Blog

April 5th, 2013

ERP_April03_AHow many spreadsheets do your employees depend on to keep the business running smoothly? Five, twenty, sixty? If you were to poll your employees you would probably be surprised how big the actual number is.

That poll could also provide a wake-up call when you saw the type of information that employees are tracking in an unsecured document. For example, some of the most common uses of spreadsheets include:

  • Payroll and employee information,
  • Customer contact data,
  • Inventory, including warehouse locations,
  • Delivery and service schedules,
  • Project timelines and due dates,
The list goes on and on. For many companies, many of the most important functions of the business are tracked in Excel.

Risky business

People use spreadsheets because they are comfortable with them. Spreadsheets are easy to learn and becoming more powerful with every version release. But overuse poses a significant risk to the business, including:

  • Incorrect formulas that could lead managers to make poor decisions,
  • Version mix-ups are common, especially when more than one person works on a file,
  • Unsecured information that lands in the wrong person’s email or is on a disgruntled employee’s hard drive,
  • Lack of backups for documents on local hard drives – especially in the face of a natural disaster.
Unsecured information puts your business at risk and dispersed information wastes employees time.

Centralize and share

To build a foundation for your company to grow, you need to centralize and share the information your employees need to complete their tasks efficiently.  The most effective method for building that foundation of centralized data is with an ERP system.

An ERP system will allow you to provide role-based access to information – securely opening up the data that people need to do their jobs no matter where they are. Employees will spend more time doing their job and less time figuring out whether they have the latest spreadsheet.

Let’s talk about your company’s spreadsheets and find a better way to do business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 5th, 2013

VoIP_April03_BImagine the last time you were dealing with a frustrated customer over email. It can be hard to convey meaning through the digital medium, context is often missed. That's why a good old-fashioned phone call can do wonders. Traditional phone systems are a large investment, however there is an alternative: Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

The question many business owners ask is: Can it bring any benefits to my business? In short, yes, it can. Here are five benefits of VoIP.

1. Automation Most VoIP systems can be easily configured to route calls to numbers without the need of an expensive switchboard. This means that you could route calls to your mobile phone when you are out of the office.

Any good phone system offers callers the ability to leave messages. Some VoIP systems can take voicemail messages and turn them into emails, which makes it easier for you to track and reply to these messages.

2. Larger appearance Solid VoIP systems allow you to have different numbers that can route into one branch. For example, if you have a presence in four states, you can set a local number in each state and when users call, they are automatically routed to your office.

By having a local presence, many customers will think your business is bigger than it really is, and may be more trusting. Similarly, you can also assign numbers to different 'departments' that get routed to one phone. This is a great way of making your company seem bigger and more reliable.

3. Features With most traditional phone services, you have to pay extra for features like all display, extra numbers, call monitoring, etc. VoIP systems often include these features and more at little to no extra cost.

4. Savings As VoIP uses your Internet connection, calls are not geographically routed which means that a phone call that would normally be considered long distance, isn't on VoIP. This translates to lower phone bills. These systems don't require complex infrastructure and wiring that traditional phone systems do. Existing phones can be easily integrated into VoIP systems with a small piece of hardware, meaning you won't need to invest in new hardware.

5. It's scalable It is easy to add numbers and phones to any VoIP system. This means that when you hire new employees, you can quickly (often in as little as three minutes) and easily assign them a number and a phone at little to no cost. This means that as you grow, the system grows with you.

If you are looking to update your current phone system or save money, please contact us today. We may have the VoIP solution that fits your business needs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
March 29th, 2013

ERP_March27_AAs you consider the options for the future of your organization’s IT management, there are many factors to consider. Should you move applications to the cloud to reduce IT burden? If so, which applications?

There is a growing trend to add ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) to the list of applications that should be moved to the cloud. ERP support likely consumes a large chunk of time from your IT staff. Whether hosted or SaaS (software as a service), cloud-based ERP can significantly ease the burden on an overworked IT staff.

Five decision points

Of the many factors to consider in moving ERP to the cloud, five stand out as the most common first issues to address, including security, cost, accessibility, integration and transportability.

  • Security of cloud-based ERP. While many business owners feel strongly that their data is more secure if it is under their own roof, that is often a misconception. The security and disaster recovery of a professionally managed data center is probably far more secure than the server room of most companies.
  • Cost savings from moving ERP to the cloud. Cloud based ERP eliminates the need to purchase and keep current the hardware and software required to keep ERP software running at peak performance. With most hosting and SaaS ERP offerings, upgrades are included in the fees to significantly cut IT support costs.
  • Access for employees working remotely.  According to recent studies, most companies now have employees who work from home or in the field. Keeping those employees connected to the information they need to respond to customers and complete their work is essential. Since cloud-based ERP solutions are designed to be accessed via the internet, remote workers will have the same experience as those workers in the office.
  • Integration with other business applications. Most businesses rely on many applications to serve customers and create value. The integration tools of today make connecting applications easier than ever. Many companies are using a hybrid approach, where some applications are hosted or SaaS and some are housed and supported internally.
  • The ability to change. Change is part of business, which makes it imperative to ensure that the ERP cloud provider that you work with will support your decision if your decide to move on. The ability to migrate your data to a different platform, should the need arise, is an important discussion to have early on in the decision process.
A unique decision

Every organization is unique and your decision to move applications to the cloud will be based on your requirements. Take the time to evaluate carefully and ask the questions that will ensure your organization’s success. If you would like more information to help evaluate your cloud options, let’s talk soon.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 22nd, 2013

ERP_March20_AAs the owner of your business or manager of a department, you are faced with decisions every day. Decisions that can change the course of the business. If you are like most businesses, your decisions are based on the monthly financial statements. Reports created through a manual process where your accountant combines data from multiple financial and operational systems.

If you are lucky you receive the reports about a week after the last day of the month.

Month old information Think about how much can happen in a month in today’s terms. Your customers – whether they are businesses or consumers – are making buying decisions based on a daily diet of information overload. How can you stay ahead of your customers if you are working on information that is a month old?

You need real time information to remain competitive and responsive to your customers. Information from across the company, delivered in a way that you can easily understand to make smart decisions quickly.

Consolidation is key Collecting all of your business data in a single software solution, like an integrated ERP system, is the most efficient way to deliver real time information for your business. Combining financials, manufacturing, supply chain, project and services management, human resources and payroll allows you to monitor all the important metrics in one place.

With combined information, you can offer role tailored dashboards to give your managers the information that they need without data that could distract them. Employees can find the information that they need to serve customers quickly without searching in three different systems. Your decisions will be based what’s happening now, not last month.

Let’s talk about how you can consolidate the information in your organization to respond at the speed of business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 13th, 2013

SocialMedia_March12_BWhen it comes to social media, each user has their network of preference. Many chose to use more than one, and because of this, trends from one tend to transfer over to others. One such popular idea, first launched on Twitter is now being used on almost every network. Yes, we are talking about the hashtag (#). Love it or hate it, it could help your networking.

The hashtag (#), commonly referred to on telephone systems as the pound key, is a character first used by users of the popular social network Twitter. According to the help forum on Twitter, "It is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages."

Look at nearly any Twitter message and there will usually be hashtags attached. If you were to search for the term e.g., #Cloudbackup on Twitter, you would get a list of all tweets that have mentioned the above example. When Twitter talks about a 'trending topic' it means a subject that has become popular.

This way of categorization has become so popular amongst Twitter users that it's starting to spill over onto the other networks. Instagram for instance has given members the ability to add hashtags to pictures, so that they can be added to groups which can subsequently be searched for. Even Google has gotten in on the act, with Google+ and YouTube both supporting this system.

With Facebook, the hashtag has come to give context to a status. You've probably seen some status updates such as: I love Mondays #sarcasm #bored. This should be read with a sarcastic and slightly bored tone.

Because of the usefulness of the hashtag, some users have become overzealous in their use. Reading a Tweet that says '#Friday is #awesome, here comes a #fun #weekend.' just looks unprofessional and could put off followers.

While effective, there are some basic rules you should follow to help get the most out of your hashtags. Here's four.

  1. No long hashtags. Hashtags are meant to be short and associated with one word. Don't make the mistake of adding more than about two words together, as the likelihood of users finding the tag will decrease. e.g., #Cloudservicesareawesome should be avoided, use #cloudservices instead.
  2. Minimize their use. It can be tempting to hashtag every keyword in messages, however makes them look weird, while decreasing their readability. It is a good idea to limit use to one or two per message.
  3. The hashtag is special. Don't use it for everyday words. Instead use it for product names, or a special part of the announcement. Remember that you don't have to use hashtags in every message. Check out Samsung Mobile's Twitter feed to see a good example of proper use.
  4. Use a unique hashtag. If you can, try to use a unique hashtag, something that followers will be able to associate and relate to you. The key here is that when it's used, the user is referred to you, and only you. Do a quick search on Twitter for the hashtag you would like to use, to ensure it's not taken. Many companies will shorten their tag to initials or a shorter term, which is perfectly acceptable.
Hashtags, when used correctly, can be a great way to build brand identity and increase social media presence. If you are looking for a social media plan, please contact us today to see how we can #expandbrands.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
March 5th, 2013

ERP_Mar05_AWhile you are undoubtedly looking for ways to attract new customers, are you spending enough time building the revenue from each of your existing customers? Customers who have had positive experiences with you in the past are more likely to do business with you again. They trust you.

You also have information about those customers. You know what they purchased, whether they paid on time and where they are located. An integrated ERP system allows you to take that information and analyze it from different angles. By looking for trends and similarities among your existing customers, you gain insight that can build all your accounts.

Identify your best customers The first step you should take is to determine which customers deliver the most profits to your business. That may not mean the highest revenue customers - high volume customers may demand reduced prices from you with threats of going to the competition.

By matching up the actual costs of dealing with each one of your customers you will get a better understanding of their contribution to your bottom line. From sales expense through cost of delivery, evaluating the actual costs compared to revenues from each of your customers may deliver some surprising results.

The real benefit of an integrated ERP system is that it allows you to combine the information from different departments and different locations. With centralized information, you can evaluate customer value based on the all the interactions that they have with your business.

Predictive sales and packaging When you can identify similarities in the customers you serve, you can predict what products and services they may buy next. For example, if you supply grocery stores with specialty food products you could compare the product mix that each customer purchases. Some stores may be missing opportunity with a product set that sells well for other customers.

By sharing data from across a wide range of customers, you provide additional value - without naming competitors. You are providing market information that helps your customers win more business.

Through the sales analysis, you may also identify a pattern of customers purchasing the same combination of products.  Combine those products or services together as a “package” and promote to all of your customers. You’ll expand your footprint with some customers and provide a benefit to loyal customers who take advantage of all your services.

Put your data to work Are you making full use of the data your business gathers? The integrated data from an ERP system allows you to analyze information from a number of angles to identify trends and uncover hidden opportunities. Let’s put your data to work.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 15th, 2013

ERP_Feb13_A"The way we always did it” is a tough argument to overcome, but for the good of your company times must change. The past several decades have seen the IT department in charge of selecting and managing the business applications that support the organization. There is a growing trend to turn that process around and empower business decision makers to drive the ERP selection process.

Business leadership in technology decisions In the past, when there were business management systems that needed improvement, the IT team was tasked with finding a solution. They worked with technology providers to evaluate solutions and presented their recommendations to the business unit. Business managers chose the best option and made due to fill in the gaps.

That system doesn’t serve modern business operation well. With the internet, anyone with knowledge about the challenges can thoroughly research the options. Business managers are better suited to ask the right questions and to learn how others in the industry are dealing with similar challenges. Equipped to ask specific questions that can qualify those who claim to be experts in the industry, business managers can help the company weed out imposters quickly.

A better understanding of the issues As a business operations manager in your organization, you have a better understanding of the processes of your department than anyone. You know the strengths and weaknesses of your systems and probably have a pretty good idea of what you need to fix the weak areas. A thorough requirements analysis, whether performed internally or with the help of experts, should provide the framework for your software evaluation.

Clearly, the IT department must be involved in the process of selection to provide their expert input on underlying technologies. Their support is key to the success of an implementation as well as ongoing support. In partnership, operations and IT will provide a better foundation for ERP success.

Empowered business managers As a business manager, you have the knowledge and the access to information that can save your company time and money. Take the lead in a new approach to choose the business management systems that can support your business for the long term.

If you are ready to take your business operations to the next level, let’s talk. We understand that business drivers the technology decision, not the other way around.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 13th, 2013

SocialMedia_Feb12_BAs a species we are social, needing relationships to survive. That's likely why social media websites have taken off so successfully. They give us a way to interact, even when we are physically alone. Companies have found that these sites are great marketing tools that can build a brand better than almost any other method. One social media use, often overlooked, is learning more about a job applicant coming for an interview.

Here's three steps you can employ to learn a bit more about potential hires before they come in for an interview.

1. Google them Googling yourself can be seen as vain, however putting a potential hires name into Google Search is smart. You can enter their name along with specific queries that can help you narrow information down. One thing you can do is enter their name with double quotes around it and the city they are based in, this will help you find their presence on related social media sites. You can also put their area code, zip or postal code to narrow down the search.

The point of this is to help you find more information about the person without having to search on individual social media sites. This will also return results like photo albums, recent account activity and maybe even some hobbies and interest groups. Searching on Google, or other search engines is a good way to see if the prospective employee is legitimate.

2. Take a look on Facebook Almost everyone and their dog are on Facebook, so don't forget to search for them on this popular service. With the recently announced Graph Search, this should make searching a lot easier too. Enter their name, along with some specific interests or information from the resume and the chances of finding this person's profile go up.

While some would argue the ethics of doing this, you may see information or posts that counter information in the resume, or even paint a better picture of the applicant. For example, you can ask them about their family when they come in for an interview. It could prove to be a great ice breaker.

3. LinkedIn Most social media sites focus on the social aspect of people's lives, while LinkedIn focuses on the more career and professional oriented areas. Searching for the candidate on LinkedIn can often shed more light on their history, and may even showcase common links between you and them. If you notice that the candidate worked for a previous employee, you could contact that employee to see if they have any thoughts about the candidate.

Researching your future hires is a good idea because it can help you learn more about them than you might otherwise do from just an interview. It also gives you a bit of a deeper understanding of if they would be a good fit for the company. If you would like to learn more about how you can leverage social media in your company please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 8th, 2013

A white paper recently released by Microsoft makes the case for moving beyond your accounting system to an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solution that delivers more insight and a greater level of control over your business. Through systems that are intuitive and easy to deploy, companies realize higher profitability, increased employee and customer satisfaction and new opportunities to grow.

Five ways ERP transforms businesses

  • Helps Your People Work Better, Faster and Smarter - The most successful businesses employ passionate individuals who are engaged, committed to their organization’s success and working at their maximum potential. ERP enables your people to be more proactive and productive by giving them personalized, agile tools.
  • Looks Forward, Not Backward - ERP can deliver proactive and predictive information to help your teams solve problems and prevent them from happening again.
  • Transforms the Way You Work and Connect - No business can operate as an island any more. You need to connect to vendors, customers and employees with systems that make working with you easy.
  • Drives and Supports Your Business Growth - Businesses with a vision for the future don’t let systems hold them back. With ERP, your business will be able to scale to meet higher demands without sacrificing the personal customer experience.
  • Reduces Your Risk - Between increasing regulations and threats to security, you need a financial management system that can report accurately and consistently monitor transactions to reduce risks.
Transform your business Read more in Microsoft’s insightful white paper to help you make the right decision about ERP. Download the whitepaper here and let’s talk about how we can take your business to the next level.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 8th, 2013

Social media has taken as one of the major change agents to modern society. Its popularity has found over a billion people on one service, Facebook. Here people can connect with one another in ways previously unheard of, and it's Messenger app allows users to chat with with one another through its Messenger app. It's not surprising this platform is so popular and a recent update leverages VoIP to add even more functionality to Facebook.

In early January Facebook announced that they had started testing free calling to contacts over Facebook Messenger. This feature was tested in Canada for all users with an iPhone, and turned out to work well. So, in late January Facebook rolled this out to iPhone users in the US as well.

This new service uses VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology, commonly found in many business's phone systems, to offer users in Canada and the US the ability to call other Facebookers using the Messenger app for free.

Calls can be made via your data connection or over Wi-Fi on your iPhone. No love for Android as of yet, but we are sure it's coming soon. If you use the Facebook Messenger app, you should be able to use it now. You can call other users by:

  1. Opening the app (or download, install and open it from here) and find the person you would like to call.
  2. Tapping on their name to start a conversation.
  3. Pressing the "i" button in the top right of the conversation windows and selecting Free Call.
The user you are calling will see a notification on their phone similar to the one when you get a phone call over your cell network.

Will businesses benefit? It's hard to say whether businesses will find this feature useful at this time. If your employees use iPhones, and are often in an area with poor cell service but a decent data connection, this is a free way to stay in touch.

This could also prove a good way to deal with public complaints on your Facebook page. You could encourage the person to take the complaint offline and talk to them, as long as you both have an iPhone.

In reality however, most businesses will likely not use this feature at this time. However, there is a good chance that Facebook will release more business oriented calling features in the future which could give you another way to contact clients.

What do you think? Will you or your employees use this feature? Let us know, and if you have any questions about VoIP, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General