Category Archive: How To

How To Prevent Carding At Your Organization

Sanket Khare July 22nd, 2021 by

As an Association or nonprofit, you likely rely heavily upon your members paying by Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, and Discover for membership dues, certifications, event registration, and more.

Now, imagine what would happen to your organization if you couldn’t accept credit card payments for any period of time. The prospect of not being able to accept credit card payments for even 30 minutes due to your services being down during the peak times would be a major problem.

Activities like carding could lead to an immediate suspension of your credit card processing services (also called merchant services) for an indefinite period of time – this in turn could result in significant loss of revenue or reputation to your Association.

What Is Carding?

Carding is a type of fraud in which a thief uses stolen credit cards to test its data against a merchant’s payment processing system, ultimately aiming to verify and identify missing values of stolen card details. Card cracking and carding are two common automated bot threats.

Fraudsters will typically visit e-commerce websites and initiate multiple transactions by submitting purchase requests on the Internet. Because credit cards are often canceled quickly after being lost, a major part of carding involves testing the stolen card information to see if it still works.

Methods such as Malware, Phishing, and Credit card skimming are used by criminals to steal your credit card information and use it for carding purposes.

Defense Strategies To Prevent Carding

Despite the liability that comes with creating and maintaining a payment processor gateway at your organization, there are ways to protect yourself! Some initial steps include using anti-spyware and malware-blocker software, as well as promptly running updates to that software.

Additional strategies to protect your organization include:

  • CAPTCHA – a challenge-response test that helps an online merchant verify you’re a human shopper
  • Address Verification System (AVS) – compares the billing address used in the transaction with the issuing bank’s address information on file for that cardholder
  • IP Geolocation Checks – confirms if the details of a purchase made from a certain country correspond to other known banking and invoicing records
  • BIN Number Tracking – participants in online transactions can detect cases of fraud and identity theft by matching the geographic location of the cardholder to the location provided by the BIN (The first four to six digits identify the financial institution that issued the card)
  • Velocity Checks – merchants use this metric to identify irregular patterns in the checkout process that might show fraud
  • Authorization/Capture – a merchant verifies that your card can be charged but holds off on collecting the funds from the card issuer
  • Blacklist – build a customer blacklist to block individuals who are repeat fraud offenders
  • Machine ID/Device Fingerprinting – determine whether or not a user is repeatedly visiting a merchant’s site using different payment attributes (names, addresses, IPs, credit cards, computer browsers, etc.) to mask their identity

How fusionSpan Can Help

A coordinated, proactive approach will ensure your association will be in a better position to weather potential threats. Carding could lead to an immediate suspension of your credit card processing services, so it is imperative to take defensive measures to prevent carding activity.

For more information on carding, and how to defend your member-based organization against such threats, do not hesitate to reach out to fusionSpan today!

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Set Yourself Up for Success with Salesforce Sandbox Refreshes

Himali Shah May 13th, 2021 by

This blog was originally published on March 28, 2019.

animated sandbox Salesforce Sandboxes are crucial to testing new releases and functionalities in a controlled environment before they are placed in your live production environment. Before you test on your Salesforce Sandbox environment, we highly recommend taking the time to refresh your Sandbox’s metadata with the production org.

Despite this, many associations overlook the importance of planning a sandbox refresh. Here are a few things that you need to do in preparation of refreshing your Salesforce Sandbox:

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Find Out The ‘Why?’

This may be obvious, but solidifying why you need to do a Sandbox refresh should be the first planning step. Sandbox refreshes are often done for the following reasons:

  • A Salesforce upgrade is scheduled to be released
  • Major updates are being made to existing functionality

Based on your needs, you can then decide if you need a Partial Sandbox or a Full Sandbox. Partial and Full Sandboxes contain different default objects, data limits, and refresh intervals.

In most cases, we highly suggest a Full Sandbox. A Full Sandbox is the most exact copy of your production environment, which is important if you’re adding a major new functionality, or if you’re upgrading.

Remember, you want to have the most accurate copy of your live environment, so there are no surprises when changes are then deployed.

Build A Plan With Stakeholders

Prior to refreshing your Sandbox, we highly recommend communicating with other vendors and internal staff on the timing of your Sandbox Refresh.  Sandbox refreshes will overwrite any development that is in progress on your Sandbox environment, so it is important that any approved development or maintenance tasks on Sandbox are moved to production before it is overwritten. Full Sandbox refresh can only be done once every 29 days.

Get The Most From Your Salesforce Org

Getting the most out of your customer database isn’t a matter of just having a database. The most value comes from understanding how to leverage the system to meet your strategic goals.

Check out our Salesforce Datasheet to see how you can transform your Salesforce Org today!

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Post-Refresh Tasks

Once your Salesforce Sandbox Refresh is completed, there are still a few post-refresh tasks that still need to be done!  Since the refresh copies all data and metadata from your production org, it is important to make sure that Sandbox information does not affect your production users or integrations.

Here are just some of the tasks that you need to do once Salesforce has completed the Sandbox refresh:

  1. Turn off Email Deliverability
  2. Add ‘.zzz’ to the end of all emails
  3. Update URLs in your Sandbox to point from Production to Sandbox
  4. Custom URLs are updated to link to staging environments
  5. Verify integrations are not pointing to Production
  6. Update Staff Users so they have access to Sandbox

Contact fusionSpan For More

Once your Sandbox is refreshed, you are able to start development or test your Salesforce upgrade! Having an accurate copy of your live environment will ensure you are set up for success when changes are then deployed.

For more Salesforce best practices and assistance, contact our talented team here at fusionSpan!

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Tips for Association Professionals Working with Consultants

Avatar photo March 30th, 2021 by
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A few years ago, the association I was working at decided to overhaul and upgrade the organization website. Among many other resources, this project involved the need for staff to coordinate work with an outside vendor in order to re-do the site.

Although the website updates were eventually completed, projects rarely go according to plan. Looking back, there are definitely steps we could have carried out differently to better help the consultant understand both our project objectives and expectations. Most of my learning from this specific project centered around communication and understanding business processes.

Within this specific project, these were some of the critical business processes we needed to understand:

  • What and How different departments communicated with members. It was necessary for our team to understand the channels of communication and the content that was being delivered.
  • What and How data processes were used for our Association Management System (AMS). Our team needed to know how data was input into the system, as well as the type of data being collected.

Understanding these pieces played an important role in the project, because it mapped the trajectory of the project and the key stakeholders that needed to be involved. Looking back, establishing this at the onset of the project would have paid dividends to all involved and the project timeline itself.

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Note: Recent Reports from the Project Management Institute (PMI) show that about 14% of IT related projects fail outright, and 30% of all projects still fail to meet their goals. On top of that, almost half of all projects still end up being completed late.1

What steps is your association or organization taking to ensure project completion on time?

Gaining this insight was critical to our success, because this particular project involved every department within the organization. Upgrading an entire website was no easy task, so early and consistent communication was essential throughout the entire project.

While this particular website upgrade was just one example, the lessons I took from the overall project have helped me throughout my career. Once a new project is underway, here are a few tried and true methods to help both the consultant(s) and your association staff keep the project on track and on budget:

Establish & Update Standard Operating Procedures

Make sure that your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are in place and up to date. When a person leaves a position within an organization, it creates a knowledge gap. If the person leaving has the best understanding of why things are done the way they are in your association’s AMS, all of that knowledge leaves with the employee unless you have appropriately documented the processes used within your organization. SOPs ensure you are not one person deep on important business knowledge and processes.

SOPs not only help internal staff, but they also help consultants understand how and why an organization operates a certain way. SOPs can be looked at as an organization’s user manual.

Additionally, when your SOPS include why and how processes are handled a certain way, your consultant will better understand your organization and be able to provide the best recommendation for how to move forward. At fusionSpan, we establish SOPs for both internal and external work, and we constantly work to update these procedures with the adoption of new tools or processes.

Set Clear Expectations From The Beginning

Keeping the lines of communication open between the association staff and the consulting team from the very being is key to a well run project. It’s important that all involved understand each other’s roles and responsibilities.

When I started working on IT related projects, I learned there are some helpful things to adopt when communicating with a consultant:

  • Provide clear and concise steps for how you came across the issue.
  • Include screenshots that are clearly labeled – include a clear description of what the screenshot is showing (or not showing).
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but also be prepared to provide information on your end.
    • For example: If you are working with a consultant to upgrade your AMS, then providing a login will help expedite the process.
  • Help your consultant better understand your association and the community (members) that you represent. This can help the consultant better understand the associations goals and help them to understand how the project fits into the organization long-term.

Communicating who will be the point of contact and SOPs for various business functions across the organization is a key step while undertaking a new project. Establishing clear procedures, and being proactive instead of reactive, will help ensure project completion and success.

Be Responsive & Flexible!

While we are all working to ensure that the project is completed in accordance with the timeline, roadblocks will almost always arise. Be sure that you have a team and procedure in place to adjust scope or requirements for the project, and communicate early and often over any changes within the project.

Most of us are still working remotely, and it might be worth adopting some temporary procedures and measures full-time. Ensure that your team is well-equipped and ready to address project adjustments quickly while continuing to work from home (for more insight on setting your team up for success while working remotely, check out some of our previous blogs).

Remember that when working with consultants, communication plays a key role not only the initial outreach, but throughout the entire project scope. The main takeaway is to remember that all involved are working together to bring the project to completion in a timely manner with the best end result possible.


“Success Rates Rise.” PMI’s Pulse of the Profession, www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/learning/thought-leadership/pulse/pulse-of-the-profession-2017.pdf?sc_lang_temp=en. Accessed 2020.

Your AMS Journey: Selection to Adoption – Step 7: Implementation

Noel-Shatananda January 21st, 2021 by

Well, it’s time to begin! In Your AMS Journey, Implementation is the execution phase of the whole endeavor. In Step 6 you defined the scope of your project, and the System Implementer (SI) will now begin to bring your vision to life.

The key is structure, accountability and discipline. While the earlier stages of the project have been planning, this is the building phase. Imagine looking at your brand new house coming to shape one brick at a time.

Structure

Most system integrators use an Agile delivery model. They tend to configure/develop for a sprint (usually 2 – 3 weeks) and demonstrate their work at the end of it. This model of delivery has proven to be the most successful since it allows you to provide feedback along the way, protecting your investment. It is recommended that you take these demo sessions very seriously and provide the SI the feedback they need. Fixing issues discovered early is far easier and cheaper than when they are caught later on in the process.

Unit Level Testing

As you receive these sprint level demonstrations from the SI, devise a plan with them to conduct unit level testing along the way. For example, when your membership module is being set up: the first sprint was dedicated to the basic setup of your memberships purely with out of the box features, and the next sprint is dedicated to develop some customizations around the special pricing you need.

At the end of the first sprint, you should consider having your membership staff look at what has been set up and get some hands-on experience. At the end of the second sprint, your membership staff should begin some unit level testing of the features developed. As stated earlier, this gives you the opportunity to provide feedback and impact the course of the work quicker.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

As you go through the implementation phase of your project, we recommend that you build out your SOPs along the way, rather than at the end. This has been proven key to the success of many projects. The point to keep in mind here is that the SOP will serve as your final User Acceptance Testing (UAT) phase, in addition to the test cases that the SI will provide you.

We have had clients overlook this, come to the UAT phase, and have nothing to use as a basis for their UAT. As go live approaches, the tension in a project increases, and the SOP task is frequently overlooked in lieu of all the other items that need immediate attention. Many times, clients fail to realize that the SOP is what their new staff members will use to learn the system.

Accountability and Discipline is Vital

Please ensure you keep yourself and your core team members accountable to the commitment of time and attention towards this project. It is during implementation that the ball gets dropped. There is high enthusiasm during the discovery and planning phase since time is explicitly allocated for those activities.

During the implementation, tasks like answering SI questions on time, conducting unit testing, attending status meetings are more are frequently overlooked for more pressing daily tasks that need to be completed. We have seen projects slip off the rails during the implementation phase more than once.

Sponsor Meetings

We recommend that monthly sponsor meetings be held between the client sponsor of the project and the SI sponsor. This can be the checkpoint where the project can be course corrected if required. While the project teams are hard at work in the trenches, the client sponsor hears feedback from the rest of the organization in addition to the project team. This insight can sometimes vary from what the project team perceives as the state of the project, giving the client sponsor an early opportunity to take corrective action internally as well as with the SI (if required).

Start The Data Conversion Early

Your efforts to evaluate your existing data for its cleanliness should have begun before the start of the project. If not, this is more or less the last chance. Contemplate a data governance project if one is required. If you need external help with data extraction, it’s time to get those vendors identified and contracted. More about this in the data conversion blog next!

Set Up a Payment Gateway Early

The selection and basic setup of your payment gateway needs to be completed as soon as implementation begins. Many may argue the timing is too early, but our experience has been that the legal paperwork involved with the providers and the pace at which these providers operate is in months.

Go lives have been held up in the past purely because the payment gateway was set up thwarting the possibility to support online transactions. Further complication is added if you are transferring from one gateway provider to another especially if you have periodic scheduled payments. Again, a topic for a blog post of its own!

Stay Tuned For More

While most of your project has been planning, the implementation phase is finally where you get to start executing. Remember to keep enthusiasm and processes as you shift to a new phase of the project.

Implementation is a major step, but it is not the end of Your AMS Journey! Stay tuned for our upcoming blog on data conversion from your legacy AMS to new system. Remember, don’t hesitate to reach out to fusionSpan with any AMS questions you might have!

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Leverage Einstein Prediction Builder For Your Association’s Next Membership Campaign

Avatar photo August 31st, 2020 by

Suppose you are reading this as the marketing manager for your association or organization. Every summer, a number of contacts in Salesforce’s Fonteva platform subscribe to premium memberships. As the marketing manager, you will want to try to understand these members by building dashboards, conducting studies and leveraging statistics. In fact, you might have already done this by using tools such as Einstein Discovery and Einstein Analytics. However, there is still a missing piece, as you need to identify opportunities based on the research you’ve completed thus far.

In comes Einstein Prediction Builder, a data science tool that utilizes Salesforce Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) to help you build models and make predictions. With this builder, you can quickly find patterns within your membership data, and even predict which contacts are most likely to sign up for premium memberships in the future.

In the conventional data science world, creating a product that can help you make predictions takes a high level of effort. The steps the data science team needs to take to build a viable data science product must include: setting up data storage, building and testing data models, building data pipelines and creating API endpoints. The process is software and code heavy, and the success of a project can sometimes be very low if the data does not have any underlying patterns.

Prediction Builder is custom AI for admins based within your CRM data available in Enterprise, Performance, Unlimited, and Developer editions of Salesforce. Einstein Prediction Builder can be implemented either as a standalone product within your Salesforce CRM, or as part of the Einstein Analytics Plus package. While there is a free version of Einstein Prediction Builder (called “Try Einstein”), that version only lets you build up to 10 predictions at one time.

There are three main benefits of using Einstein Prediction Builder:

  • It is a point and click solution
  • There is no code required
  • The entire infrastructure along with workflow is laid out for you

For associations, this serves as a great benefit, as a lot of the business questions associations ask are related to membership, certifications and events. Being able to quickly deploy models and address business questions can greatly improve your associations’ ability to attract and retain members.

Requirements for the Dataset / DataObject

For Einstein Prediction Builder to work, you need a well structured dataset that contains multiple variables and one predictive outcome. The prediction outcomes that Einstein Prediction Builder can generate is limited to a Yes/No answer or a Numerical Value. For instance, if you want to predict how much revenue a contact is likely to generate (customer lifetime value), you can set your total sales as your numerical outcome. If you want to predict which contacts are most likely to sign up for membership, you can set whether a person signed up or not as your Yes/No outcome.

The spreadsheet image below contains mock data we used to build our membership predictions, which also serves as a good example of how Einstein Prediction Builder looks at data. In the dataset, the green column, column P, contains Yes/No entries, this is our known outcome of whether someone signed up for memberships or not. We’ll be using most of the data from columns C to O to predict the unknown cells in Column P.

The general idea is to feed Einstein Prediction Builder training data that contains some of the existing outcomes, in order to predict the remaining unknown outcomes.

Do note that our known Yes/No data points need to be at least 400 entries, approximately 50% positive and 50% negative. Einstein Prediction Builder will eventually use the example data to train itself to build a suitable model to populate the prediction (unknown) data.

Building your Prediction Model

To start building the model, we will tell Einstein Prediction Builder that we are predicting Yes/No outcome and choose “No Field” as shown below so we can split the example and prediction data easily.

We will then tell Einstein which records we’d be using for “Yes”/”No” examples, in our case, it’s column P outcome_term_subscription that we mentioned above in our prerequisites. Using the Data Checker on the right hand side, we can see how big our examples are and how many records we are trying to predict at the moment.

After that, we choose which columns to contribute to your predictions, making sure we do not include any unnecessary features such as who created the record in salesforce and the email address of the contact. Just to reiterate, we are using age, income, contact_times, education to predict whether a person will sign up for membership or not.

Finally, we can click through the remaining pages and land on the status page for our model. Depending on how much data you are using to train your model, the time it takes to generate a model could range from 30 minutes to 24 hours.

Once the model is completed, we are able to obtain a scorecard on how well the model did. In our example, we can see that our prediction quality is around 74 points, which means that our model will be 74% accurate in predicting future outcomes. The top predictor side bar graph shows that the variables that most impact the model include: whether a person signed up for previous memberships or not, whether they have a housing loan and how many times they were contacted this year.

To dig into more details, we can click on the predictors tab and see that housing_loan field has a strong impact but negative correlation, which means having a housing loan negatively impacts our model and the person is less likely to sign up for premium membership if they have a housing loan.

The other predictors such as prev_outcome – success, contact_times all have positive correlation and impacts over 0.50, which means they contribute to our outcome predictions positively and people that signed up last term and contacted multiple times are likely to sign up again.

Moving on, we want to get a list of these members so that we can reach out to them. In order to do so, we move to Salesforce’s front page and create a list based on the premium_membership object.

We proceed to filter the list by unknown outcomes and include contact emails with high impact variables. We also include the prediction results (score). This will be blank when first added, but will populate after about ten minutes or so.

After waiting for our results, we refresh our Salesforce page and filter by highest prediction_results. Prediction results show the likelihood of a successful sign up. We can see that the first user is most likely to sign up with a score of 91. We should reach out to him to see if he is interested in signing up for membership.

Monitoring your Prediction Model

So far, we have built and enabled our prediction model and created a list of users who are most likely to sign up for premium memberships. As new data comes in, our model will continue to make predictions. Based on this new data, the models performance could change. Thus, it is recommended to check periodically how well the model is doing by comparing the prediction results with the actual results.

Usually, this check is done by looking at the true/false positive predictions of the model over a certain period of time. An example of this is provided below:

Stay Tuned For More To See How fusionSpan Can Help

Overall, you’ve seen how you make a prediction with Einstein Prediction Builder and single out high value targets within your association for your next membership campaign. As mentioned before, this is a hassle free, no code required application that allows you to make predictions with Salesforce objects.

For those using the Fonteva platform, this will be particularly useful. Users will be able to quickly deploy models, comprehensively view how well the model performed and create dashboard visuals around the prediction outcomes.

Of course, that is not the only tool your association can leverage. Apart from Einstein Prediction Builder, there’s also Einstein Discovery; Discovery is another tool on the Einstein platform that can automatically analyze millions of data combinations in minutes. Einstein Discovery can help associations better understand who their customers are and why they do what they do.

If you would like to know more about Einstein Prediction Builder, stay tuned for our upcoming articles diving deeper into the tool. In the meantime, reach out to fusionSpan for help setting up your next membership campaign for success!

Affordable VPN Options For Your Remote Staff

Avatar photo May 13th, 2020 by

As many organizations are striving to make teleworking as normal as possible, there is a large focus on the implementation of new tools and software. Most team members are fully remote and on their own wireless network, making a VPN a must-have.

What is VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) extends the private network of your office, as well as giving remote users the ability to send and receive data across the internet as if their devices were directly connected to the office network. In essence, a VPN provider is a service that encrypts your internet traffic and protects your online identity.

Why is it needed?

VPN is mainly used by organizations for two purposes:

  • Encryption of all your internet traffic into a virtual tunnel. Therefore, any data being sent over the internet is protected.
  • Allows users to communicate with office servers, printers and other devices in a secure fashion. The alternative would be to open these devices to the World Wide Web, which can be a huge security liability.

There are a variety of ways to implement a VPN for your (virtual) office:

Office Hardware

The cheapest would be to check if your networking equipment – particularly your office firewall – already offers VPN support. Most firewalls do have this capability, though there tends to be license fees involved. However, there are free open source software options like OpenVPN that can be used as the client. The drawback of this approach is that this solution is not scalable beyond a few dozen users. Routing all that bi-directional traffic through your office internet can be a bottleneck. Furthermore, it may also not support mobile devices and the client installation process can be cumbersome for some users.

Cloud Based

There are some very robust enterprise grade VPN providers like Perimeter81 that are completely cloud based, but integrate with your office network and provide single sign on capability. If you have multiple locations or lots of users, this is a great solution to consider.

If you have a good network engineer on staff, you can setup your own cloud based VPN service with OpenVPN, and it can be almost free.

Third-Party Service

You can always use an enterprise VPN provider such as NordVPN, which actually even has separate offerings for businesses. The advantage is that for a low monthly cost you get a scalable solution that supports all devices. It is even relatively easy to adopt into your organization.

Technically, this does not connect directly to your office firewall, and there are per-user-licensing-costs that come with this option. Despite that, you are getting a dedicated IP address, which allows you to open your firewall to only allow traffic from that particular IP address.

Cloudflare Access

Cloudflare AccessWith most business applications now hosted in the cloud, many offices have very little if any servers hosted in the office. The need for VPN is typically to encrypt traffic and to control access to cloud applications. In such a scenario a very easy to implement solution is offered by Cloudflare Access. This is not really a stand-alone VPN but more so a very easy to configure solution to control access to all your corporate applications via a web firewall interface. As long as the URL is controlled by Cloudflare DNS, you are able to control access to that application. It lets you use multiple authentication methods like G Suite, Office 365 or simple email based tokens that allows for fine grained control of who has access.

Best of all Cloudflare Access is free to use till September 2020, and has a reasonable $5/user cost after that date.

Ensure The Safety of Your Organizational Data

If your organization already has a VPN in place, great! Consider having your IT department test your network to ensure the performance and availability of your VPN client. Furthermore, make sure Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is in place to prevent phishing attacks against your organization.

Now more than ever is the time to make sure your organization is taking the necessary steps to ensure safety as we all work remotely. Setting up a VPN is an easy process that will go a long way in protecting your confidential data.

Give Your Remote Workforce A Sense of Engagement

Avatar photo April 30th, 2020 by

The current pandemic has fundamentally transformed the workplace. Remote work is no longer a luxury but for many a basic necessity. For some employees, working from home may be business as usual but for many others, it is likely a slightly more stressful adjustment to make.

While working from home may seem appealing at first, it can lose its attraction over time, resulting in disengaged employees. From a human resource perspective, how can you go about engaging all of your employees, including the ones who are across the country or in different time zones? Here are a few key tips to maintaining your workplace culture while your employees are away from the office:

Be Transparent and Patient

Let’s be honest, not everyone has mastered a routine while working remotely. Therefore, it is important to be patient with yourself and your team members as we’re all settling into our new “normal”. There will be distractions such as barking dogs in the background of Zoom conference calls and surprise appearances of kids on your video calls. These things don’t make someone less focused or productive; they make them human and able to operate in a flexible working environment.

Communication is Key

It’s important to set aside time for frequent check-ins, to keep in touch with your team members. These calls should be done via video to emphasize the human element behind our day-to-day work. During these check-ins, you can ask about any challenges or problems team members are facing, answer questions, and stay up to date on any team news.

Encourage your Operations or IT department to send a regularly scheduled internal newsletter, if not already doing so. These updates could include news about tools your organization is using, as well as more causal content to foster engagement.

Take Your Office Culture Online

This can be a difficult thing to do when your entire company is communicating virtually. Here at fusionSpan, we have tons of Slack channels! In our #General channel, we communicate and share important company announcements. We have a #Pets channel, where fur parents share their beloved pets and allow everyone else an opportunity to swoon. Our #Social channel to share work and non-work related topics. Small talk really matters, and chatting about life outside of work keeps us connected, despite being out of the office.

Set Up Your Virtual Water Cooler

Another way to maintain social interactions is to set up a virtual coffee, lunch, or quick ‘water cooler’ moments with colleagues. The Slack application Donut has been a great contributor to keeping our organization connected with weekly meet-ups. Every Friday, Donut will randomly pair employees, providing three different meeting times to link up! The automated pairing allows interdepartmental interaction between staff members who wouldn’t normally meet. After each Donut meet, we take to our #Social channel and share photos, screenshots, or fun facts we learned about our Donut buddies.

Last But Not Least, Happy Hour!

One of the most popular forms of virtual engagement that almost every company across the nation seems to have taken up, are weekly virtual happy hours! Why is that, one may ask? Well, because, we all could really use a drink right now.

Consider holding Happy Hours for both the organization as well as each department. Explore new ideas like trivia, with the winning team awarded a voucher for a local food delivery service. As the idea of virtual happy hours have been quickly adopted, take your organizations meet-ups to the next level with some fun competition!

Your Next Steps

As an Office Manager, it might seem like an overwhelming task to keep employees engaged during this time. Be patient and consider some new approaches for your staff. Remember, we are all in this together!

Best Practices for Ensuring Security While Using Zoom

Avatar photo April 16th, 2020 by

Whether it is for a family game night or an enterprise level meeting with new clients, it is more likely than not you have been using Zoom to stay virtually connected with others. It seems that every time you log into LinkedIn you see a link to funny virtual backgrounds or a screenshot of a team happy hour. In fact, the San Jose, CA based telecommunication provider has seen its user headcount climb from about 10 million people at the end of 2019 to over 200 million daily participants by the end of March.

Despite its widespread use and spike in popularity, there has also been a rising amount of negativity and speculation surrounding Zoom. We all have read reports of hackers selling user info, no end-to-end encryption as promised, and even SpaceX and Google telling their employees to uninstall the video tool. “Zoom-bombing” and various security bugs have caused the company to update their own privacy tools.

The obvious question is “what steps can I take to ensure the protection of my privacy while using Zoom?” After all, if you see a company like NASA suddenly ban the tool, wouldn’t you be wary? The good news is that Zoom has implemented some new security features on top of existing functionality. Check out some best practices for securing your meetings on a personal and organizational level below:

  • 2 Factor Authentication: This two-step-sign-in process will prompt users to access a generated code on an authentication app in addition to their login credentials. This adds an additional layer of security at the basic level, and can easily be enforced by your organization’s account admin.
  • Password Protect Your Meetings: One of the easiest ways to prevent unwanted attendees from “Zoom-bombing” your meeting is to set passwords before joining a meeting. You can toggle password settings on and off for individuals, groups, and even overall meetings and webinars for your organization. Zoom has set passwords to “on” by default in more recent security updates.
  • Create Unique Zoom Meeting IDs for Every Meeting: If you are a Zoom user, you automatically are given a Personal Meeting ID (PMI) that acts as a virtual meeting room permanently reserved for you. Despite the convenience of this personal link, it should not be used for back-to-back meetings or shared with unfamiliar clients regularly. Enabling the “Generate Automatically” setting for your account will provide each meeting with a different Zoom ID, which adds a layer of security and saves you from some awkward encounters!
  • Waiting Rooms: Zoom rolled out this feature earlier this month, and actually enabled it by default last weekend. The Waiting Room is a feature which allows the host or co-host to admit or deny participants attempting to join your meeting. Keep in mind this will not work with some settings such as “join before host” or webinars. Settings for this can even be configured to auto-admit other members of your organization to the meeting but send guest participants to the waiting room.
  • Lock Your Meetings Once Every Participant Has Entered: One of the features that comes with the new security icon in Zoom meeting controls is the “Lock Meeting” feature. This easily allows the host to prevent any additional participants from attending the meeting. Locking your meeting is an easy step to prevent unwanted zoom-bombers from crashing your calls (and might even drive some habitually tardy staff to be on time!)

The Security icon in the meeting controls allows the host or co-host of a meeting to easily access various security features throughout the Zoom meeting. Along with different participant settings, the tab gives you quick access to options like “Enable Waiting Room” and “Lock Meeting.”

Zoom has also implemented features such as enforced passwords for cloud recording access, and even put a development freeze on future projects to combat privacy issues. In addition to the points listed, remember to never share Zoom meeting IDs over social media, routinely check for updates to both the web and application client, and always use a secured connection.

Adopting even one or two settings will drastically increase security for your meetings and recordings, regardless of your staff working onsite or remotely. A few quick administrative changes can go a long way in ensuring both your personal and organizational privacy.

Up Your Marketing Game by Evaluating Your Current Marketing Tool

Susan Baumbach March 5th, 2020 by

If anyone else were to enter your marketing platform, what would they find? Would they be shocked by the vast number of membership lists that are carefully dated so you can identify the most recent list? If they looked hard enough, how many duplicates would they find? You would immediately answer their probing questions by saying, “We have to manually update these marketing lists based on the most current information in the CRM. This is the way we have always done it.” A reasonable follow-up question would be, “Why are they not all connected?”

Whether or not this anecdote is relatable, a critical factor in a member’s experience with your association is the email content that gets delivered on mobile devices or desktop computers. There is a constant desire within associations to keep up with technological advancements to ensure a modernized and uniform membership experience. It is easy to keep the same email templates you have been using for the last several years or to manually update your mailing lists in the marketing tool based on reports in your CRM. By evaluating how you use your current marketing platform, your association can determine if the current product will meet your needs or if a new tool is required.

Whether or not your association is able to purchase a brand new platform right now, there are several key questions that you should discuss internally as the first step:

  • What features do we use and not use in our current tool?
  • Of the features that we use, are there any pain points or ways we can use it better?
  • Of the features that we do not use, do we want to use them in the future? Can we implement the new features internally or is outside assistance needed?
  • Are there any features that are missing from our current tool that we want to leverage in the future?
  • Are the reporting capabilities sufficient to answer key questions on how to improve our marketing strategy?
  • What other products can the platform integrate with? (i.e. Google Analytics, webinar app, etc.)

The table below is an illustration of how to organize the answers to those questions. The features listed are just a few examples available in a wide variety of online marketing platforms today. (Your list will likely be much longer!)

Feature Use Now? Future Use? Plan
A/B Test Emails No Yes Read about best practices and start using for event-related emails only.
Email Client Analysis Yes Yes Confirm the top three email clients our members use to read emails and optimize our existing templates for those clients.
Forms for Lead Generation Yes Yes
  • Pain Point: New leads are created in the marketing tool, but we don’t do anything with them.
  • Plan: Create an automated nurture program to send new leads content on membership benefits.
Create Dynamic Lists No Yes Need a way to sync updates from CRM to the marketing tool. Need outside assistance to integrate the two systems and receive support after the implementation.
Personalized Content Yes Yes Use merge fields, but want to develop dynamic content (text & images) based on contacts previous interactions with the website.

After your team has evaluated your current marketing platform, the next question to address is whether the existing tool will meet your needs, or if a new tool is required. Remember that implementing a new tool is not magically going to solve all of your problems, and there will likely be new issues that surface. For example, your existing tool does not allow you to automate journeys for potential members. Even if you upgrade to a new tool, automation does not mean that you can set it up and let it run indefinitely. Instead, you will want to view and analyze the data to further refine your journeys in the future.

Ultimately, the goal of this evaluation exercise is not to sell you on an upgrade, but rather to assist your association in determining current and future needs. Now go log into your marketing platform and start the conversation!

Technique for Technical Writing

Avatar photo February 6th, 2020 by

Technical writing

Technical Writing?

Let’s start by answering the question – what is technical writing? It’s typically defined as writing direction, instruction, or explanation for specific technological and occupational fields. What used to just be creating how to manuals has evolved into encompassing all sorts of documentation for technical processes; it’s a way of communicating steps for technology in a user friendly manner. You are basically taking the information out of the heads of the creators and putting it into the heads of the users. Technical writing is about taking a program and explaining it in a way that makes sense to the reader (user).

A form of technical writing is documentation. Documentation is where you walk a user step-by-step through a process using both screenshots and text. On-boarding, testing and training are all areas where documentation can play a critical role.

So, let’s pretend you were just given a documentation assignment…do you know the steps you should take?

When approaching a project of any kind it’s a good idea to tackle it with a plan, and documentation is no exception.

The Documentation Process:

To make this easier, let’s break the documentation process down into four phases.

  1. Plan Phase: In this phase you will want to identify the purpose of your document. In simplest terms you will want to find out why this document needs to exist. You will also want to identify your target audience and figure out both what they understand and what they need to know. Also, gaining an understanding of how the documentation is expected to be delivered will also be helpful in this phase.
  2. Research Phase: In this phase you will be interviewing subject matter experts, reviewing existing documentation and using the software to gain an understanding of the system you will be writing documentation on.
  3. Writing Phase: This is where things really get started. In this phase you will be developing your content and adding in screen shots when/where necessary. In this phase you will want to make sure your content is as clear and concise as possible. Using plain language can sometimes help readers understand more clearly than technical jargon.
  4. Review/Edit Phase: After writing your document take the time to edit for grammar and punctuation. Taking the time to run a test for usability is an important step.

Takeaways:

As you work through these phases it’s important to remember that documentation is a working document. When something is a working document, it means there will always be changes and edits that will need to be applied on an on-going basis.

Technical Writing takes time and can be tedious, especially when documenting procedures and steps, but if done correctly it can be a real time-saver for readers. By taking the time to develop quality documentation you are showing users that you are willing to take that additional step to give them an easy experience.

New Chrome Browser Will Affect Website Tracking and Marketing Efforts

Susan Baumbach January 30th, 2020 by

What is Happening and Why?

Why Associations Need Tool Owners, Not Tool Experts On February 4, 2020, Google Chrome is changing the security around the use of third-party cookies. First of all, what are third-party cookies? A cookie is considered third-party if it has a different domain from the main website. For example, if the domain is “fusionSpan.com” and Pardot (a marketing automation tool) is using a cookie to track website visits, that cookie would be considered a third-party cookie since it was set by Pardot, a “third-party.” Third-party cookies may also be stored as a result of a user’s interaction with chatbots, buttons, forms, etc.

With the new update from Google Chrome, third-party cookie tracking will not work unless updates are configured.

How Should My Organization Prepare for this Release?

Your organization’s webmaster will have to update the website to designate cookies for third-party access. Specifically, the “SameSite=None;” and “Secure” attributes will need to be present. See this article from Google Chrome for more technical details. In addition, your website will need to use HTTPS, which provides encryption between the web server and your browser.

If you use:

  • Pardot, you will need to add the new SameSite attribute and ensure that the tracker domain being used is SSL-enabled.
  • Marketing Cloud, Salesforce is working within the application to ensure this change does not affect website tracking for Marketing Cloud cookies. Updates to Marketing Cloud will be effective no later than February 7, 2020.
  • HubSpot, you will need to add the SameSite attribute and ensure you are using an SSL-enabled domain.
  • Google Analytics, you don’t need to do anything because these are considered first-party cookies, not third-party cookies.

How Can I Use Website Tracking Data for Marketing?

If your association is using a marketing automation tool like Pardot, Marketing Cloud, HubSpot, or another tool, then tracking a visitor’s interaction with your website, along with the email behavior provides an important view of potential or existing members.

For example, let’s consider Jonah, who is interested in model cars. He completes a form on the model car association website to subscribe to a weekly newsletter, which is available to members and non-members. He consistently opens and reads this newsletter, which is tracked in the marketing automation tool. After a month or so he visits the Membership Benefits page of the website. A third-party cookie from the marketing automation tool captures that visit and links it to his profile, along with a membership sales rep being notified. If the website hasn’t been updated with the “SameSite” attribute, then this key piece of information would be missed!

A journey can then be triggered based on the newsletter engagement and the membership interest signal. This journey may include emails with more detailed information about membership benefits, a special membership discount, or limited-time access to member content. Dynamic content could be included in the emails based on what other interactions Jonah has had on the website.

Bringing together information from multiple channels, such as email and web in this example, allows associations to further refine their marketing strategy to increase overall engagement and membership participation.

Falling in Love with Salesforce Reports

Avatar photo February 14th, 2019 by

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
We love Salesforce reports
And we hope you do too!

Salesforce provides standard report types which can be used to build reports summarizing and analyzing your organization’s data. Salesforce reports are a powerful tool that helps you and your organization’s staff proactively respond to your organization’s trends and activities.

Hint: If your organization is new to Salesforce, check out our blog post “Common Issues for Organizations New to Salesforce (And How to Avoid Them!)“.  If you have any additional questions about report-building, contact our talented Salesforce Customer Success team!

Questions to Ask Before Creating a Salesforce Report

Before creating a report, work with staff requesting the report in gathering report requirements. Consider asking the following questions and use the answers to build your report criteria.

  1. What question is being answered by building this report?
  2. What is the intended business use for the report?
  3. What information is needed?

Once you have your report criteria, you are ready to start building the report!

How to Create a Salesforce Report

In this blog post, we will build a report to pull all active users in your organization who logged in this month.

Note: In this example, we will be using Salesforce Classic. Almost all of these steps can be used to build a report in Salesforce Lightning.

Step 1: Navigate to the Reports Object
Click on the Reports object from the navigation bar

SF Report

Note: If you cannot find Reports on the nav bar, you can also find it under the All Tabs section by clicking on the + icon

Step 2: Create a New Report
Click on New Report.

SF Report

Select your report type and click Create. In this example, we are pulling a report on our organization’s Salesforce logged-in users. Expand the Administrative Reports section and select Users.

SF Report

When you click Create after choosing the report type, you will see your preview report screen.

  1. Fields: Shows the list of fields available for your report. You can drag the fields on the preview (3) section.
  2. Filters: Create filters to meet your report requirements.
  3. Preview: Preview your report’s data.

Based on our Logged-In Active User Report requirements, build the report using the following filters:

  1. View: Active Users
  2. Date Field: Last Login
  3. Range: This Month

Additional filters can be created by clicking the Add button. Additional fields can be added to the report by dragging fields from Fields into the Preview section.

Step 3 – Run Report and Save
Report Previews only display 50 rows of results. To view and export the full report, click Run Report. You can also Save the report for future use.

Congratulations! You now have a report to monitor all active users who logged in this month.

There’s so much more you can do with reports, like grouping the records using bucket fields, create a formula field, add cross filters linking the objects, add a chart to your report, choose from the report formats available etc.

What’s Your Remote Work Communication Style?

Rebecca Achurch November 8th, 2017 by

Your work communication style typically refers to the way you communicate. For example, are you a more direct or indirect communicator? Many organizations use a tool like DiSC or Myers-Briggs or Strengthsfinders to help employees figure out their preferences, and those of their teammates, in the workplace.
While those same principles apply to remote work, when you don’t occupy the same space as your colleagues it’s also important to figure out the actual method you prefer to use for communications.
Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you come across best in person? Have you ever been told you have an “expressive face” or can’t keep a poker face? Are you naturally observant and able to easily pick up on people’s nonverbal mannerisms?
  • Are you a phone person? Your brain works best while pacing or doodling (where your communication partner can’t actually see you)? You enjoy talking on the phone in your free time or have a good deal of experience talking on the phone for previous jobs?
  • Do you prefer text communications, over email, messenger, or other online programs? Maybe you like having some time to think about what you are going to say before actually saying it. Do you get nervous or self-conscious in face-to-face social situations?

Virtual-World
Determining your own strengths and preferences is the first step to being a better team member. Once you have a handle on your own style, learn what style of communicating your team members prefer. Managers should make it a point to facilitate these types of conversations – either through personality tests, team building or other “getting to know you” activities, or even straightforward polls and questionnaires. Michael D. Watkins of HBR also suggests managers “commit to a communication charter,” which will help guide employees on what and how to communicate, when.

If your company hasn’t organized any ice breaker activities or a communication charter, you may need to pay special attention to the methods the rest of your team is using for day-to-day communications. When in doubt, ask. As we’ve written about before, it’s important that you are open and honest when you work in a virtual environment since the potential for miscommunication or crossed wires is high.
For that same reason, be extra careful not to make assumptions, or take text the wrong way. If you are going to assume anything, assume good intent. Look for the innocence in the action before jumping to conclusions. And if you need clarification or want to smooth things over, opt for a quick call or video chat.

Adapting your communication style for virtual work

Without question, working remotely or as part of a virtual team means you’ll be doing much less face-to-face communication and more text or written communications.

Even if you’re someone who feeds off of face-to-face interactions, it doesn’t mean you can’t be just as successful in a virtual environment. Figure out exactly what it is that you like about in-person conversations and try to replicate those feelings whether you are communicating in writing or over the phone. Consider smiling when you’re talking (or typing), having notes or even a short script in front of you for important discussions, or asking more questions since you won’t have any non-verbal cues to respond to.

Some members of your team may have the opposite challenge – in many ways, working remotely is ideal for introverts. With less office noise, they can focus on the tasks at hand and spend more time listening and strategizing. As Oliver Maskell writes for the Quiet Revolution blog, “When it comes to working with others, networking, and communicating, introverts can often take a less conventional approach but one which leads to meaningful business relationships and creative solutions to problems.”

But introverted employees can still find themselves overwhelmed in meetings or struggling to make their presence known, even on a remote team. Managers should make a point to proactively include introverts in group discussions, or give pre-meeting assignments so everyone has time to develop responses and contribute during the conversation. Introverts themselves should try to check in with coworkers every day (whether by email, messenger, etc.) and find ways to get recognized without being the loudest voice in the virtual room.

Looking for a communication method that everyone can get on board with? Video is the best of all worlds – social folks get their face time in, online communicators can use the message box when they don’t feel comfortable speaking out loud, and phone people can rest assured that their voice will be heard. Additionally, video chat is great for informal communications, which are key in helping remote team members feel connected and supported. There are plenty of ways to incorporate video to help your team get to know each other on a personal level, including virtual happy hours, team lunches, contests, games, and more. Luckily there are several great options for video chat technology available no matter your company size or budget – Slack, Join.me, Zoom, and Google are just a few.

Communication, remote work, and trust

When it comes to communicating with your virtual team remember this, from the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology: “At the core of nearly every model of knowledge dissemination within virtual teams is trust in other members.” Simply put: Your team wants to feel like they can trust you, and vice versa. Don’t let miscommunication derail what could otherwise be one of the most productive, effective teams you’ll ever be a part of – distance aside.

Have you ever had to change your communication style for work? For those of you who already work on a virtual team, what has your biggest communication challenge been? Anything that’s helped your team communicate more effectively from afar? Let us know in the comments!

Excel Series: How to Check and Remove Duplicates

Mary Glavin June 1st, 2016 by

Best seat in the houseHappy Wednesday all! We’ve survived the long weekend and are back in the swing of things at work. As you’re buzzing by in the productivity lane today, take just a small detour and evaluate how you get your work done most days. If you caught a glimpse of the image with a white X in a green workbook and suddenly feel anxious and frustrated, get ready to turn that frown into a sly grin.

Now take a peak at the image below on the right, Zach Brown Band fans click here, this is how relaxed you will be in Excel after following our Excel series. Prepare facial muscles for sly grin. Comfort level= toes in the sand. 

Microsoft_Excel_2013_logo.svg Most of us know excel has the capabilities to be a lifesaver, but before it proves helpful it can be daunting and stressful. (Keep the music playing)

Sometimes when navigating Excel, it seems the application is set in its ways; the small gridlines on your screen make you feel like a prisoner as your project remains blank and your patience plummet. But Excel can be nothing short of a pot of gold or expansive beach when you realize there is a work around for nearly anything you might want to accomplish.

Getting the inside scoop on excel tips and tricks can make getting your work done infinitely faster and void of errors.Thus this tool deserves its praises from the paragraph above. Cue rainbow.

rainbow-1445337690d8q

 

Here at fusionSpan, Excel is invaluable to our work and we want to share the gold. This series is going the old school route and episodes will be released periodically. 

Season 1, Episode 1: The Pilot: Checking for Duplicates 

Checking for duplicates is a tool that is simple yet timeless, like grilling in the summer or a rubber duck in the bathtub.

fusionSpan Excel wizard, Jess Sansaet details how to check for duplicates and then remove them in Excel 2016 below. Be sure to check out her bio following the post.  Click on any of the instructional images below for larger view of documentation steps. They will open in a new window.  

clapper-297673_960_720

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you’ve populated your information:

  1. Click home
  2. Highlight the data you want to check for
  3. Select Conditional Formatting

Copy of FindDups1

 

 

 

 

Once in conditional formating

  1. Select Highlight Cells Rules
  2. Select Duplicates

FindDups2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you click duplicate values the data you highlighted will designate duplicates by highlighting them as red. From here you can either manually get rid of duplicates or

FindDups3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Click data at the top of the page

7. Highlight the section again

8. Select remove duplicates

RemoveDups1

 

 

 

 

9. Remove duplicates section will pop up and you can select which columns need attending.

RemoveDups2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a fairly simple task but one that can save hours pouring over data. Stay tuned for the next installment by subscribing to the blog. Do you have any excel processes you’d like to see featured? Have a clever name for the series? Comment below! We’ll tag top entries in episode 2.

About Jess

jess

Jessica (Jess) is an IT Analyst at fusionSpan, where she provides support to small staff associations for their technology and registrar needs. She assists with implementing, maintaining and updating websites, membership databases, and event management software.

Documentation: Good for Work and Travel!

Avatar photo April 29th, 2016 by
Koala
Koala on Phillip Island, Australia

Hello Small Staff Big Impact. I’m baack! I’ve spent the better part of the last year traveling around Australia and SE Asia. I’ve met a lot of great people and learned many things. As part of my experience, I held some interesting jobs to supplement my travel income, including crew on a 43 foot yacht and farm hand on a lime farm.

I also got the chance to work with a non-profit in Australia, helping with their AMS. Yes, I found myself staring down another messy AMS situation. I was surprised to find out that they have similar problems to many of our clients in the US and I’d like to share what I learned from this experience.

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PREZI: What is an API and why should I care?

justin fusionSpan Team July 23rd, 2015 by
API: Application Programming Interface. A vague phrase that offers little insight if you’re not a computer science major, yet if you’ve spent any time around system vendors or website developers they’ve likely thrown the acronym around as if its taught in the third grade of every classroom in America. Fear not, we’ve created a Prezi (a free, online presentation tool) to help illustrate what API does and why it matters to your association members, staff and you!

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How to Write A Press Release

Sheree Santantonio January 30th, 2015 by
PressReleasePicIn February of last year our good friend Alexi Turbow began a 3 part blog post series entitled Why The Press Release?. We know you all have been on the edge of your seats waiting for the next installment, so here it goes!

There are many great step-by-step articles out there on press releases, but they don’t really help with understanding how to craft content in order for your release to actually get picked up by a journalist. In this article you will find the questions and ideas I like to keep in mind when crafting a press release.  (more…)

How to make an infograph

Avatar photo February 7th, 2014 by

First, what on earth is an infograph?Source: Wikipedia

Infographs (aka information graphics) are visual representations of information. You have probably encountered an infographic without realizing it. Examples include metro or mass transit maps, weather charts, site plans, and graphs. A good infograph will:

1. Show (large) amounts of data in a clear and concise way
2. Encourage the eye to compare different sets of data and the mind to think about the content rather than the design
3. Have a clear purpose
4. Have meaningful stats
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Dear Betty: How do we clean up dirty data?

January 31st, 2014 by
Dear Betty:

Our small-staff Association Management Company (AMC) recently acquired a new client. Which is great, but we have a problem. Their data is a mess! Keeping day-to-day operations running for our new association client is nearly impossible given the dire state of their membership and financial data. Should we try to fix the data as we go, or call a time-out to straighten out the mess? Any tips on how to handle this?

Anonymous

Gentle Reader:

One, congratulations on your new client! Two, you have to fix their data. Your ability to manage your new client successfully is entirely dependent on the quality of the data. If things are a mess, you have no way of knowing with any degree of certainty:

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