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Diann Turner

NetLink Proud to Sponsor CRTC’s TechAwards 2012

As we have highlighted before, we see tremendous value in taking advantage of pretty much every business-networking event in the region. For NetLink Resource Group, this extends beyond just showing up at the events. We actually show our support by sponsoring numerous events and awards programs, including the Chesapeake Regional Tech Council’s (CRTC) TechAwards 2012.

The CRTC’s TechAwards 2012 will showcase the region’s rising technology companies, innovators and leaders. The CRTC received nearly 40 submissions in five categories from a variety of accomplished technology businesses throughout the Annapolis-Washington-Baltimore region that demonstrated impressive growth, innovation and community service. And, this year’s finalists are clearly some of the true movers-and-shakers and up-and-comers in our region.

Be sure to mark you calendars for the CRTC “Meet the Finalists” InfoMixer, as well as the main event: the actual award ceremony.

See you all then and congratulations to all the CRTC TechAwards finalists!

Posted by: Diann Turner, Director, Business Development, NetLink Resource Group

2012 is the Year of Networking and Opportunity

While nobody really has a crystal ball that predicts how the economic winds will change in the near future, one thing is for certain: judging by the number of networking events happening in early 2012, there are plenty of business opportunities.

As establishing solid relationships with peers, customers and partners always leads to business growth and development, I highly recommend that everyone doing business in our region dust off their business cards and expand their business horizons by attending these events:

  • Maryland Chamber of Commerce Congressional Delegation Dinner: During this town hall meeting-style event, Maryland’s congressional delegation and Maryland Chamber members will discuss important federal business issues, like the economy, transportation funding, business and environmental regulation, and much more.
  • GovCon Symposium — Driving Innovation in an Uncertain Environment: The Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and more than 500 members of the government contracting community will be gathering for a half-day symposium on driving innovation in an uncertain budgetary environment on February 7th.
  • CRTC Mustang Alley’s (Bowling) Networking Mixer: Combining networking with a little dose of fun, the Chesapeake Regional Tech Council is hosting a mixer at Mustang’s Alley on February 7th in Baltimore. 
  • BWI Partnership Signature Breakfast and Transportation Forum: On February 15th, Beverley Swaim-Staley, Secretary, Maryland Department of Transportation, will be speaking at the BWI Partnership’s Signature Breakfast and Transportation Forum at the BWI Marriott.

Of course, this is merely a snapshot of events that are happening in the next four weeks in our region. The DC-Baltimore metro area has a thriving business community that gathers in some shape or form almost every night of the week.

So, yes 2012 is the year of opportunity, but you have to be willing to go out and make the right connections to make business growth happen.

See you all at these events!

Posted by: Diann Turner, Director, Business Development, NetLink Resource Group

Hospitality Providers: Top Five Tips for Achieving Maximum Technology ROI

As we head into 2012, it is important for any sector to maximize its technology investments to ensure the most effective business outcomes.  And, in no other industry is this more important than the hospitality world.  With fierce competition to capture guests’ attention, coupled with the ongoing challenges of a lagging economy, it is vital for hospitality providers to make the most of their IT spending.

Based on our experience in working with leading hospitality providers, we have provided the following top five tips for maximizing IT in 2012:

1. Align IT with Business Goals: When embarking on a new IT initiative, it is critical to align these efforts with business goals.  As such, hospitality IT leaders need to be fully connected to the C-suite and have deep insights into the overall business goals and strategies and use these to guide all efforts.

2. Use IT for Competitive Advantage: Hospitality providers need to gain competitive advantage by providing unique offerings, which will allow them to be differentiated from their peers.  In essence, every IT project has to support efforts to eclipse the competition – whether it is building out a new CMS, simply enhancing your core web site with more features and functionality or developing a mobile version of your web site.

3. Use Innovative Project Management Approaches: When working with IT vendors and integrators, it is important that your technology partners offer a project management approach that is highly effective and mitigates any risk of derailing a project.  One key approach is to make sure that your partners provide results early and often throughout the project management process – as opposed to presenting a solution at the end of the project lifecycle.

4. Be Realistic About the Level of Complexity and Associated Costs: When considering going for Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) as opposed to a custom IT solution, it is important to be realistic about the costs and complexity associated with this decision.  The greater the complexity, the greater the chance that custom solutions are required, though as we have highlighted before, this is not always a “black and white” decision.

5. Remove Any Barriers Between Hotel Technology, Marketing and Operations: As highlighted in a recent white paper by Amadeus and RockCheetah, hospitality providers should consider creating the “IT Pathfinder” role.  This person can create a greater alignment between corporate business and technology objectives, as well as identify appropriate solutions and implement the initiatives that create the greatest economic value.  In addition, it may be more cost-effective to rely on an outside partner to serve as the “IT Pathfinder.”

Information Technology is clearly a major business driver for the hospitality sector.  When used appropriately, it can create major competitive advantage and ultimately drive additional revenue.  The key is to use your IT investment wisely, align IT with your business goals and make sure you are using the right partners and solutions to meet these objectives.

Posted by: Diann Turner, Director, Business Development, NetLink Resource Group

It’s Holiday Party Season: CRTC and NVTC Hosted Key Networking Events with NetLink Resource Group’s Involvement

While the holiday season is an ideal time for reflecting, giving and planning for a prosperous year ahead, it is also a time of very noteworthy business networking holiday parties and events.  And, this year, NetLink Resource Group had the privilege of being involved in two major year-end networking gatherings.

On December 15th, the Chesapeake Regional Tech Council (CRTC) hosted its 4th Annual Holiday InfoMixer and we had the honor of being a Silver Sponsor of the event. In addition, NetLink donated a number of gifts for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation that we gathered from friends, partners and clients during our recent 15th anniversary party.

We also sponsored the NVTC Titans Breakfast on December 16th that featured keynote speaker Steven R. Appleton, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Micron Technology.  Mr. Appleton discussed some of the major mega-trends in technology usage, as well how U.S. policy needs to encourage strategic investments in the technology arena to create jobs and grow the economy.

As we move into 2012, we will continue to highly active in a number of business organizations, which include an ongoing sponsorship of the BWI Business Partnership, support at CRTC events, as well as my ongoing involvement in the NVTC Business Development, Sales and Marketing Committee.

I hope that all of NetLink’s clients, partners, friends and family have a wonderful holiday and a prosperous new year.  2012 here we come!

Posted by: Diann Turner, Director, Business Development, NetLink Resource Group

Disaster Preparedness: Business Continuity in a Time of Uncertain Weather Patterns

From epic snowstorms to earthquakes and hurricanes, the Washington D.C. metro region – and much of the country for that matter – has been dealing with weather patterns of epic proportions.  And, according to NASA climate scientists, extreme weather will continue to be the norm over the next couple of years.

While weather can cause major disruptions to our daily lives, the show must always go on when it comes to business.  Two to three days of business down time, due to a natural disaster, can cause a major loss in productivity and negatively impact the bottom-line.

Beyond offering employees the ability to telework during times of bad weather, there are also a number of other simple tactics that can be used to ensure business continuity for the small businesses employee:

  • Use The Yellow Pages: When power goes out, so does the ability to connect to the Internet.  As such, you should always keep an old-fashioned copy of Yellow Pages handy so you can call around and see what cafes, coffee shops or restaurants have power as well as a working Wi-Fi connection.  This may sound archaic, but I actually had to use mine during Hurricane Irene. 
  • Back Up Your Files: Always be sure that your files are fully backed up either on an external hard drive, or on some of the new cloud-based back up services like Mozy. This way, you will be immune to a power surge that could short your desktop or laptop computer.  
  • Remote Access/VPN Solutions: Along the lines of backing up your files, we encourage employers to invest in a remote VPN solution that will provide 24/7 access to key files for employees on the road, or working from a Wi-Fi hot spot.  
  • Have Cash On Hand: Getting access to an ATM machine can be very difficult in stormy conditions.  As such, it is recommended that you have a reserve of cash on you, or in your office, at all times.  
  • Be a “Good Customer” at WiFi Locations: While many restaurants and cafes offer courtesy WiFi to their customers, some locations are trying to boot those who abuse this luxury.  Some Starbucks locations in New York City have covered up their power outlets to discourage those who use them as their home offices.  So, when using a free WiFi at a café or restaurant, do the right thing and actually purchase your food and beverages from them.  Also, use common sense and try not to abuse the privilege by over staying your welcome. 
  • Bring an Extra Power Strip: Since open power outlets are hard to find at restaurants and cafes that offer free WiFi, always be sure to have an extra power strip with you.   You will be able to plug in and share your extra power connections with those around you – in case you were looking to build up some good karma.  

As the recent flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee became a major productivity killer for the D.C. area, it underscored that extreme weather can catch us off guard at any time.  The key is to take the right steps and be prepared to keep all of the trains running when it comes to getting your work done remotely.

Posted by: Diann Turner, Director, Business Development, NetLink Resource Group

Removing Barriers Between Hotel Technology, Marketing and Operations

Although the hospitality sector has been dealing with an extended economic downturn for the past three years, a new dialogue has been emerging that focuses on the best use of information technology to fully meet marketing and operational goals – especially in the face of today’s economic climate.

As an organization that does a lot of work in the hospitality sector, we recently came across a compelling white paper by Amadeus andRockCheetah that fully explores a topic that we believe is very important:  how hotel companies can align business and IT strategies to drive business transformation.

Here are some of the key findings from that report:

Aligning Business and IT Priorities Hotel business leaders are focused on discovering innovative methods to grow revenues, attract new guests and reduce costs.  With hotel IT leaders prioritizing initiatives around cloud computing, virtualization and mobile technologies, they are attending to core central and property system platforms as opposed to following other industries in developing collaboration and web 2.0 initiatives.

Identifying Key Business Drivers and the Enterprise Value Chain — To bridge business and IT objectives, a common vocabulary is required to open lines of communication across business units. Outcomes must provide material results based upon clear actions that offer measurable economic value, while business drivers should relate directly to satisfying guest needs.

Defining Strategic Hotel Business Priorities — Hotel business leaders are seeking to enhance their property portfolios by expanding into new territories. Brand development rates high as a priority – from repositioning existing brands to the launching of new ones.  Improving guest satisfaction and operational efficiency are interrelated for hoteliers as both share the common goal of enhancing the guest experience, thereby increasing revenues.

Defining Strategic Hotel IT Priorities — Hotel information technology leadership is prioritizing enhancement of core CRS and PMS platforms while strengthening direct distribution channels. From an infrastructure perspective, virtualization of systems, with migration to cloud computing and SaaS, heads the list of key goals with the purpose of increasing security, reliability and scalability.

In addition, the report calls for the creation of the “IT Pathfinder” role.  This person would create a greater alignment between corporate business and technology objectives, as well as identify appropriate solutions and implement the initiatives that create the greatest economic value.

As the hotel industry has essentially survived one of the most dramatic economic downturns in history, many hoteliers are embracing new business initiatives that rely heavily on IT to drive business growth.

Being an organization that continually provides IT solutions that combine clients’ business objectives with the appropriate technology, we applaud this shift in the hotel industry.

And, as we are still facing uncertain economic times, we believe every organization must make sure that their IT investment provides a maximum ROI for continued business growth.

Posted by: Diann Turner, Director, Business Development, NetLink Resource Group

In Today’s Marketplace, It’s All About Going Above and Beyond

In order to stay competitive in today’s marketplace you truly have to go above and beyond the call of duty.   From a customer service perspective, this means doing things to best serve the customer at all times.

When I hear examples of  great customer service I like to share them.  What follows are two examples that  are truly inspiring.

Each year, for Christmas or her birthday, my 81-year old mother’s best friend Ms. Ruby, who is 92 years old by the way, always contacts me for gift ideas.  Since Ms. Ruby is not accustomed to e-commerce and doesn’t drive, she still calls up area department stores directly to order whatever she wants to purchase.  Typically the stores very graciously have the purchases mailed.

Just the other day Ms. Ruby ordered a gift from Nordstrom in Annapolis only to discover that the sales person lived near her.  Much to Ms. Ruby’s delight, the sales person offered to drop the gift off on her way home from work.  Yes, you heard that correctly, the Nordstrom sales associate personally delivered the gift herself — and within a 6 hour time-frame

Ms. Ruby has also had similar experiences with Trader Joe’s when ordering gift cards.   Upon her first call to the nearest Trader Joe’s (some 45 minutes away) she learned that an employee also lived nearby.  She too  provided Ms. Ruby with door-to-door service by actually delivering the card to her home and has done so subsequent occasions.

Talk about going above and beyond…

As we have highlighted before, there are a number of organizations that truly ‘walk the walk’ when it comes to service.  These stories are a shining light and reinforce that it is often the individual employee who goes above and beyond.

As a provider of custom web application solutions, we don’t have the luxury of being able to drop off a purchased good at a client’s office, though we do take a similar approach of going above and beyond – even if it means working through the night to ensure that the launch of a web application is successful – to make sure our customers are has happy as Ms. Ruby.

Do you have any inspiring customer service stories to share?

Posted by: Diann Turner, Director, Business Development, NetLink Resource Group