What SMB Buyers Want from the Business Solutions Purchasing Process

Are you hitting the mark—or missing it—when it comes to providing small and medium business (SMB) buyers with what they want in the tech buying process?

Our SMB 360: Connecting the Dots Between Business and Technology Study reveals how vendors can improve the purchasing process for SMBs (Figure 1).

Figure 1: How SMBs Want Vendors to Improve the Purchase Process

As indicated, SMBs’ top three asks are for vendors to:

  • Make it easier to get answers to their questions. Both small (1-99 employees) and medium (100-1,000 employees) put this at the top of their lists. Closely connected is SMBs’ growing desire for vendors to provide real-time chat and/or phone support on their websites, which comes in at number four. SMBs’ desires here are not surprising. Our survey data also shows that small businesses rank “figuring out which technology solutions can best help my business” as their number one technology challenge, while medium businesses rate this as their second most vexing tech challenge.
  • Provide a consistent experience between online, mobile and offline channels. Due to the rise of cloud computing, SMBs have been shifting channel preferences to favor direct purchase channels for business solutions (Figure 2). However, as the chart indicates, SMBs are channel omnivores Multiple channels are likely to come into play—and SMBs want vendors to provide a consistent shopping experience across them.

Figure 2: SMB Primary Purchase Channels for Business Solutions

  • Better articulate how the solution helps us achieve specific business goals. This also relates directly that knotty problem of figuring out what solutions will really help the business. SMBs want more than an explanation of features and functionality—and sweeping benefits statements. After all, almost all vendors promise that their solutions will help SMBs grow, save time and operate more efficiently. SMBs want vendors to provide specifics of how their solutions will help with relevant business growth, talent and customer experience challenges (Figure 3).

Figure 3: SMB Top Business Challenges

As competition for SMB market share continues to intensify, business solution vendors can’t afford to be complacent about the purchase experience they offer to customers. One negative experience—or unanswered question—can potentially undo the investments you’ve made to nurture them along the technology decision-making process. Take an objective look at the experience you offer to SMBs today—and tune up the experience to better meet their expectations.

© SMB Group 2019

 

Source: Laurie McCabe’s Blog

Energy Efficiency Expert CLEAResult Increases Productivity and Visibility with Workday

Efficiency is the name of the game for CLEAResult, which provides design, consulting and other services to utilities and enterprises seeking to reduce and better manage their energy consumption. CLEAResult’s ability to meet the diverse needs of its customers has made it the largest provider of energy efficiency programs and services in North America.

Behind the scenes, however, CLEAResult faced efficiency challenges of its own. Founded in 2003, the Austin, Texas–based company today employs more than 2,500 people working out of more than 70 offices in the United States and Canada. But much of its growth has come via acquisitions, which resulted in a hodgepodge of IT, financial and human resources systems and processes.

CLEAResult’s Integration Imperative

When Leisa Tremblay joined CLEAResult’s finance department six years ago, one of her main responsibilities was to manage the integration of acquired firms and systems. “In my first four or five years with the company, I was part of 12 acquisitions,” she says.

By 2015, CLEAResult was running 17 different applications to support its core business operations. They included two financial planning systems, four financial reporting systems, two different instances of ADP for payroll, a talent acquisition system, a separate purchase order system and a variety of other solutions.

Few of these systems were integrated with one another. After acquiring a company that was using Microsoft Dynamics GP (Great Plains) as its main accounting system, CLEAResult learned that it couldn’t integrate the GP system with the Microsoft Dynamics SL (Solomon) system that it was using. “That’s when we started doing accounting and financials on two separate systems,” Tremblay says. “And we had to establish two completely separate accounting teams to accommodate that. The inefficiencies were just insane.”

This fragmented IT and operations landscape caused process inefficiencies and resulted in added costs and data management challenges for the company. Seeking to remedy this situation, CLEAResult set out to find a cloud-based  solution that would provide a single foundation for human capital management (HCM) and financial management robust enough to replace the functionality of its 17 existing applications. After an extensive and rigorous evaluation process, CLEAResult selected Workday.

Using ERP as a Springboard to Rethink How Work Gets Done

In launching its search, CLEAResult hoped for more than simply a well-integrated technical solution. “We really wanted to redesign how we work,” explains Sandra Mokey, senior finance director at the company. “Going with an ERP [enterprise resource planning] system gave us an opportunity to rethink what we do and how we do it. We weren’t just trying to put lipstick on a pig.”

For the evaluation and selection process, Mokey and Tremblay led a team of about 20 people who represented all of CLEAResult’s main functional areas. Many of the company’s existing applications were on-premises deployments, which involved significant management demands and licensing costs. As a result, CLEAResult wanted to find a cloud-based ERP solution.

After considering six different solutions, the team whittled down their choices to the final three: Workday, Oracle and NetSuite (since acquired by Oracle). Ultimately, CLEAResult selected Workday, in part because it offered the broadest scope of functionality with the least number of integrations required. “Being able to have HR, finance, operations and PSA [professional service automation] all in one place was huge for us,” says Mokey.

Other Workday strengths included that its procurement module can support supplier punchouts, allowing CLEAResult to stay within Workday when purchasing items from a supplier’s website. Given that the majority of CLEAResult’s 2,500 employees are in the field, Workday’s strong mobile capabilities were also important.

CLEAResult included total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) as key criteria in the selection process but based 75% of its rating scale on fit and functionality considerations.

The company determined that Workday had many functional strengths in finance and, especially, HCM. However, at the time of the evaluation and selection, some functional areas such as PSA were still evolving. Yet, even though professional services are a big part of CLEAResult’s business, “We ended up making a bet on Workday given where their functionality was going,” says Tremblay. The reason? “One area where Workday scored really well was in their focus on innovation and the money they put into development.”

Taking a Comprehensive Approach to Implementation and Training

CLEAResult initiated its Workday deployment and training program in November 2016. The company planned a “big bang” launch in which all the major Workday elements would go live on the same date, with Mokey heading the financial side of the implementation, Tremblay on HCM and an associate on PSA.

Because the company was changing technologies in addition to redesigning its teams and work processes, it brought in change-management firm Appirio to help navigate the process. Appirio recommended creating a change advocacy program with participating representatives from across the company. Over 13 weeks, the team trained more than 125 “change advocates” on the core system. Separately, a number of functional business holders helped to determine various design and configuration requirements.

CLEAResult set an ambitious goal to go live with Workday on July 1, 2017, but challenges associated with its existing payroll vendor caused the launch date to slip one financial quarter to October 1, 2017. On that day, all 2,500 CLEAResult employees plus 300 contingent workers went live with the Workday solution. Within two days of the launch, more than 80% of the workforce had logged into the system.

CLEAResult retired 14 of its 17 disparate applications at launch and the 15th shortly thereafter. Fortuitously, Workday acquired one of the remaining applications, Adaptive Insights financial planning software, in August 2018, which it is now integrating into the broader Workday suite. “We currently have some third-party integration between Adaptive and Workday. As Workday builds out the roadmap, we are looking forward to in-solution integration so that information will flow seamlessly between Adaptive and Workday. We know they’re working on it now, but they only acquired Adaptive in August, so it hasn’t been that long,” notes Tremblay.

At the time of its Workday deployment, equity investor General Atlantic owned CLEAResult. (TPG Growth and The Rise Fund subsequently acquired CLEAResult in August 2018.) General Atlantic had seen many of its portfolio companies undertake ERP deployments, “and they told us our Workday deployment was the best ERP implementation they had seen in their history,” Mokey says.

For the most part, CLEAResult is using out-of-the-box Workday functionality, although it has tweaked that functionality to meet its specific needs. For example, CLEAResult’s utility customers sometimes offer their customers incentives to undertake energy efficiency measures in their homes or buildings. Funds associated with these incentive programs must be separated from other funds, and they require different flows and different banks. Workday has been able to accommodate these and other special needs.

CLEAResult has also integrated Workday with third-party applications. Initially, Workday served as the prime integrator. But, according to Tremblay, “After Workday did the first one or two integrations, our own integrations person was able to build out the rest.” She says, “It’s been pretty seamless.”

Racking Up Benefits

The shift to Workday has generated several benefits for CLEAResult, including improved TCO, thanks to the elimination of multiple application licenses and the management overhead associated with maintaining so many discrete systems.

The shift has also enabled the company to reduce finance, IT and HCM headcount via natural attrition, freeing some people to take on new roles. For example, CLEAResult formed a six-person Workday management team, headed by Tremblay, within the IT organization. “It didn’t cost the company any more to build my centralized Workday administration team,” Tremblay notes. “We were able to take resources we had in the company, involve them on the implementation project, get them the training that they needed, and then build my team from that.”

One of the most consequential benefits has been the creation of a centralized procurement team. “We now have an entire procurement functionality which we didn’t have before Workday,” says Mokey. With that team, along with Workday-supported functionality such as supplier punchouts, CLEAResult realized $2.2 million in procurement-specific savings in the year following the go-live launch. “We’re on pace to achieve $19 million in savings over a five-year business case,” Tremblay says.

Mokey and Tremblay give Workday high ratings across a range of metrics, from its ease of use to real-time information visibility to product functionality. Tremblay notes, “Workday’s customer center and customer support team is awesome. We’ve partnered with Workday and its product development team, and they’ve remained interested in making sure we have everything we need.”

Looking back, Mokey and Tremblay might have done some things differently, including defining CLEAResult’s specific report needs at the start of the implementation. “Reporting tends to be an afterthought in implementations,” Mokey says. “We eventually found we needed reports that we didn’t even realize we needed. Focusing on that from day one would have been very helpful.”

All things considered, “We’re very happy with our choice, and very committed to growing with Workday,” Tremblay says. “We’re basically driving the organization to Workday and Adaptive to run the company.”

Mokey agrees. “We’ve become huge advocates of Workday,” she says. “We have a lot of lessons learned, but we remain really happy with the purchase and with our ongoing partnership with Workday.”

This is the first post in a four-part blog series sponsored by Workday that examines how midmarket companies are streamlining their businesses with unified financials, payroll and HCM applications. 

© SMB Group 2019

 

Source: Laurie McCabe’s Blog

Heading Towards A Shake-Up: The Cloud Business Apps Market According to Zoho

Last week I had the opportunity to attend Zoho Day 2019, Zoho’s analyst and influencer event.

Zoho is on a path that lies in stark contrast to the norms of the cloud software industry. The private, bootstrapped and profitable company sells over 40 business applications, three functional area suites and an all-inclusive ZohOne bundle (Figure 1). Leveraging a generous freemium model, Zoho now serves more than 41 million users in 180 countries. With pricing that can be exponentially less expensive than competitors, Zoho has also grown its paid subscription customer base to more than 331,000 accounts—primarily from the ranks of small business.

Zoho’s founder and CEO, Sridhar Vembu, takes the position is that software industry is ripe for a shake-up—and that its approach will not only help the company weather the disruption, but capitalize on it.

Figure 1: Zoho Offerings

Commoditization Ahead

Why, posits Vembu, do cloud business software prices keep going up, even as software development gets easier—and while prices for other technologies continue to drop over time?

From Vembu’s standpoint, this is the result of a vicious cycle: Venture capital companies pump billions of dollars into the industry, which puts pressure on vendors to grow big enough for an IPO—and forces them to spend upwards of 50% of revenues on customer acquisition. As sales and marketing costs spiral, profitability becomes elusive, so vendors raise prices and double-down to cross-sell, upsell, and make acquisitions (most of which fail to add value) to grow. The result is over-priced, often bloated software that doesn’t deliver the value that customers need.

Vembu has contended for several years that forces are converging that will disrupt this status quo. Populations are growing in emerging and less affluent markets, and younger workers are becoming decision-makers. These new constituencies want modern, robust, connected business applications—but will opt for solutions that are faster and cheaper to deploy, and easier to use than what most vendors currently offer.

Of course, the established business software model isn’t dead—yet. But, Vembu believes that it’s only a matter of time until Amazon gets into the game. When it does, it will bring the same scale, efficiencies and downward price pressure to the world of business software as it’s done in so many other markets—provoking an upheaval in the industry.

Zoho’s Approach

Zoho’s market approach rests on three pillars:

  1. Products: Provide sophisticated, yet easy to use software for a broad range of functions, with deep cross integrations. Rapid innovation and updates are evidenced by a steady stream of new solutions and continual infrastructure improvements.
  2. Value: Deliver full features, at a low price, without cross-sell and upsell pressures.
  3. Ease of doing business: Make it easy for customers to discover, try, buy and implement Zoho solutions, whether single solutions, bundles or the full Zoho One suite. Customers can upgrade or downgrade editions and licenses at will, and are not locked into multi-year contracts.

This approach is backed by Zoho’s unconventional business model, which Vembu believes will help it not only to weather, but prosper when the shake-up occurs. For instance:

  • Zoho has forsaken venture funding and intends to stay private, so it doesn’t face the growth pressures that investors and Wall Street demand. While the company is profitable, Zoho isn’t out to grow at all costs—sustainable growth is the goal. Zoho believes that by providing robust freemium options, affordable quality, and a positive experience.
  • Zoho’s operational model yields substantial efficiencies. The company builds and runs its own infrastructure in eight data centers, and claims this saves it 50 percent or more of what it would pay to use AWS or Azure. Zoho recently purchased 360 acres for a new facility in Austin, and plans to use some of them for solar panels to power a planned data center there.
  • About 80% of Zoho’s 7,000-plus employees are in engineering, product management and support roles—the inverse of some of its competitors. The bulk of its engineering staff is in India, where Zoho has tapped into non-traditional talent pools for years. For instance, Zoho established Zoho University in Chennai, India in 2004 to recruit and train students who otherwise would have limited educational opportunities. Zoho trains them to program, pays them a stipend, and then hires many of them. Currently, 15% of Zoho’s engineering employees are Zoho University graduates. Zoho is now extending Zoho University in the U.S., with a pilot program in Austin, Texas, and is expanding beyond engineering to offer training in marketing and design.

Zoho’s cultural values are also key to its sustainability equation. The culture is competitive but not pressure to sell at any cost. According to Vembu, this cultivates a “freshness of spirit” often lacking in high-pressure sales environments. Zoho’s also claims that its employee attrition is among the lowest in the industry.

Zoho’s Trajectory  

Zoho is growing. In 2018, it added staff opened new offices in the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore, Mexico, and Australia.

Zoho added three new products last year, including Backstage for event management; PageSense, a CRO platform, and Flow, an application integration platform, which has already been used to integrate over 250 third-party apps with Zoho applications.

The company also revamped many of its existing products. It retooled Zoho Analytics to work better with third-party apps; enhanced Creator’s custom app development capabilities; and extended CRM with the CRM Plus Unified Customer Experience Platform.

On the marketing front, Zoho has been ramping up outreach and event presence at third-party trade shows, its own Zoholics user and Zoho One prospect events, and at partner events and meetups.

While Zoho’s roots are firmly planted in small business (80% of their customer base is small businesses with 1-100 employees), the company has been gaining ground in the midmarket, and in department levels in large companies. Interestingly, it has even delivered private cloud versions of Creator and Analytics to larger firms that needed to run these solutions in-house.

More than half of Zoho’s customers are from North America, but Zoho is steadily diversifying across the globe—especially in several emerging, high growth markets.

Since Zoho is private, it doesn’t publicly disclose revenues or growth numbers. But the company privately shares numbers that indicate strong momentum in terms of customer growth, and a steady rise in average deal sizes.

Perspective

Almost all markets eventually commoditize to some degree. The question is to what degree, and how quickly, will this happen in the business software space? Of course, if Vembu is correct, and Amazon does enter the market, it will certainly accelerate the pace.

Other factors will also come into play, such as demand in cost-sensitive emerging markets for less costly solutions, as well recessionary fears which will cause some companies to tighten their wallets. Remember when customer demand for cloud software spiked in the 2008 recession?

Regardless of the degree and pace of how these trends unfold, Zoho’s value proposition—products, value and ease of doing business—should stand it in good stead, both in its small business stronghold and increasingly, in the midmarket.

However, Zoho will need to take its value proposition one step further to super-size its growth. Just as it has created “sophisticated software that’s affordable and easy to use,” the company will also need to develop and deliver services that are sophisticated, easy to use and affordable.

Cloud delivery takes the technical obstacles out of consuming software, but hasn’t really addressed the business process issues of getting the software to do what it needs to do to deliver the desired outcomes.

As a result, consulting and implementation costs still run three to four times the cost of the software for most cloud business apps. While cloud apps typically provide faster time to value than on-premises alternatives, it can still take months to get up, running and productive with them.

Until Zoho—or someone else—figures out how to change this equation, the bottleneck to getting value will remain, slowing down the technology consumption rate.

Can Zoho—or Amazon—or someone else—figure this out? I suspect that over time, vendors will put artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language progressing, augmented reality and other emerging technologies to work to at least make progress toward this goal—and truly challenge the incumbent business software model.

© SMB Group

Source: Laurie McCabe’s Blog

6 Workplace Technology Trends that SMBs Should Consider in 2019

Are you drowning under an ocean of emails? Maybe your remote team finds it impossible to stay in sync? Do you feel like you’re herding cats and doing everything yourself?

The reality for most SMBs – especially those on the smaller, start-up end of the spectrum – is that you find yourself spending more time doing the boring admin stuff than actually creating, producing, and marketing your products. Cue trumpet fanfare!

We’re living – right now – in the workplace of the future. And virtual team technology is facilitating collaboration across remote teams, creating a global workplace like never before.

A plethora of workplace technology tools has flooded the market over the past couple of years; designed to make life for SMBs more manageable, more trackable, and, most importantly, more productive.

We’ve kept a close eye on the development of the best in interactive technologies and are ready to share the six workplace technology trends that SMBs should adopt to make 2019 a productive, creative, and communicative year.

Chatbots

The idea of chatbots, perhaps, is a little intimidating and maybe even a little unattractive. But chatbots are just an interactive version of that dusty old-school FAQ page. Your customers and clients are too busy to pick up the phone. And they certainly don’t want to fill out an online contact form. That’s so 1990s.

They want to know the answer to their question and quick. Chatbots are the ever-ready, friendly face of automation. Ignore them at your own risk!

Collaboration tools

Email has its place; but projects isn’t really one of them. Not anymore.  Consider how you organize a night out, for example – you’d never do it over email. You’d use text messaging, a physical voice- or video-call, or one of the many messaging services provided by social media platforms.

If it’s not practical to organise your social life through email, it’s unlikely to be the best mode of communication for remote teams. Yet, so many businesses seem so stuck with it.

It’s time to break free. Small and medium businesses are moving away from email: collaborating over the net, using low-cost packages, such as:

  • Slack or Yammer to keep teams connected
  • Google Docs to share and collaborate on documents
  • Salesforce to manage clients and customers
  • Basecamp to plan projects
  • Zoom to host group meetings; facilitating collaboration with screen sharing, breakout rooms, text chat.

Interactive displays

Interactive displays are the new flipchart. Let’s consider what flipcharts were great for:

  • Mind mapping, thought showers, and note taking
  • Group development
  • Referring back to ideas and moving onto new ones

However, everyone has to be in the same room with a physical flipchart. And with many SMBs employing a high proportion of freelancers, that’s rarely possible. Interactive displays do all of those things and more. Imagine the same board that you’re using to jot down notes and ideas:

  • displaying video from Vimeo for a little inspiration,
  • incorporating live video from remote workers who contribute in real-time,
  • while other workers in the same room wirelessly send contribution from their laptops or tablets;
  • all appearing on this single screen.

Interactive displays have been transforming the classroom in educational environments for years – the benefits to business are clear.

Influencer Marketing

If youth is your market, there’s no better way of grabbing their attention than by embracing the cyber celeb. Old-school advertising feels utterly fake in comparison to the world of influencer marketing.

Videos are often shot on mobile phones; a million miles away from the glossy world of traditional advertising. But it’s the relationship between influencer and audience that’s invaluable. These are “normal” people. This is a peer; talking their language, and explaining why a product is right for them. And if an influencer endorses a product, their audience trusts their judgement.  It’s very powerful and a high growth advertising technique.

AI

OK, so we don’t have photo-realistic robots that make the tea while checking the stock-exchange and ordering a ream of paper from Amazon with a blink of an HD eye quite yet – but AI is finding its way onto the tech trends for SMBs.

Meredith Schmidt, at Salesforce, explained: “if you spend up to 25% of your day on manual functions such as inputting data – as revealed through our research – AI and automation will represent a huge asset. “Artificial intelligence sounds like the fictional territory of ominous government agencies, carrying out top-secret research in the Arizona desert.

But – actually – there’s way more to AI than James Bond villains. AI can help SMBs personalise their customer experience while automating those manual tasks that take up so much of your time. AI tools, such as those provided by Salesforce and many other software companies can help SMBs maximize productivity.

Dialpad is an AI-driven cloud-based phone network that manages the entire remote working team. It can:

  • Note-take during conference calls
  • deal with incoming phone calls with artificial intelligence in a way that makes it difficult to detect that you’re speaking to a computer.
  • Give the workplace genuine flexibility – accessible from smart mobile devices and desktops.
  • Synchronise the workforce from anywhere

5G

Keep your ears to the ground because 5G is on its way and it’s set to revolutionise mobile working, broadening the canvas for workplace technology.5G will decuple (x10) network speeds.

The US, South Korea, and China are all racing to launch it first. It seems that 5G is the new space race. 5G will change the way we work, the speed in which we communicate, and will allow Uber to launch their food-delivery drones (so it’s worth it just for that!). 5G will allow us to be online all the time – like an always-on broadband signal; but everywhere.

Although 5G isn’t officially due to be launched until 2020, the networks are going to be keen for volunteers to trial 5G in 2019. So get in touch with them and offer to test the most exciting development in workplace technology of the past ten years.

2019 is the year of change for SMBs, and all the tech trends are whizzing us at light speed towards the interactive technologies that once seemed the stuff of sci-fi movies and fantasy.

This guest post was contributed by Natalie Harris-Briggs, VP of Marketing at Avocorhttps://twitter.com/avocortech

 

Source: Laurie McCabe’s Blog

Taking the Guesswork Out of IoT: Dell Technologies IoT Connected Bundles

The internet has spawned yet another game changer: the Internet of Things, or IoT. IoT connects objects, people and animals to the internet with sensors that enable them to send and receive data. Using IoT, people can monitor, measure, access and manage what’s happening with things in the physical environment more efficiently.

By replacing manual data collection and subjective judgments with automated data collection, businesses can more precisely monitor what’s happening— whether on the factory floor or on a farm—and then analyze it to improve operational efficiencies, boost performance and increase security. IoT can also help companies better engage customers and develop new services and business models.

SMBs are becoming more aware of how IoT can help their businesses: Overall, 36% of SMBs currently use or plan to use IoT solutions, both to streamline existing operations and to develop new type of services and business models. (Figure 1).

Figure 1: SMB IoT Adoption and Plans

 However, SMBs—and often larger enterprises—lack the resources to piece together all of the components necessary to take advantage of IoT solutions. To move from aspiration to action, SMBs need more turnkey, easy-to-deploy solutions that cater to specific use cases, requirements and constraints.

Enter Dell Technologies IoT Connected Bundles

Recognizing this issue early on, Dell Technologies began building its IoT partner ecosystem in 2016 (add link to https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/lauriemccabe.com/5122). Now, working with its ecosystem partners, Dell Technologies has pulled all of the components needed for use-case specific IoT solutions into preconfigured, packaged IoT Connected Bundles (Figure 2) that are easy for channel partners to sell and deploy, and provide fast time-to-value for customers.

Figure 2: Dell Technologies IoT Connected Bundles

The program is launching with eight solutions:

  • ELM Fieldsight Compliance-as-a-Service for HVAC, refrigeration and power systems
  • Action Point Predictive maintenance in midmarket manufacturing
  • Modius Advanced Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) and Smart Building Monitoring.
  • V5 Systems Self-contained & powered surveillance for safety & security in outdoor spaces
  • IMS Evolve Energy savings for grocery retailers while improving food quality and safety
  • Pixel Velocity Efficient remote monitoring of field assets in Oil and Gas operations
  • Software AG Digital manufacturing intelligence suite for larger-scale operations
  • Arundo Analytics Maritime for shipboard analytics

Dell Technologies combed its IoT Ecosystem to select these solutions based on compelling customer outcomes and return-on-investment metrics. Each solution includes all of the necessary components—including sensors, gateways, Microsoft network connections, ISV licensing, licensing for VMWare’s Pulse IoT management software, and other elements in one turnkey package, along with step-by-step instructions on how to activate the solution in a customer environment.

Some of the bundles come in t-shirt size bundles–small, medium, large, extra-large—to make it easy to choose the right one to meet each customer’s individual requirements. Fulfillment is through TechData, one of Dell’s key distributors.

IoT Takes a Village

Dell Technologies IoT partner Ecosystem provides it with first-hand experience in learning what works—and what doesn’t—and affords it with ample opportunities to add more bundles. Ideal bundle candidates are partners with repeatable solutions that have demonstrated credible results with several customers.

Each IoT bundle has some very specific sensors, cameras, and other components that need to be carefully configured. Dell validates the results of each IoT bundle, and brands the solutions as “powered by Dell Technologies.”  It partners with TechData for distribution and fulfillment, providing them with a recipe card to integrate the relevant components.

Dell Technologies is working Dell EMC channel partners to sell its IoT solution bundles in this initial phase. In addition to recruiting more partners from its own channel ranks, Dell is also working with TechData to identify, train and work with IoT practice builder partners who would be a good fit specific IoT solutions in different regions.

The vendor is also training partners to help them understand the use case, business drivers and challenges, benefits, outcomes and decision-making process for each bundled solution—not just the technical considerations. By focusing on business outcomes, partners can more readily engage with line-of-business executives, CFOs and CEOs and other IoT stakeholders outside of the IT department. Dell is also educating partners on ways they can add value on top of the bundle with installation, integration, monitoring, security and other services.

Perspective

Dell Technologies’ market-tested, turnkey bundles start with a value proposition that offers customers clear time and cost-savings benefits. This approach makes these solutions more accessible to a broader range of customers.

Just as important are the resources that Dell is providing to channel partners. These tools—including step-by-step guides to engage effectively with decision-makers across an organization, insights to address customers concerns in a relevant and concrete manner, and ways to drive additional revenues throughout the solution lifecycle—offer partners everything they need to kick-start their own IoT ventures.

In addition, the decision to fulfill via TechData not only helps Dell Technologies to get these solutions into market more quickly, but should help it recruit new partners that want to build new, IoT-focused businesses into its channel network.

Taken as whole, Dell Technologies’ practical, experiential approach to IoT will help demystify IoT for both customers and channel partners—and help more customers take advantage of IoT solutions.

© SMB Group

 

 

Source: Laurie McCabe’s Blog

Ascend by Wix: Helping Small Businesses Take Marketing to the Next Level

In the midst of the holiday rush, website platform developer Wix delivered a welcome gift to small businesses: an integrated suite of marketing products called Ascend.

Although I didn’t have a chance to write about it at the time, I did attend the launch, and wanted to recap the announcement because the new suite can really help small businesses take digital marketing and CRM to the next level.

Most Small Businesses Use a Hodge Podge of Disconnected Marketing Tools

Small businesses increasingly rely on digital channels to market and sell their goods and services (Figure 1). According to SMB Group research:

  • 60% of small businesses have a website, and 20% plan to create one in the next 12 months.
  • 35% have an ecommerce storefront, and 21% plan to add one in the next 12 months.
  • 56% use Facebook to engage with customers and prospects, and many use other social channels as well.

Figure 1: Small Business Use and Plans of Digital Channels

Small businesses also use a variety of other tools to help them establish, manage and grow customer relationships. The problem is, most have cobbled together an unwieldy assortment of spreadsheets, email contact managers, and disjointed point solutions to help manage these functions.

And, although 56% of small businesses say that application integration will be a very important or important capability for their businesses to have in the future, few have the resources or skills to even figure out where or how to start connecting the patchwork quilt of tools that they use today.

Enter Wix Ascend

Wix was started with the aim of making it simpler and faster for entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and small business owners to create a website. Now, the company is launching Ascend to offer small businesses an easy on ramp to the marketing and business management capabilities that they need to create a more professional business persona and grow their companies.

Ascend includes twenty different solutions, including search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, chat, scheduling, memberships, and more (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Wix Ascend Solutions

The really great part is that these solutions integrate with Wix websites—and with each other—without the need for confusing plug-ins.

Instead of toggling back and forth between different solutions and platforms, a small business can use Ascend to do things such as set up online chats, offer personalized discounts, post to social networks, provide quotes, and schedule service appointments—all from one dashboard. It even enables customers to create and send invoices.

As important, Wix puts the whole customer conversation at a small business owner or employee’s fingertips. Wix funnels all customer interactions into one, unified inbox. Users can view the interaction history and respond to customers from a smartphone, tablet or PC.

Ascend also includes workflow functionality to enable automatic replies to customers that visit a Wix website (Figure 3). For instance, a small business could send automatic thank you notes, or generate automatic invitations or quotes.

Figure 3: Wix Ascend Workflow

Wix sells Ascend via a separate subscription, offering three plans to choose from, with pricing ranging from $9 to $45 per month.

Perspective

Most small businesses want to unify customer communication, workflows and information, but typically find it too complicated or expensive to do so.

Ascend addresses this issue by providing them with one place to go for all the tools they need to more effectively interact with and project a more responsive, professional image to customers and prospects. The integration with Wix websites allows small businesses to easily manage customer and prospect information, communication and behavior from one dashboard.

Wix’s packaging scheme is spot on. The comprehensive, easy to use Ascend tool is engineered to integrate seamlessly with Wix websites—making it a no-brainer for existing Wix customers to try. In addition, it should help Wix attract a larger share of new website customers to its platform versus those of competitors.

The one missing link to date is for small businesses that have existing websites on competing platforms. Although the Wix-Ascend value proposition is appealing, most will need some–as yet undeveloped–migration tools to lift and shift their websites. However, the Wix team certainly understands this issue, and I expect that they will address it in the not too distant future.

 

Source: Laurie McCabe’s Blog

SMB Group’s 2019 Top 10 SMB Technology Trends

 

It’s that time of year again—when we unveil SMB Group’s 2019 Top Ten SMB Technology Trends!

Our research and analysis tells us that in 2019, momentum for some of our past trends continue to evolve and grow. As the cloud becomes the on-ramp for SMBs that want to use new technologies to transform their businesses, SMBs increasingly expect that cloud business applications will deliver AI, ML, NLP and other new capabilities.

Newer trends are also starting to surface. For instance, younger SMBs—those that have been in business less than 10 years—are significantly out-pacing their older counterparts when it comes to innovation. SMBs are adding new sales channels to make it easier for customers to shop when, where and how they want, and are relying on a broader array of technology advice and purchase channels when it comes to selecting their own technology solutions.

Headlines for all of our trends are below, and you can check out details, data an perspectives for them at SMB Group’s 2019 Top Ten SMB Technology Trends. 

 

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback!

For information about licensing SMB Group’s 2019 Top 10 SMB Technology Trends, or about content development options, please contact: Lisa Lincoln, Director of Client Services, at lisa.lincoln70@smb-gr.com or 508-734-5658.

© SMB Group 2019

Source: Laurie McCabe’s Blog

Leasecake: Making Lease Management a Piece of Cake for SMB Landlords and Tenants

Laurie: Today I’m speaking with Taj Adhav, co-founder/CEO of Leasecake—a new company with a very interesting offering for the commercial real estate market. Taj, can you tell me a little bit about what Leasecake does and why you started it

Taj: Sure. Leasecake is for people who own commercial properties and for tenants that lease commercial properties. We created Leasecake to simplify commercial real estate lease management—we name it Leasecake because we want to make managing leases a piece of cake. The solution helps people easily keep track of rent increases, lease expirations, and to facilitate communication between owners and tenants about critical information.

Laurie: How do people manage this now?

Taj: The status quo for people on both sides has been to use antiquated tools–like spreadsheets, whiteboards, posted notes, reminders on your phone. But this approach doesn’t really help people optimize their real estate assets. For instance, landlords want to find the best tenants, get the rent paid on time, and keep track of all those critical dates and dollars. Leasecake replaces the disconnected applications and manual methods they use. It puts it all in one place, and automates the work that needs to get done.

Laurie:  Can you describe a scenario of how customers use Leasecake?

Taj:  One example is for a landlord that owns several retail plazas and warehouses. The landlord might have two or three employees to manage hundreds of thousands of square feet, and 30, 50 or more tenants. Leasecake puts all the information they need to manage their customers and properties at their fingertips. They can quickly answer tenants’ questions, such as what leases are coming up, what space is becoming available, or what’s the next rent increase? Leasecake puts this information in the palm of your hands, whenever and wherever you need it.

Laurie:  How did Leasecake get started?

Taj: We’ve been around about a year. We built the solution around the problem. My co-founder and friend, Jim Banks, manages 50 tenants in nine buildings. He was doing it all with spreadsheets and Outlook. I said there has to be a better way of managing dates, dollars, and everything else associated with leasing. Jim is the subject matter expert behind Leasecake. He doesn’t need a big expensive platform, but something he can use on his phone or tablet.

Laurie:  You have a mobile first strategy?

Taj:  Yes, everything is enabled from mobile first—iPhone, iPad, Samsung phone, or whatever, you can do everything from there. It’s a simplified user experience, very easy to navigate.

Laurie:  I understand that Leasecake also helps improve collaboration between landlords and tenants. How does that work?

Taj:  In this small to medium business market, it’s about relationships. Landlords invite their tenants to use Leasecake, and the application automatically notifies them about important things, like your lease is expiring in 180 days, and then helps them negotiate a new lease. It facilitates communication between both parties, it’s transparent, and eliminates surprises.

Laurie: Who are your clients? Landlords, tenants or both?

Taj: It’s a mix. For instance, we have clients who are franchisees, that lease hundreds of locations—like Papa John’s or Moe’s Southwest Grill. Today, a franchisee may be dealing with 50 different lease agreements for their locations. Wondering when does this or that lease expire, or whatever they need to manage their properties.

Laurie:  So they don’t get blindsided. Does it also help them take advantage of an opportunity, like if a new space opens up?

Taj:  Yes. A lease is nothing but a collection of words on a piece of paper in a drawer. You only think about it when you need to. But now the information is readily available to both parties, they get notified about events, like we agreed that I need to give you six months’ notice that I’m going to exercise that option. Say your lease is coming due–both sides can collaborate right within Leasecake on a new agreement.

Laurie:  Does it help landlords’ onboard new tenants?

Taj:  Yes. Landlords use Leasecake to communicate the “welcome packet” information about who to call for internet services, gas, power, when the dumpsters get unloaded, what’s the parking ratio and more. Everything is uploaded in Leasecake to share with all of your tenants. You create it one time, avoid all those same calls.

Laurie:  What size of a landlord or tenant are you targeting?

Taj:  There’s not a magic number, but it could start at two or three properties whether you’re a landlord or tenant. It’s when you’re feeling pain, you’re forgetting things that put your business at risk. If you have 300 or more tenants that could be the magic number on the top end, where you’re going to want to hire someone to manage your properties. Our largest customer has about 110 tenants.

Laurie:  Tell me about the pricing model.

Taj:  For landlords with fewer than 50 units, it’s just $19.99 per month for basic services. That same landlord will pay $199 per month for premium features that include collecting rent electronically, advanced role assignments for team members, and uploading premium documents.

Laurie:  How is Leasecake funded?

Taj: We’re currently bootstrapped with a friend and family round. We are going to seek venture capital coming in the spring.

Laurie:  Sounds like a good investment to explore! Taj, thanks again.

© SMB Group

Source: Laurie McCabe’s Blog