Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Using Joomla to run your Website - Do You Know Which Version You're Running?


Which version of Joomla are you running?

Why is it important to know what version of Joomla you’re on?  Joomla, like many other applications, get patched as bugs and security vulnerabilities are identified.  Joomla sites running on older versions are being compromised by hackers at an increasing rate.  The best way to protect your investment is to adhere to common technology best practices.

1)      BACKUP YOUR SITE!  Minimally, you should be taking a backup your site.  Frequency of your backups may vary depending on how frequently you make changes to your content.  ABSOLUTELY take a backup before applying any update or making significant changes to your site.

2)      Apply updates to Joomla. Staying current on your software is critical to ensure business continuity.  Knowing what version of software you’re using is the first step in figuring out what you need to do to prevent downtime of your site and costly repairs.

3)      Look for and monitor updates for plugins. Vulnerabilities in plugins can be exploited too. Use popular plugins that have an active development community. Visit plugin download sites to look for the latest version and install them.

This post isn’t meant to serve as a comprehensive guide on Joomla security best practices; therefore, these are but a few of several things that can and should be done to make your environment more secure.  If you are uncertain about what to do, contact a knowledgeable professional and seek assistance.
To find your current Joomla version start by logging onto your Joomla Administrator Site. For example, http://www.yourjoomlasite.com/administrator, replacing the red text with your site name.
If you want to check the Joomla Version on the Administrator Site inside Joomla 1.5, check on the top right corner after you login.
 
If you want to check the Joomla Version on the Administrator Site inside Joomla 1.6, check the footer links at the bottom of the Administration page after you login.

If you want to check the Joomla Version on the Administrator Side inside Joomla 2.5
Hover over Site and then click System Information.
The version of Joomla 2.5 you're running can be found next to Joomla! Version: 

 You now know how to find out the specific version of Joomla your website is running!  Armed with this new information, are there patches for your version?  The latest versions for 1.5 is 1.5.26 release on March 27, 2012.  Joomla 1.5 has been retired and no more patches will be released. 
Joomla Versions
Version
Current Patch version
Release date
Supported until
1.5 (LTS)
1.5.26
2008-01-22
2012-12-01
1.6
1.6.6
2011-01-10
2011-08-19
1.7
1.7.5
2011-07-19
2012-02-24
2.5 (LTS)
2.5.8
2012-01-24
2014-03
3.0
3.0.1
2012-09-27
2013-04
3.1
 
2013-03
2013-10
3.2
 
2013-09
3.5 (LTS)
 
2014-03

Friday, January 25, 2013

Challenges for Michigan's Manufacturers

Recently our Federal Sponsor, NIST MEP, posted an article called Challenging Times. In it, Ken Voytek shared some data gleaned from clients surveyed across the MEP network. As part of the survey and to help inform MEP new products and services, clients are asked to identify the top 3 challenges their companies face over the next three years. As Mr. Voytek stated, the answers paint an interesting picture of what keeps manufacturers up at night.

We wanted to see if Michigan’s manufacturers were dealing with the same issues, or whether there might be something unique about our challenges and opportunities. Here’s what we found, based on responses from 904 Michigan clients over the last four years:

The top three categories identified as challenging for manufacturers in each year surveyed were Product Development, Growth Opportunities, and Cost Reductions. The first thing that became clear was that FY2010 was a unique year for MMTC’s client base. Unlike most years where there was a clear ‘front runner’ on challenges, clients reported a pretty even distribution among the historically big three categories – each earning a 47.3%, 46.5% and 46.2% respectively. Sustainability, Finance and Employee recruitment rated between 13 and 10% each, with Exporting, Managing Partners and Suppliers, and Technology rounding out the bottom with 9.6% to 6.9% of clients indicating a challenge.

Compare that nice, even distribution with any other FY, where Michigan’s manufacturers report Cost Reduction as the #1 challenge, between 74.6% in FY 2008 and 72.6% in FY2012 indicating its consistent designation as an obstacle to overcome. Growth and Product Development also receive consistently high marks, typically above 50%. If we were to take these two together, the picture shifts slightly. In every FY, Michigan Manufacturers make this [product development/growth] the #1 challenge – with almost 100% of the companies indicating this as a need.

Consistent with the National numbers, Michigan has seen an increase in the number of manufacturers concerned about employee recruitment and retention. In FY2008, 7.5% of companies identified it as a challenge compared to FY2012 where that number rose to 39%.

With the exception of FY2010, Sustainability has been identified by roughly 24% of manufacturers annually.

We're still wrapping our arms around these trends to see what we can learn, and more importantly, how we can share that knowledge with our clients.

What are YOUR Top Three Challenges over the next three years. NIST MEP is reviewing the challenges now. Is there something you would add? Remove?  

Friday, January 18, 2013

Three Key Ways to Strengthening your Workforce


What is your company’s biggest asset? Is it your most expensive piece of equipment? Is it a mechanism on your production line that helps you become more efficient?  Whether you’re an automobile manufacturer or produce precision screws, dies or pumps, you’re still going to have the same answer to the question: your staff is your company’s biggest asset.

Why? Put simply, your profitability depends on the effectiveness of your workforce. The success of virtually every aspect of your organization relies on a strong team. Think about productivity. Confucius has a famous quote, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” An employee who enjoys his or her job and loves the company will work harder. Instead of just “going through the motions”, he or she will look for ways to improve efficiencies and become more innovative.

Unfortunately, many employers overlook the importance of employee retention efforts. This has become an increasing concern in the business community. Just recently at the Conference Board’s CEO Challenge 2013, a survey of senior executives named “human capital, or how best to develop, engage, manage and retain talent, as their lead challenge.” A recent survey from CareerBuilder relayed that “68% of employers are worried about losing employees”.

With the beginning of 2013 right behind us, now is the perfect time to focus on strengthening your workforce. Here are three key areas to focus on:

  • Introduce more employee engagement initiatives: Implement more initiatives to demonstrate employee appreciation. The resources may not be available to increase salaries or provide more bonuses, but try to find additional ways to support your employees emotionally. More regular employee evaluations may provide the opportunity to give positive feedback. Creating more forums where employees can communicate honestly, and without repercussions, shows you care about their concerns.
  • Ensure “buy-in” on projects: Implementing improvement projects should be on your radar this year. Whether it is to become more lean or expand your market share, you can’t grow your business if your staff isn’t on board.  Make sure your staff understands why improvements are being made and how the changes benefit them. It will make them feel a part of the decision making process and motivate them to sustain changes.
  • Encourage employee vacations: Employee burnout diminishes productivity and can ultimately lead to turnover. By encouraging your employees to take their allotted vacation time, they can recharge and come back with a more clear and positive outlook. A survey from Harris Interactive found that 57% of workers don’t use up all of their vacation time.
As you jump into 2013 and make goals to become more profitable, it’s important that your workforce is along for the ride. A strengthened workforce is more productive, innovative and efficient.

MMTC offers a variety of services to help your business grow, including projects that will improve your workforce. For more information, click here to see a list of MMTC’s solutions or contact us at 888-414-6682 or inquiry@mmtc.org

Friday, January 11, 2013

Enhancing Customer Value

I’m a lifelong runner. And whether racing or training, when I want to increase my speed there are only two options: I can try to pick up my pace by taking quicker steps, or I can try to lengthen my stride by covering more ground with each step. But these two methods conflict with each other. When I quicken my pace it’s more difficult to take bigger strides, and when I lengthen my stride it’s harder to take faster steps.

A similar conflict exists with how a business handles its relationship with a customer. Customers create value for a business in two different ways: They buy more today, or they improve their disposition toward you and buy more tomorrow. But for a business these two types of value are in conflict just like pace and stride are in conflict for a runner. The harder you work to “sell” a customer on today’s offering, the more likely you are to wear out your welcome and erode the customer’s willingness to buy in the future.
The problem facing many businesses today is the focus on short-term results, blinding them to creating long-term value. They are unable to see this conflict for what it is – a trade-off. Companies find it easy to count each period’s sales and profits, but they often fail to quantify future sales and profits based on improving a customer’s willingness to buy in the future.
But that calculation can be done – it’s just a bit more difficult. In economic terms, the financial value of future cash flows attributable to a customer is the customer’s lifetime value (“LTV”). So when a business improves a customer’s predisposition to buy in the future, or to recommend the business to other customers, it increases the customer’s LTV. The increase in a customer’s LTV from today’s better customer service or going the extra step as a trusted resource, is real economic value created today. But the cash effect of that increase won’t be realized until sometime in the future.
Another way to think about it is to visualize the cost of bad service. Suppose a good customer calls you with a complaint, and for some reason your firm doesn’t handle the complaint very well, so at the end of the call this valuable customer slams the phone down in disgust. Didn’t your firm just lose a little bit of its economic value, as a going business?
Economically, the value of your business is the net present value of the future cash flow it will generate, and your future cash flow is likely to be somewhat less now, as this customer buys less, and likely tells his friends or colleagues about his experience with your firm as well.
So the event that destroyed this economic value occurred today, with the customer’s phone call, but the actual cash effect won’t be realized until some point in the future. And therein lies the problem for most businesses.
If you don’t make some attempt to measure your customers’ lifetime values, and to try to understand today’s events that cause these values to increase or decrease, your business is doomed to live perpetually in the world of short-termism. Competitively you’ll be prey to other companies that take a longer-term view of their business, and try to strike a balance that generates both kinds of value.
Customer relationships are the most direct link between short-term financial results and long-term company value. If you want help developing improved long-term value and profits, MMTC’s Customer Cultivation initiative offers solutions to enhance your pace and stride.
Keith Helfrich is a Program Manager in MMTC’s Growth Services department. As a growth coach, Keith inspires client success through mentoring and opportunities exposed through research, matchmaking and networking. He works with company’s senior and sales management to develop high-level vision as well as hands-on skills transfer to assure sustainability of results.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Benefits of Exporting for Michigan's Small Manufacturers


This week, the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) reported that December was the fourth consecutive month of expanding orders from American businesses. The ISM export gauge showed sales growth overseas for the first time in seven months. American manufacturers are becoming increasingly optimistic about the outlook for sales in 2013. This is significant because it shows that factories will support economic expansion in the coming year. 

As small and medium-sized manufacturers in Michigan look to increase sales this year, they should consider implementing or increasing exporting initiatives. Many manufacturers have the misconception that only large manufacturers have the ability to export goods, but this simply isn't true. Small and medium sized manufacturers account for nearly 97 percent of US exporters. However, this group represents only 30 percent of the total export value of US goods. Furthermore, of the small businesses that do export, nearly two-thirds of them only export to one country.  Many of these companies can boost their exports by merely expanding the number of countries that they sell their products to. 

There are many benefits to exporting:
  • Increased customer base, as 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States.
  • Portfolio diversification
  • Ability to weather changes in the domestic economy
  • Capability to become more competitive in other markets
  • Company growth

Food Industry

Let’s look at the impact of exporting on just one of the many manufacturing industries in Michigan’s diverse economy. Michigan produces more than 300 commodities on a commercial basis, making it second only to California in agricultural diversity. In 2011, Michigan agricultural exports generated nearly $2.8 billion. Currently, Michigan’s top exports are soybeans, corn, wheat, dairy and fruit. The Michigan Food and Agriculture industry plans to double its exports by 2015, and Michigan has the infrastructure to do it. That’s incredible growth, in just one industry. Imagine what exporting could do for your company. Click for more information on Michigan’s Food & Agriculture industry.

If you are a small or medium-sized business in Michigan, MMTC can help you hit the ground running. MMTC offers an Export User Group which helps manufacturers evaluate the scope of opportunities and requirements with exporting including how to: develop and map success strategies, establish progress metrics and utilize external resources to support new export efforts. For more information on MMTC's Export User Group, contact us at 888-414-6682 or via email at inquiry@mmtc.org.