Warning: your fridge could be your downfall

Warning: your fridge could be your downfall

News from “Down Under”, from Smart Company in Australia, is interesting but at the same time, very worrying. Read it here.

As you might know, the security research firm Proofpoint claims to have found a botnet of 100,000 hacked “smart” appliances, including smart fridges, which have been hacked and are being used to send spam. In a release from Proofpoint, a leading security-as-a-service provider, here, it says they have uncovered what may be the first proven Internet of Things (IoT)-based cyberattack involving conventional household “smart” appliances. From their website, it says:

  • The global attack campaign involved more than 750,000 malicious email communications coming from more than 100,000 everyday consumer gadgets such as home-networking routers, connected multi-media centers, televisions and at least one refrigerator that had been compromised and used as a platform to launch attacks.
  • As the number of such connected devices is expected to grow to more than four times the number of connected computers in the next few years according to media reports, proof of an IoT-based attack has significant security implications for device owners and Enterprise targets.
  • Just as personal computers can be unknowingly compromised to form robot-like “botnets” that can be used to launch large-scale cyberattacks, Proofpoint’s findings reveal that cyber criminals have begun to commandeer home routers, smart appliances and other components of the Internet of Things and transform them into “thingbots” to carry out the same type of malicious activity. Cyber criminals intent on stealing individual identities and infiltrating enterprise IT systems have found a target-rich environment in these poorly protected internet connected devices that may be more attractive and easier to infect and control than PC, laptops, or tablets.

As you can imagine, the tale of the mutant hacked fridges, reported by the BBC (here) has gained the largely uncritical attention of news websites around the world.

But do you believe it? There were a few problems with the methodology used by Proofpoint, the worst being that they were not able to produce any example of the malware used or find a command and control server for the attacks.

That being said, while the methodology used to collect the information might be flawed, the risk it points to – the risk of poorly secured “smart” appliances being hacked – is a very real one.

Read the arstechnica article before you take your fridge to the tip. It’s here.

However, it is critical to remember that each of these smart appliances mentioned in these articles is as much a computer as your desktop, laptop, smartphone or tablet. Often, these smart appliances include web or email servers as key parts of their software. And they will need to be kept secure when they’re connected to the internet, just like any other computer.

A final word of warning: When you go to buy your 50” Smart TV, think carefully about what you’re doing.

Also, Samsung are encouraging people like you and me to upgrade your life with a Wi-Fi enabled refrigerator featuring a brilliant 8” touchscreen that puts access to apps at your fingertips. Check the mornings weather, browse the web for recipes, explore your social networks or leave notes for your family—all from the refrigerator door.

The Online Business Library… why it could make all the difference to your firm

The Online Business Library… why it could make all the difference to your firm

There are probably four ways in which a firm can maintain relationships with its clients and prospects in providing technical and other information in response to a request for information.

obl      1)    The first option is to buy in publications from publishers. The problem with this is that it is a costly thing to do, the information contained in the publications can easily go out of date and it’s a clumsy way of providing information to those who ask for it. What happens in practice is that there are piles of brochures in the corner of an office, gathering dust.

It was a good idea 28 years ago when I launched the CharterGroup partnership because small to medium sized firms couldn’t afford to write or publish their own brochures, so they had to be syndicated and bought in from a group publisher. But today clients and website visitors want more. Storage of paper publications is difficult and they often get thrown away after they’ve been read.

2)    The next option is to subscribe to a digital business library and have hundreds of brochures and publications available via your website 24 hours a day, every day of the year. This has several advantages: because the publications are digital they are up to date and once clients and prospects register on your website they can simply take what they need and when they need it.

Also, the publications cost nothing to distribute via an on-line mailing (I’ve written some words about MailChimp below) and your on-line showcase can include features such as page turning functionality. Even better still is that the actual cost to a firm of a digital library is a fraction of that for printed publications under option 1.

3)    The third option is to do nothing. This option costs nothing. Clients get nothing that they need. Prospective clients avoid firms that do nothing and move to firms that provide details of their services and issue free publications.

4)    The last option is for a firm to write their own publications and then publish either in paper form (as in option 1) or in PDF digital format. The problem with this option is that accountants and lawyers don’t have any time to do this sort of thing. Even when they find a few minutes to do so, the end result isn’t very smart and is often a mis-mash of design and content.

Be honest, which firm are you?

According to research, over a third of small business owners feel isolated when making key business decisions: 43% confess to loneliness when focusing on changing strategy or direction, and another two fifths feel detached over business planning matters. Accountants and Lawyers are uniquely placed to help businesses by providing them with information direct from their website through a digital business library.

When I was in public practice as an accountant, I set about creating a digital business library. It took me about 10 years to get it right. However, it was all worthwhile as Bizezia’s Online Business Library now leads the market with a comprehensive collection of 650+ professionally-written informative publications that you can offer free to your clients direct from your website. The publications cover an extensive range of business topics from tax to marketing. You name it, there’s probably a publication in the library to cover it.

Digital publications will allow you to add significant value to the service you offer your clients, and help you build relationships with prospective clients.  The “do nothing” option is awful. Please don’t do it.

Bizezia’s Online Business Library

Bizezia’s Online Business Library is probably the UK’s largest and best known. It features over 650 publications. Every publication is personalised and branded to your firm and available for your clients and prospects to download from your website. These business publications provide valuable information on diverse subjects such as law, finance, marketing and management. The Online Business Library is an impressive knowledge resource. Best of all: It underlines your credentials as a knowledgeable, professional firm. It differentiates your firm from others in your locality. You can find details on how to subscribe here.

You can watch the video about it as well.

MailChimp I mentioned MailChimp above. Perhaps I should explain what it is. MailChimp is a web-based email marketing service. It helps you design email newsletters, share them on social networks, integrate with services you already use, and track your results. Whatever the size of your firm, MailChimp has features and integrations that will suit your email-marketing needs.

You can create signup forms that match your firms’ brand’s look and feel, and send updates, event invitations, announcements, or editorial content. You can use their reports to improve your campaigns and learn more about you’re your clients and prospects (MailChimp call people you email “Subscribers”).

And do you know the best thing of all? MailChimp is free for lists of up to 2,000 subscribers. And the free bit allows you to send out 12,000 emails a month.

Try it here. We use it at Bizezia. More than 5 million people use MailChimp to create, send, and track email newsletters, brochures and other digital communications to customers, clients and prospects. About 6 billion emails are sent out every month.

Don’t be paralysed by numbers

Don’t be paralysed by numbers

paralysed by numbrsThere’s a saying, or rather a comment, I picked up from a very smart Scottish accountant who had become an MBA teacher at a leading US Business School. He said that often, accountants and finance directors suffer from something called analysis paralysis. It’s the state of over-analysing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralysing the outcome.

Has that ever happened to you? Or worse still, have you been guilty of doing it yourself.

There’s nothing wrong in analysing numbers provided you measure the result.

With this in mind, I’ve taken look at some of the tools within the Bizezia Calculators and Evaluators product and thought it would be useful for my readers to review what these tools do. The results from these tools should be used as a guide only and clients should consult an experienced or qualified accountant or financial/business adviser before making any decisions.

Borrowing Risk Calculator            

Are you serious about reducing borrowing costs? Would you like to know the ‘secrets’ of how your banker assesses a lending proposal and the business in terms of risk?

The Borrowing Risk Assessment Tool, which is intended for use as a guide only, has been developed as a guide to:

1. Show you what you can do to get a lower rate of interest on borrowings by reducing the risk.
2. Help you to identify your ‘escape routes’ if you hit a financial hole.
3. Help you improve your relationship with your bank.

Business Growth Calculator

Based on the well-known “Four ways to grow a business” popularised by Michael Gerber, Jay Abraham and many others, the Business Growth Calculator is designed to calculate the change to the gross profit of a business arising from altering any or all of:

  • the number of customers
  • the average number of times they purchase
  • the average amount they spend, and/or
  • the average gross profit percentage

Most business owners don’t know the number of customers they have, or the frequency of purchase or the average sale value. The good thing about this tool is that it allows you to try various combinations until you arrive at a total sales value that is correct.

Business Health Calculator

This is the smartest of all the tools. Basically, accountants or their clients, input numbers from the accounts of the business.  The calculator then produces a lengthy series of meaningful ratios, including:

  • Profitability Ratios
  • Liquidity Ratios
  • Operational Ratios
  • Solvency Ratios

Then, the calculator does something quite amazing. It works out something called the Z-Score, which indicates financial health (or sickness) of the business. It also indicates the short-term potential for financial problems at your company. The expert who devised the Z-Score is Professor Edward I. Altman, who is known as the founding father of using statistical techniques to predict company failure.

The Z-score was developed from an analysis of 33 bankrupt manufacturing companies in the US with average assets of $6.4 million. Altman’s system, basically a “bankruptcy indicator,” can be used by stockbrokers trying to determine if a company is a good investment, and also internally, by anyone who wants to take a close look at his or her own company’s financial health.

Accountants can even use it on their own firm’s results.

Altman’s Z-score calculates five ratios: return on total assets, sales to total assets, equity to debt, working capital to total assets, and retained earnings to total assets. These ratios are then multiplied by a predetermined weight factor, and the results are added together. The final number, the Z-score, yields a number between -4 and +8. Financially-sound companies show Z-scores above 2.99, while those scoring below 1.81 are in fiscal danger, maybe even heading toward bankruptcy. Scores that fall between these ends indicate potential trouble. In Altman’s initial study of 33 bankrupt companies, Z-scores for 95 % of these companies pointed to trouble or imminent bankruptcy.

In the hands of a smart accountant looking for new work from prospects, this tool could be dynamite in getting new business.

Customer Value Calculator
The Customer Value Calculator considers the effects on sales (over a 5 or 10 year period) of altering the rate of retention of customers and the referrals that customers give to other potential customers.

Business Parameters:
1.  % Retained customers that give referrals
2.  Number of referrals per customer
3.  % Referrals that become customers
4.  % Customer Retention Rate

Risk Exposure Calculator

Analysing data risk exposures enables you to estimate the degree of risk. Results fall into one of these categories:

· Very Little Risk: You either don’t have very much critical data on your computers, or your backup plan is probably adequate. Consider using a remote backup service to supplement your backups.

· Slight Risk:  If you experience a non-catastrophic loss of data, you will probably be able to recover it. Generally, you are doing a good job with your backup plan, but you should consider improving.

·Moderate Risk:  A loss of data from your hard disk drives may not be recoverable. Your backup plan is not adequate and you are at risk of losing data critical to the operation of your daily business.

·High Risk: Any major data loss would be catastrophic, and would probably not be recoverable. Your business is at risk of failure if you lose data.

·Extremely High Risk: Your backup plan isn’t protecting your data. You could experience an un-recoverable catastrophic data loss at any time which could cause the business to fail.

Grading High Book / Market Stocks

This tool is rather smart too. It’s based on the work of Joseph Piotroski, an Accounting Professor at the University of Chicago who reasoned that because value stocks are troubled companies by definition, many are financially distressed and won’t have the financial resources to recover. Pondering on whether he could improve the performance of a value portfolio by throwing out the financially weakest stocks, he devised a simple nine-criterion stock-scoring system for evaluating a stock’s financial strength that could be determined using data solely from financial statements. One point was awarded for each test that a stock passed. Piotroski classed any stocks that scored eight or nine points as being the strongest stocks. His findings were that these strong stocks as a group outperformed a portfolio of all value stocks by 7.5% annually over a 20-year test period. Piotroski also found that weak stocks, scoring two points or fewer, were five times more likely to either go bankrupt or delist due to financial problems.
The evaluator goes through these stages:

·  Net Income: Positive net income – Net income, the bottom line after-tax profits, is the simplest measure of profitability. Score 1 if the latest year’s net income is positive; otherwise, a zero.

·  Operating Cash Flow: Cash flow is arguably a better profitability measure than net income. Cash flow measures the money that actually moved into or out of a company’s bank account; Score 1 point if the latest year’s operating cash flow is positive, otherwise, a zero.

·  Return On Assets (ROA): Earnings quality – Many experts compare net income to operating cash flow to detect potential accounting manipulations. Cash flow normally exceeds net income because depreciation and other non-cash expenses reduce income, but not cash flow; Score 1 point if the latest year’s operating cash flow exceeds the current year’s net income, otherwise, a zero.

·  Quality of Earnings: Warns of Accounting Tricks. Score 1 if last year’s operating cash flow exceeds net income, otherwise, a zero.

·  Long-Term Debt (LTD) vs. Assets: Is Debt decreasing? Score 1 if the ratio of long-term debt to assets is down from the year-ago value, otherwise, a zero. (If LTD is zero but assets are increasing, score 1 anyway.)

·  Current Ratio (CR):  Measures increasing working capital. Score 1 if CR has increased from the prior year, otherwise, a zero.

·  Shares Outstanding: A Measure of potential dilution. Score 1 if the number of shares outstanding is no greater than the year-ago figure, otherwise, a zero.

·  Gross Margin (GM): A measure of improving competitive position. Score 1 if full-year GM exceeds the prior-year GM, otherwise, a zero.

·  Asset Turnover: Measures productivity. Score 1 if the percentage increase in sales exceeds the percentage increase in total assets, otherwise, a zero.

Overall, it’s a pretty impressive list, I think you’ll agree. All these tools and about 50 more can be available to accountants, clients and prospects. They sit on the accountants’ website and are available 24-hours a day, 365 days a year and are accessible from anywhere in the world with an internet connection, on a PC, Mac, iPhone, Smartphone, Android or whatever fancy equipment may be used.  There is no set-up fee for these tools, just an easy, affordable payment option with a minimum 12 month subscription. Details here.

Instead of the restricted functionality available with other online calculator packages, where users can only calculate results in a one-dimensional way, Calculators & Evaluators incorporates Bizezia’s interactive Lead-Generation Technology. This allows users to:

  • Print results
  • Share results with friends and colleagues by email
  • Export results to Excel
  • Export results to PDF
  • Ask for an e-mail alert when the selected Calculator/Evaluator is updated
  • The opportunity to request more information from an accounting firm hosting the tools on their website using the Contact Us feature.

Bizezia is so confident that you and your clients and customers will enjoy using the Calculators & Evaluators that it comes with a 30 Day Money-Back Guarantee. If, within 30 days of the start of a subscription, you think that Calculators & Evaluators is not for you, Bizezia will refund your full subscription, with no questions asked.

If you want more information, call me on 01444 884221 or contact me by email at mpollins@bizezia.com

Make a date with Tax Calendar

Make a date with Tax Calendar

tax calendarI’m pleased to say that the Bizezia 2014 Tax Calendar is now available, here.

It’s an interactive tax reminder for your website. Tax Calendar is a great way to ensure your clients and prospects never forget their tax dates, and it’s a valuable resource which will help attract and retain website traffic, generate leads and enhance existing client loyalty. Bizezia’s Tax Calendar is a value-adding website tool which interactively displays relevant tax dates.

The Tax Calendar contains 3 different calendars for different types of user:

  1. self-assessment taxpayers
  2. companies and employers
  3. partners and partnerships

The people viewing the calendar can choose the following viewing options:

  1. year view
  2. month view
  3. list view

The calendars are simple to use with colour-coded clickable graphics to represent the tax dates occurring. You can access any of these views from all parts of the calendar.

Lead Generation Technology
Tax Calendar is not only a useful resource for clients and prospects; it goes one step further by giving users the opportunity to request more information from the host accountancy firm using the Contact Us feature. This innovative technology brings prospects to your door.

·       All key dates are covered for Self-Assessment Taxpayers, Companies & Employers and Partners & Partnerships

·       Key dates are presented by month, by year or as a downloadable list

·       Easy to use with colour-coded clickable graphics to represent the tax dates

·       Online, on-demand delivery through your website

·       Choice of colours to match your website

·       Tax Calendar is updated automatically by Bizezia

·       Contact Us

·       No programming experience required on your part

·       No set-up fees, just an easy and affordable monthly or annual payment option with minimum 12 month subscription

·       Free support from Bizezia

·       Attract and retain website traffic

·       Generate leads

·       Build existing client loyalty

·       Provide a useful knowledge resource for your clients and prospects

·       Keep yourself up-to-date with this valuable tool

There is no set-up fee for Tax Calendar, just an easy and affordable monthly or annual payment option with a minimum 12 month subscription.

Bizezia is so confident that you and your clients and customers will enjoy using Tax Calendar that it comes with a 30 Day Money-Back Guarantee. If, within 30 days of the start of a subscription, you think that Tax Calendar is not for you, Bizezia will refund your full subscription, with no questions asked.

If you want more information, call me on 01444 884221 or contact me by email at mpollins@bizezia.com

Warning: your fridge could be your downfall

A Window of Opportunity?

You may not know it but if you use a PC, you’re on the threshold (forgive the pun) of something new. This week it was reported that Microsoft will provide a sneak peek at its vision for the next generation of Windows at its April BUILD conference, according to a new report.

Windows 8 didn’t achieve the success that Microsoft had hoped for as many users were put off by the new interface and lack of a Start Menu. OK, Windows 8.1 was a lot better, but it still didn’t go far enough for many people. Another update to Windows 8.1 is expected this year, next year, we’ll see Windows 9, codenamed “Threshold”.

Reported on here, according to sources who spoke to Paul Thurrot, a well-known Microsoft watcher with a track record of breaking stories about the software giant, the next version of the Windows could launch in 2015, but details about how much of an overhaul it will get from version 8 are still thin on the ground.

At its annual BUILD conference taking place in April 2014, Microsoft is also expected to launch Windows Phone 8.1.

Are you a PC or Apple user? I’ve been a PC user since the time that PC’s first appeared on the scene. From DOS to Windows, my journey has been interesting. Apart from the early Apples, I never bothered with Macs… that is until about 4 or 5 years ago when I bought an early version of the MacBook Air. Whilst I still use a PC for most of the time, I also use a Mac every day. They are terrific computers – easy to use, and it’s no wonder that Apple became the most valuable company ever.

But things may be changing – I see that, as reported here, Apple fell out of favour with UK consumers in 2013, losing its coveted spot last year as one of the UK’s top ten brands. The previous year, Apple’s iPad held the number 6 slot on YouGov’s BrandIndex report, but this year the technology giant is nowhere to be found.

Apple faired a little better in YouGov’s worldwide brand rankings for 2013 – taking fourth position along with car maker Volkswagen – but still falls behind rival Samsung which ranks in the top 25 brands in 13 of the 15 countries surveyed for the report.


£8 million technology boost for UK high streets

£8 million technology boost for UK high streets

It sounds good to me: A brand new, £8 million initiative, designed to re-invigorate UK high streets, has been announced by Science and Universities Minister, David Willetts.

The initiative, a funding competition run by the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, will allow businesses to compete for funding awards, in order to trial innovative ways of addressing the challenges facing UK high streets.

The competition is seeking innovative technology solutions to boost the high streets by exploring new approaches to retailing/services, logistics and travel and traffic.

Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts said: “Technology plays a vital role in people’s everyday lives and has the ability to influence our movements and shopping habits. By developing innovations to regenerate the retail sector we will be able to breathe new life into the UK’s high streets. This competition will encourage exciting new developments that could change the way business is done across our high streets. Giving shoppers and businesses real time information that they can use to their advantage will make a real difference in helping to boost the UK economy.”

High Streets Minister Brandon Lewis said: “Britain’s shopping culture is changing with online shopping pushing town centres to evolve and exploit new technology to prosper and attract people to their local high street. This government is committed to supporting high streets and this competition will challenge them to come up with exciting and innovative ways to be at the forefront of change. It builds on the £1 billion support package of new tax breaks for shops and sensible changes to planning and parking rules. That investment combined with strong local leadership can help high streets remain at the heart of communities for decades to come.”

Technology Strategy Board Chief Executive Iain Gray said: “There is real appetite among business and consumers to come up with new ways to regenerate our high streets. This competition is aimed at encouraging businesses of all sizes to come up with innovations that address key challenges, such as ways we can combine both physical and virtual shopping or develop real-time parking information.  Up to £2 million will be available for feasibility studies in phase 1 of the competition called Re-imagining the high street, and those successful projects will then compete for a further £6 million in phase 2.”

The competition

  • The funding competition opens on 13 January 2014. The deadline for registration is noon on 26 February 2014 and the deadline for applications for phase 1 of the competition is noon on 5 March 2014. A webinar briefing session will be held at 10am on 20 January 2014.
  • The competition is being run under the SBRI (Small Business Research Initiative) programme that provides opportunities for innovative companies to take advantage of public sector procurement to solve specific problems. SBRI competitions are open to all organisations that can demonstrate a commercial potential to their solution. The scheme is particularly suited to emerging and small businesses.

Further information:

You can find further details of the funding competition at Re-imagining the high street.

Want to Blog?

Want to Blog?

Originally posted on 9 Jan 2014

bblogIf you’re looking to start a blog or want to move an existing one to a better service, you might want to check out these great blogging websites.

A blog gives you your own online space where you can tell stories about your firm, your life, you can share insights and opinions about a topic on which you have expertise, or you can inform clients/customers about your successes your firm has achieved recently. Blogging has become a pastime for some and a way to make money or enhance a business for others.

There are plenty of popular blogging platforms to help you find a solution that fits your blog’s needs.

Some of the best blogging and publishing platforms on the Internet today are covered in an article by Jack Russell last year, here. His list includes:

For me, two blogging platforms stood out from the pack WordPress.com and Blogger.

Lilach Bullock, one of the leading commentators on the use of social media, says that the beauty of blogging is that anyone with an Internet connection and the ability to read and write, can do it. It’s that easy.  By blogging, you can start building an online following, get more people to notice you, establish yourself as a knowledgeable person in your field, or as an expert, land a better job or even make money from it. Blogging can have some amazing advantages – but, to be honest, it also requires a lot of hard work, creativity and imagination.

Lilach is really worth following. She is a regular contributing writer to Better Business Focus, my company’s monthly business magazine. Look up Lilach and read her tips here, particularly her article: A newbie’s guide to blogging here.

Finally, I’d like to mention an interesting website I came across today: http://fiverr.com/  For only $5, you can buy quite a lot. Take a look. It could be very worthwhile.

Frost & Sullivan’s Top 14 for 2014.

Originally posted on 6 Jan 2014

Frost & Sullivan is a global growth consulting firm which provides market research and analysis, growth strategy consulting, and corporate training services across multiple industries including automotive, healthcare, internet and communication technology, and more. Its headquarters are located in Mountain View, California, with offices in over 40 countries.

So, they are big enough and successful enough to know what they are doing.

They have published their predictions of the top 14 ideas and innovations that will shape your world in the coming year. Some of their predictions are:

  • Digital wallets will move to become more digital, mobile and based on open source, peer-to-peer networks (such as bitcoin). Marketing channels and retail strategies will in tandem become more interactive, fully digital and will be focussed on creating wholly immersive virtual experiences for the customer.
  • Wearable devices, or body-borne devices, will become particularly useful for applications such as healthcare. Products will evolve to a wider spectrum ranging from smart watches to even wearable clothing for new born babies that measures vital signs.
  • Rapid Advancement in M2M technology and artificial intelligence will further enhance the field of robotics— even making massive strides with domestic applications. Personal robots will fulfil many household tasks including cleaning, assisted living for the elderly and even window washing (but will the robots be able to undertake company audits, I ask?)

You can access the complete Frost & Sullivan findings by Clicking ‘Download Now’ after completing a simple registration form, here.

Ingested Sensors – Fancy One?

Originally posted on 6 Jan 2014

Forget wearable technology (such as Google Glass). It may not be too much longer before sensors are actually put inside your body, according to Cadie Thompson in her article in Entrepreneur.com, here.

It may sound a little bit futuristic and far-fetched, but the reality is that ingestible sensors and implantable chips are already in use and growing. “We are going to see more sensors everywhere. It’s only a matter of time before those migrate under our skin into our bodies,” said Peter Eckersley, the lead technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“Much like wearable devices, which can capture data about a person’s activity levels, sensors inside the body can be used to collect information about what is going on inside a person’s body. There’s going to be a ubiquitous data collection. Right now, the data is coming from the phone and wearable devices, but eventually some will be within our bodies. And having that data available can mean enormous health benefits,” Eckersley said.

While this sort of technology may play a big role in the future of how patients are monitored, it’s going to impact how drugs are brought to market more in the near-term. Ingestible sensors can enable pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs more quickly and cost-efficiently because the devices can provide real-time data about how the medications are working.

Interestingly, at least for me, is that IT giant Oracle, which has invested in the company, is using Proteus’s technology to give its clinical trial application customers the ability to access real-time data provided by these sensors to help improve clinical trial efficiency.

For me, these developments naturally lead to technology taking over from auditors spending weeks and months evaluating the credibility and accuracy of financial transactions in a company’s accounting records. Software, which eliminates influence over auditors by a company’s financial time, software with complete and accurate integrity: It could change the audit scene for ever.

When will it arrive? In 2 years’ time? No, but watch this space in 10 years’ time. By then, we could see millions of auditors on the dole and wishing they’d taken a different degree at University.

Cybersecurity Essentials for Small Businesses

Cybersecurity Essentials for Small Businesses

Originally posted on 30 Dec 2013

On 23 December, a useful article on cybersecurity appeared on the SBA.Gov website.

cyberI’ve blogged this month on the subject and you may be hearing the term “cybersecurity” more frequently these days and wondering how it applies to your small business – if at all. It does. Cyber threats are an issue for everyone, and small businesses are becoming more common targets for such threats and crimes because they often have fewer preventative or responsive resources. So, what do you need to know? Click here for some essentials as featured in one of the latest online training initiatives.

What is cybersecurity?

With the help of technology and best practices, cybersecurity is the effort to protect computers, programs, networks and data from attack and damage.

Why is cybersecurity so important?~

Consider all the information you have that needs to be secure:

•  Personal information for employees
•  Partner information
•  Sensitive information for customers/clients
•  Financial and sensitive business information

The article says that it’s essential to do your part to keep these details safe and out of the hands of those who could use your data to compromise you, your employees and the foundation of your small business. Think it can’t happen to you? Think again:

•  CNN reports nearly half of the data breaches that Verizon recorded in 2012 took place in companies with less than 1,000 employees.
•  A Symantec report showed that 31% of all attacks in 2012 happened to businesses that had less than 250 employees.
•  A different Symantec report showed cyberattacks were up 81% in 2011.

What are common cyberthreats and crimes?

There’s a broad range of information security threats. Some of the most common include website tampering, data theft, denial-of-service attacks and malicious code and viruses.

·       Website tampering: Website tampering can take many forms, including defacing your website, hacking your system and compromising webpages to allow invisible code that will try to download spyware onto your device.

·       Data theft: Data theft can come in various forms, and the problems that come with it depend on what kind of data is stolen. Some examples include:

–       Theft of computer files
–       Theft of laptops, computers and devices
–       Interception of emails
–       Identity theft

·       Denial-of-service attacks: A denial-of-service attack happens on a computer or website and locks the computer and/or crashes the system with which you’re working. This results in stopped or slowed workflow and prevents communication. The ultimate goal of this kind of attack is to prevent you from conducting business with your internet-connected systems.

·       Malicious code and viruses: These threats are sent over the internet and aim to find and send your files; find and delete critical data; or lock your computer or system. They can hide in programs or documents and make copies of themselves – all without your knowledge.

What can you do to protect your business?

The first step to protecting the information in your business is to establish comprehensive security policies – and keep them up to date. Make sure your employees know and adhere to your policies and best practices for internet, email and the desktop. Here are just a few to keep in mind:

·       Don’t respond to popup windows telling you to download drives
·       Don’t allow websites to install software on your device
·       Don’t reply to unsolicited emails
·       Use screen locks and shut off your computer at the end of the day
·       Ensure that your computer hardware and software are updated regularly on all devices throughout the company.
·       Change passwords periodically and use firewalls to protect your systems.
·       You should also consider backing up your data on a regular basis so that if anything is compromised, you have a copy.

If you want to learn more about how to help make your business more cyber secure? Check out the self-paced online training course, “Cybersecurity for Small Businesses,” which features more tips and additional resources to help you along the way.

Related article:  Do Small Businesses Need to Worry About Cyber Security?

For more information, view the full news story (dated 23 December) on Bizezia News at: http://bizezia.com/newsindex/index/12-2013-15

What will we see as the next “big area” in IT for accountants…?

What will we see as the next “big area” in IT for accountants…?

Originally posted on 23 Dec 2013

Kevin Salter wrote in IT Counts earlier this month and asked: “What will we see as the ‘next big area’ in IT for accountants…?”

He says that it is easy now to look back and see some of the ‘big areas’ that have been brought to the attention of firms in recent years.  Many firms can probably now tick off all (or at least most of the following big areas) that spring readily to mind:

cloud300·       Multiple monitors

·       Online accounting

·       Document management

·       Moving to the Cloud

·       Social Media

What is likely to be the next ‘big area’? Kevin sticks his neck out and suggest that there will be an increasing focus on email security and in particular the importance of email archiving, which is something he has introduced into his own practice.

For instance, it is incumbent on any organisation providing financial services advice via email to securely retain all email traffic – in and out – for at least 6 years. However this is good practice for any business – after all you retain copies of other correspondence in and out. An Email archive provides a complete solution to the email storage and retrieval needs which will ensure that you can meet the requirements of a growing number of regulations on email compliance, eDiscovery and other legislation.

Users may keep emails in their email system but there are potential issues – deletion – once deleted and the deleted items emptied the email is gone forever. Email archiving eliminates the need to use mailbox quotas as a way to limit the use of a mail servers’ storage capacity. Users are no longer forced to go through the time consuming process of constantly deleting ‘less important’ emails or storing them externally.

Emails are an important and very extensive knowledge resource. Email Archive enables all users to access their emails easily and extremely fast, increasing productivity within the company.
To protect valuable email information, standards have been set and government regulations enacted that require retention periods and timely response to legal and information queries. If you were asked to provide all email correspondence to/from a client in connection with a court case how time consuming would this be and could you actually do it….?

Do you agree with Kevin? If not, what do you think the next ‘big area’ will be? Let me know

Although not directly focussing on email security, I blogged on big data systems and cybersecurity earlier this month. See my blog post here.

Warning: your fridge could be your downfall

Coming soon: new social media guidance

Originally posted on 23 Dec 2013

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is to publish social media guidance for financial services firms early next year. The regulator has been in talks with firms over their increased use of social media and how it fits with regulation, according to New Model Adviser.

An FCA spokesman said the guidance had not stemmed from any particular concern but was in response to increased questions from firms. He said: ‘We are developing social media guidance in response to the financial services industry but also because we are fully aware about the increased use of social media.’

The guidance is due to be published in the first quarter of 2014.

Pete Matthew of Jacksons Wealth Management, Dennis Hall of Yellowtail Financial Planning and Chris Daems of Principal Financial Solutions, shared their top tips on getting the most out of social media, here]

Bizezia’s Work Manual system includes a work policy on social media. Email me for a free copy: mpollins@bizezia.com

Get twitter-style legal advice with new mobile app

Get twitter-style legal advice with new mobile app

Originally posted on 23 Dec 2013

John Hyde has reported in Law Society Gazette that US online legal service Rocket Lawyer is preparing to dispense legal advice via client interactions which are not much longer than Twitter posts.

rocketlawyerThe company is to offer a free question-and-answer service on a smartphone app to be launched in the New Year. Consumers will have 600 characters to explain their legal problem and are promised a free reply from a qualified solicitor within 24 hours.

The app was created in the US earlier this year and Rocket Lawyer’s UK subsidiary is now preparing to roll it out in the UK in the first quarter of 2014.

Rocket Lawyer founder Charley Moore told the Law Society Gazette that the on-call service will answer any legal question and guarantees a private answer. Any work that comes in as a result is then farmed out to a member of Rocket Lawyer’s panel picked according to geography or practice area.

‘This is the “on ramp” for legal services for the next generation,’ Moore said. ’They expect and demand that lawyers are going to be responsive to them, which means being available through mobile.’

Rocket Lawyer’s website already allows members to create legal documents from online templates and to have one free 30-minute consultation a month with a lawyer from a panel of firms, plus a discount on further consultations.

‘We know the majority of our users have never consulted with a lawyer before and are not keen on talking over the phone,’ Moore said.

The company says that its clients have created more than 200,000 files online in the first full year of operating in the UK. He expects ‘millions’ of documents to be downloaded in 2014 as the company increases its marketing online and on radio.

Rocket Lawyer currently has 20 law firms on its panel from across England and Wales, but plans to increase that number if and when there is demand, as well as to expand into Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Moore denied that his company was intent on taking work away from existing law firms, describing Rocket Lawyer as ‘the best opportunity lawyers can have right now’. He added: ‘Where [other start-ups] have run into trouble is they have been competitive to lawyers. There is a latent demand for legal services with millions of transactions and disputes yet to be resolved. We’re making it possible for lawyers to be much more efficient and satisfy the demand that the traditional approach can’t handle. There is a crushing burden on the legal system under the weight of demand.’

This could be the start of a transformation in the way that some professional services are delivered. Accountant and Lawyers should take note. My advice is that firms should brainstorm ideas around this subject at the next Partner’s meeting to see how such changes could affect them. What do you think? Let us know.

Make emails stand out now

Originally posted on 23 Dec 2013

An interesting article earlier this month made the point that it’s hard to make your emails stand out and even harder to convince the reader that your message is worth their time.

Although the article focussed on firms sending out email newsletters, it really applies to all marketing messages sent out by email. It suggests some practices to follow to increase the likelihood that your email messages will be opened and read:

+ Define your goal: As with all things marketing, you need to first define your goal for sending out a newsletter.

+ Focus on your subject line: If it’s not attention-grabbing and helpful, it’ll probably be deleted or not opened at all. For help with refining your subject line, check out www.subjectLine.com for these and other useful tips (you can even check out how effective your proposed subject line is):

  •     Don’t start your subject line with the word “Free”
  •     Capitalize the first letter of the first word in the subject line
  •     Include a sense of urgency
  •     Shorter words are better for readability
  •     Don’t include exclamation points
  •     Keep the subject line to under 35 characters
  •     Don’t use the words “You” or “Your”

+ Are you trying to get the reader to download something: If so, then start with that offer. Whatever your goal is should be the focus of your message.

+ Prioritise:  The average newsletter is scanned in less than 10 seconds once it is opened. Think about what you do when you open a newsletter. People are scanners by nature and we feed on trigger words that peak our interest and draw us in further. Prioritise your content – start with the article, story, or promotion that you think will be the most attractive to your readers, follow with the runner-up, and so on. The small inbox preview of your e-mail should prominently feature the most interesting or most actionable item.

+ Less is more: Make it a rule to only include 3 or 4 different articles, blog posts, or promotional items in your newsletter. Don’t have too much information that makes reading your newsletter seem like a chore. Hyperlinks are your best friend in your email newsletter. Keep links prominent but don’t create a hyperlink with an entire sentence as the anchor text. Pick only a few words for the link’s anchor text that promote a sense of urgency and clearly define a call-to-action.

+ Add an image: Adding small images helps to draw the reader in and break up lines of text to avoid glazing over the newsletter as a whole. Make sure the picture is relevant to the content of your message.

Choose Your Words Wisely: Advice from Mailchimp

Most people quickly scan the subject lines in their inbox before deciding which messages are worth their time and attention. With so much pressure on the subject line to entice the potential reader, we thought it would be interesting to see how much of a difference a single word can make in a campaign’s open rate.

To get some answers, the people at Mailchimp, the popular email marketing programme, studied approximately 24 billion delivered emails with subject lines composed of approximately 22,000 distinct words. If you think that sounds like a lot of data, you’re right. They looked at subject lines both in general and within specific industries. There’s a quick rundown of their criteria and approach, here.

Focus on the subject line

Chris Hexton in Email Marketing says that email subject lines are the gatekeepers of your email campaigns. When you’ve put hours of effort into getting your segmentation just right and even more hours into nailing your awesome email copy, there is no doubt you want to make sure your emails actually get read. Subject lines are the first thing your recipients see in their inboxes. The subject line is given pride of place and many argue that you should spend almost twice as much time reviewing your subject line compared with reviewing the body of your email. That’s a big call…but nailing your subject line really does pays off. Read what he has to say, here.

If you would like a no-obligation free publication from Bizezia: Email Marketing, please contact us at mpollins@bizezia.com

Big Data Poses Legal Issues and Risks

Originally posted on 19 Dec 2013

The use of “big data” by organizations today raises some important legal and regulatory concerns. The use of big data systems and cloud-based systems is expanding faster than the rules or legal infrastructure to manage it. Risk management implications are becoming more critical to business strategy. Businesses must get ahead of the practice to protect themselves and their data.

Accountants and Lawyers should take note: this affects your firms as well as most of your clients.

Before looking at legal and risk issues, it’s important to clarify the language as the terms “big data” and “cloud” are overused and mean many different things:

  • For our purposes here, big data is the continuously growing collection of datasets that derive from different sources, under individualized conditions and which form an overall set of information to be analyzed and mined in a manner when traditional database technologies and methods are not sufficient. Big data analysis requires powerful computing systems that sift through massive amounts of information with large numbers of variables to produce results and reporting that can be used to determine trends and discover patterns to ultimately make smarter and more accurate (business) decisions.

Big data analysis is used to spot everything from business or operational trends to QA issues, new products, new diseases, new ways of socializing, etc. Cloud technologies are required to help manage big data analysis.

Big data leverages cloud technologies such as utility computing and distributed storage —that is, massive parallel software that runs to crunch, correlate, and present data in new ways. Cloud infrastructure is highly scalable and allows for an on-demand and usage-based economic model that translates to low-cost yet powerful IT resources, with a low capital expense and low maintenance costs.

Cloud infrastructure becomes even more important as the creation and use of the data continues to grow. Every day, Google processes more than 24,000TB of data, and a few of the largest banks processes more than 75TB of internal corporate data daily across the globe. Those massive sets of data form the basis for big data analysis. And as big data becomes more widely used and those datasets continue to grow, so do the legal and risk issues.

Legal and risk management implications are typically sidelined in the quest for big data mining and analysis because the organization is typically focused, first and foremost, on trying to use the data effectively and efficiently for its own internal business purposes, let alone giving attention to ensuring that any legal and risk management implications are also covered. The potential value of the results of using big data analysis to increase income (or lower expenses) for the company tends to drown out the calls for risk oversight. Big data can be a Siren, whose beautiful call lures unsuspecting sailors to a rocky destruction. Understanding the legal and regulatory consequences will help keep your company safe from those dangerous rocks.

Developing Protection Strategies

In order to protect the organization from legal risks when using big data, businesses must assess issues and develop protection strategies. The main areas typically discussed related to legal risks and big data are in the realm of consumer privacy; but, the legal compliance, such as legal discovery and preservation obligations, are also critical to address. Records information management, information governance, legal, and IT/IS professionals must know how to identify, gather, and manage big datasets in a defensible manner when that data and associated systems are implicated in legal matters such as lawsuits, regulatory investigations, and commercial arbitrations. Organizations must understand the risks, obligations, and standards associated with storing and managing big data for legal purposes. As with all technology decisions, there should be a cost/benefit analysis completed to quantify all risks – including soft risks such as the risk to reputation of data breaches or the misuse of data.

For more articles related to big data, download DBTA’s Big Data Sourcebook.

Based on a posting by Alon Israely

Large businesses are more likely to use social media than small businesses

Large businesses are more likely to use social media than small businesses

Originally posted on 19 Dec 2013

Large businesses are more likely to use social media than small businesses: that’s the message from the Office for National Statistics’ E-commerce Survey of UK Businesses which asked businesses about social media usage for the first time. Approximately 7,700 businesses with 10 or more employees were surveyed in 2012. The vast majority of businesses had Internet access (96%) and over four out of 10 (44%) used social media in 2012.

The opportunity for accountants and lawyers to help SME clients is clear to see.

Social media can be defined as websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or participate in social networking (Oxford Dictionaries 2013). In the survey, social media was broken down into different types including: social networks; blogs and microblogs; multimedia content sharing websites and Wiki-based knowledge sharing tools:Social-Media 43% of businesses used social networks such as Facebook: Overall, 43% of businesses used social networks (e.g. Facebook and LinkedIn); 24% used a blog or a microblog (e.g. Twitter); and 15% used multimedia content sharing websites (e.g. YouTube and Flickr).

Large businesses almost twice as likely as smaller ones to use social media: In 2012, 81% of the largest businesses (1,000 or more employees) used social media compared with 42% of the smallest businesses (10 to 49 employees).

– Different types of social media: Similar differences were seen across the different types of social media. Of the largest businesses, 79% used social networks (e.g. Facebook and LinkedIn) compared with 40% of the smallest businesses. Meanwhile, 62% of the largest businesses used blogs and microblogs compared with 22% of the smallest; and 50% of the largest businesses used multimedia content sharing websites compared with 13% of the smallest.

Social media usage varies widely across different industries: Businesses in the Information and communication sector were the most likely to use social media (77%) in 2012. At the other end of the scale, social media was used by only 20% of businesses in the Construction sector.

Looking at different types of social media, again businesses in the Information and communication sector were most likely to use social networking (76%) and businesses in the Construction sector were the least likely (19%).

Businesses in the Information and communication sector also reported the highest rate of blogs and microblogs usage (53%) and multimedia content sharing website usage (44%) usage. The Transport and storage sector was the least likely to use these types of social media (5% and 4% respectively).

Common reasons for using social media

Businesses also used social media for different reasons and these also differed by the size of the business:

  • The most popular reason for using social media in 2012 was to develop the business’ image or to market products (33%).
  • Social media has also opened up new ways for businesses to engage with customers; 23% of businesses responded to customer opinions, reviews or questions on social media, while 12% used it to involve customers in the development or innovation of goods or services.
  • Almost half (44%) of the largest businesses used social media to recruit employees in 2012, compared with 12% of all businesses.

Free Publication

If the whole concept of social media confuses you, why not ask for my publication: Social Media Glossary. It’s available free of charge. Just email me at: mpollins@bizezia.com.

How SMEs (including Accountants) can make the best use of social media

Originally posted on 18 Dec 2013

There’s an excellent article in The Guardian, Small Business Network explaining how SMEs can make the best use of social media.

He says that success with social media lies in the subtleties even though sometimes it gives SMEs an inferiority complex. To succeed, without the dedicated team that many large brands have working on their social media output, it can seem like an uphill struggle. However, following a few simple guidelines can soon bring results for those who are willing to put in a little time and effort to immerse their SME in the right circles of social media.

Once social media influence is gained, and built on, companies will find they are in the enviable position of having direct access to their customers, prospects, suppliers and future talent pool at the click of a mouse.

If you are an accountant advising SMEs, it’s worth reading this article (see link below) and even following the tips yourself.

More at Bizezia News here.


This week’s announcement that Facebook will embark on what could be its next $1bn (£614m) line of business, according to analysts, with the roll out of video ads across the social network imminent, offers new opportunities to SMEs and accountants. Facebook say that the new ads will offer advertisers a way to reach its 1.1bn users with video clips in the news feed that will automatically play on desktops and mobile devices.

More at Bizezia News here.

Free Publication

If the whole concept of social media confuses you, why not ask for my publication: Social Media Glossary. It’s available free of charge. Just email me at: mpollins@bizezia.com.


If it’s Twitter that interest you, it’s easy to attract more followers and engage the ones you have, according to Twitter themselves. All you need is an attention-grabbing Twitter profile. Here’s how to make one:

1. A picture is worth a thousand words
Upload a profile picture; a logo, image or product shot that represents your business.

2. Show your best side
Write a catchy bio that shows your personality and links to your site.

3. Add some colour
Customise your background with one of our themes, or upload your own image. Click the design tab in your settings to get started.

Learn more…

It’s time for professional firms to step up and tackle “the cybersecurity problem”

It’s time for professional firms to step up and tackle “the cybersecurity problem”

Originally posted on 13 Dec 2013

The Government is stepping up its interest in cybersecurity and professional firms are being advised to start tackling the issue head-on.

A unique combination of factors arguably makes professional firms, including legal and accounting practices, the perfect target for a cyberattack. First, these firms hold valuable client information – much of which could be of enormous value to cybercriminals and which, in the wrong hands, could do enormous damage. And second, professional firms tend to fall short of organisations in other industries when it comes to having the appropriate level of cyberdefences in place. In other words, we have an obvious target that is poorly-defended. It’s the perfect storm.

cyber-security-a-growing-issue-small-businesses1This week’s announcement that accountants could be joining with lawyers to form Alternative Business Structures (ABSs) could motivate “cybervillians” to attack unwary professional firms.

Recent developments in cybersecurity mean that now is the perfect time for professional firms to either revisit their existing strategies or create entirely new ones.

Launch of “Guiding Principles”

As part of the UK’s Cyber Security Strategy, the UK internet industry and Government have recognised the need to co-develop a series of “Guiding Principles” to improve online security and defend business and individuals against cyberattacks.

The Guiding Principles were published this week by the Government here and here and are suggested reading for all UK organisations.

Why is the Government and industry concerned?

The National Security Strategy classed cybersecurity as one of the UK’s top priorities alongside international terrorism, international military crises and natural disasters.

The cybersecurity statistics speak for themselves and explain why this is rapidly moving up the agenda for most organisations:

•  93% of large corporations and 87% of small businesses reported a cyberbreach in the past year.

•  On average, over 33,000 malicious emails are blocked at the Gateway to the Government Secure Intranet (GSI) every month. These are likely to contain – or link to – sophisticated malware. A far greater number of malicious, but less sophisticated emails and spam are blocked each month.

•  The cost for a cybersecurity breach is estimated between £450,000 to £850,000 for large businesses and £35,000 to £65,000 for smaller ones.

What are the Guiding Principles about?

The Guiding Principles are designed to build on, and complement, existing sources of internet safety advice and guidance, for both businesses and consumers. They are designed to “learn” from similar initiatives that have been developed overseas. And they will sit alongside separate initiatives, for example those in relation to the protection of children online.

They cover the following three areas:

•  Section 1: ISPs’ activities to help their customers protect themselves from cyber threats.

•  Section 2: Government activities to help protect consumers and businesses from cyber threats.

•  Section 3: Government and ISP activities in partnership to help protect consumers and businesses from cyber threats.

The Guiding Principles are just another example of a general shift towards increased cyberregulation, both in the UK and overseas. “Cybersecurity” is fast moving from being the buzzword of the day to a real-life, real-world concern that needs to be addressed. My team and I predict that this trend will continue well into 2014 and beyond, ramping up the legal, regulatory and commercial pressure on firms to step up and tackle “the cybersecurity problem”. Indeed, we expect clients to add another question to their list when they seek out a professional firm: “Can you tell me about your cybersecurity practices?”

Stepping up and tackling “the cybersecurity problem”

Many are predicting that a law firm or accountancy practice could actually be taken out by a cyberattack. Apart from the disastrous effect of such an attack on a professional firm’s reputation, the possibility of uninsured negligence claims looms large on the list of issues that partners are becoming concerned about.

In the coming weeks, my organisation, Bizezia, plans to launch a set of cybersecurity tools, tailored specifically for professional firms, because we believe that now is the time for our sector to step up and tackle the cybersecurity problem head-on. Bizezia’s understanding of the demands of running a professional firm mean that we are uniquely well-placed to support our clients as they navigate these challenges. Our goal is and always has been to make business easier. Our approach to cybersecurity will be no different.

If you would like to hear more, please do not hesitate to contact us.  We’d love to hear from you.

How the world of work will look in 2018

How the world of work will look in 2018

Originally posted on 12 Dec 2013

If you think back to the 1970s – a world before the Internet and emails, before the cloud and everything digital as we know it today – who could have imagined the changes about to burst on the scene?

If we now envisage the business world of 2018 – only 5 years away – what could we expect?

The Chancellor’s plans to shrink spending on public services and administration mean that businesses must decide what sort of organisation they are going to be in future, according to journalist and commentator Will Hutton[1].

He said that the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on 5 December, with proposals to proportionally reduce public spending to 1948 levels, had been an “extraordinary moment in the political life” of George Osborne.

The article by Clare Warren in Personnel Management says that Hutton pointed out that the Chancellor’s plans, which will only come to fruition if there are no changes in government or government policy, mean that in 2018 “You will have had to decide what kind of company you are going to be”:

·        One that promotes fairness and supports its workforce to encourage higher productivity, asked Hutton, or
·        One that shifts pressure onto the individual, ignores employee voice and continues to widen the wage gap between employees at the top and bottom of the scale, for example.

Hutton was speaking at the final seminar in Zurich Life’s Future History Now project, a series of films, articles and events looking at how the world and the workplace will look in 2018.


Winston Churchill once said: “This is no time for ease and comfort. It is the time to dare and endure.”

Steve Ballmer at Microsoft lost growth and became trapped in apparently dead-end business models. On the other hand, Jeff Bezos at Amazon appears to invest in trends to implement game changers that are low risk yet yield significant growth, such as the idea of drones to deliver orders the same day.

In the future, how do you plan to be daring and enduring?


William C. (Bill) Taylor is cofounder of Fast Company magazine and author of Practically Radical: Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself.

He says:

  • The real message is: If your customers can live without you, eventually they will.
  • The big challenge: If you do business the way everyone else does business, you’ll never do any better.
  • The urgent question: If your company went out of business would anyone notice? Follow him on Twitter at @practicallyrad.

[1] See article in People Management at: www.cipd.co.uk


Also worth reading, is a great blog: Mobile in 2013, what next in 2014? on www.operamediaworks.com started by Aaron Macpherson, Account Management Executive at 4th screen Advertising.

Warning: your fridge could be your downfall

What threats do internet trolls pose for employers?

Originally posted on 10 Dec 2013

The internet phenomenon of ‘trolling’ – making provocative or offensive online comments to get an angry reaction – has come tomainstream attention in recent weeks. Trolls usually hide behind anonymous accounts, but when they are unmasked there can be serious repercussions for the reputation of the company and the welfare of employees. In one high-profile case, colleagues of an outed troll (that is, one that has been unmasked) received death threats and the company was engulfed in a media storm. How should employers reduce the risk of this happening?

It can be no bad thing to have an effective social media policy in place. This should lay down in simple language what is considered acceptable, and what may lead to disciplinary action. It may also have provisions to protect an organisation against liability for the actions of its workers – and help employees draw a clear line between what they do in their private and professional lives.

While offensive comments against colleagues can be dealt with in a straightforward manner under an organisation’s disciplinary procedures, it may be harder to deal with instances in which trolling has happened in private time on a private device. Even so, it could be stated in company policy that there will be clear repercussions if employees bring a company into disrepute, regardless of where or when it is done.

Commentators have drawn parallels between trolls being outed today and football hooligans being named in the press in decades past, which sometimes led to their dismissal at work for bringing the reputation of their organisation into disrepute.

An Acas research paper Workplaces and Social Networking: The Implications for Employment Relations advises employers to take a ‘common sense stance’ and draw on ‘norms that might apply in non-virtual settings’ – by treating online behaviour in the same way as behaviour off-line.

A social media policy can only be effective if it is well communicated and understood by all staff. Induction programmes and training around social technology issues could help to keep everybody on board, and reduce the risk of employees overstepping the mark.



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