What You Need to Know Before Reorganizing Your IT Department

IT reorganization is one of the biggest projects you may ever undertake as an IT manager. No matter how you approach a reorg, it’s going to cost you time, resources, and productivity. This means it’s essential to have a sound, business-oriented strategy in place before the decision to reorganize is made.

Here are the most important considerations for launching and implementing an effective IT reorganization for your company:

Know why you’re considering a reorganization

The best way to avoid potentially complex and costly mistakes is to understand the actual problems that prompted you to consider an IT reorg, and decide whether there’s another way to address those problems.

Ask yourself what you hope to accomplish with a reorganization. If your goals can be met through alternative fixes, try implementing the less disruptive solutions first.

If alternatives fail, or if reorganization is the clear answer, then it’s time to talk strategy.

Decide where to start

IT reorganization is a measure that’s intended to solve problems with the organization’s tech department. This means you need a thorough understanding of not just the problems themselves, but the issues they’re causing throughout the organization.

The first step in building a reorg strategy is to communicate — with your IT team, with key stakeholders, and with C-level management. Your approach may vary depending on the parties involved, but the goal is to same: to open conversations and gather input on pain points affecting various parts of the company, and IT areas that could stand improvement.

Gauge your reasons for reorganizing

There are several legitimate reasons to undertake IT reorganization. Here are some of the most common:

  • Your technology is an island: In today’s highly connected business environment, insular IT departments simply won’t survive. Bryan Kirschner, director of the Apogee Institute, indicates three must-have qualities for successful IT: outside-in, cloud-first, and mobile-centric. If your organization lacks these qualities, a reorganization may be the right solution.
  • IT is failing to deliver results: This is one of the most obvious reasons to consider a reorganization, but it’s also one that requires the most caution. If your IT department regularly misses deadlines and exceeds budgets, a reorg may be called for — but only if there’s no other way to fix these problems.
  • You’re new at the helm: If you’re a newly appointed IT leader, whether you’ve been promoted or arrived from another company, you may be itching to make sweeping changes. Depending on the actual situation, this may be a good idea — just be sure it’s the right one. Reorganizing simply because “it’s been a while since the last one” is never a good strategy.
  • The company mission refocuses on new technology: Every business in every industry today needs technology to thrive. If your organization is facing major changes to the way technology impacts your daily operations — such as migrating from single-channel to omni-channel customer experiences — reorganization is almost certainly the right choice.

Obtain buy-in at the C-level and within your team

If you don’t have key personnel on board, your chances of successfully reorganizing will plummet. As with any business initiative, C-level buy-in can make or break an IT reorganization — so make sure to involve them from the start, and maintain transparency by sharing your objectives throughout the process.

You’ll also need to involve your IT team, in order to keep morale elevated and maintain productivity during the often difficult and lengthy reorganization. Keeping your team involved and informed not only helps to decrease the stress that always comes with change, but also helps them feel they have a stake in the success of the reorg.

With thorough planning and communication, you can roll out an IT reorganization smoothly and effectively, and enjoy the benefits of a streamlined IT department for the entire organization. If you need help with this, or any, IT procedure, contact the experts at The Armada Group.

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Wednesday, Nov 26 2014

Can iOS Apps Make Your Job Easier?

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Can iOS Apps Make Your Job Easier

Most of us are relying more on our smartphones and tablets every day. These indispensible pieces of technology can help us communicate, keep us organized, wake us up in the morning, and even help us find the keys we dropped somewhere in the car at night. But can your iPhone or iPad help you boost your brain function and make you more productive?

Not surprisingly, the answer is yes. Here are five apps for iOS that can help you work smarter and more efficiently — either directly or indirectly.

Brainbean

What does a memory game have to do with making your job easier? According to several studies, memory games can make you smarter in the short term, improve overall brain function, and even help to prevent dementia. Brainbean gives you eight free games that exercise your mind and improve memory, pattern recognition, and imagination:

  • Letter List gives you a letter, and asks you to come up with as many words as possible that start with the letter
  • Incomplete Drawing gives you part of a drawing and asks you to complete it with the power of your imagination
  • Word Scramble gives you a bunch of letter tiles, and has you make as many four-letter words as possible from those letters
  • Pipe Builder has you rearrange six tiles containing pipe segments to form a complete pipeline

Brainbean also includes Mosaic Drawing, Pattern Tiles, Block Builder, and Remote Association.

Babbel

Learning a new language is another proven way to boost brain function, but actually doing this is harder as you get older. Babbel provides an easy, interactive tool to help you learn a second language, or a third and fourth. Game-like activities are used to help you master words and phrases, and simple listen-and-repeat actions allow you to master pronunciation. There are 14 languages to choose from, including German, Spanish, French, and Italian.

Babbel is free for the first few levels. Advanced lessons are available for a monthly subscription fee.

Adobe Photoshop Sketch

This free-form sketching app from the biggest name in digital illustration lets you draw and sketch on photos or backgrounds that are imported from your camera, device storage, or the Adobe Creative Cloud. You can also sketch on a blank page. It includes five pens and a full color palette, as well as a ruler tool to easily draw straight lines. Adobe Photoshop Sketch is free, and makes a great tool for meetings and presentations.

Adobe Photoshop Mix

Another Adobe product that uses the Creative Cloud, this simplified version of Adobe’s flagship software lets you perform photo editing on your iPhone or iPad. Features include image mixing, enhancing, effects, cut-outs, and crops. And with connectivity to the Creative Cloud, you can access more advanced image editing tools such as content-aware fills and shake reduction.

Adobe Photoshop Mix is a free app, and can be extremely useful in meetings and presentations, especially on larger iPad screens.

Skitch

While not as versatile or free-form functional as the Adobe apps listed here, Skitch is an excellent on-the-go annotation tool. The app allows you to quickly and easily annotate web pages, PDF files, images and photos, and maps pulled from Apple Maps, allowing for more streamlined communication on the fly.

Skitch is free to download, but it costs $1.99 to get PDF markup capabilities (all other markup features are free). You can also connect the app to Evernote Premium for $4.99.

For more information on how to make your job easier, or to find a job that suits you better, contact the employment experts at The Armada Group. We help place candidates in top positions across the nation – and world.

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What is Beacon Technology - And How Are We Already Using It

A relatively new type of technology is making its way into businesses and organizations across the country. Some are referring to beacon technology as “GPS for indoors,” and in effect, that’s what these devices do — though the potential applications for beacons go beyond offering locations and directions.

What are beacons?

Beacons are small, inexpensive pieces of hardware that connect via Bluetooth, enabling them to transmit data directly to mobile devices. As usual, Apple is setting the popularity trend with its iBeacon, but other companies — some of which have been using beacons before Apple launched their version — are already making waves with this technology.

How can beacons be used?

Through the combined use of beacon hardware and specialized software, beacons can be used to locate mobile devices indoors and transmit messages or prompts according to a set of targeted criteria. This enables real-time, segmented in-person marketing for consumers with mobile devices.

The most obvious applications for beacon technology are in retail. Beacons can target shoppers in certain areas of a store and send personalized deals, product information, and more directly to their smartphones or tablets. This technology can also simplify the shopping experience, allowing customers to use a completely contactless payment system that’s tied to their mobile device.

But retail isn’t the only possibility for beacon technology, which has potential applications for enterprise, event organizers, transit systems, and even educational institutions.

One potential barrier to widespread adoption of beacon technology is the required permissions. Retail locations can’t simply send messages to any mobile device that happens to be inside the store. Generally, customers have to enable Bluetooth, permit location services on the relevant beacon app, and opt-in to notifications from the store.

Who’s using beacon technology now?

Apple’s iBeacon is already being used for personalized shopping experiences through a partnership with marketing platform Swirl, which is used in several stores throughout the United States and Canada — including Lord & Taylor, Timberland, Alex and Ani, and Kenneth Cole.

A Silicon Valley-based shopping app called shopkick has used beacon technology since 2009, rewarding users with “kicks” or retail points just for entering certain stores. The shopkick beacon platform is currently used in stores like Target, Best Buy, Old Navy, JC Penney, American Eagle, and more. Brands like Ritz, Levi’s, and Oreo also use shopkick to send alerts that draw customers to their product locations inside stores. Macy’s recently announced an expanded partnership with shopkick that represents the largest beacon deployment to date, with the technology to roll out to 4,000 Macy’s locations — bringing the total number of locations using shopkick to 7,500.

Several other companies are also getting involved in beacon technology. Both PayPal and Qualcomm tend to roll out beacon hardware of their own to compete with the iBeacon, and vendors similar to Swirl, such as Estimote and GPShopper, are offering beacon management and consulting along with software platforms.

With the prevalence of mobile devices, beacon technology provides a convenient new way to direct people — shoppers, students, travelers, and more. To learn more about this technology, or how it pertains to your company, contact the IT experts at The Armada Group today.

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Friday, Nov 21 2014

Common Technology Myths (Busted!)

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There are plenty of things “everybody knows” about technology. For instance, everyone knows you can’t use cell phones and gas pumps at the same time, or put metal in the microwave, or stick a magnet on your computer tower.

So it may be a surprise to learn that all these known technology dangers, and many more, are wrong. Some are exaggerations, and some are just flat-out incorrect. Here’s a list of common myths about technology that you’ve probably believed.

If you pump gas while you’re on your phone, your car will catch fire

So far, the number of gas station fires that have involved a cell phone have been one — and in that case, it was found that the phone didn’t actually start the fire. While the FCC says it’s “theoretically possible” an electric spark from a cell phone could ignite gasoline fumes, even they admit the possibility is “very remote.” There have been several studies and an episode of Mythbusters disproving this myth.

Magnets + stored data = poof!

As the belief goes, placing a magnet on any electronic device that stores data will erase everything on there — so unless you’re playing a cruel practical joke, keep magnets away from computers and thumb drives. But the truth is, solid state drives like thumb drives won’t be affected at all. And computer hard drive disks can be erased with magnets, but only really big ones like those used for MRI machines.

If you microwave a metal object, it will spark and your microwave will explode

It’s hard to dispute this one. Most people have either seen a video where a fork is being microwaved and shooting sparks everywhere, or they’ve tried the fork trick themselves. The myth lies in believing that any metal object will produce this effect. The sparking isn’t caused by the metal of the fork — instead, it’s the shape of it. Sharp edges conduct the electrons that cause sparks. But microwave a spoon, and pretty much nothing will happen. Note: we do not suggest you run out and microwave any or all metal items in your home.

Standing next to a microwave will pump you full of radiation

This myth has lost some ground over time, but plenty of people still believe that if you stand next to a microwave while it’s running, you could turn into Spiderman or Godzilla from the radiation. But while it’s true that microwaves sometimes leak radiation, the FDA explains that the lifetime radiation an appliance emits is “far below the level known to harm people.”

More megapixels = better photos

Smartphone cameras have come a long way in a short time, and it’s all because they keep adding megapixels to the image resolution. But equating more megapixels with higher quality photos is one of the most common misconceptions in all of digital photography. You can’t take a great picture with a crappy resolution — but you can take a fantastic photo with a decent resolution, if your phone camera has a good lens, circuitry, sensors, and controls, and you have an eye for lighting and composition. More megapixels do not create instant master photographers.

Internet, World Wide Web…same difference

The Internet and the Web are not two different terms for the same thing. The World Wide Web is actually what most people consider the Internet: all the websites that start with www. But the Internet is more than the Web — it’s the infrastructure that enables information sharing between networks around the globe, including computers, smartphone, and software networks. The Web needs the Internet, but the Internet can exist without the Web.

If you don’t completely drain and recharge your phone/laptop, the battery can’t hold a full charge

This is a myth that used to be true. Older cell and laptop batteries had this problem, but battery technology has advanced along with the devices they power. Most modern devices use lithium-ion batteries, which can be charged whenever it’s convenient — and even a quick charge just to get enough power to send a text won’t harm the battery capacity.

Private or “incognito” browsing lets you be anonymous online

Whether you’re paranoid or just don’t want anyone to know about your Hello Kitty obsession, you might feel safer browsing online in “private mode.” This stealth setting for some browsers keeps the websites you visit out of your history, and prevents you from being automatically logged into your accounts (so you don’t accidentally post about Hello Kitty on your Facebook page). However, incognito mode doesn’t make you invisible to the sites you’re visiting — and your footprints are still findable with some tech savvy.

Your phone is giving you cancer

This myth has been particularly polarizing. In the 1990s and 2000s, there were people who believed this with a passion, and others who called those people paranoid Luddites for thinking it. But the truth is actually…not certain. Several studies, including an exhaustive 11-year-long research program in the UK, have failed to find any link between cell phones and brain cancer, or any other type of cancer. But the studies have also stated that “more research is needed,” so this myth can’t be truly retired yet.

Want to know more about these myths, or have an IT inquiry about jobs or open positions? Contact the experts at The Armada Group today.

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Secrets You Need to Know Before a Career Change

For the modern IT professional, career changes are not only normal — they’re expected. Over the course of your IT career, you can probably expect to change jobs, change companies, and even change fields or specialties. You might start out a Python programmer and make your way to Java front-end developer, or climb up from help desk support to IT project manager. The one constant in IT is that nothing is constant, and everything changes.

But that doesn’t make a career change any easier or less personally nerve-wracking.

If you’re in the midst of changing your career or thinking about making a move — whether it’s up, down, lateral, or a quantum shift to something completely new — here’s what you should know to make the transition smoother.

It’s not a challenge — it’s an opportunity

Starting something new can be exciting, but usually it’s more terrifying. When you step out of your comfort zone into unfamiliar territory, you’re likely to experience fear that you’ll do something wrong, and regret that you’ve left your safety net behind for something you might not succeed with.

Your new area may be challenging, but what’s most important is the opportunity you have to test yourself, improve your skills, and expand your accomplishments. Learning that you can complete something you’ve never done before gives you an incredible boost in self-confidence, and primes you to try even more new and exciting things.

Interviews are your chance to learn

When you’re facing a career change, you may be dreading the very idea of job interviews. Maybe you were feeling relieved when you landed your current job because you’d never have to interview again, or maybe it’s been so long since you’ve been on a job interview that you’ve completely forgotten the basics — do they still shake hands, or should you just wave casually when you walk in?

In any case, keep in mind that interviews are just as important an opportunity for you as they are for the interviewers. They’re your chance to learn more about your new career, to ask questions about the team, the infrastructure, and the job itself. When you treat interviews as your opportunity to interview a department or company, you’ll be better positioned to make sure the new job is a good fit for you — which enables you to start with more confidence.

Understand what you bring to the table

A career change means you’re starting a new position for the first time. But it also means it’s the first time the new position has you — and all of the unique skills and experiences you’re bringing along. Your newness is an asset in an IT world that thrives on innovation.

Because you’re working in a certain capacity for the first time, you don’t have the ingrained habits and perceptions of your more experienced colleagues. You’ll be able to bring a fresh perspective to the work you do, and view challenges at different angles that can produce unexpected results. This is the definition of innovation, and you are uniquely suited to achieve great things in your new IT career.

For more help with a new career or career transition, contact the recruiting experts at The Armada Group. They can assist you in finding the IT career you’re looking for, today.

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5 Tips for Defending Your Systems Against Security Breaches

Every modern business has to worry about security. The threat of hackers and damaging attacks hangs over everyone with an infrastructure — as Boston Children’s Hospital discovered this spring, when hackers claiming to represent Anonymous hit them with phishing and DDoS attacks.

Fortunately, the hospital was prepared to fight back, and patient data remained secure during and after the attacks. Here are five tips from Boston Children’s Hospital’s handling of the situation that can help you safeguard your business from security breaches:

Take an active learning approach to digital security

The best defense is a good offense. Be proactive in your security measures, with preventative strategies that include:

  • Active, real-time surveillance for emerging threats
  • Risk-based modeling and analysis that considers key security factors, including risks, threats, and information systems vulnerabilities
  • Effective regulation that ensures both privacy and safety without creating excess burden

Understand your system resource dependence

In order to mount an effective defense, you need to know which systems work internally, and which rely on external Internet access. Systems connected to the Internet are at risk for security breaches and attacks — for example, the hospital’s EHR (electronic health records) system was spared in the attacks, but its e-prescribing system that connects to pharmacies online was not.

Have an email alternative

In the interests of being prepared for the worst, have a secure access and communication system in place to guard against the possibility of compromised email during an attack. At Children’s, when DDoS attacks increased beyond what the hospital’s internal IT solutions were capable of handling, they were able to shut down all websites and email, and use a secure text messaging application to communicate internally and access patient records.

React when you see smoke — don’t wait for fire

Don’t hesitate to push the button on extreme security measures, such as shutting down websites and email. If you have the right precautions in place, you can avoid business disruption — and the ability to take swift action could save you millions in damages if cyber attacks are successful.

Don’t neglect teleconferences

Phone communications are equally at risk for security breaches. Never include conference passcodes in the body of a calendar invitation — this could get your call recorded and posted online before you even hang up. Instead, send passcodes securely through email or text applications.

Hackers pose a growing threat to the safety and security of information in every industry. Not even a children’s hospital is safe from cyber attacks. Stay up-to-date with the latest security measures, and make sure you’re protected with a proactive strategy that fights back against hackers. If you need help implementing a proactive security plan for your company, or need dedicated IT specialists to handle these threats, speak to the IT experts at The Armada Group.

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