can upload them into a social media calendar to keep you on schedule and constantly update.
    3. Post online. You may want to use scheduling tools like buffer or MeetEdgar, but make sure you also set aside time to follow up on replies and comments. You have direct access to your market through social media, don’t ignore them.

Easy as pie right? I told you, you were overthinking it ;)

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Increase Accountability with Business Dashboards

Business dashboards are designed to increase productivity. As Peter Drucker says, “What’s measured improves." By bringing visibility to issues as they arise, dashboards maintain a team that keeps each other accountable.

What is a Dashboard? It is an overview of important business metrics in an easy to read format, a majority of us have used one before.

Related: Supply Chain Experts Are Now Designing Software

In today’s “Big Data” economy, business dashboards are essential. That being said, for most executives deep data analysis isn’t a task that is an effective use of time. However, having real time and historical data presented to them is. Business dashboards are designed to provide a snapshot of critical information, information that impacts business.

Why is Data More Effective Visually? 90% of information transmitted the the brain is visual. To maximize their effectiveness, we design our dashboards to be visually engaging.

Is information for one worker critical for another? Maybe. But maybe not, which is why most people advocate for the customizable dashboard. As everyone has unique responsibilities, their dashboard should reflect such. When our operations team logs into Fusion, their dashboard shows purchase and sales orders that need action.

Visibility is more than just a buzzword for supply chain professionals. Without proper visibility collaboration cannot take place. So on a business dashboard there should be some static components visible to all team members. Let’s say you have a critical truckload arriving an hour later than operating hours. Everyone needs to be aware of this, for the client’s sake.

Dashboards Designed to Propel Success

Business dashboards are most effective using real-time data. Real-time data allows managers to make the most informed decisions by giving them peace of mind that they are always using up-to-date data. Even though it is an overview or summary, dashboards need to allow users to click through to details in order to pinpoint the exact data that they want to see. Business dashboards need to have an accessible data history. It’s important for managers to compare present quota and targets versus historical data. According to document automation company, Esker, the dashboard helps decision-makers spot trends and craft new strategies in response.

How do they propel success? If they’re properly aligned with your business goals, dashboards provide motivation. As dashboard design company, Grow, puts it: "If you, or your team, needs an extra motivational push, there’s nothing like the whole office knowing you aren’t meeting your goals. Dashboards don’t call people out. They just show the plain and simple facts. Data calls people out and makes accountability the focus."

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Supply Chain Experts Are Now Designing Software

You won’t see warehouse managers programming or traffic controllers making user interface mockups. But in today’s world of software, thanks so the “agile” philosophy, the silos are being broken down. With agile development there is less need for lengthy requirements documents, because the barrier between business users and development is reduced. We are looking into ways we can create a more direct line of communication with our development team. Companies who adopt agile practices, by educating their business users on software development and bringing developers into the business process, save time in drafting documents and having development hit the target. They won’t need to be as detailed to have the same effect. The agile business analyst goes beyond software now and has more time to identify business process improvements.

TQS stands for Total Quality Systems. It’s more than just a name for us. It represents the processes of our business. Ideally encompassing every facet.

Agile falls in line with total quality management, which looks for problems with the business process. What is the agile philosophy? The Business Analyst’s Body of Knowledge puts it this way: “Agile is about having a flexible mindset, embodied in a set of values and principles and exhibited by a variety of complementary practices. Agile initiatives involve constant change.”

Those in software development are probably familiar with the agile perspective and those in management may be more familiar with a similar practice by the term lean. If your business is seeing deadlines consistently missed, why not adopt an approach that focuses on higher priority features and integrates the development team closer to the users. This allows the development team to understand the business process so well that they are actually able to anticipate changes and influence the business in more efficient directions. Business users will receive better support because the silos are broken down.

IT organizations and product developers co-create products and services with the business, rather than simply collecting feature specifications and throwing them back over the wall, as would happen under the waterfall development model.

This is why Agile development came into existence. That perfect requirements document is a pie in the sky. By beginning execution we can refine the business process to match the systems process. Do you remember when you first got a Facebook account? You probably went down a black hole of photos, messages, and emoji’s. But now every time Facebook introduces a feature you spend a couple minutes investigating and move on.

Every huge “waterfall" development project requires a lot of programming and testing, but also more staff training.

Four principals to adopt co-development of products (by agile standards) via McKinsey&Company​:

  1. Adopt a product oriented organizational structure
  2. Improve interactions between the business and IT
  3. Redefine managerial roles and responsibilities
  4. Reconsider budgeting and planning models

For us, it’s more than just requesting development on our software. It is about the communication with our supply chain clients, being involved in their day-to-day problems, and then making our experienced recommendations. That’s quality. But total quality takes it even further. Total quality will then poke holes in these recommendations, it will challenge the requirements, and challenge our clients.

Not only does the objective allow for strong development, that makes sure requested features do what they are supposed to, but it pushes development to constantly be performing! Requirements seem like an ongoing list. Sometimes we simply refer to them as a "wish list.” We should really save these for our Amazon accounts.

It takes time to implement the system and even more time to train the users! Agile development keeps things manageable.

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How Much Smarter is Your Business Getting?

Listen, we are far beyond the days when we could get by doing the status quo. We live in a world that is exponentially growing. In a world where AI will soon be a thing (like an actual everyday thing). My question to you is, what are you doing to develop the knowledge base of your business?

Related: 5 ways keep up with the world’s fastest changing industry

"Don't let your special character and values, the secret that you know and no one else does, the truth - don't let that get swallowed up by the great chewing complacency.” - Aesop

Complacency is comfortable. Why do more than what I’m being paid to do?

Business Changes.

Those two words are reason enough, in my opinion. Think of this, Ninety-one percent of Millennials (born between 1977-1997) expect to stay in a job for less than three years. A majority of Baby Boomers would think that having 15-20 jobs over a career is crazy (they average far fewer <10). Business changes. Your company needs to be adaptive, pro-active. Creating a culture of learning will help you achieve this.

Let’s look at how you can lay the foundations of a learning culture.

At it’s essence, learning is about doing new things. When you do new things, you make mistakes. Traditional organizations punish mistakes, so are they looking at mistakes the wrong way? I don’t think there is a straight answer to this question. Some mistakes have consequences and could cost someone their job. At the same time, failure is simply the price we pay to achieve success (John C. Maxwell).

I like to start out with baseline measurables. If we’re trying to improve our sales pipeline, where does it sit now? Keep in mind, this approach makes it easy to overlook intangibles. Make sure to consider employee fulfillment and other qualitative benefits this new undertaking will provide.

By creating a space for trying new things (beyond basic training), making blatant mistakes is actually productive. Here at TQS Tech, we are trying setting up the foundations for this space and calling it “UX Workshops.” Our goal is to improve the usability of our products while learning the universal concepts to allow us to achieve this.

This approach is very people centric. Your business can get smarter with new technologies as well but if your employees fight against adoption, you’ll be struggling to hit your company goals. Lets face it, every technology solution requires a process change. Introduce as much of this process change as possible and communicate why this initiative aligns with the company goals. It may still be an uphill battle but upper management will have your back.

Momentum is a big key at this point. After a couple weeks, you may see your performance indicator start to move. Even if it’s a minor jump, don’t forget about those qualitative benefits. Group members motivation is paramount. Our UX group utilizes worksheets / exercises to engage the team members in thinking outside of the day-to-day tasks. Members of the group report a sense of empowerment throughout the process.

Learning Cultures Support New Technologies.

"IT changes so fast. Every day there are new technologies, new ways of doing things, new innovations that can make businesses smarter, help them move faster in response to market conditions, help them get an edge on the competition. A culture of learning is important for businesses to maintain current skills, stay on top of new and emerging tech, and get a market advantage," says Tim Low, vice president of marketing at PayScale.

A culture of learning will help your business stay flexible. The sooner you start, the easier it is.

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The Three Truths about UX every BA should know

If the Business Analyst (BA) is an architect, then think of the User Experience (UX) designer as an interior decorator.

Personas and user stories are the foundation for both fields.

User stories, done well, could solve several of the conflicts that surface once needs come across with delivery. They elevate all kinds of details (requirements) that use cases alone brush behind the couch. Understanding the people beyond the tasks they perform for the business has a great value. Some features will never be mentioned, but knowing a persona’s motivation will allow BAs to think outside of the box. For example, during an interview, one of our stakeholders expressed wanting to track performance of his employees. When we asked why, he stated that he could no longer take his employees word for how busy his warehouse was and had no way of measuring it. Here we discovered that our stakeholder wanted to track freight, not his employees (even though this one was pretty much spelled out for us).

Having a primary, concrete persona allows you to create a consistent user focused product.

"Widening your target doesn’t improve your aim.” - Alan Cooper

Find patterns in user tendencies & stakeholders characteristics. After, use a persona poster template to map out behaviors. Avoid the 'elastic user.’ Cooper puts it best, "To create a product that must satisfy a broad audience of users, logic will tell you to make it as broad in its functionality as possible to accommodate the most people. Logic is wrong.” What ends up happening is you half deliver to every different persona. Generally, if you nail the requirements of the primary user other needs will be satisfied.

No one will spell out the non-functional requirements for you.

“Any product that needs a manual to work is broken.” – Elon Musk

Sure, UX Designers and BAs are different roles in tech projects. But how different are they? Really? If the end users have a hard time with a software solution, did the BA do a good enough job? The more skills in your toolbox, the more effective you will be in future projects. This is best illustrated in a blog post by Laura Brandenburg: "We’d hold reviews with the business stakeholders, development team, project managers, and QA and painstakingly review the details of the use case alongside the user interface wireframes. Many of these discussions were essentially design discussions as we all struggled together to figure out what, how, and what’s possible all at the same time.” Would these struggles still exist if UX was an essential part of the BA’s body of knowledge? Probably not.

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The Critical Cloud Security Questions That Need Asking

It’s a human tendency to reject that which we don’t understand and stick to what has been working. This is especially true when it comes to security of our data. Using cloud storage services can be risky. The goal here is to boost your confidence when it comes to using cloud services for your personal or business use.

Hackers, fires, burglars, idiots. Even if they're in the minority, all exist. There are over a million viruses, software scripts that can infect your computer without you even clicking anything, and codes that can delete your entire company. Most cloud services have a framework in place to protect your information from these risks and a security team monitoring such risks.

Related: Did You Know Trucks Are Already Driving Themselves?

In fact, cloud computing offers several security advantages. Such as immediate software patches, hardware and software redundancy, and employed specialists.

Yet, this still seems to be the number one risk when it comes to adoption of cloud services. Even if the cloud provider isn’t at risk of any sort of breaches, this will still be an issue for the prospective customer. As Raj Samani writes for Information Week, “the challenge has never been about security, but about transparency."

But has it?

According to Bloomberg in 2015, 80% of American Law Firms had security breaches. A couple weeks ago there was the Panama Papers scandal. 2.6 terabytes were leaked revealing ways the rich exploit offshore tax loopholes.

To this point, there is a need for regulation and education within the industry. While we may be far away from legislating the Cloud Computing industry, but there are organizations promoting best practices.

Enter the Cloud Security Alliance. Founded in 2008, the organization raises awareness of the best practices within the industry. Offering the most popular provider certification program and the first user certification.

For some companies, Cloud Service Providers may be more secure than what can is feasible in-house. So how do you know which of these providers offer the level of security your company needs? Ask them these questions:

What is my role and your role in the protection of my data? This way you can take precautions yourself and fill any security voids.

Where do the servers, processes, and data physically reside? It’s important to know which laws your data is liable to.

Who can view enterprise data in the cloud? How many of their employees can see your data? What sort of credentials do they have?

What is your service level agreement (SLA) for uptime? Important to know because of how reliant you are. The more reliant you are, the more uptime you need.

Do you allow customers to perform scheduled penetration tests of either the production environment or a designated testing environment? This allows you to see how vulnerable your system is to security breaches.

What protocols do you follow? This will give you an idea how diligent  security is within the company.

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