Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Research finds a simple smile could be the key to business success

A simple smile and a friendly greeting can make customers feel much more loyal towards small independent companies, according to new KingstonBusiness School research.

The study, which examined the retail behavior of 2,006 consumers and the business practices of 1,216 decision makers in small and medium-sized enterprises, revealed that a smile and a friendly hello was the most common reason why consumers felt loyal towards independent retailers. However, only just over half those sampled stated their small business employed this practice.

Three in five consumers were also willing to pay more for a product from a small independent shop rather than deal with a large corporate retailer, the study funded by Barclays Business Banking and carried out by Kingston's Small Business Research Centre suggested.

More than a third of loyal consumers said they were repeat customers because of excellent service and one in five said they valued businesses remembering their usual order. However, only around half of businesses involved in the study kept a record of customers' previous orders.

The research also discovered that less than a third of business respondents considered retaining or growing their current customer base to be their main priority to achieve growth during the next year. Only 50 per cent would encourage word of mouth recommendations by regular customers to grow or survive.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Companies are Unprepared to Defend Against Cyber Threats

Despite broad recognition that cyber threats are more prevalent than ever before, a large number of companies are not adequately prepared to respond to a data breach or IT security crisis, according to findings from the 2013 IT Security and Privacy Survey by global consulting firm Protiviti.

More than two-thirds (68 percent) of respondents in Protiviti’s survey said they have elevated their focus on information security in response to recent press coverage of so-called “cyber warfare.” However, the number of companies that appear inadequately prepared for a crisis is surprisingly high. When asked if their organizations have a formal and documented crisis response plan for use following a data breach or hacking incident, more than one-third reported that either their organizations did not (21 percent) or they did not know (13 percent).

Data Policy and Retention/Storage Issues

According to the survey results, many companies lack key data policies and are ineffective at managing data through proper retention and storage practices, including the classification of sensitive data.  Approximately 22 percent of companies do not have a written information security policy (WISP) and 32 percent lack a data encryption policy. Not having these policies in place is an important consideration when a breach involves information covered by data privacy laws and can expose an organization to significant legal liability. 

CIOs Take a More Strategic Role

As data security continues to play a larger role in business operations and the use of so-called big data becomes more integrated with strategic business objectives, CIOs are seeing their responsibilities increase. The survey showed that more CIOs are taking responsibility for data governance strategy, oversight and execution within their organizations. Additionally, companies with documented crisis plans enacted in response to a data breach or hacking incident have now begun to involve their CIOs far more than ever before.  In 2012, only 58 percent reported that their CIO was involved in addressing such an incident compared to 72 percent in 2013 (up 14 percent).

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

CIOs Reveal Third-Quarter Hiring Plans

Twelve percent of U.S. chief information officers (CIOs) interviewed recently expect to expand their IT teams in the third quarter of 2013, according to the just-released RobertHalf Technology IT Hiring Forecast and Local Trend Report. This compares to 14 percent in the previous quarter. In addition, 56 percent plan to hire for open IT roles, 26 percent expect to put hiring plans on hold, and 6 percent plan to reduce their IT staff in the third quarter.

In the same survey, 85 percent of CIOs said they were somewhat or very confident about their companies' prospects for growth in the third quarter, and 63 percent felt somewhat or very confident in their firms' third-quarter investment in IT projects.

U.S. IT Hiring Forecast



CIOs planning to add more staff to IT departments



CIOs planning to hire only for open IT roles



CIOs planning to put IT hiring plans on hold



CIOs planning to reduce their IT staff



Don't know future hiring plans



*Numbers do not total 100 percent due to rounding.

The IT Hiring Forecast and Local Trend Report survey was developed by Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of information technology professionals on a project and full-time basis, and conducted by an independent research firm. The survey is based on more than 2,300 telephone interviews with CIOs from a random sample of U.S. companies in 23 major metro areas with 100 or more employees. Robert Half Technology is a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis and has been tracking IT hiring activity in the United States since 1995.

Recruiting Challenges
In terms of recruiting, 69 percent of CIOs said it's somewhat or very challenging to find skilled IT professionals today. It is most difficult to find skilled talent in the functional areas of networking (18 percent), data/database management (14 percent) and help desk/technical support (13 percent).

Confidence in Business Growth and IT Investments
The survey results suggest that CIOs are optimistic about their companies' growth and IT investments: Eighty-five percent reported being somewhat or very confident in their companies' prospects for growth in the third quarter of 2013.

Sixty-three percent of CIOs also said they were somewhat or very confident that their firms would invest in IT projects in the third quarter of 2013.

Skills in Demand
Among the technology executives surveyed, 55 percent said that network administration and database management were the skill sets in greatest demand within their IT department. Desktop support followed closely, with 54 percent of the response.
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