Ignoring Innovation Means Getting Left Behind

February 23rd, 2016 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off)

According to this week’s blog post from member company Social SafeGuard, in today’s highly competitive marketplace, innovation is what ultimately sets a company apart from the rest of the market. Innovation is an essential part of any business that does not want to be left behind, and it can come in many forms when it comes to how a company communicates with its customer base.


Social media is currently the most powerful and effective communications tool available. Twenty five years ago the concept of a globally available, user-generated content platform didn’t exist. Today, the utilization of this platform is a key to success for any business. In today’s highly competitive marketplace, innovation is what ultimately sets a company apart from the rest of the market; it is an essential part of any business that does not want to be left behind. Innovation can come in many forms when it comes to how a company communicates with its customer base.

free_social_media_icons_image_ubersocialmediaIn order for a company to effectively satisfy their customer’s wants and needs, they must constantly communicate and listen to them; furthermore, companies must use the findings of this communication to adapt their product or service accordingly. 72 percent of adult internet users in the U.S. are now active on at least one social network, up from 67 percent in 2012 and just 8 percent in 2005. It is obvious that social media is the most effective way to reach and engage with today’s consumer. History is littered with companies that were once dominant players within their industry, but failed to effectively engage and listen to their customers, which eventually led to their demise. Two prime examples of this are Kodak and Blockbuster.

1. The Last Kodak Moment: Kodak was the primary player in the camera industry for almost a century. Kodak was the American technology company known for inventing color film, the handheld movie camera, and the first digital camera. In the late 1990s, Kodak began to struggle financially due to its sluggish transition to digital photography, regardless of the fact that they invented the core technology used in current digital cameras. After 132 years of business, Kodak officially filed for bankruptcy in 2012 due to their inability to adapt to the changing camera industry. All Kodak had to do was communicate with their customers to discover that preferences were changing, but instead they chose to stick with what they had always done, which resulted in a loss of competitive advantage and economic failure.

2. Blockbuster: For many years, Blockbuster was the dominant player in the movie rental industry. Once Netflix, Redbox, and On Demand Cable Services entered the market, trends quickly changed to customers wanting videos instantly and conveniently. Blockbuster chose not to adapt to the changing marketplace until it was too late. In 2010, the company filed for bankruptcy after 25 years of business and the majority of their stores closed shortly thereafter. While Blockbuster still attempts to mimic their competitors in an effort to regain any possible market share, they are now chasing the industry instead of leading it.

Every company must adapt and embrace social media if they do not want to become the Kodak or Blockbuster of their industry. Social media allows people to create, share, or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. Unlike traditional communication tools, social media has unmatched reach, frequency, and usability. Social media is the medium in which today’s consumer chooses to communicate. It would be foolish for any company to not adopt a platform that provides a free flow of information with a global reach, where all of their current and potential customers are present, and openly telling the companies exactly what they want.

If Blockbuster would have been proactive and engaged their customers, it is possible they would now have 57 million subscribers streaming videos in over 50 countries, and Netflix would be nothing but a failed startup.

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This week on NVTC’s Blog, Business Development, Marketing & Sales Vice Chair Jenny Couch of member company Providge Consulting gives advice on investing in an ERP platform, one of the most critical decisions your business will make.


Investing in an ERP platform is one of the most critical decisions your business will make. Implementations can take years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete. Critical business functions will likely be supported by this platform for many years to come. You’ll need to train, or hire resources who can support the platform. So it’s critical that you select a system that best fits your business’s needs. But, with so many options available on the market today, it can be challenging to narrow down the field and select the right ERP solution for your business.

By considering some of the factors below during your evaluation, you will increase the likelihood that you and your team will select the right ERP platform for your company.

  • Cloud or internal architecture ERP. The cloud is hot right now, but it may not be the right solution for you. Consider factors such as control, down-time, access, and customization needs when determining whether to select a cloud or internal architecture ERP system.
  • Company size. Some ERP applications are better suited to large companies, and some are a better fit for small to mid-sized companies. If available, review the companies currently using the platforms you are considering. Are those companies a similar size, or drastically larger or smaller? Look for platforms with companies that are a similar size to increase the likelihood that you’ll select a platform designed for your business.
  • In-house ERP skill sets. Review the ERP skill sets you already have on your team. Is the majority of your staff familiar with PeopleSoft, but never heard of Workday? Then you may want to consider the time and cost that can be saved in training by selecting a platform with which your team is already familiar.
  • Criticality of the back-office function. For some companies, any hiccup, no matter how small, within the back-office system is disastrous. If the ERP system will be a critical component of your business that cannot have downtime, then you may not want to rely on vendors to provide support when you experience issues or downtime. Look for platforms where your team has full control and maintains responsibility for resolving issues.
  • Number of system users. The higher the number of users requiring access to your ERP platform, the more important it is to have a user-friendly interface. Such a requirement can often increase costs, either by limiting the pool of available COTS products, or by increasing the need for ongoing changes to the platform to meet your users’ needs.
  • Customization and interface needs. Certain industries, such as higher education, or government/military users, often have unique requirements that “standard” companies lack. COTS systems are designed to meet the greatest number of companies’ needs, so if you have highly complex, or unique back-office processes, you will need to select an ERP platform that can support a large number of customizations. For companies, or agencies needing a large number of customizations, cloud-based ERP solutions may not suit those needs. Similarly, if you have a large number of external systems that will need to interface with the ERP platform, make sure to account for this need in your evaluation criteria as not all ERP platforms are structured to support a significant number of interfaces.
  • Exit Plans. While you may feel certain that you’ll stay on your chosen ERP platform for years, it’s important to have an exit strategy. Surprises happen all the time, and they aren’t always of the confetti-throwing, present-giving variety. A software vendor could go out of business. An implementation could turn disastrous. Unforeseen issues can be uncovered with the platform. It’s important to prepare for the unexpected by developing an exit strategy. If you chose a cloud-based ERP, how easily and quickly can move off of that product. What will happen to all of your data, including any archived data? Is there an option to have your data stored for a certain time frame after you’ve moved off the platform? What data extraction and migration tools are available?  Can your data easily be moved to another platform?
  • Data privacy rules and regulations. While not a concern for many companies, for companies operating globally, this could be a critical consideration. Certain countries require that all employee data be hosted locally within that particular country. While some vendors, including cloud-based ones, have developed a solution to address this issue, some vendors are still playing catch-up.

Not sure how to select an ERP system that will meet your organization’s needs? Contact us and we’ll help narrow the overwhelming field of options, and select a system that best fits your business’s needs.

 


Jenny Couch

This post was written by Jenny Couch. Couch is a project management consultant, and Providge’s Business Development Manager. She loves efficiency, to-do lists, and delivering projects on-time and on-budget.

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5 Effective Platforms for Managing Your Project

October 6th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs | Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

This week on NVTC’s Blog, member company Providge Consulting’s Jenny Couch introduces five project management platforms that make managing your team and tasks easier for any project.


You’ve just been assigned as the lead for a new project. It’s a great opportunity for your career. You finally have a chance to demonstrate your ability to manage a team. But first, you have to figure out how you’re going to, well, manage a team and their tasks.

But fear not, there are a wide range of project management platforms that make managing your team and tasks easier for any project.

The list below is just a handful of the platforms available. I selected the five below for a few reasons: I have personally used them to manage a project; they represent the wide range of options available on the market; and all 5 – AsanaBasecampMicrosoft ProjectEvernoteInsightly – improve project transparency and collaboration. Make sure to research your options as one of these other platforms might be a better fit for you.

 

ASANA

Best For: Teams that want a straight forward way to track project tasks, and monitor progress. You’re the type of person that doesn’t want all the fancy ‘bells and whistles.’ You want to know what’s due when, and who is involved. You also likely love making to-do lists as the interface feels akin to an old-school, paper-based to-do list.

Snip20150810_8

 

Key Features: I personally enjoy Asana’s interface, and focus on a few core features. It prevents you from feeling overwhelmed. Or, like your platform isn’t helping you to do the one thing you want it to do – manage a project – because it’s too complicated to use. It does take a little time to get used to some of the options – like commenting on tasks, etc. but once you have the hang of it, it’s easy to use. The activity feed bears a similarity to Facebook (unsurprising as it was created by a Facebook co-founder), which makes it easy to start using. Project permissions are also a great feature, allowing you to limit who has access to each project.

Pricing: Free for the basic package. If you want to upgrade to premium, prices start at $21 per month for 5 users, up $750 per month for 100 users.

Integrations: Dropbox, HipChat, Slack, Harvest, WordPress, GitHub, GoogleDrive

 

BASECAMP

Best For: Are you looking for a simple, aesthetically pleasing tool, that still offers a solid range of features without overwhelming you? Then Basecamp is a great choice. It’s important to note though that Basecamp, while providing some excellent features, doesn’t provide everything you might need to effectively manage your project. A wide-range of separate services exist that integrate with Basecamp, but it will get expensive quickly.

Key Features: Although we didn’t have to use, the support from Basecamp is supposed to be excellent. You can easily customize your project view (list, snapshot, snapshot w/summary); and you have the ability to display projects in all sorts of formats: calendar view, open tasks, project progress. It’s also easy to view everything currently assigned to you in one place – just click the “Me” button in the header. The view “Everything” option is helpful too, as you can view things like “Browse Every Discussion” or “Read All Text Documents” with one click.

BaseCamp Everything

Pricing: 60 days of unlimited use for free. Prices range from $20 per month for 10 active projects, with 3GB, and unlimited users, to their Unlimited package which costs $3,000 per year.

Integrations: Harvest, Cyfe, cloudHQ, LucidMeetings, and many others.

 

MICROSOFT PROJECT

Best For: Projects with strict timelines, loads of dependencies and buckets of cross functional interaction. You should also have experience using Microsoft Project previously. It’s a wonderfully robust tool, that can do amazing things, but it’s very easy to start abusing the tool’s features if you don’t have experience using the platform.

Snip20150811_22

Key Features: Where to even start? The Gantt charts, which visualizes your project timeline, can help you determine at what points your team members are over-extended. The ability to create dashboards on project progress is extraordinarily helpful if you will frequently be presenting to project status updates to leadership or executive teams. The templates Microsoft Project offers may decrease the time you might otherwise spend building out the structure of your project.

Pricing: The pricing for Microsoft Project varies wildly depending on how you want to access it and how robust you want the features to be. It ranges from $7 per user per month, to a one-time $1,159 bill.

Integrations: Skype and Sharepoint depending on the package you select.

 

EVERNOTE:

Best For: Projects without hard deadlines, and lots of dependencies. It’s a great platform for creative-driven projects where you might be constantly snapping photos of concepts or potential ideas to review later. It’s also a great platform if you frequently need to brain-dump as it’s search capabilities are marvelously powerful (search by tags, notes, notebooks, keywords, etc.). But if you need to stick to hard deadlines, and have a rigid task process, Evernote is not going to cut it.

Key Features: Evernote doesn’t immediately come to mind when considering potential project management platforms, but that’s only because we’ve underestimated just how powerful Evernote can be for the right type of project. You can share notebooks with your teammates, use Evernote’s chat feature, set reminders, and tag your notes to make searching easy. If you’re constantly on the go make sure to take advantage of Evernote’s new auto-capture feature for all sorts of documents (whiteboards, post-it notes, pages, etc.), and its voice capabilities. And they recently launched their new web clipper tool, allowing you to easily save anything you find interesting on the web.

Snip20150810_15

(source Mac Update)

Pricing: Free for the basic package. The Premium package is $49.99 a year, but features a number of worthwhile features such as offline access, the ability to annotate PDF attachments, and unlimited uploads.

Integrations: So. Many. Options. RedBooth and SmartSheet (two other project management platforms not covered in this post). Expensify (save and manage your expense reports – amazing!), CollabSpot, EasilyDo, Pocket and so many others.

 

INSIGHTLY

Best For: Smaller teams and projects with a limited number of dependencies. Also, fans of Google Apps. Insightly plays well with the entire Google Suite. You will likely need to invest some time up front in customizing Insightly to suit your project needs – I wouldn’t recommend using this platform, unless you plan to also use the CRM platform (see the note on pricing), so this platform may be best suited to marketing or sales teams.

Key Features: The ability to customize the project form with your own fields to meet your needs. Similarly, you can create project pipelines and stages which is useful for projects that have similar steps. The linking feature is another helpful component, allowing you to link any project to a contact, company, or opportunity.

Insightly New Project

Pricing: You can’t access the Project function as a stand-alone, as it’s part of Insightly’s larger CRM platform. That said, the pricing for the entire platform is very reasonable. Insightly offers multiple packages, from the Basic package which is free, to an Enterprise level offering running $99 per user, per month.

Integrations: MailChimp, Quickbooks, Google Apps, Dropbox, Box, EverNote and many others.


Jenny Couch

This post was written by Jenny Couch. Couch is a project management consultant, and Providge’s Business Development Manager. She loves efficiency, to-do lists, and delivering projects on-time and on-budget

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