Author: Bruce Moreno (page 1 of 2)

REPOST: Leading Digital Transformation Is Like Urban Planning

The key to creating a new digital revolution is doing it the systematic way. Similar to urban planning, it has to have anchoring landmarks, focus on removing structural hurdles, or entirely break away from old systems and build new ones. More insights from the Harvard Business Review:

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Most companies want their businesses to keep pace with digital startups, but end up bogged down by the need to fix the daily challenges that their decades-old IT systems create. How do yoy redesign and rebuild major infrastructure while keeping the day-to-day work going? This kind of challenge is often referred to as “repairing the airplane while you’re flying it.” But a more instructive analogy might be the redesign of a major city’s infrastructure.

Specifically, there are three urban planning strategies, commonly followed by major metropolises, that leaders can use for inspiration in the race to keep up with digital competition. They include building glistening landmarks that anchor their digital strategy (as Dubai has done), removing roadblocks and bottlenecks to improve their underlying speed and agility (Boston), or changing course altogether to construct an entirely new city (Shanghai).

Dubai: Erecting Modern Landmarks
Targeted investments in striking new sights, like Dubai’s Emirates Office Tower or London’s giant Ferris wheel, serve as useful starting points for broader revitalization plans. The Emirates Office Tower was one of the first skyscrapers that marked Dubai’s transition to being a modern focal point for the United Arab Emirates. Today Dubai also boasts the world’s tallest building, artificial islands, the first hotel with a rain forest, and the largest indoor theme park on earth.

In the same way, investments in landmark digital projects that significantly enhance customer experience can help launch wider digital transformations. By developing visible, high-impact apps or improving data analytic capabilities separately from core IT systems, companies can roll out new offerings where they will most strongly change perception and put pressure on digital rivals — even if their back-end systems still need years to catch up. A pragmatic, output-focused approach can provide a catalyst to the back-end reinvention that needs to follow, and kickstart a company’s digital transformation by making the benefits real and impossible to miss.

For example, by designing a new cloud-based customer service platform, within nine months a power company could go head-to-head with an internet service provider that had started to sell electricity alongside Wi-Fi services and cheaply financed cars. Now the utility will be able to provide not just power but also phone, internet, smart meter, smart home, and security services. To customers, the company feels as nimble and innovative as its digital competition, even though its back-end systems remain problematic.

Boston: Removing Roadblocks
At the other end of the spectrum, companies can first focus on removing the structural hurdles that prevent them from moving with speed and agility over the long run. Boston, with its Big Dig project, for example, invested heavily in creating room for more vehicles and future growth by tearing down an aging elevated highway and replacing it with a tunnel highway network to circumvent the maze of congested roads in its downtown area. Even with the project’s delays and costs, city planners confronted the fact that the old infrastructure just wouldn’t fit the area’s transportation demands.

Companies can help themselves become more agile and remove their own bottlenecks by taking a similar approach. For example, retailers will struggle to put the right products on their shelves until they have accurate data about the dimensions of the packaging itself. Companies with sales forces that collect important customer data inconsistently in notes fields, because their data collection systems haven’t been kept up to date, will wrestle with problems downstream because workarounds must be developed to compensate for the poor quality of the initial input data.

The business case for these improvements is often hard to make because the benefit in speed and agility is indirect. It requires an extraordinary level of vision to see how a very different company will emerge at the end of the process and to persevere — as, I’m sure, the architects of Boston’s Big Dig can testify.

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Should your next house be a ‘smart home?’

Image source: intuitrics.com

Image source: intuitrics.com

Technology is driving the world towards an extraordinary tomorrow and it’s not only our personal gadgets or how we do work that’s changing. In fact, we’re living in the future that even our sanctuary, our homes, are joining the “smart” revolution.

While it’s still in its infancy, several smart homes have already been organized and powered by smart home products and devices, letting owners control almost everything around the house: from the thermostat and lighting, to kitchen appliances and even window blinds. But what makes a “smart” essential to a rapidly evolving, technology-driven world? Is it just another fad or will it really change our lives for good? To be able to answer these questions, let us look at some features that these smart homes have to offer.

 

Image source: intel.com

Image source: intel.com

Green technology for ‘smart’ living

Upgrading your home can be good for the environment because of how the latest devices like smart thermostats and smart light bulbs provide remarkable energy-saving features. Thanks to technology and its quest to be more eco-friendly products, home devices are more adaptive and interactive. In other words, a smart home is capable of learning and adjusting to its owner’s lifestyle.

 

Smart home lock and surveillance technology

Smart homes have the technology to increase a home environment’s security and surveillance capability (whether you’re home or not) because of its ability to be remotely controlled by its users. Some examples include remote locking, code generation for guests, and even to keeping track of foot traffic around the residence. What’s impressive is, these locks can interact with other devices for added features.

We’re getting a glimpse of a new wireless and smart world and it’s just the beginning. For the real estate business, such innovations are making the industry even more competitive. Come 10 to 20 years, we’re going to welcome more exciting breakthroughs that will change the way we live forever.

REPOST: Eight Real Estate Buyer FAQs

Have you finally saved up enough money to buy a new home? There are eight things you need to be sure of first before making that huge decision. Three are written below, while the rest are posted on Forbes:

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When I travel and speak at industry events, I connect with amazing folks, including investors, who want to become homeowners, but are afraid to. I feel some people put off buying a home simply because they are intimidated by the process that comes with real estate purchase. Becoming a new homeowner should be a source of pride, not something to fear. Here are eight answers that will help you get a handle on what to expect when buying a house.

Am I ready to be a homeowner?

If you think you are prepared to take the leap from renter to homeowner, then it is important to take a financial inventory of your lifestyle, debts and assets. Are you gainfully and reliably employed? Lenders look for those who will pay their loans payments on time, and consistent income is a must to qualify. Do you have enough money saved to put up a down payment? The down payment should be a minimum of five to 10 percent of the real estate property purchase price. Your credit score should be in at least fair to good shape and only contain a few outstanding debts that can be easily resolved. Your payment history should show a good record of payments being made on time.

Is renting or buying better?

Comparing buying and renting is no different than comparing apples to oranges. While they both have pros and cons, it simply comes down to what each person prefers when considering buying a house for sale. Renters have the advantage of management-provided maintenance and lawn care in most cases. When buying your own home, there is opportunity to build equity with the monthly payments, while also qualifying for tax incentives to help offset new homeowner expenses.

What is the lender’s formula?

The lender’s formula is a complex configuration of debt-to-income ratio, available credit and score, credit history and the amount of available cash for the down payment and closing costs, as well a few other numbers.

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How social entrepreneurship can potentially change the way we do business

In business, everyone subscribes to different definitions of success. While most of them focus on the growth of their enterprise through strategies on how to earn more, others have found a whole new sense of purpose that not only made them good entrepreneurs but also socially responsible members of their community.

 

Image source: studyinsweden.se

Image source: studyinsweden.se

According to Stanford Social Innovation Review, social entrepreneurship utilizes specific business models to help in the development, funding and implementation of solutions to different environmental, social, and cultural issues around the globe. However, unlike non-profit organizations that depend on donations and generous financial support from private individuals or foundations, a for-profit social enterprise expects a return on investment to ensure the survival of their business.

But this new way of doing business while making the world a better place doesn’t come without challenges. For instance, identifying the most reliable business models that can fit the vision and objectives of a particular social enterprise can be tricky.

 

Image source: youinc.com

Image source: youinc.com

A 2008 book published by Harvard Business School Publishing have identified three strategic models of social entrepreneurship: the leveraged non-profit, hybrid-non-profit, and social business venture. All of these three models have one goal of responding to social needs but the differences among them lie on how they use their financial resources and direct their funds to make a difference whether to support a specific community or to help sustain other smaller businesses and operations.

Undeniably, social entrepreneurship can potentially change the way we do business and just like other enterprises that have started to give something back to the community, many of them have successfully developed their business while representing their stand on the issues that they care about.

 

Image source: hbr.org

Image source: hbr.org

Some of the world’s top social enterprises focus on the environment, local workforce (such as farmers and artists), small manufacturers, and digital systems. While they may still be developing, they have great potential to become big brands in the future.

REPOST: America’s Hottest Real Estate Market Is Cooling Off

The ever-increasing living costs, worsening traffic congestion, and slowing job growth are driving home buyers away from some of America’s biggest real estate hot spots, including the Bay Area. The Epoch Times has the full story:

 

The Silicon Valley area as seen from Monument Peak in near Milpitas, Calif., in this file photo. According to a poll by the Bay Area Council, a growing number of residents said they would like to leave the Bay area.(Yuval Helfman/Shutterstock)

The Silicon Valley area as seen from Monument Peak in near Milpitas, Calif., in this file photo. According to a poll by the Bay Area Council, a growing number of residents said they would like to leave the Bay area.(Yuval Helfman/Shutterstock)

 

San Francisco, which had the greatest home value pick up in recent years, had the weakest real estate market out of the top 100 metropolitan areas in the first quarter of this year, with annual prices falling for the first time since 2011.

Single-family house prices in the San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco area fell 2.5 percent, according to a report by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). Meanwhile, home values in the United States rose 6 percent from a year earlier.

Although mortgage rates had risen late last year, there was no slowdown in house price appreciation across the country during the fourth quarter, said FHFA Deputy Chief Economist Andy Leventis in a video.

“Throughout the first quarter of this year, mortgages rates remained at the slightly higher levels, but once again price appreciation remained quite strong,” he said.

Among the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the United States, value increase was the highest in Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Michigan, with home prices rising nearly 14 percent year-on-year.

And the three states that had the highest annual appreciation were District of Columbia, Colorado, and Idaho.

The FHFA index only takes into account purchases financed with mortgage loans that conform to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac standards. Hence the FHFA index may not represent all homebuyers.

 

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Clever and space-smart ideas for tiny homes

Small and tiny living spaces have become a trend nowadays not only for the economic practicality that they offer but also for the uniquely comfortable experience that these home owners can enjoy. Downsizing your home isn’t that easy unless you know the basics especially when it comes to providing your stuff proper storage spaces. However, many have proven that it’s possible to build your new tiny home and still have even more than enough space than an ordinary house.

 

 

Image source: countryliving.com

Image source: countryliving.com

 

If you don’t know where to start, these clever and space-smart ideas for tiny homes will help you build the most practical and unique house without sacrificing your comfort.

 

  • Closet-stairs combination

One of the features of a tiny home is the smart combination of closet and stairs. Utilizing the space under the stairs and turning it into a closet or drawers for your other stuff can be stylish if you combine different shapes and a variety of colorful knob designs.

 

  • Storage cubes and unlimited drawers

Kitchen, bedroom or even tiny living room spaces can be cleverly converted to provide practical and stylish storage units. Colorful drawers, cubes and dividers will do the trick.

 

  • The magic of curtain rods

If you want to maximize your kitchen space, curtain rods are all you need. The secret is this simple home device’s functionality and organization. For instance, it can help you to stack cans on their side instead of putting them on top of another. Plus, this set up enables you to take them out easily.

 

  • Vertical kitchen storage

The kitchen is always at the heart of any food-loving owner’s home. It’s important to have the right tools and equipment but how can it be possible for a tiny house? Simple. Make it practical by going vertical. Vertical storage tricks make it easy to organize kitchen tools and it won’t take up so much space.

 

 

Image source: fabfurnish.com

Image source: fabfurnish.com

 

While these hacks can make a huge difference, it is still in the innovativeness of the overall housing design that homeowners can feel more empowered. The rising urban population means that space in cities is getting scarcer, hence the need for residential units that can efficiently use spaces. Such trend is increasingly common amongst real estate developers, especially in congested cities such as Hong Kong, Tokyo, and even New York. It’s one of the many ways in which the real estate industry is able to innovate, and therefore, make it more appealing to both buyers and investors.

REPOST: HomeAdvisor Study Reveals Spike in Home Improvement Spending

Homeowner equity has considerably grown since the bottom of the housing cycle, encouraging more Americans to spend higher on home improvements and consequently, boosting real estate activities. The Huffington Post has the full story:

 

This year, homeowners are opening their pocketbooks wider when it comes to home improvement. According to HomeAdvisor’s 2017 True Cost Report, homeowners tackled more home improvement projects from February 2016 through February 2017 than in the 12 months prior. And, they spent almost 60 percent more for a typical household in a single year.

 

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Various conditions are fueling the surge in home improvement. Primarily, homeowner equity has doubled since the bottom of the housing cycle — in turn making homeowners feel wealthier and more confident, giving homeowners easy access to home improvement loans and allowing millions of previously upside-down mortgage holders to sell their homes.

 

As a result, more Americans are improving their current homes or moving into new homes. And the increase in real estate activity is triggering home improvement activity on both the seller and buyer sides of the equation (i.e., the seller, who is getting the house spruced up to show, and the new owner, who wants to add their own personality to the newly purchased home).

 

From a regional standpoint, homeowners in the West and Northeast are spending the most on home improvement. And, because they’re accruing some of the highest equity, they are also taking out the most home equity loans to complete projects.

 

From a generational standpoint, baby boomers are doing more home projects — and spending more money, both in aggregate and on a per-household basis — than any other group of homeowners. The millennial generation is trailing close behind.

 

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Home improvement ideas: Smart garage upgrades

When it comes to spicing up the house, the ones which get the most attention are usually the bedroom, the kitchen, or the living room. Peppering them up is important and all, but the garage needs some loving as well. Despite being entrusted with the very important job of holding the family’s much needed tools and beloved cars, they mostly go unnoticed, ending up as a clutter of abysmal proportions. So when it comes to sprucing up the garage, not only does it need to look neat, but everything needs to be smart and functional as well.

 

One great way to free up space on the floor is to install a ceiling storage system. All the person needs to do is assemble the flanges, mount them on the ceiling joists, and slide in storage bins of the right size. Since the objects stored will be placed way up high, heavy materials should not be placed within the bins. Christmas ornaments and camping gear however are just perfect.

 

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Image source: wonderfulengineering.com

 

Most garages are used as workspaces, but one of the most common problems that homeowners face is that there is nowhere to put the workbench. So why not create one that is mounted to the wall and can be folded when not in use?

 

While inside the garage, car doors are prone to banging on the wall if they are opened carelessly. Those can leave some pretty nasty scratches. To prevent them completely, pool noodles will do just the trick. Wooden bumpers can also prevent bikes from getting knocked down or parking too far in.

 

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Image source: impressiveinteriordesign.com

 

In residential real estate business, the garage constitutes one of the fundamental facilities of any ‘good’ property. Majority of Americans own a car or two and having a space for their vehicle is definitely a must. Furthermore, those who take their garage’s design seriously often get the best deal for their property. Interestingly, some of the world’s most successful companies started off as garage-based businesses (read: Amazon.com, Apple, and Disney).

REPOST: 7 Home Improvement & Remodeling Ideas that Increase Home Value

Reinventing the house is one of the best ways to increase your property’s value. After all, buyers would always want to buy a new home that fits with their aesthetic appetite. Read more from this blog on Money Crashers:

 

Kitchen

With the real estate market still in a slump, more and more people have decided not to sell their home. Instead, they have chosen to stay put, until things get better. I count myself in this group; I had my own home on the market for two years. My house sold, and the sale fell through, on two separate occasions. As a result, I’ve resolved to stay put until the real estate market improves.

 

However, now that I’ve decided to stay in this home instead of moving, I plan to make several home improvements to make my home more comfortable (e.g. building a sunroom to combat the dreary Michigan winters, and building a backyard deck).

 

Many home improvement projects don’t add value to your home, especially in a down market. In fact, some improvements can even detract from the asking price when you decide to sell. On the other hand, some projects can add significant value to your home.

 

So which home improvement projects should you invest in, and which projects should you avoid? Below are some helpful tips for home improvement projects that increase the value of your home, and home improvement projects to avoid altogether.

 

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How to Spot a Forex Trading Scam

If you’ve been trading for years now, you’re probably wondering why there are only ever a few people who survive the trade for years. Some have gotten used to the pressure and have made huge amounts of profit because of forex trading. Others are not that successful, but have managed to hold on. However, there is a staggering number of people who failed in the forex industry because either they weren’t taught how to do forex marketing the right way or they’ve fallen in a bottomless pit called forex trading scams.

If you’ve taken the time to do some research about forex trading scams, you’ll probably end up with a long list of search results and it’ll take you a day or two just reading through the experiences. If you’re new in the forex trading game and you want to avoid getting scammed, then there’s only one thing to do; you need to learn about the common forex trading scams and how to avoid them (tips on how to avoid being scammed were taking from these guys :) ForexCT – Forex trading broker.

In order to avoid a scam, you need to be able to detect the scam. Here are some of the most common traits of forex trading scams that you’ll probably encounter as you deal with the forex market and other forex traders:

Any offers or a “business” opportunity that sounds impossible or too good to be true – You’ll most likely encounter these on the Internet or while talking with different forex traders. The promise of a “getting rich overnight” scheme should be an early warning signal already for the experienced forex trader. Unfortunately, even the most experienced trader would gamble his/her money away once greed takes over. Just think about it; if it does make your rich overnight, why would you share this knowledge with someone else for profit?

Any offer that claims impossible high profits at the end of the week or month – Again, if it sounds too good to be true, then it’s most likely a scam.

I’ve seen obvious forex trading scams that promised a ROI or return of investment of over 40 to 50 percent within a week or month; that alone convinced me that it was an honest to goodness forex trading scam. I managed to warn a few friends of mine who were Australian forex trading broker themselves. It was a good thing I did, because the guy who promoted the scam suddenly disappeared a week later.

You can just imagine the faces of those he managed to convince.

Any forex trading system that uses an interbank market – Most forex trading scams use or deal with interbank markets. Interbank markets make use of speculative or short-term currency deals and these transactions are usually dealt in dubious networks of banks and companies. The term “dubious” should definitely be a warning sign already. Most scammers love showing off how prestigious the bank or company that you’re going to invest your money in, but the moment you realize that you’ll be investing your hard-earned money in a system where you don’t know where it’s going, then you should definitely back away immediately.

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