Aptean Blog

Aptean Blog

Articles posted during May 2017

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Taking Human Error Out of the Hacker Equation

Think about the vast information you have stored on your phone; contacts, family pictures, passwords, emails, and your favorite apps. What would happen if that information was left vulnerable for hackers to obtain? What if the manufacturer sent out an update to protect your phone from potential hackers, but you did not to install it because your phone was turned off? All of your precious and personal information would be left vulnerable to hackers wanting to steal and use that data. This same scenario is what companies combat every day except on a larger scale.

Companies at every level have to combat the possible attacks of hackers. In today’s world, the potential of your company being hacked is not a question of “if” but of “when”. According to a 2015 study by Duke University and CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook Survey, hackers have successfully infiltrated more than 80 percent of U.S. companies. Smaller organizations are more prone to breaches as they have fewer resources to allocate to potential threats.

Businesses are often more susceptible to these attacks because proper measures have not been put in place to effectively combat and protect against significant attacks such as malware or ransomware. In relation to the various attacks that companies may see, there are two major levels of cyber-attacks.

Breaking down what’s out there

Cyber-attacks can range from soft/medium grade attacks such as phishing or hackers receiving information from a disgruntled employee to hard attacks which requires hackers to get direct access to the information through breaking in or hacking the firewall.

There are specific gatekeepers to each level that can help identify and prevent potential hacks. All in all a lot of the responsibility comes down to how you manage your electronic lifestyle.

Soft/mid-grade attacks are the more common form of hacking that companies face. The gatekeepers for this level of attack include the employees and the IT department. With this type of attack, hackers are able to enter into a company database through phishing or exploiting a known password schema to gain access into the system. These attacks can also happen due to insider information from disgruntled employees given to hackers.

Forrester’s 2016 Global Business Technographics® Security Survey revealed around 49% of global network security decision-makers reported that they had experienced at least one breach over the past 12-months. Soft/mid-grade attacks can be avoided by the implementation of employee education such as online security courses that require a refresher every year. Other measures to stop such attacks include a vigilant IT, having a strong rotating password in place, and ensuring that any suspicious emails or activity is addressed immediately.

The second and more extreme level of cyber-attacks are known as a hard attack. Malware, Ransomware, and Denial-of-Service (DoS) viruses are examples. These attacks are more difficult to engineer as they require more leg work. Hackers are searching through code, looking for various security holes and may even necessitate physical access to company buildings in order to retrieve the information they need.

In a recent Forrester study found that software vulnerability is responsible for 42 percent of attacks. These threats can inflict significant monetary damage to a company. The majority of these threats exploit known software vulnerabilities. For this level of cyberattacks, it is vital to keep the company’s software updated. Immediate and frequent updates of security software, application of security patches, and better physical security are the best precautions a company can take to deter these intrusions. The immediacy of these updates can sometimes be the difference between a small or non-issue and a major issue; it is crucial that IT departments have the tools to update their software.

Becoming more proactive

Although educated employees and a strong IT department are crucial to keeping hackers out of the company’s data, these best practices and solutions, such as anti-malware, virus-protection, and firewalls, are useless without the proper implementation. The real security holes are found when IT cannot update or have not updated their equipment. Machines that are in a low power state are typically unreachable and, as a result, unavailable for an emergency security update.

Enterprise-wide, effective wake solutions are an investment that companies should make in order to ensure their networks are effectively executing software patching updates. Machines that are powered down will not receive or process updates sent out by IT departments until they are awakened. Implementation of wake software allows machines that are powered down to be awakened and alerted to the updates so that their systems can adapt and download the changes that help to lessen their cyber vulnerability. Power Management solutions that include enterprise-wide wake help solve the waking issue as a complement to their function. Companies using this technology have seen increased success in software updates, from about 60 percent before the implementation of the wake solutions software to about 95 percent success after the use of this software.

Being aware of the multi-pronged problems that arise as a result of software not being patched or installed is a major step in protecting yourself from an attack against your company and ensuring the security of your information.

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Social Media: Opportunity for engagement or cause for complaint?

Millions of people are using social media to network, sell products, to extend influence and inevitably, complain about poor service. A recent report on social media use reveals 1.59 billion people engaging with Facebook, 320 million with Twitter and over 100 million people on LinkedIn. Beyond these impressive numbers, do you really know the extent to which this activity impacts on your customer service?

Before the rise of social media, if you had an issue with the service you received you could complain face-to-face. Another option was to ring the company later, or write a letter and wait patiently for your issue to be resolved. All these pathways to customer service are still valid, though each has their own problems. Face-to-face conversations can be confrontational. With communication increasing via screens, confrontation is something many people shy away from.

A browse through Facebook or Twitter reveals a world where even the smallest everyday occurrences are shared publicly. For many people, it’s not even a conscious decision anymore to let your social network know what you’re up to. Any interaction with a business - good or bad - is likely to be highly visible. Can you really afford to ignore this trend? As an enterprise with ‘key stakeholders’ and ‘margins’, you really need to know what these people, your customers, are saying aboutyou.

Doing the right thing

While some share complaints immediately, many customers still choose to contact the company directly – via social media – to share their concerns and look for an appropriate resolution. Industry research reveals the alarming statistic that from January 2014 to May 2015 the use of social media for complaints had increased 300 percent.

That represents a lot of complaint traffic. However, there’s no reason for panic. Complaints aren’t new. As you already know how to provide great customer service – why shouldn’t you be able to translate it into excellent social media engagement? This is your opportunity to visibly do the right thing in a very public setting, to promote outstanding customer service and turn your critics into advocates.

Terms of engagement

To achieve an online presence that is proactive and customer-centric, requires precise targeting. Adequate software to capture complaints and analyze data is a must; as well as policies and procedures in place for colleagues to exemplify good practice.

Equip your customer service team with the right skills to respond. A badly-written response or negative tone may do as much damage in a public forum – if not more – as not responding in the first place. All employees should be aware of your company’s mission statement and objectives. All levels of the business, from the boardroom down, should be engaged and positive.

Ensure your customer service and marketing departments are communicating effectively. Empower your employees to make good decisions. Once they’re confident with their own judgement, you minimize risk. Technology is available to add layers of protection, if required.

Great customer service looks the same on all channels. Customers want the same things: they want a swift response; they want you to be honest and acknowledge your mistakes; and they want a satisfactory outcome.

Are you genuine?

Train your staff to recognize genuine engagement: let them use their own natural tone of voice; their own words; and their name to ensure that personal touch. Placatory comments without substance, or using obvious cut and paste templates should be avoided. One engaging, conversational response addressing the customer’s concerns directly, offering an appropriate solution, is much better than going through the motions. Reward colleagues who demonstrate the best you have to offer.

A public apology and transparent ownership of mistakes show customers you care. However, you could set a precedent for every customer to demand the same outcome. You might even encourage unscrupulous people to make false complaints if you offer public compensation. If you need to have a conversation about sensitive data, let the customer know that you will contact them privately. Avoid pushing the initiative back on to them to complain again elsewhere, especially via a different channel.

Technology answers back

Invest in software to analyze your presence and feedback on the main social media channels. It’s not just complaints - many people will share positive experiences too, or even seek the answers to basic service questions. Every customer who comments about you must be addressed; the one you overlook is the one that will escalate and damage your reputation. Technology can help you to catch negative feedback before it escalates. Have a system that alerts you to a problem and aim to resolve it within a set time.

Some people just want to cause trouble. Identifying trolls and dealing with them effectively is a key part of your strategy. Again, look to your processes – do your employees know what to do? Make sure you teach them how to handle potentially sensitive public situations.

A clear brand vision

Communication at all levels is vital. Align skills and knowledge about best customer service practice. Possess a clear vision that is shared throughout the business. Ensure marketing provides feedback and reports on social media analysis and that customer service craft responses that reflect this vision. If you have a separate complaints team bridge the divide by creating one team, or by improving connections.

Effective social media management helps to develop and maintain a healthy brand and improves relationships with your customers. Reinforce your vision daily and show it working publicly through social channels. As your customers are talking about you – you have nothing to lose, and much to gain – by giving them a platform to talk to you. Most importantly – you remain in control.

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From Guessing to Measuring: Relating Physics to Your Factory

Recently, I came across a best-selling book on the history of physics and was intrigued by the many stories of discovery over the centuries, but equally interested in the challenges of what we have yet to understand. In the 4th century B.C., ancient Greek philosopher Democritus postulated that the world is made up of atoms, particles too small to be seen, which are the building blocks of all matter. The next 2,300 years were filled with competing ideas about the nature of the universe, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that this “Atomic Theory” was finally confirmed.

The beginning of the last century was the dawn of a new revolution, unlike others before. Industries were developing methods of mass producing goods and delivering to market more efficiently to drive down the cost per unit. Governments were finding new ideologies, nations were preparing for war, and technology was developed to gain strategic and tactical advantages. It is clear that science was moving beyond millennia of observation and intuition into an age of experimentation and measurement. It was in 1905 that a young Swiss patent clerk’s ideas would fundamentally change the way we understand the universe.

This young man was Albert Einstein and, he did what no one over the millennia has been able to do: confirm that atoms in fact existed. Until this time, scientists could not figure out how to measure an atom, much less view one. Einstein’s solution was simple. He would measure the amount of wiggle that particles like pollen or dust exhibit while in a fluid. Basically, these molecules vibrate and drift while in suspension, and - by measuring this amount of movement or drift, you could calculate the size of an atom based on their collisions, thus confirming 2,300 years of intuition.

As a result of Einstein’s confirmation of the atom, photoelectric effect, and the theories of general and special relativity, quantum physics emerged as a new field with a focus on understanding sub-atomic particles. At this smaller-than-the-atom perspective, things do not occur intuitively. In fact, much of classical physics principals no longer apply, as observation and logic alone could not be used to understand this quantum level. Measurement and mathematics emerged as the best way to unlock further understanding.

Likewise, in the second half of the 20th century, Japanese engineers were developing methods to improve efficiency in their manufacturing plants in order to rebuild their war-torn nation’s economy. Lean manufacturing, as we know it today, is the combination of those techniques and the use of quantitative objective measurements by American engineers focused on understanding and refining manufacturing processes. Years later, Six Sigma methodology was born as an extension of these objectives to control variation in processes. In more recent years, advances in technology have provided teams of operational leaders with the tools needed to understand what is happening on their shop floors. Gone are the days of using intuition to determine whether or not you had a good day. Today, tools like Factory MES provide you with real-time metrics captured directly from your operation.

In order to remain competitive and continue to improve your complex manufacturing processes, it is essential that you have the data readily available to make informed decisions and drive actions. Now, when you want to know whether you had a good day, you simply pull up a report and, based on your predefined criteria, you no longer have to guess….you know. Intelligent, real-time action can be taken, problem solving activity can be launched, and countermeasures deployed, all with the use of data captured from your shop floor.

Let Aptean partner with you to ensure that your Factory MES application is optimized and providing you with the critical information you need. Over the more than ten years of working with Factory MES at customer sites across the globe, we have developed a gold standard of what system and user configuration looks like. We have examined what strong users are doing, developed modules and functionality where a need exists, and given attention to new and creative ways the application is being used. We want to hear your voice and engage with you and your team to make Factory work even better for you.  

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