From the January 2009 Issue
- Technology can help proactive people improve client service.
- Technology can stand in the way of good client service.
- Technology can be a positive or negative recruiting factor.
- Technology can make managers more or less effective.
- Technology can help or hurt your firm.
For those of you who have followed this column for some time, or seen one of my many presentations in any given year, you know that I’m frequently recommending the latest and greatest strategies and technologies. However, if you will not invest in training of your team and yourself, technology investments can be a waste of money and time. The greatest disappointments for me are firms that have invested heavily in the technology without buy-in and commitment from the upper managers/partners to use the technology themselves. If you aren’t going to invest in training, please don’t consider the technologies covered in this article.
When choosing technology, please remember to think strategically, starting with your business plan, before you develop your technology tactics. The products listed below could be idea generators for a new way of doing business. For example, you have probably noticed a lot of press around Software as a Service (SaaS). This hosted method of using software has numerous advantages and disadvantages, but you need to frame this in what works for your business.
Whether the applications live on internal servers or are completely hosted by companies like Thomson Reuters’ Virtual Office (CS.Thomson.com), Real Time Data Services (RTDS, www.myrealdata.com), InSynq (www.insynq.com) or Right Networks (www.rightnetworks.com), should make less difference than what your strategy is with the software. If you can focus most of your decisions on what the hardware or software product does to improve internal or external client service, you will at least have a reference point to keep you from chasing any old thing that comes along.
Some of the software technologies that have come of age and should be used by most, if not all, of you include the following:
- Microsoft Office 2007, which will have a new version shortly.
- Adobe Acrobat Professional Version 9 — this product seems to be getting annual updates now.
- VMWare — virtualization of both servers and desktop give you so much more flexibility in deployment, backup and recovery.
- Camtasia — a software tool that enables recording screen capture and mouse movements for training purposes or for publication on websites. This may get supplanted by the Adobe Flash technology included in the latest Adobe Acrobat noted above.
- Operating system — Windows Vista, soon to be Windows 7, Linux or Mac OS.
To give you an idea of the breadth of software products available as SaaS products,
note the number of products and the broad number of business problems that are
Free SaaS applications
- Google Apps — word processing, spreadsheets and more all accessible through a web browser.
- Zoho — like Google apps, but with invoicing and CRM as an interesting twist. The founder of the company responsible for this product was discussed in the Economist Sept 2008.
- Microsoft Live Applications (a few of many)
- SkyDrive — 5GB of free online storage.
- Office Live Small Business — Free website and e-mail.
- Office Live Workspace — Save 1,000+ MS Office docs online for free and share them with others.
- Adobe Buzzword — Free for now
- Gliffy — Online Flow Charting Tool
Applications free to the firm, with discounts to clients
- Bill.com — accounts payable routing and approval, integration into QuickBooks
- SmartVault.com — paperless support that integrates into QB
- PaySimple — payment and ACH system for small businesses