Almost two months have passed since we here at Odyssey transitioned to working from home. We’re fortunate in that the nature of our work meant that we had the infrastructure to do so. We’ve been able to test and find remote solutions over the years that have worked for us.

In light of a Gallup poll that revealed more than half of Americans would prefer to continue working at home, we’ve compiled some advice. It is important for businesses now more than ever to recognize that there will be a push for remote work after the restrictions have gone. Every industry will vary in its ability to adopt these solutions. Still, it is of great value to examine what your business can do now to work with the trend, not against, to prepare for the new normal.


Communicate regularly and purposefully.

There are many that find working from home better for their productivity. There are also some that can attest to dwindling motivation and ability to complete tasks. Usually this is due to the fact that there can and will be distractions, and adjusting to working from home can be tough.

Regular communication can help keep employees focused. Keeping it consistent will lend rhythm and pattern to their day, but be certain that it is with purpose. For example, a video meeting that runs long or includes unnecessary individuals can prevent employees from working well.

At Odyssey, our team is small enough that emails are quick but reliable. Microsoft Teams is also handy on occasion for less urgent, quick-one-off conversations. It helps separate our conversations and prevent long email threads, where priorities may get lost.

Adopt and make use of collaborative online tools.

One of the tougher things to solve for remote work is how colleagues will collaborate. Many businesses can overcome this by making use of online collaborative tools, like Google G Suite, Trello, or Monday.com.

Our developer team relies on Jira and Bitbucket for software development. They conduct code reviews, make iterations, and communicate changes made through these tools. Our UX team uses Moqups and InVision for planning and executing UI, collaborating with our developers and clients on their vision.

A huge part of collaborating is being able to share your work or your files. Luckily, many of the online tools already have a sharing method built in. But if your needs are beyond what they provide, then you should look into cloud storage solutions. Dropbox and Google Drive are very popular solutions. Microsoft SharePoint is an excellent alternative if your office already uses Microsoft products.

We recognize that needs vary industry by industry, and so there may not be a perfect solution out there. Businesses should consider then the value of working with a custom software development company. These companies can implement collaborative solutions that fit business functions and needs exactly.

Identify business functions that can go online or digital, and make the switch.

There are some business functions that are more difficult to switch to online or digital. But there are definitely parts of it that you can transition as a start. For example, there are excellent payroll services for small businesses like Gusto or ADP Run. There are also secure document services, like DocuSign or SignNow, that make it easier to send confidential documents that need signing.

Businesses can adopt electronic invoicing through various services. Use of these services usually means that businesses can accept payment online. It also means that receiving payments is quicker and more secure, instead of waiting for checks in the mail.

Taking the time to identify your necessary business functions and switching what you can will help streamline your business. It can save you time and money, as many of these services will also keep records, generate reports, and even help prevent costly mistakes.

Ensure your infrastructure is secure and updated.

An overlooked part of remote work is how to ensure that your infrastructure is secure. As we all move to online services, it is imperative that employees use these services in a safe and secure manner. Consider reminding employees of best security practices, like establishing unique passwords. Businesses can use password managers, like 1Password or LastPass, to help their employees choose secure passwords and safeguard confidential info.

Also consider potential security and productivity risks. Update your software and hardware as needed. Potential bugs in outdated software may compromise the security of your system. Improper hardware configurations may mean a few days offline, unable to work or access important files.


It can be difficult to make changes when you are not sure yet where you will be in a few weeks, months, or even at the year end. Even in “normal” times, changing to remote work is a big undertaking for any company.

We understand how difficult the switch is. We have gotten a close look at the many considerations that companies need to make in our work. We have also gone through the same infrastructure transition. From the lessons we’ve learned, we understand now that making these changes are not just for pandemic times. They’re also helpful and necessary for normal, everyday operation in this changing world.

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Introduced to the world as the technology behind Bitcoin, blockchain is becoming widely adopted across many industries as it allows for safe information storage as well as secure transactions without third party involvement. There are many industries that can particularly benefit from the technology, beyond the obvious banking and finance, including healthcare, manufacturing, and more. In fact, Statisa estimates over 55% of healthcare applications will have integrated blockchain solutions by the year 2025. With increased popularity, many of you may be asking yourselves, what is blockchain exactly? Below we will outline blockchain in the simplest terms possible and its implications for the future of software development.   

Blockchain, also known as Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT),  is, in simplest terms, an abiding and time-stamped record of data which is managed by a group of computers rather than owned by any one single entity. It gets its name as each “block” of data is secured and tied to each other through cryptographic principles, hence the “chain.” This is best explained through an analogy. Think of Google Docs. A user creates a piece of content and shares it with others. This content is not copied or transferred but simply distributed, giving everyone access at the same time. This is known as a decentralized distribution chain. Any changes to the document are being made in real time. No one is locked out, giving the document full transparency.  

It’s obviously a bit more complicated than that, but this analogy outlines the three most important qualities of blockchain technology. First, assets are distributed instead of copied. Second, digital assets are decentralized meaning everyone has access in real time. Third, a transparent ledger of all changes made creates trust in the integrity of the asset. How this works is a bit more difficult to understand, so instead we will focus on the ways in which blockchain technology can be harnessed by a couple of industries to mitigate risk, reduce fraud, and bring about transparency in a scalable way.   

Healthcare 

Blockchain has particularly powerful implications for healthcare as a means to securing and distributing patient data. Patient medical records can be stored on a blockchain, thus medical personnel can have a clearer and uninterrupted understanding of a patient’s medical history. As it currently stands, every time we switch insurance or medical groups, we often have to initiate the sharing of our medical information between groups in order for our current practitioner to have any sort of medical history. Even then, unless we do this every time, our history is often incomplete. Now imagine the Google Docs analogy above, but applied to our healthcare information. Medical records, now stored on a blockchain, can be shared and distributed granting healthcare practitioners concurrent access. Changes can be made by doctors in real time, with a detailed history of all changes and updates. Patients can have control over the data stored on the blockchain and who can access it. Overall, blockchain would increase the effectiveness of treatment given a more complete history of every patient.     

Political Voting   

With our current system, voters have to be physically present at a designated polling location to cast their vote unless they use a mail in ballot. This significantly affects voter turnout, as some may not be physically able to drop in on voting day during designated hours or don’t want to deal with a mail in ballot. Now imagine a world in which voting can be conducted online. Given concerns over security and fraud this has never been an option, however, blockchain technology presents an interesting and feasible opportunity for an online enabled system. Its hack resistant nature provides the security necessary for such a system, while a clear and transparent record of votes cast mitigates fraud. Just imagine how different our political landscape might be with significantly improved voter turnout!    

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Since the cloud is not a tangible object, it can be difficult to accurately define. The cloud is a way to provide processing power and store data across multiple computers in a secure manner without the use of personal hardware. This data and information can be accessed through a network connection, usually the internet. Cloud hosting specifically, is used to host your website or blog.

Cloud services are available through cloud hosting companies. These companies, like Microsoft Azure, maintain their own hardware that acts as a virtual machine for their customers. These physical servers can support cloud hosting for multiple customers. This reduces the total amount of equipment needed for hosting.

Benefits of Cloud Hosting

There are many benefits to using cloud hosting versus traditional servers, so let’s go over some of the main ones:

1. Since there is no hardware to maintain, there is no risk of you having to resolve any maintenance issues if the server malfunctions. If a server goes down, it can take a long time to get back up and running if you’re maintaining it yourself. By using the cloud, you’re reducing risk and increasing your websites reliability. Cloud companies guarantee fail over, so if a server were to malfunction, a backup server would automatically take over.

2. Cloud hosting is scalable which is both cost-effective, and great for the speed of your website. If your website’s traffic goes up and down, you can scale your services to the appropriate level. With many hosting plans, you pay for only what you need, so you’re never overpaying for a server that’s too powerful.

3. Setting up cloud hosting is much easier than setting up a physical server. Setting up a server requires a level of expertise that most people don’t have, unless you’re an IT Technician. With cloud hosting, there is a very simple way to get your site up and running quickly.

4. Most hosting services these days come with a user-friendly server management dashboard. This makes it easy to monitor your site’s traffic and scale your resources accordingly. These dashboards are made for non-tech experts, so you don’t need to hire someone to scale your server as needed. Not only does this save you money, but it saves you lots of time as well.

5. By not using any personal hardware and only utilizing the services you need, you’re using your resources more efficiently. With more and more companies and individuals prioritizing sustainability, cloud hosting is one of the simplest ways to reduce your environmental impact.

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Bots are software applications programmed to perform automated and repetitive tasks. These bots typically perform these tasks much quicker than a human could, making them a great business contribution for the sake of efficiency. There are different types of bots though, some more helpful than others, and some that just provide some entertainment.

The Good

Chatbots are one of the most common bots we interact with. Many of us use them daily, even if we don’t realize it. Chatbots are commonly used for e-commerce and can help customers do simple tasks such as look up an order or find store hours. These bots give programmed responses to certain keywords and phrases. Some are even programmed to have a little more personality than others. If you’ve ever asked Siri what the meaning of life is, you might be amused by the response.

Web crawlers are also a good type of bot, since they scan the internet and determine Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You are most likely familiar with Google and how they use these crawlers to decide which search results are the most relevant and reliable for the user. Web crawlers are able to scan 100’s of web sites in a matter of seconds, following all or their links and indexing significant words.

The Bad

Malicious bots are the ones that are commonly referenced when the word “bot” comes up, giving the entire technology a bad rap. These bots often carry viruses and are programmed to hack into accounts for personal information. Typically, they run scans for passwords and often seek financial information. Unfortunately, they can also be difficult to locate since these bots will disguise as files or programs that look and behave just like regular ones.

The Entertaining

Some bots are just for fun! These social bots are most popular on Twitter. These also perform singular tasks, but without any significant purpose other than entertainment. For example, on Twitter there is a bot that posts random images from the Museum of Modern Art archives, so you can see a new piece of art every day! Twitter, however, has made the process to create social bots much more complicated, attempting to subside malicious ones. This has caused many of these beloved accounts to disappear, since their creators don’t want to go through the application process.

Want to Build Your Own?

Fortunately, if you’re interested in creating your own chatbot, there are plenty of simple, and inexpensive options out there. These options, called non-programming chatbot builders, are generally for simple bots, and not those with Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities. If you would like a more complex chatbot, you will need some coding expertise, but there are plenty of platforms to help you build it.

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As 2016 comes to a close it is only natural to ponder as to the coming year and what may be in store from a technological standpoint. This includes not only new devices on the hardware side, but also the exciting possibilities on the software development side as innovation breeds greater more immersive experiences.  Here are a few of the likely greatest technology trends for 2017.

AI and Machine Learning

2017 will likely be the year of AI and other advanced machine learning technologies. This includes applications which can understand, adapt, and even predict behavior, largely driven by today’s extensive processing power, innovative algorithms, and access to colossal data sets.  In fact, there is hardly an industry that could not benefit from AI enabled capabilities, to be used to refine offers and the experience of customers. Thus, we should see a considerable surge by the world’s top companies exploiting any and every possibility. This also includes building intelligent ‘things’ which will harness the power of AI enabled systems.

Augmented Reality

So far, the capabilities of virtual and augmented reality have yet to be fully tapped in terms of commercial and consumer based applications, given their relative infancy and expense, however, we are likely reaching a tipping point in terms of accessibility.  In 2016 we were given a taste of mainstream AR with the insurmountable success of Pokémon Go, which was no doubt just the beginning of what is to come. Some even predict the technology will expand beyond mostly visual sense, to include all 5 senses or some variation based on the use case.  Regardless, the number of potentialities is exciting. Look out for some exciting announcements surrounding these technologies in the coming year.

Cloud based apps

It is not surprising the cloud is the future, not only logistically but based on user expectation, as 75% of all smartphone users now prefer applications with great cloud support.  Users want to be able to switch between any and every device without losing access to their data in addition to other usability benefits that come with a reliable back end. With this is mind, cloud integration as well as multi-device support will only become easier for the enterprise as the technology is perfected for even more seamless developments.

For more information about the latest technology and web trends, contact us today!

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