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Cutting Your Overhead with Open Source IT Solutions

 How to Cut Your Overhead with Open Source!

Different businesses can vary greatly in size, type, and sector, but they all share a common goal: to maximize the bottom line. One step towards achieving this goal is to cut your information technology overhead by employing open source software.

The IT requirements of most businesses are steadily growing and meeting these requirements is a necessary part of being successful. This does not come cheap. With hardware, software, and licensing, IT is typically a significant source of overhead. Although you cannot cut IT entirely, there is something you can do that may drastically decrease the associated overhead.

Open source software has been quietly taking the business world by storm. Small businesses and big businesses alike are reaping the benefits from switching to open source software for some or all of their IT solutions. Even technology giants, such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft use open source software to power parts of their IT infrastructure.

Open source software is created by a community of developers who believe passionately in creating quality software. Open source software can do virtually everything that non-open source software can do and in many case are better, more efficient, and more secure. And that is not even the best part; open source software is is totally free.

We will take a look at a few options where you can fit open source software into your infrastructure and start cutting your costs today.

Open Source Solutions for Workstations

First and foremost, you should consider changing the operating system on your workstations to an open source alternative. The de facto standard for operating systems is Linux.

Several organizations offer different distributions of Linux, but two of the most popular distributions are from Red Hat and Ubuntu. Both of these organizations offer free packages specifically tailored for business workstations and make installing everything you need to get started as easy as popping in a CD.

Taking the plunge into an open source operating system has several benefits. The most obvious is completely eliminating the licensing fees for proprietary operating systems. A less obvious benefit is an increase in the security of sensitive information.

Touted as the most secure operating system available by security professionals, running Linux can significantly decrease the probability of being hacked or infected by malware. This, in turn, reduces the chance of a potentially business-cripping situation.

WINE, which stands for Wine is not an Emulator, is a handy open source application. As the name implies, it does not emulate Windows, but it does allow you to run a huge number of Windows applications on Linux. This is quite useful if you have a legacy Windows application that your business relies on. If this is the case, do not let it hold you back from making the switch before you determine if WINE will run your application.

Whether you change operating systems or not, there are open source versions of most productivity tools. Open Office is a free word processor that is compatible with Microsoft Word. Does your business employ digital artists using Photoshop in their pipeline? Check out the Gimp, an open source alternative with a similar interface and feature set to Photoshop. Almost all popular office applications have open source alternatives and using them will reduce your IT overhead.

Open Source Solutions for Servers

If you host your own web server or web service, do not worry, there are open source alternatives here as well. Apache is the most popular open source web server available. In fact, not only does it do everything that proprietary web servers can do, but it holds the largest part of market share out of all web servers available today.

If you need to share files across your business network, Samba is an open source file server similar to Microsoft Windows Server. For hosting your own email services with something like Microsoft Exchange, look no further than Zimbra, a mail server and client, with all the features found in Outlook and Exchange.

Whether your company is in the business of technology or not, IT is most likely an integral part of your track to success. Stay ahead of the pack, and cut your overhead at the same time by taking advantage of open source alternatives to your current IT solutions.

Open Source is an excellent way to reduce overhead. But, change can cause a loss of seasoned staff. Up Next: “Keeping Your Intellectual Capital”

Using Yammer for Social Collaboration and Work Place Efficiency

Social Collaboration or Using Yammer to communicate & collaborate on projects.

yammerYammer which started in September 2008 as a microblogging service has blossomed into a fully fledged private social network. With Yammer, your employees will be able to collaborate on projects across the world with real-time communication using file and imaging sharing, direct messaging, and mobile applications. Yammer, while similar to Twitter and Facebook, is much safer and more secure. It can only be accessed by people within your organization that has a valid company email address.

Yammer enables users to communicate, collaborate, and share information quicker and easier than ever before. By using this system, the need for meetings will be reduced while communication throughout you company will be increased. This system has the ability to connect remote workers with other workers in your company. By connecting workers from around the globe, your employees will have access to areas of expertise which they normally would not have.

It has been shown that the use of Yammer within organizations has decreased the amount of corporate emails by one-third. Employee engagement has also been shown to increase when using Yammer. Another benefit is that in several companies employee turnover has dropped from twenty percent to two percent. Lastly, it has been shown that by increasing employee engagement, employees will take ownership in your company.

There are tools for your IT department including Directory Integration which enables you to control certain aspects of your Yammer application. With the use of Single Sign-Ons, you will be able to have more control of your Yammer network. Yammer also uses several key features including:

  • Enterprise Microblogging – Employees can start a conversation thread, read posts, and actively communicate and work with their coworkers in real-time. Feeds can be displayed in either chronological order or by threads making it easy to quickly find the information that you are looking for.
  • Profiles – Employees can upload a picture of themselves and enter their expertise and past work history along with contact information, which will help your employees find the help they need quickly and accurately.
  • Groups – You will be able to create public and private groups within your organization. By using groups, you will be able to collaborate in small teams among your network.
  • Direct Messaging – With direct messaging you can create private messages with one or multiple co-workers in real-time.
  • Files, Links, and Image Sharing – By utilizing Yammer’s file sharing you can upload and share documents with your co-workers, groups, or your entire company making it easy to collaborate on several different projects at the same time.
  • Communities – With Yammer you can work with people who are outside your network to complete projects.
  • Company Directory – By using Yammer’s company directory feature, employees will be able to locate and connect with other employees among your organization.
  • Knowledge Base – All conversations are archived and searchable making it easy to find what you need within your company’s knowledge base with a few clicks of your mouse.
  • Administrative Tools – With Yammer’s administrative tools, you will be able to keep your network running efficiently using a suite of administrative features that are designed to increase your control of Yammer in your company.
  • Security – With Yammer, security is a top priority. You can rest assured that you can message privately and securely across your network.
  • Topics – With the ability to tag content and messages using Yammer’s easy tagging system, you can organize and discover messages quickly.
  • Applications – With Yammer you can install third-party applications to help increase the functionality of your network.
  • Mobile – You can download free iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, and Windows Mobile applications so you can connect to your network from any location.

Considering that there are over one million users spanning eighty thousand different organizations using Yammer; one can ascertain that it is a worthwhile social network endeavor. In addition to the millions of users, according to TechCrunch, eighty percent of the Fortune 500 companies are currently using Yammer to increase their communications. In the field of technology, clients include LG Electronics, AMD, and Corel. Internet businesses include Edmunds, PayPal, and Yahoo. Professional services that use Yammer include Adecco, Kinetic Worldwide, and the TNS Group. Mercedes-Benz, Honeywell, and Anheuser Busch use the services for their manufacturing facilities. In the healthcare industry, clients include Astra Zeneca, IPC, and United Therapeutics. Educational businesses include East Carolina University, the Smithsonian Institute, and Stanford Student Enterprises. Government and non-profit organizations which use Yammer include AARP, the European Commission, and UNICEF.

As you can see from the above listed of industries, Yammer can be used by any company that wishes to improve communication within their company infrastructure. The basic version of Yammer is free and the premium version is only $5.00 per user/ month. Volume discounts are available for larger companies, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions.

By using company email addresses, Yammer creates a safe, secure platform for you and your employees; however, one thing to consider before integrating Yammer into your company is updating your email address book. All duplicate contacts should be removed. Doing this will ensure the efficiency of the application and help to account for team members who may only be cursory and just need periodic email updates.

In keeping with services such as Yammer, our next article covers “Consolidating Your Online Work and Increase Productivity with Gist” .

Small Business CRM: Zoho’s Contact Management for Sales Force Automation

ZOHO Online Contact Management Software for SMB

Your business’s success depends on your customer base and your ability to communicate with them. Nothing is more important to your sales and services than being able to reach your clients. Which is why contact management is a key element to any small business’s growth.

What are contacts? Contacts are your business’s clients, its lifeblood. Whether its other businesses or vendors in a B2B capacity or straight to the consumer market with B2C, each distinct communication builds a relationship that if managed properly will your business opportunities for years.

What is contact management? In the digital age, a Rolodex simply isn’t practical. Neither is a piece of software for each aspect of dealing with clients. Zoho CRM’s Contact Management software streamlines the most important elements of client communication including basic contact information, calls, emails, meetings and even website interactions, making it all easy to access. Whether growing your contact list, creating procurement channels with vendors or maintaining ongoing sales Zoho CRM Contact Management software offers a “one stop” solution.

Contact Manager – Follow up Contact: Building relationships with clients means building trust and accountability. Knowing the details of previous communications with a client, be it by phone, email, meeting or website, makes that accountability possible for your business, allowing for follow up contacts and regular up-dating of valuable client resources.

What do I gain from Zoho CRM’s Contact Manager Software? To use client contact information to its fullest, you have to be able to access it in an easy and understandable manner that integrates client data with a management system that allows your sales force to focus on the customer’s experience. Zoho CRM’s Contact Manager Software provides you the perfect solution.

Your Benefits with Zoho CRM’s Contact Manager Software

  • A common database allows a single source for client data including past client contact records, open and closed cases, and sales activity.
  • The ability to establish and maintain a hierarchy of contacts allows you to prioritize future client contacts.
  • Import Wizard, Web Forms or Zoho CRM API all offer opportunities to add third party business application data to your growing client contact list.
  • Create assignment rules for client data that assigns contacts to specific sales individuals to insure a consistent experience for the client.
  • Customizing the tools your business needs is as easy as using a drag and drop customization wizard.
  • POP enabled email such as Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo! are a snap to integrate with the Zoho Mail Add-on for CRM.
  • Outlook users can easily synchronize contacts, task and calendars with Zoho CRM using the Zoho CRM Plug-in for Microsoft Outlook.
  • Zoho CRM Plug-in for Microsoft Office makes mail merge and mailing labels a snap with up-to-date contact information.
  • Free Edition is available for 3 users with 100,000 records storage.

Contact Manager Software Features for Small Businesses

  • Web to Contact Forms
  • Marketing Campaigns
  • Email Marketing
  • Auto-responders
  • Reports & Dashboards
  • Sales Opportunities
  • Email Integration
  • Google Apps Integration
  • Microsoft Outlook Synchronization
  • Mail Merge Documents with Microsoft Office

**Features List with Additional Information Available at Zoho**

Another service for contact management in addition to ZOHO is Scrubly.

Small Business CRM: Zoho’s Reports & Dashboards

ZOHO’s Reports & Dashboards

zohoZoho CRM features sales, marketing, support and inventory modules that grant users easy access to report generation. Each module offers fully customizable reports and more than 25 standard reports come pre-loaded in various modules. These ready-made reports provide the user with an easy reference point for creating documents from scratch and easily modify the layout for maximum flexibility. Moreover, the flexible interface allows for easy cross-linking of modules, generate arithmetic operations, group in 3-level columns, create public and private folders, schedule reports generation and even deliver results to other users or any other recipient through email. Ultimately, businesses discover that generating and managing reports tailored to the specific needs of the organization comes with flexibility and scalability through the use of Zoho CRM.

Users also gain access to a real-time snapshot of the organization’s key metrics with the CRM Dashboard. The dashboard interface offers a graphical representation of all sales, marketing, support and inventory-related data. Through the use of graphs, analyzing trends and patterns takes just seconds, enabling users to make key decisions without wading through pages of data. CRM Dashboard generates charts in two-dimensional (2D) or three-dimensional (3D) formats, created dynamically and served to the user with Adobe Flash technology. Additionally, users have access to a unique Funnel chart used to intuitively analyze the sales pipeline at all stages. With CRM Dashboard, an instantaneous visual analysis of relevant business data allows any organization to easily and quickly develop key strategies for CRM improvements.

CRM Sales Reports and the CRM Dashboard work together in real-time to bring each organization both a quick overview and detailed analysis of all aspects of customer relationships. The flexibility offered means the software suitable for all applications and all organizations. Certainly, premium features such as the ability to easily view and send out information through today’s technologies, like email, makes Soho CRM an invaluable tool for any business. Try it at no cost or request a personalized demo today.

Key Features (per Zoho Online CRM Analytics)

CRM Reports

  • 40+ standard CRM reports in sales, marketing, customer support, and inventory management modules
  • Create cross-link reports spanning multiple modules
  • Create tabular, summary, and matrix type reports
  • Perform arithmetical operations using aggregate functions (sum, average, min and max)
  • Store reports in various types of public/private folders and enable access to users according to privileges
  • Schedule the report generation mechanism and send printer-friendly reports to specified users including non-Zoho CRM users
  • Export sales report data to user-friendly formats such as PDF, HTML, XLS and CSV

Standard CRM & Sales Reports

  • Sales Force Automation
  • Sales by Lead Source
  • Potentials Closing by Current Month
  • Pipeline by Stage & Probability
  • Current Month Sales Report
  • Accounts by Industry
  • Marketing Automation
  • Leads by Source Report
  • Campaigns Revenue Report
  • Campaign Leads
  • Potentials by Campaign
  • Customer Support
  • Products by Cases
  • Cases by Origin
  • Cases by Priority
  • Popular Solutions
  • Inventory Management
  • Purchase Orders by Status
  • Quotes by Stage
  • Invoices by Accounts
  • Sales Orders by Status
  • Products by Support Termination Date

CRM Dashboards

  • Flash-based, interactive CRM dashboards with an aesthetically pleasing layout and quick loading capability
  • Fully customizable Sales dashboards with various types of Bar, Funnel, Pie, and Line charts
  • Drill down Sales charts for further data analysis
  • Display charts in a customized home page

Standard CRM & Sales Dashboards

  • Sales Force Automation
  • Sales by Lead Source Chart
  • Potentials by Type
  • Sales Pipeline by Stage Chart
  • Sales by Accounts
  • Marketing Automation
  • Campaign Leads
  • Campaign vs. Revenue Chart
  • Leads by Source & Status
  • Leads by Industry Chart
  • Customer Support
  • Cases by Origin Chart, Priority, or Status
  • Inventory Management
  • Purchase Orders by Status
  • Quotes by Accounts
  • Invoices by Status
  • Sales Orders by Status

ZOHO’s modular reporting system is great to improve productivity! Check out ZOHO’s Contact Management offerings next!

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