Why Banks Need to Start Thinking Like Tech Companies

Historically, for most Americans (and Canadians), the local bank branch has always been where you go not just to deposit and withdraw cash, but to manage your retirement or savings account, apply for a credit card and secure a home, car or small business loan. Today, however, the bank’s ascendancy is being challenged by the rise of alternative institutions and other scrappy players who are trying to tap into areas that were formerly the exclusive domain of banks. This category of emerging fintech companies includes online-only banks, credit unions, retirement planning apps, online lending marketplaces, peer-to-peer payment platforms and others too numerous to mention. And while banks may have the size advantage, nothing in business lasts forever. Do these Davids have a chance to slay Goliath? And what do the banks need to do to protect themselves from upstart challengers?

Studies indicate these new entities are giving banks a run for their money (no pun intended). The top five U.S. banks, for instance, accounted for only 21% of mortgage originations in 2019, compared to half of mortgages in 2011. Filling the gap are non-bank lenders, which not only offer a convenient, digital-first customer experience, but also tend to approve more applicants. Similar trends can be witnessed in small business loans and personal loans.

It’s not a stretch to say the traditional bank is facing an existential crisis. This has been partly brought on by a general lack of competition for so long. For example, at one point, towns had just one bank. This single bank didn’t have to innovate in the face of zero competition. That reality may have led to a decades-long attitude of complacency, which as a result, has led to a failure to innovate. Retail banks need to rethink pretty much everything. In short, they need to start thinking like a startup—more specifically, a tech startup. Silicon Valley is driven in large part by a philosophy of disruption, innovation and entrepreneurship. Many alternative lenders have been empowered by this philosophy, but that’s not to say that traditional banks can’t make use of it, too. Far from it, here are some ways that banks can start thinking more like tech companies so they can stay competitive against alternative providers.

Embrace lean methodology. 

Startups, by definition, lack the resources of more established businesses, but they don’t let those limitations stifle innovation. In fact, those limitations actually serve to encourage innovation. Lean methodology is a way of designing and bringing new products to market specifically designed to fit the limited financial resources of startup organizations. First outlined by entrepreneur Eric Ries in “The Lean Startup,” this approach emphasizes building and testing iteratively to reduce waste and achieve a better market fit.

To become vehicles of innovation, banks should consider adopting similar methodologies. I’m not suggesting that they should create artificial obstructions or arbitrary constraints. But no matter the size of the institution, budgets are always going to feel too small—not least of all because product developers for massive institutions need to develop huge products to match. With tried-and-true methodologies for innovation like the Lean Startup out there, scarcity shouldn’t be an excuse for not innovating. 

Fail fast, iterate often. Adopt Agile.

Startups know that rapid iteration cycles mean rapid innovation. It also means embracing a culture of failure. Failing to fail means failing to succeed. These are the lynchpins of agile or lean methodologies. Excellence is the enemy of success and progress. Get it done, get it out there in front of the market and then iterate improvements.

Identify opportunities with big data. 

One of the reasons alternative lenders are able to offer such high rates of approval is that they employ state-of-the-art AI and machine learning techniques to get a better picture of their customer than a simple credit or background check can deliver. Well-trained AI algorithms can efficiently comb through a wide body of available data to uncover trends and make predictions about the risk of lending to a given individual with incredible accuracy. 

Online-first lenders have such an advantage here because they’re in a better place to mine that data. What a lot of people forget about data analytics is that the greatest algorithms are only as good as the data you feed them. Businesses, and banks especially, generate millions of data points per day—data that could prove valuable for data mining and other similar uses. However, the majority of this data is unstructured and heterogeneous, and often time, siloed and difficult to access. Many successful online-first lenders have carefully structured their digital loan applications to be useful for data analytics purposes from the ground up. When nearly 40% of the work of data analytics is gathering and cleaning data, this represents a huge advantage to the fintech startup. 

But traditional banks can take advantage of this, too. Developing online and mobile banking applications to replace old-fashioned paper forms for most activities would set banks up to make better use of that data by ingesting it in a cleaner format. Add in the fact that customers are demanding mobile banking features anyway, and there’s no excuse for not offering customers a more robust set of mobile banking features.

Shrink bloated bureaucracy with cross-functional organizations.

Think about all the startups you’ve visited. Did teams operate in silos, constantly blaming other teams for their inability to make progress? Or did they adapt to situations, never believing their roles to be fixed or immutable?

To become the latter kind of organization, traditional banks need to break the cycle of bureaucratic apathy. One way to do that is to have disparate teams work together on projects. Working on shared projects not only helps develop a sense of shared purpose, but it also empowers employees to solve problems in areas that are not considered in their traditional wheelhouse. That, in turn, reduces the inefficiency of teams passing the baton to another division until it’s been weeks or months until the customer’s concern has even been truly considered. Moreover, bringing together different kinds of minds and thinkers encourages the kind of fertile ground in which innovation is known to thrive.

Reports of the bank’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

Ultimately, banks have numerous advantages that they can leverage over most fintech startups. They have their brick-and-mortar retail locations, allowing them to make personal connections with customers that drive loyalty. They’re considered more trustworthy to the average consumer (for the most part). And a lot of people just want to do all their banking at a single bank branch rather than shop around for various piecemeal banking solutions. If banks can innovate their information technology and organizational structures to meet the changing needs of today’s customers, they can continue to dominate the financial market.


How to Clean, Optimize, and Prolong the Life of Your Computer

Today is National Clean Out Your Computer Day.
You can interpret cleaning out your computer in numerous ways, but I interpret it as a full cleanse, optimize, and keep organized for as-long-as-humanly-possible type of operation, both internally and externally.
So today rid yourself of the junk (apps, files, maybe games, etc.) that you’ve kept for way too long and/or don’t use/need. Since the methods for this vary based (mostly) on your operating system, I’ve put together a collection of articles that will help you clean out, optimize, prolong the life of your computer. Enjoy!

5 Steps to Clean, Optimize, and Prolong the Life of Your Computer

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20 Things I’ve Learned While Running a Business, Raising 10 kids, Staying Married, & Loving Life

20 Things I’ve Learned While Running a Business, Raising 10 kids, Staying Married, & Loving Life

This article was originally published on ChuckFried.com
I’ve always enjoyed writing. From my days in college when I successfully lobbied for an independent study course on advanced fiction writing, to the non-fiction I tend to write about today, it serves as an escape. A cathartic break from my sometimes crazy days.
During those crazy days, I am running a business – a successful IT consulting and staffing company, supporting mostly mid-market and large customers running IBM software. I am usually flying somewhere; attending a conference, meeting with a partner firm, visiting a customer, or putting out fires in the office. Days are hectic.
It’s always been this way, though. My wife runs a social services/child welfare agency. Oh, on top of that, we also have two dogs. Small dogs, so that probably counts as something like four big dogs (if you factor in their attitude).

Oh, and we have kids. Ten kids. Yeah, so things can be busy.

In the interest of full disclosure, most of our ‘kids’ aren’t really kids any longer. Most are in their 20’s. Our oldest is a year away from turning 30 and our youngest are turning 17 this year. Most aren’t at home any longer as a result, but still…lots of kids…
So what’s it like running a business, being a dad, and still having something of a personal life with hobbies, interests, and alone time?  It’s chaotic, but thrilling, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Here are some lessons learned along the way… You can call it my personal path to sanity (or success), if you will. Though, I do believe it’s a journey, not a destination. Although I can always see it in the distance, true sanity can never be achieved, at least not if you have 10 kids!
I digress. Lets get to that list!

1. Get up early

Get up early… Really early. My alarm usually sounds around 5am, though I’m usually up already. It’s the quietest and most productive time of the day. Get things done early morning, whether they be for professional you or personal you, before the hustle and bustle of your day starts, and (more importantly) before your kids and spouse wake up!

2. Go to bed early

Nothing good ever happens after 10 pm. Nothing. Sorry nightlife, you’re not for me. Going to bed early makes rising early easier. Sure – it means I watch one less show or cut my nightly reading short but, the earlier I sleep, the earlier I rise. My day starts off on the right, productive foot.

3. Find at least one hobby, Netflix show, or something to do regularly with your spouse

It gives you something to look forward to and helps to maintain a common reference point between the always important, and never-ending parenting conversations. My wife and I have always made it a point to have a weekly date night. Beyond those childless date nights, we prioritize spending time together throughout the week to catch up on our favorite TV show. We’ll even read together (though separate books in completely different genres). Reading counts, too.

4. Make your kids live somewhere near you

We failed at this one (one of our sons lives in Europe) but, it’s a good idea if you don’t want to go broke with airfare. And, if you fail like I’ve failed, make it a point to travel (as often as financially possible) to visit!

5. Get a pet, or two

No human will ever be as excited to see me come home as our little dogs are, even if I’ve only just returned from a brief, 10 minute errand. Oh, yeah, and they can be pretty cute too. With most of the kids gone, I don’t like to consider myself an almost empty nester… we always have our dogs.

6. Have a good support team to lean on at the office

I get to hand pick mine, so I’ve been very fortunate, but it’s hugely important to have a team you can delegate to, especially when traveling overseas to visit previously referenced child and their family.

7. Hire slow, fire fast

Enough said. Trust your gut. If it feels right, it is. If it feels wrong, it is. Don’t overthink it. Much like in parenting, your gut is almost always right.

8. Fail fast, try again

This rings true for most things in life. Fail quickly, learn from your mistakes, and repeat as often as you can. In personal matters and in running the business.

9. Read like your life depends on it

I am always in the middle of at least TWO books, typically one non-fiction and one fiction. It doesn’t matter how crazy the days get, reading keeps me sane. Ask me, and I’ll gladly share my reading list!

10. Use some form of automated data backup service

You computer WILL fail you at some point, and it will be when it’s totally inconvenient. Plan for it.

11. Keep your inbox clean and your laptop/desktop almost as clean

Between the family and the constant work involved in running a business, my inbox can become quite clogged. So, to keep organized (for the disorganized) I have sub folders, and categories for everything. I try to end each day with UNDER 50 emails in my inbox (I receive over 400 emails a day mind you, this is no small task). I also rarely have a full desktop of files and folders, and NEVER have more than a few windows open in my browser.

12. Make health & fitness a priority

I’m a foodie, but also an avid workout fiend. I run, bike and swim daily (not each activity every day but at least one of those every day).  If I binge eat – and I do sometimes binge – I just add miles to the run, ride or swim the next day.

13. Travel often

Life is the stuff that happens to us while we are waiting for life to happen.  Enjoy each day. Find a way to make travel part of your life. Learn a new language, visit different places and cultures. Get out of your comfort zone.

14. Unplug for at least a part of each day

I don’t sleep with my phone on. If I’m unplugged, you can’t reach me, allowing me to be more present and in the moment.

15. Make time to be with family

Make it a priority. When your friends move away, or aren’t around, family always is. Love them or tolerate them, they will always be there for you, and will always be family.

16. Teach yourself a musical instrument, or get better at one if you already play

I am trying to make time to learn to play the guitar. It’s a struggle, but it is a goal. I will get this done. I won’t be the best, but I will accomplish it.

17. Keep a journal

I use day one. It’s not perfect, and far from a diary, but beyond allowing me to look up notes I took when talking to a customer, it’s a gathering place for my thoughts, some of which will be come blog posts like this ones, others will never see the light of day. It’s a good habit to pick up.

18. Live life like you are always being recorded or monitored (because you probably are, especially if you are a dad or a boss)

This one might seem odd, but more times than I can recall, it’s kept me from saying something stupid, doing something stupider, or just hurting someone’s feelings. Pretend a camera is always on you, and that your every action will be scrutinized one day, and you’ll be amazed how easy it is to always do the right thing.

19. Find a mentor, or be a mentor (but probably both)

Help others reach their goal. Nurturing young talent is a reward unlike any other. I was asked once (and accepted) to be a pacer in a half marathon, and that simple act of running a race and helping others to hit their goal time was one of the most rewarding running experiences I have had in a lifetime of runs.

20. Set goals.

A goal or target with no timeline is just a dream. Start small. Call a customer a day, or 5…or better yet, pick a big, fat, hairy goal, or BFHG as we call them, and break it down into attainable pieces, and go for it!

Why Everyone Should Invest In An ITSM Tool

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We’ve all heard the question before: “Should we invest in an IT Service Management Tool?”
The simple answer is yes. There’s really no counterpoint. Small, midmarket and enterprise organizations will benefit greatly from purchasing and then leveraging an IT Service Management Tool (ITSM) tool.
What Is IT Service Management (ITSM)?
At a high level, ITSM is the backbone of your IT organization. It’s the teams, groups and departments that handle the front-facing communication and support of your IT organization. They’re the ones that receive support requests and provide them to your backend teams, developers, etc. Think about them as the face of your IT organization. They need a management tool to do their jobs effectively.
What An ITSM Tool Can Do For You
There are many ITSM tools out there such as HP Service Manager, Remedy, Service Now, IBM Control Desk, C2 Atom and many more. Each offers its own user interface and reporting structure. Some have additional add-on tools and features or different levels of packages to support your unique needs. No matter the tool you select, the majority will at minimum come with a configuration management database (CMDB) as the backend database for your tool, as well as a basic ticketing system. Both of those tools are critical to the business, so you’re already winning, because your requests and your assets are being tracked in one tool. You can easily escalate and assign tickets for support or enhancements and do some basic reporting as well as track your assets. At a minimum you’ve just saved time and resources by streamlining your ticketing process.
Is that enough to write a use case and convince your company to look at investing in an ITSM tool. Maybe not. But it’s doesn’t stop there. We all know that IT changes, software changes and upgrades need to be put in, and service managers need to track these changes and/or obtain approval. We also need to make sure we’ve properly documented backout plans to ensure there are no conflicting changes happening during the same window. An ITSM Tool can do this for you. The change-management system in most ITSM Tools can automate your change-request process with enhanced questions that can assess the risk of the change and send automatic approval notifications to impacted parties utilizing your flashy new CMDB to get information on who owns the system or utilizes the system and who may be impacted by the change.
What’s so great is that it saves your change information and backout plans for future reference and knowledge sharing. Some even have an integrated change calendar that will show you any overlapping changes or maintenance windows that may impact your change. You’ll also be able to relate a change record to an incident ticket if additional support is needed during the change or if the change causes an outage. This is a more effective way to track any trending or knowledge needed for future changes.
Most ITSM tools also offer a knowledge base as on out-of-the-box option, because knowledge sharing and transfer is key to successful service management. The ability for a developer or network engineer to provide relevant information back to the service desk in a searchable format can increase your first-call resolutions (FCRs), or the time it takes to identify how to escalate an issue. The knowledge base can also be utilized to share knowledge to your user community with basic troubleshooting or automated support for frequently asked questions, issues or known issues with workarounds. This will in turn reduce the numbers or reoccurring calls to your service desk for issues that can be easily resolved by the user, and will free up your service desk analysts to handle more technical requests.
The above-mentioned features – CMDB, ticketing tool and knowledge base – are your basic features of an ITSM Tool. But there are other out-of-the-box functions, plus additional add-ons you can purchase to serve other business needs. These can include trending analysis, reporting/metrics, software-asset management, hardware-asset management, project-portfolio management, event-management integration, self-service portal, automated workflows, SMS escalations or phone-calling tree automation, and application-programming interfaces (APIs) that integrate with other systems to read from or write to the ITSM tool.
Why Do We Need An ITSM Tool?
Look at your IT organization and think for a moment of the services you provide. You most likely have some sort of request process for the service desk via email, phone, instant message or even web requests.
How do the service agents handle these requests? How do they document and resolve these requests? What happens if the request needs to be escalated?
The process you have in place probably works as requests are handled, problems get resolved and that guy on the 3rd floor who wanted a new laptop eventually got one. So why would you need an ITSM tool if everything is great and it works? Don’t fix it unless it’s broken, right? Wrong.
Even if your process seems like it’s working, is it really? Are you tracking changes? Can you easily provide trending analysis on common issues? Do you have a CMDB that stores your people, processes, assets and the lifecycle for them? Are your requests being escalated and turned around in an acceptable service level agreement (SLA)? How are work efforts prioritized? What happens when an outage occurs? Are teams notified? Is the outage documented and follow up on? How many different systems/applications are you utilizing to ensure these efforts happen? How much time, effort, support and money are you spending on these systems/applications to provide the basic functionality of requesting IT services?
Investing in an ITSM Tool will almost pay for itself simply by reducing the cost associated with support, time, resources and reoccurring outages. It’ll enable you to streamline your support process and even automate some of your manual tasks, like tracking, metrics reporting, and communicating about the services you provide to the organization.
Purchasing An ITSM Tool Vs. Building An In-House Tool
Let’s say you decide that an ITSM tool will absolutely help your organization. The purchasing cost is now under review, but you have a team of developers on the payroll that might have some availability to take on a project and produce an in-house ITSM solution. Here are some of the pros and cons to consider before building the tool in-house.

  • Everything’s done in-house
  • You don’t need to spend any money up front to acquire a product
  • There’s no licensing
  • Your dev team knows how to support it
  • It’s customized to your specific needs


  • Your developers are being paid to work on this project when they could be doing other production development
  • As your environment changes, your in-house solution will need to be updated, which will eat up more development time
  • If your solution is web-based and browsers, scripts and other plugins are updated, it may not work as intended and require more development
  • Knowledge transfer of the tool and how it was developed needs to be documented. If your developer leaves, the next developer must be able to support or upgrade the app
  • You may need to write code to integrate other applications such as email or phone into your app. As those systems are upgraded, the code may need to be revised
  • Requirements for the app may change as the organization matures or grows, which will consume additional development time
  • If and when the app reaches the end of its lifecycle, there’s no support or upgrade options readily available
  • There’s no CMDB, unless your team plans on developing one
  • The system of record will not be easily transferrable to another system of record if needed in the future

These are high-level pros and cons, but each organization will have more specific and customized lists depending on the functionality and requirements needed. Given all the cons, why not let someone else who’s already invested time and resources do the work for you? The tools out there are robust, and some are open for additional customization or in-house development to fit your specific needs. There are also additional support options for these tools to assist your organization when issues arise or during implementation.
Don’t waste your resources or time trying to reinvent the wheel when someone’s already invented one and enhanced it.
Original image by Max Max

SharePoint And Why You're Probably Using It Wrong

So you have SharePoint. You acquired it through a package you purchased with other Microsoft products, or you heard about it from someone and decided to stand it up and see what it can do. Either way you spent some time, resources and much-needed network capacity to put this in place.  Now what? That’s a question many organizations ask, and if you’re not asking this question you’re probably still using Sharepoint wrong. Let me explain why.
Many of the organizations I’ve spent some time with have SharePoint. Most have the Foundations version and have no idea why they would pay for the Enterprise license. Foundations is still a strong version and can be utilized to reduce company expenditures on other vendors for products such as hosting your intranet or conducting surveys, as a few examples. I’ve seen this time and time again.  A company has an external vendor that hosts its intranet. The design elements are minimal and the cost associated with development of a product that can integrate with the organizations email client or other applications can be costly.  Why would you spend that time and money when you have the capabilities and product sitting on your network not being utilized to its minimal potential? SharePoint can be your front-facing intranet/extranet site. It can be your employee daily landing page with links to tools, web-hosted applications, announcements, statistics, documents, pictures, knowledge, reports, presentations, surveys, and more.
Think about it for a moment: You probably have a team portal setup for each department or some of your departments.  It’s probably a basic SharePoint template with an Announcement section, Document Repository, Calendar, maybe a fancy logo and a tab at the top to go to the parent site. If this sounds like you, then you’re using Sharepoint wrong.  Remember, SharePoint’s a tool that has many capabilities.
With the basic features offered through SharePoint Designer and the default page and web part templates, you can customize each portal, page and web part to fit many of your business needs without spending money on development.  You don’t need a web developer to manipulate multiple lines of code to embed a video on your page or customize the layout.  You can assign rights to individual teams and with little training they can be off and running on their own – now designing portals specific to their function and needs. I’m not saying go and fire your web developers.  I am saying you can utilize the functionality of SharePoint so your web developers can focus on other projects. You can code pages in SharePoint and design web applications, custom API calls and external facing sites.  So keep those web developers around.
Now that I have you thinking about what you can use SharePoint for, let’s talk about why you might consider the Enterprise license. The first thing I think of when someone asks about the Enterprise license is Workflows. Workflows can be designed to do many, many, many, many automated things. Let’s say you have a employee-engagement survey.  You want to know how your employees feel about the organization or an application that just went live.  You use SharePoint and create a really cool survey that changes the questions based on the previous answers, then take that information and add it to a live, up-to-the-minute graph on your main page. How do you do that? Answer: Workflow.
Maybe you have a form that needs to be filled out, and when someone submits the form, an email needs to be sent to a group for review. How do you do that? Answer: Workflow.  If you haven’t already guessed why the Enterprise license is useful, the answer is: Workflows.
Another thing that comes to mind when someone asks about the Enterprise License is MS Office integration. Yes, I said it. MS Office Integration. It delivers the ability to collaborate on those projects or documents right through SharePoint, or create awesome Visio diagrams on your main page.  Maybe you really wanted to use an Access Database for something and need to easily query the results in a list. I’m here to tell you that SharePoint Enterprise license has MS Office integration.
A few other features you’ll miss without the Enterprise License include business intelligence, robust search features, custom social-media-style profile pages, more design elements, scorecards, dashboards and a better mobile experience.  All versions of SharePoint have Android and IOS support, however, I’ve found the Enterprise version has more features for navigation that work better with the mobile devices.
If you’re not already preparing a use case for SharePoint, and an argument for why you should upgrade your license, then you really should get out there on the Internet and browse some additional topics.  Check out what other companies are talking about.  Really think hard about why you have this product in your environment you’re not doing anything with. There are many resources available to help you start your SharePoint journey.  Why not start it today?
Art work provided by John Norris

WNY CIO Summit: Enterprise Data Breach

There’s been so much in the news lately about major enterprise organizations being hacked and your information is sold to the highest bidder. With the Target breach alone, how many of you had credit cards involved in the hack?
These are major organizations who should, by all rights, be prepared to handle these breaches and they got caught unprepared. So how does your organization stack up?
Join Gary Dischner from IBM and Cindy Gregoire, TxMQ Middleware Practice Manager as they walk you through how to better prepare your company and form a perimeter of protection around your most sensitive data.
Event Title: CIO Summit: Enterprise Data Breach
Date: Wednesday February 12, 2014
Time: 8:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
Location: UB Center for Tomorrow
Register today!!
Photo credit: Stockmonkeys.com under Creative Commons License

Nine Reasons Why “Nearshoring” Is a Better Choice than “Offshoring”

Over the past 10 years, the trend toward offshore service providers for software development or IT projects has become an accepted solution for most large corporations. Although these low-cost offshore developers provide some benefits for the company, they also come with challenges; cultural differences, time zone discrepancies and language barriers are just a few. All of these challenges can lead to communication issues that may ultimately hurt the business.
However, from this, a new trend is starting to emerge: service providers working for an affordable rate are now establishing in South America. These new groups of individuals and companies can deliver the same quality work that can be found elsewhere however they offer solutions to some of the shortcomings that offshoring holds.

What is nearshoring and how does it differ from offshore outsourcing?

Traditionally outsourcing or “offshoring” involves contracting IT or developer resources from countries in the Asia/Pacific region, with the most common locations being India, China, and the Philippines.
According to Dictionary.com the term “nearshoring” refers to the practice of moving one’s employees or business activities from a distant country to a country that is closer to home. Nearshoring capitalizes on benefits of proximity, which include time zones, cultural and linguistic similarities, and political factors. When it comes to the United States, this means that companies would turn to countries in Latin America, (such as Panama, Colombia, and Uruguay) that are rapidly becoming new outsourcing hubs for IT and development projects.

Advantages of Nearshoring

Nearshoring has already been a popular option for the last several years in the manufacturing sector.

9 major reasons that are leading to the increase in nearshoring:

  1. The cost of labor in Asia/Pacific countries is rising; Latin American countries are now competitive in price
    • More than 10 years ago companies started using candidates from India and China. However this is rapidly changing, over the past few years the financial attractiveness of this option has become less favorable. According to Wendy Tate, assistant profess or logistics at University of Tennessee, “Chinese wages are now climbing at 15 to 20 percent per year… thanks to a supply-and-demand imbalance of skilled laborers in manufacturing regions, global pressure to upgrade Chinese labor practices and wages, and increased employee demands for better pay and conditions.”
  2. Time zone compatibility
    • A large concern of those who use offshore talent is that their team is 10-14 time zones away. The logistics of scheduling conference calls is challenging. When workers are in different time zones the offshore members of the team are left to do tasks overnight for managers to examine the next morning. Then if there are problems, the manager has to wait sometimes half a day to get the updates done. In addition to this, unnatural working hours can be a problem for employees. It takes a toll on them and affects their quality of work. However in contrast, the Latin American countries fall in the same time zones as the United States, which allows for real-time conversations, normal work hours and a higher quality of deliverables.
  3. Available Talent
    • A large selling point of offshoring to India, China and the Philippines is the high quality of education in those countries. However, because outsourcing in Latin America is just being discovered by the United States there is a very large pool of highly skilled, college-educated resources available. Universities in countries such as Columbia and Panama are well-respected in the educational community, hundreds of students from the United States travel there yearly as foreign exchange students. In addition to this, a large number of professionals in Latin America have attended universities in the United States and understand our market needs.
  4. Technology Infrastructure
    • In 2011, Latin America and Eastern Europe surpassed India in the growth of outsourcing facilities (Source: www.nearshore.com). This is consistent with investment that have been made to improve the technology infrastructure over the past few years in Latin American countries. Fast internet connections, construction of new data centers, and improved telecommunications facilities are all helping to make the connection to US-based companies as seamless as possible.
  5. Language/Cultural similarities
    • When dealing with countries like China there can be a large communication issue when English is not their native language or not as commonly spoken. However with most nearshoring countries providers are highly proficient in English (or the language of their client), even if it is not their official language. This can be a great advantage when communication is primarily via phone and email.
    • There can also be cultural difference that can impact the work that the client does, in India there are completely different holidays then there are in the United States. Nearshoring greatly reduces these types of problems based on the fact that there is better communication and coordination between countries that have similar cultural backgrounds.
  6. Intellectual property protection
    • In many Asian countries, the incidences of IP theft and counterfeiting are widespread. However many Latin American nations have signed Free Trade Agreements with the USA, which should guarantee IP rights to foreign companies.
  7. Political risk and security
    • Geopolitical risk is a factor that should be strongly considered when evaluating outsourcing options. Does the country have a history of nationalizing privately-held business owned by foreign corporations? Can the government close down an operation that they consider to be contradictory to their philosophy? It is crucial to evaluate the political situation of the county where a service provider maintains staff.
  8. Trade regulations and compliance
    • In October 2011, the U.S. Congress approved trade agreements with Panama and Colombia that have created the largest opportunity for exporters in decades. This has also increased the chances of doing business with these countries. In addition to this, Panama agreed to become a full participant in the WTO Information Technology Agreement.
  9. Low staff turnover
    • According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, in 2010 the IT and BPO attrition rates in India reached a startling 55%. Companies are reluctant to enter long-term projects with an offshore team, knowing that over half of the original team will be gone within one year. However this situation has not been seen in Latin American countries; the family-oriented culture of these countries along with being in the same time zones as the US makes it less likely for them to leave a position.

The benefits of nearshoring are quite clear: low costs, compatible time zones, lower staff turnover, business-friendly climate, and better protection of your intellectual property. If you are looking to outsource IT or software development, you no longer need to look halfway around the world.
TxMQ provides WebSphere® software support services to supplement our clients’ internal technical teams with proactive proble resolutions for IBM®-based and other third-party middleware processing and software.

Remote Problem Management (RPM) for Middleware includes:

  • 24-hour, 7-day per week, North American-based phone support of all IBM middleware products, including but not limited to DataPower, CastIron, Portal and Process server, most Web-Servers, WebSphereMQ, WebSphere, WMB, Integration Bus, Tibco, and Database Software installed on mainframe and distributed systems
  • 8×5 support for all non-severe issues requiring Level 1 support
  • Support initiated via toll-free telephone number or electronic interface
  • Immediate support from a middleware technician (not a generalist)
  • Response time for calls placed into the toll free number is 30 minutes or less
  • Pricing based on environment size, NOT user or license counts.

For more information on Remote Problem Management or for a customized quote contact Miles Roty at 716-636-0070 (228) or email [email protected].

Top 10 Technology Oriented Countries

I recently stumbled upon an interesting top 10 list that I thought I would share with you. Check out the top 10 technology-oriented countries around the globe. It’s just a glimpse into how we stand in regard to the rest of the world.

1. Finland, Northern Europe

Internationally renowned for its high-technology and health care, Finland researchers are leading contributors in the fields of forest improvement, new materials, environment, neural networks, low-temperature physics, brain research, biotechnology, genetic technology and communications.

2. USA

The USA has been on the forefront of technological advancement since the 19th century. The first workable movie camera, first long-lasting light bulb, AC motor, radio, sustained flight of an object in air has been pioneered in the USA. It is also launched the Atomic Age. Advances in space technology have made USA a superpower. It also leads the world in scientific research papers and 50% of the households have broadband internet access.

3. Japan, Asia

Japan is the world leader in fundamental scientific research; its researchers have made outstanding contributions in the fields of electronics, automobiles, machinery, earthquake engineering, industrial robotics, optics, semi-conductors and metals. It leads the world in robotics production and use. Japan has produced thirteen Nobel laureates; its researchers share a $ 130 billion research budget. This highly developed nation is a pioneer in launching new models and products in the industry.

4. Sweden, Northern Europe

This small country has one of the highest standards of living in the world and is renowned for its top-quality scientific and technological development. Sweden apportions 4% of its GDP to R&D, one of the very few countries to do so. Its commitment to R&D has made the Swedes leaders in innovation. Sweden particularly leads in the pharmaceutical and telecommunications segment. It also publishes one of the highest number of scientific papers in the world related to medical science, natural science and engineering.

5. Republic of Korea, East Asia

This country has made great technological advancements in the fields of electronics, automobiles, ships, machinery, petrochemicals and robotics. Their GDP is driven by exporting products manufactured from this sector. Korea has also successfully developed the world’s second walking human robot-HUBO. It has also made breakthroughs in biotechnology by successfully cloning a dog and recently cloning an endangered species of wolves.

6. Netherlands, Northwest Europe

Netherlands has been frontrunners in inventions. It has inventions such as artificial kidney, compact disc, microscope, pendulum clock, telescope are Dutch inventions. There have been great advances in engineering, aerospace, military technology. It is ranked 10th in the Global Competitiveness Index leading 123 countries.

7. UK

The United Kingdom was the world’s first industrialized country and it has exerted strong scientific and technological influence over the world. The United Kingdom has seen many firsts-discovery of hydrogen, invention of locomotive engine, jet engine, World Wide Web, incandescent light-bulb; world’s first working television, electric motor, commercial electrical telegraph etc have been produced from here. It also has taken its progress to its military, housing the most technologically advanced armed forces in the world.

8. Singapore, Southeast Asia

Singapore is the fourth wealthiest country in the world. Singapore houses technological institutes to provide its citizens’ resources to equip themselves to further technological advancement. The Agency for Science, Technology and Research ( A*STAR) is a dedicated government agency to encourage research and development. The medical, food science, clinical research advancements are notable throughout the world. Singapore also has the most technologically advanced armies in Southeast Asia.

9. Canada, North America

One of the most diverse economies in the world, Canada’s highly developed research and technology sector is supported by the government’s allocation of 1.8% of the GDP to R&D. Canada is also ranked third among countries in space sciences. It ranks twelfth in the world for internet usage with around 85% of the population using the internet. It has also produced eighteen Nobel laureates in the field of physics, chemistry and medicine.

10. Australia

The Australian government is committed to promoting science and technology in Australia. It has also opened dedicated technology centers such as the Australian Technological Park in Sydney which is a scientific and research hub as well as an entertainment center for kids. Key focus areas of R&D are information and communications, biotechnology, manufacturing, mining and the food industry.  This has put Australia in the forefront of the technological race among big players.