Customer Quote of the Week
" I remain skeptical about cloud based software "
Maybe you should be more skeptical of standard convention?
Ponder this quote by motivational speaker Tama Kieves "The worship of convention will never lead to astonishment". Skepticism in moderation and with the right motive is healthy. However, skepticism driven from a reluctance to leave our comfort zones in my opinion is equivalent to self-imprisonment or intentional delusion.
I am pretty comfortable challenging convention (yes, sometimes to a fault). In the past few weeks it has paid off. In this blog I will share my latest "astonishment" in regard to how "cloud computing" is especially valuable to small business. Some of the "cloud computing" based apps that are exploding around us to integrate completely different "cloud based" software platforms and databases with no programming skill required is simply awesome.
continued from e-mail / blog intro...
Quick refresher for those still fuzzy on what "the cloud" means: Cloud based or web based software services, also described as SaaS software (Software as a Service), allow us to operate software from any computer, anywhere in the world, whereever there is internet access. No expensive back end IT infrastructure of servers, networking, and individual license downloads or long product keys to maintain for individual computers. No more need to do individual computer configuration updates, troubleshooting, compatibility checks, etc. to accommodate the individual license. The software largely updates itself centrally not by an individual user. You update the software in Texas, your colleague updates it in Oregon, you all are instantly on the same sheet of music. All this in itself is pretty cool.
Sure there are some different risks that must be managed, but the economic benefit of this flexibility and the reduced cost overall, far outweigh these risks. At the end of this blog post you will find a top ten cloud based software selection checklist we made to help your skepticism or concerns with going with a particular SaaS, Cloud, or web based software provider.
Three cool stories with the best for last ...
Story 1 (last week): So last week, I was getting frustrated trying to efficiently update some project plans for a few different clients. The project plan strategy changes constantly with my clients with an amazing amount of details to keep up with. I played with Microsoft Project and Excel as tools to assist with managing my "jobs" and bidding out work to apprentices, marketing specialists, etc. I was saving and sending this stuff out, back and forth, to three different types of stakeholders, with different information needs, countless times, and well - uggggh.
I decided to search the web for "best web based project management software". FYI - when I did the search Microsoft Project did not come up once.... I couldn't believe the options and in many cases how much capability you can get for free or for incredible prices. I actually signed up for about 3 different web based software platforms, and seem to have this habit as I try different software out. I always go with the one that is easiest for me to use instantly, resolves my immediate challenge at hand, and of course, the software with the lowest cost - which includes the cost of my time.
What is nice, is that if you ensure that all your data is always exportable, you can "easily" (relative term) migrate your work to more capable software when your needs exceed that software's capacity (fyi - I did this with futuresimple.com Base CRM to Infusionsoft). The project management software I am using right now is Trello. OMG. What a beautifully built piece of software for both business and even personal use. Best of all, like Gmail, the standard version is free.
Check out what Trello does for me in under 24 hours: I now have it on all my families smart phones and each have a desktop link to their login. My daughters can argue or push back and forth their "Chore Card" assignments. I can update the shopping list from my computer and it updates real time on my daughters phone while she shops. For business, instantly my clients can see collateral we produce for them. I simply drag from my windows explorer the files onto the "task card" on our shared project management "Board". Members on the card can make comments directly on that card, edit, and update content. Members to the card can add or check off a checklist within that task card. Add a member by simply putting their e-mail in an "invite member" box.
Set-up / learn time? Maybe 5 minutes and one video. The rest was intuitive and a few quick google searches when I got stuck. FYI - Basecamp, the second project management software runner up is cool, but I think has hype momentum, but Trello, which has less hype, when you dig a little deeper had better reviews for user friendliness and the simple level of collaboration / project management I need.
The coolest part? The "open API" nature of most cloud or web based software.
Story 2 (last week): When a prospect is interested in working with G-Force, they become an opportunity in my Infusionsoft software. Within that opportunity description I start documenting the potential project plan. Wouldn't it be nice for when I mark in Infusionsoft that the opportunity has closed, it could automatically start a project plan in Trello?
So, I did a simple Google search for Infusionsoft and Trello to see what type of integrations might be out there - completely happy if there was none. Sure enough?!@# such an app exists!!@ I had heard of these bridging apps and the benefits of an "open API", but not really used one yet. I pretty much use software one at a time. I looked at three "bridge" providers. www.zapier.com, www.itduzzit.com, and www.cloudwork.com I met the Zapier guys at Infusioncon, they are well established, and once again, they had the cleanest and simplest user interface and went with them. In under 5 minutes folks, I had bridged the two pieces of software together for the goal I wanted to achieve. ^%$!@ : )
Story 3 (this week): This week, we are helping a client who uses a Woocommerce shopping cart to sell unlocked smartphones (these phones are as capable as the most powerful Samsung Android, but for like half the price - e-mail me if you want to know when her site goes live and when the phones will be available) but wants Infusionsoft to do the post sale follow-up, communication, and relationship development with her resellers and the manufacturer. Her awesome SEO & web developer and I, in under 10 minutes, after we had all the right payment IDs, logins, etc. together, wired the two pieces of software together. Again - OMG!!! Keep in mind neither of us are programmers.... This is the beauty of open API software platforms.
I have bragged about how Infusionsoft is truly customer centric and customer driven, but I have also bragged about their commitment to maintaining an Open API (which means they let other software plug-in to their database). Similar to the Apple App store, but even more open, you can check out the Infusionsoft marketplace (app store) here and Zapier integrations here (check out all the software they have tied to in the explore search box). Unlike old-school organizations like Microsoft, note how they are not trying to be all things to all people.
Remaining skeptical about web based software, and hanging on to standard convention, will hold you back from experiencing astonishing improved results. The valid risks driving some skepticism can be mitigated (see checklist below). This is the one time it will be ok to have your head in the clouds.
Top 10 Checklist for Picking a Cloud / Web Based Software Solution
1) Does the user interface look stupid simple to use to get done what you want? It doesn't matter if they have the most powerful functionality if you can't easily figure out how to use it. If its "stupid easy", their customer acceptance will grow faster, the company will then grow faster (all things equal) and company longevity in the long run will outlast the higher functionality / less user friendly alternative.
2) Always be sure you can export all your data out of the system. The software company should not own any of your data.
3) Feel good about their data security and privacy. Despite what I read on the software site, I really wouldn't know what was really secure or not without hiring a pro to check it out. So if they sound smart and seem to have 3rd party name brand security controls, and a big enough following - like in the 1000s, my bet is that a few of their customers took the time or money to pay an attorney to do the due diligence to test their subscription agreement. Educated gamble?
4) Make sure that the web based software has an Open API. If they don't play well (integrate) with others, avoid them. See how many integrations are available for them with folks like Zapier. The more the software offers to do it all, the more reason to be wary. You can't do it all, why do we expect the same from software? What is best, like hiring talent, is to get the best talent you can, for what you specifically need done, and then make sure that the different specialists of talent (or software) have a means to efficiently exchange common information.
5) Watch out for the "hook you and bleed you" strategy. Look at the subscription tier pricing. If they have too many options or it looks too complicated, I would take it as a warning. You are about to get "nickle and dimed".
6) Dig in and verify their customer support system. They should at least have an 8-5 chat support with an average queu time of not more than a few minutes. They should have plenty of "stupid simple" to understand DIY (Do It Yourself) videos and instructions that you can search on their site or on Google with equal results. See if they have a user forum that is active with the software company.
7) How fast does the software "boot up", refresh, or update? Do they brag about their uptime and back-up / recovery capacity? There is pretty software out there with ugly back ends. I have a Lexmark WIFI printer that is beautiful, the ink is dirt cheap, prints great when it prints, but the software crashes every 3 print jobs....I will post video soon of me, my 40 cal Walther pistol, and my Lexmark......... Does the software open and work quickly? Can you navigate through the software quickly with few levels of depth? How fast does the page refresh as you navigate and enter data? With the best software, you don't even notice the refresh or "save".
8) What are their customers saying? Check out the customer reviews. Are customers raving about them? Conversion stories are telling (going from one software to another). Are the testimonials current? See what their employees are saying about them at www.glassdoor.com.
9) What is the market saying about the software? Search the software company name and select "news" in Google and see what the "talking head" community thinks about the different software options. Bigger is not always better.
10) Try the software out for free for a few weeks (most offer that). If it is a higher end piece of software like Infusionsoft, take the time to observe an exhaustive demo, or share in the license of someone you know? At G-Force for simple contact management and follow-up we allow our clients to borrow for a month or so our license of Infusionsoft. A try before you buy service.
Giancarlo Newsome is the founder of G-Force Accelerated Marketing.