Software as a service (SaaS) enables organizations to take advantage of critical functions and services without building, expanding or operating computing hardware, software or infrastructures. SaaS is the most widely used and mature element of the evolving set of resources known as "cloud computing," and often takes advantage of cloud-based computing, storage and management resources to deliver its business benefits. However, SaaS is by no means a panacea. Business and technology decision-makers must examine and prioritize organizational needs and constraints to decide effectively whether and where SaaS can improve business operations.
As with transitions such as remotely managed shared or dedicated Web hosting, SaaS decisions should not be taken lightly. Whether or not SaaS will benefit your organization depends on multiple factors. Most of which center around the specific needs, goals and constraints affecting you and your organization, as do the 10 statements below. The more statements with which you agree, the more likely it is that it's time to look at some candidate SaaS solutions.
The line-up has been compiled from conversations with business software professionals working ERP systems. Reported accounts are found to be reliable, given that it is difficult to understand what some of these firms do, even by visiting their websites.
Hastily throw together. Kindly disregard the spelling, punctuation and syntax errors. Feedback is however encouraged on the factual side, especially if an industry is lacking information or a vendor is misrepresented. Expect a cleaned up, regenerated product due out August 1.
Good versus evil. Whether trying to strike a balance around the galaxy, battling competitors or trying to squash the latest intraoffice drama, some leaders can get it done while others fail miserably. Film junkies may find themselves daydreaming and placing some of the greatest movie characters of all time into real-life workplace showdowns. So which "Star Wars" character would make the best CEO? In no particular order:
Anakin Skywalker: The protagonist of the "Star Wars" franchise, Anakin has been to hell and back through his rise in The Force, his fall to the dark side and his eventual redemption. While that life experience would make him a knowledgeable and instinctual CEO in its own right, Anakin also possesses problem-solving skills, technical savvy and a competitive attitude. He also can see events before they happen, which would be especially helpful for any leader. Anakin's downside is that he is prone to rage and deception, so bad news and computer passwords might be best kept from him. He also might tire of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
One of the first lessons that most people learn in grade school is, "Nobody likes a tattletale." But some people never get this idea through their heads, and, eventually, these pint-sized snitches grow up and join the workforce, where they make colleagues' and managers' lives difficult.
Telecommuting is gaining popularity among workers and managers alike. Remote employees tend to enjoy the freedom that working from home offers, while supervisors benefit from cost savings related to the reduced need for space and equipment. More importantly, companies can improve their overall efficiency with the help of a telecommuting staff: A study published by Pennsylvania State University in late 2007 reported that remote workers are on average more productive than their cubicle-bound counterparts.
But what about your company's remote workers? Are you worried that they might be slacking off? It's certainly possible that some telecommuters are taking unfair advantage of what should be a mutually beneficial arrangement. You should be able to get a good idea if your telecommuting staff is neglecting work by watching for one or more of the following warning signs.
As Bob Dylan once sang, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." And while that adage can be applied to any number of situations, it can be especially true when it comes to job cuts, layoffs and corporate restructuring.
Although most layoffs are preceded by office rumors and gossip, by that point it is usually too late to polish your résumé, search recruitment sites for jobs and stick it to the man before he sticks it to you. But if you keep your eyes peeled and your ear to the ground, you can often surmise that layoffs are coming before the air is abuzz with rumors and management busts out the chopping block. While any of the following 17 layoff signs may be an unhappy coincidence or an otherwise innocent occurrence by itself, a combination of several should raise a serious red flag. Escape with your dignity and professional reputation by watching for the following warning signs and planning accordingly. Keep in mind, however, that sticking it to the man may not always leave your credibility intact.
1. Your company gets acquired. More often that not, corporate acquisitions mean that some employees are going to be sent packing due to redundancy. Study the acquiring company's organizational structure. Do other employees there have similar jobs as you? If so, do your best to become friends with them, learn how to perform all of their duties, gauge their weaknesses and sell them up the river when the layoffs come.
2. Your company's stock price plummets. The stock market can be fickle, but it is nonetheless a good indicator of a company's financial health and future well-being. If investors are giving your business a savage flogging, sell your stock while you still can and stash the cash to give yourself some flexibility when you receive your pink slip.
3. Your company's profit margins take a nosedive. A great deal of reputable companies disclose earning statements and quarterly results at all-staff meetings. These are the four meetings per year that you should not sleep through. Be alert as to whether your company hemorrhaged money during the last quarter (particularly if this has been an ongoing trend). If so, take it as a not-so-subtle hint to ponder your other options, regardless of the warm, fuzzy, we're-all-in-this-together-team speech the CEO feeds you.
4. The suits begin holding frequent "secret" meetings. Confidential meetings among executives are commonplace at most companies, but more closed doors and hushed voices than normal should serve as a warning. For instance, if most of your department suddenly disappears for an impromptu two-hour meeting that you weren't invited to, you should at least ask questions — and be prepared to hear lies.
5. Your job duties are marginalized. If you went from handling your company's biggest Fortune 500 client to fetching lattes and fielding whiny calls from your manager's spouse in a matter of just a few months, you may want to think about whether your company considers you a vital part of its future.
6. You are asked to take a pay cut. Any self-respecting person with an ounce of sanity would raise serious objections to having their paycheck slashed, particularly if his or her performance has always been impeccable. But some companies will often ask employees to take pay cuts as a last resort before a major housecleaning.
7. Efficiency experts are brought in. Remember "The Bobs" from the movie "Office Space"? Those type of guys are called "efficiency experts," which loosely translates to "people who decide your job isn't so important after all." If you get wind that these fellows are haunting the office, look busy or take it as a definite cue to head for the hills.
8. Your direct reports go over your head. It's always nice to have some extra help on a big project, and it can be fulfilling to help groom the company's future leaders. But if you find that your youthful "apprentice" is muscling in on your most important duties or going over your head without permission, it may be time to have a little talk with him or her. The person may simply be a clueless overachiever with no understanding of workplace hierarchy, but it's possible that he or she knows something that you don't.
9. Routine expenses are suddenly cut. If you've constantly requested a fresh supply of pens or an office chair that doesn't wobble but haven't heard a thing in reply, it's a good bet that the company's finances aren't doing so hot — especially if the office manager has already been canned. Note: You may not have a job in a month, but rest assured that the executive team will likely still enjoy its annual, company-funded "off-site strategy meeting" in the south of France.
10. The email deluge suddenly dries up. A sudden, pronounced and prolonged drop in the volume of email you receive may be a welcome respite from communication overload, but it also might mean that key projects that would have normally been assigned to you are being handled by employees that the company sees as key to its future. Meaning, not you.
11. Your company begins outsourcing a large amount of internal projects to India. Sure, India is a source of cheap labor that many businesses have tapped into to save cash. But if almost every major company initiative is being handled overseas, assume that your employer is struggling to survive.
12. Your industry friends begin losing their jobs. If you've been in the same line of work for a number of years, it's likely that you have a number of acquaintances and former co-workers in your industry. Use your professional contacts like canaries in a coal mine; if they start losing their jobs, you may not be far behind. Find another gig, prepare for unemployment or consider becoming a consultant.
13. You notice unfamiliar security guards around the premises. Companies often hire extra security personnel on days that employees are let go, ostensibly so that those who blow a gasket can be manhandled off the premises before they cause a ruckus and that those with access to important company data don't walk out the door with state secrets. If a couple of 275-pound bruisers start hanging around the break room, you or one of your colleagues may have a shorter-than-expected work week.
14. You notice boxes stacked in the hallway. A fresh stack of boxes at the office ordinarily may not raise questions. But if you're already suspicious that a layoff is about to go down, ask the office manager or other in-the-know employees what the boxes are for. If your question is met with stutters, averted eyes or a nonsensical reply, it may not be just the paranoia talking.
15. You see news vans in front of the building. A few job cuts at a small, local business aren't likely to cause salivating reporters to come knocking at a company's door. But if you work for a large, well-known, newsworthy company — say, for instance, Google — and you notice a media swarm near the building when you return from lunch, it's a safe bet that something has happened.
16. Your company plans to move — to a smaller building. If the startup you work for is abandoning its expansive, elegantly designed digs for a tiny former storefront in the part of town where chalk outlines on the sidewalk are a routine occurrence, you shouldn't need to be told that the salad days are over.
17. The CEO is indicted by a grand jury. The shady exploits of white-collar criminals might make good fodder for late-night talk-show hosts and comedians, but if the CEO is facing a long stretch in Sing Sing, there's nothing funny about your company's future.
Of course, there's always the chance that you hate your job or stand to score a handsome severance package if the ax falls. If so, sit back, smile, relax and entertain yourself and your soon-to-be-ex-co-workers with some good, old-fashioned, childish office pranks.
This might come as a shock to some folks, but bigger isn't always better. A shock, to be sure. But pick yourself off the floor and listen. Big payrolls don't guarantee success any more than adding cheese to a recipe guarantees an instant gastronomic delight. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.
On the other hand, sometimes you can achieve great success with a smallish payroll. What really matters is making smart management decisions. It's those decisions that can make or break a company. And having happy employees helps too. Tom McMullen, leader of Hay Group's US Reward Practice, the organization that compiles research for FORTUNE magazine's "Most Admired Companies" list, said that successful organizations enjoy benefits beyond those that money can buy.
Here are nine shining examples of businesses that have done more with less payroll:
With a global financial slump, daily layoff announcements and major corporate implosions, businesses need all the help they can get to stay afloat. Though a seemingly unlikely source of economic guidance, the multimillion dollar Somali pirate operation off the coast of northeast Africa has plenty to offer struggling companies today. Here are 14 lessons your business can learn from the illicit but profitable Somali pirate trade:
Some things were just never meant to be, but that doesn't mean that investors won't pile millions of dollars upon a bad idea — or even a good idea gone bad. Whether they crashed and burned or sucked investors dry, these ventures just didn't work out. Check out our graveyard of dreams and money to get a look at VC (venture-capital) investments that just weren't wise.
With the current troubled economy, many marketing departments are being forced to do more with smaller budgets, while still having to validate their impact on corporate revenue performance. Lead management systems can help marketers increase the value of their lead generation programs — but if you think they are only for big companies or those on the "leading edge," you're wrong.
Today's automated solutions are accessible to companies regardless of size or industry, and they are key to helping drive more and better-quality leads with fewer resources. This article will help you to understand what lead management systems can do, how they can be easily implemented and how they can help you maximize your marketing budget, especially now.
Lead management systems can help marketers increase the productivity of their lead generation programs by automating many processes, while also providing tools for tracking and measuring campaign effectiveness. By implementing lead management systems, marketers can gain huge efficiencies through things like automated landing page creation and lead scoring that identify those leads that are ready to be sent to sales. Such systems also provide automated nurturing processes that can help to develop leads into "sales-ready" prospects over time.
To explain more fully, inquiries or suspects that have not yet entered the buy cycle would be a waste of costly sales resources and would not be welcoming of a salesperson's phone call. Today's lead management systems enable marketers to more easily discern when leads are ready to be passed to sales and which leads can benefit from automated nurturing activities such as drip marketing until they are ripe to be worked by sales. This increases the likelihood of leads transforming into closed sales for greater revenue performance.
If you want to recession-proof your career, the key is to focus on work that continues even when most people don't have disposable income to spend. So while consumers may not hit the mall as often, you can guarantee that people will continue to get sick, pay taxes and use energy. These are just a few of the careers and industries that can be expected to thrive in a down economy.
Although today's job market may be bleak, there are some bright spots if you know where to look. While recessions hit some sectors hard, others go on like clockwork — or even experience growth. So whether you're hunting for a job or still feeling ostensibly secure, now is a good time to evaluate your options and consider one of the aforementioned recession-proof careers.
Credit is tight, no doubt. But lenders make money by lending money, not by saying "no." Your job as a borrower for a startup or small business is to help your lender say "yes." Here are some tips on how to get loans — even in today's economy.
1. Build trust. Trust is the belief that you can predict another person's behavior with a certain degree of confidence. Predictions of future behavior are mainly built upon patterns of past behavior. The more stable the pattern, the greater the trust. So - do business with the same lender for a substantial period of time, and do it often. Even when you don't particularly need to borrow, borrow a bit and repay it reliably. Count the interest you pay as an investment in trust.
2. Perfect your written business plan. A cogent, deeply detailed business plan gives a lender many reasons to lend to you. It tells him or her you know what you're doing. (You do, right?) It helps the lender understand not only your company but also your industry, your customers and how your market operates. Conservative, logical cash flow projections show lenders exactly how you intend to return their investment. Contingency plans should detail how you will repay on time, even if something goes wrong. You should know all of these things anyhow, so put them on paper and use them to help your lender understand your short and long-term goals.
3. Borrow exactly what you need. If you ask for too much money, it will be difficult to explain to the lender how you are going to use it all. It will also be hard to get a substantial enough return on the loan to make reliable payments. That's a big red flag. But trying to rewrite your business plan to fit the size of the loan you want will lead you to including "uses for funds" that make no business sense, and again, lenders will turn you down. On the other hand, asking for too little money can leave you short of the ROI necessary to support repayment. Lenders can spot that error, too.
4. Find the right lender for your business. Some lenders focus on lending to small businesses; others don't. Some will lend to a business without even knowing what it does, going strictly "by the numbers." Others specialize in particular industries, so they have a deep understanding of your challenges and provide funds to accommodate them. Some focus on community-oriented businesses, others seek borrowers with global markets. Some lenders have social agendas: ethnicity, gender, "greenness," fair trade, whatever. Your odds of getting a loan approved are better if you apply to a lender who shares your business values and characteristics.
5. Don't be too proud to take government "handouts." It used to be your money, remember? Government grant and loan programs are there for businesses that need them to grow, sustain themselves, and ultimately, pay more taxes. You wouldn't be trying to borrow if you didn't need the money, and that's why those programs are there. "We take refuge in pride because we are afraid to tell the truth to ourselves," wrote Kakuzo Okakura. Never let your ego interfere with your success! Find a lender or financial adviser who knows the red tape of government lending programs and can make the process as painless as possible.
6. Take your hat out of your hand and the chip off your shoulder. Too many people beg for loans instead of showing why they deserve them. Don't cringe in front of a lender saying, "We had a disappointing quarter" with an apologetic smile on your face. Be excited about your company's future instead and make the lender want to be a part of it. Another mistake people make when applying for a loan is to act like it's owed to them. "I've banked here for 99 years; you'd better lend me money!" Be positive, but not starry-eyed. Be persistent, but not belligerent. Be persuasive, not pathetic or intimidating.
7. Neatness counts. Your loan application package will be easier for the lender to swallow if you serve it up in tidy, bite-sized pieces. Make sure it's typed. Anticipate the lender's questions and put your answers in a logic order. If your past tax returns and other records are dog-eared, make crisp new copies. Go through your documents and pull out whatever does not pertain directly to the lender's questions: don't make him or her hunt through IRS worksheets to find the numbers he wants. Use a highlighter.
Your first business loan is usually the toughest to secure. Put all of these tips to work, and you can more easily establish your business credit.
It may not be the sexiest use of a hot technology, but helping companies align manufacturing and inventory processes is one of the most critical applications of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) . In fact, according to Aberdeen Group, ERP systems and their MRP (Material Requirements Planning) predecessors have been around for almost three decades. But never before has there been such a need for ERP, as more businesses respond to the economic downturn by attempting to reduce waste and establishing "lean" manufacturing practices.
"ERP systems have their heritage in manufacturing, so they're really designed to optimize inventory," says Paul Hamerman, a research analyst with Forrester Research.
So how does it work? By providing real-time data regarding inventory information and the production process, an ERP system delivers numerous benefits including:
You'd think that in the throes of an economic recession, companies would be more concerned with reducing headcount than managing their work force. Yet the opposite is true as studies indicate that some 74 percent of organizations — and 83 percent of large enterprises — believe that integrated talent management is mission-critical.
Enter HCM (Human Capital Management). The right HCM product can identify skills gaps, analyze work-force strengths, provide a holistic view of the work force, help HR professionals hire and retain the best talent, as well as groom existing employees for future opportunities.
Although not all HCM solutions are created equal, companies should look for these essential modules when reviewing their options:
1. Work Force Analytics: The right analytics component can collect, analyze and interpret data to reveal important patterns and key relationships associated with your work force. Such real-time insight into a work force not only lets an organization better leverage HR programs, but also lets it gauge employees' contributions to the bottom line.
2. Process Management: Rather than manage multiple silos of data, a process management module integrates information ranging from benefits and payroll to compliance measures and employee administration. The result is a unified view of work force-related processes using a single technology platform.
3. Talent Management: Managing your work force is about more than simply filling office chairs with qualified candidates. Talent management helps HR professionals strengthen employee skill sets, identify skills gaps, retain top performers, groom employees for future opportunities, execute detailed performance reviews, create competency-based employee development programs, and align employee goals with corporate objectives for a major competitive advantage.
4. Payroll Administration: Properly and promptly paid employees are happy employees. This mission-critical module helps companies integrate time and attendance data, calculate pay, generate paychecks, track the progress of payroll cycles and significantly reduce the number of human errors that can occur with manual processing.
5. Benefits Administration: Overseeing benefits enrollment, payroll deductions, plan updates and regulatory reporting is a time-consuming and complex process for even the most seasoned HR manager. Fortunately, a benefits administration module can automate these tasks, ensuring that different groups of employees can access benefits plans and related information with minimal HR department assistance.
6. Time and Attendance: There's nothing simple about keeping tabs on employees' comings and goings. A time and attendance module, however, can gather availability and leave requests, automatically generate schedules, process payroll rules and reconcile hours worked against a schedule with the click of a mouse. Not only does this ensure that the right people are in the right places at the right time, but it also can increase employee productivity and flag unnecessary labor costs.
7. Learning Management: These days, there's no shortage of ways to educate employees. E-learning, classroom training, collaborative learning, one-on-one coaching — they're all approaches companies are taking to transfer knowledge and improve employees' skills. By implementing a learning management module, companies can deliver, track, plan and analyze the impact of its educational programs.
8. Succession Management: With mounting job losses and today's baby boomers on the brink of retirement, companies are looking for ways to identify and track high-potential employees. Succession management technology can help by identifying untapped talent and preparing candidates for future leadership roles.
The benefits of implementing an ERP system go beyond simply automating a particular function of your company such as sales or marketing. Rather, if deployed properly, ERP technology can align a company's strategic vision with cross-functional business processes such as accounting, human capital and operations. And while the rewards can be rich, getting an ERP system running at a reasonable speed and cost is a difficult endeavor.
One way to vastly improve your odds of achieving a successful deployment is through proper planning.