Digital transformation has become a buzzword in the business world, but what does it really mean? The Enterprisers Project suggests that at its core, “digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, resulting in fundamental changes to how the business operates and delivers value to customers”. It’s more than just implementing new technology; it’s a mindset and cultural shift that affects the entire organization.
In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, it’s more important than ever for companies to embrace digital transformation. Digital transformation is about leveraging technology to improve the customer experience, streamline operations, and create new revenue streams. At its core, it’s about fundamentally changing the way a business operates and engages with customers.
The world has continued its shift towards digitalization, and businesses must continue to adapt to stay relevant. According to a recent study by IDC, global spending on digital transformation has continued to rise, and it is projected to reach $1.8 trillion by the end of 2023. As we move forward, digital transformation is no longer just a necessity for survival in today’s economy; it is becoming increasingly crucial for businesses to thrive and remain competitive in their respective markets.
Here are some key ways digital transformation is transforming the business world:
Enhanced Customer Experience: Digital transformation allows businesses to create a customer-centric approach by leveraging data and analytics to personalize and improve the customer experience across all channels
Improves Operational Efficiency: By digitizing processes and automating tasks, businesses can increase efficiency, reduce human error, improve productivity, and increase cost savings. This can lead to faster time to market.
Improved Agility: Digital transformation enables businesses to stay competitive, respond quickly to changing market conditions, customer needs, and emerging technologies. This can give businesses a competitive edge by allowing them to adapt and innovate faster than their competitors.
New Business Models: Digital transformation can unlock new revenue streams and business models by leveraging emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI). These technologies can enable businesses to create new products and services, improve existing ones, and create new market opportunities.
It is essential to embrace digital transformation. Companies that fail to adapt risk falling behind their competitors. Here are some steps to get started with digital transformation:
Define your goals: Identify the areas of your business that could benefit most from digital transformation and define clear goals for what you want to achieve.
Create a roadmap: Develop a roadmap for your digital transformation journey, including timelines, budgets, and key performance indicators (KPIs).
Build a culture of innovation: Create a culture that embraces innovation, experimentation, and continuous improvement. Encourage employees to share ideas and experiment with new technologies.
Invest in technology: Invest in the right technologies to support your digital transformation journey. This may include cloud computing and AI among others.
Train and educate employees: Invest in training and education to ensure that employees have the skills and knowledge needed to embrace digital transformation.
Digital transformation is not just a buzzword – it’s the future of business. Companies that embrace digital transformation can successfully prepare for the challenges of tomorrow and thrive in an increasingly digital world.
If you need support on your Digital Transformation journey, please check out our service offerings to see how we can be of help.
If you haven’t had at least one video call in the last eight months, maybe you’ve been in a cave? 2020 will undoubtedly be a year for the history books, and one of the things we’ll probably all remember is the joys (and sorrows) of the many video calls we’ve attended. Meetings of any sort usually aren’t a favorite activity, and if you’re reading this, you’ve likely been on a video call before and have an opinion on them.
The “Zoom Call” has become part of the collective vernacular, with some praising it and others condemning it. Those who criticize the remote work ritual of the video meeting aren’t looking at the big picture. Sure, meeting in person can help boost your mindset and spur creativity, but to admonish remote work as “unproductive” after less than a year of data during a global pandemic is myopic. (Read our blog on WFH best practice in the “before-times” here!)
For some, video conferencing is old-hat, especially for veteran remote workers. Others who have had the WFH world thrust onto them since March have had to accept a new pace of life for the foreseeable future.
We at Crowned are pros at conducting remote meetings with video conferencing tools, and we’re here to make your new WFH routine a little easier. Let’s dive into some of the caveats of video conferencing and best practices of how to stay professional while probably still wearing slippers.
Video Conferencing Best Practices
1. The right software
There are loads of free video conferencing tools to choose from, and selecting the right one for your team can be daunting. Zoom seems to have become the “Google” of video calling in 2020 (remember when everyone called video calls “Skyping”?). Zoom is a popular choice for many reasons, including for security purposes and for meetings that require more seats. However, unless you have a paid plan, your sessions will get cut off at the 45-minute mark. While you can always sign back into the same link to resume the meeting, that’s not the most professional look for most.
We at Crowned us Google Meet for most of our smaller team calls. Most video conferencing software has similar tooling, save for the few pitfalls of the Zoom free-plan. Make sure you try out whatever software you end up using to familiarize yourself with the mute, share screen, chat window, and hide yourself buttons before you’re live on a call.
2. Camera Angle
No one wants to see up your nose. Position your webcam to be level with your eyes, and be sure that you look at the camera while presenting and not the screen. It can be hard to remember to look at the camera when you can see yourself, and turning off the view of yourself can help with this.
3. When not presenting, mute!
Don’t t be afraid to use the mute button! It’s polite to mute yourself when you aren’t presenting or speaking. It may also be appropriate to disable your camera as well. Doing so allows you to grab a snack, type out notes without the annoying clicking sound, sneeze, and tend to your kids or pets who might interrupt your meeting. Muting yourself is a professional courtesy on many levels.
4. A Strong Internet Connection
With the state of broadband infrastructure being suboptimal in most places, it can sometimes be challenging to have a seamless connection during a video call. There are a few things you can do if your internet connection isn’t great. You can tether to your cell phone and use your mobile data if it’s faster than your wifi connection, or you can use the hardline to your modem if your wifi router is a little on the slow side. Either way, if your connection is subpar, do everyone a favor and turn off your video because audio-only calls are a million percent better than a bad video connection.
5. Respect Timing
As a rule of thumb, respect your client’s and colleague’s time and do not go over the allotted meeting time on your call. If you have a tight beginning and end time set, you may need to make the meeting longer, because inevitably the beginning of meetings involve a few minutes getting everyone connected. Set a 5-minute warning timer for yourself if you tend to stray off topic during sessions. If you use the free version of Zoom, there is a 45-minute max meeting time for any call. The call will automatically disconnect after a pop-up warning after 45 minutes (as mentioned early, you can always sign back into the same link). If you want to have more extended and uninterrupted meetings, use a free tool without the time constraint, like Google Meetings, WhatsApp conference calls, Skype, or one of the many other free tools available. If you need the ability to have a large audience, Zoom is still our favorite.
6. Hardware & Permissions
Computer speakers are usually not the best, and, most annoying of all, they can cause an echo on a video call. The best way to mitigate this is with a good pair of headphones. Wired is best unless you have Apple products (both computer and Bluetooth headphones). It’s worth investing a little bit in some nice ones, especially if you’re a heavy meeting person. Either way, I’d recommend noise-canceling headphones, especially if you have kids, pets, or a partner also working from home in the same room or area.
A good mic is also crucial. Most good headphones will have you covered here. If you present a lot and work with higher-end clients, invest in a high-quality mic. It will make you sound like you’re in the room with the person on the other end and filter out any distracting background noise that can make you sound less than professional.
You’ll also need to make sure your computer or phone has the proper permissions set for access to your webcam and microphone on your call BEFORE you get on your call.
Natural lighting is always going to make you look your best on a video call. If you don’t have access to a window, buy yourself a natural light lamp or a selfie ring light. You’ve probably noticed these on the news lately, especially in the reflections of people’s glasses! Thankfully, you can get a good one without breaking the bank, and they’ll make you look fresh and not like a quarantined couch-slug.
8. A Quiet Space
I realize that this can be a tough one, especially with partners or roommates working from home, kids doing online learning, and just life happening, but there are some ways to make this happen. If you don’t have a room you can dedicate as an office, try to carve out a little nook to make into your workspace. I’ve seen many creative workspaces with the uptick in WFH, including a closet-office, working from inside a bedsheet tacked up around a desk, and even working in a bathroom! If all else fails, getting a good set of noise-canceling headphones and a good mic will help you and your clients in the case of any occasional background noise. Also, never forget that mute button!
9. Etiquette: Food, Bathrooms, Attire
I know it’s hard to work from home; I get it. Sometimes we miss lunch or break time, and you just gotta wolf down some Doritos or take care of personal business during a meeting. If this is you, do your audience a favor and mute yourself and turn off your camera. No one wants to see you licking your fingers while going over KPIs, or hear the flush of a toilet whilst discussing Q3 goals.
The same goes for your appearance. Dress as you would for the office in most cases and avoid wearing shirts with writing on them. If you wear a shirt with something like a band name or political message, angle your camera so that it’s not in view. The same goes for your background. If your space is cluttered or busy, use a simple background in Zoom to hide it.
10. The Chat Feature
All video conferencing software has a chat function. Use it! It’s a great way to ask a question without interrupting, or you can have your attendees post a hand raise to get in the queue to ask a question verbally in an organized way. For meeting notes, I usually take notes on meetings in Slack in my own direct message window and also type out any questions I have before a general post to a public forum.
The Future of Meetings
Meetings are likely forever changed, along with many other aspects of working, due to the pandemic. But it’s not all bad! Hopefully, this new normal of video meetings will make many folks see the need for fewer meetings. As the adage says, “That meeting could have been an email.”
So how do you stay on track as a remote team? It basically comes down to self-care and firm boundaries. You have to abide by a few best practices to be successful. Your workspace, time management, and communication are key to killing it while working from home.
How to Set the Stage for WFH
Start Your Day
To set the stage for focus and productivity whilst working remotely have an activity that marks the start of your workday. Mine is taking a shower, get dressed, make coffee, unfurl my computer.
I live in a small apartment, but still, I prefer to work from my home rather than a public place. I save money, can listen to music, mix in-house chores on breaks, and it’s quiet if I need to take a call. Wifi connections at cafes and other public places are often unreliable, and I hate nothing more than crawling around looking for an outlet to charge my computer.
Take Breaks and Move
Frequent short breaks will make you more productive. One thing that I noticed immediately when I started working from home is that I became far less physically active, and honestly became a bit of a hermit. This ultimately impacted my mood and the comfort of my jeans… Find an activity outside of your home that works for you, like a walk around the block. If nothing else, there are heaps of exercise apps you can use at home if you’re feeling like a hermit. Try a seven minute exercise break or find a local class to attend on apps like Mindbody.
End Your Day
No matter your space, it’s important to unplug and remove traces of your workday from your living areas. Set clear work/life boundaries by putting away your computer to reset for evening relaxation. If you are lucky enough to have a home office, leave that room and close the door. Do not check Slack or work emails while you’re off the clock. In my home, we never use computers off the clock, after all, that’s what iPads are for, right? 🙂
Set Time Boundaries
Set a timer when you start working. At Crowned, we use Harvest or Toggl. Even if you aren’t working on an hourly contract, it’s important to know how much time you spend working. This helps to create healthy boundaries and achieve the ever-fleeting work-life balance. Make sure you have office hours and put them on your calendar along with a lunch break every day.
Make a List
An easy way to stay on track and feel accomplished is to get into the habit of making a daily or weekly list. I know for me, if I don’t have a list, I’ll feel like I forgot something and then the anxiety kicks in.
There are heaps of apps that can help you with this, like Asana, Google Tasks, Apple Reminders, or a notebook and a pen! I love the feeling of crossing tasks off of a list I write out on paper. Oh, the satisfaction!
Take Time Off
WFH doesn’t mean you work through the pain of sickness or injury. It’s very easy to get sucked into feeling like since you work from home, you can work regardless of how you feel. Working while sick isn’t a good precedent to set for yourself or your team, and it can contribute to the dreaded burnout, which is now recognized by the World Health Organization as a disease. Try not to fall into the habit of “being well enough to take a call.” Give yourself a break and let your body rest and heal.
Lots of remote teams in the US have the “unlimited PTO” benefit. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen folks not take PTO unless reminded. Take at least 3-4 weeks off per year to recharge and relax. If you’re not one for big trips, take several long weekends each quarter.
Set Clear Expectations
Communicate clearly and directly with your colleagues, use shared project management tools for collaboration, and if you have a meeting set, try your best to keep it. Tell your team that clear and direct communication is expected of them as well. This will help to quell the uncertainty, frustrations, and potential saltiness that can spring up as a remote team. Your colleagues need to have a clear understanding of what is expected of them, just like in any office.
Use the Right Tools
If you’re not using apps for project management and communication, you’re missing the boat. I recently worked at an office where they failed to implement web-based project management tools and modern communication apps and it wasn’t pretty. The number one thing that those colleagues reported struggling with at that office was poor communication, and it led to a revolving door of talented people, myself included!
As a manager, if you don’t have skills with modern project management and communication tools, delegate this or hire someone who does. Consultants with know-how in this area, like Crowned, can set up the infrastructure for these tools and train both you and your staff on how to use them effectively. Using modern project management and communication software will make for a more productive and happier team!
Most remote teams I’ve worked on exclusively communicate via Slack, with weekly meetings on Zoom. I’ve worked at startups that inspired different levels of team socializing. I’ve found that a little fun builds trust, and also alleviates the strain of our busy lives. Having human connections with your colleagues will make work more enjoyable.
In practice, this can look different on every team. When I started at Crowned, I was delighted when I was asked to describe my weekend in only gifs or emojis. It breaks the ice, adds a little whimsy, and laughter increases productivity!
Bonus Points for WFH
In any industry you might work in, you have to keep learning all the time. Read blogs, listen to podcasts, follow topics of your industry in your news feed, join online groups, follow industry leaders on social media, and share what you learn with your team. Have discussions and learn what your colleagues are doing to stay ahead in your field.
It’s nice to see some good news at the start of a shiny new decade: The global remote workforce is on the rise yet again for 2020. This isn’t news to folks in the business world. The International Workplace Group reported in 2018 that 70% of professionals work remotely at least one day a week, while 53% work remotely for at least half of the week. Research across the board shows that the remote work will equal, if not surpass, fixed office locations by the year 2025, and already nearly two-thirds of American companies have growing remote teams. Here’s why yours should, too.
What’s The Deal with WFH?
We in the biz call working remotely, “WFH”, or working from home. The cliché of working from home are many — slippers all day, an expansive loungewear wardrobe, a commute from bed to the couch, and so on. The realities are somewhat mixed with the myth here, but the bottom line is that cultivating a remote work team has heaps of benefits for your business, your employees, and the world at large.
People who’ve never worked remotely are often skeptical about the WFH lifestyle, sometimes scoffing at the struggles remote teams face. These people are, in a word, simply jealous! When I got my first remote job as a social media manager, a family member (who shall remain nameless) very flippantly suggested that I was just “on Facebook all day”… If only they knew the complexities of managing a business page for a national company!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these words uttered in offices I’ve worked at, “I’m WFH tomorrow so I can focus and get some work done without interruptions.” For you and your employees or contractors, remote work can offer refuge from the constraints of the rat-race and boost productivity. The move toward open-plan offices seemed like a good idea for collaboration and teamwork, but it’s really been more of a means of distraction and cuts down productivity. Days working from home (or anywhere other than a traditional office) are frequently noted as the days’ workers report being the most productive. Studies show that this anecdotal observation rings true, with respondents reporting that remote workers clock in an average of 16.8 more days a year than in-office folks. That seriously adds up!
Your office overhead costs are killing you. With all the collaboration-friendly software available today, in-person meetings have become less of a necessity. I’m not saying actual facetime isn’t important, it certainly is in some cases, but the ever sought after “work-life balance” should be the real goal for every tech-based company. Not only will it save you a lot of money, but your staff will also benefit in so many areas of their lives, too, from saving money on commuting, wardrobe, lunches, to things like child and pet care. All that leads to yet another benefit of remote teams — happier workers, because your team will be able to spend less time commuting, more time working productively, and less money trying to make it all work for their families.
Why Remote Work is Here to Stay
Here’s the “skip to the recipe” section for why you should have a remote team, and how to make it work for your business.
What’s with this dramatic increase in remote work? There are a lot of great reasons. Saving money is the top reason for companies. Here are some statistics for you to dig into.
I get questions from clients regarding inbox management quite often. Below are a few examples of what I’ve come across.
“My inbox is overflowing, help!”
“How am I ever going to get through all of these emails?”
“What if I miss something important?”
Does this sound familiar? Are you struggling to keep up with the overflow of emails coming through 24/7? Are important emails going unanswered because you didn’t see them among all of the others? If so, I think I can provide some easy steps that will allow you to manage your inbox with ease. I’ve helped a lot of my clients get their emails organized while keeping their inboxes at a minimum level.
Now, I’m not going to tell you that this will happen overnight, and I’m not going to tell you that your inbox will be empty all the time either. But, what I will say is that you will feel confident to never miss another important email again, you will never have to spend time sorting through your inbox to find those missing emails, and you will always be aware what is coming in and what is being sent out. As long you follow these steps:
Prioritize: This is the first thing I ask my clients to do. I like to have at least 2 priority levels, highest (most urgent) and lowest. However, this is not static and can change depending on the number of emails you receive. I’ve had clients with priority levels 1, 2, 3 and 4. It’s all up to you!
Action items (optional): This is an optional step that I like to include for special circumstances. If you consistently receive a lot of calendar invitations or certain messages that are highly urgent. Having an action category with a bright colored labeled will be very beneficial. I like to leave these emails in the inbox so they won’t be missed.
Color code: I feel that this is such a simple, yet valuable way to organize not only emails but calendars as well. When your eye is drawn to a specific color, you’ll automatically see the importance. I like to have my clients create color-coded labels (or folders) to help identify the priority levels. For example: Green= lowest priority, orange= highest priority, red= action item.
Think- Read, Categorize, Respond, Archive or Delete: Try to get yourself into the habit of going through your inbox at the beginning of your work day. This entails sorting through your emails and categorizing each email with its priority level, then respond (if needed, depending on priority and time). Once finished, delete or archive. By doing this you will get rid of any junk emails that may be filtering through, and you will be able to respond to your most urgent messages in a timely manner.
Trust me, these steps may seem like a lot at first but once you get used to the process it’s extremely simple. In no time you will have successfully managed your inbox, you’ll find everything in its place, nice and organized.
Do you have anything you would like to add that may have helped you get organized?
Why is collaboration so important? Collaboration is fundamental to creating a solid working relationship, it begins from the first point of contact with each of my clients.
When you choose to work with me, you’re bringing me on to streamline certain business obstacles. In order for me to successfully do that, I need to understand how I can best support you and your business. It is my job to create a plan of support that will fulfill your needs. While every client is different, it is important for me to have certain procedures set in place to maintain consistency and organization. And collaboration is the main component in each of them.
A brief outline of these procedures include:
A plan of support specifically catered to you
Project Management systems
Determining weekly meetings
This basic outline allows me to provide ongoing support for you and/or your team. I do not work on a task by task basis, instead, I partner with you, allowing you to focus on core operations. I want my clients to think long term. I want to be someone you can rely on in many aspects of your business without having to worry about maintaining tasks and checklists. That is why collaboration is the underlying reason my system works, it eliminates the need for that. We are in constant communication working together to achieve mutual objectives. your success is my success.
I’ve done several expense reports for a variety of my clients. Things that are typically included are: flights, checked bag fees, dinner/lunch meetings, hotels, rental cars, Uber, taxi’s, concert tickets, misc purchases, credit card transactions, and much more. So, with all of the receipts that are acquired during a single trip, or on a daily basis, how can one keep up with the loot?
My solution, use mobile apps! There are so many available these days it’s hard not to take advantage of their services. These apps allow you to take a photo of your current receipt and it will automatically log that information into a single spreadsheet. Some will even match your credit card transactions, categorize receipts, track company policies & procedures, etc, etc. Saving you, or your Administrative Consultant valuable time. If you’re consistent, utilizing these apps is a great solution! However, there are some companies that do not offer these easy solutions or busy entrepreneurs that do not want to deal with using apps. That’s okay too! You know how it goes, there is a prefabricated spreadsheet that you must fill out manually, entering every receipt, category, or reason. Then you have to submit it to the correct department, attach receipts blah, blah, blah.
As a virtual Administrative Consultant, my goal is to make things easier for all of my clients. So I’ve come up with 6 simple tips to help this process go smoothly, regardless if you choose to go the app route or not.
6 tips for Managing Expense Reports with ease:
Take a photo of each paper receipt you receive: Even though the apps work great for this I would still take one extra step, and email those photos to yourself, or your Administrative Consultant. (Pssst- you can even text the photo to your Admin Consultant) Just so you don’t have to worry about losing the paper receipts. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and you won’t need a scanner.
Use your email to your advantage: You can easily set rules or filters to manage specific incoming emails. For example: If you receive Uber, or Google Apps receipts through email, then you can create a filter to put those emails in a specific folder. That way it keeps your newly received receipts organized, and separate from your inbox.
Create a folder for each month to house all of your emailed receipts and statements: This is important. You need a place to house all of your receipts, and credit card statements. Even if you’re using an app, you need a point of reference in case of a mistake. I would keep this folder in your preferred cloud storage system, or in a secured area on your computer. Your Administrative Consultant can also do this and share the folder with you, or vice versa.
Make time to compile the data: Now that you have a folder with all of your receipts and statements in one place, what’s next? Fill out the report as you go! I highly suggest this, because it will save you time in the long run. No one wants to go through a month of receipts all at once.
Submit your receipts: Companies usually like receipts in one nice PDF document. But, if your photos are in a JPEG format, how does this work? Well, you have some options: you can use a program to convert these for you (sometimes for a small fee), or delegate this task to your Administrative Consultant. I usually have the task of converting these for my clients, it also allows me to double check the entered data as I go.
Double, and triple check!: Before submitting your monthly expense report, just go through and check everything once again. If you’re using a spreadsheet make sure all of your formulas are correct, showing the right amounts. If using an app, check to make sure all receipts are included in the correct amounts. There is less error when using apps, but sometimes a mistake can be made.
Hope this list helps you to become more efficient and productive when managing expense reports. If you need some additional help, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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