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

Putting Technology to Work to Help Your Small Business Grow

Many small businesses want to grow! But growing your small business isn’t easy—and the methods that worked in the past may no longer work in a world where disruption is the new normal.

Today, almost any business can be “Amazoned”—and you can’t afford to get stuck on what used to work. As a small business owner, you have to understand the key trends that are impacting businesses of all sizes—and adapt your business to stay ahead of the curve.

No Longer Business as Usual

Some very big trends are converging that threaten to prematurely age your business if you’re not paying attention:

  • The workforce—and the workplace—are undergoing radical transformation, as millennials enter their prime working years and baby boomers retire. The gig economy is growing, and businesses are relying more on contractors and freelancers to get work done. More people are traveling and telecommuting.
  • Power is shifting from sellers to buyers. With the internet in our pockets, everyone can access information, ratings and reviews about almost anything, anytime, anywhere—raising the bar for what customers expect from your company.
  • Political and regulatory turbulence is changing tax, labor and other laws and requirements. Figuring out what laws and regulations will impact your business is tough, but the onus is on businesses to stay on top of these regulatory twists and turns.
  • Technology is increasingly intertwined with business results. Your businesses must figure out how to use technology to modernize the business and capitalize on change—or risk becoming a dinosaur.

SMBs See the Ground Shifting

In the past, most businesses looked at technology as nothing more than a way to support what they were already doing. But SMB Group research shows that today, three-quarters of small business respondents (companies with 1–99 employees) agree that using new technology effectively is key to their company’s survival and growth, and that technology is reshaping their business models and their industries.

Using outdated, cumbersome technology can put your business at risk. For instance, if you neglect cyber security, your company can suffer financial and brand damage if data is compromised. If you put off deploying CRM or analytics tools, sales may dip if you can’t tap into changing customer requirements and preferences. If you overlook backup capabilities, a storm could destroy your systems—and wipe out your financial and customer data.

In contrast, the right technology solutions can not only help to support day-to-day business requirements but serve as a springboard for growth. As change becomes the only certainty, you need to use technology to facilitate the innovations that will help your business to grow.

From Aspiration to Action

According to SMB Group research, just 21% of small businesses strongly agree that they have a well-defined strategy to use technology to transform their businesses for growth. With so many new solutions and technologies to choose from, just figuring out where to start can be challenging.

But you don’t have to go it alone. To get the best outcomes from technology investments and figure out what’s right for you, you need guidance and support. Dell Small Business Central gives you direct access to Dell Small Business Technology Advisors who are there to answer questions, demystify technology and help solve the problems that keep you up at night, such as:

  • What solutions will really help my business?
  • How can I protect my data and company from cyber threats and system failures?
  • How can I contain technology costs?
  • Where can I get the help I need to deploy new solutions to grow my business?

Our new SMB Group Perspectives report, Putting Technology to Work to Help Your Small Business Grow, examines this topic in detail. We discuss key business and technology trends, the initiatives and technology solutions that small businesses are betting on for to protect and grow their businesses, and how Dell Small Business Technology Advisors can help you to prioritize and select the solutions you understand and capitalize on technology—so you can focus on running your business.

This post is sponsored by Dell Technologies, and was originally published here on Direct2Dell. 

© SMB Group

Source: Laurie McCabe’s Blog

QuckBooks 2018: Intuit Opens a New Chapter for Small Businesses

QuickBooks Connect (QBC) 2018 signaled the end of an era at Intuit, as Brad Smith formally announced that he’ll be stepping out of the CEO role that he’s held for the past eleven years. During his tenure, Smith successfully guided the 35-year old company’s flagship QuickBooks product from the desktop to cloud to platform and beyond—into the realms of artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing and more. Intuit has prospered during Smith’s direction: in fiscal 2018, Intuit generated $5.96B in revenues, up 15% from the prior year. Smith’s hardworking, but friendly and authentic style also set a positive cultural tone from the top—helping Intuit to earn inclusion on Fortune’s Best Places to Work list for the past 17 years.

Smith will continue to serve Intuit as Chairman of the Board. But beginning January 1, 2019, Sasan Goodarzi, currently executive vice president and general manager of Intuit’s Small Business and Self-Employed Group, will be responsible for leading Intuit forward into its next chapter.

In this post, I recap the key themes that Goodarzi outlined in his keynote. With that as context, I examine the announcement that is likely to have the biggest potential impact on Intuit’s bottom line: QuickBooks Online Advanced, which Intuit developed for growing small businesses and midsize companies.

Focus AI and ML on the Pain Points: Cash flow, Capital and Payments

The main message to small businesses at QBC 2018 is that “Anything is Possible”—but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. To help small businesses increase the odds for success, Intuit has been infusing AI and ML across its cloud platform and solutions (see Making New Technology Work for Small Businesses: Intuit’s Vision for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for an in-depth look at Intuit’s AI/ML strategy).

Intuit first unveiled this strategy at QBC 2016, announcing that it would use AI, ML and aggregated user data to broaden its QuickBooks Online (QBO) platform into a business advice and education platform. At QBC 2017, Intuit launched several initiatives to help connect its customers to the people, information and funding they need to run and grow their businesses.

This year, Intuit focused on three “smart money” initiatives to help solve small business cash flow problems. These include:

  • QuickBooks Payments, which helps small businesses get access to their money sooner by enabling invoices for next day payment. Today, small businesses that invoice with QuickBooks Payments are three times more likely to be paid on the same day. With QuickBooks Payments, merchants also receive the benefit of next-day funding for both their credit card and Automatic Clearing House (ACH) payments. Money is moved into their accounts the next business day as compared to two to three days for credit cards and more than five days for ACH.
  • QuickBooks Payroll, which allows customers to hang onto their money up to payday if they complete payroll by 10 a.m. Eastern time (instead of having payroll services pull payroll from their bank accounts up to 14 days in advance). This enables small businesses to hold onto an average of $9,000 more per month, and pay their teams faster than comparable payroll services.
  • QuickBooks Capital, through which QuickBooks users can apply for a loan of up to $100,000 in minutes. Intuit processes the loan the same day, and (if approved), funds are deposited to a user’s account within a few days. QuickBooks Capital has already provided $200 million worth of loans to small businesses in the past since its inception. The program uses a credit model based on more than 26 billion data points collected from the QuickBooks ecosystem coupled with advanced data science, to streamline the loan process.

QuickBooks Online Advanced: A New Option for Customers that Outgrow QuickBooks

QuickBooks has been the dominant player in the U.S. small business accounting market for years. It has traversed from the desktop to the cloud with QuickBooks Online (QBO), and added a Self-Employed Edition for solopreneurs in 2015.

Momentum for QBO is strong going into 2019. Revenues for its online solutions spiked 41.6% in its first fiscal 2019 quarter (which closed October 31). In the U.S., QBO revenues rose 35% year-over-year, bringing the ranks of U.S.-based QBO subscribers up to 2.7 million. International growth was even stronger, with QBO revenues jumping 61% year-over-year, bringing QBO’s international subscriber tally to 880,000.

Intuit’s success has made it a target for almost every other accounting, financials and ERP vendor. Over the years, vendors as diverse Acumatica, Sage Intacct, NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics and SAP have vigorously pursued “QuickBooks customers that outgrow QuickBooks.” While this segment represents just a single-digit percentage of QuickBook’s installed base, it adds up to tens of thousands of companies a year.

Competitors offer these customers many options, but most are five to ten times more expensive than QBO, are often more complex to learn and use, and typically require professional services to implement.

qboav-SPOT_10plus_usersWith the launch of QuickBooks Online Advanced, Intuit is betting that many of its growing customers will choose to stick with the software they know—albeit with more bells and whistles—than switch to an entirely new solution. Aggressively priced between $1,500 to $2,500 per year for most customers, QBO Advanced adds additional services, capabilities and insights that growing companies need.

While many vendors (and the SMB Group) define medium or midsize businesses as those with 100 to 999 employees, Intuit’s definition is much smaller. The vendor is aiming for companies with 10-100 employees. However, Intuit’s cap of 25 users for QBO Advanced will allow Intuit to extend beyond this 10-100 sweet spot—as a company with 25 accounting users is likely to have more than 100 employees,

What’s in QBO Advanced—and What’s Not

QBO Advanced provides growing businesses with:

  • Deeper insights into more data. By aggregating data across the QuickBooks user base, Intuit can draw on billions of data points from millions of QuickBooks customers. This data fuels AI and machine learning algorithms to help customers benchmark and create things such as more competitive and profitable pricing, salary, and contract rates. Intuit is also partnering with Fathom to provide QBO Advanced customers with capabilities for dynamic, custom reports. advanced analytics, and deeper insights.
  • More personalized services. Priority Circle Service provides a dedicated customer success manager to QBO Advanced customers with product and technical questions, and to help them get more value from the solution. Customers also get five annual training seats, and support via a Priority Queue that bumps them to the head of the line when problems arise.
  • Additional functionality: New capabilities include custom user permissions, which enable much finer management of roles, permissions and features and data access than QBO. Advanced users can do more things at scale—such as importing hundreds of invoices into QuickBooks from other applications.

What QBO Advanced doesn’t include are applications that are standard in many midmarket ERP systems, such as inventory management, ecommerce and bill pay. However, there are 5,000 apps in Intuit’s developer ecosystem, 600 of which are published apps on Apps.com and integrate with QBO and QBO Advanced.

Perspective

Brad Smith has guided Intuit through what has arguably been the most tumultuous time in the history of business technology. He has successfully transitioned the iconic small business brand from the desktop to the cloud, and charted new technology and solution directions to lead Intuit into the future.

Intuit’s approach to AI and ML-powered technologies and services offers small businesses a pragmatic, yet powerful way to put these technologies to work for their businesses. As important, Intuit can draw on billions of aggregated, anonymous data sources from millions of QuickBooks customers, customers to inform and power these services and initiatives.

Meanwhile, now that QBO is Intuit’s flagship small business solution, the vendor needs to keep more QBO customers in its fold, even as they grow. Although QBO Advanced is not the best fit for hyper-growth companies, it should be an attractive option for many small businesses who have hit the wall with QBO. These businesses need to automate more of their processes, get better insights for decision-making, and perhaps even change their business models. But many don’t have the budget, time or appetite needed to migrate to a completely new solution. QBO Advanced offers them a way to get more of the functionality and intelligence they need, without having to make an entirely new investment,

Furthermore, Intuit already has a good track record of moving customers up in the on-premises space. In fact, even though QuickBooks Desktop sales dropped by 5% in first-quarter fiscal 2019, QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise customers grew at a double-digit pace. QBO Advanced should afford Intuit the same opportunity to keep growing QBO customers on board.

© SMB Group

Source: Laurie McCabe’s Blog

Beyond the Basics: Why It May be Time to Upgrade Your Company’s PCs and Laptops

Seeking growth is a business constant for small and medium businesses (SMBs). However, the means to achieve this goal is changing. Today’s SMBs know that they need to put technology to work to help the achieve top business goals—such as attracting new customers, improving employee productivity and streamlining operations.

 

If you want your business to survive and thrive, you need to use technology improve the way you do things, and to create new and better ways of doing them.

Do Your Employees Have the Devices They Need to Help the Business Work Smarter?

But, if it’s been more than a couple of years since you’ve updated your employees’ PCs and laptops, the odds are high that these old devices may no longer be able to keep up with today’s always-on world—and may actually create a drag on your business.

If seems like it takes longer and longer for employees to boot up, get work done or watch training videos, it’s not your imagination. According to Moore s Law, computer power doubles every year. That means that four-year PCs are likely to be up to 200 percent less powerful than the latest generation. In fact, according to a recent J. Gold study, PCs that are five years old decrease employee productivity by 29%.

Of course, new PCs offer faster program loads and boot time, but they also provide you with up to 1.9 times better web performance versus a five-year old PC. * These performance improvements help employees to get more work done, more quickly and with less friction.

Beyond Performance—Benefits of Upgrading Your PCs

The performance benefits of upgrading are clear. But if you haven’t shopped for new PCs lately, you may be surprised to learn that today’s PCs offer many other new capabilities to help boost employee productivity and improve security.

  • Productivity boosts with Windows 10. Sticking with old PCs means you can’t take advantage of new software that can give your business an edge. If your old PCs can’t run Windows 10, you’re missing out on great new productivity advancements to help get things done more easily and with fewer distractions. For instance, nearby sharing lets you share files and links with users on nearby PCs; and focus assist allows you to control the settings to specify when, what and who you want to get notifications and alarms from.
  • Lighter, thinner, laptops. Today, almost all professionals spend time out of the office—on planes, trains, cabs and ride share services—making laptops an increasingly popular choice. Vendors including Dell, HP and Samsung and other manufacturers now offer ultra-portable laptops that weight in at under three pounds—lightening the load for road warriors. These laptops are also much thinner than their clunkier predecessors—many measure less than a half an inch in thickness. re less than a half-inch thick.
  • Natural language capabilities. We’ve all become used to the convenience of voice commands and natural language processing (NLP) on our phones and in our homes. This year, several major PC makers launched Windows 10 hardware and Amazon Alexa support in addition to Microsoft Cortana, and it’s likely that going forward, most new devices will include this. Amazon launched Alexa for Business last year, and has developed over 25,000 Alexa skills for business users. It’s also building partnerships with business software vendors such as Salesforce, Concur, Ring Central and more ServiceNow who integrating Alexa for Business into their applications—so users can get more done, more easily.
  • Longer battery life. Employees can get a lot done on their laptops when they’re out of the office. But limited battery life puts a damper on productivity. Laptop batteries can lose up to 80 percent capacity within two years. Meanwhile manufacturers have been working to extend battery life with larger batteries, new power management tools and technology to improve CPU and GPU efficiency. Some of the latest models offer 10 hours or more of battery life—getting employees through a full day of work before they need to be recharged.
  • Improved security features. Many laptops now offer fingerprint readers and cameras with facial recognition, but PC makers are continually upping their security game. For instance, several new PCs eliminate the need to cover your webcam with a piece of tape, with hidden, spring-loaded cameras that you can pop open and close. Other new improvements include built-in privacy filters for your screen. For instance, HP’s offers the HP Sure View privacy screen as an option on several laptops—with the touch of a button, you can render your screen unreadable to snoopy people while you see your content clearly.
  • Tailored form and function. Gone are the days of one-size fits all PCs and notebooks. Today, manufacturers offer rugged PCs that can take a beating on a construction site, such as Dell’s Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme, built to meet military standard requirements. Featuring a shock absorbent case, it’s also IP65 certified against dust, sand and water and can withstand extreme temperatures. Meanwhile, new workstations are now about the same size as regular PCs. They offer he power and performance required for rendering complex graphics, financial analysis and computations and digital content creation—without taking up too much space.

Finally, it may seem thrifty to hang on to old PCs instead of replacing them. But this strategy can actually hurt your bottom line. According to a recent study, businesses spend an average of $427 to $521 per PC on repair costs for machines that are four years old or older. Over time, these costs can add up to more than it would cost of a new PC—and take a big bite out of your operating budget.

Beyond the Obvious—Is it Time to Upgrade?

The most obvious signs that you need to upgrade your PCs and laptops center on performance and costs. Tell tale signs include:

  • Crashes and/or slow performance.
  • Inability to upgrade from old operating systems, such as Windows XP or Windows 7.
  • Your systems are “no longer supported by the manufacturer, and/or are no longer under warranty.
  • Repair and maintenance costs are mounting

But, there are some less obvious, but just as important reasons to upgrade—most of which focus on people and flexibility.  Especially In the midst of a talent crunch, businesses that provide employees with modern, easy to use technology will have an easier time attracting and retaining talent. To achieve those top business goals—to grow the business, improve productivity and streamline operations—employers need to give employees the tools they need to do their best work–instead of struggling with outdated equipment that gets in the way of getting work done.

Want  more info and inspiration? Visit these links:

Note: This post was created in collaboration with Intel.  All opinions expressed in this post are my own and not those of Intel. 

*- Software and workloads used in performance tests may have been optimized for performance only on Intel microprocessors. Performance tests, such as SYSmark and MobileMark, are measured using specific computer systems, components, software, operations, and functions. Any change to any of those factors may cause the results to vary. You should consult other information and performance tests to assist you in fully evaluating your contemplated purchases, including the performance of that product when combined with other products. For more complete information visit www.intel.com/benchmarks. Performance results are based on testing as of October 2018 and may not reflect all publicly available security updates. See configuration disclosure for details. No product can be absolutely secure.

*- New System: Intel® CoreTM i5-8250U Processor, PL1=15W TDP, 4C8T, Turbo up to 3.4GHz, Memory: 8GB DDR4-2400, Storage: Intel 600p SSD, Intel UHD Graphics 620, OS: Windows* 10

*- 5-Year-Old System: Intel® CoreTM i5-3317U Processor, PL1=15W TDP, 2C4T, Turbo up to 3.6GHz, on Dell* XPS 12, Memory: 8GB DDR3, Storage: SSD, Intel HD Graphics 4000, OS: Windows* 10

* Work seamlessly across your cloud applications with up to 1.9x better web performance vs. your 5-year-old PC. As measured by WebXPRT* 2015 on Intel Reference Platform.

Featured Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

©SMB Group

 

Source: Laurie McCabe’s Blog

Top Takeaways and the Midmarket View from Workday Rising 2018

Workday has quickly become a force to be reckoned with in large enterprise human capital management (HCM), payroll and financial software markets. Since its founding in 2005, the company has grown to over 9700 employees. Today, more than 2,300 customers use Workday’s core applications, and an additional 4,000 customers use its Adaptive Insights solutions.  What’s more, the company has attained a customer satisfaction rating of 98%, and is ranked #1 on Fortune’s Future 50 for having the best prospects for long-term growth.

At Workday Rising 2018 in October, visionary keynotes and success stories from Workday’s large enterprise customers were front and center. But I also got a glimpse into Workday’s next frontier—midsize business.

You can watch recordings of the Workday Rising keynote here. So, in this post, I’ll recap a few broad themes from the event, and then discuss Workday’s foray into the midmarket.

The Power of One—and the Power of People

Rapid advances in technology are redefining how we work with software and with each other—and reshaping employee and employer expectations of how work gets done.

People are at the heart of Workday’s strategy, putting it squarely at the crossroads of these changes. The company’s driving theme is the “Power of One”: Using one unified system for these core business functions gives companies the speed, flexibility and insights they need to stay on top of trends and improve business outcomes.

Workday’s platform provides a common data source, security model and user experience across its financials, payroll and HCM applications, giving customers the real-time, holistic view of information across these functions. While the vendor sells its HCM, Financials and Adaptive Insights applications separately, applications such as Professional Services Automation (PSA), Student and Prism require either Workday HCM or Financials.

Workday also includes several applications in its core products that competitors often sell as add-ons. For instance, Workday Benchmarking, which provides key metrics to help customers measure their performance in comparison to peers, is included as part of the core HCM and/or Financials subscription.

Making HR and Financials Management Smarter

At Workday Rising 2018, Workday announced several initiatives to further embed artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) into its solutions to turbo charge them with additional intelligence and automation capabilities. For example, in the HCM space, Workday announced:

  • Skills Cloud, a universal skills language that helps organizations cleanse, understand, and use job skills data. Available now, Skills Cloud narrows down the skills taxonomy from over two million terms to 55,000 to help streamline the process of entering skills, enabling organizations to answer questions like “What skills do I need?” and “What skills do I have?”
  • Talent Marketplace, which aims to make it easier for employers to connect people to opportunities by identifying the right talent, and to foster development opportunities for employees. It provides gap analysis and predictions on best fit internal candidates, and will also help companies’ tap into and work with freelance and contract workers.
  • Smart Candidate Search, to find candidates with highest skills score for openings will be offered as part of Workday Recruiting.
  • People Experience leverages predictive technology to deliver contextual content to workers at every stage of their employee journey, creating a personalized experience for workers as they add new skills, take on new roles, and experience life events.
  • Workday Organization Studio features a drag and drop interface to model and design organizational changes with efficiency and scale, enabling organization planners the ability to review mass transactions in a single worksheet and execute changes across the entire reorganization with a single click.
  • Recruiter Hub provides insight into the candidate pipeline, key tasks, and enables recruiters to easily navigate to tasks, reports, and job requisitions. The Job Requisition Workspace provides a single view of all job requisitions and uses machine learning to help recruiters prioritize which job’s they should be spending their time on.
  • Workday People Analytics, which uses AI, machine learning, and augmented analytics to give executives, organization leaders, and HR business partners a view into the most critical trends in their workforce.

On the financials front, Workday announced the Workday Accounting Center, slated to launch within the next 18 months. This will allow organizations to bring in operational transactions from external systems and run them through the Workday accounting rules engine to generate accounting journals, debits, and credits for those transactions.

The vendor also introduced Predictive Financial Applications, embedding new capabilities such as recommendations and predictions, optical character recognition (OCR), reconciliations and matching and anomaly detection natively into Workday financial applications.

As part of Workday Data-as-a-Service, the company is also introducing a new multi-dimensional benchmarking tool. Based on aggregated, anonymous data from over 7 million workers, this tool will help customers understand how their businesses stack up relative to peers.

Workday Discovery Boards (which have been available in Workday’s Prism Analytics), will also become the standard for exploring data across Workday applications. This gives business users the ability to use a drag and drop interface to visually explore data, perform ad hoc analytics, create reports and collaborate.

Adding to the Power of One

The benefits of moving from disparate point solutions to one, unified system of record are clear. But no one vendor can provide everything to everyone, and the true power of a platform lies in its extensibility.

To that end, Workday has curated and published over 175,000 integrations, such as those with Salesforce Chatter and ADP, in its Marketplace. It announced that it plans to build an infrastructure for developers to directly publish and share their applications on it. The vendor also intends to launch a low-code app creator early next year to enable non-developers to build applications on the Workday platform.

In fact, with its acquisition of Adaptive Insights earlier this year, Workday itself is now multi-cloud company. Instead of re-architecting Adaptive Insights, Workday is “unifying the layers” across Workday and Adaptive to put Adaptive’s planning tools to work within Workday solutions.

Midmarket: Workday’s Next Frontier

Many midsize businesses use older, brittle, disconnected applications to run their businesses–which weren’t designed to keep up with the volatile pace of change in today’s world.  Sooner or later, midsize businesses will need to replace them with modern, intelligent and integrated cloud-based solutions.

But, even when those systems don’t work that well anymore, decision-makers must be thoroughly convinced that the short-term pain of switching will be worth the long-term gain of deploying a new solution.

Last year, Workday introduced Workday Launch to help address this. Workday Launch provides fixed-fee, fixed scope pre-configured deployments designed specifically for midsize businesses (which Workday defines as those with 500 to 3,500 employees). These include pre-packaged best practices in North America for HCM, HCM and Payroll, Financials and for the full suite. For instance, the HCM offering includes 85 pre-built HCM dashboards. The company also offers HCM, as well as HCM and Financials, in Australia and New Zealand.

Workday has simplified sales contracts to streamline the negotiation process for midsize customers, and has dedicated part of its sales force to focus on the midmarket. The vendor relies entirely on its own sales force to sell to midmarket services, but implementation services are available both from Workday and its partners.

Since announcing Workday Launch, Workday has recruited both global systems integrators and boutique firms to meet the varying needs of midmarket customers. Workday has now certified seven partners, with 900 unique resources and 1500+ certifications, to support midsize businesses.

Summary and Perspective

Workday’s people-centric focus and unified platform approach have propelled its remarkable success in the large enterprise space—and created a halo effect for its brand in the midmarket. And, the vendor’s new AI and ML capabilities and direction add to its value proposition for midsize businesses as well as for large ones.

But Workday also faces some challenging headwinds—including a plethora of competitors. Rivals include midmarket incumbents such as Ultimate, NetSuite and Sage; enterprise players such as SAP and Oracle that are moving downstream; and vendors with roots in small business that are aiming to move up, such as Zoho and Namely.

Each player comes at the midmarket from a different angle, with different product sets, and go-to-market tactics. But they’re all pitching a pretty similar message: to keep pace in today’s world, you need to leverage the economies of scale and skill of an integrated cloud platform to run your business. Workday will need to clearly differentiate its value proposition in this crowded field.

Because Workday is perceived of as a large enterprise brand, it must also go the extra mile to prove that it is also a great fit for midsize companies. Workday has already tailored solutions and sales mechanisms specifically for midmarket customers. However, its target—500 to 3500 employees—is very broad. The needs requirements and constraints for companies in the top, bottom and middle of its midsize target are very different. Workday will need to fine tune segmentation, strategy, marketing, and sales and services to these different needs. For starters, it needs to provide clear, accessible information on solution and implementation costs on its website—or many midsize firms will just assume it’s too expensive and won’t even consider Workday.

Workday has started down the right path in the midmarket. Now, to become a go-to brand in the midmarket, Workday needs to up its game. It must dig deeper into the needs and nuances of midsize businesses to refine its approach and accelerate growth in this attractive—but often tough to serve—market.

© SMB Group 2018

 

Source: Laurie McCabe’s Blog

Essentials: As Essential to Salesforce as it is For Small Businesses?

Just one year ago, Salesforce took a big leap forward to launch Essentials for small businesses at Dreamforce 2017. As I discussed in this post, Essentials replaced Salesforce’s former patchwork of disconnected small business apps with an integrated CRM solution, built on its flagship Lightning platform. The vendor rolled out Sales Cloud Essentials first, and introduced Service Cloud Essentials just a few months later.

However, skeptics have questioned how serious Salesforce is about Essentials. Would the vendor invest the time, money and focus required to deliver the functionality small businesses really need—or would it just use Essentials as a Trojan horse to upsell them to its more expensive Professional and Enterprise Editions?

My take is that Salesforce certainly expects—and rightly so—that some customers will outgrow Essentials and need to move up to more feature-rich editions. But, at Dreamforce 2018, Salesforce doubled down on its commitment to Essentials and to serving and learning from small business customers.

Spotlight on Small Business and Essentials at Dreamforce 2018

Salesforce put small business in the spotlight at the conference. Many events and exhibits were geared specifically to small business interests, including:

Essentials Campground: On the main exhibit floor at Moscone South, this area provided information on how to get started with Salesforce Essentials, along with advice from small business owners on how to grow.

Small Business Essentials Lodge: Taking up most of the lower level of the Marriott Marquis, the lodge featured workshops, demos, and theater sessions to help small businesses learn how to get more value from Salesforce and accelerate growth.

Small Business Essentials Station: Housed at the MoAD, the Station offered coffee, free headshots and Essentials demos. It was also the home of Free Dreamforce Day, an event for local small businesses that are new to CRM and Salesforce. The day featured four thought leadership sessions, lunch, and a happy hour networking session.

All told, Salesforce ran more than 60 dedicated breakout and theater sessions for small and medium businesses. Topics included themes such as building high performance sales teams; creating customer advocates; and how to accelerate growth with digital transformation—to name a few.

For many attendees, the highlight was the Small Business keynote. Meredith Schmidt, EVP & GM of Small & Medium Business and Salesforce Essentials, and small business customers Humu and Torani shared stories about growing and scaling with Salesforce. Then, Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors, discussed values, teamwork and success. Salesforce Live carried this and other keynotes live, and the feed is still available here for those that want to watch and listen to the recorded version.

Essentials Product Investments

On October 16, Salesforce announced that it will add Campaign Management to the Essentials line-up as part of its Winter ‘19 release. Campaign Management enables users to create targeted email marketing campaigns, measure their success and keep everyone on the team updated with the same information.

In addition, the vendor announced that new Einstein Voice Assistant will be available to Essentials users, starting in pilot as part of Winter Release ‘19.  Users will be able to verbally log updates via the Salesforce mobile app, and Einstein Voice will use AI to find relevant records, automatically update fields, create follow-up tasks, and notify teammates–to help small business users to save time improve productivity.

Other Winter ‘19 feature releases include:

  • Choose Your Trial, which enables users to select a trial experience based on their focus area, such as sales or customer support, tailoring the trial experience to the user’s needs.
  • Help Center provides an out-of-the-box setup for small businesses so they can create self-service support sites to allow their customers to help themselves.
  •  Knowledge Base creates a one-stop shop for all information to give everyone on a small business team the answers to common customer questions. Companies can use the Knowledge Based internally or share it directly with their customers through Help Center.
  • Trailhead integration into Salesforce Essentials, which rewards users with badges as they work through trial setup and as they continue learning on Trailhead.

In analyst sessions, I also learned that Salesforce is gathering information to deepen its understanding of small business requirements, and to remove friction that Essentials users can encounter. For example, Salesforce is currently testing new AI-based capabilities that will provide Essentials users with proactive advice and guidance via real-time, contextual help.

Perspective

When Salesforce began in 1999, CEO Marc Benioff’s initial goal was to deliver CRM as an online service that would be affordable and accessible for businesses of all sizes. Over the years, the cloud become the norm for CRM—and Salesforce became the CRM standard for large enterprises. As Salesforce devoted more energy to large customers, it took its eye off of the small business ball.

But Salesforce certainly understands that small businesses can grow—and big ones can shrink. After all, it’s is the poster child for change in the CRM industry. In today’s era of digital disruption, the average tenure of companies on the S&P 500 has shrunk from 33 years in 1965, to 20 years in 1990—and forecasters predict it will drop to 14 years by 2026.

Given this reality, Salesforce’s investment in the small business market is also essential to the lifeblood of the company. While Salesforce is the clear CRM winner in the large enterprise space, the small business market for CRM remains under-penetrated and fragmented. SMB Group research shows that small business adoption of CRM is rising, but Salesforce faces a growing field of competitors who are also vying for this business. And despite the upward trend, roughly half of small businesses still don’t use or plan to sales, marketing or service solutions.

Salesforce needs to make the pie bigger. It intends to bring small businesses into its ecosystem early and help them to grow with Salesforce. These companies—and the wider swath of small businesses that will never outgrow Essentials—can also provide Salesforce with input to help it innovate in terms of usability. Small businesses simply don’t have the experts, resources, time or patience to wrestle with on boarding and usability issues. They’ll push Salesforce for ease of use improvements that will trickle up into other editions—and help it to compete more effectively against rivals that would like to disrupt Salesforce.

© SMB Group 2018

Source: Laurie McCabe’s Blog