Taking a break from blogging while I’m settling in to Cloud Sherpas, watch this to learn more about what we do.
Every organisation has a handful of documents that must be recreated over and over again for customers, suppliers, partners and employees. Common examples include non-disclosure agreements, sales quotes or statements of work. This is often a tedious process of making a copy of the last document of that type, keying in the new information and double checking before you send it out to ensure no mistakes were made.
A slight inconvenience for an ad-hoc document becomes a royal pain when it’s regularly large volumes. Never mind the hassle of storing and retrieving those documents sometimes months or years later. Creating and managing these documents can be very time consuming.
As is the theme with these reviews, there is a much better way. Conga Composer sets up standard templates for common documents which are automatically filled by data from salesforce.com at the push of a button.
Once sent documents are stored with the contact’s details for simple search and retrieval, which also scans the documents’ contents. This dramatically improves visibility of documents you send out as a business.
Imagine one of the sales team being able to see the entire history of every quote that has been sent out to a customer, when they were sent and to whom. Document histories are also included in Salesforce.com reporting.
One often overlooked area is how apps are supported once installed. Conga support, provided by the AppExtremes team, is second to none.
I have found Conga to be a cost-effective way to make business processes more efficient. It’s well worth checking out.
Email is the default communication tool for business and email overload an often discussed topic. Most people start the day by catching up on email, wading through the unnecessary messages you’ve been copied on, prioritising those which need urgent attention and skipping over those which you’ll get to later.
Email volumes vary but if you’re anything like me, a typical week could result in hundreds of emails and hours of wasted time not to mention the constant distraction and frustration it causes.
So is there a better way? Can you reduce the volume of email and unnecessary noise and reclaim hours of your day to better use elsewhere? A great place to start is with internal email and there is an opportunity to be quite radical.
It may seem dramatic but I strongly advocate a “no internal email” policy. Over the past few years a new generation of collaboration tools like Chatter (by Salesforce.com) and Yammer (by Microsoft) are increasing in popularity and fundamentally changing the culture in organisations. Rather than send an email to your colleague, your team or your company each time you need to communicate something you can now write a post.
Chatter in particular enables you to write that post in a contextual location, whether that is an opportunity your sales team is working on, a campaign your marketing team are running, a customer service case thats being managed or to a group which is used for company updates.
This is a more open approach to communication in your business, you can post updates without worrying who you need to cc, your updates will be consumed by those people who are interested in what you’re working on. Charlie Cowan wrote an excellent blog post 18 months ago on howadopting Chatter and other collaboration tools was like moving to big school.
Charlie’s post answers a common question: are businesses just shifting the deluge from email to Chatter posts? The important distinction is the ability for you to consume the information you’re interested in rather than being spoon fed.
Rolling out a new way of communicating in your organisation is challenging, not from a technology perspective but from a change management view. You are asking your team to rethink the way they interact, to be more open about what they say and to contribute to the on-going discussion.
The most important person to ensure sustainable success with this change is the CEO. If open, regular collaboration is to happen in the long term it has to start at the top and then everyone else in the business will follow. A great example of this can be found at financial services business Smartsalary. It talked about its experience using Chatter at a recent conference in Sydney – the video is a little shaky but the message is powerful.
Removing internal email from your business will have a dramatic effect. My email has dropped by more than 60 percent and I know more about what’s going on, things happen faster and I have a better start to my day.
Security in the cloud is the first and most important concern raised when discussing cloud computing. Following on from last week’s post “Can You Run Your Entire Business in the Cloud?” is another question business owners often ask me: Is the cloud secure?
Security in the cloud is often framed as a major risk but I firmly believe it is in fact one of its greatest strengths. Many security risks can be mitigated by migrating your systems and processes to a leading cloud platform.
Whether you are using a cloud solution or server software, mitigating security risks needs to be one of your highest priorities. The reputational and financial damage caused by a breach can be severe. There are many publicly documented incidents such as the Sony Playstation Network hack, but many many more fly under the radar.
Running world-class security and processes is a costly, time intensive and highly complicated exercise which is far beyond the capabilities of all but the largest organisations. If you don’t think you need world-class security because you’re only a small business which isn’t worth hacking, you’re dead wrong.
A news report today revealed a niche soft-drink importer had his website taken offline by hackers who demanded a ransom of $5,000 to put it back online. The importer ignored the extortion attempt and it took a week for the US tech support team to restore the site which lost the business tens of thousands of dollars, the importer claimed.
“It’s looking like we’re going to have to start from scratch. We’re going to have to go back to basics to start driving traffic to the site again. We’re back to square one,” said business owner David Robinson.
What would happen if tomorrow all your systems were unavailable, your phone system was down and all your critical data gone or stolen? This can happen to any business regardless of size or location. Hackers are using automated systems to scan for common vulnerabilities on outdated servers. Sometimes the threat is unintentional; an employee with the wrong kind of access can unwittingly destroy critical data.
Salesforce.com is a great example of the depth of security available in the cloud. Their Trust website provides unprecedented levels of transparency with real-time information on system performance and security.
Their stated number-one priority is to ensure the privacy of their customers data and as such the salesforce.com platform was designed from the ground up to be secure down to a single record of data.
This means you have complete control over who can access what, when and from where, and back-ups and recovery are managed by salesforce.com on behalf of its customers. You are protected from the most malicious attacks and the system performs when you need it to. Salesforce.com is accredited by global regulatory bodies and audited by the most rigorous security teams from corporate customers such as the Commonwealth Bank.
By comparison, I am often amazed at how poor internal security is in businesses I visit. Post-it notes with passwords stuck to screens, server rooms with the doors propped open to let the air circulate. A business can fixate on security at the edges of the corporate network or the office itself at the expense of protection against internal risks.
If you are worried about security in the cloud, take a long, hard look at your current security processes and see how they compare to the world-class standards provided by cloud providers.
This article, “Why security in the cloud is better than in your office” originally appeared at BoxFreeIT. For the latest updates on cloud and social follow me on Twitter.
Following on from my previous post Why Your Next Hire Should be a Cloud System I’m often asked whether it’s possible to run your entire business using only cloud software. The short answer is certainly yes, however it is the wrong question.
Usually this question arises when a company is trying to decide between cloud software or server software. The right decision depends on a number of factors which can be determined by the following questions:
- What systems do we need in order to run our business?
- Do we have the skills and resources to operate those systems?
- What budget do we have to spend on systems?
- How critical are the systems to the business?
- What security and disaster recovery plans do we need?
- Do we need to share data across systems?
When weighing the benefits against server software, the logical result is often to choose cloud software. This may initially seem counterintuitive following years of fear, uncertainty and doubt spread by traditional software vendors. But most concerns about the cloud, if managed correctly, are actually the cloud’s strengths.
Common concerns centre on the location of data, its security and control, each of which should be addressed on a system by system basis whether in the cloud or not.
Does the location of my data matter? Particularly if it resides on a system which has world class security and compliance.
Do we have more or less control of our systems if operational aspects such as back up, server maintenance, availability and scalability are performed by the software vendor?
There are many more relevant questions to choosing the right systems for your business. In coming weeks I’ll cover more of these in detail. But if a business owner is asking whether every software system is available in the cloud, the answer for most companies is usually yes.
Cloud based systems can operate a majority of business systems. Email and productivity suites (Google and Microsoft); CRM, customer service and collaboration (salesforce.com); integration with websites, intranet and portals (Orchestra CMS); marketing automation (Marketo and Hubspot); accounting (Xero and Saasu), business processes (force.com and Google App Engine) and performance management for teams (work.com).
These systems have world class security, high availability, scalability and are used by thousands of organisations worldwide with great success. They integrate well with each other, are easy to use and are constantly being improved and updated with new and improved functionality.
So can you operate your entire business with cloud software? Yes, but make sure the systems you decide on are evaluated on merit, that risks are considered logically and that you discuss your requirements with an expert who can advise you on the best way to proceed.
This is the first of a monthly series highlighting some of the best applications available on the salesforce.com Appexchange. Salesforce.com pioneered the concept of business applications delivered via an online store, creating an entire ecosystem dedicated to extending the core functionality of salesforce.com, everything from marketing automation, electronic signatures, content management and over 1,700 other applications.
My first app of the month is OrchestraCMS (CMS stands for content management system and is the administration “backend” which manages what you see and can do on a website). There is no better way to start the new year than by re-assessing how effective your website is at finding customers for your business
- Is your website delivering what you want?
- Does it engage your audience and drive leads into your sales pipeline?
- Is it fresh and easy to maintain?
- And how well is it integrated with your customer database (CRM)?
Once a year is just about often enough to take a step back and look at your website objectively. Website design can become tired quickly even if you are adding content regularly. So the next time you evaluate your web presence I highly recommend you take a look at OrchestraCMS as your content management system.
Whether you are a salesforce.com customer or not, there are significant benefits with OrchestraCMS being built entirely on the force.com platform, from not having to worry about hosting because your site is running on salesforce.com infrastructure to the inherent security benefits this brings.
But the biggest benefit is that OrchestraCMS integrates your CRM (i.e. salesforce.com) directly with your website. Viewers’ actions on your website can trigger processes in your CRM automatically without having to move data between the two systems. This means your partners can place orders with you directly in a branded portal, your customers can update their own details or add more information to a customer service case. Any type of form on the website – newsletter, contact, software demo, event registration or lead generation – is automatically entered into salesforce.com, reducing the need to manually rekey or copy over the data.
A list of features can be found here.
Specialist recruitment company Hydrogen chose OrchestraCMS to record how often visitors returned to its website and turn these statistics into marketing data for prospects in salesforce.com. Hydrogen’s non-technical staff could add content and make changes to the website using OrchestraCMS’s user-friendly interface. And the CMS used Amazon’s S3 cloud storage service to store a large collection of documents and videos used on the website and elsewhere.
Other customer success stories demonstrate how a website, intranet or portal working in step with your CRM and customer service application can be a powerful addition to your suite of systems.
Here is my first guest post on BoxFreeIT. Why your next hire should be a cloud system explores the alternatives to hiring another person to solve your business process bottlenecks. Deploying a cloud system/platform such as Force.com could be a better alternative:
Say your business is booming and your team are struggling to keep up with the volume of work. Most business owners would hang out the ‘Help Wanted’ sign and hire another pair of hands to lighten the load – and in doing so jack up the monthly wages bill.
Before you start the next round of interviews, consider whether your next hire should be a system that eliminates manual tasks and makes your existing team more efficient.
As businesses grow so do the number of processes relating to customers, employees, finances or inventory. The usual approach is to quickly create a new spreadsheet or a simple database to manage each new process. This works to a point but doesn’t scale as the business grows without a lot of manual effort.
Try to estimate the time you and your team spend updating spreadsheets, copy and pasting data between documents, emailing document versions, consolidating responses, printing, scanning and emailing, plus making sure documents are current, secure and backed up.
The time spent will no doubt surprise you. Most businesses waste a significant proportion of their potential.
- Wouldn’t this time spent be better used working on your business’s core competence?
- Would it be better to have a central system of record that can be extended for each new business process?
- Or do you keep adding more people to manage your manual processes?
Rather than make that next hire, consider an investment in a cloud platform that can consolidate business processes; a central and secure database that efficiently stores all your data and is available from any device.
The more popular cloud platforms are Force.com (operated by salesforce.com), Google App Engine, Windows Azure, Heroku and Cloud Foundry. Cloud services brokers can build software models that mimic the processes in your business, automate them and run them from your phone or tablet.
A 15-person sales team in one financial services business in Sydney were each spending up to eight hours a week on administrative tasks such as copying customer details from shared spreadsheets into documents for signature, updating customer details in one document and copying/pasting/printing/emailing and scanning to other documents. They then had to check with their colleagues that they were using the correct versions.
The cloud services broker then built a business application on Force.com that generated documents at the click of a button and enabled the team to collaborate and share information wherever they were. Wasted time was reduced to a minimum and the improved efficiency was equivalent to recruiting three more salespeople.
But isn’t this expensive? Isn’t it out of reach of small businesses?
The example above took approximately four weeks to design, develop and deploy, it cost less than a year’s salary for a mid-level employee and yet it delivered the equivalent of three additional people. That business now has a platform for growth which it can continually build on. A platform that scales, operates 24×7 and is seamlessly upgraded three times a year.
So instead of making your next hire another person to manage your manually processes, take a step back, have a think about where your team are spending their time and consider a different approach.
Social Media Toolbox, How do you use Social Media?
Social media can be overwhelming, there are many platforms and tools available but where do you start? which platform do you use for which purpose? and what tools do you use to solve which problems?
If any of these questions sound familiar this presentation should help explain the tools and platforms I use and a whole bunch of tips on using them.
Top 3 lessons from 2012, Social, Sales and Cloud
The world didn’t end in 2012, in fact it’s been an amazing and successful year, full of learning, cloud computing, networking and a great deal of fun. There have been some incredible highlights, including our team winning a salesforce.com innovation award at Dreamforce in September and earning Platinum Partner status in November.
LinkedIn and Twitter have been awesome tools paying back effort invested many times over. LinkedIn has made connecting with prospects, customers and partners easier than ever and enabled me to connect many people together that wouldn’t have otherwise met.
Twitter has been far and away the most important source of news and conversation I use. I’ve connected with a huge number of highly talented people who go out of their way to help. My connections for LinkedIn and Twitter have grown 150% and 300% in the last 12 months.
Looking back over the year the following 3 points are significant things i’ve learnt in the last 12 months, on reflection they seem like common sense, however they have been significant factors to any success I’ve had this year:
1. Powerpoint in a meeting is a waste of everyones time
Whether it was a bad habit, fear or a lack of knowing any better I used to rely on Powerpoint to guide me through my meetings with potential customers. As the year progressed I found myself speaking to my slides less and less until it hit me.
A conversation is far and away the most productive meeting, flexibility to change direction as you understand customer requirements, the opportunity to listen without worrying about the next slide, and most importantly having time to read reactions in the room and relate relevant examples mean I’m unlikely to use powerpoint in a meeting again.
This also gives you to chance to demonstrate your passion for a topic by being able to think on your feet, react to requirements and have an engaged two way conversation, I’ve since sat through a number of meetings with others running Powerpoint and it generally leaves me cold.
2. This leads me to my second lesson, telling stories is the most effective way to engage. Organisations reach out for assistance for a number of different reasons:
They have poor legacy systems, manual and inefficient processes, pressure to achieve beyond their current capability or they have hit a brick wall and don’t know how to fix a particular problem and they are looking for help.
Telling relevant stories helps organisations relate to how others have fixed similar issues, how they are realising the benefits and enable them to start understanding the options in front of them.
Putting together customer stories is also an immensely rewarding way of reflecting on achievements, it helps everyone see what they’ve worked hard for, lets you showcase with your partners and in turn cements your customer relationships.
3. Cloud computing isn’t a silver bullet, talented, dedicated people are:
Salesforce, Heroku, Zuora, OrchestraCMS and Marketo are the platforms we work with most often, they are great products, but it’s the people who understand them, know how to implement them, can understand your business challenges and deliver amazing results, they make cloud computing a great space to be.
I’ve worked with some incredible people this year who have delivered astonishing outcomes for customers, revolutionised organisations, enabled unprecedented levels of collaboration and delivered at unbelievable speed.
It’s the many, many people I’ve worked with over 2012 who have provided the best lessons, I look forward to learning more from them all in 2013!
Twelve days of Cloudmas…
One for Ben Kepes an amazing source of help and inspiration over the past year!
The twelfth day of Cloudmas, an analyst/friend gave to me, Twelve informed CxO’s, Eleven devops delivering, Ten scalable systems, Nine crazy buzzwords, Eight flavours of open cloud, Seven calls of FUD, Six events worth attending, Five as a Services, Four moves to opex, Three predicted mergers, Two trips around the world and a CloudU Certificate!
Thanks Ben, looking forward to an informed 2013!