A Great Way to Give Back this Holiday Season

December 31, 2012

Great Way to Give Back This Holiday Season

In the spirit of giving this holiday season, Blue Link decided to organize a donation drive for Goodwill.  Throughout the year and especially around the holidays, many businesses begin looking for opportunities to give back to their community and donate a portion of revenue to a charitable cause.  Although many businesses tend to “think big” for this type of initiative, Blue Link recognized a simple opportunity to give back to the community that would have significant, positive affects.

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Blue Link Makes the Top 100 Software for Food Logistics

December 18, 2012

FL100Food Logistics magazine recently published their annual list of the top 100 software and technology providers that help food and beverage manufacturers, food service distributors, and grocery retailers achieve their business goals. These goals include end-to-end visibility and collaboration, traceability, regulatory compliance, risk management, sustainability and cost containment.  Food Logistics magazine is a publication focused solely on the food and beverage supply chain, and 2012 marks the 9th edition of the annual FL100 list.

This year we are proud to note that Blue Link’s Accounting and Inventory Software is included on the list.   Blue Link software provides a variety of functionality geared towards small and medium-sized wholesalers and distributors across a wide range of industries and Blue Link’s lot tracking module, used most often in the food industry, is one of our key differentiators. 

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ERP Accounting Software – A Year in Review

December 13, 2012

2012AccountingSoftwareLast December we wrote a blog post titled Accounting Software Outlook for 2012, and with 2013 just around the corner we thought it would be interesting to review how those predictions panned out.

Our first prediction was that the percentage of hosted (cloud) ERP accounting software implementations would continue to increase, and based on the fact that in the past year 74% of our new customers have chosen to implement via the cloud, this one has come true. According to Gartner Research, SaaS based ERP systems are forecast to grow from $1.9 billion in 2011 to $4.3 billion in 2016.  The cloud is great for businesses looking to minimize their upfront investment costs, but there are many advantages and disadvantages to both hosted and on-premise implementations.

The second prediction was that more small businesses would invest in proper ERP accounting software in order to improve efficiencies and reduce costs. Although it’s hard to determine if this came true, we can say that ERP accounting software is adapting in order to accommodate a wider variety of businesses.  ERP accounting software is not just for Fortune 500 companies anymore – ERP vendors are offering applications suitable for a variety of business models, and hosted deployment methods make systems more affordable for small companies and start-ups. Furthermore, many ERP systems offer customization and flexibility, providing opportunities for businesses with unique processes. 

The last prediction was that by the end of 2012 there would be a massive reduction in the volume of paper business transactions and information sent by mail.  Low cost connected devices such as tablets and smartphones have really started providing businesses and consumers an alternative to sharing information in printed format, by allowing the same information to be shared electronically.  According to industry experts, the consumption of printed documents is heading towards permanent decline. As tablets continue to gain in popularity and new smart devices enter the market this will accelerate.  This trend has resulted in many automated, paperless, ERP accounting systems optimizing their software for use on tablets and smartphones, further eliminating the need for paper transactions.  The significance is that as more and more businesses interact electronically and process transactions through electronic devices, those that cannot accommodate these systems will lose customers.

As this past year has proven, ERP accounting software continues to evolve at a rapid pace, and as more businesses begin to realize the benefits of having an automated ERP system we can expect to see many more changes over the next few years.  As a result, choosing to implement an ERP system that is forward-looking and up-to-date with the latest technology offerings and trends is key to ensuring that your investment continues to provide benefits far into the future. 

eCommerce Trends 2012 Review

December 10, 2012

Back in January 2012 we posted an article discussing upcoming eCommerce trends for the year. With the end of 2012 just around the corner, let’s go back and revisit those predictions to see how many came to pass.  eCommerce sites are a growing asset for both business to consumer (B2C) and business to business (B2B) companies, and in 2010 51% of internet users ordered goods and services online – an amount valued at $15.3 billion.  By 2015 this number is expected to increase to $31 billion.  On the B2B side of eCommerce, a US survey showed that over the last year approximately 80% of B2B companies have invested in an eCommerce platform, and the importance of eCommerce software for wholesalers and distributors will continue to increase in the future.

ecommerce-trends-2012The first prediction from the article was the rise of engagement through social media with eCommerce.  This prediction partially came true.  This past year, 77% of small and medium-sized businesses have used social media for 25% or more of their total marketing efforts (which is an increase from the 50% who were using social media the previous year), yet less than 1% of online purchases are a result of something that the consumer saw posted on a social media site.  That being said, 48% of consumers have connected in some way with at least one brand or company on social media, and believe that it is still a great channel for showcasing new products, brands, retailers and trends.   Because of this, companies are continuously coming up with creative ways to interact with consumers through social media. For example, a few companies have posted images of prototype products on their Facebook pages and then invited consumers to provide feedback on the products.

The next prediction that was made was an increase in tablet and mobile shopping.  With the holiday season approaching and the release of Apple’s iPhone 5 and iPad mini this year, among other factors, experts predict that the number of people who own a tablet will double within the next 3 years.  So far in 2012 consumers have spent more than $20.7 billion shopping on their mobile devices – especially tablets, and 65% of B2B executives make business purchases from their mobile devices.   Given these numbers and the expected increase in tablet sales, I think it’s safe to predict that the rise of mobile and tablet shopping will continue in the future.

The third prediction was that customer support channels would be changing.  Although eCommerce sites have provided consumers with more channels for accessing support such as online chat, text messaging and social networking sites, 90% of consumers prefer to speak with a support representative on the phone.  So although eCommerce sites are providing consumers with more channels for accessing support, it is the traditional methods of support communication that most consumers prefer.

The next eCommerce prediction was improvement in the consumer’s website experiences.  In 2012 and beyond it will be unacceptable for businesses to have slow, out-dated websites and many companies have already begun to realize this.  It is rare that you come across a website that loads slowly, has out-dated images, and uses flash, and those websites that still include these imperfections will become overshadowed by their up-to-date counterparts.   In addition many websites are taking a page from Apple’s book with simple design structure and more and more websites are becoming mobile friendly to keep up with tablet and mobile device users.

The last eCommerce predication was that recruiting candidates to help your business evolve with the trends mentioned above would be difficult, and using resources from an outside organization might be necessary.  Although there hasn’t seemed to be a lack of skilled talent available this year, new technology creates new job titles and positions.  Keeping up-to-date with these changing trends will be imperative for businesses looking to grow in the future.

Overall most of the eCommerce predictions came true, and it is obvious that eCommerce has huge implications for businesses in the US and Canada.  Keeping up with these trends by investing in technology and software that caters to each type of consumer and channel of communication will help businesses continue to grow their eCommerce offerings.

ERP software vs. lazy salespeople

December 7, 2012

ERP-Software-lazy-salespeopleLazy salespeople should not exist – at least not in a business to business environment. It should not be possible to be a lazy B2B salesperson and remain employed. And yet….it happens all the time.

How often do you get targeted by someone trying to sell you on their company’s products or services, when 2 minutes on Google would have told them that you’re not in their target market? Or told them how to and how not to approach you? I get multiple phone calls like this every day – thank heavens for voice mail. And here’s the thing: even if I was interested in their offering, by revealing their complete ignorance about me and my company up front, they’ve ensured they will not be on my shortlist of possible vendors.

In this day and age, it’s not very difficult to find out information about a company. It requires 3 basic tools:

  1. A heartbeat
  2. A brain
  3. An internet connection

When a company sets out to make a major business purchase decision, such as acquiring a new ERP Software package, they will typically engage with multiple potential vendors. Some of those vendors are simply not appropriate for the business – perhaps there’s no industry-specific fit, or the business is too big / small for the software. So who should be able to determine that lack of a fit quickly and save everyone wasted time and energy? Should it be the buyer, who is perhaps doing this for the first time in his/her life? Or should it be the vendor, who does this every day for a living? The answer is obvious.

And yet…there are so many salespeople out there in the ERP Software industry who will actively and aggressively pursue a prospect, rush to a demo, and write and aggressively promote a proposal, without ever really learning enough about the buyer to understand that they are not a good fit in the first place.

If the prospective ERP Software (or other B2B) supplier spends much more time asking you questions about your business than telling you about their solution, that’s a really good, positive sign. If they already seem to know a little about your business and your industry the first time you speak, that again is a strong indicator that they’re organized and efficient. If not, you may be dealing with a lazy salesperson.

ERP Software is not a fire extinguisher

December 3, 2012

ERP-Software-Put-Out-FiresMany businesses start looking into new ERP Accounting Software in response to significant and immediate problems. For example, the existing entry-level system has reached its capacity, or a new line of business has caused an extra 10 hours of manual work every week. There’s a burning desire to select and implement a new system ASAP, and so the person responsible for screening vendors focuses just on that one issue. In other words, fight the fire.

At a high level, the two biggest problems with this approach are:

  1. Choosing the wrong software for the business as a whole: it solves your immediate problem, but turns out to be inappropriate for other aspects of your business.
  2. In focusing on that one requirement, you eliminate software vendors who appear not to be a quick fix for your raging fire, but who ultimately would have been an excellent fit with your needs and budget, including the issue that started the ball rolling.

Let’s consider a real life example. A company started operations around 2007 as a distributor of paints, simply buying and selling drums, and using a basic accounting package. As they grew, they started using manually updated Excel spreadsheets to supplement that system with data such as lot numbers and color-match details.

In 2011 they started creating custom paint colors for several customers, by mixing stock paints in certain proportions – in essence these were bills of materials. Their software did not accommodate any type of production control, so they quickly selected and implemented a software package that handles the bill of materials / production activity.

However, after a few weeks they ran into two major snags. Firstly, the new software could not track lot numbers through the bill of materials, resulting in even more data being manually input and maintained in Excel.

Secondly, the new system did not handle multiple units of measure, but their customers for these newly created products were requesting pricing in different measures: some wanted it priced per gallon, others per litre, and also by weight. The implications here were even more onerous, requiring manual creation of “invoices” in Excel for those customers.

Ultimately this company went back to the drawing board on their software search and ended up replacing software for the second time in under 2 years. A very costly and demoralizing experience indeed.

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