IT

3 BPM Trends You’ll Want To Keep Up With

When you’re intently focused on improving in-house processes, there’s a fair chance that you could lose sight of what’s happening in the industry at large. It’s certainly not enough to merely refer to a BPM guide once and assume that’s all there is to know about it. There are ongoing technological advancements to keep up with, not to mention continually evolving BPM methodology.
A great way to stay updated is to follow industry trends. These predictions are usually a combination of a keen understanding of what BPM practitioners are lacking, insight into customer expectations, and expected technological developments.
Some BPM trends that are gaining a large following are described below.
Robotic process automation
Robotic process automation (RPA) is the use of technology to automate high-volume, repeatable tasks usually performed by humans. RPA uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to process transactions, manipulate data, trigger responses, and communicate with other systems.

Examples of tasks that can be improved with RPA include processing payments, handling claims, timesheet submissions, and more.
How companies benefit from RPA

Higher productivity levels of employees
Effective resource allocation to activities that require human intervention
Greater cost savings from elimination of redundancies
Quicker turnaround times due to improved process efficiency
Compliance with industry-mandated regulations and standards
Efficient recording and protection of data facilitated by cloud storage

RPA finds effective application in functions across organizations such as customer service, accounting, financial services, healthcare, supply chain management, and human resources.
Adoption of RPA is already underway in many digital native companies across the world and the payoffs are beginning to manifest. In the years to come, more legacy organizations will embrace RPA and the focus will shift to scaling.
Artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a critical facilitator of BPM goals, from increased efficiency to improved customer experiences. Using technological concepts such as machine learning, natural language processing, visual recognition, big data, and more, AI strives to simulate human intelligence using programmable software.
How AI supports BPM initiatives

Automation of mundane tasks and removal of bottlenecks
Predictive analysis powered by powerful reporting capabilities
Organization of unstructured data
Enhancement of customer experience by meeting SLAs consistently and providing preemptive service
Improved decision making with the help of AI-powered decision-theoretic models

Like RPA, organizations have already begun warming up to the idea of AI and use it at basic levels such as chatbots. Going forward, AI will play a much bigger role in enhancing customer experience and helping companies take a proactive approach rather than a reactive one.
No-code platforms
No-code or low-code platforms allow users to develop applications with no knowledge of coding required at all. Using visual development environments such as drag-and-drop, users can create applications to fulfil business process needs without being dependent on the IT team.
No-code BPM software has become the need of the hour in organizations everywhere. Forrester identified the low-code market as a high growth area and predicted that it will grow beyond $10 billion in 2019. 29 per cent of companies in a Forrester study stated they were using low-code solutions and 43 per cent were interested in working with low-code solution providers.
Overwhelming IT backlog is no more a cause for departments to endlessly delay their process automation requirements. Any time a department needs to automate their processes, they can do so in a matter of minutes. Training end users is also much simpler since the application is so intuitive.
How no-code platforms power BPM practices

Greater agility in automating processes when needed
Ability to customize workflows and interfaces to organizational requirements
Greater transparency in development so end users get exactly what they need
Need for external partners is minimized, thereby curtailing costs

No-code platforms will find wide applications in every organization that has business processes. So far, industries such as banking, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, and information technology have improved process management with no-code platforms. Behemoths such as General Electric, Pfizer, and others have enjoyed more streamlined operations and greater efficiency with no-code BPM software.
The road ahead
Going forward, BPM practitioners will need to simplify their operations with respect to the number of applications being used for process management. Clutter and chaos are already significant obstacles to process efficiency. Identifying unified digital workplaces will quickly become the need of the hour.
BPM software will also have to adapt to the changing nature of the workforce. It will have to include simplified collaboration with remote workers, independent contractors, and other forms of employment.
Keeping up with BPM trends is critical to make agile, well-informed decisions. After all, none of us wants to be ostriches with our heads in the sand.

3 Benefits of Automating Your Onboarding Processes

Recruiting a new team member to your business is time-consuming, from creating eye-catching job advertisements to reading countless CVs and arranging multi-stage interviews. Although you may want to breathe a sigh of relief once your perfect candidate has accepted your job offer, unfortunately, the hard work does not stop there. There are many tasks that need to be undertaken between the steps of making that job offer to settling your new hire into your business and having them get to work.
But, don’t despair. There are plenty of tools to help you speed up your onboarding process and get it right for both your new hire and the business. Let’s take a closer look.
Top Ways to Significantly Boost Your Onboarding Process
Maybe you are still relying on manual processes, paper forms, and complicated workflows to carry out your onboarding activities. If this is the case, you will likely find that the process is not only laborious and time-consuming but ineffective and messy too. A few smart interventions can make all the difference in streamlining your onboarding tasks.
For example, onboarding is a key human resources (HR) process to automate. You can quickly create easy-to-follow work streams, meaning that completion of one task automatically triggers the beginning of the next. This method is ideal in the onboarding process that involves numerous individuals across departments. Blockages are less likely to appear in the process, virtually eliminating a task being ‘stuck’ due to a problem or waiting in somebody’s in-tray to be completed.
Replacing paper documents and emails with personalized template forms and documents is also a great way to mitigate a scattergun approach and ensure all important information is captured at the right time and in the correct format. A paperless HR process can offer time savings and error reduction.
Requests for IT equipment, software licenses, and business cards can be transformed from mundane, time-consuming information exchanges to automatic alerts sent to the relevant provider.
What benefits can I expect to see by automating my onboarding processes?
HR challenges in Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS) do exist, and implementing software to speed up and streamline your onboarding activities does not provide a business case in itself. It is therefore essential that you can quantify tangible benefits for your organization. Here are some of the most common benefits users of automated onboarding have found:
A positive impact on your bottom line
Let’s face it: this is the key measurable that business stakeholders are hoping to see. Investing in automated onboarding processes can save your organization money. The main way that it can do so is by reducing employee turnover rate and the numerous costs associated with it. Creating a positive onboarding experience allows employees to feel like a valued and welcomed part of the business. They are much more likely to maintain a high morale while feeling positive and motivated about their role in the company. Furthermore, employees are much less likely to leave the business that has invested in their development and values them, thus saving future spending on recruitment costs.
Watch your employees’ performance improve
An un-coordinated onboarding process results in a new hire who, despite having potential for energy and enthusiasm for their new role, feels deflated and confused about his or her duties. If you start your new hires on the right foot by presenting them with a well-planned and smooth onboarding process, they are much more likely to understand the expectations of the business from the start. It is important to ensure your employees have the tools, knowledge, and motivation to work hard and effectively.
Create an environment of mutual trust and employee engagement
A good onboarding process supports your new hire to quickly and effectively understand their new role. If done right, it is also the perfect way to introduce them to the broader organizational culture, mission, and goals. By doing this early on, you can quickly get your new employee on board with the direction the business is taking, allowing them to contribute to the company’s growth and success.
What’s stopping you from supercharging your onboarding process?
With all the benefits it can offer you, adding automation can be a savvy investment to improve the onboarding activities of your business. Choose a provider that offers you a free demo so that you can visualize how your existing processes could seamlessly transition to automated ones.

On-Site vs. Remote IT Support

Gone are the days of Nick Burns Your Company’s Computer Guy showing up at your desk shouting, “MOVE,” so that he can sit in your chair to solve whatever computer issue is keeping you from your work.

Technology advances have not only made an impact on your business but also on your ability to access dependable, quality IT support from almost anywhere in the world. Remote support is an essential tool in any help desk’s toolkit, allowing techs to efficiently solve most user issues without ever leaving the comfort of their own computer.
In fact, at Innovative, Inc. we resolve around 1,000 help desk tickets per month, 80% of which are resolved remotely.
With a reliable internet connection, any IT support provider can solve most any user problem on their computer. Even network problems can often be addressed remotely.
Some of the most common issues addressed remotely include:

Error messages
Programs and applications not launching properly
Slow PCs
Locked accounts
Password resets
VPN connectivity
Shared network drive access
Adding/removing user accounts and mailboxes

Remote support tools allow internal IT departments with minimal staff to support everyone in the organization, including multiple locations and remote workers. For smaller businesses without their own IT department, outsourced IT vendors can support multiple clients from anywhere with a reliable internet connection.
When Should I Expect to See a Tech in My Office?
Some things do require “boots on the ground.” A tech needs to physically come to your office anytime you need to add or replace physical equipment, or if the issue you’re experiencing is caused by a failing/failed component of the hardware (i.e. failed motherboard, fried hard drive, etc.). Additionally, phone system and printer troubleshooting often require on-site support, since that equipment lacks the user interface applications necessary to conduct advanced remote troubleshooting.
What to Expect When You Call a Support Help Desk
When you call in to most help desks, a level I or II technician will answer your call. These techs are qualified to troubleshoot basic devices and applications, fix simple network issues, modify your software stack, etc.
Your tech should quickly triage your issue and escalate it to another technician if it requires a specialized skill set or is anticipated to take longer than a few minutes to resolve. Otherwise, the help desk tech will direct you to a website that launches a secure, encrypted connection between your computer and the tech’s.
This connection allows her to see everything you see on your computer, change settings, and even share files. If she does not have network administrator rights, she can remotely request permission from your network administrator to access any admin-level settings necessary to correct the issue.
If the front-line tech who answers your call is unable to resolve the issue in less than 45 minutes, she should escalate the issue to a higher-level technician for further remote or on-site troubleshooting as necessary to minimize your downtime.
Remote IT Support: Perception vs. Reality
Users often perceive remote IT support as inferior to on-site support. They see it as an option used by lazy techs who don’t want to get up from their desks, or a cheap option reserved for only the most budget-conscious businesses. In reality, remote support is just one tool in the toolbox of a well-rounded help desk team. When used appropriately it is the fastest and most efficient means of addressing day-to-day end-user support needs.
Some outsourced IT companies even specialize in only remote help desk support, although it is important to note that this service should be paired with a more robust internal IT department, or another local resource for escalated troubleshooting and on-site support. Your internal help desk or full service outsourced IT vendor should offer both on-site and remote support to most effectively assist your business. Evaluate your situation and choose your IT support strategy carefully.
What to know how to choose an outsourced IT vendor? Learn how to select an IT support vendor.
This post was originally published at Innovative, Inc.

Your Next Marketing Strategy for Your MSP – ABM

It is a truism worth repeating: 80% of fish are caught by 20% of fishermen… Successful fishers fish where the fish are most often.
~ Tony Bishop
If you are a fisherman you know that you can put some bait on and cast a line out on the dock to catch a few fish, but when they aren’t biting you need to go to where the fish are.
The same is true for lead generation for your IT company. Inbound marketing techniques (SEO, content creation, etc.) are great lead generation strategies, but at the end of the day, you are waiting for prospects to reach out to you. When your website is drowning the sales team in leads you are happy, but what about the weeks when the leads aren’t coming as frequently? Or what if you need leads NOW and you don’t have time to build up a content generation machine?
That is where Account Based Marketing (ABM) comes in.
Instead of waiting for leads to reach out to you, you reach out to them – it turns the marketing funnel on its head.
What is ABM?
To continue the fishing analogy, traditional inbound marketing focuses on casting a wide net.
The traditional process looks something like this:

You write articles like “5 Signs Your Doctor’s Office Needs IT Support”
A local doctor’s office googles “IT support for doctors in Gaithersburg MD”
Your article shows up and they click on it
They read the article, look at your site, and decide that your business is a good fit for them
They fill out a form to give you their contact info

Again, that is a fine strategy. If you can show up top 3 for a search term for a keyword that has 1,500 searches a month, then you will get a good portion of that traffic (about a third of it, unsurprisingly). A certain percentage of that traffic will then turn into leads (about one to two percent).
You may run into a few issues with this, however.

You get companies too small to work with your business
You get companies outside of your service area
You get contacts that aren’t decision makers

ABM flips this “wide net” strategy on its head. ABM is the fishing equivalent of spearfishing in a stocked pond with only the types and sizes of fish you are interested in catching. It doesn’t even seem fair, does it?
Instead of working to get the information from a percentage of search traffic, you acquire the information of those that fit your ideal client and you begin (in a very targeted way) to reach out to them with a message tailored to their needs.
Why use ABM for your MSP?
While it is just one tool in the toolbox, there are a lot of reasons to use ABM for your MSP company.
Locally Targeted
With ABM, you start out your campaign with a list of contacts that meet the exact attributes of clients you are searching for. They are in the right positions, in the right industry, within your geographic area, etc. You know that every dollar you spend on marketing to this group is being spent getting your message in front of someone that could convert.
Works in Tandem with Other Strategies
This isn’t some strategy that requires you to stop the way you are doing things in your current marketing. As a matter of fact, it often further enhances your current marketing strategy. If you are currently working on increasing your conversion rates on your site to get those organic leads to drip through the funnel, keep at it! As the traffic comes in from ABM this will only help.
Note: If you start an ABM campaign, be careful not to oversaturate your list with non-ABM content. They don’t need 2 emails from the ABM campaign, your monthly newsletter, and an event invite all in the same week.
Increased Personalization
One of my favorite things about ABM is having fun with the personalization. You can get VERY targeted with ABM personalization. Things like…

Adding their company name to a landing page they come to
Changing email content to speak to position-specific pains (What the CEO cares about from an IT perspective is not the same as what their internal team cares about)
And more…

The more information you have about them, the more personalized you can get.
How to Implement ABM in Your MSP Marketing Program
All marketing requires strategy before implementation, and ABM is no different. Just like you need to do keyword research before jumping into SEO, there is a step-by-step process in ABM to ensure you are getting the most out of your efforts.
Know Your Target Market
Hopefully, you have a good understanding of your target market regardless of your marketing strategy. You know the mantra – “50% of my marketing dollars are wasted, I just don’t know what 50%”. This is generally due to bad strategy.
What size company do you work best with? What industries do you specialize in? What positions make the decisions, and what positions are influencers? What people usually stand in your way in the sale? Are most of your clients men or women? What age is your persona? What types of media do they use? What organizations are they a part of? What jargon do they use?
These questions just scratch the surface, but the first step in ABM is to have a tight understanding of your market.
Build ABM Campaign Plan
ABM in itself does not in itself require a specific strategy in reaching your audience, it is just a framework to work within and a lens to think through. Because of that, the tools you use to reach this audience are ones you are familiar with – email, paid, social media, website pages, etc.
The way they are used is what changes. With social media, for example, you would not just make general LinkedIn posts on your page. Instead, you may upload a list of target companies to show very targeted ads to.
Put together a plan to determine how you will reach this audience. What channels will you use? How personalized can you get? How frequent are the touch points? What pain points will you focus on for different segments?
Work with your marketing and sales team to determine the channels and cadence to this.
Note: ABM is not something that exists strictly in the marketing arena. It is tightly integrated with sales and should include them as well (as should any type of marketing, honestly – sales people don’t bite). Because of this, include things like personal emails to what seem to be hot leads and follow-up calls.
Acquire List
You may have a list of prospects with all the information you need about them. If so, great! Many times this is not the case, however. Maybe the contacts you have are very old with outdated information, maybe you don’t have enough information about them, or maybe you just don’t have a list at all.
If you don’t have a robust enough list to begin with, you have 2 options:

Append your list: If you just have the name and address from a mailer you send out every year but no email, use a list appending service to connect those physical addresses with emails, phone number, etc. This is very inexpensive.
Buy a list: This topic is an article in itself, but if you don’t have any list at all you can purchase one. That is all I will say about that for now.

When you do get this list through any of these means, it is critical that it matches your target market. The tighter filtering you can do on these contacts, the better your results will be. Get started off on the right foot with a solid list of verified contacts, or you are setting yourself up for failure.
Note: It is tempting when buying a list to only go after the one perfect contact at a company – the CEO, for example. This is definitely someone you want on your list, but don’t be afraid of adding the lower-level influencers as well – office managers, for example. We have seen a lot of success reaching these individuals. They are usually hungry to make an impact and improve the business. Give them that opportunity.
Execute
Now that you have an understanding of who you are reaching, have a list of these contacts, and have a plan for how to go about reaching out to them, it is time to pull back your spear-throwing-arm and let her fly.
Remember, though, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry…. when you have poor execution. Pay attention to the details. The first impression goes a long way, and if you start out with an off-the-mark pain point, a shoddily designed email, or an unresponsive landing page, you are shooting yourself in the foot. This is something to pull the whole team together for. Have your personalization tactics been tested? Have you talked to current clients about their pain points and why they work with you?
React to the Numbers
Back in the day, marketing was a shot in the dark – you’d send a postcard out and cross your fingers or spend money on radio ads and just hope people were listening. Those days are gone.
Everything you do should have a number. Conversion rates, open rates, time on page, bounce rates – numbers are your friends. Whether that is through call tracking, cookies, or heatmapping, collect as much information on your marketing efforts as possible. Don’t stop there, though; use that information to make your campaign better.
Having great success on LinkedIn but can’t get anything from your display ads? Shift the budget.
Does your landing page have a high bounce rate? Look at your heatmapping and site analytics and shift accordingly.
Do your emails not have a good click-through-rate? Tweak the design or content and do some A/B testing.
Ready to Get Started with ABM for MSPs?
This was just a very broad overview of ABM for MSPs, but hopefully, it gives you a good idea of where to start and the next steps to take.
To do this right does take a lot of knowledge about the different marketing channels, technical understanding around personalization, and good writing and design skills. The last thing you want to do is spend the money to run an ABM campaign for your MSP and lose money on it.

Cloud Computing: What the Future Holds and How You Can Prepare Your Organization

bsdrouin / Pixabay
“Science has stolen most of our miracles” the dialogue from the futuristic sci-fi thriller Minority report is not completely false. From subtly hinting the entrapment of eye and facial recognition to technologized crime-solving and data mining systems, the film is the perfect depiction of what the future of the world will be after the advent of cloud computing.
We currently live in a world where source optimization and amplification of computation capacity are no longer regarded as unthinkable or impractical tasks. Where technologies like IoT, machine learning, deep neural networking and most importantly artificial intelligence are dominating the realms of technology and science, cloud computing is the creator of the next wave of innovations and catalyst of all the fascinating future developments and advancements.
Cloud industry has developed over the past few decades and has now become a crucial part of every business organization, enterprise, and company. Considering the rapid surge and increased adaption of cloud computing, many companies and organizations are now hastening to take the cloud expedition. According to Gartner, the cloud revenue is expected to grow up to a solid 17.3% in 2019 which make it the fastest growing industry of this highly-technologized era and business sector.
Cloud-based applications and platforms have proliferated across the global business enterprising world. From serving as the innovative IT infrastructure to driving the revolution of digital business and marketing sectors, cloud computing is the growth catalyst that is enabling many businesses and startups to succeed in their ventures and initiatives.
The journey to the cloud:
To state it simply, cloud computing is all about delivering the highest quality and innovative computing services. It involves the delivery of a computing solution over the well-connected network of storages spaces, databases, and servers. To provide you with enhanced innovation, flexible resources, and intelligent analytics, cloud computing allows you to pay only for in-use services and solution which in turns reduces the operational cost, increases the infrastructure efficiency and scales up your business growth.
When it comes to cloud computing, server-less cloud and decentralized computing are some of the commonly associated terminologies. However, one of the major purposes of shifting to the cloud is to decentralize data from one physical premise and to make it available and accessible globally. The shift from traditional computing to cloud computing is the practice of utilizing the remote network of servers to process data and information over the internet.
One of the biggest advantage that cloud computing has provided the businesses with is that regardless of the physical location of the team, your business team can easily access, interact and monitor the data and information from anywhere in the world. Such easy and stress-free access to data, storage, and computing are sure to create exciting opportunities for the future of both the business and marketing world.
To bring about a digital revolution business have to take a well-thought-out approach while analyzing all the available options and choices to improve the current IT infrastructure, cost of operations and security considerations and nothing provides a better solution in all these aspects than cloud computing.
Skyrocketing the business growth rates with a cloud:
geralt / Pixabay
Undeniably, the integration of technologically advanced solutions in the business world has disrupted the business world for better. However, it has also destabilized the standards and ideals of the business world. On the other hand, this rapid technological advancement has made cloud computing a keystone of this modernized business era. From providing secure access and a higher level of data security, cloud computing is more than just a profitable technology– it is the revolutionist of the current business world.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of cloud computing is small and medium-sized businesses. Since their budgets bound these businesses, cloud computing frees them from the burden of investing in multiple resources. From providing the businesses and companies with on-demand storage and need-based computing power to valuable insights on CRM, source optimization and thorough resource monitoring, cloud computing is replacing the conventional methods of data access, storage, and organization.
Considering the increased use of cloud computing, it can be rightly said that cloud computing is reshaping the business model while bringing about a new model which includes device enhancement by inexhaustible resources. This massive shift in the business industry will benefit the organization s and enterprises with instant responses, scalable business foundations, and on-demand intelligent analytics.
Apart from the business and marketing world, the importance of cloud computing is quite inevitable in our everyday lives. From providing the best breed of innovative software, data authentication and integrity to improved socializing and bank accounts management methods, its increasing imperativeness can be recognized from these listed reasons:

From automated server maintenance to bug fixes, cloud helps in freeing up your IT staff from spending time such ordinary tasks.
Virtualization of the network ensures accessibility and availability of information at all times.
From auto-updates of software to file synchronization d backups, cloud computing ensures improved storage capacity and faster automation.
Providing you with increased adaptability, it offers boundless virtual server and storage capacity.
From reducing the cost of business operations and ownership to saving a huge amount of your budget on external storage resources and servers purchases, cloud computing enables you to pay only for the resources and applications that are useful for you.

Incorporating innovation with a cloud:
kreatikar / Pixabay
Whether it’s the business industry or the entertainment industry, cloud computing has left deep-rooted impacts on every known industry and sector. Most of the tech-experts and cloud computing professionals are looking for ways to enhance the current cloud-based solutions and services for improving efficiency and productivity.
Unquestionably, the secret to an effective business strategy is a cloud-first approach. The chief objective of the cloud-first approach is to increase the business scalability while making it adaptable to the changes in business demands, trends and future advancements. The increased use of a cloud-first approach showcases the shift of cloud computing from its infancy to maturity.
With the rise in demand and need of better cloud solutions and methods, it is expected that most of the future technological solution will be cloud-based and who knows with cloud computing we might observe the mainstreaming of something as complex as super-computing technology.
Keeping these developments in mind, mentioned below are some of the expected changes as forecasted by some of the experienced cloud experts and professionals:

The innovation of customer service:

As more and more businesses and companies are shifting to the cloud, the need and demand of the right and well-suited cloud-based tools and application is rising. Through these applications, the organizations can ensure seamless customer and staff collaboration in reduced cost. These tools also empower the teams to communicate the right and relevant information to the customers for solving their problems.

Micro-services ensure increased flexibility:

Most of the successful and highly recognized business organizations and companies are now opting for micro-service based architecture as it offers faster deployment and ease of scalability. This architecture features auto-upgradation of the services while making sure that the services and solutions work as per its pre-defined manner. By leveraging the features of cloud computing the company can easily shift to the micro-service based architecture to generate a successful and effective solution.

Management of hybrid cloud through automation apps:

Most of the companies and organizations use multiple cloud tools and platforms to ensure the smooth functionality and operation of infrastructure. Coupling the automation tools with PaaS is the most innovative to optimize the development process.

Speedy Interconnects:

Well-distributed applications and software and high-tech and low-cost hardware are the rising demand and need of the modern-day data centers. It doesn’t only provide with the smooth flow of information stream, but it also ensures faster movement of data through the hardware.
Readying you for the cloud:
Cloud computing is the initiator of the digital transformation of the business world. A great cloud solution not only enhances your storage and security but it also helps in coping with the rapid growth and development rate of technology. Because the future of many industries including the business sector is directly associate tot eh innovation in cloud computing.

Pros and Cons of the 4 Most Common Types of Small Business IT Support

Most businesses launch their operations on a shoestring budget and manage the business on readily available technology.
If your business starts in your home, as many do, you probably already have a basic computer, internet connection, and phone service. All you need to do is register a domain name for your website and email, set up a basic website through a web hosting provider and platform, and select an email hosting provider.
Eventually, you start to grow and bring on your first few employees. With employees comes more computers and the need to share information and applications. Great employees expect to have the tools and resources to do their jobs well, and you need to spend your time growing the business not dealing with day-to-day technology challenges.
You may have a friend or colleague help you with your IT needs, but you’re starting to think you need a bit more support than one person can provide. This is usually around the time when a business starts to think about obtaining some sort of professional IT support.
There are a few ways you can go at this point.
Option 1: Hire an Internal IT Person
Pros:

You have direct control over how employees spend their time.
Employee time is 100% dedicated to your business.
You can hand select employees with specific skills and experience with the exact technology tools you utilize.
An entry- to mid-level IT support person is qualified to troubleshoot basic devices and applications, replace equipment, troubleshoot simple network issues, and add to your software stack.
The hourly cost of an entry- to mid-level IT support person is less expensive than the hourly rate of most outsourced IT vendors.

Cons:

Entry- to mid-level technicians are typically not experienced in business leadership and growth. So, they often lack the strategic business skills to offer guidance around scaling and right-sizing your IT solutions to your overall business plan.
A good Chief Information Officer (CIO) with the unique combination of technical skills and business acumen necessary to drive your technology strategy, earns well into six-figure ranges, which is not a feasible or necessary position in most small businesses.
Employees take sick days, vacation, and are generally not available at all hours when you need technology working.
Selecting and managing a technical employee is difficult without technical expertise. This is often an unfair situation for employees early in their careers who need access to coaching and mentoring.
IT support has a broad range of specialties. Even a great jack-of-all-trades support person requires backup on advanced or complex issues and projects. Plus, IT employees require constant training and professional development to remain current in new technologies that could benefit your business.

An Internal IT Person is a Great Option for:

Medium-sized businesses with more than 200 employees may have enough work to justify an internal IT support person. However, this model is most effective when paired with one of the outsourced options to fill in skill/knowledge gaps and offer back-up support during peak times.
Large businesses with more than 500 employees may require a fully-staffed IT department, including their own CIO, helpdesk, and network administrators. However, businesses of this size should conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis to determine which components of the IT department need to be internal, and which components are more cost effective to outsource.
Business with unique line-of-business applications and/or equipment often benefit from an internal resource who specializes in that unique equipment or program. For example, even a small manufacturing facility may benefit from an internal resource with specific expertise in maintaining and troubleshooting the applications that run their manufacturing equipment. This is typically the FIRST type of IT person a business needs, as application specialists bring a much different skill set than the systems generalist types of roles that are much more effective to outsource. A few more notes on internal application specialists:

In addition to specialized knowledge of the application, they act as an internal technology champion by helping employees embrace and fully utilize specific business applications in their specific jobs.
Applications specialists have the intimacy and tacit knowledge of both the organizational processes and business applications to hone in on necessary application customization and applicable functions.

Option 2: Hire an On-Demand IT Vendor or Freelancer When You Need Them
Pros:

There are no costs if you don’t call and request support.
You are not locked into a contract commitment.
On-demand providers often charge a lower hourly rate than other types of providers, especially in the case of individual freelancers who have significantly less overhead than a mature business.
You can freely switch between different vendors and/or freelancers based on the skills and experience you require at any given time.

Cons:

You have no ongoing network monitoring or maintenance, which means you can’t proactively address any issues before they impact the business.
You most likely don’t have a complete inventory and assessment of the IT tools you’re using, so no one can advise you on upcoming changes in your technology or opportunities to implement more efficient solutions.
The hourly rate might be less than a different service model, but the time it takes to fix issues may be more since the provider isn’t as familiar with the ins and outs of your unique network set-up.
There is no guarantee your issue will be fixed if it proves to be too challenging and/or complicated, leaving you with a labor bill and no resolution to your problem.
Often these types of one-person businesses and freelance professionals lack the necessary insurance to cover errors and omissions.
You have no Service Level Agreement (SLA), which establishes things like minimum response time, resolution time, and availability. Plus, even if the business or individual carries adequate professional liability insurance, it is difficult to hold the vendor accountable for any undesirable outcome without a contractual agreement establishing expectations.
You are at the mercy of when the vendor can get to your problem. Even if they have always addressed your issues quickly in the past, you run the risk of coming in second, third, fourth, and so on depending on issues other customers called in ahead of you.

An On-Demand Vendor or Freelancer is a Great Option for:

Start-ups with limited cash flow and some level of internal IT skills.
Businesses that can tolerate the possibility of extended downtime waiting on a vendor with no SLA.
Businesses that do not depend on technology to conduct business and drive revenue.

Option 3: Pre-Purchase Blocks of Support Hours
Pros:

Pre-purchased hours typically come with an SLA, guaranteeing you minimum hold time, response time, resolution time, etc.
You typically have the option to add services like monitoring, compliance, backup and disaster recovery, etc.
Hours are typically flexible, meaning they may be used toward networking projects or day-to-day IT support.
Most contracts allow unused hours to roll over month-to-month before they expire after a pre-determined period of time.
By using the same support vendor repeatedly, the company gets to know your infrastructure better over time, which should allow them to troubleshoot faster.

Cons:

You are billed for hours overages. So, you or someone else who can authorize the use of hours are involved in determining which issues warrant a call to your IT support provider. This means:

You or another high-level employee are involved in day-to-day IT support.
End users can’t get up and running as quickly as if they had direct access to support.
You won’t address seemingly smaller, nuisance issues unless you have hours to use before they expire, reducing productivity as you continue to tolerate the issue.

Your costs are not fixed, so you risk facing large overage bills in the event an issue takes more time than your allotted hours to remedy.
While pro-active services like network monitoring can be added, any corrective actions taken to address monitoring alerts are deducted from your block of hours. So, you may not realize how much support time you’re using to keep problems from occurring.
The annual cost of the hourly block, necessary overages, and add-on services necessary to maintain your network, compliance, etc. are most likely greater than a flat-rate model.

Blocks of Hours are a Great Option for:

Large and medium-sized businesses with a more full-staffed IT department. A block of hours can provide backup support during peak-times to a fully-staffed internal IT department, offer after-hours emergency support, provide local “boots on the ground” support to specific locations, etc.

Option 4: Partner with a Managed Service Provider (MSP)
Pros:

Controlled costs. You are billed a flat monthly fee, typically based on the number of devices or number of users. This offers predictability in IT expenses not offered by other models where costs go up and down based on the number of hours required and skill set of the professional.
MSPs commit to an SLA, guaranteeing you a minimum response and resolution time.
Minimizes downtime, as it is in the MSP’s best interest to resolve issues quickly and efficiently (i.e. you don’t pay them for the hours they spend to resolve an issue).
Your contract guarantees a resolution to issues.
Typically includes add-ons like network monitoring, compliance, and basic risk mitigation.
Since any employee can utilize the MSP like your own, internal IT department, you and other high-level employees are removed from day-to-day tech support issues.
Higher level issues are escalated quickly to tier 3 technicians and engineers because it is costlier to the MSP to allow lower level technicians to continue to work on an issue for longer periods of time.
Network monitoring alerts are addressed immediately. Since you are not billed by the hour the MSP doesn’t need to wait for you to authorize the use of time.

Cons:

Equipment costs may seem higher when compared to other available options. MSPs typically install equipment designed to be easily managed and even power cycled remotely. This offers added efficiency and cost savings elsewhere, but something to keep in mind if you are the type to price shop every individual component.
When an MSP does their job correctly, you may see them less and less over time as they continue to improve your network. This could lead you to feel like you’re paying for service you’re not receiving, but a good MSP is working behind the scenes to keep your network running at maximum efficiency.
If you have an immediate need for a networking or new equipment project, an MSP will typically not quote the work until they’ve completely onboarded your network and understand the technology in your business. While this may seem frustrating, it’s in your best interest to give them the time they need to confidently stand behind the new installation. This also offers you the opportunity to get to know the quality of the company and support before you are locked into their equipment recommendations. However, it can be a frustrating response if you are trying to complete a project immediately.

Managed Service Providers are a Great Option for:

Small businesses with 10-200 employees who cannot support their own internal IT department but rely on technology for day-to-day operations.
Medium-sized businesses with 200-500 employees and have an internal IT resource who specializes in unique equipment and/or specific line-of-business applications.
Large businesses with an internal IT department that has identified cost savings in outsourcing specific IT department components like network monitoring and administration, data backups and disaster recovery, or helpdesk support.
Businesses that cannot tolerate downtime and rely on their IT systems to generate revenue.
Businesses in industries that have specific compliance requirements like healthcare, finance, legal, and other professional services.
Businesses that rely on sensitive or proprietary information.

Want to learn more about choosing an outsourced IT vendor? Find out what to look for in an outsourced IT vendor or managed service provider.
This post originally published at Innovative, Inc.

6 Customer Retention Strategies That are Here to Stay

If you think retaining an existing customer is expensive and unnecessary, try acquiring a new one. It will surely get your brain and bank account working overtime. Adding credibility to this statement is a research study by Invesp Consulting which suggests:

Existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products and spend 31% more than new users! Shocker, right?
Increasing customer retention by 5% can increase profits by 25-95%.
Around 89% of companies view customer experience as a key factor in driving customer loyalty and retention.

Simply put, if you’re not retaining customers, you’re not moving forward, even if it may seem so. Think of it like this: you’re exercising every day but not eating healthy, hardly a logical approach to staying fit, right?
Coming back to the main point, here are 6 strategies that you can embrace to offer value to customers and enjoy their undivided loyalty and prolonged attention in today’s fleeting consumer age.
1. Real Benefits with Real-Time Support
It’s one thing to talk the talk and a whole quite another to walk the walk. Demonstrating the latter with great finesse and building customer loyalty is the e-commerce brand, Modcloth.

This brand demonstrates that if you wish to engage with your users on a trusting level, go for the live chat feature. As drab and lifeless as this concept has known to become, it can be an extremely entertaining and interactive feature on your platform if used correctly, like shown in the example above. Notice how Modcloth prefers to display the person’s image and name on top so that you feel you’re talking to a real person and not a bot, a concern most people have when talking to a brand ‘virtually.’
How will this help?
Live chat comes with many benefits such as:

Addressing client concerns in real-time
Developing a one-to-one relationship with the user by way of conversational communication (and not a scripted, one-word talk to boredom).
Offering 24/7 support.
Letting consumers feel understood and most importantly, heard by the brand.

2. Personalized Offers Lead to Loyal Customers
Targeting customers with customized offers can act as the holy grail for businesses that are lost and confused amongst a sea of competitors. By offering customers real value and unparalleled deals, you’re giving them more than they signed up for – both literally and figuratively.
How will this help?
A loyal customer is 5x as likely to repurchase, 5x as likely to forgive, and 4x as likely to refer a brand as per research. Plus, 67% of consumers will modify the companies they purchase from in order to maximize points! Naturally, the importance of customized offers and deals cannot be emphasized enough.
Let’s look at an example to understand this better. The cosmetics brand, “Sephora” has managed to pull off the unthinkable & unimaginable popular loyalty program, ‘Beauty Insider‘ only by way of referral points!

How so? This program rewards users with points for each dollar spent. Correspondingly, these points can be redeemed for sample-size products that cater to the user’s skin type, beauty regimes, and past purchases: an ingenious offer their customers can neither refuse nor ignore. The result: 20% of its core customer base constitutes of loyal customers who spend the most.
The learning: An eagle’s eye focus on extending personalized rewards and referrals to customers can help any brand get more for the buck, time, and efforts invested in customer and marketing efforts alike.
3. Webinars and Live Demos: The Secret to Leveling Up the Customer Game
Regular webinars and live demos aren’t restricted to the IT universe. Companies looking to increase engagement with their existing user base should encourage the use of these tools. Data suggests that a company which implemented a webinar session, ended up enjoying a 20-40% attendee conversion into qualified leads. You could conduct webinars on product features or simply conduct one to address widespread user concerns. Post the webinar, you can share it on video platforms such as Youtube, Vimeo etc. to reach potential customers. History indicates that companies like KISSmetrics, Crazy Egg, HubSpot, etc. transformed into multi-million dollar digital marketing businesses through webinars alone.
How will this help?
Webinars and live demos double up as effective content marketing tools for all organizations. They help address queries and encourage everyone to look at the brand from different perspectives and provide holistic solutions. Once the users are on the same page as the brand, they start understanding your offerings better and start trusting the brand more and more. In turn, the companies experience a reduced churn rate – the ultimate goal for any brand today, right?
4. Automated Marketing for Augmented Engagement
According to Invesp Consulting, email marketing is the most effective marketing tactic for retaining customers. Automated emails with customized, educative content and visuals can do wonders for your brand. Our suggestion is to use your user’s existing data – a gold mine if you ask us – and create passionate-yet-personable emails for your customers. Your primary goal could be to address any user concerns, feature a “how-to” guide on new offerings, provide special offers, or simply surprise users with a “Just-checking-in-to-see-how-you’re-doing-email.”
How will this help?
Sending emails to existing/potential customers can ensure that your brand stays relevant, transparent, and timely to the user’s dynamic demands. In short, your brand name will leverage top-of-the-mind-awareness at all times.

5. User-Based Community on Websites Is GOLD
If your brand isn’t active online, it’ll soon become a social pariah. Why? Consider this: People are 4x more likely to buy something when recommended by a friend. And the best way to get a user’s attention is to go online and create user forums that encourage discussions.
Basically, every brand looking to connect with their users should treat user-based communities as their north star. This community could be a discussion board on the brand’s website, social media pages, among others. If you’re looking for social proof, this strategy can be your most likable effort yet.
How will this help?
An online community is the equivalent of having neighbors or gym buddies. It acts as your go-to buddy and is forever present to cater to your needs. Also, it turns passive users into active ones by providing them with a platform to discuss a variety of topics, ideas, questions, and concerns relating to your product/service. Surrounded by like-minded people, the discussions turn out to be productive, healthy, and lively. As you may have guessed, this helps retain customers because they feel acknowledged and appreciated, all at the same time.
6. Serious Follow-Ups for a Sustainable Front-Runner.
Contrary to popular opinion, conducting follow-ups is not a hard act to follow (pun intended). All it requires is creating follow-up calendars, also known as communication calendars, that are comprehensive (covers the entire user base) and concern-driven (for finding pertaining issues at regular intervals).

How will this help?
By sequencing and prioritizing events, phone calls, special offers, handwritten notes, etc., you can be assured of reaching your customers in their time of need and yours, that too in a timely manner thanks to an automated software at your disposal. Plus, it helps eliminate any post-purchase doubts, boosts trust, and encourages repurchasing. All in all, the customers feel valued and important as they feel they’re an intrinsic part of the brand’s growth journey and are bound to benefit with their association of the brand, together forever.
Closing Thoughts
In sum, every company, big or small, online or offline, B2B or B2C, local or global, needs to rethink their customer strategies and rewire it to a more user retention-focused one. This can be done by offering services/benefits that resonate with the customers to start with and then proceed with these six strategies to create a value-driven customer lifetime value that won’t require, well, a lifetime.
Simply, all it demands is that you go the extra mile and have the brand’s heart in the right place a.k.a the customers. This can be done by reaffirming the brand’s core values and translating the benefits to the customers, aligning the company’s goals with that of the user, and building a rock-solid customer metric system that mirrors your customer’s aspirations.

How Hackers Use Employees to Access Your Network

Computer hackers are located throughout the entire world. Most hackers work around the clock looking for vulnerable systems. What exactly is a hacker’s goal? A computer hacker’s motivation varies. A common motive is holding sensitive data hostage or exploiting customer data on the internet, such as credit card or social security numbers. How do hackers access said data? For starters hackers can use sneaky methods in email message attachments or bad code when downloading a software. Let’s discuss how hackers use business employees to gain access to the company network.
Hackers use Email to access sensitive data
Phishing emails have become an issue since the genesis of email. Scammers use tactics to convey trust through email communication. For example, a malicious individual can pose as a business contact and ask for payment on an invoice. Not knowing the email in question is fake at first glance, you may be inclined to pay the invoice without thinking twice. Hackers use methods like these to gain access to a customer’s network. Another example consist of downloading software. An employee could have administrative rights. This provides the ability to download software without anyone’s permission. When an employee downloads a game or application the code in the software may be bad. Therefore, the code will create a mechanism for the hacker to penetrate the network and begin to gather valuable data.
Employees provide data to hackers without even knowing data has been stolen. Today’s hackers focus on company employees to extract customer data through nefarious means. How can a business owner reduce such attempts? One solution is to keep staff informed on the latest cybersecurity threats. Second solution is to schedule a managed IT service provider to come onsite and provide training on best email and cybersecurity practices. Lastly, a business owner can review the present email and see if there’s an opportunity to upgrade to a different email system. In short, staying informed with today’s methods of how hackers access data will help an organization keep vital information locked away from malicious individuals.

Hackers “Guess” Passwords
The importance with secure and high character count passwords is a must for all small and large organizations. We understand saving a lot of mental passwords is a pain. As technology evolves we anticipate passwords will become a thing of the past. Focusing on the present, passwords remain relevant. The average individual maintains an assortment of passwords for a variety of channels. Everything from banking to social media. Password recycling is another trend that is becoming popular among individuals. For example, most people use the same password for multiple websites despite best practices. The best method for securing your online accounts is to use different passwords for different channels. Similarly, we encourage customers to use a variety of password orientations. For instance, use a song lyric with minimum 14 characters. The longer the password the harder to guess.
Best practice is to implement and enforce strong password security throughout the company. Managing passwords is a task, at the moment, people will deal with for the time being. There are a couple of methods of maintaining passwords without having to write down on a post it note. Not to dive deep into password management, we recommend two applications that manage passwords. First is LastPass and second is 1Password. Hammer the concept of password security into employees. The concept will help maintain a secure network.
Hackers Hold Data Ransom
Let’s discuss how hackers access an employees PC. For instance, a warning message appears out of nowhere when browsing a website. We’re sure you’ve seen these before. These are “warning messages” that convey immediate action on behalf of the individual. First you’re approached with a full screen window warning to call Microsoft support with a phone number. Second if you do not call Microsoft support chances are high the data saved to your computer will be erased. Lastly, “Microsoft support” informed if you do not pay for their anti-virus or other digital virus solution, the technician cannot move forward. Even worse, the technician gets on the computer and encrypts or steals all the data.
The scenario provided has happened dozens of times to unknowing people. Sadly customers are unaware of these types of scams. Specifically the older work force generation. No need to fear though. Although employees are being targeted by these scammers, there are tried and true methods to reduce these attempts. In particular, providing cyber security training to employees is always a great starting point. Cyber security training is especially helpful to none technical individuals. In short, don’t let hackers hold your data ransom. Become an educated computer user about these types of scams.

7 Technology Issues Your Network Monitoring System Should Catch

“I’m having technical difficulties,” is a phrase with which most professionals are all too familiar.
While no IT system is ever 100% free from the occasional issue, the most successful business tech support professionals are the ones that keep business downtime to a minimum and implement IT systems that contribute to the company’s bottom line. They know that the only effective way to minimize downtime is to proactively troubleshoot IT systems and fix issues BEFORE they cost the company money by impacting end users.
Network monitoring systems are a tool that IT professionals use to stay ahead of issues. These tools allow your IT team to work behind the scenes fixing problems you didn’t even know you had to keep the business network running smoothly.
Your internal IT department can utilize a network monitoring system, or you can work with an outsourced IT vendor or managed service provider that provides a network monitoring service.
Network monitoring is an automated piece of network management that audits all network components (servers, firewalls, shared resources, etc.) for failure and optimum performance. A network monitoring system notifies the network administrator of failures that have impacted or could impact the performance of the entire network.
There are many network monitoring tools available. Be sure to select your tool carefully with your network administrator so she has the functions and automation capabilities most applicable to your business. An outsourced IT vendor that administers your network most likely uses a robust monitoring tool that allows them to monitor multiple networks and correct issues remotely.
If you use an outsourced IT vendor’s network monitoring service, be sure they also take appropriate action on monitoring alerts and are authorized to address at least critical issues on your behalf. The benefits to network monitoring are not in simply knowing that an issue occurred, but in correcting the issue before it creates downtime for the end user or entire business.
No matter which approach you take or what tool you use, network monitoring should offer peace of mind that some common “technical difficulties” are addressed before they impact your business.
7 Common Technology Issues Network Monitoring Should Catch
Low Disk Space
Low disk space on any device diminishes its performance and can cause the operating system to freeze or lock up. Low disk space can occur on individual computers or a networked server. When a server experiences low disk space all users may have trouble accessing shared data or experience slow application speeds.
A properly configured monitoring system alerts the network administrator before disk space drops low enough to impact the end user experience. Typically, your IT team can free up space by clearing out redundant or unused files and resources. If your IT team is unable to free up enough space, you’ll most likely need to expand the device hard drive – either physically or virtually.
Your system administrator should receive the alert with enough notice to work through the solution before the disk space is low enough to impact the end user experience.
Failing Hard Drives
Hard drive failure is an unfortunate IT reality. A network monitoring program can alert the system administrator to a likely failure on a device. Depending on the reason for the failure, the administrator may receive the alert before the end user experiences a total failure of the device. In that case, the IT team can schedule a convenient time with the user to back up the hard drive and replace it with little to no end-user downtime.
In the case of servers, your IT team can swap out one failed hard drive for a new one with no impact to the end user because of redundant internal hard drives in most servers. As a business owner or executive, you should work with your internal or outsourced IT team to determine what replacements they are authorized to make. In the case of hard drive replacements, some businesses choose to pre-authorize the internal IT department or outsourced IT vendor to make those types of purchases as needed to maintain business continuity in the event of a failure.
High CPU
A computer or server’s Central Processing Unit (CPU) is responsible for sending and receiving instructions and allocating resources. When a machine is using most or all of its CPU everything slows down. A network monitoring solution alerts the system administrator when a device hits high CPU usage. Often the administrator can adjust processes running in the background of a device to free up more CPU. Other times, your IT team will work with you to determine how you’re using devices and swap machines and/or upgrade as needed based on changing usage needs. Leasing your IT equipment can offer the flexibility to make these kinds of changes with little to no financial impact.
Missing, Disabled, or Out-of-Date Antivirus
Antivirus solutions are a key element to any cyber threat prevention strategy. A network monitoring system alerts the network administrator to any devices with a missing, disabled, or out-of-date antivirus. Antivirus, like any software, is sometimes deleted or disabled by user error, malicious attack, or interaction with another application. Additionally, regular license renewals are necessary to keep most antivirus solutions activated. Your network monitoring system ensures that the key elements of your threat prevention strategy are functioning as intended.
Non-Functioning Services
Your computer’s applications rely on processes running in the background to function. When these “services” stop working the user experiences application or function failure. A network monitoring system alerts the network administrator when these services stop functioning. In many cases, the system automatically reboots the non-functioning service to maintain full functionality without the end user ever knowing something stopped working. This feature of network monitoring is essential to keep up-time as high as possible on mission-critical applications.
A great example of this is Microsoft Exchange, a common mail and calendaring server. It uses up to 31 different services running in the background on the server. If any one of those services fails, a part of Exchange stops working. The application could stop indexing the mailbox, making email search functions difficult, or delivery of the mail itself could be impacted.
Missing Operating System Updates
Your network administrator can set up a monitoring solution to push operating system updates on your preferred schedule. The monitoring system keeps track of which devices need updated when. For example, at Innovative we typically hold regular operating system updates for a month before they are automatically pushed to our managed devices. This allows time for the manufacturer to fix any known issues with the update. Updates that are identified to patch a critical security vulnerability, on the other hand, are automatically pushed out in real time. A monitoring system gives your network administrator the ability to automate these strategic network management decisions.
Network Outage/Device Down Detection
Network monitoring notifies your system administrator anytime the network or segments of the network (server, firewall, switch, etc.) goes down for any reason. Even if the internet goes out, your system administrator is quickly notified so she can begin to take corrective action. This is especially useful for outages that may occur outside of normal business hours. Often the administrator can have the device or network back online before your employees come back to work in the morning. While there’s often nothing that can be done for a power or internet outage (unless your business has a backup power supply or internet connection), your administrator or IT partner can start working with vendors to get service restored more quickly, minimizing downtime.
The Best IT Guys are the Ones You Don’t See Often
You may not see your tech support team much when network monitoring is doing its job and your IT team is proactively responding to an appropriately configured monitoring system. Just because you don’t see your “IT guy” doesn’t mean he isn’t doing anything for your company. In fact, the best tech support teams may be the ones you see the least.
Originally published on Innovative, Inc.

Customer Identity and Access Management 2.0: Bridging the Gap of Identity

Customer identity and access management (CIAM) is taking over the customer login experience. There’s more at stake than just registration and authentication. If all you’re getting from your customers when they log in is an email address to send newsletters and passwords, you’re missing out on a host of benefits. In this article, we explain how CIAM 2.0 can help your business face the future head-on.
CIAM simplifies every business task that deals with your customers on an individual basis, including customers that haven’t registered on your site yet. With a single data hub for all identities, CIAM seamlessly links authentication, customer management, sales, marketing, business intelligence, and services. Consequently, this means that security and data protection are streamlined for you and your customers.
Can you really afford not to use CIAM?
“If your business isn’t using CIAM, you stand every chance of lagging behind businesses that are making the most of the technology and the customer data it collects.”
What Is Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM)?
Customer identity and access management (CIAM) is a software solution that combines login verification with customer data storage and monitoring in a single location that links to all of your customer-oriented systems. CIAM gives you a centralized customer database that links to all of your other apps and services.
At its simplest, a CIAM solution consists of a customer-facing side with self-service fields for password, name, username, email, and data protection consent. Authentication features such as single sign-on, social profile integration, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and choice of communication preferences serve to enhance your customer’s online experience.

Logging on via your CIAM system is usually the first interaction a customer has each time they visit your site. A smooth and secure login experience is the minimum that today’s customers expect from a modern organization. It engenders trust and encourages your customers to come back to you time and again.
From an enterprise point of view, a CIAM solution has a number of useful features that can improve security, enhance customer data collation, and provide useful data to marketing and sales departments.
The data that’s collected about each customer can be tied into your company’s customer relationship management (CRM) software to benefit your sales and marketing team. It can be used to build an understanding of the complete customer journey—device, location, types of activities, pages looked at, purchasing patterns, and more.
The Standard Benefits of CIAM
A basic CIAM system provides these advantages for a business and its customers.
1. Streamlined customer experience
A streamlined customer experience shows current and future customers an organization that’s up-to-date and concerned about providing the easiest login possible.
By providing an easy login experience for your applications and services, you encourage customers to try out more of your digital offerings. The end result is a customer who is more embedded in your digital ecosystem, without any extra effort on your part.
“A streamlined customer experience shows current and future customers an organization that’s up-to-date and concerned about providing the easiest login possible.”
For example, implementing single sign-on through a customer identity and access management system means a customer only needs one account for all of your digital touchpoints. Whether your customers are signing in from a browser or a mobile device, they’ll benefit from not having to sign in repeatedly to different services again and again—encouraging repeat use of your apps and services.
2. Security for data and accounts
A standard CIAM system provides essential security features that safeguard both data and account access. For example, with risk-based authentication, each customer’s usage and login patterns are monitored, making it easy to spot unusual (and therefore potentially fraudulent) activity.
For use cases where you need an extra layer of security, you can enable multi-factor authentication (MFA), which verifies a customer’s identity by requiring a second step such as entering an SMS code or clicking an email link.
Your secure login procedures reassure customers that they are safe using your services—something that’s essential with the number of public data breaches reaching the news.

3. Scalability and uptime
With just one customer identity management system that’s fully managed for you, reliability is maximized, and the need for resources is kept to a minimum. A centralized login system for all of your apps and services makes it easy to add new services as they come online. A cloud implementation can quickly scale up or down depending on your usage, and automated failover can cut downtime to virtually zero.
“A modern CIAM solution reduces workload for your IT department and makes it easy to expand your business as your digital ecosystem grows.”
4. A unified view of each customer
By connecting the data gathered from all of your services and websites, you get a complete overview of each customer. With a full picture of everything a customer has done since the first time they visited your site, you’ll have access to real-world data in startling detail.

You can use this data to monitor customer journeys across multiple apps and services, create marketing personas that really reflect your customers, design new products or special offers, and direct your customers towards choices that will benefit you both.
When you understand your customers more deeply, you can reach them more easily and serve them better. All of this adds up to more revenue and a lower cost of acquisition and retention.
5. Compliance with privacy regulations
Privacy compliance is a critical aspect of any company handling customer data and an essential part of any online business. The EU’s GDPR is just one example of privacy laws that have a global reach, with their effect on any data flowing into or out of the EU. Most Western countries have similar regulations or are in the process of enacting similar laws, and the rest of the world is rapidly catching up.
If you have an online business that you want to keep viable in 2019 or beyond, it’s vital that you maintain compliance with these regulations. Here are some of the things you need to provide or be able to do to meet regulations:

Provide customers with a detailed report of their data that you hold.
Enable customers to access their data via self-service.
Allow customers to control which of their data you keep or discard.
Provide regulators a report of your user data usage and retention policies.
Show regulators the steps you take to keep customer data secure.
Show that you minimize data retention and avoid using data unnecessarily.

CIAM can also be tailored to meet the regulatory requirements of different regions—essential for a global business.
“A modern CIAM solution enables you to meet all of these privacy requirements and more, while simplifying the process and reducing the costs associated.“
The Evolution of CIAM 2.0
A customer identity access management solution can bridge the gap between your customers and the latest developments in identity and personal data protection—essential in today’s connected world. The evolution of CIAM 2.0 helps you take the next step in assuring your customers’ online safety, while continuing to simplify their online experience across new digital platforms.
Many companies are providing their customers with a modern digital experience thanks to a customer identity management system. If you want to give your customers the same advantages, the time to act is now.
6. Advanced login options
In the world of CIAM 2.0, a business can gain an advantage by implementing new and advanced login options that are not yet widely adopted. These login methods further improve customer experience, customer trust, or both.
Passwordless Login simplifies and streamlines the login process, while at the same time making it more protected. It also helps you present your company as a modern, secure organization that uses the latest technology to safeguard your customers. Passwordless login uses a customer’s email address or phone number to send them a one-time link that they click to log in.
One-Touch Login also allows customers to log in with a generated link sent to their email address or a one-time password sent to their phone. However, unlike Passwordless Login, the customer does not need to be an existing user in the system, and no credentials are submitted. In other words, the customer gets the benefits of secure access without the commitment of account creation.
Smart Login gives users a quick and secure login for the internet of things (IoT) and smart devices, which are increasingly becoming a vital part of today’s digital ecosystem. Smart Login delegates the authentication process for smart TVs, gaming consoles, and other IoT devices to another device that is easier and more secure for entering and managing passwords.

7. Optimized data collection
As customers become more savvy and cautious about handing over their data, businesses can leverage CIAM 2.0 to collect information in more respectful ways.
Anonymous Login allows you to assign an ID to anonymous users and use it to track their journey through your site. If these users proceed to sign up for a service, this ID is converted to a non-anonymous ID, enabling you to see which pathways tend to lead to customer registrations, as well as helping you monitor passing traffic.
Essentially, anonymous users are “shadow” logged in to their assigned IDs, letting you track many aspects of their usage and access. Data from potential customers that don’t sign up for your services can be just as vital as data from registered customers, helping you hone your product to attract more sign-ups.
Progressive Profiling allows you to collect customer data over time, as it’s needed. You can start by building a very basic profile with the simplest of login details (name and email, or a social login request for just these details). You can then ask for more detailed information as needed depending on which of your products customers go on to use.

Progressive Profiling is a great way to leverage today’s limited social login data and a fantastic way to let you build trust as you build up a picture of your customer. You can also use progressive profiling to measure how much your customers trust you by offering the opportunity to add more information without making it compulsory.
Social Login can be as much of a risk as it is a benefit in today’s digital environment when major social providers are plagued by data leaks and account breaches. With care, Social Login can still be a great way for your customers to access your services.
8. Consent management
As part of privacy compliance, businesses need to be clear with customers about their consent to data collection and communication.
CIAM 2.0 provides tools for managing a customer’s consent in order to give them understanding and control over that consent. Consent management involves requesting consent during registration and authentication and provides the ability to modify existing consents and apply new consents retroactively.
Stay Ahead of the Curve with CIAM 2.0
Today, we’re in the process of moving away from simple customer access to more complex data monitoring to gain a better understanding of each customer.
We’re also entering a new era governed by a complex ecosystem of data protection laws, meaning that the businesses of today and tomorrow will need to keep up if they want to continue to operate on a global scale.
As digital transformation continues to change customer expectations, companies will have to grow and change, as well. A CIAM solution like LoginRadius can help you achieve this with customer account information, including data, consent, and activity, accessible from one dashboard.