How To Make Your Startup Scalable

April 2, 2014 by

Growth without a large increase in cost is tricky. Studying and crafting a scalable business model can help in both the short term and long term with the end result being both growth and profitability. The overall goal is to increase revenue without a cost growth. There are various ways to make a company scalable including moving towards the cloud in lieu of other options.

Scalable considerations

Here are some of the ways to achieve scalability:

1. Outsource whenever possible. There are some tasks that you may want to have control over in-house, but many jobs can be outsourced. There are many countries outside of North America that offer skilled populations savvy both in technology and English-speaking skills. Do you really need to hire someone at $20 per hour when you could hire an equally qualified candidate for $5 per hour? While you should use the same interviewing and screening process with an outsourced applicant, as you would use with someone local, you can find great talent elsewhere in the world if you look.

2. Cut back on IT costs. Keeping an IT team on staff can cost thousands per month. That’s a big expense. It’s also not an expense that will shrink as your company grows. Tech support is important, but you can save a bundle by moving your tech needs to the cloud. A fully managed cloud service means cutting all on-staff IT costs.

3. Understand automation. Sometimes a machine simply can’t replace what a human can do. The opposite is also true. There are programs available that can do everything from keep track of your books to schedule your appointments. Replacing a person with a program is one trick that people with a solid tech background know and use regularly. If a program can do what someone on-staff can do, use the program.

4. Surround yourself with good people. Nothing can sink a growing company faster than a team of bad hires. The people that you do decide to keep on staff should be solid, understand your product well, and generate excellent ideas regularly. These are the people that no machine or program can replace, but they will be few and far between.

5. Don’t get stuck on an assumption. It’s not uncommon for a startup founder to assume that people aren’t trainable. If you’re not going the outsourcing route or are afraid of the cloud, ask yourself if these fears are logical. You can train anyone with enough intelligence how to use your product, or what your product is all about. You can also work with a skilled cloud team to make sure that anything you do in the cloud is secure and comprehended by all. Not exploring these viable options is a really big mistake.

Exceptions to the rules

There are some exceptions to the aforementioned scalability tips (as is the case with any advice).

1. Outsourcing: Be selective. Hiring someone without English skills to run North American social media accounts just doesn’t make sense. Make sure that the hire you’re considering fits the bill.

2. IT: Signing up with any cloud provider isn’t a good idea. Do your research, and make sure that the company you’re choosing is personable, can customize options, and understands what your product or service is all about.

3. Automation: Can that person really be replaced? If you have any doubt, don’t automate (or don’t get rid of a staff member until the automation option has been proven successful).

4. Team members: This one doesn’t really have any exceptions. Surround yourself with the best – it’s that simple.

5. Assumptions: Sometimes, a hunch can be right. But, recognizing the difference between an instinct and ignorance is important. Do you really have a strong feeling about that decision, or is it a matter of uncertainty?

Showing investors that your business is scalable should be your goal from day one. Take tips from companies like Zynga (this company used Facebook’s existing platform to grow, and it worked very well), and learn lessons from startups like AirBnB (with barely any marketing budget, AirBnB managed to grow overnight by using existing resources).

Are the programs you need to use to reach automation available? Are they free? Can you move to the cloud easily? Would this cut costs? Finding existing solutions to problems is the fast and surest way to prove that your product or service is highly scalable, and that’s a very good thing when it comes to investor dollars.

Behind The Cloud Computing Explosion — 35 Million Ways To Accelerate Innovation

March 31, 2014 by

Most technology industry observers agree that cloud computing has gone mainstream. IDC predicts cloud explosioncloud expenditures will increase by 25 percent, sparking a dramatic increase in cloud data centers worldwide, totaling a 100 billion dollar market. As the trend of using multiple devices continues to grow, Gartner forecasts a new role for cloud as data manager in an era of the personal cloud. Yet the hoopla doesn’t mean that every company automatically knows how to get the most business value from cloud computing.

Recently I spoke with Shawn Price, President of Global Cloud and Line of Business at SAP, and he shared some examples of how companies are using cloud computing for new business value.

“ConAgra Foods is using SAP technologies to do something that couldn’t be done before: they are able to understand across 4,000 products whenever a raw material price point changes and how that affects the gross margin and the potential impact on the company’s stock. They are able to actually look ahead, not in the rear view mirror, to predict an outcome with certainty and plan for its impact on the business. This will revolutionize their business and the industry.”

Price also talked about how one of the cloud’s major benefits for customers is the ability to share best practices, in this case, from SAP’s 35 million cloud subscribers. His point is that cloud-based software increases the rate of innovation for everyone in the community.

“Our customers use the anonymized big data we collect to measure company performance against industry best practices, interacting with one another in our communities. With this kind of scalability, they can also drive value from predictive data, making correlations to answer historically difficult questions like: What colleges or degrees make the most successful salespeople or procurement managers? What’s my management bench strength—who will be the most successful managers in six months or 12 months? Am I relying on the best suppliers, and will I be able to rely on them one year from now? In this way, we are providing a prescriptive blueprint that’s industry-focused for every solution we have.”

As cloud-based software becomes more prevalent, every organization is going to figure out what top performers already understand–that cloud is not just another deployment option for software applications. When cloud is done right, it fundamentally changes how companies and entire industries operate along with how customers engage and purchase products and services. That’s when the real accelerated innovation begins.

The Past And Future History Of Cloud Technology

March 31, 2014 by

The roots of cloud computing can be traced as far back as 1997, with the beginning of the dot com bubble; the rise of technology and the Internet as a household commodity with widespread acceptance. Even then, some companies were outsourcing the data centre work of their IT departments, but the practice was far from widespread.

The biggest barrier to the widespread adoption of cloud services, as they developed, was the general concern over the safety and security of outsourcing critical business processes. As a business owner, would you want to outsource the very operation of your software to a company that might fold, or that might lose your data, or that might be open to a vulnerability that leaves your data public? Of course not. What happened to change that?

The price of security

The spur that drove the companies to adopt cloud services was, of course, money. Specifically, budget constraints brought on by the credit crunch and the following global recession. Companies were forced to cut back to bare minimum budgets, saving money in any way possible. One of these possible methods was by investing in cloud-based software, infrastructure and data solutions that, while riskier than in-house operations, were far cheaper.

What happened was that companies found cloud providers to be a safer investment than initially suspected. In the face of such distrust, cloud companies fought to provide security guarantees. In many instances, remote data storage — with its emphasis on security — was safer than in-house networks.

Expansion of services

At the same time, cloud services began to expand. In the beginning, installations such as Salesforce, which pioneered the idea of providing an enterprise software application via the Internet, eliminating the need for an in-house bank of computers with the application installed individually on each one. Computers could simply access the Internet through a special web page, which granted access to the software suite.

As time passed, other services entered the market. Amazon Web Services came next, expanding the idea to include data storage, other enterprise applications, infrastructure services, content distribution networking and more. Amazon even pioneered the thought of labor as a service, using Mechanical Turk.

Technological innovation also helped expand the capabilities of the cloud. The size and speed of hard drives has enabled far greater capability for data storage centers, for example. Increasing bandwidth channels have enabled software as a service on a level that early DSL or dial-up connections would never dream of reaching.

The modern cloud

Today, there is a huge variety in the available cloud services and applications. Hundreds of companies in just as many niches compete for attention. Some specialise in small niches, doing one thing and doing it well; the timesheet software suite Deputy is one example. Other companies approach the cloud from a generalist, do-everything perspective. Google’s suite of software, which includes everything from e-mail and office software to Drive’s data storage and the calendar time management application, is one such large-scale company.

So where is cloud computing headed in the future? The answer depends on business, as it always does. Small businesses are already taking advantage of the cloud to a great extent, relegating nearly every business application to a cloud service. Larger companies continue with mixed adoption, as some legacy programs simply cannot be replaced by cloud alternatives at this comparatively early stage in the evolution of the technology.

An unpredictable future

As the cloud continues to grow in both capability and adoption, a new niche is springing up as well. These companies specialise in helping other companies migrate from an old in-house technology to a cloud solution. In many cases, getting a cloud application to work smoothly with a mixture of other cloud and in-house applications takes some effort.

In fact, that is another role that will soon develop; the cloud aggregation service. Companies that contract cloud companies for an all-inclusive suite of business applications, guaranteed to work together, is something of an open niche while modern cloud companies struggle to make individual names for themselves. The atmosphere isn’t quite right yet for such a reseller, but the time is swiftly approaching.

At this point, at least, few can deny the impact, power and inevitable future of a cloud-dominated business world. Distributed technology is simply too big of an equaliser on the global stage. Cloud technologies enable small business growth, globalisation and cheaper operating costs all around.

What’s the next big thing in cloud computing? What innovation is around the corner? Something is coming, surely, but few have any idea what that innovation may be. For now, the world waits and watches.

Partners Leverage Cloud ERP to Solve Industry-Specific Business Problems

March 26, 2014 by

In today’s complex business world, mid-sized and even small firms often need enterprise software that is customized to their unique business needs and processes. Fortunately, the increasing sophistication of cloud-based ERP solutions like NetSuite means that even small companies can afford to have an enterprise system tailored to their exact requirements.

In fact, NetSuite’s Solution Provider and Systems Integrator partners provide customization services for companies of all sizes and business needs. “We’ve developed specific add-ons for property management companies,” notes Martin Evangelista, managing director at CloudTech, a cloud software and services provider in the Philippines that has customized NetSuite for sugar mills and property management firms, among others. “Because of the flexibility of the NetSuite platform, we’re able to extend it and accommodate industry-specific features and functions.

“We have a product specifically for sugar milling, which sounds quite odd but the Philippines is an agricultural country so we extended the system to address industry specific practices,” he said, adding that CloudTech did similar work for a flour milling company.

The NetSuite SuiteCloud platform has four easy-to-use developer tools specifically for customizing NetSuite: SuiteScript for creating flexible business logic tailored to specific business needs; SuiteBuilder for configuring forms, fields and records within your NetSuite application; SuiteTalk for web services integration between NetSuite and other third-party applications; and SuiteFlow for creating new business process flows or customizing and automating existing ones. In addition to the customization tools, there are add-on apps available on the SuiteCloud Developer Network, many tailored for vertical business needs.

NetSuite’s partners have customized NetSuite for all sorts of businesses. Epiphany, a software developer and NetSuite Solution Provider, tailored NetSuite for an international restaurant supplier as well as a firm that rents golf carts. The golf cart rental business required adding new business processes for tracking cart maintenance and repairs for 20,000 golf carts.

For NetSuite Solution Provider partners, being able to configure business management software to keep up with ever-changing client needs is critical to ensuring future revenues. As Andrew Peddie, managing director for First Hosted Ltd., an IT consulting firm and cloud software provider in the U.K., notes, clients will continue to stay with his company as long as they get the functionality and service they need.

“If we customise the solution, deploy effectively and maintain that client satisfaction, then over time the recurring revenue from growing and successful clients become increasingly valuable to our business,” said Peddie.

Being a specialist at NetSuite customization is, in fact, a very good market to be in, according to Hector Garcia, president of Netsoft in Mexico. “By working with one product, we’re more specialized and by being specialized, have less competition. We invest in what we’re doing, give customers better service, and they rely on us more.”

To hear more about how NetSuite’s customization abilities are helping partners to solve their customers’ challenges, watch this video:

Reasons For And Against Using A CRM System

March 26, 2014 by

In every business two things are critical – customers and employees. It’s about keeping customers, employees and others who interact with the business “happy” with the way they’re dealt CRM Cultivation with. When both customer and vendor are content we have a “win win” situation. Happier customers are more loyal; spend more and much more often. CRM solutions help understand how happy customers are and which one’s spend more than others. And the age old rule of “what you cannot measure you cannot manage” may well ring loud here and that’s where the technology comes into its own

Not all customers are the same and CRM helps you cherry pick right customers and navigate relationships for sustainable mutual success. Not all industries rely on CRM technologies to do this. In many B2B business (particularly technology or infrastructure vendors), a small number of clients will contribute the majority of profits and revenues where Pareto rules on revenue or margin distribution will be obvious. Executives in these companies know just from invoicing, budgeting and profit loss reports whom those customers are

CRM needs to be in context of the industry and business model you operate within. The greater the volume of customers the higher the need for better managing them CRM visions should provide a long range frame of reference by which internal resources are allocated. And so CRM is more than just technology relying heavily on a strategic mindset reinforced with people, technology and processes. The technology provides “a system” and is analogous to arteries that carry blood around the body). The CRM vision will regulate it like a heart does. Putting it another way, a CRM technology system is a vessel. Timely and relevant data is what you put into it to learn more about customers. But if you don’t have this data the vessel will be empty without purpose, like a ship carrying nothing. At which point the Captain may be triggered to fill it with merchandise”

Primary motivators for CRM system adoption
•To increase sales by better timing approaches anticipating needs based on historic trends
•Identifying current and planned needs or customer insight to shape new product or service development
•Cross-selling of other products by highlighting and suggesting alternatives or enhancements
•Identifying which customers are the most profitable and by how much?
•For more effective targeted marketing communications based on past purchases
•Assess and improve customer satisfaction and retention
•Increase value from existing customers and reduce costs associated with supporting and servicing them
•Identifying unprofitable customers and managing them in more cost effective ways

Primary challenges in implementing CRM
•Collecting customer information
•Storing customer information
•Accessing customer information
•Analyzing customer behavior & future prediction
•Marketing more effectively
•Enhancing the customer experience
•Sales and marketing process integration (or automation)

Top reason’s why CRM implementations fail or stall
•Lack of Executive or Senior Management Sponsorship
•Lack of business cohesion, unclear goals or understanding of the business benefits
•Belief that technology alone will not reap full CRM benefits
•Poor planning, requirements or goal analysis
•Lack of buy-in or staff inertia to use the CRM system
•Unsuitable or insecure hardware or network platform challenging system or customer data integrity
•Implementation would be overly disruptive to the organization’s daily business practices
•Provider’s looked at were too expensive, lacked expertise or couldn’t understand our business model
•Executives unable to gain visibility and a clear understanding of the company’s actual business practices
•Customizing system perceived as too complicated or not easy to use
•Poor data conversion or data silo’s causing data integration obstacles and challenges
•Unclear gains in customer management efficiency and/or staff productivity
•Too much reliance on changing business processes to mould around technology solution

CRM systems support good customer engagement models. From knowing how valuable some customers may be, through to how and why. But systems in the absence of good systemic visions (system based business models) can litter this journey of customer discovery with as many obstacles as it does opportunities. Where companies have no vision or system in place – adoption means rapid access to a framework, process and platform in which to enrich customer engagement and trigger a much needed process of learning

Looking Beyond The Technology Benefits Of Cloud

March 25, 2014 by

Creating and unlocking value in an organization starts with knowing precisely where things stand, and where the opportunities for improvement lie. To help, SAP’s Customer Value Office publishes a short analysis each Monday, highlighting hot industry topics and high-impact strategies. This week’s analysis focuses on how and why we need to look beyond technology benefits and start evaluating cloud as a strategic business enabler.

Some IT market players think of cloud computing as just a means to repackage existing software and services, delivered on virtualized computing infrastructures with a subscription pricing model. However the hype around the IT infrastructure and cost benefits of cloud computing should not obscure the sea-change that is occurring. Cloud computing is creating a disruptive impact on the entire value chain – from designing, building, selling, running and continuously innovating solutions with a big impact on business processes.

The key known benefits of cloud computing are:
•Significantly lower total cost of ownership
•Faster software deployment and adoption
•Reduced operational costs
•Rapid innovation cycles
•Reliable and scalable IT infrastructure
•Support for hybrid scenarios

However, little do people realize that cloud computing has the potential to lead to a complete IT transformation of an organization if it can be integrated through other technology innovations, such as in-memory and analytics, without any prohibitive cost barriers. This can in turn lead to faster time to information and decision, and ultimately leading to simplified, efficient, and faster business process execution. Cloud computing also has potential of increasing social collaboration as an integral part of product design. Cloud technology enables current business/ IT strategy execution in a cost effective manner and enables the organization to quickly react to unforeseen changes in business.

SAP Benchmarking analysis also shows that increased adoption of cloud computing leads to higher performance:

increased adoption of cloud computing leads to higher performance

SAP

From the above analysis, it is safe to conclude that although IT benefits of cloud are significant. We also need to look at cloud computing as a competitive differentiator, which makes the business more agile and helps innovate the business processes.

How does your current ERP solution compare with NetSuite?

March 25, 2014 by

In so many ways, on-premise ERP systems lag behind. They’re costly to maintain, and often require a complex IT infrastructure. Because the data is siloed, you’ll never get a complete real-time picture of what’s happening across the business and your supply chain.

Worse, you won’t know what data is missing. So making an informed decision isn’t just hard — it’s impossible.

And those enhancements and customisations you make to suit your needs? Come the next major software release, you’re back to square one.

For next-generation business leaders, there is a better way.

Next-generation cloud ERP from NetSuite provides the speed, visibility, ‘anytime, anywhere’ access, flexibility and scalability to take your business to the next level and beyond.

Monitoring Company Growth? Why an Integrated Solution Is Ideal

March 24, 2014 by

When you focus on growing your business, knowing that you have all the right data available to you is critical. You need to be able to see where you’ve been – where sales figures were six months or a year ago, and how they have changed since. You need to be able to identify your best customer and supplier relationships, and identify the impact of changes that you make to those relationships. You need to know whether your production is on time or whether you’re limiting your resources because you’re storing supplies or finished product.

Some software tools allow you to look at one part of your business or another. Integrated solutions, however, allow you to take a more holistic approach. Our solution allows you to monitor all of the areas of your business – from financial statements to HR matters, from customer relationships to supplier contracts, from production lines to sales floors.

As you being to grow your business, evaluating all of these elements becomes even more critical. Reaching new markets may mean altering your company’s marketing strategy. Beginning production in a new location may mean identifying new suppliers in order to minimize costs. Employee benefits packages may need to be evaluated if you offer health insurance, particularly if you have begun to do business in another state where premiums are higher or greater minimum coverage limits must be met.

Our solution lets you do more than simply look at a snapshot of where your business is now. It allows you to look at your business in real-time, to connect managers, directors, and other stakeholders – and to share the information that each needs to continue contributing to the organization.

By putting all of your critical business data at your fingertips – by allowing you to get started quickly and to expand the reports and tools available to you as your company continues to grow – we put you in the driver’s seat. With an integrated solution, you won’t just be monitoring your business, you’ll be able to steer it towards ongoing success.

Leveraging Omnichannel Data to Revolutionize the Customer Experience

March 24, 2014 by

Customers expect great service no matter what channel they use to shop. They don’t understand why there are inconsistencies between channels, such as why a retail store won’t issue a refund on a product bought online, or why store associates can’t tell them when inventory will be replenished. Consumers expect your company to behave as a single operation, not as separate, dysfunctional channels and are frustrated when that is their experience. Unfortunately, most retailers lack the systems and data needed to provide a seamless, consistent, and high quality customer experience across all of their channels.

Here’s an example: A customer buys a pair of shoes online and the ecommerce software generates a follow up email asking the buyer to review the purchase online. What the ecommerce system doesn’t know is that the customer called customer support to complain about poor quality and, later, exchanged them at a local store. She was happy she could exchange them, but not with the original product.

Another example: A shopper browsing lamps online puts one in his shopping cart, but leaves without buying it. Later, he purchases the same model lamp at a local store. The ecommerce system only has access to the online cart and current product pricing, so it sends the customer a reminder about it, with a note that it’s now discounted 50%. The customer is irritated that he missed a sale, which was not offered at the retail store.

And one more: A customer needs 10 copies of a certain book and calls a book store chain hoping to track them down. Alas, the chain’s inventory product information system lacks real-time data on the number of the titles at each location. Either a clerk or the customer has to physically contact each store for their inventory.

These situations happen when retailers don’t have consolidated data and a strategy for the omnichannel customer experience. Retailers must consolidate all of their silos — their ecommerce, CRM, product information and retail systems into a single platform to ensure a 360-degree picture of their business and their customers. Then they can leverage that information to create higher quality customer experiences across all channels, which could include but not restricted to the following:
•Inventory look up
• Returns/exchanges across channels
• Product feedback based on interactions across channels
• Access to one cart from any channel – website or app or retail store
• Ability to use loyalty points and get rewards across any channel

The use of commercial adapters or hand-coded integrations can help systems to share data. But that takes time and requires constant updating whenever one of the systems changes. As the video below explains, many older, standalone systems weren’t built to share data and may use proprietary formats. Even after retailers spend a significant amount of investment to integrate these silos, the data is not real time and suffers from a lag.

The bottom line: With a unified commerce platform and a single set of enterprise and customer data, retailers can provide more accurate and up-to-date customer service and overall higher quality customer experiences.

Increase Cash Flow & Still Get the Software Your Business Needs to Thrive? It’s Possible with SAP Business ByDesign. Learn How

March 19, 2014 by

When it comes time to update business software, most companies struggle with a number of challenges. For some, there are concerns about whether or not the tools will easily integrate with the systems they already have in place. For others, thoughts of buying new software means expanding server units and other IT investments. Still others struggle with the need to hire additional staff, experts who can keep the new system running smoothy.

Because of the costs associated with each of those elements, most business owners see updating their software and monitoring systems as a necessary expense. And that’s why it’s often so surprising to hear about the benefits of SAP Business ByDesign.

SAP Business ByDesign is a cloud-based solution – which means that small and mid-size companies or subsidiaries of larger corporations are spared the costs of installing additional servers and hardware. Additionally, users aren’t forced to log on through dedicated systems. Reports generated with SAP Business ByDesign are available from desktop computers, laptops connected on the go, and even mobile devices. Because SAP Business ByDesign is not installed directly on your company’s systems, there’s no need to hire professionals to keep everything up and running. The solution is managed for you.

In other words, the only costs associated with using SAP Business ByDesign are the low monthly access costs. You’ll be able to monitor financials, improve the relationships you have with customers and suppliers, manage costs, and increase the amount of cash that you have available. You’ll even be able to identify goals for company growth – including sales goals – and easily track the progress that’s being made toward achieving them.

SAP Business ByDesign puts the tools that you need to see your business in real time at your fingertips – without high costs. With SAP Business ByDesign, not only will you be able to keep your cash on hand while getting started, but also you’ll be able to identify savings, pursue growth, and improve profit margins across your business.


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