Business Continuity – the Key Technology Driver


broken chain
   Integration of change    control leads to efficiency


Business continuity management  is made up of many parts, typically made part of the Disaster Preparedness Plan; so integrated change control is an opportunity waiting to happen in most companies, because business continuity drives business. Consider this common current day example. A business unit requests a change to an existing application to deliver a new and exciting innovation for the customer. However, with no change control process in place, this simple example can crash the server, and take the business out of the digital space beyond its recognized recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO).

Now when you think about this challenge business leaders don’t care about recovery time, application flow, high availability or any other concept that technology adheres to. You know why? Because their customers aren’t happy because they can’t process transactions for whatever product or service this business is in business to do.

As a project manager, or consultant you can provide real value to the CIO by promoting change control. I don’t mean a specific software but the concept from the very tactical and simple process of service requests to the Help Desk through the highly strategic, enterprise risk, compliance and governance challenges. There are however, a plethora of apps in the market place today to help solve your change control and integrate them through the enterprise like Cierson.

Change control is an aspect of project management discipline that we regularly follow with Change control Logs, but you need to look beyond this to the concept of integrated change control management. Let me give you an example: data center infrastructure management systems identify existing equipment, location, connectivity and other aspects of computing, and provide real time ability to track and report changes right down to the cable and port level in the rack. Take this example and elevate it to the enterprise risk level, where a Disaster Preparedness Plan (DPP) establishes remedies for man-made risks, or Acts of God. When you apply integrated change control management principles across the enterprise you begin to elevate everything to a visible state, trackable and reportable for leadership. These transparencies do not exist even in the most sophisticated companies. Ask me, I just completed projects for more than one Fortune 500 enterprise.

So you say that you are just the project manager? When is there a better time for you to step forward and begin the conversation about how we can create a better way? Too many times, I witness PMs assume the role of starting and finishing a project with zero innovation. Somehow, the difference between PMI and ASQ has evolved into rigor versus innovation. Don’t get trapped into 100% of either, but make an effort to innovate in your projects.

How do I do that you say? Rely on the business and technical experts that work with you because no one knows better how to solve issues the enterprise faces than these people. Steer people toward problem identification, cost reduction strategies, and eliminating unnecessary activities in work streams. Use all your facilitation skills to motivate, reward, mentor and encourage this innovation. Realize it comes at some cost though. What is this cost? Stakeholder management. It is your best interest to let functional areas promote ideas and business cases or else you become that “Red Herring” in a sea of workers. If you follow this one axiom you should be seen in the best light by your stakeholders: give all the praise to the team members and accept all the problems and failure as your responsibility.

Try to control the things you can, and improve those you can’t! In an effort to give definition to my idea about business continuity and relate it to specific actions for a PM, I offer these thoughts about integrated change control management:

First, organize the improvement efforts around these strategies:

  1. Customers, members, or clients.
    1. Research, analytics, reports, stories, VOM, JD Power, member surveys, social feedback.
  2. Marketing.
    1. Brand, pricing, product, distribution, promotion.
  3. Product.
    1. Solves customer issues and research through Gartner, Forrester, Aberdeen, Google, BI, and CI.
  4. Technology.
    1. Brings solutions to life like user stories, business cases, or technology that brings speed to delivery such as AGILE or SCRUM.
    2. Architecture first as a starting point, and implementing Architectural Review Boards (ARB).
  5. Technology innovation.
    1. Innovation for enterprise technology such as ePaaS, SaaS, private cloud, hyper convergence, governance, risk management, DR and DPP, change control management, ARB, Tollgate processes.

Second, use these inputs for integrated change control management:

  • Scope – any change, even if it doesn’t appear to affect the project scope, are always examined to see if the change may have any impact on the business, IT, and project scope.
  • Schedule – the project manager examines the proposed change to see if the project schedule is affected. The project manager consider resource availability, access to the job site, cash flow predictions, and deadlines in the project schedule.
  • Costs – the project budget is constantly monitored for changes, even minor changes to the project budget can accumulate into significant cost overruns within the project. Labor is typically the largest expense on a project, so overages on completing project tasks can quick drive changes to the project costs.
  • Quality – any change can affect the expected quality of the project work. Any change, in particular changes to the project scope, can affect the quality and must be monitored for defects and unacceptable project work. Changes to the project schedule can affect project quality as the work force may rush through assignments to meet the project schedule, but generate defects in the rushed work.
  • Human Resources – changes to the project may require additional labor, specialized labor, or if the project is delayed, the project manager may lose key resources that have other assignments that now conflict with the delayed project schedule. Changes to the project team, such as team members leaving the organization, can also affect the entire project.
  • Communications – changes within the project must be communicated to the appropriate stakeholders at the appropriate time. When a change happens the project manager must examine who needs to be informed of the change and communicate the change in the best modality considering the change implications.
  • Risk – changes to the project can threaten the success of the project. Minor changes can have a domino effect on the project and introduce significant risks. All proposed changes must be examined for any possible risks the change may introduce to the project’s ability to reach its objectives.
  • Procurement – changes to the project can affect the procurement of the project. Consider changes to the project scope and how the need for additional materials, contract labor, or facilities can affect the need to procure these goods and services.
  • Stakeholders – changes to the project can positively or negatively affect the stakeholders’ synergy, excitement, and support of the project. The project manager must examine the potential affect the change may have on the project stakeholders. Some changes can add or remove stakeholders to the project; for example, adding or removing elements to the project scope can add or remove additional stakeholders to the project.

Integrated change control is a project management knowledge area that maps the effect a change, action, or outcome in one area or more areas and can be used tactically in the project or strategically at the enterprise level. When determining if a change is needed in the project or process it is paramount to perform integrated change control to keep everyone who needs to know involved and informed. A informed work force will perform better and mitigate risk by thinking forward about all changes and how they impact the enterprise.

Dave Howell is senior consultant, with more than 25 years performing program management, project management, 6-Sigma and facilitation for Fortune 500 companies, the United States Government and  small business. Dave is a member of the Project Management Institute (PMI), and holds a Master’s Degree in Quality Systems Management from National Graduate College. For more information contact Dave at 210-802-8949 or email him at or visit Hi Merit.


Social Media Tips – Pinterest

Pinterest has proven the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” to be absolutely true in its case. The site is one visual treat that millions are finding irresistible. Pinaddiction is the new fever that has gripped the world. Pinterest has really “pinned” it!

According to comScore, Pinterest has crossed 10 million unique visitors hitting a high of 11.7 million unique monthly US visitors. In late March 2012, Pinterest’s no-follow rule notwithstanding, 1,170 Pinterest videos were indexed by Google. By mid-April 2012, that figure climbed to 5,870 video results, an increase of more than 500% in just three weeks. In a short span of time, Pinterest has become one of the most happening places for video marketing opportunities.

Pinterest’s recent integration with Vimeo has led to a galore of enticing opportunities for marketers. Though you could pin YouTube videos on Pinterest before, the recent Vimeo integration gives scope for more quality and artistic thumbnails. Pinterest is as much about videos as it is about pictures. Thus, it’s important for your Pinterest account to have a balanced mix of both videos and pictures. So what is your strategy for your products/brand for the “it” site of the year? Heads up! Are your products visually appealing??? Make sure you think about this before you start on your strategy.

Here are few helpful video tips for your Pinterest strategy:

[dt_fancy_image type=”” style=”1″ lightbox=”0″ align=”left” padding=”0″ margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”20″ margin_right=”20″ margin_left=”0″ width=”300″ animation=”none” media=”” image_alt=”” hd_image=”” image=””][/dt_fancy_image]
  1. Strategize: Strategizing cannot be emphasized enough irrespective of the social networking site. Whether you plan to pin videos or pictures, you need a strategy for your brand/product. Your strategy will help you plan when you want to start, what you want to pin, how to organize your account, how to draw followers (who are potential customers) etc.
  2. Customize your thumbnail images: It is better to customize video thumbnails rather than pinning a video still frame that looks grainy. Arty video thumbnails look and blend in much better. Vimeo offers a much better option of uploading your own customized thumbnail. This leaves the quality control in your hands. While selecting a thumbnail, choose one that is visually appealing and which represents your video. The board name and thumbnail help in conveying the board theme to your TG.

10 Ways to Improve Your Company Blog

Ever had a business owner ask you why their website wasn’t ranking on page 1 of  Google search? Try constructing an effective company website blog and integrating it with social media to gain rank and authority for your website because consistent posting over sporadic posting appears to be winning the consumer engagement battle.

Worthwhile content is one of the best ways to improve traffic to a blog. You also need to promote you website and blog to improve traffic – let people know it exists. Consumer engagement usually occurs when the blog writer entices the reader with catchy titles and teases the reader with bullets or pictures. It’s always a good idea to use open-ended questions to pique the reader’s thought processes.  

After you receive a comment on your blog be sure to reply and interact with those readers kind enough and interested enough to respond to your blog.

In today’s interactive age it is paramount that you integrate your blog across other media for maximum exposure. Nowadays it’s possible to blog and have a blog take on a life of its own – increasing the likelihood of showing up by search engines and occupying the search “real estate” on the Internet.

You’ll know you are blogging successfully when you get hundreds of website traffic to visit your blog, and hundreds more to comment. You should consider installing spam tools like ASKIMET to keep from being overwhelmed by professional “black hat” SEO specialists (spammers). However, you know you’ve achieved success by measuring your blog with two key indicators – traffic and reader engagement.

There are numerous ways to promote a blog.  Try linking your blog to emails and correspondence or press releases. Here are 10 more suggested ways to improve traffic and engage with readers:

  1. blog-peopleIntriguing headlines
  2. Interesting images 
  3. Use short “list” posts when possible  – a “Top 5” or “Top 10”
  4. Be the “source of the source” – include interviews or remarks from 3rd parties
  5. Use news sharing (Reddit, StumbleUpon, Digg, etc.) to share blogs
  6. Use social networks such as Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Twitter, to share blogs
  7. Include your blog posts in email marketing campaigns
  8. Comment on other people’s blogs, and leave a URL to follow back to your blog
  9. Provide an really simple syndication device (RSS) to subscribe by email to your blog
  10. Invite other guest bloggers

Bottom line for all of us to engage consumers and convert them on your website is provide relevant content, reply to comments and syndicate the blog to keep the conversation going.

If you need help with perfecting the company blog, contact Hi Merit, 210-802-8949.

5 Tips On Using Pinterest For Business

Social media websites are on the rise and businesses are taking advantage of the benefits of them.  You know your business needs to be on social sites, but how do you go about starting?  If your business has a visual nature, you might want to think about starting with Pinterest—an image-based social site that allows you to “pin” picture content for your followers to see.  Let’s look at some tips to get you going with your Pinterest account.

1.  Choose The Business Account Option

When you start your account on Pinterest, you need to choose the business option.  This lets your customers know that you’re a legitimate, professional business.  It will make certain things easier in the future, like selling products on your Pinterest page if you desire.

2.  Pin Frequently

Give your followers content often.  People will understand that you’re eager to serve them if you provide valuable information on a consistent basis.  Don’t pin something just for the sake of pinning, though.  If you’re going to pin, make it high quality content.  Aim for pins that both inform and entertain.

3.  Make Sure Your Website Is Pinnable

Given the image-focused nature of Pinterest, you’ll need lots of picture content on your website.  If you’re running low on photos, check out stock photo sites like iStockPhoto, Shutterstock, and Fotolia for pictures that are royalty-free.  But a pin-friendly website doesn’t just mean having lots of pictures.  You’ll need to give visitors an easy way to pin your content directly from your site’s pages.  To accomplish this, add a “Pin It” widget, app, or plug-in to your site.

4.  Use Pin Boards To Organize

Your followers want specific things.  Content that wanders all over the place isn’t going to please them.  So keep your pins focused by using pin boards to organize them.  Each pin board needs to have a main idea or focus.  Stick to that central idea and keep your boards well-themed.

5.  Do Contests

Holding a contest will engage your fans and give them entertainment.  You will also benefit with increased likes, shares, and follows of your Pinterest pages.  Provide incentives and rewards for the winners of your competition and use apps to make things easier, like Votigo.  Be sure to read Pinterest’s terms and conditions first, so you’re not violating any rules.

Pinterest is a great way to get started and have a platform on social media sites.  After you establish yourself on Pinterest, you can branch out to other social outlets and spread your brand even further.  Your online presence is important, so make sure your posts and pins fit with your branding voice and style.  Be patient—it takes time to get the word out about your business and become known as a thought leader in your industry.  If you need any assistance with your social media marketing, don’t hesitate to contact us.  We’d be more than happy to help!

Get Proper SEO with Professional Website Design

Making a blog for your own use is a situation where you may not need to worry about search engine optimization, but websites that you want to receive traffic should definitely have a focus on SEO. While amateurs are certainly able to learn about great methods for search engine optimizing, sometimes it is better leaving this to professional website design.

Avoid an Excessive Keyword Density

When it comes to the organization of your content, a web designer can help you in this regard. It is important not to avoid implementing too many keywords onto a single page. Doing this can make a page appear as spam to the search engines, which can keep it from getting ranked well until it is fixed.

Ideally, you should focus on creating content that looks and sounds natural. A professional web designer can ensure your titles, subheadings, and content do not fall into the category of excessive keyword density.

Utilize Related Keywords

It is easier to make content look natural when using related keywords. For instance, a “home” can also be “real estate” or a “property”, depending on the context. Using related keywords like this will help you vary your keyword pool, which will ultimately help you rank better in search engines. When you have a web designer input your content after designing your website, you can make sure they implement these related keywords to achieve an exceptional diversity.

Eliminate All Broken Links

Broken links can be a problem for websites, especially when there are quite a few. It is easy to understand how important broken links are since they show up on the main page of Google Webmaster Tools. Whether you are getting a brand new website or a simple redesign, having a professional get rid of every single broken link will improve your authority with popular search engines.

Contact us for more information regarding SEO and website design.

Can buying a Backlink Service Harm my website ranking?

There are many backlink services our there from “SEO Experts”, and most of them seem very affordable.  But can purchasing 10, 1000, or 1000 backlinks be good or can it actually harm your website ranking?  Most low end, low cost, SEO Experts that are offering a backlink service subscribe to a school of thought called Blackhat SEO.  This simply means that they are getting links from anywhere and everywhere they can get them.  The problem with that is that Google will find that using their algorithms and penalize.

Google Updates

Over the last year, Google has released updates Panda and Penguin to their search algorithms. Both of which, penalize websites that are unnaturally building backlinks.  This can mean…

  1. building links too quickly and at rate that doesn’t match with your website or industry history,
  2. building links from sites that aren’t related to your website or industry,
  3. building links with anchor text or keywords that are not natural to the content around them,
  4. or building links from already penalized directories or forums.

How do I get a good backlink?

Striving for backlinks isn’t really a bad thing, just make sure you do it right.  I should not that there isn’t really a secret formula for SEO’ing your website, and if there is, you can be sure Google is on top of it.  The main thing to remember when it comes to trying to better your website, is to be thinking of your audience.  So how can you get a good backlink?

Industry Related Backlink

One of the better ways to hunt for a good backlink is to follow those that are in your industry.  What are others talking about?  Learn their trends and habits. If you find some that are in your industry that seem particular popular or you enjoy their content, reach out and try and communicate with them.  This can be a prime source for a good link.  After you’ve developed some sort of relationship with the author of your favorite industry blog, you can comment on their posts.  Or, you can try and reach out for a guest article on their site.  If you do get an article on their site, be sure to be genuine and not self serving, or else you wont even get on their site.  Also, you can write a good article on your site and send a link to them.  That way, they may be more apt to return the favor.

Natural Backlink

Google would prefer a website never gets links to content themselves.  What that means is that it means more when others link to your site naturally because what you have to say is valuable or they like the content.  One way that Google tells is if the links are growing way to rapidly.  So if you are going to try and build your own links, do so slowly and consistently.  Try something like 1 or 2 links a day.  A good way to get people to link back to you, is to write great content that people want to read.

A High PR Backlink

Page Rank is another important variable of backlink building.  This is a 1 – 10 score that Google gives to a particular page based essentially on it’s popularity.  Think of good SEO like a popularity contest.  Getting a whole bunch of likes from the nerds doesn’t make you popular,  but you only need a few of the popular kids to like you and you’re in.  In the same manner, it’s not always the quantity of backlinks you get that matter, but rather the quality of the backlinks that come in.

Generate Excellent Content

You may have noticed by now that we are very keen on quality!! Quality Content, Quality links, quality strategy.  Probably the most important thing to take into account is the quality of your content.  Even if somehow you are able to trick google into ranking your website in the top 3 results, what good is going to do if the visitors that come to your website can’t stand to read it.  Do you think they are going to buy your product or service, just because your number 1 on Google?  Regardless, Google is all about providing the best result for what people are searching for, so write the best content, and Google will reward you to the top.

If all of this sounds daunting, make sure you hire a reputable and knowledgeable marketing or SEO company to help you out.  In fact, why not contact us for that?

Give us your input… Have you experienced some bad backlinks before?

How Social Media Marketing has influenced web design

social media marketingMost new users to the Internet and social media marketing will not remember what websites looked like from the beginning or even in the 1990s when Internet access took off. Those of you who have been an avid user of the Internet for one purpose or another might. Web designers use to use a programming code called HTML to make up a web design and because this basic programming code became very popular for making websites it made web designers look like experts in their fields. I could not tell you how many books came out in the 1990s that taught how to build a web design using HTML. Because of specific websites like Yahoo, newspaper websites and Amazon needed special programming, there were several new programming languages used.

HTML could only do so much, so the web designs were nothing special. Some web designers with unique skills could do really good web designs but they were not the norm. Some companies were wanting websites that were attractive to the customers so web designers started putting their artistic abilities to use in order to make these websites beautiful. After a while web designers were holding contest on who had the best looking web design around. Getting on the first page of Google, Yahoo or MSN was not as important as the appearance of a company’s website.

In comes a special program called blogging. This is the first start of social media (besides email) that people can post, comment and have an indirect conversation on ideas and stories. I call blogging a part of Social Media because of it’s ability to be able to comment on a blog post which gave people the ability to have a 2 way discussion. When you look at the many blogging platforms started you would see they were really plain and not very attractive. Then people noticed how the search engines paid attention to the content of these blogs and started incorporating them into their web design. Now a days you will read or hear “Content and communication is King” by almost every web designer or Social Media Marketing expert. If this is the case (which it is) then how would your website’s web design have to look?

When Myspace (Social Media) came along it gave businesses and organizations another way to market to customers. Companies had learned to get a social media account so they can market their company through this social media platform. Because customers reacted to companies in a positive way, Social Media Marketing became a must-do. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Google + have now become an important aspect to marketing socially to consumers. These Social Media platforms have proven that you can reach customers with just a basic web design.

This is how Social Media Marketing has influenced web design today. Content and communication versus appearance. If you would like more information on how Marketing on Social Media can help your company feel free to contact us.

How Search Engine Optimization Services Can Expand Your Keyword Rankings

While increasing your keyword rankings for a few important keywords is an excellent way to get people to your website, this should not be the only goal of a business. It is absolutely crucial to understand that there are thousands of keywords used by individuals for surfing the web and finding what they need. Although some keyword terms will be more popular than others, all targeted keywords can lead to potential business. Using search engine optimization services can help busy companies get the results they desire without having to divert their efforts.

Create SEO-Friendly URLs – Increase Keyword rankings

If your website relies on many pages, getting the URLs correct can have an enormous impact on your overall rankings with popular search engines. For instance, URLs with numbers and no keywords are not going to help you in regard to increasing keyword rankings for your website. It is ideal to have URLs that are search-engine friendly, which means they should relate to the content of the page. In most cases, professionals will use the title of an article or the name of a product for the URL.

Proper Internal Linking

On-page SEO can be just as important as off-page SEO. It is best to get used to internal linking, and this is because linking between pages of your website can help with the level of engagement your site provides. Also, linking to relevant and related pages is an another form of search engine optimization, which means doing this properly can lead to improved search engine rankings.

Complete Utilization of Tags

In regard to WordPress sites, a new tag creates an entirely new page. It is imperative for your settings to let tag pages get indexed as without it enabled, there will be no benefit to search engines. It is quite likely for you to have content focusing on multiple keywords on one page, and this is generally when the title of main keyword will gain the most authority within various search engines. However, a keyword used once or twice that is turned into a tag will get their own page, which can improve the chance of ranking.

Contact us for assistance with implementing these search engine optimization tactics that will help you increase your keyword rankings and how many keywords you rank for.

What Search Engine Optimization Services Can Achieve for Your Business

search engine optimizationWhile there are many methods to improve your website, one of them is through search engine optimization. It is important not to underestimate the potential impact that this can have on your website, especially when you are most interested in dominating the search engines.

Some businesses rely on social media traffic to sustain traffic, but organic traffic that comes from search engines is the most reliable and highest-converting traffic you are going to receive.

Using search engine optimization services, you can start to see better results across the board, which will improve the success of your business online in just about every way.

Greater Authority

Bettering the optimization for search engines on your website will improve your authority. Websites that are challenging to read in terms of coding do not rank as well in search engines.

It is important that your website speaks to search engine spiders, which decipher the coding on your website to decide what keywords you should rank for, where you should be ranked, and more.

Better Rankings

When you gain more authority, you will naturally gain better rankings across all keywords. While you can add new pages of content and target more keywords, one of the most effective methods to increase your search engine rankings across the board is through search engine optimization.

More Frequent Crawling

A website that has been updated to cater to search engines will see more frequent crawling, which means new pages and updates to your website will show up quicker than before. It is ideal for this to happen because your business may rely on current events or new products to gain business.

The faster a page on your website gets indexed, the faster people will be able to find the page in search engines, thus increasing your chance of successful business.

Contact us for more information about search engine optimization services.

Why Small Businesses Should Use a Marketing Agency

There’s a great show out that is unfortunately in its final season of running and perhaps you have heard of it, Madmen. If one can get past the crazy social life of Don Draper, long enough to actually take a look at what his work entails, it is clearly not simple work and entails more than just a small component of creativity. Fast forward 40 years and inject the internet into the mix; the job just got that much more difficult.

In the last decade, the marketing world has gone through an unprecedented shift in paradigms. Instead of being primarily concerned with gimmicks, television and radio advertisements, companies now have to concern themselves with the incredibly vast world of the internet as well. What’s more, not only is the internet vast, it is also ever changing: What could be good practice today, may not be good practice tomorrow.

The challenge for small business owners is that understanding the concepts of the various internet marketing platforms is difficult enough in itself, but keeping up with them is another story. With search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising and social media marketing all always being highly susceptible to change at the drop of a hat, the most successful small business owners understand the value and necessity of a great marketing agency. By allowing experts, whose full-time job is to keep up with the latest and greatest marketing techniques, to help a small business shape and pursue its marketing goals, the owner of the business can focus on other more pertinent parts of the business they are better equipped to handle.

If you are thinking about starting a new business that needs a vigorous and aggressive marketing campaign, or already have a business that could use some life injected into it, please feel free to contact us and we would be more than happy to help your business achieve what you know it is capable of.