Are You Interested in Web-based Applications?

Are you following the buzz on web-based applications? More and more companies are wondering if this form of software might be a good fit. I’d like to explore these application with an eye toward business use.

Introduction

What is a web-based application? It is software that runs on a remote server rather than your desktop computer. Consider word processing software. Most companies have Microsoft Word or Corel WordPerfect installed on the local desktop and employees access that copy of the software to write documents.

Web-based software is not installed on your local computer, and employees access the software remotely to write documents.

Questions to ask

  1. Zoho logo Are web-based software applications ready to use in a business environment?
  2. Does your business require installed software?
  3. Can you ditch expensive software installed on every computer?
  4. Will web-based software meet your needs?
  5. What business software is available on the web?
  6. What choices do I have with providers?

Stuck in a Rut?

Google Docs logo While many small businesses are struggling to stay afloat, they continue to think every employee needs a copy of Microsoft Office Professional to conduct business. With a retail price tag of ~$500, Microsoft Office Professional is an expensive investment for any business, but is it really needed?

What about this proliferation of free and low-cost web-based solutions? Can you run a business on these applications without spending a lot of cash?

The answer is not simply yes, because some businesses do need the extra features available from installed software, but the features gap is shrinking as web applications become better, faster, and more feature-rich every day.

They are a very real option for many business, and by examining them closely, a small business owner can make a good decision.

The next article in this series answers the question, Are web-based applications for real?

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Do You Have a Strategic Technology Plan?

hammer hitting nail

hammer.jpgHave you developed a strategic technology plan (STP) for your business? Have you decided what technologies to consider? Do you know when to implement a new application, and how to judge a viable and valuable return on investment?

 

Who is Your Technology Consultant?

Most companies get their technology advice from a commissioned sales person who can rarely see and understand the long-range goals and planning needs of your company. That sales person’s goal is to sell you something—today. The phrase, "If you sell hammers, every problem looks like a nail" seems to fit here. The failure of this approach is that each problem is looked at in isolation, rather than as an overall part of a business strategy.

Ask Questions

Consider these questions as you look at technology.

  1. Is the source of the problem identified?
  2. Does the STP include a method to determine the best solution?
  3. Is there a mid-range and long-range STP in place?
  4. Does the solution fit into the long-range STP?
  5. Does the process provide a controlled testing environment?
  6. Does the STP include a provision for this problem?
  7. Does this solution provide the BEST fix for the problem?
  8. Who benefits the most with this purchase?
  9. Who is looking out for the company’s best interest?
  10. Is the solution a hammer looking for a nail?

Mistakes are Expensive

removing-nail.jpgWhat happens if the wrong technology is installed? What if you needed a screwdriver, not a hammer. Implementing the wrong technology is a costly mistake. Costs associated with a bad solution are:

  1. The cost to purchase and implement the wrong technology
  2. The training cost associated with the wrong technology
  3. The lost productivity from the wrong technology
  4. The cost to re-evaluate the purchase decision
  5. The cost to re-evaluate the right technology
  6. The cost to purchase and implement the correct technology
  7. The new training cost for the right technology
  8. The learning curve for the new technology

Put the right technology in place the first time, and work according to your strategic technology plan.

Technology is too important and too expensive to leave to chance.

The Art of Technology

Motorola bag phoneThe word technology means different things to different people. To some, it refers to a specific item, like a cellular telephone or a computer. Others use the word generically to describe an industry, equating it with the steel or farming industry. It really is both.

Early Technology

One of the earliest technologies was the lever. It completely changed the way people moved and lifted objects, regardless of size. It allowed one person to do the work of many, thereby increasing the efficiency and productivity of a single person. Later, applied to many people, huge stones were placed just right, forming the pyramids. That technology has seen many improvements through the years, but the fundamental lever still works.

The wheel is another great technological advancement still in use today. It has advanced with new shapes, sizes and processes, but the basic concept is still unchanged; A round device that spins on an axle. We install them on automobiles, wagons, dollies, and vacuum cleaners, making them easier to push and pull.

A little History

Slide-rule In school, I was not allowed to use electronic devices in math class. We were taught to use slide rules instead, because they required a degree of intelligence that the calculator did not. Today calculators are present in every classroom, and if I’m not mistaken, allowed in SAT/ACT testing rooms.

I converted a 6-volt Plymouth sedan over to 12-volt so I could install a 4-track tape player. Yep! Open top, manual levers, and two speakers! Tunes to go for 1967. Today an iPod can hold a hundred times more music than I even own, playing digital tunes for hundreds of hours. In fact, the iPod can play for over a month, 24/7,  without repeating a song.

My first mobile phone was a Motorola bag phone, like the one pictured above. It was analog, plugged into the cigarette lighter for power, and worked like a charm. Yes, it was big and clunky, but it beat using pay phones at the quick stops. Today, my cell phone is so small, it gets lost on a messy desk.

Change in Technology

8 ball The technology industry is advancing so rapidly that computers are “out-of-date” before they’re unboxed and put into use. The accounting software you bought a few years ago, won’t run on the computer you bought yesterday. The small businessman fears the industry is moving too fast, and is feeling the pressure to either keep up or die. Getting a handle on this is of major concern to most small businesses who operate without full-time IT people.  

The World Today

The rapid changes that are taking place in the technology industry, as a whole, require a small business to work with a better plan. Strategic planning keeps companies from purchasing the wrong products, buying too quickly, and getting something that won’t integrate with their existing technology.

Planning requires the answer to these questions and many more.

  1. Will the accounting software run on the new computer?
  2. Will the new computer connect to our network?
  3. Will the new computer talk to the server?
  4. Do we need a server?
  5. If we need a server, should it run Windows or Unix/Linux?
  6. What’s our plan for backups?
  7. What is our catastrophic recovery plan?
  8. Do we need to upgrade our software to the latest version?
  9. What are these web applications all about?
  10. How do we keep our remote workers productive?
  11. Are we a viable candidate for home-based workers?
  12. What affect will Windows Vista/Mac OS X Leopard, Ubuntu Linux have on our business plan?

As a salesman,  I lived by, “Plan your work, then work the plan,” which is also appropriate for a business technology strategy plan. Plan the strategy, then work plan.

The questions above, and others like them, will form the basis for the future of this web site. I will explore how to form and implement a plan.

The New Larry Hendrick Website

Over the next few weeks, this website, LarryHendrick.com will morph into my consulting business site. I will have much more information available in the near future.

I will also be trying out several themes and many WordPress plugins as I round out the site. Don’t be alarmed if you see lots of interesting looks over the next couple of weeks.

About LarryHendrick.com

LarryHendrick.com is composed of four blogs currently. This blog is the entry blog and is here to direct visitors to the desired blog. The three main blogs are:

Motivation on the Run

Business Unusual

Letters to Mom

Motivation on the Run is about motivation, leadership, management, goal setting and goal acheiving. It is a topic of great interest to me and I have spent years reading books and articles and listening to cassette tapes on the subjects. I have read and listened to Brian Tracy, Tom Hopkins, and Zig Ziglar to name a few popular speakers and a bunch you have probably not heard of. Leadership and motivation are important to our lives and my goal is to encourage people and plant the seeds of leadership in them and help it grow.

Business Unusual is subtitled Business, Technology and Life because it is my place for things that fit into those categories. I am in the technology business which covers two of the three and the last one is obvious. If you prowl by categories, you will see the way I think about them. It is the accumulation of 18 months of blogging and has all the posts from former blogs, “What a Country” and “Have a Great Day” in this one location. While moving the posts from the other blogs, and re-reading the posts, the name Business Unusual seemed to be the perfect fit.

Letters to Mom is dedicated to my Mom and others who are latecomers to the computer age. The basics are covered in “plain English” with pictures, and step-by-step instructions for regular tasks.