FREE WEBINAR: eMarketing Success

Learn about the power of Sage CRM E-marketing.  Join our free webinar to get the full scope of how the combined tools could positively impact your emarketing success. Everyone who attends the webinar will receive our whitepaper on “The Benefits of Email Marketing as a Cost Effective Marketing Tool”.

Date:  Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Time 10:00am CST
Click here to register

 

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Posted in Customer Relations Management (CRM), Newsletter, October 2011 | Leave a comment

Is Cloud Computing Here to Stay?

2013 is expected to be a year full of changes. With uncertainties about the tax code, cost of labor, government regulations, health care, and the federal deficit, small and large businesses alike are vigilant as they plan and prepare for the upcoming year.  While there are certainly many unknowns ahead for 2013, technology is not one of them. Because of the recent advances, businesses have a positive outlook on the technological future and plan on incorporating new technologies into their business plans to further their business growth.

This past year we have heard a lot about the benefits of Cloud technology, but small businesses particularly have been wary of adopting this technology. Expect this to change this year. As small businesses face increasing competition and economic challenges, they will begin to move to the Cloud in an effort to save money and boost sales. The benefits, including accessible information from anywhere at any time, will far outweigh the cons in the minds of small business owners.

While it was slow to take off, the Cloud is now expected to make its way into the small business landscape. In fact, many Cloud users have said that it would be challenging to operate their businesses without Cloud services now that they have come to rely on them.

This statement is not surprising, as most Cloud users are highly satisfied with the results they’ve obtained from using Cloud technology. These results – including improved flexibility, productivity and cost-savings – are expected to win over many more small businesses in 2013.

Many companies are planning to expand their Cloud services to a vast array of business functions this year. While many small businesses are aware of the Cloud’s data storing functions, they may be surprised to know that there is much more that can be gained from the Cloud, including:

  • Banking (such as online banking and cash management)
  • File sharing
  • Data archival
  • Accounting

Prepare your company for success by considering moving your business systems to the Cloud.  Download our whitepaper, “The Sage Guide to Cloud Computing”, to learn more about Cloud computing and the benefits it could have to your accounting system in particular.

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Posted in April 2013, Cloud, Newsletter | Leave a comment

Integration is Key to Unlocking the Potential of Your Company’s CRM System

For CRM to really work its magic, integration must be a crucial ingredient.

If we accept that knowledge of a customer is even more important than performance of your product, then CRM can be a key differentiator, and a key to business survival.

Where product innovation is the only thing constant in a changing world, and new global players driving price competitiveness, a business needs to ensure they become indispensable to their clients. But services such as customer support are only as valuable as the customer views them to be.

So, the more a company knows about a customer’s needs, and tailors its offer accordingly, the greater the value it can provide that customer.  If a customer places a high value on your knowledge of their needs, then they face the prospect of significant disruption if they were to switch suppliers.  Good service and valuable insight, through use of CRM strategies, can help retain a customer (and their value) for a longer period of time.

However that accurate knowledge can only be attained if a robust CRM strategy is implemented with integration – a joined up view – as its foundation.  Quite simply you need one complete view of the customer, easily accessed by the many departments that deal with your customer’s business.

A good CRM implementation facilitates joined-up thinking, and from this, genuine value can be delivered. It enables individuals from all a business’ departments to access the “right” information – so there are no mistakes about who customers are, what they need, and how valuable they are to the business.

Unsurprisingly, this same capability also saves CRM users time in looking for and inputting data and frees up management time to actually act on the information.

When integrated with a company’s ERP system, CRM can exceed expectations and provide even more valuable information when you need it. Download our whitepaper, “Four Ways Integrated CRM-ERP Solutions Improve Productivity”, to learn the importance of integrating your CRM solution to other business systems.

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Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ERP Selection Tips for Mid-Market Companies

Choosing an ERP system is one of the most strategic decisions for mid-market companies and their CEOs face a significant dilemma. Should I choose a system for today, or for how my company may look in 5 to 10 years? Should I go for a full system or start small with a limited number of functions? Should I try to cover 100% of my needs or only aim for a fraction of them? Do I have to cover all my requirements with one single system? Should I go for a comprehensive, full function system requiring a 12-18 month implementation, or for a simpler system with fewer functions that could be implemented in weeks? What balance will get me the best return on my investment?

Rather than continuing to come up with relevant questions (you could go on and on), we suggest reversing the thought process. Rather than trying to solve all your outstanding issues with a new system (usually it would replace something already used), think about how to improve what you already have. The principle behind this approach is that sometimes in terms of ERP, in aiming for the best, we ignore the ‘better’ solution.

The value of an ERP system lies in its integration across a company and the data gathered when using it. So why not start with a modern solution, well integrated and covering 80-85% of your functional needs? We all know that the last mile is by far the most costly and surely the one that has the most problematic ROI. So why look for perfection when 85% would help you make a giant step towards efficiency? Go with as standard a system as you can to start with. Implementation will be very significantly reduced, both in terms of cost (three to five times cheaper) and duration (up to 10 times faster, in a matter of weeks). This properly integrated system will immediately make your processes more fluid, improve cross- functional collaboration, reduce operating costs and most importantly, help you understand what you really need for the next step.

One of the biggest mistakes mid-market companies make when implementing ERP systems is attempting to replicate existing processes within a new system. This implies significant tweaks in the ERP through customization. On top of making your life miserable for future upgrades, this also changes the way your solution behaves and you won’t benefit from all the best practice that has led to the development of the built-in processes. Performance can also be dramatically reduced and future evolutions will be more difficult to leverage. Implementing a new ERP system is a great opportunity to re-think your processes.

Step back and try to honestly define what makes you better and more competitive than your competition (at the end of the day, this is what counts) and you will probably end up with two or perhaps three processes that are really distinctive. At most 5% of your system will recognize this difference, not 50%!

So go for standard solutions and then, after a period of usage (say 9 to 12 months), make informed decisions on where to put your investment to differentiate yourself in the market.

When that’s done, make sure you have as many people as possible using your ERP system. ERP is not a specialist play, it’s not only for accountants or plant managers. Everyone, one way or another, should use the system starting with you. Why is this so important? Your ERP system will be your decision making tool and based on the collected data you will run reports, analysis, or even simulations. These activities will really bring value if your database truly represents your business. To get there you need to ensure everyone contributes to it, the experienced and the non-technical alike. You can even open your system to those outside of your own organization who also contribute to your business. Your customers, your partners, and your suppliers can definitely enrich your data set, which will help you make better decisions.

Integration is key. Integration means encouraging people in different functions to work together. This will open up a new field of efficiency – collaboration. ERP will help you organize the social nature of your business and support a better, more natural and organized way of collaborating for greater efficiency, better problem solving, but also to promote innovation.

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Posted in April 2013, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Newsletter | Leave a comment

Business Intelligence Continues to Grow

Business intelligence (BI) applications became one of 2012′s must-have technologies – a list that also includes cloud computing, social media and mobile solutions. At the same time, many of these innovations will likely intersect with one another in 2013.

In a recent study performed by SmartData Collective, it was found that business analytics ranks as the top priority for many businesses. A Gartner survey of more than 2,000 CIOs yielded similar results, with analytics and business intelligence ranking as the No. 1 goal for IT departments in 2013.

IT needs new tools if it hopes to hunt for technology-intensive innovation and harvest raised business performance from transformed IT infrastructure, operations and applications.

At the moment, nearly half of companies are unsatisfied with their existing BI systems – particularly when it comes to receiving accurate results (cited by 22 percent of study respondents), limited access to data (35 percent) and integrating information into their current architectures (55 percent).

As a result, BI and data analytics investment is projected to rise again in 2013, with many different sectors driving that growth, including:

  • Mobile BI: Everything appears to be going mobile these days, and that is certainly the case with regard to business intelligence tools. Mobile BI deployment leads to improvements across the board, from better sales numbers and customer service to more productive employees.

While mobile BI in the past has been the least successful (as far as adoption rates), business intelligence professionals expect the sector will be among the most improved in 2013.

  • The Cloud: With cloud computing adoption rates already relatively high, the next phase will be for the sector to mature. With regard to cloud-based BI, it is projected that factors like data access, security, integration and governance will take center stage.
  • Social media and collaboration: Companies are increasingly leveraging social networking sites for a variety of reasons, from gaining competitive advantages to identifying new-hire candidates. In addition, 86 percent of organizations already use some form of social collaboration in the workplace.
  • Big data: Arguably the top driver of BI growth in 2012, big data is expected to remain popular for the foreseeable future. While only 14 percent of organizations are satisfied with the big data initiatives they have in place, those that deployed successful strategies have noticed a 28 percent bump in business.

With cloud, social and mobile technologies on the rise, companies are looking to adopt big data solutions to manage and make use of this information.

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Posted in April 2013, Business Intelligence (BI), Newsletter | Leave a comment

Discover the Many Benefits of Going Paperless with HRMS

For some time, HR professionals have aspired to create a “paperless office” with automated technology to create, store, and manage all of the employee information necessary to run a business effectively. Today the technology exists to turn this goal into reality with a desirable Return on Investment (ROI). Current business trends toward environmental sustainability provide the additional impetus to make the business case for paperless HR today, to help support the workforce of tomorrow.

Increasingly, reducing the use of paper in business processes will become a necessary step toward corporate sustainability efforts. Some global and regional companies are pushing sustainability initiatives not only within their own operations, but also out into the supply chain, encouraging vendors and partners to implement greener business practices. “Going green” is a competitive response to changes in social attitudes and to the expectations of customers, employees, and stakeholders.

Because of the many paper-intensive administrative processes in the Human Resources department, it is a great area to embrace corporate sustainability objectives by eliminating paper. Going paperless also saves costs and increases the efficiency and accuracy of HR functions. It can even help with recruiting and engagement—many sought-after job candidates and top-performing employees are passionate about environmental causes.

Download our whitepaper, “The Benefits of Paperless HR”, to discover the many benefits Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS) software can bring to your business.

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Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Section 179 Deduction Extended

If you are currently lease-financing any of your equipment or software, you will be happy to know that the Section 179 Deduction has been extended in the Fiscal Cliff Bill. According to the bill, you can write off the entire amount of your equipment or software costs up to $500,000. In addition to the raised deduction limit, there have been a few additional changes to the Section 179 Deduction for 2013. Take a look at the following changes to see how your company can benefit from the recent extension:

  • The deduction limit for 2013 is $500,000.
  • The deduction limit for 2012 was $139,000; however, according to the Fiscal Cliff Bill, the 2012 deduction has been raised to $500,000 as well. This means that you can apply any qualifying purchases made in 2012 to the higher deduction limit.
  • The limit on capital expenses for 2013 is now $2,000,000.
  • The bonus depreciation for 2013 is 50%.

These limits (with the exception of the raised 2012 deduction limit) are for tax year 2013 only and are available for most new and used capital equipment (including software).

Contact us to learn more about how the Fiscal Cliff Bill will affect your company for the upcoming tax year.

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Posted in April 2013, Newsletter | Leave a comment

Cut Costs by Moving Your ERP System to the Cloud

The United States economy has been stagnant in recent years, and small and medium-sized businesses have been affected as much as anyone.

As a result, many small to medium-sized businesses have looked toward innovative technology as a means of cutting costs while also increasing productivity. More often than not, cloud computing software has offered the right solution – including enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

There are several benefits of cloud-based products, beginning with improved productivity. Because the cloud allows companies to integrate multiple functions – for example, many cloud-based ERP systems have integrated business intelligence programs and customer relationship management – workplace efficiency has been able to skyrocket.

Another advantage of cloud-based solutions is that they are typically able to accommodate mobility strategies. Small to medium-sized businesses in particular have enjoyed significant benefits from accessing corporate applications outside of work.

Sales agents need to be able to send and receive email on all sorts of devices from anywhere they happen to be. The sync capabilities of the cloud-based programs mean that employees can receive email on all their phones and computers from any type of web browser.

Through improved communication and collaboration, many small to medium-sized businesses have been able to increase their productivity as the result of implementing cloud-based technology.

Cost-efficiency in the cloud
Saving money is a goal of just about every business, and cloud-based technology does that extremely well.

Scalability and flexibility are two of the top benefits of cloud computing. Cloud-based solutions are subscription-based, which means companies only pay for what they use and can scale up or down at any time. In addition, the cloud tends to be more compatible with emerging technology than many legacy packages.

Cost-efficiency is another top reason companies should consider moving their ERP systems to the cloud. The costs are lower, both in terms of powering these systems and of the required IT services. As a result, most cloud-based ERP systems tend to achieve a fast return on investment.

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Posted in Cloud, March 2013, Newsletter | Leave a comment

Incorporate Social Media into Your CRM Strategy for Better, More Informed Customer Interactions

No matter how big or small your company may be, pleasing your customers should still be high on your priority list. Even a massive corporation like Google or General Electric should be just as focused on keeping customers happy, satisfied and loyal as the little bakery down the street or the local used bookstore. For all the millions of different sizes and types of businesses, one thing unites them all: customers.

As companies grow, maintaining personal, meaningful relationships with customers can get increasingly difficult. Large corporations often commit the mortal business sin of viewing their customers as dollar signs or statistics on a marketing report, rather than individuals with distinct tastes and preferences.

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a critical tool that can help prevent businesses from falling into this common trap. CRM uses a combination of historical data and predictive analysis to form a holistic view of customers as individuals. Utilizing this kind of software is a powerful way to reach out to customers in a way that is unique and valuable. It provides companies with data that can be used to produce noticeable results in improving customer satisfaction and retention.

Of course, CRM is more than just software. CRM is a business philosophy that should be applied at all levels of a company, from the CEO to the receptionist. And CRM can be incorporated into a number of different business ventures – perhaps most notably, in social media.

Nearly every business today maintains some kind of online social media presence, whether it’s through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube. Sites like these allow businesses to connect with customers on a personal level by attaching a face and a personality to what used to seem like an unreachable corporate empire. Companies can use their Twitter and Facebook pages to be humorous, serious, irreverent, professional or any other type of trait. They can use Twitter to respond directly to customers’ questions and use Facebook to examine the kinds of “fans” they’ve amassed.

In a world where the traditional storefront is vanishing, social media is the way that savvy companies continue to enjoy meaningful interaction with the people who keep them in business.

Download the “The Future of CRM” whitepaper to learn more about social media and its impact on CRM.

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Posted in Customer Relations Management (CRM), March 2013, Newsletter | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Could Business Intelligence Improve Customer Relationships?

Business intelligence (BI) has been around for quite some time, but the sector experienced a major revival in 2012, driven largely by the increasing need for advanced data analytics.

According to a recent Gartner survey, BI and analytics were voted the top CIO priority for 2013. Meanwhile, a separate Gartner study revealed that companies are collecting new types of information – unstructured data, or information produced outside of company networks and applications. Companies are increasingly using information from sources as varied as email, text messages, social networking sites and videos for their own benefit.

Correlating, analyzing, presenting and embedding insights from structured and unstructured information together enables businesses to better personalize the customer experience and exploit new opportunities for growth, efficiencies, differentiation, innovation and even new business models.

Providing consumers with top-notch online service could soon become a requirement, as a recent study indicated that online customer relationship management is extremely important.

The research shows that consumers are quick to abandon a purchase and jump to another website if they don’t receive the assistance they want, in the timeframe they expect.

According to a recent survey, 40 percent of shoppers already spend as much time using the web as they spend in brick-and-mortar stores. Of those internet consumers, 83 percent said they could use help while shopping online, while 93 percent of respondents suggested that real-assistance would be beneficial. Another 71 percent of said they expect help within five minutes.

Benefits of BI analytics

Business intelligence applications have the potential to improve companies’ online CRM capabilities. BI tools, including big data analytics programs, will likely revolutionize the relationship between companies and their customers. Many of those potential changes include:

  • Improved customer experience: Through the use of big data, organizations will have a better understanding of customer interests, along with more accurate forecasting capabilities.
  • Advertising strategies: Traditional marketing campaigns, like email blasts and fliers, may not be the preferred methods for too much longer. Companies are increasingly using big data to develop personalized advertising, which creates customer profiles based on an individual’s shopping history.
  • Every day impact: Several types of companies, from healthcare agencies to transportation, will adopt big data solutions to make life easier for their customers.
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Posted in Business Intelligence (BI), March 2013, Newsletter | Leave a comment

Small Businesses Looking to ERP to Increase Efficiency

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems used to be a tool reserved mostly for larger companies, but that is quickly changing. A recent survey by Aberdeen Group found that small businesses are adopting ERP software at more frequent rates.

Businesses with under $50 million in annual revenue are looking towards ERP software because they need to be more agile when making decisions and interacting with customers and business partners. At the same time, they must keep costs low. They need to continue expanding without losing track of what made the organization successful in the first place.

Mobile and cloud-based solutions, among other new technologies, have made ERP systems more accessible to small businesses. According to the study, the biggest issues with pre-ERP systems include the inability to track business processes (cited by 49 percent of respondents), the lack of collaboration tools (40 percent) and the lack of access to these applications outside the office (34 percent).

Meanwhile, the report highlighted three ways ERP software can benefit small businesses:

  • Standardization, which helps organizations develop the best business and financial practices.
  • Visibility makes important data available to members across the company.
  • Efficiency in many different areas, from managing finances to improving the supply chain for manufacturers.

Nearly 40 percent of respondents cited managing growth as a major factor with regard to implementing ERP. Improving customer response time (29 percent) and decision-making (30 percent) were also popular motivations.

Cutting costs with ERP

The Aberdeen Group survey found cutting costs to be the top-cited reason for small businesses to adopt ERP software. However, because these systems tend to have high initial costs – in particular, ERP implementation requires substantial resources – smaller companies may want to start by adopting cloud-based solutions.

There are several financial benefits of implementing cloud-based ERP. To start, cloud computing technology generally has lower upfront costs and, unlike on-premise packages, users only pay for the products they use. In addition, fewer IT professionals are required to run cloud-based servers when compared to legacy systems.

Meanwhile, over the long haul, power costs will also likely be lower, and cloud computing’s scalability typically makes upgrades cheaper as well. As a result, companies will have an easier time achieving a return on investment for cloud-based ERP systems.

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Posted in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), March 2013, Newsletter | Leave a comment