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Archive for September, 2008

14
Sep

A thought-provoking article entitled Radical Desktops Deliver Power To The People over at Information Week got me wondering about what the impact of all this is for our customers at IncorTech.  Research presented in the article indicates that while 96% of end users in organizations surveyed contained pc’s running Windows XP with locally running apps, there is a lot of diversity out there.  For example, fully 26% of the same group surveyed have Mac’s.  30% surveyed have a SAAS product in use.  The one that scared me was that 35% have machines running Windows 2000, ME or earlier systems still in use!  (Scary because of system security.)

The shift to end users choosing the way they experience the tools they use everyday is apparent in even smaller firms.  If we take IncorTech for example, I myself have been using Macs since 2005 and I use a MacBook with virtualized Windows XP to demonstrate the applications we provide for our customers.  People everywhere are dumping Internet Explorer for Firefox for a variety of reasons.  And Google’s new Chrome browser is intended to provide all kinds of features that make the browser the primary software you’ll use on your computer.

Our software industry is often slowly influenced by consumer trends in computing.  However, the move to the web is happening faster and faster all the time.  Our desire at IncorTech is to offer our customers choice wherever possible.  In that regard, we’re looking to provide as many solutions as possible that allow you to choose whether you interact with an application hosted by someone or whether you host the application on your own server.  In some cases, we even find the technology permitting us to offer a traditional desktop client or a completely web-based client for the same database.

In the end, I think that customers’ demand for this kind of freedom from traditional platforms (especially as the mobile workforce becomes the rule and not the exception) will result in a requirement that business applications can be presented in web browsers.  Even as a Mac user, I had no idea that the iPhone would be such a significant player in business.  I figured it as more of an expensive toy – but with many application vendors creating special interfaces for iPhone users and the handset offering such high computing power, in barely a year, enterprise adoption of the iPhone is beyond expectations.

One final note: there is, fortunately, a bridge technology that allows traditional client-server applications to run from multi-platform web-browsers.  Citrix’ Access Essentials product actually allows the end user to open Internet Explorer, Safari or Firefox under Windows, Mac or Linux and launch applications from an icon that looks much like a desktop shortcut residing in their personal application portal.  This launched application retains the look of its native operating system platform but can be interacted with as if it was a window of a locally running application.  So, I as a Mac OS X user can run QuickBooks Enterprise without virtual machine technology on my Mac – no need for anther Windows XP license and no need for my IT department to maintain that virtual PC (anti-virus software and all) because its all running from the server, with great performance.  And it can be made accessible to me from anywhere.

The future of business applications is indeed exciting.

Category : Industry News | Opinion | Blog
13
Sep

It was nice to see some familiar faces and friends in Dallas.

The big news at the Conference was the unveiling of the new “Intuit QuickBooks Enterprise Suite 9.0” which incorporates some incredible SAAS offerings to extend the functionality of QuickBooks Enterprise.

ComputerWorld picked up on the story already and are comparing the move to add the “Sales Management ES” portion of the suite to that of taking on the Goliaths of SAAS CRM.  I think that may be an overstatement as the product is truly aimed at those who aren’t yet using an SFA solution that integrates with their (QuickBooks) accounting.

I was personally very pleased with the decision to give a free license for each of the “Enterprise Suite” web apps to all QuickBooks Enterprise customers so that the company can try out the application at no cost and decide if a rollout is a good idea.

I’ll have more to discuss about what makes Enterprise Suite 9.0 so special, but I’m having to watch out for compliance with Beta program NDA’s, etc.

Category : QuickBooks Enterprise | Blog
2
Sep

By themselves, these phrases and situations may seem at first to be innocuous.  However, without some clarification (and any software-industry person MUST be focused on clarity: of the sales process, the capabilities of their product and your needs, most of all), you may have a future software implementation disaster on your hands if you aren’t aware of what to look out for.

Sadly, in talking to some potential and future IncorTech Clients, I’ve learned a few of the “de-clarifying statements” and tactics used by some who are less than scrupulous and by some who are just ignorant of the importance of clarity to both their customers’ success and their own.  

I’ll highlight some of these “yellow lights” so that you – the customers – can benefit from others’ experience.  When you see a yellow light: its time to determine whether to stop or keep going.  I hope this information will guide you effectively in that event.  

1) “Yeah, we have that but its not automated yet.”

This is typically code for “our software doesn’t really do that.”  What it means: you’ll be using Excel to track that and if you’re lucky, it won’t cost too much for us to import it from your spreadsheets in a very manual fashion.  And that’s presuming there is somewhere to store that data in the system if its not information within what that system is typically able to track about the customers, vendors, items, transactions, etc.

2) “That will be in the next release”

And this may be true: however, it would be good to know if the release date has been announced by the publisher yet (publicly).  Even if the publisher has a typical release cycle, you can’t always take that to the bank.  Ask for something in writing from the publisher.  It could be a “pre-release guide” that illustrates the feature.  If you’re lucky enough that the reseller/partner you’re dealing with has beta access to the new release, ask if they can demonstrate the functionality for you.

3) Lowball services quotes.

We see this a little less these days, but it can certainly still rear its ugly head.  The practice of lowballing services estimates during the pre-sales process has been an unpleasant surprise for all too many small and medium sized businesses that didn’t have an accurate picture of the cost of their desired implementation.  The best bet to be able to spot this tactic is to know what is typical in your industry for the ratio of software cost to professional services.  For distributors, it may be relatively low for professional services, i.e. 1 to .75.  However: if you are buying a very low cost solution and expecting to implement some third party add-ons, this may change a bit.  For example: Sage MAS 90 is likely to follow that 1:.75 or 1:1 ratio whereas QuickBooks Enterprise (with its lower initial price) with a third party shipping integration may look more like 1:1.25 or 1:1.5.  In other industries, things can look really different.  Take professional services companies (like Architectural or Engineering Consultants): they maybe looking at 1:1.5 to 1:2.0 on software to services with leading products like Deltek Vision.  How should you find out what this looks like?  Call a colleague at a competitor who has implemented software in the last 3 years or less.  Asking for a reference provided by your solution provider may be helpful, but let’s face it: who gives out “bad references”?

I hope this information saves someone some time, money and heartache.  Changing software is not a decision companies make for fun.  Its a necessary step to ensure maximum output of the company’s resources: a must in today’s economy.  It shouldn’t need to be this hard to find a trustworthy partner, but it pays to be as thorough vetting the provider as the product you’ll eventually use.

Note: I am not a lawyer, this is my personal opinion, your mileage may vary, yadda yadda yadda.

Category : Opinion | Blog
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