If you are a small business and your product is targeting consumers then get ready for one more platform for marketing. “PicSocial”, I coined this term to represent emergence of Social Media websites based on pictures only. I am talking about websites such as Instagram and Pinterest.
Picture is worth a thousand words, you bet
it is and its also worth 1000 times more effective. Posting beautiful product pictures on these social media websites can generate sales and improve brand visibility. Of course not all businesses can take advantage of these social networks. Companies with more consumer oriented products and products with component of fashion and arts are most suitable for these networks.
Enterprise Software: A guide for choosing the right enterprise software for your business
Today, the enterprise software is playing a crucial role in defining success of the company. Choosing right enterprise software to help employees achieve success is very critical. You can think of the enterprise software as equipment, without good quality and properly designed machine, you cannot make a good product. Similarly without neatly designed software, you cannot achieve your targets.
Looking at software as a machine will help understand the importance of the selection. It will also help identify what qualities are needed and what are not.
There are various Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Supply Chain Management (SCM), Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) and productivity software available. Many software are available as an open source free to use software. It is very important to choose the right software to avoid frustration and thus don’t get lured by open source software. We have tried to list seven major considerations for choosing right enterprise software for your company.
1. Identify the need
2. Determine the performance targets
3. Do your homework to develop structured workflows in the company
4. Cost Analysis
5. Initial planning and employee training
6. Disciplined Operations
7. Software is an expense and not an asset.
So let us get into details of these aspects of choosing right software.
1. Identify the need: Just because your competition or everyone around you is using software does not necessitate buying it. Every business is unique and has unique set of challenges and opportunities. So even before you decide to buy software or listen to presentations from vendors, please analyze your business and identify the need. There is a term in industry called “staple yourself to the order”. That means you should analyze every step in the process of acquiring orders, executing those orders and receiving payment for those orders. By reviewing every step of the business, you will be better placed to identify opportunities to automate, reduce processing time and avoid duplication. You will be surprised to know that lot of processes are unnecessary and are just a carryover from the past.
2. Determine the performance targets: once you identify the need, then you have to determine the targets. This is very critical step in final selection of the software as this defines what kind of tool your organization needs. If you need a better customer service then CRM is the solution, if you need a better cost control then ERP is the solution, if you have a compliance requirement then financial accounting software is the solution. There are many companies offering complete integrated solution and may try to sell complete package but if you do not need certain part of the package then please do not buy it. It will add complexity and may hamper productivity instead of improving it.
3. Do your homework: Once you select which areas of your organization need improvements then you can start your homework and analyze all processes. Using the software will be helpful only if there is a process that can be tracked by the software. Many organizations make the mistake of changing the process of the company to meet the requirements of the software. It is not in the best interest of the company to do so and hence first streamline processes to meet targets and then ask the software vendor to match those requirements and create workflows which match your process. This will help develop better control over your process and there by saving training time.
4. The cost: While performing cost-benefit analysis of the software, consider the complete cost of making that software work that means you have to add the cost of license fee, monthly maintenance fee, the cost of creating the databases, the cost of training your employees and the lost time due to new processes. Many companies completely ignore the last part. Cost of training the employees is important but when you incorporate change at the workplace, employees will see reduced productivity and you have to consider that extra time into the cost-benefit analysis. Another important aspect of performing a cost-benefit analysis is that it should be done either in-house or via third party consulting firm. Never ask the vendor or consulting arm of the vendor to perform the analysis, if you do that, you will always get a biased, very attractive cost-benefit report.
5. Long term success: Long term success of the software does not depend on launch time or time taken to train your employees in the beginning; the success depends on how efficiently your employees use it and how much improvement is seen in the productivity. So it will not be a good strategy to focus on launch date or implementation time. The company should focus on employee training and productivity tests.
Buying a software and implementing it is just a beginning of the whole process, the target of the firm should be to achieve promised benefits and the company should never lose sight of that goal.
6. Discipline: Preparing your organization to new software or new process involves a lot of work. And most important of all is incorporating discipline. Discipline in employees will define success or failure of the process. Aligning incentive structure and penalizing employees for indiscipline are good strategies to maintain the required level of seriousness and discipline. Your software is good only if the data entered into it is good so you have to pay a lot of attention into data collection and data entry.
7. Software is an expense: Many companies make the mistake of looking at the software as an asset. They proudly announce implementation of the software to media and on their websites. But they should not forget that software has no residual value. All software contracts include non-transfer clause, that means if you are not satisfied with the software and want to get rid of it, then you get no compensation back. A machine can be sold in second hand market if it does not fit your need but once you pay for software its an expense. So small businesses have to be very careful while selecting the software and should look into potential consequences before taking the decision.
You may feel that I am suggesting not to implement advanced enterprise software for your business. But that is far from true, enterprise software are vital for success of the corporation and you should equip your employees with best tools available in the market but at the same time you should not forget that giving a wrong tool does more damage than having no tool at all, so businesses have to be very careful before choosing the tool.
If you feel that your corporation needs help in selecting right software and need an unbiased cost-benefit analysis, then please contact us. Our team of experts will be glad to assist in analyzing your process and come up with right recommendations, Click Here and fill out a simple form.
We have listed top 20 must have apps for your business. Using tablets as a productivity tool is very common. We are suggesting following apps to improve your productivity and help you manage your business better. These apps will be very useful for small business owners to get best out of their smart phones and tablets and the best part is these apps are completely free. These are some must have apps for Nexus 7,iPad or any other tablet you use.
- Kingsoft Office: One of the best free office apps I have used. Handles word, excel, power point and PDF documents. It also handles office 2010 extensions such as xlsx and docx. It has a graphic interface similar to the office 2010 with a ribbon running on top. The app is well designed and is very useful for small business owners who want to work on their smart phones or tablets even when they are offline.
- CloudOn: If you cannot live without Microsoft Office and want to use it on your tablet, then this app is your best option. Its free but will need WIFI or data connection to use. Its little slow but offers complete office suit from cloud.
- Dropbox: I don’t have to explain what is does. It syncs all your files in the folder on multiple devices so that you are ready with your data from anywhere. You can even download files on your tab to make it available offline
- Box.net: It is a service which is similar to Dropbox. Many will think why I need another cloud storage service, but I recommend using box.net as it is more geared towards businesses. Also it gives you access to Box’s OneCloud which is a program similar to Google docs.
- Astrid Tasks/ To-do list: A very neat task manager. Syncs with your Google Task calendar which can be synced with your Outlook. This provides a two way syncing so you don’t miss a single task. As a business owner, last thing you want is missing a deadline.
- Cloud Print: Sometimes you want to print something but you don’t have time to start your computer then cloudprint is a great solution for it. It syncs with Google cloud print. This allows you to print any file on your tablet or dropbox folder, you do not need to buy an email ready printer all you need is a network connected printer.
- Convertpad : World never agreed to one system for unit measurement and hence we have to keep data in Celsius, Fahrenheit, miles, kilometers, centimeters and inches. Convertpad is one great app to handle all your unit conversions so when next time your customer asks you what is the weight of the system in Kilograms? you are ready.
- Groove IP Lite: Best app to take advantage of Google Voice. Google voice is a great service allowing you to unify all your messages and also provides a voicemail. Groove IP lite is the free ad supported version of Groove IP pro. This app will turn your tablet into your phone. It allows you to call freely within US and Canada (Till Dec 2012) and also offers cheap international calling. (Its really cheap)
- ES File Explorer: If you are looking to manage files on your tablet or phone in style similar to Windows then this is the app you should get. The best part is it allows you to manage all your cloud storage, local memory and servers from one interface. You can sync your dropbox, box.net, google drive, windows skydrive and sugarsync. You can also add computer over the local area network and see all the files on the computer. So no need to upload your file to dropbox in order to get it on your tablet.
- Easy Voice Recorder: Sometime you want to record a meeting or conversation to take notes later on. You can use this simple app to record good quality audio which can be used later for reference. You can also directly share the file from within the app.
- Evernote: Meetings can be demanding and if you don’t want to miss out important points then Evernote is a great solution. Organize your notes using different sections.
Also share your notes with your colleagues and clients. And rest assured all your notes are backed up on cloud. You can access it through browser.
- Fuze meeting HD: If you are on the go and want to hold meeting online then this free tool will be very useful. The app is optimized for tablets and works on the landscape mode. It allows free presentation sharing and audio conference. For Video conference you will need to pay the subscription.
- Gotomeeting: The free version only allow you to attend the meeting. If you subscribe to the service then you will be able to launch the meetings from your tablets. The reason why I included this app in addition to Fuze meeting is that major corporations use Gotomeeting as their online meeting service and if you want to join the seminar or meeting of your interest you should be ready.
- Gasbuddy: Though you can conduct most of your meetings online, there is always a need to go to client and interact face to face. This is very critical in building relationships and improving business. Gasbuddy is perfect to finding cheap gas around where you are. It is a crowd sourced data delivery app which provides gas prices updated by actual users. You can view the prices on map and sort for cheapest. Cut your gas prices using this nice app.
- Google Services: (Voice, Maps, Navigation, Google+, Google Currents) I included all under one tab as these services are under “Must Have” category.
Most of you already know the use of the service and hence I won’t get into details. One advice download them and start using them effectively.
- LinkedIn: If you like Facebook then your business likes LinkedIn. The network is growing rapidly adding many professionals from all across the world every day. The forums and groups are great way to explore what your peers are doing. LinkedIn is also great to build your network and develop industry contacts. Get this app and grow your network
- Pocket: 4G data is expensive and if you don’t want to waste the data but still want to read on the go then this is an app for you. Many people have wifi only tablets and for them this is a must have. Using pocket (previously known as read it later) application downloads the webpage or article you want to read and stores it on the tablet temporarily. If presents all the articles in a nice thumbnail format. Once you read it and mark it as read the article is removed from the pocket.
- Skype: Ok this is obvious. If you have international or long distance customers then you have to have it. Video conference of the basic order, Skype is a gem of a service. It allows you to cut down you telephone costs and travel costs. It also helps in communicating effectively with your customer.
- Avast Mobile Security: It is always better to be secure. Avast movile security is a free service to protect your tablet. I chose Avast because it also provides a desktop software and it is better to have uniformity. You can choose any other trusted service for antivirus service and if you are a small business then its ok to use a free service. If you are enterprise customer then you should upgrade to paid service and get extra security.
- Chrome: Use chrome on your tablet, laptop, desktop and mobile. Not only because it is fast but also because it syncs everything. If you open a webpage on your desktop you can view it on you tablet without sharing or emailing yourself. Also it syncs all your bookmarks and also sync all auto fill information. Very good on security and utility.
Here is the presentation slides if you want to share with your friends.
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