Thursday, June 20, 2013

Bills and Invoices from Expensify

I've been using Expensify for some time now to handle the expense reports and it has saved me countless hours of mind-numbing, ungratifying work.   Now Expensify is expending their portfolio sideways by adding the bill management and invoicing to the mix.  It's nicely integrated with the workflow (get the bill -> add it to expense report -> add expense report to the invoice) and should eliminate even more administrative distractions out of your day.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Scripting in Google Apps is a Powerful Secret Weapon

Not many people know about about Google Apps Action Scripting, yet it's one of the things in Google's arsenal that increases the value of the product exponentially.   Much like Microsoft's Office Macros that allowed some seriously useful new functionality to be written on top of data gathered in spreadsheets or word documents, Google Apps Action Scripting allows taking the data and documents to the next level.  Unlike Microsoft, Google Apps Scripts can run across multiple products making sense and shifting data between the apps.

Here's an example of what can be done with a simple Google Apps Action Script:

This script for example will copy all the Gmail image attachments into the Google Drive, making the images searchable with OCR and providing for a much easier access.

(for those that can read the code, notice how elegant and simple the scripts can be)

As an added benefit, this type of scripting capability gives IT departments something useful to do (this may sound sarcastic, but IT people need incentives to get on board with SaaS and believe-it-or-not, they want to provide value to the organization)

It will be exciting to see how it evolves, but my money is on Google Apps at this point as the ROI between the collaboration, scripting, and revision management is getting to be very high!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Capture Leads at the Tradeshows with Zoho's new Leads Capture App

iPhone only for the launch, but a great addition to Zoho CRM and a breath of fresh air for all of us who have had to grapple with the decision of how many (if any) $400/piece badge scanners to get for the tradeshow..  Zoho's answer - NONE!

Link to the App

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Big Data Primer and why you should care about it

As your business grows, your systems will grow as well.

Unfortunate thing is complexity is not a linear, but an exponential function.  What does that mean?  It means that if you have 2 stores, the amount of work that needs to be done to manage 2 stores is not 2x of what it takes to manage one store.. You will need to hire a manager per store, institute formalized processes and procedures, implement reporting systems, put in inter-office communication, mind the politics, etc.. And if you get multiple regions, you'll need regional managers, who will probably want to institute some of their own rules, procedure, and systems.  And if you add a reseller channel, they will come with their own expectations and influence the way things are done.

Same in the computer world - having one system on one server stuck in a data closet is fine, but you quickly move beyond that with need to support multiple systems from different vendors, different version of those systems, set up for growth and spikes, maybe integrate the computer systems from the companies you've acquired, deal with legacy data and backups - this quickly becomes quite a hurdle requiring a large stuff of highly qualified and expensive IT personel to take care of it all on an around-the-clock basis.

That's why big data is important - it:

  1. greatly reduces the load that's placed on your IT department by making scaling automatic 
  2. eliminates or greatly reduces the system integration challenges, and 
  3. gives you a much quicker access to the data so that you can make the business decisions quicker  

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Owner Listens is the essence of a CRM

Since many of you readers of this blog are small businesses, which many times means RETAIL, I thought I would highlight this tool that I recently came across that makes a lot of sense.

I'm sure we've all been in situations where we left an establishment dissatisfied or irked thinking "if only the owner knew this, they would have been been able to fix this little problem of an otherwise perfectly fine joint".  Well, here's a great attempt to solve this problem..


You know, we've come to think of CRMs as this monster database with lots of rows and fields, forgetting sometimes of what's in the name - it's about customer relationship management, and this little app is exactly about that - managing the relationships before they go sour.  Ownerlistens strikes a delicate balance between anonymity and conversation - the patron's identity is hidden, but the owner can still communicate directly and make the customer happy..

P.S.  The man behind the site is also the owner of Oren's Hummus restaurant in Palo Alto - if you're ever in that area, definitely check them out - your taste buds will thank you!  (And by the way there are a few things I'd like to tell him over the Ownerlistens :)  )

Monday, May 13, 2013

Are BitCoins the Wave of the Future?

If you've heard of Bitcoins and wondered how it works, here's a good infogram depicting the process:

The goal of Bitcoins is to eliminate the central authorities (clearing systems that rely on banks to clear the transactions), thus circumventing the potential bottlenecks, government-imposed regulations, clearing fees, etc.. Bitcoin transactions would make the money transfers practically untraceable (good or bad)

Here's a link to the higher resolution original:

Friday, April 19, 2013

Google Kills Appointment Slots and Proves That it is a Technology, not a Customer-centric Company

Lately I've had it with Google and Larry's Spring Cleanings. First it was the Appointment Slots in the Google Calendar, now it's Google Reader!

Both are perfectly fine features/products that definitely commanded a large audience. I was trying to explain Google's motivation behind getting rid of Appointment slots, a feature that allows the calendar owner (think a dental office or a hair salon) to mark certain spots on the calendar as available for appointments, automating a time-consuming and error prone process of taking appointments on the phone. I tried to explain it by the need to focus on the platform and leave the customer-centric functionality to other developers who can do it better because they understand the customer better or they can focus on a specific industry.

However, that logic only goes so far.  You don't throw out a feature only to take it back after people start relying on it.  You risk changing the perception in the marketplace not only of yourselves but the entire eco-system!  This has far-reaching consequences.  The industry has fought long and hard to earn a reputation of safety and security when it comes to SaaS-based products/services.  You don't want to ruin it by breaking the trust!

The truth is Google Doesn't Care About You, The Customer!  They care about technology, they care about building smart algorithms, they care about building the best platform, but they DON'T care about the customer.. Customer to them is a byproduct, a number. And they crunch these customers/numbers all day long every day, using the intelligence to make the product better. But customers themselves to them are expandable. And whether these customers have come to rely on a particular feature or product is also irrelevant.  Good or Bad.. Bad for obvious reasons, and good because they allow an eco-system of customer-centric application providers to step in and fill the gap.

So if you are looking for a Google Appointment Slots replacement, here's one such SaaS application provider.  The rates are reasonable and they do a better job at workflow management than Google did (meaning that they will send out confirmation emails, handle rescheduling, etc.)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Online Database, take 2

Yes, there was a DabbleDB that never got much traction and ran out of runway and a few other attempts at building a flexible online database where you could start with a spreadsheet and move to a fully functional, pivot-enabled (relational), workflow-enabled database with multiple publishable views.

We can all make guesses as to why they weren't very successful, but if it was for wrong timing or imperfect execution, the new entrant - STOIC stands a chance!  To start things off it's led by a proven SaaS entrepreneur Ismael Ghalimi.  Secondly, the adoption of web apps and probably the skillset that goes along with it have both progressed considerably since a few years ago..

So, best of luck to STOIC - I like what I'm seeing and will try to incorporate it into my set of tools.  Hope you will as well as this is not a fly-by-night play I don't think..

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Insurance Shopping from YCombinator Company

This is what Business 2.0 is all about - making complicated, time-consuming, tedious tasks easy using web-based software..

Freshly-baked from YCombinator..

Friday, February 15, 2013

Redshift - Amazon's answer to Big Data

Amazon keeps releasing new PaaS services at a staggering rate.. This time it's data-warehousing service Redshift.. Beta.. Very Promising.. Bill Gate's "Business at the speed of thought" is materializing 15 years later by another company in the same city that started out having little to do with technology in the beginning.. If that's not ironic, I don't know what is.. :)