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How Do I Prepare My Business for the Coronavirus?

As the CEO of a growing business, you likely spend most of your time thinking about your products, customers, and staff, as well as how to keep growth on track.

But soon enough, you may have a new priority – how to keep your business running when threatened by coronavirus.

We certainly don’t believe that the end of the world is near. But we do see the possibility of disruption due to illness or quarantine. You may have employees looking after sick relatives, or school closings to limit infection risks.

(For up-to-date coronavirus information and guidelines, see this link from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

The good news is that there is a relatively simple way to prepare your business for disruption – telecommuting (or home-working), meaning providing your employees with the flexibility and equipment they need to work remotely.

Preparing your business and staff for remote work provides a robust means to handle health scares, as well as most other disaster scenarios like power failures, bad weather, or public transport problems.

As an example, a long-standing Freeman Clarke client provides a 24/7 business-critical service. They can’t afford an outage, so they have spent a lot of time and money preparing for emergencies, including ensuring they can deliver their service uninterrupted with everyone working from home. They’ve tested it and it works.

Emergencies aside, enabling your staff to work remotely is a great way to attract and retain the best talent. Many businesses employ “knowledge workers” who can function effectively from home or the coffee shop with management, processes, and facilities set up accordingly.

Planning for remote work in the event of coronavirus goes beyond prudence. It’s a step in the right direction for your business.

How to Get Started

The good news is that even if you’re considering this scenario for the first time, it’s not too late. Our advice is to gather the senior management team and ask two questions:

  1. Which members of your team are critical to the ongoing survival of the business? Also: who can cover a colleague’s job in case they’re not available?
  2. What processes are absolutely critical to running the business? These processes might include taking payments, getting product to your customers, answering customer calls, and so on.

You can then plan out how these critical people and processes could continue to work remotely.

The first focus should be on the people. Ensure all critical team members are properly equipped to work from anywhere. That mean at the very least a mobile phone, a laptop, and possibly a VPN (virtual private network).

Then work out the simple details, like ensuring that everyone has their colleagues’ cell numbers.

Finally, all your people should be confident with using voice (or video) conferencing so they can organize themselves without needing to be in the same place.

The next task is to review the highlighted critical processes and discuss whether they would work if you and your team were out of the office.

Don’t assume that everything has been digitized! Ask your critical staff to look over what’s currently only in paper files, notebooks, or Post-it notes. All this must be available to them online. Fortunately, these days the tech is inexpensive or even free, products like Trello, Teams, and even Whatsapp can be effective ways to support remote work, including exchanging documents.

Don’t forget documentation such as customer contact details need storing somewhere accessible, as do the tools people use, such as PIN pads.

Cloud-based services excel in these circumstances because all you need is an internet connection. System such as Office365 and online accounting systems such as Xero make planning for a disaster far easier. If your business has a lot of its processes based on servers in the office, this is a great opportunity to kick off a project to migrate to the cloud. Aside from protecting you from emergencies, it will ultimately be cheaper, more secure, and more flexible.

Don’t Wait for Disaster

You’ll need to invest time and money to make all this happen. Consider it insurance against disaster and an opportunity to make your business better.

We recommend that you immediately organize a senior management team to focus on the questions above. Don’t leave the room until you’ve agreed on the necessary actions, the owners and timescales for completion, and the follow-up. Consider having this meeting by video to get the ball rolling!

Freeman Clarke regularly helps businesses plan for emergency and growth. If you’d like to talk to us about how to make your technology more robust, feel free to get in touch. We’re always up for a chat.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

How to Avoid a CRM Car Crash

Every CEO knows that customer information is a crucial asset. And how you manage customer relationships is vital. So of course you need to implement systems to help you standardize and manage Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Unfortunately, we’ve see countless CRM projects that fail, or CRM systems that are misused, underused, or never used at all.

So why is CRM a project that fails so often? This CEO’s Briefing explains the basics of CRM systems and why companies need them. It also presents the ten rules for avoiding a CRM project car crash.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

 

Bitcoin – What Is It and What Does It Mean to Business?

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a digital-only currency, or “cryptocurrency,” created in 2009. It has many (or perhaps all) of the characteristics of any currency, except it’s 100% digital and that it isn’t controlled by any bank or government—Bitcoin exists without any institutional support and parties transact without requiring a trusted third party, such as a bank. This is because the mechanism for recording Bitcoin transactions, which is called Blockchain, is secure and reliable.

These fundamental differences haven’t stopped people from using it: the total value of Bitcoins in circulation is now over $190Bn!

To find out more about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and what they’ll mean to your business moving forward, read our CEO’s Briefing:

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

How to Make It Work When They Work from Home

Many of our clients want to explore opportunities for their employees to work from home. They have two main drivers:

  1. Reduce office costs by reducing space requirements and associated expenses
  2. Ease recruitment by (a) offering more attractive terms and (b) opening-up options to recruit outside their immediate locality

In addition, many knowledge workers are frustrated by their commute. As they increasingly see others working from home, they begin to expect this as an option from their own employers.

But there are so many questions that arise when companies allow their employees to work from home. Our CEO’s Guide, How to Make It Work When They Work from Home, will help answer many of these questions.

The guide covers the business and IT strategy aspects of working from home. It includes issues of cost reduction, recruitment, teamwork, cultural changes, and collaboration. Specifically, it describes team-working for home workers, technology and connectivity, and use of products such as Teams, Slack, SharePoint, Trello, Basecamp, Wrike or WhatsApp.

This guide covers how to enable business applications for those working from home (including virtual desktop technology, e.g. Citrix) as well as outlining issues of cybersecurity. In addition, it discusses how to change management style for remote workers, including defining jobs, monitoring performance, and encouraging collaboration.

Finally, the CEO’s guide talks about how home-working can improve disaster resilience, which is related to business continuity planning, (BCP), disaster recovery (DR), and risk management.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

 

 

 

Get Real: How Does Tech Fuel Business Growth?

We recently launched Freeman Clarke in the US and hosted an event at the Norwood Club in Chelsea. We invited 3 panelists to discuss how technology fuels business growth. The panellists; Matt Pritchard, Ramin Behesti and Jonathan Giaramita who all work within different industries, job roles and business sizes, came to conclusion that despite these variables, the driver to successful growth through technology was down to people, process and organisational challenges.

We filmed a quick interview with each of the panellists before the event to get their opinion on the subject matter – and their take on how technology has affected their business.

Matt Pritchard, VP Digital and Innovation, Campbell’s Soup Company

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Ramin Beheshti, Chief Product and Technology Officer, Dow Jones

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Jonathan Giaramita, CFO, The BP Group

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Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

Who are Freeman Clarke?

We are the largest and most experienced team of CIOs and CTOs and work exclusively in the mid-market. Our team of Principals are highly experienced and deliver real value to our clients everyday.  Graeme Freeman, one of the Co-founders and Directors) explains exactly who we are and what we do in this short video.

(Image left to right: Graeme Freeman, Steve Clarke)

For more information or to find out how one of our Principals can help you use technology to grow your business please get in touch today. contact@freemanclarke.com 

The 6 Must-Haves for Hiring the Best CTO

Freeman Clarke has decades of experience in hiring the best CIOs and CTOs. In several years of refining our screening process, we’ve discovered that good CTOs always have six essential qualities.

  1. Technical Expertise. CTOs must have an extensive understanding of technology, security and engineering, and preferably years of experience in the industry. They need to understand infrastructure, business systems and online technology. And since no field changes more rapidly than IT, they need up-to-date and detailed experience of practices, products and vendors. The best CTOs don’t just follow the field, they’re leaders — active at events and in online discussions.
  2. People Skills. Of course, all of business is about people. And all software is built by people, for people. Teamwork is at the heart of any successful venture. So the CTO needs to be a coach and mentor to his team, and to ensure that communication needs flows easily upwards, downwards and sideways. Plus a CTO needs to engage with all the stakeholders, be a source of energy and good-humor, and needs to fit in.
  3. Entrepreneurship. The CTO needs to be passionate about driving growth and fully committed to the ambitions of the business. This means understanding funding and valuation mechanisms, business plans, and disciplines like marketing and legal. Of course, any complex project has issues, and the CTO needs to be creative, agile and proactive to rapidly recognize when changes are necessary to stay on track.
  4. Business Management Skills. Running an IT team requires good planning, communication skills, and a careful attention to detail. As CTOs are often responsible for compliance issues, they need to be aware of the implications of contractual and regulatory frameworks too. They must know how to monitor their budgets, manage contracts, and negotiate prices. Since so much of IT involves external suppliers, CTOs need to maintain good relationships and long-term commitments while keeping costs under control.
  5. Strategic Thinking Skills. Technical discussions are often painfully detailed. Custom digital technology is complex and intricate. A good CTO both understands the details and the bigger picture — meaning, how the technology will be part of the business strategy. A CTO should also understand that board-level discussions can be vague; key questions are often about the art of the possible. CTOs need to be comfortable with this and strive for strategies that are creative, sensible, useful and flexible.
  6. Compelling Leadership. The CTO forms part of the senior team. Thus he or she needs to lead from the front — contribute to decision-making, be bold and visionary, and hold others to account. As the business grows, the stakes become higher; the CTO must be able to handle the pressure. Where there are external investors, partners or other stakeholders the CTO needs to represent the business to them. External investors, in particular, need to draw confidence from the CTO, as his or her role is so critical to success.

We devote a huge part of our management effort to the recruitment, screening and selection of CTOs and CIOs. And, because we work in the mid-market, we only select CTOs who can fit in with dynamic businesses, rather than needing the comfort of the corporate environment.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

Developing Custom Software? Don’t Hire an Interim CTO

As more companies invest in bespoke software, there is an increasing demand for an interim Chief Technology Officer (CTO). But there’s a better way to find a flexible, experienced CTO.

First of all, why build bespoke software?

Many companies have crashed on the rocks of bespoke software. It’s risky. It can get very expensive, and a lot of projects get stuck.

Of course, any project can go awry. But in most situations competent leaders can figure out the problem; they can explain what they want; they can assess progress and issues with their own eyes.

None of this is true for bespoke software. It’s complicated, most of it isn’t visible, and developers are notoriously difficult to communicate with!

Nevertheless, bespoke software can extremely be valuable. It allows you to do things better than your competitors. It can provide your customers a better experience and provide new revenue streams with new services. It can allow you to scale your business without a proportionate increase in costs. Finally, as intellectual property, custom software amplifies the value of a business.

What is a Chief Technology Officer (CTO)?

A CTO owns all aspects of IT centered on software development. A good CTO also bridges the gap between the business and the development activities, ensuring that the software delivers the business plan. He or she understands market needs and commercial opportunities, and thus can help develop those business plans.

The CTO then ensures that the ideas are turned into effective software. He or she has guaranteed that the software is well-designed, well-engineered, secure, properly tested, and compliant with contractual and regulatory requirements. Finally the CTO makes sure that all software is properly hosted and supported.

How do know you have a good interim CTO?

In order to deliver, an interim CTO must understand the commercial context properly — for example, for ecommerce, they should understand external partners like Amazon and eBay, and how search marketing is optimized.

As well as working well with the rest of the executive team, an interim CTO must be able to deal creditably with external investors, advisors, partners and suppliers.

Interim CTOs generally work on fixed-term contracts for a day rate. Interim CTOs normally find their work through agencies and are available at short notice. They will expect their appointment to be full-time for the duration of the contract, and they will generally work alone.

We believe that the interim model lacks flexibility for the client, and it exposes the short-term interests of the interim hire. Instead Freeman Clarke provides flexible, or part-time CTOs. We make a long-term commitment to understanding a client’s business and take a long-term interest in the viability of their work. We can ramp up or down, while remaining flexibly engaged with our clients for the long-term.

CTOs can only join our team after an extensive and rigorous screening process, so we guarantee that our people really are the best in the business.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

What Does It Take to Stay at the Top of Our Game?

People are the most important part of any business.

We run conferences where we hear from expert speakers and run workshops to share knowledge, skills and experience. So, when you take on one of our Principals you get the benefit of all this training and the whole team!

Here is a snap shot from our most recent conference in the UK…

If you would like to know more about one of our Principals becoming part of your senior team, please get in touch for an informal discussion contact@freemanclarke.com

Using Systems & Digital to Grow Your Business

Companies planning growth need to have a plan for how their technology can support and drive this growth allowing them to scale-up confidently, whilst maintaining or improving their margins and customer service.

Quite often, it’s hard to know where to start. Watch this video where I explain what a Technology Roadmap looks like, the benefits and how to start planning yours.

We also have a more fulsome CEO’s Briefing which you might find helpful which provides some pointers on getting started. Or, visit our Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

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Graeme Freeman
Co-Founder and Director

Subscribe to our Business Insights

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Thank you.

You’ll now receive regular expert business insights.

Call us on 0203 020 1864 with any questions.