Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Capterra Survey Reveals Risky Technology Decision-Making Among Small Businesses

Capterra sent over this press release and graphic. All this emerging technology is our future. What do you think?

-- -- --

Capterra Survey Reveals Risky Technology Decision-Making Among Small Businesses

Skepticism for AI, Chatbots, Digital Marketing and IoT Highest Among Trending Technologies

ARLINGTON, Va. November 20, 2018 - Capterra, the leading online resource for business software buyers, today released findings from its latest survey of more than 700 small and mid-size business leaders across vertical markets to understand how they manage technology investments, and the technologies they consider necessary for business now and in the future. The survey results highlight the strong appetite among SMB leaders to use the latest technology but with equal concern about making the right investment decision.

“Small businesses are in a precarious position: They must find and deploy technology that will keep them competitive against their peers and large enterprises,” said Lauren Maffeo,
Senior Content Analyst at Capterra. “Companies that wait five to seven years to adopt a new technology may never catch up to competitors that started sooner. Yet, small businesses have minimal margin for error when choosing the best technologies for their business needs.”

Technology is widely regarded among SMB leaders as a competitive advantage as well as a business challenge. Almost half of survey respondents (47%) factor technology trends and advancements into their strategic planning. For the second year in a row, choosing the right technology for their business is deemed a top business challenge among SMB leaders, with 19 percent saying it is their No. 1 challenge . In addition, one third of survey respondents said they are “solely responsible” for making technology purchasing decisions at their organizations.

“One of the biggest threats in the small business leader’s buying journey is making a technology investment decision in isolation,” adds Maffeo. “Shopping in a silo can prevent leadership from understanding what it takes for teams to get new technology up and running. They may not have the time, resources, or patience to adequately research and compare options. Small business leaders who make decisions alone may also lack expertise in the technologies they’re buying and have organizational ‘blind spots.’ All of these factors make communication with colleagues and industry peers essential during the buying process.”

Understanding the factors that contribute to these risks and opportunities is an important part of determining the right business strategy. These, along with insights into small business leaders’ sentiment towards today’s trending technologies, are revealed in Capterra’s latest survey:

Despite Consumer Demand, Small Businesses Hesitate to Invest in Chatbots
Chatbots, or conversational user interfaces, are becoming increasingly popular thanks to the personalized experiences they offer consumers. In fact, nearly 65 percent of U.S. millennials say they want to use chatbots when engaging with brands. However, less than 30 percent of small businesses in vertical segments such as Retail, Services, Construction, and Manufacturing are incorporating chatbots. Banking and Financial Services leads in chatbot adoption with 35 percent of SMB leaders indicating they are deploying chatbots. This presents a
significant gap – and potential lost business opportunity – for SMBs that don’t invest in chatbots technology.

Small Businesses are Overlooking Benefits of AI to Support Business Functions
AI continues to be the definition of hype for small businesses. Capterra’s survey found that fewer than one in five small business leaders use AI, yet many more acknowledge that it’s critical for their businesses. This mindset puts small businesses at risk of not investing in cloud software that incorporates AI. Small businesses should prioritize AI-enabled software when choosing among options for functions such as accounting, communication, CRM, and file storage and collaboration.

Small Business Leaders Are Investing in Digital Marketing and the IoT, But Don’t Yet Recognize Their Full Value
More than half of SMBs surveyed use digital marketing today. However, their perception of how essential it is to their business is much lower in every segment, minus Retail. This is because digital marketing is a term so broad that it can mean everything and nothing. Digital marketing is an evolving segment thanks to advancements in AI and analytics. Software features like sentiment analysis can help small business leaders tailor their marketing strategies based on audience segmentation.

Similarly, 47 percent of leaders surveyed say they’re currently using the IoT, yet only one in three (34 percent) say the IoT is critical for them to do business. In addition, more than one in five respondents (21 percent) have business staff handle their IT matters, which likely includes managing or supporting IoT solutions. This scenario introduces risk to small businesses since the IoT leverages business and customer data. It thus must be handled carefully from a breach and privacy perspective. Before making any IoT investments, business leaders must establish plans for IoT governance, data ownership and ethics, security, and architecture. Investments in the IoT will fail without a foundation to build on.

No two small businesses are alike, but understanding the latest technologies disrupting businesses big and small, and how to evaluate them for your own organization, is essential to helping small businesses grow. The full survey results can be viewed in today’s accompanying blog post, “Which Disruptive Technologies of the Future Should Your Small Business Adopt?”

Capterra conducted this survey among more than 715 U.S.-based business leaders in the U.S. between July-September 2018 with between two and 249 employees, and less than $100 million USD in enterprise-wide annual revenue. Respondents were required to be involved in purchasing technologies for their organizations and hold the role of Manager or above within their companies.

About Capterra

Capterra is the leading online resource for business software buyers. Founded in 1999, Capterra features validated user reviews and independent research across hundreds of software categories. From Accounting to Yoga Studio Management, Capterra covers it all. Each
month, Capterra helps more than three million buyers find the right software. Capterra is a Gartner company. For more information, visit Capterra.com.

:-)

Monday, November 19, 2018

Community Update - Fifteen Hours of Audio Plus Live Classes Added

I just posted a six minute Community News update video. Check it out:




Visit the Small Biz Thoughts Community at https://www.smallbizthoughts.org.

Here's the quick summary of content we've added this month:


  • Stay Focused on Your Business (audio program, 2017)
  • Managed Services Operations Manual, vol. 3 (audio book) 
  • Service Agreements Improved Managed Services (audio training)

Plus we are in the middle of the very popular Mini-Class Client Roadmap Deep Dive. Week One is recorded and ready to download in the Community. Week Two will be Wednesday, November 21st. 

I've gotten a number of questions about the Mini-Classes. So let me clarify. First, the mini-classes are for sale to non-members at $99 each. They are 100% free to Community members. 

Second, all mini-classes are recorded. They are available for immediate download. So, if you want to review the older classes, you can download them immediately as a member. If you are not a member, you cannot buy them anywhere at any price. Membership has its privileges.

The next mini-class (in December) is on Tuning Up Your YouTube. As always, guaranteed to be great content. If you're a member, you may also want to download the last mini-class: Local Advertising for ITpreneurs. This is a truly amazing class by Mark Smith from ChannelPro. I promise you'll learn something really cool in the first hour.

Tuesday, Nov. 20th we will post the audio program Perfect Profitable Projects – Audio program with Karl W. Palachuk and Matt Makowicz. This lengthy program originally sold for $400. Now it is exclusively available to members in the Small Biz Thoughts Community - for free.

If you get bored over the long Thanksgiving holiday, download a dozen hours of audio programming and enjoy!

I highly encourage you to bookmark and follow the "What's New" Blog for the SBT Community.

And if you're not a member, start with the video above. But you can a lot more information here.


:-)

Still Ignoring HIPAA? How about a $200,000 fine and being banned for life?

My friend Mike Semel is the premier authority on compliance issues in the U.S. He just posted this alarming article on the EMR (electronic medical records) and HIPAA web site.

https://www.emrandhipaa.com/mike/2018/11/15/a-hipaa-life-sentence-and-so-many-lessons/

I'll let you read the original article rather than reprint the whole thing here. But please heed the lessons.

Doctors who think they are exempt from HIPAA are fooling themselves.

Medical data companies who think they are exempt from HIPAA are fooling themselves. And criminally liable.

Technology consultants who ignore HIPAA are fighting with fire. Signing Business Associate Agreements are just the start. You need a real plan for compliance, and you need to document both remediation and ongoing compliance.

In this incident Mike discusses here, a medical transcription company breached the medical records of over 1,650. Their customer, Virtua Health, paid a $ 418,000 settlement for violations of both HIPAA and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.

. . . and Tushar Mathur, owner of the medical transcription company, was fined $200,000 for HIPAA violations and consumer fraud - and agreed to a permanent ban on managing or owning a business in New Jersey.

I'm sure that's not something they expected!

Remember that local, state, and federal agencies can all enforce HIPAA compliance. They're taking this seriously whether you are or not.

While Mike's article is focused on buyers of consulting, the lessons are important for you as well. In many ways, it amounts to the ultimate "best practice" list for technology consultants. Check it out.

- - - - -

Mike Semel is the President and Chief Security Officer of Semel Consulting, focused on HIPAA and other compliance requirements; cyber security; and Business Continuity planning. He is a Certified Business Continuity Professional through the Disaster Recovery Institute, a Certified HIPAA Professional, Certified Security Compliance Specialist, and Certified Health IT Specialist.

Mike is also a forum leader inside the Small Biz Thoughts Community.

:-)

Friday, November 16, 2018

New Best Practice: 3-Week Mini Classes Take Off

Once again, we've stumbled onto an unfilled need in the IT community!

When I kicked off the Small Biz Thoughts Community, one of the things we promised was a series of 3-week "Mini Classes" on various topics. The goal is that each class will have these features:

  • 100% immediately usable content
  • Focused on your business success
  • with a Community component (opportunity to interact with other members)
  • 30-60 minutes per class
  • Including show-and-tell of the technology we're discussing
November 2018
So far, classes have included:

Client Roadmap Process Deep Dive (current class)

Local Advertising for ITpreneurs

Maximizing LinkedIn

and I've just scheduled the all new class for December:

Tuning Up Your YouTube Channel

All classes are 100% FREE to Small Biz Thoughts Community members. Just go to the Classes section at smallbizthoughts.org.

December 2018
- - - -

At first, we thought we would just give these classes away as extra value to Community members. But then I started getting requests from non-members to attend.

So I offered the most recent class to the public at $99 - a great price. We got a LOT of signups! So we've decided to open all these classes to the public.

. . . with a catch.

Ideally, you'll sign up for every class. They'll be hugely valuable. And you'll sign up again and again. Over time, you'll get used to paying us $99 every month for a great class.

At some point, you're going to realize that the cost of the Small Biz Thoughts Community is only $99. You get all those awesome mini-classes AND about $4,000 worth of additional downloads. Plus forums, discussions, and an almost-overwhelming amount of information.

I love capitalism. And I believe you can spend your money any way you want. But I think the wise way to go is to join the Small Biz Thoughts Community and ramp up your success to the next level.

Feedback welcome, as always.

:-)

Thursday, November 15, 2018

New Podcast: Break-Fix vs. Managed Services

I just posted a new SMB Community Podcast with Dave Sobel, Senior Director of MSP Evangelism at SolarWinds MSP. It's the second in a six-part series entitled Remote Control Deep Dive: Build and Grow Your Business.

For six weeks, we'll be talking about how to get the most out of your remote control tools - and make more money.

The latest post is all about how to make more money, whether you focus on Break/Fix or Managed Service. It's over on the SMB Community Podcast site.


Episode 1 is What to Look for in a Remote Support Tool.


Available as either a video or audio download.

Podcasts in this series include:

  • What to Look for In a Remote Support Tool
  • Making Money – Break Fix vs. Managed Services (this one)
  • Implementing Your Cloud Services Bundle
  • Remote Control – A New Hope for Security
  • Manage the Customer Experience/Manage the Customer Relationship
  • Remote Control as the Ultimate Sales Tool


Tune in next Thursday for episode three!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Reminder: All new class - Cloud Services in a Month - Starts November 20th

Cloud Services in a Month - Applying the Book

- Five Tuesdays: November 20 - December 18, 2018 -- Register Now

- All classes start a 9:00 AM Pacific

Based on the forthcoming new book Cloud Services in a Month, this course will give you the information, forms, processes, and motivation to move full force into providing Cloud Services. Much of the focus is on designing and developing a package of services you can sell to every single client. As I like to describe it: The core technologies that every client needs.

Tuition for this course includes the ebook version of the book upon release: Cloud Services in a Month! That includes all the downloads from the book as well.

You will learn . . .
  • Everyone's a Cloud Service Provider
  • Tip Toe Into the Clouds?
  • The Latest Tools and Options 
  • Cloud Computing in the Small Business Space
  • Right Sizing Your Offering
  • What is the Cloud?
  • Assessing Client Networks
  • Money-Making Homework - Network Assessments
  • Create a Cloud Service Offering Sneak Peek: The Cloud Service Five-Pack
  • The Absolute Basics
  • Plan Changes and Updates
  • Transactions, Customers, and Clients
  • Price Strategies
  • Managed Services and Cloud Services
  • Building a Bundle that Works
  • Break/Fix and Hybrid Models
  • Create A Three-Tiered Pricing Structure
  • Migrating to the Cloud One Service at a Time
  • Managed Service Tools and the Cloud
  • Storage Migration
  • Email Migration
  • Microsoft Office
  • Money-Making Homework - Migration Plans
  • Backups, DR, and Continuity Basic Backups
  • BDRs
  • Business Continuity
  • Running Your New CSP Business - The Right Tools for the Job
  • Your Standard Offerings (Your Catalog of Services)
  • Staff Requirements for Cloud Services
  • Client Onboarding 

... And More!

PLUS lots more. This class is filled with great advice and tips on running your I.T. company and moving into the world of recurring revenue with cloud services.

Delivered by Karl W. Palachuk, blogger and author of the very popular "SOP Friday" posts at http://blog.smallbizthoughts.com.

Includes five weeks of webinars with related handouts, assignments, and "office hours" with the instructor. All classes are recorded for download.

This course is intended for business owners and managers. It is particularly useful for the Service Manager or Operations Manager.

Only $259


- - - - -

A Few Details . . .

  • Each course will be five one-hour webinars
  • There will be handouts and "homework" assignments
  • If you wish to receive feedback on your assignments, there will be instructor office hours
  • Class webinars will be recorded and made available to paid attendees only.
  • All calls start at 9:00 AM Pacific Time 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Managed Services Operations Manual - vol 3 Now Available in the SBT Community

What a great week in the Small Biz Thoughts Community!

We're continuing to add content all the time. This update News Broadcast goes into some detail, but here's the quick list for the last week.

- Added the audio program Service Agreements Improve Managed Service

- Added volume 3 of Managed Services Operations Manual – on managing the service department

- Signed up 15 people for the new 3-part class on getting the most out of the Technology Roadmap Process

Watch the video:


There are now three out of four books from the 4-part SOP series available as audio downloads in the SBT Community. So if you've signed up at a member, go download them now at NO additional charge.

If you're not a member, sign up and download them. ;-)

Also: It looks like the new Mini Class is very popular. We have ten members signed up (no additional charge) and a handful of folks have paid the $99. I've emailed out the information needed to access the Zoom meeting Wednesday. If you're signed up and don't have the info you need, contact us.

Members access the class here.

Non-Members buy the class here.

Here's what we're doing in the class:

First - Handouts. I've posted a brand new 14-page Technology Roadmap Questionnaire. It's a much better deep dive into the client's business than the older questionnaire. I've also posted a four-page white paper on how to get the most out of the Client Roadmap Process.

Second, here's what we're doing in each of the three classes:

Week One is an overview of the process and a deep dive into the questionnaire itself. Why do we ask these questions, where do they fit, and why do it in this order. We'll also talk about why you shouldn't worry about finishing all questions. You probably won't, and that's great. I'll explain in class.

Week Two, we'll talk about the using the Roadmap Questionnaire to close new clients. It's a very smooth transition from the 68-Point Checklist and a network assessment to a discussion about the client's business more broadly. We'll also touch on the first Roadmap meeting after you sign the client.

Week Three covers the ongoing, never-ending conversation you'll have with your clients about their technology. You'll see how we use this to get the client to engage in the overall health of their network, to make good decisions, and completely sidestep the sales process going forward.

Get sticky. Make clients love you. Improve their technology. And eliminate ongoing "sales" while selling lots of great stuff.

It's not quite magic. But it's pretty close.

:-)

Thursday, November 08, 2018

New Podcast: What to Look for in a Remote Support Tool - with Dave Sobel

I just posted a new SMB Community Podcast with Dave Sobel, Senior Director of MSP Evangelism at SolarWinds MSP. It's the first in a six-part series entitled Remote Control Deep Dive: Build and Grow Your Business.

For the next six weeks, we'll be talking about how to get the most out of your remote control tools - and make more money.

Here, Dave talks about the core features of the SolarWinds MSP's Take Control tool.

Available as either a video or audio download.

Check it out today!

Future topics in this podcast series include:

- Making Money - Break Fix vs. Managed Services
- Implementing Your Cloud Services Bundle
- Remote Control – A New Hope for Security
- Manage the Customer Experience/Manage the Customer Relationship
- Remote Control as the Ultimate Sales Tool

Tune in next Thursday for episode two!

:-)

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The ASCII Group Announces 2019 Dates and Cities for IT Success Summits

Thanks to Alysia over at ASCII for sending this press release.

I highly encourage you to add these events to your calendar and plan to attend an ASCII event in 2019. Always a great event.



Bethesda, Maryland – November 7, 2018 -- The ASCII Group, a membership-based community of independent North American MSPs, VARs and Solution Providers, is pleased to announce the upcoming dates and cities for its 2019 IT Success Summit Series.

Started in 1999, the Success Summits bring together nearly 1,500 IT solution providers, dozens of technology vendors, and key industry leaders in a two-day format that incorporates extensive peer networking, education and training. With events in nine markets across North America, the series will focus on areas that will help MSPs advance and move their businesses forward, through the power of community and its offerings.

 “As ASCII enters its 35th year in 2019, we reflect back on our original mission which still rings true today – bringing together IT business owners and helping them to grow by leveraging the power of our group. The discussions that take place, the connections that are formed, these are the true pillars as to why the ASCII community has been a mainstay within the channel,” said Jerry Koutavas, President, The ASCII Group.

“This past year, we saw record-breaking participation - over 75 channel-focused vendors participated in at least one of our regional Success Summits! This is a testament to the overall health of the IT channel and reaffirms the value of MSPs in today’s economy. Vendors are seeing real results by partnering with ASCII members and other IT providers to enable end-user success,” said Shannon Mayer, VP Channel Development, The ASCII Group.

With an emphasis on peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, the Summits are designed for qualified IT professionals and MSPs.

2019 Summit Cities:
Orange County, CA February 20 – 21
Dallas, TX March 27 – 28
Washington, D.C. April 24 – 25
Charlotte, NC May 15 – 16
Chicago, IL June 26 – 27
Denver, CO July 24 – 25
Toronto, Canada August 21 – 22
Newark, NJ September 25 – 26
Boston, MA October 24 – 25

Keynote speakers will be announced at a later date. For more information on ASCII’s IT Success Summits, please visit www.asciievents.com. Follow ASCII on Twitter @asciigroup and #ASCIISUCCESS.

About The ASCII Group, Inc:

The ASCII Group is the premier community of North American MSPs, VARs and solution providers. The group has over 1,300 members located throughout the U.S. and Canada, and membership encompasses everyone from credentialed MSPs serving the SMB community to multi-location solution providers with a national reach. Founded in 1984, ASCII provides services to members including leveraged purchasing programs, education and training, marketing assistance, extensive peer interaction and more.  ASCII works with a vibrant ecosystem of major technology vendors that complement the ASCII community and support the mission of helping MSPs and VARs to grow their businesses. For more information, please visit www.ascii.com.

Monday, November 05, 2018

The 8th Minute

Over on my YouTube Channel - www.youtube.com/smallbizthoughts - Stefan asked about putting time entries into tickets.

In particular, how do you keep up with super-quick notes without charging fifteen minutes (or some other number) every time a technician opens a ticket?

Here's the basic problem:

1) Some tasks are super-fast. You just need to reply to a quick email. You want that reply attached to the ticket. But it's literally one minute. So you don't want the employee's time card to be padded 14 minutes, or whatever you minimum is. And you don't want to bill the client for 15 minutes (or whatever your minimum is) every time you have a quick email.

2) Some ticketing systems want to track all your time in one minute increments. This is stupid and leads to more time spent adjusting time than actually tracking it.

3) You should have a minimum time increment you use. I use 15 minutes. I know companies that use 30 minutes and six minutes. You need to find a balance between fair and useful. And that fair is both fair to the clients and the employees.

4) Personally, I love using the ticketing system to track employee time. That way I can verify that there are no gaps and no overlaps. And I can pay off the time in the system.

Here's what we do.

First, I do want techs to put in a time entry for even the smallest important activity. But most of the time, it's a zero time entry. There's a different process in Connectwise, Autotask, and Solarwinds. But the end result is that you have a note that does not affect time on the job or the employee's time card.

Second, we bill in fifteen minute increments. So a technician might have time entries like this:

Minute 1 - 8:00 - 8:00 (one minute) - Client A - Responded to email from John - attached.

Minute 2 - 8:00 - 8:00 (four minutes) - Client B - Verified that troublesome machines are up and can access server.
Minute 3
Minute 4
Minute 5

Minute 6 - 8:00 - 8:15 (four minutes) - Client C - Talked to Lisa on the phone. Agreed on which printers to set up Thursday. Added notes below.
 - Note: This client will be billed 15 mins.
Minute 7
Minute 8
Minute 9

Minute 10 - 8:15 - 8:15 (one minute) - Client D - Forwarded email about licenses. - Attached.

Minute 11 - 8:15 - 8:15 (one minute) - Client E - Replied to Felicia with specs on SonicWall. - Email Attached.

Minute 12 - 8:15 - 8:15 (three minutes) - Client F - Per request from Michael, rebooted Workstation 201807.
Minute 13
Minute 14

Minute 15 - 8:15 - 8:15 (five minutes) - Internal admin - Cleaned up remaining email. Zero inbox
Minute 16
Minute 17
Minute 18
Minute 19

Minute 20 - 8:15 - 8:30 (five minutes) - Internal admin - Checked voicemail. Entered tickets as needed. VM Box Empty.
Minute 21
Minute 22
Minute 23
 - Note: This client will be billed 15 mins.
Minute 24

Minute 25 -  8:30 - 9:30 (one hour) - Client G - Finished laptop setup. Documented work. Ready for delivery. On client equipment shelf with printed ticket.
 - Note: This client will be billed 1 hour.

Here's what's going on.You enter actions that need to be reported, but you don't ding them 15 mins each. But the task that rolls over the 8th minute is charged for that 15 minute block.

Note that this is pretty random. Every client will have zero-time entries, but will have the benefit of the notes. Every once in a while, each client will experience a 15 minute billable (or charged to managed service) time entry. These are randomized among clients and no one ever complains.

Basically, whichever job you're working on on the 8th minute, the 23rd minute, the 38th minute, and the 53rd minute is the one who gets the bill for that hour. In this way, the tech gets four 15-minute time entries and is paid for the full hour.

If this sound difficult, it's not. Just look at your watch. If it's 00-07 minutes, you round down and enter 8:00 (the hour) in your time. If that's true for both the beginning and end of the task, then the time entry is zero. If you watch reads 08-15 minutes, you round up. That's why it's all about the 8th minute. Again, if both the beginning and end of a task are rounded to 15, then you have a zero time entry.

- - - - -

I know this looks more complicated than it is. Believe me, after training dozens of technicians on this, it's real easy. Here's all technicians need to know:

1) Write down beginning time. Round up or down to the nearest quarter hour.

2) Write down ending time. Round up or down to the nearest quarter hour.

3) Total time = ending - beginning. It might be zero or it might be some increment of 15 minutes.

In the end, you will track all employee time in 15 minute increments and all client-facing time in either zero-time entries or 15 minute blocks.

Note: You can still have a thirty minute or sixty minute minimum bill to the client, if that's appropriate. But don't confuse that with accurate time keeping for technicians.

Questions welcome.

:-)