SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

How to Effectively Manage Your Remote Team

Today’s global economy and advanced technologies allow us to include remote employees into our teams. With the use of various collaboration tools, cloud sharing apps, and video conferences, managers can effectively set goals, assign tasks, and Team Colget the desired results in real time. Since the high number of competitive firms in technological and economic centers have drastically increased their employee turnover, many big and small businesses have decided to use the affordable, educated, and loyal labor from the developing countries.

Remote management still comes with a wide variety of challenges. It is much harder to motivate your employees when you do not see them in-person on a daily basis. Furthermore, all paperwork and communication need to be done in the digital form. Before creating an effective remote management strategy, a company should set a special budget for buying and maintaining the appropriate software and hardware solutions. In this guide, we have explained remote team management by describing every step of this process.

Choosing the members of remote teams is a little bit different from the regular hiring process. The candidate’s location is never an issue, but they still need to satisfy certain criteria apart from the adequate expertise and work experience. All team members need to speak the same language because running a team in different languages and using online translation tools would be too difficult. They also need to have appropriate hardware.

The hiring process for international businesses usually starts with posting a job ad on an international job search platform or with contacting an HR agency. Managers often outsource some minor and repetitive tasks to freelancers, through various freelance marketplace platforms. Freelancers who prove their skills and show outstanding results have a chance to be admitted into the team. The companies that run remote teams have a much bigger talent pool at their disposal. That is why they should try to speed up and automate their hiring process. They can do it by using chatbots or by utilizing a big data software.

Establishing a real-time collaboration is the biggest challenge remote teams need to overcome. It can also be solved by introducing some of the available advanced technological solutions. There are many useful apps that managers can choose from for this purpose. Some of them even use advanced collaboration and scheduling systems like Kanban, invented for managing the Toyota supply chain.

Most collaboration apps offer a simple interface which allows users to schedule tasks to each other, chat, and exchange files. Today, many companies use team collaboration apps such as Wrike. My team started using this app two years ago and although it offers a solid set of features, we have decided to replace it. We have found a good Wrike alternative that offers advanced features like invoicing, budgeting, client permissions, self-hosting, and the all in one feature package. Thanks to this small change, our productivity skyrocketed.

Real-time Collaboration
The collaboration in remote teams needs to be done in real time. Since team members often work from different time zones, they need to make themselves readily available at critical times of the day. They can do this by installing the collaborative app on their smartphones and regularly checking push notifications. Although good collaborative apps can replace a whole list of business software, remote teams can also use emails, social networks, remote access software, cloud storage apps, the MS Office suite, and many other business apps.

Meetings are of critical importance for remote team management. Companies would need thousands of dollars to bring all the team members from different parts of the world to their headquarters. Still, efficient project management requires regular team meetings. Most successful teams meet at least twice a week. They assign tasks for the upcoming week on Mondays, while they review the team’s work results on Fridays.

Managers can organize team meetings with the use of a meeting software and online video conferencing. Each team member should have a webcam, a microphone, and a special app installed on their desktop or smartphone. Many companies purchase special software for video conferencing. Entrepreneurs who want to save money can also use the group chat feature offered on various messenger apps.

Team Building
Companies usually neglect this very important side of teamwork. Team building is even more important for managing remote teams because their members cannot meet in real life, talk or settle their differences. Companies should arrange team gatherings at least once a year. For some team members, these gatherings would be much more fun because they will need to travel to a part of the world they would never visit prior to the meeting.

Unfortunately, organizing regular team building events for remote teams can be very expensive, even for the biggest corporate entities. That is why companies need to motivate their employees to communicate on social networks, exchange ideas, post interesting videos, motivational songs, and memes on the team’s news feed. This way, managers will be able to lift up the team’s spirit and improve the employees’ morale.

Unite Around a Common Goal
Uniting all team members around a common goal is the most important task for every remote team manager. Unlike regular teams, remote teams need to seize every opportunity for in-person bonding. This often results in long lasting friendships and creates a unique sense of camaraderie that can only be seen in these types of business environments.

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Improve Team Productivity with these 5 Tech Products

Highly efficient and productive teams have become more important than ever before at pushing best-in-class products and services to the market ahead of competitors. A range of tech tools have emerged to serve high-performance teams that help them get ahead of the game to achieve this goal. Below are five examples of tech products designed to boost team productivity.

Communication and Chat Apps
Instant communication is essential in highly productive teams, especially for those working remotely. Email used to be considered a quick and efficient communication tool, but has fallen behind new tools such as Slack, which allows teams to communicate and share files in real time. The ability to share resources, in real time, provides advantages.  Even to teams sitting in the same room – due to the ability to instantly share and collaborate.

Teleconferencing Products

Allowing people to meet face to face, when working in remote locations, can make meetings more productive than using text communication. CIO cites the Skypeability to promote collaboration, in this way, as a top tip for increasing team efficiency. Products such as Skype can bring numerous people together.  Not only to speak face to face but to share work and resources, in real time via a single application.

Version Control for Creative Teams
For software developers and other asset creators, version control products, such as GitHub and Bitbucket, allow teams to work on the same files at the same time without overwriting each other’s work. This greatly simplifies the headaches that digital content-creation teams faced in the past, by allowing everyone to have their hands in the same work at once.

Cloud-Based Document Management
Cloud-based document services, such as Google Docs, allow people to view and edit the same documents at the same time. When combined with real-timeGoogleDocs communication tools, collaborating on a single document with other team members becomes effortless, and eliminates the need to share and compile multiple versions of a single document. The Huffington Post cites an example of a team member who must unexpectedly work from home to showcase the power of using document management services that can be accessed from anywhere.

Project Management Tools
Project management tools, such as Pivotal Tracker, can help teams to stay on track with real-time goal tracking and time management. The tools mentioned in the sections above help teams to work more efficiently, but teams still need something to help everyone to stay on track and on time with personal and shared deliverables. Forbes notes that this type of product, also, helps people to understand when the work of others that they rely on is complete and ready for them to move forward with their tasks.
Using technology efficiently is critical to thriving in a team environment, and the products noted above can put your team on the path to success by eliminating roadblocks to efficient team workflows. Above all, it is important to keep abreast of new and developing technologies to ensure that your team stays one step ahead of your competitors.

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Check-in: IBM (You Gotta Read This!)

Last quarter I reported from the IBM PartnerWorld Leadership (PWL) Conference 2017 in Las Vegas. Now I want to check-in again on IBM’s efforts to transform and improve its channel partner program.

In the Box

Think of a box having four-sides. That is how IBM essentially communicated the PartnerWorld paradigm to its Business Partners at PWL. I’ll tackle each side here but Figure #1 shows you where I’m headed.

IBM Partnerworld

Figure #1: IBM Box

Global Markets. Don’t forget that in many ways (IMHO), IBM is stronger globally than domestically in the US. It’s a trusted brand when I’ve travelled to LATAM, EMEA and APAC. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. IBM’s claiming to continue to strengthen its globalization approach with dedicated segment leadership, stakeholder collaboration, strong business unit alignment and optimized buyer group focus. For what it is worth, a significant portion of the attendees at PWL were from overseas. Another factoid was IBM’s admission and assertion that it has a 1% market share with plenty of room to grow. I’d concur.

One Channel. Represents IBM’s primary route to market in commercial. The channel vision conversation with especially strong with the seismic shifts occurring in buyer behavior driven by cloud, digital, data and cognitive. The client journeys dictate seamless engagement across digital, direct and business partners. My point is this. Granted IBM tends to work more with larger partners (and ISVs like Bluebee, a genome startup I spoke with) and doesn’t have as meaningful connection with SMB partners and MSPs (more on this in a moment), the facts surround the customer behavior trends are the same!

In the context of channel, a shout out to IBM for the introduction of new competencies in cloud, Watson and security.

Marketing. I found this area to be very interesting and will spend a few extra minutes on this topic. IBM’s marketing strategy is very simple and reflected in Figure #2 below. Marketing is focused on three industries (Manufacturing, Retail, Banking), three professions (CIO/IT, CISO, Marketing) and four IT Products/Services (Analytics, Cloud, Systems and Security). If you get anything out of this blog, let it be this. Approximately 80% of the client base is seed accounts. Translation is that this is the green field for SMB MSPs who want to attach to IBM’s motion. You read it here first.

IBM Image 2










Figure #2: Worth a few hundred words, this one-pager succinctly summarizes the IBM PartnerWorld marketing strategy.

In the context of marketing, this is where I want to highlight two things. The first was my conversation with IBM Cloud CMO Quincy Allen (Figure #3). Basically, we landed on the conclusion that marketing is analytics. And who better to lead that charge than IBM with its huge head start with Watson.

Quincy Allen










Figure #3: Facetime with IBM Cloud CMO Quincy Allen discussing marketing analytics and how to get business value.

Digital Sales/Business Group. The basic story here is marketing workflow. The concept is a content-based strategy of digital hubs that allow the partner to market from top of funnel to mid-funnel and finally conversion. It has to do with relevant content showing up in search such as “AI for marketing” leading to a related article to engage the customer and convert to a trial version of the offering. To be honest, I’d be surprised if IBM didn’t offer this stuff to its partners.

A shout out to the Cognitive Sales Advisor. It’s a Watson-based tool to unify partner support.
The Magician

Jamie Mendez, Director at PartnerWorld, is the magician behind the scenes. And I got to meet her! She keyed in on PartnerWorld (which is the partner program, website and engagement model including events) with a “adding value” mantra. “Few partners only do one thing when you look at our partner program model.” Mendez said. “We want partners to build something, sell something and deploy something.” For that reason, I noticed the PWL conference had a lot more developers that you would see at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (now called “Inspire”).

I chatted about her breadth partner play because my perception has been that IBM doesn’t have an SMB play. They do it in a difference form. First IBM defines an “enterprise” as 50-employees or higher. Second – it partners with distributors for its breadth play including Ingram, TechData, Avnet and Arrow.
Final Thoughts

Gotta hand it to IBM for hanging in there long-term. Year-after-year I attend the PWL conference and they are investing in the partner channel. I think IBM is finally on to something with its focus on Watson and IoT. And it was the first time I had heard of PartnerWorld trying to engage audiences at scale.








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3 Important Advances in Development That Have Led to The Success of Major Apps

During the last seven years, developers have designed state-of-the-art apps that can create a custom interface for each client, connect to many types of products, generate real-time statistics, examine factors that may affect health, sense a user's movements and automate day-Appsto-day tasks. Moreover, the popularity of applications has been tremendously augmented by wearable devices, such as Google Glass, watches that can connect to Wi-Fi and fitness trackers.

3. Linking Apps to Other Products

According to one analysis, more than 122 million users have downloaded applications that can control various compatible products, and by January 2020, customers will be able to digitally connect apps to more than 26 billion items worldwide. Currently, users may link the software programs to remote cameras, automobiles, computers, certain electrical outlets, equipment that is related to various sports, unmanned aerial vehicles and some LEDs. Additionally, numerous apps can be connected to medical devices, which may monitor a person's heart rate, examine a diabetic patient's blood sugar and send notifications to physicians.

2. Software Programs That Can Evaluate Workouts and Routes That Many Runners Prefer

In 2014, several businesses released cutting-edge apps that determine the distance of each run, examine the number of steps that a person takes, analyze a workout intensity, predict the effects of inclined paths, provide audible feedback and locate nearby trails. The programs can also provide long-term plans for athletes and evaluate the risk of certain injuries.

Some apps offer analytics that are related to cycling, yoga and training sessions that feature weights. Once the applications log each workout information, users may rapidly send the detailed reports to friends, request tips and save maps that show previous routes, and the apps could automatically add information to a dashboard that allows customers to compare similar workouts.

1. The Advantages of Application Performance Management

While providing real-time statistics, some application performance management toolspplication performance management tools will indicate the number of people who utilize an app during specific time periods, the daily revenue that advertisements produce and the percentage of customers who use particular tools. The programs will examine bugs that decrease the speed of the app's processes, actions that could cause the software to freeze and the quantity of data that the application receives. The software can also analyze the performance of servers that are linked to related websites.

Certain programs allow developers to sort data and lists of processes that an app completed. Furthermore, some tools may provide interactive charts that indicate the historical prevalence of specific events and compare metrics that are related to multiple apps, and some applications will predict the activities of users, revenue that each app might generate and the number of customers who will likely use certain features every day.

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Show Us Your...

Show us your newsletter that you send to customers! Here is the official story:

Harry here. I need your help.

I'm researching how MSPs, consultants, IT Pros and good old fashioned 'puter guys communicate with customers (small business owners).

newsletter image

There are a couple reasons for my research. Too often we spend far too much time researching recurring revenue and how to get you to sell more stuff for vendors. I am on a mission to see if we can strengthen the organic relationship between a service provider (MSP, etc) and the SMB customer.

My ask is this.

Please both SEND me and SUBSCRIBE me to the customer facing newsletter you send to your customers. Kindly use the following email address as I anticipate the response to be a large sample size: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I'll publish the results of my research and analysis. One offshoot I'd like to discover is, based on how you communicate with your real world end-user customers, can we craft a better level of community engagement for Small Business Saturday in late November 2017?

Thank you for helping me. Your participation makes us a better community - even 18-years later since our humble start in the early days of Small Business Server (SBS) in the late 1990s!

Enjoy the ride....harrybbb
Harry Brelsford
206-201-2944 (yep - that's my real phone number!)

UPDATED: I've receive a number of great responses, samples and sign-ups since I announced this matter last Friday, March 17, 2017 (THANK YOU). I'm amazed at the innovation by wiser MSP minds out there. For example - one franchise organization provides newsletters for its franchise holders. Another MSP only sends print newsletters. So far this has been really interesting research.

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