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Sage Senior VP David van Toor writes on five ways that successful companies use social networking to manage conversations.

My take: van Toor really gets it. Social CRM is about conversations, not technology.

Category : CRM | Opinion | Sage Software | 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

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

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

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

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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