Helping your Customer get the Job Done
The key capability your technology tools must provide always relates to your customer (Heidi)’s experience with you in co-creating value, in how you help her get her job done.
In the new business paradigm, this now includes omnichannel capability – you need to be able to meet Heidi’s expectation that ordering, fulfillment, and returns should be enabled freely and that any step of the process should be executable in the channel of her choice. This means, for example, that:
- Merchandise advertised in stores should be available for purchase online.
- It should be fulfilled at Heidi’s discretion—to a store, to her home, to her workplace.
- That merchandise should be returnable to a store, or via parcel post.
- To Heidi, none of these permutations should be cumbersome.
Business Capabilities Required
The key functional applications systems every business needs are:
- CRM – customer relationship management for marketing and sales
- E-Commerce website
- Inventory management (if you sell products)
- Business Reporting – dashboards
- CMS – Content Management
Specialist businesses may then require:
- Manufacturing management
- Project Management
- Events Management
- Professional Services Management
You can also add to the mix:
- HRM administration
- Business Intelligence
- VOIP telephone linked to CRM
Interweaving all of the different systems are your business partnerships. This capability is really at the hub of all your systems. Check that the system you go for provides for the same person to be a customer, a staff member, a supplier, and a shareholder. QuickBooks for one doesn’t provide this capability – you need to provide different names for the same person. And check that links to any other related systems can use the same data about these customers in their different roles.
The Ideal Solution
Ideally, you would have all of these functional requirements linked and sharing data as required. For example, the e-Commerce site works best for Heidi when it is linked to Accounting and Inventory and CRM and CMS.
For over 20 years larger businesses have seen the only way to achieve an integrated solution was using ERP systems – Integrated Resource Planning. These typically cost hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars and required an enormous investment in setup and training and data migration from your older systems. But the price and complexity meant smaller and micro-businesses didn’t have access.
Now the cloud is starting to change that. Not only are sophisticated ERP systems on the cloud now available (at ‘only’ $999 a month and up). But other options are coming through as well that are much, much more affordable.
Some examples that come to mind:
- More and more open-source ERP packages are now going into the cloud providing the software as a service (SAAS) where you pay a small monthly fee.
- Zoho Work Online http://www.zoho.com/ (with over 8 million online users) has to link for cloud-based applications at amazingly cheap costs, feasibly for much less than $200 per month for a very broad integrated system. You can start with basics like accounting then add on as your team has developed the skill-set for the previous module.
- Google Apps lets you build a range of solutions and plug in various modules, including free accounting modules like Wave. Or try http://www.freeagent.com (which won the UK 2013 best accounting package award) for a $20 per month accounting solution that links and synchs with other functional applications.
- https://zapier.com/ is a linking tool for over 250 applications that can work together, sharing data.
The Benefits of Cloud Applications
- No capital investment or staff costs to manage a computer server platform
- Rented not own software, and usually with free upgrades that are applied for you while you sleep.
- Any client computer with a browser can access them – Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome.
- Usually no fixed contracts with the ability to withdraw your data at any time.
Check Systems Platform Flexibility
- The web-based system in the cloud that is able to communicate with the wider world.
- Coordinating with other channels to create a seamless brand experience
- Able to integrate with other specialist software your business
- No contract lock-in.
- Ability to scale as your business grows.
Check Minimum Capabilities
- Maintain information about your company,
- Maintain information about your business partners (customers, suppliers, employees, regulatory)
- Manage your tax requirements – sales VAT, company profit tax, employee salary tax.
- Maintain information about your physical products, services, and downloadable items which can be used for orders and invoices.
- Be able to enter sales/purchase orders which, after completion, will generate invoices and payments.
- Enter salaries paid to your employees and administer tax (VAT) payments.
- Able to maintain the content of your website and e-commerce front-end.
- Have a dashboard page showing a complete overview of your company regarding sales, cost and profits, and open payments.
- Generate reports for your tax office.
- Up/Download all data.
Check Total Costs
System costs include Individual component costs, set up costs, training costs, monthly license fees, upgrade fees, and backup storage costs
Check Security Capabilities
Check for Logins, Backup, and data protection.
Your checklist for any systems support needs to consider:
- How well does it help Heidi get her job done?
- How easy is it for you and your staff of use?
- Does it provide the functionality you want to improve your business capabilities and productivity?
- What level of support is available for training and implementation and managing problems?
- How do you rate value for money?
Talk with me if you would like to consider a development plan for your next-generation applications that will help Heidi get her job done, and keep building your business as a winner.
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