Tag Archives: Business

Marketing 101 – The ABCs of a Homepage

What is a Homepage?

Before we dive into the marketing strategies involved with creating an effective homepage, it’s crucial that everyone understands what a homepage is. In essence, a homepage is the introductory, or default page, of a website that typically highlights the site’s table of contents.

Sleek chrome & blue number website buttons.

There’s a good reason for why it’s called a homepage – it closely resembles that of a physical house and the only real difference is that it’s online. Think of it like this. Your website’s homepage is where people come to visit you. It’s the family room of your website where everyone meets to hang out, get comfortable, before they actually move further inside to see the remaining parts of the website.

Why is a Homepage Important?

Everyone who owns an ecommerce business understands that their website’s homepage is inevitably the most important page of the entire site.

Like they say, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Therefore, you want to ensure that your homepage is clean, tidy, and clutter-free so that visitors can easily navigate to see what your website is all about – similar to how you want to keep your house clean when having visitors.

The main goal of any ecommerce homepage is to make a great first impression. Reason being is that you want to turn your visitors into leads, and your leads into customers by driving them down your sales funnel.

Always Remember the ABCs of a Homepage

Since your website’s homepage receives most of your site’s traffic, it’s vital that your homepage is optimized to “Always Be Converting (ABC)” visitors into customers. If you’re failing to convert visitors into clients, it probably means that your homepage is missing some critical elements.

abc-blocks-1424477-639x564

To help you achieve this never-ending feat, here are five helpful tips to elevate your homepage to the next level for maximum conversions:

  1. Headline:
  • Within 3-5 seconds, visitors should know exactly what your site is about, what it has to offer, and how you can help customers. Leave out the fluff and do your best to keep things clear and simple.
  1. Subheadline:
  • This section should state a brief summary of what you can offer and your competitive advantages. Don’t brag about yourself, avoid jargon by speaking the language of your target audience, and do your best to zero in on the problems of your customers and how you can help to alleviate their pain points.
  1. Call-to-Action (CTA):
  • Every homepage should have call-to-actions (CTAs) since the goal is to always turn your leads into customers by not only having them stay on your website longer but also to move them through your sales funnel. We recommend having a minimum of 3 CTAs above the fold to direct visitors to the different stages of the buying cycle.
  1. Eye Candy:
  • Make sure that you use images / videos to support your main points. Since most people are visual by nature, it helps to draw out their emotions so that they can connect with you better. Remember, the visual images must support what you have to offer, along with highlighting how you can help your visitors resolve their concerns.
  1. Copy / Content:
  • Ensure that the copy and content on your homepage highlights the benefits and competitive advantages of your business. Describe what you do, what you offer, how you can help, and make sure that your copy is lightweight, simple, and avoid jargon by speaking the language of your customers.

By following the guidelines listed above, ecommerce sites can improve their odds of converting visitors into customers. And since every business is dynamic, you must continually optimize your homepage as your business needs change.

Only then will you have a successfully dynamic homepage that truly engages your target audience to not only show them what your business is about, along with your competitive advantages but also how you’re able to help them troubleshoot their problems and improve their lives.

Birthday Cake

For those unaware, our 20th birthday is tomorrow and we’re pulling out all the stops by giving away all of our BEST promotions for this rare one day event on Saturday (July 23, 2016). Choose one, or take advantage of all our birthday specials and see for yourself why we’re the host with the most. Switch from the rest to the best today!!!

 

 

What is Big Data? (Part Two): The 4 V’s … Plus Some Jokes

 

Big Data: water wordscape
Big Data: water wordscape (Photo credit: Marius B)

Big data, as we discussed in my last post, can mean one of two things: huge data that can you see from outer space (with the Great Wall of China and my eighteen-square-mile heap of used Yoo-hoo bottles as the best examples of this type of data) and the ability of businesses to assess and understand massive data-sets. In this two-part piece, we are looking at the latter form of big data (the prior form was explored thoroughly in my interview with the chair of the Belgian Chocolate Milk Society).

We previously looked at ideas on the subject from McKinsey & Company, a global consulting firm that conducted international research on big data across five different fields. Today we will broaden our perspective by looking at thoughts from IBM on how to best approach this type of data. (By IBM, I am referring to the longstanding high-tech company, not the Irritable Bowel Movement, a self-advocacy group for those suffering from IBS.)

To review the first installment of this series, the amount and detail of data worldwide is developing and accruing at an amazing, if not alarming, rate. As for business, the better a company can get at utilizing big data to its advantage will determine how well it is able to compete, both currently and in the marketplace of the future (as seen in Walmart’s 100%-hologram-run and clothing-optional 22nd-SuperCentury stores). McKinsey says that, in fact, it won’t be enough as time goes on to limit big data expertise to IT or another department; instead, the effects of big data will be experienced company-wide.

Moving onto IBM, their exposition on big data is conceptualized as “Four V’s” (not to be confused with the legendary 1960s feminist folk group of the same name).

IBM’s Four V’s of Big Data

How much data do we produce each day? If you guessed 2.3 quintillion bytes, you’re getting close. The correct answer: 2.5 quintillion bytes. In fact, 9 out of every 10 pieces of the data we have available now has been generated between 2011 and today. The data comes from sources as diverse as electronic images, Internet sharing websites, environmental monitoring devices, and my court-ordered ankle brace.

To simplify our understanding of big data – and to help us keep up with the Joneses so that we won’t be stuck with a small-data (such as the number “6” written on a napkin) mindset forever – IBM organizes the topic into four words that all start with “V.” As it turns out, “V” is not always for “vendetta” or “vivification” (of puppets, y’ know).

Volume of Big Data: The volume of information on hand varies by industry – with tech, finance, and government organizations at the fore – but some enterprises have collected data in the petabyte range (also a virtual dog biscuit). What can our world do with this far-reaching info?

  • Use the 84 TBs of tweets generated weekly to better gauge consumer opinions
  • Use the 6.7 billion pieces of data drawn from meters weekly to improve energy efficiency.

Velocity of Big Data: The velocity with which a company takes advantage of information flowing through its network will optimize its usability (as with cybercrime and sales floor streaking).

  • Use the 35 million weekly trade incidents to study fraud detection
  • Use the 3.5 billion weekly phone call reports to improve customer satisfaction.

Variety of Big Data: Brainstorm, categorize, and consider the full range of types of big data. With a better sense of how this data interrelates, you will gain a better sense of general vs. specific trends (as with mullets vs. perm mullets).

  • Use hundreds of real-time surveillance video feeds to zone in on specific locales of concern
  • Use the 80% rise in content-based Web data to enhance knowledge of demographic sensibilities.

Veracity of Big Data: A third of corporate decision-makers do not believe the data they are using to make their decisions is reliable. Reliability of the data that comprises big data, then, and providing convincing arguments for its veracity, are huge obstacles to overcome. These hurdles are pronounced as sources become even more manifold.

Conclusion & Continuation

As IBM shows us – and as we learned from the McKinsey comments presented in the previous half of this series – big data is not just a bunch of numbers, words, images, and contexts. Rather, it’s an incredible opportunity for businesses to meet the needs of consumers and to outpace their competition. That finishes us off with our exploration of big data.

Also, please note, if anyone from the City of Pierre is reading this: I have been living underwater for the last seven weeks. That’s why my ankle bracelet says I’m in the river. I didn’t remove it and throw it off the bridge.

And, um, did I mention that at Superb Internet, we are experts on hosting, colocation, and managed support?

By Kent Roberts

Top 9 Advantages of Cloud Hosting … Plus Some Jokes

 

English: Cloud Computing Image

We all know that the cloud is big and fluffy. However, what we don’t know is how it might be able to help our businesses. We fear its unpredictable temper, expressed via occasional and sudden downpours and lightning. Perhaps, though, there are amazing aspects of the cloud that we have not yet considered. Let’s take a look and see if it’s actually even better than sunlight in some ways (doubtful, but we’re open-minded, and we don’t want melanoma).

Actually, let’s specifically consider cloud hosting: that probably makes more sense, given the nature of our business at Superb Internet. We aren’t a weather site, despite my efforts at meteorology (using the traditional “looking up and guessing” method). I’ll look at comments made on the subject by Edwin Schouten of IBM and Wired along with those presented on the Salesforce blog.

  1. Efficiency – Cloud services allow ultra-fast, on-the-fly implementation; the speed alone makes it hugely popular as businesses try to outpace the competition. NASCAR, as we all know, uses the cloud to change tires while they are moving at 200 mph.
  2. Automatic Updates – Speaking of changing tires in transit, the cloud is also powerful in its ability to make updates in process. Companies that provide cloud technology manage both the hardware and software, including security, which accounted for about 100 hours each month for the average UK firm in 2010. (Keep in mind, that’s the UK. In France, only 10 hours are spent on the same task to free up time for drinking coffee and eating cheese, per France Business & Coffee-Break Weekly.)
  3. Adaptability – You see how many of these are about time-saving. A by-product of saved time on implementation and management is that your time-to-market on projects is shortened significantly, per Edwin. The entire project, not just the cloud aspect, becomes easier to drive forward to completion, making adjustments and revisions as necessary, in a small window (18 by 18 inches).
  4. Company-Wide Access – Think, if you dare, of Google Drive. Use of the cloud allows everyone in the company to enter the system and work on projects simultaneously or in rapid succession. This easy access allows employees, no matter where they are or what they’re doing (such as any form of diving, whether springboard, sky, or dumpster) to know what’s going on and to develop projects as a team. Salesforce references a study revealing that business use of collaboration tools offers an ROI of 400% (also an excellent spelling test score).
  5. Simplified Operations – Operations of your company will typically improve via the cloud, because it allows a central system that is built for broad-spectrum use and maintained on your behalf.  Glitches, then, are less common. You can deploy a service over and over again, with the same predictable outcome. Edwin recommends using this characteristic of the cloud as you develop pre-constructed design patterns (be sure not to skimp on Polka dots).
  6. Enhanced Security – Almost a million computers are stolen or misplaced each year just at airports. Now, there’s a lesson to be learned here: never bring your computer anywhere; just keep it in your tree-house, where it’s safe. When someone takes a computer, there are immediate concerns regarding what’s on the computer and the cost of replacement. However, the data itself for projects is not lost because you are using cloud storage.
  7. New Business Development – If you are looking to improve on your business, the cloud can make those efforts easier to establish. Use of the cloud can allow a company to develop new ways to interact and exchange information, both internally and externally. New techniques mean new ways to grow (such as we see with the grab-and-run industry, a branch-off of the swindle industry). Some businesses are dedicated entirely to cloud models; Edwin mentions Spotify.
  8. Yogi-Like Flexibility – Looking at the cloud purely in terms of bandwidth needs and that form of scalability, the cloud can meet any increasing requirements (such as the need for more break-room napkins) as you go. Edwin cites an InformationWeek poll that shows 65% of IT professionals believe immediacy of meeting business requirements is a huge plus for the cloud.
  9. More People Power – Freeing up time and resources is seen in the ability to use your labor force wisely. As time is reduced for projects and operation is made more predictable with cloud computing, the people power is freed to be used for other concerns (including promoting Hawaiian t-shirt day and cross-checking the credentials of company ownership). Additionally with power, says Edwin, use of both hardware and energy is often significantly reduced per the parameters of economies of scale.

Conclusion

I know what you’ve heard: your parents, friends, business associates, and fairy godmother have all told you that the cloud “isn’t that into you.” That’s absolutely not the case. As you can see above, the cloud has much to offer; and a large, mythical bird told me she wants you to get in on the action. We’ve already written about disadvantages of the cloud. This article gives you a sense of how it also might be a great way to take your business to new heights (generally increasing the height of employees by 2 inches during the first year!). Need a hosting partner to succeed on the cloud? Here we are.

By Kent Roberts

Hawaii’s High Technology Development Corporation … Plus Some Jokes

 

Downtown Honolulu, HI, view from Punch Bowl.
Downtown Honolulu, HI, view from Punch Bowl.

Superb Internet may have a worldwide presence, with our international clientele and core network in five US states, but our main office is in Honolulu, Hawaii. Though you may not live in Hawaii, looking at our involvement in the local and statewide community might be meaningful for those looking to start a business or get involved with similar associations in their own localities.

Today, I will talk about the High Technology Development Corporation (HTDC), a Hawaii agency started in 1983 by the state legislature. The idea behind the HTDC is to boost knowledge-sharing and innovation in the high-tech field – building a broader, more robust economy with more professional and lucrative careers for those living in the state. The organization also assists high-tech startups to get off the ground so they can have a better chance of competing with the big players.

Our specific involvement with the organization is as a part of its Service Provider Program. After talking a little more about the organization as a whole, we will get into exactly what our involvement in the program is below; I will also discuss the various other initiatives that are part of the HTDC’s efforts to provide support for the high-tech field, creating better integration and synergy between businesses.

Throughout the piece, I will describe one of the more exciting ideas that arose from a former startup that initially utilized the HTDC. Here is the first part of that story:

HTDC Initiative: Helicopter Made out of Coconuts

First they called Hans Frauchild a mama’s boy. Then, they called him a ne’er-do-well madman. Next, they called him a lucky madman. Now, they call him a genius. By “they,” I mean Frauchild’s parents: they were very abusive. Nonetheless, it’s understandable that they doubted their son’s vision. (Continued below)

Mission of the High Technology Development Corporation

Funded by the state of Hawaii, the mission of the HTDC is fourfold:

  1. Create and maintain an infrastructure for business-incubation. The intentions of this infrastructure are to both directly help businesses succeed and to foster the formation of connections between businesspeople throughout the state.
  2. Strengthen and broaden services that are already in place to help new and established companies grow, including the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and FastTrac TechVenture.
  3. Access funds for technological research from public-sector and private-sector sources. HTDC both seeks grants to bolster its own mission and counsels new and small companies to write stronger grant proposals for their internal needs.
  4. Assist with recruitment strategies – through events, affiliations, and the Internet – so that high-tech firms can find better employees.

HTDC Initiative: Helicopter Made out of Coconuts – Continued

Ever since he was 14, Frauchild said that one day he would tie together thousands of coconuts in such a way that they could form a “mega-chopper” – a helicopter the size of a blimp – capable of circling the earth four times before needing to land. Frauchild said that his flying machine would use the coconut milk as its fuel. (Continued below)

Service Provider Program, Workshops & Centers

Let’s take a look at four of the major pieces of the HTDC, a few samples of how its mission is being applied on the ground.

  1. Service Provider Program: This part of the HTDC is the way in which Superb Internet is specifically involved. We and other companies with strong track records from 22 different fields provide consulting advice for businesses that are just getting started – answering whatever questions we can and referring as necessary.
  2. Workshops & Seminars: The HTDC holds various presentations throughout the year, focusing on subjects of interest to those in the high-tech field, including information and advice in the following broad categories: 1.) Law; 2.) Seed funding; 3.) Public relations and marketing; 4.) Sales; and, 5.) Operations.
  3. Manoa Innovation Center (MIC): Located in Honolulu near a campus of the University of Hawaii where most of UH’s research is conducted, MIC focuses on tech firms that are new or relatively new to the market. This facility has been in place since 1992.
  4. Maui Research & Technology Center (MRTC): Located in Kihei, Maui, the MRTC both focuses on assisting newly developing companies, as well as helping tech companies that are just developing a presence in Maui. MRTC also assists with the US government’s tech R&D.

HTDC Initiative: Helicopter Made out of Coconuts – Continued

Oh, they laughed; and some people spray-painted his property. One particularly bold naysayer spray-painted Frauchild himself. In 2013, the jury is in on Frauchild. Over 30,000 Hawaii residents now commute via Frauchild’s statewide system of mega-choppers. Says one happy comptroller who uses the system every weekday, “I always said coconut milk was powerful. But Hans proved it. Then he left on a rocket ship.”

Conclusion

As you can see, the mission of the High Technology Development Corporation is fairly simple: grow the economy, specifically the high-tech economy. Superb Internet is involved in HTDC because we want to be a part of our statewide community, and because we believe that businesses can survive and thrive when we find ways to work together.

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood

SEO Basics, Part 3 of 3: 10 Tips to Understand Content Marketing … Plus Some Jokes

 

Google's Sam Sebastian Keynote at Content Mark...
Google's Sam Sebastian Keynote at Content Marketing World

This piece is the third and final installment in a series on search engine optimization (SEO). The first two parts of the series focused on optimizing toward specific geographical areas – local (Part 1) and international (Part 2). This final article will center on content marketing and why quality content is so important – because informative articles are much of what’s used these days to gain search engine prominence.

Our focus over the years has started to turn toward social media and its ability to aid “conversational marketing.” Content marketing and conversational marketing are in a sense one and the same. Quality content generates quality conversations. If people like the information and entertainment you are providing through your website and promoting through social media, they will be likely to share it with others and more likely to trust and engage with your company – resulting in higher sales.

Content is not just about conversation, though. It is also about getting the attention of search engines. The SEO packages we offer at Superb Internet (alongside web hosting, colocation, and other services) all include, as a core component, the production of quality content. This is because the search engines will give you higher prominence if you are adding strong, original copy to the Internet. “Content is king,” as they say, not just because it makes you more relevant on Facebook and Twitter, but also on Google, Yahoo!, Yandex, and other search engines.

Google Authorship will further integrate social and search by combining its search engine with author-specific tags tied to its social media arm, Google+. Essentially, the relevance of your content, the prominence of the writers or “authors” on your site, and the extent of the conversation your material generates through social media will form a trifecta that determines how high you rank various places online.

Marketing, like all aspects of interaction, is adapting to fit the new expectations of an audience that is increasingly surrounded by digital media and the ability to rapidly share ideas, information, and entertainment with friends and business associates. What has resulted is innovation, but also a sense of confusion about exactly how to meet the needs of new communication tools and sensibilities. Today, then, let’s explore what content marketing is all about and why so many businesses are implementing it.

Before I get into that, though (following up on the format I established in the first two parts of this series), I will present a couple more non-traditional approaches that can increase stickiness on your site. Below is the fifth such Attention Grabber to help you stand out online and give your site’s first-time visitors a great immediate impression.

Outside-the-Box Attention Grabber #5: Baby-Friendly Sounds & Swirling Colors

Have you considered making the landing pages to your website more baby-friendly? Babies now represent 28% of online traffic, and needless to say, they have difficulty understanding traditional sales pitches, preferring happy sounds and swirling colors. Be sure to incorporate these elements into baby-friendly pages:

  • A delicate balance between soft, cloudy pastels and bright, bold hues: babies are easily bored, so ensure visual diversity
  • Advisable sounds: laughter, rain, cat-purring, nonsensical doting grandmother noises; inadvisable sounds: screaming, cackling, explosions, and growling.
  • Always be closing: Make it clear in your terms and conditions on the landing pages that if the baby blinks twice and smiles, s/he owes you $39.95 per month, due in full when the baby turns 18 years old.

10 Tips to Understand Content Marketing

The following 10 tips can be helpful in your efforts to drive traffic to your site by generating quality content that gives you a lift on Google. My main objective here is to convey a broader understanding rather than a specific systematic approach.

  1. How Content Brands Your Company: As Frank Strong of Copyblogger notes, we tend to think of a brand as the name of a product or service – but that isn’t really what it is. A brand is a perception of the product. The perception is, simply speaking, a combination of the image in statements made by the company (as developed by content marketing, TV and radio advertising, etc.) and user interaction (as developed by conversational marketing such as social media, user-generated content such as third-party blogs, reviews, word-of-mouth, etc.). Content marketing allows you to grow and change people’s perception.
  2. Contributing Value: In everything you do with content marketing, think about how the information might be useful and/or enjoyable to your audience. This article, for example, is intended to get across information while also occasionally being silly – so it aims for fun and functionality at the same time. Content marketing is, in a sense, one and the same as conversational marketing because you are attempting to strike a chord with your audience. That way, people want to discuss your business with their friends, and their experience is more memorable. “Content is currency – something we trade for our audience’s attention,” says Strong. Offer value to receive value.
  3. Non-Traditional Advertising: Reaching out to your audience through online content is an alternative to traditional advertising; according to Social Media Today, that’s a good thing. A 2012 Nielsen survey found that 92% of people trust recommendations from friends, and 70% trust online recommendations by strangers. Compare this to 47% trust in TV and magazine ads, and 46% trust in newspaper ads. Getting a conversation started online is a point of access where consumer trust is high.
  4. “Too Much Information”? Usage of smartphones has expanded rapidly, and this has made a major impact on how much users search for information. In 2010, about 1/3 of Internet users owned smartphones; at that time, the average person searched 5.3 online sources prior to buying a product. In 2012, that figure became more than 50%; the number of sources checked almost doubled to 10.4. Make sure you have plenty of content to meet that growing need. And always think in terms of customer needs, per Jay Baer’s concept of “Youtility” (you, not me) and how help wins out over hype online.
  5. Success with Consumers & Businesses: By the time a consumer gets to your website, s/he has made it about 70% of the way to a purchasing decision. Furthermore, per a survey by Roper Public Affairs, 80% of decision makers at businesses would rather read an article than view an advertisement to find out about a solution for their company.
  6. Bolstering of ROI: Content marketing does not disappear; rather, it is a business using the growth of its website to its advantage. Advertising campaigns – even online ones – are here again, gone tomorrow. Your own content, on the other hand, gradually builds and spreads your messages over time. You also get access to more people because of social media sharing. Additionally, per Social Media Today, a Kapost & ELOQUA study found that content marketing is three times more effective at lead-generation than is search engine marketing (SEM) such as Google AdWords, at 70% the cost of SEM.
  7. The Numbers Don’t Lie: Advertising Age conducted a survey of 600 marketing professionals. The results suggest that 12% of marketing dollars are now going to content marketing, with increases in those numbers during 2013. Perhaps part of the reason that number is not yet higher is because companies are confused about factors such as who should be in charge of content, exactly how to make it work, and how to measure its effectiveness.
  8. Difficult to Gauge Effectiveness: One thing to keep in mind about content marketing is that it is not always easy to figure out whether it is working. Of the marketers surveyed by Advertising Age, 8% said they were “very satisfied” with their understanding of the success (or lack thereof) of their content campaigns; 48% said they were “somewhat satisfied.” Keep in mind, that’s not as bad as it may at first appear: it just represents the general confusion as to how to measure whether content is working in a brand’s favor. The CMO of Target, Jeff Jones, says that the company’s webzine A Bull’s-Eye View is receiving over 100,000 unique visitors for each issue, which sounds great; however, “we don’t have a single metric yet, and we don’t have history to know its predictive nature.”
  9. Determining Who’s in Charge: One crucial component of quality content marketing is that it is consistent throughout the company. That means it’s necessary to have a single person who is responsible for the content as a whole. It’s also wise to have individuals, if possible, whose sole responsibility is to analyze possibilities, develop content, and determine whether campaigns are succeeding. Since best practices are still in their infancy throughout marketing as a whole, you need to create a strong infrastructure internally to ensure you are learning from your mistakes and getting better as you go.
  10. Strong Writing Backgrounds: Since the word “quality” is so vague, many folks don’t choose professionals to write articles for their companies. Larger companies are turning toward journalists in some cases – such as Coca-Cola, which according to Advertising Age has hired a former TV news reporter to assist with content creation for a stronger base in research and story-telling.

Outside-the-Box Attention Grabber #6: Middle of Nowhere WebCam

It’s always good to include a live feed from the middle of nowhere as a pop-up window on your website. New customers want to know that you are willing to go the extra mile to expose them to uninteresting as well as interesting content. Here are a few pointers:

  • Choose a location that is completely nondescript: no buildings, no plants, no human beings – just open space
  • Engage your visitors by popping up text – after 10 seconds – that asks, “Why have you not closed this window yet? There is nothing to see”
  • Pair the video with an audio track of yawning. This pairing has the power to make the visitor so bored and depressed that s/he is unable to leave your website.

Conclusion

Developing a strong content marketing campaign for your website is not a simple task. However, its effectiveness in building search engine rankings is obvious as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing gear their algorithms more and more to rewarding quality advice, information, and entertainment on sites. SEO is no longer just about link-building through directories. It’s about helping people find what they need online. If you make people’s lives a little easier, they will appreciate it and become more likely to want to do business with you.

That concludes my three-part series on search engine optimization (SEO). Check out Part 1 on local SEO and Part 2 on international SEO to get a better handle on the different ends of the spectrum for your business’s search efforts.

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood

What is ISO 9001:2008? The Stunning Conclusion!

 

English: ISO 9001 Version 2008 associated docu...
English: ISO 9001 Version 2008 associated documentation

Hosting Company Auditing and Certification — Part 3-B of 3

Here is a final look at the legitimacy standards we have in place at Superb Internet, which we’re exploring for two reasons:

  1. To establish how we meet and exceed all of the major credibility markers common to the hosting industry; and,
  2. So you can have an educated sense of what these seemingly cryptic acronyms and numbers mean, which can help you vet organizations in various fields.

Our staff is certified for ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library), which I covered in Part 1 of this series; ITIL confirms our expertise and commitment to continual improvement in IT consultation. Our business is audited via SSAE-16 (Statement on Standard for Attestation Engagements #16) as well, which was discussed in Part 2 and verifies our bookkeeping policies and processes.

“I’d never be audited by those SASE enthusiasts. Why should a stamped envelope ever address itself? It ain’t proper.”

Sir … I’m not talking about self-addressed stamp envelopes. Please calm down; we’re almost finished with the series. Part 3, which I subdivided into two pieces, is on the Quality Management System (QMS) described in our ISO 9001:2008 accreditation. This standard is developed by an international body of top industry professionals who together determine universal (cross-cultural) standards of operation for businesses. In the first article (3-A), I reviewed Sections 4 & 5 of the standard (the first two of five sections); this second piece will review Sections 6-8. (Work by Praxiom Research Group Limited was instrumental to understanding the standard.)

“Never subsection. Never. It ruins the venison – makes it gamey and unclean, like a checkerboard.”

Thank you for the advice. OK so we will take a look at each of these sections. Each of them pertains to a different set of requirements: Resource Requirements (Section 6), Realization Requirements (Section 7), and Remedial Requirements (Section 8).

ISO 9001:2008 – Section 6: “Resource Requirements”

Section 6 has to do with identification and provision of the resources needed by your business. Here is fuller detail of the requirements related to resources:

1.    Identify & Provide – Figuring out what resources you need and how to provide them is given an overview in Section 6.1.

2.    Worker Competence – Section 6.2 relates to the capabilities of anyone completing tasks within the organization, as follows:

  • Make sure the workers have appropriate competence, the ability to deliver products effectively.
  • Consider and remain aware of the needs your organization has regarding competence – this applies to any staff members, including both those who are directly and indirectly responsible for organizational duties.
  • Train and otherwise prepare staff and resources to meet needs properly.
  • Review and determine how well the training activities function.
  • Compile and keep data and records related to your workers, proving their competencies.

“I prove my competencies by gutting a prairie dog, taking its still-beating heart, and –”

Listen, sir, no more organ removal references. Moving on …

3.    Infrastructure Provision – Requirements on how to create a sustainable infrastructure are established in Section 6.3.

  • In order to meet product requirements, you must do the following:

o    Identify your infrastructure needs.

o    Provide whatever resources are needed to create it.

o    Maintain the infrastructure. Maintenance is achieved via periodic reviews and objective assessment of all its details.

4.    Environment Suitability – 6.4 focuses on how the environment of the workspace interrelates with the quality of the system.

  • A work environment must be defined and established that will result in the highest quality.
  • Once defined and established, the work environment must be properly managed so that quality indicators can be consistently met.

“Just give me a badge and a gun. Then the rest of the work environment will take care of itself, consistently.”

Eh, that’s probably not a good idea.

ISO 9001:2008 – Section 7: “Realization Requirements”

This section has to do with bringing products into reality – how you go about transforming a product from scratch into fully realized form. These are the basic steps:

1.    Planning Control – A large part of successful realization is in the planning. The planning stage is discussed in Section 7.1.

  • First, planning must be developed into a process.
  • The process must then be used to organize, step-by-step, how products will be realized.
  • Outputs should be developed from the planning process that both reflect the organization and foster understanding of the realization roadmap.
  • Not just the planning process but the realization processes themselves must be planned.

2.    Customer Processes – Controlling processes that involve your customers is the focus of Section 7.2.

  • Figure out what your product requirements are. Here’s how:

o    Understand the needs your customers want you to meet.

o    Identify what is required by your product itself and by its functionality.

o    Determine what is needed per agencies outside your organization (eg, federal).

o    Understand any additional needs your firm has.

  • Specific to customer needs related to products, perform a review to go over these parameters:

o    What are they? Assess and elaborate.

o    Develop records related to them and conduct regular maintenance.

o    Control for any modifications.

  • Communication procedures with your customers should be understood, detailed, and put into action.

“My communication procedures involve a bullhorn, an aerosol can, and an acetylene torch.”

I hope this is unrelated to your town constable work. OK so more on realization …

3.    Product Development – Section 7.3 has to do with establishing controls for the designing and developing of products.

  • Plan how to design and develop as follows:

o    Plan and control how you design and develop your products.

o    Outputs from planning should be revised and modified regularly.

  • Determine what the inputs are to manage design and development:

o    This involves definition, maintenance, and review of inputs (ie, anything going into that aspect of the system).

  • Also figure out what the outputs are (ie, what comes out of the system):

o    You need to determine what these are ideally, create outputs actively, and monitor them.

o    Make sure that your outputs achieve the needs of your inputs.

  • Review your processes frequently, actively, and openly:

o    Design and development should be studied and assessed from all possible angles.

o    These reviews should all be recorded and kept in an organized system for continual improvement.

  • Confirm your processes through a systematized verification procedure, which can give you a sense of whether this part of the QMS is working smoothly:

o    Confirm that both design and development meet the specifications you’ve established for them through *verifications*.

o    Keep records of these confirmation processes and results as well.

  • Ensure the validity of this aspect of the QMS:

o    An additional way to understand your design and development is by ensuring that it is valid – that it represents truth and makes sense.

o    Keep records of these checks.

  • Make sure that proper administration protocol governs all adaptations to the system:

o    See where adaptations are taking place. Is anything changing within that system?

o    Make notes of any changes that have taken place either purposely or accidentally.

o    Review, verify, and validate as noted above. Through each of these processes, ensure that objectivity and the QMS itself are prioritized.

o    Approve any adjustments or modifications; revise the QMS as applicable moving forward.

“I think the best way to modify is to stay absolutely silent and look to the left and right rapidly.”

Now you’re honoring the prairie dog. You are truly a complicated man.

4.    Purchase Control – This section (7.4) deals with the control of organizational purchases, both on the process and on what you purchase itself:

  • Make sure you have proper controls on both the suppliers and any incoming products:

o    Develop a list of parameters that must be met by suppliers.

o    Choose suppliers based on their ability to meet your needs.

o    The products themselves should also be vetted and reviewed.

  • Your needs should be properly delineated and communicated with any potential suppliers:

o    Definition and description.

o    Communicate these needs based off the documentation you’ve developed.

  • Make sure you have reasonable processes for verifying any products your firm purchases:

o    Develop and activate processes to verify and inspect the products, to ensure needs are being met.

5.    Providing Controls – The way that you provide products and services is controlled by the standards of Section 7.5.

  • All production and services should occur within defined controls.
  • Validate and control any special process – one that contains outputs that cannot be determined or understood until production/delivery.
  • Understand, define, and measure your products.
  • Determine and ensure safety of any customer property your organization ever has within its possession.
  • Make sure that products and pieces of products continue to meet needs set forth in the QMS, both while moving within the organization and during delivery.

“As with digestion: I track and record all robots that are passed to me by the grocery-industrial complex. Lots of data, all of it helpful.”

Good, that sounds helpful.

6.    Measuring Equipment – Per 7.6, all equipment you use to track and measure data should be controlled:

  • Figure out what you need in terms of measurement.
  • Ensure equipment meets these needs.
  • Keep equipment calibrated, and ensure your software meets all monitoring needs.

ISO 9001:2008 – Section 8: “Remedial Requirements”

Section 8 deals with improvement and correction of any problems throughout the Quality Management System and firm as a whole.

1.    Measuring Processes – Section 8.1 defines, broadly speaking, the creation of ways to measure and monitor.

  • General determination, planning, and the activation of processes to measure and monitor.

2.    Measuring Categories – The next section (8.2) is specific to the measurement and monitoring of specific aspects, including the following:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Internal auditing
  • The processes of your QMS itself
  • Characteristics of individual products.

“All I need in a product is that it’s bright blue and smells like road kill.”

I don’t even know if that product exists. Speaking of which, nonstandard products:

3.    Nonstandard Products – Products that don’t fit the expectations of the rest of the system are determined and controlled via section 8.3 as follows:

  • Creation, recording, and activation of products.

4.    QMS Numbers – QMS data is recorded and assessed within 8.4:

  • Determination of types of data
  • Collection
  • Analysis.

5.    Standardized Improvements – The final section, 8.5, has to do with improving the system and making any necessary corrections:

  • Basing analysis and improvement on how effective different aspects are.
  • Changing anything that does not comply with the system.
  • Recording all actions taken.
  • Ensuring that irregular products don’t unnecessarily recur.

“I’m irregular ever since I chewed on that prairie dog.”

Dude, I don’t want to hear about it.

Summary & Conclusion

So that covers all our certifications, standards, and audits. Again, ISO standards come from an international body whose intent is to create worldwide ways of understanding the legitimacy and functionality of systems across the globe. Its establishment of how to create and maintain quality helps us understand how to build the fiber of superiority into Superb Internet, as well as how to maintain it. Parameters covered in this piece include the resources needed to achieve the ends of a Quality Management System (QMS), how to realize products most effectively, and how to perform improvements in the most quality-conscious ways.

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood