Archive for the ‘Placement’ category

10 Smart Ways to Secure Your Smart Devices against Hacks

February 28th, 2019

“Smart” devices are beginning to dominate the market due to their ease of use, intuitive designs and scale of application. Many homes today are filled with interconnected devices, from phones and tablets to security systems and kitchen appliances. With so much ease of connectivity, though, also comes vulnerability.

So what should consumers know about Internet of Things (IoT) cyber security to help protect their devices from being hacked? How can they proactively prevent potential hacking? To help answer those questions, 10 members of Forbes Technology Council share their best methods for protecting smart devices.

  1. Connect IoT Devices to a Guest Network

Many consumer Wi-Fi access points support separate guest networks. Keep your desktop PCs, laptops, smartphones, network-attached storage and printer on your private network. Then, connect all of your IoT devices to your guest network to isolate them from your private network. This action also provides a single chokepoint on which to disable internet access should any devices get hacked. – Steve Pao, Hillwork, LLC

  1. Limit the Information You Provide

Consumers don’t realize that in the fine print of many “I agree” consents is the ability for those services to sell or give away information to third parties. Of course, we want the benefits of smart devices, but only give the bare minimum of information and have secure passwords to limit vulnerability. A form may ask for your address and date of birth, but if not asterisked, it is not needed. – Arnie Gordon, Arlyn Scales

  1. Don’t Ignore Updates

New IoT device vulnerabilities are uncovered literally every day. However, most of us ignore seemingly bothersome update prompts from our devices: it often feels easier to just click the “remind me later” option. Nevertheless, updates are important to get the latest vulnerability patches. Known vulnerabilities are easy targets for hackers, so make sure to take updates as soon as they are available. – Paul Lipman, BullGuard

  1. Use Multiple Authentication Layers

Use multiple authentication layers on the main network hub for the devices as well as for each device. It’s important to put up as many barriers as possible so hackers will look elsewhere. – Jon Bradshaw, Calendar

  1. Don’t Use Default Settings

Security is a critical factor in today’s information technology environment. One of the key components in making at-home IoT devices secure is to change any default usernames and passwords on the router in conjunction with a guest network setup. The router is the first line of defense and must not contain any default settings, as this leaves the door open for opportunistic hackers. – Maria Clemens, Management and Network Services, LLC

  1. Turn off Vampire Features

IoT devices in your home often come with a wide variety of optional “vampire” features sucking resources and increasing risk. In many cases, these features are turned on by default and you might not know it. Not only can these features have a negative impact on bandwidth, but they can potentially lead to security and privacy risks. Turn off what you don’t need. Harden your IoT devices. – Brian Contos, Verodin Inc.

  1. Secure the Perimeter

Most IoT devices do not have embedded security. Security is not a priority for device manufacturers. As a consumer, the best thing you can do is secure the perimeter of your home network. You can reduce your risk by securing and encrypting your wireless network, removing guest account access on your router and using strong passwords. Also consider creating a separate network to isolate IoT devices. – Frank Palermo, Virtusa

  1. Do Your Research

It’s important to take basic precautions such as keeping your passwords private, changing them often and using tool sets that enable you to choose a strong password. Make sure that the devices you’re purchasing are secured by the manufacturer. Before buying, do quick research to see if devices have gone through security testing or if there are stories about how easy the devices are to hack. – Marc Fischer, Dogtown Media LLC

  1. Treat Security as A Process

The IoT asks that consumers be as vigilant in protecting their devices and data as their most diligent corporate counterparts. Put bluntly, don’t do stupid stuff. In cyber security terms, don’t leave your doors unlocked. Select tough passwords and change them often. Don’t poach your neighbor’s Wi-Fi network. Read the manual (seriously). Treat security as a process, not an event. – Adam Stern, Infinitely Virtual

  1. Don’t Let Convenience Make You Forget Security

We worked on both sides of the story: in a security software company and in a company creating a wearable/IoT device for consumers. In the personal experience and through watching friends and family using IoT devices we saw one concerning pattern repeating itself over and over again: Convenience won over security—as soon as a device provided a lot of value, security got forgotten. – Eric Trabold, Nexkey, Inc.

Source: All the above opinions are personal perspective on the basis of information provided by Forbes and contributor Expert Panel, Forbes technology Council.


Eight Methods to Prioritize Your Project Slate and Boost Productivity

February 22nd, 2019

Entrepreneurs wear many hats as they deal with not only the expected projects, but also the unexpected challenges that arise every day at their budding companies. As a company evolves and grows, so too do the demands on an entrepreneur to oversee all of the moving pieces, making sure the entire company is moving toward a cohesive goal. The demands on an entrepreneur’s time all too often result in the feeling of being pulled in a million different directions at once—sometimes paralyzing progress as one wonders what to tackle first.

To remain productive and find success, entrepreneurs must find a method to focus and prioritize tasks. These methods can differ from company to company and person to person depending on what the business demands and each entrepreneur’s unique style. It’s important to explore options to find the one that works best for you.  To help, eight members of Young Entrepreneur Council share their own surefire methods to prioritize projects and boost productivity.

  1. Apply the ‘First Fruits’ Method

You will make 35,000 decisions each day. Some are conscious, and many are unconscious. The idea of “first fruits” is that we give our best, not our leftovers, to what is the most important to us. Navigating 35,000+ decisions each day is overwhelming, and our main priorities are lost. To remain focused, start with fixing the first two hours of your day. Devote the most uninterrupted, focused time to the most important objectives and key results you are working toward. During this time remove all distractions, including phones, emails and media. Be intentional about your environment, including light and even aspects such as sound or music. Remember, this is your best time and no one else’s. The fruit from planting seeds consistently during this time will grow success in all areas of your life. – Caroline Beckman, Nouri Life

  1. Do the Hard Stuff First

We’ve found that if we are not careful, the time is spent putting out small fires and handling mini-tasks that could either be done more efficiently or done by someone else. Then the important, difficult tasks wind up getting pushed off indefinitely—after all, there are always small tasks to take care of. However, if we block off an hour or two in the morning to dive into the bigger project that we’ve been dreading, we are able to get into a rhythm. The project can then be divided into smaller tasks and completed as needed. And because it’s still the morning, there’s plenty of time in the afternoon to take care of the small chores and deal with anything urgent that came up over the course of the day. – Jacob Drucker, Supply Clinic

  1. Embrace the Kanban Method

If you have teams working for you, then the Kanban method could be for you. Kanban is a Japanese term for “visual signal.” It has been used in the manufacturing process at companies like Toyota. Kanban works by visualizing the flow of work, tapping into the fact we process images 60,000 times faster than words. For example, you could use a “card” or “token” for each task and place them with the relevant team. As the task progresses, it moves through the different stages. It holds everyone accountable, increases efficiency and gets things done. There are tools out there that offer this approach, like Trello or Atlassian. – Ismael Wrixen, FE International

  1. Understand Severity and Priority

A concept well known in quality assurance may effectively be applied in entrepreneurship. Software defects are qualified with two labels: “severity” and “priority.” Severity is related to the overall impact and risk of the bug. Priority is the consecutive queue for executing ongoing tasks. Severity and priority appear as intertwined, but they are not necessarily. A low-severity problem may be raised to top priority in case of additional opportunities or hidden risks. This is a managerial decision and often involves multiple layers of command, including legal, accounting and the board of directors. Entrepreneurs should apply a quantifiable decision-making matrix that ranks severity and priority for seamless execution. Adopting this model speeds up iterations and effectively maximizes the outcome. – Mario Peshev, DevriX

  1. Focus On Revenue-Generating Activities

The focus has always been on identifying what’s going to generate the revenue and prioritizing it over anything else. Of course, many would say, “How do you find work-life balance with that method?” You can if you focus on revenue-generating activities for a few days a week, while the rest of the week can be for leisure or family time. For example, Monday through Thursday, the biggest focus is on how to save the company money and increase the bottom line. We try to understand the value each and every person is bringing to us and how we can make them more productive. Instead of focusing a lot on public relations, which is a long-term play, we are more focused on learning about our customers through a survey process. This will help us win loyalty, which is more important than acquisition in the long run. – Sweta Patel, Startup Growth Mode

  1. Be ‘Ruthless’ and Delegate

We subscribe to Sheryl Sandberg’s idea of ruthless prioritization. As a business owner, it’s critical that we make the tough calls. Look at what’s on your plate and decide which projects you will devote your time and attention to. Once you’ve done so, trust your team to carry out the rest. Make sure that top priorities and individual responsibilities are clearly communicated, and then trust your employees to make decisions accordingly. Trusting your employees and giving them the power to call some shots is highly motivating and generally leads to employee growth and increased accountability. If you’re hiring the right people, you should be able to delegate responsibility and decision-making authority to them. – Stephen Beach, Craft Impact Marketing

  1. Use the 80/20 Principle

In the long run, the most important thing is executing and accomplishing the big goals you set for yourself and your company. As such, you should be devoting most of your time to making serious progress on these projects. However, to do that effectively and run the company as a whole, there will be smaller, less critical but still highly important day-to-day tasks that will need your attention. We find the sweet spot to be devoting 80% of the time to accomplishing the long-term, big project goals through the highest leverage activities possible and 20% to the important day-to-day tasks that are needed to keep things running smoothly. Everything else should ideally get automated, systematized or handed off to someone else on your team to follow through on so you can stay in the genius zone. – Justin Faerman, Conscious Lifestyle Magazine

  1. Leverage Task Management Software

It’s easy to become flustered as a manager when there are all kinds of issues that only you can handle. When your employees are coming at you from every direction with ideas, complaints and feedback, it’s also easy to forget what you have to do to keep your business running smoothly. Prioritizing certain tasks over others becomes imperative, but without a clear idea of what’s on your plate, this all becomes much harder to accomplish. Task management software like Asana should be used to organize your tasks however you see fit. Asana offers powerful team collaboration features like accessible calendars, assigning tasks and subtasks to employees with due dates, adding followers, and much more. This makes it easier for you to delegate tasks and for employees to see when you’re swamped. – Reuben Yonatan, GetVoIP

Source: All the above opinions are personal perspective on the basis of information provided by Forbes and contributor Expert Panel, Young Entrepreneur Council.





13 Common Business Tech Investments That May Soon Be Obsolete

February 13th, 2019

Every year, new technologies are released, many of which have the potential to completely change the way in which businesses operate. Yet, not all new technologies are a fit for your company, and some new tech may actually be obsolete before the investment can pay off.

Which business tech, whether upcoming or currently on the market, may be obsolete before it pays for itself? To gain insider advice, we asked members of Forbes Technology Council to share their thoughts.

  1. On-Premise Hosting and Data Centers

Investment in technology related to on-premise infrastructure or self-hosted data center compute that is not directly leading you to migrating these to the cloud is probably money wasted. With cloud solutions getting cheaper, faster, and more nimble and secure than self-managed and self-hosted ones, investment should be heavily focused on migrating older infrastructure to the cloud in order to reduce technical debt. – Ian Amit, Cimpress

  1. The Security Hamster Wheel

Security owns a strange place in IT operations and investment. Off-the-shelf security products are invariably immediately out-of-date yet still required to mitigate, or at least minimize, a volume of the threats facing organizations today. As such, organizations must continue to reassess and reinvest in security processes, tools and talent to navigate today’s ever-changing threat landscape. – Chris Rommel, VDC Research

  1. Black Box Testing

Some enterprises use annual disaster recovery drills as a way of validating their resilience strategy. These drills require a lot of preparation, investment and technology, but they typically fail, because such “Black Box Testing” cannot tolerate today’s high levels of ongoing change. You need to invest in a proactive approach that can detect the risks before they cascade into an outage. – Gil Hecht, Continuity Software

  1. Intranet Platforms

We see many organizations looking to develop in-house intranets as social portals or communication platforms. These efforts are derailed by too many priorities, and employees ultimately gravitate to more contemporary productivity tools. Having a well-curated ecosystem of third-party point solutions around collaboration, workplace culture and communications is a quicker and more productive approach. – Doug Claffey, Energage

  1. Blockchain Technology

Many companies have been trying to add blockchain to their tech infrastructure when it’s not needed. The last few years of blockchain hype have led people to ignore actual technological necessity: Many tasks that companies are solving today with complex blockchain solutions could be solved with more conventional approaches and a faster return on investment. – Artem Petrov, Reinvently

  1. Data Lakes

There has been a massive wave of investment in “data lakes”—large data warehouses that collect all of a business’ data into one place. However, cloud technology is accelerating so quickly that a data lake created today will be obsolete in a year as faster, better data storage platforms become available. The large investment now will become a liability in the future. – Sean Byrnes, Outlier AI

  1. Enterprise Resource Planning

The promise of ERP implementations: lower cost, increased business coordination and agility driven through the roof! The actuality of ERP implementations: increased licensing costs over time, a diminishing pool of vendors and data islands. Is this a factor of the software or the org and culture? I would venture to guess a bit of both A and B. Instead, focus on atomic business processes and tools. – David Espinosa, ITS Logistics

  1. Scaled Agile Framework

Investing in Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) can be part of a continuous improvement and delivery system, but ROI may not be worthwhile. Incomplete tasks get reprioritized during backlog grooming, which delays functionality. Then add the expense of agile software, SAFe training and cross-functional support. Ultimately, a non-agile approach might yield the same results. – Brian Patrick, GREENLIGHT Inc.

  1. AI (Or What We Think Is ‘AI’)

AI is evolving fast. AI was the rage in 2018 and will continue to hold everyone’s fascination in 2019. Companies are making hasty and heavy investments to acquire AI startups, technology platforms and new talent to “check the AI box and mark it done.” The myopic approach to AI is reminiscent of the dot-com days when almost everyone got e-commerce wrong and those left standing had to start over. – Apurva “Apu” Kumar, LotaData, Inc.

  1. 4G Technology

Companies that are releasing mobility solutions that are optimized for 4G and LTE experiences are at grave risk of not seeing an appropriate ROI. These solutions aren’t being future-proofed for the opportunities that the rollout of 5G hyperspeed data connectivity is going to bring to industries of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds and will be perceived as archaic by the consumer. – Marc Fischer, Dogtown Media LLC

  1. Small To Midsize Routers

The reason that most routers are unnecessary is that Layer 3 switches have come down so much in price that you can replace a few switches at the top of the stack and achieve all of the routing capability needed, as well as improve throughput dramatically in the network. This is true if your compute systems are on premises or in the cloud. There still needs to be connectivity internally and externally. – Michael Meyer, MRS BPO, LLC

  1. Desktop Phones, Call Centers

Today we only have phones in conference rooms, and nobody has complained in two years. Call centers are being replaced by chat bots. Supply chain logistics are better done at scale by third parties right now. Webex and even Skype are archaic and a waste of money. Better, cheaper solutions are available. – Kamal Ahluwalia, Eightfold AI, Inc.

  1. Hardware Devices

Most companies still purchase too many hardware devices when in reality they don’t need them. Expensive networking equipment and even servers are not always necessary. Most equipment nowadays can be replaced by migrating to the cloud. Plus, expensive hardware will definitely be obsolete sooner than later. – Ivailо Nikolov, SiteGround

Source: All the above opinions are personal perspective on the basis of information provided by Forbes and contributor Expert Panel, Forbes Technology Council.





Encourage Your Team to Install Software Updates with These 10 Tactics

January 31st, 2019

Software updates fix bugs, increase security and improve performance. However, even knowing this, many employees delay the dreaded update, thereby putting your organization at risk.

No matter how busy staff members are or how inconvenient installing updates might seem, you should ensure your company’s team members don’t put it off for too long. To that end, we asked Forbes Technology Council members how to ensure that all of your company’s employees routinely update their software. Here are their tips.

  1. Revoke Access until They Patch

You can show stats, share tales of woe and conduct awareness training, but for most, keeping systems patched doesn’t top the to-do list. Consider network access control (NAC). NAC can require systems to be at certain patch levels to access company assets. Simply put, if they need to be patched to do their jobs, they will be more likely to patch. – Brian Contos, Verodin Inc.

  1. Send Regular Reminders

At QArea any important software update is accompanied by a companywide email to prompt employees to install the update. Furthermore, to remove resistance, we ensure that time is allocated to install these updates, usually during the last hour of the workday. – Maxim Garkavtsev, QArea Software Development Company

  1. Use Penetration Testing To Prove the Need for Updates

Nothing does as good a job in teaching a security lesson as pen-testing. By performing a penetration test (with written permission) of software, you demonstrate the need to keep software up to date. Reputable vendors will provide software updates and new software versions to improve the security and performance of the application, but this is only good if your company stays up to date. – Michael Hoyt, Life Cycle Engineering, Inc.

  1. Hold Employees Accountable For Security Issues

While this is “stick” and not “carrot,” people need to be held accountable for security violations if they are responsible for patching and updating their own laptop or software platforms used for business. Sadly, for this type of negligence, I rarely see action taken. – Bret Piatt, Jungle Disk

  1. Educate Your Team

Educate your companywide team so that they are aware of the risks involved when not updating software for security purposes. Start with the executives and have them manage those working under them. This should be a top priority for all businesses, because one link can bring down the whole system. Making your team aware of the issues is an informative way for your team to take action. – Alexandro Pando, Xyrupt Technologies

  1. Assign a Risk Score to Each Department

At a previous employer, we had issues where business units did not want to update their enterprise applications. To address this we conducted a full risk assessment on each department, which included a list of their apps, current vulnerabilities and required remediation steps. We then put a letter grade to each assessment and shared them business wide so each department knew where they stood. – Gary Hayslip, Webroot Inc.

  1. Encourage Updating At Lunch Time

Let’s face it: Software updates are boring. One practical way to make it work is to remind users when they are about to leave for lunch. Remind them about the patches to be run at the time when they don’t have to be staring at their screens. Check out when the user is passive (not difficult) and remind them at that time. They are already passive and won’t mind the time it takes to patch. – Ashwin Ramasamy, PipeCandy

  1. Automate the Process

Desktop management software can automatically install the latest software updates, security patches and antivirus software on desktops, laptops and mobile devices—and keep track of your “fleet.” All of our Macs are configured with a standard set of apps and Jamf, a management tool that automates the software on these devices. There are similar tools available for Windows PCs as well. – Vinay Pai,

  1. Create an Internal Security Chat Room

Internally we maintain a security Slack channel. Since several of us learn about security issues before they are generally available, we post when we know a patch will be forthcoming, without breaking an embargo. People like to anticipate problems. With their attention fixed on that channel, they eagerly react when they need to update their machines. – Sandra Carrico, Glynt.AI, a business unit of WattzOn

  1. Make Security Part of Your Culture

When security and data protection become a part of the culture, process adherence becomes a part of everyday life. Start by defining and documenting the policies and processes, and then make sure they are communicated effectively. Stress very clearly why they are important to the business and what would happen if a breach occurred. Provide ongoing communication and training to support the program. – Brent Yax, Awecomm Technologies

Source: All the above opinions are personal perspective on the basis of information provided by Forbes and contributor Expert Panel, Forbes Technology Council.



Launching a New Product? Here Are 16 Tips for Effectively Testing It First

January 22nd, 2019

As a business, you want to provide the highest-quality products and services to your customers. To make sure the launch of a new offering goes smoothly, it’s essential to thoroughly and effectively test it first. That way, if any issues arise, you’ll have time to revise without risking your reputation.

We asked a panel of Forbes Agency Council members to share their best tips for testing a new product or service. If you want to please your audience and give your new offering its best chance for success, follow their tips.

  1. Start Early

As soon as you have a minimum viable product (MVP), begin to test it out. There are trendsetting types who love working with MVPs before anyone else gets the final product. Once the product is polished, it’s probably too late to take advantage of curious beta testers. Get the first-user advantage and do continuous testing as soon as you have an MVP. – Brandon Stapper, Nonstop Signs

  1. Host a Diverse Focus Group

Host a focus group with a mix of loyal and potential customers to get a range of feedback. It can be helpful to watch the reactions firsthand, ask questions as they’re seeing it for the first time and then take that and apply any changes needed to the product or service before revealing it to the public. Customer feedback can be so powerful when collected properly. – Matt Bowman, Thrive Internet Marketing Agency

  1. Genuinely Listen To Feedback

You have to be willing to listen to feedback and then be willing to not just tweak, but maybe even pivot. There is a ton of research, hard work, internal testing and pride of authorship in developing a new product or service. Be careful of the attachment and resistance that comes with all of that. Your new product/service will perform with a new audience if you genuinely listen to them. – Beth Noymer Levine, SmartMouth Communications

  1. Try to Prove Yourself Wrong

Collect data, evaluate its relevance, assess the risks, and then make a decision. How do you get good data? Better yet, how do you identify good data? Excitement typically leads to confirmation biases. The first step to testing is shifting mindsets. Treat it like research, and do your best to disprove your hypothesis. Creating this culture will facilitate an ecosystem that is welcoming to criticism. – Ahmad Kareh, Twistlab Marketing

  1. Have Children Test Your Products

The marvel of iOS was that it gave birth to a line of software that is so intuitive kids can use it. As we built our software the goal was to make it just as easy. So we invite our staff’s kids to test our products. We go no higher than children at a 12th-grade level, then work our way down to those at a seventh-grade level. If they can use it, the product is ready to go live. – Giovanni Sanguily, TRIdigital Marketing

  1. Leverage Influencer Relationships

The standard practice with influencer marketing gears towards sales promotion. However, it is also an effective way to test a new product or explore a new customer group. Instead of asking influencers to promote a product, ask for their candid feedback and experience using the product. When you involve them in the beta testing phase, you build the relationship for future launch as well. – Yan Zhang, XYZ Advantage

  1. Hire a Market Testing Company

Market testing is a great gauge and worth the investment to ensure your tweaks are taking you in the right direction. If you can’t properly implement this testing in-house, there are companies that do market testing. Take advantage of market testing companies to make sure you are heading in the right direction. – Peter Boyd, PaperStreet Web Design

  1. Plan the Perfect Prototype

The most effective method of testing is prototyping. Ensure there is a balance between creating a prototype robust enough to deliver a taste of the experience, but minimal enough that you aren’t committing too many resources. Based on audience feedback, edit your prototype accordingly, and ultimately this will lead to a satisfactory final product or service. – Danny Fritz, SBX Group

  1. Run Pilot Tests and Proof of Concept Campaigns

At OMI, we’ve found that pilot campaigns and proof of concept (POC) testing offer an excellent way to prove to clients that our email marketing services deliver as promised and that audiences will respond. For example, we do POCs for our data cleansing services at no charge, and we do pilot testing for our email acquisition campaigns. After testing, we then roll out the full campaign. – Paula Chiocchi, Outward Media, Inc.

  1. Offer the Chance to Use the Product at a Discount

There are two questions to consider. First, there is actual performance: whether your product/service will work for the new audience. Second is whether the new audience will care about it enough to buy it. By offering it at a discount, you get to answer both. You get feedback from actual users, and you evaluate the interest too (if they don’t buy at a discount, they won’t buy full price). – Rafael Romis, Weberous Web Design

  1. Take an Integrated Testing Approach

Start by defining alpha, beta and generally available (GA) test stages. Then ensure cross-departmental involvement in determining key performance indicators (KPIs) of success at each stage. Use these metrics as gating factors to determine if the product or service is ready to progress to the next phase. Rather than a waterfall approach, consider an integrated, agile team of diverse functions across product, support and DevOps. – Preethy Vaidyanathan, Tapad

  1. Automate the Pretest When Possible

As an agency delivering end-to-end digital, we’ve seen success in using test-driven development techniques and automation to pretest the functional, and even some of the design, aspects of web projects. This approach to our technical deliverables has enabled our team to spend less time on testing, while at the same time improving quality, because we’re able to focus on big-ticket items. – David Ward, Meticulosity

  1. Do Primary Research First

Primary research is a highly underutilized tool, especially for creative agencies. Using data improves many aspects of product/service development, especially avoiding the produce-then-test cycle. Engaging your target helps consumers build trust with you and helps you avoid unnecessary failure. – Mimi Lettunich, Twenty Four 7

  1. Gauge Interest with Pre-Order Sales

One trick you can use is to set a pre-order sale to gauge interest if you have a new product. Gather qualitative data on what your audience cares about most, and effectively test different elements on your site to find out what holds the most weight in the eyes of the visitors. Figure out what they care about most, what they like and dislike, and what their biggest problem areas are that you solve. – Justin Christianson, Conversion Fanatics

  1. Do a Simple Split Test

Simple split-testing is relatively easy using landing pages on a website. Randomly segment your list, sending half to version A and half to version B. While, depending on the sample size, your data might not be significant, is there anything you can learn? The answer is usually absolutely, yes. – Jesse Marble, Magneti

  1. Test in Real-Life Scenarios

Many marketers immediately think of focus groups when testing new products, but if you’re familiar with focus groups, you know that it’s not quite the same as testing that same product “in the wild.” By introducing your new product to a small test market, followed with more in-depth interviews, you’re able to see how it fares in the real world, which will give the best feedback for optimization. – Kevin Smith, Mighty Roar

Source: All the above opinions are personal perspective on the basis of information provided by Forbes and contributor Expert Panel, Forbes Agency Council.



Developing a Major Project: Eight Ways to Improve Planning

January 17th, 2019

As companies grow in complexity and size, so do their projects. Executing these major projects can be either massively beneficial or unfortunately troublesome. On the one hand, bigger projects usually involve a lot more people or teams and higher funding, which allows for more diverse ideas to be explored and carried out. However, having a larger number of people or moving parts can introduce unhelpful elements, such as increased chances for miscommunication or errors.

In order to get the best result out of your project, developing a plan of execution is often the best course of action. So which steps are the most effective for developing that plan? Below, members of Young Entrepreneur Council share their most effective tactical step in developing execution plans that work. Here’s what they advise:

  1. Define All ‘Whys’

The real, business-centric answer to why we are doing something is where most major problems on projects start. Complex projects will have lots of whys and it is important to capture all of them. From there, use prioritization to define measurable goals that achieve your “whys” to keep the scope of work on target and reactive to what’s doable alongside what’s impactful. – Adam Brazg, Bilberrry

  1. Begin at the End

An execution plan must begin at the end. Have a clear picture of what you want to achieve and build a ladder from the ground up, making each step an achievement before you reach the ultimate goal. – Elisabeth Swardstrom, PixelFish

  1. Use Organizational Tools

Internally, we like to use a variety of tools to organize our plan of attack for upcoming projects or client work. We use as a project management tool in order to keep track of individual itemized tasks that go into the project as a whole. I think having some kind of structured organizational tools will help a lot in executing and planning major projects. – Lorne Fade, VR Vision Inc.

  1. Sell the Team on the Idea

The first step to any project is to sell yourself and your team first. Once you sell the team, then you can effectively raise capital, and sell everyone else on it. Without this 110% belief, the project is doomed to fail. – Tarry Summers, KP Real Estate Group

  1. Build the Right Team

One of the most important steps in developing an execution plan for a major project is ensuring you have assembled the right team. Each project is different, but you must make sure you have a mixture of vision, strategy, project management and execution. Without the proper mix of skills, you’ll fail. Vision without execution is a hallucination. – Craig Haynie, AtlanTech Resellers, Inc DBA CablesAndKits

  1. Hash out A Plan With Leaders

Get all the people involved in a room to hash out the plan. Have all the decision makers in a room in a distraction-free environment: Anyone and everyone that need to have a say must be in the room. Then mentally walk through the journey of implementing the plan top down, starting with customer or end-user journey, and then going down to the details of meeting her or his needs. – Bramh Gupta, RoboMQ

  1. Envision the Ideal Outcome

When creating a strategic execution plan for major projects, always start by envisioning the ideal outcome. What are we looking to achieve? What specifically defines that outcome? How long do we project it to take to complete? From there, tactically work backward, identifying the milestones that need to be hit to complete the major project. This will give you a clear roadmap to get started. – Connor Gillivan, FreeeUp

  1. Dedicate Time to Prepare

As a leader, you will see more — and see earlier — than the others around you. Processing what you see into the most successful team execution plan requires quiet and dedicated space. In leadership, private preparation is the source of public power. The most tactical step in developing an execution plan is to dedicate the first hour of your work day, focused and uninterrupted, to preparing your plan. – Caroline Beckman, Nouri Life

Source: All the above opinions are personal perspective on the basis of information provided by Forbes and contributor Expert Panel, Young Entrepreneur Council.

Is It Time To Test Your New Product’s Usability? 13 Tech Experts Weigh In

January 8th, 2019

The new product development cycle can be quite complex, especially when it comes to technology. There’s a lot of planning, testing and tinkering that must happen before a tech product is ready to hit the market, and sometimes it requires going back to the drawing board.

An essential step in this process is usability testing, which helps determine whether a product functions as expected or whether it needs additional fine tuning. But how do you know the right time to begin this testing? To find out, we asked a group of Forbes Technology Council members to share their opinions.

  1. The Idea Is On Paper

You should test as early as there is a hypothesis to validate. Usability testing should start with sketches and low-fi prototypes as early as an idea is vetted within the company walls. Earlier feedback always provides extremely valuable insight, not only to usability, but also in gauging interest for the new product. – Bruno Guicardi, CI&T

  1. Code Is Being Written

If there is code being written, you should be testing usability. This usability testing not only covers your customers, but also your developers and any internal team member who interacts with the product or codebase. This is imperative to keep your velocity high and make an easy transition to focusing on usability testing for your customer without taking steps backward. – Philip Hutchins, Storj Labs Inc.

  1. The First Mock-up Is Ready

It’s best to start usability testing from the very beginning — from the very first wireframe and mock-up you have. Otherwise, you are just assuming. Early usability testing could help you observe the way users will interact with your product and what their struggles, concerns and biggest needs would be. – Ivailо Nikolov, SiteGround

  1. You Have Users

You’re ready as soon as you have users. A lesson Y-Combinator taught me is that to make something people want, you should be exercising two important things: talking to users and building the product. They’re both important, but talking to users is the first step in testing usability. If you’re not doing it, start now, and then move on to more formal processes when needed. – Russell Smith, Rainforest QA, Inc

  1. You Have Basic Criteria for Usability

Finding out the user group on both edges of the consumer spectrum would be the first key step to test readiness for usability. The usability findings matrix formed by these user groups against the mock model of the product should be vetted against the intermediate product outcomes to see if they surpass the 80/20 rule that is set as the gating criteria for usability. – Shafeer Badharudeen, Attinad Software

  1. Tasks Are Ready For a User to Complete

Usability testing should start as soon as there are tasks for a user to complete, because the earlier that product teams can start getting feedback from users on what they are building, the better. Early testing can be as simple as informal “hallway” testing using paper prototypes. As the product matures, the testing can take advantage of a more formal, structured series of tests. – Peter Mourfield, TaxSlayer

  1. You’re moving Into Beta Mode

With today’s compressed production cycle, usability testing should begin as soon as possible to ensure an effective product launch. Once a product hits beta testing, it should go to the field with trusted clients. This provides a 360-degree test of the product’s usability and powerful insight into how the product will fare in the real world. There is no substitute for a real-world product test. – Paul Ryznar, OPS Solutions, LLC

  1. You Have A Diverse User Base Willing To Test

Test with a wide variety of users. Validating the user’s experience for things like visual contrast, large fonts and screen reader support are critical to ensuring that all your customers have a great experience. If your product supports multiple languages, there is nobody better to validate that your translations are on point than a native speaker. – Amy Czuchlewski, Bottle Rocket

  1. You Need To Test Any Of The Features

Usability testing is not a one-time event. It should be embedded throughout the lifecycle as necessary and applicable. There is nothing more costly or disappointing than to find that a strong, feature-rich application with good business logic is not intuitive. When this happens, adoption suffers. And sometimes it is too costly and too late to adjust for usability. – Mohamad Zahreddine, TrialAssure

  1. You’re approaching Your Minimum Viable Product Goals

Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, said, “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” Pre-launch, teams should set the readiness bar even lower for usability testing — and itch for feedback. Define your minimum viable product goals at the outset of the design and start usability testing well before you’ve hit those goals so your assumptions can be challenged. – Evan Kohn, Pypestream

  1. Your User Interface Is Ready

It’s important you build the user interface features of the product first, which enables the usability testing. All core features need not be functional at this point in time; minimal features enabling the user to start interacting with the product and letting them experience the core features by mocking them helps us understand how intuitive it is to use, avoiding fixes post-launch. – Sujeeth Kanuganti, Aira Tech Corp

  1. You Have Incorporated the Needs and Wants of a Beta Panel

Usability highly depends on your testing the market for your product. The idea is to kill two birds with one stone. When you find an intersect of needs and wants from a beta panel of users you are targeting, develop what will satisfy both customers. Keep your beta customers engaged, show and tell, iterate. Be humble and agile every step of the way and you will be ready for widespread testing. – Waije Coler, InfoTracer

  1. You’re At Any Point in The Process

You should always test usability, from the first sketches made on paper to the very last point of the design. There’s no “correct moment” to do it; everything you do in a design process should be user-oriented, which means being fully aware of how they will interact with the product. If you’re not testing usability throughout the whole process, you’re working in the dark. – Nacho De Marco, BairesDev

Source: All the above opinions are personal perspective on the basis of information provided by Forbes and contributor Expert Panel, Forbes Technology Council.

2019 Tech Forecast: 11 Experts Predict the Next Wave of Breakout Technologies

January 2nd, 2019


In 2018, the world witnessed the continued development of technologies like artificial intelligence and virtual reality. As these tools become more accessible and widely used among both businesses and consumers, many tech industry experts are speculating about what the next “big thing” will be.

Looking ahead to 2019, we asked a panel of Forbes Technology Council members for their take on upcoming trends in their field. From blockchain as a service to enterprise content management, here are their predictions about the next wave of breakout technologies.

  1. Blockchain

The blockchain is not as revolutionary as artificial intelligence (AI), or as intuitive and user-friendly as voice control, but it will transform the way we handle finance, real estate, Internet of Things (IoT), the supply chain of most industries and much more. That’s why governments are rushing to incorporate it in every sense they can; they know the high cost of falling behind on this. – Nacho De Marco, BairesDev

  1. Blockchain as a Service

In 2019 we will begin to see the first practical implementations of blockchain, beyond the cryptocurrency use case, and unlock distributed marketplaces and computing systems that leverage communities for sharing of resources in both a cost- and resource-efficient manner. These technologies will be enabled through the blockchain-as-a-service platforms being unveiled by IBM, Azure and AWS. – Danny Allan, Veeam Software

  1. AI-Led Automation

The breakout technology of 2019 is definitely going to be AI-led automation. It’s expected that data mining and management, business processes, information technology (IT) services, customer support, and many other sectors will witness automation via neural networks and machine-learning-based solutions. – Amit Jnagal, Infrrd

  1. Machine Learning

AI and machine learning (ML) were born in the ’80s, but the hardware was never fast enough to deliver the expected promise. Now, ML libraries are readily available, and the cloud provides all the computing you need. Thanks to AI and ML, marketers can improve revenue growth, support reps can deliver better answers, service professionals can deliver insights and customers can connect all their data. – Vinay Pai,

  1. Enterprise Content Management

In 2019, more documentation will originate digitally, eliminating the need for organizations to “go paperless” in the first place. Enterprise Content Management (ECM) software integrates disparate data from across your organization through the use of electronic forms and automated workflows. By empowering this exchange of data, businesses maximize their return on investment (ROI) and customer acquisition costs (CAC) throughout customer lifecycles. – James Hwang, Cal Net Technology Group, a NexusTek Company

  1. AI for the Back Office

There’s a lot of hype around the potential of AI, but one area that is often overlooked is the power of AI to revolutionize workflows. In 2019, we’ll see the start of AI making a noticeable impact on the back office, from increasing electronic operations to streamlining identification and credentialing. These developments have the ability to transform labor-intense processes across industries. – Charles Aunger, Health2047 Inc.

  1. Quantum Computing AI Applications

2019 will be the year of quantum computing AI applications. Quantum technology recently became available for the public on the cloud and is now set to have a large transformative impact on many industries, providing solutions and answers to problems that supercomputers couldn’t solve before. Major applications are expected in health care (material science), trading and in cyber security. – Nir Kaldero, Galvanize Inc.

  1. Mainstreamed IoT

While IoT is not a new concept, it will move from pre-adoption to a mainstream solution that retail, manufacturing, health care and other industries will integrate as an everyday business operation. It will change the way consumers and businesses get real-time data, engage with their users and interact with AI and machine learning. – Frank Cittadino, QOS Networks

  1. 5G

With the recent explosion of connected devices and IoT, mobile connectivity via 5G will become a major player and competitor to all things Wi-Fi. But the real question will be who can bring 5G to market quickly, painlessly and affordably for both consumers and industry alike. – Andy Dalton, IVM, Inc.

  1. Realistic Robots

If you’ve seen any of the Boston Dynamics robot videos, like the dog that opens doors, you know there’s a whole frontier of robotics that is starting to get into exciting (or scary) territory. As these robots integrate the type of intelligence that machine learning and modern AI techniques offer, we’re going to start seeing more and more robots that look and feel like living beings. – David Isaac Murray,

  1. Split Testing Via ML

Split testing, or A/B testing, has helped companies increase conversions for their businesses across the board. I think we’re going to see an advancement with split testing thanks to machine learning. For example, instead of manually designing different layouts of a website and seeing which one performs better, different layouts would be shown to different customers automatically. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

Source: All the above opinions are personal perspective on the basis of information provided by Forbes and contributor Expert Panel, Forbes Technology Council.


Bridge the Tech Design Divide: 14 Ways to Deal with Conflicting Project Goal

December 24th, 2018

New product design is a core component of day-to-day business for many tech companies, but it can come with complications. While it’s often exciting, validating and fun to design a tech product as a team, there’s a real chance for conflict to arise. With so many people invested in the project, there may be multiple goals to be reconciled.

If there are too many or conflicting project goals under consideration it can hamper progress, endanger deadlines and damage the design team’s cohesion. So, what’s the best course for leaders faced with competing product goals? Below, 14 members of Forbes Technology Council offer their advice.

  1. Categorize Your Goals

When you have conflicting goals for a product design, you have to first categorize them as “must have” or “nice to have.” You then prioritize which goals are important for a target market and customers. Get customer feedback and then decide on the goals. – Naresh Soni, Tsunami ARVR

  1. Let the Market Settle Conflict

Gain feedback by asking your target customer base strategically designed discovery questions; ask a minimum of 50 customers. We use the feedback as design inputs and then set the product design goals as a team. This method keeps the design team focused on serving customer needs and avoids internal conflicts and egos. – Ryan Ramkhelawan, CleanEndo

  1. Develop Customer Maps

One of the most important topics to evaluate when a new project arises is how the project will provide benefit to the customer and stakeholder. Therefore, all new projects should be evaluated and aligned with a customer map. Conflicting goals can be easily resolved by assessing what most benefits the customer. – Maria Clemens, Management and Network Services, LLC

  1. Designate A Single ‘Chef’

“Too many chefs spoil the stew” means that too many designers will lead to conflicting goals. Inviting discourse helps to refine goals in the interest of the finished product, but too many decision makers will only cause delays. From the start, decide who makes final decisions to ensure you are moving the product design forward while incorporating feedback from testing and other team members. – Arnie Gordon, Arlyn Scales

  1. Align To Your Company’s Vision

Stick to your company’s vision or to the intended value the product is supposed to deliver. Ask yourself which one of the conflicting goals will make you progress effectively toward the vision or value and decide. – Thiru Sivasubramanian, SE2, LLC

  1. Work Backward From The Customer

Whether conflicting goals come from conflicting business objectives, conflicting design philosophies or just personal preferences on the product team, always try to work backward from what best serves the customers. They give us the right to do business, independent of what’s going on inside the walls of our own companies or the results of our past experiences. – Steve Pao, Hill work, LLC

  1. Make A Data-Driven Decision

We use prioritization matrices to determine which feature has the best overall value to the business. We’ll assign a weight to each business goal (for example, UX, revenue, optimization and so on). Then we’ll rate each feature’s contribution toward each business goal. Once we tally the feature up according to the weighted goals, the features that should be implemented first will pop to the top. – Kathy Keating, Apostrophe, Inc.

  1. Remember the Bottom Line

It’s easy to get swept up in market trends or to want to build a “cool” product. Leaders must always consider the financial ramifications of each decision. For example, time spent trying the latest design trend could instead be spent adding revenue-generating features; don’t lose customers and sales in an effort to make the product flashier. Don’t be afraid to intervene if costs outweigh benefits. – Jason Gill, The HOTH

  1. Abandon Analysis Paralysis

You’re always going to have conflicting priorities, whether in product design, market focus, reporting structure or whatever. The most important thing is to not get stuck in analysis paralysis. Take in all the facts, then make a decision — keeping alive a state of ambiguity is much worse than picking a path you later have to course correct. – Chris Moustakas, DevonWay

  1. Find Ways to Reach Common Ground

Listen to each conflicting goal and hear why it’s important to consider. Find ways to reach common ground or unite the goals. Give everyone time to explain, and make it an inclusive experience. When you decide which goals make the most sense, communicate why to everyone involved. Always make it about the end objective. – Jon Bradshaw, Calendar

  1. Apply The 80% Rule

When planning, there are near-term, long-term and bleeding-edge goals. I’ve always applied the 80% rule to near-term goals. If there’s a conflict on which features or products should get the lion’s share of capital and time, it should be useful and/or asked for by 80% of users. Many really great things are developed and never see success because too few users know how to use them. – Tom Roberto, Core Technology Solutions

  1. Have a Clear Goal in Mind

It takes conflicting views to get the best ideas, through either testing assumptions or trial and error. But without a clear goal the outcomes will be muddled and the product experience will suffer. What is helpful is to focus on objectives and an organization’s grand vision, identifying your end users accurately and working backwards on how a product will solve problems instead of creating them. – Marc Fischer, Dogtown Media LLC

  1. Make Fair and Analytical Decisions

For true conflict items where the team needs to choose “A” or “B” for a major feature, the decision must be made fair and analytical. Ask yourself and your team which feature is (1) most important to our target market? (2) most difficult for a competitor to produce at or above our quality? (3) the least limiting to other aspects of the product? – Bret Piatt, Jungle Disk

  1. Test Mock-ups with Real Users

It is not uncommon to have several goals when building products. The conflict often arises from translating goals to design and attempting to use one design to satisfy many goals. I recommend mocking up and testing several product designs with real users and seeing how many goals can be achieved with specific designs. I have witnessed far too many goals fail based on unproven design assumptions. – Chris Kirby, Retired

Source: All the above opinions are personal perspective on the basis of information provided by Forbes and contributor Expert Panel, Forbes Technology Council.


The Power of Business Intelligence Tools

December 17th, 2018

According to estimates, 80% of global data is unstructured. This data resides in social media feeds, digital photos, emails and audio files, to name a few. Unstructured data can be hard to analyze, which means businesses can fail to utilize the treasure trove of data they have access to. That’s where modern business intelligence tools come in.

We now have access to tools that can collate data from various sources, including apps, websites and blogs, that businesses can use to create actionable reports. In fact, as technology matures to analyze videos and images, business intelligence tools are increasingly becoming more capable of prescriptive analysis.

Prescriptive analytics can not only be used to predict market trends, but it can, in fact, be used to create a simpler, more engaging user experience. Imagine being alerted to an impending arrhythmia based on your recent activity and health trends of people with similar profiles across the globe.

While prescriptive analytics might be a way off, still, there are other immediate benefits that business intelligence tools can offer.

The Power Of Business Intelligence Tools

Business intelligence tools increasingly come with mobile and cloud compatibility, which allows users to access data insights from anywhere. This on-demand access to data insights can allow businesses to have more mobile teams, which also means a wider talent pool to pick from. In addition to intelligence tools’ increasing ease of use, there are three primary reasons why businesses should leverage them.

  1. The Advantage Of The ‘Agile’ Approach

The agile model of the business depends on quick iterations to arrive at the desired outcome. Quick iterations, in turn, rely on testing and data collection, both of which are possible through business intelligence (BI) tools. Moreover, since it is possible to give the entire organization access to the same data, BI tools can facilitate more efficient teamwork. Imagine the entire marketing department having access to insights and tweaking campaigns in real time. Or the entire development team getting reports on app usage and making improvements to UX accordingly.

  1. More Convincing Power

Marketing departments often run into the problem of justifying dollar spend. Proving the ROI of digital marketing, in particular, can be very difficult, given that most organizations implement an omnichannel approach, and most user journeys are divided between various touch points, online and offline.

BI tools can help organizations make sense of all the data that’s pouring in from different sources. By analyzing reports and fetching insights, marketing departments can make better pitches for increased funding.

  1. The Power Of Personalization

BI tools can support a whole host of analytical functions, including online analytical processing, data visualization and performance scorecards. Functions can be combined together to flesh out user personas, which can then be used to improve the personalization of marketing messages. In fact, the agile approach fits perfectly with the quest to improve customer experience and ultimately conversions, with the help of personalization.

A Few Common BI Tools 

Business intelligence tools have grown rapidly in popularity and functionality in the last four years or so. In fact, it is estimated that the BI and analytics software market will be worth more than $20 billion by 2020, with a heavy emphasis on mobile BI.

Contrary to popular belief, not all BI tools are complicated or expensive. There are quite a few easy-to-use options that can provide value to small businesses. Here are some commonly used BI tools in the market today that our clients use and that we work with when analyzing data and making strategic decisions for our clients. These are just a few tools that, in my opinion, have the right mix of functionality, ease of use and affordability.

Microsoft Power BI 

First launched in 2015, Microsoft Power BI is one of the most affordable data analytics tools I’ve seen in the market. It stands out for its data visualization capabilities and real-time trends analysis. With navigation very similar to Microsoft Excel, it is easy to use for Excel power users. In fact, integration with other popular Microsoft tools, such as SQL Server, is seamless. However, if you have large data sets to analyze, Power BI might not be for you. With large data sets, there can be a severe performance lag.


Sisense has simpler dashboards that are still informative. It can handle large data sets with ease, thanks to its columnar approach and efficient use of CPU for speed. However, Sisense is one of the more expensive tools in the market.

IBM Cognos Analytics

This business intelligence tool includes unique products that set it apart from the competition. Analysis tools include what-if analysis, trend analysis and advanced analysis, each of which can help users make better decisions faster. With customized notifications, cross-department analysis and easy scalability, it can be a powerful tool in the right hands but does come at a cost and with a steep learning curve.

Google Data Studio

Free for Google account users, Google Data Studio is a reporting tool that just came out of beta. Since it is a Google product, it integrates seamlessly with other products from the search engine giant, including Google Analytics. Quick and seamless integration means that importing data from your search marketing and advertising efforts is super easy. In my opinion, Google Data Studio really takes the cake in the collaboration department. It offers similar functionalities to other Google products, such as assigning different permissions to team members and being able to share reports with just about anyone.

However, it is not as advanced as some of the more mature BI tools in the market. For instance, it offers pretty basic visualization options, and there is no way to customize the tool tip.


One of the most popular BI tools in the market, Tableau stands out for its intensive data visualization capabilities. It allows you to perform some really complex data visualization tasks with ease. Tableau also has a robust mobile client, which means you can perform analysis duties on the go. However, Tableau can be more expensive, at least for larger organizations.

With the collection of available business intelligence tools, organizations shouldn’t have a problem finding the right product fit. An investment in business intelligence leads to faster and more accurate reporting, moving data to insight and action.

Source: All the above opinions are personal perspective on the basis of information provided by Forbes and contributor Steven Widen.