Opportunities Abound In Information Technology

Information technology business opportunities are as many and varied as the types of technology themselves. In this age of ever increasing technology use, this is one field that continues to expand, offering a multitude of possibilities for IT savvy individuals who want to start up their own business. It’s easier than ever to be successful in IT, as long as you know where to look and aren’t afraid to take that first step.

It’s really quite a simple idea: it seems like every time we turn around another new technological wonder is being created and people want to take advantage. Unfortunately, many people are left behind by the tidal wave of technology because it is just beyond their comprehension or they can’t seem to keep up. That’s where IT experts come in and it is exactly why it can be so easy to find money making opportunities if you have the proper amount of technology based knowledge.

So exactly what kind of information technology business opportunities are out there? For individuals who want to start their own business, consulting is the big draw. There is any number of ways that you can market yourself as an IT consultant and have a successful business. Almost any kind of use for technology will open itself up to a need for training and if you’ve got the know-how to provide it, then you’re good to go.

With the Internet marketplace continuing to grow at an astronomical pace, the need for IT consultants is also growing exponentially. Business owners need to create websites, learn their way around social media marketing, or just simply learn to use their own computer system more efficiently. As an IT expert, you can offer your services to guide them through these processes and improve their business as a result.

Two of the newer information technology business opportunities are blog consulting and video design. Blogs are becoming an important marketing tool for business but they will only provide good results if they are produced properly. Many people are at a loss when it comes to managing their blogs and a skilled IT consultant can help them dramatically in this area.

At the same time, videos are also taking center stage in marketing… one viral video can make all the difference for a business… but designing, producing and positioning them to best advantage can be a mystery that an IT expert can help solve.

Of course, there are still the old standbys of IT: data entry, computer training and computer maintenance. These are areas that many business owners can’t handle on their own or don’t want to devote the necessary time to. As an independent IT consultant, you can step in and take over these jobs, making yourself a good amount of money while you help to ease the headaches of over-stressed business owners.

This is just a general overview, but you get the picture. If you’re an IT expert, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to find your niche and start making money. The information technology business opportunities you’re interested in are out there, you just have to take the right steps and market yourself as that go-to IT guy no business can live without!

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Managing Technology Within An Organization

“I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.” – From the HAL 9000 computer, 2001: A Space Odyssey

When it comes to technology solutions for your business it is easy to get carried away with the latest-and-greatest gadgets and solutions. Everyone wants to have the latest shiny thing. In larger organizations, managing technology can become burdensome due to competing and duplicative technology requests. Left unfettered, the company technology platform can resemble a “spaghetti bowl” over time. Often is the case, new technology requests are submitted without any business case to support their investment.

I am a big proponent of having non-technology business leaders play an active role in the determination of the technology solutions utilized at an organization. While it is critical to include an IT perspective from a technical interface standpoint, having non-IT personnel drive technology solutions often lead to decisions based on thebusiness needs of the organization. As such, any technology request would require a business plan to support the investment.

Form A Technology Committee: This is the start of your technology approval process. Create a technology committee that represents various personnel from cross-functional departments. Consider selecting an operations, marketing, accounting, technology and finance member to this team. This committee is charged with creating the process for submitting technology solution requests for the organization as well as providing the prioritization and ultimately, approval of the requests.

Develop A Submittal Process: Inherent in a well-thought through technology strategy for an organization is developing a process for the submission of ideas. Following the “garbage-in, garbage-out” mindset, developing a detailed process for submission will help weed out the “nice to haves” and focus the committee on real, tangible solutions. This process should not only include the technology solution identified, but as importantly, the business case for its justification. For approved projects in the queue, a monthly communication should be sent to the organization recapping the activity of the committee.

Focus Your Projects: A technology committee creates focus throughout the organization. While it would be great to have every new iteration of technology that gets released, that is impractical and costly. The committee can help with providing a high-level perspective on the entire enterprise since it is considering all requests. All to often, departmental requests have a tendency to be created in a silo, with only the impact on that department considered.

Need To Have Vs. Nice To Have: This is a biggie. It is easy to feel that an iPhone 3 becomes obsolete as soon as the iPhone 4 is released, but when the technology is run by the committee, the “nice to haves” usually fail due to a lack of business case. The committee allows the organization to run with an unbiased interference with respect to technology. The committee is charged with improving ROI on technology solutions and since it is comprised cross-departmentally, there should be no “pet” projects.

One Project, Big Picture: I have headed a technology committee in the past and the greatest “aha” moment for me was the amount of similar technology solutions that were being presented from different departments. Had all of these requests been accepted, the organization would have overspent IT dollars as well as created duplicative solutions to the same issues. The committee allows for its members to “rise above” the fray of the organization and view the technology requests in the big picture. The committee’s goal was to ensure that any approved request was accretive to the overall company.

Create A Business Case: This is the best way to clear out the clutter. Ask employees what they need from a technology solution and the committee will be inundated with ideas. Ask them to submit in a business case (cost justification for the investment) along with their solution and ideas are significantly reduced. The business case for a technology solution not only helps in identifying whether the investment is worth it, but also forces the author to think about how this solution interfaces within the existing platform.

Post Analysis: Lastly, carefully measuring the business case proforma against the actual cost/return of the projects not only holds the submitter responsible, but also the committee. The goal with the post analysis isn’t to “call people out”, but rather provide an unbiased financial review of the project. Without this type of post analysis measurement to hold this team accountable, the committee eventually will serve no purpose.

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Opportunities in Russia For Energy and Technology Business

U.S. energy and technology businesses seeking new global markets should prepare to take advantage of new opportunities in Russia. A fresh start in U.S.-Russian political relations is dramatically improving the business climate. Russian economic reforms and the stabilization of the Russian economy has reduced the risk of doing business in Russia. Another factor is that Russia has become a nation of significant wealth because of oil and gas exports. Most importantly, Russia is about to invest in major new energy infrastructure that is a great opportunity for U.S energy and technology business.

A Fresh Start in US-Russian Relations
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev issued a statement on March 31, 2009 about building the bond between Russia and the United States. President Medvedev made a strong statement about the need need for more investment projects, joint research and development by companies and increased trade in high tech products between America and Russia. President Obama has made clear that he is also interested in strengthening the bonds and trade between Russia and the United States.

President Medvedev and President Barack Obama met in London on April 1, 2009. A Joint Statement by President Obama and President Medvedev on April 1, 2009 stated that they had discussed ways to strengthen the international monetary and financial system and promote global economic stability and prosperity. The statement also emphasized the steps that both countries will take to improve international security, rule of law, and peaceful resolution of differences. This establishes a very good climate for American-Russia business.

Russian Economic Reforms
Key economic reforms have been implemented in the Russian tax, banking, labor and land codes. Russia has passed a new Foreign Investment Law that defines procedures for participation of foreign investors in the capital of Russian strategic sector companies. This new law will create a transparent and predictable business climate for foreign investors. Another significant measure to improve the business climate is that the Russian tariff rate has been set at zero % for the import of some types of technological equipment.

Past problems of doing business in Russia have been reduced for two significant reasons, according to the U.S. State Department. First, Russia has been preparing to join the World Trade Organization by bringing regulations and laws into compliance with internationally accepted business practices. America and Russia concluded a bilateral WTO accession agreement in late 2006. The second factor that has facilitated business transactions in Russia is the growth of small and medium sized businesses. As with most countries, businesses that are small and medium sized are often more innovative and less bureaucratic than big corporations.

Stability of Russian Economy
The Russian economy has greatly improved since the difficult times in the 1990s during the transition to a free market system. Inflation and exchange rates have stabilized due to good fiscal policy, according to the U.S. State Department. In the past nine years, the Russian GDP growth has averaged 7%. Since 2003, Russia has had a budget surplus and has established a large stabilization/rainy day fund ($156 billion in 2007). This kind of economic stability is very inviting for international business.

Russian Oil Exports
Russia is becoming a wealthy nation because of oil and gas exports, which have become the engine that drives the Russian economy. Russia is the world’s largest energy exporter now. Although America is the world’s largest importer of energy, only about 3% of US oil imports were from Russia in February 2009. With improved US-Russian relations, there is a more opportunity an increase in oil exports from Russia to America. The US government has been striving to reduce its dependence on the Middle East for oil and importing oil from Russia would support that goal.

U.S. businesses that want to import Russian oil can look online for Russian partners. The Russian firm OOOLIGA, founded In 2004, has an online ad stating that the company is agent of Gasprom, Rosfneft, Lukoil and other oil companies in Russia. OOLIGA sells rebco (Russian Export Blend Crude Oil), d-2, mazut, as well as numerous other products. Another Russian company is Sakhalin Energy, which promises to deliver oil and gas “profitably and in environmentally and socially responsible ways.” Sakhalin Energy sells d-2, mazut, rebco, lng, jetfuel, lpg, gasoline, m-100, and diesel oil. The Oao Yandgaz Group is another Russian company that is selling oil internationally. Oao Yandgaz states in its an ad that it is a major oil extracting Company that is looking build “strong and long-term business relationships with buyers of petroleum products in accordance with Russian law.” The Oaa Yandgaz Group sells base oil, bitumen, diesel, jet fuel, lng, lpg, mazut100, rebco, other petroleum products. These are just a few examples of the many Russian companies looking for business partners.

Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy Technologies
In the April 1, 2009 Joint Statement, President Obama and President Medvedev pledged to cooperate in improving energy efficiency and development of clean energy technologies. This cooperation will be based on the Global Energy Security Principles adopted at the G-8 Summit held in 2006 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Russia’s 2008 plan for implementing the St. Petersburg principles shows Russia’s commitment to expand electrical generation and distribution facilities in the next 10 years. They plan to double the total capacity of nuclear power plants and coal-fired plants. Hydroelectric power plant capacity will increase by 60% and gas generation plant capacity will increase by 40%. These massive infrastructure projects will be opportunities for American energy businesses. The projects will also be opportunities for U.S. companies that specialize in technology and products for energy efficiency and clean energy technology.

U.S.-Russian Energy and Technology Trade
These new developments in the Russian marketplace represent huge opportunities for American energy and technology businesses. Russia’s new wealth and economic stability provide an excellent environment for investment and trade. Russia has opened the doors for foreign technology businesses with new laws and zero tariff programs. Russia’s plan to make big investments in energy infrastructure will be significant opportunities for U.S. energy companies. All of these signs are extremely promising, and U.S. companies should be ready to take advantage of these opportunities.

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The Keys To Starting An Information Technology Business

An information technology business can be a gold mine in the right hands, but IT is an extremely crowded field so you need to make sure that you take the right steps in order to make your business a success. That process begins with understanding the importance of IT and knowing how to properly position yourself within the market to make the best of your particular assets. If you can manage that, then the opportunities for success are almost limitless.

There are several key elements to starting an IT business and the first is recognizing the various aspects of IT and what they can bring to clients. Information is an extremely valuable commodity these days, so much so that entire social media networks are built almost every day with the primary goal of spreading information. The Internet itself is the penultimate resource for instant delivery of information and for not just local but global communication.

The IT expert is ideally positioned to make the most of these resources in order to help businesses become more productive and more profitable. Through your own information technology business you can provide the expertise necessary to manipulate social media, produce blogs, design websites and otherwise enable clients to market themselves to their best advantage and reach the widest possible group of potential customers, thus maximizing their profits.

As important as having a strong online presence is to a company, so too is having their own computer system running smoothly and efficiently. This is yet another area where an IT consultant can make a big difference. You can help your clients to put their own systems to better use and to keep existing systems functioning properly so that their business continues to run smoothly and everyone benefits in the end.

Once you understand your own importance in this cycle, you can then take the necessary steps to properly market your information technology business. As with your clients’ businesses, marketing is equally essential to yours and you need to not only identify potential opportunities but also position yourself to take the best advantage of them. Make yourself stand out by highlighting what makes you so much better than the competition and you’ll have clients seeking you out in no time.

Obviously staying on top of trends in technology is vital to being an effective IT consultant and that is another key to starting and maintaining a successful business. The more current your knowledge is, the more effective you’ll be at helping your clients to stay on top of those same trends. You’ll be giving them the competitive edge through your own expertise and that will make you someone that businesses know they can rely on for their IT needs.

Just because the field is a large one doesn’t mean you have to get lost in the crowd. With the right approach you can keep yourself head and shoulders above the rest and put your information technology business in the forefront. Then you’ll be able to sit back and watch the business opportunities multiply and the profits increase with them. It’s a win-win situation for everyone and it could very well be the start of an extremely successful career.

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The Effects of Technology In Customer Support

Customers are the blood to businesses. It is fact that trades solely rely on their customers for survival. Therefore, it is essential for businesses not only value their customers but also culminate a relationship with them to ensure loyalty. This is the only way businesses can be assured of repeating a trade. Businesses can only achieve this by offering the highest quality of customer service. Technology has changed the way businesses interact with their customers. There are a number of technological tools that enhance customer service. Businesses are using technology because it improves efficiency. This is also a very cost-effective method in dealing with customer service issues like complaints, enquiries, and online orders. Through technology, businesses have been brought closer to their customers.

Some of the technological tools businesses may use to enhance customer service are:

Social Media Networks: These create a virtual community between the business and their customers. Questions, enquires and complaints can be sorted very fast using this platform.

Websites: Before social media networks, this was the initial contact of businesses and their customers. Today, it is used as a marketing tool.

E-mail: Emails are the traditional way businesses use to communicate with their clients. This is used either to inform customers of a new product/an improved product; use it as a channel for marketing campaigns; or any changes within the organization. This is the best tool for culminating loyalty.

Every business realizes that you cannot think of customer and not think about marketing. One relies heavily on the other. Businesses, therefore, use technology to enhance marketing strategies as well. They do this by:

Using marketing strategies formed in line with customer insights. These can only be achieved through use of databases and analytical tools.

Automation of majority of services offered by businesses leads to increased efficiency and effectiveness. Businesses have automated most services that touch on customers. Enquiries and questions are being handled more efficiently through software like ZenDesk. Purchasing and online trading has been automated through ecommerce. Websites have been used to automate the initial contact between the business and their customers. Customers can access more information on the business in question through their website.

Technology can be used to either make or break a business. Social media networks are the most dangerous if not used properly. One mistake can lead to a fall of giant businesses. Social network media are platforms for sharing information among the online community. Businesses use social media to build brands and also interact with their customers. Customer support trend is inclined towards community based technological tools like social media networks.

Businesses should aim to create good relations with their customers, regardless of the avenue used. An unsatisfied customer is worse than a wild fire. Most of the technology aimed at enhancing customer service can be used concurrently as marketing tools. Businesses use technology to gain advantage over others. Businesses use different technological tools for different purposes. Thus, what works for one business may not work for another. When dealing with customers, businesses should combine all technological tools available to enhance customer experience.

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Project Risk Management and Assurance

Why do so many organisations embark on high-risk projects without demanding robust project assurance?

Projects fail for many reasons. Recent global studies indicate that inadequate risk management is a common cause.

Successful project managers aim to resolve high levels of exposure before they occur, via systematic risk management processes.

Many projects are inherently exposed to myriad risks and are often significant in scale, complexity and ambition. Delivering large-scale projects can often be adversely impacted by a bias towards being over-optimistic.

Imperfect, insufficient or inadequate data increases exposure that often results in over-estimating benefits and under-estimating costs.

Managing macro and micro-level events related to achieving project deliverables, whilst balancing the needs of many stakeholders, has become increasingly important.

Assessing risks at both portfolio and work-stream levels helps increase confidence that risks are understood.

Projects are often prioritised relevant to their levels of perceived exposure and one has its own risk profile.

Project Risk Management

Project risk management focuses on identifying, analysing and responding to project events.

It should be designed to systematically identify and manage levels of uncertainty and potential threats to delivering project objectives successfully.

Risk management processes should be iterative throughout a project’s life-cycle and embedded in project management planning and activities. Smaller projects often require minor work and periodic monitoring.

Complex projects need formalised processes to analyse, manage and report risks.

Good reporting relies on clear descriptions of all exposure, their impact on the projects, and potential costs for mitigation and inaction.

This helps ensure project personnel understand the potential impact risks may have on projects’ success and have prepared strategies to minimise negative consequences.

Problems occur when there is limited visibility of risks at project and portfolio levels or approaches to risk-management are ad-hoc and inconsistent.

Further problems can arise when risks are identified but recorded at a very high level accompanied by highly subjective risk ratings, rather than being the result of more substantive risk assessment.

When these problems arise, an organisation would benefit from clearer, more formal and wide-spread processes for capturing and monitoring risks.

Project and Portfolio Risk Assessments

Project and portfolio risk assessments should be undertaken to understand their risk profiles and associated threats in achieving business objectives.

Assessments should identify the action plans to address the risks identified and allocate executive responsibility to manage them. Additional risk assessments should be carried out on selected projects (perhaps by prioritising them by value or complexity).

Risk management processes should be on-going and monitored throughout a project’s life-cycle.

Regular risk reports would provide Project Sponsors, Senior Responsible Officers and Steering Groups with better visibility of projects’ risk profiles.

Whether you’re responsible for overseeing or managing a project, robust project assurance will help you address the risks that threaten its success.

Mark Gwilliam FCCA CA is the founder and Director of Business Advisory Services.

From humble beginnings, the firm has grown from strength to strength.

It has matured from a small accounting and tax services practice to one that helps small business owners, entrepreneurs and executives navigate complex challenges; including strategy, risk management and internal audit, managing shared-service centres and operations.

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