We’re living in the golden era of the gig economy. At least, some of us consider it golden. Regardless of how you personally feel about the gig economy, there’s no denying that it has reached peak popularity for consumers, employees, and businesses – thanks in part to the amazing tech startups that led us here.
But where exactly did the gig economy come from? And where does it go from here?
What Is the Gig Economy?
Let’s start with a primer on the gig economy. The “gig economy” refers to a number of trends related to the issuance and availability of “gig work.” In other words, a lot of people are freelancing and a lot of companies are willing to hire and work with freelancers.
Freelancers aren’t technically employees. They aren’t protected or bound by the same laws and regulations that traditional employees are. For example, minimum wage laws, workers’ compensation laws, and maternity leave laws may not apply to freelancers.
Employers benefit from this because they get to save money and hire more flexibly. They don’t have to pay as much money for employee benefits, they don’t have to spend time or money complying with complicated laws, and they can hire people on a flexible basis – and only for the work that actually needs to get done.
Employees can also benefit from this arrangement. As a freelancer, they’re generally not bound by non-compete clauses, which means they can work for multiple employers/clients at the same time. They can also work as much or as little as they want, creating their own schedule and enjoying the benefits of a practically unlimited income.
However, there are some downsides to the gig economy as well (as we’ll see).
A Brief History of Gig Work
Gig work has been around for a long time. The term “gig” itself was coined by jazz musicians looking for a way to describe shows and concerts for which they were hired. Over the years, businesses in certain industries employed temp workers and freelancers when they had short-term, temporary, or frequently changing needs.
However, the gig economy itself didn’t develop much until a handful of powerful tech startups stepped in.
Early Apps and Connective Tissue
The gig economy began to grow as the internet began to see widespread adoption. Craigslist, one of the earliest classified-ad-style websites, emerged to connect employees and employers, and allow people to make temporary arrangements with one another. If you needed a fence painted, or if you needed someone to do a reading for your audiobook, or if you needed a professional model to show off your company’s latest fashion, you could find them on Craigslist.
In turn, a number of other connection-based sites arose and the gig economy began to flourish.
The Uber Effect
Things began to change in the early 2010s, with the advent of Uber and similar tech startups. In case you aren’t familiar, the Uber app functioned like a ridesharing and taxi hailing service in one. With Uber, you can hail a ride from an Uber driver, get to your destination, then pay your driver, all within the app. As a driver, you won’t work directly from Uber, but the Uber app can connect you to individual riders in need of a ride.
In the wake of Uber’s early success, we saw the rise in popularity of a number of similar apps, all of which allowed buyers and sellers to efficiently find each other. These platforms made gig work both more possible and more popular for a variety of reasons:
- The emergence of new markets. Some of these apps created new markets where there were no opportunities before. Uber itself forged a kind of middle ground between calling for a taxi and asking a friend to bum a ride. Airbnb allowed homeowners to rent a room efficiently to new tenants in a way they couldn’t before. Other apps invented entire mini-industries from the ground up, like renting power tools or providing grocery shopping services.
- Convenience for buyers. Buyers, including both individuals and companies, could find professionals easier than ever before. If you have temporary needs, you can’t afford to hire someone full-time, but these apps made it possible to find a kind of temporary employee.
- Convenience for sellers/producers. These apps were also convenient for sellers and producers. Rather than going through the trouble of starting their own business and marketing themselves, or finding a restrictive full-time position, they could take on jobs whenever and however they wanted.
- Minimal interference and natural development. Most tech startups following this formula created small-scale free market conditions. Pricing, worker availability, and consumer demand found a way to balance each other out in a way that became favorable to all parties.
Collectively, the rise of these tech startups helped change the image of gig work from a “last-ditch effort” of someone who couldn’t find a “real” job to a viable economic opportunity for enterprising individuals. It helped to transform the gig economy into a landscape of value and empowerment.
Remote Work Options
The options available for freelancing and gig work have only increased with the rising trend of remote work. New technologies like streamlined video chatting and robust project management platforms have made it possible for a wider range of professionals to work independently from home.
With no need for an in-house workforce, companies are increasingly open to the idea of managing a team of freelancers. And individual workers are seeing the benefits of working remotely for a handful of different clients, rather than pouring everything into a single employer and going to the same office every day.
The Obstacles in the Way of Gig Work
Of course, the gig economy isn’t purely advantageous, and it isn’t loved by everyone. There are some key threats that could jeopardize the future of gig work, including:
- Regulations. Politicians are increasingly pushing for stricter regulations surrounding gig work. Employees are currently protected by a number of fairness and safety laws, which prevent employers from taking advantage of them or putting them in unsafe conditions. Currently, gig workers have little to no protection in this area. While new protections could put gig workers in a more favorable situation, it would also reduce some of the natural advantages of the arrangement, potentially reducing the number of gigs available for freelancers.
- Demand for benefits. One of the drawbacks of being a gig worker is that you generally won’t have access to employer benefits. You won’t have health insurance through your employer and you won’t be able to tap into a retirement program like a 401(k). If a greater percentage of gig workers grow dissatisfied with this arrangement, they may make a conscious push to change the norms within the gig economy (or pick up a full-time job instead).
- Worker dependence and mistreatment. Over time, a gig worker may become dependent on a client, platform, or employer; for example, an Uber driver may not feel able to leave Uber because they’ll be without a steady income. This type of environment can lead to abuse on the part of the employer; knowing their workforce is dependent on them, they can cut pay, slash benefits, and impose stricter performance requirements with reckless abandon. Of course, in a free market, these types of actions would be unsustainable.
What Is the Future of Gig Work?
So what does the future have in store for gig work? It seems like new technologies and increasingly flexible environments are favoring further developments for employers and freelancers. But at the same time, there are bigger political pushes to impose new regulations and restrictions on the world of gig work. Public demands, gig worker satisfaction, and corporate lobbying will collectively determine whether the gig economy will continue to grow or whether it will be permanently reined in.
6 Software Solutions Your B2B Company Needs in Its Tech Stack – ReadWrite
Communication and collaboration between departments and teams are essential for efficiency and success. While each team member has an individual job and departments carry out different functions, they can’t work in a vacuum.
Software Solutions Your B2B Company Needs
Client-based applications may have been sufficient in the past. But with the need for instantaneous, anytime, anywhere data sharing, cloud-based solutions can streamline your operations.
Cloud services fall under various categories. Software as a service, or SaaS, is the best known. However, other models such as integration platform as a service, or IPaaS, are providing new capabilities. An IPaaS lets you integrate local and cloud applications. You can create and implement ways to seamlessly transfer data back and forth between the two.
The following 6 software solutions can optimize everything from app integration and secure document sharing to task automation and security training.
Read on to discover the cloud-based services your business needs in its tech stack.
Workato is a business automation platform that connects the multiple applications your company uses. Your B2B organization can develop customized workflows and automate them. Unlike with a traditional IPaaS, you don’t need the IT folks to create these processes.
The platform doesn’t require knowledge of complicated coding in order to automate and optimize workflows.
That means employees that work in non-technical roles like marketing and finance can use Workato, too. There are AI chatbots for easy and constant access to data across departments. Gartner has recognized Workato as a market leader in the enterprise IPaaS arena for three consecutive years.
Businesses can securely upload, share, and collaborate on deal-related documents with CapLinked. What makes this tool so versatile is that you can create and manage different virtual workspaces. Set up one space with documents that pertain to supplier contracts, then create another space for internal strategic marketing plans.
CapLinked has built-in communication features, including editing and deadline alerts, email updates, FAQ notifications, and instant messaging. You can also set and change access at the file or workspace level as employees and contacts change. To make this process simpler, you can create and manage groups from contact lists.
Implement extra layers of security by requiring logins to open downloaded files. These permissions can be taken away as needed, along with viewing and printing abilities. You can also enable watermarking if desired. And rest assured that CapLinked’s servers are SSAE 18 and ISO 27001 certified; the platform is also HIPAA and SOC 2 compliant.
Stampli is an accounts payable automation solution. This platform connects to the accounting system your company already uses. Stampli can read invoices as they come in and learn how to code and send them through for approval. With built-in AI, this tool automatically detects duplicates, makes calculations, and provides purchase order support.
Communication about invoices happens right in the application. If there are questions about whether a department received products or services, they can be easily answered. This can help make the approval process more efficient and accurate.
Security, auditing, and payments are controllable from within the dashboard. You can set permissions for employee access to invoices and information. Payments can go out through your existing process, or you can use Stampli Direct Pay. All direct-pay transactions are done via the Automated Clearing House, or ACH, making reconciliation time, less of a headache.
Paycom is a SaaS human resources solution that can manage workflows related to attracting new employees, developing existing ones, running payroll, and delivering benefits. The talent acquisition piece automates online job postings, candidate tracking, and onboarding for new hires. Your HR team won’t have to re-enter successful candidate data for background checks, tax credits, or I-9 verifications.
Performance reviews, goals, and expectations for current team members fall under Paycom’s talent management dashboard. Supervisors can work with HR to determine skills and requirements for positions, in addition to salaries. If desired, employees can complete 360-degree reviews for peers and self-evaluations.
The payroll function integrates regular paychecks, expense report reimbursements, and garnishments. Any changes to federal and local state payroll tax laws will be reflected in the software. Accounting reports for general ledger purposes can be customized and automated.
Paycom lets your team members see their elected benefits and how making changes to insurance plans would impact their deductions. They can change their insurance coverage from the application and ask any questions they might have.
Salesforce is a cloud-based customer relationship management platform. It has individualized solutions for industries that deal with B2B clients, such as telecom, financial services, and manufacturing. Up-and-coming businesses can choose Salesforce’s small business solutions to help manage growth. Sales, marketing, service, tech, and e-commerce teams can work together to nurture leads and clients.
Each function’s team is able to see the same data about your company’s customers. When customer service reports repeat problems with a client’s experience, account executives will know not to push more products for now. Salesforce has various apps to coincide with the buyer’s journey, from initial interest to repeat business. All departments can analyze identical trends to identify strengths and opportunities to retain and increase market share.
For your staff, Salesforce offers Einstein AI. This is a built-in tool that takes care of repetitive tasks so your team can concentrate on the meaningful parts of their jobs. Whether employees are in the office or working remotely, they can communicate and collaborate effectively with each other. Customer records, reports, plans, and discussions can all be found in one location.
CompTIA reports that phishing scams contribute to 80% of security incidents in organizations. As hackers develop more sophisticated emails and texts, employees can be tricked into giving away confidential information.
KnowBe4 trains your staff to recognize phishing, domain spoofs, and social engineering exploits. The application can identify weak passwords, twin domains, and whether your current network security measures can block ransomware attacks.
These capabilities can pinpoint weaknesses in your company’s security and employees’ knowledge. KnowBe4 can scale according to how many employees you have. Or if your company handles network security for others, you can use the channel partnership package.
As an automated training solution, KnowBe4 increases your team’s awareness of attackers’ methods. Employees learn through simulated attacks, and you get to see the results so you can track the training’s effectiveness. Over time, your organization becomes more secure by teaching staff what to do with suspicious emails or links.
Your B2B company needs these software solutions in its tech stack
Hosting application after application on local servers is no longer practical. It’s too easy to run out of space and go over budget.
While your staff can access the same data using old-school methods, why risk miscommunication?
Cloud-based software solutions solve both problems while ensuring your company has the tools it needs to compete.
Image Credit: rasik; pexels; thank you!
Data Privacy – Why Users Should Care and How the Tech Industry Should Safeguard Data – ReadWrite
It is probably obvious to most people that certain personal information should be tightly protected — especially bank details, health records, and passwords. The motivation might be to protect us from criminal activity, embarrassment, or just because it is not anyone else’s business. Users should care about data privacy — and the tech industry should safeguard your data.
It’s essential to understand that ALL personal data is now the fuel of the digital economy.
And that means that there is an entire industry worth billions of dollars devoted to finding everything out about YOU. Your friends. Your shopping habits. Where you live and who you live with. Everything is up for grabs and harnessed for one simple reason. To make it easier to target you with adverts persuading you to buy things you might not purchase otherwise.
Data Privacy – Why Users Should Care and How the Tech Industry Should Safeguard Data
We all know about adverts that follow us around the Internet (a process known as remarketing). Many people have stories about how a conversation with someone about buying something or maybe seeing a movie, somehow led to an advert about it.
They are convinced that their phone is listening to everything they are saying. And, your phone IS listening – but not for the reasons you think. Actually, it’s down to the incredible power of today’s predictive algorithms. They probably know more about what you will want to do or buy next than you do. Based on billions and billions of interactions observed from other people just like you.
Some big life and tech industry questions
The big question is: if you know that your “important” information is protected, does tracking matter? Should you care if your other data is being used to track you? Especially if it results in free or low-priced apps that make your life easier or more pleasurable. Be it Facebook, Instagram, Gmail or Uber.
The first issue is simply a very human one. “I’m just not sure that I’m that comfortable with someone having access to everything that I’m doing.” No one reads 1984 and thinks that seems like a wonderful way to live. It just feels wrong.
There are real and practical data issues that need to be addressed.
There is a lot more at play than simply being sold a new appliance. We now know that democracy itself can be manipulated by the very technology that also sells us washing powder.
1960’s Simulamatics Corporation
The idea is not new. It actually goes back to the early 60s and the rise of the Simulamatics Corporation. It came up with the idea of identifying groups of people and computerizing them so that their behavior could be predicted.
The computer power and availability of data was a fraction of that available today. But the idea was there. And if you believe the Simulmatics Corporation, their data and predictions were enough to forecast and swing elections. (For more information on the dawn of this type of data science, read the fascinating If Then by Jill Lepore.)
Fast forward to the present day, and we are still feeling the effects of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Where the process of mining publicly available data, made it possible to push one country to break with its largest trading partner. And another to elect the worst or best President it has ever had.
One wryly amusing side story from the Brexit campaign is that contrary to popular belief, Cambridge Analytica had no involvement in that campaign at all, according to a three-year probe by the Information Commissioner.
However, they did find that “there are systemic vulnerabilities in our democratic systems” caused by the availability of personal data. That alone should be enough to make us demand that our data is better protected and regulated.
Things are changing. Slowly. And not always in ways where the motives are entirely transparent.
Convenience – not always benevolent
Take two recent examples – Apple vs. Facebook and Google against everyone else.
Apple vs. Facebook
In its latest update to its mobile operating system, iOS 14, Apple has released a new security feature that centers around the IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers — Look it up — too good to miss).
Oh, Joy!! This is a unique identifier for every iPhone and iPad, which allows advertisers to track the effectiveness of their advertising. Apple has decided to make this an opt-in feature for users. It supplies a one-time pop-up box that asks users whether they want to be tracked by Facebook or not. Verizon has made it so on their phone system — you can opt-out.
On the face of it, it seems obvious, why would you wouldn’t want to be tracked?
Mark Zuckerberg, not perhaps someone you would normally feel sympathy with, says this change “threatens the personalized ads that millions of small businesses rely on to find and reach customers.”
The reality is that Facebook also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, and Apple owns iMessage.
Facebook sees the changes, not as a way to protect consumers, but to cripple Facebook. “Apple has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to preference their own.”
Google vs. Everyone Else
Google controls the world’s most popular browser, Chrome, and has announced that it is implanting sweeping changes to “third-party cookies.”
These are the nasties that track you across the internet. When your browser knows that you were recently on Site A, looking at a particular product, it can shove an advert at you to tempt you to buy the same thing.
The proposal is that these cookies will be replaced with a type of group ID. This identifies you as part of a particular “tribe” of people who Google thinks have similar interests. Google will supposedly stop third-party cookies — SOMETIME NEXT YEAR — 2022. They will already have all they need in their data storage by then.
We only have to wait another year for the implementation by Google
It sounds fantastic because third-party tracking is considered to be one of the most intrusive aspects of web browsing. Why? Because it sprays your data around the internet in an unregulated manner, leaking privacy with every new site you visit.
So — after another year — the change will dramatically limit the ability of almost every company on the internet to target specific ads at you. Because they will no longer be able to rely on collecting data second-hand through third-party cookies.
Best for Google
Except for Google. Who is one of the largest collectors of *first* party data on the internet? Google collects data from your searches through Gmail and Google Maps. If the company’s ability to target you is better, and everyone else’s is worse, surely this means that more money gets spent on Google ads, at the expense of other advertisers?
What both cases show is that it is unlikely big tech companies will act in your best interest when it comes to the management of personal data.
Especially if that personal data is what fuels their bottom line. Is a degree of regulation and perhaps some technology rethinking needed?
Europe has led the way to protect private data — GDPR
Europe has led the way in terms of the regulation of private data, and the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) is probably the most comprehensive data privacy law ever enacted.
But does GDPR have any real teeth?
It is estimated that $9 billion was spent in preparation for GDPR. For the last calendar year, DLA Piper estimates that fines across the whole of Europe stand at about 114m Euros.
With the enormous focus on data privacy — that fines can be up to 4% of global turnover, it doesn’t seem that GDPR hasn’t quite got into its stride yet.
Data Privacy – Consumer — why you should care. in the
The future of data privacy probably rests in the hands of the consumer. And the willingness of all of us to pay for the services that are subsidized by the money made from our data.
Tim Berners-Lee, famously the inventor of the World Wide Web, has gone on a mission to reclaim personal data with the idea of data “Pods.” These pods put personal data is in the hands of the individual, and are only handed out on a very selective basis. For this to work, we need to rearchitect the internet. And consider how far convenience trumps privacy.
Think about something as simple as email. Who doesn’t love being able to go on to Gmail and search for email? Or start a new email and have Google suggest whole sentences for you?
All of this connection relies (today) on Google having full access to your data.
What about Alexa? How great to walk into the kitchen, and switch on the radio. But more than 20 times a day, that same Alexa device is activating and sending data to Amazon accidentally: And somewhere in an office block in Romania, someone is listening to it.
To secure our data, we must start to think more about local processing of data. Including searchable encryption and homomorphic data processing. All ways of minimizing data leakage. It can all be done. And we can do much of it right now.
But it needs someone to pay. For all our talk about how we want our data to stay “ours,” it is our data that is picking up the tab right now.
Image Credit: andres ayrton; pexels; thank you!
Technology Isn’t Always Productive – Here’s How to Use it Appropriately – ReadWrite
Technology has revolutionized the way we live, work, and play. It’s a field of miraculous, magical developments that always have the power to help us save time, do more, and ultimately become more productive.
Technology Isn’t Always Productive
You might have had some experiences with technology that make you question whether a new app, a new gadget, or a new system is actually adding value to your life.
For example, you might have upgraded to a new project management system that ends up taking twice as much time to use. Or, even more commonly, you might have found yourself endlessly scrolling through your Twitter feed in the middle of an important project.
As a generalized, overarching trend, technology definitely makes us productive.
We’re capable of far more than we were even 10 years ago, and new industries and opportunities emerge every year from new tech. But technology isn’t always productive – in fact, it can sometimes rob you of productive time.
What steps can you take to ensure that all your technology choices end in higher productivity (or at least neutrality)?
Here’s How to Use Technology Appropriately
Outline Your Goals in Advance
Before adopting any new technology, it’s important to outline all your goals in advance. What, exactly, are you hoping to achieve?
Many new technologies make vague promises about making your life better, and many consumers end up buying those products because they seem, in some ambiguous way, “better” than what you currently have.
For example, you have the option to upgrade your refrigerator to a smart fridge. But what are you actually hoping to achieve from this upgrade? Do you want your food to spoil less often? Do you want to stay better organized with your food purchases? A refrigerator upgrade may not be necessary to achieve these goals.
What does productivity mean to you?
You’ll also need to think about what “productive” actually means to you. If a piece of new technology improved your productivity, what would that look like? Some technologies automate or simplify some aspect of your job (or life), only to introduce new problems.
For example, you might develop an algorithm that automatically generates a reading list for you – but it doesn’t always work quite right, so you have to sort through the list manually. You’ve saved an hour on task A, but you’re spending an hour on a new task, task B.
The clearer your goals are, the less likely you’ll be to use technology that has a net negative effect.
Rely on Objective Data
When choosing new technologies and evaluating their ability to improve your productivity, you need to rely on hard, objective data. What, specifically, is this improving and how much is it improving it?
This will help you filter out:
- Cognitive biases. Human beings aren’t very logical creatures. We’re afflicted with a variety of cognitive biases that can distort how we perceive things.
- Subjective feelings. You might feel like your phone is making you more productive, but the data may say something otherwise. This frequently happens with new acquisitions; we often like to justify our investments and pretend there are benefits when there aren’t any.
- Claims and anecdotal reports. Tech companies often promote their products by citing good reviews and happy customers. But anecdotal evidence and personal claims rarely tell the full story.
Always Review Your Options in Depth
When searching for new technology, you’ll probably have many options to choose from. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of competitors in almost every imaginable niche, so it’s important to review your choices carefully before making a final call.
Consider these choices for your technology:
- Features and functionality. What does this product have that other competing products don’t have? Even more importantly, what does it do to boost your productivity?
- Flexibility and scalability. How much can this product change, grow, and evolve with your company? This is especially important if you’re going to scale your business.
- Intuitiveness and learnability. How long will it take to learn how to use this system properly? Low intuitiveness can compromise even the best tech investment.
- Ratings and reviews. When combined with other considerations, ratings and reviews can be valuable in helping you make up your mind.
- Objective metrics. More importantly, though, you’ll need to look at the numbers. How many hours could this save you? What new tasks will it require?
- Costs. There may be a new app or gadget that can boost your productivity by 10 percent. But if it costs $10,000 a year, it may not be worth it. Consider the costs as well.
Automate Whatever You Can – but Understand the Limits
Automation is one of the best ways to save time and increase productivity in a business environment. Accordingly, you should strive to automate whatever you can.
That said, there are some limitations to what you can automate effectively. Automation relies on predictability and consistency; in an environment with unknown variables or areas that require human creativity, automation becomes less practical.
Excessive automation can also compromise certain aspects of your business; for example, you might be able to automate all your email marketing and sales campaigns, but it could turn people off for being too repetitive and “cold.”
For the most part, you should strive to limit the number of apps you rely on, both to simplify your infrastructure and to minimize time spent jumping between systems.
You can do this by consolidating the functionality of several apps into one, relying on integrations to send data to and from various apps, and by resisting the temptation to buy new apps just because they’re new and look cool.
Set Limits and Restrictions
Some apps and devices make it hard to be productive because they occupy too much of your time or interfere with your life in some crucial way. Accordingly, it’s advisable to set limits and restrictions for yourself, sometimes within the apps themselves.
- Screen time. Most smartphones and modern devices have built-in settings and apps to help you track your screen time. You might even be able to limit it. This is especially important for apps and devices that tend to distract you or pull you away from more productive work.
- Notifications and distractions. You should also be aware that even one small distraction has the potential to harm your productivity for nearly an hour; it takes time to build focus and momentum, and even a seemingly small distraction can ruin that. Turn off notifications wherever and whenever possible and consider closing out apps that might distract you (such as your email account during a busy workday).
- Communication. Communication is valuable in any workplace or home, but modern technology makes it all too easy to get in touch with someone – even when they’re busy. Don’t drop everything you’re doing every time you get an email, instant message, or request for a video call; use your communication apps intentionally and mindfully.
Measure and Reflect
Rely on a combination of built-in tech tools, time trackers, and other analytics dashboards to keep track of your productivity and your progress. How are you using the various tools available in your arsenal? How much time are you spending on various platforms and on screens? How many hours are you working and how much were you able to get done?
Consistently measure your productivity and observe how it changes over time.
Don’t just assume that a new piece of tech is boosting your performance; try to prove it. If it’s not working for you, consider cutting it and moving onto something else.
If you aren’t careful, a new app, a new gadget, or another high-tech investment can end up working against you, either by distracting you, interfering with your work, or making something you were already doing harder.
As long as you think critically about your new tech adoption and continue to be discerning in your tech infrastructure, you can end up benefitting from new tech.
Image Credit: curioso photography; pexels; thank you!