The Threat of e-Commerce

A recent report published earlier this year by the Identify theft Resource Center found that data breaches in the United States hit an all-time high last year with 783 recorded incidents, up over 27.5% since 2013.

Over a third of 2014’s security breaches occurred within the business sector, due in large part to increased hacker interest at targeting a lack of controls vulnerability within e-Commerce.

With fraudulent activity racking up billions across the nation, what are today’s commerce-driven businesses doing to remain proactive in the face of these facts and ensure customer trust?

Breaches should be frame of mind of every e-Commerce business, incorporated and considered across the business, in marketing campaigns and through comprehensive security initiatives. As of this week, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) has released an updated version of the compliance standard that umbrellas the industry, taking strides towards prevention and detection of cybercrime, but is it enough? As with most standards initiatives, compliance is essential. All areas of your infrastructure and network must be addressed to ensure full adherence to the requirements; even something as mundane as a router installed with the default passkey can be the differentiator between data protection and a breach costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars, not to mention your market reputation.

Often, following the minimally applied market standard is not enough. This is as true in your business strategy as it is in your technology and security practices. An effective tactic to position yourself above your competition is to strategically leverage today’s latest technology solutions to protect your business and your customers’ personal information, off-putting hackers to move on to easier prey. Contrary to popular belief, today’s cloud solutions are far more secure than traditional on-premise deployments. Having been implemented and aggressively developed over the past several years, the technology at the foundation of the cloud has become undoubtedly more dynamic and protected. Employing leading, innovative solutions across your business is a simple yet effective method for repelling cyberattacks and enticing the marketplace.

mike_arvidsonMike Arvidson is the Director of Eide Bailly Technology
Consulting’s Infrastructure Services. With more than 20
years of experience in the IT industry, Mike’s wealth of
knowledge includes network systems implementation,
integrated new technologies, and information security.


The Power of Smart Data

It should be no surprise at this point that big data is vastly impacting our day-to-day – from personalized messaging to intelligent devices – but in the business realm, it’s smart data creating the real impact.

Scores of new and improved business solutions are entering the marketplace, each backed by the science of smart data. We have entered a Digital Age where systems of intelligence are able to analyze patterns, predict behavior, and deduce real business insights. Algorithmic curation technologies have enabled this exciting advancement in cognitive computing, increasing the speed, efficiency, and usefulness of data science across systems, platforms, processes, and roles.

As a result, business systems leveraging smart data can efficiently streamline and refine organizational process, from project planning, business forecasting and people management to reporting and service routing. Leading innovators in their sectors realize both the potential in smart data and the market need to personalize experience and automate tedious, repetitive processes. New predictive technologies provide an extraordinary opportunity to reduce manual data entry and transform traditional business operations. These business solutions with analytics at their core have the ability to become truly useful, self-driven systems within an organization.

“We are at the dawn of a new generation of business systems. With the ability to reason over data, we now can build these systems of intelligence.”

Satya Nadella | CEO

The end result is smart solutions utilizing data science to enable business to run more efficiently, effectively, and intelligently. After all, data alone means nothing; today’s new technologies provide a solution engine to turn the fuel of data into smart, predictive insights to propel your business forward.

scott_kostScott Kost is the Director & Principal of Eide Bailly
Technology Consulting. With over 25 years of
experience in the IT industry, Scott’s wealth of
knowledge includes new technologies
implementation, information security and
system operations, leadership
development, and strategic planning.

Why Customer Experience Doesn’t Mean Anything

This title makes a bold statement but don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t consider customer experience within your business objectives. A valuable customer strategy, after all, is known to deliver increased revenue, higher profit margins, decreased expenses, greater efficiency, and improved brand loyalty; however, the fact of that matter remains that many businesses approach this tactic entirely wrong. In fact, I would argue that customer experience is often a fruitless initiative. Rather, your organizational focus must be on the customer’s experience.

You may be thinking that the two are one in the same, but I would beg to differ. The key dissimilarity here is minute yet impactful. One approach emphasizes functionalism while the other concentrates – more successfully – on your customers themselves.

The biggest downfall of many customer experience initiatives is that, somewhere along the way, the customer becomes lost amid the tangle of roadmapping, processes, and delegation of roles. The resulting strategy is often far from the original objective, which was, of course, to develop and provide value to your target audience.

Customer experience means nothing without the customer’s experience.

By considering your customer and their path at every interaction and touch point with your business instead of the logistical segmentation within your organization, you have an opportunity to truly deliver the customer experience promise to your business. A successful customer strategy that takes into consideration your customer base – both ideal and otherwise – in addition to your value proposition will determine which customers you want to foster relationships with, their  unique demands and expectations, and the profitability of each grouping. This will clarify how to build lucrative interactions, manage your costs, and create competitive advantage through acquisition, retention, and advocacy.

Providing true value requires small, seismic shifts in perspective. Forget customer experience and instead focus on your customers’ experiences.

sandi_piatzSandi Piatz is the Director of Business Development with
Eide Bailly Technology Consulting. With more than 16
years’ experience in the technology industry, Sandi
specializes in recruitment, management, and
development of relationships, with a focus on
understanding organizations’ business objectives and
aligning their technology initiatives.


The Mobile Factor

If we can learn anything from 2014, it’s that mobile is a force to be reckoned with. Growing from 45% of the total digital time spent to 60% last year, mobile technologies such as smartphones and tablets are kicking the standard desktop to the curb. And in 2015, this usage gap between traditional browsing and mobile platforms is predicted to steadily increase.

What does this mean for your business?

Well, basically, if your website isn’t mobile friendly, you aren’t reaching over half of your target audience. It may also be time to seriously consider a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategy within your organization. Businesses that want to stay ahead of the game – and their competition – should be launching useful, end-user driven applications and begin deploying mobile enabled technologies such as beacons for digital data tracking and QR codes for optimum consumer self-service.

Take a look at our infographic below for the stats that prove the power of the Mobile Factor.


jeremy_martinsonJeremy Martinson is an applications development
manager with Eide Bailly Technology Consulting.
With nearly two decades of experience in IT, he
has extensive experience in system architecture,
application development, and custom solutions.
In short, he is our go-to tech guy in the office.


Digitalization & the Importance of Data Strategy

We live in a connected world. Nearly every aspect of our day-to-day is integrated with some form of technology or another, and this digitalization of our lives and environments is creating vast amounts of data. Every search term, click, visit, and interaction is logged and tracked, to some extent, by our online identities or stored cookies. And it’s moving beyond our traditional devices. Now our smartphones share our geolocation, application downloads, and activity; wearables track our movements and health stats; even our homes are generating personalized data about our schedules, living preferences, and even our refrigerator stock.

Many businesses are now realizing the value in this data pool as an opportunity to increase their value proposition to consumers. Visibility into the patterns and habits of your ideal customer can provide a true and lasting competitive advantage, creating a strategic relationship between the positioning of your service and/or product and your market’s perception and acceptance of your brand. Backed by today’s leading data analytics and business intelligence tools, you can turn an often untapped resource into an agent for positive business change. But the difference between those businesses who leverage digitalization and those who merely skim the surface lies in the existence or absence of a data strategy.

Data strategy in the Digital Age is not about gathering large amounts of meaningless, insignificant information. Rather, business leaders must ask themselves what data they truly need, what purpose it will serve in coordination their overall business objectives, and how are they going to manage the complexity of implementing a data strategy within their organization. Teams will need to be assigned, data scientists and analysts hired, new and existing operational processes considered, target audience scoping executed, and a C-level data officer positioned to oversee the entire practice.

Realigning your organization to undertake data collection and management to further your value proposition, more effectively target your ideal customer, and/or create increased business growth opportunities should be done with careful, well thought out consideration. Transparency is often the best practice when it comes to any business data strategy, and as consumers continue to grow increasingly aware of the data they generate – and the value it provides – they will continually be demanding a return. If you aren’t producing a benefit to the end-user with your data collection, you are not making use of useful information. Moreover, thoroughly examining what data your business truly needs to gather to provide value and erring on the side of minimalism is always best; there is a fine line in the data realm, and no one wants to ruin their business reputation with invasive, irresponsible data management practices. Which brings up the next best practice tip: Ensure the data’s integrity. When handling information of any kind, your organizational security must be considered. No one wants a data breach; don’t begin collection without first examining your environment.

Well-executed data strategies will yield results for your business. Utilize the insights gained to increase consumer engagement and conversion with real-time data to create right-time opportunities, targeting your ideal customer with individualized messaging across a multitude of platforms. Digitalization is creating a golden opportunity in the marketplace today, ensure that your strategy is defined to capitalize on it.

joey_skinnerJoey Skinner is Business Applications Senior Manager
with Eide Bailly Technology Consulting. Joey has
more than 22 years of experience in the information
technology field in roles ranging from application
architect and developer to technology consultant.
His expertise includes a strong understanding of
accounting principles and work flow procedures
with advanced application development and systems
implementation experience.


How To Add Value with Context

A business’ strategy should always remain adaptive and flexible in the face of technology and market demands. 2014 saw a large influence from both mobile and big data, and as these “buzzword technologies” continue to evolve and mature, it is important to reflect on their impact to your organizational objectives. These are no longer emerging ideas, but solidified technology trends that are changing the business landscape, delivering vast information on your customers and industry.

In 2015, both mobile and big data are developing to incorporate value-added context and predictive elements, yielding actionable business insight over the former facts and figures. At the intersection of mobile platforms and data mining is the opportunity to leverage today’s advanced analytic and data discovery tools to create a solid foundation into contextual customer experience. No longer will the “right” message go to the wrong person through the incorrect channel. Companies that enable themselves to realize this opportunity will deliver useful messaging on the correct device to exactly their target audience, creating “right-time experiences;” if big data is reigning market king, context is queen.

Context Gone WrongTwo perfect, very different examples of context in action recently surface both in my personal life and in a laughable story from a colleague. One involved context used correctly, while the other was executed so poorly it warranted a very humorous #fail.

The latter came from a coworker who had a mailer delivered by an unknown company to his parents’ address – which he had not called home in over 10 years – personalized for a romantic piece of jewelry … for his sister. Now, regardless of the market demand for this kind of item, there are several lessons we can learn about the use of data from this example. What good is a “call to action” for your business if you are not utilizing data in the correct context? Yes, he does have someone in his life named Paige, but the role she plays in his life does not warrant this purchase by social standards. Again, context is everything.

Context Done RightOn the other hand, having personally just purchased a new home, in which we are undergoing a few remodeling projects, I was surprised yet ultimately pleased to find multiple special promotional offers appear to our new address and on my mobile device to a number of leading home improvement stores in the area. This is a prime example of leveraging big data and mobile technologies to drive engagement; useful messaging, to the right person, through the ideal channels.

Today’s market leaders understand that, in order to stand above the competition, they need to offer superior convenience above all else. This is done through context. Data sharing indicated that I had recently had all of our mail forwarded to a new address. Mobile sensor beacons showed that I had also visited a local hardware store several times over a few short weeks, implying that we were likely in the midst of a project. Predictive technologies deduced from there that I am likely a new homeowner, or had recently moved, and a mobile-enabled application sent a customized message with an extra off promotional offer for my next home improvement purchase to prompt further engagement with their brand.

This technology will have far reaching implications for how businesses reach and interact with their ideal customers in 2015 and beyond. But, the fact that this technology is readily obtainable in the marketplace means next to nothing for most of today’s business leaders. Mobile market research firm, Lopez Research, explains that the shortfall becomes, as with most technology implementations, business systems and process compatibility. “Contextual services require linking various information sources together in near real-time to deliver specific information and services. Meanwhile, most companies operate in application and process silos. … Hence, contextual services cannot be created until companies address [their] larger process issues.”

A tried and true method for enabling your business to adapt and remain flexible during these transforming times is to run your organization on the right systems. Enterprise resource planning is an ideal solution, connecting all of your back- and front-end office systems into a single interface. Any business staying on the cutting edge of their competition understands the importance of a system that embraces and integrates with the latest technologies, empowering your acceleration in the face of innovation, not holding you back.

trina_michelsTrina Michels is a business applications manager with Eide
Bailly Technology Consulting. Analytical by nature, Trina
aims to streamline operations that are often overlooked
by integrating and implementing end-to-end solutions for
her clients that support their unique business objectives,
leveraging technology to maximize goals.


Are Passwords Dead?

no more passwords

Imagine a day when powering up your computer does not result in the entering of ******. This day is fast becoming a reality.

Passwords are a nuisance. Even its inventor thinks they’re a dated, inept nightmare, stating that “passwords [do] not [offer] a super high level of security [but rather are simply] enough to protect against casual snooping.” In fact, when you consider that this security method was established over five decades ago – long before our current Internet – it is downright alarming to think of the utter lack of innovation and development that has taken place in a today’s connected, e-driven world.

You may be wondering: If not the password, what?

Recently, the Fast Identification Online (FIDO) Alliance established a new cybersecurity standard “to make authentication simpler and stronger for all” in light of 2015’s dynamic privacy demands. This stride in the right direction was made even stronger by Microsoft’s announcement that Windows 10 will have these FIDO specifications incorporated into the new (and pretty awesome) operating system. This means that the latest cybersecurity technologies will not be developed in vain but, rather, will work with the latest, most widely used operating system in the world, taking a giant, long overdue “stab” at killing the password for good.

Of today’s promising security technologies – such as fingerprint readers, facial recognition software, and wearable devices – iris scanners, albeit slightly eerie, stand out on top for the most secure method of identity protection in the 21st century. Iris scans are so accurate, in fact, that they’re “just as unique as fingerprints and 10,000 times less likely to produce a false positive than facial recognition technology.” Moreover, the technology is developing at such a rapid pace that it is currently an affordable consumer option, with simple, easy-to-use solutions such as Myris ringing in at under $300. This technology innovator has also partnered with a number of computer companies to build iris scanners directly into upcoming computer releases, leveraging webcams as its default authentication protocol. This methodology would then be utilized for single sign-on (SSO), meaning that once you gain access to your computer through the initial ID scan at startup, you are logged in to all of your accounts. No more password managing apps and spreadsheets or 90 day refresh cycles.

Are passwords truly dead today? Not quite. But they are on their deathbed, and we say good riddance!

joe_tillmanJoe Tillman manages and oversees a group
of talented
engineers and IT testers within
Eide Bailly Technology
Consulting’s Service
Center team. With more than 13 years in
the technology industry working as a
business analyst and project manager, Joe
performs process and system reviews while
working with clients to define future strategic
goals, identify gaps, and develop an
executable roadmap


What Data Analytics Will Mean to Business by 2020

At this point, we know that big data is a disruptor in the market, and when combined with other emerging technologies, this trend can quite literally “see” business intelligence for your organization. Today’s valuable streams of data provide a window into your business, your customers, your market, and your industry, but it takes looking at the big picture – both internal and external data sources – to create true visibility. Gartner Research recently shared their predictions in the data analytics realm by 2020, and we wouldn’t suggest turning a blind eye to big data’s outlook.

Prediction #1 | In the next 5 years, big data will revolutionize 80% of business processes and products established within the last decade.
Growing market adoption of connected devices, smart machines, and IoT devices will steadily increase the volume, velocity, variety, and veracity of real-time, valuable data. Automated, digitalized operations based on algorithmic technologies will reinvent long practiced, manual processes, creating a league of useful devices. “The added connectivity, communications and intelligence of things will make many [devices] agents for services that are currently requested and delivered via human intervention,” such as a vehicle that can schedule its own oil change, a smart machine that contacts the technician automatically when it senses an error, or an inventory that self-fulfills.

Prediction #2 | In less than 3 years, more than 20% of consumer-facing analytic deployments will utilize live-time tracking via the IoT.
Consumers expect instant information at their finger-tips, fueled in large part to the analytic strategies of powerhouses like Amazon. But soon, retail giants won’t be the only ones leveraging the Internet of Things to provide their customers with constant streams of data. As  the IoT increases its market presence, the cost of smart sensors will be driven down, inviting a new wave of industries to the analytic circle. Streaming geo-location and condition data will provide consumers with increased visibility into their interactions with your business, creating loyal customers and a transparent business model.

Prediction #3 | In less than 3 years, more than 30% of organizations will look to a third-party service to provide context and insight into their business data.
Gartner predicts a new service model will emerge with along with big data’s expanding impact in the business landscape. Information services and data analytic tools will become a key aspect to intelligent operations and informed business decisions.

joey_skinnerJoey Skinner is Business Applications Senior Manager
with Eide Bailly Technology Consulting. Joey has
more than 22 years of experience in the information
technology field in roles ranging from application
architect and developer to technology consultant.
His expertise includes a strong understanding of
accounting principles and work flow procedures
with advanced application development and systems
implementation experience.


How To Succeed in the Digital Age

If we’ve said it once, we’ll say it again – The business landscape is evolving rapidly under the pressure of today’s technologies. If you aren’t leveraging this year’s emerging trends, you’re lagging your competitors. We are in the midst of a Digital Age, and it is impacting every aspect of your business – from your financials, operations and interactions to your overall business planning. At the forefront of this impact are your systems, the platforms from which your entire organization functions, and trending technologies leveraged alongside optimized systems will generate unprecedented growth opportunities for your business.

Leading strategies in these transformative trends, the Internet of Things (IoT) is continuing to drive efficiencies across the workplace while Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) is paving the way for seamless integration at every touch point.

IoT continues to be a buzzword in the market, but it all boils down to automation. Home automation, smart car integration, wearable device synchronization, all these feed constant streams of data to-and-from intelligent devices for continual machine-to-machine communication. This can yield amazing results for your business, automating previously manual, time-consuming and clunky processes. A prime example of the far-reaching implications of this emerging technology is its power to streamline supply chain practices. Consumers are increasingly demanding immediate responses and consumption at the tap of their screen; realize this market expectation by utilizing the Internet of Things to personalize your service at every touch point. Orders can be fulfilled, shipped and tracked directly from warehouse smart devices, eliminating human error and providing customers with the immediate gratification that they demand in today’s highly commoditized marketplace.

BYOD policies within your business can complement IoT’s capabilities by providing a streamlined platform for interactions. A mobile, customer self-service application for integrated use across devices will support cross-channel communication between your company and your customers. Internally, BYOD allows streamlined accessibility to your business’ multi-channel, multi-location key data, increasing efficiencies and quality of service. Moreover, implementing a BYOD strategy that works for your business fosters employee satisfaction, empowers staff and customers to effectively self-serve, and improves overall productivity at every touch point in your operations. People always prefer their own technology; leverage this fact to create a competitive advantage through effective BYOD delivery.

At the end of the day, however, a system that is as dynamic and innovative as today’s emerging technologies is just as crucial – if not more so – than being an early trend adopter. In order to implement seamless front-to-back end office processes via IoT technologies, the two must be interconnected. Likewise, you cannot put valuable information at the fingertips of your team or your customers across devices without a real-time, holistic view of what is occurring within your business. Your ERP system is your business connector, joining the spider web of your processes and data onto a single interface for improved visibility and understanding. When leveraged with today’s emerging technologies, your business can integrate and communicate across disparate processes and traditional information silos for previously impossible levels of adaptability and flexibility.

Business operations must evolve alongside technology advancements. The emergence of Internet of Things and Bring-Your-Own-Device strategies in combination with today’s innovative ERP solutions creates an extraordinary potential to turn your business challenges into opportunities for growth. Complete financial and operational visibility from anywhere on any device, automated order fulfillment and inventory management, and an enriched, valuable customer experience is now not only realistic but attainable. True business acceleration is the Digital Age’s foremost result, but establishing your business on a solid system foundation is an essential first step. After all, strategy means nothing without the tools to deliver results.

stuart_tholenStuart Tholen is the Director of Eide Bailly Technology
Enterprise Resource Planning services.
With more than 30 years of
experience in tax, audit
and IT, Stuart has focused on building and

developing a consulting department to customize
and integrate
business solutions for the end-user.


Six Ways to Grow Your Business, Better

Every business has a challenge, and while each situation is unique, there are underlying trends that emerge regardless of industry or market. Recently, Hinge Research surveyed over 500 businesses across numerous fields of service and discovered that 2015 brings with it common organizational concerns.

Business Challenges

Over 70% of respondents agree that business development is a key challenge moving into the New Year. While your normal instinct to combat this may be to overload your sales pipeline with as many leads as possible, a more effective strategy is to focus on quality leads over the quantity of leads. This shift away from volume-centric can be difficult and seem counterintuitive – after all, if you want to increase sales, why wouldn’t you want more lead opportunities – but the reality is focusing your time and energy on the right leads will reap more benefits.

A first step in achieving quality leads in your business is identifying the aspects of your ideal client, from specific pain points to your organization’s value proposition. You can scope for these insights in sales calls, focus groups, industry research studies and direct surveys to prospect lists. Moreover, give your classifications more depth by employing a common marketing technique and define your ideal client by buyer personas, categorizing everything from role, industry and company size to geographical location and preferred communication methods. Across the board, all high-quality leads will understand the importance of a timely resolution and are already familiar with your business. Taking the time to qualify leads based on your defined ideal client characteristics ensures that your organization’s time and efforts are being targeted toward the right individuals, instead of wasting resources pursuing a prospect that will never become a customer.

Next comes nurturing your quality leads. The following are what I like to call the “Successful Six” for attracting and developing new business, better:

  • Be systematic and timely with interactions. Setting realistic expectations on both ends sets the foundation for a positive experience.
  • Track everything. An interaction and content history provides valuable insight to gauge and listen to your clients and prospects. This is where the right tools, such as a quality customer relationship management (CRM) solution, can be a key differentiator for your organization.
  • Maintain consistent communication, maneuvering the fine between being forgotten and being annoying.
  • Highlight your business’ value proposition clearly, often and early.
  • Ask for the business. This is where many businesses fall short; actively listen for agreement triggers during prospect conversations and execute. Additionally, don’t wait for the sale to close before asking a successful, satisfied client for referrals. Your ideal client’s network is an untapped goldmine for your business.
  • Constantly evolve and modify your lead generation and conversion process based on market experiences to positively impact your return on investment.

sandi_piatzSandi Piatz is the Director of Business Development with
Eide Bailly Technology Consulting. With more than 16
years’ experience in the technology industry, Sandi
specializes in recruitment, management, and
development of relationships, with a focus on
understanding organizations’ business objectives and
aligning their technology initiatives.