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The 5/5/2009 issue of Selling Power shared some very interesting findings of a recent study conducted by the Gartner Group.

Gartner recently conducted a worldwide survey of 1,527 CIOs in the fourth quarter of 2008 in which CIOs identified their top business priorities for 2009. The survey showed – shockingly – that attracting and retaining customers had dropped from second to fifth place. “Although still highly placed, customer service is receiving less emphasis than cost cutting,” says Gartner vice president Michael Maoz. “Of course cost cutting is essential in the current economic climate, but knowing how to cut costs without damaging the customer experience is critical, and the role of the contact center is crucial to this.”

Customer service, as delivered through the contact center, currently suffers from an overall lack of commitment to the customer service representative (CSR) in the form of tools, training, and compensation. Companies need to redouble their efforts in this area and extend the customer Web site, add multiple communications channels, and plan carefully to improve agent performance through the introduction of new technologies, according to Maoz.

Gartner predicts that by 2012, managing Web interactions will be a core competency of the contact center, with customers expecting the contact center CSR to know their Web posts in relevant online communities at the time of a telephone interaction. This will mean that by 2014, it will be an accepted practice in 30 percent of contact centers to have two standard monitors on each agent’s desktop. “Contact centers present the best chance to favorably impress customers, and yet organizations continue to drive customers away from interactions with people,” says Maoz. “With better processes and tools to support the system, an organization can demonstrate its competency and its knowledge of the customer’s needs.”

What steps have you taken since the beginning of 2009 to modernize the tools you provide to the people who service your customers?

Gartner recommends the following:

Personalize Your Customer Assistance.
Set up your customer service so that CSRs can connect directly with individual customers, rather than just be pulled from a pool. This reduces agent churn (a big expense) by giving CSRs a better feeling of competency and success.

Redesign Your Contact Center Application.
In order to be productive, CSRs will want and need a more compelling, responsive, and intuitive CRM interface to match the experience with the consumer applications that they take for granted.

Integrate the Web into Interactions.
Customers will soon expect an organization to lead them (as required) from self-service on the Web by detecting that they need help, then guide them into an assisted chat session and/or co-browsing session (if necessary), then transfer them into a telephone conversation.

Don’t Skimp on CSR hardware.
With the rise of multichannel and multimodal interactions, Gartner expects most contact center managers to consider either a second monitor for each desktop or a wide (landscape) monitor for better, faster navigation by the CSR.

And I’ll add my own $.02 here: for the smaller business, even the simplest of CRM systems that allows you to aggregate communications that occur between your staff and customers will empower them with what really should be considered the bare minimum of tools. Outlook by itself doesn’t count. As a service rep, you’ll need to login and see what one rep promised a customer and when. Outlook can’t show that chain of communications with multiple members of your customer service and sales team. It’s time to re-think what will allow you to retain and get more customers. All of the cost-savings in the world won’t matter if your competitor who makes it easier to do business with them invests in these relationship-enhancing technologies and you do not!

Category : CRM | economy | Blog

Before I get started on my (highly opinionated) post, a disclaimer: there are times when custom programming makes good business sense.

I also like to make an important distinction between “configuring” software and “customizing” software. Customers of ours are not frequently software professionals and therefore do have a tendency to interchange the two terms. That’s understandable but the implications of the two are very different for them.

Configuring software is all about using the toolsets provided by the publisher to mold the software (as closely as possible) around your specific business processes. Of course, the more sophisticated the software, the more this becomes a possibility. QuickBooks Enterprise, for example, offers limited configurability as compared with Sage MAS 500, a product intended to support larger enterprises.

Customizing software is when you take and modify the source code. This typically has some important ramifications for the software licensee because there are often ongoing costs to maintain the modifications when new software releases are made available by the publisher.

A unique advantage of Sage MAS 90 and MAS 200 (thanks to its popularity and longevity) is that a vast collection of product enhancements called “Extended Solutions” exist to affordably provide additional and modified functionality to MAS 90 and MAS 200 owners without the added expense of truly “custom” programming.

Currently, Sage is highlighting a choice selection of Extended Solutions to help customers who are looking to mitigate credit risks and managing invoicing and account groupings more efficiently.

Here are the current Extended Solutions recommended for the following key areas:

1. Improve awareness of account status with these or similar solutions:
AR-1115 Enhanced Credit Checking ($895 + $265 Maintenance)
This addition strengthens the ability to manage past due receivables and provides a credit warning window pop-up if an account has past term invoices prior to taking new orders.
AR-1216 Invoice History Collection Notations ($1295 + $265 Maintenance)
Adds the ability to add collection notes to AR Invoice History Records so the user can keep track of collections activities on an invoice by invoice basis.
AR-1054 – Automatic Credit Hold Utility ($795 + $265 Maintenance)
Allows you to set a customer’s Credit Hold flag by printing the Aged Invoice Report. A customer will be flagged as on Credit Hold if they have either exceeded their credit limit or have an AR account balance greater than zero on or before the Credit Hold Aging Cutoff Date.

2. Manage invoices and statements more effectively with these or similar solutions:
SO-1121 Multiple Sales Orders on a Single Invoice ($1095 + $265 Maintenance)
Enables you to create a single Sales Order Invoice with lines from multiple Sales Orders for the same customer.
SO-1241 Invoices with Multiple Due Dates ($1195 + $265 Maintenance)
This solution allows a company to provide a ‘payment plan’ to their customers, to establish installed payments toward a large invoice.
AR-1235 Statement Printing with Sales Order Selection ($895 + $535 Maintenance)
Provides a consolidated billing document for customers with multiple Sales orders.

3. Group accounts more efficiently with these or similar solutions:
AR-1068 National Accounts ($1195 + $265 Maintenance)
Provides the ability to designate a ‘Bill to’ customer for their “Sold to” customer accounts.
AR-1200 Cash receipts by Invoice Number ($995 + $265 Maintenance)
For companies who receive payments referencing a third party or DBA, where the company name on the payment doesn’t match the company name maintained in Sage MAS 90 or 200.
AR-1239 Multi Company Customer Synchronization ($1095 + $535 Maintenance)
For customers who maintain more than one company in Sage MAS 90 or 200 and also have the same customer in multiple companies.

For more titles, please reference the Extended Solutions online Product Directory. Contact your IncorTech representative today for detailed pricing information and assistance with installation, setup and product trial versions.

Category : Sage Software | economy | Blog

No matter how small, disciplined project management is critical to meeting today’s metrics for a successful project.

A recent video at e-Week on the subject nails it on the head:
the IncorTech Advantage Project Management Methodology

With resources so precious, virtually all IT projects are under intense scrutiny by C-level executives looking to cut costs. Adding to the pressure, many departments have fewer staff to carry out projects and morale is low as employees anticipate additional cuts.

As a result, project management becomes more important in today’s bad economic conditions. IT project managers need to take into account and understand how the downturn may affect their operations and take then appropriate actions.

From QuickBooks Enterprise to Sage MAS 500 ERP and SalesLogix CRM implementations, IncorTech has significantly revamped our own internal practices for project management to dramatically improve project delivery. The result: Customers feel more in control of project budgets and we’ve been performing with greater consistency in every project.

Has the current economy forced you to re-evaluate the importance you place on project management in your own business? What steps have you taken to become more effective at project management? Have you emphasized education (PMP Certification, etc)? Have you performed internal process reviews?

Category : Project Management | economy | Blog

Yesterday’s newly publicized offer just isn’t enough.  I know I’ve got to do more.

I know that assisted payroll in light of the new laws affecting withholdings is attractive to many of you, but it’s time to do something really much bigger than that to help all of you small business owners who are trying to make your business as efficient as possible in light of the larger economic situation.

So, we’re pulling out the stops and giving away the farm.

If you’re switching to QuickBooks Enterprise from a qualified competing product, act fast because I’m still giving away 8 hours of free consulting (training, installation, whatever you need) to anyone who switches from a qualified competing software package (no, other QuickBooks products are not going to count, we’re talking Microsoft, Netsuite, Sage, etc.) But this ends very soon -  3/31/09.

On to the big stuff:

We are giving away EVERYTHING on the list below if you buy QuickBooks Enterprise from IncorTech in March or April:

  • 3 Months of Free Intuit Merchant Services (for credit card processing)
  • 2 Months of Free Assisted Intuit Payroll Services
  • Free Mastering QuickBooks Enterprise Training DVD ($395 value)
  • Free user of Intuit Business Analysis ES
  • Free user of Intuit Field Service Management ES
  • Free user of Intuit Warehouse Management ES
  • One year free Video Marketing Starter Package from SpotMixer
  • Free DreamTeam Document Manager 1-User from DreamFactory
  • Free DreamTeam Project Manager 1-User from DreamFactory
  • Free TrueCommerce EDI software (a $795 value)

Click for more info on our insane QuickBooks Enterprise Bonus Giveaway.

Category : QuickBooks Enterprise | economy | Blog

What Does the $800 Billion Economic Stimulus Have to Do with Payroll?
Besides possibly putting $400-800 in your employees’ pockets, the bill’s payroll tax credits and COBRA provisions will mean changes to how employers handle payroll taxes and quarterly tax filings. The IRS asks that employers calculate federal withholding and advance earned income credit payments with the new tables just issued as soon as possible, but no later than April 1st, 2009.

What’s a Small Business Employer to Do?
Call IncorTech at 888-200-4171, of course! We’ll help you sign up and get your first two months of Intuit Assisted Payroll for FREE if you sign-up by April 30. Leave it to Intuit to handle all the hassles of the Economic Stimulus bill, so that that you can spend your time running your business.

What is Intuit Assisted Payroll?
Intuit Assisted Payroll is a payroll service that gives employers control to pay their employees anytime and have Intuit handle payroll taxes at 35-50% less than the cost of ADP or Paychex. It provides:
1) Payroll specialists to help employers with the payroll set-up, step-by-step and unlimited access afterwards to answer any questions.
2) Easy payment of employees by employers who have entered their hours into QuickBooks with a few clicks. Intuit Assisted Payroll Service automatically calculates employee deductions, taxes, etc.
3) Choice to either print paychecks or use Direct Deposit to pay employees
4) Confidence with Intuit handling the tax filings and payments. We calculate all tax payments and file tax forms for employers with an Intuit guarantee that they will be accurate and on time.

See a 4 minute Demo movie on Assisted Payroll.

Category : QuickBooks Enterprise | economy | Blog

Each year, the CPA Technology Advisor posts its Year-In-Review and Executive Predictions article. For 2009, Executives in the business software industry made some very interesting predictions that I think any business owner or accounting technology manager would do well to take note of.
Some of these are trends already in motion, but which will reach critical mass in the near future of 2009 and beyond.

Prediction #1: Working Remotely

Meeting client, firm and employee needs requires anytime, anywhere access to information and knowledge. No longer a 9-to-5 desk job, firms report that, on average, 22 percent of their professional staff works remotely to some extent and nearly one-half expect to see this increase over the next three years.

Prediction #2: SAAS To Replace Traditional Software
by Shafat Qazi

Software-as-a-Service will replace desktop software in the next 10 years, completely. The rate at which people will transform to browser-based, or cloud computing, is going to grow exponentially in the next few years, and will really begin to take off in 2009. It will grow tremendously from there. The nature of this change is as significant as the boom for the personal computer was in the 1980s or as e-mail was in the 1990s. As a simple example, what e-mail did to the fax, SaaS will do to desktop computing.

Prediction #3: Outsourcing Continues as Broadband Availability Increases
by Shafat Qazi

The world is going to get even flatter. The ability for us to collaborate with other teams around the world is going to become more and more possible because the countries that did not have the capability a few years ago are rapidly implementing newer technologies, with broadband often being available free to homes and businesses. So opportunities for collaboration with remote companies or offshore companies is going to be astounding. This is a massive change wherein the playing field is going to level-off even further in the next few years and more workflow processes that were traditionally handled locally will increasingly be processed remotely. While this has nominally been around for a few years, we see it growing exponentially in many new areas including functions in the legal and accounting professions. The rapidly increasing and often free availability of broadband access across the world is going to change the dimension of the working class, shifting it to countries where the processes can be done more rapidly and efficiently.

Prediction #4 (FREE BONUS PREDICTION!): More Automation & Efficiency in Small Businesses
by Shafat Qazi

Automation of business processes will boom. Most businesses, from small to big, are realizing the considerable benefit of automation across virtually all of their work processes, and they will start to invest significantly more in automation technologies, perhaps 2 to 3 times more, in the next few years. More and more businesses have seen the value offered by the productivity enhancements and efficiency gains of automation, from good email systems, to exchange-based domains, to popular accounting software and enhanced collaborative tools like SharePoint. Many of these businesses have just started to wet their feet, but this area is about to explode in the next few years, with greater investment in these technologies.

Hope you enjoyed those! Any predictions of your own for the world of business management technology in 2009? Please share with a comment!

Category : Industry News | Opinion | Small Business IT | economy | Blog

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If you would like to find out more about how to keep your new project pipeline full,
visit the free download page right now. Practical ideas you just won’t find anyplace else
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We look forward to getting your feedback on the materials – so be sure to come back and
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IncorTech: Incorporating Technology for Project-Driven Businesses

Category : Deltek Vision | economy | Blog

I had a very powerful meeting yesterday. It was one of those rare instances where the people I was speaking with were focused on building a relationship first and doing the “business thing” second. It was a real exercise in understanding who we were and how we would be with great clarity. It enabled trust to happen. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my years of professional selling, trust is everything. In fact, if we are able to trust one another, we get more business taken care of faster and more profitably than could otherwise be possible. (Trust-Based Selling is a great book on this subject.)

It is a rare thing that you meet an individual who is focused and present when you are speaking to them. That is because it is so easy to be mentally busy. We all have a lot of concerns on our mind about how the global economy is doing, how our own 401k’s are looking. It’s at times like these when it is challenging to put others first – to be really fully focused on whether we’re making a difference by our actions or just making a living.

Perhaps that is why my meeting yesterday was so refreshing. We spent time talking about a passion for helping disadvantaged children through the Crenshaw YMCA. Did we get business accomplished? You bet we did. But we also talked about how business can be a vehicle for making a difference: transforming the lives of children in poor areas of Los Angeles and transforming ones industry by holding a higher standard of integrity.

In his recent article, “Can You Make a Living and Make a Difference?” Dawud Miracle touches on this subject as well.

It’s an interesting thing to contemplate. Am I just running my business to make money or am I running my business to make other people’s lives better.

It’s a question, actually, I ask myself often. As a business advisor and web developer, I have plenty of opportunity to make money. That’s never an issue. Prospective clients contact me constantly asking how I can help them.

And there lies the purpose – helping the coaches, consultants, therapists, healers and other small business owners who contact me. That’s where my business makes a difference.

So, how about you? Are you making a living? Or are you making a difference?

Category : Opinion | economy | Blog

The American Institute of Architects has created an information-packed section of their website
aimed at helping Design and Construction Management firms to make good choices to manage their finances in today’s economy.

Rena Klein FAIA weighs in on how to best weather the storms looking at the pros and cons of personnel changes in this podcast.

Rena’s insights are sobering and valuable. A key concept: carefully consider company morale and the talent that could be walking out the door if you follow an urge to use layoffs to control costs.

What steps are you taking to ensure your firm not only survives but perhaps gains competitive ground in the present economic climate? Many firms have successfully capitalized on downturns by marketing more aggressively while competitors scale back their marketing efforts. What are you planning? Will you advertise more, less or the same?

Technorati Profile

Category : economy | Blog

As a guy who holds a Bachelor’s degreen in Economics & Finance, I find the banking system particularly

Engineering News-Record

interesting. In fact, my favorite professor taught a really dynamic class called “Money & Banking” that had us explore the Federal Reserve Banking System’s non-government / non-private monopoly on inter-bank lending and other interesting powers held by that monolithic institution.

Being a proponent of free markets, I am fond of policies that are not socialist in their leanings. That said, the current situation does at first appear to need a “government bailout” (read – taxpayers will eat it). However, William Angelo of the Engineering News Record proposes the following idea in his blog post entitled “A No-Cost RX for Our Economy“:

the answer to the Wall Street Ponzi scheme is simple – instead of a securities auction to buy so-called toxic paper from the banks, why not require that all suspect mortgages be renegotiated – free of charge – to prime plus 1/4 % over 30 years. That will cut usurious rates and stabilize payments and keep people in their houses. It’s called blowback. End of crisis and no taxpayer dollars involved. The banks that scammed the system eat the costs. Next time use fiscal prudence. As for the mortgagees, they should be required to make a one-time payment to the U.S. Treasury amounting to one percent of the loan. No scam goes unpunished and the taxpayers win.

Why didn’t our congress at least try to think out of the box instead of throwing free money at losers who mismanaged the money they had to lend? Why should any badly managed business be able to get a handout from the government? In a free market, bad business ideas (and sub-prime lending is one of them) should fail. That’s how we get more efficient and desirable outcomes for the consumer.

Category : Opinion | economy | Blog
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