Conferences – why bother?

Posted by on Jul 13, 2018 in Behind The Scenes, Dynamics 365 CRM, Dynamics CRM Online, Events | 0 comments

You know the drill, the annual industry conference comes around and you look at the prices of flights and accommodation and before you know it you have talked yourself out of going this year.  The costs add up, the travelling eats into our personal time and we wonder, just what is the benefit both to the company and to us personally of this activity, if any?

Before you delete that entry in your calendar though, you might want to consider the following three reasons why you should spend the money and the time to attend one.

For yourself

First and foremost you should make going to this event about yourself – for example do you want to learn something new, then attend the sessions where you will learn the most.  Conferences are where the experts go to hang out and you get to hear their genius first hand, make the most of the opportunity.

Networking is not just for your business, it is also for yourself and your future career or business .  Making connections at conferences can reap rewards later so make sure you arrange to have coffee or a drink with people you find interesting or who are a step or two ahead of you in your field.  This is an opportunity to grow your circle of influence and deepen those relationships you already have.

For your business

Bringing back new information, particularly with regard to spotting trends or new opportunities is one of the best reasons for going.  And will potentially bring the about the biggest ROI if it gives you a head start over your competitors.  Speaking of competitors where else do you get to see them all in the same room, at the same time?  The chances are that you will hear useful conversations and this could gain access to the kind of business collaterol it could take months to gather in the normal course of your day.

Meeting new suppliers and gaining insight into new products coming into the marketplace can also turn out to be invaluable business information.  Not to mention the possibilities of meeting new partners and third party suppliers of supporting products and services to enable you to grow you business.

Let’s not forget that your might be faced with your ideal clients here too.  This is particularly true for those of us engaged in vertical markets.  You can use the opportunity to set up meetings for when you return and your expertise and passion for your business is much easier to convey face-to-face than via an email or a phone call.

For the fun

Yes, really, for the fun.  Bigger conferences have social events and parties built around them to enable their attendees to relax and enjoy themselves and there is absolutely no reason not to do so. Smaller conferences will at the very least offer the opportunity for an informal meal with new friends and contacts at the end of the day.  You will be working hard, meeting new people and setting up appointments in the day and all work and no play makes Jill a dull girl.

Bear in mind however  that many report their biggest deals and most useful new connections were made in the queue for the coffee  at breaktime or in the bar after the day is done so don’t discount this as wasted time.

Finally – make a point of enjoying yourself, we are most successful when we do so in whatever activity we engaged with, and your career and your business will reap the rewards in the future.

Cloud2020 will be attending the Microsoft Inspire conference in Las Vegas this year.  If you would like to grab a coffee or a drink with Ian or Lucy there let us know via twitter  or  Instagram


Wendy Clifford is a writer with a longstanding interest in Technology and its impact on our lives both from a business and social sense.  She can be found listening to music (analogue, digital and in a field with a Gin and Tonic), writing and reading, or scavenging for free food from the hedgerows which she turns into jellies and jams.  Connect with her via Twitter @wendyjclifford


 

 

 

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What do you do with your unwanted IT equipment?

Posted by on Feb 23, 2018 in Behind The Scenes, Computer Equipment, IT Schools for Africa | 0 comments

 

 

ITschoolsforAfricaEvery business has one don’t they?  A slightly grubby corner where old discarded computing equipment languishes unloved and no longer wanted until someone gets really fed up with looking at it and decides to do something about it.  But… what to do?

We know this equipment is no longer useful to us but feel that surely it must be useful to someone, but what about the data on the hard drive, can we be sure that we aren’t infringing any data security requirements by donating old IT equipment?  So we hang on to it for another 6 months and then think about taking them to the tip again and decide no it must be useful to someone and round we go again as the dust piles up.

IT Schools for Africa provides a neat and very pleasing way to solve this problem.  They have been providing millions of children in Africa with access to the tools to give them a better quality eduction since 2004 using donated equipment which is collected and refurbished and then provided to schools via their partner charities.  This equipment can then be used to create e-learning labs in schools in countries such as Malawi, Kenya,  Zambia and Zimbabwe.  Each charity has a board of trustees with specialist knowledge of ICT and education and local governments are closely involved so that on-the-ground support is ensured.  This equipment allows students to improve their job prospects and also allows opportunities to access tertiary education.  Basic support and training to the teachers is also provided by IT Schools for Africa.  Also important is the approach to data security which is taken very seriously and all data is wiped from the machines we use specialist CESG approved software. CESG is the information security arm of GCHQ and is the National Technical Authority for Information Assurance within the UK so you can have complete confidence that all data will be properly wiped before the machines are refurbished.  More on IT Schools for Africa‘s approach to data security can be found here

The statistics speak for themselves; in 2013 1 e-learning lab was donated to a school in Malawi, by 2015 this had risen to 15 e-learning labs in schools in Africa.  2008 saw 10,000 refurbished computers sent to Africa, by 2011 an impressive 30,000 were sent.

The good work also is extended to the UK, where IT Schools for Africa, based in Cheltenham, work with The Prince’s Trust and back to work agencies to provide training opportunities to those out of work.  Volunteers develop useful skills, including, IT, communication and those from the workplace as they refurbish and set up the computers ready to be sent out to Africa.  There are other schemes currently running in UK prisons to enable prisoners to learn new and practical IT skills which can help them build a new life once their term of imprisonment ends.

So, how can you help?

Well, the point of this blogpost was to highlight the opportunity for you to pass on your old equipment to somewhere that can use them to help others.  There are caveats of course.  Equipment should be  in working order and computers and laptops no older than 6 years old, however IT Schools for Africa will gratefully accept the following:

  • Computers
  • Flat screens
  • Laptops
  • Tablets
  • Smart phones
  • Keyboards and mice
  • Scanners
  • Printers
  • Cables and power leads

Donations can be sent online via Virgin Money Giving and volunteers and fund raisers are always welcomed.

Give as you live  is an easy way to give as 1,000s of retailers will give a free donation when you shop online.

Start clearing out your unwanted IT equipment today!

IT Schools for Africa can be contacted on 01242 228800 or emailled at contact@itschoolsforafrica.org.  Follow them on twitter, facebook, linked in and instagram 


Wendy small b&w  Wendy Clifford is a writer with a longstanding interest in Technology and its impact on our lives both from a business and in a social sense.  She can be found listening to music (analogue, digital and generally in a field with a Gin and Tonic), writing and reading, or scavenging for free food from the hedgerows which she turns into jellies and jams.

Contact her via Twitter @wendyjoy1


 

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Marketing campaign? What’s a marketing campaign?

Posted by on Oct 23, 2017 in Click Dimensions, Cloud Solutions for Business, Dynamics 365 CRM, Microsoft Dynamics Marketing | 0 comments

I vividly remember the day that Microsoft Dynamics 4.0 CRM was deployed in the business I was working in at the time.  In those early days of cloud this was an on-premise version, out of the box with no customisation and was a strange looking beast with peculiar habits that we needed to bring into our company culture with very little external or expert help.

Once we had taught it our language (english, UK) we then had to get to grips with the functionality, For a home-grown IT services company more used to discussing bits and bytes than to considering the ins and outs of customer nurture programmes this was no small task.  We had so many questions, starting with the basic “What was a marketing campaign?” to “How did subscription lists differ from marketing lists?”, and once we had identified what these actually were, “How could we generate good looking and well written content to woo our potential clients with?”  I suppose we were faced ultimately with asking what it was we wanted to say before we worked out how to say it.

Our answer at that time was to engage the services of a marketing company to help us come up with the answers to these problems but, as is the way with new territory we soon hit another one.  We discovered that no one understood our services and our customers as we did, not only that, not everyone was sufficiently enthused by IT services to put in the effort to do so – imagine that! They also didn’t really understand how to use our new CRM system to make sure that we were gathering the information we needed to make informed decisions about what worked and what didn’t.  It all fizzled out like a damp squib, a poor show at the end of what looked like a promising start, with all the frustration that comes with such unrealised potential.

What we needed then, and arguably most SMBs still do today, was access to a technically literate creative source of campaign and content input, someone that was comfortable with our systems, understood our business and would help us to generate informative and engaging content that we could then use and monitor its effectiveness, at a price that we could afford.

Life has moved on since then, Dynamics 365 CRM which is now available in the cloud with all the benefits associated with that: of security of information, ease of access, and its simple and affordable licensing programme, seamless integration with the Dynamics 365 stack and now a range of exciting additional apps that allow it to be rolled out across a business providing one point of access to a range of business functionality.

To complement our CRM development services here at Cloud2020 we have also rolled out a range of services via the Microsoft Appsource portal that answer the issue that businesses are still faced with – namely creation of marketing content and developing it into a coherent set of campaigns and programmes, all monitored and managed from with the Marketing module of Dynamics 365.  These well priced and focussed services are due to come online and to be available in November 2017.

We will be discussing these exciting services on our podcast on 26/10/17 at 11 am – check out our previous podcasts here – this  month we will be talking about at our event “Full Steam Ahead – marketing in the modern world” on November 15th 2017 at the Swindon Steam Museum –  to sign up for this click here

You can also email me at wendy.clifford@cloud2020.co.uk for an invitation – we look forward to hearing from you soon.

 

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Wendy Clifford is a writer with a longstanding interest in Technology and its impact on our lives both from a business and in a social sense.  She can be found listening to music (analogue, digital and generally in a field with a Gin and Tonic), writing and reading, or scavenging for free food from the hedgerows which she turns into jellies and jams.

Contact her via Twitter @wendyjoy1

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What is GDPR and what does it mean for my business?

Posted by on Sep 20, 2017 in Dynamics CRM Online | 0 comments

The General Data Protection Regulation is due to become law in the UK in May 2018 and all businesses in the UK that hold or process any of their customer’s data will need to be compliant with this regulation by this time

This regulation gives EU residents and those countries doing business with them greater control over personal data.  Non-compliance should be viewed as a risk both of reputation damage and of incurring financial penalties of up to 4% of annual turnover

The regulation is comparatively clear in its application to businesses using such data although it may prove problematic for those that engage in research and use old data; consent for which use can no longer be given, the use of 17th century ships’ logs for climate research is one of these examples.  This grey area is still to be clarified.

It seems fair to say that individual rights are strengthened within by this regulation – the official website for all information regarding GDPR has this to say regarding the intersection between business and individual rights.

“Your lawful basis for processing has an effect on individuals’ rights. For example, if you rely on someone’s consent to process their data, they will generally have stronger rights, for example to have their data deleted.”

https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/data-protection-reform/overview-of-the-gdpr/key-areas-to-consider/

Microsoft’s stance and commitment to supporting their partners and customers to be compliant regarding GDPR is clear from this quote taken from their Trust Center section on Privacy:

“We understand that GDPR compliance is a shared responsibility. That is why we are committed to be GDPR compliant across our cloud services when enforcement begins on May 25, 2018.”

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/TrustCenter/Privacy/gdpr/default.aspx

Microsoft identifies access to data as having a key part to play in enabling businesses to become GDPR compliant and in Dynamics 365 CRM (Cloud2020’s centre of interest) access to data is managed via Security Roles.

  • Role-based securityin Microsoft Dynamics 365 allows you to group together a set of privileges that limit the tasks that can be performed by a given user. This is an important capability, especially when people change roles within an organization.
  • Record-based securityin Dynamics 365 allows you to restrict access to specific records.
  • Field-level securityin Dynamics 365 allows you to restrict access to specific high-impact fields, such as personally identifiable information.

However, a CRM system is not just a sales but also a marketing tool, this is the place where vigilance and proactivity is required to take on board the regulations and understand the implications for your interactions with your customers. Luckily there are several ways that Dynamics 365 and the third party applications available for it can help you.

Click Dimensions

As a marketing tool specifically built for Dynamics 365 CRM Click Dimensions has responded thus to the challenge of GDPR

 “As many of you know, the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) will be effective May 2018. The GDPR regulates the collection, processing and use of personal data of EU individuals. We are currently working with a consultant to help us implement the necessary procedures to facilitate compliance in our role as a “data processor” under the GDPR. ClickDimensions customers are the data controllers.

 Neither the current EU Data Protection Directive (enacted in 1995) or the GDPR prohibit processing of data outside the EU; both legislative schemes require that certain commitments are made by the data processor (ClickDimensions).

 ClickDimensions is currently certified for the EU-US Privacy Shield and will be renewing this fall. We are becoming certified for the Swiss-US Privacy Shield as well. These certifications, like the EU Model Clauses, are related to data transfers and security.

We will continue to provide GDPR updates as new information becomes available. Updates from the EU Working Party are expected to be released in Q4 2017. “

However, there are several ways that it is already able to help businesses seeking to ensure that they are adhering to best practice with regard to consent and record keeping of activity already in place in Click Dimensions.

In order to be entirely sure that users are fulfilling the requirements to ensure consent there is now an option to set up “double opt-in”  http://help.clickdimensions.com/setting-up-double-opt-in-with-clickdimensions/

There is also the opportunity to use “Subscription Preferences” to ensure that there is a record of consent being given to be marketed to from existing and longstanding contacts.

http://help.clickdimensions.com/how-to-create-a-subscription-management-page/

Ultimately though the main impact of the GDPR will be that it will require businesses to be vigilant about documenting consent given and actions taken upon receiving requests to unsubscribe or to “forget” data already given.
5 steps to GDPR readiness

So, what to do now? Proactivity is the way to ensure that businesses can acheive the target of making sure that  sure that they start 2018 GDPR.  Start with a Discovery, what personal data do you hold, where is it kept? Move to Protect it, and Review and Plan to Control the data in the future, finally Report by documenting your actions and your plan to make sure that compliance is easy to maintain in the future.

What plans do you have to acheive compliance by 2018?  Let us know either in the comments section below or by emailing us at hello@cloud2020.co.uk


Wendy Clifford is a writer with a longstanding interest in Technology and its impact on our lives both from a business and social sense.  She can be found listening to music (analogue, digital and in a field with a Gin and Tonic), writing and reading, or scavenging for free food from the hedgerows which she turns into jellies and jams.  Contact her via Twitter @wendyjoy1


 

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What we did on our holidays

Posted by on Sep 20, 2017 in Cloud Solutions for Business, Dynamics 365 Business Edition, Dynamics 365 CRM, Dynamics CRM Online | 0 comments

It's all fun and games here

It’s all fun and games here

 

Well, we didn’t enter the knobbly knees competition at our local Pontins but we did take a break from marketing activity to focus on our own systems and to migrate our financial systems across to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Edition Financials.  As most business owners know this can be a fraught process at the best of times – information about your business’s financial situation is vital and you need to know it is correct for your own peace of mind and the VAT man’s too!  Once the data had been migrated we found the system to be richly featured and, once the initial steep learning curve was completed, comparatively straight forward to engage with on a day to day basis.  It is provides truly valuable financial information that can be easily accessed and enables us to manage our accounts from anywhere and on anything including mobile phones and tablets.  The integration with Dynamics 365 CRM and Outlook is really very good, we love billing and account management as we are out and about.

Plus-ca change though as in the mean-time, there has been news from Microsoft that there are changes coming regarding this edition and its planned launch in the UK. There is still flux in the messages coming from Microsoft  but we will be bringing further information after we have been to Directions in Madrid in October

What financial systems are you using?  Is migration to a new system a job you are putting off?  Are you planning to go to Directions too?

Let us know – hello@cloud2020.co.uk  or comment below


 

Wendy Clifford is a writer with a longstanding interest in Technology and its impact on our lives both from a business and social sense.  She can be found listening to music (analogue, digital and in a field with a Gin and Tonic), writing and reading, or scavenging for free food from the hedgerows which she turns into jellies and jams.  Contact her via Twitter @wendyjoy1

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