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OK, way off-topic this month, but I’ve got a subject that (hopefully) many of you will find interesting.

My wife actually discovered www.Coursera.org, an online education site that offers college-level classes for free. I’ve been signing up for classes and have definitely been converted into a fan for life. I’ve also shared this website with colleagues, who I’ve found to be pretty enthusiastic about using it.

The actual courses are not provided by Coursera itself, but by member universities both national and international. So far, I have taken courses offered by the Wharton School and by the University of Maryland, but there are offerings from Northwestern, Rice, University of California, University of Copenhagen, Ecole Centrale Paris – the list goes on and on. There are currently more than 600 courses, mostly taught in English, but there are a variety of courses offered in other languages as well.

Coursera

I’ve been concentrating primarily on business-related courses, but they also offer courses in art, history, science, health, nutrition – you name it. In general, courses last between four and nine weeks. There will be a set number of online lectures that you can watch, followed by some type of weekly assignment. At the end, you receive a certification that you completed the course; however, if you don’t care much for the certification, you’re free to watch the lectures and skip the assignments. There are also forums associated with the courses to connect with other students for questions or to share ideas.

I’ve found it very easy to fit into my schedule: the lectures are around a half-hour in length, so I just shut my door at lunch and watch one, or just fit one in when I get home from work. I generally save the assignments or tests for the weekend. Some of the courses require you to follow their schedule, but others have all the lectures and tests available from the beginning so I’ve found it worthwhile to work ahead and get a jump on the assignment deadlines.

I mentioned that it’s free, right? Whether you’re interested in professional development, general education or just for fun, it’s a tremendous resource. You can get more details at www.Coursera.org. While this isn’t an official endorsement from Sherpa Software, I give the site my own personal thumbs up.

We have all sat in a doctor’s office waiting room before, looking around for something to pass the time. Perhaps while waiting, your eyes may have drifted over to a wall of filing cabinets, with stacks upon stacks of folios dedicated to the hundreds, if not thousands, of patients a doctor may treat over the course of his or her career.

Crossroads between Information Governance and Healthcare blog Sherpa

In the wake of the digital revolution,  these stacks of documents are slowly being converted to electronic format, and the healthcare industry as a whole has been struggling to catch up to the advances of modern technology. The lynchpin of information management in healthcare is the Electronic Health Record (EHR).

Think of those stacks of documents turned into bits and bytes – the collective components that make up a patient’s history and all pertinent medical information in regards to them. Standardizing information across EHRs has not been an easy task, and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) regularly publishes documents on best practices, offers training seminars for EHR integration and generally acts as a focal point for IT standards across the healthcare industry.

And as it stands, this industry needs all the help it can get. The challenges to healthcare are numerous and interconnected, and made all the more complicated by the prevalence of communication between healthcare and insurance providers. It’s not enough for a provider to have an organizational architecture in place; they also need to be able to fit into the rapidly expanding national healthcare network. Obviously, this can be quite the challenge.

Case in point, healthcare data has stringent legal requirements that can be detrimental to day-to-day operations. The level of security required when transmitting data between healthcare providers (which can put practitioners at risk of breaching doctor-patient confidentiality) can be difficult to guarantee and manage, especially in cases where individual practices and hospitals do not use the same kinds of Clinical Document (CD) programs. In its most egregious form, weak information governance can lead to corruption and fraud amongst medical workers.

The benefits shown in costs saved, efficiency and security has a number of healthcare leaders focusing on information governance as a key component of any successful operation. This approach is remarkably farsighted as strong practices help make the most out of tight budgetary constraints by reducing double-work and improving communication. These IG policies can also be applied to supply chain logistics to decrease costs and improve care. For example, having legible, understandable EHRs (anyone who has ever tried to figure out the scribbles on a prescription slip can attest to the value in this) can cut both time and errors, and billing is improved by giving financial departments accurate summaries of patient services.

Information governance in the healthcare field is not just a matter of automating and digitizing medical records- It touches a number of areas and often a route towards revamping the entire medical records infrastructure, which in turn improves patient care.  This is a boon not just to hospitals, insurance companies and private practices, but also the patients themselves.

ReferencesAHIMA, NCBI

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I recently returned from AIIM 2014, the annual conference staged by the Association for Information and Image Management, and I have to say, it was a great experience!

Right from the opening keynote by well-known industry pundit Guy Kawasaki, AIIM 2014 signaled that it would be a much different event for IT professionals than, for example, Microsoft’s annual TechEd show. Kawasaki’s topic was “Enchantment,” and he eloquently guided us through some basic rules for enchanting coworkers, customers and even spouses! Certainly technology was sprinkled into that presentation, but it also contained a healthy dose of business advice – a formula that continued throughout the remainder of the event.

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Photo provided by AIIM

Sessions were organized into three tracks; engage, process and control. Many were led by AIIM members in a type of ”case study” format that really helped us learn from their experiences in solving a specific problem or planning a particular implementation. For attendees that wanted a more intimate discourse, there were also roundtable break-outs that provided for livelier group discussion. By limiting sessions to 30 minutes, AIIM encouraged brevity which really helped keep the attention of the audience.

As a first-time attendee, I was greatly impressed by how prepared the AIIM staff was and how well-organized the event ran logistically. In terms of conferences, the event was fairly intimate with between 600 and 700 attendees, helping to foster some good networking interaction. Overall I would highly recommend the event to any IT or businessperson interested in information governance – I even managed to earn my certification as an AIIM Information Governance Practitioner.

To learn more about information governance and your options, watch this informational video below!

Another Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) has come and gone, leaving critics divided.  Like any event, both pros and cons could be highlighted. In my opinion, MEC not only picked a great city in Austin, Texas, but they scheduled perfect weather, planned and coordinated some pretty cool events, had an adequate number of staff on-hand to answer questions and even managed to give every attendee a Dell Venue tablet. OK – that last one is an easy way to persuade the audience to say nice things and, let’s face it, they didn’t have control over the weather. There is no doubt; however, most attendees seemed to leave Austin with a positive impression of this year’s conference.

MEC

Some areas of disappointment included a lack of new topics and thought leadership. In fact, the biggest announcement in the opening session was regarding the tablet giveaway. Nonetheless, there were a ton of sessions and many informative (though not groundbreaking) ideas to take away.

MEC doesn’t attract the largest crowd – perhaps because of its on-again, off-again past – but the crowd that attends is very focused and eager to learn both during sessions and on the exhibit floor. That’s where I fit into the MEC equation; Sherpa Software was on-site exhibiting and meeting with customers and prospects around a myriad of Exchange topics. Chief among them seemed to be PST files.

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As most of you know, there is no love lost between Exchange administrators and PST files. Many of the organizations we spoke with were trying to migrate, manage or otherwise delete the notoriously difficult file format. There was also a strong focus around eDiscovery search and collection, reporting and archiving as usual, but PSTs and Office 365 commanded the most attention by far.

There was a great deal of interest around information governance (IG) and Sherpa Software’s new SaaS platform, Sherpa Altitude IG. More signs that IG is taking root and that as many predict, all companies will start exploring cloud and SaaS options more seriously moving forward.

All in all, it was a worthwhile show for Sherpa Software. I presume it all depends on what your expectations are, as to whether other attendees agree with me; but my only real complaint was the scheduling and overlap of the exhibit hall and educational sessions. The timing and logistics made for some pretty slow times on the show floor between happy hour events, but those were well attended and the conversation flowed as easily as the adult beverages.image

No word yet on MEC 2015 or 2016 yet, but Sherpa will certainly be looking to make a return trip. Most likely, we will still be solving PST challenges for companies and continuing to lead the discussion around governance and electronic data.

Sherpa Software is the world’s leading authority on PST management and migration. Feel free to download complimentary assets including, white papers, videos, infographics and more! Click here to get started, or email information@sherpasoftware.com.

 PST-Management

Times are a-changing, and it’s no longer a simple battle between companies (specifically, their marketing departments) to have the best showing at trade shows, the most magazine editorial features, the flashiest website and the highest number of followers on social media – it is much, much more than that.

More and more B2B marketers are catching on by utilizing e-blasts and e-newsletters, taking advantage of marketing automation programs and creating effective SEO strategies, but there still remain just a small percentage of these progressive marketers.

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Gone are the days that marketers can both stay in their comfort zone and be successful.  The trendier B2B marketers are taking action to create integrated content marketing campaigns, better utilize their data and target their audience in ways they’d never done before – and ultimately, those marketers who are taking great strides to keep up will be the ones with the best results.

We’ll talk about just a few things that marketers are doing differently nowadays:

Content marketing opportunities are endless.

Because of how much the internet has expanded in the last five years or so, opportunities for placement of content marketing have become more accessible than ever. Not only can marketers use their websites and blogs nowadays to distribute material, but now social media, enewsletters and eblasts, landing pages and more are available for uploading case studies, infographics, whitepapers and such.

With these opportunities at hand, it’s easy for companies to get lost in the clutter of all the other marketers using the same strategies; standing out is important. It can’t just be a good-looking infographic – it has to be a good, high-level industry piece to educate the reader. 2014 will truly be the year for content marketing to be used to its full ability instead of just serving as a visual aid to grab attention.

B2B social media use is growing.

Social media for businesses is incredibly advantageous; for instance, a business’ Twitter account can send out as much information as the companies’ heart desires, but the true advantage is the connection that people are able to make with the company. It’s not just B2C customers that want that one-on-one conversations.

Some companies are stuck in the stone age of being worried that social media will open up a can of worms, when in fact it will be much more helpful for their company than hurtful. That said, they need to have the right people engaging with customers on their accounts, proper social media training and an appropriate social media policy in place.

Instead of businesses just spewing out one sales pitch tweet after another, it’s now 2014, the year that they should start engaging with customers and potentials. It’s easy these days.

Video, multimedia will make a big splash in 2014.

QUICK QUIZ: What’s the second most-searched search engine other than Google?

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If you’re a fan of the show Friends, you’ll appreciate that last image.

And if you guessed YouTube as the answer, you’re correct!

YouTube is second to Google in the competition of top search engines. If you’re confused about this, consider that video pieces are strong contenders. People respond to the power of video because of its ability to evoke emotion. When a marketing department is able to create brilliance in the form of a short video, it will go a long way. 2014 will be the year for short videos to impress upon B2B customers.

Telling a story with multimedia in general is important, whether it be from an insightful infographic, a brief three-page white paper, a presentation of slides or a short Vine video. When marketers create a mix of all of the above, they are then reaching out to all different kinds of readers and viewers. Visual storytelling will speak to a larger audience when done correctly.

Your sales cycle problem might be completely internal.

The internet is great, and has made people smarter.

At the same time, consider what I just said: It has made people smarter. With this intelligence also comes some decreased patience for things the user is not specifically looking for (or so they think). If a potential customer does not see what they want on the page right away, they will bounce to another page – they will get over it pretty quickly.

Pages have to be completely optimized for users to know that they’re looking at exactly what they need. More than ever in 2014, B2B customers are able to find the most amount of information in the shortest amount of time, whether it’s on one company’s domain, or twelve different searches.

With this all in mind, consider how it affects the sales cycle: the customer is able to very quickly move on from a page they’ve viewed for two, even twenty minutes, searching for their business needs. If a salesperson does not make that follow-up call until even thirty minutes later, that person may have moved on completely – even forgotten what the salesperson is calling about in the first place. This process between marketing and sales departments is often disregarded as a main problem in the overall process for generating new leads and closing sales – but it’s one that should be monitored very closely.

What other B2B marketing trends do you see making a splash in 2014? Sound off in the comment section below.

Companies spend a lot of time evaluating different platforms when selecting their enterprise social software, but few take the time to worry about how to effectively put it into production. We’ll take a look at best practices for successfully rolling IBM Connections out to users within organizations. I’m not referring to the technical specifications required for setting up and installing the system, I’m referring to the end-user experience. Getting your users to implement and love the new technology, as well as make it part of their daily routine, is the goal.

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In this white paper, I will discuss the 7 guidelines for deploying a successful IBM Connections environment:

  1. Get management buy-in
  2. Build focus group(s)
  3. Provide training
  4. Encourage the adoption
  5. Reward use
  6. Follow-up training
  7. Prepare for the bumps in the road

My contact information is at the end… feel free to get a hold of me with any questions!