Seventhman Blog

  1. What Does the Future Hold for Enterprise Software?

    "enterprise software"You probably have had enough of these talks about the cloud.  For the uninitiated, the tech world is one giant fog threatening to keep them lost in an unfamiliar place.  For those who have an idea, another question comes to mind:  Are we ever going to see enterprise technology transition to the cloud?  If you happen to talk to those who run large companies with complicated systems, you’d be surprised how they would want to join those who are already reaping the benefits of cloud applications… that is, if only they can have it in a form that fits their interest.  Thanks to consumer technology, traditional enterprise software is shifting slowly into something that works well within the organization.

    Old Concept, New Models

    Does infrastructure matter anymore?  Many may have asked this question amidst the proliferation of virtual environments.  Come to think of it, at some point, all those data collected will occupy a physical space.  For this reason, we have data centers who have been criticized for their carbon footprint ( and that’s another issue I won’t elaborate on this post ).  The issue with enterprise software is this misconception that what worked for consumers will work for businesses.  It’s not really that simple.  There is the matter of security, compliance and management that one needs to consider.  If the risks can be lessened for those who are using software for business, we may see the perfect mix of flexibility and customization that many have been searching for throughout these years.

    The Future of Enterprise Software

    In the age of data virtualization and mobility, you need to know that what’s working for consumers may not really work well for the enterprise.  With the radical changes we see in how consumers are using mobile and social, it certainly affected their expectations of enterprise software.  The future looks promising if…

    1.  User experience is top priority — because no one really uses complex features that are too complicated to use.  Simplicity is Key!  There must be a balance between making employees work easier and giving businesses control over certain functions.

    2.  There’s dedication to continuous improvement — gone were the days when it takes months to years for products to respond quickly to market demands.  Users expect constant improvement that won’t disrupt their productivity.

    3.  The price is right — Enterprise software had been synonymous with hidden costs, vague pricing models and complex contracts.  Buyers will choose those who are into subscription pricing and those who offer perpetual licenses.

    4. One size doesn’t fit all — while building for scale has been a challenge, enterprise software must be tailored to the business using it.  How to customize solutions.. to make it readily and safely available for users on the go?

    5.  Customer engagement is C-Level Priority — business is run by people who will need to collaborate.  You don’t simply put a ‘Like’ button; you add functions that will add value to the team using it.

    The ugly truth:  Many vendors are still in denial and the pressure is on.  But, like many other things, change is coming and businesses have awaken from a deep slumber.


  2. The Makings of a Great Custom Software Developer

    "great custom software developer"Do you believe that a handwriting reveals a person’s aptitude to do the job?  I have recently read a post on Mashable about Graphology, where hiring managers can determine your personality and mental status just by looking at how you write.  But, here’s the reality:  Finding someone with both IT and business skills has been tough for big and small organizations alike.  Perhaps, for the same reason, there are entrepreneurs out there who took on the challenge of learning how to code and make things work.  Most of those who work in IT view their roles as someone who take and follow orders rather than as business partners.  This talent issue is not really new though.  Wouldn’t it be great if you can find developers who are more business-oriented?

    Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

    What makes a great leader?  I believe you can list down key characteristics in a span of a few minutes.  Now, translating that list into awareness so your employee can be more.. is another story.  If you are looking for a custom software developer, all the more you have to watch for someone who is humble enough to acknowledge his/her strengths and weaknesses.. who is flexible and committed to personal accountability.. consistently motivated to work toward goals.. who listens and gives constructive feedback.. and most important, someone who is a great communicator, who can manage change and resolve conflicts diplomatically.  Sounds too good to be true? You’d be surprised to find that diamond in the rough if you look closer enough.

    Five Tips for Hiring a Great Custom Software Developer

    Let’s disperse for a moment this talent-shortage myth and focus on finding the right hire the first time.  The last thing you want is to risk hurting your business by losing precious time and money in the process.  In my years of business serving a diverse portfolio of clients, I have come up with a list of what to look for the next time you need someone to develop a software:

    1.  Go for passion — as in that drive, motivation, persistence and curiosity.  While experience is important, someone passionate about the work is a bigger predictor of success.

    2.  Hire a developer who asks ‘WHY’ — if you want a working software that fits not only at the system level, but the business side of things.

    3.  Pick a developer who loves learning — While having a solid grasp of the basics of languages, frameworks, structures, APIs may be good.. the tech space is evolving and skills become obsolete in a year’s time.  It’s better to work with someone who adapts to new technology when it comes along.

    4.  Choose a developer who understands the system — and not just a piece of what they will work on.  Knowing why there is a need for change can help a lot in making them more productive in their work.

    5.  Just take your time — when hiring, so you can avoid making mistakes.  If you do make one, fire that person fast as someone who is ineffective can disrupt the work flow.

    As always, choose a developer who is not only good at something, but someone who can communicate the process when needed.  No matter how tempting, skip asking trivia questions about programming (even if you think that’s a smart thing to do).

     

    ** Do you need help customizing software solutions?  Just Ask!

     

  3. Should Entrepreneurs Learn How to Code?

    "learn to code"Tech entrepreneurs have been asking themselves if they should learn how to code.. or if they should take an MBA instead.  While both are very different, they are both applicable in doing business.  If you will pause for a moment to think of the outcome you want to achieve, would you hire an MBA or a developer to build stuff for you on the Web?  Of course, you’ll go for someone who can code.  You need someone with the hard skill to build things for your startup and you can innovate from there on, that is, if you have coding skills to build that prototype and take it to the next level.  Which leads us to another question: Should you really learn how to code?

    To Code or Not to Code

    Last time, I wrote about how automating certain processes in your system will help you get more done for your business.  But, what if you can build these from scratch?  You’d be surprised that there are self-taught coders out there whose apps got them earning enough profit to make a living out of it.  Thanks to the proliferation of MOOCs (massive open online course) these days, one can learn how to code from online learning sites out there – for free or for a fee.  There’s Udemy, Codecademy, Udacity, Code School for a start.  I bet there are plenty more out there.  You may even ask if you should learn coding in your spare time or if you should get a formal degree.

    “If You Want Something Done Right, Do It Yourself”

    Many will argue that in technology, this is the No.1 rule.  How can you even know if your idea is executed right if you don’t know how things are done?  Thanks to new applications, it is easier to bring more functionality to your sites.  The truth is, if you want to produce a great product, you have to learn to write that code.  It’s like art; you need to know the skills of the craft to produce a masterpiece.  You might have been moved by this celebrity video from Code.org that advocates coding.. even the mayor of New York City is on the coding rush.  If you decide to learn how to code, you have to consider your time and budget for this.  After all, a successful startup needs a very strong product vision, a good user interface design and developer skills that can be achieved in and out of the classroom.

    Why Do You Want to Learn to Code?

    The case for learning how to code will all come down to how much time you are willing to spend to do so.  In reality, there’s really no right way of learning it and that a year of learning doesn’t mean you’ll come up with something that will solve your problems.  You need to find what motivates you first to learn this language or framework and once you have figured that out, you can start signing up for a class.  Still, you will spend valuable time.. I’m not really against the idea that everyone should learn how to code.  But this concept is setting up wrong expectations that coding is essential, like reading and writing.  Because coding is not just about creation of codes but coming up with solutions, you don’t simply learn something in 24 hours and get thousands of dollars out of it.  Like the rest of us, you have to spend years of perfecting that skill.

    Realistic and Smarter Approach

    It’s your choice whether to learn something new.  But pushing for everyone to learn coding is like saying we should all learn how to do our plumbing.. and so on.  It is much better to learn the basics of coding enough for you to understand what’s going on and leave the ability to write well to those who have encountered all the bugs and fixes in their years of dabbling with technology.  Let these specialists do the work for you so you can save that precious time and focus your energy in growing your business instead.

    Bottom line: You don’t need to learn how to code.  BUT, you need to know when to call the experts.


  4. Business Automation: The Only Way to Move Forward

    "business automation"How many years have you been in business?  After all this time, have you optimized your processes to make sure you run things efficiently?  It might surprise you, but there’s a vast majority of entrepreneurs out there who are running their businesses.. the brick-and-mortar way.  I even know of someone who still keeps his inventory in pen and paper because it has been convenient all along.  I asked him if he might consider changing things to digital and there’s a puzzled look on his face as he replied: “Why should I even do that when this system worked for us all these years?”  I can only imagine if he starts automating some of these cycles, like the invoices and order shipment.. the time saved can be used for growing other aspects of the business.

    When Change is Inevitable

    While there is a fast migration of software applications, digital has become the new norm.  With big data getting bigger each day, those who haven’t made the switch are losing opportunities.  The rule is simple: Whatever your business is, you  must convert to digital.  It’s a smarter move to improve internal and external business processes, integrate systems, manage huge volumes of data – and modernize all applications pertaining to your enterprise.  This will not only save you valuable time, but it also helps improve your relationships with your customers.  Because it will be easier for them to contact you through various digital touch points, it will also push for a positive customer experience.. leading to a good word-of-mouth about your business and increasing your brand visibility on the Web.  The only hurdle to achieving this is your irrational fear of change.

    The Case of Business Automation Explored

    Are there repetitive tasks that will benefit from automating certain steps?  Imagine getting a call from client x and you have to retrace previous transactions your team had with this person.  You check your archives, flipping folders until you found the file.  After this interaction, you fill up details in the form like what the rest of these paper files look like.  How much time it took you to do just that?  Things would have been simpler and quicker if you can retrieve data by entering the person’s first and last name – wouldn’t it?

    If there’s one thing you need to know about computers and software, it’s this:  They do NOT define your business.  Instead, they complement it.  These eight reasons should be enough for you to consider automating your business processes:

    1.  Automation is a great shortcut for routine work.
    2.  You get to help the environment by getting rid of all ( or almost all ) of the paperwork in the office.
    3.  Having a bird’s eye view of your business is now possible so you can stay updated with progress at every level.
    4.  Tracking and managing project workflow is now easier, ensuring that you deliver quality product/service all the time.
    5.   Getting rid of double entry in most forms when you can access the same info in your computer
    6.   Having document templates and macros will help your employee work faster
    7.  File management is a breeze – helping you quickly access and store accurate data
    8.  You can minimize human error through smart programming that will send out an alert to your team when they haven’t correctly filled the form

    Automating One Bite at a Time

    The next time someone asks you how you can eat an elephant in one sitting, tell that person you will do so.. one bite at a time.  Likewise, check which department has the highest clutter that you would want to automate in your business.  For example, if you are offering yearly subscriptions, ask someone to design a system for you that will automatically generate a sales tickler based on renewal dates – so you can send timely reminders or promotional.  Without such a system, you would normally have to track this manually with a spreadsheet.  You have to discover what your pain points are so you can ask for solutions that will merge your workflow processes.  You may ask your existing systems to be modified or you can start from scratch.  No matter, keeping things simple while meeting the needs of your business makes for a win-win situation.

    Are you struggling to figure out how you can seamlessly migrate from manual to digital?  Just ask and I’ll do my best to give you an answer.

  5. In the Karma Economy, Giving is Good for Your Business

    "corporate philanthropy"Giving is good for your business, someone told me.  I have almost forgotten about this until I have read this post from ABC with these words: ” Corporate social responsibility programs have the potential to make a huge difference to society. “  I believe that when most of us started doing business, we wanted to make something better in our big or small ways.  As we progress with growing our business, experience gives us a harsh lesson otherwise in this dog-eat-dog world.  We have forgotten that noble goal we have as we set out measuring ROI to make sure we make profit with the quickest turnaround time.  You may have achieved a few milestones.  Somewhere along that road, have you ever thought of giving back to the community in some way?

    In the Karma Economy, Giving is Good

    Last March, I have shared with you my thoughts on Employee Appreciation Day.  This time, I will take you to that feel-good factor, of giving where it counts.  Is it really a coincidence that top brands out there get ahead by being generous?  Let’s take out the spiritual aspect of things and just focus on Physics.  If you can recall, we’ve been taught that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.  If you have watched the movie, ‘Pay It Forward’.. you’ll know what I mean.  One good deed can affect change, no matter how you believe it or not.  Findings from Adam Grant’s new book, Give and Take, confirm the idea that those who rise on top may be those who give the most.

    Inside the Corporate Giving Strategy

    Let’s apply the principle of giving within your organization.  If you want to achieve your business goals, you must inspire loyalty first.  You can do this by giving to your bottom line.  Even when you’re working on a virtual setting, strive to create a community for your team and give each person an opportunity to grow.  You can do this by engaging your people in the development process and giving them the chance to try new ideas, something that’s outside their job responsibilities.  You’ll be surprised how ‘giving’ your people this initiative will initiate them into innovation.  This in turn saves you time and money because you have a productive team who’s happy to make things work.

    It’s All About Smart Giving…

    If giving is truly good, just where do you start?  The answer lies closely to your business – your workers and customers.  Your customers will feel so much better knowing that they have chosen a brand with a heart.  It validates their purchase and they may just stick with your business for the long run.  Just as always, it’s good to start picking a cause that you really believe in.  Find a local group or network with others for this meaningful venture.  You can even search for a cause related to your business.  You may also do research to make sure the organization is legit.  Whether it’s sponsorship, donation or volunteering your time – you have to be sincere in your commitment.

    Giving back doesn’t have to be complicated so long as it’s a cause that’s close to your heart.  It’s not about how you do it… What matters most is that you do and good deeds have their own way of going viral to your potential prospects and business partners.

    What do you care about?

  6. How Do You Create a Great Customer Experience?

    "brand value"As promised, here’s part two from my previous post on Customer Experience.  This time, I will be writing about lessons I have learned in understanding what makes my customers tick.  Why is this even important? If you want to take real steps in improving your business and your bottom line, you have to go beyond what your company has to offer and take responsibility on delivering not just a great product – but that Wow! experience as well.  Just as I have mentioned how maintaining a consistent experience is the greatest challenge of them all, we still find ourselves stuck in our own way of doing things that we refuse to see past our mistakes and step in the shoes of our customers.  We forget that each person is different and each customer interacts differently with our brand.

    Not All Touch Points are Created Equal

    If there’s a top rule in Customer Service, it’s summed up in two words: Be Nice.  There is a reason why I propose that customer satisfaction metrics be revamped.  Here’s the thing: While big data on customer experiences collected at various touch points may be helpful in portraying a graph on consumer behavior, not all touch points are of equal value.  Let’s say we have two customers, one inquiring by phone and the other, by email.  While both touch points answer to your customers’ needs, they don’t define the same expectations that spells the difference between customer delight and dissatisfaction.  Their expectations can also be shaped by other factors like previous experience with your brand, your competition and so on.  CEOs can’t deny that customer experience is crucial in collecting, quantifying and analyzing data – Truth is, they don’t really appreciate the value of doing so, especially when CRMs are becoming more complex and costly these days.

    Customer Experience Lessons for the Fearless

    If there’s one truth about those who are not attuned to their customers’ experience, it’s FEAR.  There is this fear of what user data may reveal when you change gears and lead a customer-driven business.  To those who are holding back, here’s an eye-opener:

    Lesson #1  Everything is Linked

    Customer experience doesn’t only happen at touch points with your sales, marketing or customer service teams.  There are those that happen after sales and word of mouth can also indirectly impact customers’ decisions.  All they have to do is Google your brand online.

    Lesson #2  You are What You Deliver

    It’s all about delivering your promise across the entire customer life-cycle.  Negative experiences can easily kill your brand value.  Before you know it, all those bad reviews about your brand piles up – turning future prospects off.

    Lesson #3  It’s All About the Culture!

    Leaders, be a perfect example on how to delight customers.. and the rest will follow.  Don’t expect your front liners to put the customer first each time when you don’t do it yourself.  How can you align your business goals to your employees.. and eventually, your customers?  It’s high time to build customer experience into your brand.

    Lesson #4  One Size Doesn’t Fit All

    Making your customers happy don’t have to cost a dime.  Sometimes, it’s those little words that count – like saying ‘Thank You’ for their business.  For the same reason that you have to ditch that call script, customer experience should always be authentic and personalized.

    Lesson #5  Less is More

    I’d rather have the right data than a clutter of information that can overwhelm both your team and your customers.  How can you make customer interaction simple?  For example, you can reduce wait time of a customer in an IVR queue and make it faster for them to reach you with a few buttons.  Your customers love it easy and simple.

    If there’s a cause for concern, it’s this:  Customer dissatisfaction is real and thanks to online tools, customers are empowered to share their bad experience with others.  The challenge now is to take customer experience from just a mere buzzword, a slogan.. to real, actionable goals.  For what it’s worth, I’m sharing these lessons to raise your awareness.

    Are you willing to elevate customer experience and commit for the long term?

  7. Customer Experience: Delighting Your Customers in the Digital Age

    "customer experience"Last time, I have asked about how big data can save lives and this time, I’d like to touch the subject of customer data as your next best ally when it comes to moving your business forward.  The key to making this strategy succeed lies with customer service – more specifically, Customer Experience.  Learn that communication with customers have won them over call scripts each time someone asks for help.  These customers want to feel that you care about their requests and that they’re treated as individuals; not some bunch of numbers on your list.  No matter how big or small they may be spending on your products or services, it’s their experience with your brand that makes a lasting impression.  So, why are we still failing in the art of conversation?

    Customer Experience for the Uninitiated

    You can find lots of definition about it.  Customer experience is defined as the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier (Wikipedia).  The challenge is how to meet customers’ expectations to make sure that they will have a positive experience with your brand.  For this, businesses support it with their sales, marketing and customer service departments to make sure that customer issues are resolved at every touch point.  This is why we see customer loyalty programs that turn into a valuable resource of customer intelligence, of knowing what to improve to adapt your offer to their preferences.  Still, there is this huge gap in providing a seamless service and plotting customer’s intent to purchase.  That’s where things start to get complex.  How do you deal?

    A Fatal Attraction With Numbers

    I can’t believe that there are still those who are running call centers on call scripts – because they’re missing out on opportunities to do more business with their customers.  This is the age of dialogue and it amazes me how many companies are getting it wrong.  Even the C-suite don’t get the reasoning behind a poor customer experience.  With all the training that management can provide about delivering that Wow! factor in customer experience – the message don’t match the intent.  We still see products that are too complicated, fine print that leaves people scratching their heads, promotions that don’t match reality, rude customer service.  All those metrics we measure on customer satisfaction have made us obsessed with numbers and the more we do, the less we feel respect for the very blood where our business thrives.  Those analytics are working against our capacity for empathy.

    The Price of Efficiency

    Standardization of processes are done to minimize waste and maximize efficiency, no doubt.  While this may work in the production line, with computers and machines replacing the human assembly line – the same principle may bite you in the hand if you implement it in your front line.  To provide your customers with consistent, compelling experiences is a huge task.  It’s not just about responding quickly to customer requests that will win them over, but it’s also about making each customer interaction highly personalized.  It’s leading from bottom to the top which will define your brand’s value and profitability.

    Next time, I will share with you essential lessons to learn when it comes to delivering top-notch customer experience.

    For now, I’d say.. “Ditch that Script!”

    -End of Part One-